Wednesday, January 28, 2009

what did who say?

So, over the weekend, I'm in Lexington, KY, and drop in at a coffee shop near downtown, to get some joe and get on the internet. As I'm leaving, I pass a table with lots of stuff on it, mostly papers and flyers and such. One of those bits of stuff catches my eye, a postcard-size paper put there by some kind of new church called Embrace, and UMC church. The part at the bottom of the front of it was what raised the eyebrows. Here it is.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learned (sic?) the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
--Jesus Christ

I've looked online, but it seems this church or whatever it is doesn't yet have a website. There is a UMC church in Sioux City, IA, with that same name. I'm not sure enough to say if Lexington's is an offshoot or not. At the least, the Sioux City church's We Believe page seems ok enough.

I think I recognize the passage butchered in the above (quote/unquote) quote.

Matthew 11
25(AG)At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, (AH)Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that (AI)You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.
26"Yes, (AJ)Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.

27"(AK)All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father (AL)except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

28"(AM)Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29"Take My yoke upon you and (AN)learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and (AO)YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

30"For (AP)My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

I don't know what version this church used to find thsi version of Jesus' words. I'd almost say the Message, but the Message comes off more stilted, usually. I almost think someone in the church made it up themselves; after all, it comes off more as self-serving propoganda then anything else, at least to me.

Where, in the passage taken from the Bible, does Jesus say anything about being "burned out on religion"? Or "get away with me"? What the heck is "the unforced rhythm of grace"? Or what about "you'll recover your life", what does that mean?

I don't know if embrace is some kind of emergent church, some kind of seeker-friendly one, or one of those blendings of the two that seem to be coming around. I suspect that latter.

The thing here is to raise questions about what the heck they're trying to do if their "Jesus" speaks like that. It seems quite a little twisting of what Jesus really was trying to say.

Monday, January 26, 2009

look familiar?

See how this reads to you.
We feel that a holistic political conversation--one honoring the powers of mind and spirit to help heal the world--is emerging throughout the global community. The Global Renaissance Alliance embodies its vision through small gatherings of citizens called Citizen Circles. Meeting in living rooms, at churches, around campfires, or anywhere else, we are joined with others of like mind in meditating for world peace; speaking from our hearts about our wishes for a better world; and working together to make it so. Within the Citizen Circle, we commit to cultivating an intimate fabric of deep community, and through our individual and joint efforts to create real change in ourselves and the world around us. Dedicated to the divine love in ourselves and in one another, we seek to extend the principles of forgiveness, atonement, reverence for life, faith, service, and compassion into the political and social dynamic of our time.

This paragraph is on page 413 of the book "Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century", a collection of essays edited by Marianne Williamson. The book is essentially a bunch of articles or essays by such new-agey lowlights as Deepak Chopra (who with a name like that missed his calling as a rap artist), Neale Donald Walsch, and I suppose others who think they've been talking with one god or another. The book claims that all proceeds for the book go the above-mentioned Global Renaissance Alliance (the book was put out in 2000, and I don't know if said alliance is still around or not; anyway, I found the book at one of the 'all the stuff in here is only $1' shops, and while in one sense it wasn't even worth that much, in another it's interesting to see what these types are thinking).

Consider that paragraph from the book, and please ask, "Does this seem familiar?"

I think that it does. I think it's very much like what the emergents are doing and trying to do.

I've thought for a while that, if you want to know where the emergents are going, you need to look at the "death of God" philosophers out there, or those who contend for some variation of the philosophy such as Caputo. I still think that, but maybe that's not the only things we need to look at, too. Perhaps those who are more well-known to the average person, popularizers like Chopra and Walsch and Lamott, are another source for information on where emergents are going.

That makes sense. Most people will not know of Caputo or Vattimo or Altizer, but they will be much more familiar with the people who put out the feel-good new-agey books, who claim to be channeling conversations with a god who doesn't do the judgment-and-wrath thing anymore, or who speak with some kind of strange accents so they must know what they're talking about.

Consider the Seeds of Compassion event last year, essentially a gathering of these kinds of ecumenical all-roads-lead-to-god types. To that event, with sported the luminary Dalai Lama and people from some other religions, two emergents were invited to participate in a Q&A--Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt.

Consider some things said in some of their books. Both Bell and McLaren have made positive comments about one Ken Wilbur, another in the new-agey thought rigamaroll. Bell even goes so far as to recommend a deep study of one of Wilbur's books.

