Month: November 2004

Beautiful changes come by way of transition …

Some of the most beautiful changes come via various transitions. These leaves illusrate the transitions of foliage. They also serve to remind us of our own personal transitions.

Mission of thanksgiving …

Many gave of their time to serve others this Thanksgiving …

Domestication of the Gospel … an all too often practiced habit …

Doing some reading for an upcoming message led me to pick up Leslie Newbigin’s, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It is always encouraging when you read a missiologist who epxresses what you sense and feel you are guilty of and so also a number of well-intentioned evangelical Christians.

The idea of a “domesticated gospel” is not new. In fact reading over at Natalie’s site it seems some have made it a sport to satirize the very subculture from which came the critique. We often know ourselves better than we are willing to admit.

Judge for yourselves whether or not Newbigin offers an interesting insight.

But inexorably we move on to the point where the Bible is subjected to the scrutiny of reason and conscience and is found to be full of inconsistencies, absurdities, tall storied, and plain immorality.
What is striking about the books which were written, especially during the eighteenth century, to defend Christianity agsint these attacks, is the degree to which they accept the assumptions of their assailants. Christianity is defended as being reasonable. It can be accomodated within these assumptions, which all reasonable people hold. There is little suggestion that the assumptions themselves are to be challenged. The defense is, in fact, a tactical retreat. But, as later history has shown, these tactical retreats can – if repeated often enough – begin to look more like a rout.
Perphaps the experience of a foreign missionary may usefully illuminate my point I wish to make. When I was a young missionary I used to spend one evening each week in the monastery of the Rmakrishna Mission in the town where I lived, sitting on the floor with the monks studying wwith them the Upanishads and the Gospels. In the great hall of the monastery, as in all the premises of the Ramakrishna MIssion, there is a gallery of portraits of the great religious teachers of humankind. Among them, of course, is a portrait of Jesus. Each year on Christmas Day worship is offered before this picture. Jesus was honored, worshippped, as one of the many manifestations of deity in the course of human history. To me, as a foreign missionary, it was obvious that this was not a step toward the conversion of India. It was the cooption of Jesus into the Hindu worldview. Jesus had become just one figure in the endless cycle of karma and samsara, the wheel of being in which we are call caught up. He had been domesticated into the Hindu worldview. That view remained unchallenged. It was only slowly, through many experiences, that I began to se that something of this domestication had taken place in my own Christianity, that I too had been more ready to seek a “reasonable Christianity,” a Christianity that could be defended on the terms of my whole intellectual formation as a twentieth-century Englishman, rather than something which place my whole intellectual formation under a new and critical light. I too, had been guilty of domesticating the gospel
. (p.2-3)

May not be too strange bedfellows …

My friend Spencer Burke expresses the need for a metaphorical shift in leadership when he calls us to be Fellow Travelers rather than Tour Guides. Sometimes want to find the place between the polarities of the Calvinist-Arminian controversy he is not sure of a fit anywhere. Yet, here is a quote from Calvin that may remind us of the value of a variety of traditions as we work out what it means to follow Jesus in the “transitional moment” (read choose between “postmodern”, “emerging” or your favorite description or anti-description).

On Isaiah 2:3 Calvin wrote,

“Next Isaiah shows that those who take upon them the office of teaching and exhorting should not sit down and command others, but should join and walk along with them as companions; as we see that some men are very severe instructors, and eager to urge others forward, who yet do not move a step.”

Dodge Ball and Age …

Would you be …? Led to not only acting as a commissioner for a “Dodge Ball” fundraiser, but also playing in several games. Standing or sitting and judging play was not a problem. Playing in several games definitely took its toll. I remember well playing dodgeball in younger days – I sure didn’t get home feeling like I do right now. It was great fun – my body is telling me I will pay for the fun I used to enjoy without concern.

Rae did a great job organizing this event – hats off to her!