Neo-Reformers, Emergents & Missionals Agree … on the Bad Theology of the Bethke Video

“What if I told you” … that it’s crazy who you might end up agreeing with?

Remember this video that went viral called “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” by Jefferson Bethke? Of course you do, you haven’t got a chance to repress it yet. But in case you have closed your Facebook account as a New Year’s resolution, here it is:

Confession: When I first clicked on it, I was a bit excited, cool background, cool typography, cool dude, then after 30 seconds I thought “Uh oh, this is not cool. It’s not even accurate.”

Thought of blogging about it, but by the time I collected my thoughts, I had already seen this excellent one “Lame Poetry, False Dichotomies, and Bad Theology” by Jonathan Fitzgerald on the Patrol Mag site and there were a few others floating around Twitter.

Tony Jones had a few scattered comments about it on his FB and this post.

Kevin DeYoung had a lot to say here.

Then about a week later I saw on Twitter that Bethke responded to Kevin’s critique and his comments were included in a follow-up post by Kevin.

Before I read the post I thought – wow, when Tony Jones and Kevin DeYoung agree, you know your theology really sucks. I pictured neo-reformers putting down their Calvin’s Institutes, complimentarians putting down their Real Marriage books and the husbands giving permission to allow their wives “extra time” to look online (sorry I couldn’t resist), progressives stopped tweeting about the GOP Debates (they’re really the only ones watching) and they all nodded in sad agreement – “The message of this video is terrible.”

No word yet on how Rob Bell and John Piper felt about the whole thing. I picture Rob in Hollywood creating characters for his new tv show. I bet you one is called “Joe Pipper” and he’s from Minnesota and he’s a cross between Robert Duvall’s character, “Sonny” in The Apostle and Simon Cowell. I’m also starting the rumor that John Piper has contacted Flannel to produce a series of DVD’s called, “Righteous O’rgh” (which is the Greek for “anger”, like in Mark 3:5. Could have gone a different tray with this joke, patting myself on the back for such restraint ;)

As you know, the respective sides have not agreed on much over the years. Guinness, iPhones and the continued desire to breath oxygen are some common denominators but I am aware there are tea-totaling Droid users in the respective parties.

But I digress.

The issue that everyone pointed out was that we all hate hypocrisy. “Religion” isn’t the problem. Heartless, cold, empty religion is what causes the damage. Bethke sorta admits to that in this CBS News video (although he plays the “semantics card” a little awkwardly IMO). You should click this to hear the priest use spoken word in response. (“Yo Jeff, let me give you a holler from the collar. I don’t think it’s religion you should be dissin’. I think it’s the nuance that you’re missing” – Not quite the battle from 8-Mile but what can you do).

So here’s where I find myself in light of this little episode.  I was grateful for what Kevin DeYoung said. I was grateful that Tony Jones posted about it. I know some will see this as a common enemy thing and while bad theology is a good common enemy, this little scene demonstrated revealed that we could look at the same sky and say it was blue.  Or look at a piece of art and say, “Hmmm, not sure the artist got it here.”  I want to be careful and taper off the “There’s hope after all for the unity of the Church!” conversation but from my vantage point, this was good for me to see.

I am also grateful overall for Bethke’s response. For a 22 year old, I’m excited for him. I hope this ushers in a season of study and thoughtful engagement with a number of aspects conceding the nature of worship, faith, religion, theology and the church. I hope he leverages his influence to build the church. And I hope his next video is grounded theologically and brings a better conversation to the social media culture.

What if I told you we all do could this?

