Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Out of the Depths - Sinead O'Connor

And I've heard religion say you're to be feared 
But I don't buy into everything I hear
And it seems to me you're hostage to those rules
That were made by religion and not by you.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Raising Children Un-Fundamentalist When the Damage is Already Done? Cindy Brandt


Recommended blog series: Raising Children Un-Fundamentalist

For parents who were raised in bad religion but want to raise children of faith. 


"No" to Wrath and "Yes" to Love - Part 2 - Greg Albrecht


"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."—Matthew 5:38-45
The first thing we must note after reading this passage is that such behavior is humanly impossible. No mere mortal can perfectly behave as Jesus was teaching—but that is just his point! In the face of the overbearing legalism of his day, Jesus was saying that religious demands to become righteous and attempts to produce righteousness fell far short of the goal of perfection. In this part of the Sermon on the Mount he responded to performance-based religion, and effectively said: "OK—you want to be righteous? Then here's what you will need to do."

This radical and extreme, humanly impossible to produce standard of righteousness he proclaimed is his way of explaining that authentic Christianity can only be given to mere mortals through the new life God grants us, by his grace. This impossible-for-humans-to-produce righteousness is produced in and through us when the risen Lord Jesus lives within us. Having said that, as we read this passage it's obvious that Jesus is teaching us that those who are his followers, those in whom he lives his risen life, those who are transformed from sin and death to love and life, will not seek retribution. 

"No" to Wrath and "Yes" to Love - Part 1 - Greg Albrecht

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who are being saved it is the power of God…—1 Corinthians 1:18
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.—1 Corinthians 2:2
Many, if not most, Christians when they are asked, "Why did Jesus die on the cross?" will give an answer something like this:
To die for our sins. This of course, as far as it goes, is a biblical answer. 
But the answer doesn't end there. Most Christians will continue to explain why Jesus died on the cross by parroting back phrases they have been taught, such as: 

• "He died for our sins so we wouldn't have to"
• "He took our place"
• He "substituted for us." 

So a more complete answer many give often sounds something like this: 

• "Jesus died for our sins—he saved us from the penalty we would have had to pay—he saved us from an eternal torture of hell, because that is surely where God would have sent us if Jesus didn't die for our sins." 

So many, if not most, Christians start with the simple biblically based answer, Jesus died for our sins, and then add many additional ideas and thoughts that are far more religious in origin than they are biblical. For instance, many have been taught that the "wrath of God" was the reason why the cross was necessary. God was angry and upset— someone had to pay for the evil of sin. 

Pope Francis: Lincoln, King, Day, Merton - Brian Zahnd

21493632390_7678830042_zPope Francis building his prophetic address to Congress around four Americans — Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton — was brilliant. Here were some of my favorite moments from the Pope’s speech.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.

We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. … We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves.

CLICK HERE to continue

Progressive Revelation and the Unveiling of God - Brad Jersak

Question from a reader:

I have been reading a lot about progressive revelation, specifically in my readings of John Howard Yoder and Guy F. Hershberger. This sounds like some of the things I may be reading from Michael Hardin (anthropological revelation). This idea of God incrementally slipping revelations into humanity's cognitive compartments, filling them gradually through different epochs is what I am referring to. Also, the study of later texts (prophetic texts) critiquing earlier (royal dynasty of Israel/kingship texts) makes for a more complete understanding of the Bible. I was curious if you have come across this and if you could help clarify some of it for me. 

Thanks,
B.

Response

Progressive revelation is a fairly basic evangelical tenet that I was taught and held even as a staunch inerrantist. It states that obviously the Bible took time to write and therefore God's self-revelation came through a long process of addition. Clearly Abraham's revelation of God was supplemented by Moses, and his by David, and his by Isaiah and so on, then on to Christ and after him Paul, etc. Of course, Muslims, Mormons and Bahai would attest to the same idea, claiming that their latter revelations build on and surpass the former. But biblically speaking, this is also what the book of Hebrews teaches us: previously, God spoke through the patriarchs and prophets, but now he has spoken through his Son.

An inerrantist can believe all of that, because they would also insist, "And every word of every revelation from the beginning was completely true, but more would be added with each fresh revelation." With this position, you can still end up with a "flat Bible," which means you can read capital punishment from the Noahic covenant as completely true and relevant for today, or you must accept that God truly did command genocide every time the Bible said he did. 

