A New Blog

January 6, 2009 - One Response

Well, the time has come. I’m moving on to a new blog. Not just a new blog service, but a new title and a somewhat different outlook. So go check out my new blog:


But before putting this blog to rest (though I won’t be deleting it), here’s a little pop quiz for you.

Answer True or False

1. I am changing blogs because I got bored with this blog.

2. I am changing blog titles because I no longer believe God is love.

3. The title of my new blog certainly proves I am no longer a Christian.

4. I designed a much more complicated blog and abandoned it before designing my new blog.

5. I will now be posting entries every single day.

6. My entire reason for blogging is that I want to be famous.

7. I really wish I was the creator of the Garfield Minus Garfield blog.

8. My new blog will be much better than this one.

9. The saddest part about leaving this blog is leaving my header image.

10. My new blog will be the fifth blog of my blogging career.

1. True 2. False 3. False 4. True 5. Yeah right 6. Absolutely 7. True 8. With/out a doubt 9. True 10. True


December 19, 2008 - 4 Responses

So, I think I’m ready to re-enter the blogosphere…but not here. I’ve finally gotten bored with “If God is Love.” I’m ready for a new blog. I can’t stay in the same place for too long. I’m ready to move on.

A new blog is coming soon…I think…

Peter Rollins in Waco – Nov 14

November 1, 2008 - Comments Off on Peter Rollins in Waco – Nov 14

For more information and for directions, go to Emergent Waco.

If you’re on Facebook, check out the Facebook event where you can RSVP.

Faith the size of a mountain

October 22, 2008 - 4 Responses

The minister was quite impassioned as he delivered his Sunday sermon, proclaiming the necessity for people of faith to defend their ground against the onslaught of atheistic attacks against both God and Christianity. Speaking with power and authority about the need for warriors of faith, the preacher quoted a well known passage of scripture:

“One evening when the crowd had finally dispersed, Jesus’ disciples came to him in private and inquired, ‘Lord, why is it there are times when we can perform great miracles, yet at other times we find ourselves completely powerless?’

“Looking into the distance, Jesus replied, ‘Your problem is your lack of faith. Truly I tell you, you must have faith the size of a mountain to perform even the smallest of miracles. Nothing will be possible for you without such a faith.'”

Leaving the church that day, many from the congregation were newly committed to eradicating any seed of doubt from their faith, no matter how small.

Blogs to read instead of mine (since I don’t blog anymore)

October 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

Since I stopped blogging, I also stopped reading most blogs. But I have kept a few in my handy Google Reader. Here are the top 10, in alpha order.

1. dear mr. supercomputer – Geoff’s blog is named after a brilliant Sufjan Stevens song. That’s why I read it. Never underestimate the importance of the blog title.

2. garfield minus garfield – not a true blog, but truly hilarious.

3. hold : this space – I really resonate with Cheryl’s thinking and I think the blog header is beautiful. Never underestimate the importance of the blog header.

4. Jonny Baker – I read Jonny because he is always breaking new ground.

5. Looking Closer – my film fix. I’ve been reading this one since I first entered the blogosphere.

6. nevermind the bricolage – Barry Taylor wrote one of my favorite books of the year. His blog is always pointing me to places and thoughts I would have never arrived at otherwise.

7. Peter Rollins – because everyone needs to read one blog from Northern Ireland, right?

8. Post Rant Rant – the blogosphere cannot exist without ranting. These rants are particularly thoughtful.

9. Real Live Preacher – the best blog in these here internets. Without question.

10. The Corner – a perfect mix of good links and good thoughts.

Time for a break

September 25, 2008 - 2 Responses

A strange thing happened over the past month – I haven’t blogged much, and I haven’t missed it. That’s never happened before. Since I started blogging in May 2005 I have never enountered a period of time when I was no longer interested in blogging. There have been times when I took short breaks, or didn’t post very often, but usually that was because I was just too busy to blog – I wanted to blog, I just didn’t have the time. This time has been different. Sure, I’ve been busy, and that has kept me from blogging, but I’ve also lost the desire, at least for now.

So I’m going to take a break. Will it be permanent? Probably not. But I do think it will be an extended break. Of course now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably get the desire back tomorrow and post every day for the month of October. Who knows.

I think part of the reason I’ve lost interest in blogging is because I’ve been working on a couple projects recently that are related to some of the ideas I’ve blogged about over the past few years. I’m working on actually doing some things and not just writing about ideas. We’ll see how that works out…no guarantees. I will probably end up writing about those projects on this blog, but I’m not ready yet.

Well, I guess that’s it. Thanks for reading.


A Woman Without Faith

September 2, 2008 - One Response

In a time of devastating war there was a woman whose husband was killed on the field of battle. Upon hearing the news, the woman dropped to her knees and cried out to the heavens, “I curse you God for taking away my husband and for stealing the father of my children!” At that moment she collapsed to the ground, her body limp and seemingly lifeless. Unresponsive, she was carried to her bed where she lay for two days, not saying another word.

On the morning of the third day, the local priest came and stood at the woman’s bedside. Though silent and without movement, the woman’s eyes were open, staring blankly at the wall across from her bed. For a long time the priest simply stood beside her with his head bowed and eyes closed, appearing to be in prayer. While the priest was still praying, slowly the face of the woman seemed to regain life. Seeing the priest beside her, she opened her mouth, and finding her voice said, “Are you the man who came to me in my dream?” Slightly startled, the priest said, “I have only been standing here, praying for you and your family. Tell me about your dream.” Still regaining her consciousness, the woman described her dream to the priest.

“I dreamed I was walking in a beautiful and lush garden. I walked for many hours as the garden continued to expand before me, appearing to be without boundary. For a long time I saw a man in the distance and then suddenly he was right before me. He did not respond to my words and did not appear to be aware of my presence. All the while, he was speaking loudly, almost shouting, in a beautiful language I could not understand.”

Contemplating the woman’s dream, the priest said, “Perhaps our Lord has appeared to you in your grief, seeking to give you comfort and rest.” With anger in her voice, the woman responded, “I have renounced my God and I refuse his comfort. Please leave me alone in my grief.” With sadness, the priest bowed his head and left the room. But after closing the door behind him, he stopped and quietly prayed, “O God of our fathers, I pray for this dear woman who has experienced such a tremendous loss. I pray for her and her children who have lost a husband and a father so prematurely. I pray you would help her to find her faith. Blessed Father hear my prayer.”

A Woman of Great Faith

August 26, 2008 - 5 Responses

In a time of devastating war there was a woman whose husband was killed on the field of battle. In accordance with her religious customs, and during the specified time of mourning, she went to see the high priest in the holy city. Arriving at the temple, the woman was brought before the priest. As she bowed before the holy man, she said, “Wise priest, I come before you in mourning but I have confidence in the scriptures, which assure me that my husband is now with our ancestors in paradise. Though I am devastated by this loss, I am filled with faith in our God. He sustains me and lifts me up in the midst of my grief. Please bless me and pray that I might be rescued from any doubt and that I might not question God’s reasons for taking my husband from my children and me.”

Filled with sorrow for the woman’s loss, the priest placed his hand on the woman’s head and quietly mouthed an ancient blessing. He then prayed for her, saying, “O God of our fathers, I pray for this dear woman who has experienced such a tremendous loss. I pray for her and her children who have lost a husband and a father so prematurely. I also pray you would rescue her from her great faith. Blessed Father hear our prayer.”

Opening her eyes the woman stood silently before the priest. After a few moments she opened her mouth and said, “I do not understand your prayer, wise priest. My longing is for an even greater faith. Why did you pray for me to be rescued from my faith?”

With much compassion, the priest looked into the woman’s eyes and responded, “Dear child, I also long for you to have an even greater faith than you currently possess. That is the reason for my prayer. For it is only when we lose our faith that we can truly gain it.

Minnekon – Reflections

August 20, 2008 - 17 Responses

How do I even begin to reflect on last week’s Minnekon experience? There was just so much. It was wonderful. I loved every minute – hearing Pete talk at least five different times in four days, learning so much from Sarah, Kellie and Jonny, participating in the workshops, eating meals and having great conversations with new friends, and having the opportunity to think about, reflect on, and even put into practice ideas I find very provocative and hopeful. This is certainly an experience I will be processing for many weeks. Here are a few provisional thoughts to give you an idea of the places my mind has been wandering because of the overall experience:

  • Pete Rollins is for real. Even after reading both of his books, there was still a part of me that wondered if perhaps Pete was just playing around with words and ideas. I didn’t think he was a crypto-evangelist, but you can never quite be sure… But now I’m completely confident that he’s for real. And more than that, he cares about helping others do the kind of thing he is doing. He thinks it is important. So do I.
  • Ikon is not a church. And it’s not necessarily Christian. It’s certainly influenced by, and perhaps even rooted in, the Christian tradition and the tradition of the Church, but ultimately it’s post-Christian, and this makes it different than much of the emerging church. Not in a better or worse way – it’s just different. I think Ikon, and the theology behind Ikon, is about creating open spaces – empty spaces – for God to give God (the transcendent, the wholly other, etc.). These spaces might be in church settings, they might not be. Whether or not it’s church is just irrelevant. I really appreciate this. I want to be a part of creating these kinds of spaces.
  • On a related note, I see the theology behind Ikon impacting various settings within the church. However, to really take the theology seriously, I don’t think it can fully work in the church. But that’s ok. I don’t think it’s an either/or. I think letting this theology loose in church is good. And letting it loose outside the church is good too. But there is still a difference. At Ikon all questions are open. In the church, it is always foundational that what is happening is Christian and church. At Ikon even these questions are open. Again, I see a place for both. It’s not an either/or.
  • Continuing this same idea, I think all of this is further evidence of the increasing diversity of Christian/religious/spiritual experiences that are available for people. Church, Christianity, spirituality, and religion are no longer relegated to a church building, or even to particular faith traditions. Religious and spiritual questions and experiences are everywhere. People are going to pick and choose from a variety of options and create their own church/religious life. There is a lot more that can be said about this. I know many people see this as a problem. I see it as a really good and hopeful shift in our culture. Again, I think the question is how we can create spaces (both inside and outside the church) for God to give God (and I say that in the broadest sense possible).
  • I am still considering how the ideas in Pete’s books translate into everyday life. Or as Tony Jones asked in his dialogue with Pete, “How does this work for a devotional life?” This is a valid question. Personally, I don’t know if Pete has a good answer to this question right now. But I think that is understandable. I think it is somewhat uncharted territory. I think some people are living this kind of life but we may not yet identify it as such (I think of Gordon Atkinson/Real Live Preacher). I am very interested in considering these ideas and perhaps doing some writing along these lines. A provisional title for the topic – “Living Life With/out God.” This is very interesting to me.

Well, thanks for following along with me through the Minnekon experience. I hope these posts have been beneficial. I have definitely had a lot more traffic on my blog over the past week, so this seems to be something people are interested in.

Do any of you have thoughts about all this?


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – A.way Introduction

August 18, 2008 - One Response

[If you haven’t read my “A.way” post about the Minnekon event that took place on Saturday, go read that post before this one.]

Here’s the introduction I wrote for the “A.way” event at Minnekon. Yes, this is my best Peter Rollins imitation.


Finding a way.

Away from here.

Many of us are searching for a way. Do you know the way?

Is the way to be found in the church?

In Christianity?

In a particular doctrine or creed?

What about those who have pursued all these things only to find something like a dead end?

Is this the end of the road?

Or is it the beginning?

There are those who speak of a long forgotten saying of Jesus. Perhaps it might help us. The story reads as follows:

One day when Jesus was setting out on another journey, one of his disciples, one who had been following him for some time, came up behind him and asked, “Teacher, I have been following you for many months, but I must ask you, how do I find the way?” Jesus turned to him and said, “Have you not heard me say, ‘Follow me, for I am the way, the truth and the life?'” Having heard this a number of times, the disciple replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the way. I have followed you on many journeys. I have listened to your every word, but I still seek to find the way. Tell me what to do and I will do it – anything you ask. I would even sell all my possessions. Just tell me the way.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said, “You lack one thing, go away from here, and follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, the disciple was sorrowful, for he did not want to leave Jesus’ presence.

Tonight we have left the home of our identities at the door. No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what baggage we have collected, we acknowledge the way we look for must be away from here. If we do not know where to go, if we do not know what to do, we must do it. We must leave – pursuing the destination that can only be found in the journey. And perhaps in the very act of leaving we will find a.way from here.


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – A.way

August 18, 2008 - Comments Off on Minnekon – A.way

On Saturday night I was part of the culmination of the Minnekon experience – an Ikon-like event. If you’ve never read How (Not) to Speak of God, then you might not have a feeling for what an Ikon event is like. First off, I recommend reading the book (the second half of the book describes ten different Ikon events, and is worth the price of the book all by itself), but basically Ikon events are experiential, experimental, creative, provocative, and theatrical attempts to knock people off their normal course – if even for just a moment. Peter Rollins describes these events as theodrama and transformance art. Ultimately, these events are an attempt to create a space where God can give God. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ikon events have seven elements: liturgy (theological words), ritual (interactive communal response), visuals, music, personal reflections, stories (parables, poetry, etc.), and a gift for everyone to take away from the experience. On Friday night (and into Saturday) we worked hard to prepare for the Minnekon event. I was part of the liturgy group and my primary task was to create an introduction for the event. I’ll share that later (here).

The theme of the event was “(finding) a.way (from here).” The entire experience was an attempt to play with the at times contradictory yet interactive ideas of finding a way and going away from here. The theme was actually very relevant for where I am in my life right now – but I’ll save that topic for my Minnekon reflections post…

The event started out with everyone receiving a name tag before entering. Each person was then told to write on the name tag some important elements of their own identity. The name tag was then taken away and replaced with a blank name tag that everyone put on as they went into the event. As people entered, someone was playing the song “Amazing Grace,” except the words were changed to “I once was found, but now I’m lost. Could see but now I’m blind.” After everyone had found their way into the room I went up to the mic and read my introduction. There was a story about being lost and looking for directions, there was an original song based on the theme, a few personal reflections/stories/poetry readings, a liturgy with a communal response, and Pete shared his parable about going away from here (the origin of the theme “a.way”). The ritual involved everyone coming to the center and using their blank name tag to write a burden they were carrying. Everyone put the tags into a basket and later everyone took someone else’s tag and put it on. Throughout this entire time there was background music/ambient beats and also video projected onto two screens in the room. There were also people shining flashlights around the room at different points during the event. A couple cool visuals involved doing live searches on Google Maps and Google Earth that were displayed on the screens. These searches involved words like “lost,” “hope,” “away,” etc. This was really very cool…but the whole thing is hard to describe. The intent is for the event to be very experiential so words certainly do not do it justice. But hopefully this gives you a little feel for it all. As everyone left they were given a few “gifts” – a small part of a map, a bus ticket stamped with “changes required,” and their original name tag which had been stained in tea.

So what does all this mean?

Some people did leave wondering this very question. But that is part of the whole idea behind theodrama/transformance art. The “meaning” is not what’s so important, or at least having one specific Meaning is not important. Hopefully the event as a whole encouraged an experience that shook people slightly off course and perhaps, just perhaps, God was able to give God in some way. Considering the short amount of time we spent planning the event, I thought it went really well and had some great content. Everyone seemed happy with it. One of the Ikon folks I talked to afterwards said it was remarkably similar in tone to a regular Ikon event (not that copying Ikon is the point). Overall it was a great experience. I am very intrigued by the creation of these kinds of spaces and I hope I can do something like this again in the future.

[My overall reflections on the week are still to come. I’ll also post the introduction I wrote some time later today (here).]


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon is over

August 17, 2008 - Comments Off on Minnekon is over

Minnekon is all over. The service tonight, “a.way,” was great. I’ll definitely blog more about that in the next couple days. However, right now it’s late and I’m going to bed. Tomorrow we travel back to Waco (or is it today?).

At least a couple more Minnekon posts will be coming…


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 3

August 16, 2008 - One Response

Today Pete spoke on the church. Here are a few highlights:

  • Doubt is not what makes faith weak but what makes it strong.
  • Doubt and uncertainty make our decisions more courageous.
  • Embrace the world and all its joy and suffering – that is where God is (from Bonhoeffer).
  • Revelation as rupture
  • No distinction between hearing and heeding.
  • Being the miraculous is more important than believing in the miraculous.
  • How does this work in the context of the church?
  • 1 – Church should speak to our social self. Aligning our actions with our beliefs.
  • Doubt must be open rather than just allowing the people to let the pastor or institution believe on their behalf.
  • Church often speaks to how we should believe. Instead should talk to our social self that doesn’t believe these things. Pastors must show doubt and live fully in the world. They must break the spell.
  • 2 – Church needs to bring people to maturity. Leaders must be ones who refuse leadership.
  • The last teaching of a great leader is that you must betray me.
  • Love is always in excess. Loving disciple always goes beyond the teacher. Church must encourage this kind of betrayal.
  • 3 – Churche should be place of suspended space (epoche). Becoming nobody, nothing in that place. That’s the place God speaks. Enact the eschaton. God is always with those without identity. God is there when we divest ourselves. God speaks in the place of no place.
  • 4 – Belonging before belief.
  • Jesus didn’t talk much about theology.
  • 5 – Longing for the event of God.

After Pete’s final talk we did our serious work towards developing an Ikon-like service/theodrama/transformance art for Saturday night. The theme for the night is “a.way” or “(finding) a.way (from here).” The following are the elements of an Ikon event that we worked on developing for Saturday night:

  • Liturgy – theological words
  • Ritual – interactive communal response
  • Visuals
  • Music
  • Reflections – often personal
  • Stories – more theological content but through parables, poetry, etc.
  • Gift – something for each person to take away from the evening.

Well, that’s probably enough for now. I have to work on the introduction to the event (part of the liturgy). We’ll see how that goes…

[By the way, I plan on following up on all this with some general reflection on the events of the week]


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 2

August 14, 2008 - One Response

We just got back to the hotel from session 2 of Minnekon. More good stuff. Good conversations. Good talks. Good workshops. Another great day. Here are some highlights:

  • Pete talked about revelation
  • An icon is not something we just look at but is also where God looks at us. Where we gaze upon the invisible and where the invisible gazes upon us.
  • Our theology is a response to God’s incoming. Our theology indirectly relates to God.
  • Revelation is not about God whispering in our ear, but is about incomprehension, bedazzlement, and transformation.
  • Revelation more like enlightenment – changes how we see the world.
  • If revelation is a whisper in our ear, then knowledge and action can be separated. We can know the truth and not do the truth. Rollins says revelation doesn’t allow this. You are what you do. You are your social self.
  • Jesus was radical because he seemed to forgive people without condition. Perhaps unconditional forgiveness helps bring forth repentance. You see this in the prodigal story.
  • Tony Jones and Peter Rollins had some dialogue after Pete’s talk. Tony asked about how all of this works in real life. What does it mean for a devotional life with God? Would these things have been harder to come to in American life? Lots of discussion followed around these questions.
  • After the talks, Sarah, Jonny, Kellie and Pete presented more “lessons in evandalism.” This part of the night was primarily centered on Jonny leading us through some artistic exercises (Im not exactly sure what to call it…but it was good stuff). Lots of interesting stuff. Good group discussion and work. I have really enjoyed the contributions from the non-Pete Ikon folks. These are very bright, creative, and thoughtful people. They have much to offer and I have much to learn. Good thing we have a couple more days…

More tomorrow…now comes sleep.


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Emergent Cohort

August 14, 2008 - One Response

We just finished up a conversation with Peter Rollins and the Ikon folks with the Emergent cohort here in Minneapolis – the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort. Lots of good conversation. Here are a few highlights:

  • Rollins (when starting Ikon and after leaving his church): “I have no vision at all. I only know what I don’t want it to be.”
  • I’m a big advocate of not knowing what to do and doing it.
  • A big thing for me is not allowing ourselves to connect our ideas with God.
  • Instead of fulfilling your dreams, finding new ones.
  • Atheism for Lent – something Ikon puts together each year for Lent. They read the great atheist critiques of Christianity – not to critique them but to allow them to critique us.
  • Priestly role is to refuse the priesthood – helps usher in priesthood of all believers.
  • Pete’s role is to make sure no one colonizes these spaces.
  • Ikon is like a donut with a hole in the middle. Regular church is jam filled donut. No center, everyone on periphery.
  • At Ikon – only person who cares about you is the person next to you.
  • Create a void and allow God to give God.
  • Creating Ikon causes an orbit to occur. Interesting people are attracted to it. Pre-Ikon and Post-Ikon times are most important.
  • Leader is very important – to refuse leadership. Create and let it die.
  • Dreaming new dreams can’t have a plan – it’s uncharted, new wineskin. Can’t have a plan for starting a new community. The only thing you know is you must go somewhere that is not here. “Where are you going?” “I am going away from here.”
  • Create an atmosphere where people are ruptured – this is transformance art.
  • Repetition of difference – repeat things but differently.
  • Liberal and conservative – two different ways of trying to say the right answer. Alternative is to say views aren’t God’s views


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 1

August 13, 2008 - 2 Responses

Today was the first official day for the Minnekon conference/workshop in Minneapolis, featuring Peter Rollins and his friends from Ikon. The schedule is perfect. We start each day with a talk from Pete at 4:00 (which means we get to sleep in and spend some time around town during the morning and early afternoon. Today Brooke and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which was wonderful). Pete has three talks planned. Today was about God, tomorrow is about Revelation and Friday is about Church. After the session we all ate dinner together which gives a good amount of time to hang out and chat with Pete, the Ikon folks, and other people attending the conference/workshop. After dinner are the more practical workshops led by all the Ikon crew. An excellent schedule. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Perfect.

