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Here are a few questions to ponder from a Friend of mine at EFC-ER, Wayne Evans:
1) Does Nietzche’s “God is Dead” (1880) fit into liberalism or have its own
category?
2) What was the contribution of Quakers not making much use of discipleship
(especially Bible doctrines) to the polarization?
3) If divorcing from the past occurred (page 2), is it possible that some of
the original standings of the early Quakers was misguided? -or deficient?

I only had time to work out a brief response to number three, anyone else want to help?

In thinking about #3 specifically that I am hesitant to want to sign the earlier beliefs off because the Friends church was so influential on both continents – as you know much of the things we take for granted today (as American Protestant Christians) were pioneered by the Friends – so because of this first I want to find how to be faithful to our ongoing narrative. However at the same time I see that some emphases are lost in our times, while others need to be brought out more, refined for the age – this is what I hope to see happen and make as my own work. In that short article I quoted one of my (anabaptist) professors Nancey Murphy who talks about core beliefs – the things that are essential to being a Friend, without them we are just another anglo-protestant (nothing necessarily wrong with that but we have such a rich tradition). We would agree there is something important about the Friends “peculiar” testimony to the work of Christ – we need to find out what those core parts are, save those and leave the rest as dross. This of course, as you know, is a slow and difficult process but I think it needs to be worked out.

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We spent the day up in Cleveland for our anniversary today – it has been four wonderful years.
1. we went to cleveland heights and ate at Tommy’s restaraunt with Emily’s childhood Friend laura.
2. Then we visited Norka Futon because we are weird, everytime we go to CH, we visit that store and sit on all the chairs and couches.
3. Then we went to Presti’s cafe and drank a latte and canoli’s and something else that Emily ate that I don’t know what it was called.
4. Lastly we went to Chelsea’s Vintage shop but it was closed!!! dang it. I love that place.

But regardless my love for Emily has never been more, I love her very much and am so happy to have found such an amazing wife. These past 6 years (and 4 of marriage) has been wonderful.

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112440461197922805

We spent the day up in Cleveland for our anniversary today – it has been four wonderful years.
1. we went to cleveland heights and ate at Tommy’s restaraunt with Emily’s childhood Friend laura.
2. Then we visited Norka Futon because we are weird, everytime we go to CH, we visit that store and sit on all the chairs and couches.
3. Then we went to Presti’s cafe and drank a latte and canoli’s and something else that Emily ate that I don’t know what it was called.
4. Lastly we went to Chelsea’s Vintage shop but it was closed!!! dang it. I love that place.

But regardless my love for Emily has never been more, I love her very much and am so happy to have found such an amazing wife. These past 6 years (and 4 of marriage) has been wonderful.

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The Temptation to Stand for Nothing

“the temptation to stand for nothing”

America is full of uber-evangelical-legalistic-rightwinged Christians that I along with my many post-evangelical colleagues have tried to forge a “third way” so to speak. What I mean is that I can be a ‘Christian’ (I am using the term loosely here) that is either a)an evangelical that is influenced by fundamentalism (which in my book equal to legalistic and judgmental) or an evangelical that is more nominal in approach – they aren’t judgmental and ‘focus on grace’ but all that really means is they don’t want to be bothered. The second option is b) I can be a liberal that is either influenced by schleiermacher (sp?) type, expressivist Christianity where what feels right is reliable or the liberal type that is more fundamentalist (they wouldn’t use this category) and pushes experience to its bitter end – i.e. there is no overarching metanarrative (no general guidelines for all people) and is extremely individualistic to the point off accepting a Unitarian universalist or ‘new age’ type spirituality where everything goes. Basically this crude paradigm worked (that is it was accepted as the way it should be) until the last 30-40 years. Some Christians have been scandalized by these two options a) its my way or the highway or b) everything goes.

this third way is nothing other than trying to figure out how to follow and embody Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t condone sinners nor did he condemn them, he lived with them, loved them and tried to show them another way, a better way, THE way. This is a scandalizing thought, to both conservatives and liberals. but think back the only people that were ever condemned where in parables, so as to make principles to live by. secondly we all know Jesus didn’t have a great relationship with the pharisees, but what was it that he didn’t like about them; they either fit nicely into the ‘people who condemn (their support of Jesus’ own death)’ category or they fit into the ‘people who condone (think of Jesus’ being bought off by Judas).’ Therefore it seems to me that Jesus tried to live inbetween both categories. But there is one catch – he was often times mistaken and totally misunderstood. he was regarded as a heretic, a zealot, one who had no morals and was full of demons, people just didn’t get him.

this is the trouble we run into today – it is the temptation to appear as though we stand for nothing because we don’t regularly judge and condem, in our silence we are seen as condoning. But this the way of the savior, this is the way of the crucified Lord, he held these things in tension, and only he can help us to understand how we can do the same. So it is not that I stand for nothing, or that I define the only way to heaven (as our fundamentalist friends like to think). It is the case that I stand for more than you know, and given time you will find out, you may not like what I stand for or how what I think the grand metanarrative of the Story of God interacting in the world means for you and me, and this is why I have waited, and lived out what I believe as opposed to forcing it upon you, because it is not theology or belief that will win you over, but love, after all it says that “Love Conquers all” and I believe that in this way Christ has conquered the world, both sin and death – your sins and mine.

