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    Entries in Christianity (147)


    Newer Stuff at FaithVillage

    Here are a few posts from FV that have appeared over the past month:

    Click through, have a read, and, as always, I invite you to share with others via Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or other social media.



    If you are offended when I say that something you said is asinine, it isn't necessarily the case that your measure of offendedness is consistent with my statement, but only that YOUR interpretation of what I said is consistent with whatever your level of offendedness might be.  By calling your statement asinine, in fact, I may have not been saying anything of that kind.  If you would've understood what I actually said when I said that the words falling out of your mouth were asinine, then you would've heard me saying that everything you say is brilliant.  How could it have been that you misunderstood me?

    When you say your understanding is consistent with what I actually said, what you mean is that your understanding is consistent with YOUR interpretation of what I said, not with what I actually may or may not have said.

    This, my friends, is what we call a vicious circle.  Enjoy running laps.

    And this is why I'm frustrated with people who say things like this.

    P.S. - Christian love is hard.

    Is there a text in this class?


    It's Jesus Calling...

    I do not enjoy talking on the phone.  Often I avoid it.  Allowing calls to go to voice mail is a gift of technology.  I do not have to answer, I can review the message, and I can call at my convenience.  I own the phone.

    Those in the Benedictine tradition would challenge this.  John Ortberg brought this to my attention.  Just as Benedictines greet every guest as they would Christ, so too can one answer the phone as though it is Christ who is calling.

    With this at the forefront of my mind, I'll never answer the phone the same way again.


    Ancient Practices and the Porous Self

    In a 2008 article written for First Things, Alan Jacobs turns his attention toward Hugh Halter, Matt Smay, Brian McLaren, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, examining contemporary authors in Christianity that harken back within their published works to an "ancient faith."  In the three books linked above, each author turns the attention of the reader to the past, and in one way or another seeks to reclaim some old facet of the Christian Tradition they believe has been lost.  Having read McLaren and Wilson-Hartgrove, I was intrigued.  Like many reformers of old, I too have longed for a re-emergence of Christian faith as it has been expressed and lived in the past, a purer, even "mythic" faith that taps into that same energy discovered and exploding forth from the pages of the New Testament.

    I first encountered this article, entitled "Do-It-Yourself Tradition," in Jacobs' collection of essays, Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant.  This selection is an excellent critique of contemporary popular writing that attempts to point us back to the past.  Jacobs exposes critiques of the church that are too simplistic, outlandish, and historically ill-founded (and not exclusive to the authors cited above), while calling the reader to a deeper, more analytic and theologically well grounded attempt to forge a way forward for the contemporary church.  Jacobs calls his reader to be more daring, more brash in their attempts to re-enliven Christianity.  A tweak here, a tweak there, a practice now and again with a dash of spiritual razzmatazz won't do.

    You can read the article here.  As he reaches the end of his argument, Jacobs interjects a small amount of contemporary cultural and philosophical analysis that may be the greatest contribution given therein.  In his concluding remarks, Jacobs states:

    The practices of the ancient Church were forged in eras of the porous self and were responsive to its fears and vulnerabilities. Can they be nearly as meaningful to us, surrounded by our protective buffers, as they were to our ancestors? Does their evident power suggest to us that we have paid too high a price for our buffers, that we may need to be more exposed? The self that can pursue the via illuminativa—that can be illuminated by God—may open itself to the demonic as well as the divine. The disciplines and practices of our Christian ancestors are not toys or tools; they are the hope of life to those who are perishing. This is what Alasdair MacIntyre had in mind when he said that, here among the ruins of our old civilization, what we may be waiting for is a new St. Benedict: someone who can articulate a whole way of life and call us to it.

    The turn to the Christian past is indeed welcome, but it may demand more of us than we are prepared to give. In contemplating the witness and practices of our ancestors, we may discover that we'd rather remain within our buffers—if we can. But can we? Current electronic technologies—from blogs to texting to online banking to customer-specific Google ads—may be drawing us into a new age of porousness, with new exposures, new vulnerabilities. And in such a new age the hard-earned wisdom of our distant ancestors in the faith may be not just a set of interesting ideas and recommendations but an indispensable source of hope. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

    While I have spoken often of the spiritual disciplines as "tools," Jacobs posits that they are indeed much more.  I think he is right.  I also think he is right to point to the changing existential dynamic that may be taking place--the reinsertion of the porous self--within history.

    If Jacobs is right, and the current technological conditions are opening avenues for the reestablishment of mystery and deep spirituality alongside the minimization of those "buffers" we place around ourselves to insulate us from transformative spiritual fanaticism, a new day may be dawning before us.  Jacobs is then right to see ancient Christian practices as "an indispensible source of hope" and "the hope of life to those who are perishing."  He is right to invoke Alasdair MacIntyre's observation that we may need a new St. Benedict.

    The project of "new creation" is larger than we have imagined.

    As conversations continue regarding the future of the faith, between myself and colleagues and friends across denominations and non-denominations, we are in need of honest historical reflection concerning where we stand, as well as sound, well-informed philosophical and theological reflection that can set us on a truthful trajectory toward the fullness of the Kingdom coming.  Along the way, we'll also need practitioners--pastors and church leaders--for the outcome of our ruminations cannot remain in the abstract, if we are to truly see a renewed and more hopeful Christianity.


    Monday Give Away :: Stephen Mansfield's The Search for God and Guinness

    That's right, a book about beer.

    Leave a comment if you want a shot at a copy of Stephen Mansfield's The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World.  Or, if you'd prefer not to leave a comment below, mention me and this give away on Twitter.  I wrote a review of this book a while back.  I enjoyed it.  I enjoy reading.  I'll randomize a winner on Friday.

    So, in your comment below, leave a recommendation of something that you have enjoyed reading.  I read broadly, so your recommendations can include fiction, non-fiction, religion, theology, politics--anything.

    And, if you didn't see my last give away, click here and take a shot.  There are three items still up for grabs.