The primary consequence, as I now realize, is that I have no element of my faith that is separate from my actual day to day life. I rarely go to a church (when I do it is usually with people from the cohort anyway) and my faith community is made up entirely of people I know very, very well and consider very important friends. It is odd how I have very few casual Christian friends in my life (people I see twice a month and talk to even less). Furthermore, I don't really have any friends in Columbus not attached to the cohort. This isn't something I'm really proud of - people in our department at school just really don't like hanging our with us....Also, we have no family within a ten hour drive of Columbus.
So, what this all means is that our social lives are now completely a part of our faith lives as well. The main thing I have noticed about this is that since I am surrounded by people of similar convictions most of the time I do far less thinking and (sadly) far less praying than I used to. I'm not sure if that means my faith is stronger, or if this is a nice little break that God has given us before our lives get much more complicated very shortly. I think that my faith dictates my actions stronger than in the past, but I do less purposeful actions...maybe that doesn't make sense.
Okay, I will go ahead and end this to leave some time for comments. I'm looking forward to seeing you all again very soon.
A related difficulty I've also been experiencing is just having too much to think about. I could make a list of 20 paradoxes that are always hovering over my consciousness about modern capitalism alone, and I feel their weight pressing upon my ability to make decisions. While the deceleration and discomfort that this state produces irritates me, I also feel confident that God wants me to pass through it. It might not be a leg of the journey that everyone must travel, like Andrew discusses at the end of his post, but I think my faith would be absolutely paralyzed if I didn't make my way down this path.
Perhaps I'll share just one paradox, the most monstrous one that comes to mind at the moment. If Christ (both then and now) places so much emphasis on fruit, which I take to mean action that makes his Kingdom more present on Earth, what does it mean that I know people who seem to do more towards this end without believing there is any spiritual dimension to it than others who are devout but whose trees are whithered? This might seem like an immature question, I realize, because it sounds similar to classic questions of the religiously skeptical, but it really is a good question. Now that my paradigm for relating to the world around me as a Christian has changed, I don't really know how to relate to the world around me.
If I had to guess, I would say that my description of my current struggle resonates with many others who read this blog. I would welcome any solutions anyone has gained through experience. But let me end here with a ray of hope. Peter Rollins's The Fidelity of Betrayal is amazing for so many reasons. It seems like just the right thing for me to digest at the moment. Last night I was reading about his view of relationship between the Bible and the Word of God, and he talks about a cycle of engagement with the text that he believes all thoughtful Christians will pass through: an early stage in which one clamors for all of the facts of the text, believing them to hold the Word, a middle stage in which one becomes aware of how this cannot be the case because of the many valid problems with the text that are raised among academics, and then a final "second naivete." If I could relate this to my broader spiritual path, I would say that I have been in that second stage for a number of years and I'm really longing for my "second naivete," in which I continue to wrestle with the paradoxes of Earthly faith while being able to "bracket" (Rollins's term) those issues aside when I interact with God.
"What is very interesting at this point for me is that I feel like I have to hide this - that it has to be a closet conviction b/c if my Mid-Western, hyper-conservative, ultra-Republican - and yet still "Xian" peers, su-peers, friends and family and other church members found out - well, my views would not be respected encouraged or probably even recognized. I would lose my job and credibility. But when I think about past conversations, and possibilities for future ones - I know I am excited. There is something incredibly right in all of this "Emergent" thought. There is something that rings true w/ my soul."
In the midst of great doubt earlier this year, I was challenged by a professor at Ohio State to claim a faith. I responded something like I’ve tried to not believe. I can’t. Something resonates deeper than the stuff of mind and soul that I simply can not turn off nor ignore.
So I stare blankly at a manipulative, control hungry and brain washing system (possibly with some positive cultural side effects) and derisively admonish those who abuse its power. Yet I still reverberate from the message being proclaimed.
And so my faith box was too small: not enough room for Churchianity and Christianity. All the reasons the system has given me through years of church, a Christian School upbringing and solid familial reinforcement has given me a set of westernized proofs that validate and gird my faith. I used to cling to these abutments, now I let them flail in uncertainty. I realized I was much more concerned about being certain, about clinging to these pillars of truth, for my own status and ability to prove others wrong than for what the truths were actually about. I was stubbornly clinging to them from the top-down, choking the reality of Christ with a fearful grip. I now see God at the base of my faith as much more living and active, moving like the wind than an uninvolved deistic anchor.
…and oh, the peace and freedom this brings! The Christ I read of promises things so dramatically different from what so many corporate church structures are built on. Peace comes not from giving up the search for these proofs (for I still will) but from knowing that their discovery and validation do not predicate my faith. Freedom comes from realizing that the life abundant Christ promises has nothing to do with the abundant life of Americanized health, wealth and happiness. The weight of fitting into this cultural mold is not the freedom I experience as one of Christ’s own.