But there is also another sense of progressive revelation in which God progressively reveals himself within the context of human witnesses, whose own worldviews, prejudices, nationalism, militarism and even barbarism act as veils which cloud their revelations of God and even distort it (e.g. God is on our side, he wants us to kill our enemies, he will help us do that, he did do that), etc. But throughout Scripture, God is not only progressively revealing himself, but he is also progressively unveiling our eyes. I prefer to call this 'progressive illumination,' in which God's self-revelation requires not only addition, but edition  ... Even within the OT, we see important reinterpretations where the Bible shifts from God loves Israel to God loves the world; warfare as worship becomes worship as warfare; God destroyed people to God gives the people over to the destroyer,  and so on until only in Christ do we get the unveiled revelation of God. No one else had ever been behind the veil of transcendence, except God the only Son. No one else had ever seen the Father with unveiled eyes, except God the only Son. Christ was the first unveiled witness who made God known through God's own his enfleshment in the world ( a la John 1). 

This means that we cannot read the entire Bible as flat or every word as simply true, as if you could close your eyes, open to any page, tap any verse with your index finger and say, 'This is unveiled truth.' Rather, we must examine it to ask, "How does Jesus' unveiling of God also unveil these previously veiled texts?" How do we read the texts blessing and commanding violence or the unjust laws (e.g. rapists must marry their victims) with the veil now removed? 

I believe the primary way is to see that such texts are indeed revelations, not of God, but of us ... the human condition, the way we make mistakes about God's nature or even commit evil in God's name, and continue to do so. They also represent the passion of Christ in that he endured the shame by association of a sometimes bloody people who claim to act for him, yet he does not abandon them (utterly) in their idolatrous misunderstandings and blasphemous acts in his name. Instead, he continues to prepare them as a servant to be the portal through which he arrives in the world in person. It also means that every Scripture holds inspired value, even when it portrays God in unChristlike ways, because it tells our own story and unveils God's story -- and how the two came together. The Holy Spirit alone is infallible, but he truly inspired those who would tell this story from their own perspective, to pass it down to us so that we could see how the Word of God (Jesus Christ) finally came to us through this epic saga and became the living revelation in whom all the fullness of God dwelled.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Severe Stress in Shemitah September 2015 - Greg Albrecht


I almost missed it! Sure, I knew that the world is a huge mess. There's Putin and Iran and China and a myriad of fears fueled by fear mongers. There's massive uncertainty about the roller coaster ride of the stock market! And, I don't mean to be trite, but as all Chicago Cubs (an American Major League baseball team) fans know, there's also the fact that this current Cubs team has a good chance of breaking "the curse of the goat" by making it to the World Series – their first since 1945.

During the last week or two of August a few people asked me about Shemitah. I knew about the goat curse of the Cubs but here I am, a Christian minister, and I had no idea about Shemitah, so I had to look it up. Before I looked it up, silly me, I would have believed you if you told me that Shemitah was a new electric car or another new raw fish craze, like sushi. But then, finding out Shemitah was now presumed to be another "sign of the end" I had a few more conversations with people who were 1) really worried about all of the doomsday predictions for September 2015 and 2) others were really worried that their family and friends were buying up freeze dried food and moving to the middle of Kansas to get ready for Shemitah.

Shemitah refers to an old covenant mandated cycle I am well aware of, but until now, not by that name. According to the old covenant, Shemitah is a seven year land rest for the land, and "at the end of every seven years you must cancel debts" (Deuteronomy 15:1). The last day of the Shemitah this year is September 13.

According to the current doomsday prophecies and their prognosticators, since September 13 is on a Sunday, then either Friday, September 11 or Monday, September 14, the U.S. stock market will crash. But I don't get it – they are all saying the Dow Jones will crash. But the United States is in massive debt to the Chinese. So, wouldn't it be just as logical to predict that President Obama will sign another executive order, and declare that the entire United States will now live by the stipulations of the old covenant? That would be convenient, wouldn't it? Then, wouldn't it make sense that Obama would then inform President Xi Jinping that because of Shemitah the United States has no debts to China whatsoever. Won't the Shanghai markets crash and won't the Dow Jones soar?

