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Resurrecting my Blog

The time has come to resurrect my blog.

I have to make a confession. It has been (a shocking) 271 days since my last blog post. Shame. Shame. Shame. Truthfully I have not blogged much in the last two years. I want to blame my lack of blogging on my increased activity on Facebook and Twitter, but the fact remains that I have not been blogging because I have grown lazy in the discipline of writing.

I do have some excuses. My family did move. I started a new job. My wife and I renovated a house. Blah. Blah. Blah. It is like my Spanish teacher in college would tell me when I told him that I did not have my homework: ninguna excusa (absolutely no excuse). So I am looking to resurrect my blog or rather resuscitate it. I do feel that my blogging will come to an end at some time, so this is more of a resuscitation. I have a couple of reasons for resuming the blog.

First, I am in-between writing projects and I need the “writing exercise.”  My primary calling is that of a teacher, both verbally through preaching and teaching in the context of the local church and through writing. I have self-published two books and I am still hold out hope to get them re-worked and re-released by a mainstream publisher. Currently, I am not working on a manuscript (although if you are a publisher interested in seeing a manuscript or book proposal let me know!). While I am not working on a book manuscript, blogging serves as a great way to keep me in the habit of writing.

Second, I have posted some good thoughts on Facebook and Twitter that could be developed into blog posts. Whenever I have sent out rapid-fire tweets with 3, 4, or 5 tweets in a row, I should have saved them and expanded them into a blog post. I may look over past tweets and Facebook posts and see if I can work them into a blog post.

Third, I have been reading a number of blogs recently and I enjoy the medium. There are a number of Christians blogs I read regularly including Todd Rhodes, Scot McKnight, Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, and (my pastor) Brian Zahnd. But recently I have been reading the blogs of AT Thru-hikers. I am currently fixated on these insane folks who give up 5-6 months of their lives to hike the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trial from Georgia to Maine. I have enjoyed blogs here and here and here.

Fourth, I have written a blog post for another blog that will be published next month. I submitted a post to asburyseedbed.com, the theological resourcing blog of Asbury Seminary. In writing an 800-word blog post for them, I thought “This isn’t so hard. I should do this more often.” I figure that since I am going to be a “guest blogger,” I ought to go to work on my own blog. 🙂

So here I go. I pray for some consistency in blogging these days. I have been blogging since 2006. I started my blog to chronicle a trip to India, but the blog has really been a way to chronicle my spiritual journey. It has given me way to work out what has been going on in my heart and mind and life, as I have grown as a pastor, father, husband, and follower of Christ. So, with God’s help and encouragement to friends, here goes another attempt at the blog.

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Life

 

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Discussion on the Trinity: Video Clips

The following clips are from a live discussion I had with Pastor Brian Zahnd at his church, Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, on Sunday morning, March 22, 2009. I do mention my book Shape Shifters a few times. The book uses the doctrine of the Trinity as a foundation for understanding spiritual transformation. In the book, I also describe why I am a Trinitiarian Christian. [More on the book here]

Here are the clips:

Question: What is the Trinity?

Question: How was the the doctrine of the Trinity developed?

Question: Why is the word “Trinity” helpful? And how important was the doctrine of the Trinity to the early church?

Question: Why are modern Americans uninterested in theology and doctrine?

Question: What are some of the wrong ways people think about the Trinity?

Question: What about The Shack?

Question: What does the Trinity say to us about community?

Question: So how does the Trinity as a doctrine affect our daily lives?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2009 in Ministry, Theology

 

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Talking About the Trinity

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri in a pretty unique format. WOLC’s pastor, Brian Zahnd, set up a “kitchen table” interview with me, where he asked me questions about the Trinity. This was a part of his “Engaging Orthodoxy” series, a teaching series geared towards equipping people to engage in culture by being rooted and grounded in Christian orthodoxy, i.e. right believing regarding the Christian faith.