If at one time all roads led to Rome, perhaps now it seems like all road lead to heresy and eventually hell. Or maybe it's just that it's one road, and it's very broad.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

so this is what passes for pomo 'thinking'?

This is rich, not to mention ridiculous.

Comment of the Day 2

Apparently, a couple of guys are having some kind of online back-and-forth about pomo and Christianity, or whatever they think it is or will be or whatever. The guy whose writings are copied in the above link is one Peter Rollins, who's put out a book about how we ought to NOT talk about God. In my view, if this how he think who should talk about Him, then his book is only only worth using in an outhouse.

For me religionless Christianity operates without any metaphysical guarantees. There is doubt, complexity and ambiguity throughout. And so there can be no final foundational claim to an external source ensuring that everything will work out well in the end (one can, of course, hope that there is).

So, what does any of that mean? Take a guess; after all, they're pomos, to them the reader is more important than the writer.

Seriously, I think he's saying that he doesn't know if there is a God or not. Consider further...

'I have been reborn, transformed, renewed by God, but then again I wonder who, what or even if God is.'

So, a God who may not even exist has transformed, renewed, and reborn someone? Does that make any sense to anyone?

Instead of saying 'I am not sure God is there in my day to day life but I know that God really is there' (i.e. everything is ultimately going to be o.k), I am more prone to say that Christianity allows us to claim, 'God is here in our midst, although I am not sure God exists' (i.e. God is what we live here and now without guarantee that God is 'out there'). While the former justifies faith via a metanarrative the later lives Christianity as a meganarrative (a grounded story)

So, Christianity lets us say God is here, even if we don't know if God is really here, or there, or anywhere? And does his definition of God here...

God is what we live here and now without guarantee that God is 'out there'

...strike anyone else as being merely an empty collection of words without real substance or meaning?

And saddest still, this 'thinker' has been teaching in Youth With A Mission schools. As a former YWAMer myself, I find this insulting and sickening. YWAM's flirtation with WoF was bad enough, but if they continue to allow this heretic to fill their students with this nonsense, than they do not deserve to be supported.

I'm still waiting for these pomos to finally get the integrity to admit their atheism.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

what would who do???

A bit ago, I made a comment in a post that pomos seem to put more faith in Nietzsche than in the Bible. A few days ago, I came on this article, which seems to give weight to the observations and accusation.

What Would Nietzsche Do?

Lest I come off as being too judgmental or un-nuanced, I'll say up front that the article does have its virtues. And at the least it isn't a "RAH-RAH FOR 'BAMA" thing, at least not on the surface.

Still, it is what you think it is, as the first paragraph seems to begin showing.

In the 2004 senatorial race for Illinois, Republican candidate Allen Keyes claimed, “Christ would not vote for Barack Obama, because Barack has voted to behave in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.”1 Keyes specifically had in mind Obama’s refusal to support a bill that would protect infants who are born alive after botched abortions. While I am confident that Jesus would not support abortion-on-demand, I am less confident that his followers should make pronouncements about how Jesus would vote. In fact, it is quite possible that Jesus would not vote at all. Not every situation lends an answer to the evangelical question “What would Jesus do?” Therefore, I was inclined to take a subversive approach to the presidential election in November by asking “What would Nietzsche do?”

The "What would Jesus do?" question is, admittedly, not often any easy one to answer. I would say first, though, that judging only by the Keyes statement quoted above, that Keyes isn't say who Christ would vote for, but is making a statment (based on the Obama's voting regard particularly in regard to the issue of the life of the innocent) that He wouldn't vote for Obama. The author seems to say that we cannot claim to know how Jesus would vote, which I guess means who He both would and would not vote for.

Is that a fair statement, though? For example, if were to go back to 1930s Germany, do we think that we cannot say that Jesus would not vote for the Nazi party? Is it safe to say that Jesus would not vote to put Hitler into power?

Of course, one could say that is a special case, or even a bad example, but the point is, if we can make statements about it in that one case, why not others? Can we say that God, who gave Israel judges and kings, doesn't care about politics? Can we say that the types of people who rule our nation are unimportant to Him?

As such, than, I think an honest attempt to answer the WWJD question in warranted, and certainly more profitable than to substitute Neitzsche for Jesus.