You Should Attend an Emergent Cohort Gathering

Like so many in the emerging church conversation, I read a few Brian McLaren books, read Tony’s Post-Modern Youth Ministry, heard that Doug Pagitt was really pushing the envelope with this re-imagining thing, etc. Like so many, I was getting disenfranchised with the traditional way of doing, thinking about, and being the Church.  Like so many, I know that I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of certain well-intentioned, sincere-hearted people because I was witnessing not only a mass exodus of young people leaving the church, but on a different level, the possible extinction of their Christian faith as well.  It was no longer about finding a relevant, younger, cooler worship church, but about discovering/imagining/creating perhaps a new and different way of doing things.  We needed something much, much different.  In Church on the Other Side, McLaren, writes in the opening, “When you have a new culture, you need a new church.  You have a new culture.”   Hmm, where could I go to continue these conversations?  Eventually I found my way into a cohort.

The cohort experience has been a much-needed and welcomed time for me.   It was through the Philly cohort that met in the home of Scott Jones that allowed me to appreciate the “now what?” discussions that much of my reading has sought.  Even better, I made some great friendships with people like Scott, Todd Hiestand and I even met John Franke which is significant because eventually I found my way enrolling at Biblical Seminary.

In 2006, I moved to the north Jersey (and the Philly cohort was never the same.  Who knew is was the keystone to the whole thing? – just kidding).  I started attending the one in NYC and have made some beautiful friendships there as well.  But between the meetings, the distance, and the business of life, I was not able to participate as frequent as I would have liked.  Fortunately inniative-taker extraordinaire Thomas Turner began the North Jersey cohort and it’s been a good thing for several of us.

It’s here that I would like you to pay attention again.  The emergent church thing has been described as a “friendship” or a “conversation” and it’s in the cohorts that you get to appreciate the reality of that.  It is not a recruitment time, nor is it a time of bashing fundamentalists, nor is it cheap training of emergent propaganda.   Rather it’s a time and place to enjoy conversation with generous minded people that may or may not be very different from you.  As a post-conservative, I have really appreciated this space.

If you live in the north jersey area, our next meeting is March 12th at 7.00 at the Allendale Bar and Grill.  Let me know if you need directions or a ride.  If you live outside this area, you can look for the one closest to you here.  And if there isn’t, consider starting one with a few friends. It’s a very, very good thing.

NYC Cohort Luncheon with Jay Bakker and Vince Anderson

A few days ago, I attended a luncheon meeting of the New York Emergent cohort (led by Peter Heltzel).  With the pace of life, we do not meet often enough but when we do it’s special.  We were fortunate enough to have Jay Bakker and Vince Anderson from Revolution NYC come and share with us about their work in Brooklyn, what they are focusing on, what they’ve found challenging, and they shared a bit about themselves too.  Jay did a lot of the talking but I’d like to begin with Vince. 

Vince felt called to drop out of seminary (something that God has probably called others to do but few are willing to obey), and ventured out to discover what God was leading him towards.  Eventually, he played piano and sang at a bar in Brooklyn.  His use of spiritual songs landed him the name “Reverend Vince”.  This is the best part, upon getting to know him, people figured out that this “reverend” title was more than a stage name and so they started asking him spiritual questions, sought counseling, and asked him to perform weddings, funerals and some brought him into their lives. He’s been doing that for 15 years. While I know there are some pastors who stay that long, we know it’s becoming increasingly less.  Today he serves as one of the pastors at The Revolution, he’s an activist, works at the Salvation Army and is involved in his community in a variety of ways.

Then there is Jay Bakker.  What I like about Jay is that he talks about his parents and is proud of them.  He told beautiful stories of his dad and his late mother.  As one who grew up in conservative circles, I knew about the tragic time that Baker family went through.  What I love about them, is that like me, they were flawed, but like me, they were/are redeemed by God’s grace.  If you want to talk about redemption, talk to Jay Bakker, he’s got a great story.  

I appreciated Jay’s openness with us.  There seemed to be a time when he could have written his own ticket, cashed in, played the game, and probably been on the cover of more magazines, had more books, and who knows what else.  But it seems that he is unwilling to compromise what some of that would have cost him and while he still may erupt on to the mainstream (whatever that means), it looks like it will because he went in a direction more true to himself.  I love these stories for the same reasons why I like a lot of independent music (and movies), they’re great stories of struggle, hope, and pardon me for repeating myself, but they are great stories of redemption.

