Help Needed: Contrarian Game – Youth Pastor Edition

Last week at the Phyllis Tickle live event in Pasadena we played round 2 of the contrarian game “Au Contraire Mon Frère” between Tony Jones and our very own Tripp Fuller. The audio of that will come out this week. IMG_3698

Round 3 of the game (Youth Pastor Edition) will be held in Chicago at the Progressive Youth Minister Conference. Jonnie Russell will take my seat as the mediator.

We want your help in coming up with statements. 

Below are my statements from round 2 this past week as samples. The trick is to frame it in a way that the first person to take a position forces the other person to take the contrarian view that may not represent their actual conviction – but without knowing which one of the contestants will go first.

Each statement also needs a [secret phrase] that, if used, automatically wins the round.

This is a fun excercise and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
_______________

  • The much hyped debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science Guy was positive step in the right direction – we need to have public exchanges around contentious issues.

[Ray Comfort] 

  •  The abundance of Bible themed movies coming out this year – Son of God, Noah, Nicholas Cage in the Left Behind remake – is a sign that people are spiritual hungry and will pay to see their faith reflected on screen.

[Megachurch]

  •  The new Pope’s lasting legacy will not be his public persona (or even recognition by outlets like Rolling Stone) – but his appointment of Cardinals from the Southern Hemisphere  like last month when 14 of the new 19 were.

[European Hegemony] 

  •  Things like process, Moltmaniacs and emergents will always be small – but that is OK – because their function is to catch disillusioned young people who are slipping out the back door of the church.

[Nones ]

  • Twitter has become a toxic atmosphere and blogging is barely worth doing anymore.

[Hash tag wars]

  •  The life of the spirit (or life IN the spirit) has been largely neglected historically and is a glaring absence in the protestant church in N. America.

[Pentecostal]

  • Joel Osteen, while not my cup of tea, is telling the rest of us ministers something that we need to hear and wake-up to.

[Crystal Cathedral]

  • The age of Ministry Conferences is over, and Identity Politics killed it.

[Tokenism]

  • Youth ministry is an intrinsically untenable job description and that is why see such high turnover.

[relevant] 

  •  Fuller Seminary is straddling a dangerous divide over this LGBT issue between its ability to recruit future students and its older donor base.

[endowment  or baby boomers] 

 

 

 

 

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Tripp Fuller on Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

In this episode, Jordan Green and Christian Piatt share the virtual mic with Homebrewed Christianity Godfathers Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders to discuss the AMC zombie show, Walking Dead, how Zombie Theology can be applied to scripture and what every good Christian needs in order to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Green and Piatt go uber-hipster on some local Oregon brews, and Piatt geeks out on his favorite tech gadgets of 2012. They bounce the U.S.’ role in Syria and the college football restructure madness around in the echo chamber and, for the first time, welcome Christian’s wife, Amy, into the Homebrewed lair for pithy sideline commentary and a little bit of bongo magic.

Who says these guys aren’t consummate professionals? No, seriously, somebody should say it, because they don’t listen when we say it.
*** If you enjoy all the Homebrewed Christianity Podcasts then consider sending us a donation via paypal. We got bandwidth to buy & audiological goodness to dispense. We will also get a percentage of your Amazon purchase through this link OR you can send us a few and get us a pint!***




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The John 14:6 Challenge Edition!!! [TNT 39]

Over 50 different HBC Deacons have answered the call.  They responded to the John 14:6 Challenge & now Bo and I get to Nerd Out with some of your calls!  It was a ton of fun to interact with you all and we will be looking forward to more interactive fun in the near future.

The release of Brian McLaren’s new book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World  and our subsequent live event with him at Wild Goose West (audio here) got the ball rolling.  Then when Brian’s new publisher Jericho Books who hooked us up with some promotional copies we decided to open the mic up to y’all.

Bo has been blogging as we received the calls.  First he proposed an alternative reading to John 14:6 & now he is trying to get rid of Salvation altogether (sarcasm!).

At the conclusion of the podcast Bo started talking Christological smack so soon and very soon I will be leading Bo high up the Christological mountain where the divine Logos & Sophia make sweet eternal symmetry.

