Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ian on John Webster on the Bible

I've been in touch with a guy named Ian who is doing a Master's degree over at the University of Aberdeen and he's been helping me out with some of the details of considering a move to Scotland. As a result I have been keeping an eye on his blog, the stoop, and I thought his most recent post on the place of the Bible in Christian ministry was really good.

The following exerpt was notable to me not only for its content, but for the insight it gives me into the approach of my soon-to-be doctoral supervisor, John Webster. Ian writes:

"Webster would argue that we ought to begin by maintaining not that the text is inspired and infallible, but that God, who reveals himself through the Bible, is the One who inspires. Therefore, we should approach the Bible as a text through which God reveals God’s self, not allowing our ministry to be defined by the worshipping of and strict adherence to the text itself, but rather by trust, worship and obedience in relation to the God that the text reveals. In relation to ministry, therefore, the Bible must be read as an account of God’s self-revealing work in creation, as a text that must be interpreted in context and as a story that demands active participation. . . .

A more communal and narrative mode of reading is necessary. Modern modes of reading have encourage individuals to examine the text on their own in search of certainty and fact, that which can be applied to daily living and held onto in the face of immediate and imminent personal experience. As readings by George Lindbeck and Stanley Hauerwas reminded us, however, we are to approach the Bible as an all-embracing story of the past and present dealings of the triune God with his creation and his people. Through this mode of reading, there will be a renewed sense of our place within the text, and how it is to be read and lived out within the context of our specific communities."

Read it all, including an endorsement of one of the best books I've ever read on this topiv (by Fowl and Jones), here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Barth on Theology

"For Barth, theology ‘is the most beautiful of the sciences’ . . . . When asked about the significance of reason, he simply replied, ‘I use it.’

And what is reason used for? Barth says that just as Philip asked the Ethiopian official in Acts 8 whether he understood what he was reading, so one can also ask, ‘Do you understand what you are believing?’

Theology seeks to help us understand what we read and believe. In theology, as Barth conceives it, one walks a path on which we follow not a principle but a person, Christ; and theology is about following Jesus Christ, following him in the realm of thinking. The Word of God that comes to us in Christ is not simply printed in a book."

(Quoted from Eberhard Busch, Barth, 2008)

The Mythographer

My friend Joel, with whom I've been debating Christianity and atheism here there and everywhere for a couple years, is hosting a discussion aimed at me and me alone on his blog, the Mythographer. It is about reason, and the place of reason, and aims to be a bit of a sideline from our basic arguments in which we've been butting heads over and over.

Could be heady stuff, and I'm not even sure I will represent the people of my faith all that well, but if you want to follow along, the link is going to keep showing up in my blogroll whenever the conversation moves forward. I don't really have a goal, except to be sharpened, to understand, and to see where, if anywhere, Joel and I part ways (not as friends, but in terms of worldview, of course).

Anyway, if you feel like observing, well, there you go. If not, hey, that's fine.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What Went Wrong for West Wing V?

When my wife and I started into West Wing Season Five a month or so ago I was curious to see if something went wrong with the show. I remember that it was sometime in season five that the ratings started to take a dip and they first started talking about the show's longevity. It ended up going seven, but I'd have liked to have seen it go eight.

I used to think it must have been the loss of Rob Lowe in season four that caught up to them, but I don't think so anymore. Certainly his absence was felt, but that's not it. A better theory is that the loss of writer Aaron Sorkin led to the loss of viewers, but, as good as he was, the writing didn't suffer enough to cause the show to lose the people who would already have been sucked in. No. I think the loss in ratings was a loss of the casual viewer. And in season five something happened that I think made it happen.

It wasn't a drop in quality, it wasn't a shift in time slot, it wasn't any of that. It had everything to do with the story and the characters of the show themselves, and this is it:

The goings got tough.

At times it was even hard to watch. The season began with the President's daughter being kidnapped, and while that sounds like a ratings grab, it transcended such gimmicks by turning itself into an interwoven group of character studies. If it was a series of novels, this would be the one where the characters went through the fire. Sometimes they came out shining, sometimes their flaws were exposed. Always it was smart writing.

Always it felt like life and entertainment were meeting and making art. I'm not totally opposed to entertainment being escapist, but I do prefer the smart, real, stuff; the stuff of classic novels; the stuff of developing characters and story webs. It doesn't get the ratings as much, I suppose, but it is right up my alley.

