Archives for October 2006
Merriam-Webster’s Online offers the folllowing for the preposition, "for."
Main Entry: 1for
Pronunciation: f&r, (')for, Southern also (')fâ??Â§r
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Latin per through, prae before, pro before, for, ahead, Greek pro, Old English faran to go — more at FARE
1 a — used as a function word to indicate purpose <a grant for studying medicine> b — used as a function word to indicate an intended goal <left for home> <acted for the best> c — used as a function word to indicate the object or recipient of a perception, desire, or activity <now for a good rest> <run for your life> <an eye for a bargain>
My friend Frank is back to blogging, which is a good thing. We have known each other since our days at Oklahoma Baptist University – longer than either of us would care to admit. Today Frank mused about the manner in which we egnage culture.
After an ETREK with Barry Taylor, I look at the way we engage culture through different eyes. Barry teaches courses on the intersection of culture and theology at Fuller Seminary (for example). My early influences suggested we cannot get to close to culture lest we be absorbed into its web. The admonitions followed a trajectory contained in the old adage, "birds of a feather flock together." The implication we were led to draw out pressed us to be careful who we "hung out with" because it is easier be "drag someone down" rather than "life them up." While we did have these descriptions, the image of a "Christian ghetto" certainly applied.
The conundrum was just how to be "in" the world but not "of" the world. Our attempts to be "unstained" by the world meant it very difficult to engage anyone in their place so we created opportunities to "get them on our turf." While we may knock on doors, we were in those instances catching them unawares. Yes, we entered their homes but as subversives set out to conquer and not be conquered. If we left without a convert, we at least could leave knowing we did not succumb to "their influences." Today I am certain we did not treat those who opened their homes to us as people but rather projects. I am certain many rebuffed us as they quickkly perceived we cared little about them but wanted to be sure we could say, "we led someone to Jesus."
There is little doubt the other extreme leaves us with little voice. What kind of recognizable differences in our ethic would be evidenced if we stalk about with the same kind of pragmatic ethic driving most who are really only worried about decisions that, "work for me." (While this may well be a digression, I find it personally confusing form some to opt for the Christian ghetto but to carry with them the world’s pragmatic ethic. I recently responded to a friend with the following, have now come to the place where we may have been better served by a call to a
return to the ethic of Jesus which would have forced us to grapple with the
Scriptures. When the Scriptures themselves become the object rather than the
Jesus we find there these kinds of things will certainly come our way. Had
anyone stopped this thing early on and asked the questions of ethics we may well
not be seeing good men impugned because we have taken up the battle at the point
of what Mohler would describe as at least a second tier issue if not a third (of
So I have wondered if we have spent so much time with prepositions that ignore purpose and only talk of position. The telelogical or eschatological emphasis would seem to charge us with looking at our relationship with the world through the lens of a different preposition. Rather than the "in" and "of" of our traditional formulas, why not rightly acknowledge Jesus calls us to a different role in relation to the world. By world I mean creation and people. The traditional formulas tend toward "spirit of the age." So, how do I live in a place where the "spirit of the age" is contrary to the ethic of Jesus and still acknowledge I live in that same atmosphere? What if we emphasized the mission of Jesus "for" the world? Certainly Jesus undermined the ethic of the "spirit of the age." He also illustrated how to be "for" those who were the least. His picture of the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 25 illustrates just how he calls us to be "for" the "other."
Often overlooked are the statements in Scripture that Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. Unbelief inherently meant condemnation. Jesus came to offer liberation even from the shackles of unbelief. We spend too much time pontificating, castigaging and condemning. The world, people, cannot hear the call of redemption. How would it look if we decared in the love of Jesus, conformed to his ethic, the Good News? What would it look like if we really expressed the mission of Jesus "for" the world?
I am ready to think in terms of a new preposition. "For" suggests purpose. Could we enter into the eschatological reality of what it means to be "for" the world? Now that would be "Good News!"
Stephen Shields at Emergesque offers information and links encouraging us to be heard. Darfur needs our voices – and our e-mails to the President! I sent mine and forwarded the information to friends. Jump on board and do the same. Below is the text of the message. Thanks Stephen.
" We come to you from across the evangelical spectrum. We beseech you
to act on your faith and do the right thing by leading the world to
stop the genocide affecting "the least of these" in Darfur. To date,
more than 400,000 people have been killed. 2.5 million displaced.
Countless more have been raped, maimed, and tortured: Men, women, and
children created in God’s image, innocents all. Ending the atrocities
will require your personal leadership in supporting the deployment of a
strong U.N. peacekeeping force and multilateral economic sanctions.