They’re doing good work at The Revolution.  It’s not easy and I don’t think many people in their neighborhood know who Jay Bakker is, which is probably refreshing for him. It seems that they are not well-funded, they had a combination of blockbuster and a few poorly attended events, they are not bursting at the seams with people, but they are an active church.   They have many regulars and many visitors each week and while more people could potentially ruin the intimate season they are in now, they are studying Scripture, praying together, and seeking God’s Kingdom.  Sounds like a beautiful ministry to me.


Reflecting on Evan's Tweet: What do you find to be the best way to engage someone who speaks negatively about the emerging church …

Earlier today, Evan (author of “Why I’m Not Emergent”) tweeted “What do you find to be the best way to engage someone who speaks negatively about the emerging church and assumes you agree?”  The last part of it is funny to me because it has happened a bunch of times but I want to discuss the first part. 

Here’s what I found.  Some people think the emergent church is:

  •  the work of the devil.
  •  equated with relativism.
  •  “liberalism repackaged”.
  •  a fancy way of saying that you’re “open minded” and welcome you to their world.
  •  dangerous or misplaced but still they are interested and curious and somewhat cautious about it.

To those that subscribe to the first 3, it depends how I am feeling that day.  For me, I do not need to convert anyone to emergent-type thinking.  I don’t think there is much to gain.  When some say that they find it to be “unbiblical”, I’ll generally enter into conversation and ask: What have you heard, what have you read, why do you say this …  I may or may not continue depending on that answer.

But let’s assume that you are in a great conversation with a wonderful Christ-follower.  Their knowledge of emerging church is what they heard from someone who read DA Carson’s book three years ago, a critique or two from their Bible-believing pulpit, and the attacks on Brian McLaren and Tony Jones they Googled eight months ago.  But they really are interested because they loved the title of Doug Pagit’s book A Christianity Worth Believing. 

Generally, I begin by explaining that according to the EV website and the many lectures I’ve heard, that is usually described as a “friendship” or a “conversation”.  Friendships don’t have doctrinal statements and healthy ones don’t have agendas.  They can have passion, debate, even good German beer, but they also have love.  

If we’re still friends, I offer to  forward them Scot McKnight’s 5 Streams of the Emerging Church.  In the good old days before 2008, I had recommended Generous Orthodoxy but now I recommend New Christians and if they’re rich (aka Presbyterian), then I tell them to buy both.  (Still need to read A Christianity Worth Believing but like, everyone I love the title).  After that, the most helpful book I read was Leslie Newbigin’s Proper Confidence.  Thank you John Franke and yes, the second most helpful was the Character of Theology … after it was explained in class … by Jay, Evan, Jon, Wendy …  Don’t mnd me, it’s a blog, I’m just having fun here.)

In the actual conversation I try to make these distinctions:

Postmodernism cannot be simply equated to relativism (although it contains it).  Postmodernism is better understood as an age as opposed to merely a philosophy.  Further, it is a response to modernism that seeks to combine the best of the pre-modern world (also known as the ancient world) and the modern world (as much good came out of it but it became incomplete when it lost its imagination and appreciation of mystery).

Regarding the “liberalism repackaged” line, among the many reasons (which some of them do not help) here is another.  It’s been my experience that when a couple of “conservatives” discover that they are seated at a table with those they perceive to be “liberals”,  their almost immediate response is to get up and leave the table.  If their attempts at “real conversion” are unsuccessful, the eventual response is to abandon the conversation with the satisfaction of having known a seed of truth was planted in the jungle of “heresy” (which is a word that should be held with the same reverence as the F-bomb).  I find myself not being socially liberal enough for some, and not conservative enough for others, but I’ve been very welcomed in this friendship.

