LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Rock Beats Paper August 3, 2015

rock-beats-paper

A friend of mine recently expressed concern over some passages in Romans, Chapter 1, that many say condemn loving, same-sex relationships.
There are similar passages of concern in 1st Corinthians, chapter 6.
I thought I’d use part of my response to him as a blog post.
Much of this I’ve said in various places, but this will make a decent summary of those spread-out statements.

1st, rather than go into those passages, questionable translations, and various interpretations, I’ll refer you to Matthew Vines, Mel White, and others who have all addressed the “clobber scriptures” a number of times.
A lot of that is nicely expounded upon in Justin R. Cannon’s book The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality.

If you’re someone who is interested in Biblical interpretations that do not condemn same-sex relationships, you can find them. Others will argue you’re wrong, but disagreeing over the meaning of Bible passages is a long-standing church tradition.  And there is, of course, no one understanding across Christianity.
(Hey, ever notice how when you bring up a scripture that goes against someone’s current belief, they always say “You can make the Bible say anything,” but when they are the one quoting verses, it’s always “God clearly says…”
Hmmm.)

INSTEAD of biblical exegesis, there’s another approach which, for me, covers it all.
To start,  I know you’ve heard the “slavery example,” but in a nutshell:
The “church” condoned and practiced it!
The church used “chapter and verse” to defend it.
And (this is important) The Bible never says slavery is wrong!
In fact…

“The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner, about owning his Christian slave.
And Paul doesn’t say, ‘Christians don’t own people.’  Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.
If the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong, what are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong?”
Dan Savage

Yep. Now I’ve ventured into heretic territory.

Look, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover repeatedly.
I’ve read many portions dozens of time, and some hundreds of times (or more).
And I’ll tell ya, there is no BIBLICAL basis for believing the Bible is an inerrant, infallible morality reference for all of human history.
The Bible never claims those traits for itself. In fact, there’s plenty of Biblical evidence to the contrary.
If you’ve read “Velvet Elvis,”
If you’ve read “A New Kind Of Christianity,”
or if you’ve just had that “Duh!” moment on your own,
then you know, as wonderful as it is, the Bible isn’t “that kind” of a book.
It’s a divine library, written by many people with many perspectives over many, many years.

SO, in the end, the bottom line for me is (keeping in mind the Bible’s stance on slavery, subjugation of women, etc.)
even if the Bible clearly said “All gays go to hell,” my response would be (this could get me crucified) : “So What!”
“Doing the right thing” trumps the Bible.
Jesus trumps the Bible.  (In this case, Rock beats paper.) [Matthew 5:38-39 (and others)].
God trumps the Bible.
And, as a final nail in my coffin, “Truth trumps the Bible.”

Contrary to what some may accuse me of, I’m not disrespecting the Bible.
If anything, I respect the Bible too much to take it all literally.
I respect the Bible too much to pretend it’s a single, cohesive, non-contradictory narrative.
And, I respect the Bible too much to place expectations on it that I have no reason to believe God intended.
The statement “If science or “facts” contradict the Bible, I choose to believe the Bible” is NOT a declaration of unwavering faith.
On the contrary, it is an admission of ungodly willful ignorance!

I still read the Bible, discuss the Bible, and wrestle with its passages.
I gather with others and we sometimes do this together.
I still believe it to be a divinely inspired book, from which (when properly approached) much wisdom can be gained.
But many things, as stated above, trump the Bible.
Treating others justly with grace and human dignity trumps the Bible.
So, I’m all for digging into the Bible responsibly.
But there’s a lot of stuff in that book that keeps bringing me back to this:
When in contradiction with love,
Love trumps the Bible.
Once again, Love Wins.

——————————————-

More Info:
http://www.gaychurch.org/homosexuality-and-the-bible/the-bible-christianity-and-homosexuality/
http://www.believeoutloud.com/
http://www.wegiveadamn.org/issues/faith/
https://lifewalkblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/tribbles-arent-the-trouble-labels-are/

 

Left Behind October 4, 2014

left_BFirst of all, this post is not about the ridiculous books, movie, or the bad theology they represent.
Not mostly, anyway.
This is about things I’ve left behind.
More than that, it’s about some of those things that I’m reaching back to pick up again.

There’s a small group of guys I meet with about once a week.
We are “Comrades.”
We share our life experiences, discuss “spiritual” issues (which means everything in life) and we often are somewhat of a “book club.” Books and audio we’ve delved into so far include, “The Naked Gospel,” “The Misunderstood God,” “The Idolatry of God,” and “Living By The Indwelling Life of Christ.”

roadWe’ve recently started the Brian McLaren book “We Make The Road By Walking.”
This is my ninth book by that author.
Basically, the book is made to be read and discussed one chapter per week for an entire year.
Each chapter also contains some suggested Bible readings.

