TheoHacks #7: Origins of the Bible

John Chandler and I have made it to the 7th episode of our podcast titled TheoHacks, amazing. This episode kicks off our first attempt at a series that begins to wrestle with the origins of the Biblical text. We’ll take a look at the beginnings of the Bible and what it means for us as Jesus followers today. Check out the new episode and show notes here. We’d love to hear from you either through the comments section or by our new voicemail number. Enjoy.

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Jouneying Bravely Into the Christian Bubble

Apparently GQ Magazine has published an article about the experience of a journalist who decided to submerge himself and his family deep inside american christian pop culture for seven days. I would say, fair or not, this deptiction rings so very true to many of my friends who don’t want anything to do with this kind christianity found in america. The article is posted here by Troy Kennedy.

A Tulip, a Cup of Water, or Both?: Intro

I’ve had a few different instances in my life lately that have centered around the idea of nonnegotiables within the Christian faith. Some of these instances have been conversations and some from my reading. I had a rather interesting conversation with a neighbor of mine who proceeded to tell me that I was “almost there” because I loved God but I didn’t agree with the 5 points of Calvinism (whatever being “almost there” means). On the flip side of that, I was reading Mark 9 the other day and it says this: “Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.” (Not sure where TULIP fits in with the cup of water) Then I happened upon a pastor in seattle’s blog. I took a look at his beliefs page and was amazed at how long it was. Not only does he lay out what he does believe, but he also makes sure we know what he doesn’t believe. I had to wonder after reading all the little details- is all this stuff really helpful for me or would it just end up taking my eye of the ball? Clearly, whatever the absolute essentials are, everyone seems to have a different idea of what they look like in the course of their spiritual lives and everyone still seems to be “right” in their understanding. What gives?

In his book, “The Holy Longing”, Ronald Rolheiser writes about the pursuit of a balanced Christian spiritual life. I’m through the fifth chapter and so far, it’s an amazing book. In the third chapter Rolheiser writes about what he calls the “Nonnegotiable Essentials” of a healthy Christian spirituality. Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, he comes to the conclusion that there are four essential actions that Jesus calls us to in order to have a healthy and balanced spirituality: a) Private prayer and private morality b) social justice c) mellowness of heart and spirit and d) community as a constitutive element of true worship. Rolheiser emphasizes that even though all of these actions individually are still good, if a healthy spiritual life is the goal, none of them can be ignored.

After I read these, I instantly connected with them because Christian faiths of all shapes and sizes can fit into these four actions very nicely. Whether you’re a Quaker or a Baptist or a Catholic or a Non-denominational Evangelical, these actions can be at your foundation all the same. Also, these important actions avoid the doctrinal bickering and dogma that we so often find in the Christian culture. I would propose that if any of us are really serious about practicing these four directions from Jesus, we may simply not have the time to argue about how our system of beliefs is more superior than our other Christian brothers and sisters. If I were truly busy with the application of these directions, maybe I wouldn’t even be writing this blog post. Maybe so, but I’m gonna squeeze it in anyway if that’s ok.

I’d like to take a shot at my first “series” on finding rhythm and walk through these different “nonnegotiable essentials” as Rolheiser lays them out in this book. This will serve as an introduction and an opportunity to open this up to a discussion in the comments section and each post after this one will deal with one of the four nonnegotiables. With that said, I’d love to hear from everyone who reads this blog. What are your “nonnegotiables” and what is your reaction to Rolheiser’s conclusion? I’d love to hear from all of you.