That said, it’s ok to disagree in peace and love.  One may have a hermeneutic they prefer or at a different part of the journey (or even on a completely different journey).  The emergent thing does not really need an apologetic but it’s difficult for me to appreciate the “unbiblical” line.  For me, I have a higher and I’d like to argue healthier view of the Bible.  Thus, I do not appreciate the charge of being “unbiblical”.

For those of you further into the conversation, feel free to add/edit the list.

For those new, interested, curious, welcome, pull up a digital chair.

For those critical, have a nice day, Jesus loves me too (and so do we).

Reflecting on Driscoll's NY Times piece, Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

I read through the NY Times article “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” about Mark Driscoll.  For those who don’t know, Mark is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, he’s authored several books, speaks nationally, blogs, among other things.  For those who do know, I encourage you to read it anyway.  ;-)

There’s a lot about Driscoll that I agree with.  There’s even a lot I like.  I appreciate his passion, the desire to invest in others, and his love for the Scriptures.  Undoubtedly, he has done some good things for the Kingdom.  But in heaven, we will both sit embarrassed of our theology and this will be true of all of us.  But I have some glitches too.  One is that he’s overly critical of the emergent church conversation. Not to imply that he needs to become a poster child for it, nor am I asserting the only way to be a faithful Christ-follower today is to be a part of emergent, but I wish he had continued with the conversation instead of abandoning and criticizing it.  I also wish he was more gracious with who/what he disagreed with.  My hope is that he does not age into the common perception of a Pat Robertson.  He’s not that now, because he’s young and accepted as “cool”.

Perhaps my greatest issue with Mark is how he speaks about women.  I find it embarrassing.  As one who grew up with the teaching and example of a strong complementarian model, I find him to be “off the mark”.  Perhaps you may know more about this subject than I, are there varying degrees to this?   To me, his views sound like a delicate balance between chauvinism and slavery.  His is not the complementation position.  My favorite example is his message from July 11, 2005 on Genesis 39, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (available on itunes podcasts and probably through the Mars Hill website).

Here’s another thing that always annoys me.  While I can nod my head in agreement that Jesus wasn’t only always snuggling with children and cuddling with lambs, he wasn’t Braveheart 24-7 either.  (By the way, Mel was balanced, fluent in French and gifted in brutally dismembering people).  I submit that Jesus is even more well-rounded.  But not only is Jesus perceived differently to many people but he was different to different people.  He’s a warrior and a poet.  He fought the Pharisees and cried with the mourners.  He blessed the meek but passionately overturned the corrupt money-changers.  We know all this, right? Agreed, Jesus wasn’t the “limp-wristed, wussy” that some have allegedly created but stressing the tattooed, demon bounty-hunting, “Roadhouse”  Jesus does not seem to be an accurate picture either. He’s not Fabio and not Stone Cold Steve Austin.

We are all different relative to our context.  We behave as fools in front of infants, saints in our churches, cheering fools at our ball games, and hope to be courageous in the face of danger.  Do not dismiss this as hypocrisy, but this is appropriate for humans for we are not one dimensional.  Can I assume that Driscoll makes an attempt to not use profanity in front of his children?

Concerning the article, it’s well written and am grateful it’s in the Times.  If this were my first time hearing of Driscoll, I’d be interested in learning more about him.  Some things are a little over-stated though.  It creates (unintentionally, I presume) this paradigm between seeker sensitive churches and churches like Mars Hill.  Sentences like these “They are not ‘the next big thing’ but a protest movement, defying an evangelical mainstream that, they believe, has gone soft on sin and has watered down the Gospel into a glorified self-help program.” imply that it’s one or the other.  Was this written by a modernist?  Is this meant to say if you are not part of Driscoll’s protest movement, you are soft on sin?  Again, probably not intentional but that’s what I am reading.

