Monday, May 21, 2007

Next Cohort Meeting

The Next Cohort meeting is this Saturday May 26th at 10AM at the Starbucks in Miami Lakes.
8012 NW 154th Street.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wedding Dress

A post by Adam:

Derek Webb, Wedding Dress

"If you could love me as a wife and for my wedding gift your life
Should that be all I'll ever need or is there more I'm looking for
And should I read between the lines and look for blessings in disguise
to make me handsome, rich and wise Is that really what you want

Could you love this bastard child though I don't trust you to provide
With one hand in a pot of gold and with the other in your side
Cause I am so easily satisfied by the call of lovers so less wild
That I would take just a little cash over your very flesh and blood

Because money cannot buy a husband's jealous eye
when you have knowingly deceived his wife

So I am a whore I do confess I put you on just like a wedding dress and
I run down the aisle
I'm a prodigal with no way home I put you on just like a ring of gold and
I run down the aisle to you"

Why isn't Jesus' ring on our finger enough? Why isn't His mercy and
salvation enough? The prominent message in church is do this and you'll get
that. More specifically, come dressed up on Sunday, put money in the plate,
go to sunday school, later hand out tracks and... God will bless you. By
'God will bless you' we mean you'll get a raise, you'll get a mate, you'll
get a promotion,

(Side note, there are tangible examples of this in our church. remember the
video that we showed where someone gave the church money and she claimed
that she got a raise. Or how many testimonials have we heard of a similiar

Back to the ring on our finger. Our marriage to Christ gives us all that
we'll ever need in form of His mercy and salvation. HIS LOVE will compel us
to do His work. HIS LOVE must compel in contrast to a raise, a mate or a


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Theology Part IV

How can we properly speak of God? In the presence of the divine, our humanity is ever before us. We become acutely aware of our inability to properly define the experience of God.

We see the outworking of this in the story of the golden calf in Exodus. While Moses is on the mountain in the presence of God the people become impatient and command Aaron to craft for them a golden calf. At first look it appears that the golden calf is to be a replacement for God, however, upon further inspection we see that the golden calf was meant to be a representation of the one true God [Exodus 32:5].

The reason for the wrath of God being poured out on his people, and the violent reaction of Moses is due to the fact that any human conception cannot adequately describe God. Our richest, and most robust theological statements cannot adequately represent the one and only true God.

Even the name of God, the divine YHWH [pronounced Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh] lacks the proper vowel sounds to be pronounced by humans. The result is a breath like name, one that cannot be pronounced adequately with human language. The message in the divine name of God is clear; God cannot be contained in a name, and even the most personal name that we can attribute to God inevitably falls short of his glory.

But what of the side of God that has been revealed to us? What of the truth statements of the Scriptures that we derive our theological statements from? Are we to completely abandon all hopes of adequately describing God, hence tying our hands from the ability to share the God of our salvation with others?

Karl Barth said that even the revealed side of God is mysterious. That which we know about God cannot be seen clearly. Paul seems to advocate this position in 1 Corinthians 13:12. We currently see only a dim reflection of God, we see through a foggy mirror, the reflection is there, but it is hazy. We cannot comprehend the depth and breadth of God.

We believe in a God who is hyper-present. That is a God who transcends both our cognitive minds, and our experiences. Our experiences of God are only dim reflections of the one true God. Our experiences, and the language we have available to describe those experiences are woefully inadequate.

Does this mean that we rid ourselves of all statements of God? I think that would be to take our inability to an extreme. In Scripture we have a God who comes to live in our neighborhood [John 1:14]. Jesus is the incarnation of God; he comes to our level so that we can glimpse God in some small way.

Theology at the same time must be incarnational. It must seek to take the transcendent God and translate that experience into human words. We must be faithful in describing the experience of God to others. However, by understanding our limited ability both linguistically and experientially, it helps to insulate us from making absolutist and all encompassing statements. This understanding necessitates the whole church contributing to our theology.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Theology Part III

What is the purpose of theology, what is its telos? Theology is defined as the study of God, and often times reduced to formulating a conceptual understanding of the characteristics of the divine. Proper theology is often times demarcated as that theology which fits into our foundational assumptions.