Perhaps the highlight of the season, thematically, is the fallout from the aforementioned kidnapping, where the President steps down in order not to do something rash to save his daughter. What results is that the person who takes over does what is best for the country first, and the daughter second. In the end they do get the daughter back, but the family is never the same.

The cost of leadership is seen at its highest, and the President is seen for his commitment to his job and his country. But the cost is high, and it takes the family a long time to recover. It feels like a modern parable of Abraham and Isaac, achieving through a contemporary storyline what Soren Kierkegaard with Fear and Trembling and Fredrick Buechner with his novel Son of Laughter achieve with the old one. The depth of it is profound, while still being great entertainment.

That said, it was a tough year for the characters and the storylines, and so I can now why viewers dropped off. But as a fan of the West Wing, it is sort of gratifying that it lost viewers because of an increase, and not a decrease, in quality. Bravo.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sweet Sweet Ascension Day

Happy Ascension Day everyone!

I'm preaching on the Ascension of Christ this week and it blows me away how simultaneously important and neglected this aspect of Christian theology is both for our understanding of our worldview and for our day to day Christian practice.

I don't have time to elaborate right now, but here are a few thoughts from others which really drive that point home, at least for me:

"In the incarnation we have the meeting of man and God in man’s place, but in the ascension we have the meeting of man and God in God’s place, but through the Spirit these are not separated from one another." - TF Torrance, Space, Time, and Resurrection

"It is as the Son of God wearing still the flesh of our humanity and the marks of the atonement that he pleads for us before the throne of grace so that our humanity in its terrible neediness is in him brought acceptably before the Father in love." - Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology

"The Ascension must thus be combined with the Incarnation if we would understand the process by which the Almighty designs to realise His final purpose with regard to humanity." - John Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord.

"Thus when we speak of the communion of the Holy Spirit we mean the communion-creating work of the Holy Spirit—communion with the Father through our Spirit-led union with Christ and, consequently, communion with one another as we are formed into the missionary body of Christ, the church. . . .

To make the same point in a liturgical vein [and it would be really interesting to explore how this point manifests itself in other areas as well], it is right and necessary that the ascension receive the same emphasis as that commonly given to the celebration of 'Incarnation Day,' that is, Christmas."
- Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alan Hirsch's Call to Contend

At our recent district conference there was some really good and some really bad. I've been a bit negative lately, so here's some of the really good.

Alan Hirsch, our guest speaker and author of The Forgotten Ways, was talking about the different types of people that make up the Christian community, as well as the community at large, and was emphasizing the dynamic we need to have in order to have real community (rather than false peace or false unity). He said we need to:

recognize and enjoy our FIT (the grounds of our unity),

and our SPLIT (the diversity of persons within it),

and to CONTEND over disagreements (discuss, don't avoid!)

with the goal that we would TRANSCEND (find one mind, the mind of Christ).

I do think Hirsch may be overly optimistic about our ability to find one mind, even the mind of Christ, with a timing that conviences us (and our lofty corporate strategies and goals), but I do agree about it as a goal. What I would add is that if the original unity is understood to transcend us, as something grounded in Christ around whom we gather, then the unity at the end will aim at consensus, but will transcend both consensus and disagreement for the same reason it always did.

I do think that in communion in Christ we have something in which we should enjoy the freedom to disagree, rather than feel the pressure to maintain "peace" by avoiding conflict and open discussion. I actually think it betrays a failure to trust in Christ or believe in the communion of saints if this is our idea of peace and unity.

Regardless of my nuances on Hirsch's call (which I don't think are minor, but I'm trying to be positive here), I think his call to CONTEND rather than AVOID was a very good and much needed one. Hear here Alan Hirsch!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Quotable GKC

"If people are especially horrified at the failure of Christian practice it must be an indirect compliment to the Christian creed."

- GK Chesterton, Daily News, Feb. 13, 1906 -

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Evasive Maneuvers and Propaganda do not an Alliance Make

I have a deep love and commitment for the denomination of churches in which I've grown up, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. But I have a growing burden for it as well, because I truly think that in one regard at least our denomination is in pretty bad place right now. I have a lot of hope in Jesus Christ, and thus have hope for his church. But as for my denomination, I don't know.

What hope is there for a denomination whose main strategies for dealing with controversial issues or hard-sell proposals are evasion and propaganda? What hope is there for a denomination who spends countless hours and dollars trying to figure out how to reach their culture with the gospel while simultaneously pushing away the very people in their midst who could save them a buck or two and just tell them?

