Saturday, September 06, 2014


Comic Art

Artist Steve Ditko

Friday, September 05, 2014


The Gospel

Fr. Robert Barron on the new pope's first document some months back:
This evangelical urgency, which Pope Francis gets in his bones, is the leitmotif of the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). He knows that if Catholicism leads with its doctrines, it will devolve into an intellectual debating society, and that if it leads with its moral teaching, it will appear fussy and puritanical. It should lead today as it led two thousand years ago, with the stunning news that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and the joy of that proclamation should be as evident now as it was then.
I read that and I think "The Catholic Church should become just like Evangelicalism." I would maker the point that if you lead with a simply stated formulaic gospel the church will become shallow and its members self-centered seekers of salvation ignoring all other aspects of the Christian faith.

My point is a simple one, no church Catholic or otherwise should choose some aspect to "lead with." The gospel is not a message of salvation, a doctrinal statement or a moral code. Nor is it any other neat little thing we can tie up into a package and hand to the world as "product." The gospel is a complicated amalgam of all those things and much, much more. It is not a message, it is a force, a force that will change lives and the world - a force that has already done precisely those things.

Thrying to encapsulate it, or even trying to decide which aspect of it to emphasize is court disaster. It is an all or nothing thing. It is not safe, but it is good.


Friday Humor

Thursday, September 04, 2014


Wrong and Very Wrong

So, Bill Keller writes in the NYTimes about how celibacy in Catholic clergy is a bad thing. This despite the fact that Keller left the church decades ago. James Martin chimes in with a fine recitation of the many facts that Keller got wrong. He concludes:
Overall, the article is rife with lazy stereotypes and flat-out guessing. (“The apostles had wives.” Really? Peter did--but all of them? Guess I missed those mentions of Zebedee's daughters-in-law. And, not to put too fine a point on it but Jesus was celibate.)

Ironically, Mr. Keller likes Pope Francis a great deal and speaks of his overall approach to the church approvingly. But he somehow missed the fact that Jorge Mario Bergoglio took a vow of chastity when he made his first vows as a Jesuit in 1960, and made a promise of celibacy at his ordination in 1969. In short, he has been living celibately longer than Mr. Keller has been away from the church. Does the Pope strike anyone as a sad and lonely guy?

All I ask is that the next time that any pundit writes on celibacy it might be a good idea to talk to some celibates.
Not being Catholic mys elf, I think it not my place to get into the specifics of the fight over celibacy - but Keller's piece is wrong on a lot of levels.

At base is the assumption that sacrificing is somehow wrong - that good things are supposed to simply arrive in a package with a bow. Keller assumes that our desires are the paramount thing in all creation - and left unfulfilled they become the problem. Such an attitude is, without question, making the self the god.

And yet that seems to be the mindset of so many Christians these days - "What can God do for me?" Now, in reality, God can do a lot for any of us, but on His terms, not ours. We cannot dictate to him what we need. Doesn't that strike you as a bit silly anyway? If God is indeed omniscience and omnipotent, how can we possible dictate to Him how to fix something that He, by definition, knows more about than we do?

The fact that this battle is so present in the church these days says that our proclamation of the gospel lacks two very important things. One,we do not give people a proper understanding of just who God really is - they don't understand omniscient or omnipotence. We have to teach them.

And then, of course, we don't let people know really, about sin. An understanding of sacrifice can only come when we understand that our desires are corrupt. So corrupt in fact that the only information we can glean from them is that we are sick. They tell us nothing about the nature of the illness or its prognosis. People are uncomfortable hearing about their sin, but in the end that's the point. Such discomfort teaches us just how broken we are.

