______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

The Jesus Lens October 27, 2011

“Jesus didn’t give his followers a book.
He gave them his holy spirit.”

The Bible is a wonderful gift from God, when it’s not worshiped and is properly viewed, not as a legal document, but as part of the “story of God’s unfolding revelation of himself.”
People like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Spencer Burke, and Wayne Jacobsen have not abandoned their Bibles.
Quite the contrary, they all hold scripture in very high regard.
They all just realize how terribly misused, abused, misunderstood, and misapplied its contents have been.
Books like “Velvet Elvis,” “A New Kind of Christianity,” “He Loves Me,” “The Misunderstood God,” and “The Naked Gospel,” all, to varying degrees, deal with what the Bible really is and how to properly approach it.

The Bible, according to the book of Timothy, is “useful.”  As someone else said,  “That’s a far different job description than we have given it.”
Certainly, from verse to verse, the Bible does “contradict” itself.  That’s because it is a “progressive revelation of God,” by people inspired to record events the way they remembered them at the time.

Anyway, this new series “The Jesus Lens” by Wayne Jacobsen seems promising. I’ve only watched one session so far.
In it Wayne addresses those who have basically thrown out their Bibles altogether due to the way we’ve been falsely taught to approach these inspired writings; a way that can make God seem to be a distant, mean-spirited overseer.

One thing we see in this first session is that truth is not revealed in this verse or that verse.
But rather “in the sum total of the scriptures we have the truth.”

Watch this first session, see what you think.
It’s only about 20 minutes.
I’ll be interested to see where Mr. Jacobsen takes us from here..

[Go to Session One of “The Jesus Lens.”  Click HERE.]


How To Die October 19, 2011

How To Die
– Branden Holder

I really loved “The Shack.”
Yet, unlike many of my more lengthy reviews, that particular review was only about half-a-dozen sentences.
Why? I don’t read a lot of fiction. It’s not normally what I enjoy.
[“Les Misérables”, “The Shack”, and “So, You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore” are some notable exceptions.]
I’m not great at reviewing fiction, either.
So, I’m not the best person to review Mr. Holder’s “How To Die.” There will be others who will do a much better job.
I can say this: I enjoyed it.

It’s a story about heaven, hell, and purgatory. It’s also a story about how we should live now.
In this fictional setting, Branden tackles many of our beliefs and how they might “play out” if indeed they are correct.
Ultimately, this is an expose of how we view God.  It is a challenge to re-think some of our preconceived theological notions.

Certainly, the major questions and ideas here are not new. They are ones that have been addressed, probably, since the dawn of time. It has been my experience, however, they are not often addressed seriously among those who identify as “evangelical.” To question such things is seen as, at best, a lack of faith, and at worse, denying God himself.

But Mr. Holder does put a fresh spin on these questions, and manages to create an interesting journey into the unknown.

“How To Die” is a relatively short novel, so even if (like me) you’re not that into fiction, you can enjoy a brief departure from you regular reading material without an overwhelming time investment.

I do recommend this book, and look forward to future offerings by this young new talent. Who knows, maybe he’ll give us a non-fiction book as well. 🙂

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

From the promo:

Follow one young man’s journey through an unexpected afterlife. When his existence is cut short by an unfortunate incident, Nicholas Walker finds himself at the gates of Heaven. However, upon entering his celestial life after death, Nicholas finds that nothing about Heaven, Hell, or anywhere in between is as simple as he once thought. Through experience and revelation, Nicholas embarks on an adventure bound to leave him changed forever.A relatively short, yet thought-provoking, philosophical allegory confronting the potential dangers of never questioning one’s personal beliefs and values.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Is This The End? October 14, 2011

“End Of The Ex-Gay Movement?”

After decades as the   director of  Love In Action, the country’s oldest and largest ex-gay ministry, John Smid says, ““I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”
[Imagine the hundreds or thousands of men he’s seen go through that program. Saying he’s never seen a change from gay to straight is quite a statement!]

His break with ex-gay orthodoxy is a sign that, even in the evangelical world, the notion that sexual orientation can be altered is increasingly crumbling in the face of reality.