I encourage you to read the piece; I found this paragraph to be interesting is this paragraph.  Try to read through, the last line is brilliant:

“Mars Hill — with its conservative social teachings embedded in guitar solos and drum riffs, its megachurch presence in the heart of bohemian skepticism — thrives on paradox. Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last. Some are skeptical of a church so bent on staying perpetually “hip”: members have only recently begun to marry and have children, but surely those children will grow up, grow too cool for their cool church and rebel. Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

While, I know I need to be careful of that too, the line made me laugh.

You Saw It Here … Second Last

Some blogs call it the weekly round-up but so far the above is my title. 

I know the virtues of blogging is posting things instantly.  Well apparently, I’m not one of those blogs.  But I do have a decent job bookmarking and placing things in “To Read Later” folders.

About a week or so ago, Thom Turner tweeted that he had liked this post.  I did too.  It’s from NPR writer Rod Dreher who wrote an open letter to Obama.  It’s called, Guess Whose Coming to Dinner.

Earlier this week on the EV Weblog was this gem. Pastor Abandons His Church. It’s an interview with a mega-church pastor who, alongside with his leadership, decided to sell the church facility and restructure pretty much everything.   You need to read to the end to really appreciate it and the comments are great.   

And of course, the Hitler-Emergent Video.  Like everyone has been saying – it is hilarious.  And I like that it pokes fun of emergents (whom I identify with).  I need to find the background story to it or the “Behind the Making of an Emergent You Tube Phenomena” (if this blog was VH1).  Some aren’t sure if it was a bit too far to use Hitler and again, though it’s hilarious and i’d like to continue thinking it was meant as a joke, I’d like to be sensitive too. Check out Evan’s post for some of his initial thoughts.  

Emergent Mid-Atlantic Conference with Pete Rollins and John Franke

Had the Phillies not won the World Series this season, I would have said that this was the best day Philadelphia had this year.  The Emergent Mid-Atlantic Conference at the Church of the Holy Trinity with

Peter Rollins and John Franke was fantastic.  Pete gives quite a performance.  He speaks pretty fast in a thick Irish accent, uses his hands, quotes everyone from Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer, uses parables, recites stories, employs hyperbole, and chugs coffee. 

It was great to have John Franke there to share from his perspective and to hear the two of them dialogue with each other.  You can listen to all the audio here (Thanks Scott).  

To keep it short, I’m sacrificing context – here are my highlights/questions/etc.:

– Loved the idea of the “Third Person” that is needed to justify an experience.  He used this story (that will not work in youth group) about an average guy stranded on a beach with a beautiful woman.  He hits on her with great persistence and finally she gives in and they sleep together.  In the morning, he asks her to put on a mustache  and a ball cap and meet him on the beach that afternoon.  Initially she objects, he persists, she shows up with the fake mustache and ball cap.  He then tells his friend, “You never would have believed who I slept with last night – this beautiful woman …”  the point being he needed a buddy to justify the experience.  For some, that third person is God (or our abstract idea of what we think is God).

– “… God becomes the crutch to save us from the abyss”

– paraphrase –  “(for some) we need a God to save us from fears, insecurities …. In this way, God is only an aid that leads us to practical atheism”.

– He told a story about a man who said to his neighbor that someone needed to help this poor family.  The father was just laid off, the mother was ill, the children were hungry, and the landlord was about to evict them.  The neighbor responded, “Oh that’s terrible.  How do you know them?”  The other replied, “I’m the landlord!”.  This story pointed at the disconnect between the Church’s concern with no practical application.

– He spoke about the importance of belonging over belief.  This one gave me trouble til he clarified that it was post-conversion. 

– Christianity draws a circle but the faithful Christian goes outside the circle and embraces the excluded. – This is another example of the fidelity of betrayal.

– Every time we create a god, we create a bigger/better image of ourselves. 

– Numerous examples from IKON:

       – In such deep conversation with someone that you do not even know their eye color because the                     conversation is so imtimate that you cannot even remember the external. 

      – IKON tries to encourage its people to see its community as a doughnut.  There is nothing in the center          (no pastoral authority/presence), only the person next to you.  So if the person next to you, doesn’t              care, no one is there to help you.  This encourages that each support the other bc no one else is                  going to do it.

