Surprised by the Cross: What If?

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 12.40.19 PMThe narrative or the story into which one places the cross determines both the problem and the result. If the problem is wrath, the solution is pacification. If the problem is enmity, the solution is reconciliation. If the problem is slavery, the solution is liberation. Each of these, at one time or another, has been the fashionable atonement theory of the day. But in NT Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, a “what if” question is asked, and I shall get to this in what follows. (For a course NT Wright is developing on this, see here.)

One of the more stunning themes in the history of theology is how long it took for a theory of atonement to develop and, frankly, when it did (let’s say Anselm) it didn’t immediately become the go-to theory or anything like a consensus, and no atonement theory ever was captured in the ecumenical creeds. Cross was effective in sacrament and in faith, and how that happened was not a major concern of theologians (then, and unlike for many today). Hence, Wright:

Heresy: Who Decides?

From time to time I read a blog or hear someone call another person a “heretic.” Recently a blog friend asked me how I would define “heretic” or “heresy.” Yes, the term “heretic” can be defined.

How do you define “heretic”?

Let me suggest that the term “heretic” is used in three ways, only one of which (I believe) is justifiable — though I have little hope that the mudslingers will learn to use terms as they are supposed to be used.

Before I get there, though, let me add another point: it is too bad we don’t have such an evocative term for praxis. Jesus’ focus was on “hypocrisy” more than “heresy,” and it might just be an indication of how far we’ve strayed for us to give so much attention to “heresy” and not enough to failure in praxis. As far as we can see, failure in practice is just as bad as failure in theology. But this is not what this post is about. We are concerned here with the term “heretic.”

Now to the three uses of this term that I routinely hear:

Read the rest:

At the Center of Christian Worship?

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 7.08.44 PMWe learn from early Christian worship, not simply because some want to “get back” or “retrieve” the origins but because the earliest churches put into play what was inevitable to put into play. They had to practices certain things because those where the practices that expressed their faith. One could say those practices were their faith.

In Andrew McGowan’s very fine book, Ancient Christian Worship, we will come across six practices (meal, Word, music, initiation, prayer, and time) and today we want to look at meal.

These Christian meals “were not merely one sacramental part of a community or worship life but the central act around or within which others — reading and preaching, prayer and prophecy — were arranged” (19-20). At the center of Christian worship, he contends, was meals. Meals need to be comprehended in their ancient context.

Acts 2:42-46 sets the tone for the chp.

Continue reading:

Book Review: Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church by Scot McKnight

The Problem(s) with the “Institutional” Church

The Church and Life Together

by Scott McNight of Jesus Creed blog

I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s magisterial, moving Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works). It is, so I think, his best book. No need, however, to debate what is neither provable nor non-falsifiable.

What is worth discussing is his incredible set of statements about the expectations we bring to the church and that we expect of the church and how our expectations, when they encounter the realities, are dashed to the ground.

In my classes at Northern Seminary, we are reading a section to begin class from this great book. Those who can read Bonhoeffer’s life (and death) and not grieve what we lost have not come to terms with this great man’s life and thought.

Here are my favorite lines, lines that follow on from his important claim that Christian fellowship is “through” and “in” Jesus Christ:

This dismisses at the outset every unhappy desire for something more. Those who want more than what Christ has established between us do not want Christian community. They are looking for some extraordinary experiences of community… Such people are bringing confused and tainted desires into the Christian community. Precisely at this point Christian community is most often threatened from the very outset by the greatest danger … the danger of confusing Christian community with some wishful image of pious community, the danger of blending the devout heart’s natural desire for community with the spiritual reality of Christian community.

Now hear this:

Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it is should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.

And this:

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.

Those who dreams of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves.

Ten Marks of a Kingdom-Shaped Church

from Jesus Creed by Scot MacKnight

The following post is my set of notes for a lecture I give that plays off of Jeff Foxworthy’s famous humorous introductory line, “You may be a redneck if…”. This post then is about “You may be a kingdom mission church if…”

The lines are not expounded so there are just notes and lines about ideas that deserve development.

So kingdom theology shapes kingdom mission and these are formed by kingdom spiritual disciplines.

1. When the cruciform character of King Jesus shapes every major dimension of your local church.

Read on: