“Don’t Be Evil”

The New York Times’ Dan Mitchell reports,
IN 2001, about a dozen of Google's founding employees sat in a conference room trying to come up with a set of corporate values. After a while, one of them, an engineer, Paul Buchheit, said everything they were saying could be summed up by a simple phrase: "Don't Be Evil."
The phrase stuck, and it became Google's informal motto.
Creating one is easy, of course. Living up to it is a little harder, especially when your company becomes as large and ubiquitous as Google. For most of its short history, all was well, but recently complaints have piled up, reaching a peak this month as Google unveiled yet more products. Long considered the David to Microsoft's Goliath, Google is increasingly being thought of as a Goliath itself…
All over the Web, anti-Google sentiment is on the rise.”

This raises some questions for Christians in an increasingly globalized capitalistic world.

  • Is it simply a matter of course that all corporations become evil?
  • If not, how can we help corporations not be evil?
  • If so, how can we limit the evil that corporations inflict upon society?
  • And if corporations naturally have this struggle with being evil, then should Christians do all they can to limit corporations’ rights to “personhood” that they have been granted under the 14th Amendment?

See the debate on corporate rights at PBS’ NOW from earlier this year.

technorati: , technorati:


Look! Up in the Sky! It's... the Messiah!

Watching the teaser-trailer for the upcoming movie, Superman Returns, you gets the sense you've heard this story even before comics were invented...

Superman's father is heard speaking to his son:

"Even though you've been raised as a human being, you're not one of them.

They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way.

For this reason above all—their capacity for good—I have sent them you, my Only Son."


Have the Hurricanes Slipped from Your Mind?

I just received this e-mail from Joel Daniel Harris, a friend who is currently working as a volunteer with the Red Cross in New Orleans. The images he paints with his words are haunting.


Late yesterday I got a call from the warehouse that my team would have today off because the warehouse is running so low on product. After informing my team (who were disappointed, as I was), I managed to get a car from the Red Cross to have for the rest of yesterday and all day today. With my new wheels (a sporty little Pontiac GrandAm), a good night of rest (I got to sleep in until 6:30!), and a desire for some alone time, I took off this morning to travel east into Mississippi, another area where the hurricane caused massive devastation.

It is overwhelming.

I do not have a camera and so did not take pictures. Part of this is out of respect for the people. There was an eery feeling to today...akin to being a tourist...except of destruction. But I wanted to be able to really understand the terror of what happened here and communicate it to you. And so I use words, because our imaginations paint better pictures than 3 x 5 prints.

I passed a car lot full of cars. Except on a closer look you realized they were covered in a gray filth that marks all vehicles that were under the floodwaters. The entire lot had been flooded...above the top of every car. And they sat there...quiet and still.

Further down the road, I'm surrounded by a broken forest. The trees were bent and busted up...maybe if I tilted the world 45 degrees it would have felt a bit more straight and proper.

It's a Sunday afternoon and the stores are closed. Not because it's a Sunday but because they haven't been open in months. Mile after mile of storefronts line the roads on either side of me...and maybe one in ten is open.

The most reliable signs are found everywhere with red spray paint. On walls, on cardboard, on broken down vehicles or rubble. Signs saying "we're open" or the house number or marking the date that they were inspected after the hurricane.

At one point I'm forced to turn around and find another route because the bridge is washed out. A full-fledge highway bridge. I can see the concrete pylons sticking up out of the water...the road is gone.

Lining either side of the road are pile after pile of debris. Trash, refrigerators, siding, trees...anything and everything you can think of. Many of the piles are 8 or 10 feet high. At points I feel as if I'm driving down a walled-in road.

Along Rt 90, marked as a "scenic drive" route, I see the worst destruction I've ever seen anywhere. House after house...except the houses are gone. Driveways, foundations, and concrete or brick patio steps leading up to...nothing. The entire house is gone...sometimes lying in pieces around the foundation, sometimes washed further ashore to where I can't even see it.

