Alright, let’s do this.
The weekly ponderings and links for Sunday, January 7, 2018.
On that quote above from Esther Lightcap Meek.
Esther is a philosopher. She’s got a nice little book, A Little Manual for Knowing. Check it out. That’s where the quote above comes from.
This is not unlike what philosopher, Jamie Smith, would argue. In his book, Desiring the Kingdom, Smith offers that we are first desiring beings, that is, lovers. It is through our desire, our love, that we truly know. But desire and love are expressed not just as inner feelings, but just as much in actual doing, real behavior.
Enlightenment thinking ran everything through the brain, which means they also internalized everything. The church bought it hook, line and sinker. Modernists focused on an inner rationalism; the church focused on an inner spiritualism. I’m thankful there is a resurgence to realize that the way we come to “know” is not solely through our cerebral thoughts, not simply through an internal-ethereal heart. The church still wants to “spiritualize” everything, but many times at the expense of the good, tangible gifts God has put in our world – the things we can hear, see, touch, taste and smell.
But we have a God who wants to make himself known through flesh and blood. We just finished a season of the church year that focuses in on this aspect. Pretty fantastic stuff!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in spiritual truths. But spiritual means “of the Spirit” or “relating to God’s Spirit.” And this is not simply ethereal, inside, “heart” things. It is all of life.
So, as Meek says, “We must love to know.” And that loving involves real, tangible practices. Not just “heart” feelings. I might add a few words to flesh it out even more: We must do to love to know.
CBS News has an article out about the top 31 megachurches (by weekend attendance). The article starts:
We’re living in the era of the megachurch. The United States has more than 1,300 megachurches, according to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, which defines them as very active Protestant congregations with an average of 2,000 or more weekend attendees and a multitude of outreach programs and ministries.
That research also finds roughly 50 churches have a weekly attendance between 10,000 to 47,000 people. Here are the biggest megachurches in the country, based on the number of weekly visitors.
Here are a three things I note from this list:
1) Most of these churches are in the south. Of course, everything in the south is bigger when it comes to church.
2) Most of them model a Hillsong-type set up. Meaning the house lights are dim, spotlights are shining, purple and blue cans shine on the stage, multiple video screens hang, and there is a very modern stage backdrop.
3) When it shows the worship leader/pastor and team, it looks more like a concert is taking place over and above a family joining together to worship a king. Of course, the bigger you are, the easier it is to set up things up this way.
Please don’t mishear me. I am not against modern instrumentation, worship teams, usage of videos, etc. But this model, for me, is problematic because it simply seems to replicate a brand (yes, a brand). While it may look innovative, it actually is not innovative. It all looks, feels and sounds so similar. It all generally spawns from Hillsong Church, which began a lot of this stuff in the 80s and 90s.
Not only that, but this church model works in the US at this moment – a country with so much wealth (or at least perceived wealth) and with so much modernized evangelical tradition. This can be perpetuated especially in the south. But my sense is that this won’t last long, at least considering the trends that have shaped Western Europe, the UK, Canada and even many urban centers in the US. I imagine that when my children are my age (late 30s), there won’t be 1,300 churches with 2,000 attendees or more.
I always appreciated living in Belgium because at least the locals were honest about their disdain of Christianity and church. Christendom has crumbled in Western Europe. I almost desire for the same to happen in the US so something more authentic, true and ancient can come forth. Right now church is simply part of culture. We need something better than American culturalized Christianity.
We’ll see. The 1,300 churches with 2,000 attendees or more seem to tell a different story. But these really are a minority to the bigger picture of what is happening in the States. The church of a postmodern, post-Christendom setting will ultimately be shaped differently from America’s biggest megachurches.
Last month, Bryan Stoudt, a pastor in Philly, wrote an article at Desiring God: Husbands, Get Her Ready for Jesus. If you know much about DG’s ministry, it is one of championing a more reformed theological perspective, including a complementarian perspective. This is the belief that only men should be leaders in the home and church. On the other side of the aisle is egalitarianism, which believes in allowing women to be leaders – in the home, in society, in the church, in all of life – in accordance with God’s calling.
