Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kid Free Living

My parents just arrived to take care of our kids so my wife and I can go to our district pastor's and wives retreat...three days of kid free living!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Last Word 7

In chapter six of The Last Word, N.T. Wright faces the challenge of the Enlightenment and its influence in how we read and understand Scripture. He begins by discussing the role of reason as the 'central capacity of human beings' and the 'arbiter of which religious and theological claims could be sustained'. In reading the Bible through the lens of the Enlightenment, Wright sees two challenges. First, the Enlightenment challenged the church to read Scripture historically, looking for original meanings in the text. Second, some theologians intentionally sought to prove that in discovering the original meanings, the Bible would be proved faulty and the central claims of Christianity would be disproved. Much of Biblical scholarship since has been attempts to rationally 'disprove' the Christian faith with an equally strong rebuttal of those who use the same methodology to 'prove' it to be true.

According to the Enlightenment, we need to understand Scripture according to Enlightenment values. The problem of evil is that 'people are not thinking and acting rationally' which reduces the importance of Jesus to simply moral teaching. The Kingdom of God becomes only hope for heaven after we die and Jesus' death is simply a 'mechanism whereby individual sinners can receive forgiveness and hope for an otherworldly future', which leaves the rationalists in charge of everything else in the world. God is 'kicked upstairs', making religion only about personal piety and personal forgiveness. Scripture is abused by both sides: dismissed by secularists who deem it irrelevant and inaccurate; equally misused by devout Christians who ignore many of the cosmic and global teachings and reduce Scripture to personal piety and the source of doctrine about eternal salvation.

What are we to think of the authority of Scripture in this climate? Often the appeal to the authority of Scripture means nothing more than, "Stop talking with all those big theological words! Stop thinking! All we need is the Bible (read through the lens of 16th and 17th century theologians)." This irony is that "fundamentalists" and "liberals" essentially approach Scripture in the same way: conveniently ignoring the passages that make them uncomfortable, albeit different passages for each. Wright states, "There is a great gulf fixed between those who want to prove the historicity of everything reported in the Bible in order to demonstrate that the Bible is 'true' after all and those who, committed to living under the authority of Scripture, remain open to what Scripture itself actually teaches and emphasizes." In other words, it is very easy to attempt to prove the Bible true or untrue and far less easy to actually live under its authority.

Wright then shifts to the postmodern climate that we currently find ourselves in. He claims that postmodern readings of scripture have rightly noted the 'cultural imperialism' that we have tended to read into the Bible, but also notes that deconstruction has failed to replace it with anything helpful. He talks about the role of 'experience' as an illegitimate source of authority because for Christians, 'experience' is itself something that happens in the context where 'the reading of Scripture exercises its authority'. Experience cannot be a separate source of authority because it is shaped and formed by submission to the reading of Scripture. However, experience and context cannot be ignored either. Wright uses the following illustration to help flesh out this idea:

Experience is what grows by itself in the garden. Authority is what happens when the gardener wants to affirm the goodness of the genuine flowers and vegetables by uprooting the weeds in order to let beauty and fruitfulness triumph over chaos, thorns and thistles. An over-authoritarian church, paying no attention to experience, solves the problem by paving the garden with concrete. An over-experiential church solves the (real or imagined) problem of concrete (rigid and 'judgmental' forms of faith) by letting anything and everything grow unchecked, sometimes labeling concrete as 'law' and so celebrating any and every weed as 'grace'.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Do Not Judge

Today's church service is being held in multiple homes around the Chaska area. Those of you who are not able to attend one of the groups, feel free to participate anyway by listening to the podcast and adding your thoughts in the comments section below.

The podcast that we'll be working from is HERE... You can either stream it live or download it. Several times during the podcast, there will be times to pause the audio for discussion in your groups. You can follow the outline below for your discussion times.

Traditional Righteousness:

Mt 7:1 “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged.
Mt 7:2 For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.

  • Describe a situation when you have seen your judgment of others come back to haunt you. In other words, have you found yourself to be judged by the standard which you hold others to?
  • Does Jesus mean that we can’t make any ethical judgments about right and wrong?

Vicious Cycle:

Mt 7:3 And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?
Mt 7:4How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?

  • What groups of people do we automatically exclude? Who do we not have the capacity to see as human, worthwhile, or good? What blinders do we have in our own eyes that prevent us from seeing others authentically?
  • We also do this with individuals…Which pet sins do we condemn? Which sins do we ignore that are more socially acceptable?
  • Discuss this quote by Dale Allison: “Human beings unhappily possess an inbred proclivity to mix ignorance of themselves with arrogance toward others.”

The Way Out:

Mt 7:5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

  • Sometimes we err on the side of being over-critical or over-condemning. Other times we err on the side of ignoring the problems we see within our relationships and our community. How do we find balance?
  • Discuss Dallas Willard’s (The Divine Conspiracy) guidelines for correcting someone. Are these helpful? Would you add or subtract anything?
    • Always start with the benefit of the doubt – if there is any question about whether sin occurred or offense was intended, assume it did not
    • Not everyone is called to correct – those who are living and working in a Holy Spirit inspired/empowered way have the right (and the capacity) to correct with love
    • It is not a matter of “straightening them out” or threatening punishment if they don’t change…It is a matter of restoration – nothing is to be done that isn’t intended to bring restoration and help people on their path to kingdom living
    • Those who are doing the correcting do it with the full knowledge that they have now created a standard which they will be held accountable to. This removes any sense of superiority or self-righteousness because they know full well that they may find themselves doing the same thing someday.
  • What would happen if we actually lived this way? Can we live this way?

Thursday, February 07, 2008


When your 2-year-old can imitate the sound of your vomiting, you know it hasn't been a good week....

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Parable of the Elephants and the Donkeys

I wrote a parable for the Jesus Manifesto webzine that seems particularly relevant for Super Tuesday. Check it out at