While we often disagree on matters of politics, we are united in the
belief that your intervention can make the critical difference in
Darfur. We join together now to urge you, in the words of Proverbs
24:11-12, to "rescue those being led away to death." We pledge to do
everything we can to rally support in both Congress and the U.N. to
support your leadership in ending the horror in Darfur. "
Michael Spencer must be read. You may read him at Internet Monk as well as his contributions to the Boar’s Head Tavern. One of his recent entries at the BHT puts some recent happenings in the SBC into perspective and does so succinctly. I found his first point one of the best.
1. The SBC pays a guy named Ken Hemphill to run around the country talking about Kingdom Growth.
Hemphill is a great guy and his teaching is solid. His teaching also
emphasizes- over and over again- that the SBC isnâ??Ã?Ã´t the only
manifestation of the Kingdom of God. This emphasis on â??Ã?ÃºKingdom
thinkingâ??Ã?Ã¹ and â??Ã?Ãºbeing a Kingdom person/churchâ??Ã?Ã¹ is healthy. It also
plainly means that our Pentecostal brothers and sisters all over the
world- including millions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe-
are part of the Holy Spiritâ??Ã?Ã´s work building the Kingdom.
So the SBC pays a high profile teacher to tell us that the Kingdom
is bigger than the SBCâ??Ã?Â¶meanwhile, Patterson and Company rule that an
African-American SBC pastor who speaks in tongues like millions of
other Christians is a heretic to be swatted.
Road trips offer interesting stops along the way. We left Glorieta, NM and would eventually end up in Newport Beach, CA. One of the more intriguing encounters came when we stopped in Albuquerque, NM for a tour of the Center for Action and Contemplation. Father Richard Rohr founded the Center in 1987. (You may take a slideshow tour of the Center here.)
Spencer met Richard a number of years ago and we wanted to stop and say, "Hello." We also intended to talk a bit about Soularize. Fr. Rohr will be one of the plenary speakers. We arrived and Fr. Rohr showed us around and did so with such a winsome spirit. We ended up in Old Town for dinner and a most enjoyable conversation about life and faith.
We were given a couple of Fr. Rohr’s books and the newsletter produced by the Center. I found an article in the April-May-June edition of Radical Grace titled, "On the Edge of the Inside: The Prophetic Position." This particular article struck me for both its title and its connection to our dinner conversation. Spencer wrote Making Sense of Church a few years ago. We were discussing the future of the Church. Spencer wonders if the "Institutional Church" (in all of its forms) has seen its day and we will need to discover new ways to be the Church for the sake of the world. Richard noted the need to look at the "content" and the "container." He suggests no need to alter the content but we may need to "speak" to the "container." The point being the manner in which the "institutational church" (in all its forms) functions, satisfies a vast number of people despite its tendency toward "missing the point."(my words) Reformation, Fr. Rohr suggested, comes from those who live on the "edge of the inside."
When I read the recent developments at Southwestern Seminary (here) and the conversation between Wade and Dr. McKissic (here), I am left wondering where to locate myself. Marty once told me he was certain if things continued to trend the way they appeared at the time he suspected I would look for the door. I cannot say the thought is far from my frontal lobe. However, when I read the following in Fr. Rohr’s article I was reminded of the very thing Paul picked up from the piece. Someone needs to be prophetic, at least on local levels. While I think the entire article should be read, this is what I returned to again and again,
The edge of things is a liminal space – a very sacred place where guardian angles are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, "a thin place" and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of thigns is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position. You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways. When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests, and job security. Not much truth can happen there.
To live on the edge of the inside is different than being an insider, a "company man," or a dues paying member. Yes, you ahve learned the rules and you understand and honor the system as far as it goes, but you do not need to protect it, defend it, or promote it. It has served its initial and helpful function. YOu have learned the rules well enough to know how to "break the rules" without really breaking them all – "not to abolish the law but to complete it" as Jesus rightly puts it (Matthew 5:17) A doorkeeper must love both the inside and the outside of his or her group, and know how to move between these two loves.
You could say this piece may well have helped articulate where I want to live. Words mean something. The idea of living on the edge of the inside in an honorable way may well incur the distrust of some and dismissal by others. Yet, I am reminded of the described behavior of Ezekiel as he stood on the edge of the inside calling to the center in a way that announced both and end and a new beginning – gloom and glory. We may come across a bit out of touch as did Ezekiel but in the end the longing of the heart rests with the people of God living into the glory of God for the blessing of the world.