So anyways, here are some highlights from today:

  • Rollins: “I agree with much of what I say, but not everything.”
  • Most churches follow the time line of “believe, behave, belong.” This should be turned around. Belonging to the community should be the first step, which may lead to a change of behavior, and perhaps a change in beliefs.
  • We are an object before God. We don’t name God, God names us. God is the absolute subject.
  • Not everything that exists can be made into an object (example: life).
  • Is Rollins’ view a fancy kind of agnosticism? Not exactly. Rather, whereas agnosticism is a middle ground between atheism and theism, approaching God in the way Rollins proposes is more like holding both extremes at the same time – and maybe being ripped apart as we are stretched by holding both ends of the spectrum.
  • Rollins: “I’m not going to let the word ‘God’ get in the way.” But the word God does have value. But even this important word should not get in the way of transformation.
  • Rollins: “Sharing rituals we have created is very important to me.” Belonging is very important.
  • At Ikon they have started an “Omega Course” (as opposed to the Alpha Course), which is designed to help people “exit Christianity in 12 weeks.”
  • Rollins: “My job at Ikon is to refuse leadership.”
  • The members of Ikon are those who would be greatly missed if they left. The word member comes from the idea of a body part. In this way, a member is someone who would be greatly missed, in the same way that a finger would be greatly missed as part of the hand.
  • The workshop part of today’s session was led by the Ikon crew – Pete, Sarah, Jonny, and Kellie. This part of the week’s activities is going by the name “Lessons in Evandalism” and will be an attempt to convey some of the things Ikon has learned along the way. These workshops will culminate in an Ikon sort of event on Saturday night.
  • In planning Ikon events, the creators consider the following: playfulness + provocation = rupture
  • Ikon tries to find the common ground between “cool” and “disturbing.”

Today was great. Of course there is so much more than what I have written here. These are just the ideas/thoughts that jumped out at me.

More to come…


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

August 12, 2008 - 2 Responses

Brooke and I are in Minneapolis for Minnekon, a conference/workshop of sorts with Peter Rollins and a few of his friends (Kellie, Sarah, and Jonny) from Ikon, a religious collective in Belfast, Ireland. The workshop, put together by Chris Enstad, will run Wednesday-Saturday. I hope to post a little each day – we’ll see how that goes…

Tonight the Ikon crew were guests at Theology on Tap – a monthly theology discussion group here in Minneapolis. Brooke and I joined about 25 people at Glueck Restaurant and Bar for some good discussion to get the week started. Pete mostly gave an introduction to Ikon and some of the main ideas he has written about in his books. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

  • Pete gave a good intro about how Ikon got started. It basically started with just a name and an idea to do something of a religious sort in a local bar. He asked the owner if they could use the place and he said yes. Then he had to figure out what in the world he was going to do. If I remember correctly, that was about 5-6 years ago.
  • Pete said there are no members of Ikon – no one wants to claim to be a member. Instead there are only non-members. He said they are developing an official course on how to become a non-member, leading to receiving a non-membership card (ha!).
  • I appreciated Kellie’s words about how sometimes the faith we grew up with must die and how there is a grieving process that goes along with that. That may not be exactly what she said, but it was something along those lines. I was struck by the idea of there being many people going through this grieving process and needing hospitable spaces to grieve and move on in their faith, or loss of faith.
  • I’m really excited that Pete came with three other people from Ikon (and a fourth is here who used to be part of Ikon). I can already see that this will add a lot to the experience. They are all very different and approach the ideas in Pete’s books from different angles.

So those are just a few things I recall off the top of my head. I’m going to try and keep notes the rest of the week and post some about the talks, workshops, etc.

I’m off to bed…the day started way too early…


Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends


I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: God is no stop-gap

July 31, 2008 - Comments Off on Bonhoeffer Thursdays: God is no stop-gap

It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. It is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever of God. In point of fact, people deal with these questions without God (it has always been so), and it is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them. As to the idea of ‘solving’ problems, it may be that the Christian answers are just as unconvincing – or convincing – as any others. Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized as the centre of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigour, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He is the centre of life, and he certainly didn’t ‘come’ to answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I’m thinking of the judgment pronounced on Job’s friends). In Christ there are not ‘Christian problems’. – Enough of this; I’ve just been disturbed again.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

Reading Rapture Ready!

July 28, 2008 - 2 Responses

Do you believe in parallel universes? Daniel Radosh found one. And if you’re reading this, you might very well be living in one.

Radosh is a secular Jew from New York who explores the world of Christian pop culture in his recent book Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture. With a combination of thoughtful critique, appreciation, good humor and above all graciousness, Radosh chronicles his year-long experience exploring the Evangelical subculture in America. A true outsider, Radosh immerses himself in the good, the bad, and the ugly of this sometimes bizarre world. Among other things, Radosh describes his encounters with “Jesus junk,” the Holy Land Experience, Christian romance novels, Bibleman, Stephen Baldwin, the Cornerstone music festival, Ultimate Christian Wrestling, Christian sex advice, creation museums, and even a Hell House. Seeking to understand this vast culture, Radosh does a fine job chronicling his experiences and offering some much needed outsider insight. I think this book is a must-read for Christians and non-Christians alike. Christians should read it for exposure to an outsider’s perspective on our strange world, and non-Christians should read it to better understand the growing diversity of the Evangelical movement. Everyone can read it for an entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny look at a much talked about but little understood element of American culture.

When I started reading Rapture Ready! I was hoping for a funny and entertaining read, and in that regard I was not disappointed. However, I wasn’t expecting such an insightful perspective, and I wouldn’t have guessed I would finish the book feeling challenged to live differently. Now don’t get me wrong, you probably shouldn’t read this book looking for a life changing experience. Read it to be entertained. But don’t be surprised if it challenges you to think seriously about your relationship to Evangelical culture (whether you are a Christian or not).

Radosh concludes his book with a call for greater interaction between the moderate and progressive elements of Evangelicalism and Radosh’s own secular culture. He believes an increasing interaction between these oftentimes separate universes will prove helpful for everyone. I agree. Radosh finds popular culture to be a good starting place for this interaction, but I don’t think he sees this as the only place for healthy communication. Personally, I finished Radosh’s book with two insights. First, I want to intentionally further separate myself from much of the Christian subculture I’m still part of. This separation has been happening fairly naturally over the past ten years but I think it’s time to cut the cord. I’m done with it. (Radosh is not necessarily calling for this kind of reaction) Second, I am more convinced than ever that this interaction between Christians and non-Christians should occur within environments open to the experience of God, the transcendent, and/or religious experience. In fact, I am most interested in the dissolution of this Christian/non-Christian divide. And I increasingly want to play a part in the creation of spaces where this very thing can happen.

In the final pages of his book, Radosh makes a statement I think Christians are in much need of hearing. After discussing the Christian notion of “lifestyle evangelism” Radosh takes it a step further and declares the following:

“Personally, I’m not sure how successful [lifestyle evangelism] really is in leading people to Christ, but I can attest that it’s a very successful method for generating positive feelings about Christians. The evangelicals I’ve felt the most fond of, the most comfortable around, and the most commonality with – regardless of political, social, or philosophical differences – were the ones who never tried to sell me on Jesus yet always seemed to be trying to live the life Jesus desired of them. The paradox of lifestyle evangelism is that while it might sound like a Christian’s loving, friendly actions are all driven by an ulterior motive, it only really clicks when they’re able to let go of that motive. The people who made the best case for Christianity were the ones who were genuinely unconcerned with whether I ever decided to become a Christian or not.”

I think this statement, and Radosh’s book as a whole, is something Christians need to hear. And hopefully we will take it to heart.

Reverend Billy and the Woot “Bag O’ Crap”

July 21, 2008 - 9 Responses

Perhaps all of you are well aware of the Woot “Bag O’ Crap.” I only came across it for the first time last week. In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s the main idea. Basically, an online store called Woot occasionally digs around their warehouse and gets rid of random items of mostly insignificant value. They put the items in the “Bag O’ Crap” and sell them for one dollar plus shipping. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Well, it certainly is ridiculous. But that doesn’t keep it from also being ridiculously popular. Apparently these “Bags O’ Crap” cause quite a frenzy and sell out in seconds. Yes, there are people who end up receiving “treasures” worth a hundred dollars or more, but most of the time the items are pretty much worthless. Woot even goes out of their way to make it clear that the great majority of people will receive exactly what they pay for – a “Bag O’ Crap.”

So why in the world am I blogging about this? Because I can’t imagine a better example of the troubling impact of consumerism on our culture. Not only do we spend unholy amounts of money to celebrate Christmas. Not only do we accumulate alarming amounts of debt. No, we also choose to spend money on a “Bag O’ Crap” at the mere chance that we may end up receiving something worth more money than we paid – even though that something is probably not something we need, or even necessarily want.

All of this makes me very convinced that we need people like Reverend Billy to raise the alarm and attempt to save us from the Shopacolypse.

In case you missed my previous posts about Reverend Billy (1 and 2), Wikipedia describes him this way:

“Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping is an activist performance group based in New York City, led by Bill Talen. Using the form of a revival meeting, on sidewalks and in chain stores, Reverend Billy and his gospel choir exhort consumers to abandon the products of large corporations and mass media; the group also preaches a broader message of economic justice, environmental protection, and anti-militarism…”

The reason I am bringing up Reverend Billy again is that I finally got a chance to watch What Would Jesus Buy? – a documentary that follows the good reverend and his rip-roarin’ Church of Stop Shopping on a Christmastime cross country tour to save America from the impending Shopacolypse. As many of you know, I was really excited to see this documentary, but when I got the movie from Netflix I was a little skeptical because Netflix viewers have given the movie a pathetic cumulative rating of 2.5 stars out of 5. But I now know we cannot give any weight to the cumulative Neflix community, because What Would Jesus Buy? is fantastic. Bump it to the top of your queue right now. Go. Now. It’s awesome. Reverend Billy is my hero.

I have to agree with Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann who compares Reverend Billy to the “guerilla theater” of Jesus and the prophets. Reverend Billy might not be a Christian, but he is certainly a prophet. He may use humor, but he is very serious about his message (he has even been arrested multiple times).

Reverend Billy is doing good work. We should all heed his call to STOP SHOPPING!

Check out some of the Revs prophetic antics on YouTube

Reading Books for Free (and I’m not talking about the library!)

July 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

Because my blog is one of the top blogs in the universe, and because I am fabulously famous (which was the goal in starting a blog in the first place), I’ve started to receive free books as part of The Ooze Select Blogger Network. Yes, that’s right, I’m “select,” and you probably aren’t. Sorry. And don’t even think about being select until you start having at least five or six different people coming to your blog. And I mean every day.

[As an aside, I recently watched What Would Jesus Buy? and when Reverend Billy prays or conducts credit card exorcisms (yes, you read that right) he calls God the “fabulous creator” – or something like that. I like the word fabulous. Rolls off the tongue. I’m a fabulous blogger. Sounds good. Maybe it should be The Ooze Fabulous Blogger Network…I’ll see what I can do about that…]

So anyways, I’ve started receiving books in the mail with the expectation that I will read them and write about them on my blog. This is great news for you! Not only will you be reading a blog that’s part of a select fabulous blogger network, you will also be receiving free advice from me about books you should or should not be reading! Free advice from a fabulous blogger! You are very lucky people.

Alrighty, let’s get down to business. Here are my first reviews.

Hokey Pokey, by Mathew Paul Turner
Yep, the first book is called Hokey Pokey. It’s written by a former editor of CCM magazine and the book is about issues related to vocation and calling. These are issues I think about a lot. I’m not sure, but perhaps because I think about these issues a lot, this book didn’t do it for me. Turner is a good writer and has some good things to say, but no big revelations. And let me tell you, I need big revelations – especially when it comes to this topic. But if you are interested in a book to get you started thinking about vocation and calling, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Feel, by Mathew Elliot
I only made it through half of Feel, but I actually did like what Eliot is saying. He’s basically trying to debunk the myth that feelings are always to be discounted. He is particularly interested in showing that the Bible does not support this way of thinking. I agree. However, I thought the book was repeating the same thing over and over. After reading half the book I just had a feeling the second half was going to be the same as the first. I decided to trust my feelings and skip the second half. But if this stuff interests you, I do recommend the book (or at least the first half of it).

We the Purple, by Marcia Ford
Marcia Ford believes we’re in the midst of a growing revolution of sorts – the growth in the number and influence of independent voters. Ford is an independent voter and is quite proud of it. And very excited. But I’m not as excited. I have nothing to say about this book. I only read a couple chapters. I wasn’t interested. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later. If you want to read a thoughtful review from someone who actually did read the book, check out Makeesha Fisher’s review of the book (by the way, I agree that it’s probably a good idea to read a book before reviewing it. I’ll try to follow that rule.)

Songs for a Revolution of Hope, Volume 1
This is not a book, so I did not read it. But since it’s a cd, I did listen to it. Songs for a Revolution of Hope is a collaboration between Brian McLaren and Tracy Howe of the Restoration Project. It’s a cd that tries real hard to produce a different kind of worship music for the church. As you know, typical worship music is something I definitely have a problem with, so I really do appreciate what this project is trying to do. However, I just couldn’t get into it. I like the lyrics to the songs (for the most part). I like the sounds. But I just have this block against worship music. Sorry. I love McLaren and I love what he’s trying to do here. Please go and check out this cd. Or at least check out the lyrics. It really does represent a good change in direction for worship music. I just have a problem.

Well, that’s it folks. I’m sorry there are no strong recommendations here. I’m just now starting to read the next batch of books provided by the Ooze Fabulous Blogger Network. I am hopeful there will be some good ones. Right now I’m reading The New Conspirators by Tom Sine and Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh. I’m particularly excited about Rapture Ready.

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

July 13, 2008 - 3 Responses

The third and final section of The Fidelity of Betrayal is focused on “The Event of God.” This portion of the book, as with the other sections, is very difficult to discuss in one blog entry. I could write many entries about Rollins’ notion that doubting God is not the same as doubting the miracle of faith – the intervention of God. I could also write many pages about Rollins’ call for communities where belonging comes before believing. And I think I could start a whole new blog to work through the ideas of the last chapter, where Rollins begins to discuss what it might look like to forge faith collectives where “transformance art” and “theodrama” provide space for God to give God. But I simply can’t address all of it. So instead I will leave you with a few of my final thoughts about fidelity, betrayal, and moving towards a church beyond belief.

First of all, I want to make it very clear that Rollins is not simply playing games with this call to betrayal. “The Fidelity of Betrayal” is not just a clever title to help generate interest in the book. Rollins is calling for us to betray Christianity. To betray the Bible, God, and the Church. But we must remember, Rollins is calling us to a faithful betrayal. Rollins believes our ideas about God and the Bible, which take form in the Church and Christianity, point to a transforming event, a miracle that we cannot deny. And this miracle is what provokes our faith and our attempts to explain our faith. But these explanations and beliefs always fall short of expressing the miracle that has transformed us from the inside out. The miracle is unexplainable but undeniable. So we must always betray the solidification of the radical miracle of faith into mere beliefs. This does not mean we cannot hold beliefs, but we must hold them with great humility, always being willing to betray these beliefs – to rethink and reformulate these beliefs. And we must always acknowledge that these beliefs cannot hold the transforming event they attempt to describe.

I sincerely appreciate Rollins’ call for faithful betrayal, but more than anything I am intrigued by Rollins’ call for a church beyond belief. Again, this is not merely clever wording. Rollins is challenging us to move beyond churches centered on commonly held beliefs. Again, let me make it clear, beliefs are not bad. But we must move beyond beliefs as the central focus. Instead, we must acknowledge the centrality of the life transforming miracle these beliefs attempt to describe. A miracle that is truly beyond belief. A miracle that is beyond the system of Christianity. So what might a church beyond belief look like? This is what interests me more than anything else. With Rollins, I am interested in the development of this type of church. In the past I have called it “a church that’s not a church.” (also see this post, which describes a significant shift in my thinking about church). Rollins plays with the terms “religious collective,” “transformance art,” and “theodrama” as he tries to describe such a group.

In conclusion, I leave you with some of Rollins’ thoughts about the formation and nature of these experimental collectives:

“Here I am referring to the formation of passionate, provocative gatherings, operating on the fringes of religious life, that offer anarchic experiments in theodrama that re-imagine the distinction between Christian and non-Christian, priest and prophet, doubt and certainty, the sacred and secular – gatherings that employ a rich cocktail of music, poetry, prose, imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual, and reflection: gatherings that provide a place that is open to all, is colonized by none, and that celebrates diversity.

“Such an immersive, theodramatic space would aim to affirm the need for (1) collective reflection; (2) a space where individuals can lay aside political, religious, and social identities; and finally (3) offer creative, ritualistic acts that invite, affirm, recall, and relate the event housed within the religion without religion that is Christianity.”

And finally:

“These temporary spaces will likely appear as much in art galleries, on street corners, in bars and basements, as they will in churches and cathedrals…[E]verything, absolutely everything, will be designed to invite, encourage, solicit, seek out, recall, remember, reach out to, bow down before, and cry out to that unspeakable miracle that dwells, quite literally, beyond belief.”

I realize this is all pretty wild and crazy. Would something like this even be a church? Would it be Christian? Personally, I think those are the wrong questions. I don’t care if it’s really a church or truly Christian. I think it might be something “other.”

What do you think? I’d really love to hear your thoughts about a church beyond belief.


Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Prayer and Action

July 10, 2008 - Comments Off on Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Prayer and Action

Perhaps my favorite Bonhoeffer quote:

“Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christians today will be limited to two things; prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be born anew out of this prayer and action…It is not for us to prophesy the day (although the day will come) when men will once more be called so to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming – as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with men and the coming of his kingdom…Till then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

A New World

July 8, 2008 - Comments Off on A New World

“You are Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you in no way let yourself become established in the situation of the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe you have a role to play in the realization of the new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.”

– Henri Nouwen

(HT: McLaren)

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

July 5, 2008 - Comments Off on Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

In Part 2, as Rollins is betraying God, he turns to both Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer to assist him in this betrayal. As you know, Bonhoeffer has been much on my mind over the past nine months or so, so it was interesting to read Rollins’ thoughts about how Bonhoeffer connects to some of the ideas of faithful betrayal. This was particularly interesting in the context of Rollins’ thoughts on Nietzsche, who certainly influenced Bonhoeffer’s prison theology.

With Nietzsche’s assistance, Rollins addresses the issue of finding meaning in the world. If the core of Christianity is related to finding purpose in our lives and knowing that God loves us, then is Christianity merely a way of finding meaning in life? Is this the primary purpose of Christianity – to give us meaning and purpose within the context of our understanding of God and his purposes for the world?

I think this is largely true of Christianity – faith in God primarily as a way to find meaning.

The problem with this scenario is that these intellectual beliefs can become a hindrance to us truly living in the world. And these beliefs do not necessarily lead to a transformed life in this world. In fact, in many cases, finding peace and meaning in life can lead towards a rejection of this world and/or the creation of a false dichotomy between believing and living.

Rollins contests that Nietzsche’s protest was against any system (including atheism) that provided an all-encompassing way of finding meaning in life. Instead, Nietzsche hoped for a time when we would live with a full embrace of this world – embracing both its beauty and its terror. Rollins concludes that Nietzsche’s argument was not necessarily for or against the existence of God. Rather, his argument “claimed that the question of God’s existence was redundant.” Instead of asking the big question “why,” Rollins sees Nietzsche undermining the question entirely. Rollins asserts, “In response to the question ‘Why?’ [Nietzsche] replied, ‘Why ask why?’”

As I was reading this I couldn’t help but think about how related this is to Bonhoeffer’s prison theology. So I was quite excited when the very next page introduced Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity” into the discussion! Connecting Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer, Rollins writes:

“[Bonhoeffer] wondered how to express the relevance of God (the God of faith) to those who do not feel the need for God (the Cartesian God that provides a matrix of meaning), while encouraging those who embrace such ideological religion to grow beyond it – helping those who have forsaken God (the Cartesian God) to find God (the God of faith) and those who have found God to forsake God.

“By exploring these issues he was responding to the idea that Christianity for a long time has been aimed at responding to a need in people (such as the feeling of guilt). As such it has been expressed as good news that can only be heard once a person has been brought low by the bad news…Bonhoeffer wondered whether it is possible to embrace God out of love and lightness of heart, out of a seduction that is caught up in the call of God rather than the need of God.”

How about that! Yes! The very questions I think are the most important regarding how to be a Christian/person of faith/lover of God in today’s world.

Any thoughts? Does this make any sense?


Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Betraying God

June 29, 2008 - One Response

In Part 2 of Peter RollinsThe Fidelity of Betrayal he takes up the topic of the being of God. Whereas in Part 1 Rollins’ argued that we must betray the Bible, in Part 2 he proposes we must also betray God. Rollins concludes this section with the following summary:

“…we must learn that in order to approach the God of faith and the truth affirmed by Christianity, we must betray the God we grasp – for the God who brings us into a new life is never the God we grasp but always in excess of that God. The God we affirm is then, at its best, inspired by the incoming of God and born there, but it is never to be confused with God.

“In the aftermath of God’s happening the true worshipper attempts to paint the most beautiful pictures imaginable to reflect that happening. It is this heartfelt endeavor to paint the most refined and beautiful conceptual images that speaks of God, not the actual descriptions we create.”

