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Recapturing Bonhoeffer’s Vision: Seminary as Radical Discipleship

With the rising cost in education, classical notions of education (liberal education aimed at character formation) are being squeezed out.  Seminary education (by which I mean any collegiate biblical education) has been especially hard hit.  Paul House, a seminary professor, describes the reigning questions tempting today’s seminaries: “How do we give our constituents whatever they want? Or, How do we sell degrees like any other commodity? Or, What brand of education pays well in a hurry? Or, How do we fit into the newest trend of educational technology? Or, How do we survive at all costs?”[1] He concludes that the age in which the seminary is able to produce a viable academic setting through a “good credentialed faculty” is passing as these questions come to dominate the course of seminary education.[2] Continue reading “Recapturing Bonhoeffer’s Vision: Seminary as Radical Discipleship”

We are (Not That) Church: The Forging Ploughshares Story

The convergence of the people making up the community of Forging Ploughshares is a story unto itself.  Among us we have tried the megachurch, the rural church, the Roman Church, and the mission Church. We have come together more out of desperation than any organized intent.  Most of us are millennials, one of the least churched groups in America.[1] I am suspicious (as a boomer) that the generational divide on this issue has more to do with an older generation which has come to expect very little.[2]  Whatever reason my generation is most happy to attend ordinary church (40%), they apparently do not attend so as to grow their faith (according to Barna).  The generational disaffection (some 59% of millennials who have grown up in church have left) may reflect a determined unwillingness to settle.   Millennials find church irrelevant and presume God himself is absent from the institution.  They are looking for honesty in regard to hard questions but most of all they are looking for a cure for loneliness – and Church is not perceived as speaking to either issue.[3]  In other words, church as we mostly have it, is not being the Church. Continue reading “We are (Not That) Church: The Forging Ploughshares Story”

7 Secrets of Highly Successful – Unproductive People

The following 7 secrets are gleaned from the bestselling author (who prefers to remain anonymous); let’s call her Priscilla.   Priscilla’s book reverses the standard formulas for success equated with productivity and offers an alternative ground and formula – “rest for success.”   Continue reading “7 Secrets of Highly Successful – Unproductive People”

Beyond the Time That Remains: Christ’s Reconstitution of Time

The experience of gathering around the death bed of a family member creates a time experience which the New Testament refers to as Kairos. It is a time of summing up; each moment is saturated, as the time that remains is short.  This is the culminating point –  a point of passage.  Ordinary chronos passes by in a rapid succession of moments – endured and forgotten.  The sacred times of our life, the times of fulfillment or kairoi, are definitive as they mark meaning, final identity, and telos.  The stories we tell to explain who we are, these are the kairoi – the definitive events which constitute our person-hood.  The Hebraic notion of an event oriented time is fused with biblical narrative so that the present is an extension of the past leading to a future messianic time – the pleroma or fullness of time.[1]  Every story and all time is oriented to this eschatological purpose. Continue reading “Beyond the Time That Remains: Christ’s Reconstitution of Time”

Billy Jack Versus Francis: Therapy for Overcoming Metaphysics

The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. Pope Francis, Encyclical on the Environment Continue reading “Billy Jack Versus Francis: Therapy for Overcoming Metaphysics”

Nonviolence as the Essence of Christianity

The orientation to death which is sin shows itself in systemic (religious, nationalistic, tribal) sadistic or masochistic violence.  The violence of war, the violence of sacrificial religions, the genocidal violence of tribalism, the violence of nationalism, or suicidal or murderous violence, are all manifestations of a singular structure – sin – the diagnosis of which is given to us in Christ.  This is a claim which requires substantiation (only initiated and not fully developed below) and which is posed over and against theological systems which presume violence is a necessary part of redemption. Such systems cannot equate sin and violence (though they might picture an overlap between the two) but, I would claim, they are inherently incapacitated in recognizing the root problem.  Should this argument prove to have any value, the implication is that certain theologies and forms of Christianity, in incorporating violence, are in danger of practicing sin under the guise of righteousness and of perverting the image of God by projecting evil onto God.  Continue reading “Nonviolence as the Essence of Christianity”

Escaping the Matrix of Disenchantment

When Morpheus attempts to explain to Neo “the truth” about the Matrix, Neo asks, very much in the spirit of Pilate, “What truth?” Morpheus tells him, “That you are a slave … born into … a prison for your mind.” Morpheus explains, “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” The notion that perception of reality is actually the flat grid of zeroes and ones of a computer program resonates with a generation eager to take the red pill and to escape the banal reality of a flat modernism.  To refer to it as “secularism” may miss the fact that this pervasive notion of reality is promoted by a religiosity which has succumbed, whether conservative or liberal, to a mind-numbing matrix.  Max Weber, in tracing the rise of a capitalistic/secular mode of valuation described it as the “disenchantment” of our world.  He lays the blame for this disenchantment, and with it the rise of secularism, on Protestant theology.  Continue reading “Escaping the Matrix of Disenchantment”

Gender Restoration

In the creation of humans in Genesis, male and female are the mode in which the image bearing capacity of God is conveyed to humankind.  Gender and embodiment seem to function for humankind as part of the essence of who we are in imaging God.  The ontological nature of gender is affirmed by Paul when he references Genesis and the mystery of marriage as referring to Christ and the Church.  The mystery of sexual union between male and female is on the order of the union and oneness between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32).  Gender is not something we set aside in being joined to Christ but is taken up even in this ultimate of relationships.  Whether Paul is speaking literally or metaphorically, gender seems to carry enduring metaphysical importance. Continue reading “Gender Restoration”

Donald Trump and the Hollow Truth of American Evangelicalism

Billy Graham relates, to his own shame, his low point in mixing politics and religion. After seeing President Truman for the first time, the press waiting outside the White House asked him to reenact what he had done with the President. Graham obligingly knelt on the lawn, as if in prayer, for a photo op.  The tall preacher in his white suit and out sized Bible, kneeling at the behest of reporters, captures the willing eagerness of American evangelicals to gain entry into the centers of power.  Graham’s biography reveals his long and close association with Richard Nixon and his near disillusionment at the revelations of Water Gate.  Graham is shocked at the vulgarity of Nixon (revealed in the White House tapes) – someone he considered to be the best of Christians.  Graham, in spite of his disappointment with Nixon, never quit the pursuit of power through association but modeled it throughout his lifetime.  Continue reading “Donald Trump and the Hollow Truth of American Evangelicalism”

Jesus’ Death Does Not Save

The misdiagnosis of the human disease is itself a manifestation of the disease.  Jesus dies at the hands of those who need and require death as a part of their religion.  The great travesty of a failed theology is to employ the logic of those who killed Christ as an explanation of the atonement.  To conflate atonement with the death of Christ is to imagine that death itself is efficacious and redemptive.  This is precisely what the death of Christ is aimed at dispelling. This reversal of the meaning of the death of Christ is itself a manifestation of the evil which he came to conquer.  From Genesis 3 the reversal which the serpent brings about in the mind of the first pair is to have them confuse life and death and to imagine that they are innately immortal (“You won’t die) and that death is only a doorway or transition to “being like God.”  Death and violence with Cain and Lamech are a demonstration of how this original deceit works out in practice.  Cain would gain access to God through the sacrifice of his brother.  Lamech would institute the righteousness of God by sacrificing the one who has transgressed against him by “wounding him.”  The logic of pagan religious sacrifices is that of Cain and Lamech – death is assumed to be efficacious and “righteous slaughter” institutes immediate redemption.  The Judeo/Christian faith is aimed at undoing this death dealing orientation. Continue reading “Jesus’ Death Does Not Save”