...thoughts expressed here are not necessarily final.

May 18, 2004 Have you seen this?

What does John Kerry have in common with a Cicada? The ad is being talked about on the newswires but here is the link to it. The campaign turns to the Internet for advertising.

May 17, 2004 Weekend notes posted 4 your blogging edification

Major setback

A suicide bomber kills the head of Iraq's Governing Council with a massive blast, but the U.S. vows the assassination won't delay the June 30 transfer of power. Here's the story.

Your Kingdom Come in our Creativity or What was Art is Now Wallpaper

Water'sEdge has another good entry on Creativity and Christ. Check out the May 12 entry which is worth reading. This writer ( I assume Pastor Joel?) verbalizes some of my own thoughts on a consistent basis.

"No more thinking. No more creating. No more self-expression. Only consuming and advertising for more consumption. Humanity is suffocating itself here in USAmerica."

Nigerian Believers Slaughtered by Islamic Radicals
Eric Tiansay, Charisma News

Compare the two stories at CBN and CNN. The latter one seems to blame the Christians.

Muslim fundamentalists recently killed eight pastors and 1,500 believers, while destroying 173 churches in the northern states of Plateau and Nasarawa . The Muslim-Christian violence last month also displaced 25,000 people. Christian leaders condemned the attacks, warning that the government's inability to address the violence could turn the country into "a theater for religious war." The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) asked, "How can anyone explain the reason for invading a church where women, children and men were worshiping, asking them to surrender and lie face down and then proceed to machete and axe them to death in their house of worship?"

CAN officials noted that Christians in the African nation have never initiated violence against Muslims, and Nigerian officials have lukewarm attitudes toward the plight of believers, Compass reported.

There's a serious disconnect between the two reports cited above. So how do you think each of the reports are biased? Can we trust "Christian" news services to give it to us straight? Can we trust CNN at all?

Religious Movies Are the Coming Trend
Wolfgang Polzer, ASSIST News Service Link via Crosswalk.com

Movies with religious content are the coming trend according to the officer for radio, television and films of the Mainline Protestant Churches in Germany, Rev. Bernd Merz. After the success of movies like The Passion of the Christ and Luther, Hollywood producers are looking for more similar material, said Merz in an interview. The trend is not just an American one. "People are seeking their religious roots and open for the Christian message", commented Merz. The secret of Luther's success in Germany with three million viewers lies in the combination of good entertainment and faith education. Merz also commented on the fact that The Passion had a comparatively weak response in Germany with 1.3 million viewers. Rather than being the result of warnings of potential anti-Semitism in Mel Gibson's movie, Merz believes that the film's brutal scenes caught the German audience off guard. Another factor could be the different religious climate in secularized Europe from the United States "with millions of pious Americans."

Religious climate? Pious Americans? That statement made me go looking for some kind of map to quantify this. Schaeffer once said American Christianity is three thousand miles wide and one inch deep.

Whaddyathink? Is America a Christian nation because we watch more religious films and sing God Bless America? Or are we a mission field ripe unto harvest? Check out the next story...

Number of Unchurched American Adults Has Nearly Doubled Since 1991

See the full story at www.barna.org

The number of Americans who don't go to church has mushroomed from 39 million to 75 million since 1991 - representing more than one third of the U.S. adult population and a 92 percent increase. According to the "startling statistics" discovered by the Barna Research Group's (BRG) latest study, the percentage of adults who haven't attended a worship service - other than a wedding or funeral, Christmas or Easter - during the past six months has risen from 21 percent 13 years ago to 34 percent today. Released Tuesday, the survey looked at 18 different religious factors, nine behaviors and nine beliefs, of the unchurched. The poll found that non-churchgoers are more likely to be young, male and single than born-again adults. BRG president George Barna noted that to unchurched people, embracing church life is "both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive." "The rapidly swelling numbers of unchurched people may be forcing existing churches to reinvent their core spiritual practices while holding tightly to their core spiritual beliefs," he added. "It will take radically new settings and experiences to effectively introduce unchurched individuals to biblical principles and practices."

AF:Belated Responses to a seminal book

OK speaking of reinventing our core spiritual practices while holding tightly to our core spiritual beliefs, here is the next installment of my take on McLaren's "experiences" in A New Kind of Christian. Let's foray into form versus function.... I will tell you up front that what I reject of the book so far has more to do with the pursuit of biblical, transmodal truth than with being modern. The thing about sycretism that makes it dangerous is that once you resonate to the True parts of it, the False parts get a hearing they would not otherwise merit.

I can agree only hesitantly with a statement like "What a relief to have a third alternative - to read the Bible as a pre-modern text, emerging from a people who believed that truth is best embodied in story and art and human flesh, rather than abstraction or outline or moralism. Humans shall not live by systems and abstractions and principles alone, but also by stories and poetry and proverbs of mystery."

But then I must add a caveat- it was written to all peoples of all times. Systems and abstractions and principles are no less valid way of deriving meaning and avail much if the text is not taken out of context so as to become a pretext. The Bible is not some monolithic mantra that is easily categorized.

Sure there is story and art and human flesh. There are also lists and statistics and precepts and abstract, symbolic apocalyptic and even the first century equivalent of emails. And it is not just from one people or written to one people. The audience is diverse and so are the writers- a testimony to the coherence with which the Holy Spirit infused the text. Crass overgeneralizations really kick the props from under the writer's philosophical ramblings time and again.

