Featured The Biblical

Before A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A New Year At Seminary

Cain leads Abel to death, by James Tissot.
Image via Wikipedia

I was asked to share a passage of Scripture and a brief reflection for a community event this evening and I thought I’d offer it here for all of you as well. I shared this among Fuller students as we prepare for the fall quarter which begins tomorrow.

Here are a few excerpts from Hebrews 11-12:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith…

Featured The Political

McCain: “I know how to heal the wounds of war”

I just finished watching the debate and it left me feeling like our country and economy will be safer and better off with Obama at the helm. What caught me off guard about the debate came at the very end in a line McCain gave. While I’ve noted that a number of Christians have pointed out McCain’s constant drawing on a warrior/hero/Maverick narrative to catch the hearts of Americans (a move meant to appeal to the deep ethos of our country’s history), I found it preposterous that he would so unhesitatingly appeal to the messianic:

I guarantee you, as president of the United States, I know how to heal the wounds of war, I know how to deal with our adversaries, and I know how to deal with our friends.

Christians watching could not help but be reminded of the biblical text:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV-G/K)

Both candidates have at times wrongfully, in my position as a Christian, appealed to the rhetoric of nationalism at different points and this is an area I think all Christians need to challenge. To put it more strongly, I think Christians are the only ones who can challenge nationalism because we operate out of a fundamentally different loyalty than those who are not Christians. But McCain’s suggestion that he knows how to heal the wounds of war betrays a subtext, a symptom, of the kind of religious role politics plays in our country. This is none other than idolatry, and hopefully Christians will take their loyalty to the Kingdom of God seriously enough to challenge this kind of role-reversal of the messianic. Whoever becomes president is a person with gifts and faults, not the messiah who will do the work of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can heal the deep wounds of war, abortion, racism, hatred, and fear.

Blog Entries The Technological

Rhett Smith does a great job of keeping tabs on technology and new media and how it’s used in ministry. The other day he turned people’s attention to Church TechCamp, a gathering of people interested in using these forms within the church. They are meeting at Fuller tomorrow (Friday September 26 at the Catylyst). Here’s Rhett’s summary of the camp:

If you can make it to Pasadena, CA this Friday, then you need to so that you can attend Church Tech Camp. It’s the first in what I think will be a growing group of church leaders who are on the innovative edge of integrating technology and ministry, especially as it relates to social media, web 2.0 tools. If you can’t make it, then watch the live stream of the get together. Not only is the technology and its use in ministry innovative, but the organization of the camp itself is on the leading edge. Check it out and you will see.

» Technology and the Future of the Church

Check out the website here for more information, registration (it’s free) and links to the live website. I am going to try and make it to some of the meeting, maybe I’ll see you there?

Blog Entries The Political

John Steinbeck on the Current Economic Crisis

The Grapes of Wrizath
Image by lauren bailey via Flickr

I came across this Steinbeck quote today while looking through Wink’s book “Engaging the Powers,” it seemed to me to be getting at the nature of the struggle we face today. Especially when it comes to the bank being an uncontrollable monster, a power, that is beyond our control:

The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came…Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold
because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves…If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank-or the Company-needs-wants-insists-must have-as though the Bank or the Company were a
monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. “You know the land is poor. You’ve scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.” 

Church in Mission Quaker The Biblical The Theological

Everett Cattell: Communication As Witness (pt. 4)

Series contents | Intro | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

A 6th century mosaic of :en:Jesus at Church Sa...Image via Wikipedia

A good theological understanding of communication begins with the incarnation and John 1; Quaker Missionary Everett Cattell covers this thoroughly before moving onto a more in depth discussion of what it means for the Christian missionary to communicate, or witness for/to the Gospel. Maturion in the Greek means “to bear in mind,” or “to remember.” As its usage progressed throughout history it became a legal word having to do with establishing facts in court. Later it was broadened even further, from giving evidence concerning observable facts to giving witness to one’s views, truths, or convictions” (Christian Mission, 1981:58). It is this latter definition that Cattell picks up on.

