Thursday, October 30, 2008

NOV 4: what it can't solve

I'm excited for the election!!!!!! .... to be over.

But I think it'll degenerate into dismay and lawsuits. I hope not...but this time things have gotten very weird. Obama is not the Messiah. McCain is not who we've all ben waiting for either. The answers don't come quickly. The people in office are not magicians, and they can't keep their promises, and by can't, I mean are not given that power. And also, they often don't expect to keep them all. This is reality. Nov 4th can't solve too much.

Politics runs by the engine of $, power, and fear, really. If you get people afraid of something, they can vote for you, and calm themselves.

I remember hearing one of the best things ever... "Perfect love casts out fear." That's what I'm taking to the polls. Yes, I'm voting. I'm not endorsing. I'm not confident about how this election cycle is going, or how this country is thinking. There are a few crisis 'out there", not least of which is that we think the President should solve our problems. I read a bunch of 4th graders essays tacked to the wall, and they all said what the would do if they were President. Most of them would "be kind", "help the earth", "lower taxes", and "give people money"... but are they learning what the job entails? No. Most of us don't know all it entails. We find it's easy to complain though.

Bigger than that, what is our "job", our mission, in our corner of the world? I really think we don't get beamed up to heaven once we become reconciled to God because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. God uses us to get things done.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The New Book

I just bought this image (over there) for the book I'm working on called "Outsourcing Jesus: Culture, Emerging Christianity, and the Stained Glass Ceiling".

It's about the nature of how we come up with an understanding of it unfolds, and why we all tend to pair off the unpleasant things of Christianity, and other aspects of life. In what ways does our experience help to love and understand our Creator, and in what ways may we attempt to "study" such a mysterious Being? How does the Narrative of God express his uncompromising goodness and love, and the ongoing longing and cry of our heart, which is, in reality, God's longing for us, (since he loves us first). And what has Christianity (on the left and on the right sides of things) failed to take into account about what is very crucial to living our spirituality, namely, redemption?

Maybe Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin aren't the only ones who should shatter glass ceilings, I'm ready to weigh in.

Stay tuned for many more bits of info coming. And please, I welcome your thoughts!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thought on spiritual formation

thought for the day:

" We would not be so prone to self-deception if we did not hope that by that means to avoid shame."

(pg 87. Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls. Moon and Benner, InterVarsity Press 2004)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Interview / Dialogue with Ed Cyzewski author of "Coffeehouse Theology"

Thanks for taking the time for this interview and dialogue Ed!

As I mentioned before, feel free to post additional comments, or respond to comments. The nature of this medium is great for this sort of fluid exchange.

me: What was your main purpose in writing Coffeehouse Theology?

Ed: I took a swing at this one at the Emergent Village blog, but I'll swing again here. You don't have to read a lot of theology books to know they're not accessible for average people in the church, even the emergent books that claim to be easy reads. So I set out to pull together the various ideas out there for theology, but to also make them as accessible as possible. In addition, I wanted to help Christians move toward greater unity in the midst of theological diversity because we are united in our common love for Christ our Savior.

me: As a means of knowing God, Scripture isn't minimized in your book, it's given primacy. In postmodern times, where authority in general is seen with suspension, why do you posit to view Scripture with such authority, over experience, and other means?

Ed: Ha! I'm glad you asked the question that way. I use the word "primacy" to avoid the word authority. Scot McKnight just gave a great talk at Biblical Seminary on October 10th where he spoke about scriptural authority contrasted with the centrality of relationship, stating that God wants us to obey out of relationship, not out of authority. So scripture is primary, but it's primary because it leads us to a relationship with God. As we discover the love of God and love God as well, we'll obey scripture and we won't need an authoritarian view of scripture because it's leading us to obedience through a relationship with God.

