Archive for February, 2007

Hauerwas on Evangelism

A few weeks back I mentioned Stanley Hauerwas’ new commentary on Matthew.  I’ve been reading it along with the gospel of Matthew and it has been a wonderfully enriching experience.  Toward the end of his comments on Chapter 9, he writes about Jesus’ tendency to stay on the move,

Jesus never tarries.  Like foxes and birds, he is always on the move.  The kingdom is a movement that requires him to go to those to whom he has been sent.  That he must go to those in need indicates that the gospel is not and cannot be a set of beliefs.  The gospel is this man, and this man must encounter actual men and women in order to call them into the community of the new age.  Evangelism is people meeting and coming to know people.  As we shall soon see, the disciples will be sent out to the people of Israel.  There can be no substitute for the sending of people.  A church that is not a missionary church is not a church.

Amen and amen.  A church that is not a missionary church is not a church.  As pastors we need to meet people as well.  This makes me wonder, is a pastor who isn’t a missionary pastor really a pastor?

February 26, 2007 at 7:47 am 1 comment

Did Jesus Want to be Liked?

A friend and I have been carrying on an interesting conversation about whether or not Jesus wanted to be liked. So, with his permission and a few slight edits, here is some of that email exchange.

Friend: “So today while I was visiting my counselor, who also happens to be a Christian, he asked me a philosophical question and I’ll pass it along to you for your response. He asked, “Do you think Jesus wanted to be liked?” I answered no, that while it would be nice for Him to be liked, He was more interested in telling the truth which He knew would be counter-cultural and eventually lead to His death. He didn’t court favor with people…He simply told the first disciples to follow him…there was no wooing of them to His service outside His divine nature. And I also pointed out the many who supported Him while He was meeting their needs and then turned their back on Him afterwards. Then there were the crowds who were fickle calling Him king and Messiah on the way into Jerusalem and Crucify Him a week later. Was Jesus seeking popularity? No. I think He was seeking to reveal the truth about man’s need for a relationship with God and knew what His eventual fate would be. He appreciated those close to Him, but that wasn’t a “need”. The counselor was surprised by my answer. Do you think it’s not orthodox or am I just totally off the wall here?”

Me: “Let me think about this some more, but my first response would be that the gospels are primarily written to suggest that Jesus is the Risen Messiah of God rather than any kind of expose as we find in modern psychological biography.

I do think we have clues that point to Jesus’ needs (which I do believe is a very orthodox position, since we consider him fully human as well as fully divine – to take away his human needs would either be docetic and deny his humanity or gnostic and hate his humanity: remember human comes from humus or earthiness). John 21 suggests Jesus wants Peter to love him, John 11:35-36 seems to suggest a deep friendship with Lazarus. We make a fine point between being liked and loved, but I believe Jesus did want to be loved. Presumably we like those we love.

Let me think some more, and I’ll get back to you. However, feel free to press back on any of these points! God bless!”

Friend: “There is a basic human need to be loved. Evidence the scientific experiments where apes were raised with wireframe and cloth mothers as opposed to an actual ape female mother. When the love wasn’t able to be returned, the apes exposed to the non-ape mothers became anti-social and withdrawn. So given that Jesus was fully human, you almost have to assume that he too wished to be loved. However would the close relationship with his Father account for the love that he needed so therefore he didn’t seek the human companionship enough. He is described as a friend of tax collectors and sinners in Matthew 11:19, but he also referred to the guard who came to seize him in the garden as friend. So it could be describing a relationship or simply an acquaintance. I’ll let you handle the Greek exegesis on that. As for liking those you love, there are times when the people you love are very unlikable. Take for example when your kids are driving you nuts. You still love them, but you don’t necessarily like them at all times. Or when dealing with the poor or sinners, you love because you are commanded to love, but they can be quite unlikable at times.

I think ultimately, to take away the docetic or Gnostic aspects that would be implied, there probably is a need to be liked, but solitary monastics could live without the company and be quite content, so why not Christ?”

Me: “OK, maybe God’s love is “enough,” but then why would the great commandment be the twofold love of God and neighbor? God’s inner-triune love is complete, yes. However, it is an effusive love that spills over and receives loving worship from humanity too.