So we literally sat at a table on the stage and talked about the Trinity with coffee and Bibles in hand. We talked about theology, church history, baptism, creeds, heresy, orthodoxy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bob Dylan…all in a 35 minute time slot. You can listen to the audio here. [You can also listen to the audio on the WOLC website. Click here to go to their archive audio and scroll down to “Engaging Orthodoxy – Part 4: The Trinity.”]

Brian gave me the list of questions and like some middle school over-achiever, I diligently wrote out answers to each question so that I would be prepared. As it worked out, I didn’t get to all this material. I spent some time working on some of these answers in order to make the very complicated doctrine of the Trinity easy to understand. So here are the notes in their entirety:

What is the Trinity?

“Trinity” is the word that Christians use to describe who God is.

In the Old Testament, God has revealed himself as one God.
In the New Testament, God has revealed himself as Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.
This is a bit of a mystery.

“Trinity” is the Church’s way of preserving this mystery, that there is one God, one divine substance, revealed in three persons—the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. This was the language of the early church when speaking about God, “one substance” (Latin: substatia) and “three persons” (Latin: persona).

The doctrine of the Trinity is a gift from the historic Church to the modern Church.

How was the doctrine of the Trinity developed?

The doctrine of the Trinity grew out of worship and a devotion to Scripture.
Historically, it began with BAPTISM as you read in Matthew 28:19…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

In the early church, baptism was by immersion, often dipping the head three times while the person being baptized stood naked in the water. (I hope that was some murky water.) If there was not enough water for immersion, pouring water over the head was permissible. The water would be poured over the head three times. (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol 2, pg. 248-249)

It was baptism, not just in God’s name, but into the name. There is a footnote in the ESV regarding this difference in translating Matthew 28:19. From a Jewish perspective, a name relates to a person character. And so we are not just baptizing people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but into that name, into this mysterious community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From there, the Church began to use CREEDS in order to teach Christians basics…like the Apostle’s Creed.
Candidates for baptism would recite (or repeat) the Apostle’s Creed. The Creed was “the baptismal symbol.”
(Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol 2, pg. 248)

The ancient creeds used a Trinitarian structure for the Christian faith.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord…
I believe in the Holy Ghost…
(Apostle’s Creed)

Then the doctrine of the Trinity really began to take form in response to HERESIES. It has been said that, “heresy is the mother of all orthodoxy.” This was particularly true in relation to the formation of the doctrine of the Trinity. There were hundreds of years of debates asking, “How is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Christian pastors wrote books and the church held Church-wide counsels and they ended up with this language: One substance, three persons, one divine essence revealed in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

How important was the doctrine of the Trinity to the early church?

It was absolutely critical.

The early Jesus movement was but one of dozens of new religions and it was important for the Church to clearly communicate who their God is. They were spread out through the Roman Empire who had a pantheon of gods. At first, they were considered a radical Jewish and so they had to separate themselves from Judaism. And they had a number of schisms among those who called themselves “Christians,” but disagreed on who God was.

So it was critical that they establish the uniqueness of the Christian God, who they believed (and we believe) is the one true living God. And God as a Trinity is unique. The media will talk about the three great monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as if they are essential the same. God as Trinity is totally unique and unlike any other religious system.

Why do you think modern Christians aren’t so interested in the Trinity?

I think it is because many Christians in the United States are more interested in seeking God’s hand than seeking his face. They want to know, “What can God do for me?” Instead of “Who is this God?”

Michael Horton in Christless Christianity calls this “moralistic, therapeutic deism.”
Moralistic: people want to be better people, better husbands, fathers, employees.
Therapeutic: We want to feel better; we want God to give us goose bumps on Sunday morning
Deism: God is the maker of heaven and earth, but he has no contact or interaction with his creation

Many who claim to be followers of Christ don’t want to take the time to seek God’s face in a serious way.

And for churches like yours and mine…we are hip, young, cool, and contemporary…we want to know what God is doing now…we don’t have much interest in knowing what God has done in the first couple hundred years of the church.

Are there dangers in our unwillingness to think seriously about doctrine?

