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Date: Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010 20:10
We have moved the blog from here to a new site [beginning midnight Aug 31/Sept1], and we wish our blessings upon Beliefnet.

Here's our request: if you are a regular commenter, please drop a comment now at the Patheos link below so we can get your name approved before Wednesday. (Each commenter must be approved only once in order to become an approved commenter.) We anticipate Wednesday's and Thursday's posts could generate plenty of conversation and the sooner we get names approved the better.

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Patheos is working out the kinks as the archives of my posts are uploaded to Patheos. Thanks for your patience.

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Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010 17:15
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:

Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).
Step two: David became too self-confident (v. 6).
Step three: The Lord disciplined David for his pride (v. 7b).
Step four: David cried to the Lord and turned his heart away from pride (vv. 8-10).
Step five: The Lord answered David's request and pleadings (vv. 11-12, back to vv 1-3).

The story is a common story; it is our story; it is Israel's story; it is the story of Israel during the time of the judges; during the time of the kings and prophets; during the Exile and after the return; it is the story of the church in Acts. 

Humans beings can experience the blessing of God and flourish and will always face the temptation of self-confidence and pride; and God often reminds us of our pride and summons us to become faithful and trusting and we see all over again that we are creatures and God alone is God.

30:1 I will praise you, O Lord, for you lifted me up,

and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

30:2 O Lord my God,

I cried out to you and you healed me.

30:3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheol;

you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

30:4 Sing to the Lord, you faithful followers of his;

give thanks to his holy name.

30:5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment,

and his good favor restores one's life.

One may experience sorrow during the night,

but joy arrives in the morning.

30:6 In my self-confidence I said,

"I will never be upended."

30:7 O Lord, in your good favor you made me secure.

Then you rejected me and I was terrified.

30:8 To you, O Lord, I cried out;

I begged the Lord for mercy:

30:9 "What profit is there in taking my life,

in my descending into the Pit?

Can the dust of the grave praise you?

Can it declare your loyalty?

30:10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me!

Lord, deliver me!"

30:11 Then you turned my lament into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

30:12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;

Lord my God, I will always give thanks to you.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Psalms, Psalm 30"
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Date: Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010 11:01

One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted:

...this reminds me of why I get annoyed so much by those who write on theology and evolution. It's usually just deism and fluff, to be frank.

I've enjoyed reading through the comments and seeing some of the ideas shared by others. I firmly believe that this discussion on deism vs/compared to theism in natural theology should be given much more attention. Some of the scientist-theologians (Barbour, Polkinghorne come to mind) speak of a "theology of nature" instead of a natural theology, but in my mind, they haven't really given us a good framework for how God acts in and through nature. It's important to note that while natural theology is only one component of theology, it's clearly a vital one today.

Justin developed these thoughts a bit more on his own blog A Biologists View of Science  & Religion.

I think that this is an extremely important issue that should receive more attention by theologians (especially those that have training or a fairly deep understanding of evolutionary biology).  The scientists like me or those at BioLogos have got to admit that our theology of evolution is weak.  You cannot persuade Christians that evolution is not the enemy (and literal Creationism is bunk) if you don't provide them with a meaningful and understandable natural theology alongside the scientific evidence. 

What kind of discussion do you think we need to develop a workable theological understanding of evolution? What is the most significant issue?


I agree with Justin here. As a result one of the things I intend to do over the next many months is to post on ideas and books that delve into the details of theology in the context of evolution from a variety of different viewpoints. We will examine different facets of the relationship between science and theology. Some, perhaps all, will fall short in various ways - erring in the understanding of science or wavering on the edge of the trap of deism, removing God too far from creation. This will be something of a meander, don't expect resolution in three short lessons or seven easy steps. Real life simply doesn't work that way.

So - to begin...

I received a book recently Theology After Darwin (not available in the US - but available from amazon UK (HT DV)). This book contains 11 scholarly essay on theology in the context of evolution. I haven't read much of the book yet - but intend to post a sporadic series through the book as I have a chance to read and process the ideas put forth in the various chapters. 

The first chapter, by R. J. Berry, an evolutionary biologist and Professor Emeritus at University College London, explores biology after Darwin. While the emphasis is on science rather than theology the essay brings up some important issues. I am not going to bother to try to summarize the entire chapter, but rather concentrate on a common conception, or perhaps misconception, regarding evolution that came to mind as I read.

Evolution is bloody and violent and inconsistent with the revealed nature of God. It is often suggested that evolution is inconsistent with the notion of God as creator and creation as good. After all evolution relies on death and destruction, competition and conquest for life to develop and to progress ... doesn't it? Alfred Lord Tennyson famously addressed the conflict between the love of God central in the Christian faith and the apparent bloody callousness of nature with an image that sticks in the imagination:

In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,

...

