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Finding Our Way July 30, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grad School Life.

Well, the week in Northern Minnesota was very much like a July week in Abilene, except for the desert, the lake, the forest, and the great fishing. OK, only the heat was like Abilene, but many is it hot up here. 102 is expected on Monday.

It was healing indeed. I am grateful for the beuty of Northern Minnesota and want to tak e full advantage of it every single season of the year including Winter.

We’re up to our ears in boxes at my sister’s suburban home here in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul). We’ll be living at my sister’s for a while since we lost our shirts let our house go for a great price. She’s fine with it and doesn’t mind a little rental income. Most importantly, my wife is OK and finding ways to adjust. The kids get to see their Auntie Amy daily, so this is dream come true for them. And me, well, what can I say but, “Where’s the bus station?”

I’ll be riding public transit for the first time in my life. Not a bad deal in the Twin Cities via the University special. $62 per month to ride as much as I want – even the light rail train that goes here and there. I don’t even have to be trying to get to the university to get the deal. We’ll see how the ride is before I start falling in love with public transit.

Peace, more blogging coming up. Thanks for all the well-wishing. It means a lot to me.


Looks Like We Made It July 22, 2006

Posted by fajita in General.

I am safe and sound in Minnesota. One week in the North woods near Canada will heal me.

Moving Day July 20, 2006

Posted by fajita in Blogging, family.

By this time tomorrow, I will be driving one of these loaded to the gils with my stuff. I’m Minnesota bound. This trip is an emotional one for me. I am leaving people I love and a place I have grown to love to return to my homeland (not Mexico, Minnesota) that I love do deeply.

I wonder if I will have re-entry shock a little. I get into habits which reinforce familiarity and therefore secruity. I am entering unfamilar territory from a neighborhood, economic, and relational perspective.

Blogging will be sporadic for the next month or so. Not a problem for you smart people with feed reading services like bloglines. However, for you web 1.0 people who keep typing in my blog address or keeping linking from your own blog to see if I have anything here – BLOGLINES!!!!!!!!!!! 

Psalm 11 Reloaded July 19, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, emerging church/emergent, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement, Psalms Reloaded.
1 comment so far

Look, you can have all your stupid clichés and quote your pithy philosophical garbage all you want, I’ve got one place and one place only that I go when I am in trouble. That place is to God.  Here is may favorite one of your lame songs; this one makes me laugh.

We’re sittin’ ducks;

We’re sittin’ ducks;

The flock must fly, or we’re gonna die, 

We’re sittin’ ducks;

We’re sittin’ ducks;

Hunter’s gotta gun, so we gotta run, 

We’re sitting ducks;

We’re sitting ducks;

Let’s fly the coop or we’re duck soup.  

Go ahead, sing your depressing songs. I have confidence that God is going to make things right. He sees everything going on here. This current mess we’re in is no surprise to the God I know. The god you know, well, I’m not so sure.

The God I know is looking at us all, and not just on the outside. He’s zeroed in on what I think and feel, not just what I do. He’s doing the same thing with you. When he finds good things going on on the inside, he saves it all up, but when he finds a bad apple, he pitches it into the burn heap.

Look, this might sound harsh, but think about it, rotten always spreads to make more rotten, not the other way around. It is for the sake of the good that he chunks the bad.

All you need to do is to get goodness into your heart and then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Then you’ll be able to look God in the eye and not be afraid of anything.  

Language Less|ens 3: We like to move it move it July 18, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent.

In this time of transition, unrest, and transformation in the Christian world, conversation is necessary. In fact, it’s necessary at all times. However, conversation alone is not enough. When it comes to mission, sometimes the words get in the way. Sometimes we get to talking when we need to be doing something.

Truth is, all behavior is communication. So, what does it say when all a person does is talk (or blog)? Sooner or later, people who are all talk become known for their talk, and not for anything else. They are not reliable doers. Oh yes, you can get their opinion, analysis, angle, insight and so forth, but you might not get their butts off the chair at the coffee shop.

