A little background is needed.

  • Stage 1: Criminal/ Self centered.
    Best served by two institutions – jail and the boardroom.
  • Stage 2: Rules-based/ Black and White/ Certainty
    Two institutions might best serve stage 2 – the military and the church – conservatism.
  • Stage 3: Rebellious/Questioning
    The institution that seems best to support stage 3 is the university – liberalism.
  • Stage 4: Mystery-based/ Doubt and Uncertainty
    They seem to be saying the same stuff as those in stage 2, but every word out of their mouths is slippery.

(Read the background article to get a fuller understanding of these stages.)

As I read this article on the four stages, I asked myself, “self, where are you in relation to these stages?”

Like the author, I did not come into faith from a solid stage one position, I started from a mixture of stages one and three. Likewise, when I came to faith I did not go into any single stage. Although I was solidly birthed into stage two faith, there was always a bit of stages three and four there. (Just ask my wife and mother-in-law who had to live with me shaking up their faiths with my questioning.)

Recently, though, I made a departure from this mixture. I entered into a stage three faith that was shaken to the core. As I went through this phase of my faith walk, I kept the questioning mostly to myself. A year or so ago, I walked out of the wilderness of stage three and entered a phase that combined stages three and four. Today I think I am solidly in stage four but I do have some stage three left in me.

So where are you in relation to these stages?

Thanks for your gracious response, John. Just to clarify: I am seeking to distance myself from a vicious, violent, and as you say, monstrous image of God. Nobody thinks they hold such a view, and I imagine that nobody consciously does.

But … I wonder if we can try to imagine what it felt like for Jews during the pogroms in Europe to have Christians call them “Christ-killers,” to burn, kill, and exile them … I wonder if we can try to imagine what it felt like for the Native Americans in our own history to be called savages and Canaanites (thus placing them in a category for “biblical genocide”), and then to watch our ancestors systematically steal their lands, relocate them to reservations, eradicate their culture, and so on. We could similarly try to imagine what it was like to hear the gospel from the same people who were colonizing … Then I wonder if we can imagine what it feels like today to be Muslim, or Hindu, or gay, etc., and become the focal point of fear, rage, distrust, fury, disgust, and so on … again, in the name of God and “Jesus.” I wonder if we can imagine what women feel like when the Bible is used to tell them to be quiet and do what they’re told … again, knowing that you probably don’t do this, but a lot of men still do, and even more used to do so even a few decades ago …

On top of my intellectual and spiritual responsibility to interpret the texts wisely and responsibly, I feel an ethical responsibility to interpret the texts with “the other” in mind. Perhaps that will help you understand where I’m coming from.

I don’t think the 6 line narrative (as I described it) is biblical – you may. You may not think that narrative – as I described it – is common; I do. You may not think the Christian faith has portrayed a monstrous image of God to the world very often; I wish that were true but don’t believe it is. I imagine you think that eternal conscious torment can be held without producing the ugly social consequences it has for “the other” in the past; that’s not a risk I can take. But If you share my concern that in the present and future we don’t portray – in word and deed – a monstrous image of a violent God to the world, then we can work together on behalf of “the other,” and I’m glad for that.
a comment(#78) by Brian McLaren on a post by Scot McKnight (emphasis mine)

I only wish I could be so succinct. This is the third post by Scot in a very heated dialogue on Brian’s portrayal of Christianity’s God and gospel in his new book, ANKOC.

For those not familiar with Brian’s 6 line narrative, it is:

  1. Eden/perfection,
  2. Fall,
  3. History/condemnation,
  4. The offering of salvation,
  5. Heaven/return to perfection or
  6. Hell/eternal punishment

Another commenter states: “a real atonement also requires things like real[punitive] judgment”

I ask, “Why?”

“to address the systemic and individual evil rampant in human reality”

How about the systemic and divine love and forgiveness rampant in God’s reality as revealed in Christ.

Why cannot God JUST forgive? Why must the Almighty “come in Wrath to destroy the Devil and evil men”? This same God who will smite his enemies requires me to love mine. This same God who will allow some to be consciously tormented eternally – either through His ‘good will’ or by sitting back and letting it happen seems to require more from me. Besides, forgiveness that is the result of Christ’s work on the cross is no forgiveness at all, it is appeasement. We have Christ dieing on the cross to appease an wrathful God.

I struggle to believe that our theological beliefs and doctrines have no effect on our attitudes or actions. This “conventional soul-sort” theology can’t but help lead us to an us/them mentality. I am not putting a morality value judgment on this us/them, however, taken to the extreme we see the actions against Jews, native Americans, gays and Islamic people as Brian pointed out in his above comment.

Scot’s posts and the resultant comments have been relatively civil in the often divisive McLaren War resulting from his new book.

Today we have Nick and Josh with a podcast interview with Brian McLaren about his new book A New Kind of Christianity.

In my interactions with more fundamentalist friends, I’ve noticed a trend. These friends insist on the existence of absolute truth. They also insist that this absolute truth is knowable and that it’s accessible through the Bible. The more they insist on speaking about absolute truth, the more they seem closed off to what others have to say about what they regard as truth.

As we go forward in these turbulent times, we need to keep some things in mind. I think ALL sides need to keep open minds. I believe that those of us who are ‘heretics’ are just as likely to close our selves off from others’ input as we claim that our opponents are doing towards us.

Thomas Kuhn (1962) noted that in historical retrospect, science is done paradigmatically. It goes through seasons of ‘revolutionary’ science, punctuated by stable periods of equilibrium or ‘normal’ science.

Hans Küng (1988) asserted how paradigm change in theology (see diagram to right) has produced four constellations of macro-theology within Christianity (Ancient, Medieval, Reformation, Modern) in distinction from its founding Kingdom paradigm in the first-century. Küng argues that a ‘contemporary’ paradigm in Christianity beyond these prevailing thought systems is forming in our time.

… We must lead the church from the future, not just the past.

More and more I am hearing of the tension between the different paradigms that plague Christendom. No where is this more evedent than within the reviews of Brian McLaren‘s new book A New Kind of Christianity. I hope to be picking up my copy in the next day or two, so look forward to my version of a review. The very fact that this book is raising up such a whirl wind of discussion/ debate [attack?] leaves me to think that this is a much read book for any one who is in a position of influence.

that we haven’t really taken seriously enough what it means to call Jesus the Word of God. We’ve made the revelation of God in Jesus less formative than Deuteronomy 7, a bad reading of Rev 19, etc.

Is much of evangelicalism guilty of Bibliolatry? I say we tend to interpret Jesus through our image of the scriptures, rather than let our image of God through the revelation Jesus interpret the scriptures.

A New Kind of Christianity

Brian asks ten questions that attempt to integrate our inner lives with our outward actions:

  • The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
  • The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
  • The God Question: Is God Violent?
  • The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
  • The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
  • The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
  • The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
  • The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of View the Future?
  • The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
  • The What Do We Do Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

from zoecarnate

Listening to one of my semi- regular podcasts, I heard a quote from a video I watched over a year ago. So I went back and watched it again.

The video is Greg Hawkins from the Leadership Summit ’07. The quote that made me go back and listen:

Increasingly [the people closer to God/ centered in Christ] are thinking about leaving the church.  … The people who love God the most, are the most disappointed by their local church.

Many people read the Bible as a series of disconnected quotes and episodes yielding maxims, rules, formulas, anecdotes, propositions, and wise sayings. They have little or no sense of the larger story into which the statements fit and in which their meaning took shape. (19)

From A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (available February 9, 2010)
Brian McLaren