Saturday, April 25, 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
Chelsen Vicari: Tell us, simply, what is pub theology?Now I have no objections to the moderate ingestion of alcohol, save for its calorific nature. But that said, is this a good idea? Is simple intellectual engagement sufficient for evangelism? Can genuine relationships be built on such a bonding ritual? Will this produce anything past intellectual ascent to the precepts of Christianity? Is this just a gimmick?
Bryan Berghoef: Yeah, so I’ve been leading pub theology discussion for about six years now. For the last year and a half in D.C. and before that in Michigan. I first heard about this in London. A group was getting together in a bar and talking about God or theology. Something about the way they articulated it really resonated with me. And that was that it was open conversation, a welcoming space for people of all perspectives. There was no bar of beliefs or orthodoxy that you had to pass to sit at the table. You could belong to a different religion or be atheist or agnostic and be welcome.
So we started a gathering in Traverse City, Michigan and started connecting with people. It’s pretty simple format. It’s open conversation with people over a beer. There’s no lecture, no speaker, and really no leader. I kind of help facilitate, but really just there to help guide the discussion and ask questions and allow people to connect in that setting.
I see value in this, but is this ministry?
discussion ministry value
Thursday, April 23, 2015
This passage, I believe, does not tell us to expose the dark deeds of others by publicly denouncing them. In fact, the very next verse notes, "It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret" (5:12). So it seems unlikely that Paul wants us to expose these secret deeds by mentioning them out loud. He must have another sense of "expose" in mind.And from the second:
I'm not suggesting that we should never speak out against evil. But I am concerned that some Christians get so obsessed with denouncing the dark deeds of others that they diminish the light of Christ in their own lives. They become agents of judgment rather than channels of grace.Fair enough, but from my perspective I see far more people letting the dark grow for the sake of grace than I do people in ungraceful declaration. Clearly there is some balance point. How do we find it?
My suggestion is the same as always - assume we are all wrong. Make sure your own life in in order before you talk about the other guys. Make sure your actions speak louder than your words. And most of all, confess your own sins, before you worry about someone else's.
grace humility judgement
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
As an introvert, I sometimes find this stress on the relational Trinity to be challenging, as if theologians are pushing me toward constant engagement in difficult relationships. As an antidote to that view, I have loved reading about the idea that the persons of the Trinity are engaged in a dance. We are invited into that dance. Pastor and church consultant George Cladis describes this image of the Trinity as the three persons of God in constant movement in a circle that implies intimacy, equality, unity yet distinction, and love. . . . In this circle dance of God is a sense of joy, freedom, song, intimacy, and harmony. . . . In a circle we can see each other. No one is left out. We are all interconnected. We hold each other up.All of that is good stuff, but I am fascinated by all the literature designed to make the idea of Trinity make sense. I don't think it is supposed to make sense. I think it is supposed to be one of those things that reminds us of God's utter inscrutability. God is unknowable to us really and this whole idea of three-in-one, which makes no sense at all, is there to remind us that we just are not that smart. No matter how hard we try, we will never really understand God.
Another significant aspect of the new writing on the Trinity relates to mission. Our word “mission” comes from the Latin missio, which means sent. The Father sent the Son into the world, and we are sent into the world as Jesus was sent (John 17:18). The Holy Spirit empowers this sending and enables us to engage in mission.
Sometimes I think we do ourselves no great service when we struggle to understand that which cannot be understood. There is a lesson for us in not knowing and simply trusting. God is all we need.
Trinity humility mystery
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
As for making a statement, a novelist hit the nail on the head when he said that in order for storytellers to tell a story they must have some picture of the world, and of what is right and wrong in that world.He's right - stories have a worldview.
BUT...Christianity is much more than just a worldview. How do we communicated the fullness and richness of the gospel in a story? Or is it enough to communicate a worldview that says there is more than stories in hopes that the consumer of the story will then turn and go elsewhere? (I've read stories like that - they suck.)
Some claim the gospel is just narrative, but is that really true? That would pretty much have the Bible ending at Acts and leaving our large expository parts of the Old Testament.