In the first analysis, it sounds to me like he is saying that being "a new kind of " Christian means accepting the conclusion that the Bible has no objective meaning and that theological ideas based on objective truth need updating. But most of what we know of the substance of systematic theology predates modernism! Maybe my opinion will change as I interact with the text. But some of the things Neo and Dan refer to as being their experience are NOT my experience.

I have been in good churches that have had a high view of scripture and for the most part I never had pastors who tried to oversimplify and offer panacea pills in the form of sermons. I, and they, would have reacted negatively to such disingenuity. Sure, I have encountered the codification and comodification of churchianity in the culture as well, but that's another story.

McLaren seeks to define what it means to be a Christian apart from clear biblical authority. This dangerously elevates the place of man. Sin too easily distorts man's thinking. We need God's Word to shine the light of truth into the murkiness of all these voices and ideas that clamor for the allegiance of hearts and minds.

I'll be posting thoughts and responses as I often do when reading something that makes me think. Feel free to interact and let's talk when we meet. I am becoming convinced that McLaren is writing about the same experience so many before him have had- that of the struggle to become authentic in a world informed and defined by image.

That's not a modern problem but it is indemic of the false reality we find all around us everyday. So you will find me disagreeing not so much with all of the contentions of Neo and Dan but rather mostly the analysis and premises they frame the discussion with.

1. Re.:In the intro, Confusion caused by Christian radio is addressed: Christian radio is NOT much of the time. My advice: don't listen to it uncritically. Listen to your heart beat with God's. Listen to the Word of God. Over and Over, prayerfully, discerningly, until you get the big picture and all the corrollaries and veins and grit of it. That is what is real.

2-3.Re.: Preaching from formulae and accepted vocabularies. Pastors are not spiritual masseuses. They are prophets with fire in their bones expressing this by feeding His sheep.

4. McLaren contends (p. xiii.) that Christians have the same problems and failures as nonchristians. That is not exactly true. Part of the answer is that without Christ a lot of Christians would be dead, having come to the end of themselves and despaired.

But that still begs the question McLaren asks "Shouldn't the gospel be making a bigger difference?" The answer is that the sanctifying spirit WILL transform the believer and if it doesn't maybe the problem is that the believer believes the wrong things. So maybe a lot of people who name Christ as Savior have never biblically believed and received the life transforming gospel.
Romans 10:9 says we must agree with God that Jesus is Lord and that, in my mind, and I think biblically, confession demands much more than verbal assent. this is the old lordship-salvation debate attaining again. Righteousness based on right thinking yields the bigger difference. The path is still straight and the way is still narrow...

5. The author contends that Christians and non Christians alike need their own peculuiar conversions. I think we all need to be conformed to the likeness of Christ , not converted. That is the ONE thing that is needful.

6. The author realizes that the Bible is not a systematic theology. OK, amen. That does not mean that systematic theologies cannot be helpful in organizing and understanding what we DO know from scripture. McLaren seems to me to be opposed to systematic theologies since they are not exhaustive. I know of no one who claims we can know all of god. We can know all he has revealed of himself however.

A systematic theology cannot bear the weight of glory. Only a life lived worthy in Christ by grace can. Labelling an indescribable deity? No way. Worship Him? Yes, way.

Old systems are just that. A systems approach to anything in life is not life. Art is not life. Science is not life. Technique is not life. So why wonder that systems cannot unscrew the inscrutable as Prof. Hendricks says? Only Christ is life.

7. McLaren sees things in categories- like "writing outside the religious context" Just exactly what is that anyway? Sure, the laws of thermodynamics apply everywhere this side of the fall. Things fall apart as Chinua Achebe said. It's a Koyaanisqatsi -Powaqqatsi -Naqoyqatsi-world out there in Babylon.

8. The author asks "Doesn't the religious community have anything fresh and incisive to say?" No, I hope not, at least not in the way he asks for. If we cannot get the basics of the faith once delivered to the saints right why press for the shock of the new? But the Living Word does reamin fresh- every morning it is fresh, everything old is new again in Christ. That's yet another reason we make our boast in Him. If that is not relevant so be it. Since when does cultural relevance trump abundant life?

9. The old show was over when Christ uttered "it is finished", not when the Pruitt Igoe was destroyed thirty two years ago.

If people along the way are modelling for the author what a new kind of christian might look like, perhaps we should ask- is this new- or is this the struggle thoughtful Christians throughout the ages struggled wiith- and that being part of the peculiar processes of sanctification in their particular life? I think the biblical Christian will always be at odds with Babylon and when the chuch is full of the world, if it fits YOU are the wrong size.

Can it be possible to say that Christianity really has "versions"? Or is there one faith once delivered to the saints that wends its way and finds manifestations in a litany of traditions and cultures but is nonetheless true? If the latter is true it would serve us well to identify that which Lewis qualified as mere Christianity. Followers of the true Christ are sometimes found in unlikely places. Versifying the faith will always make it less of an expression of truth. The holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, is not bound by denominational ties, ethnicity, or even creeds per se. It is bound to the truth of Christ and live in conformation to it. Truth as expressed in the Word of God (which by the way , he has exalted above His name) serves not to make us bibliolators but to communicate to us in lucid, real terms the eternal verities of who this God we have to do with actually IS. He chose the means and we must conform to it. You can't bend the Bible.

From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/