'So careful of the type?' but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go.

...

Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law-
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed- 

(excerpts from canto 55 and 56)

Nature red in tooth and claw, of fifty seeds but one brought to bear, a thousand types are gone. Tennyson wrote before Darwin's The Origin of  Species (1859), but after the influential book by  Robert Chambers Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation published in 1844. (Darwin did not, we must remember, drop a new idea in the lap of an innocent and unsuspecting age, he was part of a swirling mass of ideas. He rushed publication of his ideas to avoid being scooped. Darwin had an important new insights, but if he had not published, some one else would have - and soon. )

It appears difficult to reconcile evolution with a God of love. For Tennyson the observation of the predators and prey along with the apparent wastefulness of the natural world was sufficient to raise questions. Darwin's ideas of gradual change by natural selection takes it one step further. Predation, waste, extinction, and death are part of the creative process. A commenter put it quite bluntly on the post linked above: "Theistic evolution gives a false representation of the nature of God because death and ghastliness are ascribed to the Creator as principles of creation."

But is this really true? When we consider evolution and natural selection we often think of it in terms of survival of the fittest. The vision is of competition and bloody fight, of victors and vanquished. But this is not the point. Fitness in biology has little to do with competition and victory in the local specific situation. Rather the fittest are those who raise most offspring, nothing more, nothing less. In the long run a variant with greater fitness will survive, but in the short term many will coexist. Evolution does require a natural cycle and process of life and death with successive generations. But this need be neither violent or wasteful. Each succeeding generation fulfills a role in the process of the unfolding of creation.

When we come to mankind and human mortality the theological issues become more complex. But leaving that off the table for the time, there is nothing in Genesis, or in a careful reading of Romans, that suggests that immortality was the norm in biology. prior to the Fall There is nothing, so it seems to me, that suggests that predation or hunting is the result of human sin. Evolution is a marvelous creative mechanism to explore and expand the possibilities and potentialities for life on this planet. It is more akin to growth and flowering than to violence and conquest.

What do you think? How do you view evolution - as violent, wasteful, ghastly or as natural growth and flowering or perhaps something else?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net



Author: "Jesus Creed Admin" Tags: "Science and Faith, Theology, evolution, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010 05:01
KendaDean.jpgWho does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. 

Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church , and in her next chp she examines what makes the Mormons so effective -- and she calls the chp "Mormon Envy."

What can we learn from the Mormons about passing on the faith?

She opens with something I've not known about: high school Mormons begin the day at "seminary" where they are taught the scriptures and theology of Mormonism. All this before school -- four years, five days a week during the school year. Parents are the teachers. It involves journaling and pragmatics as well.

Her big point is that Mormons top the charts when it comes to integrating their faith as teenagers. 73% hold faith similar to their parents; 43% attend services weekly; 80% talk about religion once a week with parents. Thus: "Mormon youth participate in more religious practices of all kinds, and are much more articulate about church teachings" (51). 

And her thesis is that four components, yea five, are involved in their "intense religious socialization": 

First, a creed: they know what they believe and know it well and can defend it.
Second, a community is at the heart of everything Mormon, and their community is more participatory for the youth than other religious traditions.
Third, a calling is important and that means their focus on mission.
Fourth, a hope shapes their behavior now.

Finally, a family-nurtured faith is where it all begins. Families take responsibility for passing on the faith and embodying the faith.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Youth Ministry, Kenda Creasy Dean, Youth..."
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Date: Monday, 30 Aug 2010 19:05
NeanderthalStones.jpgThe Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet so fun: you gotta go the whole way and hunt your own food. Running and chasing and throwing and grabbing and stuff like that. Going to the grocery store for the Paleo diet creates ambivalence for me.

What are your suggestions for Paleo dieters?

Our Stone Age ancestors lived in an uncomfortable world, spending their 30-year life spans hunting and gathering without air conditioning or heat. But some say the cave men ate better than we do.

That's the premise behind the Paleo diet, a health and weight-loss trend that encourages people to eat modern-day versions of Paleolithic food.

Several weeks ago, one group of health-conscious Californians took on the Paleo diet and planned to spend nine weeks eating like cave men. That means consuming only animals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and mushrooms, said Rick Larson, co-owner of CrossFit West Sacramento, the gym running the challenge....

Out is anything that humans began eating after the agriculture and animal husbandry revolutions, meaning no dairy, beans, grains or starches and absolutely nothing processed.

"If you can't eat it raw, then you shouldn't consume it," Larson said. (Although, since our Paleolithic ancestors did have fire, cooking food is permissible.)