I come across a house that's gutted...the frame still mostly stands, but it's like a giant doll house after the kids have grown. No walls, and totally gutted. Further down the road I see a Walmart. Again the entire fram of the store is still standing, but the walls equal to the first story have been totally washed away. I stare through and see the woods in the background. Nothing is left in the store...just torn walls and frame.

And this is nearly three months after the hurricane came through. Nearly three months later, recovery is barely begun in these parts.

A van sits squashed in a ditch on the side of the road. Bent and beaten, only half of it is visible as the other half is sunk in the ditch. It's been there since the hurricane. Scrawled across the top, in giant, red, spray-painted letters:

"Please Don't Loot...It's All We Have Left."

Joel Daniel

Talkin’ Postmodernity at other Blogs

I’ve been commenting at other blogs about postmodernity lately.

Over at Every Thought Captive, Phil Steiger takes on Myron Penner’s post on Postmodern Apologetics at the blog-book, A New Kind of Conversation. I interact with him on things like the role of Reason in our apologetic, false dichotomies, and whether or not the modern philosophical paradigm has lead to evils. Phil is thoughtful and our disussions are always very good.

Over at that book-blog (A New Kind of Conversation), I’ve submitted my “Emmanuel Apologetic” as comments to that Myron Penner post on apologetics. Someone not yet convinced of the authenticity of postmodern philosophy named “Al” has taken some of my thoughts to task, which I appreciate. So, we've been dialoguing back and forth.

Here’s an excerpt:

Al Sunday, November 20, 2005 09:50 AM
RE:An Emmanuel Apologetic

Can anyone help me from an Emmanuel Apologetic or Postmodern Evangelical perspective to address the following three current apologetic issues:

1. The Jesus Seminar and Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code." Both of these have captured the allegiance of millions of enthusiasts in our midst who are fleeing from Christian communities with their very unorthodox view of Jesus, including my niece an nephew.

2. The naturalist materialism that has sucha firm grip on our educational and scientific establishments that they seem to be uterly unwilling to consider any evidence that suggest intelligent design in the cosmos and the biosphere.

3. The anti-heterosexist crusade that seeks to ban from public education, media government, and anywhere in the public square all expressions of preference for heterosexual marriage. My grand-kids are being taught this in books and class in public school.

How do Emmanuel Apologetics or Postmodern Evangelical perspectives address these current issues in our midst?


Bob Robinson Sunday, November 20, 2005 12:05 PM [11.13]
RE:An Emmanuel Apologetic


To the Jesus Seminar and DaVinci Code apologists, I’d say that of course there are reasoned arguments that clearly refute them. But our intellectual and reasoned arguments mean little to nothing if we are not displaying the true Jesus before them as a community of believers. To merely have “better arguments” reduces the situation to bantering and who has better debating skills. But to have a kerygma that projects “this is the real Christ-—compassion and love and a resurrection life filled with hope” gives credence to our reasoned statements that simply cannot be argued with. I submit that the reason Crossan and Brown get a hearing is because the Christian community has done such a poor job in being Emmanuel in this world. The plausibility of their counter to Christianity exists because the Christian “God With Us” witness has been so implausible (it has been so poorly lived out).

To the naturalist/materialist that cannot accept an intelligent designer, we simply dismiss them as too modern and unable to accept the mysterious and supernatural. Modern Darwinist theory will die under the weight of postmodernity, since it is so dependent on naturalist/materialist causes. Darwinism is the epitome of modern thought—the idea that we can arrive at “Truth” through objective science. It does not allow for a “subject” to exist that cannot be examined objectively, that is, a Creator who made the world out of his love. This "Truth" cannot be found through objective science alone; it is found in the story He reveals to us (both in the Scriptures and in the very Creation we study). When we counter with nothing more than another scientific debate, appealing to “Reason” instead of the wonder of the story, then it again is reduced to bantering and who has better debating skills. Not that we cannot appeal to the wonder of the design in Creation, but that cannot be the primary apologetic; it is the secondary apologetic.