Fortunately for the functioning of humanity, not all brains are wired like mine. Perhaps Christianity needs multiple expressions to meet different personality types and evolve with culture. I used to think God wouldn’t want to work that way, but I have grown over the past year to see that as my limitation on God for my own sake rather than for His glory.
I thank each and every one of you for the utter honesty and raw struggles expressed and revealed over the past year – you are blessed people and I am blessed to know you. I realized I never got to posting anything about the singing of last week’s Christmas cantata, yet there is an equally long post I would want to write about God’s permeation out of my faith box into art, music, literature, dance and (yes) even architecture. To that end, I will add a simple poem I found in a Christmas card that captured the season for me. It’s from Calvin Miller’s The Divine Symphony…
Some world is worry-torn
And hungry for a global lullaby.
O rest, poor race, and hurtle on through space-
God has unbilicaled Himself to straw,
Laid by His thunderbolts
and learned to cry.
Here is a question to get us started: How has your faith changed in the past year? Any ideas as to what caused new ideas to take root or old ones to lose their place? Do you see this change as fitting with a wider trend among other cohort members?
I would encourage all of us to make a point to spend some time on the blog this Sunday, making comments and then reading the comments of others, because intentionality is so important to a community and some of us haven't seen each other in awhile.
"How many of us can really know what it is like to destroy what we love for the sake of what we love - to be the most faithful of betrayers? Yet perhaps it is precisely this that we are being called to: engaging in that most difficult task of putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth."
This calling is both thrilling and terrifying for me, because it so strongly inspires my decisions, and yet it sometimes grimly dawns on me that this is indeed a "most difficult task."
Please come join us for a Christmas party this Saturday, at 7:00, at Scot and Mary's house: 179 Bridgeport Way, Deleware, OH 43015. We will have a white elephant gift exchange, so bring some piece of junk that you've been wanted to get rid of all wrapped up. Seriously, bring a crappy gift. Also, can someone bring Elf or other great Christmas movies?
Please comment below what food and/or drink you plan to bring so that we can cover all of our bases. While you are at it, let's set up some carpools in the comments. Also feel free to invite friends or loved ones (but make sure they also bring a piece of crap to unload).
Our discussion had several aspects to it: Theoretically/Objectively there was a general consensus that change happens throughout history, and yes things are different now, but perhaps Tickle is overstating the situation a bit. There was skepticism that Emerging/ent is not really "the next big thing," but just simply another chapter in the ongoing saga of Christianity. Others pointed out that the change in our use of language, the general openness of the group to new ideas and divergent viewpoints, were evidence enough that indeed we are witnessing a change in how Christians understand themselves and how Christianity is existing and functioning.
On another level, we discussed the implications of "The Great Emergence" for ourselves, personally. Several members expressed feelings of uncertainty, a desire to return to the "old, easy answers", even though in our hearts we know they aren't satisfactory. Many of these comments have been expressed in previous posts (see here).
Finally, we discussed what some of these ideas would mean for our small cohort, and how exactly our cohort should function. There is a definite challenge in developing a viable group with purpose and intention, without imposing unnecessary and restrictive structure. We discussed the relationships between institutions and communities - and it was said that most groups and organizations that continue to function well have some form of institution. Furthermore, the relationship between truth statements, creeds, and identity was discussed. For myself, I took away that creedal statements are helpful for offering a definition of what a group believes, and thereby who aligns themselves with that group. This is the way every modern religious institution defined itself: by statements of faith. However, these statements can create a division of who is "in" and who is "out" based upon who agrees or disagrees with such statements, even something as simple as, "there is a God." (I tried to explain the difference between bounded and centered sets, and it came out pretty poorly - another explanation is here)
Therefore, our cohort will not formely adopt any truth statements, but rather will allow our actions to proclaim what we believe and we will emphasize our relationships with one another. We live within the freedom to boldly state to one another what we believe without concern of aligning with any checklist or worrying about disagreement. And we move forward in confidence that our actions will always show that above all, we are committed to loving one another and showing that in real ways.
There were lots of ideas exchanged, and I'm sure others had different impressions, so please chime in. Some thoughts have already been shared here.
In addition to all this heavy "Great Emergence" junk, we also talked about a Christmas party - so look for details on that to come soon!!
"I have thought a lot about what [Nick] prayed last Sunday night
regarding that maybe our group becoming a bit complacent and that we don’t seem to be blogging as much (although in your prayer you said that might not matter and you could be right). But it made me really sad. I just checked and there is no new posting on what is happening this Sunday yet.
With that thought in mind, I wondered if we might as a group really pray about direction and how we can be a light in our very unstable and uncertain world right now.