Rollins sees many problems with the common method for attempting to understand and speak of God. This method, which views God as an object of our contemplation, involves creating a distance between the believer and the source of the believer’s faith, so that we can dissect and explore the object (God), in much the same way as we might take apart and examine a computer. By attempting to examine God as a disinterested observer we have distanced ourselves from the most intimate and personal relationship in our lives. We have approached the question of God “as a problem to be pondered, dissected, and solved, rather than a mystery to inhabit and be transformed by.” Rollins believes this method hands over all authority to the experts and creates a false dichotomy between seeking truth and pursuing a life of devotion and service. Rollins is fearful of reducing Christianity to “a set of claims concerning ideas such as the world’s being created for a purpose, God’s loving us, and the existence of heaven.” By reducing Christianity to these claims we lose the transformational potential of the encounter with God. In addition, this view of Christianity can cause an unhealthy, and even dangerous, abandonment of this world, as we look solely to the next world.

Instead of viewing God as an object to be contemplated, “God is named as a verb,” and a happening being “made known only in action, only as blessing.” God is beyond understanding but is also intimately near to us. God is not an object but “a mystery to participate in,” giving new life. This new life “fundamentally changes how we interact with the things we see, touch, and experience.” God is not an object but is that which radically changes our own way of experiencing the world and everything in it. As with our rejection of the Bible, our rejection of God does not mean we can no longer speak of God, but it does mean we must always recognize that our words about God always come up short. God is always beyond our words and our conception of him. We must not attempt to distance ourselves from God in order to understand him. Instead we must welcome the incoming of God and embrace the mystery and transformative nature of this event we always fail to adequately describe.

(more to come on Part 2 – some thoughts about Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer)


Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Individualistic Christianity

June 19, 2008 - 5 Responses

Hasn’t the individualistic question about personal salvation almost completely left us all? Aren’t we really under the impression that there are more important things than that question (perhaps not more important than the matter itself, but more important than the question!)? I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isn’t this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving one’s soul appear in the Old Testament at all? Aren’t righteousness and the Kingdom of God on earth the focus of everything, and isn’t it true that Rom. 3.24ff. is not an individualistic doctrine of salvation, but the culmination of the view that God alone is righteous? It is not with the beyond that we are concerned, but with this world as created and preserved, subjected to laws, reconciled, and restored. What is above this world is, in the gospel, intended to exist for this world; I mean that, not in the anthropocentric sense of liberal, mystic pietistic, ethical theology, but in the biblical sense of creation and of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Betraying the Bible

June 14, 2008 - 4 Responses

In concluding Part 1, “The Word of God,” Peter Rollins writes:

“It is all too common for Christians to attempt to do justice to the scriptural narrative by listening to it, learning from it, and attempting to extract a way of viewing the world from it. But the narrative itself is asking us to approach it in a much more radical way. It is inviting us to wrestle with it, disagree with it, contend with it, and contest it – not as an end in itself, but as a means of approaching its life-transforming truth, a truth that dwells within and yet beyond the words…And so, in our desire to remain absolutely, totally, and resolutely faithful to the Word of God, we come face to face with the idea that we must be prepared to wrestle with, question, and even betray the words.”

In Part 1, Rollins discusses the Bible. He begins by revealing the people of God in the Bible, Israel, as those who wrestle with God. In contrast to Islam, which means peace or submission, the people of Yahweh are called Israel, meaning those who wrestle with God. This notion of those who seek, follow, and love God being those who wrestle with God, is the central idea of the book. As he continues to discuss the Bible, Rollins proposes that in order to be faithful to the Bible, we must in fact “wrestle with it, disagree with it, contend with it…contest it…and even betray [it].” Rollins encourages us to refuse both of the common ways of dealing with the difficulties and ambiguities found in scripture – the two ways being 1) attempting to explain away the difficulties, and 2) accepting the difficulties but refusing to view the text as the divine Word. In place of these two options, Rollins proposes that we do not need to see the seeming contradictions in the Bible as a great dilemma. In fact, he believes the contradictions in the text are exactly what we would expect to find in a text inspired by God. Rollins sees the various stories of the Bible as attempts to put into words that which cannot be put into words, namely, the experience of God. So, in wrestling with the text we must realize that it is not merely an academic exercise in which we attempt to find the one true meaning of the text. Instead, to read the Bible in a truly transformative manner we must recognize that the text itself does not hold God. Rather, the text points to an encounter, an Event, that occurred in the lives of the authors. This encounter, this gaping hole in the text, is the Word of God, something behind and beyond the text itself. Rollins compares this to a crater, which is a sign of the occurrence of a volcanic eruption. The crater, or text, is not the Event itself, but rather points to the Event.

I believe Rollins’ view of the Bible has the potential to radically transform our reading of scripture. In fact, I believe this view saves the Bible and reinstates it as a text that can transform the reader. So much of modern Bible study is viewed as an academic exercise aimed at dissecting the text in order to find the original meaning and intention of the author. When taken to its logical conclusion, this method of reading robs the average reader and establishes the Biblical scholar as the only person capable of truly understanding the text. At best, with this most common method, we are all dependent on an expert who has been able to study the most recent Biblical scholarship. Rollins’ argument does not dispute the importance of Biblical scholarship, he simply desires to restore the rightful place of the Bible as a transformative text – a text that can radically change us as we struggle to encounter the true source, God, who is found beyond the words of the Bible.


Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Retreating with St. Francis

June 9, 2008 - 6 Responses

This past weekend, Brooke and I had the pleasure of attending a Franciscan Retreat hosted by Real Live Preacher (Gordon Atkinson) and Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio.

Here are a few notes and reflections from the wonderful weekend.

St. Francis and developing a rule of life

The entire weekend retreat was centered on the Franciscan monastic tradition (check out the wonderful retreat booklet). Between Friday and Saturday we participated in four sessions dedicated to learning about St. Francis and developing a personal rule of life in the Franciscan tradition. The idea of developing a rule of life, and the related notion of taking on communal vows, has been very much on my mind over the past year. I hope this past weekend began the process of creating a written rule for my own life. In short, the focus of these sessions was on considering the values we each have and whether or not these values are evident in how we live our lives. By creating a rule of life we are encouraged to consider our values, the spiritual disciplines that would accompany these values, and then the rule that would express how these values and disciplines should be lived out in our daily lives. I think the process of working through each of these areas and creating the rule can be very valuable. I began this process this past weekend and hope to continue it over the following months.

A monastic and contemplative spirituality

In addition to learning about St. Francis and beginning the process of creating a rule of life, we also participated in communal prayer and worship by following the Franciscan schedule for praying the hours. We all joined together in services for vespers (evening prayer), compline (night prayer), matins (3am prayer – I wimped out and skipped this service), lauds (morning prayer), terce (third hour prayer), sext (sixth hour prayer), and none (ninth hour prayer). These short but very meaningful services consisted of liturgical prayers, scripture readings, music, chants, songs, periods of silence and contemplation, and group prayer. Paul Soupiset, liturgical arts director for the retreat, coordinated these beautiful services and helped give me a new (and ancient) vision for communal worship involving music. Many of you know my difficulties with modern day worship and praise services (documented here). Participating in these services left me spiritually refreshed and nourished. In addition to these beautiful services, I was also encouraged by the lovely natural setting for the retreat. Covenant Baptist Church is in the midst of a wonderful wooded area and has done an excellent job of preserving the natural beauty around the church buildings. Prayer paths and a labyrinth complement this setting and provide a rich environment for prayer, silence, and contemplation.

Community and conversation

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the retreat was the opportunity to meet and converse with other pilgrims from all over Texas (including a number from the Covenant community) and from locations across the United States – Seattle, Durham, and New York City. As with Gordon’s blog, this retreat drew a diversity of spiritual pilgrims from various backgrounds, religious traditions, and varying places within Christianity. I am so glad to have made many new friends and spiritual companions. I am also thankful for the wonderful hospitality of Covenant Baptist Church and the many people who cooked, taught, and served throughout the weekend. Brooke and I were also able to join the Covenant community for worship on Sunday morning.

The entire weekend was such a joy. I hope you consider attending one of these retreats. You can find out more information at the Covenant Center for Contemplative Christianity.


Others who are blogging about the retreat



A couple photos from RLP

(see all of RLP’s photos from the retreat)

Labels (Emerging? Emergent?)

June 4, 2008 - Comments Off on Labels (Emerging? Emergent?)

“Labels are useful only in so far as they set expectations among those with whom we wish to have a dialogue. The label that best taps the knowledge resources of the audience is the one we try to choose.”

– from an interview with Critical Art Ensemble


related: Why the emerging church does not exist

Experimental Blogging and “Thinking Free”

May 29, 2008 - Comments Off on Experimental Blogging and “Thinking Free”

More and more, I desire to pursue experimental thinking with my blogging. I want to push out beyond the boundaries. I want to create rather than merely consume. I want to be more experimental in my blogging and thinking. It’s not always easy. I’m often very uncreative and quite stuck within my normal thinking patterns.

As I was considering experimental blogging, I recalled an excellent book called The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by USC president Steven Sample (an electrical engineer). One of my favorite concepts from the book is called “thinking free.” Sample explains “thinking free” in a 2007 speech:

“Thinking free…goes beyond ‘thinking outside the box’ or ‘brainstorming.’ Thinking free takes that process of inventiveness to the next level.

“The key to thinking free is first to allow your mind to contemplate really outrageous ideas, and only subsequently apply the constraints of practicality, practicability, legality, cost, time, and ethics.

“…thinking free is an unnatural act. It therefore requires enormous effort. It also requires the suppression of a completely natural urge to immediately dismiss novel and seemingly ridiculous ideas. If they can do it at all, most people can bear to truly think free only for a matter of minutes. The process exhausts the mind.

“My favorite way to stimulate this kind of thinking free is to force myself to contemplate absolutely outrageous and impossible ways to address a particular problem.

“For example, in 1967 I was struggling to invent a new way to control a dishwasher… At one point I lay on the floor and forced myself to imagine hay bales, elephants, planets, ladybugs, sofas, microbes, newspapers, hydroelectric dams, French horns, electrons and trees, each in turn and in various combinations controlling a dishwasher.

“This exercise was, to say the least, extremely difficult and disconcerting, so much so that I could do it for only 10 minutes at a time. But after a few such sessions I suddenly envisioned an almost complete circuit diagram for a digital electronic control system for a home appliance. This system was unlike anything I or others had ever contemplated before [and] was eventually employed in hundreds of millions of home appliances around the world.

“As improbable as it might sound, this same approach to thinking free can lead to novel ways of addressing some of the many challenges you will confront, no matter what your field or vocation, may be. The key is to break free for just a few minutes from the incredibly tight constraints that rule our thinking almost all of the time, even when we dream or engage in so-called free association.”


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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: An Introduction

May 27, 2008 - 2 Responses

After immediately devouring Peter Rollins’ new book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief (read my initial thoughts), I am now going back and rereading the book, slowly sifting through the material and thinking through the implications of Rollins’ provocative work. As part of this process I will be blogging through the book over the next few weeks. I hope you join me as I wrestle with the significant concepts presented in this book. And I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way.

In the introduction, Rollins presents the question, “What Would Judas Do?” Rollins uses this question as a tool to delve into his notion that we must betray Christianity in order to remain faithful to it. He writes:

“In other words, what would Jesus do when confronted with Christianity today? Would Jesus do what Judas did, and betray it? In saying this I am not hinting at the rather mundane insight that Jesus would betray the anemic, inauthentic, self-serving Churchianity that so often festers quietly under the banner of Christianity today. I am not asking whether Jesus would turn the tables on what passes as contemporary Christianity in favor of a more robust and radical version that may have once existed in an age long past. Rather, by asking whether Jesus would betray Christianity as Judas betrayed Christ, I am asking if Jesus would plot the downfall of Christianity in every form it takes.”

Continuing the introduction, Rollins sees the consequences of this faithful betrayal as twofold:

“First, we are led to embrace the idea of Christianity as a religion without religion, that is, as a tradition, that is always prepared to wrestle with itself, disagree with itself, and betray itself. Second, this requires a way of structuring religious collectives that operate at a deeper level than the mere affirmation of shared doctrines, creeds, and convictions. It involves the formation of dynamic, life-affirming collectives that operate, quite literally, beyond belief.”

At the Emergent Village blog, Rollins further explains the core concept of the book:

“In this work I make the claim that, in order to remain faithful to Christianity, we must be courageous enough to betray the bible (section 1), God (section 2) and the church (section 3). Why? Do I think that we must abandon them as redundant relics of a by-gone era? Do I think that they have served their purpose? Or do I feel that they prevent the world coming of age? By no means! Here I argue for a betrayal that remains faithful to these very words by helping us to re-discover the truly untamed, white-hot, life-transforming reality that they house.” (HT: EV blog)

I hope these quotes intrigue you enough to join in as I discuss this book, and perhaps you will even buy the book and read it with me – I hope you do.

You can read the entire prologue and introduction online.


Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Happy Blogiversary (to me)

May 25, 2008 - 5 Responses

Today marks three years of blogging.

I cannot be stopped (and believe me, people have tried).

In honor of this most sacred of days, here are the Top Ten Posts of the past year (based on the number of total comments).

1. Where would Jesus go to church? (25 responses)

The top post probably provided some of the best conversation of the year. Of course I can’t really take credit for that – Roger Olson provided the fuel for the fire.

2. Why the emerging church does not exist (24 responses)

This might be my favorite post of the year. It probably didn’t make sense. And it probably caused lots of confusion. But hey, I liked it.

3. Reading unChristian 1: Intro (23 responses)

Yikes, I forgot about this one (a post worthy of using the word “yikes”). There was definitely some disagreement in the discussion of this one…and some clear misunderstanding (can misunderstanding be clear?).

4. Hell (22 responses)

A post I’d probably write differently now than I did then. And probably would write differently in six months than I would now.

5. Should you get circumcised? (20 responses)

This is one of my favorite posts of the year and is probably the most common post people randomly find on Google. At least a couple times every week someone will get to my blog by searching for “should I get circumcised” or “how do I circumcise myself” or other crazy statements like that. I don’t think they end up finding on my blog what they were looking for.

6. Beginning at the end [Why I am so screwed up – part 1 of 10] (20 responses)

I’m still working on the second post for this series…

7. Downward Mobility (19 responses)

Another favorite post. Very interesting conversation. I actually do want to continue this conversation in further posts. This is something I’m still thinking about quite a bit.

8. Evangelical (Idol) Worship (19 responses)

Sometimes you just never know what’s going to happen when you click “publish.” This post is a great example of that.

9. Raising Hell (17 responses)

More hell. Blah, blah, blah.

10. Evangelical Worship (17 responses)

Not a ton of agreement on this one but I still stick to my thoughts on the subject.

And here are a couple entries I liked but no one paid attention to (yes, very sad).

Do we need a new Jesus?

I just can’t imagine why people were scared away by this one…

Downward Mobility 2

Was Jesus both the Son of God and a madman? Turns out, nobody cares.


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Bonhoeffer Thursdays: God at the centre

May 22, 2008 - One Response

Religious people speak of God when human knowledge… has come to an end, or when human resources fail – in fact it is always the deus ex machina that they bring on to the scene, either for the apparent solution of insoluble problems, or as strength in human failure – always, that is to say, exploiting human weakness or human boundaries. Of necessity, that can go on only till people can by their own strength push these boundaries somewhat further out, so that God becomes superfluous as a deus ex machina. I’ve come to be doubtful of talking about any human boundaries (is even death, which people now hardly fear, and is sin, which they now hardly understand, still a genuine boundary today?). It always seems to me that we are trying anxiously in this way to reserve some space for God; I should like to speak of God not on the boundaries but at the centre, not in weaknesses but in strength; and therefore not in death and guilt but in man’s life and goodness. As to the boundaries, it seems to me better to be silent and leave the insoluble unsolved. Belief in the resurrection is not the ‘solution’ of the problem of death. God’s ‘beyond’ is not the beyond of our cognitive faculties. The transcendence of epistemological theory has nothing to do with the transcendence of God. God is beyond in the midst of our life. The church stands, not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village. That is how it is in the Old Testament, and in this sense we still read the New Testament far too little in the light of the Old. How this religionless Christianity looks, what form it takes, is something that I’m thinking about a great deal, and I shall be writing to you again about it soon. It may be that on us in particular, midway between East and West, there will fall a heavy responsibility.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)


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Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

May 20, 2008 - Comments Off on Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

Part 5 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe


The Christian religion, denominations within Christianity, and individual churches often operate as though their particular structures are strong castles that must be defended against enemy attack. In some ways this is understandable. These institutions hold sacred beliefs that are valuable to those involved. Many of these beliefs might even be worth defending. However, the emerging church is not a religion, a church, or a denomination. In some ways it is not even necessarily Christian. In fact, as we’ve discussed, the emerging church does not exist. And this is one of its great advantages. The emerging church has nothing to defend. Nothing to fight for. There are no gates to lock people in or out. Now, this does not mean there is nothing sacred, nothing valuable to those within the emerging church. It simply means that the emerging church is not an object to be held. Rather, the emerging church is something to be given away. It is a conversation. It is for anyone and everyone. No one is excluded. And no one holds all the power. I view the emerging church as a large table. A table where all are welcome. There is always an open seat. While there may be reasons for churches, denominations, and religions to create rules for participation, there are no rules in the emerging church. The conversation is open to all – and the conversation is a friendship.

Let me explain this a little. In many ways, religions, denominations, and churches can never be safe places. Too many things are held sacred. And when those sacred beliefs or practices are challenged, there are those who move in to protect the sacred. This can happen in very simple ways. Someone might question the Bible and be quietly corrected. Another person might express a lack of faith and be told to pray for more faith. These are subtle ways that sacred beliefs are protected. Rather than opening up the question of the Bible’s authority or allowing doubt to coexist with faith, these possibilities are suppressed. This is just one kind of example. There are many. I’m not saying the emerging church is simply a place to doubt. Instead, I’m saying that the emerging church is a place for open conversation without the restricting confines of the walls often found in religious institutions. And hopefully the emerging church also impacts the institutions by creating safe places for conversation among those who may be part of these important institutions.

Does this make sense?

In short, I hope the emerging church is an inclusive and safe place to believe/disbelieve while having conversation about matters related to faith in today’s world.


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If God is Love

May 19, 2008 - 2 Responses

I have often contemplated the title of my blog (I’ve blogged about it at least three other times – 1, 2, and 3). I don’t know exactly where the title came from. There is a book with the same title, but I’m pretty sure I encountered the book after I started blogging. Either way, “If God is Love” is a phrase full of meaning for me. Mostly it’s a phrase full of hope.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this title and how it relates to “a new way to believe.” Upon reflection, I’ve realized that the phrase “If God is Love” contains within it at least two questions.

The question of God – “If God” – and the question of God’s Love – “If God is Love.”

At times it may seem that God is not real or at least that God is not love. But for me the giant “if,” the significant uncertainty in this phrase, is not only a signal for the question of God, but also a sign of hope. Hope that there might be a God of Love and a realization of what that means for everything and everyone. The “if” requires faith and hope. I choose to believe. I choose to hope. In the midst of the uncertainty.

This is not a blind hope and a blind faith. I’m not saying that there is an imaginary possibility that God is Love and I choose to believe in that – no, it’s more than that. I believe I have encountered this God of Love. But I also acknowledge that I have encountered the uncertainty.

And so I recognize that I have encountered both the presence of God and the uncertainty of God.

“If God is Love” is where I stand in the midst of this paradox.


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May 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

Going beyond the Christian “table”

Cheryl Lawrie has some interesting thoughts about alternative communities and looking outside the Christian community. I think she’s talking about “church that’s not a church.” You should read the whole post, but here’s a sample:

“Most conversations about new forms of church or christian community are about rethinking the table at which the disciples sit. True confession… this project doesn’t emerge from any interest in that table, or even really in the disciples. i think the really interesting stuff of the gospels is the other stories – the tables Jesus went to where the disciples weren’t invited, or where they were so absent no-one thought to mention their presence – the afternoons at Mary and Martha’s, the nameless person’s house where Jesus met the syro-phonoecian woman, dinner at Levi’s house, dinner with Peter’s mother, the ‘water into wine’ wedding table… i think they’re the fun tables.”

Listen to Peter Rollins

Check out this lecture by Peter Rollins entitled “On the supreme difficulty of atheism and why only the religious can attain it.”

Dear God: Hear us, one prayer at a time

Send your prayers directly to God, via this blog. Lots of good reading and quite a holy voyeuristic pleasure of sorts. (HT: Walking Away)

The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival

Check out the press release for Mark Scandrette, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt’s upcoming tour. Here’s a snippet:

“Taking a page out of the Billy Sunday playbook, the authors will spread the emergent message of a generous, hope-filled Christian faith in the style and cadence of the tent revival preachers of a hundred years ago. They plan to have fun with it, wearing frock suits and selling “healing balm,” but the goal is, as in the revivals of yore, to preach the good news.”

Radiohead video for “All I Need”

Check out this powerful video from Radiohead juxtaposing two children from opposite sides of the world – one rich, one poor. (HT: Gathering in Light)


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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Initial Thoughts

May 15, 2008 - One Response

Ever since reading Peter Rollins’ How (Not) to Speak of God I have been looking forward to his next book. In fact, I can’t remember a book I have anticipated more highly. So when The Fidelity of Betrayal arrived on Tuesday I was filled with excitement. That night I read about two thirds of the book and yesterday I finished the last third. I devoured it. I couldn’t read it fast enough. It was wonderful. Sometimes I find it helpful to start engaging a book by reading through it quickly, in order to gain the overall big picture, and then to go through it slowly, savoring every word. I am really looking forward to reading it again and blogging through it, just like I did when I read How (Not) to Speak of God for the second time. Hopefully I can start that in the next couple weeks.

