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The straight and narrow could stand to be a bit deeper.

“Before Roberta Green and her family joined Redeemer Presbyterian Church, she had one final question. … “Is Redeemer ecumenical or sectarian?” she asked. “Because I grew up deep in the fundamentalist world where every kind of church or believer who was not in our denomination was a heretic and needed to be shunned and I don’t want to be part of a church like that again.” – story from Jim Belcher in Deep Church

sign outside of Searcy, AR

Searcy, AR

…and my personal favorite (please note intended sarcasm)

Benton, AR

I have a strong desire for a better church in my city. Will it happen? I sure hope so. But in the churches I have attended in Little Rock I have found with my theology and my beliefs it’s like I’m stuck somewhere in the middle on the traditional/emergent pendulum. My theology is too liberal for some and too conservative for others. I don’t fall in line with the “traditional evangelical” church (please forgive that label, it is awfully generic) but I also don’t line up with the “emergent” church (also very generic label). I’m somewhere in between. I’m in limbo. I live in a state of dissonance, and as such I’m without a church that strikes that final note to make it a harmonic chord with my beliefs. I’m not looking for a perfect fit, or perfect church, because as long as churches are organized and attended by men and women it will always have a little bit of discord and dissonance. And I think a little bit of dissonance can be a healthy tuning instrument. At the same time I believe there are others here in Little Rock who might feel the same way I do – they find themselves falling somewhere in between and with no church to call home.

Now, I know by saying I desire a better church, it might seem arrogant, and I can understand why it may seem that way. Why should I think my vision for what a church should look like is THE way for a church? It comes across as arrogant, but I promise that is not my intention. I believe there are good churches in Little Rock who have done alot for their attenders and for this city, but I also believe there is always room for improvement. If you believe your church is perfect, well, as I’ve learned in the south when you want to call someone a moron but use different words you say “bless your heart”, so…bless your heart. 😉

I am a voracious reader and most of the time I am reading anywhere from 6-8 books at a time. I’ve read books from both sides of the traditional/ermergent aisle – so to speak – and I can appreciate the different leanings and interpretations from both, but what I don’t get is why there’s the constant bickering and denigrating of the other’s perspectives and beliefs between the two camps. If you’re on twitter you probably know what I’m talking about. There are shots across the bow almost every day from people about different figureheads of both sides. Are we not worshipping the same God?! Some would say no, I say yes! (more on that in the next post)

But for now, I’ve started to read a book by Jim Belcher called Deep Church.