I e-mailed my nephew a fairly long e-mail and here is a portion of what has been on my mind…In the loss of my evangelical belief system and foundation, I am coming to realize how difficult it is to love and worship God without it. Do I need to develop a workable belief system again? What do I really believe? What do I really know? This requires a blind trust that God will pull, teach and connect me to beliefs that continually evolve and perhaps change over time…Am I ok with that? This is radical and problematic for most because then it potentially could become all about one individual’s interpretation and perception of God—“cherry picking” so to speak. Can I trust and have faith that the One True God is revealing himself to me?” And so I ask…Can we trust that as a group God is revealing himself to us collectively? How united are we on what we think? Do we need to be united or is it better that we
do not get caught up on anyone’s collection of beliefs (perhaps there is a balance there)?
These are just a few thoughts and perhaps one of you could put something close on the blog. It’s kind of a “where are we now as a group and what do we think” blog or
discussion. Just something to think about."
This week our discussion will be focusing on the broad and often controversial theme of human sexuality. It seems to me that we live in a culture that is both hyper-sexual (i.e. advertising, movies, TV, music, etc.) and anti-sexual (mostly in terms of our explicitly articulated societal/religious mores). Mostly the healthy middle ground seems to get lost. Unfortunately, in my experience, the church is afraid or unwilling to take on this topic, which leaves many people of faith trying to fend for themselves. So here are some questions to get you thinking/discussing:
1) How do you define sex/sexuality?
2) How do we confuse and conflate physicality, intimacy, and sexuality and where do they legitimately overlap?
3)What guidelines/principles/etc. should Christians be operating under (or at least considering) with respect to sexuality?
Of course, these are only prompts and we can go where the group wants. Feel free to comment ahead of time if you so desire.
We'll meet again at the Global Gallery (3535 N. High St.) in Clintonville at 3:00.
See you there!
You can find the address on the right side of this page under "Our next meeting ..."
We will be talking about the relationship between God's sovereignty, God's will, and the role of our faith and choices. Should offer lots of great opportunities for us to share different challenges we are currently facing and some bigger questions about God and faith. Thanks Nancy for suggesting this topic and offering to lead the discussion!
We will meet at Global Gallery on 3535 N. High St (google map here) in Clintonville at 3:00pm. See ya there!
Love God with your whole being.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Vote your conscience (or don't vote if that's your conscience).
Accept that brothers and sisters have others ways of viewing political matters which you may never understand,
but they are still your brothers and sisters.
The Kingdom of God is much more important than even our country and its institutions.
Our hope is in the love of God.
Our identity is in Christ.
We all are sinners in need of grace.
Let us love,
cast out fear,
keep the unity of the Spirit,
and focus on following Jesus.
First off, let me say I really enjoyed our Celebration yesterday. One thing that kept coming up is that some of us (myself included) feel a need to have a greater devotional life. I know some of you have passed some stuff around, and I thought maybe we could list some of them here to help people. In the words of Thomas Kempis, from The Imitation of Christ, "Not everyone can have the same devotion. One exactly suits this person, another that." So, let's share some ideas and help each other find practices that will work well for each of us.
Please comment and post some successful devotional practices you have done in your life that might benefit other people.
- Carpooling? Who is leaving/returning when? We need to let the owners know when we will arrive on Friday (no sooner than 4pm) and check out Sunday is 12pm.
- Food? Kel and I found a great little cafe in Loudenville last time we were there. It's fairly inexpensive and would be good for at least one night out - ideas for the rest of food? Everyone bring your own snacks? One person in charge and everyone contribute $$?
- Activities - obviously, at least one good hike in the park. Also, the cabin has a fire pit and a hot tub. But if there are any other ideas for fun games or activities, please chime in.
- Sleeping arrangements - there are 3 beds and a few couches, so some people will need to bring a sleeping bag or air mattress.
- Sunday Nov. 2 discussion plans? Will we cancel/postpone this meeting? Or those in Columbus still get together?
For the food, we thought it would be fun to do a "cracker party," meaning all the food will be things that go on crackers (although, some people should probably bring fruit and vegtables and drinks, which don't have to go on crackers). We did this kind of thing a few years ago and it was actually pretty cool. Have you ever wanted to try one of those recipes that are on the back of ritz boxes? Well, now is your chance. If we do it right it can actually be a really good and filling meal. So...starting dreaming up things to put on crackers.
If you plan to come, please let us know what you plan on bringing by commenting on this post.
Everyone and anyone is welcome to join us. I'll be emailing those that I know are interested individually to get a sense of who will be staying at the cabin and when, in order to divide up the cost. But anyone is welcome to join for just one night, or just for hiking. If you have ideas for games or other fun things to do throughout the weekend, please post them here.
This should be a really fun time to hang out and relax together - I'm looking forward to it!