To the "anti-heterosexist crusaders," we must live out a loving marital heterosexual life that shows that traditional marriage models true love more than any other kind of “love” that people presume exists. Any other argument without that primary proclamation sounds hallow. By the way, we evangelicals have done a VERY POOR job of doing this, since our divorce rate is as high, if not higher, than the general public. No wonder people scoff at our attempts to tell them that God’s preference is heterosexuality, since we have not portrayed a very good “Emmanuel Apologetic” in that regard!

technorati: , ,


Martin Luther: Emerging?

One of the hallmarks of postmodernity is its suspicion of Reason as the final arbiter of the “Truth.” Christians in the Emerging Movement (which is heavily engaged in the postmodern turn) are sympathetic to this skepticism of Reason. As we see it, if Rationality (or “Reasoned Arguments”) is placed as the ultimate authority in our finding truth, then we had better look at who is on the throne: it is no longer God, it is Reason. Rationality needs to find its place somewhere below, and God and the story of his interaction with humanity needs to be placed above.

This is not a new way of thinking. It was Martin Luther who first distinguished between the magisterial and ministerial roles for Reason. What postmodern Christians (those in the emerging church conversation) are reacting against is the increasing magisterial role that Reason has gained over the last century. Much of Western Christianity has allowed a syncretism to occur in which Reason has blended with faith. We are reacting against a Christianity that seeks to legitimize the faith by way of Reason, which places the faith under Reason as its magistrate. In many modern churches, Reason stands over and above the gospel, acting as judge so as to legitimate the gospel. This is what Martin Luther was warning against.

The ministerial role of Reason, however, makes it the “handmaid of theology.” Reason is merely one of the tools we have at our disposal to understand our faith. Postmodernity is a reaction against the ideology that Reason and Science would give rise to a moral society. They are skeptical of Reason because, in the Modern age, it has been shown to be such a bad magistrate of what is true. When Reason is placed in the magisterial position as the final arbiter of truth, the results have been disastrous. Look at the holocausts of the 40's and 50's. Germany was the pinnacle of reasoned ideology, the ultimate enlightenment civilization. The gas chambers were a scientifically sound and reasoned way to bring the solution to those “genetically deficient Jews.” America was the world leader in scientific progress. Scientific objectivity and reasoned argument brought about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events showed the moral deficiency of objective rational thought and gave rise to postmodernity. These events made philosophers begin to question the entire enlightenment ideology of "objective” reason.

I, as an “emerging Christian,” affirm this. I am simply seeking to place Reason back in its ministerial role. Call me a postmodern Martin Luther.

technorati: ,


Postmodern Apologetics

Myron Penner, at the book-blog, A New Kind of Conversation, offers this insight into how the apostles should be the model for a postmodern apologetic:

"Paul never tires of pointing out that apostles and prophets, unlike modern philosophers, do not predicate their authority on clever arguments, logical coherence, rhetorical brilliance, or anything like the modern conception of human reason, but on the divine source of their message. It is not so much that the apostle cannot or even will not engage in rhetorical brilliance or philosophical and logical argumentation—as St. Paul is certainly capable and often does; it is rather that the apostle does not base the authority of his or her message on his or her own intellectual resources. The apostle’s primary mode of address is, then, kerygma, proclamation or preaching, and any argumentation is a secondary discourse designed to facilitate the primary one."

This is right: Modernity placed authority in Reason as a reaction against the Authorities of Pre-modernism (the church and the king). Postmodern Christianity recognizes the fallacy of placing authority in Reason. It seeks to submit, rather, to the authority of the story of Scripture and in the story of the Holy Spirit's working in the Christian community.

technorati: ,


Church break follows gay vote

You knew this was coming...

Church Break Follows Gay Vote
Four area parishes split off from U.S. Episcopal Church. Bishop to address issue today
By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal religion writer

More than two years after the Episcopal Church's debate over homosexuality, four Northeast Ohio congregations have voted to split from the national church and the Diocese of Ohio. The four parishes -- St. Luke's in Fairlawn, Church of the Holy Spirit in Akron, St. Barnabas in Bay Village and St. Anne's in the Fields of Madison -- voted Sunday to break with the Episcopal Church USA and affiliate with the Diocese of Bolivia in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The South American diocese is based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and led by Bishop Frank Lyon... The four Ohio parishes--with about 1,300 active members--decided to leave the U.S. church and the local diocese because of "divergent understandings of the authority of scripture and traditional Christian teaching," according to a news release.

