Tuesday, September 04, 2007

mutual defenestration means self-annihilation

Boy, do I like this guy. I'm so glad to be in the same denomination with him.

"A minority of voices ask whether we in the Presbyterian Church of America (my denomination) ought to look more closely at whether our preaching adequately reflects the corporate nature of the apostle Paul's vision — they suggest even that our view of the unity of the covenant implies that perhaps it's worth considering whether our children belong with us at the Table (as Hebrew children did at Passover).

The answer: a study paper (passed — I note with chagrin — overwhelmingly) not on the biblical merits of the positions considered, but on whether they pass confessional standards (as interpreted by a tendentiously and carelessly written paper). When the point of the positions was never whether the standards were wrong, but whether more needed to be said than the standards say.

Suggest that we might do a better job representing Paul's view that the Body and Bride are elect as a whole, and get accused of denying that Paul teaches individual election.

Suggest that more could be said about the way Jew and Gentile oneness in the gospel demonstrates the righteousness of God than the Westminster Standards say, and get accused of denying justification by faith.

Suggest that all parties ought to be a part of this conversation, and receive a fluffy, but smugly cute repartee about the folly of inviting the accused to join the jury — have the derisiveness compounded by a disingenuous faux-rebuke of the "righteous applause" with which the vacuous remark is sycophantically met.

Battle as relentlessly and courageously as the Church of England's N.T. Wright does to champion the view that Paul's theology is animated by a comprehensive and integrated story of promise and fulfillment — scoring points against both the postmodern deconstruction of the biblical meta-narrative and the dispensational fracturing of the singular story of "the Israel of God" into dichotomous stories of "Israel" versus the "church" — and what do you get from your potential allies in the conservative reformed world? How about getting dismissed as importing an alien biblical theology into the established categories of systematic theology, as being vague about the atonement, and as compromising biblical authority? While we build careers at our potential friends' expense, the hostile armies and navies amass. Nice work.

Write courageously, as does Duke University's Richard Hays, into a most liberal Methodist environment about Paul's seeing in homosexuality the red light on the cultural dashboard, champion Paul's theological method as building upon Old Testament themes and texts and Jesus' ministry as being the embodiment of Israel's story, and get accused of Nestorianism because you believe that complementary to Paul's teaching that we are to believe "into Jesus" we are also supposed to have a faith that was like that of the incarnate Jesus? Puhleeze!"

(HT: Reggie Kidd)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Provoking our Collective Community Imagination II

The prophets were more than purveyors of public doom and gloom. They sought to stir and rehabilitate the communal imagination of the people by painting pictures of gospel saturated community (i.e. times when lions and lambs would lie together and when corporate life together would be characterized by true gospel shalom). Provoking their collective community imagination was a key part in the prophetic program. Their imagination was the way in which they were to make connections between their visible social plight and the invisible possibilities for a renewed situation.

However, visionary awareness of group life is not enough. ‘Insight is not change’ is what a good counselor might say to a counselee who has rightly seen the way forward through a current issue. The new insight must lead to concrete fruits of change and renewal. So, it is with us. It is not enough to be stirred with a fresh vision of the necessity of small group life. The path to isolated individualism is paved with thoughts and desires for authentic rewarding community life. Inspiring insight into how one-anothering should look, quite simply, is not change. Having perceived the need, movement from a state of autonomy to participation in community must happen. Money magazine in surveying the principal reasons for the termination of fortune 500 ceo’s, cited lack of implementation/execution as the number one reason these high-powered execs were fired. These are intelligent, high capacity women and men full of inspiring ideas and visions for what the company could be and where it could go. Yet, they stumbled, not infrequently, at insuring that those fertile visions were translated into on-the-ground corporate realities.

The simple challenge is to step out courageously in faith and join a fellowship group. The call is to pursue a little safe place where you can know and be known by others, care and be cared for. In the context of a big church like Redeemer, this level of participation in the life of the church happens in small groups. They are perhaps the most high impact way that we live fruitfully and spiritually beneficially with one another.

Quite frankly, it is just plain fun to meet new people and to connect with fellow urbanites around things as diverse as Bible discussion and Brubeck, community service and Coltrane. Fellowship groups hold forth the prospect of enjoying God’s world with his people even as both are renewed and transformed in the process.

Many have experienced the surprises that gather at the intersection of an invigorated community imagination and humble risk-taking initiative to go join and or lead a fellowship group. Consider some of the experience of Bethany Jenkins, a fellowship group leader: “I talked with another friend who was already in a Redeemer group. Although neither of us had ever led a group before, we decided to try it out and knew, at least, we had one member - my roommate. We told a few people about the group, those people told their friends, and a month later, we had 15 people and were over capacity. Within a year, we separated into four groups to accommodate more people. Again, friends told friends and very shortly all four of those groups were full and had to turn people away.”

Now, this is not an attempt at crass triumphalism. Still less does it suggest that all groups have or will experience(d) such numerical quantitative ‘success’. It is one example of what can happen when faith risks for kingdom community purposes, when people desiring to realize the dream of genuine one-anothering, put feet on those desires and get involved. By her own admission Bethany admits that her testimony is “……nothing spectacular. I saw a need, I talked with a friend about it, and we took a risk……God loves it when we take risks that seek to love His people by meeting their needs.”

In the economy of the gospel, we are called to be more than an admirer of the idea of authentic community. We are called to be followers, followers of the Way, living out of the life of the One who is the Way and laid down His life so that we could find our own, even as we lay down our own lives for others, making room for them, and participating in new life together with them.

If you’ve had your imagination converted to see the call to real life together, then live into that renewed reality and join and/or lead a fellowship group.