What’s up deacons! The next episode of the Unfolded podcast will be dropping this Sunday, April 14, but until then we wanted to give you a taste of what is headed your way–check it out!
This episode is fairytale entitled, Do you want to be free?
Equipping grassroots theologians for creative thinking, engaging, and living.
What’s up deacons! The next episode of the Unfolded podcast will be dropping this Sunday, April 14, but until then we wanted to give you a taste of what is headed your way–check it out!
This episode is fairytale entitled, Do you want to be free?
Rob Bell is back on the podcast. He is no longer a Grand Rapids resident, a congregational minister, or wearing black framed glasses!!! In the past year he moved to Orange County and has been busy working on the pilot of a new TV show with Carlton Cuse from Lost. Rob threw out the idea of interviewing him before the taping of a pilot episode and we said ‘yes.’
The conversation was recorded in two parts. The first half was recorded in person back stage before the show taping and the second on the phone since Carlton needed Rob. Getting cut off by Carlton was awesome.
In this interview Bo asks him about what he has been reading. Check out Rob Bell’s reading list here.
Come on out for a live mutinous podcasting experiment. Join Captain Brewin, Peg-Legged Pete, & Barry the Skull Keeper for some philosophical swash-buckling & fresh brewed pints at the Monkish Brewing Co.
Kester Brewin is bringing the good news of pirate inspired mutiny to the USA. We shall be seeking the wisdom of Blackbeard, Luke Skywalker, Peter Pan and Odysseus and other eye-patched heroines as we reflect on personal development, art, economics and faith. If hearing from Kester about his newest book Mutiny! wasn’t enough… he’s bring two fellow philosophical swashbucklers, Peter Rollins & Barry Taylor, who shall assist him in over-throwing the intellectual & cultural scurvy.
Those in attendance are encouraged to come in Pirate gear. Should you NOT come with at least an eye patch you will be publicly shamed into purchasing Tripp an additional pint and yell ‘Arr’ with gusto.
For directions to Monkish Brewery go here. Look at pictures so you don’t get lost… it has happened before.
* SUPPORT the podcast by just getting anything on AMAZON through THIS LINK or you can get some Homespun Craftianity. We really appreciate your assistance in covering all the hosting fees which went up 30 bucks a month due to the growing Deaconate!
It has become quite clear over the past several years that the source of many arguments in my life and in our culture ordinate with a desire to reduce things down to their simplest components or lowest common denominator. Over the past decade I have really embraced a complexity model of things. I can illustrate it with two examples:
The foundationalist approach is scary in a shifting culture. What used to seem rock solid is in danger of falling like a house of cards if even one element is moved or compromised.
This move away from the reductive becomes important in three key conversations: love, sex, and faith.
Love - when I talk with other youth pastors or teens from other youth groups, I am frequently surprised with just how often a reductive approach is taken on the topic love. “Is love an action or an emotion?” Sometime a third option will be given: “or a decision”.
Its not that the answer to the question is that consequential. That is easy enough to deal with. It is the thinking behind the question that is so dangerous! Of course love is an action, it comes with feelings and creates more feelings and we make decisions about that at every step along the way. Its easy enough to side step the either/or trap … what concerns me is why something as grand and essential complex as love has to be reduced down to a single element? What is the driving influence there? It is bigger than just getting christian teens to not ‘give into their emotions’ or to show their love for God and the world by putting it into ‘action’ whether they feel like it or not. There is something else behind that reductive move.
Sex - I am truly shocked by how often a reductive maneuver is employed by those who are a little more conservative than me when the topic of sex comes up. “While sex may be pleasurable – in the end, it is primarily about procreation” my debate partner will say. “In fact, God probably made it pleasurable so that we would want to do it more.”
I object to this live of reasoning strenuously! Sex is about a whole myriad of things.
Our sexuality is about pleasure, connection, expression, intimacy, power, procreation and drive. It certainly is not about just one thing.
Look, I know a heterosexual couple that can’t procreate. They have a very healthy sex life. I know another couple who did procreate (twice) and are finding that it is significantly impeding their sex life.
Sex in the 21st century is not just or even primarily about procreation. Even heterosexual couples who can procreate have sex that does not result in pregnancy.