Perhaps we have been too pedantic in our approach to faith in the last decades, but we cannot abandon it altogether.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Zizek narrates how Coca-Cola was originally concocted as a medicine (originally known as a nerve tonic, stimulant and headache remedy). It was eventually sweetened and its strange taste was made more palatable. Soon it became a popular drink during prohibition, replacing alcohol, with its medicinal stimulant qualities (it was deemed “refreshing” as well as the perfect “temperance drink”). Over time, however, its sugar was replaced with sweetener, its caffeine extracted, and so today we are left with Caffeine-Free Diet Coke: a drink that does not fulfil any of the original concrete needs of a drink. The two reasons why anyone would drink anything: it quenches thirst/provides nutrition and it tastes good, have in Zizek’s words “been suspended.”This is an old contention dressed up in new clothes. In words we have used here it says that Evangelical Christianity has become a "brand" - where the label is more important than the contents.
Today, Coke has become a drink that does not quench thirst, does not provide any stimulant and whose strange taste is not particularly satisfying. Nonetheless, it is the most consumed beverage in the world. It plays on the mysterious enjoyment we get out of consuming it as something to enjoy in surplus after we have already quenched our thirst. We drink Coke because “Coke is “it”” not because it satisfies anything material. In essence, all that remains of what was once Coke is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. In Zizek’s words, we ‘drink nothing in the guise of something …” It is “in effect merely an envelope of a void.”(22-23).
Zizek uses the caffeine free diet Coke as an illustration of how capitalism works. Taking some liberties with Zizek and his excellent illustration, I believe the Coke metaphor works for understanding some things about evangelicalism as well in the present period of its history. Many of evangelicalism’s beliefs and practices have become separated from the concrete reality around which they first came into being. In its beginnings, the inerrant Bible, the decision for Christ and the idea of the Christian Nation articulated beliefs for evangelicals that helped connect them to the realities of our life in Christ in the face of several cultural challenges. (these were the ways we thought about the authority of the Bible, conversion into salvation and the church’s activity in society). For fifty to seventy-five years, these articulations of what we believe served us well but also evolved and become hardened. As American society advanced, and our lives became busier and ordered towards American affluence, we practice these same beliefs but they have become disconnected from what they meant several generations ago. As a result, the inerrant Bible, the decision for Christ and the Christian Nation mean very little for how we live our day-to-day lives as evangelical Christians. They are ideological banners that we assent to. They are tied to behavioral practices that we engage in but they bear little or no connection to our lives in Christ for His Mission in the world. Just as our society drinks Coke as an “it,” as something that makes us feel good but has little substantial value as a drink, so we practice these beliefs as something we add on to our lives – not as something we need to live. It is something we do as an extra to our already busy lives that makes us feel better. Evangelical church, as symbolized in many ways by the large consumer mega churches, has become an “add-on,” “a semblance” of something which once meant something real. It is a surplus enjoyment we enjoy after we have secured all of our immediate needs.
That said, does this extended metaphor (for the post from which I am pulling is plugging a book that goes on and on and one on this metaphor) aid in the communication of the idea? We certainly in some ways it does, "branding" is a concept of marketing specialists,but everybody has tasted Coke and its relatives and understands this metaphor. Everybody know Coke tastes better than Caffeine Free Diet Coke, but they still buy the swill, because they perceive it is better for them. People buy into Evangelical Christianity today because they perceive it is what is best. They think denominationalism somehow taints true faith (because it often has)and because they are searching for something to which they can personally "relate."
In the Coke metaphor, ask yourself this questions - What would happen if a cola could be offered that tasted just like Coke without the sugar and caffeine? That is to say, it was actually refreshing and healthy. I bet people would flock to that product in unprecedented numbers. Which is where I think all of this gets it wrong. The church is not a product like Coke. It cannot be reinvented and rebranded and altered.
The church can only be gotten right. Once that happens people will flock to it in unprecedented numbers.
Maybe that's what we should try.