This episode is sponsored by Slave Free Earth – they are asking the deacons to join them in ending human trafficking and specifically sex slavery. Go to SlaveFreeEarth.com and join the 7 Community. Pledge to:

  • Pray 7 minutes a week
  • Give 7 dollars a month
  • Challenge 7 people a year to join

Send us the confirmation email of your joining and we will give you a shout out on the podcast – send up a question with that email and we will respond to it on the next TNT podcast.

Donations are tax deductible.
*** If you enjoy all the Homebrewed Christianity Podcasts then consider sending us a donation via paypal. We got bandwidth to buy & audiological goodness to dispense. We will also get a percentage of your Amazon purchase through this link OR you can send us a few and get us a pint!***




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Occupy Theology: Marx and Whitehead

In this special episode Deacon Jeremy Fackenthal & Tripp Fuller talk Marx and Whitehead at the 2012 Emergent Village Theological Conversation for 2012.

The “Inverse Theology” that is referenced is from Walter Benjamin and Theodore Adorno.

Also referenced is the popular blog from last month “Undercover Boss” by Stephen Keating 

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Jesus loves you … some more than others?

In recent weeks both Tim Tebow and Marc Driscoll have been hot button topics of conversation in my circles. The whole thing peaked this week when Tebow was knocked out of the playoffs and Driscol was interviewed on a popular British radio show.

In the Driscoll interview (he was going after the host because his wife is a pastor) he said something that is hugely troubling about its implications for the value of certain types of people. Driscoll was asking about how many young single men have come to Christ in the past year. Not how many people, but how many of them were men. Still not satisfied, he asked about what kind of men they were – were they strong men?

 

Do you see the sequence? (some might call it a pecking order)

He asked not about numbers of people who came to Christ, not about Church health or the British context (ie. implications of having a Church of England)

  • How many were men … specifically young single men.
  • Not men in general, but a specific type of man (strong)

Some may want to simply dismiss this as an eccentric fascination of an isolated mentality. I beg to differ.  I see this as a ongoing, if below the surface, mentality that is pervasive in the North American Protestant-Evangelical-Charismatic camp (also known as ‘my people’).

I have written recently that we may worship success more than any God – and I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations about the fallout of the 20th centuries rejection of the Social Gospel or the inherent downside of anti-intellectualism that is still widely pervasive – what I am saying is that Driscoll’s views and Tebow’s fans are not an anomaly. They are the logical end expression of an underlying belief about who God is and how God works.

 

The Driscol-Tebow controversies are merely the public manifestation of an underlying theology surfacing in examples that bring to the public’s attention to what is always bubbling just below the surface – or behind the closed doors of the sanctuary.

The Gospel as it is configured in some quarters is surprising to those who are outside this stream. Does Jesus love everyone? Technically, yes. Is there a type of person that Jesus loves more … or a part of that person (soul, gender, etc.) that Jesus is more interested in?

If this concept is completely foreign to you – I may need to come at this a different way:

I had a chance to talk to a faithful saint who suffers from a chronic degenerative disease. She found a piece that I wrote about why we need to move away from old understandings about curses. She had undergone more than a decade of people ‘discerning in prayer’ that someone had placed a curse on her when she was younger and then attempting through intercession and deliverance to break the enemy’s power over her.

She was intrigued by my insistence that God was not picking and choosing who to intervene for and which situations to interfere in. She had heard last week’s interview with John Cobb where he said that we believe that God is doing in every situation all that God is able to do that in situation.

This is a radical assertion and a sharp departure from the common belief about how God can and does work in the world.

I told her about an old interview that Tripp did with Bruce Epperly where Tripp paraphrased him by saying “God does not hold out or run out”.   Think about the implications of those two statements:

In every situation God is doing everything that God is able to do

God does not hold out or run out

I love this view of God. Some people get really upset because God is not as powerful as the Zeus-Caesar (theos) character they have been told lives up in the heavens watching us all and intervening/interfering according to ‘His’ will. But we are actually saying that God is powerful – its just that God’s power is a different kind of power from the unilateral and coercive power that has classically been ascribed to the Divine Being.