It details a conversation between John Piper and Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt and well, it just didn’t end well. Basically both sides told each other they were unfit to be a pastor.

~~~~ can we get a group hug~~~~

After almost a decade the two sides now are at loggerheads, and it seems the rift will not be healed anytime soon. – Deep Church

Yet the two sides can’t get along. They are hostile to each other, using their writings and conferences to denounce the other side. – Deep Church

…hmmm, maybe not.

So if we can’t get a group hug between the two sides…I want to find a way for myself to live more peaceably and more graciously within my traditional church (for the time being…more on that later) while I’m stuck dangling in the middle between the two.

I’m about 50 pages into the book and so far it’s been a great read. It outlines the traditional church and the emergent church and talks about why they seem diametrically opposed in matters of faith and completely unable to work together or even hold a civil conversation.

Again…are we not worshipping the same God?! Good grief people!

Over the next couple of posts I’m going to outline some of the concerns I have with the traditional church and emergent church and also offer suggestions that can make our theology more in line with how we live our lives meaningfully on earth…which is our future heaven. Wait a second…you don’t think God is going to destroy the earth we’re on now? Nope sure don’t. We need to be aware that our theology and how we interact with our culture and what we think about heaven and earth impacts how we live our lives today.

If you’re like me and find yourself stuck in the middle between the traditional and emergent churches and you’re wondering what to do about it I highly recommend checking out Deep Church by Jim Belcher. It (so far) is giving a fresh perspective of finding a balance and a deeper meaning to my faith than what is currently presented in the church I attend.

Maybe it’s time for a new church in Little Rock…a, shall we say, Deep Church. (a bit of foreshadowing perhaps? 😉

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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in culture, theology

 

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Good to Not-So-Great

This post  Too Big To Fail by Mike Metzger is packed with so many great truths that have plagued both religion and business in the same manner.  Too often we view our life in a 2-Chapter gospel, “Fall” and “Redemption”; when perhaps instead we should view life the way God originally intended life to be and add two more chapters, “Creation” and Restoration” to book-end “Fall” and Redemption”.  This would give us a worldview of  “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration”.  When we view our lives through this lense it helps us lose the “us vs them” mentality and see all of life as holy.  Even those four-letter words that seem to plague and confuse us seem much more intentional – work, play, and the arts.  ALL of life is God-breathed and worthy of redemption.  All is sacred; NOTHING is secular (let’s get rid of the word secular).

Work is sacred.

Play is sacred.

The arts are sacred.

Remember Paul’s words, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (colossians 3:17)  I believe this verse pretty much encapsulates all of life; while we’re at work, while we’re playing and while we’re viewing the arts (literature, paintings, tv, movies, etc).  I don’t think Paul gives an “out” in this verse.

…shifting gears back to the premise of Mike’s post…

One paragraph in particular from Mike’s post stood out:

“Deception leads to disaster, writes McDonald. Believing they are “too big to fail,” churches and denominations are then unable to weigh whether their time is up. “Regardless of what a branch of the universal church accomplishes or how close or far it is from Christ’s purpose, it is easy to think that God Himself will assure its continuity forever,” warns McDonald. “This is a catastrophic presumption.”

This paragraph illustrates (among other things) how we continue to make God into our image even when his word seems obviously contrary to the truths we want to believe. Sometimes we take too much liberty with Matthew 18:18 “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Maybe it’s similar to when we’re taking or editing pictures, we put the focus on what we want people to see as the main focus.


In this picture the focal point that you can make out are the blades of grass and the light in the background shining through the trees.  But there is much more in the picture that is obscured by the way the picture was taken. You can’t make out the particular types of trees, you can’t see how tall the trees are and you can’t see what else is going on.  Maybe there’s a highway just to the left of the picture and an ocean to the right of the picture. This picture is giving a very narrow view of what is actually in the environment because of the way the picture is focused.  Truth be told I took this picture while backpacking a few years back and the rest of the environment is amazingly beautiful – more trees, a babbling brook that provided my water, a clearing for my campsite – an amazing small encapsulation of God’s majestic creation.

———

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So maybe when we shorten our worldview to a 2-chapter gospel we are limiting our view of the whole picture of what God has given us. 

Thy will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.

I’m currently reading a book called, The Evolution of God by Robert Wright and I’m very intrigued to get into the meat of the book.  Tad DeLay an intelligent theologian and a good friend of mine, recommended this book because in 567 small-font pages it thoroughly describes this premise.  There will be more of my own posts about “The Evolution of God” as I progress through the book, but for now enjoy Mike’s post.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in culture, theology

 

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Oh to undo what’s been done in “1000 Years”

I’m posting an email (once upon a time people actually communicated this way) from a friend who was answering a question I asked about the lyrics of one of his songs which was compelling and provocative (in a good way). This friend was the lead singer of my favorite band, Shaking Tree. The shows his band put on were second to none and he is a lyrical genius. Unfortunately his band is no longer touring because as he put it, “They had to grow up and get real jobs.” so he is now in law school…whether or not becoming a lawyer is a real job or not is beside the point. 😉 This email is from a few years back, but still very relevant to this day about how the wider world views religion and Christians. Note: the way most view Jesus is normally very different than how most view Christians. I disagree with some parts and agree with most parts of the email but I’m not posting this to refute, or condone, but to allow the readers of my blog to consider the truths which Dain speaks of and to see how you can see God in Dain. I hope he’s strumming on his guitar and we’re throwing back beers together just like in college whenever we both get to the big Kansas in the sky. {I have corrected spelling so as not to be distracting from the message}

