Monday, April 30, 2007

Whither Absolute Truth? Getting a Clue about Postmodernity


It's not that we don't believe in truth. The issue is that we reject particular stories about who knows the truth, who lives in it, and how that happens.

It means that the preacher on the street corner, or the one pontificating in the pulpit, insisting so loudly that in his rationalism and supposed objectivity that he knows "the Truth" is the one who I'm awfully sure is farthest away from it.

Let me try to explain why in clear terms. The "postmodern" aspect of my thinking is not an issue of what I do believe so much as what I don't believe. I don't believe that "absolute Truth" is something that yields its secrets to what is perversely called objective rationality. We all have bodies, and memories and relationships that serve as filters, or better yet, the interpretive framework for our experiences and the testimonies we receive. When it comes to real "Truth," the "data" isn't going to line up just so.

I am a Christian. I do not believe that I can pursue "Truth," and force it to yield so that I may ravish it. Truth is a person. Truth is the person who pursues, the person who ravishes.
"Batter my heart, three-personed God..."
This is what the premodern Christians knew - from the church fathers to the medieval mystics - Truth is not known like a thing is known. Truth reveals himself. Truth knows you, and then invites you to know Truth.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fun Pranks


Did you know that a $250 check to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention makes you a Southern Baptist church?

No, really! "Borrow" the checkbook of your local emerging catholic catholic church, apostate episcopalian parish, or wiccan coven (the last two are often the same thing) and find out for yourself!

Wouldn't your local Roman priest be vexed to find himself invited as a messenger to the convention this summer? Try it today!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Postmodern Anglo-Catholic Anarchists

Mark the Evangelist

Consider it my stream of the "New Oxford Movement."

Yes, it's a somewhat narrow interest group. Join it on Facebook.

The description:

For those of us who

Greet the post-modern critique with guarded optimism because we understand that Modernity's stories were and are not great lenses for understanding and living the Christian faith

Believe that
  • God mediates his presence and power through the Holy Spirit by the instruments of matter and
  • The life of the Christian community in the world is sacramental, meaning that God also mediates presence and power through the life that Christians share together for their healing and that of the world
Appreciate the Anabaptist tradition of the Christian faith, which doesn't put confidence in a Christendom settlement, knowing that
  • All Caesars will be judged and
  • In the meantime, Caesar is more than happy to kill the people who take their baptism seriously whenever it suits him.
Patron saints:

Stanley Hauerwas
John Howard Yoder
Lesslie Newbigin
William Cavanaugh
Menno Simmons
Polycarp of Smyrna
Ignatius of Antioch

Favorite Saints Meme

Mark the Evangelist

Anthropax has tagged me with this fun little meme.

I should note that, being a good Postmodern Anglo-Catholic Anarchist (read: Anabaptist), I'm defining "saint" as a noteworthy holy person of the Christian faith. As a matter of fact, I have a liturgical desk calendar into which I write additional commemorations. Harrumph.

My four favorite saints:

Peter (I love the story of denial and restoration)
Ignatius of Antioch (what Ignatius taught me)
Clement of Rome (what Clement taught me)
Ambrose of Milan (because he put a knot in the tail of early Christendom)

(Favorite Blessed: Skipping this one, obviously)

One person I think ought to be canonized:

Geoffrey Anketel Studdert-Kennedy, Anglican Priest and Chaplain, 8 March 1929.

Speaking of saints and fathers, everybody's seen this, right?

Okay, now who would be some interesting folks to tag...?

Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk (even though he's not attracted to Catholicism, I'll bet he's got some "saints" he looks up to)
Katie (who's not blogged in awhile)
Mike Aquilina (who's always happy to be asked about these things)
Jeremy (who needs to blog about something besides denominational politics. Ha!)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Five Things I Believe: Christ


Last year I wrote a piece called "Five Things I Believe and Trust" that generated much discussion at the time. I thought I'd revisit and re-write the first point.

Jesus has saved and is saving the world. The new creation started in AD 33 when Jesus of Nazareth took upon himself God’s chastisement of Israel so that those who aligned themselves with his kingdom agenda could avoid it themselves. Jesus was crushed between the unstoppable force of God's wrath in the form of the Roman Empire and the immovable object of the Nation’s rebellion against the responsibilities of their election - their “chosenness.” Where Israel's call and her rebellion came together in first century Palestine, the resulting mess was a lot of Roman crosses. But more than this, he also stood in the way of the powers of sin and death that afflict all of humanity, absorbing these forces as well as our own alienation from God into his own person. But God raised him up, vindicating him, and initiated the same new life in everyone who’s been baptized into him.

