Showing posts from August, 2015

Seven Things the Holy Spirit Might Be Trying to Tell You

August 26, 2015 by 3 Comments
For many of us it can be hard to believe that the Holy Spirit speaks in a way that is real or helpful.
That struggle can be traced to a number of factors: We live in a culture that doesn’t expect God to “show up.”  When we do talk about the work of the Holy Spirit, we use rarified, impenetrable, stained-glass language.  And most of what we expect to hear in listening to the Spirit is couched in such pious jargon that we find it hard to believe that any of it applies directly to us.

I’ve come to the conclusion that often what the Spirit of God has to say to us is far more practical, blunt, and candid.  Here are a few things I’ve heard or that others have reported hearing:

One: Just do something.
Responding to the will of God is not necessarily about doing the one, right, thing —  unless moral considerations are at stake – and even then, there may be more than one faithful choice to make. God trusts us with freedom and creativity. Strike o…

Soldiering and the Kingdom of God

Often those who do not understand Jesus’ teaching as embracing non-violent resistance point to John the Baptist’s answering soldiers’ questions in a way that does not call for them to reject that form of service to the empire. Hence, they reason, soldiering and warfare must be acceptable and faithful ways to serve the kingdom of God as well.
But I wonder. Imagine with me that such a soldier follows John’s counsel and remains in his position. Then he signs up to follow Jesus too, again on John’s direction. He hears Jesus’ teach and takes it to heart as well. He remembers that Jesus taught his followers that they should carry a soldier’s gear an extra mile beyond the one they could be compelled to carry it. This soldier rightly reason that as a follower of Jesus he should not burden Jewish peasants by forcing them to go that extra mile.
A fellow soldier observes his mate not exerting his power by not making the Jews go the extra mile.
“What’s up, buddy? Why not get a Jew to take your load…

Why Do We Have To "Bear the Cross" After the Resurrection and Will There Ever Be A Time When We Won't Have To?

If the resurrection of Jesus is the victory over sin, death, and the devil, why is the cross still so significant in following Jesus? Shouldn’t it be left behind as an object of veneration and gratitude for all Jesus accomplished on it and resurrection victory be the mode of life this side of that great event? Yet much we read in New Testament about following Jesus remains ordered around the cross. Why is this?
Two things about this seem important to me. The first is the reality that the church lives in the time between Christ’s resurrection (victory; D-Day to use World War II imagery) and his return (V-Day). In that period in between the two (like the year between D-Day and V-Day in the war) fighting continues even though the outcome of the war has been determined. This being the case, the cross remains central for the church because the cross is the way we fight our battles!
A second thing is that the resurrection serves as God’s validation and vindication of Jesus’ way of life as God…

Wise Words on Biblical Interpretation

Some people assume that accepting the authority of Scripture requires a literal reading of the text. In other words, sometimes people confuse attachment to reading the Bible in a certain way (or, more technically, commitment to a certain hermeneutic) with acknowledging the authority of Scripture.Reading the Bible means interpreting the Bible. Some passages are clearly more difficult to interpret than others, but whenever we read we are interpreting.Interpretation is not up to each individual. It is not merely subjective or always relative to each reader. And yet interpretation is an art and not a science. Equally faithful people can arrive at differing interpretations.Passages of the Bible are laden with what Paul Ricoeur called surplus meaning. There is always more than what any one of us happen to find at any particular time, so we need to hear from each other.The Word of God is Jesus. Jesus is the perfect revelation of God…

Not Your Every Sunday Confession of Faith (But Maybe It Should Be)

Dorothee Sölle shared the confession of faith below at an event on October 1, 1968 in Cologne. It drew no small amount of critique (including at least one charge of heresy). It illustrates well her axiom that theological statements are also political ones.
I believe in God
who created the world not ready made
like a thing that must forever stay what it is
who does not govern according to eternal laws
that have perpetual validity
nor according to natural orders
of poor and rich,
experts and ignoramuses,
people who dominate and people subjected.
I believe in God
who desires the counter-argument of the living
and the alteration of every condition
through our work
through our politics.
I believe in Jesus Christ
who was right when he
“as an individual who can’t do anything”
just like us
worked to alter every condition
and came to grief in so doing
Looking to him I discern
how our intelligence is crippled,
our imagination suffocates,
and our exertion is in vain
because we do not live as …

Seven Further Things You Might Believe Are True About Christianity But Are NOT!

1.An Inspired Bible does Not entail an inerrant Bible.