It’s Official!! (kinda)

I’m “Emergent” and “Postmodern”, although I wasn’t aware those two were mutually exclusive. I saw this little test on Adam’s blog so I thought I’d give it a shot. I anwered a bunch of questions and this is what it spit out for better or for worse. There were a bunch of questions I didn’t understand so I just selected the most nuetral option. Wasn’t sure about my stance on Karl Barth’s theology or some other stuff because I simply don’t know anything about well known theological perspectives. Also, I have no idea what “Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan” means and so on. Although there were some things that were totally over my head, I feel like the little written description pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of my sense about faith, God, and the church. I’m pretty sure at best, this is just a little meaningless fun and at it’s worst, it’s just more shit to argue about. Either way, if you have a problem with the results, you’re problem’s not with God….it’s with me!! Here are the official results:

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern

79%

Classical Liberal

68%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

64%

Modern Liberal

54%

Neo orthodox

50%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

39%

Roman Catholic

36%

Reformed Evangelical

21%

Fundamentalist

7%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Jesus Lives in New York, Daddy!

At least that’s what my daughter Ava told me the other day. To the best of our knowledge my wife and I have no idea where she came to such a conclusion, yet regardless of where she heard it, she seems pretty convinced. Ava, who is four, has actually been to New York City several times but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t remember the details and I’m pretty sure she didn’t discover Jesus’ address while sleeping in her stroller on 5th Avenue. Maybe he’s upstate? Anyway, Ava is clearly starting to process through who God is and who Jesus is and how they relate to her position in the world. She’s been starting to ask all kinds of questions in order to solve this mystery of God in her life. Right now the big issue is “Where are they?”. She hears a lot about Jesus and God but she hasn’t actually found where they are and can only go on what the people around her offer as suggestions. Even though she has this sense that Jesus lives in New York, she’s still not satisfied. She said shortly after her initial proclamation, “Daddy, can we go back to New York? I need to see Jesus because I don’t want him to be invisible.” During these kinds of exchanges with Ava, her curiousity is met with my confusion. I’m rarely satisfied with any insight I offer her. I mean, how is New York any less clear of an explanation than the often used “he’s up there somewhere, in heaven” or “he lives in our hearts”? I’ve tried explaining to Ava that Jesus might be all around us or that God is everywhere but to her that’s just silly. If they are everywhere or all around us, why can’t she see them. I know we can all say, “Well, she’s just a child. When she gets older she’ll begin to grasp who God is and how to find Jesus.” But is simply getting older really something we should feel confident in falling back on? What makes my understanding that much greater or more insightful than Ava’s? Is God more pleased with my understanding than he is with Ava’s?

After thinking about Ava’s statement for a while, I was actually ok with it. And after thinking about it even more, I actually became proud of her. I guess in the end I don’t really care where she thinks Jesus is. I care that she wants to go to him. I care that she wants to pursue him. I kinda wanted to just drive to the airport and buy a few tickets to JFK and start looking with her. This whole exchange with my daughter has caused me to think a lot about how my wife and I should begin to show her what faith in God looks like and why our faith matters. As a parent I don’t ever want to dictate Ava’s knowledge of God. Instead, I want to point her towards the pursuit of God. At least for now, Ava does not want Jesus to be “invisible” or missing in her life. She wants to pursue him in her way and woe to me if I get in the way of her process with my silly explanations of ideas and concepts of which I have no business claiming authority.

Some may disagree with my current outlook on kids and faith and that’s fine. I’d actually love to hear any insight or differing opinions on this matter. I think there’s still lots for me, a young dad, to learn here. The main question that I feel frames this discussion is this: Can the pursuit of what we are looking for be successful if the knowledge of what is waiting for us at the end is fuzzy? I guess one truth found in that question is that we’ll all find out soon enough. In the mean time, thank God for these beautiful little children, these amazing creations that he blesses us with.

My Back-up Plan Emerges

This March there will be a conference called Futuregen taking place here in Phoenix. I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a Christian conference but I know Futuregen will be my first. The reason being is because I’ll be an official “Conference Speaker”. That’s right folks. Read ’em and weep. Someone as completely unqualified as myself with no seminary degree and who dropped out of community college will be in front of room full of pastors talking about a bunch of stuff of which I have no clue. What’s the world coming to? A drummer of a secular rock band is gonna be propped up in front a bunch of unsuspecting pastors and ministry types and will be expected to say something worthwhile? Uhhhhh……mmmm……..well………yeah…..I guess.