I start theology with God at the center because the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us from scripture. So we ultimately look to God, though scripture is primary over our traditions and other Christians. Our traditions and fellow Christians provide insights to guide our readings of scripture, meaning that scripture is primary and connects us with God, but we always need to interact with perspectives outside our own. As we interact with other perspectives and the Holy Spirit empowers us to live in the truth of scripture, we are better able to stand up under the suspicion of postmodern times.

me: Your take on lived out theology seems to be that a number of factors play into how we live out our belief and knowledge of God, and that’s it's important to see several things well to love God, understand him better, and live out our calling. How do you think we should rate their importance? (i.e. Scripture, culture, tradition, church, and so on.)

It's hard to really rate these things since it's an ongoing dialogue where we're always learning, interacting, shaping, and then reshaping our theology. I begin the book with culture not because it's most important, but if we don't understand culture and how it influences us and how we need to fulfill our prophetic calling in the world, then we are severely limited in our theology. So I wouldn't say culture is more important, but it can be a problem if not understood. Having said that, I'd say that we being theology with a relationship with God, then follow that with scripture, and then the traditions and global church.

I appreciate your perspective about an "ongoing dialogue" which is involved in continually reshaping our theology. It seems these are dynamic, not stagnant, factors, and their interplay is what causes growth and lived out faith.

One common view of our times is that we can't arrive at truth solidly, (this occurs in Christian circles too). As we live out our theology (with the factors you’ve mentioned) what can we know?

Ed: As far as truth goes, we can know quite a bit. However, there have been shifts in the way we know, and the amount we think we know. Instead of digging into the Bible with an ahistorical approach seeking out absolute principles that are always true (I'm painting with broad strokes for the sake of brevity), we face the challenge of entering the Bible as participants in a theological conversation over 2000 years and across continents. We're not the only ones doing this, and our perspectives face the limitations of our context. Therefore, I'm interested in understanding my context, and the ways it shapes me so I am prepared to be relevant and prophetic, but also so I can seek out the perspectives of Christians throughout history and the world in order to bring balance and help sharpen my ideas. Perhaps my take on the truth will change, maybe it will not.

All that to say, to say we need to be humble about our take on the truth is not giving up on truth. If anything, I'm affirming what the Bible says about seeing only in a glass darkly and God's ways being higher than what we can conceive. God sees the big picture of truth, and so we seek out the Holy Spirit's lead within our Christian communities as we seek out God's life-changing truth. We don't give up because we can't be 100% certain, but rather we live by faith and continue to read, study, converse, and embody God's revelation.

Can you explain briefly what you mean by "global church" how this plays into contextual theology?

Ed: [I mean] Christians throughout the world who offer different perspectives that we should consider for our theology. For example, Christians throughout the world opposed the Iraq War, while many Christians in America supported it. That strikes me as a situation where Christians in America need to ask why Christians throughout the world didn't support the war.

To you, what things determine integrating global church perspectives to our own?

Ed: We look to Christians outside our own context because we'll never get the whole picture of the truth on our own. They will inevitably see things we will not. For example, in the book I talk about a study of Christians in Eastern Europe who made some striking observations about the famine and xenophobia in the parable of the prodigal son, points that Americans missed. I could read that story over and over again, but probably miss out on the nuances picked up by these Christians. Now I can see that Jesus is addressing fair wages, our treatment of foreigners, and feeding the hungry. How I live out my theology changes radically once I interact with these Christians, even if the core of Christian orthodoxy has not.

However, as we interact with Christians outside our own perspective, we should be careful to keep our central creeds in mind and always run our findings by trusted Christians who can help us process these perspectives. It's not a matter of simply dropping the evaluations of another context into our own, but rather comparing our theologies and letting these other theologies sharpen our own beliefs. Perhaps they'll merely affirm some of our beliefs, while in other cases we'll find ourselves needing to broaden some of our understandings or narrow them. This is always a matter of conversations, not a matter of making American theology win over Asian or Latin American theology. We all have limitations and have something to teach one another.

me: What one nugget of wisdom or vision would you hope to pass along from your book, if nothing else?