Now, I used to read the Bible every day. I’ve been through it cover to cover a couple of times, read the New Testament dozens of times, and many passages, well, possibly hundreds of times. I am, after all, a [clears throat] “licensed minister.”
In my spiritual journey out of the cult of right-wing fundamentalist evangelicalism, reading the Bible is one of the things I pretty much left behind.
I also, for the most part, left behind biblical terms like “sin,” “salvation,” “hell,” “redemption” and many others.
Now, I’ve never stopped appreciating the Bible. In fact, I can honestly say I appreciate and respect those holy writings more than ever. A large part of that respect is realizing how disrespectful it is to take it all literately, or as some kind of historical or scientific text book.

Most of the reason for dropping terms like “salvation,” and the others, isn’t because I’ve stopped believing in them. It’s just that I’ve come to better understand them, and how differently they are actually used in the scriptures than I had been taught and believed. The misuse and abuse of those terms, as well as the Bible itself, led me to no longer refer to such because I knew that when I spoke them, what was being heard by others was not what was being said by me. Sadly, that’s still predominately the case.
So I needed a clean break.
A break from that kind of language as well as a break from even reading the Bible. Organized religion has brought so much baggage and destruction that the christ it presents is nothing like the Christ we read of in our holy book. I’m still aware of the limitations of using certain terms in public.
More and more, though, people are seeing that many (maybe even most) who believe in Jesus are not biblical literalists.

With help from authors like Philip Yancey, Peter Rollins, the amazing Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren (along with many others) I’ve been able to rediscover the beauty of The Book, properly understood. I’ve been able to see that terms like sin, salvation, glory, heaven and hell are all valid terms worthy of discussion when understood as the original audience understood them. Which, of course, is not how we’ve heard them used for centuries. Well, not from those most vocal who have falsely claimed to be speaking for God.

I know people often have to set aside things that have been an important part of their lives, re-evaluate, and then see what remains.
I actually missed what we called “worship music,” but so much of it was filled with such bad theology I could no longer listen to it.
Groups like “The Choir,” and “Gungor” have helped with bringing that back into my life.
Music which helps me contemplate The Divine.
Meditate.
I’m now able to pick up some of the things I’ve left behind. But I’m picking them up with the respect they deserve by not making them into something they were never supposed to be. I’m picking them up having shaken off the garbage I was told was inseparable from them.
Still, there’s much that remains behind me as my journey continues.
Some ideologies to which we’ve given birth need to be killed off.
Some babies actually should be thrown out with the bathwater.
Some cherished beliefs and doctrines really should be left behind.
better ahead


 

Everything Must Change September 11, 2014

EMC

Everything Must Change
(When The World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide)
– Brian D. McLaren

This is not a quick and easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. But this is potentially one of the most important books you may ever read. The is one of 4 or 5 books I would like to see in everyone’s library.
More importantly, I’d like to see it in the hands of every “young” person between 18 and 30. I totally believe the future of the world as we know it depends on the issues addressed in this book.

“Everything Must Change” is written by a Christian, predominately to a Christian audience (although many fundamentalists doubt this target audience is “Christian” to begin with). But, the issues and principles here apply to every human on the face of the planet.  And they effect every human and non-human on the face of the planet.

Some issues covered are:

* The Prosperity Crisis – Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy.  One that does not respect environmental limits, while creating great wealth for about one third of the world’s population.

* The Equity Crisis – There’s a growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, most of whom are growing in envy, resentment and hate of the rich.  The rich become fearful and angry as they seek to protect their wealth.

* The Security Crisis – The danger of war arising from resentment between the groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

* The Spirituality Crisis – This is the failure of the world’s religions (especially Christianity and Islam) to provide a framing story that could bring healing or at least reduction to, the previous three crises.

This is another book that will help readers see how we’ve misconstrued so many of Jesus’ teachings.  Brian helps us to hear Jesus’ words more in alignment with how his first listeners heard them.  We see that we have a “framing story” that desperately needs changed.  So we revisit “the essential message of Jesus.”  In doing so, we re-examine metaphors like “The Kingdom of God.”  We consider our human situation in connection with the message and purpose of Jesus

In one section, Mr. Mclaren likens our past religious attempts at understanding to those of someone piecing together a puzzle.  We’re trying to fit it all together according to the picture on the lid.  The problem is, we have the wrong lid!

In chapter 4, a young man from Khayelitsha, South Africa, delivers a very weighty message to a group of pastors and evangelists from America.  It is a message every pastor and evangelist needs to hear.  If you’re a “missionary,” please read this chapter.  Even if you don’t want to buy the book, borrow it from the library.  Borrow it from me.  Just read this chapter.

It seems many people shy away from politics and religion.  As Brian states, “A lot of us are very happy to go through life knowing as little as possible about economics, politics, and ecology.”  The thing is, these are both the problem, and part of the solution.  For me personally, my politics are intrinsically tied to my faith in Christ.  Yes, we pray.  But then we help bring God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” by taking action: Action that can help bring about equality, justice, and environmental responsibility.  I believe a proper look at the teachings of Jesus will reveal that very thing.

This was my 9th Brian McLaren book.  My “Comrades” and I are getting ready, as a group, to read Brian’s latest, “We Make The Road By Walking.”

If you’re someone who cares about the future of your children, your children’s children, and so on; I would suggest you read “Everything Must Change” and seriously consider the message it contains.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Quotes:

– Not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worst, I’ve consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.