Yeah I think so. Look at the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the late middle ages.
The Reformation of the 16th century was necessary, because the church had gotten so far away from biblical Christianity; it was a mess.

It is easy for Christians living at anytime to absorb the values of the dominate culture.

Thinking seriously about doctrine helps you discern biblical truth from cultural error. It is so easy to replace biblical values with cultural values.

We are living in a consumer culture. It is easy to baptize American consumerism and make it sound Christian.
I am not selfish and greed; I just want God to do whatever I say when I say.

What are some of the wrong ways people think about the Trinity?

There are essential two wrong ways of thinking about the Trinity and it is to err on one side or the other…to either see God and a monad….one in his person or to see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three Gods.

Historically, these heresies are called modalism and tri-theism.

Modalism sees to God as taking on three modes…wearing three masks.
You see this presently in the United Pentecostal Church–“Oneness Pentecostals” or “Jesus Only Pentecostals”.

Tri-theism is a polytheistic view of God. That there are three Gods.
A polytheistic view of God is found among Jehovah Witnesses and in Mormonism.

Both of these are heresies that have been condemned by the Church.

Why do we call wrong thinking about the Trinity heresy?

Ultimately we call it heresy because it is inconsistent with the teaching of the apostles, which we know as the New Testament.

Building any kind of theological framework like the doctrine of the Trinity requires that we build it big enough to hold all of what the Scripture says about God. There is no doubt that the Scripture reveals God to be one. There is only one God. But was we look at the teachings of Jesus, he himself claims to be God. And they way Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit indicates he is God too.

Either heresy requires us to ignore certain Scriptures are simply force them to say something that the biblical author’s did not intend.

What are some analogies of the Trinity?

The early church used analogies to try to describe the Trinity. Tertullian of Carthage actually coined the term “Trinity” used two in particular.

Tree as trunk, branches, leaves
Moving water as a river, stream, and creek.

Some modern analogies include: Water in three forms: solid, liquid, vapor.
Football team: offensive, defense, and special teams
A person as husband, father, & pastor
A hot, cherry pie cut into three large pieces

My favorite may be an analogy from music. In a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Bono was describing his appreciation for the Beatles. He described their music as “an intoxicating mix of melody, harmony and rhythm.” (As quoted by Roderick T. Leupp, The Renewal of Trinitarian Theology, 2008, pg. 9)

Do analogies accurately explain the Trinity?

No. All human metaphors fail at some point.
Consider the music analogy. This is a good one. Melody, harmony, and rhythm are a distinct, but together they make up a song. They are three distinct faces to the one song.

As good as this analogy is, it does have its problems when relating back to the Trinity. The orthodox position is that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Spirit is fully God. The melody is not fully the song and harmony and rhythm alone, are not “the song.”

There is really nothing in creation that is like the Trinity, which is consistent with what the Bible says about God. He is holy, i.e. separate, different, other.

There is nothing in creation like the Trinity, because if there was then it would be the Trinity.

Is the doctrine of the Trinity easy to understand?

No, but it isn’t supposed to be. The early church began to speak of God as a Trinity not to explain the mystery, but to preserve the mystery.

The Church confidently believes this is who God has revealed himself to be…this mysterious community of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is a mystery that we embrace.
It is a mystery that we explore.

I grew up in Myrna Manor North, just a few miles from this building. In the back of our neighborhood there is a creek and large wooded area. The woods were mysterious…beckoned us to go exploring.

One early church father expressed his worshipful exploration of the mystery like this:
“No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illuminated by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of any one of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.”
—Gregory of Nazianzus, (330-390 AD)
Orations (40.41)

Should we be suspicious of doctrines which are difficult to comprehend?

Not when it comes to God.

A God who is easy to understand is a popular god, because it is a god we can control, a God we can master.

But if God is the holy, infinite, eternal God as declared in the Scripture than shouldn’t he be difficult to comprehend? A God who is easy to understand isn’t a God who demands my worship. The kind of God is a god who demands my boredom. I seriously believe this is why some Christians become shipwrecked in their faith. Their god is too small.