I don’t know that solitary monastics are the best example either. Monasticism at its finest is a hospitable community of love, rather than a bunch of ascetic “navel gazers.” Christians haven’t always been exempt from gnostic and docetic tendencies, monastics included.”

Friend: Is the love of neighbor as yourself an agape love or a phileo love and can you have that kind of phileo love without liking someone?

Me: I think we make far too fine distinctions between the two. Semantically, especially in John 21, they are more similar than many amateur exegetes have suggested over the years. Check out this link for a discussion of that.

Friend: What about a serial killer….could you love Charles Manson? Moving beyond disapproving of what he’s done and really liking him? I realize the extreme nature of this example, but could if someone hurt your daughter and you found it in your heart to forgive as we are commanded and even to love him or her because they are created in the image of God, could you ever “like” them? I don’t think it’s amateur exegetes who make a fine distinction…the Greeks did…which is why there are three words to identify different kinds of love. You also might want to follow this link to read C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this topic from Mere Christianity.

Me: I think we’re talking about a different question now than whether Jesus wanted people to like him. But who’s counting?!

We’ll see where this goes from here…any thoughts out there in the blogosphere?

February 25, 2007 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

View from an Oklahoma Mountaintop


Yesterday afternoon, I hiked halfway up the mountain behind my mother’s house with my brother and my nephew. Here are a couple of pictures from that trip. One is the cave that is halfway up the mountain in a canyon and the other is a picture overlooking the valley below. It’s an awesome place.


February 25, 2007 at 6:51 am 4 comments

The Ministry of Semantics

I’m a firm believer that language is one of the most important tools of the pastoral trade. However, it can also be tempting to abuse language.  We have to approach it carefully.

Semantic AlarmLately, I’ve noticed that I find myself retyping one particular statement in a different way. Often, I’ll find myself talking about “my congregations” or “my church.” Everytime I do this, for whatever reason, there is a little alarm that goes off in the back of my head, “Whose congregation? Whose Church?” So…backspace, backspace, backspace, I retype “the congregations I serve” or “the church I serve.” Because first and foremost both churches I’m appointed to are God’s churches. They do not belong to me. I don’t own them. I’m called to serve them.

Semantics matter. Can we even say that language shapes our thinking? Maybe so. So, the next time you think of “your church,” maybe you’ll hear that same alarm that’s been hardwired in my brain.

February 22, 2007 at 1:02 pm 7 comments

Southern Baptists, United Methodists, and the Emerging Church

Here is an interesting blog post about a Southern Baptist layperson from Missouri who wants to introduce a statement against the emerging church (h/t Tall Skinny Kiwi). This sort of debate pushes my thinking that the United Methodist Church could be an ideal place for emergent churches. Most of our folks are used to some of the ideas that the emerging movement is pushing. We also wouldn’t get bent out of shape over most of the complaints leveled against this movement by this guy or the complaints by Calvary Chapel (again, thanks to TSK for these interesting posts). For instance, we’re not anti-“smells & bells,” we aren’t going to kill one another over inerrancy, and we have some space for some of the other things Calvary is worked up about. My big question is whether or not our polity could handle true emerging churches. Can they fit in with our administrative structure or would we need a new missional category for churches that are seeking to minister from this paradigm? I think we could create something specifically for missional churches that would provide them space to grow and flourish within our denomination.

February 22, 2007 at 8:22 am 2 comments

1,000 Visitors…Wow

1000cm.jpgI would have never imagined 1,000 folks would have stopped by this blog since I moved to WordPress a few months back. Thanks for your visits, comments, and interest. Crazy stuff…

February 21, 2007 at 11:19 am 1 comment

Strange Coincidence

I was feeling really sick, because I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast. Luckily, I was in a city nearby that has a McDonalds (my community has one tiny diner). I got a few chicken strips and started to drive away.

All of a sudden, one of my college biology professors walked right in front of my car! Amazing, considering he lives in a town an hour and a half away from where I saw him. So, since I hadn’t seen him in about 8 years, I got out and called out his name. He turned around and acted as if we had seen each other just yesterday.

Now, this isn’t too surprising since we worked together in the lab all the time and I was one of the first students in a research scholarship program that he was in charge of. The surprise was that he had just been recruiting at a nearby junior college, and said only twenty minutes before he had mentioned my name as a student who had went through the program. So we spent time catching up, talked a little science and theology, and marveled at this chance encounter. Man, this happens so often to me it’s scary!