Faith - I have heard voices as disparate as Slavo Zizek and Martin Luther pull a reductive move when it comes to faith. Zizek has said on more than one occasion that he would like to see good deeds done for no other reason than that they the right thing to do – good on their own merit – and not because the one who does it gets anything out (like an altruistic sense of satisfaction) or believes that she will be rewarded for it in the next life. This reminds of Luther’s early wrestling with loving God (If I only love God for saving me then I have loved God for the wrong reason and it is not love worthy of God … etc.)
I don’t get this at all! It seems to me that whether you believe in a God (I do) or whether you subscribe to a social construction theory of morality (that as social mammals it benefits us to benefit others in a series of non-zero and reciprocal relationships) that both are best understood as essentially complex webs of meaning and relationship.
Let’s take the God road for a minute. If there is a God who wants me to do good things, then it stands to reason that I may be made in such a way that I both enjoy doing that good and benefit from it. That does not take away from the goodness itself, it is just distributed to several factors of befit. Why is it only truly a good deed if I get nothing – not even satisfaction – out of it. Even if I do something anonymously for which there can be no reciprocal or social benefit, I’m not allowed that simple satisfaction of knowing I did something good? So the only truly good deed is done with emotional distance and internal steel? That is bogus! It seems to me that even without God in the equation, that reductive move is limiting and harmful, even self-defeating.
A far better approach would be embrace the social locatedness of human existence and to recognize the collective pot of goodness to which we both benefit from and contribute to. A pot of common-wealth that is both relational and substantial that has made us who we are – we have been molded, shaped and groomed by it – and to which we participate that can benefit others as well as be rewarding for us.
Doing good is complex and it is essentially complicated. We don’t need to break that down and diagnose it as much as we need to embrace it and pour ourselves into it.
In the end, I see this impulse toward the reductive to be not only limiting to thought but detrimental to joy. I think we are missing out by not embracing the multifaceted and layered complexity of love, sex and faith.
I have been asked by several of my evangelical friends to both explain my position and help them to approach this conversation in a way that does not require them to disregard the Bible that they so value. I will do this as directly and effectively as I can without being dismissive. If I am too brief in some aspect, please let me know which element you would like to have elaborated. This is an emotionally charged issue for folks on both sides and I am trying to be as irenic as possible.
Preface: As Evangelicals we hold that the Bible as the inspired written word of God. It points us to the Incarnate Word of God (Jesus) and becomes living and active when it is read or proclaimed as the ‘declared’ word of God when preached under the influence of Holy Spirit power. (Some specialized groups will want to say ‘inerrant’ or ‘infallible’ instead of inspired but I stick with inspired since it has the greatest level of agreement.)
The thought process for a new approach to same-sex unions centers around three things:
The Old Testament: Christians are not bound to the ‘law’ and follow almost none of the rules found in the Hebrew testament. Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law for all who believe and the Christian scriptures say that Christ abolished the law (Ephesians 2:15), fulfilled the law (Romans 10:4 & Matthew 5:17) and made it obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). We can’t quote any of the Old Testament ‘clobber’ passages on this issue. While the Old Testament is an inspired record containing the word of God, Christians have been set free and no longer live by that law (see the book of Acts 10-15).
The New Testament: Paul did not write in a vacuum. He wrote in the context of the Roman empire – both in reaction to and correction of. Central to the Roman code was something called the Pater familias. The ‘dad’ (land owner) in a Roman family basically ‘owned’ everyone else (including wife and kids) and could do whatever they wanted (including sexually) with them. There was also a practice of men going to war taking a young ‘armor bearer’ (or companion) who they could use sexually. What verses like Romans 1 are against is something that everyone – no matter where they are on our current issue – would still be against.
Homosexuality: Homosexuality was a medical term invented in the 19th century. It was in contrast to heterosexuality (notice the binary). The Bible (the inspired written word of God) is not talking about homosexuality. It didn’t exist. The Bible is not talking about the same thing we are debating. It can no more be addressing homosexuality than it can be talking about Television. There was no such thing. Our contemporary talk about sexual identity and sexual orientation is not on the Bible’s radar.
