Category Archives: People I Read

March

Made a habit to start using my lunch breaks effectively. Five days a week, I’m making about half an hour of progress through Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It’s fascinating. To say I think it will change the way I eat is an understatement.

I’m also coming close to finally finishing Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. His comments on what it means to be a student –a disciple– of Jesus strike a challenging balance between “wow that’s really profound” and “why aren’t I already doing that?”.

Behind on the podcasts, because my earbuds are out of comission. Totally gimpy reason– just missing the little foam cover on one bud. But it won’t stay in while riding my bike without it. And that 30 mins a day to and from work is prime podcast time. So what I’m saying is you still have plenty of time to recommend a new podcast for me to try to work into my rotation. Daily is great, but I’m open to weekly. Writer’s Almanac is daily, and I could supplement it with a weekly for Monday, a different one for Tuesday, another updated on Wednesdays, etc.

Family in town a lot recently. That’s been great. Lots of time spent out at Red Rocks. Pictures here. Dad’s coming at the end of March!

Considering a joint blog-through of a book sometime on the horizon…

A Monk in the Blogosphere

What does this mean for bloggers, especially those of us who type so much about faith?

XXIX

A certain brother came, once, to Abbot Theodore of Pherme, and spent three days begging him to let him hear a word. The Abbot however did not answer him, and he went off sad. So a disciple said to Abbot Theodore: Father, why did you not speak to him? Now he has gone off sad! The elder replied: Believe me, I spoke no word to him because he is a trader in words, and seeks to glory in the words of another.

From The Wisdom of the Desert, Thomas Merton ed.

Spirit of Blogging

I haven’t written much in a while, and the reasons for this lack of activity are actually some pretty important stories. But I haven’t felt like writing them down. I’ve been pushed a lot recently, which has been great, but tough. And not always entirely appropriate for public consumption (yet).

So, combine this with my noticing of many people returning to what blogging started out as… which correct me if I’m wrong, was more about being a conduit, predominantly about linking to other people and interesting information.  I especially appreciate it when people amicably link to people they may not agree with, not to blast them but to include their voice in the conversation…. and anyway, I’ve decided make my first post in a long time one where I point to some other good stuff for you to read:

Other people you should read in lieu of my consistent blogging:

Enjoy!

Newbigin & the Enlightenment

For class last week, we read through the first few chapters of Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It was pretty hard stuff. I managed to pull enough out of the text to respond to the questions. Your thoughts are welcomed on anything below (or on other tangents as well, hahaha)…

Newbigin on Doubt & Dogma

The Enlightenment use of “dogma” carries a strong negative connotation (postscript 2-25-08: it’s baaaack!), a tie to faith-based ignorance and/or arrogance. In an appeal to New Testament etymology, Newbigin traces “dogma” to dokein, which means “to seem.” In Acts 16, the Jerusalem Council decreed what “seemed good to a competent authority and was promulgated as such.” (Newbigin p.5) Chances are that even a brief history lesson describing our faith reveals dogma’s entanglement “with coercion, with political power, and so with the denial of freedom – freedom of thought and of conscience.” (Newbigin p.10) But our defense of pure and essential dogma can fairly claim that its past abuses do not necessarily make it inherently flawed or evil. Nevertheless, these days, this term carries so much ‘baggage’ – needs so much ‘unpacking’ – that I try to avoid it in describing the essentials of our faith, and instead find it much more productive to attempt to revive the narrative of God’s love for and involvement among us.

Newbigin on Tradition & Authority

A key Enlightenment paradigm was the rejection of authority as implicitly tied to tradition. Everything was to be tested (postscript 2-25-08: it’s baaaack!). Newbigin says that any defense of the Christian faith must address the Enlightenment era’s rejection of giving such weight to tradition. I struggled with this section of the reading. I’m unclear on precisely what Newbigin advocates, but I take a cue for my own response to attacks on authority and tradition from an anatomy illustration he uses. On pages 40 and 41, Newbigin points to John Oman’s reflections on the frailty of the optic nerves in his book Vision and Authority. He comments so powerfully on the writings of his first theology teacher: “It would seem, in other words, that the Creator had intended fallibility to be part of our human nature, and that the appeal to an authority beyond our own fallible vision is an offense against our Creator.” (Newbigin p. 41) So, in response to Enlightenment criticisms of the tacit authority carried by my faith’s tradition, I say, “That’s a good point… maybe those guys didn’t have it all figured out. Let’s explore it some more…” In other words, perhaps the best defense against Enlightenment claims about tradition is a healthy dose of realizing humanity’s fallibility. This selection from Newbigin merits an entire week’s worth of reading. So in the absence of fully grasping his theses on tradition and authority, I’ll just go on trying to be a good Berean.

Newbigin on Reason & Revelation

A solid response to Enlightenment claims about Christianity’s ties to reason and revelation simply rests on the issue of context. Newbigin says it well: “the development of a tradition of rationality is never unrelated to the social, political, economic, military, and cultural changes which the society in question is going through.” (Newbigin p. 54) In my mind, if today’s challengers to faith want to embrace pluralism, they must concede that their own framework (i.e. tradition of rationality) arose from a particular context and is not sufficiently universal to make unreasonable my decision to pursue a life of faith.

mission of God

Last week, in our class discussion, we explored how the recovery of missio Dei (the mission of God) might be tied to church renewal. One of the key articles for this discussion was titled “Recasting Theology of Mission: Impulses from the Non-Western World,” by Wilbert Shenk. If you can find the article, I encourage you to read it. I’m not sure about the copyright implications of posting it here though, so you’re on your own, unfortunately.