A difficult and demanding doctrine like the Trinity humbles us and demands our worship.

“In the presence of this mystery, we are no longer in a position of control where we can manage or master the subject. Before this Subject, worship is more appropriate than problem solving, awe is preferable to answers. So the mystery of the Trinity ought to evoke in us humility and worship—the very attitudes necessary for entering the circle of triune fellowship.”
—Steve Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God, pg. 103

What does the Trinity say to us about community?

“At the center of the universe there is a relationship.” (Darrell Johnson, Experiencing the Trinity, pg. 37)

We know that God is love.
(1 John 4:8)
There is no biblical understanding of love without other people.

You can love your car, your cat, your dog and even your goldfish, but that is not the biblical definition of love.

It is not love without other people.

God is love, because for eternity there has been love between the Father, Son and Spirit. These three persons have been loving each other since before there was time.

“It is common when speaking of the Divine happiness to say that God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself, in perfectly beholding and infinitely loving, and rejoicing in, His own essence and perfection…”
–Jonathan Edwards, Unpublished Essay on the Trinity

And this love draws me in. The Father sent his Son to build a community.
The Father, through the Son sends the Spirit in invite us into this community, where we will never be alone.

What about the Shack?

The best thing that happened to The Shack, outside of an endorsement from Eugene Peterson, was all of the criticism and negative backslash it received. I am still waiting for some friends to create an Anti-Shape Shifters website to help promote my book!

I think The Shack is a wonderful introduction to Trinitarian life. Some say The Shack has an anti-authority vibe and a very low view of the church…and I can see that. But remember The Shack is a work of fiction and not systematic theology. It has its flaws, but it is a good way to see the love between the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Why does it matter? What does the Trinity have to do with our everyday lives?

In Shape Shifters, I give seven reasons why I am a Trinitarian Christian. But here is one: For me, it goes back to relationships.

I have had to confess a sin to my church. I have had a habit of running away from church members when I see them at Wal-Mart. When I go shopping at Wal-Mart, I am a man on a mission. I want to go in. Get my carefully selected items and then get out. And so I developed a habit of running from church members when I would see them at Wal-Mart. When I saw them coming one way, I would dart down an isle in order to avoid them.

This is a sin, because I was running from the very thing I was created for…relationships, right relationships with other people.

Why did Jesus say that the greatest command is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Because this is a reflection of who God is. When we love one another, we are living out our “created-in-the-image-of-Godness.”

Paul’s Trinitarian Prayer:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, [18] may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [19] and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)

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For more information about the Trinity, I recommend the following books:

Shape Shifters by Derek Vreeland

Experiencing God by Darrell Johnson

Ministry in the Image of Godby Steve Seamands

Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace by James Torrance

The Renewal of Trinitarian Theology by Roderick Leupp

I also found Dr. Michael Williams’ lectures on the Trinity to be helpful. Williams is a professor at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. I listened to four lectures on the Trinity from his “God and His Word” series. I listened to lessons 17-20 in preparation for this talk on the Trinity.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2009 in Ministry, Theology

 

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Book Review: What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life by Brian Zahnd

What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life by Brian ZahndThis is the book I want with me when all hell breaks loose and I am battling the worst day of my life.

I have had some difficult days, some challenging days, some tearful days, but on the worst day of my life would somebody please hand me a copy of Brian Zahnd’s, What to Do on the Worst Day of your Life.

This book is more of a story than a how-to guide. Zahnd retells the biblical story of King David and the tragedy at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:1-8, 16-20, 26). He masterfully weaves the reader into the story, so that like David, we feel the heartbreak, the disillusionment, the turn-around, the grace-infused renewal, the righteous anger, the thrill of victory, the celebration of recovery, and the proclamation of hope.

King David was having a bad day. As Zahnd tells it: David went bankrupt, had his house burned to the ground, his possessions stolen, and his entire “family kidnapped by terrorists—all in one day [author’s emphasis]” (3). For sure this was a bad day, the worst day in David’s life up to this point.

