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The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

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7.24.2008

Xenos Summer Institute Thoughts

First off, congratulations to Noel and Jesse for their great work at the 2:00 pm session at the institute today (Emergent meets Evangelical). I was proud to have them as my representatives. I couldn't believe how many people showed up to the session to find out more about who these crazy emergents really are! It was also wonderful to continue the conversation afterward as many people approached us with comments and questions.

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.

22 comments:

Adam Newby said...

I was going to make a new post for this statement, but perhaps a comment under this post is a better place for it.

This week, I sat in a room full of Christians and listened to them laugh at and mock the beliefs of other people who are trying to proclaim Christ in this world. I was hurt and deeply saddened. I can’t sleep because of it. These people mocked others because they didn’t believe theological points exactly as they believe them.

I think for the first time, I felt what people outside the church must feel when they are written off by Christians. How could anyone want to be a part of a group that mocks you, laughs at you, passes judgment on you without knowing your heart, and doesn’t listen to you.

They said that people who believe in Jesus’ message as I do are people who are just disgruntled with the church. Whether that’s true for most or not, I don’t consider it a reason I came to the place I am today. I came to this place because it was the natural progression God led me on. That as I came to understand more about Jesus and God’s grace through the church of Jesus’ disciples, it was the only place I could go. I never “left the church”. I consider all who proclaim Jesus as Savior as part of the church. I never left that church.

I can see today, though, how many of my brothers and sisters in Christ feel when they say they’ve been burned by the church institutions they’ve been a part of. You are not allowed to ask questions. If you don’t blindly believe what you are told, then you are ousted and cannot be a part of the group. There’s no room for faith. “Simply believe what you are told. Don’t try to struggle with the unfathomable depths of God. Just believe what you are supposed to believe. And if you ask questions, then it must mean you are not a Christian and we’ll have to ask you to leave.”

It's 4:00am and I realized I can't sleep because I feel hurt and realized that I just need to get that out.

Adam Newby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane Johnson said...

Amen Adam! I'm really glad you shared this. I hope you were able to sleep after you wrote it :) I've been thinking a lot about 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all love one another, for love covers a multitude of sin." I don't just mean it to apply to others, but to apply to all of us who follow Jesus. This verse comforted me throughout the day yesterday. Isn't it ridiculous to laugh at a fellow believer when she tries to share the deep points of her faith? Where were we? At a comedy club or at a gathering to edify Christians? It seems that sin is woven into nearly everything we do, and it gives me such hope to think that by loving other people this sin can be overcome and that in spite of it God's Kingdom will come to this world. We all need this verse to be true or we would utterly fail to do anything for the Kingdom.

Something else that is troubling about behavior like this is attempting to explain it to people outside of Christianity. They ask you, "why did your pastor ask you to leave?" or in this case "Why did some of the Christians laugh at other Christians?" What can you say in response?

Nick Johnson said...

Adam,

Thanks for sharing this, and I'm also glad you posted and then slept peacefully (a peace that surpasses all understanding...) - although I admit I wish I knew what comment you removed at 4:53 am (isn't it annoying that it just says "comment deleted," because now I can just make up what I think you were going to say).

Anyway, the thing about laughing is that people laugh at two things - the absurd and that which they do not understand. Most sitcoms are based on the absurd, and most hurtful laughter is based on the second category. I personally think the blame should be placed far more on speakers and leaders that knowingly give wrong impressions and half-quotes to make other groups look silly.

That being said, I feel like I should say that Xenos people are jovial people. They sure do love to smoke and swear, but they also love to laugh together which was one of the main things that attracted me to them two years ago when I joined a home church. In other words, they are used to laughing in that situation, and conditioning is what a lot of comedy is about (I watch Seinfeld expecting to laugh, the news expecting to learn, etc). I think the community they share is one of their strongest features, although at times it manifests itself in ways we just witnessed.

I think Jane's verse is very helpful and will be important to us as we strive to forgive those that mock us. I will leave her question open, for the time being, because it is something we discuss often and I really want to know other people's thoughts first.

Kara Newby said...

As Adam's wife, I'll say that I read what he said this morning and I felt like the first comment was a comment expressing his hurt, and the second was a little less productive, somewhat attacking comment made out of that hurt, so I told him he should probably take the second one off, least we just wound from our woundedness.

I think that Jane's question is an interesting one, and I might even go a step farther in asking what would you say to someone who might ask, "well if that is how other Christians treated you, then why are you still a Christian?" Why did you stay?

I think the bottom line is about Jesus and my own desire to be more like him. I know that in my humanity I need other humans. I need love, acceptance, encouragement, and support, but there are times when I am in community and I receive none of that.

Because community is made up of humans it is inherently never going to be perfect. And because other christians are humans, they also are never going to be perfect. The way they treat sinners, and the way they treat other Christians is sometimes going to be hurtful.

But we are all on the same path, the same journey, trying to be transformed more and more into the image of God. I don't say that as an excuse for the hurt, just as a possible answer to "why are you still here".

