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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Recently I did an extensive two part book review on Phyllis Tickle’s, The Great Emergence.  The book is in my opinion one of the most important books for understanding the larger framework that is going on in the evangelical and even larger Christian context.

And some have questioned Tickle’s rationale of a 500 year argument.  I get that.   I personally think the observations she makes are right on but are definitely subject to interpretation of their value and significance.  Yet I don’t think this observation is what makes the book valuable.

The real value of the book for me what how Tickle brought out the underlying fears that have created these changes.  The fundamental question in every shift was the same, “Where is our authority?”  Seeing this thread is the real value, because we can’t stop the shifts from happening but we can understand what questions people are asking.  And I think this is a great one.

Answering this question will be the real work of the next age we are entering.

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This week I had the opportunity to listen to the Apostles Creed and I ran square into something that doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe you can help.

Here is the full text of the Apostles Creed.

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth; I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

This is a good site on the history of the Apostles Creed. It was likely started by Irenaeus in 200 and finalized by Augustine or Pirminius.

The stuff that doesn’t make sense to me is the line: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

John 5:22 – Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.

John 5:27 – And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Scripture is clear from the verses above that God give Jesus the power to judge. But then Jesus seems to throw a crazy twist into the whole thing.

John 12:47 – “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

And what is really interesting is that he doesn’t pick Christians to say He does not judge. He says, “the person who hears my words but does not keep them.”

So you tell me. Is the apostles creed wrong? Love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Recently I was asked to explain my decision for why I was voting for Barack Obama. It seems I wasn’t articulate enough, which is cool given that this was a major decision and the post was a stream of thought. I really didn’t write that post for other people. It was more of an announcement to myself. But Matt and Rachel asked me to help him understand why I made that choice. So I’ll give it another shot.

Matt stated in the comments,

“You didn’t really give any real reasons why you’re voting for him. I think the reason is that Obama isn’t running a platform on issues as much as he is on emotion. If you compare Clinton’s website with Obama’s you’ll see that on every issue Clinton states her position on the issue and how she is going to implement the program to fulfill her position (and in many cases how she’s going to pay for the program). However, on Obama’s website, you’ll see no substantial concrete plans for the implementation of the programs that he wishes to put in place. He simply wants to play on the emotions of the voters. I’m not saying that Clinton is better, I actually support Ron Paul, I’m saying that at least I know she has a plan.”

I agree with what Matt appears be implying, to a certain extent. On paper, Clinton might be the better political candidate. She has more experience, is deeply connected in Washington circles, has created a plan that she will attempt to implement. She is very aware of the issues and wants to seek change. In fact if she were elected President, that moment would be another momentous occasion in American history, another glass ceiling broken.

I highly disagree that Obama has not clearly outlined his position on issues. As example. His website lists 19 different categories like this. But the issues are not what swayed me. I didn’t put all of the issues on a scale and weighed the pros and cons.  It wasn’t simply an analytical choice for me.  It’s deeper than that.

And as Matt points out in his choice for Ron Paul, even the best candidate doesn’t always get the vote. Why? Because people don’t always follow the guy who knows the most or is the most qualified. We follow people we trust. I want to vote for someone who inspire us to think outside of ourselves and sacrifice for the greater good. Over the years I’ve spent considerable time reading or listening to speeches from great leaders JFK, Bobby Kennedy, MLK, Lincoln, and Winston Churchill. These leaders consistently asked us to think sacrificially, for the common welfare. We may not like it but ultimately we want leaders who will cause us to grow as human beings. Obama reminds me of that. Politicians can’t make those kind of statements. Leaders can. And when it comes down to it, I don’t hear or trust Hillary Clinton to do that. She’s not inspiring. She is the status quo to me.

Matt mentions Hilary’s website. Very well done and informative. But one contrast, which I stated in the previous post is that Hilary is about what “I” have done for you in the past and what “I” will do for you in the future. That’s a politician speaking. Hillary can make all the promises she wants. Great. She may even get them done.

But I’m also trying to look at the larger picture here. What America is looking for, in my judgment, is someone who can inspire us to greater thinking and action as a collective people, to unify and work together. Obama has consistently presented a message of unity and hope, of working together. His website, in contrast, asks how “we” can do it together. He understands that what people need is to move past our selfish impulses and work collectively. Because with the people, change is truly possible. All alone and we will likely get what we’ve had for the last fifty years and we’ll be having the same “change” conversation in four years.

So what is really comes down to is not the issues for me. If that were the case, I would likely vote Republican.  IThis year it comes down to trust and the ability to inspire. The question then becomes, “Is this emotional?” Maybe, but I’m comfortable with that even if it is. I didn’t come to this decision lightly.

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On Saturday night I was watching the Presidential debates and I made one of the more significant decisions of my life. I chose to go with Barack Obama. And believe me, this decision was not an easy one. It came the moment I joined the Support Obama page in my Facebook account. I remember the moment before pressing it and saying, “Do you know what you are doing?”

