September 2009


5. What school or stream of theology to you now feel most comfortable with?

I chose to answer this question first because I thought it would be the easiest. But as I sit down to write, I realize that it is not really that easy of a question to answer. Right off the top of my head I’d probably say the Emergent stream, but being a good emergent, I feel the need to deconstruct this.

First of all, let me say that I come from a charismatic, conservative evangelical background. I’ll also say that I do not feel as comfortable in this stream as I have in the past. Though we may now be post-using post, I would say that I am post-charismatic. Not non-charismatic and not anti- charismatic but beyond charismatic. I think that a lot of what passes for charismatic is self-indulgent. Focus tends to be on the gifted no matter how hard we try to say that we do not want it to be so. Those who seem to be more in tune with the ‘spirit’ tend to be more favored. This form of religion could be called Spiritanity.

Next I would almost say that I am ‘post’-Evangelical. But I know that this has more to do with the portrayal of a hijacked Evangelicalism than it has to do with the stream itself. I am not comfortable in a hyper-conservative, televangelistic, consumerist evangelical  stream. Though there is a more mainline, progressive evangelical stream that I would be comfortable in, I almost feel the need to drop the ‘evangelical’ term all together.

Finally, a term that comes out of the book, The Last Word and the  Word After That, that these questions arose is post-protestant. I have said elsewhere that I feel that though a lot of good came from the Protestant reformation, one of the greatest evils is the spirit of protesting. This spirit has lead us to 30000 + denominations. This is diversity with division. One of the reasons I still dwell in the conservative, charismatic stream even though I am not comfortable there is that I have an hope, maybe it could even be said that I have a dream, that we are entering into a post-protesting era where we can have diversity even as we navigate together in a unity.

The protestant movement has been a classic fulfillment of the 2 Tim 4:3, if our ears are not being itched properly, we leave and/or go start something new. I believe that this new era of globalization will be a catalyst of coming into a centering of faith. This is the stream I want to be apart of. Make no mistakes, as this new reformation continues, there will be a division.

“I think two opposite things are happening at once. Some people are  opening up, moving beyond old ways of thinking, asking new questions, They are restless, and they have hope that there are new and better answers out there. At the same time, a lot of people are tightening up, entrenching, backing into old corners where they feel safe.”
The Last Word and the  Word After That

Of these two streams, I want to be in the first. I want to reboot my faith beyond the confines of the neo-Platonism theologies of Augustine and wrestle out new theologies for the new era we find our-self in. Not that we take scripture lightly; as a matter of fact, I think we hold scripture in a higher regard then if we just took it literally. We no longer trust in the bible to be an instruction manual, rather we see in it a model of a wrestling with God in relationship, to make Him a reality for out generation.

So what stream am I in? Post-charismatic, post-evangelical, post-protestant? Am I emergent, missional, or simple/organic church? Am I a liberal conservative or a conservative liberal? The more I regard this question, the more that I realize that there are a lot of streams that I could say that I am comfortable in and there are some that I would be uncomfortable saying I in. And because Emergent is so vague, and includes so many steams that I would be comfortable in, I think that Emergent is as good a label or stream as I could ask for.

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A New Kind 0f Christian

  1. Describe in detail your doctrine of hell.
  2. Briefly explain the gospel as you understand it.
  3. What is you doctrine of scripture?
  4. Where do you stand in relation to the “openness of God”.
  5. What school or stream of theology to you now feel most comfortable with?
  6. What is you view on the scope salvation?

What is you doctrine of scripture?

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16

You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.
John 5:39

Inerrant

Let me start by saying that every seminary, other than conservative ones, believe that the scriptures are fallible. There are errors, and inconsistencies  in them. Those seminaries that teach otherwise, have the doctrine of inerrancy at stake! The errors include dates, numbers, rulers as well as transcribing errors. For example, Matthew gives Jeremiah the credit for a prophecy by Zechariah. Also, Matthew 23:35  ” unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” gets the wrong Zacharias:   “unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah…” (Zechariah 1:1) instead of  “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest” (II Chronicles 24:20-21).

Then there are inconsistencies. The birth narratives of Luke and Matthew as well as their genealogies; four gospels four different signs above Jesus on the cross; the day Jesus was crucified -day after passover in synoptic gospels and on passover in John; the account of Paul’s actions after being converted -Galatians 1:15-24 versus Acts 9:1-31. These are only a couple of the errors and inconsistencies that are found throughout the bible, in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Does this mean that the scriptures weren’t inspired? Not at all! It just means that they were primarily human writings. The bible is a human book containing human errors, judgments and misunderstandings as these humans struggled to understand their God. It is also God’s book of his seeking out mankind. His message is found in the narrative of a people seeking after God, warts, errors and all.

Authoritative

The next fallacy is that the scriptures are authoritative. By this we really mean that our interpretation of those scriptures are authoritative. For an example we just need to look at the issue of slavery. Slavery is biblical. The only way we get around this fact is to re-interpret those writings in an interpretive context. This puts authority on the interpretation and the context more than the very scriptures themselves. A more modern example may be regarding women. Should they not have head coverings? Be silent, barefoot and pregnant (1Ti 5:14)? The scriptures themselves are very clear on such matters. The context and interpretation make our reading less clear.

Once we allow interpretation (and we all do), almost any position can be argued as biblical. And this is just within the conservative evangelical camp. What about Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anabaptist camps?

No, scripture is not authoritative. God alone is our authority. And it is as we come together as the whole body of Christ and interpret the scriptures that we can say that we are in agreement and thus have an authority in unity.

My View

So, where do I stand? Though I believe that scripture is both errant and unauthoritative, I believe that it is still inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness and that ultimately it points to Jesus – the ultimate revelation of God.

