Weekly Video – Tim Conder, The Bible In Community

What if a corrective to and overly reductionistic understanding of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God were the Scriptures? Often applying the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid/Silly/etc) to the Scriptures undercuts its depth and intent under the illuminating work of the Spirit. Some things aren’t that simple. And, to attempt to make the Scriptures overtly simple often keeps the deep wrestling needed for formation at bay.

Facilitating a course at Biblical Seminary a few years ago I encountered some Mennonite students. My pastor growing up, an extremely conservative fundamentalist preacher, told me that if I were to venture beyond the Southern Baptist arena I would likely not go wrong with the Mennonites. Read More

Joshua Case(s) the Oil Spill Around the Table

Theology student, golfer, and competing podcaster Joshua Case is joined by Julia Clawson, Ben Lowe, and Tom Sine discussing the nearly month old offshore pipeline disaster. I describe the event that way as it just does not make much sense to me to refer to thousands of gallons a day as a “spill.”

Central to this podcast episode – “What should Christians think, say, and do in relationship to such a disaster?” As Tom Sine points out in the course of the discussion, Christians have learned to mobilize to help in the face of natural disasters – Katrina, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods. But, what are we to do when the drama unfolds miles from the shore.

Ben Lowe and Julia Clawson remind us that while finger waving goes on  in Washington, we who are so dependent upon petroleum products bear some responsibility as we sate our appetite for more and better.

Tom Sine contends we must really re-think our eschatology to include the redeeming of all things – including Creation.

Take some time and go give the podcast a listen. Likely there will be something to provoke you to thinking – or should!

What is the new “chortle?” – Missional?

“Missional” is making the rounds in the interwebs in anticipation of a consensus. I suspect pulling a new word into meaning requires antagonists and allies. After all, “missional” still is adversarial to spell check! If missional emerges from the clutches of its varied uses to become a standardized term, what will it be in 140 years? That is, what word will rescue the “mission of God” from its certain fall once “missional” goes out of vogue? Is hijacked? Or for some, the new liberal?

If an attempt at a consensus is to once for all nail language so we may cast this person or that person out for the “wrong” use of the word, then the attempt is really another “line in the sand.” She’s not “missional.” He’s not “missional.” If by missional we mean participation in the mission of God in the world then it should hold a wide enough swath to be used by a variety of groups. That is, unless one group thinks it has  market on the mission of God over another group.

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“Didachists” to Avoid – The Dishonest Type

I am reading Tony Jones new book on the “Didache,” The Teaching of the Twelve. I have Bettensen’s Documents of the Christian Church which contains excerpts from the Didache. Tony offers a complete copy in his book. Imagine that! The former National Coordinator for Emergent Village authors a book favorable of one of the earliest Christian documents outside of the New Testament.

Scandalous. Mike King puts it this way,

Those who have tried to â??labelâ? and â??dismissâ? Tony Jones will have a hard time believing that Tony would be so interested in a text that starts out, â??There are two ways, one of life and one of death! and there is a great difference between the two ways.â?Â  But, he is, and so we reap the benefit.

There are plenty of teachers, “didachists,” on these interwebs that like to warn the Christian sub-culture of those to avoid and fear. Yet, here is a book reflecting positively on the benefits of a “rule of life” addressing simple living in the Way of Jesus and nary a word. Would it be too difficult to complement the book?

It is likely the problem is a lack of controversial material. So, how about we create some controversial content from Tony’s book? Maybe we could contend that Tony is subverting the idea that doctrinal precision is king and instead suggesting the way of Jesus is born out in those living the King’s Way.

What do you think?

Al Mohler’s Postmodern Turn (off) of John Franke

Al Mohler reads John Franke through his deeply embedded cultural, linguistic systems to such a committed degree he seems to be missing John Franke. In other words, when one is accustomed to culture warring where disagreement is expected it is difficult to give any space for the Other/other. Even more so to offer an even handed critique. Writing to get to his conclusions, Mohler tips his hat at Franke as if to say, “Yes, but … .” The feeling is a disingenuous attempt to get at Franke’s project in his recent book, Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth.

