Culture

A Quiverful of Lessons on Sex and Gender in the SBC and Beyond

Emily Hunter McGowin agrees with me. Then she calls upon her experience and education to list several ways where a much more dangerous ideology affect “American evangelical culture and the SBC in partiular.” Read More

The Old SBC, the Age of Fear and the End of an Era?

Who knew there was another Littleton somewhere in the United States concerned about the current condition of the Southern Baptist Convention and its future? I didn’t. To say that we see things differently would not be distinctive enough. Read More

Have You Had Coffee with Jesus? A Book Review

Dad always reads the comics. Every morning growing up we boys would witness Dad at the breakfast bar reading the comics in the The Oklahoma. My grandmother regularly clipped a comic strip and would include it in a letter. If we were over for a visit, she would show us one or two she had saved.

I never read them like my Dad but I enjoyed The Wizard of Id, Blondie, Marmaduke, and The Family Circus. As I got older I always looked for the political cartoons created by the late Jim Lange in The Oklahoman.  Then I discovered Coffee with Jesus.

I first saw these cartoon strips on Facebook. I think it was my brother, Paul, who shared one on his timeline. Witty. Ironic. Biting. True. Funny.

Saturday I went to the mailbox to find a couple of books from IVP for review. One of them was a must get to, Radio Free Babylon Presents . . .  Coffee with Jesus. It is hard to offer a lengthy review of cartoon strips compiled into book form. Every page is filled with those poignant moments when about the time you side with a character, Jesus offers a zinger. It is not unlike reading the Gospels and finding those moments when Jesus turns the tables on his critics, adversaries, even allies.

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One could argue this is cultural Christianity meets Jesus. If you don’t find yourself in the strips, you have shared the same conversation with someone who fits the brief storyline.

A couple of the endorsements hit the mark,

If you don’t buy this book, you will be cursed. Everything will begin to go horribly wrong. You will gain weight. You will lose your job. Your car wioth break down and you’ll learn you need a new one. Your mutual fund will lose over 50 percent of its value. Please buy this book – for the sake of your children. Dan Kimball

It’ a comic strip, so its funny right? Yes, of course. But it’s also poignant and pointed. And rife with good theology. So read it for a laugh, but be prepared to be challenged as well. Jesus probably has something to say to you too. Tony Jones

* In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received a free copy of this book for review from IVP.

Perhaps, Facebook Exposes Original Sin and the Need for a Missional Quest

You will be disappointed. After a fairly long hiatus from writing beyond an occasional photograph, I choose a title sure to generate traffic. You clicked. My intent is to point out what is to come here on the blog.

Perhaps

perhapsNext week I will participate in a Blog Tour around the recent release of John D. Caputo’s, The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps. My contribution will be to write about the first chapter, God, Perhaps: The Fear of One Small Word. All readers will wonder. Some will think I have lost my mind. Quietly, or not so quietly, you may think I have lost my faith. The truth is I have long thought there is much to learn from critiques of religion, even of Christianity. The Masters of Suspicion continue to influence those critiques that eventually produced what goes under the banner of Radical Theology. What Caputo will do in his recent book is describe a Radical Theology. Always interested in the play of words, Caputo, intentionally or unintentionally, opens us up to recognize that when people talk about Christianity, they may be describing a Christianity.

My fearful readers will no doubt find confirmation in that last line that I somehow believe there are multiple Christianities. A better way to get at what I suspect is that in Christian discourse, outside of our tribal confines, reveals to onlookers as if there are multiple versions of Christianity. The Christianity described by Joel Osteen would not be what many in my tribe would consider Christianity. The Western and Eastern Churches have long emphasized their differences in such a way one could suggest they are two different versions. We have not even begun to describe regional expressions in other parts of the world. The description does not negate, or invalidate Christianity, but it seems to equate to Lamin Sanneh’s description of Christianity as the translatable religion, not ethnically tethered.

Other readers will wonder what an Evangelical Southern Baptist pastor is doing reading the sorts of things that stir their intellect as well as their understanding that Christianity should not be less than materially lived. These friends would see the contribution of Radical Theology something akin to religious chemotherapy for a Christianity that is too other-worldly. In fact, this group would find it hard to understand Christianity and its lived expression as not less than political, and not in the partisan sense. Instead, Jesus charts the way for those whom Paul describes as new creations in Christ. These living human beings live out their faith in all relationships as people giving allegiance to a new Lord, not an old Caesar.