Time for some comments I have come across in my blog reading:

“If an American church has 10,000 members, and they would all tithe, what would most of those churches do? Build bigger buildings and hire more staff to do more programs. Let’s support the church, but let’s not buy whiskey for proven alcoholics.”
internet monk

“As an individual who ‘earns his check’ from the ‘local church’ I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching. I’m totally not sure where I will land on that, but as one who is a pastor and even elder in a church I wonder if we’ve crafted something to fit ourselves more than to fit what God has for His ekklesia. Part of my ‘job requirement’ is to teach a class that I’ve developed to help people get connected into our local church. In it I point out in scripture that we all are ministers and royal priests. It’s amazing to see the lights go on in people’s minds. What’s also amazing is that I have to teach a class and basically try to sell people on a Biblical truth like that. Why is that? Is it because of the almost 1700 year old tradition of paid clergy and the clergy/laity division that it has caused?”
Darin commiting on the monk

And from a master of grace answering the question: “that you believe that the god worshipped by Muslims is the same God that Christians worship.  Is this assumptions true?”

“how merciful is God in hearing the prayers and receiving the worship of people whose concepts are less than fully accurate? If God requires 100% accuracy, we’re all hopeless since we all fall short in our understanding of God.”
(read full answer to keep this quote in context)
Brian McLaren

I just came from listening to Roméo Antonius Dallaire speak tonight. What an disquieting yet inspirational message of hope.

And yet I came away conflicted. With so much pain and suffering in the world, why do we/I spend so much time debating minuscule issues and problems like:

  • is the bible inerrant?
  • how should the church be structured? and what form of leadership style is more biblical?
  • what is the nature of Christ’s atonement?
  • is hell a physical place and will anyone suffer eternal torment there?

And yet, so often our action or inaction stems from our beliefs. I can not help but think of the resistance of conservative evangelicals towards climate change and the resulting looming disaster. So I ask, how would we act differently if we thought that Christ’s atonement and God’s reconciliation was inclusive rather than exclusive? What if we believed that Jesus’ message had more to do with justice and action in this current age then it had to do with our eternal habitation?

It was while pondering this that I remembered a blog dialog between Richard and Peter (start, next, next and next), which in turned raised the questions: What comes first the chicken or the egg? Should we concern ourselves with a social gospel or a personal salvation gospel?

We could all get involved with humanitarian aid, but if our core belief structures and human institutions do not change, there will always be a need for that aid.  So my conclusion is that we need both. We need those that are on the front lines delivering the humanitarian aid and fighting atrocities like genocide. We also need those who are the front lines debating ideas, asking questions and figuring out the answers so that in the future there may be less need for the first group.

I am hopeful.

I have been following a few different blog discussions and I came to realize once again the importance of online communities. I have mentioned this before:

A perfect reason to keep blogs like this going to try and provide an avenue for information and discussion in a denominational landscape where there are very few forums for people to interact. For some reason, engagement is shunned, almost as if it is too risky to get people talking freely about things.

People say to me that they would rather sit down for a face to face discussion, and though I would not mind that (please, come and talk with me) I think the laity would miss out. For the most part, in the past, we were only privy to one point of view. Its only natural that in any given congregation we would gather around us speakers that tickle our ears. Sure someone may be brought in that would challenge us and encourage us to expand our thinking, but truthfully this would only happen in a similar direction in which we are already tracking. Rare indeed would be the congregation that would get to hear an opposing view to  their theological frame of reference.

The globalization of ideas that we now have at our finger tips will only increase the gap between those that are hunkering down in the belief trenches of their perceived fundamentals and those that realize that there may only be two fundamentals:

  1. Jesus is Lord (whatever that means), and
  2. Jesus lived, died and rose again so that reconciliation between papa and all of creation is possible.

To be fair, many (read most) of  us who are navigating outside of our tribe’s bunkers have at least three more fundamentals, but we tend to hold onto our understandings with a loose grip.  Our interpretations of core doctrines tend not be as rigid as others, for example, what does inspiration of scriptures really mean? .

So, what are some of you beliefs that you think are fundamental to faith in Christ?

I have started reading the third book in the A New Kind of Christian Trilogy by Brian McLaren. This series follows the journey of Pastor Dan Poole in his quest to wrestle through the issues and questions that he once had pat answers for, but as he wades into the mire of post-modernity, he realizes that the answers that he once was so sure of, are no longer satisfying. This thing that is happening can be summed up in a quote from the third book, The Last Word and the Word After That:

“I think two opposite things are happening at once. Some people are opening up, moving beyond old ways of thinking, asking new questions. They are restless, and they have hope that there are new and better answers out there. At the same time, a lot of people are tightening up, entrenching, backing into old corners where they feel safe.”

In this last book, Dan is basically being tried for heresy by his board and in the process, he is asked to answer the following questions:

  1. Describe in detail your doctrine of hell.
  2. Briefly explain the gospel as you understand it.
  3. What is you doctrine of scripture?
  4. Where do you stand in relation to the “openness of God”.
  5. What school or stream of theology to you now feel most comfortable with?
  6. What is you view on the scope salvation?

I have decided to take on these questions and blog my answers in the coming days and weeks.

“If it is too difficult to be understood by a child, it’s not of God”, came the remark from the pulpit.

“[Jesus] said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!”
Mat 18:3

This is not so! We are called throughout the New Testament to challenge our minds, to seek meat and not to be satisfied with milk, to love God with all our minds, to ‘know the times’. The call to be like little children has nothing to do with knowledge and theology, it has every thing to do with trust. Theology – thinking about God – IS complicated because God is complicated! So thank God that I am not restricted to only knowing about God, I am first and foremost called to trust Him like a child.

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