In this past week’s TNT I said that I thought something really positive came out of the pushback we got from our cross-efforts with Rachel Held Evans and Kurt Willems. It became clear that Process-Relational thought really is saying something quite different than classical theologies based on Imperial assumptions and Greek metaphysics.

This is not a simple tweak of the existing system (like Open theology). This is not a program that you just download and install into your already in place operating system. It is not a patch that employ to get rid of the bugs and kinks in the classical program. Relational thought is a different operating system (to use the fun Mac v. Microsoft Windows analogy).

I am excited about the upcoming Theological Conversation Jan 31-Feb 2  between the Emergent Village and Process-Relational thought. I am not under the impression that P-R is for everyone or that many folks will ‘convert’. But I am hopeful that we can engage, in a significant way, the ongoing and persistent glitches that  (while they may rarely come to full blown Driscoll-Tebow levels) are perpetually just below the surface.

 

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Rachel Responses

Our friend Rachel Held Evans (podcast with her is here) posted a blog by our own Tripp Fuller that got an amazing response (287 comments at this posting). Tripp responded all day Friday, I did quick responses Saturday and Sunday night. I thought it would it would be fun to post them all here as a conglomeration of ideas that are open for discussion.

Omnipotence:  A Compliment Jesus Wants You to Take Back

I (Tripp) have one important rule to guide my theological thinking: God has to at least be as loving as Jesus.
It seems rather obvious for a Christian, given our confession that Jesus was indeed the ‘image of the invisible God,’ but throughout church history, God, Jesus’ Abba, has been given a very theologically destructive compliment– namely that God is Omnipotent , All Powerful.

While this philosophical compliment is absent in Scripture, yet present throughout much theology, it was John Calvin that made God’s power the ultimate theological principle.  I used to be a Calvinist. I read Calvin’s Institutes in high school, used Charles Spurgeon sermons for devotions, and quoted Jonathan Edwards to my crazy Arminian friends in college.  Then I realized the God I had come to know in Christ was way too awesome for my Calvinist theology.  The theology was not simply off, but set against God’s nature, name, and essence being love.

This isn’t to say Calvinists aren’t Christians (or that I wasn’t when I was there theologically). I am simply saying that omnipotence is a theological compliment Jesus wants you to take back for four reason:

1. An omnipotent deity is responsible for the evil in the world.  When God can do whatever God wants to do, whenever God wants to do it, everything that happens is either the direct will of God or permitted by God.  Of course Calvin, in his obsession with making God uber-powerful, rejects the idea of God’s permissive will and keeps God as the prime actor in all actions.  That means God has willed genocide, murder, rape, cancer, abuse, and the torture of children.  When God is omnipotent, one can read history as the will of God, and history is way too full of evil, suffering, and violence to imagine it as revelatory of God’s will.  If God ever willed the violent death of an innocent child, then that God is not Jesus’ Abba or worthy of a Christian’s worship.

2. An omnipotent deity is not capable of genuine relationships or love.  Loving relationships require openness, vulnerability, risk, and genuine duration.  We  intuit this. For example, when two lovers consummate their marriage in a passionate act of sweet love-making, it is their freedom vulnerability, and willingness to risk that make their intercourse an act of love and not rape.  If one side of the relationship  is determined, it just isn’t a relationship.  I remember in my Calvinist past thinking that God elected me to love God, but being coerced  sounds much more like a relationship to a gangster than God. There’s a big difference between a puppet and a person, an object and a subject.  The God of Jesus created, sustains, and redeems people, children of God.

3. An omnipotent deity runs eternity like a tyrannical dictator.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Paul said that, and I think it makes perfect sense.  Of course, if Calvin is correct and God is actually the one in charge, then it becomes a bit odd…or flat our disgusting…to simultaneously think God elects people to suffer for all eternity for their sins.  That’s worse than me spanking my son for eating a cookie I made and gave to him.  This image of God is morally bankrupt and need not be defended.  Instead we could imagine God to be a Woman who seeks out each lost coin until it is found, or a faithful and patient Father waiting to throw a party for the return of his son.  These images sound like a God as loving as Jesus.