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Monday, 30 Aug 2010 17:08
Psalm 30 is the story of the ups and downs of life, and David is frank and clear. He was in a flourishing spot, he became proud, the Lord was with him but disciplined him, and then the Lord lifted him back into that flourishing spot. 

Integral to genuine prayer is the rehearsal of our own story.

But before we hear the specifics of David's story, we need to see two things: first, that he is now thankful to God for liberation (vv. 1-3, 11-12); second, that he encourages everyone to praise God for God's goodness and faithfulness (vv. 4-5). In this second element, David reflects on the big picture: God's anger lasts but awhile; his goodness returns. And then v. 5 says things that are proverbial and memorable:

One may experience sorrow during the night,

but joy arrives in the morning.


To be sure, these aren't glib words but sincere words of one who has seen how God has worked in his life. But they are words that span our experience: from a temporary setback, to the loss of a job, and to life's (and death's) more threatening realities. God's way is to transform death into life.

30:1 I will praise you, O Lord, for you lifted me up,

and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

30:2 O Lord my God,

I cried out to you and you healed me.

30:3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheol;

you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

30:4 Sing to the Lord, you faithful followers of his;

give thanks to his holy name.

30:5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment,

and his good favor restores one's life.

One may experience sorrow during the night,

but joy arrives in the morning.

30:6 In my self-confidence I said,

"I will never be upended."

30:7 O Lord, in your good favor you made me secure.

Then you rejected me and I was terrified.

30:8 To you, O Lord, I cried out;

I begged the Lord for mercy:

30:9 "What profit is there in taking my life,

in my descending into the Pit?

Can the dust of the grave praise you?

Can it declare your loyalty?

30:10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me!

Lord, deliver me!"

30:11 Then you turned my lament into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

30:12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;

Lord my God, I will always give thanks to you.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Psalms, Psalm 30"
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Date: Monday, 30 Aug 2010 11:03

Telling the truth of the Church's Story means telling the whole story. In the Church's Story are the stories of women who did mighty things. But these stories are not being told. What can we do to include these stories in our church's story?

The following is from Arise and is written by Priscilla Pope-Levison...

From Arise, the weekly e-newsletter from Christians for Biblical Equality.

Priscilla Pope-Levison is Professor of Theology and Assistant Director of Women's Studies, Seattle Pacific University, affiliate faculty in Women Studies, University of Washington, and a United Methodist clergywoman.

*     *     *     *     *

The momentous contribution of women evangelists to American life, past and present, is only now emerging from dusty archives shelves, where their sermons, diaries, papers, and autobiographies were boxed away. These women have been notably absent from the history of American evangelism, which conventionally moves in a single-gender trajectory: Jonathan Edwards--Charles Finney--Dwight Moody--Billy Sunday--Billy Graham. A decade ago, when preparing for an introductory lecture on American evangelism, I was inundated by resources on these men. With my simple question--were there any women?--the first stirrings toward a nearly forgotten history began to transpire. To summarize briefly the enormous impact of women evangelists, we will consider four arenas: institutions, social outreach, political impact, and audience numbers.

Institutions: they provided for the education and nurture of converts as well as future generations by founding denominations, educational institutions from grade school to university, and a host of churches from New York to California.

Social outreach: they often incorporated humanitarianism along with evangelism. Sojourner Truth solicited aid for freed slaves living in squalid camps in the nation's capital city. Phoebe Palmer began Five Points Mission, one of America's first urban mission centers, in a New York City slum. Within two months after Aimee Semple McPherson's Angelus Temple Free Dining Hall opened in 1931, its workers had already fed more than 80,000 hungry people, and the Angelus Temple Commissary, opened in 1927, was crucial to the survival of many in Los Angeles during the Depression. In terms of race relations, women evangelists wielded influence by holding integrated meetings, like Jarena Lee, whose audiences in the 1820's included "white and colored," "slaves and the holders," and "Indians." This practice continued into the twentieth century with Aimee Semple McPherson's and Kathryn Kuhlman's integrated services.

Political impact: they influenced the nation's leaders as well as the populace. Harriet Livermore preached in Congress several times between 1827 and 1843 about the predicament of Native Americans. Sojourner Truth generated a petition and presented it to President Ulysses S. Grant requesting that a colony for freed slaves be established in the western United States. Jennie Fowler Willing's speech on women and temperance in 1874 prompted many who heard it to consider forming a national temperance organization. Through her periodical, Woman's Chains, Alma White supported the platform of the National Woman's Party, including the Equal Rights Amendment.