Worse yet, what hope is there for a denomination which, instead of looking intently to the Word of God to speak relevantly to each time and culture through the interpretive community as they wrestle with contemporary questions (and with each other), settles for the polar strategies of avoidance and advertising?

I think we show a real lack of faith in Christ as our unifier when we depend on conflict avoidance and motivational media to keep us unified. What would be really promising would be if we trusted our unity in Christ to keep us together while we contended with one another around the Word of God and sought for the Spirit to guide us into truth.

An organization that fails to do this may continue to survive, and if it continues to take all its cues from the corporate world which is so adept at feeding consumers and gaining numbers it may even appear to thrive. But a denomination that claims to be Christian and yet forsakes this fundamental role and identity-marker at this crucial point might be dying inside at precisely the moment when it appears most "successful".

I quite honestly believe that is the crisis my denomination faces today. I respect many of my leaders and colleagues and I believe that they love and wish to serve Jesus Christ with all their hearts. And therein lies my hope. In fact, at our recent district conference our leaders gave us more "open mic" for discussion than I've seen in a long time.

But I think many still are digging for answers in all the wrong places. Hopefully in the years ahead we will have the guts to fight some stuff out (such as ordination, women in leadership, and our over-arching evangelical theology), but I don't think it will happen in the next few years. For now we seem poised for more conflict avoidance and for spending more thousands of dollars and man-hours on our (largely unneeded) self-motivation. Maybe by General Assembly 2012 we'll be ready to deal with some stuff. I sure hope so.

And maybe that's fine. Maybe this stuff has to be allowed to run its course so everyone can wrestle through it. I'm not interested in a dictatorship of new ideas any more than I am interested in the dictatorship of old ones. But that shouldn't prevent us from speaking up, even now. I think we see God more as we enter the process rather than sit back and pine and whine about the end goal. We need to lovingly and honestly fight against the false peace of evasion and the false hope of propaganda or we are going to die.

GK Chesterton adeptly addressed these twin problems in a 1908 essay entitled "On Bluff," addressing the editorialists of his time:

"The idea of fighting, of answering the argument by a suitable counter-argument, even if it be a sophistry, has evidently vanished from the editorial mind. Evasion and violence are the only expedients. . . . But both of these things are equally remote from the fighting spirit, which involves an interest in the enemy's movement in order to parry them. The good controversialist is a good listener . . . .

Most current attempts at [debate] are full of timidity or of bullying; and these two are in truth the same ... habit of admiring Power rather than Valour. That word Valour, by the way, is in itself a stirring sermon. It means putting one's full value into the struggle or sentiment; the almost exact translation of valour is 'being in it for all you are worth.'"

I confess that I struggle (as I'm sure we all do) with when to speak, when to listen, and how to do each lovingly and honestly. But evasive maneuvers and manipulative words are unbecoming a people who are rallied around the One who taught us self-giving communion and speaking the truth in love.

I do think Christ would lead me, and us, through this better than anyone or anything. I do think we have it at center if we'll reach back and grab it. We've quite literally just got to put the Christian and the Alliance back in C&MA. Then we'll really have something worth being Missionary about.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Barth on the Church

In light of recent discussions on this blog about the church, I found the following stuff from Karl Barth (as quoted and summed by Eberhard Busch) very timely. I'd have loved it if he was there to say some of this at my denominational district conference the last couple days too. His statements may have stopped us in our tracks, methinks:

"For Barth . . . . 'To be awakened to faith and to be added to the community is one and the same thing . . . there is no legitimate private Christianity.' That people are connected with each other by cultivating some common conviction certainly does not make them a church. What makes their gathering a church is only that Jesus is in their midst. . . . Barth can speak about this in drastic terms:

'It (the church) may become a beggar, it may act like a shopkeeper, it may make itself a harlot--as has happened and still does happen, yet it is always the bride of Jesus Christ. . . . What saves it and makes it indestructible is not that it does not basically forsake Him--who can say how deeply and basically it has often enough forsaken Him and still does?--nor is it this or that good that it may be or do, but the fact that He does not forsake it, any more than Yahweh would forsake His people Israel in all His judgments.' . . .

The only way for the church to be the one visible church is for believers, each in their own place, to struggle in repentance to be the church of Jesus Christ. . . .