Zahnd’s retelling of David’s story gives us an encouraging template, a heart-stirring testimony of grace and hopes, so that we cannot only endure our own worst days, but reach a place of full recovery. He peppers the retelling of David’s story with his own stories of struggle and celebration and he appeals time and time again to the Scripture. (There are 163 biblical references recorded in the “Notes” section in the back of the book.)

As an unfolding story itself, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life does not offer a picture of naĂŻve optimism or a catalyst for superficial emotionalism. This story is centered on the grace-filled message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Like David during his Ziklag experience, Zahnd explains that Jesus cried our tears, shared in our suffering, and defeated our enemies through the cross and the empty tomb. Because of God’s gracious gift of redemption, we can join David in getting a word from God, reorienting our vision, regaining our passion, attacking, and recovering all.

Zahnd uses not only the imagery of “success” and “prosperity,” which can so easily be misunderstood in our culture; he also uses the imagery of “beauty”and “restoration.” He writes:

Beauty is the final objective of God’s gracious work, and ashes seem to be His favorite medium. God is the creator of beauty and a connoisseur of all that is truly beautiful. God is an artist, His canvas is creation, and in our lives tears and ashes are often His oil and clay as a He works relentlessly to make something beautiful. (110)

According to Zahnd, God wants us to fully recover from our worst days, because salvation is “for the restoration of all things to God’s original goodness” (96). We can survive our worst days with the hope of the restoration of God’s original goodness for our lives. We can recover, but God will weave these “worst days” into our lives so we can rightly give to others and be sources of healing and encouragement for those who are suffering.

I highly recommend What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life. Read it before your worst day hits home. Read it on the worst day of your life and then give it to other people who are suffering during hard times.

This book is a glowing beacon of hope in the fog of uncertainty, discontent, and suffering.

[Brian Zahnd, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life. Christian Life, March 2008. ISBN: 978-1-59979-726-7. Hardcover, $14.99. To order go to http://www.worstday.net/]

— Dr. Derek Vreeland

P.S. Here are some of the gems tucked away in this book. These are some of the lines I underlined, lines that stirred my thinking as I read.

“Powerful men wept until weeping had drained their power” (8).

“Yet, the tears of God are not tears of mere commiseration. These are holy tears that lead to our liberation…” (12)

“The leader will always be the one who can encourage himself when everyone else is discouraged. Had someone else encouraged himself instead of David, that man would have become the new leader. The ability to encourage yourself when everyone else is discouraged is an essential attribute of leadership” (34-35).

“We live almost all of our lives in memory and imagination—remembering the past and imagining the future. We encounter the past by memory, and we encounter the future by imagination….In order to be happy, humans need healed memories and hopeful imaginations” (59-60).

“Hope is the God way of imagining the future. A mind that is God-conscious, God-centric, and God-saturated will be full of hope” (60).

“At the Cross:

  • The debt of sin was paid in full.
  • Humanity was elevated from the fall.
  • Satan’s dominion came to an end.
  • The curse of the law was canceled.
  • Alienation became reconciliation.
  • Hatred was swallowed in love.
  • Death was swallowed in victory.
  • The cosmos was reclaimed for God” (89).

“Don’t let your personal tragedy or failure define your identity. Failure and loss are events, but they don’t have to become an identity. Failure and loss are things that happen to you, but failure and loss are not who you are. Your identity is defined in Christ. In your mystical union with Christ you share in His death, burial, and resurrection” (95).

“…prophecy is not for prediction but for hope and glory” (99).

“Through the Cross, God recovered all—for Himself, for humanity, for creation. God will restore all things through the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the great mystery of the Cross” (101).

“Faith needs no other justification than the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of the Son of God is the cornerstone for every hope of recovery” (104).

“This is the problem of being the center of your own universe but not having enough energy or substance to sustain your function as a star—you collapse in upon yourself and become a black hole” (120).

“Remember, your times are in God’s hand. He is the artist who has promised to weave all things in such a way that in the end your story will truly be a story of beauty, a work of art, God’s masterpiece that can never be marred or touched, His beautiful tapestry of grace” (138).