For all of its very convincing rhetoric, the emerging church will fall flat if it provides only good conversations. More and more speaking must be done with action, with mission, with compassion.

Emergent wil become more convincing and more influential the more missional it becomes.

A Little Something July 18, 2006

Posted by fajita in A Little Something, Christianity, Civil Rights, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

Psychotherapy As Religion might prove to be an informative read.

Dr. King not right model for Black clergy? Postmodern Negro talks about it.

A little something on emergent.

Argenteen and I move on the same day. Weird.

Sivin Kit blogs about another tsunami.

Funny emerging church comic.

Depressed? Anxiety ridden? Going freakin’ nuts? Sing.

Here are some post-emergent rumblings.

Language Less|ens 2: Linguistic Constipation July 17, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.
1 comment so far

Using art (visual, performing, literary etc) as a means by which to convey the story of God is not merely a neat way to reach out to people who are traditionally marginalized in the church, it is essential to Christianity. Although there is some good sentiment in the idea of reaching out and broadening the tent, the value of art goes a lot deeper and is much more necessary for the survival of Christianity. Art as outreach only is like serving coffee at your church because there are people in the world who drink coffee, but no one in your church really likes coffee. They tolerate coffee because they heard about a coffee ministry at a conference in California. Art is far more essential and critical to the survival of the church.

It is essential for the survival of Christianity for the story to be told. However, when the same old ways of telling the story (which is ripe with hope) with the same old language no longer flows, but rather gets backed up in communication process, a sort of constipation occurs in which there is still a lot of input, but there is no real positive result. As with severe constipation, when the system is backed up for too long, there is real danger for damage.

Art, in its various forms, offers something to the Christian community that it desperately needs for its own survival: a laxative.

Art (good art) has a way of bypassing preloaded objections that have been programmed into the sender and receiver. Art freshens the stale packaging that the meaning has been wrapped in too long. Art provides a newer and more efficient cart to carry the message and allows the old and rusted cart to rest. Art can get the conversation going again and flush out the unnecessary clog.

Art is not just a good idea. An artless church will die – period. It may be a slow and grueling death, but it will die.

The poets, painters, singers, dancers, graphics artists etc are necessary for the story to continue to be told. Creativity is the healthy diet that the church has been skimping on for decades, maybe even centuries. It’s like the church has been on a spiritual Atkin’s diet of the beef of propositional truth for so long it forgot what the breads, rolls, and even pastries of art even taste like and have labeled them as bad. You know, steak is good, but after steak for 15 straight decades, some nice warm rolls would taste pretty good right now. And might even do the body good.

My critique of emergent critics July 17, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.
1 comment so far

 Leaders call ‘

Church Movement’ a threat to Gospel

Mar 23, 2005
By David Roach
Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A recently developed way of envisioning church known as the “Emerging Church Movement Conversation” deals carelessly (if all you think scripture amounts to is propositional truth) with Scripture and compromises the philosophically modern Gospel, according to a prominent evangelical scholar and a Southern Baptist seminary president.

But Brian McLaren, one of the movement’s leaders conversation’s participants, told Baptist Press that such criticisms are unfounded and that the Emerging Church Movement conversation/friendship/relationship/dinner party is “seeking to be more faithful to Christ” in the current postmodern cultural context. McLaren is right here. When epistemology (ways of knowing) shifts form A to @, faithfulness to Christ will look like unfaithfulness – and it is – but only to the epistemology, but not to Christ.

In a book entitled “Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church,” which is scheduled to be published in June by Zondervan, theologian D.A. Carson defines the Emerging Church Movement friendship as a group of people who believe the church must use new modes of expressing the Gospel as western culture adopts a postmodern mindset. Too simplistic of a description. It’s not merely about new models. That’s modernity. It’s about being post-model, idiosyncratic, and sympathetic (though not rules by) the local micro-culture, which may be very diverse, or not.