In my wanting to be a Christian I have hurt other people deeply. I have been that person. I hope and pray that I and my husband can share the same love and grace to those who have wounded us, that I long for from those I have wounded.

Adam Newby said...
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Adam Newby said...

Back to the topic that Jane had at the end of her post ... the topic of truth. I would just encourage anyone who was at Xenos (if there are any of you reading this) to take a look at our post form 6/29/08, a review of a long two hour conversation we had about the nature of truth. Please read all of point number 6. This is the paragraph from which Dennis pulled a sentence to discuss during the conversation. I just think it's important to see the context in which the sentence was written. Then again, maybe it isn't.

Brian said...

Adam- what do you think about this idea?

When one person is talking about (perhaps occasionally misrepresenting) a viewpoint that is held by others to a third party, the reaction that the third party has is more to an idea than to the people who hold it.

That said, I was glad that some self-righteousness and lack of empathy was at least addressed during the conference, because it was there, as it always seems to be when humans are around.

I am also glad that you brought up the point about how those outside the church must feel when written off. That was something I needed to hear.

Adam Newby said...

Brian,
I appreciate your words. I think it is hard for all of us to detach our personal feelings from our beliefs. So when our beliefs are questioned, or worse, come under all out attack by others, we feel as though we ourselves are being personally attacked.

I have realized that perhaps my different beliefs are taken very personally by those who hold to the beliefs that I differ with. And it is human nature to become very defensive and perhaps counter attack.

That being said, I must emphasize that I really, truly appreciate anyone and everyone that listened to our point of view with open and loving hearts at the Xenos conference.

Thanks for posting, Brian. Your words are well received.

rapp said...

I'd like to respond to two things:

First, as a long-time Xenos member I was ashamed at the reaction of laughs by some people to a quote read by Mark Driscoll. I welcomed Mark's rebuke immediately following that incident, and the thought I had was that many who were quick to pass judgment responded with repentance. I hope that those of you who were hurt by that action will be willing to extend grace as well.

Second, I too would express thanks to Jesse and Noel for coming out to take part in the discussion. I think that its important to state that many of us who would consider ourselves (dare I say it) evangelical, agree with you on many points. I am with you in your love for Jesus, your love for people of this world, and even your uncertainties about many aspects of faith. What I am curious about is how far do those uncertainties extend. I would love to hear some individual responses on this if you're willing, What aspects of faith would you consider yourself certain of?

Based on the discussion last Thursday, perhaps Jesse would say "the need for Jesus to die for my sins?" What would others of you say?

Nick Johnson said...

Rapp, I think that is a perfectly valid question - though by your wording I wasn't entirely sure if you wanted what I am or what I am not sure of.

I guess I would say that I do not believe in the typical, evangelical view of inerrancy, nor do I think it is necessary to hold this view. I think I believe, for example, that some of the epistles are best understood as narratives that existed in a particular culture, not as the direct word of God. It doesn't seem to me at least like they claim to be (at least not all of them), and Paul often says things like "I do not..." I still learn a great deal from his letters and have a greater respect for them than I did a few years ago when I tried to accept them as totally inspired. But, when I am seaching for answers I always start with the Gospels. I have been to far too many teachings when the pastor only quotes Paul. I guess I would say I try to be a Christian and not a Paulian (I am by no means saying you are, it is just a saying a like). Once you start noticing how often Protestants quote Paul it is quite fascinating.

Furthermore, I personally feel like inspiration involving scripture happens more on the readers end than we often acknowledge. The Holy Spirit "inspires" our reading if we ask him to. Does that make sense?

Finally, I am not sure what I think about salvation - meaning who gets saved, other than that it is not really up to me to decide and somehow Christ opened the door. The whole works versus faith alone arguement is almost as old as our faith, and it seems to me the answer is a combination of both. There are numerous verses on both sides that speak to each one, and actually probably around 75 percent of Christians who have ever lived would probably have said works or a combination. (that is a total estimate and guess, by the way). What that says to me is that we are not supposed to figure it out, but rather just concentrate on living for Christ.

Nick Johnson said...

I should also say that is just what I feel, and is not meant to represent emergents as a whole - much like how Brian McLaren does not speak for all of us.

rapp said...

Nick,

Thanks. I suppose I should clarify what I meant. I'm familiar with some common topics of doubt/questioning (like the inerrancy of scripture, as you mentioned), what I'm interested in is "What do you affirm?"

It seems from your response you would affirm the reliability of the gospels, and that the Holy Spirit has a role in teaching us truth from the Bible. Fair enough?

Adam Rapp

Nick Johnson said...

Adam,

Yes, I would agree that I affirm those things, among many others (far too many to list here - pretty much just read through the Nicene Creed and I would agree with almost everything there)

Jesse said...