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2009 in Life, Theology

 

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Conference & Book Signing in St. Joe

I returned home today from the 2008 Conference for Pastors and Leaders hosted by Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri (my hometown). The conference went well. I meet two new friends, Joe Beach & Lee Cummings. Both are pastors and we are certainly cut from the same stock. It is such a pleasure to hang out with like-minded pastors.

The book signing went well. Here are some pictures:

My friend Brian Zahnd, my new friend Lee Cummings, and I were the primary speakers at the conference and we each spoke on similar themes although we didn’t plan it that way. We each talked about fresh paradigms for ministry. I spoke on Charismania: Rethinking the Values of a Charismatic Subculture. The was an important message for me, because it describes why I packed my bags and left the charismatic movement. It was well received.

Thursday night, Brian shared ten definitive statements based on his four year journey of rethinking the Christian life. He called it “My Own Reformation.” He shared ten—or nine and a half—”isms” that he has rejected in order to experience a more authentic Christian life. Here is his list:

1) For the sake of a more authentic Christianity, I reject fundamentalism.

2) For the sake of a more sound Christianity, I reject fanaticism.

3) For the sake of a more peaceable Christianity, I reject tribalism.

4) For the sake of a more biblical Christianity, I reject Gnosticism.

5) For the sake of worldwide Christianity, I reject nationalism.

6) For the sake of a more prophetic Christianity, I reject politicism.

7) For the sake of a more rooted Christianity, I reject presentism.

8) For the sake of a more kingdom-oriented Christianity, I reject privatism.

9) For the sake of a more sacred Christianity, I reject pragmatism.

9.5) For the sake of Spirit-filled Christianity, I reject Pentecostalism.

I could not agree more.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2008 in Ministry

 

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Men who are influencing me

Men need the influence of other men in their lives if they are going to continue to grow spiritually and mentally. I feel the weight and responsibility of that as a Dad of two boys. Last Saturday, Wesley (my oldest) and I were sitting outside. We had been burning brush all day and we had taken a break. As we sat on our outdoor swing, Wesley put his hand on my shoulder and said, “This is good father/son bonding time.” Very astute for an eight year-old.

This did get me thinking about the men who are influencing me today. I only have a personal relationship with one of these men. The rest of them have been influencing me through some kind of media (books, music, podcasts, etc.) This list changes as influences change, but these are the men who are shaping my thinking today. These men have produced the voices, the one-liners, the paradigms of thinking that are rolling around in my head. (And no, I am not hearing voices!) These are the men who are speaking to me, the men who are challenging me. These are in no particular order.

Mark Driscoll
http://www.marshillchurch.org/

I listen to his weekly, one-hour-long sermons every week. I first discovered Mars Hill Church in the late 1990s in my research on postmodernism. They were held up as an example of the postmodern church. Today no one is really using the term “postmodern” and Driscoll and the church has ceased to be identified by that title. In Driscoll I have a great deal of comradery, because he is a good mix of theological depth and pop culture-infused humor. He is the most persuasive Calvinist I have ever heard. He has helped me reframe salvation in terms Reformed theology. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a Calvinist, but Driscoll and others (including Bruce Ware and Mark Dever) have caused me to take a few theological steps in their direction. Or should I say, God preordained that by his grace I would shift in their direction!

Eugene Peterson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_H._Peterson

I continue to quote him and ask myself, “What would EP think?” He was a Presbyterian pastor for some thirty years, taught pastoral and spiritual theology, and translated (paraphrased?) the Bible into modern English in recent years. He has written a number of books on pastoral leadership and spirituality. His recent trilogy Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eat This Book, and The Jesus Way have been extremely influential books. Peterson has a keen theological mind and a heart that is passionately in love with the local church. He is THE pastor of pastors.

