Papal Critique

April 29, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI recently said this to a group of American bishops: “Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted . . . To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.”

This strikes me as a critique of the American church for failing to speak up within the arena of American politics, particularly as US foreign policy is increasingly perceived as overly militaristic and arrogant. What do you think? Is “private” Christianity a soulless exercise? If so, what does “public” Christianity look like?


Double Uh-Oh Seven

April 22, 2008

James Bond Film Director: Okay. We’re ready to start filming the big car chase. Where is the Aston Martin?

Guy Who Was Supposed to Deliver It: Ummmm….

Liveblogging: Notes from Rohr’s Lecture

April 21, 2008

Rohr believes the central identity of the emerging church arises from its ability to bring together different traditions. He uses the phrase “spiritual globalization” to describe this idea. He also notes that there seems to be no central leadership or structure, and he attributes the growth of the movement (potentially, at least) to the work of the Holy Spirit.

He also views the emerging church as a reformational movement within existing structures, as opposed to an effort to create a new denomination or self-perpetuating institution. In that sense, the movement acts to identify denominational biases and to help us to “own” them and also separate our identity from them.

The essential elements of the emerging church: (1) honest Jesus scholarship (we allow Jesus to be Jewish, living in his own time, own culture, and we hear him on his own terms), (2) concern for social justice (as opposed to solely focusing on individual salvation), (3) the “contemplative eye” (consciousness of reality is transformed from an “either/or” phenomenon to a “both/and” phenomenon), and (4) a search for new vehicles to form disciples (but, he says, these new vehicles have yet to emerge).

On element 3, he makes a fascinating point: he says that Jesus was the first “non-dual” teacher in Western civilization, and that Christians have been trying to make him dualistc ever since. Emergent is trying to restore the perception of Jesus as a “non-dual” teacher. I wish he could have unpacked this more. I think it would have been very interesting.

[Post Script – having liveblogged this event, I feel like I have participated in an important rite of passage within the emerging movement. I wonder if Andrew Jones should send me a certificate of achievement or something. Maybe at least Jason Clark will comment…]

Liveblogging: "The Angels Stop to Listen"

April 21, 2008

I’m at Radford Auditorium at McMurry University where Rachel’s ballet company is rehearsing for a performance that will proceed tonight’s lecture on Emerging Worship by Fr. Richard Rohr.

The company is performing the lead piece from their tour program this year, which is based on Hosanna, a favorite track from Jason Morant’s album Open. The act of sharing this album with Anna Gillette, the company director, is about as close as I am ever going to come to choreographing a dance.

I’ve seen them do this piece about 3-4 times now, and it still moves me. There is something about the way Morant – and now the entire company – explore the humility/humanity of Jesus and yet still exalt him to the status of Lord over creation that gives me chill bumps.

There was a man;
Who smiled like the sunrise;
His face I can’t forget.
His love displayed is unlike any other.

He humbly dressed just like a vagabond;
With discourse like a King.
And when he spoke,
The angels stopped to listen.

Hosanna! [An interjection meaning roughly – Glory to God]
Filio David [Son of David]
Hosanna in Altisimus [Glory to God in the Highest]


Like I said: chill bumps.

Escape and Renewal

April 20, 2008

This morning during class, I talked about different ways of looking at God’s saving work. Two options were considered.

Option 1: Escape. God’s plan of salvation is to help us to “escape” from creation, which is destined to be destroyed. The end result is that we find bliss as spirits that exist apart from creation – in “heaven,” as most people would put it.

Option 2: Renewal. God’s plan of salvation is to renew his creation. As a critical part of this process, he must also renew humankind by freeing us from sin and death. The end result is that we are resurrected into a renewed world.

Option 1 presents a lot of problems for me:
1. If God’s creation is good, why would he want to destroy it? Did he suddenly decide just to give up on the project?
2. What is the point of all the things Jesus tells us to do which are designed to make this world better? If it is doomed anyway, why not just tell people about how to punch their ticket to a better place?
3. Rather than something that God conquers, death itself becomes the victory. Death represents the point in our existence where God saves us.
4. Resurrection has no meaning, and is not even desirable. Why would I want to be raised back into this world when God’s goal is to get me into heaven?

Option 2, on the other hand, is much more satisfying:
1. Creation is seen as worthwhile.
2. Investment in creation by doing right by our neighbors, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, etc. makes sense. Creation isn’t going anywhere, and it is need of a makeover.
3. Death is conquered, not welcomed.
4. Resurrection is central to the victory over death.

The central Christian affirmation, Jedi Master Wright tells us, is that God intends to do for the entire cosmos what he first did in the resurrection of Jesus. In my mind, this is a vastly superior way of reading scripture.

April Reading

April 19, 2008

I’ve started working my way through The Evangelical Universalist, a book written under the pseudonym of Gregory MacDonald.

The author of this book advances the intriguing proposition that Christian universalism (the belief that all people will eventually be saved, though some will suffer temporarily in hell) is consistent with a relatively conservative reading of scripture, such as that which would be advanced by evangelicals.

As many of you know, I am what is sometimes termed a hopeful universalist. That is, I do not believe that scripture actually goes so far as to explicitly teach the concept of universal salvation. However, I do read the biblical witnesses to strongly hint at such a possibility. I also do not believe that the endorsement or teaching of universalsim is a heresy.

A concern that has always kept me from becoming a dogmatic univeralist (that is, someone who actually endorses and teaches it) has been that scripture does not speak to the question of whether God’s work of salvation continues after death. I Corinthians 15:29, which references the practice among early Christians of baptizing for the dead, comes awfully close for me. But it doesn’t actually endorse the practice, and I’m not comfortable basing a slightly unorthodox view of hell on a single, somewhat unusual verse.

Already, however, this book has me thinking. One of the early arguments that is advanced is this: if, in fact, scripture does not teach one way or the other as to whether God’s work of salvation continues after death, which view is more consistent with the overall picture that is painted in scripture?

The answer, the book argues, ought to be obvious: God’s universal love for all people, which – for the evangelical especially – drove him to offer his son on a cross, would surely not give up on a person simply because their physical body has submitted to death.


Limited/No Posting Until April 14

April 2, 2008

Starting on Friday, I’m planning on taking a little break from…well, several things. Including (unless I really feel like it) blogging. As such, I probably won’t be posting again until the week of April 14.