Blog Entries Convergent Friends Quaker

Five Years Ago and Convergent October 2008

Martin Kelley has written a post giving a little back history to what happened five years ago. Five years ago he started reading Rober Weber’s book The Younger Evangelicals, a book that confirmed much of his thinking about liberal Quakerism and helped him verbalize what needs to happen in order to change a church he says is “floundering on issues of tokenism and feel-good-ism.” The post is well worth the read, it’s insightful, and helps give context to how ‘convergent Friends’ finally came about. He also has a helpful, “where do we go now?” section. His post reminded me of two things in particular: our own major move five years ago, and the upcoming activities for convergent Friends in October.

The Political

Dress Down Friday | Political Irony and the Messianic

With Sarah Palin being picked the VP last week things in the political news world have gone to another level of seriousness, but fortunately there are plenty of people also having a little fun with the whole thing as well:

Paris Hilton even gets into the action, responding to this ad.

To a few more serious posts:

Halden critiques the Messianic appeal in both McCain and Obama’s campaigns.

Dan Morehead looks at frank speech to make the point that virtue is lacking from much of our public discourse, and the role those play “who speak in irony to the vulgar.”

Henry Jenkins looks at the growing interest around Sarah Palin as an subject/object for “Photoshop Democracy.”

And finally, over at Nevermind the Bricolage, there’s a post asking, “Do We Need Another Hero?” A post that especially probes the appeal oft appeal to fear in political rhetoric and the ‘hero’ motif that surrounds McCain’s campaign.

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Blog Entries Reviews

Manufacturing Dissent: An Interview with Stephen Duncombe

I came across an interview with Stephen Duncome, the author of “Dream:Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in the Age of Fantasy,” a book I really enjoyed and have been trying to utilize some of the ideas (you can see a first attempt in my essay called, “Desire and the Imgination of the Kingdom“). The book is about “participatory culture and participatory democracy” as Henry Jenkins puts it. The interview is very informative and gives the basic shape to what the book is about. In the interview Duncombe discusses what he calls the ‘ethical spectacle,’ politics and popular culture, ‘Obama Girl,’ and YouTube’s role in the presidential race. Here’s one quote from the book:

Blog Entries The Theological

Faith and The Difficult Process of Discernment

An angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac.Image via Wikipedia

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

(Hebrews 11:6 NRSV)

Over the last month Emily and I have been working through a major life change question. I was looking at taking a job, which would have meant full-time work, moving out of LA, and slowing down the PhD by a number of years. Emily and I have been thinking that in the next year we’ll be moving, so when this job opportunity came up it seemed like it might be a good fit. But finally, after a very long process of praying and weighing the options, it felt premature to leave Fuller now. Emily’s got a great work situation with teaching 20 hours, a job that helps pay the bills, while allowing us to both have time with L and me to get about 25-30 hours a week of study in. At that pace I should be able to finish my exams by the end of next summer. It wasn’t an easy decision though, and one that weighed heavy on me for quite some time. I thought it’d be good to think out loud about the process of discernment we went through.

Blog Entries Church in Mission The Political

Dreams and the Kingdom of God

My August Barclay Press essay is now online. It’s a little late for August, but time has been pretty tight lately. The essay looks at Stephen Duncombe’s recent book on progressive politics, “Dream Re-Imagining” and applies some of the findings to a theological perspective on living out the Kingdom of God. Here’s a quote:

As I see it, (at least some of) the church can be guilty of becoming too “reality-based.” Much of it has become heavily propositional, too abstract and disembodied to form real apprentices of the kingdom. Often our worship involves passivity more than participation, our sermons tend to share the same thematic structures week after week, the same punchlines, and perpetuate a reliance on rational arguments to make points. We take the concrete words of Scripture and abstract them in a way that requires intellectual assent more than existential demand. I think we can also be guilty of draining people of kingdom imaginations. In what ways does our faith communities unknowingly manufacture consent with the world as opposed to a dissent for the kingdom?

Click here to read the essay.