Ed: I think we can't overestimate the importance of making God the center in our theology. Jesus said the scriptures testified about him, so while scripture is important and even essential, scripture's main role is leading us to Christ. However, many churches make the Bible their foundation or starting point, which means disagreements on the Bible can divide churches. It's been this emphasis on pure doctrine derived from scripture over the person of Jesus that has caused so much division--we have a hard time dealing with doctrinal diversity because we have made the Bible our foundation, not Christ. While doctrine is important, and I would never leave behind the doctrines passed down throughout history in the creeds, it is the triune God we meet in the Christian faith. That means we cannot have any other starting or ending point than Christ Jesus.

me: Thanks for expounding a bit more on your book, and some ideas about knowing God. I hope the dialogue continues.

Monday, October 13, 2008

UPCOMING -Exclusive Interview with Ed Cyzewski on "Coffeehouse Theology"

I'm really enjoyed going through Ed Cyzewski's ideas in Coffeehouse Theology", and I think you would too.

Ed is open about his vantage point as being post-conservative and emerging. He approaches the topic of the lived-out knowing of God, or as he puts it contextual Theology (i.e. Coffeehouse Theology) not with the pre-fab answers Christianity, (read: evangelicalism) has grown accustomed to. He understands the post modernity cultural purview, admits the vast mystery of God, but also appreciates and unpacks the vehicles helpful for greater understanding and growth in Christian spiritually.

A graphic he uses called "a web of theology" illustrates how interconnected the sources of Christian sources and context are. They comprise, God (as a revelatory source and guide), Scripture (the primary source of God's revelation), Tradition (informs and add insights...), and the global church (informs and add insights...), and these resides within the cultrual/context and also within the purpose of the Mission of God. The Mission is the reason we do theology.

I may argue that the primary source of revelation is Jesus, the Incarnation, and scripture is the revelation revealed through the Holy Spirit, and the record of the revelation of God's revelation, and primary only in the sense that we access in this way, and not Christ in flesh. But this minor point is hardly an area of contention.

Ed gives us a lot to think about, and a ton of further reading resources. For those with little understanding of how culture effects belief, his book can be eye-opening. It also helps to better know and use the various spheres that enable us to better understand what is difficult to fully know-God. Surely we can love and know God, but fully comprehending him, that is a life long journey that won't end until the veil is gone. This entire effort is our practical theology that builds the framework for our life and mission when we are lovers of God aware of his love for us.

Instead of just typing up a review of this book, or a fully-orbed summary, I thought if I could actually pick Ed's brain with some questions, it might be more fun and interesting. If you have questions about the topics, the book, or anything discussed, chime in.

Stay tuned for the interview!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Object of affection

Even love unrequited has an entity of affections. A beloved in fantasy and imagination, though supposed, is still an object that is other.

We can never forget that to love, we cannot be alone. God, then must be One and also three persons. Before creation, the One could be recipient as lover and beloved as such. And with creation that love could continue should the creation be aware of love bestowed, and indeed, even better, give it back.

Is love the greatest thing? Yes. St. Paul says... "The greatest of these (faith, hope, and love) is love." It may be the single thing that proves we are not alone.

It is the sole thing of communal relationship-unity and harmony.

In the case of God, TRI-UNITY.

Monday, October 06, 2008

brief thoughts on theological/philosophical matters

Given, of course, that God created us and exists:

If God is bad, then we are here for badness-sake.
(who, but the pathological, think we are here for that?)

If He is good, then we are here for goodness-sake.

If He is ambivalent, then it shouldn't matter why we are here (for what sake). And we shouldn't care either.
(but it does, and we do)

If He is absent (to our experience), then we are the ones who are lost.
So, if he is good but absent (to our experience) then we will become found.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

life is like a prayer










... back to God

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Catherine of Siena

She said discernment helps to perceive self not as central, but as a gift we can abandon to love others properly. The learner is the "light" for the eye, needed to illuminate so we love with God's love, and not be blinded by our self love.

It's an idea of ministry not in keeping with our times.

-Edited from "discernment and truth" , Mark McIntosh, herder & herder 2004