As it might surprise some of you, my participation has nothing to do with my incredible theological prowess. The real reason for my involvement is the doing of my friend, Dan Kimball from Vintage Faith in Santa Cruz, who has asked me to take part in a few sessions with him. Dan is a great guy, an experienced pastor, and a published author. He has recently been digging deep into the idea that most people outside the church love Jesus but dislike the church, which from my perspective rings very true. I think we’ll be discussing something along those lines so it could be a really interesting time. I’m smart enough to realize that if it wasn’t for Dan asking me to be involved, I would probably not even know about this conference much less invited to be a co-speaker. It’s pretty funny when you check out the list of speakers on their site and my credit is that I’m in a rock band. I had to laugh out loud when I saw that. God indeed has a twisted sense of humor. Maybe my credit is that I don’t have any credit. That’s a role I can definitely fill. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued and excited about what this event will be like. If it goes well, maybe being a “conference speaker” will be my safety net when the rock and roll dream dies. Where’s my headset mic and my lazer pointer?

If you could talk to a room of pastors, what would you say? I need some material.

Great Expectations

Fred Clark who blogs at Slacktivist is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s posted a few blog entries regarding the mining tragedy that happened recently in West Virginia. In one of the entries he raises the issue of how we use the word “miracle” to describe so many of the positive events that take place and how our liberal use of this word could pose a problem in regards to how we view God’s interaction with the universe.

First of all, what happened in West Virginia was a tragic event. It’s horribly painful to even try to consider what these families went through. First being told their loved ones were alive after being buried for over forty hours, then to be told three hours later that there was a miscommunication and that only one miner had survived. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. How could anyone actually deal with that?

In addition to being such a heartbreaking story for this nation to watch unfold, this event has provided us a very unique glimpse into our interaction with God in the midst of both pure joy and shocking tragedy. When news of the miners being alive reached it’s way to the families, their natural reaction, like anyone else’s would be, was one of enormous joy and thankfulness to God for this apparent miracle. They had all gathered at a near-by Baptist church to wait in worry for the status of their loved ones. Throughout the ordeal they held prayer vigils and called to God for some kind of miracle to take place in order for these miners to emerge alive and well. After the initial news of joy and relief set in, three hours went by until their hopes were shattered by the news that only one of the miners had survived and the rest were not found alive. Fred Clark writes in his post:

Then we watched as the families’ joy turned into grief and their hope turned into despair. Their joy had been infused with theological meaning and gratitude for a miraculous answer to prayer. When it turned out there had been no miracle (or, in Gov. Manchin’s words, 11 fewer miracles), their grief was likewise infused with theological meaning.

“We’re Christian people ourselves,” one grief-stricken family member said. “We have got — some of us is right down to saying that we don’t even know if there is a Lord anymore. We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us.”

This whole event has led me to ask the question: “What am I to expect from God?”. Is it silly for me to pray to God that I have a safe flight to Pittsburgh? Should I ask him to keep my wife and child safe on the roadways? If I loose my car keys, do I pray that God somehow leads me to them? When a loved one is on the verge of death, do I pray to God for a miracle to keep them alive somehow? Did John the Baptist pray to Jesus to ask that he wouldn’t be decapitated?

We look back to the the Bible and over and over we find that God clearly does not care too much about the safety of those who are in relationship with him. Over and over he challenges his followers to leave the comforts of a safe life and follow him into a more dangerous faith. Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist and many others clearly did not care more about their safety than their calling by God. Their mere willingness to seek God and have a relationship with him is the precondition to a more dangerous, perhaps shorter, life.

Maybe if I allow God to mold me and shape me, I will pray to him for the betterment of the things that God cares about, not what I care about. Maybe my relationship with God shouldn’t be defined by what I expect from him but rather what God expects from me? Does God care where my car keys are? Or does he care more deeply that I have neighbors and friends who need love and compassion? Does God care about my career more than He cares about His relationship with me and what kind of fruits are the result of my connection to Him?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately I guess and this event was something that really jumped out at me. Who knows, I guess trying to put God on the couch and get into his mind is impossible but I want to be open to looking at how to pattern my interaction with God in ways that glorify His role in this world, not mine. Regardless of any of these kind of thoughts, my prayers will still be with those families that lost loved ones. I pray God will comfort them and bring some kind of redemption through this dark time.