Smid regrets the way Love In Action hammered away at “demonic homosexuality,” he says. “I think that… for kids that are 15, 16, 17 years old… With all the things they’re already struggling with, I can’t imagine what that might have been like for them.”

He also published an apology on his website, inviting those who’ve been through Love in Action to contact him. “If you have been wounded by me or harmed through the hands of my leadership; please come to me and allow an opportunity for me to personally apologize.

Read the rest of this article by Michelle Goldberg  in “The Daily Beast.”

Also, from Truth Wins Out:
He had incredible dedication, adhered to a hardcore form of fundamentalism, and enforced a strict cult-like regimen on his charges. Yet, years later, he is faced with the daunting reality that “ex-gay” programs are a Religious Right marketing program, not a legitimate movement.

Read more Here:
Truth Wins Out

and Here:
Lucas Grindley

AND, in case after all this time you’ve still not read it, here’s
my take on sexuality:
Tribbles & Labels


The Orthodox Heretic October 6, 2011

The Orthodox Heretic
and Other Impossible Tales
– Peter Rollins

This book is a perfect example of good things coming in small packages.  It’s a tiny hardback, black-cover (without the sleeve) that reminds me of my marriage manual.

This a book of tales; a book of parables.  Some are taken from the Bible.  Some are not.
Each one is a relatively short read, followed by a commentary.  There’s much wisdom here, as well as humor, suspense, and unexpected twists.
“In the parable, truth is not expressed via some detached logical discourse…
Parables subvert the desire to make faith simple and understandable.”

We look at “the true meaning of the phrase Word of God,” as Peter declares “it is impossible to affirm God’s Word apart from becoming that Word, apart from being the place where that Word becomes a living, breathing act.”

We view many of the parables of Jesus from slightly different perspectives, which can sometime render very different understandings.
Mr. Rollins believes, as do I, that we should not “treat the Bible as a type of textbook providing us with an ethical blueprint,” and that we must question “whether the Bible can be treated in this way without doing the teachings of Jesus a great injustice.”

The new insights on “turn the other cheek” were both eye-opening and, depressing.  We look at the kind of people Jesus was speaking to, and contrast that to the kind of people he was speaking about.  When we realize that “through the clothes we buy, the coffee we drink, the investments we make, and the cars that we drive,” we are often supporting slave labor and suffering, we can see ourselves not as the ones turning the other cheek, but rather, as the ones doing the slapping.
[That’s one reason my wife and I now only buy “fair-trade” coffee.  I know it may not be possible (or feasible) to eliminate all avenues of our negative footprints, but if we at least do something, we can make a difference.]

There’s a simply wonderful tale of a kind, well-respected elderly priest, and a jealous, self-absorbed prince who’s hell-bent on exposing the priest as a “coldhearted liar who sells the people lies in order to live.”  I had my wife, Kathy, read that one.  She didn’t see the “twist” coming, either.  It’s really good.
There’s also some fresh material on “the pearl of great price,” “the prodigal son,” “feeding the five-thousand,” and many others.

This anthology is, I think, perfect for short, meditative daily readings (or, as some prefer the term, “quiet-time.”).  It’s really not a book you should even attempt to read in one or two sittings, although it would be easy to do so.  At least half of the value of reading this book is the story-by-story personal reflection.
I didn’t know this was a collection of short stories when I ordered it. If memory serves me, I purchased this book on the recommendation of a Facebook friend. I do not recall which one. Whoever you are, “Thank You!” I loved “The Orthodox Heretic,” and will certainly be reading more writings of Peter Rollins.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.



– The truth of faith is not articulated in offering reasons for suffering, but rather in drawing alongside those who suffer, standing with them, and standing up for them.  This is pastoral care at its most luminous.

– Religious belief can itself be a barrier to living the life of faith.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There is a Biblical injunction to question authority, regardless of who or what that authority is, when we believe that authority is not defending the persecuted.

– Christ is found in our interaction with others.

– Every description of God testified to in the Judeo-Christian tradition falls short. Refuse to let any conception of God take the place of God.

– We must question the difference between the heresy of orthodoxy, in which we dogmatically claim to have the truth, and orthodox heresy, in which we humbly admit that we are in the dark but still endeavor to live in the way of Christ as best we can.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


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