Audience numbers: They preached to audiences often numbering in the thousands. During her 1889 Oakland revival, Maria Woodworth-Etter repeatedly packed to capacity her 8000-seat tent. Aimee Semple McPherson's church in Los Angeles had a 5300-seat auditorium, which filled up three times for Sunday services. Uldine Utley preached in Madison Square Garden to a crowd of 14,000. Numbers are impossible to gauge for Kathryn Kuhlman's radio program, "Heart-to-Heart," which was regularly broadcast for over 40 years, or her long-running CBS television program.

*     *     *     *     *

Turn the Pulpit Loose: Two Centuries of American Women Evangelists, by Priscilla Pope-Levison, uncovers this nearly forgotten history, as does this website.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Women and Ministry, Priscilla Pope-Levis..."
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Date: Monday, 30 Aug 2010 05:02
Paul.jpgIf you've ever taught Paul's letters you know the challenge: How does one put Paul together? Or the teacher asks, Where can I begin that makes the whole become clear? Where do I tap to make this diamond fall out?  

Tim Gombis's new book, Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides for the Perplexed) , does this so well.

For instance, in a sketch of Paul's letters, Gombis asks this question: Is Paul a theologian, a missionary or a pastor? Which of these would be your first choice? And what order would you put them in? How do you explain Paul to those who don't know him?

Frankly, many of us resort to teaching Paul as if he were a theologian -- which he's not since his letters are not "theology" but theologically informed and rooted pastoral guides -- and that means we get to the core of his theology and then teach that. Thus, we focus on soteriology or ecclesiology or Christology, do a good job of sketching the depth of those themes, and then ... well, then, we get to a letter like Philippians and it takes a good long while to get to where Paul's soteriology really starts digging deep.

In short, there's a way to approach Paul that conforms to how Paul does things.

So, Tim Gombis is saying "let Paul be Paul."

Chp 2 of this book sketches the substance of Paul's letters, and I want to say this chp is a fresh description. Take Romans. How does one say something about Romans in just a few pages without walking well-worn(out) paths.

Gombis knows the issue with the emperor Claudius' edict that banned Jews from Rome, and then a few years later they returned when he died -- and then issues arose in the church of Rome that had for five years been led by Gentile Christians and then Paul wrote, and he sees that context as significant for a constantly-ignored dimension of Romans: the appeal to unity, to Jews and Christians getting along, etc. Yes, Paul does theology but what he's doing first and foremost is pastoral work. He's heralding the kingdom for the church at Rome. He's showing that the gospel brings Jews and Gentiles together.

It is about Christ and about faith for "all" who believe, Jew or Gentile. Well, you get a taste of what Gombis does in this chp: he shows each of Paul's letters is pastorally focused by an apostle of Jesus Christ who is heralding the kingdom of God.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Paul, Timothy Gombis"
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Date: Sunday, 29 Aug 2010 22:15
We will be moving the blog Wednesday to Patheos. Here's our request: if you are a regular commenter, please drop a comment now at the Patheos link below so we can get your name approved before Wednesday. (Each commenter must be approved only once in order to become an approved commenter.) We anticipate Wednesday's and Thursday's posts could generate plenty of conversation and the sooner we get names approved the better.

YOUR COMMENT WILL APPEAR WHEN YOU ARE APPROVED.

Please point your link toward the new address at Patheos, which you can visit now: 

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/

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Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Sunday, 29 Aug 2010 19:05
What did you like most about these theologians? 

Clark Pinnock, by Doug Koop

 Clark H. Pinnock's life journey is over. The influential and often controversial evangelical theologian died unexpectedly August 15 of a heart attack. He was 73. In March, the long-time professor of systematic theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, had announced he was withdrawing from public life and revealed that he was battling Alzheimer's disease. 

 It was a difficult admission for a man whose mercurial mind and openness to the Holy Spirit led him to stake out theological positions that challenged evangelical orthodoxies. Renowned for exploring the frontiers of biblical truth, he was reputed to study carefully, think precisely, argue forcefully, and shift his positions willingly if he discovered a more fruitful pathway of understanding. He said he preferred to be known, "not as one who has the courage of his convictions, but one who has the courage to question them and to change old opinions which need changing." 

  Donald Bloesch, by Trevor Persaud

Donald G. Bloesch, a prominent evangelical scholar in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and an advisory editor at Christianity Today, died on Tuesday in Dubuque, Iowa.

Bloesch, who was professor emeritus at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, was well known as a voice of renewal in the United Church of Christ.

"He gave us not only an understanding of the deep perversity in the mainline church, but theological skills to be effective witnesses in a difficult time," said David Runnion-Bareford, executive director of the Biblical Witness Fellowship, a spiritual renewal group within the UCC. "It is ironic that this evangelical was the most widely read and respected UCC theologian of his generation."