It seems to me that the news release quote concisely tells us the key to why this split is happening. It is not so much "the gay issue," but a more underlying issue: These parishes are correct in their assessment that the Episcopal Church has decided that something else trumps the Scriptures.

The Emerging Church must learn from this sad situation. As long as we remain tied directly to Scripture, then we will be okay. But as soon as we say that other things can trump Scripture, then we will be moving beyond what it means to be Christian.

This is not to say that there has to be conformity to any particular interpretation of Scripture, for the emerging church embraces conversation about how we understand the revelation of the Bible. This conversation is a very good thing; our understanding of varying interpretations of the Bible helps to stem parochialism and divisions in the Body of Christ.

What I've seen is this: The best in the emerging church movement are seeking to authentically engage Scripture. But I have also seen a "take it or leave it" attitude with the Bible in some "EC" circles, which is a shame.



Scot McKnight on the Emerging Church

In case you've been missing it, Scot McKnight has very quickly become a leading critical voice in the emerging church movement. He comes into the "emerging conversation" from the outside and from academia, lending fresh insights as he engages this new movement. He entered the fray as a foil to D. A. Carson's critique of Brian McLaren and the Emerging Church. It seems that recently he has been interviewed more on the Emerging Church movement than anybody outside Brian McLaren (check out the 2-part story PBS did on the EC).

After about seven months of deep engagement with the EC, Scot recently offered a four-part explanation of what he understands of the movement. Below is a summary of what was said in those posts. I strongly recommend you follow the links and read the posts in full.

What is the Emerging Church? Praxis

The Emerging Movement is a summons or an invitation for the Church to live like followers of Jesus in everything they say, do, and think. The Emerging Movement seeks to model that in its emphasis on relationships as the core of the work of God in the world today. One of the reasons so many are frustrated with the Emerging Movement’s definition is found here: it is a movement concerned with praxis and not simply theology. If the older fashion was to define others by their theology, the Emerging Movement wants to be defined by its behavior. This is a dramatic challenge to the Church.

What is the Emerging Church? Protest

First, it protests too much tom-fakery in traditional churches.
Second, it denounces the divisions in the Church.
Third, it sees cock-sure certainty as a cancer.
Fourth, it refuses to separate action from articulation. If the older evangelical generation found doctrinal statements the chief way of setting up boundaries, the Emerging Movement wants to see one’s articulation expressed by one’s action.
Fifth, it wants individualism absorbed into incorporation: that is, the Emerging Movement encourages personal redemption but solo-Christianity is not what Jesus wants. He wants to form communities of faith not individual Christians.
Sixth, the Emerging Movement’s mindset is against marketing the gospel.
Seventh, the Emerging Movement despises the idea that Church is what takes place on Sunday Morning...the work of the Church is what occurs during the week as the local community of faith performs the gospel.
Eighth, the Emerging Movement rejects the hierarchy and pyramid structure of many churches. Authority is in God — Father, Son, Spirit — and not in the pastor or the elders or the board of deacons.
Ninth, the social gospel cannot be separated from the spiritual gospel. The Emerging Movement combines the Liberal social gospel with the Evangelical spiritual gospel and comes up with something that is neither Liberal nor Evangelical.
Tenth, the Emerging Movement wants to be Worldly. Not in the Johannine sense or in the Pauline sense, but in the Kingdom sense: it knows that God is working to restore the entire creation into an expression of his glory and so it summons everyone to participate in the grant work of God to restore and redeem.