“At the heart of the ‘movement’ (aha, “ “ he’s catching on)… lies the conviction that changes in the culture signal that a new church is ’emerging,'” Well, that’s not really what it means exactly, but it’ll do for a gloss over writes Carson, who serves as research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. “Christian leaders must therefore adapt to this emerging church. Those who fail to do so are blind to the cultural accretions that hide the gospel behind forms of thought and modes of expression that no longer communicate with the new generation.” Not all churches need to “emerge.” In fact, what I see is that churches don’t emerge, people do. Emerging churches seem better planted than converted from existing churches – unless of course that existing church has a high tolerance for change. Few churches do.  

According to Carson, the movement party arose as a protest against the institutional church maybe de facto, modernism not a protest but an understanding and awareness of cultural shifts and seeker-sensitive churches although some emergent types would scoff at what I am about to say, seeker-sensitive is pre-emergent, or is emergent post-seek-sensitive. Why does everything have to be a protest? Emerging people honor their historical roots without rejecting them and without being ruled by them. Why does a generous response to culture, an emerging awareness, an epistemological shift have to be overstated as a “protest?”

At times it is difficult to identify with precision the participants and parameters of the movement, he writes.
Carson shows his hand here. He requires the postmodern to be modern in order for it to make sense. This is the fatal flaw of almost every criticism I have ever heard about the emerging church. He judges through a modern lens the value and benefits of the postmodern incarnation of the church. It’s like he’s saying that “these carrots are not a good source of protein,” or that “this corn is not a good source of fuel for my car,” —or is it Mr. Carson?  

Carson acknowledges that the Emerging Church Movement festival has encouraged evangelicals to take note of cultural trends and has emphasized authenticity among believers.  This is good that he does at least glean something good in his critique.

He criticizes the movement gathering, however, for a reductionistic understanding of modernism maybe so, but not enough to warrant remaining modern and an inappropriate dismissal of confessional Christianity. I’m not sure what he means by dismissing confessional Christianity, but that sounds really bad. If he means jettisoning faith in Jesus, then he’s flat wrong. If he means something else, then who cares?

Carson asserts that some

Church leaders are “painfully reductionistic about modernism and the confessional Christianity that forged its way through the modernist period” and that they “give the impression of dismissing” Christianity. Giving the impression to modern Christians, sure, but not to people who don’t know God or who think they know God as bad or careless. It only appears to dismiss Christianity because modernity is so closely wed to Christianity that when you strip away the modernity, it feels like the Christianity is going with it. In any culture, when you challenge the dominant cultural syncretism, there is going to be resistance. The emerging church is doing just that, but generously, not protestingly. If and when the modernity is exorcized from the Christianity in the next 150 years, there has better be some there there. If not, then there really wasn’t Christianity in the first place.

Carson argues that many thinkers in the movement shy away from asserting that Christianity is true and authoritative according to the limited modern definition of the terms.

He also argues that the Emerging Church Movement frequently fails to use Scripture overstated as the normative standard of truth and instead also appeals to tradition and creativity and art and nature and experience and discovery and on and on and on.

In response to
Carson, McLaren told Baptist Press that “Dr. Carson doesn’t understand us.”

McLaren, who is the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church near Baltimore, Md., and was listed as one of 25 influential evangelicals by TIME magazine, said that he rejects the label “movement” to describe the Emerging Church.

“I generally don’t even use the term movement at this point,” he said. “I think it’s more of a conversation. It’s a group of people who are talking about the Gospel and church and mission, especially in terms of changes going on in our culture that some people call a shift from modern to postmodern culture.”