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Sunday, 29 Aug 2010 16:27
DarrenWhitehead*.jpgDarren Whitehead, one of the teaching pastors at Willow, is doing a wondrous series on kingdom of God. This weekend's talk focused on seven themes of kingdom in the ministry of Jesus and in the church today, and I want to mention his themes. 

He showed how these themes are not just individual but are manifested in families and local churches, and so he told some stories of people's lives being formed in community in transforming ways.

I'm so thrilled he's pondering kingdom, and I'm so glad he's avoiding the simplicities that we hear so much of today. He's probed the connections of Jesus to Isaiah's great visions to give shape to the components of kingdom:

1. Deliverance
2. Righteousness and justice
3. Peace
4. Joy
5. God's Presence
6. Healing
7. Return from Exile (Coming Home)

Each of these themes can be found in Isaiah and in Jesus' capturing of kingdom in the vision of Jesus -- and we could chase down and quote passages all day long. 


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Kingdom of God"
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Date: Sunday, 29 Aug 2010 05:06
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Prayer"
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Date: Saturday, 28 Aug 2010 18:35
Library.jpg

W. David O. Taylor, ed.,For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts

~Reviewed by Wes Vander Lugt, a PhD student at the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts who edits and contributes to Transpositions, a new blog exploring transpositions between theology and the arts.

Whether Catholics or Protestants, Reformed or Charismatic, younger evangelicals or older evangelicals, emerging or traditional, a growing number of churches and denominations worldwide are interested in and supporting the arts. While there has been a plethora of conversations about the arts in the church, few of these conversations have been as practical and stimulating as For the Beauty of the Church, a collection of essays edited by David Taylor, originally given at the "Transforming Culture: A Vision for the Church and the Arts" conference in Austin in 2008.

In the 'Introduction,' David Taylor identifies two prongs of the typical 'problem' of the arts in the church. One prong is pragmatism, incorporating whatever art we like, makes us feel good, and works well in our worship, which usually leaves theology behind. Another prong is traditionalism, which in its Protestant variety offers little impetus for the aesthetic concerns of the gospel. How do we surmount these difficulties?



Andy Crouch (chapter one: 'The Gospel') situates his answer within the framework of God as Giver and the world and culture as gift. We can explore or exploit this gift, and part of exploring the gift of creation and culture is to make things that have no apparent 'usefulness.' In short, Crouch provisionally defines art as "those aspects of culture that cannot be reduced to utility," that which goes "far beyond straightforward purposefulness." Some reviewers have challenged this definition, maintaining that art does have a purpose or an end, even though churches often misconstrue this purpose as purely pragmatic. As Nicholas Wolterstorff astutely argues in Art in Action, people do things through art, but this doing does not have to be trite and merely utilitarian. Art can contribute to shalom.

John Witvliet (chapter two: 'The Worship') concurs that art has a purpose, more specifically that art can enhance public worship. Not all art is fitting for public worship, however, unless it deepens the corporate element of worship rather than promoting isolation, builds the covenantal relationship with God rather than promoting sentimentality, and appreciates art as iconic rather than promoting sinful idolatry. Although Witvliet recognizes that art is 'useful' for worship, he strengthens Crouch's proposal that art should not be utilized uncritically or flippantly.

Lauren Winner (chapter three: 'The Art Patron') deals with the objection that because art is expensive, a more appropriate use of money than art patronage is giving that money to the poor. Winner weaves together several personal narratives to explain how her art buying habits are not irresponsible, but actually serve to support Christian artists and act as a prompt for hospitality by sharing them with others. In other words, there is a time for art buying and there is a time for giving the poor, and these two expressions of Christian discipleship can be integrated for the glory of God.

Eugene Peterson (chapter four: 'The Pastor') writes as a retired pastor, articulating several ways that artists have made him a better pastor. He relates that these artists enabled him to perceive "the formation of salvation, detail by detail, day by day, in the bodies of men and women and babies, neighborhoods, homes, and workplaces." Peterson's practical reflections encourage pastors to make friends with artists in ways that continually renew their vision, in other words, in ways that "restore color and texture and smell to the salvation that has become disembodied in a fog of abstraction."

Barbara Nicolosi (chapter five: 'The Artist') begins her chapter with some big picture reflections: art is about wholeness, harmony and radiance and not what is cute, easy, banal, silly, sweet, nice, unthreatening, statement making, egalitarian, and a soothing distraction. In short, Precious Moments figurines are not art. She then launches into practical suggestions of how to recognize artists: they show up early, their work has emotional power and the quality of something fresh or new, and they are obsessed with details of form. Although I appreciated Nicolosi's practical bent, I found her characterizations of artists a bit too stereotypical, and her brief suggestion of art as revelatory begged considerable explanation.