This story about Jesus and Israel is part of a broader story about the Creator God and his redemption of the fallen Creation. The "end times" began during the Passion Week in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. God's new world is being birthed.

We have in the crucifixion the action whereby God takes into himself all of the world's evil and suffering and all of the consequences of alienation from God and begins to put it right.

The point as originally written led to a longer discussion on Christology.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Evangelism and Marketing

Third Sunday of Easter


To discuss evangelism without an explicit ecclesiology is to reduce Christian proclamation to marketing tactics.


The bottom line of an "instrumental" ecclesiology is that whatever form "church" takes in a given culture is nothing more than the best means to a particular end. The problem with this is that if "the church" has a particular existance as an institution created and upheld by the Trinitarian God, there are bits of its "DNA" that we will lose if we can't find it in the goals we have constructed.


If celebration of the Eucharist a key component for the very being of the Church, but a particular congregation cannot see how it contributes to its goals for ministry or spiritual formation, they will drop it just because they don't "get it."


A church with an instrumental ecclesiology will engage in faithful, formative practices only insofar as its leadership can give rational account as to why those practices are "good ideas." There can be no such thing as taking anybody else's word for anything, and the Spirit can never offer the Church a provisional "just because."

Instead of being shaped by the Christian tradition, such a church will only be shaped by those bits of it that it has deliberately picked out and reshaped in terms of its own rationality.

That may or may not be a problem; I see at least two valid opposing arguments in such a discussion...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Around the Web


Antony offers some Kurt Vonnegut clips.

An Easter hymn by Kim Fabricus.

Telling the story, from Selva Oscura.

Sherwood says no to the Christian Disneyland, and God bless him for it.

Ben Myers reminds us of Rowan Willliams' Easter sermon. It'll take you five minutes, and it's a wonderful point.
"So: if we can accept the unwelcome picture of us and our world that Good Friday offers, we are, in the strangest way, set free to hear what Easter says. Give up the struggle to be innocent and the hope that God will proclaim that you were right and everyone else wrong. Simply ask for whatever healing it is that you need, whatever grace and hope you need to be free, then step towards your neighbour; Easter reveals a God who is ready to give you that grace and to walk with you. In St Paul’s bold words in his Letter to the Romans (11.32), ‘In making all mankind prisoners to disobedience, God’s purpose was to show mercy to all mankind.’"
Amen, amen.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Oh, no...


I kept hearing the song, "God bless the USA" while I was in the shower this morning.

Do you think this could be a demonic affliction?


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Links


From Fr. David Baumann:
The battle today is not so much between truth and falsehood. It is much deeper than that. It is between joy and cruelty.
Oh, and depending on what you're looking for ... maybe we're not the kind of folks you'd want to find? Just sayin'... (HT: StretchyChurch)

Jon reminisces about his Trappist retreat: "Monica Lewinsky and the Monastery." Oh, and this is terrible, but you were warned: "The Great Hamster Disaster of '69"...

Michael Lee offers a thought-provoking meditation on Eucharistic celebration at Addison Road: "The Words of Institution"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Sadly, I find that when I give potential converts the thirty-second Jesus spiel (to save them from hell) and then release myself of any long-term commitment to spiritually disciple them, they become victims of shallow root syndrome. Human life goes on - cursed as it was before, dysfunctional as it was before, painful as it was before - and this simple sentence, minus the transformation that comes from internalizing God's truth over the long haul, sets them up for spiritual failure. Their roots do not go down deep enough; their roots don't know how to find or drink water."

- Sarah Cunningham, Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation (Zondervan, 2006), p.85.
And of course, the real crisis is realized when we find the courage to ask the question, what if the people who are offering the spiel and doing the work of discipleship don't know how to internalize and live the truth over the long haul?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rejoice, O Mother Church...

... Exalt in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! ...

This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer? Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To random a slave you gave away your Son.

How blessed is this night, when heaven and earth are joined, and man is reconciled with God!

