Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family: Emma's Memory Verse, Chloe's hug, and Jan's Baby

Wow! Things are really crazy right now between family stuff, ministry stuff with the new church, and grad school (I've got a paper due this week). Still, there are a couple of things I wanted to share with you:

1. Emma showing off her scripture memorizing and hula hoop skills:

2. Chloe's Hug: (Picture by my lovely and talented wife Dana)

I came home from work yesterday, like I always do, and went around to give all of my girls hugs and kisses. Chloe (coming up on 11 months old) was playing in the playroom and so I just kind of squatted down to watch her. When she turned around and saw me, her face lit up into a huge (really cute) smile and she broke into a full (baby) sprint towards me. She held her arms out wide and then, very deliberately, very intentionally hugged my neck (which was within her reach since I was squatting down). It's the first time she's done that with anyone so deliberately. I'll tell you...in that moment, everything was right in the world.

3. For those of you who may not know it, my sister Jan is probably having a baby today. I say "probably" because she went to the hospital last night and is being induced (they've already given her the medicine and they've already broken her water). I had the honor of performing the wedding ceremony for Jan and her husband Clint a couple of years ago, and now we couldn't be happier about welcoming their daughter (and my new niece) into the world! (Picture also by Dana)


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lots of Link Love

Swamped with grad school, so I haven't been able to post much lately. There are several very interesting links I wanted to share with you though.
  • CLICK HERE to buy the audio version of "The Shack" by William Young on itunes for $5.95.
  • Need to catch up on your favorite shows or maybe even watch a few free movies? I recommend HULU and FANCAST.
  • Want some legal free music to download? (Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Sixpence None The Richer, etc.) Several artists have made there music available at NOISETRADE.
  • Do you need quality free backgrounds for powerpoint or mediashout? CLICK HERE for a great free resource.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Identifying Our Context (Narrative Gospel 2)

As a follow-up to the 1000 word gospel piece, I wrote the following piece in an attempt to identify the current context in which we are attempting to communicate the Gospel. I will probably develop this into a much larger paper for the class where I will wrestle with the questions it raises.

As we attempt to engage with how we can effectively translate the message of the Gospel to out culture in our time, it quickly becomes apparent that a few “new” challenges have arisen (though it can be argued that these challenges aren’t particularly “new”, but maybe just forgotten). The task is complicated somewhat by the fact that our prior engagement with modernity led us to certain conclusions and methodologies (such as reductionism and “propositional truth”) that no longer communicate what they once did (they may in fact communicate quite the opposite). Meanwhile, many in the church are unaware or have become confused about what is Scriptural or “historically Christian” and what stems from engagement or even syncretism with modernity.

Even as we must embrace the fact that neither a modern methodology or a modern epistemology are required by the Gospel, we must also recognize that our emerging postmodern context brings both new opportunities and new challenges for the Gospel. Though postmodern philosophy cannot and should not be swallowed wholesale in an undiscerning manner, it can be useful in our task of disentangling our faith and the Gospel from post-enlightenment thought. While postmodern thought is in many ways still in its embryonic stages, one clearly identifiable trend is “incredulity toward metanarratives” . The basic interpretive lens utilized by most people in contemporary western culture is characterized by a deep suspicion. In my opinion, this suspicion cuts two ways: First of all, it is deeply suspect of anything that claims to be totalizing. Grand, sweeping narratives that claim to be the one, true narrative and/or sets of propositions that demand assent are simply seen as power games or a means of coercion. Secondly, through world events as diverse as Auschwitz, the Challenger explosion, and 9-11, the myth of progress has been exposed. Progress is the “new clothes” that the emperor believed he was wearing, when he was actually as naked as the day he was born. One doesn’t need to be a particularly religious person in order to see the idol that modernity made of individual, human reason. What once seemed “enlightened” is now seen as an arrogant sham. There is indeed a deep suspicion of any ideology, concept, or system that claims to be THE answer, THE way, or (certainly) the TRUTH. Quite frankly, in many cases this stems from being disappointed again and again by such claims. Nothing arouses suspicion, mistrust, and doubt so much as certainty. In the postmodern ethos, any claim of certainty from finite and perspectival beings (as we all are) smacks of the worst kind of arrogance and naiveté.

Innovative thinkers Walsh and Middleton point out that this suspicion toward metanarratives is problematic for our proclamation of what is essentially a narrative Gospel. The late Stanley Grenz articulates the same difficulty in his informative “Primer on Postmodernism”. Their point is well taken. If our Gospel is essentially a narrative, and if we would presume to say that it is in any sense “true” in a way that competing narratives are not, then we seem to have a problem. James Smith raises an interesting point, which he means more as a clarification than a disagreement with the previously mentioned authors.. He argues that a narrative is not a metanarrative simply because it is a big, sweeping, all-encompassing story, but rather due to the way it functions. According to Smith, it is only a metanarrative when it is used in a coercive way or as a means of domination. I suspect that Smith is technically correct, but I also suspect that the inherent suspicion that exists on the popular level is not so discerning (at least not on the surface). Therefore, the question that I believe we need to wrestle with is: “How do we proclaim an essentially narrative Gospel in and to a culture that is deeply suspicious of metanarratives, propositional truth, and claims of certainty?”

Resources Consulted
  • Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. Wm. B. EerdmansPublishing, 1996.
  • Lyotard, Jean François, and Frederic Jameson. The postmodern condition: a report on knowledge. U of Minnesota Press, 1984.
  • Middleton, J. Richard, and Brian J. Walsh. Truth is Stranger Than it Used to be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age. InterVarsity Press, 1995.
  • Smith, James K. A. Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church. Baker Academic, 2006.