Joshua Banner (chapter six: 'The Practitioner') highlights several ways that pastors can nurture artists like a farmer nurtures his field. The pastor must begin by building trust with the artist, and only then promote the artist by creating "a safe place for artists to risk." In addition, a pastor can "produce" an artist by offering critique, but only after getting alongside the artist with the patience of a farmer. I applaud Banner for recognizing that the proof of the theologically pudding is in the process. He concludes: "We glorify God not just with our final art presentation; we glorify him in the gracious and patient way we engage in the process of artmaking."

David Taylor (chapter 7: 'The Dangers') pinpoints six dangers of artistic activity in the church: bad art, supersaturation, stubborn stagnation, utilitarian reduction, art as distraction, and immaturity. He follows these with three characteristics of healthy artistic growth in the church: relationally oriented, contextually relative, and organically rhythmed. Throughout the essay he integrates the need for "festal muchness and cleansing simplicity" in the church's art, patterned after God's own expression of extravagant beauty.

Jeremy Begbie (chapter 9: 'The Future') makes a case for the "hopeful subversion" of culture rather than either resignation or triumphalism. This hopeful subversion comes by the power of the Spirit, who unites the unlike (including artists and non-artists), generates excess (that which artistically alludes rather than explains), inverts and turns the world's values upside down, exposes the depth of sin, recreates a new universe, and improvises. Regarding this last point, Begbie summarizes one of the primary reasons why pastors and artists need to collaborate: "the richest fruit comes from the interplay between order and non-order, between the given chords and the improvised riff, between the faithful bass of God's grace and the novel whirls of the Spirit." This playful improvisation does not arise out of nowhere, but builds from tradition and works toward new creation.

In conclusion, For the Beauty of the Church is a magnificent collection of essays that communicates an invigorating and challenging vision for the arts and artists in the church. These essays have already sparked a host of stimulating conversations, like the series of posts at Transpositions, and hopefully will continue to instigate and sharpen many more. Like David Taylor's reflection in the 'Afterword,' I feel hopeful about the future of the arts in the church. The key, however, is for this hope to materialize in practical action.


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Saturday, 28 Aug 2010 15:55
I find the claim preposterous, and so these numbers just as shocking. From Tobin Grant's article at CT...

President Obama told Christianity Today in 2008, "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian." According to a new Pew Forum survey, only a third of Americans believe him. This is only slightly more than the 18 percent who think he is a Muslim. Among evangelical Christians, 29 percent believe Obama is a Muslim, but only 27 percent think he is a Christian. 

Since March of last year, the percentage of Americans who think Obama is a Muslim has increased from 11 to 18 percent, while the percentage who think he is a Christian dropped from 48 to 34 percent. 


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Saturday, 28 Aug 2010 05:11
Mountainsclouds.jpg Nothing like the beauty of creation to wake us up on a Saturday morning. I hope your coffee tastes better looking at God's world.

This will be our last Weekly Meanderings at Beliefnet. Next week it will be at our new site at Patheos, and that move has been consuming some of my blog-reading time but here's a few links...

Jay Phelan has some insightful words about the internet and civility.
Anne Farley-RollĂ©, who pointed me at Jay's post, jumps from my parables series into some concerns of her own. 

Some parallel evangelical trajectories among Messianic Jews.

Jamie Arpin Ricci has a helpful analogy and set of reflections on "where do we draw the line, or do we?"

Karen writes a letter to the President about ... well, here's the link, you read it: "Because it seems that these days, name dropping only counts if you've had your own reality TV show like the Gosselins. I wish somebody would explain to me how it is two people who can't get along any better than these two people do, end up becoming authors of books on how to be a better baby mama or baby daddy. As far as I'm concerned that would be like Tiger Woods writing a book on faithfulness."

NeffSleep.jpgWhere do I place LaVonne Neff's post on the split infinitive? Right here will do. LaVonne, what did Fowler say? EB White?  OK, her review of Love Eat Drink Be Merry or whatever the movie's name is is a nice review. LaVonne said no one was sleeping at the theater, but David was sleeping somewhere. Looks like in church. 

My friend Allan Bevere asks this: What would you do if a mosque were coming to your community? He answers that question with freshness.
And another friend, Bill Donahue, on building a learning community.

This may be the funniest piece of open theology I've ever seen.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey has covered this story admirably, and I'm very pleased that Jim Wallis backed off his accusations of Olasky, and now I hope they keep this exchange behind closed doors. 