Here are few initial comments related to the new book.

First, I think this book successfully builds upon the concepts in Rollins’ first book and takes them to the next level. So if you’re interested in Rollins’ work, I recommend buying both books and starting with How (Not) to Speak of God. Basically, The Fidelity of Betrayal builds on an idea Rollins started working with in the first book. In fact, he builds on the idea that most intrigued me in his first book – the notion of giving up Christianity in order to truly fulfill it. In his first book Rollins relates a powerful story from the movie Amen in which a priest in Nazi Germany gives up his Christian faith and becomes a Jew in order to identify with the persecuted, a move the priest believes is necessary in order to truly live his Christian beliefs. The Fidelity of Betrayal takes this concept and examines it through three lenses, the Word of God, the Being of God, and the Event of God, which forms the structure for the book.

Second, I’m convinced that Phyllis Tickle is right in her assessment of Rollins’ work. She writes, “Here in pregnant bud is the rose, the emerging new configuration, of a Christianity that is neither Roman nor Protestant, neither Eastern nor monastic; but rather is the re-formation of all of them. Here, in pregnant bud, is third-millennium Christianity.” I really believe it. What Rollins (and others) is writing about and doing may not be the future of Christianity but it is certainly a future of Christianity. And the possibility of this future gives me much hope. I believe the core concepts of this book are going to, and already are starting to re-form Christianity in our world. I’m not talking about a shift in the core beliefs of Christianity, but rather a revolution of how Christianity is experienced and expressed in the world.

Third, Rollins ends his new book with some discussion about starting communities that are forged in the midst of these ideas. He quite literally proposes “a church beyond belief” (the subtitle of the book). In short, Rollins is looking at the implications of moving from the church as a bastion of beliefs, towards communities of transformation. Just as Rollins argues for a “religion without religion” I think he is imagining a sort of church that’s not a church, which is exactly what I am most interested in.

So go buy this book. Read it. Think about it. Argue with it. Soak in it. And in the process, allow God to transform you.

[Check out my series on How (Not) to Speak of God]


Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe

May 14, 2008 - 2 Responses

Part 4 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe


In the previous post I described the shift that has occurred in my faith regarding how I believe. In many ways, the rest of this series will be a further elaboration on that one theme.

As I have moved towards a greater comfort with ambiguity, mystery, and uncertainty in my faith, one result has been a turn towards a more hopeful way of believing. By hopeful I mean a more positive view of the world and the people in the world. Again, I don’t think my theology has changed a great deal. I still believe in sin. I still believe we are in need of redemption. However, as my way of believing has changed, I have become much more willing to accept the ambiguity of our world. How is it that such good and such evil can come from both Christians and non-Christians? Why isn’t there always a marked difference? In dealing with this problem I no longer feel the need to draw thick lines between Christians, who are responsible for all the good in the world, and non-Christians, those unfortunate beings who bring us all down. Sure, this is an exaggeration, but I don’t think it’s far from how many Christians believe. It’s not far from how I believed. I’m now much more likely to see the value in all people, inherent in their very existence, rather than being caught up in such a divisive and destructive way of believing. This way of looking at people has also changed the way I look at the world. Rather than viewing creation as doomed for destruction, with hope I look for the redemption of this world and everything in it. And I don’t only look for transformation to occur in some afterlife, but in the here and now, little by little. As a result, my hope is that I can be an active participant with God in the redemption, reconciliation, restoration, and recreation of all things.


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May 13, 2008 - 6 Responses

Ivy turns one year old today. Amazing.

She has truly made everything better.

Ivy, I am so happy you came to us. Happy Birthday!


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True or False?

May 12, 2008 - 4 Responses

Come one, come all!

Come and hear The Answer!

Enter these doors and be changed forever!

Hear the Word and never be the same!

Do you have questions?

Do you have troubles in your life?

Come! God is in this place!

He is the answer to all your questions!

All you must do is come!


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Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Feeling drawn to the religionless

May 8, 2008 - One Response

“I often ask myself why a ‘Christian instinct’ often draws me more to the religionless people than to the religious, by which I don’t in the least mean with any evangelizing intention, but, I might almost say, ‘in brotherhood’. While I’m often reluctant to mention God by name to religious people – because that name somehow seems to me here not to ring true, and I feel myself to be slightly dishonest (it’s particularly bad when others start to talk in religious jargon; I then dry up almost completely and feel awkward and uncomfortable) – to people with no religion I can on occasion mention him by name quite calmly and as a matter of course.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)


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Why I am emerging: A new way to believe

May 7, 2008 - 9 Responses

Part 3 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe


Now that I’ve declared the emerging church to be non-existent, I hope to explain why I am emerging and how the emerging church has saved my faith. Yeah, I know, I’m trying to have it both ways. You’re right, I’m a cheater. I believe in emerging even though it doesn’t exist. I identify with this non-reality. In fact, I find great hope in this nebulous something-or-other. Call it “emerging,” call it “emergent,” or call it nothing at all, ultimately I don’t care. I’m with you. I’m in. I’m just not going to spend much time talking about terms, or fighting for them one way or the other. I don’t plan on talking about it anymore. I’m interested in the how and not the what. I desire to be productive and constructive. From here on out this series is going to be focused on the hope I find in this new kind of Christianity and how it has helped save my faith.

To begin the discussion of “why I am emerging,” I want to return to the Peter Rollins’ quote I mentioned in the first post.

“This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs.”

I see this as salvation from the dictatorship of having to know with certainty. I no longer feel the need to have proof for all my beliefs and “evidence that demands a verdict.” I feel much more secure with ambiguity and mystery. Now this doesn’t mean I check my brain at the door, and there is a lot more involved in all this than I am discussing here. But ultimately this change in how I believe, rather than in what I believe, has set me free. For the last five or so years this process of changing how I believe has really brought me new hope for my own faith. More than anything else, this has been the greatest service the emerging church has done for me. And I hope this way of believing is the core theological influence the emerging conversation ends up having on the larger church.

In case this still seems somewhat murky, here’s a practical example from my own life.

Brooke and I went through a significant tragedy in experiencing the stillbirth of our first child. This really shook up our world. How could this have happened? We had gone through so much to get pregnant in the first place. God had at last heard our prayers. Everyone spoke of the goodness of God and how he faithfully answered our prayers. We were overjoyed with being pregnant, we were looking forward to the life of our son. But when we lost Zach this whole way of looking at things feel apart. If God had answered our prayers, why had this happened? Did we lack faith? Was God a scam? What about all the promises of the Bible? It was difficult (and still is difficult) to reconcile this event with our beliefs. Were our beliefs simply all wrong? I don’t think so. I still believe God is loving. I believe God hears our prayers. I believe he didn’t want any of this to happen. My beliefs have not really changed all that much. However, how I believe these things has changed considerably. What Rollins wrote has really been true for me – in a sense, nothing changed and yet the shift was so radical that absolutely nothing was left unchanged. I still believe most of the same core concepts about God, but my faith is much more open to doubt, uncertainty, and even at times, unbelief. I feel much more able to hold these seemingly opposing forces in a kind of constructive tension. This doesn’t mean I have everything figured out. Quite the opposite is true. I still don’t understand what happened or why it happened. I have a lot of difficulty with prayer. I still struggle with doubt. But I’m learning how to believe with doubt. I’m learning how to love God even when I am angry at God and do not understand him. Without this shift in how I believe, I don’t think my faith would have survived.


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Why the emerging church does not exist

May 5, 2008 - 29 Responses

Part 2 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 3 – Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe


In writing about the emerging church, I must first inform you that the emerging church does not exist. That’s right, there is no such thing as the emerging church.

You might think I’m joking. I’m not. You might even think you’ve read articles and even books about the emerging church. You haven’t. And most confusing of all, you might think I’m writing a series on the emerging church. But that is not true, because the emerging church does not exist, and you can’t write a series of blog entries about a topic that does not exist.

Please, allow me to explain.

People like to talk about the emerging church as if it is something you can point out and identify in the real world. But that is simply not the case. Just like there is no such thing as the emerging church, there is also no such thing as an emerging church. The term is simply too subjective, it is defined in widely varying ways, and ultimately it is too broad to mean much of anything. As a result, I don’t think it exists. It’s a myth. An apparition.

One person hears the term “emerging church” and thinks of the use of candles and media in worship services. Another person hears the term and thinks of moral relativism. Still another person thinks the term relates to the church’s engagement with culture. Some people might think the emerging church encompasses all of the above, while others might say all of the above is wrong and actually we should be talking about the emergent church and not the emerging church. That’s right, some people find it important to distinguish between the emerging church and the emergent church. But personally, I don’t think it’s very helpful to replace one meaningless term with yet another.

So what am I getting at? Two things in particular.

One, the term “emerging church” has lost any real meaning or value (if it ever had any in the first place). It is seldom helpful for conversation. In fact, I think using the term is usually a hindrance, rather than an aid, to good conversation.

Two, rather than writing thousands of blog entries trying to describe the emerging church, and creating numerous fancy charts identifying the emerging church, I think we should simply avoid using the term altogether. Instead, just say what you are really talking about – get past the term and talk about something that really does exist, in terms that most everyone can understand and agree upon. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are probably times when it makes sense to use the term (even though it refers to something that doesn’t exist) but for the most part, it only causes problems.

Well, I’m glad we worked that out. The next entry in my series on the topic that shall not be named, will actually work to describe what I am talking about, rather than what I’m not talking about.

What do you think about all this nonsense?


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Come, emerge with me

May 1, 2008 - 11 Responses

Part 1 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 2 – Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3 – Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe


This post will be the first in a series on the so called “emerging church.” Get ready. The emerging church is scary (just look at the picture). It’s heretical. And it might just cause you to lose your faith altogether. Well, at least that’s what people say.

To get us started, here are some intriguing words from Peter Rollins about the emerging conversation.

Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those within the emerging conversation are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess. In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today’s context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have. This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs. In short, this revolution is not one that merely adds to or subtracts from the world of our understanding, but rather one which provides the necessary tools for us to be able to look at that world in a completely different manner: in a sense, nothing changes and yet the shift is so radical that absolutely nothing will be left unchanged.

I think this notion of changing how we believe, rather than what we believe, is very important. I anticipate that much of my understanding of the emerging church will be centered on this idea.

What do you think about Rollins’ statement?

Are you scared?


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April 30, 2008 - 2 Responses

A confession of over indulgence

At Next-Wave, Josh Brown writes:

I am a hypocrite. Hear me roar. I sip my smoothies and blog with my expensive technology. I listen to my indie music with my utilitarian wardrobe. Don’t mess with me! I give money to the poor. I pay extra to get our electricity from “green energy”. Come! Come follow me. Downward mobility is the way to go. But wait . . . I am not going downward. I’m accessorizing my middle mobility. This is not change I am doing. This is not life that I’m creating. I’m perpetuating a myth. I’m soothing my guilt. I am the great politicizer. The great moralizer. The great theorist!

Why does God allow suffering?

Writing as a guest blogger at RLP, Sarah Bickle refuses to accept some of the “bull-oney” theories people offer to those dealing with suffering.

NT Wright on the Kingdom of God

Paul Fromont points us to an interview with NT Wright where he reminds us that “we don’t know how the Kingdom works” and that it “is always a surprise for us.”

Too much emphasis on the Gospels?

Michael Spencer reminds us of the danger of the gospels. I couldn’t agree more.

You could get a lot of wrong ideas reading the Gospels too much. You could start thinking that Jesus is in favor of some kind of social gospel where people give away lots of things, live in community, get in trouble for their radical compassion and stand outside of the religious establishment much of the time.

In fact, really….the Gospels have some good stories, but wouldn’t we be better off to study things like Romans 3 more often, so we really know what the Gospel is about?

Should men be ordained?

Eugene Cho points us to ten compelling reasons to reconsider.


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Downward Mobility 2

April 28, 2008 - 2 Responses

In discussing downward mobility and the way of Jesus, I think it is important to stop and consider Jesus for a minute.

C.S. Lewis famously wrote: “You must make your choice. Either [Jesus] was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”

There is a lot we could discuss about this statement, and there are even potential problems with the statement, but I simply want us to consider that Lewis left out at least one other option.

What if Jesus was the Son of God and a madman?

I think we need to seriously consider this option.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Jesus was mentally insane. But that’s not the only definition for a madman. Webster defines a madman as “a man who is or acts as if insane.” I propose that Jesus taught and lived in ways we would certainly consider crazy, bizarre, reckless, and yes, even insane. One definition for insanity is “something utterly foolish or unreasonable.” I think much of Jesus’ life and teaching fits under this description.

Consider a very small portion of the evidence (just nine short verses from Matthew 5):

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This is all very unreasonable. And seemingly, quite foolish.

So let’s not dismiss the idea of downward mobility (as I would like to) simply because it appears unreasonable and foolish. We must remember, when we look at Jesus we are looking into the eyes of a madman.

More to come…


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Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Speaking of God without religion

April 24, 2008 - One Response

Bonhoeffer continues his discussion of religionless Christianity:

“The questions to be answered would surely be: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God – without religion, i.e. without the temporally conditioned presuppositions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even ‘speak’ as we used to) in a ‘secular’ way about ‘God’? In what way are we ‘religionless-secular’ Christians, in what way are we the ecclesia, those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favoured, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object of religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean? What is the place of worship and prayer in a religionless situation?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)


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Speaking of Silence

April 23, 2008 - 2 Responses

Meister Eckhart
“Nothing is so like God as silence.”

Thomas Keating
“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”

St. John of the Cross
“The Father spoke one word from all eternity and he spoke it in silence, and it is in silence that we hear it.”

Thomas Merton
“It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brother and sister.”


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April 22, 2008 - 4 Responses

“The history of God is a history of silence.”

For some reason this phrase, these words, have been stuck in my mind for the past few days.

Thinking of Scripture.

Considering history.

My life.

Our world.

“The history of God is the history of silence.”

What do you think?


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Memoirs, Idols, and Pete Gall

April 21, 2008 - Comments Off on Memoirs, Idols, and Pete Gall

I read a recently released book this past week called My Beautiful Idol, by first time author Pete Gall. My Beautiful Idol is a confessional memoir following Gall’s faith journey through his mid-twenties. I’m a sucker for memoirs. Yes, they are all the rage nowadays, and as much as I might like to resist current fads, I can’t resist this one. I appreciate memoirs because they are honest. Not just honest about real life events, but honest enough to acknowledge that our understanding of God, faith, and spirituality always comes from our experiences. I agree with Frederick Buechner who says that ultimately all theology is a form of autobiography. Fancy theologians often fail to acknowledge this. The memoir puts it right out in the open – I appreciate that.

Even though I’m a sucker for memoirs, I’m also kind of skeptical of Christian memoirs from the past couple years. My tendency is to assume they are all just attempts to emulate Donald Miller and to make a buck off the memoir craze. So part of me almost didn’t want to like My Beautiful Idol. But I did enjoy it – it’s a good book. And even though it is a good story and an enjoyable read, that’s not really what won me over. Ultimately this is a book I can recommend because it really made me think, and that’s perhaps the most important element I look for in a book.

In the preface Gall sums up his book as “a story about how I’m a butt, and have been for some time now.” And then “the catch” – “I was also exactly the sort of Christian people tend to refer to as a hero.” The book follows Gall’s pursuit of “downward mobility” (uh oh) and tracks his various attempts at ministry, relationships, and finding meaning and significance in life. Gall’s theme throughout is that all of these experiences were ultimately a chasing after “a variety of beautiful idols,” and “the version of myself I’ve sought to create.” All of this talk about idols is what really got me thinking.

Gall spends a lot of time in his book describing how he created idols of what it looks like to be “a great man of God” or to really make a difference in the world. Through stories from his experiences he does a lot to deconstruct the popular ideas of what it means to be a “successful” Christian or a faithful follower of Jesus. His experiences in ministry also lead to quite critical conclusions regarding typical understandings of what it means to serve God and serve others. As you might have guessed, all of this really caused me to reflect on my own life and desires to be a follower of Jesus. Have I simply created a bunch of idols? Am I worshiping a bunch of self-created ideas of what it means, or might mean, to follow Jesus? I don’t know. But these are good things to think about.

In summary, if you are looking for an enjoyable and thought provoking read, and if you enjoy memoirs, then I definitely recommend My Beautiful Idol. While at times it is a little disjointed (what memoir isn’t?), and even though I wasn’t particularly happy with the conclusion, ultimately this is a thoughtful book exploring and deconstructing ideas of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in today’s world.


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Friday Notes

April 18, 2008 - 4 Responses

A few notes to keep you interested over the weekend:

What’s the fastest growing religion in America?
Bob Carlton gives us the answer. And it’s not what you might expect…

Peter Rollins on Orthodoxy, Doxology and The End of Religion
Michael Spencer at Internet Monk, gives us a short excerpt from an interview with Peter Rollins. Here’s an even shorter excerpt:

…when Jesus talks about the truth, he talks about life. The truth is what brings life. My axiom for today is that Christianity at its core doesn’t explain life but it brings life. We must thus ask whether our beliefs and actions bring life, healing and love to the people in the world. To bring live into the world is to know God for God is love. This is not the knowledge of creeds and theology but the knowledge of a transforming relationship with the source of all love. Truth in Christianity is thus different from the way we understand truth in the world, for the truth of Christianity is life, not description. This is what I talk about heretical orthodoxy, i.e. someone who does not understand God yet who changes the world in love.

Thinking about evangelism
Cheryl Lawrie at hold :: this space is thinking about evangelism. I really like what she is thinking. Here’s a tease:

the story i keep hearing from people who have intentionally and deliberately not chosen Christianity is that they are treated with disdain by some who have, being spouted lines like ‘you just haven’t heard about the christianity / god / faith that i know’. some people actually know about christianity and choose not to go there. how arrogant and smug of christians to assume that they know better…

Where Jim Wallis Stands
Christianity Today interviews Jim Wallis. The article begins with the following: “Jim Wallis wants you to know he’s not a liberal.”

Penguins Update
Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering, the Penguins swept away the Ottawa Senators.


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Evangelical (Idol) Worship

April 17, 2008 - 19 Responses

Ok, things are much worse than I originally thought.

I don’t think any additional commentary is needed.


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Go Penguins!

April 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

You may not know that I’m a hockey fan – and a Pittsburgh Penguins fan to be more specific. I even used to play hockey (yes, we do have hockey in Texas). Tonight the Penguins look to sweep the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last year Ottawa soundly defeated the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, finishing them off in just five games. This year the Penguins can return the favor. Go Pens!


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The Emergent Trifecta

April 15, 2008 - One Response

Emergent Village has partnered with Jossey-Bass for a series of books under the label “A Living Way: Emergent Visions,” with Tony Jones as the series editor. Mark Scandrette’s Soul Grafitti, published in 2007, was the first book in the series. I read Soul Graffiti last year and found it incredibly helpful. I have recommended it to many people, blogged about it, and declared it one of my favorite books of 2007. I’ll say it again – go buy this book. Or save five bucks and wait until June when it comes out in paperback.

This year marks the arrival of two more books in this promising series. In February Jones’ The New Christians released and in June A Christianity Worth Believing, written by Doug Pagitt, will hit shelves. I have had the opportunity to read both of these books over the past month or so, and I can definitely recommend both of them to anyone who is interested in further exploring the Emergent conversation.

The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, despite its goofy cover, is an excellent introduction to all things Emergent. Tony Jones does a great job outlining many of the characteristics of an Emergent way of faith, while also providing an insider’s perspective on how much of the conversation began in the United States. This really is a must-read for anyone who is deep into the conversation, but is especially perfect for those who are new to the conversation and want to learn more about what it’s all about. In reading this book it’s important to acknowledge that it does primarily focus on the Emergent conversation in the United States. This is not a fault of the book, but must be acknowledged. For a more global perspective, or at least a perspective that includes the UK, one should read Emerging Churches by Gibbs and Bolger (another personal favorite, and a must-read).

A Christianity Worth Believing lives up to everything its subtitle promises (which is a lot) – it really does present a “Hope-filled, Open-armed, Alive-and-well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind, and Let Down in us All.” To be honest, I was a little afraid Pagitt’s and Jones’ books would be too similar. I was completely wrong – they are both great reads, and are quite distinct from each other. This book is a great book for anyone in need of a more hopeful Christianity, a Christianity that doesn’t begin by telling us how we are such terrible sinners, but instead tells us the hopeful story of Jesus. Pagitt outlines a beautiful faith perspective, which is elucidated through many personal reflections and stories, which are at times quite moving. In short, this is a book for all of us. Don’t we all need to be reminded that the story of Jesus is a story about really, really good news? It was something I was very grateful to be reminded of.

So here’s the short of it, these three books are well-worth reading. And after you read the books, you can catch Mark, Tony and Doug touring the country this summer for their Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival – you wouldn’t want to miss an event with a name like that, right?!


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Apparently, you’re allowed to shoot homeless people in Waco

April 14, 2008 - 7 Responses

This is very disturbing, from Sunday’s Waco Tribune-Herald:

A Franklin Avenue business owner who shot a homeless man who was sleeping in one of his vacant buildings in July will not be prosecuted, the McLennan County district attorney’s office has decided.