This past election cycle has given me some sympathy for the dilemma he expounds on, where we may have only two choices, and neither is acceptable. Unlike him, I'm not against voting outside of the big two, and in the Presidential vote I did just that, since I judged that neither Obama nor McCain were worthy of my vote (though the thought of Palin in the position of VP was almost enough to win my vote for McCain; still, he would have been the one in the highest seat, and while it's likely he would have been much better than Obame will be, his history of compromise makes even that claim doubtful).

Also, unlike emergents, the author seems to take seriously the biblical notion that our citizenship is in Heaven. He's not a utopian (to use his own concept) trying to perfect things here on earth.

Still, I'm not sure about his overall point, which seems to be a more wordy and seemingly deep way of echoing the sojo mantra "God is not a Republican (or a Democrat)", but with the sojo unspoken caveat that God likes liberal policies (because they seem warmer and fuzzier) over conservative ones (which are as hard as real life).

Most of all, when partisan political animosity has infiltrated the congregation so as to divide the body, or when the cause of Christ has become conflated with the limited agenda of one particular political party, then the time has come for the church to withdraw from political activity for a season in order to listen again to the voice of the One in whose name we speak.

And yet, what does this mean? Does it mean we must accept anyone who claims to be Christian, no matter what candidates and social issues they vote for? There may be some issues on which there is room for disagreement, but many others on which little to no compromise can be given. If the church truly believes that murder is wrong, than what compromise can there be with any 'christians' who are for abortion right? Is the church truly believes that marriage is only a man and a woman, than what compromise can there be with those 'christians' who want to redefine marriage in any other way?

Despite making some interesting points, I think the overall jist of the article is off. Trying to find answers in a madman like Neitzsche insist of in Christ is simply setting oneself up for failure.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

getting it mostly right 1

Tony Campolo is, in many ways, a rather frustration person. I could rather like him, and could think that in many ways he's right. On the other hand, in those ways I can't agree with him, I would think those ways are pretty important.

If I could put it a particular way, I think he's trying to hang out in the enemy's camp, hoping to make them somehow better. I don't think it's working; rather, I think they are influencing him more than he them.

Still, he's sometimes not too far out there, at least in the book "Adventures in Missing the Point", which he kind of co-wrote with McLaren. McLaren wrote a chapter on the Bible, which may well provide some material for here later. Campolo has a brief but pointed response at the end of it.

One thing the emergents and pomos try to do with downplay the idea that the Bible is a place to find answers or doctrine. Campolo makes a comment on page 83 of the book about that.

Brian is quite right when he tells us that the Bible should not be considered a mere repository of propositional truths. But certainly we must be aware of those sections of the Bible that do contain propositional truths, and of the importance of analyzing those doctrines...

I agree with him here. The attempts by emergents to overplay the story and poetry aspects, among other things, at the expense of doctrine is not wise, and is already starting to bear bad fruit. Consider the post a few weeks ago, where an emergent pretty much says that if the Bible disagrees with him than the Bible should be scrapped.

And I haven't seen anyone sum the postmodern tendency to relativize texts better than this.

They tell us to see in the text whatever meaning we want to impose on it. They tell us that no single interpretation should be considered objectively valid. The text, say these postmodernists, has a life of its own--and once it is written, the reader provides the meaning. To me, that approach to the Bible has inherent dangers.

I couldn't agree more. If that is what they are pushing for, than the postmoderns are simply leaving themselves open to another disaster, one they thought to avoid by going so extreme relativistic. If postmodern was in part a response to the Nazis and the extermination camps, as McLaren says elsewhere, than how can they hope to avoid that again if someone wants to say that their interpretations are for such things? If interpretation is something read into a text, rather than taken from it, than Pandora's Box is truly open, and all the evils are loose.

Better by far is a solid hermeneutic and interpretation, based on what the Bible is really saying, over any attempt to put our own meanings into the Bible.

Monday, January 5, 2009

a bit of sense

I've recently put up a few posts about a book put out by a Phyllis with the last name of Tickle. Here's a bit of something else, some very different, from a Phyllis much more worthy of respect.

Public Schools Change Young Evangelicals' Values

It's not very long, and well worth the read.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

follow the threads

Ok, how about some threads.

Diane Butler-Bass, in her book "Christianity for the Rest of Us", takes an approving look at one St. Andrew Christian Church in Kansas. Here is an excerpt from that church's beliefs page on their website.