– John Franke:

– As Christians, we must speak of God but we are human and cannot.  We must acknowledge our obligation and responsibility in that very way we give glory to God.  (I think it was a Barth quote).

– Barth – to speak about God as God knows Himself to be. 

– John shared on the obligations we have to carry the gospel (we are ambassadors)

– We must neither contradict or cohere for they don’t negate the other.

– It’s a manifold witness.

– Example of four Gospels instead of one.  There is a plurality. 

– We as the people of God to go out to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit…

As mentioned, it really was a great day.  I’ve expressed gratitude in other posts but I look forward for Thomas to send us next year’s email.

Tony Jones at Youth Specialties – General Session – 11.2.08

First, it’s about time Tony speaks at the General Session at YS’s National Youth Workers Convention.  Because the world tends to revolve around me, I did literally write in last year’s eval that Tony should be a given  a general session.  (I’m sure YS would have come up with this had I not written that since I’m pretty sure those evals head straight for recycling but it’s a great ploy in making attendees feel heard – lol.)

After a warm introduction from Marko, there was the Church Basement Road Show thing with Doug Pagitt and Mark Scadrette (who makes a hilarious preacher-type and in real life is the author of Soul Graffiti – Making a Life in the Way of Jesus).  After that, Tony began speaking …. lol– just kidding.  I, for one enjoyed the CBRS and couldn’t stop laughing, especially at Doug.  How one of the most brilliant minds that you’ll ever meet got roped into this is either a great sign of friendship or there is some Josey-Bass statistic out there that has an irrefutable link to dressing up like a 20th century traveling southern evangelist and selling thousands of copies of A Christianity Worth Believing. 

On Tony’s new blog, he wrote that he was afraid that some people didn’t get it. He and his friends are in good company for a lot of people didn’t understand the parables of Jesus and a lot of men don’t understand women and a lot of us don’t understand Sigur Rios but love them all anyway.  Perhaps some didn’t get it but for all the times I’ve had to listen to a Josh McDowell type, I appreciate YS considering those like me. 

After the Tony & Trucker Frank clip (which is brilliant), Tony shared a little about his journey, his faith and the nature of truth.  If you know Tony, you know that he’s well-educated, brilliant, and never got the memo that  you don’t have to talk to people after you speak.  He probably doesn’t know that because he was a youth pastor for 20 years (source: Marko) and as many of you know, after you just spent 25 minutes sharing the most profound truth humankind has ever known, you are talking to 10th graders about LeBron, Brittany, and the big Algebra test.   Seriously, Tony as well as many of his friends, are among the most accessible to have conversation with you.

Tony talked about his life starting in his senior year of  high school about a letter that his youth pastor made him write to himself that was sent during his freshmen year at Dartmouth  It was a helpful reminder of the presence of Christ in his life.  He shared about his college bible study experience (this story is in his excellent book, The New Christians – you should read it), his Fuller Seminary experience, his studies in philosophy and learning how to understand the great German theologians … in German.  This story transitioned into the importance of living out the Gospel relationally while he lived in a poor part of South Dakota in the Indian reservations.  If there’s something wrong with Tony, it’s that he speaks better of his time living in South Dakota then he does about his experience in New Jersey (he studied at Princeton Theological Seminary and is currently finishing up his doctorate).

Then the scary part, that wasn’t that scary … unless you are addicted to you pre-conceived notions and couldn’t wait to pick on something.  Tony talked about the nature of truth.  What he said was extremely appropriate for a YS General Session and from my seat, I hoped it stirred people’s appetites.  He said that truth walked with Adam & Eve, wrestled with Jacob, was in a cloud leading the Israelites and that truth was born as a man and had foot fungus and bowel movements and about the profound nature of Christ.  “It’s truth with dirt under its fingerails.  That’s our truth.”  

