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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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Evacuate the Evacuation Theology

I tweeted this, and I posted it on facebook, and now I’m posting it on my blog b/c I think it’s an excellent article.

Evacuation Theology

Succinctly written that we’re not just passing through to heaven. Create heaven on earth 4 others. Excellent paragraph on why not to solely have an “evacuation theology.”

 
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Posted by on November 13, 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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