Reggie McNeal: “The church doesn’t have a mission; the mission has a church.” via

The various “new perspective” scholars bother some people because for all their differences, they generally agree that Luther and Calvin grappled with Paul as if Paul was like them – a 16th Century Reformer whose primary antagonist was a religious institution very much like the medieval papacy.

I think we’re at a real renaissance period in biblical studies. Yes, some will fight new perspectives on old texts tooth and nail, just as they did in the 1st and 16th centuries … declaring that the old wine is good enough, thank you very much. But new wine keeps showing up in old vessels … and so this is a wonderful time to be alive and enjoy the flavor.
McLaren

I think the conversation is more important than the conclusion. Not everyone believes this. To many (and I think this is a fundamentalist value), knowledge of the truth is valued more highly than the search for it.
The Naked Pastor

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Some of the nuttiest American religious leaders today (and in the past) have latched on to one form or another of Christian Zionism.
Frank Schaeffer

The Anabaptists (and those who affiliate with them, ecclesially or theologically) have been profoundly shaped by the work of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, in particular his epic book The Politics of Jesus. A central tenet of Anabaptist theology is the Constantinian heresy, also called Christendom. According to the Anabaptists, Christianity became corrupted when the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Empire. Up to that point, Christians, as a marginal and powerless group, were able to faithfully live out the Sermon on the Mount, a life and witness very much in contrast with the violence of Empire. But in the wake of Constantine and the establishment of a “Christian Empire”–called Christendom–Christians, now holding power, had to make critical concessions. No longer could the Sermon on the Mount be followed literally. Thus, Constantinian theologians stepped in to reconcile the teachings of the radical, peasant rabbi with the gilded halls of power and affluence. The two, you might expect, didn’t fit well together. So Christianity became diluted and corrupted. More, Christianity became an instrument of the state. Being a good Christian meant being a good citizen and a flag waving patriot. Jesus and the Empire were now one and the same.
Experimental Theology

“For too long we have read scripture with nineteenth-century eyes and sixteenth-century questions. It’s time to get back to reading with first-century eyes and twenty-first century questions.” – N.T. Wright VIA

I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the exotic unfamiliarity of Buddhism in contrast to the assumed familiarity of Christianity, or the fact that Buddhists are less numerous and politically significant in the West, or something else entirely. But when the Dalai Lama speaks of ahimsa, people lap it up. But when a Christian speaks of nonviolence, people call it irresponsible.
Matt Stone

It is a tragedy that, among those who uphold the banner of redemptive violence (especially at a global level), the voices of Christians are often the loudest.  What Sharon Baker sets out to do in Razing Hell is remind those who follow Jesus that the way to peace is through restoration and reconciliation, not retribution.
Razing Hell

first we humbly seek for God. Then we humbly speak with God. Soon, though, we may proudly speak for God … and then we arrogantly speak as if we were God!
Friend of Brian’s

I’m sorry to burst your bubble here, but every major heresy that has inflicted God’s people for the last 2,000 years has come from organized groups with “leaders” who thought they knew God’s mind better than anyone around them. Conversely, virtually every move of God among people hungering for Him was rejected by the “church” of that day, and the people that were part of that move were excluded, excommunicated or executed for following God.
Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore

An authority structure such as the church is the perfect culture for codependence. I see how complicit I was in its vivacity. I know people depended on me to make decisions for them in every sphere of their lives, from financial, to relational, to spiritual and everything else. And even though I resented it, I did allow it to some extent
the naked pastor

These quotes go hand in hand. The danger of heresy comes not from whether someone is a part of a local congregation or not, but from pride and arrogance. This pride and arrogance can be seen in an attitude that I/we [a congregation, denomination or religion] know God fully enough; that we have God’s authority or are operating under God’s authority – so of course we have the responsibility to impose our beliefs on another.

On the other hand, I have come to believe that Christianity is NOT God’s approved religion! Christianity is man’s attempt at compiling doctrines and practices into a neat and organized box. That God does not move exclusively or even primarily within this christian religion box, rather, God’s spirit hovers over the whole of the sea of humanity and is at work within all nations, people groups and religions. I am NOT saying that ALL religious roads lead to God; like a statement found in The Shack, I believe that God is on all roads and will meet humanity on whatever road its on. Do we, in the Christian Box, have something to offer others? Of course we do. But so might Buddhists, Muslims and atheists!

Finally, our beliefs, practices and actions ARE important. These things help to model us and the society we are apart of. As such, values judgments can be made on different worldviews and religious doctrines and dogmas. These affect how we  react to:

  • violence (9/11, the war on terror, …)
  • economics (our recession, the poverty of the majority of humanity, …)
  • power struggles (the struggle of protesters against political policies and actions, …)
  • ecology(global warming, oil spills, …)

So, for instance, I’ll reject and make value judgments on worldview boxes which  believes that:

  • the world will come a violent end as a means to a peaceful reign of their God
  • God will bless or curse certain people or groups of people based on their relationship to said God
  • believes that we need to make our culture adhere to our beliefs and practices
  • believes that the earth is destined to be renewed by their God so global warming is either not important or is not factual.

Rather I believe, base on my faith and the understanding of Jesus’ life and teachings that:

  • Peace is the means and the end. The reign of Christ, the era of the Messiah, has already been inaugurated in the life and death of Jesus.  (If there  is a second coming, it will follow this model of peace being the means and the end.)
  • Blessings and Curses from a deity is archaic. We who are living in the Kingdom of God must realize that any blessings we have, should be used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, release those in captivity …
  • Citizenship is not to any nation. As such, the policies of the  nation in which I live are not up to me to change.
  • The earth is God’s and it is our responsibility to care for her.

The American political powers that be have to support the Israeli political powers that be, whatever those folks might do, because the Bible says that God blesses those who bless Israel.  Unless we want cursing, we have our marching orders.  Now that that’s settled, what’s on TV tonight?

Here my only small comment is that I’m not sure the American church ever gets a particularly thoughtful theological discussion of the issues at hand, because the popular dialogue is incredibly loudly dominated by one proof-texted point.  I’ve done a little work on how that came to be.  But it still seems bracing to me when I run across it; it always catches me off-guard.
Not the religious type. – also read.

David Schmelzer quotes from his book Not The Religious Type, Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist. Very interesting.

We can no longer be satisfied by simply being the Church for the poor from our position of establishment. We must realize that sometimes that very generosity, that very attempt to be good to other people, has kept us in a position of power and superiority. Somehow we must be of and with the poor, and then be ready for some mistrust and even criticism.

Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999), the holy Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, said it so truthfully, “As long as I fed the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked, ‘Why are there so many poor people?’ they called me a communist.”
Richard Rohr via waving or drowming

And for a little humor:

The funny thing about growing in Christ is that you don’t start from a blank slate; you start from erroneously held beliefs about the way it all works. And erroneously held beliefs don’t vanish the second someone says, “Jesus, I put my faith in you alone.”
more

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” — Clay Shirky
more

If I am not a little embarrassed by what I said yesterday, I probably didn’t learn anything today.
Spencer Burke on the Drew Marshall Show

and

The sphincter is still a part of the body of Christ
Drew from the same interview.