Inspiration tells us the Bible comes from God and reliably communicates his message to humanity. It does not dictate how God communicates his truth. Can God not use errors and idiots to speak his word to us? Asses and Assholes? Legends and myths? In other words, how God speaks his inspired word has to be determined inductively from the kinds of materials, sources, and speakers we find in it. Not deductively from a claim that if God is perfectly true, therefore his Word is perfectly true, true being understood as in a modernist historical and scientific sense (neither of which, ironically, were true of the times in which the Bible was written). 
2.The Gospels are NOT historical accounts that give us a chronological rehearsal of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Why do we have four gospels, then? And why do they not agree at numerous points? Were three or all four of them simply poor historians? No, they were first century historian-biographer…

Seven More Things You May Think Are True About Christianity But Are NOT.

1.The Bible’s God does NOT seek or enjoy punishing human beings (Lam.3:33)!
The “God with a Scowl” of such recent infamy is not the Christian deity. That “god” is creation of pagan thought, unworthy of either deity or humanity. The Christian God, on the other hand, is wholly love, implacably love. He will exercise “tough” love as discipline, as necessary but this love is always aimed at our restoration and growth.
2.The Bible’s God is NOT uninterested or unaffected by our prayers.
Though it is popular to claim that prayer is good for the one who prays (and this certainly true), that God neither wants, or responds to our prayers is false. In fact, the chief good prayer does for the pray-er is to enter into a mystery – a relationship with a God who is not all uninterested in us and our perspective on things, our needs and wants. And one who does respond and under whose sovereign our lives and history itself unfolds differently if we pray than if we do not.
3.It is NOT improper, unspiritual,…

Missional Church is Nothing But ...

Missional church is nothing but a Sunday morning service with some justice projects added on.
I don’t agree with this statement at all. I do not think this describes what missional church is. Nonetheless, during my travels, a majority of my encounters with self described missional churches can be described in this way. There is a massive disconnect between the practices traditionally described as church – including Sunday morning worship – and life in the neighborhood and communities where we live, where we engage the mission of God as a people.

I think this construal of church (Sunday morning services + some add on justice projects) is bad because:

It makes justice into a project. When we organize endeavors from the center to reach places of overt need, injustices in our neighborhoods, places of violence and hurt, we inevitably turn people into a project. We gather our people around a cause, we raise resources and then we swoop in to help a problem (we have …

Evangelical Christianity’s Love Affair With Ronda Rousey Reveals Its Hypocrisy

August 2, 2015August 2, 2015 / johndpav

For a while now, I’ve witnessed my Evangelical Christian brothers and sisters bowing at the sacred altar of Ronda Rousey.

I’ve watched them genuflect in reverence at her growing legacy of domination in her field.

I’ve seen their breathless adoration and effusive social media praise as they speak of her now-expected savage dispatch of her latest opponent.

I’ve watched their enthusiastic public invitations to pay-per-view church parties where Rousey and others will do the work of beating and bruising one another into submission.

And this week I’ve once again witnessed their giddy exhilaration in the wake of another of her brutal displays of physical dominance over another woman.

I’m always surprised (and entertained) at how out of character this is for these fanboys and girls, since I know them so very well.

You see, these are many of the same folks who spend the rest of their daily lives as the self-ordained Morality Police; always lifting up the “auth…

Becoming Personal

Fr. Stephen FreemanLeave a Comment
“Person” is among the most difficult words in the classical Christian vocabulary. It is difficult on the one hand because the word has a common meaning in modern parlance that is not the same meaning as its classical one. And it is difficult on the other hand even when all of its later meanings and associations are stripped away – because what it seeks to express is simply a very difficult concept. Most of what the world understands as “person” is either a description of the “ego” or of a legal concept. But Person (I will capitalize it for use in its classical form) is not at all the same thing as the ego. In the ego, we describe a set of feelings, choices, memory, desires, etc. that are unique. It is, in its most true form, turned in on itself. The ego is “me for myself.” For many people, when they think of life after death, they imagine some continuation of the ego. Indeed, many of our thoughts about heaven seem problematic precisely because they see…

The Dones, Rob Bell, and the Future of Progressive (and Evangelical) Christianity

July 31, 2015 by 1 Comment Photo: Brett Thatcher, Creative Commons 4.0 via #InstaBLAM A few days ago I wrote a piece on my personal blog about “Graduating.”
It was partly a reflection on the story of Rob Bell and how it resonates with my own. It was also about the “Dones” and “post-church” category and how I identify not with the category itself, but with certain elements of the category even as I carve out my own path ahead.
I am “done” – with evangelical church as usual. I’m done with any ministry obligation to that category and identity. I can’t do it anymore, and neither can my family. In that sense, I am graduating. That said, there is a flip side to the equation, and one that makes this promotion an emotional and spiritual move up rather than merely an ideological move left. Really, I find myself just as disinterested in being a good progressive as I am in being a good evangelical. This is a moving forward in that strange lane sometimes called the messy middle. Read more a…