Here’s (e)mergent Voyageurs on homosexuality, responding to what Brian McLaren had to say about the topic. I really appreciated Jamie’s honesty and transparency on the (e)mergent Voyageurs blog, and I’m a bit disappointed with Mr. McLaren’s comments. I understand the latter’s desire to be “pastoral” and kind, avoiding the highly politicized approach to sexuality, but there comes a point when a person has to just come out (pardon the pun) and admit what he or she believes.
I just finished Second Chronicles. It’s really taking longer than I imagined to make it through the Bible. There’s a lot of good stuff in here, though. The story of King Hezekiah is downright inspirational in places, and here’s a gem from the end of the book:
“The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy” (Second Chronicles 36:15-16 NRSV).
Several years ago I made a last minute decision to attend the Tulsa Workshop. It was so last minute, I didn’t have a place to stay lined up for myself and the fellow who went with me, and we didn’t have enough cash for a hotel room. “The brethren are good. They’ll take care of us,” I kept saying.
Arriving just after the Friday evening worship at the fairgrounds, we found a deacon from Garnett Road Church of Christ, who helped up line up housing at the church building. We spent the night sleeping on a Sunday School classroom floor and showered there as well.
Garnett Road Church was a megachurch that never was. They never really filled that wonderful building, though they certainly tried. During the ministry of Marvin Phillips the church grew and had a lot of megachurch-type activities, but after his retirement the church seemed to lack direction.
Well, things are changing at Garnett Road. What interests me is how they appear to be embracing an emerging/missional approach and losing members at the same time. Also, they have changed their building into a community event center. The article about this leaves me wondering who owns the building now.
“Christian Dogmatics,” I told the young lady at the bookstore over the phone. Then I had to spell “dogmatics” for her. She was able to order it for me, and I’ve had it now for years. It’s a thick book – over 600 pages – of Lutheran systematic theology from the Missouri Synod perspective. Every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed…all theological questions and doubts are nailed down.
Of course I disagree with large sections of the book, simply because I don’t believe it’s completely in sync with the Bible. Then again, the nature of a systematic theology text is fundamentally different from that of Scripture. Systematic theology attempts to put in coherent order what the writers of Scripture left rather messily spread out in narrative, letters and somewhat arcane symbolism.
The modern mind struggles with Scripture. Post-Enlightenment scholars have worked feverishly to systematize what they viewed as the disjointed testimony of Scripture (although most would never have used such terms for the nature of the biblical witness). Most of my professers strained to show how this passage here connected with that one way over there in another book and time in the Bible to form this or that doctrine. Traditional, conservative preachers will often consider most “biblical” a sermon that jumps from one passage to another, forming a string of verses that proves their point.
For all that, the Bible isn’t a book of systematic theology. It is a record of God’s words and working with His people, centered around the great event: the Incarnation. Had God wanted to give us a systematic, section by section explanation of everything we would need to know, a sort of “user’s manual,” He could have. Quite simply, that’s not what He did. He gave us what He knew we needed, a very human text relating His working with fallen humanity towards the fulfillment of His plans for creation.
Maybe we should start reading it for what it is, not for what we would like for it to be.
A young couple came over from Belo Horizonte to Uberlandia to visit during my first year on the mission field. They were members of one of the churches that supported the mission church and were excited to see the work in progress. It was a good visit, and one evening as I was walking to my house with the young man and a co-worker in the mission, the topic of what I’d now call the intermediate state came up. In other words, the question was raised of where the departed in Christ “goes” immediately following physical death.
As Ivan, the fellow missionary, was explaining that I believe we go to be with Christ and he believes that we go to a temporary hadean paradise to await resurrection, the visitor interjected in disbelief. He said he’d always believed that the soul sleeps until the resurrection, and further affirmed that he’d never heard any different.
So there we were, three men of the same movement of churches walking down the same street discussing our three very different views of the “afterlife.” We certainly didn’t come to blows over it, knowing that ultimately the truth will become known to us when we die, and it doesn’t make much of a practical difference in the hear-and-now.
Looking back, I realize that we were trying to answer a question that the Bible never really brings up. Think about Lazarus. That man was dead for four days before Jesus brought him back to life. If anyone asked him where he was during those days, the Gospel writer didn’t apparently think it important enough to jot down the answer. For us, though, it would be one of the first questions off our lips and put into print.
Whatever the truth may be about what comes directly after physical death, the emphasis of Scripture and the Good News is elsewhere. Reading Acts, the Epistles and Revelation, we find a sharp focus not on life after death, but on the resurrection of the dead. This continued into the post-apostolic period and can be seen in the Nicene Creed. Try to find heaven there.
So we debate what the apostles and prophets apparently considered less important, and fail to concentrate on what they considered the climax of human history.
Reading the Book of Mormon for the first time can be disconcerting. If you are familiar with history, the glaring anachronisms will cause you to chuckle. If you know much about the Bible narrative, you’ll find the advanced knowledge of Christ and Christian theology difficult to swallow. Horses, elephants, barley and other non-native livestock being in the Americas prior to the arrival of Lehi’s family, centuries before the time of Christ (let alone Columbus, millenia later) lead us to believe that this book is not an literal ancient record, and the teachings that have more in common with early 19th century North American revivalism coming out of the mouths of pre-Christian prophets confirm this opinion.
A few years ago I carried on an e-mail exchange with an active member of a sub-group that split off of the movement that Joseph Smith Jr. founded. One of this gentleman’s big arguments for his faith was that the Book of Mormon doesn’t teach that much that a modern Baptist or other conservative evangelical should consider objectionable. Polygamy and celestial marriage are nowhere found in the text. In fact, there is every indication that the “plain and precious truths” that it claims to restore are not the modern Mormon distinctives of temple ceremonies and the deification of faithful Mormon men, but rather were the doctrines of early 19th century popular Christianity with an unusual spin provided by Joseph Smith.
If you read the Book of Mormon and are fairly well read on the Bible, you will notice very early on that it does not read that much like the Bible. Oh, there is a “King James” quality to the language, and it is set in chapter and verse and looks as though it is supposed to be taken as Scripture, but the content is presented as the completely developed theology of Joseph Smith’s times. This being the case, I argue the following:
If the Bible says what most modern evangelicals say it does, then it should read more like the Book of Mormon. The fully developed doctrine of justification along with a sinners prayer and revivalistic atmosphere should be everywhere present. Joseph Smith thought so. That’s why he undertook to revise the Bible. Though he never completed the work, the Community of Christ has published and used for years what he did get “revised.” In it, Adam preaches about Christ and he, Eve and their children are baptized.
Talk about anachronisms!
What I’m saying is that the Bible cannot mean what most modern evangelical protestants say it does, because if it did it would look much different than it does. The difficulty is in approaching the text of Scripture trying to find what the original writers and readers would have understood, without our modern (or post-modern) theological baggage.