Enter Scot McKnight, Just prior to Mohler’s published post, “Is Truth Really Plural? Postmodernism in Full Flower,” Scot offered more helpful review in a six-part review of his own – Manifold Witness 1-6. During John’s installation as the Lester and Kay Clemens Professor of Missional Theology at Biblical Seminary, Scot and I chatted about any number of things. We talked freely and frankly about the “Emerging/emerging church.” Scot had granted me a phone interview for a research project on the subject. One of the things we discussed was Scot’s contention that we do not listen well to others. It keeps us from healthy, constructive conversations. (You can find some very good material on the subject in the archives on his blog. I have linked to them before.) Scot even mentioned that many in my tribe (SBC) would do well to read Newbigin’s Proper Confidence. I agree.

What really confuses me is that if one really believes what one writes then greater care must be taken to pursue understanding. For instance, Mohler writes of a couple of positive elements of postmodernism. He noted,

Furthermore, postmodernism can provide a corrective to epistemological arrogance — the tendency to claim premature finality for our thought and truth claims.

Al then proceeds to make some final claims regarding truth as it relates for Franke’s project.

When we place McKnight and Mohler side by side we are not comparing Bishop Spong to J.Frank  Norris. (A reference for my Baptist friends. I could have used John MacArthur.) We really are comparing what most would consider two conservative voices, thought Scot may be left of Al – many indeed are. Both men are committed to evangelism. It is this subject that pushed McKnight to get some distance between himself and some in the emerging church. He has since thrown his lot in with Dan Kimball and Erwin McManus and The Origins Project. Trust me, I know the difference between McKnight and Mohler. But only in a theological world gone made would anyone suggest McKnight weak on the gospel.

Franke underscores truth, and pay attention to the lower case “t,” as the domain wherein human beings talk about God. And, those attempts to talk truthfully about God only comes through the grace of God. Even our best attempts to grasp God fall short for only God may obtain “Truth.” In fact, the Triune God is Truth. the means whereby we engage the Truth is through the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. In a recent Christianity Today piece titled, “Still the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” John reiterates his conviction about Jesus, the One and only.

Yet, Mohler fears Franke’s embrace of pluralism. But, reading pluralism in this context as anything other than the pluralism found in the history and expression of the church is to conflate pluralism as a cultural relativism contending all roads lead to god with John’s focus. Herein is Mohler’s postmodern turn. Practicing a bit of his own version of “reader response” he must be correct in his critique for that is “how he read John.” So, after all, the meaning is in the interpretation. But, Mohler flatly argues against this!

And, since Mohler conludes that Franke’s position does not allow for “verbal inspiration” of the Scriptures, Franke could not possibly find the Scriptures authoritative, as, say, Mohler. So convinced is he that he asserts Franke has sold out doctrinal accountability. I could not find that in my copy of the book to save my life. Could not even find the inference. How about you?

We Southern Baptists adopted Henry Blackaby. His Experiencing God led a host of folks to consider how the Spirit of God mediates the presence and reality of God through the Scriptures and the Church. Now we have a history of re-working our past so that once great heroes of our very young tradition are now envisioned as anti-heroes. I am hoping we will not do so with Blackaby. He, for one, returned the work of the Spirit to the life of the church under the Scriptures rather than “over” the Scriptures for many Southern Baptists.

Finally, I find it interesting that Franke looks across the landscape to offer a notion of how it is we understand the history of Christian witness in the history of the church in its many forms. How do we do so without devolving into unending inter-nicene warfare? (I realize many would find this welcome.) For that Franke is willing to sacrifice doctrinal accountability according to Mohler, And yet, Mohler made much of his signing of the Manhattan Declaration wherein he joins the ranks of those with whom he would surely disagree regarding their doctrinal formulations. Relativist?

One other positive Mohler pointed up about postmodernism, as if postmodern philosophy were monolithic,

Positively, the general worldview of postmodernism reminds us that we are deeply embedded in cultural and linguistic systems that shape and influence our thinking.

Ah, yes, and that is a positive only if we embrace it.