“Hey Derek,

About “1000 Years”…I really don’t like to get into my own views about Christianity and the church too much. In matters concerning faith I find that sometimes the things that one person finds ridiculous, is the core to someone elses spiritual perspective. As someone whose views, in spiritual matters, are not common place in main stream society, I recognize that we all walk down different paths externally and internally to find answers regarding our souls and our purpose. Because of that, I’m not interested in trying to completely uproot anyone’s internal beliefs. As a songwriter I’m just as concerned about what people think when they hear a song than what I am actually writing about. The meaning of most songs should change according to who is listening and what personal experiences the song reminds them of.

All that being said, my views about “1000 Years” have stayed consistent since I first wrote the song. I never intended for this song to be speaking about just religious leaders, but anyone who uses a doctrine that is intended to have absolute truths (the Bible, the Koran, Mein Kampf) with no room to compromise or adjust any principle, for political gain and control of a population.

I guess I wasn’t trying to strike a loud chord with this song, down with religion or anything like that, but just to make people think. Not about religion per se but about religion and politics. As someone who has read the Bible I would be extremely frightened if we, as a country, decided to prepare for the prophecies of Revelations. Also, what I see now is a political movement to christianize our schools, government, and the way law is decided and practiced. I have seen a few church leaders speak out against this fundamentalist movement, but I don’t see it as being effective. The fundamentalist/conservatives yell much louder. Like the song says (truth lacks the convictions of passionate lies) and the Bible is full of contradictions. The ability for debate is slowly eroding in this country because the argument that, “Jesus said…” can and has overridden many peoples sense of humanity and reason, especially in the great state of Kansas and to an extent in our policy in the middle east. This is not to say that religious concerns cannot be valid in a democracy, but with the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the complexity of terrorism, individual rights and religions age-old bigotry towards science (and in many cases life saving science) I don’t see how theses issues can be solved by a more moderate form of christianity without disregarding part of the message that the bible promotes in the same way the conservative/fundamentalist do. I hope that the moderates are able to combat this path that we seem to be heading in.

Anyway, in a nutshell this is what goes on in my head. I hope I didn’t say anything offensive because I’m never really sure where people are coming from and outside of the political arena I’m extremely supportive of others’ beliefs even if they don’t even closely connect with my own. The cool things about music is that once the song is out of the writer’s hands, its meaning becomes the listeners regardless of the writer’s intention. I’m always a little reluctant to talk about songs because of this. The last thing I want to do is ruin a song for someone. Anyway–I’ll see you on Thursday –take care.   — Dain

This is me again.  Below are the lyrics of “1000 Years” to see what Dain is talking about in the description of his views on religion; if you want to hear the song, just let me know – it’s phenomenal.

Shepherds in Bethlehem wait for him to be born, what will man do in his name? They will call him a god, they will look for the marks, every free soul there will pay.

Whispers of innocence drowned out in tears, everyone must choose a side, truth lacks conviction of passionate lies, the sin is too fragile, to hurt us inside!

1000 die by some man’s foolish pride, 1000 lost to God and all his lies, 1000 loaves soon replaced by fear, it hasn’t changed in 1000 years. 1000 screams lost within the air, 1000 lives buried in the sand, 1000 mommas soon replaced by tears, it has changed within 1000 years.

Politicians and preachers corrupt from inside, ask us to lay down like lambs. They will say they’re for love they will talk of compassion, question ’em and they skate along.

Whispers of innocence drowned out in tears, everyone must choose a side, truth lacks conviction of passionate lies, the sin is too fragile, to hurt us inside!”

1000 die by some man’s foolish pride, 1000 lost to God and all his lies, 1000 loaves soon replaced by fear, hasn’t changed in 1000 years. 1000 screams lost within the air, 1000 lives buried in the sand, 1000 mommas soon replaced by tears, it has changed within 1000 years.

Whispers of innocence drowned out in tears, everyone must choose a side, truth lacks conviction of passionate lies, the sin is too fragile, to hurt us inside!”

1000 die by some man’s foolish pride, 1000 lost to God and all his lies, 1000 loaves soon replaced by fear, hasn’t changed in 1000 years. 1000 screams lost within the air, 1000 lives buried in the sand, 1000 mommas soon replaced by tears, it has changed within 1000 years.

Later this week I’ll be upgrading my space to include the songs, but until then you can check out: Dain and Dain on myspace You can buy some of his music on iTunes, unfortunately you can’t buy my two favorite songs of his, “Complications” (that I actually was able to record with him!) and “1000 Years”. But again, I have both of these if you want to hear them.

 
 

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The Four “R’s”.

Re-sponsible, Re-mold, Re-create, Re-deem.

My blog is therapeutic for me in many instances. It helps me process different theological thoughts that are bouncing around in my head.  In a way it’s recreation for me. Recreation in its origins means to re-create. To make something a-new that has changed.

Many things on our earth, which were either created directly by God or created by God’s creation – man, have changed from their original intent .  Institutions, organizations, politics, art, education, medicine, healthcare, the planet and so many other things have gone adrift from people “in charge” who felt no obligation to be held responsible (able to respond) to a higher truth than their own selfish pursuits. (Tragedy of the Commons)  We’re co-creators with God and with each of our own kingdoms we need to be able to: be re-sponsable, re-mold, re-create, and re-deem what was meant to bring glory to God.