Here’s what happened:

Tanner [the shooter] told Cromer [the homeless man] that he was trespassing and that the police were on the way, Waco police have said. When Cromer started to stand up, Tanner fired, striking Cromer in the left side with pellets, according to reports.

Here’s the law:

Under Texas law, including the so-called “Castle Law” signed by Gov. Rick Perry last year, a person is justified in using deadly force in his home, vehicle or place of business if he reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself or someone else.

Hmmm, this situation doesn’t quite seem “justified”…certainly this should at least go to trial…

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco, helps us take this to another level:

“It looks like from all I know of the situation that he was just trying to find a place to sleep,” Dorrell said. “He was definitely trespassing, but to just shoot somebody for trespassing seems kind of unreasonable. I think anybody who goes in with a gun after somebody, unless he is being accosted, that is a little bit much, like having a maverick mind-set.”

Dorrell said there are many misperceptions that homeless people, who frequently have psychological or substance-abuse problems, are violent. That isn’t true, Dorrell said, adding that they are less violent than the “mainstream population.”

“I wonder if the same thing would happen if this guy who got shot wasn’t a homeless guy,” Dorrell said.

Yes, I wonder…

Read the complete article.


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Becoming a Christian

April 9, 2008 - 9 Responses

In becoming a Christian I think there is one primary question:

Does the message of Jesus compel you to follow?


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Downward Mobility

April 7, 2008 - 19 Responses

Growing up in a white, middle-class, Christian home, and regularly attending a protestant church, I learned the concepts of the protestant work ethic and upward mobility from an early age. I didn’t use the terms, but I was fully indoctrinated into the overarching belief system.

“Work hard.”

“Do well in school.”

“Take advantage of your many opportunities.

“Get a good job.”

“Save money.”

“Spend wisely.”

I heard all of these exhortations quite often while I was growing up. At home. At church. At school. These concepts played a large role in forming me into who I am today. For much of it I feel quite grateful. I’m glad I am well educated. I’m glad I have never had to really worry about money. I’m glad I learned how to work hard.

But something about all of this doesn’t sit right. I believe in working hard. I believe in being wise in how I use my money. I believe in the importance of education. But somehow all of these things became very connected with faith while I was growing up. It wasn’t just that I should work hard, do well in school, and spend my money wisely. There was also an underlying assumption that these qualities were not just “keys to success” but also characteristics of a “good Christian life.”

I don’t buy that anymore.

This belief system I grew up in, a belief system that has been handed down from generation to generation in America, must come to an end. The marriage of these concepts with Christianity must be annulled. Jesus did not live a life of upward mobility. In fact, it’s hard to argue against the idea that his message should lead to a certain kind of downward mobility for people like me.

But it’s not easy to change.

By getting a good education, working hard, making good grades, going to graduate school, buying a home, and starting a family, I have joined myself to this system with bonds that are very difficult to break.

I hardly know how else to live. How can I begin to climb down this ladder? How can I get off the ladder altogether?

These are the questions I am asking myself right now.

What does Jesus’ message of downward mobility for the middle-class, white, American mean for me?

What does it mean for my career?

How should I even think about my career?

What about my budget? My expenses? My debt? Where I live? What car I drive?

And perhaps most importantly, what does the alternative look like? How does one live the Jesus way, rather than the way of upward mobility, with a family, a job, and a mortgage?

What do you think? Is anyone else asking these questions?


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The Fidelity of Betrayal

April 4, 2008 - 3 Responses

Only 26 days until the release of The Fidelity of Betrayal, Peter Rollins’ follow-up to the fabulous How (Not) to Speak of God.

This is my most anticipated book of 2008. No one is doing a better job of beginning to navigate and explore a postmodern Christianity. How (Not) to Speak of God really challenged and influenced my thinking about the Church and Christianity in today’s world – more than any other contemporary book (I blogged about it extensively).

Check out an excerpt from The Fidelity of Betrayal.

Here are a couple stand-out quotes from the excerpt:

I am asking if Jesus would plot the downfall of Christianity in every form that it takes. Or rather, to be more precise, I am asking whether Christianity, in its most sublime and revolutionary state, always demands an act of betrayal from the Faithful. In short, is Christianity, at its most radical, always marked by a kiss, forever forsaking itself, eternally at war with its own manifestation.

Such thinking leads to the seemingly paradoxical idea that the deepest way in which we can demonstrate our fidelity to Christianity is to engage in a betrayal of it.


Christianity is not brain surgery or rocket science, it is not quantum mechanics or nuclear physics; it is both infinitely easier and more difficult than all of these. The fragile flame of faith is fanned into life so simply: all we need do is sit still for a few moments, embrace the silence that engulfs us, and invite that flame to burn bright within us. This act is simplicity itself, and, just perhaps, after a lifetime of hardship and struggle, a few of us will achieve it and be set alight by it.

Guerrilla Evangelism

April 3, 2008 - 10 Responses

Thursday tends to be a busy day for me at work – I talk to lots of people and end up wanting some time to myself. So at lunch I often take a break by going to the library to browse, read, etc (yes, I’m a nerd). I’ve done this a number of times. But my experience today was definitely a first.

I was in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography section, browsing through various books, when someone came and stood next to me. It was one of those awkward moments when you don’t know if you should turn and look or just ignore – you know what I mean? Well, I decided to turn and look. When I did the person was just standing there looking at me. I could tell he was slightly nervous and I didn’t know what to think about it. Before I could ask him if there was something I could help him with, he asked me a question. He said, “Can I talk to you about God?” I must admit, I was completely thrown off guard and didn’t know how to respond. My first response was, “No, I’m actually busy at the moment.” When I said this he just kind of stood there in silence. This made me wonder if maybe he was asking me to talk to him about God. I didn’t want to turn him down if that was the case, so I asked him, “Was there something in particular you wanted to talk about?” He had a hard time answering this question but eventually responded with, “Well, I just wanted to tell you about Jesus.” Still quite uncertain how to respond, I ended up telling him I wasn’t exactly wanting someone to tell me about Jesus. He didn’t say much in response but a minute later I heard him asking the same question to someone else. Isn’t that bizarre? I’ve seen this around campus before, but never in the middle of the library!

So, what do you think about this kind of guerrilla evangelism? Is there a place for it in Christianity? Is it a good thing?

Do we need a new Jesus?

March 26, 2008 - 11 Responses

I think we need a new Jesus. Or at least a new Christianity.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the ‘old’ Jesus. I’m just not sure he’s quite the same anymore.

I started thinking about this because of Easter. I was wondering what the average Christian, and the average non-Christian, thinks about Easter. What do they think of the man on the cross? What do they think of the risen Christ? I imagine they don’t think about him much at all. He’s too used and abused these days. Same old Easter stories, same old pictures, same old songs. I wonder if he could ever be recaptured. Could he ever again come to us as the incarnate God? Or is he ever to remain the Jesus of our low expectations?

Imagine what it was like to meet the real Jesus. The one who lived, died, and came back to life two thousand years ago. I mean the shocking Jesus. Jesus the revolutionary teacher. Jesus the healer and miracle worker. Jesus the instigator. Jesus the radical man of peace. The Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God. The Jesus who turned everyone’s expectations upside-down.

I just don’t know if this Jesus can ever be the same again.

Some people might say that today Jesus is to be found in the Church, in Christians who are the body of Christ in this world. But I wonder if God really inhabits the Church anymore. Is this really God incarnate for us today? I don’t know.

Throughout the story of scripture, God came to people in fresh ways. Could he come to us anew today? Could God come to us again in such a way as to wake us up and stir us to action? Could there ever be a new Jesus? Or at least a startlingly new Christianity? One more provocative and life-changing than ever before?

Perhaps God is doing this already. Are there already new ways God is making himself known in our world? Where is God to be seen? Maybe God has even moved on from Christianity, making himself known here and there and wherever the true Spirit of Jesus is welcome – whether he goes by that name or not.


“Our church…is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christians today will be limited to two things; prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be born anew out of this prayer and action…It is not for us to prophesy the day (although the day will come) when men will once more be called so to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming – as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with men and the coming of his kingdom…Till then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time. May you be one of them…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

Bonhoeffer’s New Monasticism

March 20, 2008 - One Response

“It may be that in many things I seem to you to be somewhat fanatical and crazy. I myself sometimes have anxiety about this. But I know that, if I were more reasonable, for the sake of honor, I should have to, the next day, give up all my theology. When I first began theology, I imagined it to be somewhat different – perhaps more like an academic affair. Now it has become something completely different from that. And I now believe I know at last that I am at least on the right track – for the first time in my life. And that often makes me very glad. I continue to fear only that I might no longer appreciate the genuine anxiety for meaning of other people, but remain set in my ways. I believe I know that inwardly I shall be really clear and honest only when I have begun to take seriously the Sermon on the Mount. Here is set the only source of power capable of exploding the whole enchantment and specter [Hitler and his rule] so that only a few burnt-out fragments are left remaining from the fireworks. The restoration of the church will surely come form a sort of new monasticism which has in common with the old only the uncompromising attitude of a life lived according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Christ. I believe it is now time to call people to this.

“…I still can’t ever believe that you really consider all these thoughts to be so completely insane. At present there are still some things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile. And it seems to me that peace and social justice or Christ himself are such.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from a letter to Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer in A Testment to Freedom (p. 424)

A New Monasticism

March 17, 2008 - Comments Off on A New Monasticism

I recently finished reading School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, which is a collection of essays written by various individuals from multiple Christian communities across the US. Before reading the book, I was already quite intrigued by this movement of “neo-monasticism.” After reading, I am even more interested. In 2004 a gathering of new monastic communities developed the following document to help identify and understand the movement. The book is an elaboration on each of the 12 marks.


Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church which is diverse in form, but characterized by the following marks:

1. Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3. Hospitality to the stranger

4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

May God give us grace by the power of the Holy Spirit
to discern rules for living that will help us
embody these marks in our local contexts as signs
of Christ’s kingdom for the sake of God’s world.


I think there is a lot to talk about here. But that will be another post.

To learn more:

New Monasticism Website

Christianity Today Article

Christian Century Article

Boston Globe Article

San Francisco Chronicle Q&A Article

LA Times Article

Vows from SF community called SEVEN

Wikipedia entry with a list of communities associated with the movement

After Two Years

March 10, 2008 - 7 Responses

Today we remember Zach. And we also look back and consider the past two years. We remember how difficult those first hours, days, weeks, and months were. We consider how much we have changed. And we acknowledge how far we have come.

I don’t really like to remember those first hours, days, and weeks. But when I do, I remember the deep sense of fear. I remember not knowing how we would ever make it to the next day, or week, or month. It truly seemed impossible. I remember the questions. The disbelief. The tears. All the faces. And the pain. I wish I didn’t, but I do remember the pain. But I also remember the people who loved us so much during those difficult days, weeks, and months. I remember the new depths of intimacy with friends, and especially with Brooke. These memories are all too easy to recall. But how are we to remember Zach? How do you remember someone who never lived outside the womb? How do you remember someone you never saw? Someone you never touched? Someone you never really knew? I can remember finding out we were pregnant, after the long time of infertility. I remember holding Brooke’s hand while she sat on the sonogram table and the joy of finding out we were going to have a little boy. I remember the fun of telling our families. I remember the dreams we had of raising a son. And I remember the love. The love that was growing in me for someone I had never seen, never touched, and never known. In some way, I still feel that love. Maybe that’s what I need to remember today.

I can’t help but also think about how far we have come these two years. We are different people. We can never go back to March 9, 2006 – the day before. We will never be those people again. I don’t want to be those people again. I think we are better people. Truer people. More whole – even though we lost something very great, something we can never quite get back. If I could go back and make it all go away, I would. I can’t say I see the good in it all. I can’t say it’s all been worth it. I don’t think I ever want to say those things. I don’t think God works that way. But I do think, in many small ways, there has been redemption, restoration, and even a rebirth of sorts. I don’t believe God caused us to enter such a great winter, but I believe somehow he was with us. He suffered with us. And somehow the tears of sorrow did go into the ground and bring forth sprouts of new life. And somehow, I still can’t really believe it, but somehow, spring has come again. Even joy. New life. I am in awe.

So today we remember Zach. We remember pain. We remember love. And we are grateful for new life. And with a mustard seed of faith in a loving God, we are able to hold all these things in tension. Life. Death. Pain. Joy. We don’t have to cover up the loss. We don’t have to forget the pain, or explain away death. Instead, we can believe that these contradictions of God’s world are not holes in our belief but rather holes in our world. Holes God is ever working to mend, to repair, to restore. And with hope, we join with him as repairers of this broken world, even as we hope for a new and perfect world. A new world in which there will be no more holes. And a new world in which Ivy and Zach will be able to run and play together. Come, O Lord.

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Religionless Christianity

March 6, 2008 - 3 Responses

Bonhoeffer Excerpt

“Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the ‘religious a priori’ of mankind. ‘Christianity’ has always been a form – perhaps the true form – of ‘religion’. But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless…what does that mean for ‘Christianity’? … How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity – and even this garment has looked very different at times – then what is a religionless Christianity?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison


Such an interesting question, “How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless…?”

Bonhoeffer doesn’t ask, “How can Christianity appeal to non-Christians?” Nor does he ask, “How can we find common ground among religions.” Instead, he wonders how Christ can be Lord of those with no interest in religion, and/or those who are unaffected by religion (even if they profess to be religious).

I think what he is really saying is, “Does the life and teaching of Jesus matter in today’s world? And if so, how?”

I’m becoming more and more convinced that it does matter. But what can/should it look like? I think about this a lot…


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

Evangelical Worship

March 3, 2008 - 20 Responses

Last night Brooke and I went with a number of friends to see Shane Claiborne and the David Crowder Band at UBC in Waco (a benefit for Mission Waco). I read Shane’s Irresistible Revolution last year and found it to be quite provocative. I just got his new book, Jesus for President, and I’m really looking forward to reading it as well. So anyways, I was definitely excited about going last night because I think highly of Shane. I was also looking forward to David Crowder, even though I’m not real familiar with his music.

Shane was his typical revolutionary and radical self. You know, a crazy person, someone who actually thinks we should do the things Jesus taught. A complete nutcase (kind of like Jesus). He was great. But his message is not really what has me thinking today. Instead, I find myself thinking about “Evangelical worship.”

I went into the event last night expecting a David Crowder concert. However, it turned out to be more of a worship event – everyone was singing, they had the words projected on the wall, etc. I don’t know what to think about this kind of thing anymore. It’s just been a long time since I was able to really sing worship songs. Now don’t get me wrong, I tend to like David Crowder. I think he is musically talented and I really believe he desires to move beyond typical worship music. So please understand, I’m not critiquing him as much as the whole genre of “Evangelical worship.” After the event last night I’ve just been wondering what the purpose of it is. Why sing emotionally charged worship songs? Why? Because it feels good? Because it’s fun? If those are the answers, I can kind of understand it – and I don’t think I would have much against it. But I think the typical answer is that the purpose is to “praise God.” Now of course I’m not going to argue that we shouldn’t praise God. We should. I even think music and singing can be an excellent way to praise God. But what is the fruit that comes from praising God in the manner of typical Evangelical worship? Good feelings? Warm fuzzies? Most people would probably say that the purpose is to develop a deepened interior spirituality and/or connection with God. I guess I’m just questioning if this is really a result of the typical Evangelical worship experience. Maybe it is. But I’m not so sure. What do you think?

Last night Shane shared a great message. He really challenged us to listen to what Jesus said and to actually do it. He told some great stories of experiences in his own life when he stepped out and tried to live like Jesus. His life story is really powerful. While he spoke there were many who seemed to nod or ‘amen’ in approval. I would imagine many people heard what Shane said and really felt an internal pull to change and to live the message of Jesus. I might even say Shane’s message probably left some people with a sense of discomfort – a good sense of discomfort.

However, it was at this point of discomfort and conviction that the event turned to more worship music. The next thirty minutes or so were filled with upbeat, emotionally charged, and exciting music. It was even good music. I enjoyed Crowder’s music. But I fear that this music only comforted the discomfort that may have been brewing within people. Instead of leaving the event with an internal discontent and a desire to change, people left with a good beat in their head and an adrenaline high.

Is this good? Am I being too harsh? Am I just screwy? What do you think about it all?


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Bonhoeffer Thursdays: What is Christianity for us today?

February 28, 2008 - Comments Off on Bonhoeffer Thursdays: What is Christianity for us today?

Until I get my fill, every Thursday I’m going to post quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sometimes I’ll comment on the quote, other times I’ll just let it stand on its own. Bonhoeffer’s Letters & Papers from Prison has been impacting me in very significant ways over the past 4-5 months. Most, if not all, of the quotes I share will be from this particular collection of writings.


“You would be surprised, and perhaps even worried, by my theological thoughts and the conclusions that they lead to… What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience – and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison


(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

The Everything Must Change Tour (Part 2)

February 26, 2008 - 3 Responses

In Part 1, I tried to summarize some of this past weekend’s Everything Must Change Tour with Brian McLaren, which took place in Dallas on Friday and Saturday. In Part 2 I’m going to give more of my own personal reaction to the conference.

The Overall Message

Regarding the message of the conference, I’m completely onboard. I’ve read Everything Must Change twice now and I’ve really bought into McLaren’s line of thinking. (If you haven’t read the book or heard about the book, basically, McLaren is proposing that Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God should deeply impact the way we as Christian’s think about and act on the world’s biggest problems. You can read a great summary of the book at Mark’s blog.) However, having read the book twice before the conference actually made the conference less exciting for me. I must say I was slightly disappointed that much of McLaren’s talks were summaries of portions of the book. I probably should have expected this but I really would have loved for the conference to have focused on how to respond to the message in the book. With that being said, I did really enjoy the sessions and I thought they were excellent. They just didn’t impact me as much as I would have liked because I was already quite familiar with much of the material. This isn’t really a complaint – just a little bit of a personal disappointment.

The Format and Tone

McLaren and his fellow Deep Shift cohorts definitely worked hard to create an event that went well beyond mere intellectual discussion. There was considerable music, liturgy, art, personal interaction, and times for reflection built into the conference. This was great. Personally, I didn’t connect with the music very much, but that is probably primarily due to my own issues. I could tell that the music leaders and McLaren were wanting to move past typical worship music. While I appreciated this, I still didn’t quite connect. However, I did really connect with a lot of the liturgical aspects of the event and the artistic portions. These aspects of the event really added to the overall impact of the message. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and time that obviously went into planning the integration of these various elements.

The Communal Element

Because much of the information presented during the event was very familiar to me, I was especially glad that I was able to connect with various individuals at the event and meet a number of new people. This probably was the highlight of the weekend for me. To all who I met and connected with this weekend, I hope we can stay in touch and be resources for one another.

One note regarding the audience present at the event. I was really surprised that the audience was much older on average than I would have expected. Perhaps this was because there were a number of people present from the host church…? I don’t know, but it did make for an interesting community of people present for the conference. In addition, my impression was that many of the people present were there to explore McLaren and his ideas, rather than already having bought into his message. I don’t mean this in a positive or negative way, I just thought it was interesting.

Overall Impression

In conclusion, I’m really glad we were able to go to the conference. However, even though I know Brian did not intend this, I did come away overwhelmed and even slightly dejected. The material in the first two sessions is really overwhelming and disturbing. I would have liked more help with how to respond to the message. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is a desire for more. I feel like we needed more time to work through helping each other think about how to integrate the message into our lives in productive ways. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate McLaren’s call to believe the message (and disbelieve the suicidal system) as the first step. I guess I’m just wanting help in moving beyond just believing into real action.

All of this is actually something I was thinking about even before going to the conference. The week before the event I reread Everything Must Change and was really struck by the need for practical help. I do not mean this in the “five steps to change the world” sense that Brian was really trying to avoid. Rather, I think it would be very beneficial for a book to be written (or something like that) that would give some very practical examples of ways people are living the change in their own lives. It wouldn’t have to be big things. In fact, I prefer small things. Small things that average normal people like you and me can begin to integrate into our lives. I think this would be helpful to many people. There were actually a number of people I talked to at the event who expressed being overwhelmed and/or even depressed after hearing the first couple messages. This was certainly not McLaren’s intention but I think it is evidence of a deadened imagination among many Christians in today’s world – this is certainly the case for me. I think many of us have been going along in the suicidal system of this world for so long, and with such a lack of attention and concern for the world, that we have little creative imagination for seeing what change might look like in our own lives, and in the world. This is what I am thinking about more than anything after this weekend. I’m even wondering if there is something I can do about it, something I can work on to help with this situation – not just for my benefit but for the benefit of others as well. In fact, I think this fits perfectly with Brian’s desire to inspire a hopeful revolution. I want to be a part of this. The time is now. In fact, perhaps some of these thoughts I just expressed describe how I should move forward from here.

The Everything Must Change Tour (Part 1)

February 25, 2008 - 6 Responses

Brooke and I just spent this past weekend at the Dallas stop of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change Tour. Going into the event, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited to go and was glad there was a good group going from the Emergent Waco cohort, but I really had no idea what to expect. This was probably good and bad. Good because I was open to anything happening. But bad because I probably did have some subconscious expectations that didn’t end up getting met.

It was clear that a lot of work went into planning the event. Here’s a bit of an overview for those who might be interested.

On Friday night there was one long session which included music, art appreciation and reflection, alternative worship, and an excellent overview by Brian of the suicidal system he presents in his book (if you would like to read a great summary of McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change, I highly recommend the one Mark put together).