Reminding everyone that it we couldn’t reduce it all to passages or theologies. It was almost a Pauline moment, “If anyone has right to boast …”.  He asked us youthworkers to remember that it’s worth being locked in a YMCA with junior highers, and be underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated.   But it was well worth it to “bask in the knowledge” share the truth with our young people. 

I am a fan and a friend of Tony and as a brother in the Lord was proud of his time.  Toward the end of 2003, it was books like Postmodern Youth Ministry and McLaren’s New Kind of Christians that w

ere very helpful for me like many others.   It would be typical to end the story that people rushed the stage for his blessing upon them but he ended up announcing that he was going to play the Jesus Road show song to open up the Crowder set which launched everyone out of their seats to the main stage.  So typical of Christians to rush past the challenging stuff to get to the good and comfortable stuff (I love Crowder too, don’t miss my point).

For many this was a great starting point.  And For people like me who are barely two steps ahead in this part of the journey, it was more than a good moment but a necessary one. I need to see organizations like YS encourage this part of the conversation.  I don’t need everyone to be emergent.  Not needed at all but what I would appreciate is that before people attack the conversation and the people that are having the conversation to know the conversation and to participate in it.


Reclaiming Paul Conference – Panel Discussion – Post 5 #evpaul08

Disclaimer:  I’m editing this at O’hare Terminal.   While I should be doing my work for my seminary class tomorrow, I realized that I packed the book (The Historical Books, Nelson) I needed in my suitcase which is checked in.  So, I’m trying to edit some of the notes I took.  If you attended the conference and your memory/notes differ to mine, please feel free to comment/email/whatever. 


If you are a critical soul and are looking for ammunition to use against “whatever it is that you are against”, here are a couple things I’d like to mention:

1. Welcome.  I invite you to travel along with me.  I always enjoy sojourning with those who love Christ and love others.  However, since I mentioned the critical soul part, let us imitate our Savior in His humility and love.  I think you know what I mean.

2. Please remember that these are just notes that I took while talking to my friends, checking out the book table, and setting up my fantasy football team (my spiritual gift is multi-tasking.  It’s true, I took the spiritual gift inventory test and on the 78 page read out, it said that was one of my top three.  Right next to sarcasm and irreverence.)  Where was I?  Oh yes.  These are just notes; they are not meant to be a historical account of what took place because this is a blog and I edited this in 15 minutes sitting at an airport terminal.


Following Steve Fowler’s presentation, a panel discussion and talk-back followed.

Kathy GriebAgreed that Paul can be easily misunderstood if you

          don’t understand where he is coming from

– Follow me as I follow Christ

Tim Keel – This is something we hesitate to urge our congregations  because we are afraid of the problems of us stumbling through. 

– Paul says he is the chief sinner but asks do you see anything wrong with how Paul says follow me as I stumble through


Ross Wagner – agrees and points out the pressing on part.

                he will boast bc of God’s strength  – must be active! 


Steve – Paul has an enormous confidence in the gospel.

 said that Paul said that this work is God’s providence.

 – This enables Paul’s boldness. 

Mike Gorman – the difference between this age and the first century. 

Discussion of similarities and differences of first century and our own time.  Great discussion.  Find the audio if you are really interested. 

Tony Jones – suspect of all the talk of this as well.

– Perhaps Paul may not have recognized his own teaching at work with the some traditional mentalities.

– Some are not really living with a focused telos

Tony appreciated what Steve said regarding the apprenticeship versus student.  Another big discussion here.  Probably the part that interested me the most.

Narratives are shaped by practices that form it. 

practice as opposed to identity.

we categorize people more by content …

Steve – said that he asks his students who taught them how to read (parents, teachers) then asks who taught you to watch tv?  (no one)

– discussion that led to Christianity requires discipline. 

– later during the talk-back, a young man mentioned that in a sense, we do teach our children how to watch tv.  He may have been taking the illustration further then Steve intended but nevertheless, it was worth considering.

