Category Archives: Theology

Dear Sharron Angle:

Please, read your history. Roger Williams, founder of what has morphed into your professed Baptist faith, said the state has no business legislating the first tablet of the Ten Commandments, those that address man’s relationship with God (Gaustad, 2005). If you don’t like Social Security, that’s fine, and there’s a reasonable conservative economic argument you can make; but don’t try to pin everything on your goals for a Christian theocracy.
Maybe, Mrs. Angle, you don’t consider yourself a Williams Baptist. In fact, I believe I’ve read some pieces that refer you you as Baptist, others Southern Baptist, and still others simply fundamentalist. Fair enough. Maybe you have a divine calling to establish a Church-run State for Jesus. I won’t argue with your experiences. Maybe your brand of Christianity has no problem with the melding of Church and State. But will you please listen to James Madison? “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Should Congress assemble in silence according to traditional Quaker practice? Or what if a Catholic wins the presidency? You’d get booted from the Senate, because women can’t hold spiritual authority. See what I’m getting at?
Please, keep up your faith. But remember that you seek to serve a diverse constituency that includes everything from Baha’i to Baptists, everything in between, and many nowhere in between. I will not vote for a theocracy, and I hope my fellow Nevadans won’t either. Grace and peace to you.
References
Gaustad, E.S. (2005). Roger Williams. New York: Oxford University Press.
Madison, J. (1819). Memorial and Remonstrance. Boston: Lincoln & Edmands.

Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect

Missio Dei: Journey of the Elect

Russell Duren

IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

April 14, 2008

Missio Dei… a term that has been selfishly abused, a term that is robustly debated, a term that holds great hope. From Latin, missio Dei simply means “mission of God”. However, not so simple is Christianity’s responsibility – both as a corporate body and as individual believers – to discern how this term is to be lived out, to map out how to follow the mission of God. This paper shall strive to define the missio Dei as the journey embarked upon by the elect of the Triune God of Christianity, in which these believers seek to follow God’s movement for the purpose of its creation’s ultimate reconciliation to Him. Important factors in this definition are the elect, the Trinity, and the action of following. As each component plays a crucial role in the missio Dei, this paper will explain its thesis by giving special attention to these topics. Continue reading

The Changing Face of Christianity

Strapped for time available for posting material here, I humbly submit my first seminary paper. The prompt was “Drawing on your readings and class discussion, how is the face of Christianity changing? Describe the changes and what has contributed to those changes, and then analyze how this may affect the church as a whole.” Bear with me, as I have opted to not remove the parenthetical citations.; if you have questions about the context in the articles from which I drew my quotes, don’t hesitate to ask :)

The Changing Face of Christianity

Russell Duren

IN581: Theology of Mission & Evangelism

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

March 3, 2008

Without a doubt, the face of Christianity is changing. Worldwide, Christians comprise a dynamic and diverse group of people. Because of this makeup, change -or the call for change, at the very least- should come as no surprise. So, although one could make the case that this state of constant transition might be called business as usual in Christianity, the possible changes themselves that lie on the horizon are quite remarkable. Global Christianity stands on the verge of deep shifts in demographics, in a revival of the missio Dei and the Gospel’s relation to the surrounding culture, and in the influence exerted on the church by technology. Though the effects of these changes remain largely unseen, no collection of circumstances in recent history holds as much promise for the Bride of Christ to respond in a unified and world-changing manner. Before exploring the church’s expanded possibilities for taking Christ to the world, an examination of the conditions setting the stage is in order. Continue reading

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.

Following the Star

We talk a lot about the “true meaning of Christmas,” don’t we? Often, I’m pretty proud that I’ve got it all figured out… but is this really reflected in my actions? Is the spiritual season of Advent really something really has any effect on my relationship with my Creator? Questions like these have been bugging me recently, and I encourage you to ask yourself as well.

I’m still no all-star when it comes to thinking and praying about what it really means that Jesus Christ came down to us. But I’ve found a resource that I’d like to share that has really helped:

followthestar

Following the Star is an online devotional guide, just for Advent. It’s updated daily, with new contemplative music and new scriptures and devotional questions to help you ponder what Advent is all about… It works based on a series of pages that lead you to pause and reflect, listen to scripture, think about your world with the help of a devotional passage, pray for God’s guidance in applying his Truth, and then go into the world just waiting for you to bring God’s love.

Try it. See if it doesn’t have an impact.

(and it continues on past Advent too, @ d365.org)

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