I’ve always been a lifelong Republican. I can’t honestly remember voting for a Democrat in my lifetime, although I’m not overtly political over the last ten years. I think much of this has to do with the home I grew up in, which was always Republican. We didn’t really have very many conversations about it. Its just the way it was, never questioned.

And I realize now that this decision has been a lifetime in coming. I can’t honestly say what it was that swayed me. I know that is had to do with growing up in the multicultural world of east side San Jose, CA. I know it had to do the frustrations I’ve had with Bush. I know it had to do with who Barack is. I know it has to do with the significance of his race as part of history. I know it has to do with my desire to take part in something that will change the world. Each of these reasons is significant.

The reality is that our world is now multicultural. In some respects we are behind the times in this regard. We haven’t led the world in breaking the glass ceiling in regard to race and gender issues. We haven’t come to grips with the fact that we are no longer simply a European nation, with a few other people. Hurrican Katrina was a clear example that race still matters to some people. And every time I think we’ve gotten past the “gender” thing, something new pops up. What are we so afraid of? I’ve actually talked to people who still would not consider a woman for President.

And to be honest, I’m emotionally tired with Republican leadership. It’s exhausting. I look at Bush and see a man who is disconnected from reality. And it’s not just me. His disapproval rating is the lowest since Nixon. The war has taken a toll that cannot be counted, and I’ve just had enough. I guess I just refuse to be taken for granted anymore.

So when Barack comes along, he doesn’t just represent an opportunity to vote for change. We’ve heard enough of that word. We’re looking for someone who gets the problem, not the rhetoric. And the problem is that the American people are simply willing to accept the problem. Change is really hard. One of the significant things that has shown up for me is Barack’s willingness to tell the public that they have to join the change. He’s not interested in doing it for us. His website even has the following quote, which I think is progressive,

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington…I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

That’s awesome. It reminds me of JFK’s speech. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” It takes a lot of character, guts and maturity to realize that a leader cannot do it on his own. Barak is inviting the people into the process and that is good. But that process requires us to sacrifice.

Voting for Barack, for me, is also somewhat like taking part in MLK’s picket lines. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for Americans. We have the opportunity to tell the world race no longer matters in American history. We have the opportunity to tell the world that we really, really, really do believe that each of us is created equal and to essentially break one of the last glass ceilings. I dig that and want to take part in that.

And I’m not just voting for Barack because he’s African American. He’s technically of mixed race. I’m voting for him because he’s is the one who has the best vision AND the ability to inspire that in people. No other candidate did that for me during the debates. I never got the sense that Barack is doing this for himself. And that to me is one of the central qualities of great leadership. And when a leader is doing it WITH the people, great things can happen. His best quote on Saturday was,

“I think the American people are hungry for something different and can be mobilized around big changes, not incremental changes, not small changes.”

You can see the video here. So that’s why I’m voting for Obama. What about you?

PS: A follow up post that hopefully answers some of the questions in the comments can be found here.

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I read a lot about th emerging church and to a great extent I find the dialog intriguing, refreshing, and encouraging. Fresh, new expressions of what it means to engage God’s mission of restoration show up all the time. And part of that process mean deconstructing, which is not always fun. And as I look at this process, it reminds me of what our country went through more than 200 years ago.

I, for one, like this time in Christianity. We are in the midst of change that happens about once every 500 years. Tearing stuff down, or reinventing what we are already do is not easy. But I’m on board because I like where this ship is going. And even if the emerging ship takes us right back to the old orthodox church of 500, or a thousand, or even 2,000 years ago, I want a front row seat.

I was reading this post by Frank Viola, who just published a new book with George Barna called Pagan Christianity. Brant Hansen has an excellent review of the book here. In Frank’s post he attempts to answer some of the questions that arise when you write a book like this, one that seeks to deconstruct some sacred cows. Frank addresses the nature of construction, or what do we do now, in the third section,

“The constructive question — “What do we do know and how do we get there?,” is a very complicated one. Thus it’s dealt with thoroughly in an upcoming book that releases Summer 2008. That book will explore those timeless principles of the first-century church which are rooted firmly in the Triune God, in the cross/resurrection of Christ, and in the unfolding narrative of the Bible. The book will clearly distinguish what is timeless from what is time-bound in the early church. And it will raise many important questions to grapple with.”

Frank is very clear that the process is an ongoing affair, one that should be taken very seriously. But it’s not easy. build something new, or really, really old requires patience, timing and and lot of guts.

And while I was reading this post I kept imagining this same sense of wonder, fear, and possiblity were present 200 years ago. I kept imagining what the founding father’s of America must have said to each other during the American Revolution. “Okay, we know what we don’t want, but what DO we want. What do we want to create here? I don’t know. Do you? No. But let’s try anyway.” I’ve read several books that delve into this process and its easy to take for granted that what they did had NEVER been done before. They had to invent it as they went along. And the risk they were taking was everything. Taking on the establishment meant victory or death.

