Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Unintentional Accomplice

My current Facebook status reads:

Coby Cagle accidentally became an accomplice to a robbery at a Valero when he unintentionally (yet politely) stepped out of the way so the robbers could easily get by. He then thought to himself, "Wait...did they just steal beer four cases of beer? And did I just help?"


Oops.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Black Eyed Q

And now to more interesting topics. Q fell on our dresser today and got a black eye. You can barely see it in this video. He's been saying some words lately so I tried to get him to talk for you guys. However, he got a bit distracted...

video

Updated: Reflections on Post-Christendom 2

This week my essay is a bit more controversial because I deal with how one acquires/learns/experiences truth. I also talk a bit about how the Christian view of war changed. For the record I am not anti-military defense. Again, be graceful in your judgment. The seminary class room is a safe place to throw out ideas that one is thinking without being immediately judged and put in a category.

Questions:
1) What of the five categories would you fit the Christendom model into and why?
2) What of the five categories would you fit the majority of the church in North America and why?
3) What of the five categories do you think best reflects the life, ministry, and stories of Jesus Christ and why?

Five ways the church sees Christ interacting with culture:
1) Christ against culture - that is Jesus sought to rebel against the world's culture.
2) Christ above culture - Jesus transcends culture and goes above it neither affecting nor living within it.
3) Christ in culture - Jesus lived in culture and was affected by it and...affected it.
4) Christ and culture in paradox - Jesus and the world are constantly in tension
5) Christ transforming culture - Jesus lived in and attempted to change the culture.

------------------------------------------
During the height of Christendom church, state, and culture were intertwined (“Christ in culture” category). Christianity influenced all sectors of society. Murray notes that it inspired artists, sculptors, musicians, poets, architects, and craftsmen. Christendom was the initiator of schools, universities, and hospitals (109). Furthermore, religious leaders like bishops were heavily involved in shaping economic policies and political decisions (110). Influence of this magnitude is not necessarily bad. We are called to make disciples and to bring justice and righteousness into all aspects of our lives.

That being said, the marriage of church and state was unhealthy. It was clear that there was a disconnect between Christendom and the Gospel. Theologians began to promote the theory of a just war. They no longer viewed throwing down arms as wise or admirable (115). This decision flew in the face of the Sermon on the Mount. Theologians concluded that Jesus’ calling to love one’s enemy was only practical in interpersonal relationships (121). It seems as though there was a push for justice and righteousness only if it did not undermine the authority of the state/church (119).

Murray notes that the pagan culture greatly influenced the focus of a church service. In the New Testament a service would include discussion and preaching. However, in Christendom churches began to adopt a model acquired from the “pagan culture” that seemed more concerned about “demonstrating a preacher’s knowledge and skill” than influencing the audience (127).

The church in North America possesses a different type of Christendom i.e. Christ against culture. The intentions sound more Christocentric. There is much emphasis on knowing God, on submitting to scripture, and on making Jesus’ name known by all of the nations of the world. That being said, I would agree with Murray that the church has become an “institution rather than a movement and its energies….[are] directed towards maintenance rather than mission” (129). Missions for most of the nineteenth and twentieth century focused primarily on changing people into an American version of Christianity and thus into Americans. For the most part, Christians inadvertently passed a version of American Christendom to parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia (187).

To most in the North American church truth is something to be injected into others and to be defended no matter the cost. It is as though we have captured truth in a shoebox and we are defending it with our lives. In the process we may even slay one of the infiltrators. To the best of my understanding, truth in the OT and NT is found in Yahweh and/or the person of Christ. While there are aspects of truth that can be learned, acquired, and taught, truth itself is experienced best by being in a relationship with the living God.

Jesus definitely was a man that lived in the tensions of life. Thus, his life and stories fall into the “Christ and culture paradox” category. There are aspects of his ministry that fly in the face of culture, aspects that are shaped by the cultural norms of the time, aspects that transcend culture, and aspects that seek to shape culture.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reflections on Post-Christendom 1

I am going to start a new theme of posts. I am in a class called, "The Global Mission of the Church." In the class we have to write 500 word essays weekly regarding a certain topic. I'm going to post my essay for all of the world to see. I am inviting you into a private conversation of a seminary class. Thus, there may be some things that sound overly critical. Please read it all with grace. Act like you are hearing a conversation of three siblings talking about their concern for their mom or dad. And know that I only have 500 words so I don't have space to fully explore all of these things.

This week's questions:
1. What is post-Christendom?
2. What are the dangers? What are the potentials?
3. What are the possibilities in my context?

-----------

Briefly stated, Post‐Christendom is a cultural shift in which the story of Jesus is not readily known by a particular society.1 Moreover, in this shift the church and the Christian faith lose their influence and importance in society.2

I appreciate Murray’s attempt at clarifying the definition by pointing out what Post‐Christendom is not. I particularly was encouraged that he did not equate Post‐Christendom with a Post‐Christian world. He is correct that such terminology is problematic and judgmental.3 Furthermore, it is helpful to remember that the Post‐Christendom shift is not occurring in all of the countries of the world. Rather, this shift is a western phenomenon first beginning in Europe and now occurring the United States.

Honestly, I struggled with coming up numerous dangers of the Post‐Christendom shift. This is mainly because the context in which I was born, raised, and have spent the majority of my ministry career. I am steeped in the southern church culture. This culture nearly drove me away from the church and away from my faith in Jesus. Regardless, a possible pitfall of this shift is the potential lack of concern for doctrinal integrity due to pluralism and laziness.

The other dangers I will lump into a category called “grieving the death of culture.” If the following things do come into fruition they will cause mourning for to what “used to be.” These aspects include the passing away of several denominations4, the decline of infant baptisms5, and the atrophy of the church subculture (i.e. Christian music, Christian movies, etc.).

There are clearly more positive possibilities with the passing of Christendom. According to Murray the initial launch Christendom was more of a Roman act than a Christian act. Indeed most Roman emperors used religion to gain order. Constantine was no different. 6 Murray also argues that the lines between Roman culture and Christianity were so blurred that it was not clear for that “others could or should be Christians.”7 In a post‐Christendom world Christianity is not equated with one specific culture. God is seen as the God of the entire world and all cultures are celebrated. This concept will transform the role of a missionary.

Another positive aspect about post‐Christendom is the reframing of the role of the congregant in a church. The hierarchy of Christendom led to laity having a“passive role” in the church.8 In a post‐Christendom context congregants move from being consumers of the church to being participants in its mission.

In my particular context the passing of Christendom will cause many to have an identity crisis. However, as Christendom passes individuals will have the opportunity to realize that they have been lost in a cultural phenomenon rather than being in relationship with the living God. Furthermore, individuals who previously recognized the emptiness of the church culture and rejected God will have an opportunity to be re‐introduced to Jesus of Nazareth. I believe there will be fewer traditional “church goers” in the south but more people transformed by the Gospel.

1 Stuart Murray, PostChristendom,
(Milton Keynes: Paternoser Press, 2004), 1.
2 Ibid. 19.
3 Ibid. 4.
4 Ibid. 6.
5 Ibid. 91.
6 Ibid. 103.
7 Ibid. 55.
8 Ibid. 83.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Awareness

Barn's burnt down--
now
I can see the moon.

by Masahide