– Part of what it means to be “a new kind of Christian” is to discover or rediscover what the essential message of Jesus is about.

– Many of our religious institutions have taught us to see no horizon for the message of Jesus beyond the soul of the individual.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The way of the kingdom of God calls people to a higher concern than self- or national interest: namely, concern for the common good.

– We can no longer deal with global problems as discrete unrelated issues.

– Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come!  Rethink everything!  A radically new kind of empire is available.

– Theocapitalists have tended to see the rich as morally good and the poor as morally culpable for their own poverty.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

– We don’t have a violent “Second Coming” Jesus who finishes what the gentle “First Coming” Jesus failed to do, but we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent “weakness”, a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar’s sword.
Buy the book. Click HERE.



 

 

The Great Emergence May 20, 2014

thegreatemergenceThe Great Emergence
– Phyllis Tickle

“Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church’s massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now.” [From the back cover.]

The subtitle is “How Christianity Is Changing and Why.”  This book originally came out in 2008, six years ago.  But, when you’re discussing events in time spans of 500 years, six years doesn’t mean the material is “dated.”  In fact, this book is extremely relevant.  I’ve seen the name Phyllis Tickle pop up again and again in other writer’s materials.  I’ve wanted to read something of hers for some time now.  I’m very glad I finally have.

Phyllis takes us back to 1st century Christianity, through The Dark Ages, The Great Schism, the time of Luther and The Great Reformation, and up to today.  She shows us the constant influence of religion on society, and society on religion.  We’re shown how the automobile radically changed community and consensual illusion.
We see the influence of Karl Marx, Einstein, Oriental Christianity, Darwinism, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, nanotechnology, family, the birth control pill, Buddhism, theology, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthonomy, Alcoholics Anonymous and a whole lot more.
Chapter 5 may be my favorite, and it include a great section on “Rosie the Riveter.”

This book is, for one thing, a history of the Christian church.  When you hear someone espouse a particular belief and say “Christianity has always believed this,” please, check your facts!  Truth is, there are and have been many Christianities, and Phyllis helps us sort through much of Christianity’s evolutions.  There are some nice diagrams involving the quadrants of “Liturgicals,” “Social Justice Christians,” “Renewalists,” & “Conservatives.”

Central to the whole discussion here is the question “Where now is the authority?”  The change of the base of authority has repeatedly caused great acts of violence and horror from the religious powers that be.  At one time, religious authority was in the monasteries and convents.  Roman Catholicism placed the authority in the papal system.  Luther told us the authority was not the Pope, but in sola scriptura.  Pentecostalism and Charismatic renewal, while keeping scripture as it’s base, said the authority was the “Holy Spirit” (personal experience).
Many people I know freak out at the thought of realizing the Bible is not the “end-all” in understanding God, but the real fear, the one that is always there during one of these 500 year rummage sales, is “Where now is the authority?”

Ms. Tickle takes us far into the past, brings us to where we are today, and then looks at where we are likely headed.  “The Great Emergence” is informative, entertaining and truly a delight to read.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– Whenever there is so cataclysmic a break as is the rupture between modernity and postmodernity… there is inevitably a backlash.  Dramatic change is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is.

– Every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread.

– Pentecostalism’s demonstration of a Church of all classes and races and both genders became a kind of living proof text that first horrified, then unsettled, then convicted, and ultimately helped change congregational structure in the United Stats, regardless of denomination.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– No one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire “truth” of anything.

– Albert Einstein dominates every part of the twentieth century including, and more or less directly, religion.

– The question of “Where now is our authority?” is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– How can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions? [Check out Brian McLaren’s “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?“]

– One always picks up a bit of whatever it is that one opposes simply by virtue of wrestling with it.

– Thousands and thousands of godly and devout Christians fought for the practice of slavery as being biblically permitted and accepted.

– Life on the margins has always been the most difficult and, at the same time, the one most imaginatively lived.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– [Alcoholics Anonymous] opened the floodgates to spirituality by removing the confines of organized religion.

– Eventually free time will lead most of us to increasing awareness of our internal experience.

– The case had been clearly made that the journey of the spirit did not require the baggage of religion to be a worthy and rewarding trek.

– In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

Picture This May 18, 2014

afewquotes

 

irreconcilable

 

bibleMess

goodNews

doesn't work

dramaticTurn

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Faith: A Search For What Makes Sense September 26, 2013

search

“Many people crave certainty.
They want dogma.
They want guaranteed answers.
This book is not for them.”
– Steve Chalke


This book may not be for “them,” but it is for pretty much everyone else.  So many people think they must abandon intellectual integrity in order to exercise faith.  Mr. McLaren shows, once again, that the two are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, good faith will make sense.
Brian, as a Christian, has a definite point of view, but he doesn’t discount other views, or disrespect those who differ.   He offers insights on various avenues of thought, and the logical conclusions (as he understands them) to which those avenues will lead.

Here is a book that is intentionally made so as not to be a cover-to-cover reading experience.  Brian sets up each chapter by giving a brief description of the material, and then telling us who would benefit from reading that particular chapter.  Very different.