4.  An omnipotent deity builds crosses.  The cross and resurrection are the center piece of the faith.  The cross of Jesus was not simply a convenient way for Jesus to die so that God could raise him from the dead, but a symbol of Rome’s power.  Rome and only Rome built crosses and put people on them.  Jesus died with the power of empire inscribed on his cross-dead body.  It is that body that God raised from the dead, and it is the future of the Cross-dead Christ that we as Christians share. Yet for some reason, we so easily speak about God’s power as if God was being revealed in the building of crosses and not in their bearing. God’s self-revelation in Jesus was a rejection of the coercive, determining, and controlling power that the empires of this world love so much for the power of love.  Infinite divine love, the freedom it gives, the risks it takes and the possibilities it continuously creates offer an alternative ultimate theological principle for Christian theology and one I think coheres with the story of Jesus.

Process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once stated that, “When the Western world accepted Christianity, Caesar conquered; and the received text of Western theology was edited by his lawyers…. The brief Galilean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages, uncertainly…. But the deeper idolatry, of the fashioning of God in the image of the Egyptian, Persian, and Roman imperial rulers, was retained. The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar.”  

This observation rings true to me, but Caesar’s lawyers do not have to have the last word and Christian theology does not need to protect an idolatrous image of God anymore.

Process is a theology that has grown over the last 100 years from the philosophy of Mr. Whitehead. It is a global community (big in China and Europe) that engages both theory and practice with contemporary scholarship. For those who take it theologically, it is a way to address the Bible that is fully faithful to Jesus‘ vision, while integrating modern Biblical scholarship at every level.

The easiest access point for most is to say that because God IS love, then God’s very nature is loving, and so God’s use of power is not coercive – it is persuasive (almost seductive).

 So God is not omnipotent.

Secondly, God is omniscient in that God knows all there is to know – but the future is undetermined.

Thirdly, God is omnipresent in an even more radical way than traditionally thought.

Lastly, God is neither immutable nor impassable – those are concerns of early Greek thought and not from the Christian scripture.
So quit saying God is omnipotent.  Jesus was just too loving for that to stick.

To learn more about Process Theology, check out  Marjorie Suchocki’s short PDF intro (free), and Bruce Epperly’s book, Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. 

___

Thank you all for the amazing conversation today – and even the push-back! This is the major development of our era over the previous centuries … the people of god in theological dialogue :) I want to make three general responses to some clear trends that have been displayed here:

1) Open Theology: folks are right (like Kurt Willems) to say that there is a significant distinction between Open and Process thought. Open is only/primarily concerned with the nature of the future. They hold that God reserves the right to do whatever God wants … its just that in love God has chosen to limit God’s self. It’s like God is just being nice but “He” doesn’t have to if “He” doesn’t want to.

Process make a clear philosophical assertion that God is not just self-limiting. God’s essence IS love and that is the determining criteria of interpretation.

Thomas Jay Oord does a great job at addressing Philippians 2: this beautiful poem that illustrates a wonderful truth and draws a dramatic picture of how we should BE in the world – like Christ.

2) Classic theology, Calvinism and Theodicy: I really like that folks have objections. They should. My only concerns are with the “we are making God in our image” and “ this is too philosophical” objections.

I want to clarify – Process doesn’t start with the problem of evil, it was just an access point for this format of conversation. If people look at their theology’s approach to scripture, its philosophical underpinnings, and its accounting for evil… If one holds to an approach of the past, sees it flaws, and says “I can live with that problem” – that is one thing. BUT if someone doesn’t see the in-congruence (and thus ‘there is no problem’) then THAT in itself is creating a 2nd problem.

I think that you would really enjoy looking into “Process Theology – an introduction” by Cobb and Griffin… especially pages 108-110 which deal with the Trinity.

Two things that I want to address are A) the baby and the bathwater B) making God in our own image.

I get what folks are saying. Here are a couple of things to consider:

A)  No one wants to throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater … per se

  • That analogy actually illustrates an interesting patriarchy/hierarchy. IT comes from and era when Dad bathed first, Mom and then the kids … to the point that by the time one got to the baby … the bathwater was SO filthy that It was actually possible to lose the baby in the dirty water and throw it out.
  • We have indoor plumbing now. We take care of our babies. That proverb, that mentality, and that concern may need to be revised for the contemporary situation.