Hey Rapp - that's a good question. I appreciate Nick's response, and I'm not trying to supersede him, but just offer my view. First of all, like I said on Thurs., it would be wrong to say that emergents do not affirm anything at all. Emergent Village offers core values and practices here: http://www.emergentvillage.com/about-information/values-and-practices

For myself, I'll try to tell a story that means a lot to me in just a few sentences. When I was a junior in high school, I questioned God in a much more aggressive and prideful way than I do now. I was certain I knew more than God, and so I didn't have any sense of faith. The questions and problems with Christianity seemed to outweigh the certainties. However, at one point, I felt driven to confess that I do believe at least two things: 1) There is a God, and 2) Jesus died for my sin. I guess these two could be followed by 3) these two factors impact my life daily.

Since I came to that realization, these have been about the only two things I feel like I can hang onto with any degree of certainty. I really like Rollins' quote: "I don't doubt God; I doubt my understanding of God." There's a lot more I could say that I doubt, but you asked for certainties....so there are two :)

Nick Johnson said...

Thanks Jesse - you said that far better than I was able in all my bumbling. Basically, I guess we can break our faith down to these essentials, which you just mentioned, and recognize that everything else is largely theological contructs made by man -not that they aren't at times helpful, but that they are certainly at times hurtful.

rapp said...

Thanks guys for your sincere responses. I certainly have a category for that type of "hanging on to Christ." And I believe that many Christians go through such periods in their walks with Christ.

For example, my wife and I recently had two miscarriages in a row. Each one was incredibly painful and disappointing, and we both struggled with trusting God - not to mention the "why" of it all.
But in the end, I know God is there. I know He is good. And I have to leave it at that.

Nick Johnson said...

Adam R,

Thanks for your response and I am very sorry to hear about the troubles you and your wife have had. Do you have other children?

I would say, and I honestly mean this in kindness, is that this is not really a period of us emergents. I think some Christians have a tendency to view the emregent movement as a bunhc of people struggling with their faith that will eventually come back to the fold. While there is some truth in that, I think most of use would say that we are quite content where we are - Noel said something at the Xenos conference about how she is learning to live with the tension. In other words, we don't expect many of our doubts or questions to ever be answered. I, for example, seriously doubt that my views on scripture will greatly change during my life (though I do try to not shut out the Spirit).

When I was at a very conservative church in Maryland and I started to become interested in these ideas the leadership bascially said I am not in sin as long as I come around, answer all my questions, and start agreeing with them again. I think they had difficulty understanding a faith with very little understanding - if that makes sense.

All that said, at the end of your last comment you wrote, "But in the end, I know God is there. I know He is good. And I have to leave it at that." I think that is wonderfully said (I wish I had said it myself), and I think all of us desire a peaceful agreement with our brethern around that idea.

Jesse said...

Hey Nick -

Good clarification that this is not a "period" for emergents, but rather learning how to live within the tension. I too have felt the sympathetic prayers of concerned fellow believers that I will "find the answers I am looking for." My hope is that I will find the God who is big enough to handle the questions.

Bill K said...

Hey guys/gals - enjoying the discussion!

Nick and Jesse's last posts here seemed to convey that they expect to have many unaswered questions in this life.

What is the role of questions in faith? How does God view questions?Do questions have a part in salvation?

What is everyone's take on this verse:

Luke 11:9-13

9"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[a] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Adam Newby said...

My take is that Jesus is telling me to ask questions, seek answers, and knock on doors. That's what I try to do every day. Sometimes I feel like I'm being told to stop all that nonsense. But I keep doing it.

Jane Johnson said...

Bill,

The first verse that you mentioned troubled me when I was younger, because as a child I desperately wanted God to answer my prayers with a direct, clear answer and that never seemed to happen. I kept reading that verse, that all I had to do was "ask, seek, and knock" and then God said nothing. After many experiences like this I've learned that most of the time I don't know what I really need. It seems like a lot of the time I just need to stop worrying about things and get on with living life.

So I do believe wholeheartedly that God engages us personally and gives us what we need. I also believe that he is a good being who somehow always knows what is the absolute best thing for me to hear or experience. The problem with these verses is our interpretation of them, which so often is that if you ask God about something or for something (in his name, of course) you will of course get it. How could God not answer a question that you have and still be good? But to me his goodness is so incredibly good that we humans often can't even recognize it. God promises not to give us snakes, but how often do we shout, "how could you, this is a snake!" or leave a time of prayer feeling empty-handed? So often we just don't get it.

I remember that once for about a month my junior year of high school I kept asking God to explain to me how I wouldn't get bored in heaven. The idea of living forever troubled me immensely, and I was even losing sleep over it. I felt paralyzed with anxiety. Finally God just seemed to say to me, "this doesn't matter to you right now and you wouldn't be able to understand the answer, so just stop thinking about it." And it was like someone splashed me with cold water and I left the question behind. The answer wasn't at all what I would have considered good when I began praying for it, but it was what I needed.

Your question about how questions are tied to salvation is intriguing. To me coming to know God has to start with questions, like "who are you?" or "how can I find peace?"