2005 and 40 Days and Nights

In many ways, this last year has been extremely difficult. While I’m sure many amazing things have happened all over the world throughout the year, to me all I can seem to remember are the terrible events that make up the overall identity of 2005. First, although technically it took place in 2004, the Asian Tsunami that devastated so many in South Asia. Then the London bombings, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the earthquake in Pakistan. Not to mention the “silent tsunami” as Jim Wallis puts it, that we continue to allow that happen everyday to thousands of children due to starvation. On a bit more of a personal level was the death of Kyle Lake which moved me to simply ask “Why?”. All of these events, some public and some private, that we’ve been affected by……it’s just too staggering.

This past year, for me, has been faith shaking and has left me asking questions that are full of anger and sadness. I’ve been thinking about this very much over the span of the last year, but especially during the last few weeks as we tend to reflect back. This pondering has led me to the story of Jesus that appears in three of the four gospels about his forty days and nights in the wilderness. The accounts say that he was led by the spirit into the wilderness to survive without food and in the midst of temptation. In the past I’ve read these accounts and sort of glossed over the significance. Why would Jesus need to do this? What was the point? Why would he do this voluntarily? To me this story seemed more about his interaction with the Devil and his turning away from evil temptation. This is indeed a important point of the story, but certainly not the whole story.

I’m a huge Survivor fan. Not the band, but the t.v. show. It basically puts people in a wilderness setting for 36 days. They have a little food. They have community. Still, they are always miserable. Simply watching them go through it all is miserable from the comforts of my couch. The separation from family, the steady diet of not much at all, and the competition wears many of them down, even to mental instability. I think to myself often that I could never do it. With this in mind, I think of the experience Jesus had during his 40 days in the wilderness. He’s totally alone with no food and is facing a crisis of temptation. Not only is this unimaginable for me to think about doing, but Jesus does this voluntarily while being “moved by the spirit”. It’s easy to think “But it’s Jesus. He’s the Son of God. He has an advantage and can do those kinds of crazy things. We can’t expect that WE can or should do that. It’s simply not safe.” At least that would be my reply to someone asking me to do what Jesus did. All that might be conventional reasoning, but it’s simply evil thinking. We have to consider that Jesus, although he was divine, he was fully human. When he doesn’t eat, he suffers. When he’s cut off from other people and alone, he suffers. While he’s tempted to turn a rock into a loaf of bread, it makes his suffering even more unbearable.

Most of us, in Jesus’ shoes would pray to God and ask for food or water. After all, if we are starving then God is supposed to take care of us, right? But even though Jesus has the ability to eat, he does the opposite of pray to God for his own benefit, but he decides to compound his pain by ignoring the temptation. When tempted, Jesus replies with a quote from the Torah saying, “It is written: People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In many cases during this year, our “bread” or our comfort and health have been taken away. We have been removed from where we are happiest and content. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us have lost our homes. Some have lost both in a blink of an eye. It’s unimaginable from my standpoint and it’s heartbreaking to see happen on such a regular basis throughout the past year.

When looking at this story of Jesus in the wilderness, we must look at what Jesus does immediately after his time of trial. As he emerges from the 40 days and nights, he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work on showing the world who God is and his message of love and redemption for all. Maybe for Jesus, the time in the wilderness that was full of emotional and physical pain was as just important to his message as his miracles were.

How many of us are willing to voluntarily remove ourselves from everything and rely on the spirit of God to mold us with trials and pain? Who will make this pilgrimage of 40 days and nights in order to change the world? Maybe through this story of Jesus in the wilderness, we can look back on this past year and emerge more ready and willing to change the world for the better. Sounds like a prayer to me.