Shenk’s first mention of missio Dei is an assertion about its central role as the foundation for the theological concerns of the New Testament church. As I read this sentence, I could not shake from my mind the Acts 6 story of the apostles delegating food-distribution duties to other believers “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” On the face of it, this story could be improperly read as an example of the apostles’ humanity, an unfortunate record of an arrogant refusal to “get their hands dirty.” But what if the apostles teach us to each fully embrace our unique gifts in the service of the message of Jesus Christ? Contrary to the easy misinterpretation, this story is about nothing less than rolling up one’s sleeves and engaging the world in Christ’s name. For the apostles, spending even an hour doing something other than preaching and teaching was a disservice to the movement. Likewise, they expected the differently gifted believers to step forward and serve the common cause by organizing food distribution. The western response to this situation might have been, “Well, go find some more believers to sell some land and we’ll hire someone to make it happen. And let’s not repeat the Ananias incident this time…” Preposterous! The apostles refused to simply “write a check” to solve a problem.

It is when we as individual Christians reclaim our own potential to contribute to the mission of God in a hands-on way that we will see renewal in the western church.

To ponder…

  • Is missio Dei a piece of flawed terminology? In other words, does it employ an elitist linguistic device (namely Latin) to describe a term focused on egalitarian involvement in invoking the Kingdom of God?
  • Does the western church excessively write checks to solve problems? Or does it have its sleeves sufficiently rolled up?
  • How does the apostles’ delegation story strike you at first glance? At second glance? After detailed exploration?

P.S. – I’m beginning to understand why my seminarian friend Shedden blogs so much when his classes are in session.

Willimon & The Offensiveness of Advent

I’ve had Methodist pastor Will Willimon’s blog in my Google Reader since last May when a colleague talked a lot about him at a retreat. Here’s a recent gem:

More than likely, Advent eschatology offends us for more mundane reasons. I am at church seeking personal advice for how to have a happy marriage or how to get along with the boss next week, only to have Advent wrench my gaze in our subjectivity in its insistence that whatever God is about in the Advent of Jesus, it is something quite large, quite cosmic, quite strange and humanly unmanageable, something more significant than me. I am not the master of history.

So let us begin with the honest admission that our real problem with these Advent/Christmas texts is largely political and economic. Tell me, “This world is ending. God has little vested interest in the present order,” I shall hear it as bad news.

However, for a mother in a barrio in Mexico City who has lost four of her six children to starvation, to hear, “This present world is not what God had in mind. God is not finished, indeed is now moving, to break down and to rebuild in Jesus,” I presume that would sound something like gospel. For her the Advent/Christmas message presages a revolutionary conflagration.

A great deal depends, in regard to our receptivity to these texts, on where we happen to be standing at the time when we get the news, “God is coming.”

It’s Advent. Let the revolution begin.

 

From his most recent blog post.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year C

Time is just like money- it’s so annoying to be standing at the end of the week or month and be forced to say, “Now, where did it all go?” Let me use my work as an example. One practice I’ve picked up recently is taking a pro-active approach with my scheduling. It’s amazing the difference I notice in how I feel about my workload when I take steps to curb distraction. Time is just like money– think about what any financial adviser will tell you about budgeting. Mapping out where it will go at the beginning of the month is the best thing. I’m discovering this principle translates very well into my time. But we are human, and we’re going down this line of thought because, left to ourselves, distraction usually creeps in.

I’m sure you can relate to this experience somehow. Distraction. Even you Type A personalities out there. I mean, do you really always manage to filter out distraction? Raise your hand if so… Ok, no one? Because I was going to offer to let you preach instead of me. We all find ourselves asking where it all went, don’t we?

Time at work… I’ve already covered that one. Time on the weekend… what about that? Who has projects around the house that sneak under the radar Saturday after Saturday because Engineer Mountain’s wildflowers are in bloom right now, or the Denver Broncos are playing right now, or because that storm just dumped up fresh snow on Purgatory this morning, or because Russell needs your help in the youth ministry right now? Yes, we know how to play in this town, and it’s a huge battle for time.

I mentioned money earlier. Maybe your day-planner is tighter than a tourniquet, but your budget has a couple holes. Anina and I are pretty good with this, but we do have a month now and then where we look back and say “We spent THAT MUCH on the pets?!?” And I was utterly horrible at this concept when I first started managing my own money. How many of you students sometimes feel this way with your allowances?

Or here’s one: energy. Spending all your relational energy at work, and when you get home, it’s your spouse or your kids asking “You had a bad day, didn’t you?” When in fact, this may not really be the case, but instead you simply didn’t have anything left to give them when you got home.

Or who’s familiar with this scenario? A loved one passes away. In that quiet, solitary moment after you first find out, or while standing around talking with others at the wake, you ask yourself “Why didn’t I call them more often?” I didn’t deal with the passing of my mother’s mom very much at all, and this is one question that I really prefer not to confront.

All of these situations, and many others, have roots in our living of distracted lives.

I have good news for you: God knows.

And he used a stout and cantankerous but obedient man named Paul to give us some direction. Let’s pray, and then dig into today’s text. Continue reading