We don’t live by the Old Testament. The New Testament is talking about something we would all still be against. The Bible is not talking about the same thing that we are debating, it didn’t exist. To drag our ‘homosexuality’ into the pages of the Bible is anachronistic (out of time sequence).
Sexual identity/orientation is something we have to talk about in light of scripture’s teaching, but we can’t simply import our English words and concepts into the original text and assume that it is addressing the same things we are wrestling with.*
So let’s be clear – here is what we are saying and what we are not saying:
So there it is -as simply as I can state it. I have found this three-pronged approach to be a good first entry into the conversation. From there I would talk about the trajectory of liberation found in the New Testament, or the hermeneutical approach that allows us to navigate the sayings in the Bible about divorce in our contemporary churches (we clearly have the ability to navigate that sort of challenge.)
I hope this will be helpful or at least informative of one approach to addressing support for same-sex unions.
* I know that some who are more progressive are going to say “even if it was – so what? The Bible was wrong on slavery and it is wrong on this too!”. Can I just kindly say that this post is not intended for you and that it is great that you already have your conviction and if you could just let us slow-pokes have this little conversation in our own terms, that would be really helpful.
_____ post script
So Lynette came on and answered the question that so many had been asking for 2 days and I had only attempted to answer:
The term “arsenokoites” in Paul’s writing and the term “homosexual” today don’t really map to each other very well.
Arsenokoites was even used in reference to married, opposite-sex relationships in the early church (See John the Faster’s “Many men commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.”). Arsenokoites would appear to mean “A man who takes sexual advantage of those under his authority, including male slaves (his own and those belonging to pagan temples), sons, pupils, and prisoners of war”.
Whereas homosexual means a person, male or female, who is romantically, relationally, and sexual attracted primarily to those of his or her own sex or gender, and therefore is likely to seek romantic partnerships and sexual relationships with his or her own sex or gender (though one can be celibate and still be homosexual).
They don’t map very well together. In Paul’s world, sex was largely a matter of power relationships– a man acquired a wife, a slave, a prostitute, a child, etc. and could, as part of his authority gratify sexual desires with those under him.
Today’s relationships are largely based on love, partnership, companionship, not property and authority. Therefore, what Paul writes has to be understood through the lens of his own time and not through our own lens.
_______ pt. 2
The amazing amount of comments has exceeded the program’s ability to display them all on the same page. So I am moving some very helpful comments up into the original post so that we can all find them as the conversation progresses.
From JDS: For an extended discussion of the word “arsenokoitai,” please see: http://www.religioustolerance.org/homarsen.htm. (This site is excellent for presenting multiple interpretations of the Bible’s references to homosexuality). The word has been translated various ways over the years, but the translation as homosexual does not appear until the last couple hundred years.
Again: the term “homosexuality” has no record before about 1800 (and is very rare until later in the 19th century). “Arsenokoitai” also (as far as we can tell) does not refer to lesbianism, fwiw, but only some kind of male sexual practice (Martin Luther thought it meant self-abuse, apparently).
The upshot is that Paul does NOT use the very common Greek term “paiderasste,” which was what the Greeks used to refer to male-male sex. Instead, he uses this other term of more obscure origin.
In the latest episode of the TNT (Theology Nerd Throwdown) Tripp and I discuss the christo-centric and love-centric lens (hermeneutic) of reading the Bible.
We put forward the audacious claim that if God is (at least) as nice as Jesus then you have to look at the rest of Scripture (including the OT and the book of Revelation) a little differently. This is a radical departure from what many would classify as ‘a plain reading of the text’ or ‘it says what it means,stupid’ ( a slight but important deviation from “Keep It Simple Studip: K.I.S.S.) readings.
I both sensed and was waiting for someone to bring up the passage from the OT … and jb00m brought the thunder!
The question raised to me after discussion about this TNT was, “how do we understand ‘fear of God’ with respect to a non-violent God? What would/does it mean?”
I’m not sure what the answer is. Though, my thinking goes along: living the transformed life is living with the fear of God, working out faith with fear and trembling…because of the responsibility inherent in it, with the ambiguity that can be there in figuring out how to act in the individual circumstance. Something like that. Any thoughts?