Kathy – reflected on the current economic status

where people thought they had retirements and savings, and wealth built up but now have discovered they don’t.

Paul says this on a spiritual aspect.  Thinking he had what was saved up and realized he didn’t.

Tony – recalls a student Daniel that went to fight in Afghanistan.  (this is in New Christians).

       wrote a long letter about his struggle with his faith.

       Tony felt that he and his parents didn’t adequately teach him how to grow in his faith.

       Perhaps he was being too hard on himself but it brought into question how we as a church, student ministries, etc, train our children.

– It’s not just about piety but communal spiritual disciplines.

– so we don’t come together to pray but to learn how to pray.

– Forming a communal narrative




– We do teach our kids how to watch tv in a way. Like how, etc. 

Don Heatley – explains that his church is largely un-churched.  Where do they find masters for apprentices?

If we are truly creating new disciples (and not just recycling people from other churches), what wisdom do we have in creating these models of masters and apprenticeships?

Tony  – there is a ubiquitous availability of great Christian writing. 

used the example of Trucker Frank  (TF – self-trained).

primarily bc of the availability of so much resources

perhaps some kind of  local church – monastic theological   training.


Question didn’t really get answered (which is ok at our gatherings but gave us something to think about and talk about throughout our time during breaks, dinners, etc.).

Daniel Kirk – (not sure if Daniel said this but I like this line and liked Daniel so …)

– If there were no resurrection – this story would not interest me.

I would not have believed this.  Neither would have Paul

he would have felt that it was a scandal at present scholars, 

   who refute the historicity of the resurrection.


Reclaiming Paul Conference – Post 4

As I am learning in seminary, sometimes the best (or a better) way to tell a narrative is to not necessarily use a the actual chronology.   So I am skipping a couple things but at least I’m biblical.  

It was tough to choose between the workshops but this afternoon’s second series of workshops found me at John Franke and Daniel Kirk’s presentation of “Jesus I’ve Loved, Paul I’ve Hated?”.

How could you go wrong really with those two and a title like that?  Part of the reason I wanted to attend this one is that I must confess, that I am not sure I see such a problem.  Sure, I see Paul as being tough, maybe harsh, and every now and then, the thought of, “I probably wouldn’t have written it that way” goes through my head but that’s a little arrogant of me.  I also understand the seeming contradictions between him, Jesus and the spirit of the Gospel but I have never not appreciated him.  So I went to find out more.

I appreciated John beginning the time by going around the room and listening to people’s frustrations about Paul. Though it sounds a little harsh to my ears, I needed to hear it articulated.

Here are some of my notes below:

JF – Working through the story also reveals the identity of God. 

DK – What is this God supposed to do?

       Take these people who are exiled and flawed and bring them    back to Himself. 

   This is one of the questions that Paul is wrestling with.

JF – The church resisted the move to put all 4 Gospels into 1.

            The gospel cannot be reduced into one singular account.

            But we tend to do that with harmonizing Jesus, the Gospels and Paul.

DK – must consider who they are ministering to

            Jesus is ministering to jews in jewish context as a jew

It’s not a simple come as you are.                       

There is a transformational in the embrace (like the lepers)

Paul, angry like in Galatians, arguing with the Jewish powerbrokers  – you need to let them as they are bc Christ as let them in.  He’s saying you can follow Jesus without becoming Jewish. 

But he also urges the gentiles (which he is frustrated by).

Perhaps some have trouble with Paul because of the propositional packaging that he comes in.  (over against Paul as a pastor).

            Perhaps some of the propositional theology needs to be neutralized.

Are some of us more like Paul then like Christ?

            * I should spend some thinking about this.

DK – 2 cor. is helpful bc Paul is interpreting his life in light of the resurrection of Jesus.


JF – Eph. 4 – call for unity.  While sometimes Jesus splits family.

            Titus 3 – put some out bc of their sin to preserve the unity of the Church.  Sounds exclusionary but Jesus did this too.