Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Questions, Sola Scriptura, Binding & Loosing, Awe & Wonder, Intellectual Honesty, Mystery, Wrestling, and the Story

Oh this might just be a lengthy one. I began reading (and got about halfway through) Rob Bell's new book, Velvet Elvis. It was interesting that most of what is in the book was layed out in his messages at Mars Hill over the last two years. I know this because I've heard most of them. Side point: what an interesting way to audience test your ideas. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but it would be fun to do if you wanted to float an idea and get good feedback. It works well because the only people who respond are those who care enough to respond and question what the person is saying. Before I go into this, I would like to note that the book is very anecdotal and that many of these different issues are being tied together as Bell attempts to repaint the Faith. [I'm going to attempt to use different colors for quotes and then write comments in normal type]


A Christian doesn't avoid the questions; a Christian embraces them. In fact, to truly pursue the living God, we have to see the need for questions. (21)

* Isn't it often obvious when somebody doesn't have it, because what rules their thought and conversation is tearing down and not life-giving. It seems that the way of Christ brings life and gratitude, hope and joy; even if it also brings pain (which I'm not trying to invalidate by mentioning hope, joy, and gratitude).


This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that "Scripture Alone" is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. (67)

* Very interesting to point out that even "what the Bible IS" had to be voted upon by a group of Christians. Makes it difficult to take personal and subjective prior suppositions out of the equation when examining scripture.


Binding and loosing can only be done if communities are willing to wrestle. The ultimate display of our respect for the sacred words of God is that we are willing to wade in and struggle with the text - the good parts, the hard-to-understand parts, the parts we wish weren't there. (68)

* The reason we wrestle is because we have a responsibility as part of the continuing kingdom of God. What we bind here will be bound in heaven and what we loose here will be loosed in heaven. This is a serious charge for us as believers and followers. Therefore, we have to work at it and think and struggle.


I remember the first time I was truly in awe of God...and I was sixteen at a U2 concert. The Josha Tree tour. When they started the song "Where the Streets Have no Name", I thought I was going to spontaneously combust with joy. This was real. This mattered. Whatever it was, I wanted more. I had never felt that way before. I remember surfing Trestles - the legendary beach between Los Angeles and San Diego - for the first time. I paddled out on a gorgeous day, and as I sat there on my board, a couple hundred feet off shore, surrounded by blue and green and sunlight and quiet, a dolpin jumped in the water next to me. I thought y heart was never going to start beating again. Beauty can be crushing at times, can' t it? (72)

...and later after mentioning a woman dying of AIDS in Rwanda and a woman who kept visiting her, and a good woman dying young, and a two-pound baby who died the day it was born; people there in the thick of it, grappling...

Because it isn't just concerts and surfing and the high points, and it isn't just those beautiful moments in the midst of the everyday and mundane; it is also in the tragic and the gut-wrenching moments when we cannot escape the simple fact that there is way more going on around us than we realize. (75)

*Man can you see yourself back at these points. Amazing view, surfing (for me), great art, anytme a thing is how it should be, just right...These times really should point to God. This reminds me of the debate between the anarchist and one protagonist early in The Man who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton as they discuss what is more amazing, the trains arriving on time or the schedule being messed up. If you haven't read it, you should.


Do you know anybody who grew up in a religious environment, maybe even a Christian one, and walked away from faith/church/God when they turned 18 and went to college? (Talks about all truth as God's truth and a Christian's ownership of it) But let's say her professors aren't Christians, it is not a "Christian" university, and this young woman hasn't been taught that all things are hers. What if she has been taught that Christianity is the only thing that is true? What if she has been taught that there is no truth outside the Bible? She's now faced with this dilemma: believe the truth she's learning or the Christian faith she was brought up with. Or we could put the dilemma this way: intellectual honesty or Jesus? (80,81)

* Bell would say that your faith will have to be bigger than "the only truth is in the Bible." There can be parts of truth things that aren't fully true. I would say that the right answer to the question posed at the end of the quote is both. It might just mean answering with mystery and "I don't know" a little more often than, "I've got the answer here..."


So many of us have been conditioned to think of our faith as solely an issue of us and God. But faith is a communal experience. A shared journey. I have heard people say their stories are not exciting. I can only imagine how deeply offended God is with comments like this...But the point of our stories and our faith journeys is that they are about something much bigger...All things are yours. Being a Christian is not cutting yourself off from real life; it is entering into it more fully. It is not failing to go deeper; it is going deeper than ever. It is a journey into the heart of how things really are. What is it that makes you feel alive? What is it that makes your soul soar?

* Word.

Some would call Bell's take warm and fuzzy. Yes and No. I think what he is doing is attempting to present an arena in which to grapple with difficult questions like why do evil men prosper while good men die of cancer, etc... There aren't easy answers to questions like these. Sometimes we just have to say the man of sorrows is enough for now.

In the midst of many criticizing Bell's book and in my opinion reading it with wrong motive and a bad eye (hebrew reference), I would like to take a moment to affirm what he is doing, even if it isn't all just right. He's stepping up and saying, "Could we try this? or what about this?" He's not afraid to be wrong, only to not show up and be part of what God tells us all to. A kingdom that is not neatly tied together into a package which can be grasped and put into a seven step formula to be highly influential and have your best life now and has the need to pronounce the Lord's judgments on places for not supporting intelligent design. Sorry if Covey, Osteen and Robertson don't like it. But I think Bell is bringing hope and life and joy to the kingdom of this world.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Confused? Me too

Man one of those 24 hours. I wonder if I should just take a break from asking the questions, troubling my mind, and running up against numerous cerebral roadblocks.

I think the most important thing is to fall back on relationship with God, and function from that.

I'm glad all these dudes are questioning the status quo and asking quo vadamus, but how about take a couple of days here, shut down the "What does this mean?" and "What are we to do?", and simply ponder the coming of the Savior. What a gift to the world! A Christ who showed the way, and whose victory set Grace, Truth, Hope, and Love above imperialism, greed, bitterness, and hate.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe this is the Discipline of Celebration. May the Joy of your Salvation be renewed in the final days of Advent, and may The Holy Spirit reign with truth and grace as soon as we forget.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Unclenching the Fists

It's amazing how God gives things back once we let go of our Kung Fu grip on them. It's almost humorous at times.

I encourage you (and myself especially) to release whatever it is you're holding on to, and ask God to fill the void. Of course, you need to be true about it and actually let go of it. Also, it doesn't mean you will get back what you're holding on to. It might just not be what's best for you.

However, if and when God gives it back, your perspective on said thing will likely be different than it was before.

Merry Christmas and I hope you have some blessed time with family in the coming days.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Beauty is really only brain deep...

Upon seeing this picture, I laughed pretty hard. But then I began to think about people's self-image and how it relates to our sexed-up, US weekly reading, culture.

It's interesting how so many people (men and women) have such a skewed view of who and what they are as people. I include myself in the list of people that are often guilty of opening up my mouth and letting somebody crap in whatever they like. It has led to gender stereotypes, body-image issues, eating disorders, and all kinds of imbalances in belief and behavior in people's lives.

So essentially, how about we stop letting people sell their crap without calling them out on it. This would of course mean some serious self-policing. Like we stop commenting on how "hot" some girl/guy is because when we do this, it begins to split the value of the person from a whole being to a magazine fantasy. It means a great many things about how we monitor what we take in; be it TV, movies, conversations, and books. It also means valuing people (regardless of sex, race, attractiveness, personality) as creations of God and thus, valuable and precious.