Its time for another installment of Faith, Film, and Philosphy! For anyone who is interested, I am having people over the evening of Saturday, October 11th at 7:00 to watch and discuss an in-depth interview of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
This film is one of the most compelling I’ve seen recently and am looking forward to sharing it with you. I had heard a lot about him in the past but was mesmerized by the power of his presence and spoken word. The last film we watched together, “Constantine’s Sword” focused on the sad history of religiously inspired militarism in the West. Tutu’s work in contrast points to the way Christian theology can be a transformative force towards peace and non-violence.
My address is 1212 Summit Street and I live on the corner of Fifth Ave
and Summit. Parking is available on the street but if you have any
trouble there is some room behind my duplex as well. My number is
Feel free to bring snacks if you like but don’t feel obligated. I will have lots of popcorn!:)
The reading for our next discussion (Oct 5th) is now available in PDF form. If you're interested please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you the file. (Disclaimer: I'm not making any money off this!)
The meeting on Oct. 5th will be last week that I'll be leading a discussion this term on evolution and related theological topics. If you're still curious to learn more there are some events at Ohio State University and COSI coming up that that may be of interest.** I've posted that information below.
peace in Christ,
** Not an endorsement of the views of the visiting speakers!
October 20, 7:00 PM, Independence Hall, Federal Judge John Jones who
presided over Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board will give a
lecture entitled: Our Constitution' s Intelligent Design. (pun
intended). In addition, Judge Johns will be available from 9:30-11:00
on October 21 at the Davis Heart Lung Auditorium for an informal
discussion "A Conversation with Judge John Jones" which Entomology is
sponsoring in lieu of it's normal Tuesday seminar.
October 21, 7:00 PM, Jennings Hall Auditorium, Pulizter Prize winning
author, Edward Humes, author of Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education,
Religion and the Battle for the American Soul will give a lecture
entitled" Talk Radio Evolution: America's Love-Hate Relationship
October 22, 7:00, live at COSI with videolink to Fawcett Center
Auditorium, annual panel discussion on science and religion. This
year's panelists are: Joan Roughgarden, Evolutionary Biologist from
Stanford, Connie Bertka, Geologist and Theologian currently at
Carnegie Mellon and Carol Anelli, Assoc. Prof. Entomology from
Washington State. The panel will be moderated by David Brancaccio,
host of PBS's NOW.
I have something in mind, but don't have all the details ironed out yet, so here is what you need to know as of now:
--please wear comfortable clothes.
--bring a towel or mat with you.
--if you are comfortable, leave a comment with the general theme you'd like to be/are/hope to/want to/need to be praying/feeling. (e.g., wholeness, honesty, etc)
We will meet in a park (TBD) and eat there afterward. I am going to bring pitas, and ask everyone to bring their favorite "insides" of a sandwich for the pitas. and maybe a snacky item to go with it, if you want. (for example, I'm going to bring pitas, hummus and olives. hummus and olives is one of my favorite sandwiches!)
Thanks to everyone who made it to the Park of Roses Sunday for the discussion we had about making sense of evolution and, in the process, making sense of God's interaction with nature and the fallen-ness of the world. I really enjoyed the discussion, which kept me on my toes, and I hope everyone got something out of it. The backdrop of the park and the bike ride along the river to get there really added a lot too. It was great to talk about God and nature while in nature.
For the "Part 2" of the discussion, I suggest that we read two chapters out of
"Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion", a Pulitzer-prize winning book by Edward J. Larson. The chapter "The Trial of the Century" gives a lively narrative of the famous 1925 trial of a Tennessee school teacher accused of teaching evolution to his students, and the last chapter, "Distant Echoes", talks about the wider significance of the trial for Christian and secular culture in America and the legal battles between then and now. If you are interested please e-mail me at email@example.com and I can send you the PDF of the relevant chapters. (Disclaimer: I'm not making any money off this!)
The discussion itself will take place at 3pm on Sunday October 5th (location TBA) so there is still plenty of time to pick up the book. If you can read more than just the two chapters before then that would be even better, especially since my hope here is to have a discussion about the historical and cultural impact of evolution, rather than have another discussion about evolution and theology.
peace in Christ,
Chris here -- by popular demand we'll be having a roundtable discussion on Sunday at 3pm about issues around evolution, creation and faith. This is something I've thought a fair amount about as a Christian and a physics grad student at Ohio State and I hope some of what I've learned and my thoughts on the topic will be useful to you in your Christian journey.
By "evolution, creation and faith" I'm actually looking to have a discussion around a much broader topic than just the current Evolution vs. Intelligent Design debate since the much larger question being asked in all of the rhetoric is the question of "How does God interact with the natural world?" And at the end of that debate is the ever-relevant question of "What is, or ought to be my relationship to the natural world?"