Just a few days ago, Sarah Lindsay wrote a response at Christians for Biblical Equality: Why Husbands Can’t “Get Her Ready for Jesus”. Ultimately, Lindsay points out how Stoudt has misunderstood the analogy in Ephesians 5. This is the passage that compares Jesus and the church to a husband and wife. I added my own comment to the mix, which I put here:
One problem with this particular biblical interpretation by Stoudt is a) his missing of the metaphor and b) the individualist idea of Christians marrying Jesus. First off, the marriage imagery is a metaphor and, secondly, it is the collective people who are the bride rather than individuals. We aren’t preparing individual women (or men) to marry Jesus. It is a people being prepared together.
I think we need to talk through the details of the debate around complementarian and egalitarian views, but I think a lot can be solved if we quit mis-utilizing the words of Ephesians 5.
Smithsonian Magazine listed the top ten most important ancient documents lost to history. One of those is the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (also referred to as the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel). It’s one of 20 outside sources the Bible references that we no longer have.
As 2017 came to a close, NPR had an article titled 2017 Has Been A Rough Year For Evangelicals. Author Tom Gjelten begins:
As 2017 ends, evangelical Christians in the United States are suffering one of their periodic identity crises. Unlike other religious groups, the evangelical movement comprises a variety of perspectives and tendencies and is therefore especially prone to splintering and disagreement.
The latest challenge to evangelical unity arises from the extent to which a large majority of self-identified “evangelical” voters have aligned themselves with such politicians as Donald Trump and Judge Roy Moore, both of whom have a record of stoking cultural resentments rather than building community.
What I found interesting were comments from Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today:
“[The argument] that we are in an age of accelerating secularization in America is correct,” Galli says. “My disagreement is with the idea that politics is the way to get a more Judeo-Christian morality reinstated in America. People are thinking, ‘If we just pass one more piece of legislation, we’ll be getting that much closer to the kingdom of heaven.’ I just think that’s a huge mistake.”
This is true for both the right and left. Conservatives and liberals (or progressives) alike have put so many eggs in the politics basket. It’s terrible, disgusting, even worse.
I am not against being involved in politics; I do not disdain folk for particularly identifying as either Republican or Democrat. But I have a great problem with the followers of Jesus believing that a political party can properly enforce what is right and good for a nation-state.
Now, believe me when I say the announcement of the good news is the most political announcement we have. We declare that Jesus is king and no one else. We also believe that Jesus is interested in enacting what is good and right for the polis (where we get the word politics from), or the city-people. But I agree with this very clear statement from Galli: “People are thinking, ‘If we just pass one more piece of legislation, we’ll be getting that much closer to the kingdom of heaven.’ I just think that’s a huge mistake.”
This is why conservatives could turn their eye to so much and vote for Trump.
Well, if Trump is in, then we can get at least one more conservative Supreme Court Justice. That means we could possibly overturn Roe v Wade.
This was an argument that came up a lot.
I understand the debate regarding the ethics of perhaps allowing something bad for the greater good. I just can’t see this ultimately applying with Trump. I am not convinced Neil Gorsuch will be able to accomplish what all conservatives claim/think he will. Now, does this mean I think Hillary should have been voted in over Trump. No, not really. I pondered the option of voting for her, at least considering that 1) she had far greater experience in state politics and 2) I have an affinity for more social programs to support the poor. However, in good conscience, I could not vote for either (or anyone) in the end. I share as much in this video.
In all, I long for the day when our hopes are not in a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green or any other platform. It may sound super-spiritual, which I do not mean it to be. But it is sickening how the American church (on both sides) is so entitled, believing it’s their right to have the government support its mission.
This is why I find encouragement from the possibility of Christendom fully crumbling in America as it has in Western Europe.
Lastly, check out this article by my friend, Tom Fuerst: Can We Forgive Roy Moore?
As folk presented that voting for Roy Moore was for good (again, like with Trump, to most likely have a conservative agenda accomplished), there were some crazy arguments on his behalf. First, there was a comparison of Moore’s situation to that of Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus. Many also appealed to the account of David’s rape of Bathsheba and murder of her husband.
Crazy, I know!
Fuerst, of course, shows how these two arguments from conservatives are horrible. He also offers some points about what real forgiveness is all about:
First, forgiveness is preceded by confession.
Second, forgiveness does not necessarily mitigate consequences.
Third, forgiveness leads to reparation of the damage caused by the perpetrator.
Fourth, forgiveness can only be granted by victims, not by perpetrators or their supporters.
Finally, divine forgiveness does not entail human forgetfulness.
This is an important article to read through.
There you go. Various reflections and links for this week.