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two quotes from today:

1. Wess: “Who is the author that inspired you the most?” Nate: “J.D.E.P.”
2. “God came to get into the grave with us.” Ray Anderson

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As Most of you know I was a part of a roundtable discussion on Barclaypress.com – go to articles and look for roundtable…I would be interested to get feedback on the whole thing, I was also asked a question: Below I will post my first comment, the question, and then a second comment (one different than the one posted on the Barclay site) which is meant to guide the discussion further.

First I said: The church is to be a people who listen, who live in mission, who worship Christ, and who are hospitable. Like AJ said, the church is a people, not a building, not an event, it is when my wife and I have friends over for dinner, eat and drink together, and share stories with one another, encouraging, challenging, and shaping one another.

I am looking for relationships within a small body of people, where people know me, where there is mutual trust and love, honest conflict and reconciliation, where we submit ourselves to the deeper narratives of our own tradition within the narrative of Christianity as a whole, where we not only study the scriptures, but the fathers and mothers of faith who have gone before us. I am looking for a body that is willing to gather in a living room, a bar, a coffee shop, a backyard, or even skid-row, people who are willing to get their hands dirty for Christ, who embody his mission statement located in Luke 4:17-19.

A great question was asked: Wess, you’ve mentioned a bit about the use of narratives within the church. Could you further explain what you mean by narratives? Being a Social Work Major, I’ve heard of Narrative Therapy and how it asks people to re-write their life stories, which sounds good, but also seems troubling to me. My question is, if we discuss narratives in church, wouldn’t it cause division? Wouldn’t it cause someone to say, “my life narrative fits the Bible and the character of God better than your’s does?”

Then my second response: Wess, you’ve mentioned a bit about the use of narratives within the church. Could you further explain what you mean by narratives? Being a Social Work Major, I’ve heard of Narrative Therapy and how it asks people to re-write their life stories, which sounds good, but also seems troubling to me. My question is, if we discuss narratives in church, wouldn’t it cause division? Wouldn’t it cause someone to say, “my life narrative fits the Bible and the character of God better than your’s does?”

—–
I apologize first for using a philosophically loaded term, such as “narrative,??? because there is more ways to define it than make it useful. But I will tell you what I meant by the word and the implications that it has upon the church.

First I understand truth not to be defined by an individual who presumes he or she is being objective and who thinks they have found certain “common sense??? irrefutable principles by which they discover it, rather I presume that truth is always born within a social context, the community of which we are formed and form. I do not think we are capable of finding objective truth, at most God is the only one who has access to such discoveries, and at least we are too tainted by our own sin and experience to have a clear view of the world and the persons we are in relation with. So we do our best to make sense of what is going on around us, but taking it a step further, when we try and discern truth I think that it must be done within a community (and better yet if it is a community formed by the Holy Spirit) seeking to find “what makes the most sense of what we know and have experienced.???

That being said – the word Narrative was used as an all-encompassing term to cover all the stories and experiences we have been formed by. Growing up I was formed by stories of my mother, who as a young person experienced a lot of hardship and rejection by family and friends – hearing her stories formed my own “narrative??? in such a way that I empathize with the hurting and outcast, I can understand and relate to them in very personal ways because I was so personally formed by her narrative. There are tons of “stories??? that form us, some good, many bad, all real and all powerful in our lives.

A consequence of such a position is that one can say, “If God is the only objective judge, there is no way for me to say your story is better than mine, or vice versa.???

On one hand this is very true, no story is more right than another, because what is right or wrong isn’t what really matters, what matters is what was experienced and perceived. If my mom in reality was a really cool person, but she perceived just the opposite because of how her own mother treated her, the reality remains – she perceived and interpreted herself as being rejected by those around her who were supposed to love her (this is only set up as an example – and is not necessarily a reflection of my mom’s own history).

On the other hand, though objective truth is unavailable to us, we have to make sense of the world around us somehow. How is this done? There is no simple answer or easy way, but I think that what we have below is more realistic than what Modernity offered us with the idea of common sense readings, and certifiable-objective truths. To move forward we should submit ourselves to the stories of those in our own tradition: for me and you our guiding factors are A) the whole history of Christianity: the Christian Narrative, B) the whole history of Quakerism (we should be subordinate to our fathers and mothers who have gone before us, and allow their “interpretations??? of the world, Christ, and community to bear on our own): the Narrative of tradition and C) the discerning community of Christians– which is a body of people bearing their own stories and forming one another’s: Narrative of Community and D) the Inner Light of Christ and the Body of Scripture: the Dynamic Narrative of the Spirit of God.

None of these things are definitive on their own, as we all know there are competing interpretations of each of these four points (even within our own tradition)! But all of these things working together – as guided by the SPIRIT of CHRIST gives us solid interpreting tools from which to guide our lives that are ever being formed and transformed.

Christ is the basis for assuming that we can know something about God, and something about ourselves, He is the starting point for understanding the four points above: he is our “Hermeneutical Criterion.??? In Christ we cannot only find our Lord and God, but also our mentor and example (now what that looks like for today in various places and in various communities will change a degree or two, but nonetheless he is the starting point).

To say something about the last part of your question I would think that this idea of interpreting within the context of community narrative would be a great asset within psychology and the re-writing of life stories. No one can on their own re-write their own story, it must be done within a given context, and a group of people. If re-writing becomes an individualistic enterprise it will go nowhere. A helpful book on the community forming power for hurting individuals is Becoming Human by Jean Vanier.

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If you want to comment do so both on this blog and on the barclay website – and tell all you know.