Acknowledging the huge scope of these kinds of questions and the many details that often cloud the discussion (e.g. "Did Darwinism cause World War II?" or "Who gets to decide what to teach in public schools?") I don't expect that we'll be able to cover everything on Sunday. I would however like to focus our upcoming discussion on what the experts might call "theodicy" and evolution -- in other words: how should we reconcile our understanding of a loving God with "survival of the fittest" or is it reconcilable at all? Another good question is "What is a miracle?"
For more food for thought check out these articles
"Theological Implications of an Evolving Creation" by Keith Miller (relatively short)
"Theologies of an Evolving Creation" by Robert J. Schneider (longer with more theological meat)
See you Sunday
P.S. I acknowledge that these links are biased towards theistic evolution. My intent here is not to shut down the debate between the two theories, nor to imply anything about the abstract reasoning power of people who might be sympathetic to Intelligent Design. (And, in any case, neither of these articles are anything like a Richard-Dawkins-esque scientific refutations of creation science.) If you have other articles of mention, or questions please comment.
The gist of these posts seems to go like this: Emerging/Emergent conversations started 5-10 years ago as a way to rediscover what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus in our current 21st century context, especially with an emphasis on reaching non-Christians with the gospel. However, over the past few years, the name and label "emerging" has taken on new forms, and has become much more of a marketing brand that is most clearly associated with Emergent Village and corresponding authors like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt. The movement has gained recognition and has experienced a good amount of criticism (which even we in this small cohort are familiar with). Now when a person is identified as emerging, or the term is even thrown out, it is necessary to defend theological positions, explain who you are with and who you disagree with, and exhaustively locate oneself on the evangelical spectrum. So, writers/authors/bloggers/speakers are saying, "Look, this isn't worth all the hassle. And I don't agree with Emergent Village on a lot of stuff anyway. So I am no longer emerging/emergent. I am 'missional' or a part of the 'church being reformed' or simply finding new ways to faithfully follow God in my context. But I/we/our church is NOT Emergent."
**Insert deep sigh here**
I have so many mixed reactions to these posts that I've been reading over the week. On the one hand, I empathize and can understand the need to make this move and identify (or un-identify?) oneself for the sake of the ministry you feel is important. On the other hand (and this is what I really feel), I thought we were done with all this label bullshit? I thought as a post-modern Christian I was post-denominational, meaning I don't care what you call yourself, if you celebrate the Eucharist or communion, if you were baptized as an infant or an adult, or if you hold the penal substitutionary view of atonement above all others. I thought emerging/emergent was all about recognizing and even celebrating our differences.
I get the sense from these writers that they have deep differences with guys like McLaren and Jones, and thus feel the need to separate theologically. That is really sad to me. I'm also a little concerned about what this means for Emergent Village and those associated. Does this relegate these others even further out on the orthodoxy spectrum, teetering somewhere between truth and heresy? (Again, I thought we were getting beyond such words....have none of these guys read Peter Rollins?)
Alright - as always, I could say/write a lot more about all this, but perhaps you have thoughts. I would especially like to hear from those outside of our cohort, if you happen to be reading this. What are your reactions? Is mine an overreaction? I mean, it is all just a name after all right? It won't really change what we do in our cohort or what I believe about Jesus.
Nevertheless, it is an example of why I am emergent - to get past all this "label" crap.
Stream videos at Ustream
A few quotes I really liked:
“In my sense, truth is not something we arrive at or something we possess. It’s something we seek. And our questioning never ends. We’ve done a lot of questioning, but we still need to do more questioning. Because whatever we arrive at … wherever we end up on something, it’s still open to more questioning because it’s not going to be perfect. Anyone [here] think they’ve arrived to perfection on something? Is there no room still for there to be some questions to be asked?” - Greg Newton
“Truth is too important to leave what we’re doing unquestioned and unexamined.” - Greg Newton
“We’re not questioning truth. We’re questioning what we’re doing. We’re questioning our perceptions. We’re not questioning God as much as we’re questioning perhaps our perceptions of God. We’re not actually questioning what God says. We’re questioning how it is we understand what God says.” - Greg Newton
- Visit a "prayer labyrinth" - see wikipedia article for more info - This website lists several in the Columbus area. Adam and Kara mentioned the OSU arboreteum, which looks to have beautiful gardens and a very nice outdoor labyrinth. We could either do the meal aspect of the gathering at someone's house, or we could try a picnic.
