Tuesday, September 16, 2014

“The Top Ten Reasons This Will Never Work”: On Leading Change in the Church



Several times, after presenting to a group of pastors on re-shaping the practice of the church for Mission, I lead a closing session where I ask pastors to share their top reasons for why “this will never work.” Last Spring I was in Nebraska leading a pastor’s workshop for the American Baptist Pastors, and during this session one of the pastors gave me his top ten reasons in written form. I think they are great. My apologies to the pastor who wrote this list because I do not have his name. The list is instructive as to what blocks congregations from change. Here’s the list in bold, along with my quick responses in italics. What other hurdles do you face in leading change in your church body? What responses might you have to this list?

1. “We’ve never done it that way before!”  And that’s possibly why we need to do this? Change requires doing something different than what has gone on before.

2. Unbelief in God’s power and presence.  If we would lead change at all, we must lead people into Christ’s presence via prayer and the Eucharist. It is the foundation of all transformation in the church.

3. “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” We must ask ourselves what does it mean for something ”to work” in God’s church, and how long we might have to wait  to see it happen. God is so excessively patient.

read more at http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/?p=4575

Saturday, September 13, 2014

But what about revolution? more notes on Christianity and society

Saturday, 13 September 2014
1. Injustice is bad. Anarchy is worse.

2. Revolution may be divided into two main types. Fast Revolution refers to the overthrow of political authority by a popular movement. Slow Revolution refers to the deep transformation of social institutions from within. The first type of revolution can occur overnight while the second occurs over several generations.

3. It is not advisable for any social theory to stipulate the precise conditions under which Fast Revolution would be justified. When dealing with exceptions to the rule, it is best not to try to regulate them within the bounds of a theory. However, a Christian theory of society ought to have a presumptive preference for Slow Revolution over Fast Revolution, and for stability over disorder, even while allowing that Fast Revolution might be legitimate in certain exceptional circumstances.

4. Fast Revolution may further be divided into two types: a popular revolt against political authority, and the overthrow of a bad ruler by subordinate lawful authorities. The first is an act of rebellion, the second an act of political responsibility. Calvin allowed for the second type – the defeat of tyranny through, and for the sake of, law. But he believed the first type is impermissible since lawlessness is an even greater evil than injustice. Christians, he noted, are able to live faithfully within many different kinds of social orders, including very unjust ones.

5. For the most part, Christianity has been a "revolutionary" force in society only in the sense of a Slow Revolution. The Christian message has the capacity to transform a society through the gradual reform of human relationships and institutions over many successive generations.

6. Historically, Slow Revolution has proved much more lastingly transformative than popular movements of Fast Revolution. In the great modern revolutionary movements, an initial period of terror and bloodshed is generally followed by a return to pre-revolutionary structures with minor modifications. As Crane Brinton has said of the French Revolution, "The blood of the martyrs seems hardly necessary to establish decimal coinage" (Brinton, Anatomy of Revolution).

7. Distinct from all these types of revolution is civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is not rebellion against political authority but an act of political responsibility in which some particular law is broken for the sake of another (more basic or more important) law, or for the sake of some widely shared value in a society. Christians have a long and illustrious history of civil disobedience. Martyrdom involved the dual act of submission to lawful authority (i.e. submitting to a penal sentence) and disobedience to the same authority (i.e. refusing to participate in the imperial cult). Even such an extreme form of civil disobedience was carried out on behalf of, and not against, the existing social order.

8. Where Christians have refused to participate in certain institutions, they have done so not in a spirit of rebellion but as a form of deeper social solidarity. Early hellenistic critics claimed that Christians posed a threat to the social order because of their refusal to serve in the army. Origen replied: "We help the emperor in his extremities by our prayers and intercessions more effectively than do the soldiers…. In this way we overcome the real disturbers of the peace, the demons. Thus we fight for the emperor more than the others, though we do not fight with him, nor at his command" (Origen, Contra Celsum).

9. Thus throughout its history the church has proved to be an "unreliable ally" in every social order (Karl Barth). As civilisations rise and grow old and eventually sink into ruin and decay, the Christian community renews itself continually through its gospel of a transcendent order of righteousness and peace. 

How Apple is Invading Our Bodies

With the unveiling of the Apple Watch Tuesday in Cupertino, California, Apple is attempting to put technology somewhere where it’s never been particularly welcome. Like a pushy date, the Apple Watch wants to get intimate with us in a way we’re not entirely used to or prepared for. This isn’t just a new product, this is technology attempting to colonize our bodies.
The Apple Watch is very personal—“personal” and “intimate” were words that Apple CEO Tim Cook and his colleagues used over and over again when presenting it to the public for the first time. That’s where the watch is likely to change things, because it does something computers aren’t generally supposed to: it lives on your body. It perches on your wrist, like one of Cinderella’s helpful bluebirds. It gets closer than we’re used technology getting. It gets inside your personal bubble. We’re used to technology being safely Other, but the Apple Watch wants to snuggle up and become part of your Self.

Friday, September 12, 2014

πίστις χριστοῦ, ‘Faith in Christ’ or ‘Faith of Christ': More on the Vicarious Humanity of Christ

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I have written, in the past, on the vicarious faith of Christ for us; and also had a guest post, here, by Myk Habets on the same topic. I want to further highlight this reality as it is presented for us in the Epistle of Galatians.