But there are two dangers in which she finds herself (even though she will face them both 'in the name of Jesus'!): sacralization, in which she is immersed in a self-glorification before the world that has a different orientation than she has, or secularization, in which she adjusts to the methods of worldly powers and fashions. . . .

[The mature church enjoys] a freedom to 'live in contact, solidarity . . . with God, but also with men . . . as companions in the partnership of reconciliation.' . . .

The difference between Christians and other people is not that those within the church have salvation and those outside her do not have it. The only difference is that members of the church have heard and recognized that which remains or is again hidden from others. . . .

In her missionary service, the church is not imposing something unfavorable on her fellow humans, for the Word of God became human--not Christian--and in him, Jesus Christ, God reconciled the world to himself. . . .

The church is called to be God's witness within her own times. But she can only be a witness and not the mediator of salvation. She cannot bring about the self-mediating reality of the world's reconciliation with God. God brings it about."

(Barth quotes taken from the Church Dogmatics, Vol IV, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, emphasis mine)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Karl Barth to the Church in Crisis

Some interesting reading from Eberhard Busch's book on Karl Barth which describes Barth's activities and approach to church and state in those fateful days of pre-WWII Germany:

"Barth sent [a] sermon immediately to Adolf Hitler with a letter saying that he should learn what the Christian church is really about. . . ."

On October 31, 1933, in Berlin Barth challenged the German Church at a public gathering of 150 pastors with the following tirade of questions:

"'What has happened this summer in Germany? Did it happen justly or unjustly? What about this kind of seizure of power? What abotu the liquidation of all other parties? What about the confiscation of property? What took place in the concentration camps? What happened to the Jews? Can Germany, can the German Church, accept responsibility for so many suicides? Has the Church not also become guilty in all this by remaining silent? Whoever proclaims the Word of God has to speak what the Word of God says about such actions.'

Barth was immediately expelled from Germany for these statements. . . .

During the 1930s, it became obvious how easily a church so proud of herself could be led astray. Barth tried to bring clarity by using the phrase 'The Church must be the Church.' She may neither be a hidden monastery nor a department store.

And he worked hard to get this point across. He did so out of the conviction that the church herself is her own greatest threat and that she must resist this threat above all others.

He regarded Dietrich Bonhoeffer's idea of leaving the church because of the infiltration of Nazi ideology as an unhelpful escape from this task. He insisted that you, the followers of this ideology, have left the church.

Part of the significance of the Barmen Declaration was that it called those in error back to the church. Therefore, he called those resisting this error the Confessing Church. . . .

For Barth the church is in order when Christ alone is at her center and when her members are no more and no less than brothers and sisters."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Link to Some Lament

One of the things we talked about a lot at seminary was the lack of healthy, biblical lament in church and, thus, the lopsidedness of our worship. We had a few times of lamentation in our seminary community chapels, but I have yet to see it attempted much, at least not in an intentional way, in a church setting.

But my friend Jon Kramer has blazed a bit of a trail (in our denominational tradition anyway) and recently led a contextually appropriate and, from what I can tell, very healthy and authentic lament service at his church (following another tragedy in the church) and anyone who is interested can see his comments, and a copy of his talk, here. For any of you who have talked about this with me in the past this is a head's up: Go read it, save it, print it off, frame it.

I feel for that church at this rough time, but thank God they have a pastor willing to help them begin to understand how to walk through it together, rather than, as Jon says, all feeling like they have to go off to some Shack somewhere to deal with it alone until they are ready to come do the "shiny happy" again. Oh man, that's gold.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

OK Church: What's the Diff? Part 2

Some more comments have been added to the Interlude post, but I'm prepared to put my answer out there and hopefully it addresses them somewhat while also providing my basic responses to the original question. I don't have much more time to work on it, but would rather put out an unpolished version and then discuss and clarify than hold off indefinitely until that never-to-come day when it is perfectly put.

So, if you are just joining us, the question Trev asked was as follows. There could be (and
has been) some debate over the presumptions in the question itself, but my goal is to address the main thrust of it.

"One of the biggest criticisms against the church is its claim to have an objective source for morality (God). Yet, we see an organization that seems to follow suit with whatever the rest of the world is doing. The church is constantly evolving and re-examining its moral compass....just like everyone else. So what's the difference? What is Jesus doing within the church that isn't happening elsewhere in society? Is society following the church's example, or is the church following society's example?"