What a great question! I promised that I would put it out there for discussion. If the being of wisdom is fear of the Lord, we are suppose to work out our salvation with fear and trembling - then how do we reconcile that with this life transformation perspective that was proposed on the TNT?
look forward to your thoughts and responses -Bo
by Dan Hauge
As I began to read through Bo’s post, Eucharist Isn’t Enough, the other day, I began to steel myself for disappointment. I feel keenly the problems of consumerism and commodification that Bo talks about, but I have intuitively felt for some time that an emphasis on the Eucharist really has the potential to help the church combat these less-than-humanizing cultural tendencies. So getting ready to hear how the Eucharist just won’t cut it brought up a certain defensiveness in me.
However, as I read his critique of how the Eucharist plays out in many church contexts (providing people a religious service with bread and wine serving the same function as a biscotti and latte) his critique began to make a lot of sense, and I realized I agreed with him—if we’re talking about the Eucharist as the specific ritual where we gather in our (mostly) demographically homogeneous communities, partake of thimble-sized versions of the elements, and place a great amount of importance on whether God’s presence really or symbolically resides in those thimble-sized elements.
At least in my own evangelical contexts, taking communion has come to be primarily an opportunity for us to intellectually “remember” the events of Good Friday, and then privately reflect in gratitude on whatever significance we believe those events have for us. In some more creative versions there is space for people to mingle and interact, and while all these things are valuable in and of themselves, I believe there is potential for more.
My own understanding of the eucharist has been shaped by the distinct possibility that many early Christians experienced it as a common meal. Jesus’ final supper, whether a Passover or not, is definitely portrayed as a full meal. The Didache offers instructions for a Eucharistic prayer to be read “after you have been filled” (10.1), and the latter part of 1 Corinthians 11 seems to describe a Lord’s Supper where the community is sharing a meal together. And eating together implies a lot of sharing—sharing space, sharing resources, and sharing the fruit of your labors, whether the farming, purchasing, or cooking. What is key for me in all of this is the sense of unity—people coming together, sharing what they have, embodying the deeper truth of our interdependence as co-equal children of God.
In fact, it’s worth questioning whether Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ instructions to take the Eucharist “in remembrance of me” is really geared toward remembering the theological significance of Good Friday (as it’s often been understood), or if he might rather be emphasizing “remembrance” of who Jesus was—his radical inclusive love, his barrier-breaking kingdom (or kin-dom, if you like). How you treat each other—with dignity, with mutuality and shared purpose embodied in the equal sharing of sustenance—matters a great deal if the Eucharist is truly going to reflect who Jesus was and what he calls us to be.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that Paul doesn’t seem too concerned about uprooting the class structures themselves. His solution to this particular issue is a little more mundane—if you really want to chow down, do it at home and don’t bring it into the context of the shared meal with the rest of the body. But this is a case where I think we can take the basic principle (don’t exacerbate class distinctions within the community of Christ) and extend it to the issues of class, marginalization, and oppression in general.
If the community of Jesus followers is supposed to be about sharing the vision of God’s shalom with the wider world, shouldn’t our Eucharist celebrations embody that? Can we celebrate the Eucharist in such a way that calls into question the fact that we live, work, and eat every day in the midst of grossly unfair class structures that divide us, excessively rewarding some and punishing others?
I think about a UCC church I once attended in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (an area with a significant amount of poverty and drug use), where right after the service the “coffee and snack hour” was open to the entire neighborhood. It was one (rare) instance where it did not feel like the church fellowship was one community “serving” the poor community it lived in the midst of. Rather it felt like one community gathering, where it just so happened that most of the people didn’t choose to attend the formal service the hour before. How can Christians of privilege, who constantly benefit from the dominant system even as we critique it, engage in genuinely mutual community with those the system leaves behind? Can we create ways of truly eating together, to embody real communion in our communion?
It will require ongoing analysis of my privilege in society, a willingness to examine how my ways of being, eating, and doing contribute to making life harder for others, and a recognition of how all of this creates a barrier to mutual relationship with others. A barrier that Jesus died to overcome, but that is only overcome as we follow and trust Jesus, finding ways to share together, strive together and eat together “in remembrance of him”.
This past Monday I caught wind of a cooky Southern preacher who preached about a plan to exterminate lesbians, queers and homosexuals. I hear a lot of chatter about this kind of thing so I hoped it would just go away.