Theology is no different.

A) Making God is our own image: no one wants a God that is just a big version of themselves projected onto the screen of the heavens. This kind of anthropomorphic imagining has happened so often in history that there is a huge rubbish heap of Gods (Thor, Zeus, Rah, etc.) that folks have no time for anymore.

While we are not interested in making a god in our own image, we are in danger of making our concept of god just that irrelevant if we continue to use only frameworks from the 2nd – 16th century.

Process makes an important distinction between Primordial and Consequential nature of God (called the Di-Polar nature of God). This is an essential  element to engaging the huge concept and historic understanding that we are dealing with.

I would be interested in your response to this! – Bo

 

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Heaven – we have a problem! (with sexuality)

This was a week of controversy in the Blogosphere – at least in my neck of the woods.

The topic of gender, femininity, and sexuality were the touch points.  I am going to highlight 3 controversial blogs from this week … but first I want to acknowledge that it mirrored (albeit in a much smaller way) something happening in the larger culture that we are embedded in.

This was also a week that saw the Penn State football sexual abuse scandal rock the nation, the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations, and several other national news story related to discrimination, abuse, and harassment.

These three christian conversations that follow are not happening in a vacuum – perhaps that is why they illicit such a heated response and so much attention. It impacts all of us.

Post 1:  from Stuff that Christians Like – a post called ‘Girls with a Past’ was a little test (written by a man) that women could take to see if one qualified as intriguing or not.  It was satire (which not everyone gets or likes) and it pointed out a real problem. Now, some people were offended and took it out on the author. I just want to say that the situation is infuriating but we can’t take it out on the person who illustrates the problem, Jon was articulating a severe inconsistency between what we say and what we do in the ‘church’.

Here is his post: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/11/stuff-christians-guys-like-girls-that-have-a-past/ let me know what you think.  It got over 500 responses.

Post 2: Rachel Held Evans (one of my favorite bloggers) put up a post called “13 things that make me a bad feminist”. It is part of a series that she does from time to time – she has also admitted to being a bad ‘evangelical’ and ‘progressive’.  This post went over like a lead-balloon . This led to a guest-post the following day.

Here is the post: http://rachelheldevans.com/13-things-lousy-feminist . It got 149 responses.

Post 3: my co-host Tripp Fuller came out of the closet as not being ‘open and affirming’ on a video from Two Friars and a Fool. His contention was that affirming letters – whether L, B, G, Q, T, I or any other dash or asterisk – is an inherently limited response. It has two great dangers:

  1. it makes us feel like what have really done something, when all we have really done is 
  2. conceded the initial ground rules to the entrenched system.

The problem is that the system is capitalism and that means that ‘acceptance’ is becoming both something to market and a new group to be marketed to.

Tripp’s point of contention is that the gospel of Jesus calls the whole system into account. We can’t concede the rules of the game and then think that we are going to bring about the best-of-all-possibilities. The structure itself must be contested. The system can not be catered to – it must be undermined and subverted. People are too valuable to God to be classified by their genitalia or the genitalia of who they are attracted to. This was not received too well for the most part.

Here is the post: http://twofriarsandafool.com/2011/11/identity-politics-are-not-the-gospel/ it got 84 responses.

___

My take:

  • The 3,000 year old gender roles in the oldest parts of the Bible merely reflect that culture’s understanding and are not the last word on ‘natural’ design.
  • The 2,000 year old gender roles in the New Testament were written in context where women were basically property. They need to be revisited and revised.
  • The idea of ‘original sin’ is a constructed idea and not biblical. What it is addressing, however, is real and I think we all acknowledge that. It needs to be addressed in better ways without pre-modern understandings imposed upon it.  
  • Until we address these three subject the conversation will always circle around and around in endless and unhelpful loops of misunderstanding: 1) social conditioning 2) constructed reality 3) biological implications of being mammals.

I would be very excited to enter into this conversation if we did not live in such a contentious and acidic ‘Argument Culture‘.  Thoughts? 

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