Saturday began with a Q&A intended for Emergent cohort members and church planters. This was probably my favorite scheduled part of the event. In fact, I would have been perfectly thrilled for this to continue all day long. I’ve heard Brian speak multiple times but my two favorite times with him involved extensive Q&A – I think a much more complete picture of Brian’s vision comes through during these times.

Following the Q&A was Session 2 of the conference. This session was entitled “Which Jesus” and largely paralleled the similar discussion in the book. I really enjoyed this session because it helped bring to life this part of the book for me in a new way. Again, Mark’s summary of the book is a good place to go for more info if you haven’t read the book yet. Session 3 was a panel discussion involving Brian and four local leaders who discussed their work and hopefully spurred people’s imagination to see ways to be part of the change already being promoted by local faith communities and organizations. The session ended with a slideshow presentation by Brian in which he gave the audience a “tour” of the D.C. war memorials and used this as a basis to touch on the security/peace crisis he talks about in the book. I thought this was a really creative and helpful way to engage this topic. During the lunch break Brooke and I joined a short informal Q&A session with Brian which mainly continued the discussion regarding war. The main part of the discussion was related to just war theory. Brian responded with a call to peacemaking, and without saying his specific opinion on just war theory, he did say that a just war is certainly better than the alternative. He also talked about the need to add the Geneva Convention as a continued progression of just war theory. Lastly, he questioned whether it is even possible for today’s America to be part of a “just war.”

After lunch there were two more sessions before the conference came to an end. Session four was facilitated by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw, who was Brian’s partner in leading the conference. This session primarily focused on provoking reflection and used an art collection called “Nude Truths” as a way of guiding the reflection. I appreciated that throughout the event there was a focus on reflection and conversation. During each session there were times allotted to discussing the topics with others around you. While this is sometimes awkward, I did think it was good and led to some helpful conversations (at least for me). In session four I also really enjoyed the artwork as an aid to reflection. I thought it was very helpful and fit with the overall tone and theme of the conference.

The final session was led by Brian and focused on the “revolution of hope.” I thought this session was a great way to end the conference. Much of the material in the first two sessions can be quite overwhelming. I think Brian did a good job in this last session to call people to simply believe in a new way, to believe that change in possible, and to embrace the call of Jesus to be part of the work of the Kingdom of God. Brian specifically said he did not want to tell everyone what to do in response to this conference, he said he did not want to give us the five simple steps to changing the world, or anything like that. Instead, as in the book, he called us to simply disbelieve the suicidal framing story we are part of and to embrace and believe Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. He did give some practical examples of what it might look like to begin to change, but he was very careful not to place a huge burden on everyone, which I really appreciated. Instead, he proposed that this is a matter of changing direction and beginning to make small changes, as possible.

Wow, I just wrote a lot more than I set out to write. I think I’ll save my more subjective reaction to the conference for a follow up post. Hopefully this post served as somewhat of a summary of what the conference was like and what it involved.

Go to Part 2

Over the Rhine, Live in Austin

February 11, 2008 - 2 Responses

On Friday night Brooke and I saw Over the Rhine in concert at Austin’s Cactus Café. Some of you might remember the last time Brooke and I saw Over the Rhine live in concert – there was quite a story to tell. This time was much less eventful – no train derailments and no sprinting through New York City – but the concert itself was even better than the previous one. It was fantastic. It reminded me that music is meant to be played live. Recorded music is great but live music far surpasses any mp3 – the combination of musical performance and collective experience elevates the art form to much greater levels. Of course this isn’t true of all performers – but it was certainly true of Over the Rhine on Friday night.

A few highlights:

First of all, it was a highlight just that they came to Texas. It’s been a long time. And you could feel it in the crowd – everyone had been waiting a long time for OTR’s return. I don’t think anyone left disappointed.

They played almost every song from their latest record, The Trumpet Child (you can listen to it streaming on the OTR website). I must admit, this record didn’t thrill me the first couple times I listened to it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but I didn’t feel like it measured up to their previous two releases (Drunkard’s Prayer and Ohio), which are personal favorites. However, after listening to these songs live, and seeing the energy and pure musical joy involved, I became a big fan. Brooke left the concert having decided that this is her new favorite OTR record (which is saying a lot because she LOVES Drunkard’s Prayer).

Linford talked about the significance of the song “The Trumpet Child.” His explanation was similar to the following words which come from an interview Linford gave: “…when I consider one of my earliest memories, it’s the sound of a trumpet, a musical memory. It was a camp meeting revival that my parents took me to. I remember that bright brass bell on a little wooden stage, my sister’s braids, some of these images. But that sound, it awakened my conscious mind somehow. My thought was that I wanted to be up there. ‘Get me up there. That’s where I want to be.'” And later, “…as a boy, hearing about the sound of this trumpet and Gabriel blowing it or whatever, and not really being sure what it was all about, and then hearing these great horn players like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Stan Getz. So, wondering about the sound of that trumpet and the earth being reborn: Is it real? Is it a metaphor? What if all of a sudden we did just hear this amazing jazz riff blowing in the sky? Everyone would kind of stop, pay attention. So that’s just a riff on all of that.” (read the full interview)

Karin confessed that she gave up hard liquor for lent. Linford added that he gave up church for lent – he said it was something he likes but he felt it was time to take a break – I have no idea if he was joking or not.

The musical highlight of the night was definitely “Don’t Wait for Tom.” A brilliant live performance – you just gotta love Linford’s voice and there’s nothing like Karin banging a cookie sheet with a large mallet!

Lastly, Karin’s voice and performance was just stellar. In my opinion, her voice is unparalleled in its power, passion, and beauty. It was infused with life. I couldn’t get enough!


Here are a couple live recordings from a concert late last year. They were two of my favorites on Friday night (see the full recording here).

“Don’t Wait for Tom” – Over the Rhine

“Orphan Girl” – Over the Rhine

Service to Tash

February 4, 2008 - 12 Responses

I know this excerpt is pretty familiar but I have been thinking about it lately and wondered if you all might have some input concerning my questions below.

From The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis:

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.

But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.

But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.

He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.

Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?

The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?

I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.

Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

If this is true, what are the implications? Doesn’t it seem to suggest that belief in Jesus and in certain things about Jesus (orthodoxy) is not important in comparison to the way we live our lives (orthopraxy)? What would that mean for evangelism? Would we be right to encourage those who are following “Tash” but are living a life of service and love?

I’m asking these questions honestly and would really love to know your thoughts on the matter.


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Barack Obama

January 28, 2008 - 11 Responses

I’m officially coming out.

I like Obama.

He might actually give me reason to vote (gasp!).

Still, I must admit that it hasn’t been easy this past week. The ugliness of the South Carolina primary certainly threatened to push me back into my characteristic cynicism regarding all things related to presidential politics and voting. But so far I’m hanging onto some hope that things can really change…it’s a little scary. My cynicism was (is) rooted pretty deep.

So what is it about Obama that gives me some hope?

First off, I do appreciate his perspective on issues I find important – Iraq, healthcare, education, poverty, the environment.

But that’s just part of it. There are other candidates with similar views, but I still find myself very cynical whenever they speak. When Obama speaks I really do feel some hope rising up in me – that just doesn’t happen with any of the other candidates. And it hasn’t happened for me with any political candidate since I’ve been able to vote.

So what is it? Is it just his charisma? His speaking ability? (which is a wonderful change) His race? His relative youth? His faith?

I’d be lying if I said those things do not factor in for me. I do particularly appreciate his articulate expression of the interaction of his Christian faith and politics (see this important speech). I also favor his relative youth and his intelligent communication skills. But really there’s something more, something less tangible. I’ve had trouble putting my finger on what exactly that “something” is. However, today I read an endorsement of Obama by the author Toni Morrison and I think she comes very close to describing the reason for my hope. Morrison writes:

“In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don’t see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which, coupled with brilliance, equals wisdom.

Yes! That’s it! And it makes all the difference.

Jim Wallis and Jon Stewart

January 23, 2008 - 7 Responses

Because WordPress is stupid, I can’t embed this video (WP is not as stupid as Blogger though). However, you should go to the link and check it out.

Jim Wallis on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart


(HT: God’s Politics)

Faith, Politics & Social Change

January 22, 2008 - One Response

I’ve watched the movie Amazing Grace a couple times in the past month or so. If you haven’t seen it, you should bump it to the top of your queue. If you live near me, I’d be glad to let you borrow our copy.

Anyways, if you don’t know already, the movie is about William Wilberforce and his work (along with his friends) to end the slave trade in the United Kingdom.

In searching for a little more information about Wilberforce, I came across some information about Wilberforce’s group of friends – the Clapham Sect. The Clapham Sect worked together to bring about social change in many different areas within UK society. I found the following characteristics of the Clapham Sect at OnMovements and thought this was worth sharing and discussing.

…the Clapham Sect shared these characteristics:

1. A common commitment to Jesus Christ and a clear sense of calling.

2. A commitment to lifelong friendship and mutual submission.

3. A thoughtful pursuit of causes marked by careful research, planning and strategy.

4. A friendship that was inclusive and focused on essentials. (Wilberforce, for example was Wesleyan and his closest friend Henry Thornton a Calvinist.)

5. A long view on completing projects. Abolition of the slave trade took over 20 years.

6. They saw no dichotomy between evangelism and social action. Their magazine, The Christian Observer, exemplified this.

7. Their faith was integral to all of life…family, career, friendship and more. They allowed no compartmentalization.

8. They made family life a clear priority and delighted in each other’s marriages and children.

9. They enabled one another. They recognized each other’s passions and supported one another in them.

10. They worshiped both privately and publicly, gathering twice weekly at the Clapham Church.

I think this relates to my previous post. What do you think? Can this happen today? Is it already happening in certain places/groups?

Politics and Social Change

January 17, 2008 - 3 Responses

With Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this week, and with the presidential campaigns going on right now, I thought the following article was thought-provoking:

“MLK and LBJ: Movements and Politicians” – Jim Wallis

I found the last two paragraphs of the article particularly challenging:

It is a good lesson for this year’s presidential race. Change must go deeper than politics. In fact, unless change goes deeper, politics won’t really change. No matter which candidate finally wins this presidential election, he or she will not be able to really change the big things in the U.S. and the world that must be changed, unless and until there are social movements pushing for those changes from outside of politics. Because when politics fails to resolve or even address the most significant moral issues, what often occurs is that social movements rise up to change politics; and the best social movements always have spiritual foundations.

Even a candidate who runs on change, really wants it, and goes to Washington to make it, will confront a vast array of powerful forces which will do everything possible to prevent real change. Politics is unlikely to be changed merely from within – no matter who wins, and no matter how sincere they are, we will not see significant change unless, and until, the pressure increases from the outside. Remember, President Lyndon Johnson didn’t become a civil rights leader until Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks made him one.

After reading this article I feel challenged to ask myself two questions:

1. What social change do I desire to see in our world?

2. How can I be involved to help bring about that change?

Themes in the Gospel of Luke

January 15, 2008 - Comments Off on Themes in the Gospel of Luke

Since I don’t have much to say right now, why not post a really long document to completely refute that idea?

This is a document I put together with the help of notes from many others in the church I am a part of. Basically I wanted to narrow down the message of Luke to several recurring themes (I ended up with seven). If you get a chance to read through this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I miss something really important? (I’m sure I did) Did I include something that isn’t really in Luke? (probably so – but I tried not to)


The Good News of the Kingdom of God

Because of his goodness and love for all creation, God is establishing a revolutionary new world order – an underground and growing movement. This movement is inaugurated by the coming of Jesus of Nazareth – the long-awaited Messiah and the unique Son of God. Jesus came to declare a message that God’s new world order has arrived and will one day come in fullness. We are called to join this movement now and to proclaim Jesus’ revolutionary message of hope to all who have ears to hear. By joining this Kingdom, we are called to a new way of living. The result of Jesus’ kingdom living was crucifixion. But death cannot contain the Kingdom of God. After his sacrificial death, Jesus resurrected and ascended into heaven. The people of God’s Kingdom also live in hope for their own resurrection and for the future return of Jesus who will come to bring the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God looks radically different than the kingdoms of this world

The Kingdom of God is not a Kingdom of violence but one of sacrifice and service. It is a kingdom from above and an active movement of God into this world. Rather than being overt and obvious, this Kingdom is spreading and growing in subversive and underground ways that may go unseen and unnoticed by many. But let there be no doubt, the Kingdom of God is among us and even within us. The Kingdom of God is not an exclusive Kingdom but is radically inclusive and open to all who will follow and obey, especially those who are among “the least” – poor, sinners, women, Gentiles, unclean, hungry, distraught, marginalized, prisoners, sick, oppressed, children, uneducated, have-nots, servants, slaves. In the Kingdom of God the least are the greatest and the humble are exalted. In the Kingdom of God the unbelievable and impossible is expected and anticipated. At times the Kingdom defies our expectations, but it always works for the redemption and healing of the world.

People must have a fertile and open heart to hear and receive Jesus’ message of the Good News of the Kingdom of God

Those who hear Jesus’ message must have eyes to see and ears to hear in order to truly receive the good news of the Kingdom of God. God does not come to the proud but to the humble and trusting. Jesus’ message only settles and grows in soft and open hearts, just as a seed settles and grows in soft soil. Jesus seeks after those with an openness to his message and a willingness to believe.

Joining the movement of the Kingdom of God requires radical sacrifice and a change of heart, which is revealed as one follows, trusts, and obeys Jesus

Those who have soft and fertile hearts to receive the message of the Kingdom will respond in repentance leading to forgiveness. These ones will not be ashamed of Jesus and will give up their treasures and desires found in this world. Entering the Kingdom of God is not easy for those who hold on tightly to the things of this world but to those who release the cares of this world, the smallest faith imaginable is enough to bring acceptance into the Kingdom. While many will give up great riches or pleasures to follow Jesus, all must daily deny the kingdoms and treasures of this world to continually live in and contribute to God’s Kingdom.

Following Jesus and living in the Kingdom of God leads to a new way of living and acting in this world

To live as a member of the Kingdom one will first and foremost love the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – who is now revealed as the God of all people. This love for God will also lead to a new and empowered love for others. Jesus taught and modeled this life of love through his life and teachings, which he called for his followers to not only hear, but most importantly, to obey. Jesus’ teachings are exemplified by radical acceptance and forgiveness of others, the pursuit of justice for the oppressed and marginalized, humility, love for enemies, the giving up of possessions, giving to the poor without expectation of repayment or reward, service and sacrifice for others, the pursuit of peace, faith in God’s provision, compassion for those who are sick or in prison, and refusing the place of honor. However, Jesus has not given his followers a new law; rather, he has called his followers to remember the spirit and meaning of the law. In all matters Jesus calls his followers to pray for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven and for God’s will to be done.

There is God-power for those who believe and enter into life in the Kingdom of God

Even as Jesus spent many hours in solitude and prayer, so also God’s people will pray and find power to live the way of Jesus and the Kingdom. This power will come not only through prayer but also, and especially, through the sending of the Holy Spirit for all of God’s people. Jesus taught that God gives good gifts to his children and will certainly give the Holy Spirit to all who ask. Jesus promised that he would give his followers the words to say in times of great need and he proclaimed power from on high for all those who receive the Holy Spirit. As a result, following Jesus, living in the Kingdom, and obeying Jesus’ teachings is natural for all who hear the Good News of the Kingdom of God and trust in Jesus.

In the age to come there is resurrection and reward for the righteous, and judgment and punishment for the wicked

Those who believe, follow, and obey Jesus are hopeful and ready for the final judgment and coming of God. Knowing that God rewards the righteous and will bring justice for those oppressed by the wicked, members of the Kingdom of God live in hopeful expectation of the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the righteous, and the coming of the fullness of God’s Kingdom. Empowered by the very spirit of God, the people of God live both for the Kingdom of God today and for the future fullness of the Kingdom, which is the redemption and restoration of all God’s world.

I haven’t blogged much lately

January 15, 2008 - One Response

I guess that’s just because I haven’t had much to say.

I haven’t read much lately either.

Been thinking about this still.

Along with Mark
, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

Not all just thinking though. Hopefully I’m beginning to integrate these thoughts into real life. That’s the point of course.

Desmond Tutu and Hope

January 5, 2008 - 2 Responses

I don’t know if you all have been keeping up with the situation in Kenya. I’ve only read a couple articles and heard some reports on NPR. But anyways, yesterday during my drive home from work I was listening to NPR and heard something so powerful it made me stop my car and write it down.

In the midst of the turmoil in Kenya, Desmond Tutu came to the country and yesterday spoke with all of the various parties who are in conflict with one another. In a press conference after his meetings, Archbishop Tutu was asked if he had any hope that the situation would improve. After what was almost a chuckle, Tutu responded with the following:

“I am always a prisoner of hope.”

Tutu went on to explain that with all he has experienced in South Africa, he cannot help but be imprisoned by a sense of hope.

I found this sentiment quite powerful. I want to be imprisoned by a sense of hope for my life, my relationships, my communities, and my world. Too often this has not been my outlook. Perhaps in this new year my perspective can continue to change.

Some Media for the New Year

January 3, 2008 - Comments Off on Some Media for the New Year

In Music – check out Radiohead’s “Scotch mist: a film with Radiohead in it,” made for New Year’s Eve 2007. (HT: Bob)

In Books
– the online magazine Slate has a review of Joel Osteen’s latest book. It’s interesting to read this response from a non-Christian media outlet. Here’s the tagline: “Joel Osteen’s God really wants you to dress well, stand up straight, and get a convenient parking space.” (HT: I forget…shame on me)

In Movies – I can’t wait to see “What Would Jesus Buy?” It’s my most anticipated movie of 2008. Of course I’ll probably have to wait to see it on DVD since the chance of it coming to Waco is pretty slim – ok, actually there’s no chance at all.

Here’s a great video of Rev. Billy (Bill Talen) from Sojourners. Talen discusses consumerism and promotes his movie. Very interesting. Is Talen a modern day prophet? I’m becoming more convinced. (HT: God’s Politics)

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2007 - 2 Responses

Two big news items for our family today:

First, and most important, Ivy is celebrating her first Christmas.

And coming in a close second, I finally won my fantasy football league! Nine seasons. Three championship games. And finally, one championship victory. There is much rejoicing in Stradlebuck today.

(Yes, my team is the Stradlebuck Lugineers. I don’t know where the name came from – it was just the first name I thought of. And yes, this is the incredible trophy I will get to have for the upcoming year. I know. You’re jealous.)

Favorite Movies and Music of 2007

December 19, 2007 - 5 Responses

In 2007 I gained a new appreciation for movies and music. I don’t do a very good job of keeping up with new movies and music, but here’s a list of my favorite movies and music from the past year (only some of these actually came out in 2007).


I did grow to have a greater appreciation of music this past year, but that doesn’t mean I listened to a lot of music. It’s just difficult because I don’t like buying CDs unless I know I will really like the CD. But it’s hard to really get to listen to a CD unless you buy it…it’s quite a conundrum really.

My Very Favorites

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Radiohead – In Rainbows


The Khrusty Brothers – The Khrusty Brothers
Waterdeep – Heart Attack Time Machine
Over the Rhine – The Trumpet Child
Derek Webb – The Ringing Bell
The Frames – The Cost

Others Not From 2007

I listened to everything Sufjan Stevens and couldn’t stop. I love it all.
I also loved Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which I didn’t discover until this year (I think I liked Neon Bible even more though).


I mainly watched DVDs this year. With a new baby, it was tough to make it to the theater – so many of these are not 2007 releases. But I did discover quite a few gems from years past. However, I don’t think any of these movies matched my top three from last year (Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Little Miss Sunshine. I keep loving those three more with each viewing.)

The Best

Born Into Brothels
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Bourne Ultimatum

Other Favorites

The Lives of Others
Amazing Grace
Ocean’s 13
American Gangster
Into Great Silence
Donnie Darko
The Prestige
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
The Illusionist

A few I originally forgot about

Maria Full of Grace
Marie Antoinette
The Constant Gardener
City of God

Ones I missed and look forward to seeing in 2008

A Mighty Heart
The King of Kong
For the Bible Tells Me So
Into the Wild
The Assassination of Jessee James by the Coward Robert Ford
Charlie Wilson’s War
I’m Not There
Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
My Kid Could Paint That
No Country for Old Men
Sweeny Todd
I Am Legend
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
There Will Be Blood
The Kite Runner
What Would Jesus Buy?

What were your favorites?

If God is Love

December 17, 2007 - 2 Responses

The title of my blog reflects my perspective on God, faith and life. I believe the Love of God is foundational to everything.

In coming to this perspective, first came the revelation of God as Love.

Second came the implications for what this Love meant for me personally: If God is Love, then I am loved and all is well – I have nothing to fear.

Third came the implication for how this Love related to my view of other people. If God is Love, then there is value in each person. Each one is a son or daughter of God and a person of infinite value.

And now, most recently I am seeing how God as Love relates to the way I live my life. If God is Love, which leads me to see that I have nothing to fear, and that each one is valuable, then I am called to actively love others as God loves. The implications of this are many, and this is where I am right now in my life.

I post this because today I was thinking how all of this still relates to the central foundation of my belief – that God is Love. And if God is Love, then the implications are many – for me, for how I see others, and for how I live my life in this world.

Favorite Books of 2007

December 14, 2007 - 5 Responses

I read a number of books this year (complete list) but a few of them stood out above the rest. Some of these books were newly published in 2007 and some I just happened to discover in 2007. It was really hard to narrow down the list. The best I could do was to narrow it down to six books. I heartily recommend each of these books.