This continues to represent a hot topic in biblical and exegetical studies, and through this post, once again you will understand what I think about this. The issue has to do with what in the Greek is pistis Christou πίστις χριστοῦ –‘the faithfulness or faith of Christ’. So the issue of contention is whether this phrase should be translated ‘faith in Christ’ (the objective genetive in the Greek), or ‘the faithfulness or faith of Christ’ (the subjective genetive in the Greek); I opt for the latter translation (the subjective genetive)—here is a post wherein I deal head on with this issue Galatains 2.20, Vicarious Humanity and Faith, and Interpretive Tradition in Evangelical Calvinist ExegesisJ. Louis Martyn is an exegete front and center in this debate; he writes:
I live in faith, that is to say in the faith of the Son of God. The place in which the I lives this new life is not only that of everyday human existence but also and primarily the place of faith (the stress lies on the end of the sentence). Were it only the former, it would not be life “to God” (v. 19). Were it only the latter it would be a futile attempt to escape the specific place in which one was called (I Cor. 7:20-24).
But what is this newly created faith-place? A linguistic clue is found in the degree of parallelism between Gal. 2:20 and Rom 5:15:

Gal 2:20                                                                           Rom 5:15
(and the life I now live in the flesh)                        (and the free gift abounds)
I live in faith,                                                                     in grace,
namely the faith of the                                                  namely the grace of
Son of God . . .                                                                    Jesus Christ

to read more:  http://growrag.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/%CF%80%CE%AF%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B9%CF%82-%CF%87%CF%81%CE%B9%CF%83%CF%84%CE%BF%E1%BF%A6-faith-in-christ-or-faith-of-christ-more-on-the-vicarious-humanity-of-christ/

Living in a World of “Little Boys With Their Porno”


Karl Barth and N.T. Wright Side by Side on Philippians 2:5-11 and the ‘Emptying’


Here is the pericope under consideration by both Karl Barth and N.T. Wright, respectively:
kenosis5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:5-11

Here is how Barth comments on the reality of this passage:
Positively his self-emptying refers to the fact that, without detracting from his being in the form of God, he was able and willing to assume the form of a servant and go about in the likeness of a human being, so that the creature could know him only as a creature, and he alone could know himself as God. In other words, he was ready to accept a position in which he could not be known in the world as God, but his divine glory was concealed from the world. This was his self-emptying…. His deity becomes completely invisible to all other eyes but his own. What distinguishes him from the creature disappears from everyone’s sight but his own with his assumption of the human form of a servant with its natural end in death, and above all with his death as that of a criminal on the cross…. He can so empty himself that, without detracting from his form as God, he can take the form of a servant, concealing his form of life as God, and going about in the likeness of a human being…. It all takes place in his freedom and therefore not in self-contradiction or with any alteration or diminution of his divine being…. This means that so far from being contrary to the nature of God, it is of his essence to possess the freedom to be capable of this self-offering and self-concealment, and beyond this to make use of this freedom, and therefore really to effect this self-offering and to give himself up to this self-humiliation. In this above all he is concealed as God. Yet it is here above all that he is really and truly God. Thus it is above all that he must and will also be revealed in his deity by the power of God. [Karl Barth, CD II/1, 516-17 cited by George Hunsinger, How To Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology, 86-7, Nook version.]

And then N. T. Wright on the same passage and reality:
Let’s clear one misunderstanding out of the way in case it still confuses anybody. In verse 7 Paul says that Jesus ‘emptied himself’. People have sometimes thought that this means that Jesus, having been divine up to that point, somehow stopped being divine when he became human, and then went back to being divine again. This is, in fact, completely un-true to what Paul has in mind. The point of verse 6 is that Jesus was indeed already equal with God; somehow Paul is saying that Jesus already existed even before he became a human being (verse 7). But the decision to become human, and to go all the way along the road of obedience, obedience to the divine plan of salvation, yes, all the way was not a decision to stop being divine. It was a decision about what it really meant to be divine. [N. T. Wright, Paul For Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 84, Nook version.]

Critical Reflection

Both Barth and Wright affirm the traditional (and dare I say contextual) sense of this text;

read more at  http://growrag.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/karl-barth-and-n-t-wright-side-by-side-on-philippians-25-11-and-the-emptying/

Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology?



"Chicken or the Egg?" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Chicken or the Egg?” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
This drawing is inspired by the Ouroboros snake.

What came first? The chicken or the egg?

What came first? The thug or the theology?

I read Tony Jones’ thoughts on Mark Driscoll. Jones has always admired Driscoll, maybe envies him a little, wants the best for him, believes he can be redeemed, and suggests that things can be restored.
What I found most interesting though is that Jones believes the problem with Driscoll is theological.
  • He titles his post is “Thoughts about Mark Driscoll”
  • He talks about the “heady” days of publishing and speaking.
  • He dismisses his disturbing personality traits by his use of the word “sure”.
  • He says it isn’t a moral issue (evil) but that he is passionate.
  • He says more than once that Driscoll is “extremely smart” or “brilliant”.
  • He suggests that he will “see” (as in “think”?) his way out of this.
  • He writes that Driscoll has just embraced a toxic version of theology.
  • He hopes that Driscoll will turn away from this toxic theology.
  • He concludes therefore that Driscoll is not the problem, but his theology.

But my question is…

What came first? The thug or the theology?

- See more at: http://nakedpastor.com/2014/09/tony-jones-on-mark-driscoll-what-came-first-the-thug-or-the-theology/#sthash.k6wbOgk3.s0Z2IBxM.dpuf