Some of the questions addressed are, “Does it really matter what I believe?” “Can I believe in Atheism?” “Why are there so many religions?” “Aren’t all religions equally true?” “What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?” and, one of my favorites, “Don’t all paths lead to the same God?”

Early on we look at the strong difference between good faith and bad faith.  Here, McLaren states “I would rather have a wrong faith that is good than a right faith that is bad.”  So, yes, we are discussing again the importance of how you believe vs. what you believe.

In Chapter 3 (my second favorite in the book) there is an absolutely wonderful chart of “The Four Stages of Doubt.”  These can simultaneously be refereed to as “The Four Stages of Faith.”  Sadly, people often get stuck in an early stage, and never move forward.  The refusal to move forward gives rise to dangerous fundamentalism.  This includes not only Christian fundamentalism, but also that of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, et al.  (Brian gives reasons to consider that believing there is no God is, itself, a “faith” position.)

Chapter six looks at polytheism, pantheism, dualism, good monotheism, bad monotheism, and (briefly) panentheism. We also examine the role of creation in revealing God, and how that relates to an “art gallery” experience.
In the seventh chapter, Brian “addresses a number of common objections or frustrations that people have with monotheism, regarding God’s personality, gender, subtlety, and the like.”  Is God personal or impersonal?  Relational or non-relational?  Male or female (Beyond semantics / Maternal imagery)? There’s a nice bit that addresses the fallacy of a question like “Don’t you think the Creator of the Universe has bigger fish to fry than answering the prayers of children and old women?”

Chapter 8 (my personal favorite) is “Don’t All Paths Lead to the Same God?”  I would actually suggest beginning with this chapter.  Brian has clearly (as have I) made belief in Christ his faith-choice.  But he does so, as I hope I also do, with true respect for those of other faith traditions.  
No religion
owns God or has a corner on the “truth market.”  There is a simple, yet great graphic in this chapter that addresses the subject of truth.

We’ve all heard it said “It doesn’t really matter what you believe.”
The thing is, what we believe can have world-altering consequences. What we believe does matter.
If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to fly planes into towers full of people, that matters.  If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to own people because of their skin color (or any other reason), that matters.  If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to withhold rights from a group of people because they don’t love who you think they should love, that matters. If, on a positive note, you believe your God tells you to love and care for others, be respectful, and take care of the planet, well, that also matters.
We’re told that , concerning the beliefs we consider, “We need open windows, but good screens.”
We’re given 4 guiding principles, and four screening principles. These 8 principles are more than worth the book price. This chapter should be required reading for… well, for everyone.  Really, the simple approach of this section, taken seriously, would go a l-o-n-g way in creating a more peaceful world.

There are, I think, some statements and sections that could initially appear as somewhat arrogant.  But if you give Brian the benefit of the doubt in those moments, there’s a clear overall picture of a man who holds his beliefs and strong convictions with sincere humility.  It’s like Rob Bell said, “You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.'”

So, click one of the links, buy the book, pick a chapter, and dig in.
This book really is a buffet.  You can nibble, fully dine, or pig-out.
Be sure to allow time to digest, and get the full benefit of the nutrients.
Of course, you can always go back for more.

– df

Buy the book: Click Here.

[NOTE:  This is one of a pair of books.  The second (which I’ve not yet read) is “Finding Faith: The Search For What Is Real.”]

QUOTES:

* We are on a level playing field; none of us lives with absolute, unassailable certainty about anything; we all live by faith.

* The finding of faith and the growing of faith… ironically can feel like losing faith.

* [We see] Jesus’ consistent refusal to do things that would force people into believing in him.  Instead, he always allowed room for doubt and presented people with the opportunity to explore their questions.

* If you are born in India, you are probably going to “know” Hinduism is the true religion; if in America or Guatemala, it will probably be Christianity; if in an intellectual family in France, agnosticism or atheism; if in Iran, Islam; if in Israel, Judaism.  There are exceptions, but it appears clear that the majority of people choose their beliefs based on social acceptance, peer pressure, and other factors rather than on a sober independent investigation of the objective evidence.

Buy the book: Click Here.

* If a professed belief is not sufficient to promote action, then it would better be called an opinion or an idea or concept.

* As someone who deeply respects the Bible, I think we do it a disservice by implying that it can do something that no book can do.

* Isn’t conceit – the sense of certainty that I am already so right and superior that I don’t need to learn or listen –  the greatest possible barrier to faith?

* There are strong reasons for making a faith commitment to the atheist position.

* Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. [Thomas Jefferson]

* Monotheism has apparent downsides too… crusades, holy wars, jihads, division, controversy, bigotry, confusion, contradiction, overwhelming complexity.

* We aren’t proving anything here; we are simply suggesting that if human beings have a seemingly incurable, innate, cor hunger and thirst for spiritual meaning, that that is at least evidence – though certainly not proof – that there may be a reality corresponding to the desire.

* It is wise not the close the door too fast on theism.


Buy the book: Click Here.