In contrast to the cultural imperialism demonstrated by believers in the past, McLaren believes Christians should present Christianity through loving attitudes rather than logical arguments. When logic gets bumped off the throne and is replaced by love, evangelicals get really nervous. Love does not wield its power like logic does. Love is risky. Love is good. Logic can be right, but it has a hard time being good. Christian imperialism might smack as strange sounding. However, what many evangelicals have learned to do for the sake of Christian call and duty is to colonize, take over and create hierarchies in organizations and relationships. Rather than being like Jesus and meeting people in their situation and listening to them, many evangelicals spend all of their efforts trying to take over. Sometimes, believe it or not, people don’t like their lives to be “occupied” by an evangelical, even if they are willing to seek God and learn of Jesus.

“Those of us in the west now … realize that there were a lot of bad consequences of European and American people trying to tell everybody else how things are,” he said. “We feel that there’s got to be a lot more humility and a lot more gentleness and that the Gospel is made credible not by how we argue and make truth claims. But it’s made credible by the love and the good deeds that flow from our lives and our community.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville, Ky., questions McLaren’s claim to be giving a credible witness for the Gospel. In an Internet commentary posted on crosswalk.com Mohler argues that McLaren’s claim to uphold historic Christian faith and simultaneously avoid articulating truth in propositional form is self-contradictory. It’s only a contradiction within the closed system of his definition of modern epistemology.

Responding to McLaren’s book, “A Generous Orthodoxy,” Mohler writes, “Embracing the worldview of the postmodern age, he embraces relativism at the cost of clarity in matters of truth and intends to redefine Christianity for this new age, largely in terms of an eccentric mixture of elements he would take from virtually every theological position and variant.” Mohler’s critique does not value that love is truth. Love is the truest way to be with people. Clarity is overrated and much too convenient, but that is what Mohler demands. Yes, clarity has its place, but Jesus created clarity through some pretty bizarre and unconventional ways. Weird stories about God that never mention God are not exactly the kind of propositional truth Mohler is looking for, but that is how Jesus began spreading his kingdom work.  

“… As a postmodernist (Oh yeah, well you’re a doo-doo head. –sigh- Now see, name calling isn’t effective), he considers himself free from any concern for propositional truthfulness, and simply wants the Christian community to embrace a pluriform understanding of truth as a way out of doctrinal conflict and impasse.” Is moving away from doctrinal conflicts such a bad thing? These conflicts seem to have created such a fractured and splintered religion in Christianity that it is unattractive to millions of people for that reason alone.

Mohler charges McLaren with speaking about clear-cut issues in an unbiblical and ambiguous manner. What he means is that they do not share the same rules ofr biblical interpretation, thus making McLaren’s interpretation ambiguous.

“When it comes to issues such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the identity of Jesus Christ as both fully human and fully divine, the authoritative character of Scripture as written revelation, and the clear teaching of Scripture concerning issues such as homosexuality, this movement simply refuses to answer the questions,” Mohler writes. These topics are not conversation starters, but rather they are litmus tests meant to define who is in and who is out. Not only that, these4 topics are so contaminated right now that sifting out where God’s love is in it all is going to be very, very difficult.

“A responsible theological argument must – be generous and kind in the way it communicates its message with the understanding that there is no clear difference between the message and the messenger. The messenger is part of the message – acknowledge that difficult questions demand to be answered. We are not faced with an endless array of doctrinal variants from which we can pick and choose.

“Homosexuality either will or will not be embraced as normative. The church either will or will not accept a radical revisioning of the missionary task. We will either see those who have not come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as persons to whom we should extend a clear gospel message and a call for decision, or we will simply come alongside them to tell our story as they tell their own.” What’s left out here is the most important thing: relationships. Flat theologies used to press down upon bumpy people wil only result in someone eventually getting hurt.

McLaren answers Mohler by saying that he is seeking to contextualize the Gospel as many Southern Baptists do. At times contextualizing the Gospel may mean encouraging people to become followers of Jesus without encouraging them to become a part of the institutional church, McLaren added.