Ignatius of Antioch
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Antioch

He has been dead for a long time. He died a martyrs death in Rome. He was thrown to the wild beasts. On his way from Antioch to Rome he was in chains, but wrote seven letters to seven churches. I read through them recently and they read much like the biblical epistles. He died in 110 AD and is one of the earliest church fathers. He was passionate about the establishment of orthodox Christian doctrine over the heresies of other groups, especially the Gnostics. I was reading one of his letters one morning and I was struck by the fact that here I was reading his writings some 1900 years after this man’s death. I was able to do that, because he took the time to write. Ignatius has challenged me to continue writing.

Brian Zahnd
http://www.brianzahnd.com/

Brian is the only guy on my list that I know personally. He has been my pastor since I was in college and there was a time when I thought we were going in separate directions. Over the last three to four years he has been re-thinking, re-living, and re-preaching the Christian life in a way that is larger than any one Christian tradition. He continues to challenge me with his theological pursuits and his reading list. His teaching is dominated by five themes – cross, mystery, eclectic, community, and revolution. I listen to him weekly.

Bob Dylan
http://www.bobdylan.com/

I put Bob under Brian, because Brian gave me an introduction to Dylan back in 2005. At that time I had two of Dylan’s gospel albums – Slow Train Coming and Saved. I was interested in Dylan’s gospel albums, but I hadn’t stepped into Dylan’s world at that time. In December 2006, I got two Dylan albums for Christmas. Since that time, I have got deeper and deeper into the world of Bob Dylan. It is a strange and fascinating journey through the life of a poet. (Dylan says he has always been a poet first and a musician second.) I am now beginning to speak Dylan-ese, that is, inserting Dylan lyrics into my writing, speaking, thinking, and conversations. Many of Dylan’s songs have become paradigms in which to sort things out. I know have 15 albums and a couple of bootlegs, and four DVDs. I have 185 songs to date. Dylan has released 44 albums, so I am only just beginning!

Wayne Grudem
http://www.phoenixseminary.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=155

Grudem is one of my favorite theologians. If I would ever do a Ph.D in systematic theology, I would study under him. I have found his abbreviated theology, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, to be a helpful resource. I turn to it time and time again. He comes from a Reformed background, but has done some good work in the area of charismatic theology. He is thoughtful and thorough in his theological treatments. This book is a scaled down version of his larger Systematic Theology and an easier read for pastors or Bible study leaders. I highly recommend it.

Robert Lewis
http://www.mensfraternity.com/

Last fall our church started a Men’s Fraternity, a men’s ministry pioneered by Robert Lewis at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock. The book that we have been going through is The Quest for Authentic Manhood, written by Lewis. We are coming to the end of our course of study, but it has been good for me and then men at our church. I have become increasing passionate to reach men and connect men with Jesus and the Church. For so long the local church has been considered a woman’s thing. One of the reasons is because we have failed to raise up strong, godly men in our church. MF has been a great way for us to do this, to raise up men who REJECT passivity, ACCEPT responsibility, and LEAD courageous. These three themes have been dominating my thinking recently.

These men are changing my way of thinking and, hopefully, changing my way of living.

Gonna change my way of thinking,
Make myself a different set of rules.
Gonna put my good foot forward,
And stop being influenced by fools.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2008 in Life, Ministry, Theology

 

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Truly alive, fully Christian and radically human

Christian Humanism — Can these two concepts be wed into one? Can we be both a “Christian” and a humanist? It would seem that these two philosophical positions compete for different ends and therefore could never be wedded without compromise on both sides. It would follow that a person could not be a Christian in the true biblical, historical, orthodox way and be a humanist (in the purest sense) at the same time.

Maybe we should start with some working definitions. It may be impossible to give a complete definition of either of these weighty terms. Please accept my simple descriptions of each, so we can consider whether or not they go together.

Christian: a follower of Christ and participant in the one, catholic and apostolic Church
Humanism: a philosophical system emphasizing the autonomous, thinking self

(I spend more time thinking/writing/reading/worshiping among Christians than humanists and yet I am more dissatisfied what my description of a Christian. Nevertheless, let these descriptions suffice.)