—————-


the four stages

For a better understanding of the chart, and an overall great read,
buy “Finding Faith: A Search for What Makes Sense.” Click HERE.

 

Hellbound? May 24, 2013

If the only way to get rid of evil is to get rid of evil people, who among us would be left?
– Kevin Miller

hellbound

This is a very educational documentary.
The New York Times calls this film “substantive and even handed.”
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be represented here.
Whether you believe in Universalism, Annihilationism, or Eternal Punishment,
your views will be challenged here.
As Nicholas Ahern said, “Preterism. Atonement. Soteriology. Gehenna. Free will. It’s all here.”

The gamut of my emotions were brought to bear.
Sometimes I wanted to stand and scream “Yes! Hallelujah! Praise God!”
Sometimes I was almost moved to tears.
Sometimes I was just really, really pissed off and wanted to smack some of the people talking.
(OK. I probably wouldn’t really smack anyone, but I sure felt like it.)

A wide (and I mean very wide) variety of individuals, both famous and not, were interviewed. Some “regular” people, and some quite scholarly. The breadth of opinion and interpretation should help give us all pause in our statements and declarations of “fact”.

Most of the positions are well-argued (or well-presented), including those with which I disagree.  There are a couple of strong exceptions.
The friendly folks of WBC are so far off the map that I truly consider them mentally ill.
Also, famous atheist Robert McKee rambles on without making a lick of sense.  Here’s a man who doesn’t believe in God or hell, but is very angry with Christians who don’t believe in conscious eternal torment.  He calls them “wussys” who are trying to make God a nice guy.  Mind you, he doesn’t believe in God, but he believes that if you DO believe in God, you must believe in an angry, mean-spirited god.  He doesn’t come off sounding like a “true” atheist, but as a spoiled little boy trying make his daddy angry.

We get to clearly see the hate and the love of various theologies, and the definite impact those beliefs have on those who hold them, as well as the impact that our beliefs have on the rest of the world.
No matter what your eschatology, or lack thereof, I highly recommend this movie.

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

[You can rent it for as low as $2.99!!!  Well worth it.]


To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.
Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why? Featuring an eclectic group of authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators and musicians, HELLBOUND? is a provocative, feature-length documentary that looks at why we are so bound to the idea of hell and how our beliefs about hell affect the world we are creating today.

Cast: Mark Driscoll, Jonathan Phelps & Margie Phelps, William Paul Young, Brian McLaren, Hank Hanegraaff, Justin Taylor, Franky Schaeffer, Gregory Boyd, Mike Bickle, Oderus Urungus, Necrobutcher, Glen Benton, David Vincent, Ole Luger La’Fay Walsh, Ray Comfort, Kevin DeYoung, Brad Jersak, Robin Parry, Kevin Miller, Jamie Clark-Soles, Sharon Baker, Michael Hardin, David Bruce, Chad Holtz, Bob Larson, Robert McKee, Lazar Puhalo, Peter Kreeft, Jerry Walls, Ron Dart
————————-

By narrowing its range of voices to Christian leaders, thinkers and writers, Kevin Miller’s sober, stimulating documentary on the hot topic of eternal damnation necessarily limits its audience, but achieves a level of rhetorical eloquence that would theoretically appeal to open-minded viewers of any religious stripe.
– Justin Chang
Gave each view a fair hearing (including views I strongly disagree with!) Like the first time I watched “An Inconvenient Truth”, it’s left me really wishing everyone around me, both religious & non-religious, could watch it & share the experience.
– Alex
A rich, thoughtful conversation-starter about changing notions of religious damnation, Hellbound? invades notoriously touchy territory with an open mind, steady focus and civil disposition.
– Brent Simon
An engaging, accessible documentary that explores the (truly) eternal questions, “Does hell exist? If so, who ends up there, and why?”
– Kerry Lengel
[It gives] the little-served Christian market a thought-provoking alternative to smarmy features like “Fireproof.”
– Neil Genzlinger
Any admirer of good talk will be impressed by the scholasticism and pulpit-trained oratory here, as well as some choice fighting words: “Evangelicism in America is what the pharisees were to ancient Egypt.”
– Nick Pinkerton
Warning: side effects may include critical thinking and paradigm shifting.
– Paul Pinos

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

From the documentary, here’s a chart with a list of Scripture references which, at face value, seem to support each of those positions.

Eschatology Chart

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

Some quotes:

– By eliminating hell, these people are sucking the meaning out of life. The notion that there really is no hell is simply a wussy effort to make God a nice guy.
Robert McKee (an Atheist!)
– Without hell, there’s no need for salvation.
Hank Hanegraaff
– Belief in hell is a primary factor for being a Christian. God, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.
Mark Driscoll

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

– Nowhere in scripture is belief in hell primary to salvation.
Chad Holtz
– The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.
Frank Schaeffer
– Our whole theological system has been boiled down to “hell avoidance.” We see that Jesus is not teaching “hell,” but un-teaching hell.
Brian McLaren

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

– You never get away from the subjective element, so why not just be honest about it? The irony is that you have a teacher that you follow called “Jesus,” and then essentially side with his enemies in behavior. The Pharisees and the rule-keepers and the theologically correct people were the people he battled all his life, and they wound up killing him.`
Frank Schaeffer
– Every doctrine of hell presuposes a view about God.
Robin Parry
– By the time [in history] that we get to Jesus, Jesus essentially is seeking to remove the notion of retribution from the concept of divinity.
Michael Hardin
– Were halfway to heaven when we rise to someone else’s suffering. When we inflict suffering on other people in the name of morality, we’re three-quarters of the way to hell.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo

To Purchase (or RENT): Click HERE.

