Archives For theology

In this video from The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Roman Krznaric talks about the importance of outrospection and empathy when it comes to social, political, and economic transformation. I think that the same empathic imagination is needed in the church as well.

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Jesus Peed His Pants!

March 18, 2013 — 2 Comments

Sydney

Sydney, my eldest child, sat next to me during our community’s worship gathering this weekend. She had a cold and her sister and mom were in with the younger kids. It was just me and her. We sat near the back where she could doodle while she listened to the sermon and where her incessant nose blowing would be less noticeable.

Each week, after the sermon portion of the gathering, we take communion. Sydney and I went up together, knelt, and partook. Back at our seats, I continued to stand and sing. Sydney’s eyes wandered over the walls.

Spaced equally around the sanctuary hung fourteen rectangles of muslin, each with a duct tape cross in the center. Each piece of fabric was decorated differently, some ornate, others simple, some with images, some with words. Together, they make up the fourteen stations of the cross.

I leaned down to her and said, “You can go check those out, if you want.”

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bridge
With my dissertation submitted and currently undergoing evaluation, I have some margin in my life to start working through the stack of “books I really want to read one day” that has accumulated over the past several years. On the top of that pile sits James McClendon’s three-volume systematic theology: EthicsDoctrine, and Witness. Yeah, that’s right… my first foray back into leisure reading is not to head for a novel but to dive right into a set of books on theology. I’m such a nerd. Deal with it.

I’ve been wanting to read McClendon because I resonate with his story and (what little I know of) his theology. McClendon was a Baptist from the South (like me) who found himself wandering away from that theological sphere and towards the theology of the Radical Reformers, those who are also often called “anabaptists” (also like me). McClendon would later come to call himself a “small-’b’ baptist,” instead of an anabaptist, a term which was originally used in a derogatory sense. Last year I was having a conversation with a guy who studied under McClendon. We were talking about theology and my hopes for the future of the church. He said, “You know, you remind me of a young Jim McClendon.” I thought that was a curious statement, obviously meant as a compliment, and that it would behoove me to read the man’s work.  Continue Reading…

mennonite dove

How would you define “true faith” as it relates to discipleship and christian living? I’ve been reading through Confession of Faith in Mennonite Perspective on my lunch hour for the past few weeks. Today, I came across this bit in Article 17:

Conformity to Christ necessarily implies nonconformity to the world. 1 True faith in Christ means willingness to do the will of God, rather than willful pursuit of individual happiness. 2 True faith means seeking first the reign of God in simplicity, rather than pursuing materialism. 3 True faith means acting in peace and justice, rather than with violence or military means. 4 True faith means giving first loyalty to God’s kingdom, rather than to any nation-state or ethnic group that claims our allegiance. 5  True faith means honest affirmation of the truth, rather than reliance on oaths to guarantee our truth telling. 6 True faith means chastity and loving faithfulness to marriage vows, rather than the distortion of sexual relationships, contrary to God’s intention. 7 True faith means treating our bodies as God’s temples, rather than allowing addictive behaviors to take hold. True faith means performing deeds of compassion and reconciliation, in holiness of life, instead of letting sin rule over us. 8 Our faithfulness to Christ is lived out in the loving life and witness of the church community, which is to be a separated people, holy to God.   Continue Reading…

jesus-gun

“It’s important to note first of all that the right of self-defense is rooted in the teaching of Jesus himself. He once told his disciples that he would be “numbered with the transgressors,” and that as a result their own lives could be endangered because of their association with him. He therefore counseled them, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). You can’t get more legitimacy than that. A legal principle rooted in the teaching of Christ is pretty tough to beat.”

Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association,”When America HAD to Pack Heat to Church” 1

In the week since the tragic shootings in Oregon and Connecticut, there has been a lot of talk about violence in entertainment, access to mental health care, gun control, and other things that might be “part of the problem.” As we seek to find solutions that will make it increasingly difficult for these kinds of tragedies to be repeated, I’ve noticed Christians on all sides of these complex issues are turning to the Bible to find support for their particular point of view. Unfortunately, much of what I’m reading online and overhearing in conversation is little more than folk theology 2, which may make the conflicted individual feel better, but has little to do with trying to faithfully interpret the Bible and apply it in our context today.

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Notes:

  1. http://www.afa.net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147529878
  2. I take this term from Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson’s excellent work, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. In it they define folk theology as “a kind of theology that rejects critical reflection and enthusiastically embraces simplistic acceptance of an informal tradition of beliefs and practices composed mainly of cliches and legends. . . . Folk theology is often intensely experiential and pragmatic–that is, the criteria of true belief are feelings and results” (Grenz and Olson, Who Needs Theology?, 27).

Some twenty years after he published The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll wrote a follow-up, of sorts: Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. In it he hopes to offer a way forward out of the pragmatism of 19th and 20th century evangelicalism, while still remaining rooted in the evangelical stream: “The message in this book for my fellow evangelicals can be put simply: if what we claim about Jesus Christ is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most openminded advocates of general human learning” (Kindle location 22).

For this, Noll looks to early Christian creeds as a lens through which evangelicals might develop a distinctly Christian mind. He writes, “If evangelicals are to make a genuine Christian contribution to intellectual life, they must ground faith in the great traditions of classical Christian theology, for these are the traditions that reveal the heights and depths of Jesus Christ. Intellectually, there is no other way” (loc. 307).

Nicene-creed

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