- Do some sort of prayer stations. I think at the last "Celebration of the Faithful" Nick and Jane facilitated something very similar (but I wasn't able to make it). Prayer stations are based upon the ancient practice of the Stations of the Cross, which is essentially using visual cues to direct prayer. "Stations" (or a spot to stand and look at a picture) are set up around the room and people move from station to station, being led in prayer. It would be tough for one person to set up many prayer stations, so perhaps different people could design and bring a prayer station, and then we could set them up as one experience. The stations could be interactive in some way, for example having a place to write, a picture to color in or draw, an image to look at, a physical element to touch, something to take away - this would be an opportunity to be very creative. The prayer stations wouldn't necessarily have to have any set theme, although we could agree on a theme, perhaps something general like "Peace" or more specific like praying for those suffering from natural disasters.
Today we were talking the story of the Garden of Eden and we were discussing how much God seems like a total jerk. It occurred to me that when this story was written (divinely or otherwise) there was a great need to fear God. This was a time period when people prayed for rain or saw all sickness as a result of sin. For them, it made perfect sense to fear God because if he got mad at you, things could go very badly. Now, we understand when it is going to rain and why people get sick - most of the mystery is gone if you will. I am not worried that if I don't fear God then He won't let it rain on my crops. Instead, I watch the weather channel and irrigate if I need to (okay, I don't do that...but I'm sure there are people that do).
The question is, should modern Christians fear God, since we now have the knowledge of Jesus?
2) "The Shack" discussion. Not sure if anyone else has read this book, but it's really good. My dad's church is hosting a discussion night, and everyone is welcome. Fri. Sept. 5th, 7pm.
As part of my dissertation research I have been coming across numerous types of Christian mysticism popular during the Renaissance (it’s a long story, but basically I am researching the influence of magic, science, the occult, and theology on music in Prague in the late 16th century and early 17th). At first many of these beliefs seem ridiculous to me, but then I realized that in 500 years many people, including Christians, will likely look back at our system of religion, from evangelical to our own emergent, and also find it laughable. And yet, they will still be followers of Christ.
I would like to explore some of these mystical ways of thinking over the next few weeks on the blog. Many of us like to speak about the mystery of our faith, but few of us do much to encounter that mystery. Also, since we desire to be in dialogue with all of our brother and sisters in the faith, it is worthwhile to explore the different ways people have practiced it, even if those people have been gone from this earth for centuries. Now, there are certainly still people with mystical practices today, and if any of you come across this blog we would honestly love your thoughts as we strive to come to a better understanding of different religious practices. However, most of us will primarily be in contact with our mystical brethren through their writings.
The topic that has been most fascinating to me lately is the Christian Cabala. During the time I study this was extremely popular and is directly related to, though not the same as, the Jewish Kabbalah (Wikipedia article here). As a gross oversimplification, they believed that there were two laws passed down, the written and the oral, both given to Moses. Also, and this is the more famous part, they believed in gematria, which was using numerology with reading scripture (all words had a numeric value, and could be switched with other words that had the same value). The core behind this belief was twofold: first that written scripture was divinely inspired, and second that there were numerous hidden messages for the faithful to discover – which explains why so much of the Torah seems so very unsacred- the sacred part was hidden.
Anyway, there was one belief in particular that I thought I would raise as an issue for discussion. It was widely believed that in order to create this world God had to lesser himself. This is because a perfect being could not create an imperfect world. There were more justifications for this, but we need not get into it right now. Please, share your thoughts both on this issue and on mysticism in general as we begin what could prove to be a very interesting journey.
Jenn Ayers told me about the Jesus Radicals Conference, coming up this weekend. No big names that I recognize, but very interesting topics and right here in Columbus. Also, as far as I can tell, it's free. If anyone is interested, post here.
Here are some of the passages he mentioned:
Mark 14:62 (same verse basically)
I've really been rolling this whole issue around in my head for the past few weeks, because it feels like a seismic shift in how I approach the Bible, read the stories found there, and interact with the God that inspired it. Is it a resource to interpreted? Do I read the Bible to shape my theology? Or do I have a theology and I search for verses that support what I already believe?
I mentioned this to Jane the other day, but I've been wondering if the Bible isn't supposed to inform us of truth statements about God, but rather there are stories and accounts of experiences with God, and they are meant to direct us to him. The purpose of the Bible isn't to just know about God but to genuinely and personally know him. Of course to divide between these two types of readings to the extreme is to create an unnecessary dichotomy....this is what I've been wrestling with.
Scott McKnight on his blog Jesus Creed linked to this very short post on why fundamentalism is unbiblical. Thoughts on this article? Thoughts on how we read the Bible and how that shapes our relationship with God, other Christians and the world around us?
For our meeting this Sunday we will be celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration. The official Feast is on August 6th, but many liturgical churches celebrate it on the Sunday before, so that is what we will do. We would like to do things a bit differently this time and do a group art project in addition to singing and communion. We are thinking of having a mostly blank, large piece of paper (perhaps with a hill on it) that each person can add something to. We were thinking people could either draw something, write a poem, write out a verse or saying that speaks to you. We will save the paper and hang it at celebrations and possibly even continue working on it in the future. So, think about what you would like to contribute in our group's expression of love and gratitude towards Christ.