Facebook

barrytaylorMy friend Barry Taylor concludes an interview with, “Facebook is the new suburbia.” No explanation. No exposition.

We live in a community best described as ex-rural. According to some descriptions, Tuttle is a suburb of Oklahoma City. Maybe what Barry is getting at pertains to the way suburbia tends to be a place where broken lives are shielded by nice homes, manicured lawns, and evidence of expensive hobbies. The jig on suburbia has long been up. Currently the trend is back to the cities.

But, what Taylor may help us understand is that we have long desired to desire a better projection of ourselves. People compose their identities on Facebook in the same way a nice picket fence in suburbia shifted attention from those living inside to how things look on the outside. The issue is how we understand the self and identity formation. Who could deny we continue to miss these issues amidst the politicization of identity in our politics?

Original Sin

eagletonEnter Terry Eagleton. Ironically, a Facebook post by a young friend in Divinity school pointed me to Terry Eagleton’s, On Evil. Though I am not finished with the book, he describes original sin in greater breadth than simply a pointer to Adam’s fated choice in the Garden. Instead, in the lived experience Eagleton points human brokenness as a trace in our histories. He personalizes human experience in a way that reference to a first parent cannot.

He writes,

Original sin, however, is not about being born either saintly or wicked. It is about the fact of being born in the first place. Birth is the moment when, without anyone having had the decency to consult us on the matter, we enter into a preexistent web of needs, interests, and desires – an inextricable tangle to which the mere brute fact of our existence will contribute, and which will shape our identity to the core.” (p.35)

I am interested to finish and work through my own understanding of Original Sin as bequeathed from what I suspect is an overly simplistic vision, strictly intended to target an individual without accounting for the world in which he or she will live.

Missional Quest

missionalquestBrad Brisco and Lance Ford‘s recent book, The Missional Quest: Becoming A Church of the Long Run, arrived in the mail compliments of IVP. I responded to the query to read their new release hoping to see what one virtual friend (Brad) and one real-time friend (Lance) describe. I am hopeful they have in mind something like Eugene Peterson’s, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, with the Church in mind.

My interest is beyond getting a free book. I am in my 20th year at Snow Hill. In Baptist terms, even Southern Baptists, that is a long run. And, I am not tired. It will be interesting to see what sort of parallels may be found between what I would describe as theorists, and that is not intended negatively, and a practitioner. We need those 30,000 foot thinkers. But, if there is not translatability at ground level, someone is wasting their time. I suspect Brad and Lance will not be wasting ours.

These Things and More

All of this is to come. The careful reader will know that blog posts on these subjects will have a measure of the eschatological to come. Amid best intentions there is always the regular work that comes with pastoring and sharing life with those in our congregation. When you witness the occasional infrequencies in the flow here at The Edge of the Inside, know that there is always the to come.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

No Objectivists – Through a Glass Dimly

My friend David Dunbar, President of Biblical Seminary, offered an article in his recent edition of his Missional Journal. I could not help but think Dave offered a way of describing the missional turn as a turn to root theology in the mission of God. Rather than use missional language to describe in new idioms what we have always done. It called to my mind Graham Ward’s essay that opens The Postmodern God. Ward distinguishes between a postmodern theology and a postmodern theology. Without re-hashing Ward’s contention, I found the description Dave offered to resonate with the tethering of theology to the missio dei in the same way Ward seems to ground the postmodern in theology. Here is Dave’s article.

“Through a Glass Darkly”

With these words St. Paul (1 Cor. 13:12) contrasts the limitations of our present spiritual vision and understanding with the fullness of knowledge that will be ours at the return of the Lord.  This metaphor may be helpful as we consider the last of Biblical Seminary’s theological convictions.

The Necessity of Cultural Engagement

We are committed to ongoing engagement with culture and the world for the sake of our witness to the gospel, and to continual learning from Christians in other cultural settings.[1]

There are three points I want to make about this statement:  1) culture as the context for mission, 2) culture as a way of seeing, and 3) the need for cross-cultural learning.

1.    Culture as context

By “culture” we refer to the traditional ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that characterize a particular group of people. In our highly mobile Western world, we must think of culture not as a single entity but as a complex interplay of contrasting and even competing ways by which different groups construe their world.

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