“Dr. Albert Mohler is one of the people who have talked about this,” McLaren said. “But yet there are many Southern Baptists who are doing this very thing. … Many missionaries are … realizing that the issue isn’t whether a person identifies with a religion that now is seen as a western European religion. But the important thing is to help people identify with Jesus and become followers of Jesus.” Is that the kind of statement from McLaren that makes people think he is abandoning Christianity?

When asked whether a person must trust Christ as dying to make atonement for sin in order to be a Christian, McLaren replied, “I want to help people understand everything they can about the cross. … I wouldn’t say that having that understanding (Jesus dying as a substitute for sinful humanity) is all that it means to be a Christian. I think that some people might have that understanding and not be interested in following Jesus. They want Jesus’ blood to pay for their sins so they can go to heaven, but they aren’t really interested in following Jesus in this life.”

McLaren declined to give his opinion on the morality of homosexuality, saying that the issue has become inappropriately political. McLaren is going to have to come out of the closet on this one some day, but not now. I think there is a reason for McLaren’s avoidance besides discomfort. He is teaching us that this is not the most important issue that needs to be dealt with.

“I have my own opinions, but I don’t believe that the smartest thing for me to do is to go around and make those varying opinions a reason to separate myself from other Christians,” he said. “I fellowship with Christians who have a diversity of opinion of this (homosexuality).”

Because of his views on salvation and other issues, the Kentucky Baptist Convention recently withdrew an invitation for McLaren to speak at the convention’s evangelism conference Feb. 28-March 1.

“I respect Dr. McLaren greatly and have appreciated his insight on reaching people in today’s culture,” KBC executive director Bill Mackey said. “We try to bring dynamic speakers to the Evangelism Conference who will challenge and inspire their listeners. I felt that in this instance, however, Dr. Mr. McLaren’s position diverges too greatly to be appropriate for this conference.” Their loss.

Mohler concludes that McLaren and other leaders in the

Church represent “a significant challenge to modern biblical Christianity and American nationalism.”

“Unwilling to affirm that the Bible contains propositional truths overstated that form the framework for Christian belief (really? What about narrative truth, idiosyncratic truth, artistic truth, creative truth?), this movement motley gang of practical theologians and regulars schlepps argues that we can have Christian symbolism and substance without those thorny questions of truthfulness that have so vexed the modern mind,” Mohler writes. Uhm, they don’t really dot hat, by the way. It’s not theological illusionism. There is substance. But postmodern substance is often modern smoke.

“The worldview of postmodernism — complete with an epistemology that denies the possibility of or need for propositional truth — affords the movement an opportunity to hop, skip and jump throughout the Bible and the history Christian thought in order to take whatever pieces they want from one theology and attach them, like doctrinal post-it notes, to whatever picture they would want to draw.”What really is so aggravating about what the emeri9ng church is doing is that it is demoting propositional truth (PT) from its throne and setting it on a side bench for a while. PT is getting a time out. PT is for evangelical theologians what oil is for Americans: it is king. However, what is happening is that alternative truth forms and epistemologies are coming in and providing energy that is sometimes cleaner and more efficient than the oily tracks PT leaves behind. Oil will never be eliminated, but it will some day be only one of many forms of energy that make up the American energy mosaic. PT is going to be one of the many ways of knowing in the emerging church mosaic. Oh, and those random posit it notes – geez, what a lousy metaphor. That’s like saying an artist who worked on a million tile mosaic that up close means nothing, but from afar is a beautiful waterfall, is just randomly pasting together tiles with no sense to be made of it.

Language Less|ens 1: Toward a more robust Christian Language July 17, 2006

Posted by fajita in Bible/Meditations, Christianity, emerging church/emergent, Philosophy/Religion, Post-restoration/Restoration Movement.