Christianity for the Rest of Us – Diana Butler Bass

When I picked up this book I would never have guessed it would end up as one of my favorites for the entire year. In fact, I didn’t initially buy the book – which is a rarity for me. Instead, I checked it out of the library. This book, along with one of my favorites from last year (Emerging Churches) helped to give me great hope for the Church (see here). Focusing on mainline Christian churches, the research in this book reveals a vibrant and world-transforming mainline church that I was completely unaware of. As a result, my vision was broadened and my spirits lifted – what more can you ask for from a book? (by the way, I did end up buying it)

Everything Must Change – Brian McLaren

I would have read a new book by McLaren even if it was titled, “Everything Must Stay the Same.” McLaren is certainly one of my favorite authors (he featured prominently in my list from last year). This book builds on one of my favorites from last year, The Secret Message of Jesus, but really challenges the church to take the message of Jesus and live it in reality. His two questions – 1. What are the biggest problems in the world? 2. What does Jesus have to say about these global problems? – have stuck with me in a powerful way since reading the book. I hope to continue to ruminate on these questions and more importantly, to act on what I see as the implications of these questions.

The Happiest Baby on the Block – Harvey Karp

One of these books doesn’t look like the others, eh? Well, while some of these other books might have been my favorites, this book might have been the most important. We had a baby girl this year and I don’t know what I would have done without this book – it really gave me confidence from the very beginning. If you are about to have your first child, I highly recommend reading this book. Especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with babies (I sure didn’t).

How (Not) to Speak of God – Peter Rollins

How (Not) to Speak of God
is not only the best book I read this year, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I blogged about this book extensively and I know it will be one I read over and over. His next book, which is set to come out in 2008, is my most anticipated book of the upcoming new year. In short, this book spurred my imagination to picture a Christianity for tomorrow’s world.

Leaving Church
– Barbara Brown Taylor

My favorite memoir of the year and a beautifully written book. I can’t quite put my finger on why this was one of my favorite books of the year. I can only say that, along with reading Christianity for the Rest of Us, this book helped me to gain a new appreciation for mainline churches and helped me to identify with mainline churches in a new and positive way. But that only touches the surface. This book is excellent.

Soul Graffiti – Mark Scandrette

Last but certainly not least, Soul Graffiti is the book from this year that I hope will work the most transformation in my life. I am currently rereading it and hope to soak in Scandrette’s call to follow Jesus in practical and transforming ways. I blogged some about the affect this book had on me – I hope it continues to work in me for some time. In particular, I hope it continues to spur me on to action.

Honorable Mention

I can’t help but list a few other great ones from this past year:

20th-Century Theology , Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson
Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne
Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (still reading)
Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell
The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman
UnChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

What were your favorite books from the past year?


Favorite Books of 2006

Allow me to be your guide

December 10, 2007 - One Response

All the places you should go and the things you should see:

Podcast Interview with AJ Jacobs about The Year of Living Biblically

I haven’t had a chance to listen to this interview yet, but it seemed that a number of you were interested in this book. Perhaps the interview will provide a little more insight into the book and the author.

NT Wright
and Emerging Church Lectures

I’ve posted some excellent lectures at the Emergent Waco blog. The NT Wright lecture about the Bible and politics is a must-listen (I still haven’t listen to the “Paul and Empire” lectures).

Around America in 2.0

I came across this somehow the other day and found the premise very interesting. Basically, this guy has traveled around the entire US in 80 days, relying on strangers for transportation, food, and shelter. The experiment began by posting a video clip on the internet. From there it spread and he has made it around the entire US. He has kept a video diary the whole time.

Couch Surfing

On a related note, have you guys heard of couch surfing?

Paperback Swap

PBS has initiated a book swapping club. Sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many books I was interested in…maybe it will keep growing. Great idea though. (HT: LO-FI TRIBE)

“Emerging Adults” and the Church

December 5, 2007 - One Response

[don’t forget to give me book recommendations]

Awhile back I read a particularly interesting article from Books & Culture called “Getting a Life.” The article discusses the topic of “emerging adulthood” by addressing six books written on the topic within the past few years. In case you’re like I was and have never heard of “emerging adulthood,” basically it encompasses the time of life between ages 18 and 30. Researchers who are studying this life stage are noticing a distinct change in the experience of 18-30 year olds in today’s world. I am interested in these findings both because I am in this stage of life, and because of the implications for the church.

The article’s author, Christian Smith, lists four “social forces that have given rise to this emerging adulthood.”

1. The growth of higher education and the increase in graduate school education. Smith writes:

“…a huge proportion of American youth are no longer stopping school and beginning stable careers at age 18 but are extending their formal schooling well into their twenties…and [others] are continuing…until their thirties.”

2. The delay of marriage.

3. The global economy and end of lifelong careers, resulting in more job insecurity and more frequent changing of jobs. In addition, Smith writes:

“…many youth today spend five to ten years experimenting with different job and career options before finally deciding on a long-term career direction.”

4. Parents are supporting their children longer – into their twenties and even thirties.

Like I said, this is all very interesting to me because I am in this stage of life. But also, I am intrigued because of the possible implications for the church. Smith quotes Jeffrey Arnett who researched the religious beliefs of emerging adults. In short, Arnett found little or no relationship between emerging adults’ religious beliefs and their previous religious training and background. This is startling.

Some people will argue that 18-30 year olds have been leaving church for decades – only to return when they have a family. However, Smith points out that this may look very different in today’s world because of the changing social norms regarding marriage and family. He writes:

“ When the space between high school graduation and full adulthood was fairly short, as it was 50 years ago, the length of time spent out of the church tended to be rather short. But with the rise of emerging adulthood in recent decades, churches are now looking at 15-year or even 20-year absences by youth from churches between their leaving as teenagers and returning with toddlers-if indeed they ever return.”

Well, that’s enough for now. More of my thoughts on all this will come later. But as you can probably guess, I’m not very hopeful that many of these emerging adults who leave the church will ever return – at least to a typical institutional church environment.

Reading in 2008

December 3, 2007 - 7 Responses

This year I’ve read a ridiculous number of books – at least for me (my reading log). I’ve read a lot of great books and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading more than ever. However, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to read in the same way for 2008.

In November I did a little experiment and fasted from reading books. It was hard. But I think it was good for me. Instead of reading books, I read the gospels (I made it through Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and spent more time in other (hopefully) productive ways. The experiment came about because I was feeling quite convicted that I needed to stop reading and thinking so much and start acting. I don’t think this means I should stop reading completely, but I do think it means I should read differently.

My normal reading program is to read, read, read, and read some more. I start a book, finish it as quickly as possible, and then pick up the next one. For some books this works just fine, but overall I don’t think this is best. For 2008 I want to read at least some books more slowly and deliberately.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

In 2008 I will read as many books as I want – no limits. However, my goal is to read 6-8 books slowly and deliberately (one every month or two). I will read the book, reflect on the book, and then blog about practical ways the book should impact the way I live my life. In addition, these 6-8 books need to be potentially profound and deeply impacting books. In short, I want to focus on ‘must-reads.’ I can read other books during the year, but for the 6-8 I am going to read deliberately, I want these books to be some of the best books out there. The genre of the books doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if the books are popular, academic, recent, old classics, etc – they just have to be ‘must-reads’ that are potentially deeply impacting.

So here’s where you come in. What books should I read? What are the books that have changed you profoundly? What are the two or three books you would recommend above all others? Remember, the genre is not important. Please comment with your recommendations.

And lastly, is anyone interested in joining me for this 2008 reading experiment? There are lots of ways we could do it. We could do the experiment separately from each other, we could read the same books at the same time, we could blog about the books together – there are lots of options. Are you interested?

Bizarre Picture Friday

November 30, 2007 - 4 Responses

What Would Jesus Buy? – Reverend Billy and Guerilla Theater

November 16, 2007 - 7 Responses

Have you heard of the new movie coming out called What Would Jesus Buy? I’m really looking forward to seeing it. It’s a documentary by Morgan Spurlock, the man behind Super Size Me (which I really liked – more than anything because it was hilarious).

What Would Jesus Buy? deals with American consumerism and in it Spurlock introduces America to Reverend Billy and his “Church of Stop Shopping.” Rev. Billy and his “church” are basically a performance art and activist group dedicated to “defend[ing] communities against supermalls and the Devil’s monoculture” (to put it in words from their own website). Now don’t be fooled, Rev. Billy is no Southern Baptist minister. In fact, he calls himself “post religious” (which of course I find very interesting). However, while there is certainly a lot of humor and spectacle mixed in with Rev. Billy and his “church,” the message comes across very clear – consumerism and Christianity shouldn’t mix.

I’m sure there is much controversy surrounding Rev. Billy. I imagine many Christians are not one bit happy that he has chosen to spread his message in a (faux)Christian manner. However, some Christians are embracing him and his message. In a recent Sojourners column, renowned Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann calls Rev. Billy a modern day prophet engaging in “guerilla theater,” much like Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament. Brueggemann writes:

Amos Wilder, the wise New Testament scholar of the last generation, observed that the parables of Jesus are a form of “guerilla theater,” action against settled conviction and an invitation to listeners to come “on stage” into the action. Before Jesus, this same guerilla theater was the enterprise of the ancient prophets. That theater continues with Rev. Billy. We are surely apt candidates for the Church of Stop Shopping. With enough new recruits for the action, perhaps we need not be subjected to the Shopocalypse.

I find this all very compelling. What do you all think? Can we/should we consider Rev. Billy a modern day prophet? What do you think of this idea of guerilla theater? Can you think of any other examples? I’m really interested in your thoughts. But before you respond, you might want to learn more about Rev. Billy, What Would Jesus Buy, and the Church of Stop Shopping. Here are some good resources:

Rev. Billy’s official site
the movie’s official site
article from Christianity Today about the documentary
Brueggemann’s article in Sojourners

And of course, you definitely have to check out the trailer.

Just. Plain. Hilarious.

Litany of Humility

November 14, 2007 - One Response

I was really struck by Mark’s post today. Two things in particular:

1. Mark writes, “Humility is a deep sense of the value of others, and a sincere desire for good to happen to them, rather than to me.”

I really appreciate the connection here between humility and valuing others. This strikes me as true.

2. In his post Mark included the Litany of Humility attributed to Rafael Merry del Val. I feel the need to soak in these words. This is really good and I needed it today.


O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being slandered,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged,
Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

– Rafael Merry del Val

Where would Jesus go to church?

November 7, 2007 - 27 Responses

There’s an interesting article in today’s Baylor newspaper, The Baylor Lariat. World-renowned theologian, and Truett Seminary professor, Roger Olson poses the question, “Where would Jesus go to church?” (see the article)

He comes to the conclusion that if Jesus lived in Waco, he would probably go to church at Church Under the Bridge. Olson writes:

“…I [am] convinced [Church Under the Bridge] is where Jesus would go to church in Waco. It’s open, inviting, diverse, without pretense and full of people who know they are society’s outsiders.”

But Olson goes on to say that he doesn’t necessary believe “we should automatically do whatever we think Jesus would do.” He would rather “try to take something of Church Under the Bridge [back to his] home church.”

What do you guys think? Where would Jesus go to church? Would he go to church at all? Should our churches be places where Jesus would actually want to go?

I don’t have time to post, so here’s a long list of other ways for you to waste your life away on the internet

November 5, 2007 - 5 Responses

This blog entry is for those who have ever struggled with faith. Real Live Preacher is the best blogger out there – that’s right, the very best. And this is a must-read example of why he is the best. (there’s a reason I put this one first – it’s great)

Part 2 of an excellent video interview with Brian McLaren (see Part 1)

“The Evangelical Crackup” – what happened to the Evangelical Republican voting block?

– On a related note, here’s an interesting article on “Why Obama Matters” – (thanks to Bob Carlton for the link)

– Willow Creek Repents (1, 2, and a response from Diana Butler Bass) – very interesting. You have to respect Hybels and Willow Creek for the humility of their response.

Just for fun.

– And last but not least, a thought-provoking quote from Thomas Merton:

“The dread of being open to the ideas of others generally comes from our hidden insecurity about our own convictions. We fear that we may be ‘converted’ – or perverted – by a pernicious doctrine. On the other hand, if we are mature and objective in our open-mindedness, we might find that viewing things from a basically different perspective – that of our adversary – we discover our own truth in a new light and are able to understand our own ideal more realistically…”
(thanks to Prodigal Kiwi(s) Blog for this quote)

What is our country coming to…

November 1, 2007 - 2 Responses

…when we won’t let someone make an official mockery of the political process?

Quite unfortunate.

Reading unChristian 3: Is this all one big misperception?

October 31, 2007 - 3 Responses

Thanks for the good discussion on all of this. Read the comments from the previous post, if you haven’t already.

Here’s the next big finding (in my opinion) from the book.

But first, a question that seemed to arise in the comments from the previous post:

Is the perception of Christians/Christianity as antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, old fashioned, insensitive to others, and boring mainly due to a misperception by non-Christian outsiders?

I think…maybe not…

The next big finding is that young Christians also characterize Christians/Christianity as antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, old fashioned, insensitive to others, and boring.

Read that again.

This isn’t just a matter of young non-Christians perceiving Christians/Christianity in a negative light. Many young Christians characterize Christians/Christianity in a similar way. Of course the numbers are not as overwhelming, but there is still a significant proportion of Christians who characterize Christians/Christianity as “unChristian.”

So what do we make of this? Is this really one big misperception? What do you all think?

(by the way, I’m not saying that misperception has nothing to do with any of this. And I’m certainly not saying that Christians and non-Christians don’t need to get together and get to know each other. I just find it very interesting that many young Christians see Christians/Christianity in the same negative light as non-Christian outsiders. I’m interested in what you all think about this.)

Others in the series:
Reading unChristian 1: Intro
Reading unChristian 2: How bad is it?

Reading unChristian 2: How bad is it?

October 27, 2007 - 8 Responses

I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to the discussion regarding this important book.

My first post provided a summary of some of the images outsiders (non-Christians) have when they think of Christians/Christianity. I think the statistics in the chart are certainly disturbing. However, I don’t think anything in the book was quite as disturbing as the following findings:

“We discovered that outsiders express the most opposition toward evangelicals. Among those aware of the term ‘evangelical,’ the views are extraordinarily negative (49 percent to 3 percent). Disdain for evangelicals among the younger set is overwhelming and definitive. Think of it this way: there are roughly twenty-four million outsiders in America who are ages sixteen to twenty-nine. Of these, nearly seven million have a negative impression of evangelicals; another seven million said they have no opinion; and ten million have never heard the term ‘evangelical.’ That leaves less than a half million young outsiders – out of the twenty-four million – who see evangelicals in a positive light” (p. 25).

Go back and read the bold part again.

I think Kinnaman is right: “Disdain for evangelicals among the younger set is overwhelming and definitive.”

Ok, so maybe you’re saying, “I don’t identify myself as an ‘evangelical’ so this doesn’t matter to me.” I think you’re wrong. I think it is becoming increasingly true that outsiders identify Christianity with ‘evangelical.’ To many outsiders, there is no distinction. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way it is.

What does this mean for those of us who call ourselves Christians?

Others in the series:
Reading unChristian 1: Intro
Reading unChristian 3: Is this all one big misperception?

The addiction of words and the challenge to start living

October 17, 2007 - 13 Responses

Last week I had the pleasure of spending time with Mark Scandrette (I also read his book Soul Graffiti, which I highly recommend). Reading his book and spending about 5-6 hours with Mark impacted me significantly. Mark is someone who is really living the gospel, and living it with others (in spending time with him, I couldn’t help but be reminded of George MacDonald – another one who truly lived the gospel). In short, I am feeling a strong call to start living the gospel in a way I have only thought about before.

Here is a quote from Mark’s book that expresses some of what I am feeling.

“Paul of Tarsus noted that ‘the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20). I think of how personally addicted I am to words and ideas that are often fragmented from my sensations, feelings, and relationships. We struggle to live in our bodies what we believe in our minds. How is it that so many of us have energy to debate about words but lack the passion to seek love and reconciliation? Or why do we tend to look for God in the pages of a book more than in the face of a friend? In the West we have more ideas about God than encounters with God, treating the message of the kingdom more as an elegant theory than a present reality. Is the name and power of Jesus something to be understood or a presence and power to encounter? From our fragmentation we struggle for a unity between thought and experience.”

I cannot continue living as I have. It is time for change. It is time for less talk and more reality of living the gospel in our world.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more about this in the weeks to come.

Reading unChristian 1: Intro

October 9, 2007 - 23 Responses

I’ve been reading unChristian, the book I mentioned a couple weeks ago. I’m about half way through and I’m convinced this is a very important book. It’s one I am going to be recommending to everyone. Buy it. And really listen to what it has to say.

Here’s the short story. Basically, the book discusses some research that was conducted by The Barna Group and commissioned by the Fermi Project. The research was focused on better understanding the perceptions young non-Christians (they use the term “outsiders”) have towards Christianity (and Christians). The results are startling on multiple levels. I will definitely be blogging more about this. Until then, here is a basic summary of the perceptions “outsiders” have of Christianity.

Others in the series:
Reading unChristian 2: How bad is it?
Reading unChristian 3: Is this all one big misperception?


October 8, 2007 - 3 Responses

For best results, start early.

Big win for the Steelers! Obviously Ivy was very excited about it!

The Office

September 26, 2007 - 20 Responses

So obviously after a great discussion about hell, the next blog topic that comes to mind is The Office. Now Brooke and I don’t watch much tv at all. I mean practically none. I watch movies but we watch almost zero tv. We don’t even have cable. Yep, basically I’m saying that we are really holy.

But anyways, we have gotten into The Office. After watching a couple episodes on tv we rented Season 1 from Blockbuster Online and got hooked. By the middle of Season 2 we were addicted. In order to catch up with the series (Season 4 starts Thursday night), we watched all of Season 3 over the past week. So now we’re caught up.

So here’s what I’m getting at. Does anyone else feel like Season 3 was a letdown? Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it all the way through, and there were plenty of moments of brilliance, but still, I have a feeling the series peaked about midway through Season 2. Here’s my main criticism: way too many relationships. What in the world? It’s gotten ridiculous. I count at least six [updated: I now count eight – see comments]. I was fine with Jim and Pam – I think it makes sense as part of an office to have some kind of relationship going on. But does everyone have to be in a relationship with someone else in the office? If I want to watch a soap opera, there are plenty of other shows to watch. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely be watching Season 4, but I’m just disappointed. I really was loving the show. Now I’m loving it less.

Anyone agree or disagree?

This and that

September 21, 2007 - 4 Responses

– I just found out about this interesting book coming out – it’s called unChristian. Check out the website. Basically, the book is based on a study that looked at perceptions of Christianity and Christians. Here are some of the words/phrases that were often mentioned: antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, sheltered, too political. I ordered the book and I’m looking forward to reading it and maybe discussing it some here.

– This is old news but still very interesting. Have you guys read about Mother Teresa’s recently released journals? Read “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith” from Time magazine. It’s well worth the read.

Geoff posted about his ACL experience (here). I’m so very jealous that he saw Arcade Fire. There is no band I would rather see live right now. I have been listening to their latest, Neon Bible, over and over in my car. I can’t stop. I think it might be even better than Funeral.

– Keep up the conversations about hell (here and here). It’s been good.

– 11 people got together and started an Emergent cohort in Waco this week. I’m excited and hopeful for what is to come.


September 19, 2007 - 24 Responses

My goal here is not really to give any deep insights regarding hell. I’m also not trying to convince you of anything. I’m just giving some of my own recent thoughts on the subject. They are not fully developed or especially articulate. That wasn’t my goal here.

I have trouble believing that God eternally punishes. It just doesn’t seem good. I know we shouldn’t base all our thoughts about God on what “seems” good to us. I know this. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. In fact, I think God cares about how I “feel” and about what “seems” good to me. I don’t think he minds that I struggle with these things. I think it’s healthy.

To me it comes down to God’s love. I think love is the core of who God is. And I have trouble reconciling the traditional view of hell (and even other less traditional/more progressive views of hell) with God’s love.

Brian McLaren begins his book about hell with the following words:

“I believe that God is good. No thought I have ever had of God is better than God actually is. True, my thoughts-including my assumptions about what good means-are always more or less inaccurate, limited, and unworthy, but still I am confident of this: I have never overestimated how good God is because God’s goodness overflows far beyond the limits of human understanding. That conviction gave birth to this book.”

I concur. And it is those thoughts that have brought me to this post, just as those thoughts brought McLaren to write his book. To me it is all about God’s love – his goodness. I think talking about the concept of hell is important because of the implications for how we understand God’s goodness. Any view of hell must reconcile with God’s goodness. It must. Now of course, as McLaren said, we may have an incorrect idea of goodness, but still, we can only go on what we think we know.

George MacDonald writes, “Punishment is nowise an offset of sin.” I agree. It does not make sense to me that somehow punishment offsets sin – that punishing someone makes things right. It doesn’t. What would the purpose be of eternal punishment? A good earthly parent would never do such things to his or her child. We are called to forgive. I think God must forgive far more than we ever can. I do not see how he comes to a place of ceasing to forgive. Again, if we are called to forgive, won’t God do the same?