Meanderings in the News

1. Wedge issues and the political process: "The current ruckus over building an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, calls to change the 14th Amendment and other so-called "wedge" issues are roiling up each party's base, but they're turning off independents, analysts say. This is party politics as usual with respect to all of these wedge issues," said Jacqueline Salit, president of independentvoting.org, a national strategy and organizing center for independents. "I think there's more and more of a steady recognition that these kind of wedge issues and political manipulation, sensationalism and opportunism is exactly what is degrading the American political process and our democracy." Salit, who is also the executive editor of The Neo-Independent magazine, said that people are having a hard time understanding what's happening with the economy because of partisanship. "I think people can't tell what's going on because the political environment is so polluted by partisanship," she said. "The parties are trying to change the subject from things they think can inflame voters on and win elections on. How does that help the country? That hurts the country. And that's what independents are deeply concerned about."
2. Reading material at Gitmo.

PhoneTalk.jpg3. On the mysteries of consciousness by David B. Hart: "Most attempts to describe the mind entirely as an emergent quality of the brain, or as another name for the brain's machinery, not only fail convincingly to bridge the qualitative distance between sensory impression and coherent thought, but invariably bracket out of consideration a great deal of what any scrupulous phenomenology of consciousness reveals. Certainly they do not seem to explain the "transcendental" conditions by which consciousness is organized: that primordial act within and prior to all our other acts of mind and will; that constant mediation between thought and world that we both perform and suffer in advance of all experience or volition."
4. I agree with Karl Giberson in his criticism of Al Mohler, but this article is a classic example of overkill: all we needed was three paragraphs. Here's all he needed to say: "In this talk Mohler made false statements about Darwin. He apparently wanted to undermine evolution by suggesting that it was "invented" to prop up Darwin's worldview, rather than developed to explain observations in the natural world. He said, "Darwin did not embark upon the Beagle having no preconceptions of what exactly he was looking for or having no theory of how life emerged in all of its diversity, fecundity, and specialization. Darwin left on his expedition to prove the theory of evolution. Because Darwin was constantly journaling, keeping careful notebooks, and writing letters, historians have established beyond all doubt that Mohler's summary is simply false."
5. New kind of honeymoon: "(CNN) -- It's common for newlyweds to honeymoon abroad. It's less common for them to fix kids' bikes during their trip -- but Aaron and Kristen Berlin did just that two days after saying their vows.The Massachusetts twentysomethings got married in October and spent five days volunteering at an orphanage in southern Thailand before exploring Bangkok, northern Thailand and Cambodia."
6. Wowzers, this guy's incredible: "Khan has his skeptics in the education business. They don't doubt he means well and is helping students, but they question the broad impact of any tutorial that doesn't test performance or allow student-teacher discussion. "It's a solid supplemental resource, particularly for motivated students," says Jeffrey Leeds, president of Leeds Equity Partners, the largest U.S. private equity firm specializing in for-profit education. "But it's not an academy -- it's more of a library."
7. And David Brooks on mental flabbiness: "The ensuing mental flabbiness is most evident in politics. Many conservatives declare that Barack Obama is a Muslim because it feels so good to say so. Many liberals would never ask themselves why they were so wrong about the surge in Iraq while George Bush was so right. The question is too uncomfortable. There's a seller's market in ideologies that gives people a chance to feel victimized. There's a rigidity to political debate. Issues like tax cuts and the size of government, which should be shaped by circumstances (often it's good to cut taxes; sometimes it's necessary to raise them), are now treated as inflexible tests of tribal purity. To use a fancy word, there's a metacognition deficit. Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate."
8. Solar energy.
9. The Top 18 Best iPhone Apps.
10. Chicago's Bean

 



Meanderings in Sports

Girardi says he's "flattered" the Cubs are showing interest in him as a manager. I take that kind of talk as an indirection for "I'm interested, fellas, but can't talk about. It's unprofessional. I've got a job to do here with the Yankees." Had he wanted to, he could have just up and said, "No, I'm not interested."

RockwellWrigley.jpg


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Weekly Meanderings"
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Date: Friday, 27 Aug 2010 18:20
I will be posting this a few times, but just to begin the notification process now. We will be blogging right here at Beliefnet through August 31 but on September 1 we will be at our new site.

Please point your link toward the new address at Patheos, which you can visit now: 

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/

And the new RSS feed address is: 

http://feeds.feedburner.com/PatheosJesusCreed


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Friday, 27 Aug 2010 13:28
From NYTimes: Do you think these are two extreme reactions or do you think these are closer to the mainline? Are these two "incidents" connected? 

What can we, as those who seek to follow Jesus and to embody the kingdom, do?