We welcome and affirm all children of God of any color, class, sexual orientation, age, gender, ability or thought.

While following the guidelines of the denomination, we have developed as a congregation that is particularly passionate about preserving the dignity of all, valuing diversity, seeking justice for the disadvantaged and preserving the delicate balance of Earth’s ecosystem.

In other words, a church that's so in the liberal's back pockets.

This church is a part of a group with the oxymoronic name The Center for Progressive Chrisitanity. The CPC's website's links page has come interesting things on it, like a link to the Westar Institutes, the people who have given us the travesty called the Jesus Seminar.

And there's the link to the progressive hymn writer, William Flanders. And from his site, one can find the lyrics to his hymns. Here's a couple of stanzas from one of them, with a possible spelling correction noted by me in one of them.

The God that we love is no God we hear.
While “Thus says the Lord” rings bold and sincere,
The words are the prophets’, theirs evermore.
Still unheard but, our God, listened for.

The God that we love may not even be;
To face this our mind must always be free.
Our heart says that God awaits us, instead,
Our (perhaps that should by 'out') of sight and, always, up ahead

So, in this man's head (and likely in that of these 'progressives' he writes hymns for), when the prophets said "Thus says the Lord" they were only speaking and writing their own words, and the God he claims to want to hear from may not even exist.

Don't be surprised at this, please, unless you really are new to this kind of progressive non-thinking. There are many out there who claim the name Christian who are really little more than athiests in their philosophies and beliefs--Spong, Borg, Crossan, Caputo, Vattimo, and others, and one can see the emergents going the ways of these people, though they are not there yet (while noting that Butler Bass is an emergent in her own right, and it was her book that lead to finding this songwriter).

Why these people want to call themselves Christian while denying everything true in Christianity is beyond me. Were they honest, they would drop the pretenses and own up to their athiesm. Since they don't, I don't think it too harsh to think that there are subterfuges and manipulations they can pull off on the 'inside' of the church that they can't do if they were 'outside' it as self-proclaimed nonbelievers.

Friday, January 2, 2009

certain of uncertainty?

It's truly amazing how far people will go to try to undermine biblical authority.

On pp. 77-80 of The Great Emergence, Tickle goes into Einstein and Heisenberg, about Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. And what do these scientific theories have to do with the Bible...?

...Nor would the Heisenberg Principle stay safely tucked away in physics laws. Instead, "uncertainty" became the only fact that could be accepted as fact, not only in the popular mind, but also in large segments of the academic world as well

In particular, literary deconstruction planted its standard dead in the center of Heisenberg, claiming that there is no absolute truth, only truth relative to the perceiver. And, as an obvious consequence, all writing--be it sacred or secular--has no innate meaning until it is read and, therefore, has no meaning outside of the circumstances and disposition of the reader. Enter the battle of the Book. Enter the warriors, both human and inanimate, who will hack the already wounded body of sola scripture into buriable pieces. Enter the twentieth century's great, garish opening in the cable's waterproof casing of story.
Tickle, The Great Emergence, pp 79-80

If you've heard some people make arguments against the current postmodern virus, you'll likely have heard them sum up the postmodern position in a statement something like this, "The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths". I mention that because Tickle may as well have said that when she writes ""uncertainty" became the only fact that could be accepted as a fact".

In other words, it is a statement that is it's own contradiction, it is self-refuting. One cannot believe it because if it is truth it is a false statement. To say that "The only certainty is uncertainty" is to make even that statement an uncertain statement.

So, right off, we can see that postmodernism is a realm of madness.

Even more subject to madness and the result of it is the statement "there is no absolute truth, only truth relative to the perceiver". McLaren goes on in one of his books about how postmodernism is supposedly a reaction to Nazism and the certainties that led up to it. Even granting that those early pomos may have been at least partially right in the diagnosis of the problems leading up to Nazism, can we really say that extreme uncertainty really sufficiently answers what went wrong? If truth is merely relative to the perceiver, than upon what basis can one even answer someone who says that something like Nazism was a good thing? If there are no absolute truths, than how can one say that Auschwitz was evil? And if such a thing happens again (and things like it have happened since then, in places like the Soviet Union and Cambodia and China and Darfur), how are these disciples of uncertainty ready to say that those who do those things are wrong?