MacDonald also writes, “…the notion that a creature born imperfect, nay, born with impulses to evil not of his own generating, and which he could not help having, a creature to who the true face of God was never presented, and by whom it never could have been seen, should be thus condemned [to eternal punishment] is [a] loathsome a lie against God…”

So, about hell. Do I believe in it? I’m not sure. I think there’s something to it. I don’t think we can ignore the comments in scripture, particularly the comments from Jesus regarding hell. But I think many of these things are often misunderstood and misapplied. So while I think there may be a hell, I don’t think there is a place for eternal punishment. What about annihilation, you might say. I don’t know – I prefer to think that all will be restored and made right in the end. This seems more in line with the love of God I have come to know – and most importantly, the love of God evidenced in Jesus. I believe God will continue his work of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration until the work is complete. Until ALL is made right.

Can I be wrong? Sure. Of course. But if I am wrong, it must be because there is some greater depth of God, greater goodness, that I just don’t understand.

What about those who don’t think like me? I do hurt for some people who seem to think very ugly things about God. I don’t know how to worship such a being. But I think God can reveal his goodness to and in these people as much as he can to me (even if we never agree). I appreciate what MacDonald says about this very thing: “Some of the best of men have indeed held these theories [about eternal punishment, etc.], and of men who have held them I have loved and honoured some heartily and humbly-but because of what they were, not because of what they thought; and they were what they were in virtue of their obedient faith, not of their opinion.”

I agree with MacDonald. Ultimately the faith we live is for more important than the things I think. May we learn to love and obey the God who loves us deeply – no matter what we may think.

Lastly, a few things I did not say.

I did not say I don’t believe in hell.

I did not say I dislike or disrespect people who have a traditional view of hell.

I did not say I am better than people who have a traditional view of hell.

I did not say that scripture is unimportant. I think scripture must be dealt with. I chose not to deal with it here because I didn’t particularly want to have a debate about the interpretation of scripture. I think scripture is very important. And I think there are some very important verses that speak of hell. But I do think we must recognize that these verses are not clear and/or simple statements – there is always interpretation required.

I did not say that it is no longer important to believe in Jesus or to be a Christian.

I did not say that the way we live our lives is no longer important.

And lastly, I did not say I have this figured out. I definitely do not.

What do you guys think about hell?

Raising Hell

September 17, 2007 - 17 Responses

In my “Beginning at the end” post, GK expressed some uneasiness with the concept of hell and challenged me to share my own thoughts.

I’m a little hesitant to do so. Mainly because whatever my view is, it’s definitely not traditional. And oddly enough (at least it seems odd to me), some Christians can be very defensive when it comes to this issue. As if questioning hell is equivalent to questioning God. Or as though rejecting the traditional view of hell is like rejecting God altogether.

So because of the strong feelings associated with the traditional doctrine of hell, I have been hesitant to explicitly address the issue. But as you can tell, I’ve decided to start this discussion. Not because I want to be radical. Not to be provocative. And certainly not to be divisive. Rather, I have decided to weigh in on the issue because I think one’s view of hell significantly affects the way a person views and understands God. And that’s important.

So here’s a little biography to get us started.

During Christmas break my first year of college (I think that’s when it was), I read C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce (GK – didn’t you happen to read it at the same time?). Now I grew up with a pretty traditional understanding of hell. Something along the lines of Christians go to heaven (paradise, eternal life, good times forever) and everyone else goes to hell (eternal torment, gnashing of teeth, and no way out). So when I read The Great Divorce I was immediately surprised by two things. First, C.S. Lewis didn’t seem to agree with my traditional view of hell. And second, I couldn’t believe that conservative, traditional Christians let Lewis get away with his view of hell. I never will understand how Lewis is so widely popular while holding some pretty non-traditional views at times. Anyways, I read this book and loved it (it’s still one of my very favorite books – on multiple levels). It seemed to lift a burden from my shoulders. Scales seemed to fall from my eyes. I could see things in a new way. Maybe I’m reading more into it than was really true at the time – but it was certainly an important moment for me. Even though reading The Great Divorce was very influential, I still was pretty traditional in my understanding of hell. I was much more open, but my beliefs hadn’t changed a lot – at least in ways I could clearly articulate.

At the time of reading The Great Divorce I was not familiar with George MacDonald. MacDonald is actually a character in The Great Divorce but at the time I didn’t know anything about him. However, later that year I started reading MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons. No other book has changed me and influenced me so extensively. If reading The Great Divorce was like a burden being lifted, then reading Unspoken Sermons was (and continues to be) like being lifted off the ground and carried into another world. Since then I’ve read and been influenced by a few other authors, but really MacDonald’s perspectives have framed my understanding of hell more than any other.

Well, I think I might stop here for now. I think personal history is important. Maybe having read this will help you as I go into more specifics with my next entry (hopefully in just a couple days).

Before we get into any specific discussion about hell, is there anyone else who is struggling with the issue? Do you want to share any of your history?

Emergent Waco

September 15, 2007 - 2 Responses

I am part of a group of people who are beginning an Emergent cohort in Waco. My goal in helping to start this group is to promote conversation about issues surrounding and related to the emerging church.

We are meeting at 11:45 this upcoming Wednesday, at Chilis Too at Baylor. Anyone and everyone is welcome.

If you’re interested in the Emergent Waco cohort, let me know – email me at adam_d_moore(at)baylor(dot)edu. That way I can add you to the email list for information about meetings, etc. Also, let me know if you are planning to come on Wednesday – that way I can save a big enough table.

For more information about Emergent and Emergent cohorts, go to the Emergent Waco blog.

Reflections on fatherhood after [almost] four months

September 11, 2007 - 11 Responses

It is hard to believe that Ivy will be four months old this week. In some ways it seems like it has been much longer than that, and in others it seems like she was born just last week. It’s absolutely amazing to have her in our lives. But it certainly hasn’t been easy. Everyone was definitely right – there’s just nothing you can do to prepare for having a baby thrust into your life. It has definitely been harder than I imagined it would be – or at least just difficult in different ways than expected. But I think we have done well. We’re making it. We’re enjoying our beautiful daughter and she is healthy and growing.

You may notice that this post is being written at a ridiculous hour of the morning (it’s 4:41 right now). Not only did Ivy wake up in the middle of the night, but I also can’t sleep (now that she’s back asleep). She hasn’t been sleeping well lately. It’s been pretty normal for her to wake up for awhile sometime between 2:30 and 4:30 in the morning (this morning was closer to the 2:30!). But even with the sleep issues, she’s just a wonderful and amazing little girl. I can’t help but fall for her over and over again as she flashes her brilliant smile. And best of all, she’s learned to laugh. I don’t know if there is a better thing in all the world than to hear her laugh. I absolutely love it. The other day she was giggling quite a bit and it caused me to laugh harder than I have in quite a long time.

So anyways, all this to say, fatherhood’s been good so far. Four good months. I hope they keep getting even better.

Beginning at the end [Why I am so screwed up – part 1 of 10]

September 6, 2007 - 20 Responses

Will this really be a ten part series? Doubtful.

Will this really be about why I am so screwed up? I’m not sure.

But this post will definitely be about beginning at the end. Or at least beginning at the present.

When I say I’m screwed up, I primarily mean that I am uncertain about many things regarding God, faith, church, etc. Inherent in this statement is the idea that I used to have things figured out. Or at least I thought I did. In fact, there have been at least a few different times I thought I had things figured out, only to find that I didn’t. Maybe I should take the hint and just stop trying to figure things out… Anyways, all of this is what has me screwed up.

In beginning at the end, I’m going to discuss what I have been pondering lately – I’ve been thinking about friends and family who have left Christianity. I think for the most part they all left because it just stopped working (in some ways that has been my experience as well). In the past I just attributed this kind of “falling away” to sin of some kind.

For example: “So and so left church because he is pursuing things apart from God – money, career, ambition (to name a few).”

Or: “So and so left Christianity because she is not willing to give up her pride and just submit to God.”

I think these explanations can certainly be true. However, more and more I am thinking that people (I am thinking of specific friends and family) leave church and/or Christianity because they find that it no longer works for them. At one point going to church and believing things about Christianity genuinely helped them in some way. But for whatever reason, now it doesn’t. Some of them try and try and try to make it work. But eventually they give up and leave.

What are we to make of this?

I don’t feel comfortable writing these people off so easily. I don’t believe I can simply attribute their rejection of church/Christianity to sin. These are genuinely good and kind people. People with good intentions. People who really wanted/want it to work. But for whatever reason, it didn’t. Some of these people go on to good productive lives – caring for others, loving their neighbors and working to bring about justice. Others make a more thorough defection. Their lives may even fall apart in many ways. In either case, I struggle with why it didn’t work. At one point these people really tried to make it work – following Jesus and being part of church/Christianity. Can we really blame them for leaving because it wasn’t working? Maybe this sounds very selfish to you – and maybe it is. But can we really tell people to keep doing something that is not working – not bringing about any good, any redemption in the person’s life? These individuals may even feel they are being harmed by the continued attempts and failures to make it all work. Some leave feeling there was no other option. And on top of all this, after leaving some of them feel that leaving is the very thing that saved them.

Ok, I’ve said a lot. Does this make sense? Please don’t get me wrong. I am not throwing out sin or personal responsibility here. At least I’m not meaning to. What I’m really struggling with are people who genuinely try/seek/want to make it work but end up leaving church/Christianity.

So that’s what I am screwed up about right now.

Any thoughts? I’m really interested in what you think. Has anyone else thought about this? Or perhaps experienced this at all? What do we do with this kind of thing?

Is a list of movies the cure for boring?

August 29, 2007 - 16 Responses

Until a couple weeks ago I was a faithful and evangelistic member of Blockbuster Online. But then I got a nice email from them telling me I was going to pay more to get less. I said “no thanks” (I actually did respond to them and told them I was going to have to decline their generous offer to give me less for paying more). As a result, I am currently in the middle of a free month-long trial with Netflix. But when the end of the free month comes around, I may choose neither. The reason is that I am running out of movies on my queue that I really want to see (what a horrible problem, right?). And this is where you come in.

What are some of your favorite movies that I might not have seen yet? What movies do you think I should add to my queue?

Since I’m asking you, I’ll give you a few of my more recent favorites (the past few years) to add to your queue – ones that some of you might not have seen yet.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Children of Men
Pan’s Labyrinth
Born Into Brothels
Little Miss Sunshine

Very good
Motorcycle Diaries
City of God
Good Night, and Good Luck

Not the best, not necessarily very good, but still quite good (and worth adding to your queue)
Maria Full of Grace
Marie Antoinette
The Constant Gardener

Anyone agree/disagree with my recommendations?

I look forward to your recommendations (they don’t have to be recent movies).

My blog is boring

August 28, 2007 - 2 Responses

I was notified yesterday that my blog is slow, boring, and hasn’t been updated in a long time. Ok, maybe the person didn’t say all of that – maybe just the part about not updating recently. Anyways, I just wanted to let you all know that I haven’t posted recently because I am currently working on a ten part series entitled “Why I am so screwed up.” I figure a ten part series about myself will definitely make this the most happenin’ blog around, right?

Unfortunately, most of the above paragraph is actually true.

Faith, delusion, extremism, etc. (I think i should end all of my blog titles with “etc.”)

August 15, 2007 - 10 Responses

First of all, what happened? 18 comments on the previous post? Wow. Thanks for the good discussion – obviously it had nothing to do with me. I have been so busy with things (translation: why won’t Ivy eat?!) that I didn’t even get to join in. I hope to post a follow-up in the next week or so with some of my own thoughts (not that you need to hear my thoughts. Your thoughts were all perfectly great. But anyways, since it is my blog and all…I’ll probably post my thoughts).

Ok, so do you remember the “Responding to Buechner” post? Well, it kind of died off and I posted about something else and it seemed like that discussion was over. But I think the discussion just started – thanks to Angela (and I think it actually relates to the “Circumcision” post as well). If you haven’t read the post, go read it real quick and make sure to read the comments. Here is Angela’s comment (posted with permission):

“I wasn’t going to respond to this, because I was afraid of the reaction I would get. But I’ve changed my mind. Bare in mind, I’m asking questions more than answering them. As you know by now, I’m agnostic, so my views on faith are very… skeptical… for lack of a better word.

“If I am to believe that faith is nothing more than a “real” dream, what separates reality from fiction. It seems to me that the only separation (in Buechner’s quote) is what I want that separation to be. If I want my faith to be a reality and not just a dream, then I only need to believe it, and it is so? I don’t buy it. Sorry. If one has doubts, and the doubt unsettles you so, then retreating back into the dream to avoid these doubts solves nothing in the end.

“It’s a beautiful idea when applied in a loving manner, but it becomes a dangerous idea when in the hands of extremists. Their faith is so strong and so “real” to them, as well.”

This is such an insightful comment – I hope it leads to some good discussion. I think Angela’s response is very fair. I know some Christians would attempt to quickly refute it and “prove” that faith is completely reasonable – I think that is just plain arrogant.

Any thoughts on this? What do you think? I think Angela brings up some great points.

By the way, I’m not interested in a debate or an argument. I want to look and see the value in what Angela is saying – because I think there is a lot to be gained from it.

Should you get circumcised?

August 7, 2007 - 20 Responses

I read through Paul’s letter to the Galatians today and something caught my attention in a new way. One of the implied questions addressed in Galatians (and also in Acts) is the issue of whether or not a person must first become a Jew in order to follow Jesus. This was an important question in the earliest church. Jesus was a Jew. His earliest followers were Jews. Did this mean a person must become a Jew to follow Jesus? Paul addresses the question by looking at circumcision. Must a new non-Jewish believer be circumcised (become a Jew) in order to be welcomed by the early Jesus followers? Paul’s answer is a resounding ‘no.’

Paul seems to be saying that following Jesus, and living by the Spirit, is not about becoming a Jew – it is not about a particular religion but is for anyone and everyone (Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, etc). Following Jesus is not about adopting a new religion. One could remain a Gentile (non-Jew) and follow Jesus (interesting to note – one could also remain a Jew, since there was no such thing as converting to the Christian religion).

Ok, so maybe you’re thinking that there’s nothing too terribly interesting here. However, reading all of this made me think about how these concepts might apply today (maybe you already see where I am going). I am wondering if we can replace Paul’s categories of “circumcised” (Jew) and “uncircumcised” (non-Jew/Gentile) with “Christian” and “non-Christian.” Must a person in today’s world become a Christian in order to follow Jesus and live by the Spirit? I know I have blogged about this kind of thing before but I was just particularly intrigued by how Paul’s words in Galatians might relate to this whole issue. What do you think? I am really interested in hearing your thoughts.

One other thing. Paul does not reject the Jewish followers of Jesus. He acknowledges that Peter is an apostle to the Jews. Paul simply wants the other early Jesus-followers (particularly the leaders of the early movement) to acknowledge his calling to the non-Jews/Gentiles as valid. He also does not seem to reduce the value of the church in Jerusalem (a primarily Jewish church). Instead he seems to recognize that both can coexist. Peter should continue to heed his call to the Jews and Paul will continue to proclaim the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. There is room for both. Some might be called to the Jews and others to the Gentiles. Paul’s desire is simply that the religion of the Jews should not be pushed onto the Gentiles – as a precondition for following Jesus.

So what do you think? Can this relate to the whole Christian/non-Christian thing I mentioned above? Is there a place for followers of Jesus who are not Christians? Just as Paul said that becoming a Jew was unnecessary for Gentiles, might he say today that becoming a Christian is not necessary for following Jesus?

Anyway, I know I already blogged about this kind of thing before (similar ideas can be found both here and here) but I thought perhaps it was worth another mention after reading Galatians today.

Responding to Buechner

July 30, 2007 - 3 Responses

I did something that I don’t like other people to do. I’m sorry.

I posted a quotation without any commentary. I never really like it when people do this – on blogs or in person. I don’t like it when people read a paragraph from a book or quote some scripture, while nodding their head and assuming everyone is grasping the deep truth they found in the words.

So here are a few thoughts on the Buechner quote from the previous post.

Some people think faith is just a figment of our imaginations. Buechner admits that this can be a compelling argument. And actually, he is saying that this argument is strongest when it comes from himself. Don’t you find this to be true? I might quickly dismiss the atheist who declares my faith to be a mere dream but it is difficult to dismiss the doubts that are stirred in my own heart and mind. There have been plenty of times when I have thought to myself, “Surely this is just something I have made up in my head. It can’t be real.”

Maybe it is all a dream.

BUT, if it is a dream, it’s a dream that should be true. It’s a dream that is more true than reality itself.

And when I wake, to my doubts, to the seeming realization that it has all in fact been a fraud, I cry out because the dream was so much more true, more real, more good than reality.

Faith is the belief that this dream just might be true. It is faith that brings us to dream the dream in the first place. It is faith that causes us to cry out in the midst of doubt – thinking the dream is too good to be true.

This faith, and hope, sustain us through the journey. Faith and hope that life really is better than death. I really like this idea. Sometimes to believe in God, to believe in Jesus, to believe in all the Bible and the Church proclaim, is just too much. But somehow I continue to believe that what I need is not death, but life. Life must be better than death. The good around me is too compelling. Even in the midst of the darkness I find hope that life is better. I find hope and faith that the dream is real. That Jesus does in fact reveal to us a good and loving God. That there is hope for the here and now. And even hope to be found in the uncertainty of what lies beyond this life.

Let us not lose hope. Let us not lose faith. Let us keep dreaming. Let us keep crying out. Let us keep living.

Beautiful words on faith

July 21, 2007 - 4 Responses

“There will always be some who say that such faith is only a dream, and God knows there is none who can say it more devastatingly than we sometimes say it to ourselves, but if so, I think of it as like the dream that Caliban dreamed. Faith is like the dream in which the clouds open to show such riches ready to drop upon us that when we wake into the reality of nothing more than common sense, we cry to dream again because the dreaming seems truer than the waking does to the fullness of reality not as we have seen it, to be sure, but as by faith we trust it to be without seeing. Faith is both the dreaming and the crying. Faith is the assurance that the best and holiest dream is true after all. Faith in something – if only in the proposition that life is better than death – is what makes our journeys through time bearable. When faith ends, the journey ends – ends either in a death like my father’s or in the living death of those who believe themselves to be without hope.”

Frederick Buechner (from The Sacred Journey)

Seven Years

July 15, 2007 - 4 Responses
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Today is our seven year anniversary.

This is the only wedding picture I could find on our computer. The picture is of us about to leave the church and begin our honeymoon. We were 20 years old!

Happy Anniversary Brooke. Let’s go for another year, whadayasay?

Born Into Brothels

July 12, 2007 - 4 Responses

I’ve been wanting to see Born Into Brothels for awhile now. I must admit that it took me awhile to finally see it because I am sort of afraid of documentaries. For some reason “documentary” makes me think “boring.” I don’t really know why I thought this. I like documentaries on tv – if I had cable, that’s what I would watch all the time.

Anyways, after Born Into Brothels, I can’t wait to watch more documentaries (anyone have any good ones to recommend?).

Born Into Brothels is about a photographer named Zana Briski who chose to live with and get to know some of the women who live and work in the red light district of Calcutta. Briski ended up spending large portions of a number of years in one particular brothel. As she got to know the women of the brothel, she also grew to love the many children who live in the brothel with their mothers and families. The movie documents her relationship with a number of the children who she ends up teaching photography. The result is an amazing, heart-breaking, and miraculously hope-filled portrait of these incredible children. You see their lives through their own eyes, via their own photography. The movie also chronicles Briski’s attempts (with some successes and some failures) to help the children get out of the brothels (she has since begun an organization to continue this work in other areas – check out the site).

This movie is certainly difficult to watch at times. The scores of children who grow up in these brothels have very little hope of leaving. The girls in particular have very little chance of avoiding the same fate of their mothers and eventually joining “the line.” That a place like this exists is disturbing and it is difficult to watch. While it is encouraging and inspiring to watch Briski help these children in amazing ways, it is also easy to despair in realizing that their are so many other children in these brothels, without any real hope.

So here’s what I took away from the film (I actually watched it twice – once with the audio commentary).

Film is an amazing way to bring about awareness of significant issues.

There are people in this world making a difference – doing amazing things. God must be with these people, even if they do not know it. While Briski does not appear to be a Christian, it is hard to miss her incredible love for these children – I think this is God.

My life is easy.

People matter. All of them. And loving people is the work of God, and our only true calling in this world. No matter who the people are or how many people are impacted.

God is working everywhere and will use anyone.

There are plenty other things to think about after watching this movie.

Please rent it. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Style before substance

July 11, 2007 - 6 Responses

Ok folks. We’re gonna have to compromise.

It is my blog after all.

You want links on my blog. You’ve got em.

You want more than one post on each page. You’ve got it (but only three – and don’t ask for more!).

But one big change is not open for discussion – I’m moving.

I’ve been thinking about a change of venue for quite awhile. I resisted because Blogger has been good to me for two years. However, a couple things at Blogger just drove me nuts. Also, and most importantly, I think WordPress just looks cleaner and sharper.

So, welcome to my new blog. A new address but the rest should stay pretty much the same (less content than I would like, a little controversy every now and then, and boring stuff in between. You gotta love it).

Please change your links (surely you can do at least one thing for me).

Be sure to notice, the link is adammoore.wordpress.com (not ifgodislove.wordpress.com).

Don’t tell anyone, but because I am an idiot, I accidently deleted forever ifgodislove.wordpress.com. That mistake is still hurting. Oh well, adammoore.wordpress.com will have to do. The blog’s still called “If God is Love” though – I like that a lot. And I’m quite attached to the banner photo.

Again, welcome. I hope you come back often (or not so often, which is ok again since I have more than one post on the main page).


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