February 20, 2007 at 4:07 pm 1 comment

A Good Man is Hard to Find on Ash Wednesday

Flannery O'ConnorOn Ash Wednesday, I’m going to weave my sermon together with Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find. This story follows an escaped murderer, the Misfit, and his encounter with a family on their way to vacation in Florida. The grandmother of this group is tranformed in a moment at the end of the story as she’s facing death at the hands of the Misfit and reaches out to include him as one of her own children in a moment of sheer grace. The Misfit recoils and shoots her, later saying, ” “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

I believe this is a powerful statement on the way death can tranform our lives. When we are aware of our mortality, it profoundly changes the way we live. I think this is sort of what Ash Wednesday is all about. In the midst of life, we are slowly (or not so slowly) moving closer to death. Let’s hope we don’t need someone there to shoot us every minute to remind of us of this fact and to inspire us to life a life filled with grace, love, joy, and peace. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

February 20, 2007 at 8:20 am 6 comments

From Pentecostal Chaplain to Wiccan

There is a very interesting article at the Washington Post on a US Army Chaplain who switched from a Pentecostal denomination to a Wiccan group. He believes Wicca better suits his universalist position and talks about his rejection of the fundamentalism of other Christians (and Muslims). Like many folks, I wonder, “Why Wicca?” Did he check out any of the universalist Pentecostal Churches? I also noticed his attraction to the non-violent tenents of Wicca (although I’m not familiar with this, so I wonder if this is something that is true across the board with Wiccans). You need to watch the video too, I think, to get a feel for this man. This switch wasn’t something that happened overnight.

February 19, 2007 at 6:43 pm 4 comments

What is Truth?

“…I was talking to a 17 or 18-year-old young man two or three years ago, and he said to me “I don’t understand all that controversy about the Virgin birth.” Keep in mind; this is a devout Christian kid. When I asked what he meant, he exclaimed, “Well of course I believe in it; it’s so absolutely beautiful, it has to be true whether it happened or not.”

I heard this quote the other day and tracked it back to Phyllis Tickle via the Christianity Today website and her interview “Blowing Holes in Spiritual Formation.” I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit ever since.

In connection with that, I read this piece on creationism and science on Peter Rollins blog. He talks about the way fundamentalists and classical scientific method folks are basically two sides of the same epistemological coin. I’ll allow Rollins to explain with his usual eloquence,

This means that beliefs such as a six-day creation, a fruit tree with the power to bestow knowledge of Good and Evil upon eating from it, a snake with the ability to talk, the transfiguration and the new Jerusalem descending from heaven all exist on the same mundane natural level as a phenomena such as snow falling on a winters evening and are, in principle, able to be proved true (or false) on scientific grounds (truth here being defined as ‘actual material occurrence’, i.e. if a video camera existed at the beginning we could have recorded the snake talking to Eve).

He then goes on to point out the similarities between two camps that are typcially seen as polar opposites,

Instead then of saying that evolutionism (by employing the ‘ism’ here I am referring to those who embrace a metaphysical naturalism which claims evolution as a fact) and creationism are opposed to one another, one can say that evolutionism and creationism are intimately joined together by their belief that reality is empirical and thus in the view that the only good beliefs are those which are factual. In a sense people like Dawkins and Harris are thus profoundly religious in the fundamentalist sense and thus closer to their supposed enemies than they think.

So, back to the original quote from Phyllis Tickle. I guess I’ve still got the old scientist’s thoughts imbedded somewhere. I agree that beauty is importantly connected to truth, but I’m not sure I can agree that what is beautiful is necessarily true. I realize here, that “true” is the point of question here. Is truth necessarily corrospondence to empirical reality?

Well, I’m not sure I’d want a doctor operating on me having the view of truth expressed by that teenager! Doctor, that suture isn’t in the right place! But nurse, it’s so beautiful, it has to be true. Oh yes, I see what you mean – fine stiching Fred. OK, OK…I know that some will suggest that we’re talking about two different fields: Theology and Science. But, I don’t think we should make the mistake of segregating the world into distinct spheres. What do you think? I’m open to conversation on this point.

February 19, 2007 at 12:13 pm 5 comments

Older Posts

Catching Photos

February 2007

Blog Stats

  • 55,091 Meddlers