What is the Emerging Church? Postmodernity
Those in the Emerging Movement who are postmodernists are not radical postmodernists — that is, they are not “hard” postmodernists. (Hard postmodernists deny any truth whatsoever.) Some Emerging Christians are “soft” postmodernists, and some aren’t even that: they may be critical realists or they may be soft foundationalists. I am pleading with the critics of the Emerging Movement to accept that not all Emerging folks are hard or even soft postmodernists. To equate Emerging folk with postmodernism and to say that postmodernists deny truth so therefore the Emerging folk deny truth is unfair, libelous, and scandalous to how Christians ought to operate with one another...
...only God is Absolute Truth and all our articulations of truth partake, to one degree or another, in that Truth but our articulations do not strike home as as full grasp of Absolute Truth. Only God is Absolute Truth and only God can genuinely know Absolute Truth. All our knowledge is tinged. To assign Absolute Truth to God alone does not ruin our confidence, it just means that our confidence is in God.

What is the Emerging Church? Pro-Aplenty
First, the EM is pro-missional in thrust. The term “missional” is a favorite among many in the EM because it goes beyond the older Christian terms like “mission” and “missionary,” and because it is being defined holistically. To be missional means to embrace a holistic gospel – it is for the whole person (heart, soul, mind, and strength), for the whole society (politics, economy, culture, environment), and for the whole world. Missional avoids the constant bantering between Evangelicals and Liberals over social justice and evangelism, and it avoids the 20th Century political theorists regular diatribes against colonialism. Just what that “mission” is also quite clear for the EM if rarely defined in detail: the mission is the Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus...
Second, the EM is pro-Jesus. (Reformational) theology is often abstract, systematic, and rooted in logic and reason. The EM wants to root its theology, which is more practical than it is theoretical, in the incarnate life of Jesus himself. It wants a theology that is shaped by personhood and relationship rather than just rationality and systemic thinking. (Let’s not use simplistic dichotomies; instead, this is an issue of emphasis.)
Third, the EM is pro-Church. It is not ecumenical in the classical sense of the Ecumenical Movement, which was set on a course of finding a doctrinal basis among sets of Christians who could not agree, but in the sense of being missionally focused. Because it is missionally focused, it finds it much easier to cooperate with other Christians with a similar missional focus and to cooperate with other Christians because its own theological agendas are less central...It is also pro-Church in that the Church is designed to be a community. Here again, the EM reminds one of the Anabaptists or the Jesus movement of the 60s and 70s, where Christian communities grew out of a radical commitment to the Church as a community.
Fourth, the EM is pro-culture. The EM tends to celebrate the demise of metanarratives, finding in this demise the opportunity for “micro”narratives of local communities to given a hearing...Some EM thinkers toy with agreeing and not agreeing with this understanding of postmodernity and suggest that the Christian faith is one such “metanarrative” that can’t be proven true. Well, there is something dangerous and something healthy in such a claim. It is dangerous if it means Christian faith is just a preference rather than the truth, but it is healthy if it means (as many Christian theologians think it does) that Christians have to accept their fallenness and their limited grasp of truth and live with less than certainty on many issues.
Finally, the EM is pro-sensory worship. This is perhaps one of the most notable features that many know about. It may be a direct influence of Dan Kimball, in his Emerging Worship, or the influence of Robert Webber, but many in the EM form and shape worship services (“gatherings” to use their term) in order to foster sensory experience in worship...Why? Because it is believed that both the human is a whole (heart, soul, mind, and body) and the postmodern world resonates with full-form experiences. Here again the missional focus is prominent as is the coming into contact with the ancient traditions of the Church.


I offer this synopsis for those who read VanguardChurch but are still unconvinced that the emerging church is a good thing. Again, I strongly encourage everyone to read Scot's posts on the Emerging Church movement at Jesus Creed.


An Emmanuel Apologetic-part 4

God with Us in the Incarnational Christian Community
(Final Part of a Four-Part Series)
Jesus, the literal “God with Us” (or "Emmanuel") in the flesh, has revealed God to us by his life, death, and resurrection. Paul tells us that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15); John was in awe of this, saying, “no one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18).

