In reading various reviews and reflections on Robert Bellah’s latest tome, Religion and Human Evolution, I was reminded of some thoughts I had written down about Peter Rollins’ work. I have tried to cobble something coherent together here which conveys my general criticism, which is basically historical in nature. One reflection on Bellah at […]
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children- Psalm 103: 8-17
Writing requires deliberate effort and time, two things which have been lacking in my life over the last few weeks. Something about traveling to the United Kingdom and proposing to your girlfriend seems to have stifled some of my public creative output.
Not that I’m complaining.
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” This memorable line from The Usual Suspects may have been the inspiration for Gregory Boyd’s book, Is God to Blame? Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering. In it, Boyd suggests that we have mistakenly attributed evil and suffering to God’s sovereign will.
My earliest understanding of Christianity consisted of the notion of good vs. evil; God vs. the Devil. I participated in a literal battle with the decisions I made each day. Think of the common cartoon scene in which a devil sits on one shoulder and an angel on the other as a person weighs their options. As time went on, however, I learned that this was a theologically immature way to view the world. I learned that God, in fact, was in complete control and all of our experiences were part of his “master plan,” which, of course, we could not understand due to the fact that we were fallen, limited human beings.
Most of the people I know who have fallen away from the faith in recent years cite their inability to reconcile God’s divine will with the evil they see in the world every day. They cannot believe in a God who would cause or even allow such atrocities to occur. Indeed, I’ve wrestled with this issue personally for years. After God failed to save the life of my friend Christian even as I kneeled outside my apartment in the rain, in the middle of the night, beating the ground in prayer, I didn’t speak to God for more than a year.
Jennifer Knapp, Glenn Beck, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, and a whole bunch of professors from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary walk into a bar. Or, onto a web page. Or, into my head.
These are the figures that represent the events and ideas that have been swirling around in my mind for the last couple of months. It all started back in early March when I got the heads up that Glenn Beck told his radio listeners to leave their church if it espouses social justice. I blogged about it here, and in the days that followed that post became one of our most read items.
Then, a few weeks later, my brother in law pointed me to a video of R. Albert Mohler Jr. and his fellow Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professors taking author and activist Brian McLaren to the cleaners over his latest book, A New Kind of Christianity. My commentary on this was another popular post here and a story that garnered widespread media attention.
Finally, just last week Contemporary Christian Music star Jennifer Knapp came out of the closet in, of all media venues, Christianity Today. This news obviously elicited a wide range of reactions from callings for her to repent to thanking her for offering solidarity. But mostly, calling for her to repent.
Or so says this guy.
For those that don’t know, Professor Bruce Waltke, a lion of conservative evangelical scholarship, recently gave some comments for a brief video for the BioLogos Forum. BioLogos is the brain child of Francis Collins, the geneticist, current head of the National Institute of Health, and committed Christian. The Forum is a collective of like-minded scientists and Christians who believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and God created the world by the process of evolution. (For more on this view, see Brad Kramer’s Patrol essay on the subject.) For those that struggle with this topic, BioLogos’ “The Questions” section offers very helpful articles on most every possible question you can think of concerning this discussion and gives thoughtful perspectives on it all.
Long story short (the best summary of all this can be found here), Waltke made some comments in line with this idea and the Christian blogosphere erupted with the ignorant, the passionate, and (only rarely) the thoughtful responders to this. Within a three week span, Waltke had made these comments, they were posted online, they were taken off-line, they were clarified by Waltke, he resigned his position at Reformed Theological Seminary, and was hired at Know Theological Seminary. In short, this man’s life, career, reputation, and family were completely exposed, turned upside down, and severely damaged because he said he didn’t think Adam had to be a historical figure for the Bible to still be true and authoritative.
And Rick Phillips, of Reformation21, appears to love this.
Here’s an interesting piece for those of us who identify with the term “post-evangelical.” In U.S. Catholic, Heather Grennan Gary writes about what Catholics can learn from evangelicals. It says Catholics should take three lessons from evangelicals: “building relationships, creating a culture of conversion and discipleship, and teaching young people how to tell their faith stories.” It is replete with language I consider evangelicalese: “encountering Christ,” “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” and “experiencing God.”
Here is a quote from Father William J. O’Malley, about Catholic catechism:
They’ve substituted formulas and catechism answers for an experience of God. … No one is converted at the end of a catechism.
Much of the article seems to come down to “Catholics should feel more.”
As long as we’re on the topic of conversion, the funny thing, of course, is that a lot of evangelicals drawn to Catholicism think “Evangelicals should feel less. They should think more, like Catholics do.” That emotional “experience of God” is impossible for many of them to sustain without the thinking and the catechism and the long, dry tradition of scholarship. It’s what they find lacking in evangelicalism. It’s ironic: Catholics think Catholics should be more evangelical, and evangelicals think evangelicals should be more Catholic.
Here is a recent video of one of my personal heroes, Peter Rollins, as he discusses his recent Insurrection Tour. I recently read his book, The Fidelity of Betrayal, and it really did give words to most all that I have been wrestling with and through for the past year or so.
Rollins is a philosopher by trade, and his work has become the philosophical foundation for many of the more “Emergent” guys around today. And that’s what’s so interesting about him. He is good friends with Rob Bell and many of the Emergent Church folks quote Rollins to support many of their ideas. He is even talked about in the book Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, who definitely think Rollins is fundamentally flawed.
But, if you watch this video–by far the most succinct and comprehensive summary I’ve found of his thought–it seems like he really does stand in the middle between the fundamentalists and the liberals.
So Australian pastor Danny Nalliah claims he knows what caused Victoria's devastating brushfires: laws legalizing abortion. His evidence? He dreamed about raging fires one night and got "a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb."
I don't think we have to go over this again, but just in case …
1) Cultivating an image of judgmental hatred doesn't make it easy to help people in need. It doesn't make it easy for others to help people in need. It is, as another Australian Christian argued, "appalling, heartless and wrong … [and] beyond the bounds of decency to try to make moral or political points out of such a tragedy."
I’ve talked to, and hung out with a number of other artists who face that problem on a day to day basis; what does it mean to be a Christian artist? Or, more directly, “How much of my faith can I admit to, without being completely labeled as a conservative fundamentalist freak-out?”…
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