 

The Litmus Test October 25, 2012

“If you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you just have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too. But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.”
– Rich Mullins


I recently read a quote from a preacher who was calling into question President Obama’s faith because Barack had never used “born again” to describe his own Christianity.  Calling oneself “Christian” was in no way sufficient, in this man’s eyes, to have a relationship with God.  One must consider oneself a “born-again” Christian to have one’s faith taken seriously.

In the Bible, in the 10th Chapter of Mark, a particular individual asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The man is told to sell everything he has and give it to the poor.

In the Bible, in the 3rd Chapter of John, another man is conversing with Jesus about the kingdom of God. He is told by Jesus, “You must be born again.”

So in regards to being a part of God’s kingdom and/or inheriting eternal life, one time in one place, to one person Jesus says to sell everything and give it to the poor.
In regards to being a part of God’s kingdom and/or inheriting eternal life, one time in one place, to one personJesus says “You must be born again.”

Look people, we have no more “Biblical” bases (or put positively, “equal Biblical bases”) for telling people to be born again in order to be “saved” than we do in telling them to sell all their possessions to be “saved.”  Yet, somehow, one statement has been virtually ignored while the other has been made into a litmus test for one’s Christianity!

How can we not see the fallacy in our fundamentalist approach to scripture?!?!
Jesus was a master at using word pictures to make a point.  He certainly didn’t intend for these verbal flourishes to be made into infallible doctrines and qualifications to establish an “us vs. them” mentality.

If anyone says they believe you must be born again because “Jesus said so,” and doesn’t believe the same thing about selling all your possessions, well, we know they haven’t taken an honest look at their belief system.

One Wikipedia writer states:
“the phrase was not mentioned by the other Evangelists, nor by the Apostles except Peter. ‘It was not regarded by any of the Evangelists but John of sufficient importance to record.’ And, without John, ‘we should hardly have known that it was necessary for one to be born again.'”

Also according to Wikipedia, the widespread use of the term is relatively recent.  “Born again is a term that has been widely associated with the evangelical Christian renewal since the late 1960s.”

Look, I believe in being born again.  I believe I’ve been born again many times and in many ways.  I hope to be born again many more times in many more ways.  (FYI, this has nothing to do with my “after-life” destiny.)

Rich Mullins was a “Christian icon” for many evangelicals.  More and more, though, he ruffled the feathers of established religion with statements like the one above.  We sang his songs in our meetings, without realizing the full impact of where he was going with them.
Sometimes I catch myself shaking my head, wondering why people can’t see what’s right in front of them.
BUT, I must also wonder why I didn’t see what was right in front of me.  I must wonder how much more I do not yet see.  How much others see to which I am still blind.
All the more reason to limit these doctrinal litmus tests.  (Maybe more orthopraxy and less orthodoxy.)

I do think the time is long overdue to minimize the use of some of the christianeese that comes out of our mouths without thinking about it.
The time is long overdue to re-think our approach to our faith and our approach to the Bible.  (Those issues are repeatedly addressed in other posts on this blog.)
All this doesn’t mean a weakening of our Christian identity.  As Brian McLaren points out, this re-thinking should be the strengthening of a better Christian identity.**

It’s a struggle, sometimes, to not despond.
Instead, I must allow myself and others the grace to continue to grow.  The grace to learn.  The grace to not always need the answers.  The grace to continue to be born again…
And again.

– df

**Brian Mclaren talks about how we have chosen between a strong/hostile Christian identity and a weak/benign Christian identity, and then proposed a third way; a strong/benevolent Christian identity.  This is the theme of his wonderful book, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?”

 

The Secret Message of Jesus September 28, 2012



“What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted”


The Secret Message of Jesus:
Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything



Yet another powerhouse of insights from Brian McLaren!
Reading books like this make one amazed at how far off track “Christianity” really has become.
Reading books like this also give one hope for getting back on track.
Of course, we’ve lost much of what the original audience understood, but there was a lot that they didn’t readily understand either.
Jesus predominantly taught in parables, rather than outlines and bullet-points. And he almost always answered a question with a question. Not the best choice if your goal is to communicate facts.  It is, however, the perfect choice if the goal is interactive relationship.

I’m not going to give a chapter by chapter review here, but I will tell you about a few of them.

Let me start toward the end with a “bonus chapter” called “The Prayer of the Kingdom.”
This is a wonderful exploration of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It really puts the words of Jesus into context, giving then a fresh vitality, and making them as relevant as ever.  It frees this prayer from being just a repetitive tradition, and helps us see its truly revolutionary nature.  Understanding the proper applications of this prayer, we see it as a crucial part of Jesus’ “secret” message.