By Tuesday night this North Carolina pastor was showing up all over Facebook and Twitter. By Wednesday morning he was the ‘most popular’ link on all of Yahoo! world homepage.
If you have not seen this video, be warned. It is in no way understated. Here is the link: NC Pastor
I have 3 main thoughts about this:
Nothing thus far is that surprising – save the actual sermon by the NC Pastor. Here is my concern:
Admission: I have been re-reading Stuart Murray’s Post-Christendom and … while that is admittedly probably not the best idea … I have to admit that this whole ‘legislating civil unions and marriages’ thing in North Carolina could not come at a worse time for me.
For what it is worth, here is my 2 cents.
I’m not really sure what other course of action I have in this situation. I spent last week in the woods with no technology and unless I want to perpetually retreat away from all this ugliness, I have got to address this kind of craziness at some level. What else is there in the face of hate except to love?
Jeff Bethke has created quite a stir with his YouTube video that begins “Jesus came to abolish religion.” Many video responses have followed (including a Muslim response) and some bloggers have meticulously attacked the logic behind his poem point-by-point. This past week he was in Time magazine.
This whole controversy gets to me at two deep levels:
I have heard many people just brush aside his use of ‘religion’ as ignorant, immature, stupid, uneducated, silly, shallow, un-historic, and false. The thing that I want to yell is
“YOU FOOLS – like it or not, that is how people use the word religion in our culture.”
If you asked A) people under 40 and B) evangelicals to define religion you would get a picture that is almost identical to Bethke’s .
I now hang out with mainline folks and people who read books on theology. They are quick to say
Like it or not – this is the definition that many young people are using for religion. When they say (increasingly) that they are spiritual-but-not-religious , this is what they mean.
I am pursuing a PhD in the field of Practical Theology for the very reason that I want to engage how people live out their faith – practice it – in particular communities. The two things that I am willing to concede up front are that
It is popular to say in these circles “Religion is man’s attempt to connect with God. Jesus is God’s attempt to connect with man.” *
I know that there are many good attempts to connect with religious tradition. I have heard many addresses regarding the root of the word religion and how the ‘lig’ is the same as ligament or ‘binding’ and how it is an attempt to bind us together – not to have us bound up in rules! My question is this: Are you willing to engage this dualistic and uniformed populist definition of religion that is in place OR would your rather hold to your enlightened and informed historical perspective and allow a conversation to happen without you because you are above it? **
I know that it can be frustrating to circle back and entertain naive perspectives. But if the alternative is to let the conversation happen without a historically informed perspective, then I think we have no choice but to concede the initial conditions of the dialogue in an attempt to express an informed/educated alternative.
* there are alternatives like “Religion is our attempt to connect with God, Christianity is God’s connecting with us.”
** I have intentionally provided two alternatives to honor the dualistic nature of this mentality.
Thomas Jay Oord is back on the podcast! Last time we discussed the science of love and this time we discuss….the Gospel. That’s right, this is the first straight gospel-cast we have done. Tom just put out a book that is well worth checking out titled The Best News You Will Ever Hear. In the book he attempts to tell the gospel as he understands it straight and simple. The thing is this is no normal Gospel proclaimer. Tom is a cutting edge philosopher and theologian and a faithful Nazarene, a creative thinker wrestling with religious pluralism and science but also one known to rock a pulpit holiness style, and most of all Tom is just a plain awesome, genuine, and inspiring Christian.
In this podcast Tom discusses the decision to write about the gospel, how it connects to his other more academic work, the challenge of letting one’s life and theology assist one another towards faithfulness, and of course his open and relational vision of the gospel of love
Tom is an outstanding blogger, the leader of my favorite AAR group (The Open & Relational Theologies Section), prolific author (get his books!), alumni of my own Claremont Graduate School, a fellow FAN-IAC of John Cobb & Larry Norman (I believe we are the only 2) and most of all a great mentor and friend. My first time to AAR as an undergrad Tom started talking to me, answered my elementary questions (he still does), and has continued to assist and encourage my work. I love sharing good theology with the HBC Deacons but sharing good theology with a friend is even better!
Deacons should holla at the podcast! We love hearing from you and adding your voice to the show. Here’s our digits…. 678-590-BREW!