That is Emmanuel! God with us! He walked with those 1st Century disciples, teaching them, doing miracles, showing love and compassion. He died sacrificially for the sins of the world. He resurrected and ascended, assuring them of a new life in Him.

But here we are in the 21st Century, far removed from that time and place. Sure, God was with them, but is God with us?
Jesus told his disciples that they would receive “another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17). God the Son and God the Father sent God the Holy Spirit into our lives to indwell us with “the Spirit of truth.”

Jesus was the incarnation of God—making God known. He was “the truth” in person. If that is the case, and if his "Spirit of truth" indwells today's "body of Christ," then the Church is today’s incarnation of God—meant to make God known in the same way. An Emmanuel Apologetic is the authentic display of the incarnation of God in the flesh—the Holy Spirit indwelling his people today.

“Truth” is not merely some reasoned argument, “Truth,” according to the Bible, is embodied in the flesh—it is only “Truth” when it is incarnate. Jesus was the “Truth” because he was there in front of them, in the flesh, making God known. Today’s local Christian faith communities display “Truth” not in merely having rational arguments, but by yielding to the Holy Spirit and authentically making God known.

And today’s local Christian faith communities must live out this truth in anticipation of the next phase of Emmanuel (see the previous post in this series.) Our community experience of love, worship, and service is to provide a preview of what Eternity will look like—the time when the fullness of “God With Us” will be finally experienced. In our eternal future as believers, we are told in Revelation 21:3 that God will be with his people. Today's church is the incarnational and eschatological People of God.

Whereas modern Christian apologetics sought to renounce non-Christian worldviews, religions, and ideas by way of rational argument, an Emmanuel Apologetic seeks to live as the incarnation of God to the people around us, creating anticipation for what it will be like in fullness to have God with us, so that they can genuinely say of this Christian community, “That is God with us.”

The enfleshed God in his people is what proves the credibility and believability of Jesus Christ. It is the Emmanuel Apologetic.

technorati: , ,

Part 1: Apologetics Beyond Reason
Part 2: Apologetics Beyond Individualism
Part 3: The God Who Is Increasingly With Us


Updated Scot McKnight Detailed Analysis of Carson

Christian Cryder over at See Life Differently did us a favor.

He pointed out that the links were outdated for my summary of Scot McKnight's series on DA Carson's book, Becoming Conversant with the Emergening Church.

Scot moved off of Blogger and is now doing WordPress, so the old links are dead. Thanks to the hard work that Christian did, I easily updated the links here at VanguardChurch.

Go to: Scot McKnight Detailed Analysis of DA Carson's Book



James Dobson, Bully

If you missed it, Dr. James Dobson had Wayne Grudem on his "Focus on the Family" program for two days (here and here for mp3s of the two shows) blasting the TNIV as inaccurate and capitulating to culture.

This is why I no longer like James Dobson. He is certainly entitled to his opinion (I disagree with the Left when they belittle him as not having any sound political opinions) . But he has become so powerful in the Christian media world that he needs to be wise with such power.

How could he, in good conscience, bring Wayne Grudem on for a two day diatribe on the TNIV when he knows that there are good Christian scholars and Christian leaders who back the TNIV? Stan Gundry, Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Zondervan, has responded to James Dobson's latest attack on the TNIV Bible (hat tip to Scot McKnight). I think Gundry makes a great point: Dobson, by virtue of his large listenership, should have presented both sides of the story.

But, in Dobson form, once he has formed an opinion, he determines that all of evangelicalism must conform to it. All other opinions must be squashed. My eyes were opened to this back in April 2002. In the same issue of Christianity Today, the editorials featured two seemingly unrelated issues: (1) "Why the TNIV Draws Ire", and (2) "Enough Bullying" about the ousting of National Religious Broadcasters President Wayne Pederson for suggesting that Christian media should be less identified as the “Religious Right.”

Both editorials mentioned “bullying”–and for anyone familiar with either story, it was clear who the primary bully was: James Dobson.

When a Christian leader takes advantage of his power to become a “bully,” I say its time to face that bully and pull him down.