Last night I had a great evening out with Tad talking about life and theology over nachos, fine malt beverages, and a very tasty Rocky Patel cigar (it was their decade series, box press, and I highly recommend it!).  My life right now is consumed with work, travel, and soccer; and last night was re-creation for me during a time of crazy busy-ness.  So all this to say that as these thoughts keep bouncing around in my head I will be more regular at posting some of these thoughts. I just sometimes need a good strong cup of mental coffee to keep me regular.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2009 in theology

 

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100% correct?…well, I’m screwed…

Here’s a great post by McLaren.  I also love the poem at the end which is written by C.S. Lewis. great stuff….

McLaren\’s blog

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2009 in theology

 

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suicide – the final goodbye or a temporary separation

Recently a friend of mine asked me what I thought about suicide and the role it plays in determining our eternal destination.  She mentioned recently that the husband of a friend of hers took his own life.  They attended the funeral and since then my friend and her husband have been talking about this subject a little bit.  My friend and I are no strangers to this subject because during high school (she somehow completed high school in 4 years, it took me 7 jk  😉  but we had three of our friends commit suicide – and as always they were three people you would never expect.  Also, I’m in no way shape or form an expert on this topic – I have a brain, knowledge of religion, and an internet connection which in cyberspace grants me liberty to post my thoughts.  But I hope my thoughts my provide some information for people to chew on and ponder.

Please be aware that when I reference Christus Victor and substitutionary atonement I do so in very wide swipes, and in some cases generalizations, because otherwise my response to my friend would have been about 1,000 pages to unwrap all the history of the atonement theories along with all the cause and effect possibilities.  Here’s my response.

I’m curious if the Reverend giving the funeral hinted to one way or another at the funeral?  That could be very touchy.

Ok, here are my thoughts. Like I mentioned this is a very tough question and I am in no way an authority on the issue, but I don’t know if anybody is an authority on it other than God. From the way I see it there are 3 basic responses and it pretty much depends on 1) how you view Christ’s crucifixion as atonement for sin and 2) a belief that there is a hell. I’ll run through the different atonement views very quickly and how they would approach suicide and then I’ll also tell you which one I side with.

1) Substitutionary atonement – this view accounts for two of the options (options ‘a’ and ‘b’) – Christ’s death on the cross is a substitution for our sin. Equal retribution for our sin on earth.
a. Suicide is ultimately damning to hell. He’s in hell. The thought is that the person is saying, “God, my problems are so big that not even you can help me.” So they’ve given up all hope even that God can help them.
b. Suicide is sin and equal to all other sins. He’s in heaven. He murdered himself and murder is sin, but every sin carries the same weight (except for blaspheming the holy spirit which I don’t think applies here). Christ died to pay for our sins. Personally, I’m very conscious of when I sin and when I sin I’m in essence saying, “God I know I’m about to sin, but even you can’t help me for what I’m about to do and I’m going to do it anyway.” This is the same situation as above but somewhere along the line as Protestants we started to weigh certain sins as heavier than others – murder, rape, suicide, etc.) (it’s kind of been unspoken, all the while still saying that sin is sin and no sin is greater than any other sin) The reality in this view is that sin is sin and they all carry the same weight in God’s eye. Christ’s death paid the price for our sins no matter what they are.
2) Christus Victor atonement – this view accounts that ‘every knee shall bow every tongue confess that Christ is Lord’ and that everybody will be in heaven; it makes no difference what a person’s sins are. And depending on your view of Christus Victor it also sometimes makes no difference who you believe is God. Christ’s death has conquered sin completely and he reigns over everything so almost everybody will be in heaven.

Not to get on a soapbox but I personally fall somewhere between substitutionary atonement and Christus Victor (it would take too long to explain why, but over the past 10 years my theology has changed a bit). Regarding suicide I used to hold the first view that suicide is saying, “God you can’t help me.” Personally I believe that God is a loving God (more than I ever realized), who loves his creation. So, I would hold to the ‘b’ option and your friend’s husband is in heaven. But it is definitely a tough, grey area and I’m glad that God’s in control of what’s going on for our eternal destinations and not me.

I talked to a couple buddies of mine about the subject and I’ve included one of the guys’ thoughts on the topic. My other buddy basically said, “ditto” to my first buddy’s thoughts. 🙂

my buddy’s thoughts…
“Suicide as a damning act is a novelty of Roman Catholic doctrine so far as I know. I could be wrong, but i’m not aware of that belief in Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, or Judaic streams. The premise that someone goes to hell (which requires a belief in a literal hell to begin with, of course), is premised on the last act of a person’s life being self-murder, with no chance to confess or offer penance. Judaism never had much of a firm afterlife theology and Protestantism rejects the notion of itemized repentance, so it’s easy to see why that idea did not crystalize there.
I’ve had a couple of friends commit suicide, and while i think it shows a profound level of unhealth and degradation to get to that point, I don’t get why that is suppose to send you to hell.”

It’s me again, 🙂
So I hope in some way shape or form this might help; and I’m sure that your friend who is dealing with her husband’s suicide is in pure anguish – I can’t imagine having to cope with that situation. Love on her like crazy.
Let me know what you think; and what your pastor says too. I love hearing different views.

cigar recommendation – Rocky Patel, Olde World Reserve – I enjoyed this cigar last night and it’s a quality cigar.  It has hints of being just like the name implies, Olde World.  It has earthy elements and has a rather strong, full flavor.  It was every minute of a 2 hour smoke and definitely worth the $12 (I live in AR where cigar taxes are ridiculously high). I don’t think you can go wrong with any cigar from Rocky Patel.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2009 in theology

 

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