In some respects, I feel like the emerging church is in the same boat. The old way got us here and here ain’t so good anymore. And my hope is that we as a body of Christ can find a way to reconstruct positive, holistic, effective structures that would release the body to be the church. I hope that 200 years from now our great, great grandchildren will say, “They built something wonderful and it changed the world.”

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Every once in a while someone says something in a way that really makes me think, “Gee I wish I had said that.” This is a fascinating article by Terry Mattingly, who interviewed Phyllis Tickle, author of God Talk in America. Phyllis was the founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, and has a new book in the works at Emersion. It has a working title of The Great Emergence.

Phyllis has some really great points about the nature of the church, the first being that the church encounters a reforming every 500 or so years. She says,

“So Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and then a flat, neatly stacked universe flipped upside down. Soon, people were talking about nation states, the decline of landed gentry, the rise of a middle class and the invention of a printing press with movable type. Toss in a monk named Martin Luther and you’re talking Reformation — with a big “R” — followed by a Counter-Reformation.”

She also says this about the emerging church,

“Emerging or emergent Christianity is the new form of Christianity that will serve the whole of the Great Emergence in the same way that Protestantism served the Great Reformation,”

and,

This kind of revolution, said Tickle, doesn’t mean “any one of those forms of earlier Christianity ever ceases to be. It simply means that every time we have one of these great upheavals … whatever was the dominant form of Christianity loses its pride of place and gives way to something new. What’s giving way, right now, is Protestantism as you and I have always known it.”

I loved this.

“The truly “emerging churches” are the ones that are opening their doors at the heart of this changing matrix, she said. Their leaders are determined not to be sucked into what they call “inherited church” life and the institutional ties that bind. They are willing to shed dogma and rethink doctrine, in an attempt to tell the Christian story in a new way.”

What is interesting is that this is from a woman who is not what we would think of as typically postmodern or emerging. But she has been studying faith for a long time and is considered a leading voice on the subject. Interesting perspective to consider for those looking in at the emerging church.

Can’t wait for the book.

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As we enter the holiday season I was reminded of all the traditions we have. Thanksgiving was a table full of family sitting around a great turkey. Christmas meant huge family dinners, presents, and a quiet Christmas morning. I love traditions and they bring back such incredible memories in my family.

Traditions do that. They create memories. They create meaning and value around a shared experience that you know is coming. Mental images fill the spaces of your mind as you recall the moment someone dropped the ham on the floor and the dog ran off with it, or the time the Christmas tree dropped all of its needles the day before Christmas. Who could forget the laughter of a grandmother, the glee of a small child opening presents, and the warmth of hot apple cider with cinamon. I can still remember Christmas morning when I was five and running into the living room of my grandparents. Traditions are just good.

The historical church has traditions. A lot of them. We always go to church on Sunday’s and have big Easter services. Christmas is also a big service filled with a play about the birth of Jesus. We take communion and sing songs at every service. We all sit in the same direction and listen to the guy up front tell us about Jesus and how to be like him. We used to have a tradition that you had to wear your suit on Sunday but that one has kind of faded a bit. We have really old, dead guys who taught us how to think and exegete. And once again these traditions create meaning and memories. We get used to them as learn to expect them. They provide comfort.

So in the spirit of the season, I thought I would take a moment and jot down a list of the traditions we have in the emerging church. Let’s see…

Hmmm….

Well…

Huh…

Nothing yet…

Nope…

And there in lies the problem. The emerging church is so young it has yet to develop traditions that create a foundation for us to rely on. We don’t yet have an identity or a shared experience that creates meaning. We don’t have moments yet that we can say to our children, “When I was your age we would…”

And to a certain extent, I have felt the loss of something as I begin to embrace what the emerging church is unfolding. I feel a sense of loss of tradition that feels comfortable and meaningful. I don’t have the footing that my parents and grandparents did, the comfort of knowing, “this was how we just did it because we’ve alway done it this way.” And this loss helps me understand some of the tension that comes with the emerging church. The natural assumption is that the old traditions, the ones that have meaning and value are being lost.

But then I began to think of the first disciples and the early church, and wondered if these were my traditions that needed to be rediscovered. What if I could truly engage what it meant to embrace freedom and grace in a way that transformed the culture around me. What if I let go of the passive expediency of Sunday mornings and embraced a life of mission that was filled adventure and courage. What if I really, really, really took the steps necessary to trust God in ways I formerly thought impossible. What if I faced the fears that held me back from experiencing the richness of this life that my Father was calling me into. What if I let go of my stuff and began to invest in those I am in community with, the one’s that my Father keeps hinting at.

And as I began to really think about it, I realized that I also had the traditions of the subversive types that have always questioned status quo, people like Stephen, Appolonius, Polycarp, Quinta, Guttenburg, Luther, Wycliffe and yes, the original…Jesus. Maybe my palette is bigger than I had imagined. Maybe, just maybe the emerging church is simply a return to my roots.

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