Now for the details - we will start the Celebration at 5:00 at 1270 Courtland Ave., please do try to be on time. Afterwards we will share a pot-luck style meal together. Please comment below what you plan on bringing so we don't get too many cupcakes (if such a thing is possible). Finally, anyone is welcome to this event, even if you have never attending any of our functions in the past.
By popular demand I was thinking of having a second installment of what will be an on going gathering of "Faith, Film, and Philosophy." I then heard of a showing of "Constantine's Sword" (http://www.constantinessword.com/) at 7:00 this Saturday at the Wexner Center. Perhaps instead of meeting at my place we could go see it together and discuss it. It is a documentary written by a former Catholic priest who explores the links between religion and war even from within his own tradition. It sounded really thought-provoking. After the film is shown there will be a Q&A with some people that were interviewed in the film, and afterwards a reception at the Wexner cafe where we can perhaps sit together and discuss our reactions.
As a disclaimer, I have not seen the film and so am not sure what conclusions the documentary will come to. At the very least, it should be good food for thought and discussion over a very timely subject.
If you're interested you can pick up tickets ($5 or $7) beforehand at the Wexner center. Let's try to meet in the lobby at 6:45 beforehand. Let me know if you are coming so I can look for you! My cell is (937) 572-2751.
Hope to see you there,
Constantine's Sword Reception and Q&A on Aug 2(Oren Jacoby, 2007)
Sat, Aug 2, 2008 7:00PMFilm/Video Theater
I just read this article on Mr. Rogers, and I really really enjoyed it. My dream, my prayer, is that in some way I can be more like Mr. Rogers. Well, I mean, I don't need to save Public television or wear a cardigan. But you know what I mean.
I thought we could also use this post to continue discussing some of the issues that were raised. So, comment away.
I just wanted to write a quick note to anyone from Xenos who may visit our blog over the next few days to say "thanks." I felt very welcome, very loved, and the treatment I received as a guest speaker was fantastic. Our breakout session assistant, Jody was so nice; the sound guys did a great job, and Dennis was very kind during our discussion. Furthermore, many people welcomed us after the session, thanked us for being there, were appreciative of our thoughts, and invited us to hang out later. One woman even gave me a few bags of Skittles! How great!
Over the next few weeks we will certainly be unpacking the conversation and highlighting points of disagreement. I will admit that it was tough to sit through some of the sessions as a person who greatly values the emergent conversation. However, I really believe our particular session honored God and showed the love of Jesus in a real way. For me, it was a good example of how people with very different opinions about truth, God and religion can come together, share the beliefs that they hold firmly, still disagree at the end, but still be friends and grow closer to God in the process.
Thanks again Xenos! As always, you are all invited to any one of our gatherings or to post on this blog. We love to have you share your thoughts on any topic, even if they are distinctly different from our own.
I must also say that I was quite surprised to see a phrase from one of my posts in huge letters on the projecting screens during the discussion. It was excerpted from a summary I had created of one of the cohort's discussions, and I put it up so that members who weren't at the meeting could get a sense of the conversation. I never thought it would be taken as some sort of creedal statement. Suddenly what I had written on a blog was being subjected to intense scrutiny in front of hundreds of people! If anyone is interested to read the entire post, which contains several ideas about "truth" besides that it is complicated, multi-faceted, unstable... please check it out here.
Also, we made a recording of the session and we should have it available soon for anyone who wasn't able to make it, or those that would just like another listen.
If anyone would like to continue the discussion on the nature of truth and epistemology, please feel free to comment.
I'm not sure why I thought of it, but I was thinking about this crazy optical illusion that my dad sent to me one time. Please take a look at it here before you read on.
So the idea is that if you stare at the small cross in the middle, the blinking dot turns green, then eventually all the other dots go away and all you see is the green dot moving around the circle. It is such a clear example that what we see is not always what is there...but then when you *blink* or look away for a second, the other pink dots show up again.
So here is my analogy: The emergent movement is like *blinking* - When we are so focused, so set in our theological ways and opinions, so consumed with the absolute truth we see before our eyes, we may very well be missing something else that is also there. Doug Pagitt in his new book, "A Christianity Worth Believing" (which is surprisingly good, by the way, and you should read it) says there are 31,103 verse in the Bible. So if we memorized 300 of them (which is a lot), we'd only have 1% of the Bible. What about the other 99% What are we missing when we only focus on what we are so certain we can see, and don't step back, *blink*, and take a look around the rest of the Bible.