Chapters 19 and 20 view “The Future of the Kingdom,” and “The Harvest of the Kingdom.”  We find out the true purpose of the “warnings and promises” of the prophets.  There’s talk of the book of Revelation, and how “neither the Bible nor the teachings of Jesus are intended to give us a timeline of the future.”  We also gain a new perspective of the “harvest” metaphor which Jesus employed.

Early on, we look at “The Political Message of Jesus.”  So much of Jesus’ speech used terminology to directly address and refer to the political (and religious) structure of his day.”  Brian believes that the message of Jesus “has  everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular.”  One of the interesting tidbits here is that Roman emperors would send out messengers to announce their “good news,” and proclaim that “Cesar is Lord.”  Again, we miss so many of the pertinent references that Jesus’ audience readily understood.  We also realize that “the Jewish people probably felt about their occupiers the way Palestinians generally feel today about the Israelis.”

“The Jewish Message of Jesus” reminds us that Jesus was a Jew.  To understand his message, we must understand the Jewishness of his message.  The Jewish people said very little about any kind of afterlife.  Their concern was how we act in this life.
They did expect the Messiah to set up a kingdom here and now, in this life.  They just were not aware of the kind of kingdom he was going to establish.  It wasn’t the dominionist theocracy of church and state they expected.
Another way He tried to set them free from many of their misconceptions was through his “You’ve heard it said…But I say to you” speech.

In “The Medium of the Message” we see the power of the parable.

“The Open Secret” shows us how “the message of the Christian church became a different message entirely from the message of Jesus.”  This chapter also looks at “Christianity” vs. “Paulianity,” and whether or not there really is any substantial conflict between the two.

With “The Language of the Kingdom” we discover the urgent political, religious, and cultural electricity that charged the language Jesus spoke with.  It was then “contemporary and relevant; today, it is outdated and distant… If Jesus were alive today, I am quite certain he wouldn’t use the language of kingdom at all.”

Elsewhere in McLaren’s book we rethink the meaning of “repent.”
We observe the “sad adventure in missing the point” that the church has taken.
We learn to “abandon the bad idea that some people are ‘clergy’ and others are ‘laity.'”

All in all, the secret message of Jesus wasn’t intended to be kept secret.  It has been lost, suppressed, distorted, and misunderstood for (as we read in appendix 1) a variety of reasons.

Ultimately, we are challenged with what kind of lives shall we then live.
Will we keep the secret, or be part of the reality it was meant to bring about?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

From the product description:

In The Secret Message of Jesus you’ll find what’s at the center of Brian’s critique of conventional Christianity, and what’s at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you’ll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is…

Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
Not heaven’s ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.
——

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

SOME QUOTES:

– Each of us not only prays, “May your kingdom come,” but we also become part of the answer to that prayer in our sphere of influence.

– The secret message of Jesus has far-reaching implications for the widest range of subjects — from racism to ecology, from weapons proliferation to terrorism, from interreligious conflict to destructive entertainment, from education to economics, from sexuality to art, from politics to technology, from liturgy to contemplation.

– We are invited to begin living now the way everyone will someday live in the resurrection, in the world made new…[a future] that has in some way, through Christ’s resurrection, been made present and available now.

– God’s ultimate dream: Not the destruction of this creation, but the destruction of dominating powers that ruin creation.

– What if Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion–but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– What’s crazy is thinking, after all these millennia, that hate can conquer hate, war cure war, pride overcome pride, violence end violence, revenge stop revenge, and exclusion create cohesion.  The kingdom of God never advances by or through war or violence.
(For a really good example of the futility of revenge, and the myth of redemptive violence,  Check out “The Hatfields and McCoys.”  One top-notch mini-series.)

– The [prophet’s] purpose is not to tell the future but to change it.

– Trying to read [Revelation] without understanding its genre (Jewish apocalyptic) would be like watching Star Trek thinking it was a historical documentary.

– I think of Jesus in his parables.  He seems more interested in stirring curiosity than in completely satisfying it.

– This idea — that the kingdom of God is about our daily lives, about our way of life — may lie behind the tension people feel between the words religious and spiritual.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The Greek phrase John uses for “eternal life” literally means “life of the ages… a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus.

– But the kingdom of God raises the level of discourse to a higher plane entirely.

– Faith that counts, then, is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of action.

– Church and state with their sacred theologies and ideologies, like all other human structures of this world, will – given the chance – execute God so they can run their own petty kingdoms.

– The church no longer saw the demonic as lodged in the empire, but in the empire’s enemies.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There has to be a third way that is different from permissive, naive inclusiveness and hostile, distrustful exclusion.
Purposeful inclusion [is when the kingdom of God] seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to it’s purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose it’s purpose. To be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation, to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

A Generous Orthodoxy March 22, 2012


A Generous Orthodoxy:
Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.


Wow.  That’s one l-o-n-g book title.  But that pretty much tells you the general material that’s covered in the pages of this book.
Rather than rejecting the various branches on the tree of “Christianity,” Brian McLaren looks for the good that each has contributed to our understanding of, and relationship with God.