And: "What IS the church?"

The church confesses God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Its people know they are works in progress. Where they forget this they stand to be corrected. They confess again that it is a reconciling.

Are they different than society? Of course they are. This isn't the group that gathers around the feeling that Lando is their favourite Star Wars character. It is the people that gathers around the belief that God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself. Wherever they are different it is there: In the content of what they are gathered by and for.

But the question was really about their moral difference. If they have an "objective source for morality" from God why aren't they better across the board than the rest of society? Why should anyone care about them if they are not morally better?

I think CS Lewis was right about this in Mere Christianity. In my view if you are going to look for the moral difference Christ makes you don't get far comparing the behaviour of Christian Jon to that of atheist Matthew. Matthew may have been quite simple born morally superior to Jon: Light years ahead in grace and humility. The question is what difference there is between Christian Jon and un-Christian Jon. This is a comparison one can make, although not perfectly of course. Most Christians can and will speak of the difference Christ has made in their lives.

But I suspect this is exactly the attitude Trev wishes to confront. When church people shift the focus from "God in Christ reconciling the world" to "God in me made better than you". And what we need to continue doing, morally speaking, is ask ourselves what difference Christ has yet to make in our lives.

Is the church different? Morally? Many times probably yes. But not in the sense that they are all made better than everyone else immediately upon entry into the building or the religion. That's just not how it works. God in Christ is still reconciling, not just the church, but the world. The church confesses this and strives for it. That's how it is different.

The church is not different than society because it has an objective static moral code that requires no effort in interpretation or application. Yes you have church folk who make it out to be that way, but if that's the cardboard cut out you want to use to cover the whole church you just aren't trying very hard. The church itself has correctives for such folk.

However, neither is the church the same as society because it has a "moral compass" that is "constantly evolving" and "following suit" with society at every step of the way. Sometimes it does, and some pockets of it are more societally-driven than others, and sometimes that is to varying degrees appropriate. Sometimes, too, societally-driven change is actually inappropriate, according to the church's discernment. Sometimes there is a bit of both.

One example of a time it was good to go with (part of) society was and is in the case of the abolition of slavery in the U.S., although it is not that simple as to say that eradicating slavery was the work of society against the church. It was society in part along with the church in part against society in part and the church in part. Would it have changed without the seeds of Judeo-Christian equality in the society itself?

An example of something the society may arguably be "ahead" on might be the role of women. But even here, would it be where it is without the seeds of Judeo-Christian equality (however slowly they've been born out to their full redemption as of yet)? And can we really call something like societal feminism "ahead" when it also entails the full-scale slaughter of innocent yet-to-be-born children?

An obvious example of an inappropriate going-along-with-society was the church in Germany which supported the National Socialists. But there was also the confessing church in Germany, and another huge part of the church and a huge part of the society around Germany, that begged to differ with that party's values. Would Hitler have been able to do what he did without some perverted biblical interpretations of anti-semitist nationalism? Perhaps not, but I imagine he'd have found some other justification. And there are hugely reasonable grounds for opposing him in Christian theology itself.

To say that the church's "moral compass" is no different than society's is, to me, missing something. Just because it has to think along the way, interpret, wrestle, adapt, and apply, doesn't make it different. It makes it human. But it believes Jesus is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, and it believes the Spirit guides us into truth as we wrestle with the Scriptures together. So I'd say the moral compass is a bit different.

It is indeed constantly "re-examining" its moral compass, Jesus Christ, as testified to in Scripture and in church history and in church-present by the communal work of interpretation and application as led by the Spirit. This is exactly what it is doing and trying to do. But where it is different is that the moral compass is Jesus Christ. And I find it ironic that it gets accused on one hand of just going with whatever conveniently allows it to sleep with society at night, and on the other of not going along with it quickly enough. It is also ironic that it is accused of being flighty, when the one thing that sets it apart is precisely the root from which it grows.

Even in those cases where society seems ahead, the church will have a different motive or goal or slant or style of moral change depending on the degree to which Christ is speaking into the situation through society and then back into society through the church gathered around Him.

We believe God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself. Not human ideas about God, but God revealed in Christ. And he is reconciling; not done yet; active and relevant. And the goal is reconciliation of the world, not just the select, escapist, pietistically superior, rapturable few.

And the goal is full-scale reconciliation to God, not simply some moral improvement in itself. And reconciliation to God of course entails healing of relationships with others, with creation, and also the hope of new creation in Christ yet to come.