I’m sorry for Wayne Grudem. (Full disclosure: Dr. Grudem was one of my favorite professors in seminary). He is obviously not media-saavy enough to know that he was a pawn in the hand of a bully. Wayne was given an opportunity to present his side of the argument through a large media avenue (who would not jump on that?). But in doing so, he was used by Dobson to present only Dobson’s side…and the listening audience of Focus on the Family had no real indication that there is a legitimate other side.

That’s bullying again.


Toward a Postmodern Metanarrative

Toward a Proper Christian Response to Postmodernity – 9

While a major part of postmodernity is the famous idea popularized from a Lyotard quote, that we must have "an incredulity toward metanarratives," Jamie Smith has shown that what Lyotard was saying was that we must have incredulity of metanarratives that seek to legitimate themselves with rational, objective "Reason."

Therefore, I am going to attempt to present a postmodern Christian metanarrative. How can I do this? Because I contend that the Christian faith is not a matter of "Reason" but a matter of a theological drama. And since it is a theological drama (that is, since the major player in the drama is God), it has to be a "metanarrative." In fact, if it is indeed the theological drama of God, from God, and by God, it is the only metanarrative worth believing.

A Postmodern Christian Metanarrative looks something like this, in outline form:

A. Here we find humanity situated the way we were supposed to be—with each other, with the creation, and with God.
B. Communication was readily understood (until the serpent twisted communication for the first time)—so there were no equivocations, no language barriers, no selfish subtexts for what was said, no word-games.
C. We were truly known and loved—before God and fellow humans we were “naked and not ashamed.”
D. We each reflected the image of God in our diversity—thus there was a unity in diversity, with each reflecting the glory of God uniquely yet interdependently with others.

A. There is a “turn to the subject”—our lives became focused on ourselves.
B. This turn causes a distrust in what’s “out there” in reality, all that really matters ultimately is how it effects “me.”
C. There is an attempt to “master” rather than “serve” everyone and everything.
D. Language is twisted to mean something other than what was intended due to our sense of twisted self-importance.
E. Language becomes arbitrary and self-serving.
F. Languages become confounded due to our selfish desire to reach the divine on our personal, selfish terms (this is what the Tower of Babel story teaches us).
G. In order to describe an ever-increasing complexity of reality, we sense the need for a varieity of “vocabularies” (ways of describing reality) in order to grasp all these varying aspects of the complexities.
H. While in the original Creation humanity was situated the way we were supposed to be, the Fall situates us in a chaotic state of affairs:

  1. With each other—selfishness, the rise of ideologies and “isms,” the ever-increasing “will to power,” the rise of metanarratives that are thrust on foreign cultures and cause strife, discord, and even wars, a disunity of communities (the penchant to “hate the other,” rather than to “embrace diversity.”).
  2. With Creation—some see themselves above the creation to exploit it; others see themselves under creation as just a ‘rational animal.’ All do not see correctly our ethical place in creation correctly.
  3. With God—the rise of self as God, our smaller stories replace God’s metanarrative of redemption, we deny the “Fall” and embrace the myth of progress.

A. The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us (John 1:14)
The eternal has entered our situatedness in a specific time and place in history in the person of Jesus Christ.

  1. Since we are “fallen,” we need the “Word” to come into our situatedness in a way that makes sense to us—the incarnation is exactly that.
  2. The quadraphonic witness of the Gospels provide different voices of the same reality so that we can rightly interpret the Christ Event.
  3. The meaning of the Christ Event is presented in a plurality of themes, speaking into our limited ability to understand because of our limited linguistics and fallen situatedness ( i.e., Penal Substitutionary Atonement [for a legal language], Christus Victor [for a liberation language], Redemption [for an economic language], etc.)
  4. “Truth” is a person, not a concept or an objective proposition. Jesus proclaims himself as “the Truth,” and we approach truth only when we approach Jesus in his personhood.