He is a quick contrast between the Christian and the humanist.

Christians subordinate the self under God.
Humanists elevate the self to the exclusion of any concept of God.

Christians know truth by faith.
Humanists know truth by reason.

Christians depend on outside revelation.
Humanists depend on inside rational processing.

Christians exist as created beings in the image of God (imago dei)
Humanists exist as thinking selves (cogito, ergo sum)

Christians believe human beings are essential evil in need of redemption.
Humanists believe human beings are good in need of education.

This brief survey does present a few points of similarity. Both groups believe in the worth and dignity of human beings. Christians find worth in humanity in that we were created in God’s image. Our worth comes from an outside, personal, creator God. Humanists find worth in humanity as an intrinsic value. Our worth comes from our own independent goodness and the ability to think and create a good society in which to live. On the surface it looks like Christians have something in common with humanists, but a second look reveals that these two positions have different starting places and different logical conclusions.

So why are so many Christians thinking and acting like humanists?

Perhaps it is because they are looking to be fully human. To be fully human is to be fulfilled, satisfied, to experience one’s full humanity. Sadly, some Christians have felt like the church is not a place where they can become fully human. When we reduce the Christian message to a quick ticket to heaven and an escape route from the bad place (sheol, hades, gehenna, hell, lake of fire, etc.), people are left wondering, “Is this all there is to life, preparing to go to the next life?”

The reality is the plan of the triune God is to make us fully human.

I have been reading Ken Kinghorn’s Christ Can Make You Fully Human and he has some wonderful things to say about this subject in chapter 4 entitled, “The New Humanity.”

Here are just a few excerpts:

Our failure to perceive the biblical ideal of a new humanity has consequently led us to a diluted form of Christian faith that tarnishes the image of Christianity, both for those in the church and for those who yet remain outside. pg. 46

Thus many Christians are looking outside the faith for human experiences, spirituality and a way to experience their full humanity, when all along a new humanity is what Jesus is offering.

God purposes to create a new humanity and both to declare us righteous and make us righteous. Scripture bears a strong witness that Jesus Christ can significantly transform the character of human life through the inner working of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament affirms that God can transform our affections and radically change us into a new humanity. pg. 49

Christian are not just those who are “Not perfect, just forgiven….” “Just forgiven” is that all we are as Christians…. “just forgiven.” The Scripture reveals that we are forgiven and declared righteous, but also that God the Father sends God the Spirit to transform us and make us righteous after the image of God the Son. We truly become a new creation…

This new creation does not dehumanize us, nor does it stifle our personhood; it forms the basis of a truly complete humanity. pg. 51

We become a truly complete humanity.
We become a completely true humanity.

We are made complete in our humanity (fully human).
We are made true in our humanity (authentic humanity).

Far from blotting out our individuality, absorbing our spirit, or diminishing our personality, the Spirit of Christ raises us into authentic selfhood. He frees us to discover and express our fullest potential. When Christ’s Spirit comes to dwell within us, we become genuinely human for the first time in our lives. Jesus Christ does not make us less human, but more human! pg. 52

God created us. He created our outside stuff (body) and our inside stuff (soul) and both are good. He is recreating our inside stuff (soul) so that we can be an authentic representation of Jesus in our own cultural context. And when Christ returns he will recreate our outside stuff (body) to be imperishable.

The more we are transformed to look like Jesus the more we will look different from each other, because we will each be a unique representation of Jesus.

Christ’s Spirit within us does not dehumanize us; the union of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit opens the way to our completed selfhood. Jesus as indwelling Lord makes us truly alive, fully Christian, and radically human.pg. 53

This message is the essence of the Christian gospel.

Jesus came to make us truly alive, fully Christian and radically human.
Jesus comes to make us truly alive, fully Christian and radically human.
Jesus will come to make us truly alive, fully Christian and radically human.

Can we truly be Christian humanists? I don’t think we can, but we can be “Christian humans”…truly alive, fully Christian and radically human in Christ.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2007 in Theology

 

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