I think the church has moral stances that are going to be unpopular. Within it are also approaches to morality that could use refining. But if it can be criticized at any point it is by Christ himself. It is to be criticized wherever it is not more like Christ.

But there are a couple ways to go about that criticism. There are the Pharisees who demand a certain holiness and offer no help or togetherness in getting there. These are the old Pharisees everyone rails against: The legalists so obsessed with personal piety and the rapture. But there are also the new Pharisees who have left the church because it doesn't live up.

But there is a new (old) way of being the church, and that is to love it as Christ loves it, and loves us, with grace, with a commitment to what we should be, with a conviction that we get there by forgiveness and reconciliation and not of ourselves. This is my conviction: That if the church is to be different it is here. Ambassadors of reconciliation.

We can't well do that from our moral haunches and pedestals, but we can do it be continuing to gather at the communion table, not in false peace, but in the commitment to speak TRUTH in LOVE to one another, to listen in return, to have a spirit of forgiveness, and to be the people who in word and deed continue to gather together and then work and speak in the world as if God is, inded, in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Interlude: Inspired

Saw this over at can't find normal and have watched it several times. It's a must see. Really.

I have seen lots of skateboarding videos that wowed me too. I love these guys. I used to hang out at skate parks (and make 28 year old attempts to rollerblade the half pipe) and watch them. I think what is so amazing about the bike stuff is that we've all ridden a bike and so we know this is incredible.

I was going to post this as an interlude to the whole conversation that has been going on in the post below, but now that I think about it I realize this is not a departure at all.

Lest Trev accuse me of evading the question, I think there is an important point here. I watch a video like this and I think: "What a creature we call 'human'!"

As Christians we talk a lot about the fall, and being redeemed from it. So Trev is right to ask why we often don't look all that different, all that redeemed. I think this is a generalization that doesn't ring true across the board, but is a valid query and decent point nonetheless.

But one of the things we also say is that God made people, and called them very good. And though we've fallen there is yet much good to be found. And in Psalm 8 the Psalmist wrestles with both sides of the issue -- our devastating finitude and fallenness and our amazing capability and goodness:

"what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned them with glory and honor."

I think one of the things we perhaps don't do enough of as the church is affirm and involve ourselves in the good around us. Certainly we'll see it as good of a different sort and source, but like I think Tanti was saying below, why do we need to take credit for it?

I have no idea if this bike riding genius is a Christian or not, but, man, he is good!

And yet I'll add a Christian spin on it too. I might risk sounding cheesy here, but as a Christian watching this genius biker I also want to affirm the good I see when instead of destroying property (as the stereotype would have it), part way through the video he puts stuff back how he found it. My wife loved that part.

Anyway, this is perhaps a bit of an interlude in the conversation, but perhaps not. I hope everyone enjoys this video. And in the interests of continuing the conversation (and not evading the question), in the comment stream to this post I'll re-state the question and recap the answers given in the other post so we can keep it going.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

OK Church: What's the Diff?

Though a very busy month for me in every regard, strangely enough April was my busiest blogging month of all time (by a long shot: 18 posts to the next closest 12!). That's a bit misleading though. There have been other months where I've blogged way more, it is just that those months I spent most of my time commenting on other's blogs (wink wink nudge nudge Joel and Matthew).

Anyway, for my first post in May I want to come back to something Trev raised in the comments on my Shriners' post in early April. We had a bit of a back and forth at the time and then I moved on (you can get the context here, if you want). But I don't want to ignore challenges that have been raised, at least not on my very own blog, especially when it has been done articulately and respectfully. So here's what Trev said:

"One of the biggest criticisms against the church is its claim to have an objective source for morality (God). Yet, we see an organization that seems to follow suit with whatever the rest of the world is doing. The church is constantly evolving and re-examining its moral compass....just like everyone else. So what's the difference? What is Jesus doing within the church that isn't happening elsewhere in society? Is society following the church's example, or is the church following society's example?"

Good question. I am not sure I have the time to craft a long involved answer or enter into super-lengthy debate, but I do have some thoughts on the matter. However, first I want to put the question out there and see if any of my readers (Christian or otherwise) wish to chime in.

What do you think about Trev's question?

(To be clear (and knowing my readers I probably don't really need to say this), this is not to be an attack on Trev. He raised it, and I want to let the comment stream continue.)