People who do not feel pain often injure themselves further because the pain is telling them to stop doping certain things. When we spare people pain in sharing with them the news of Christ, we may keep them in the building, but do we actually help them?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Orthodoxy and Reality

Wendy J. Deichmann writes a defense of orthodoxy that that is both excellent and awful. (HT: Juicy Ecumenism) The excellent:
It is also the case that some doctrinally “orthodox” Christian leaders have used their positions and power to oppress others. For example, for many decades leading Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and others rode vociferously along on the band wagons that justified the horrific evil of American slavery, oppressed women and persons of color, and discriminated unapologetically against persons who were divorced in both church and society. But these political and social opinions and actions had nothing to do with these leaders’ “orthodoxy.” In fact, we can say they held such views in spite of, rather than because of, their orthodoxy. Tragically, they failed to allow the God in Christ of the gospel to permeate and transform their status quo politics and social views.
The awful:
What’s right with Christian orthodoxy? Not any given theology, politic, or social view. What’s right with Christian orthodoxy is that it makes it possible for Christians to live in peace with one another and thereby to have a credible witness to the Prince of Peace. Most important, what is right about Christian orthodoxy is the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that it proclaims to us and to the whole world.
I find the latter awful because it implies we are "at war" with the unorthodox. If orthodoxy is the force that binds us - are not the unorthodox unbound and therefore the enemy?

I find this problematic because there are so many forms of unorthodoxy. She counts trinitarian belief as part of the essentials of orthodoxy, but I would bet you a survey of the pews in most orthodox churches would sound more Mormon than orthodox. Are they therefore the enemy? She tries to separate theology from orthodoxy, yet what is trinitarian belief other than a theological statement? How can these things be separate?

This woman's efforts inside United Methodistism are to be applauded - make no mistake, it's this kind of sloppy thinking that has gotten the nation in the post-Christian decline that it is in. We are united on a spiritual level. Orthodoxy, theology, or any other human formulation of that spiritual activity is, of necessity, incomplete and therefore must be grasped only softly.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Not Just About Writing!

Justin Taylor on writing

Writing for others is a privilege.

Writing should be in the service of others.

Writing should be kept in proportion.

Writing should be kept in proportion.

Writing should be overseen with accountability.

Writing should be done by the person whose name is on the cover.

Writing should be done humbly.

I could not help but think that such should apply to just about everything we do in ministry.


Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, September 01, 2014


Not So Sure That Is The Problem

I found this post from Seedbed Blog fascinating:
Many forget (or don’t know) that “contemporary” worship was inextricably linked to the Charismatic Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. This connection forged a musical style that was rooted in a particular understanding of the Spirit in worship....

The answer is found in looking at what happened when “praise and worship” was adopted by mainline denominations. During the 1990’s many mainline congregations began to import the songs, sounds, and some of the sights (like hand raising and clapping) of the praise and worship style. In many cases, what got lost was the robust pneumatology behind this approach to worship.
There is an enormous amount of wisdom here and also an incredible mistake. The wisdom is that the worship style and charismatic pneumatology are inextricably linked. The mistake is that charismatic pneumatology is somehow more "right" or better.

Charismatic pneumatology holds that the presence of the Holy Spirit must be accompanied by the ecstatic and the miraculous. A more traditional view would be that the presence of the Holy Spirit CAN be accompanied by those things, but it will not always be accompanied by them. While the apostles certainly engaged in the miraculous, I find it hard to believe that it happened EVERY time they got together. And so the question arise what do we do when the Holy Spirit chooses to speak to us in His still, small voice.

What more, what do we do when the Holy Spirit is interacting with Fred by shouting and Joe in meditation? And what is accomplished when Fred shouts at Joe that he is "missing" the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit is deep in Joe's heart hard at work?

I cannot help but note that miracles add veracity to the truth of God, but they are not of themselves that truth. Once we have grown to a point in our lives where we have a deep and hard-to-break understanding of that veracity that perhaps the Holy Spirit will begin to work in our lives on levels less prone to ostentation. I wonder if in it should not be Joe shouting at Fred, in Fred's 10th year of shouting at him, "perhaps it is YOU that is missing what the Holy Spirit is doing."

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