For me, the emergent movement is about getting a fresh look at the Bible and correcting my vision a little bit. It's being willing to admit that what I think I see may not be what is actually there. It's about allowing other verses, other perspectives, other voices to speak and to inform so I can get a better overall picture. Admittedly, after several years of looking at it this way, I'll have to blink again, and get a fresh view again. But what the optical illusion tells me is that my human nature if prone to block out what I'm not focusing on, or what I don't want to see. So sometimes I have to step back and getter a broader view, even if it messes with what I thought was really there.
Alright, what do you think? How would someone who is not favorable toward emergent respond to this analogy? Obviously it isn't the whole thing, but for me, it hints at the core - any thoughts?
Dennis' initial email asked: "How to reach postmodern young people: What should go into an approach to communication, community, church ethos, structure, practice, etc. in order to avoid losing relevance to postmodern culture?"
I was a little unsure what he was getting at, so I sent another email and asked him to explain a bit more, and this is what he wrote: "I'm referring to non-Christian postmodern people (mainly the young) and how to attract them to Jesus. What does the church need to be in order to be considered relevant to these people's lives? What would commend Jesus to them? I think one of the big arguments I've seen and heard from emergent Christians is that unless the church becomes more postmodern, it will lose its voice with postmoderns. So, the argument is that the church is too propositional, too modern, and that's why we need a change that emergent is pioneering." (btw, thanks Dennis for the great questions and quick email responses!)
Side track A: When Dennis first offered the three topics, I suggested a fourth topic, "The Kingdom of God," and from the looks of an email giving some details about the conference, this topic is also on the table. So perhaps this week we can also toss around the topic of the different understandings of the kingdom of God b/w traditional evangelicalism and emergents.
Side track B: Since the Goshen "Everything Must Change" event, a few of us have tossed around the idea of getting together with other cohorts in the MidWest region. If you haven't heard, Emergent Village officially canceled any official national cohort gathering this year in an effort to stimulate more regional, indigenous and organic gatherings. I contacted a few cohorts this week and they seem interested, so perhaps we could also toss around ideas for a regional get-together.
A favorite verse of evangelicals is Romans 12:1 - "Therefore offer your bodies as living sacrifices....this is your spiritual act of worship." We are admonished again and again to "live a life of worship." I've usually understood that phrase to mean that I should not sin against God, and thus everything I did (meaning my life of not sinning) would be worship to God. But I've started wondering what a life - a Monday through Saturday life - of worshiping God would look like. More than that, what would a community of Monday through Saturday worshipers look like?
What would be the implications for our cohort specifically if we focused on living on entire lives together as worship to God? If our little community continues to grow and we are more and more intentional about our lives together, we may feel tempted to develop some form of "service." But what if instead of focusing our energies on one hour together with other Christians, we reflected our passion for Jesus and his life in the other 167 hours of the week in practical, purposed and Jesus-like ways?
I don't know how well I'm presenting this, but for me, this is a huge (HUGE) change in my way of thinking about what it means to be a Christian, and even more what it means to be called to "full time ministry." What are your thoughts?
I saw this site referenced in Frost's book "Exiles." It offers great pictures of alt worship services from across the world, including Peter Rollins' Ikon in Belfast, and Doug Pagitt's Solomon's Porch in MN - cool stuff and offers some neat ideas.
people over around 7:15 to watch and discuss the Danish movie
"Babette's Feast." A few months ago this film came up during a
discussion of sacraments and the common meal. Its the first
installment of what I hope will be an ongoing "Faith, Film, and
Philosophy" event once or twice a month. Anyone is welcome. Just let
me know if you plan on coming.
My address is 1212 Summit Street and I live on the corner of Fifth Ave
and Summit. Parking is available on the street but if you have any
trouble there is some room behind my duplex as well. My number is
I'm really looking forward to the chance of sharing this film with you
and hearing your thoughts and insights.
Alright, here is question #2, as posed by Dennis in an email:
View of the cross: What are emergent thinkers saying, and what does it mean? What are the different ways of interpreting the cross, and how wide are the differences between newer, postmodern perspectives on the cross and more traditional understandings?
Here are a few additional resources:
- - Emergent Village has had some interesting discussion regarding atonement theories in the past months. Here is a blogpost that includes results of an "atonement theory" contest and here is a great, short podcast where Tony Jones and Mark Baker talk about atonement and the contest a bit more.
- - We have discussed this issue already on this blog and you can view the initial post by Zack and the summary of the discussion that we had at Global Gallery. Also, here is a google doc I created that has a summary of atonement theories.
So, feel free to post your response to Dennis' questions, or to pose new questions. Also, I believe this will be the topic for the next discussion at Global Gallery on Sunday July 13 (which sadly, I will miss).
I'll invite people to be contributors to it, but I don't have everyone's e-mail so if I don't get you and you'd like to add events, let me know.