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If building an Islamic center near ground zero amounts to the epitome of Muslim insensitivity, as critics of the project have claimed, what should the world make of Terry Jones, the evangelical pastor here who plans to memorialize the Sept. 11 attacks with a bonfire of Korans?

Mr. Jones, 58, a former hotel manager with a red face and a white handlebar mustache, argues that as an American Christian he has a right to burn Islam's sacred book because "it's full of lies." And in another era, he might have been easily ignored, as he was last year when he posted a sign at his church declaring "Islam is of the devil."

But now the global spotlight has shifted. With the debate in New York putting religious tensions front and center, Mr. Jones has suddenly attracted thousands of fans and critics on Facebook, while around the world he is being presented as a symbol of American anti-Islamic sentiment.


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Friday, 27 Aug 2010 10:47
KendaDean.jpgThe youth in the church reflect a Christianity of niceness

Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church , and it is a hard-hitting critique of the American church (and therefore of parents) for the condition of the faith of its youth. Kenda Dean's got some very quotable lines.

Her 2d chp is about the triumph of the "cult of nice." American youth are devoted to nonjudgmental openness, self-determination, and the authority of personal experience.

Religion, she argues, has always polarized and identified people in particularities, but moralistic therapeutic deism's new version permits the youth to use religion to homogenize instead of polarize.

Christianity is about a particular God and a particular Lord and a particular kind of behavior. It is "radical particularity": made possible only by taking part in God's particularity and openness through Jesus Christ.

Her complaint?

The Church has handed on MTD to its youth because MTD is the vision it is itself living.

Jesus demands not niceness but holiness, a life conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. And the Apostles' Creed is a dramatic sweeping description of God's wildest dreams but MTD is like reciting the Declaration of Independence in a Sunday School class. Happiness is not the point.

"MTD is what is left once Christianity has been drained of its missional impulse, once holiness has given way to acculturation, and once cautious self-preservation has supplanted the divine abandon of self-giving love" (39-40).

Hard-hitting indeed.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Kenda Creasy Dean, Youth Ministry"
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Date: Thursday, 26 Aug 2010 19:30
This day had to come. Some journals are experimenting with online submissions and online reviews in the process of accepting pieces for publication. Here's a piece by Patricia Cohen at NYTimes describing the process.

For professors, publishing in elite journals is an unavoidable part of university life. The grueling process of subjecting work to the up-or-down judgment of credentialed scholarly peers has been a cornerstone of academic culture since at least the mid-20th century.

Now some humanities scholars have begun to challenge the monopoly that peer review has on admission to career-making journals and, as a consequence, to the charmed circle of tenured academe. They argue that in an era of digital media there is a better way to assess the quality of work. Instead of relying on a few experts selected by leading publications, they advocate using the Internet to expose scholarly thinking to the swift collective judgment of a much broader interested audience.


Author: "Scot McKnight"
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Date: Thursday, 26 Aug 2010 17:05
It is good to give thanks for the Lord's grace to us, especially when we have been rescued. The psalmist, and this one is attributed to David, gives thanks to God for rescue in these words at the opening of Psalm 30:

30:1 I will praise you, O Lord, for you lifted me up,

and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

30:2 O Lord my God,

I cried out to you and you healed me.

30:3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheol;

you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.


The boldfaced words express the deliverance. It is hard to put this all into a tidy bin: perhaps it was sickness and he was near death; or perhaps the healing is metaphorical for being lifted from near death at the hand of enemies. I tend to think it was near death in an illness way rather than from the pursuit of enemies.

And this psalm ends on the same notes of joy at the hand of God's deliverance, as do other psalms (34, 107, 138):

30:11 Then you turned my lament into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

30:12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;

Lord my God, I will always give thanks to you.


30:1 I will praise you, O Lord, for you lifted me up,

and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

30:2 O Lord my God,

I cried out to you and you healed me.

30:3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheol;

you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

30:4 Sing to the Lord, you faithful followers of his;

give thanks to his holy name.

30:5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment,

and his good favor restores one's life.

One may experience sorrow during the night,

but joy arrives in the morning.

30:6 In my self-confidence I said,

"I will never be upended."

30:7 O Lord, in your good favor you made me secure.

Then you rejected me and I was terrified.

30:8 To you, O Lord, I cried out;

I begged the Lord for mercy:

30:9 "What profit is there in taking my life,

in my descending into the Pit?

Can the dust of the grave praise you?

Can it declare your loyalty?

30:10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me!

Lord, deliver me!"

30:11 Then you turned my lament into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

30:12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent;

Lord my God, I will always give thanks to you.


Author: "Scot McKnight" Tags: "Psalms, Psalm 30"
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