This, my 5th McLaren book, was hard for me to get into, at first.  I had started to read it many months ago.  I ended up putting it back on the shelf and reading other books instead.  That difficulty was, I’m convinced, due mainly to all the reading before you ever get to “Chapter One.”  There are TWO forwards, an introduction, and what’s called “Chapter 0,” all before you start the first chapter of the book!  Anyway, once I committed to reading it, I found it fascinating, very interesting, and quite educational.

Indeed, Brian is generous in these pages.  Probably more so than I would have been.
That’s a good thing.
He acknowledges this generosity in discussing the “good”, but admits that much could be said regarding the  “bad and the ugly.”
But the focus here is what we can take with us as the journey and growth process continue.
Just as the ancient world emerged from the prehistoric world, and the medieval from the ancient, and the modern from the medieval, we are now emerging from the modern to the post-modern (which will likely be re-named by future generations).

With this emergence comes, as it always has, new understanding; new ways of thinking; new ways of being.  This includes a growth and expansion of how we perceive and relate to God.
When we grow up within a particular religious culture, we tend to believe that what we have is that which has been handed down “since the beginning.”
We have it “right,” and those other branches just missed it somewhere.

Well, this book helps us realize there has been a vast variety of “Christianities” throughout the ages.
The first chapter, titled “The 7 Jesuses I Have Known,” sets the stage for our journey of enlightenment through the potpourri of beliefs held by those who have sought to follow the leading of Christ.

There is rich, nuanced history here, of which I was predominantly unaware. I came away with a new understanding of many of the branches named in the expanded title of this book.
Without doubt, there’s enough bad “sap” in those branches (including those I was involved in) that I would not consider being a part of them, but I have a respect for the good in those traditions, as well as those who engage in them.

“A Generous Orthodoxy” is another great adventure in literature. It’s an exposition of where we’ve been, and a look at where, with God’s grace, we are heading.
– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

McLaren has worked to knock down barriers between Christians of different theological backgrounds by preaching that none of us has a handle on the whole truth.  Christianity is much broader than American Evangelicalism. Sometimes this is hard to grasp in a country where Evangelical has become synonymous with Christian.
– Matt Benzing

——

McLaren argues that all of the theological hair splitting misses the core message of Jesus.  I would challenge those like me in the evangelical circles to read this… not to confirm what we already believe… there are lots of books to do that… but to understand arguments outside our collective comfort zone. Whether you adopt McLaren’s conclusions or not, understanding the thought process can be a helpful exercise.
–  Paul Mullen
——

McLaren has given the church a gift- a way to think about theology that actually brings Christians together again, rather than forever splitting into smaller and smaller and smaller groups. Read it and see if you don’t find yourself challenged, taught and humbled.
– Bob Hyatt

Buy the book.  Click HERE.
——

From the back cover:

Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the “us/them” paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of “we.”

————

SOME QUOTES:

* The word God itself was reimagined through the experience of encountering Jesus.

* We’re here on a mission to join God in bringing blessing to our needy world.

* [We must] study not only the history of the church, but also the history of writing the church’s history.

* Anabaptist Christians, not unlike liberal Protestants, find the heart of the gospel in the teaching of Jesus. [They] focus on living out Jesus’ teachings about how we are to conduct our daily lives, especially in relation to our neighbors.

* I had met too many certified tongues-speaking Christians who were consistently dishonest, weird, unhealthy, and mean-spirited. Any understanding of being “Spirit-filled” that didn’t include helping people to become healthy, Christlike, and kind didn’t seem to be worth much.

* Most Christians kind of bottom-line everything to heaven or hell, and that makes life feel kind of cheap.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The Jesus Movement, especially in its early days, was a truly wonderful thing. But all too soon [it] was co-opted. It was to a different Jesus that I was gradually converted.

* Yes, you can follow Jesus without identifying yourself as a Christian.

* Some Protestants seem to let Jesus be Savior, but promote Paul to lord and teacher.

* The emerging church has the potential of being to North American Christianity what Reformation Protestantism was to European Christianity. – Phyllis Tickle

* Jesus needs to be saved from Christians…
Can we trust Jesus to save himself from the mess we’ve made of his name, and in so doing, save Christianity?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Christians are not the end users of the gospel

* Scripture is always a factor, but it is never sola. [It] is always in dialogue with tradition, reason, and experience.

* When the scripture talks about itself, it doesn’t use words like authority, inerrancy, infallibility, revelation, objective, absolute, and literal. Hardly anyone notices the irony of resorting to the authority of extrabiblical words and concepts to justify one’s belief in the Bible’s ultimate authority.

* The Bible is a story, and just because it recounts what happened, that doesn’t mean it tells what should always happen or even what should have happened.

* We must accept the coexistence of different faiths in our world willingly, not begrudgingly.

* We constantly emerge from what we were and are into what we can become – not just as individuals, but as participants in the emerging realities of families, communities, cultures, and worlds.

* To be in this creatio continua, this ongoing and emerging creation, in front of all this beauty and glory, meants that there can be no last word.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

 
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