Thursday, September 29, 2005

New Layout

I have long dreamed of a 3 column layout for "Adventures in Following Jesus". My friend Phil has helped to make this dream a reality. I will be posting my first "position paper" either tomorrow or Saturday. Check back and let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Systematic Theology Class @ Lipscomb

I'm in Nashville this week for my Systematic Theology class with John Mark Hicks. I'll admit that "Systematic Theology" sounded less than uninteresting to start with. However, Hicks takes a Narrative approach to it and I am loving it. In addition to the class, I have had a chance to spend some time with my blogging friends Phil (and his wonderful family) and BST. I also got a chance to meet Preston at Otter Creek Wednesday night. I'll be driving back to West Virginia (and to Dana and Emma) tomorrow evening.

The class was great and has really spurred my thinking, but I'm not going to expound on it that much today. Starting next week I will be writing a "position paper" on significant theological topics each week for the next 5. My plan is to post them each week to the blog. For those weeks I will probably post on Friday or Saturday. I would love your feedback on them.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

I believe in God. This is the lens that I view the world from. Yet, I have to admit that God has not been irrefutably proven to me. In the end, I made a decision to believe. I made a decision to look at the Bible through believing eyes. I decided to think about God with a believing mind. I decided. One of the mistakes that we have made in the church is that we have gotten into the habit of trying to offer "irrefutable proof" of God's existence. We tried to construct iron clad formulas to lead people to Christ. We forgot that faith, by nature, is not the product of irrefutable proof (or it would be "sight"). What if instead of trying to rationally prove our beliefs to everyone, we just lived out our beliefs with lives worth living? What would happen if we invited people into our faith communities (not just our services) who didn't yet believe, and incorporated them into the practice of our faith? What if instead of trying to argue or debate reasons for faith, we became reasons for faith? As Brian McLaren says, "In a postmodern world, the question is no longer 'Is it true?', but instead 'Is it good?'" This is by no means a denial of the truth of God. Rather McLaren is pointing out the way that people in culture now gage validity. So what if you can prove it? Is it good? Maybe it's time we stopped trying to prove it and started living lives that people might actually decide to follow because they are good lives. Maybe it's time that we connected them to stories and a Story that is worth buying into rather than "irrefutable proofs". After all, the Gospel is "good news", isn't it?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Image of God

In the Old Testament, there exists a strident prohibition against making images of our God. It’s something that He doesn’t really play around about. In the familiar story where Aaron makes a golden calf for Israel when Moses is up on the mountain, the text indicates that they were using the calf to worship YHWH, the one true God. It wasn’t that they were using an idol to worship another god, it was that they were using an image to worship the one true God. The consequences were severe.
For a long time I’ve wondered why this is: why is God so opposed to us making images to represent him? Partially I suppose that it may have to do with the fact that virtually all pagan gods were worshiped with images and this served as a distinction. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. In the beginning, God created man in His image. This is not just to say that “we look like Him”, or as a theologian I recently read suggested, that things like our “logic” are a reflection of the mind of God, but rather is an indication of our primary vocation. As the people of God, we are called to bear and “be” his Image to the world. We are not to craft images to represent God simply because that is our role…to be the images that represent God. If we were to create representative external images, we would lose the sense of our own calling. We gather together in worship, partly because, in community, we are imaging the Living God to each other. Right now, in the wake of the hurricane, in places where hope is gone and God seems absent, our role is to be there…to be present…to bear the image of the Living God. This does not necessarily mean that each of us needs to individually go and be geographically present. As a community…as the people of God, we need to figure out ways to bear God’s image into those places…the image of God the Provider…the image of God the Protector…the image of God, the Giver of Hope and Life and Everything Good. If we are content to let anything other than the people of God bear these images for us, simply put, we are guilty of idolatry in it’s most insidious form.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I am currently reading Theology For The Community of God by Stan Grenz for my Systematic Theology class in Grad School. This book is simply brilliant. In it, Grenz says:

"Narrative theologians rightly point out that the revealed truth of God, which comes to us fundamentally in the narrative of God's actions in the world, forms the "basic grammar" that creates Christian identity. Truth establishes who we are--Christians, God's children. Rather than merely being a product of our experience, as certain strands of liberalism tend to argue, in an important sense this truth of God, this retold narrative, creates our experience. The identity-creative experience, however, is not ours as individuals in isolation. Instead our identity arises within a community, with in the fellowship of God's people in the church."

I believe that the church must recapture the sweeping story that begins in Genesis and ends with God declaring that He is "making all things new". This story must saturate our gatherings. It must comprise our worldview. Our teaching must constantly connect all things back to it.
Additionally, we must elevate our focus on the telling of individual stories and how they merge with the big story. I caught something on T.V. the other day about teen suicide (or I may have actually read it in a book). They theorized that people consider (and commit) suicide when they lose their story--when they don't think their story is going anywhere anymore. Could the same be true of the church? Is it possible that in our quest to make Christianity be all about "propositional truth" we have lost our story? The ramifications of that are staggering. Sometimes when I am asked to speak I do a little thing where I tell the story of scripture in about 15-20 minutes, connecting the major events into a single narrative. The reaction always amazes me. Dozens of people always come up to me afterwards saying "I never thought of it that way." What are we teaching in our churches? Steps? Unconnected historical facts? Timeless Truths? Good advice? God forgive us...and help us to claim and recapure our Story and thereby the church's life.