- from the "Exsultet," an ancient hymn for the Feast of the Resurrection.
As I've said, Vine and Branches celebrated a joint liturgy with Saint Patrick's Anglican Church; Peter celebrated Mass, while Alan preached the homily and chanted the Exsultet. He was amazing, I must say.

As Alan notes in his post, he didn't preach about the resurrection - why try to upstage the Scriptures? - but rather reminded us how this liturgy, and the liturgy of the Church overall, is repetitive and cyclical because that's how we're formed. As Anglicans say, as you pray, so will you believe. When we follow the steps of Jesus year by year, and take our places among the crowds and the disciples and the demoniacs, we learn to understand our own stories in the context of his larger story of saving the world.

Check out Bryan's photos here; here's one below.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week and the Triduum

Holy Week

I won't be blogging until Eastertide, so I have links and event details for you.

The Great Vigil of Easter

Vine and Branches Christian Community and St. Patrick's Anglican Church are having a joint celebration of the Easter Vigil on April 7th at 8pm, at the South Elkhorn Christian Church. The biggest worship celebration of the Christian Year is not Easter Sunday morning, but rather the night before: ancient Christians would keep vigil, saying prayers and reading Scripture and exorcising converts all night before dawn, at which time the entire community would receive Holy Communion with the newly baptized (or re-admitted!).

This won't go all night, but we will be offering the public scripture readings that narrate the history of God's saving work that culminated in the execution and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Pete will be saying Mass, and Alan preaching the homily.

If you're interested in learning more about the Christian story as the Church enacts it, or you're Christian unfamiliar with more "liturgical" expressions of the faith, this would be a great introduction. Do contact me if you'd like any more details, or check out the "Facebook event" here.

About Jesus

This week I'm listening to some N.T. Wright lectures that remind me why I'm a Christian, and why I love Jesus. Check these out from the N.T. Wright page (right-click and choose "save as" for these .mp3 downloads; each is 8-10 mbs):

Jesus and the Kingdom
Jesus and the Cross
Jesus and God
Jesus as the World's True Light

Here are some previous Holy Week and Easter Triduum notes I've written or linked:

My Maundy Thursday sermon (or download the audio here)

Michael Lee on Good Friday: "The Long Shadow of the Infinite"

Alan Creech: Veneration of the Cross

Holy Saturday

An icon and a prayer from the Great Vigil

The Great Vigil 2005: "Signs of Life"

May you have a blessed and appropriately penitential Passion Week.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Stream of Consciousness

Palm Sunday

Okay, so I'm mostly better from last week's unpleasantness. I've still not regained an appetite, and the thought of any food and drink is still kinda gross. It's been quite a while since I've blogged, so I'm going to offer you some stream-of-consciousness fun for the next fifteen minutes. Then I'm going to bang pots and pans together outside my housemate's door, have breakfast, and then go to work at the bookstore for a few hours.

I am behind on my writing. This is no longer shocking to me.

I've been reading Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation this morning. He has the tone of a man who's way too impressed with himself, but he's making me think about why some people hold their religious beliefs and what it sounds like when they do.

It hadn't occurred to me that some Christians oppose abortion because they feel bad for "those poor babies" or something like that. That's a bit too sentimental and fluffy for me to understand - it's far more important to me that we think of ourselves as not being the kind of people who kill our babies. We want to be a people who respect and honor life as a gift - that would give us a consistency and hopefully a real compassion that would move beyond the "precious moments" spirituality that just "feels bad" about stuff.

It's really hard for me to believe that there are educators out there who wouldn't say to kids, "but if you are going to have sex, use a condom." I know that they exist, but it's really hard for me to wrap my brain around the reality.

The arguments for stem cell research don't impress me so far - a comment like this would draw fire, but just the same - it seems like eugenics to me. Very 1930s Germany. Heck, or America, for that matter. Do only the historians remember when racial theories were at the cutting edge of "science"?

On another note, if you are Christian, and you spend time blathering about your "rights," you clearly haven't been too deeply impacted by the Christian story. If one believes in a judging and restoring God from whom life and liberty (or whatever else) are gifts, then "rights" are something we give to other people rather than fighting to have ourselves. Christians who talk about "fighting for their rights" are not Christians. Sorry.

Alan considers the cross, and I consider that some Christians are tri-theists. Not him, though. Duh.

Hm, my time's up. Where are those pots and pans...?