Thursday, October 30, 2008

a response

(a previous response to an open post)


You definitely have some very good insight on what is truly important. I am in complete agreement with you in regards to separation of church and state. Religion should never be concerned with power and hegemony in hope of gaining control and dictating what ‘is’ and ‘is not’. When Christians look at the ‘kingdom of God’ and immediately think of government and politics it becomes very reminiscent of Constantine and his appropriation of laws regarding Christianity as the universal religion which ended up becoming oppressive and violent towards anyone who would oppose specific ‘legislature’; which I hope we all would admit was a grave mistake. (For some further reflection see Stanley Hauerwas...”Resident Aliens”) Jesus Christ came and surprised everyone who was looking and expecting a ‘powerful’ king to reign on the earth with an army and do it by force, but that’s not what happened. Christ came in a different way showing us what ‘greatness’ is. He came born in a ‘Jiffy Lube bathroom’ contra the Hilton, the mansion, the decadent. He hung out with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, the despised, the marginalized contra politicians, leaders, and kings. He rode in on a used smelly donkey contra a procession with horses, chariots, and trumpets. Jesus the Messiah shows us that greatness is not being served, but being a servant to all (Mark 9:35).

As we look at the heritage of North America we have become somewhat blind to the reality of its conception. A lot of our founding fathers (wishing I could say fathers/mothers) were not infused into the type of Judeo-Christian belief structure we think they were. Their religious beliefs were formed during the Enlightenment where skepticism and its emphasis on ‘reason’ and ‘natural philosophy’ was extremely prevalent among the upper class. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and Locke to name a few were ‘Deists’. They believed in God who created this world and then removed himself. Within Deism there is no belief in Jesus Christ and subsequently dismisses a lot of what modern Christians find identity in, namely Christ and his atonement. Some such as Franklin do admire some of the ethics in Matthew 5 but by no means hold it as scripture and 'truth' the way some do. This group of men, who I am not speaking of condescendingly, had been products of religious wars erupting out of the Reformation and spilling for hundreds of years; hearing and witnessing the bloodshed of countless people due to contrasting beliefs and values, i.e. Anabaptists, was enough for them. This is relevant because we live in a country that is full of people with different religions, values, interpretations, culture and so on. The birth of this country was to be a place that was free from religious persecution and oppression and is something i commend. I will not go so far to say that I agree with all that these men stood for because of the horrendous involvement in slavery and greed to name a few, but the thought of living in peace without oppression based on religious views is admirable.

Lastly, I completely agree with Danielle when she says that God is strengthening us amidst hardship whatever it may be. Jesus Christ has never co-opted with a government out of necessity, and furthermore is not intending on using government 'control' to do so in the future. His loving message of freedom is spread by a movement of people who are committed to living for a real God who is passionate about all of his children in all of their situations. Contrary to belief, the early church spread like wildfire in the face of a government and political arena fixed on wiping out Christianity. It spread by 1) martyrdom: the dedication that was seen displayed in these so-called “followers of Christ” who were committed to Jesus Christ all the way to their gruesome death; and 2) compassion: the love shown by the monasteries towards the poor, widowed, desolate, marginalized, shunned, etc. As a follower of Christ, I am not dependent and hoping in government because it is a man made structure with the inevitable corruption. Let the followers of Christ come together and be strengthened in love and compassion for all people in all situations holding to our own convictions realizing not all people think and act like we do. Our responsibility is in Christ and not ‘empire’. Feel free to participate in government and do it diligently if you would like but realize that as followers of Christ we put our faith and hope in the transcendence of God and not the murky political scene that is so easily entangled in deceit, pride, malice and so forth. Why not put all of our effort in calling the church to be ‘community’ built around compassion and acceptance in the ‘immediate’ and ‘extended’. Let all Christians look back to the cross as our heritage and not our presidents, kings, queens, bishops, emperors, and empresses.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

questioning questions

I think the title of this blog encapsulates how i have been feeling lately. The past year and a half i feel like i have been walking down a country road with no destination in sight, no country store along the way, no ghost towns, no cracker barrel. I pass by corn fields, over bridges, through pasture, and forests yet still i walk. Its as if my destination is meant to be a wanderer and nothing else. I anticipate the rest-stops with the hope of finding a moment of rest and clarity maybe even the chance to stay for awhile. At the end of this thought, i still walk.

Road-trip endings are always the longest. I have driven back and forth between Minneapolis and Indianapolis two dozen times or so and it has been proven the the last 100 miles of the trip are always the longest. maybe this is good advice for me. then again, maybe im not even to the 100 mile marker and ive got a ways to go. I do question a lot of things right now; 'who am i?' 'who is God?' 'what is Christianity?' 'what is spirituality?' all of which seem important to consider. (note: to 'question' is different than 'doubt' in this context. Questioning is a healthy practice whereas doubting has more of a possibility to truncate.) Continuing with this rhetorical question, "Are ever supposed to 'have' all the answers?" Some will say "Well, i don't have all the answers, but i have a real good idea of what they are." A good idea of what though? Maybe your real good idea is different than my good idea. Maybe you interpret the good idea differently than i interpret the good idea. Maybe we are both right but maybe we are both wrong. Someone who seems to have all the answers has silenced his/her surroundings and eschewed reality.