B. The Spirit is Bequeathed Upon the People (Pentecost)

  1. Absolute Truth of God (that is, fully knowing God) cannot be understood on this side of eternity (1 Cor 13:12). However, Christ has inaugurated the age of the Holy Spirit in which a reality outside ourselves is able to increasingly break the bonds of the fall.
  2. This “Already-Not Yet” of our current existence makes for an increasing ability to truly understand and know God, others, and the creation, but not yet fully.

C. The Christian’s Work in the “Already-Not Yet” of Our Present Existence

  1. To understand truth through both reason and imagination. Reason has had its time in the spotlight; it is time to reinvigorate the imagination through the arts, through new ideas, through opening our eyes to what God can and wants to do today.
  2. To promote unity in diversity (the “catholicity” of the church) in order to stem parochialism. The way to limit a local community’s attempt at power-grabs over other groups is to nip insular “isms” in the bud by creating dialogical interaction between faith communities.
  3. To seek clearer understanding of how others articulate their faith through renouncing Babel and embracing Pentecost. The power of the Spirit can give us the ability to understand others even though they speak “other languages.” (That is, people articulate concepts and ideas in different ways. God wants us to hear these with ears wide open to understand them and maybe even embrace them instead of insisting that our faith community’s articulation of the faith is the only legitimate way to do so.) We need to embrace the plurality of languages and interpretations of revelation since they are actually needed to understand the complexity of reality.
  4. To embrace the theological drama that the apostles have handed down to us as a gift from God given to us from outside our smaller communities yet appropriate for all communities.
  5. To accept that “truth” will only be ultimately known in Christ at the eschaton. We now know God as if we are looking at him through a heavily tinted window. But there will come a time when we will fully know God, just as he fully knows.

Index of this series: Toward a Proper Christian Response to Postmodernity

technorati: ,

An Interesting Discussion on "Emmanuel Apologetic" Over at Reformissionary

Steve McCoy posted a quote from the 1st part of the series on an "Emmanuel Apologetic" over at his excellent blog, reformissionary.

So far, we have 17 comments there and counting.

Especially interesting is that the majority of commentors had positive interaction with the quote, but one person, David, isn't buying it. The dialogue between David and me has been helpful for my clarifying what I mean by an "Emmanuel Apologetic."

technorati: , ,


An Emmanuel Apologetic-part 3

The God Who Is Increasingly With Us

Emmanuel means, "God with us." And the God revealed in the Bible is a God who continually and increasingly comes to us and makes his dwelling among us.

In the Garden, God was with Adam and Eve, walking with them in the cool of the day. But God was not always with them, he would come and go. The pattern was set: Our God is a God who comes to us and is “with us.”

In the Exodus wanderings, God guided the Israelites in the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, and dwelt among them in the Tabernacle. God was with them, but over there, inside that tent, where only Moses could meet with God.

In the Promised Land, God was with the nation of Israel. Where? Over there in Jerusalem in the Holy of Holies inside the Temple. God was always “with us” over there, permanently indwelling the Temple, where the High Priest could enter as the intermediary.

In the person of Jesus of Nazareth, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” Jesus was the visible glorious God become flesh, actually living with us. He is the “Emmanuel”—the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel”—which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matt. 1:23). His ministry in the flesh lasted for a time, but then he was killed, resurrected, and then ascended back to the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms.

But “another counselor” was sent to be with us: The Holy Spirit. He indwells those who experience the birth from above, guiding and empowering those who are called to be the Kingdom Community on earth, bringing about God’s intentions on earth as they are done in heaven. The Spirit’s fruit manifests in the people who will yield to his leading. God is “with us:” in us as individuals and in us as the corporate body of believers. Yet, this relationship is still not yet perfect, for God’s empowerment and leading through the indwelling Spirit is still limited by our personal and corporate struggle against our fallen natures.

The perfection of Emmanuel comes when God creates the New Heaven and New Earth, and God comes to this place where we are and proclaims, “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). It is at that moment that the fullness of “God With Us” will be experienced for the first time and our hope of living forever immersed in knowing God more and more with each passing moment will be realized.

Next: What it looks like to be the Incarnational Christian Community in today's Age of the Holy Spirit.

technorati: , ,