Although we don’t want it to be true, we are more contained and limited by language than we realize. Linguists would tell us that language is a way to convey meaning, but has no meaning in and of itself. The meaning is there waiting for a way of transport from one person to another. Communication theorists might tell us that language is only one of the carriers of meaning, while behavior carriers meaning as well, and probably a whole lot more of it. However, when we can say something, there is power. Verbalization is sometimes liberation, but the converse is true as well. When there is meaning, but no expression for it: frustration.

In fact, there is even a model of psychotherapy that is called Collaborative Language Systems, which rests upon the theory that language is power. Language is the means by which the power of self-agency arrives. When there are no words for the meaning loaded within a person, there is psycholpathology, or perhaps an unusual behavior meant to communicate the uncommunicatable. Giving voice to that meaning, it is theorized, gives power to the person and relieves the need for the unusual behavior.

And it’s not just about having a big vocabulary. In fact, it’s not about vocabulary at all. Rather, it is about the courage to speak. It is about accurately conveyiong the intended message. It is about a robust and deep pool from which to draw on in order to get the meaning from inside a person to outside a person – or even into another person.

Problems occur not only when a person does not have an adequate expression for the meaning, but also when a person has an expression that he or she thinks is adequate, but falls flat with or is misunderstood by the hearer. When you think you’ve communicated well, but the rest of the world responds like you’re an idiot, then guess what? Pretty soon you’ll think you’re an idiot. Or, you’ll think that the world is full of idiots.

Now, let’s apply this silly language lesson (lessEn) to Christianty. When the Christian world uses words like truth, church, authority, Bible, God’s Word, Kingdom, crusade, and a whole lot more, what really transfers to the world? If we took these words away, would God’s meaning or intentions be erased as well? Well, I should hope not. God is not bound in language, but we are to a great extent.

What we Christians would have to do is to find words that do convey the meaning of God’s work in this world. We would have to develop a more robust language in order to communicate the meaning of God. Without a common language, or even a comprehensible language, or even an uncontaminated language, communicating the meaning of God is going to be very difficult.

Many Christians don’t think twice about using very, very, Christian jargon with the deep assumption that everyone around them shares the same meaning. What has happaned is either Christians slowly reduce their religious talk to a very few people who also understand their talk and thereby ghettoize their religion or they keep up the jargonized talk with non-Christians and blame them (overtly or silently to themselves) for being sinners, away from God, or other things none too pleasant. Then there are some Christians who believe everyone understands them while they are making a fool of themselves.

I believe much of the Chrsitian language has been contaminated – not necessarily by, “the world,” but rather by Chrsitians themselves. Why in the world are Christians still having “crusades?” The Middle East is erputing into violence, and we’re having “crusades.” At least Franklin Graham is having “festivals” where his father had crusades. There’s a better use of language.

“Crusade” is an easy one. How about the word, “truth?” Is there nothing of God if we find a more descriptive or maybe even more provocative (but less contaminated) word than “truth?” I like how some are using the word, “story” instead of truth. Some people might say, “ancient Chrisitan and Jewish writings” instead of “The Bible.” It’s not that there needs to be a sugar-coating or avoidance of truth, but rahter there needs to be a language whereby the meaning can even be made meaningful. Preloaded language (language whereby the hearer assumes a meaning) that no longer conveys a meaning it once did should be don e away with or placed in Al Gore lock box for a while. Later, it can be brought out fresh and new.

My title says language lessEns, but language can also enhance, although enhancement takes efforts. Since we are all bound by laguage to a large extent, making the Christian language more robust and more accuarate to the meaning intended is a worthy effort and expenditure of time and energy. Clearer and fresher language will help move the conversation along rather than getting stuck at certain points and just fighting over, say…truth. Now is the time for an emergence of creative expressions to move the story along, even if we never use the word truth.

Traveling July 14, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, emerging church/emergent.
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I will be traveling the next few days. Bloggging will be sketchy. Let’s keep talking emergent. Here’s a softball for you to knock out of the park:

The emerging church movement conversation will be a success if it impacts culture like the civil rights movement has impacted culture.