According to the end times marching and chowder society, September 15 will be another cataclysmic day, because again, according to the old covenant, September 15 begins the Jubilee Year. The Jubilee Year, explained in the 25th chapter of Leviticus, follows a cycle of seven Shemitahs – seven cycles of seven years. Among other stipulations, because land cannot be sold permanently (Leviticus 25:25) all those whose real property was taken or sold during the previous 50 years may now return to their property (Leviticus 25:13).
Okay, we're not done yet – but just a question. The vast majority of those predicting end-of-the-world upheavals are doing so in the name of Jesus, but all their predictions are based on the law of Moses. So how does that work exactly? Where is Jesus in all of this lunacy?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

W. Paul Young - Saying Yes or No to God (CWR Video)

The fall issue of CWR VIDEO is available HERE with thoughts by Paul Young, Brad Jersak, Greg Albrecht, Laura Robinson, Steve McVey, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Brian Zahnd, Russ Hewett, Ashley Collishaw, Peter Helms, Ed Dunn and Dale Viljoen. For a sample, here's Paul Young.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

UNDER RECONSTRUCTION: Crazy Characters, Unreliable Narrators and the Divine Architect - Brad Jersak

After Deconstruction
The last years have seen a grand deconstruction of Scripture reading and interpretation—some would say of Scripture itself. Of course, this has been an ongoing centuries-long project, but two unique elements dominate the past decade: first, the ‘New Atheists’ are actually reading the Bible—carefully and, unlike liberal scholars, they have read it literally with a view to destroying faith. “The Bible says it; I reject it; and that settles it.” And second, their dance partners in this deconstruction have been evangelicals who are finally questioning the modernist lingo of inerrancy and it’s narrow literalist interpretations. They’re ready to either toss Scripture (many have) or to reconstruct their reading on sturdier foundations.
For my part, the deconstruction has run along very specific lines. I have come to believe that Jesus Christ revealed the fullness of God in the Incarnation and thus, he—not the Bible—is the only divine Word and our final authority for theology, faith and Christian practice. His primacy as the revelation of God challenges doctrines like inerrancy when they elevate ‘every word of Scripture’ as the ‘infallible word of God.’ That latter phrase was reserved by the Church fathers for God the Son alone. And so while I do believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, I’m among a burgeoning crowd of quite conservative theologians who reject evangelical bibliolatry in favor of the Christ to whom Scripture faithfully points.
For those who’ve made that trek, the niggling question remains, ‘What now?’ How do we read the Bible, if at all, after the deconstruction? The answer to that will require many authors to contribute umpteen volumes, a task well on its way. What I’ll offer here is just one gesture toward reconstructed Bible-reading. Ironically, my suggestions were elementary standards in the early church, but were often marginalized by Protestant assumptions and the co-opting of Evangelicalism by modernity … and now by the fashionable cynicism of post-moderns. But anyway … you’ll see how a counter-intuitive reconstruction may be helpful.
Reading the Bible as an epic story heading somewhere
People used to read the Bible as if it were one big book, composed by one big author...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

When God Disagrees With Scripture - Andre Rabe

How often have you found yourself drifting away while listening to a monologue?
When the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy says that Scripture has one divine author and that it is wholly and verbally God-given, without error or fault in everything it states … it basically tells us to shut up and listen. There is no room for dialogue here.
However, so many who have bought into this approach to scripture have found themselves drifting away amidst the continual drone of a monologue that does not involve them.
God delights in conversation. He wants to hear what you have to say. In fact David tells us of a God so intrigued by us that he knows our thoughts from afar. He even observes with interest our sitting down and standing up. It is almost as if he is in love! (And you are welcome to replace the ‘he’ with a ‘she’.)
Not only does God delight in direct conversation with us, he gives us ample room for conversation with one another. For God is not simply interested in making us understand him, but in helping us understand ourselves. And so the scriptures are full of such conversations … dialogues that often reveals more about us, than what they do about God.
For instance in Job 42:7 God enters a conversation that has been going on for more than forty chapters already. Speaking to Eliphaz, God says that he is angry for “…you have not spoken of Me what is right…
So here we have a scripture in which God disagrees with what was said about him in scripture!
According to this scripture, God Himself does not agree with everything in scripture.