I think I'm learning what it means to have an open life, a concerned life, an inspired life. I am always energized by what kinds of experiences others are going through and how their passions and ideals are impacting their direction. I would be complete to live in a community where openness is virtue. If you are wondering what kind of individuals don't think there are any questions out there to ponder, they are robots. Questioning questions is healthy. It adds depth. Remember in Back to the Future where they had that baseball almanac brought back from the future and Biff got a hold of it trying to make all those killer sports bets? Besides making millions of dollars what fun is that? (tongue in cheek) For real though, there is no genuine experience available here. Without questions we would be left with stale minds. Life is not an almanac brought 'Back to the Future'.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"how do i say.....?"

this was a recent summary I submitted in a class discussion assignment based upon Grenz and systematic theology...feel free to read in full, half, or not at all

Systematic theology is ‘the reflection upon one’s faith’. In the past, I had seen systematic theology as a set of doctrinal beliefs able to be sealed perfectly within a square package thus opened, signed and posted upon reception. The problem with this is that there is more than one recipient, more than one interpreter, more than one culture; all of which are involved in un-packaging this brown box of faith. I am one of many within a community of believers who is committed to exploring the magnificence of God and all that His beauty reveals as it flows into all people and all contexts. Systematic theology is what it means to follow Jesus Christ. Systematic theology is allowing Jesus Christ the freedom to teach along the ‘way’.

Faith in God is the primary action of humanity absolved from all obstacles resulting in a discovery of what this belief system flows into; systematic theology. Systematic theology is the articulation of beliefs within a particular context. Since there is more than one context in which this package of faith is being opened and discussed there is room around this box of faith that allows all of us, as believers, the freedom to communicate with one another what is inside this box of faith. Systematic theology helps all of us to root a Christian identity deep into the Biblical narrative of salvation and then watch it grow into the relevant branches of ‘today’. My branches of faith might be different from another’s branches of faith; still they are branches of faith. The goal of systematic theology is to create the connection between the Biblical expression of what life and faith mean to the contemporary expression of what life and faith mean; contextualization.

Faith will either draw us toward Jesus Christ or it will pull us away. Every human being places their faith in a belief system whether it glorifies God or not. This primary step of faith, in regards to Christianity, will inevitably call forth a systematic theology. This ‘reflection’ is the process beginning immediately after the statement, ‘I believe’. I believe, yes, but what is it exactly that I believe? The mind searches for an understanding of what this statement is connected with in order to form a cohesive and comprehensive Christian ‘identity’. Systematic theology is the articulation of faith coming out of the community’s interpretation of character, virtue and values. It is a product of one’s environment among countless environments.

We engage systematic theology for the benefit of the Christian community because ultimately, systematic theology is practical. Christian theologians help make sense of what it means to live out this Christian odyssey in a personal and communal context. It is important to remember that all theologies are a human construct therefore are limited. The goal of systematic theology is not to answer the mysteries of revelation but rather to ask those important questions with hopes of discovering practical answers which infuse our identity. Systematic theology is listening to the Holy Spirit in light of Scripture and constructing a healthy Christian belief system.

Another reason for systematic theology is accomplished through they type of model used to interpret a belief in God. We look at the history of systematic theology and its journey through history so that we are able to avoid some of the mistakes that have been made on behalf of theology but also to build upon some of its accomplishments as well. The old adage, ‘hindsight is 20/20’ is true in regards to systematic theology. It was not meant to be rigid and limiting as seen in some occasions in the past and we can look back and read about the division and cruelty that have been perpetuated by what presuppositions we have seen regarding systematic theology and consequently now able to avoid these ‘pitfalls’.

Systematic theology is also important in teaching new Christ followers what this new found faith means. It is not my intent to define systematic theology as a subjective discipline. Instead, it is a community discipline of the church; there is accountability. The role of the church is to be a place where disciples are discipled which is accomplished by, besides by life, laying out a foundation of the few indispensable beliefs that structure the 'foundation. Systematic theology is not handing an exhaustive list of dogma to the new believer; instead it is the commitment to listen to God as he reveals Himself to the ‘church’ continually. The sooner we are able to realize that the conclusions and results we come to are not always cross-cultural, meaning there is a lot out there for all of us to learn from one another, the stronger 'the church' will become. It is my goal to engage systematic theology in order to build bridges not to burn them. I believe that we have a lot more in common than not and it is my goal to hopefully illuminate the beauty of Christ in all packages and in all receivers.