While our assumptions are global, they are not always recognized. We operate in a world of cognitive dissonance, a world where our understanding is so colored by our context, and yet we are unaware of its influence. Our world is viewed through a set of colored glasses, glasses that change the way we view the world. Over time, and absorption into our particular context we soon become unaware of the affect of those glasses, and progress to the point where we deny the existence of the glasses at all.

This plays directly into the hands of our foundational assumptions. We assume that our beliefs are orthodox, historic, and Biblical. Our glasses have taught us that our particular denomination, or theological school has the truth pinned down. We assume that we have discovered the objective rational perch on which to stand that gives us a birds eye view of all truth. From this perch we are able to avoid the pitfalls of context, background, desire, and assumption.

The affect of the Enlightenment on our theology is abounding. We have valued pure, rational, and absolutist statements about God above all else. We have assumed that we can properly speak of God in a manner that correctly defines both his character, and his work in the world. This assumption however, does not recognize the linguistic barrier between mankind and the divine. Linguistics is the tool we utilize to speak of God, however they are inherently flawed as a methodology to speak of the divine. Language inherently separates us from God. It is a human conception, with human pitfalls, unable to capture the divine.

In the process, many of our theologies abdicated their proper role. With our obsession regarding “right” theology we have ceased to fulfill our mission on the earth. Theology became more about right belief than about right action. The purpose of theology is mission. As Christians we are called to be the representatives of God on earth. We are called to reflect the image of God [the imago dei] on earth.

If our theology ceases to propel us into mission, it ceases to be an effective theology. While right teaching about God is important, and right belief equally necessary, if a theology ceases to send us into the world to accomplish the will of God it becomes a terminal theology.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Theology Part II

The return to the narrative has been a theme amidst biblical conversation as of late. There are many who advocate seeing the Scriptures as a narrative, and literary composition rather than a systematic and literal encyclopedia. When we encounter the Scriptures we come to them as characters in an ongoing narrative. Everyone involved in Christian faith and praxis finds themselves as characters in an ongoing biblical drama.

N.T. Wright in his excellent article “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative”, presents the idea of Biblical authority like a Shakespearean five act play. What we have before us in the narrative of Scripture is a five-act play, we come to this play having in our possession the first four acts, but as we read through the play we come the disturbing realization that we are missing the fifth act of the play.

What are we to do in this situation? We are to read and understand the first four acts of the play, and act out the fifth act in concordance with the first four acts of the play. We immerse ourselves in the study and understanding of the flow and structure of the play, and we seek to be faithful to the fulfillment of that play. We are not called to regurgitate the previous acts, for they have already been played out through the course of history. Rather we are to faithfully seek to live out the future of that play.

Scripture functions in the same way. We have the first four acts of the drama that is unfolding before us, and we look forward to the eschaton. In the meantime we faithfully live out that play before us.

In viewing Scripture as a narrative, instead of a series of propositions about God, we understand Scripture, and the dealing of God with the world as always evolving. As the story progresses the characters develop, the way in which the play proceeds follows along a path that is both sensitive to history, and fully aware of the path before us.

If we understand that theology is not about a system of beliefs, but rather the working of God in individual lives we adhere to the principle of a changing God. In each situation God’s activity in the lives of individual believers and in communities varies. Every situation calls for a specific response from man to God. If we are living in a narrative, and if God is working in the lives of believers in relationship that relationship is in constant flux, growing, changing, adapting, and changing in distance.

The culture in which we live is in constant flux. Theology is the church’s response to the cultural situations in the world. Throughout time theologians have formulated responses to events. As a result theology has been in constant development throughout the history of the church. As we are faced with new challenges and situations our theologies must adapt, and create answers to those questions. In this way our message is always changing.

As a result we are unable to point to a systematic theological system as THE way of thinking theologically. Rather we can only refer to a system as being apt for a specific time and place. Theological systems that have worked in the past worked in a context and a situation. As the situations change so must the systems. We cannot hold on to our systems of theology as if they were the anchor points for all eternity.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Lewis does it again

This C.S. Lewis guy keeps coming up with great stuff. Here is a poem entitled the footnote to all prayers:

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow

When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,

And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart

Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.

Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme

Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,

And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address

The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless

Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert

Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;

And all men are idolaters, crying unheard

To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.

Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great

Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

--Lewis captures the idea that even our prayers to God fall short of capturing who he is. We shoot arrows to the sky not realizing that we are aiming in the opposite direction of God. And somehow he takes our vain words, hears them, and listens to them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Theology Part I

So I've been reading and thinking about some theological issues lately. And I have been really lax on the blog as of late, which is a bummer. So I've decided that all this reading and thinking should be shared with the masses. Today's post is on the idea of a bounded set of theology, and what I hope will follow will continue more theological dialogue [I hope to have some comments, and further ideas to advance what I've written].

This is by no means meant to be final, but rather a starting thought. I hope that some will find it interesting. I'll try and keep these as short as possible, once I start, I tend to go on and on... and that's enough of an introduction.

So here is Part I of my thoughts on theology and the theological method:

In the world of postmodernity where change is the new norm advances in every field of art and science are overtaking our world. In the world of theology revision has become a hot topic issue. How much of our theology is either in need of revision, or open to revision.

I am currently working my way through John Franke’s “The Character of Theology’. In his book he outlines two distinct stances on revision: traditionalists and revisionists. Traditionalists are inherently skeptical of any revisions, or the ongoing process of theological reflection. The creedal formulations of the 16th and 17th centuries remain the bedrock of theological reflection. Theological discourse found its foundation there, and is in no need of revision from contemporary theologians.

This view leads to a bounded set theology. The premise of theological systems is to divide between those who are in and those who are out. Our bounded set of theology sets up a firm and stable fence. This fence serves the dual purpose of keeping those who align with our beliefs in, while keeping those revisionists and “heretics” out. Our theological formulations are the stronghold that we must hold on to in order to save ourselves from being washed away into the evil world of relativism and pluralism.

In the traditionalists view proper elucidation of theology involves the recapitulation of historic dogmatism. Both revision and cultural engagement are red headed stepchildren in this family. What was decided on several hundred years ago remains the foundational premise behind all theology.

The revisionists on the other hand actively engage with culture seeking new ways of appropriating Scripture to everyday lives. Instead of a bounded set, there remains a centered set of primary beliefs around which theology revolves. The coherence of theology is provided through this centered set of beliefs.

The essence of our Christian faith is not to be found in the doctrinal statements of years gone by, but rather in the working of God in individual believers lives. Because we face new contemporary problems, new answers and solutions are needed. Theology is an ever expanding, ever evolving art form. It is not bound by our theological assumptions founded in ancient formulations of belief that were relevant for that time, but are no longer the context and situation in which we find the working of God.

The suggestions laid before us of course beg the criticism of the foundationalists that this sort of theological stance necessitates the questioning of all theological formulations. A revisionist view does not entail the rejection of all propositional statements about God, but rather it recognizes the limitation of those formulations.

We understand that we as humans are neither divine nor perfect. Any idea that we have of God is inherently flawed, as fallen human beings we understand the difference between God and us. Our views and formulations describing the divine inherently fall short. As such they must be under constant reflection and criticism. I would also add that this criticism as such comes under the rule of faith. We are not criticizing, or revising for the sake of revision, rather we are constantly seeking to understand the contextual, and social influences that our theologies are formulated in. There is no promised land of pure objectivity, or a place where we can evaluate our assumptions without outside influence.

At the same time, this view does not preclude our ability to make propositional truth statements. What it does preclude is our making these statements from a position of absolute authority. As humans we understand that the only pure truth is the truth of God Himself. We can point towards that truth, and come into relationship with that truth, but that does not mean that we are the truth, or that we have apprehended.

This sort of thinking stimulates theological exploration into new worlds. There is no end point of theology, no land of arrival where further consideration and study is no longer necessary. Rather we are constantly learning, constantly growing, and constantly learning more about a God who makes Himself known to us.