Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teacher Forced to Resign For Questioning

Think Christian has reported on an interesting story about a High School Bible Teacher at NorthPoint Christian school, Kent Dobson, who hosted a show on the Discovery channel that questioned some elements of the Bible.

Dobson, the 31-year-old son of retired Calvary Church pastor Ed Dobson, resigned his post as Bible teacher at NorthPointe Christian High School last week after the school board questioned his role in the March 16 special, “Jesus: The Missing History.”
On the hourlong program, Dobson questioned biblical scholars on possible contradictions between the Gospels and the historical evidence of Jesus’ life. The questions included:

Was Bethlehem Jesus’ birthplace?
Was Jesus a carpenter or a stone mason?
Was Jesus’ eviction of money changers from the temple a political or religious move?
Is there any truth in the Gnostic gospels?
In the program, which is not scheduled for rebroadcast, Dobson does not definitively answer the questions or take a position. He interviews biblical scholars who present evidence that contradicts the Bible.

Here are some excerpts of the program:

The result was a flood of letters/emails from the parents of students at the school calling for action to be taken. The result was a board hearing, and pressure to resign. In the emails was included this little gem:

We understand that this was done with unbelievers and that parts of this were edited.

The part that actually concerns me that as a Christian the Bible was questioned. The Bible is never to be questioned!

Why as a Christian would one place himself in this type of situation where we would actually be questioning the Bible. (Boldness added, but the exclamation point was original)

Sure, we should never question the Bible. In fact, we should never question anything! We should just accept everything we hear as truth and never investigate anything!

Come on. I'm exaggerating to make a point. This really saddens me. Isn't the educational experience supposed to be less about indoctrination and more about competing ideas and viewpoints? Shouldn't we trust high schoolers to think and wrestle with evidence, ideas, and claims? Isn't all truth God's truth?

Suffice it to say, I completely disagree with this decision and think it runs contrary to education, in addition to making Christians look like indoctrinators rather than educators (which is largely true, unfortunately). When I was a Christian educator (as a youth pastor in a church), my goal was to get students thinking, wrestling, and questioning. I wanted students to think for themselves, rather than accept what I tell them and regurgitate it. The latter does not produce good citizens, thinkers, or disciples, but simply status quo, toe the line young people. and, I think as we see more people in their 20's leaving the church than ever before, it should be a sign to us that indoctrination is not working.

But, there are some other factors that come into play. Regardless of how right or wrong any of us think this decision is, it is a private Christian school making the call, funded on the dollars of the tuition paying parents. If the school wanted to require all teachers to shave their heads and grow beards to their waists, they could, right? So, they technically did nothing wrong from a legal standpoint.

In addition, Kent Dobson is apparently enough of a sought after Bible Scholar that it shouldn't be hard for him to get another job. But it is still sad. It means he has to leave all of his students and colleagues. It means he probably will have to move. It means he will have this black mark (if you can call it that) on his record for the rest of his life. I wish him the best. (And, incidentally, I think I've met this guy. He looks so familiar! I've been having a deja vu moment since I watched the clip.)

What is your take on this whole situation?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thoughts On Worship

Some very interesting thoughts, no?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Boyd, Claiborne, and Colson, Continued

I had posted previously about a panel discussion that went on featuring Greg Boyd, Chuck Colson, and Shane Claiborne. Greg had done a review of it on his blog, which I linked to. Well, the actual presentation is now out, and very much worth the time to listen to/watch it. There are several option"

First, this is a video of the entire discussion. You get to see how the participants interact and react to each others' statements. This is about an hour and a half long, so be aware.

Second, this is the unedited audio of the conversation. This is a second best option, if you want to listen to it in the car or put it on your ipod. The only think you miss is the body language and reactions (which are important).

Third, you can find on this site a link to the "radio show" version, edited down and commentated by the facilitator. It is more sound byte material and has less of a flow, so I would definitely recommend one of the first two, as this only contains about half of the material. This is the link to the root site that has all of these links as well as info about the event.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Postmodern Presentation By Brad Cecil

In Tony Jones' new book The New Christians, which I reviewed here, he gives a history of the inception of the emergent movement (before it was called that). One of the core elements to forming this core group and the core ideas was a powerpoint presentation done by Brad Cecil on Postmodernity. According to Tony in the book, the presentation "has attained legendary status among emergents."

The context of all of this coming up was the question of how can the church attract Gen Xers back to church in the same way Bill Hybels and Rick Warren attracted boomers and busters? Some were saying all the church needs to do is get hipper, grow go-tees and play cool music. Another group said that a deeper shift in philosophy was happening and that small, superficial changes were not enough. This second group became the starting core of the emergent movement, and this presentation became a sort of explanation of the shift they felt was taking place.

Above is said presentation. You should definitely read the book, and when you do, you can share in the presentation as well.

Let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"What is an Emergent Cohort?" Starring ME!

This is a video that is being shown on Brian McLaren's "Everything Must Change Tour." It is a plug for the emergent cohorts around the nation: what they are, who goes, that king of thing. And what do you know, I make an appearance...all be it a small one.

Here is the story.

The first cohort meeting I went to they mentioned this to us, that they wanted to take some video. Now one of the ongoing jokes about emergent folks is that they have to attend cohort meetings or read emergent books in secret, without their bosses or home churches finding out or they'll get fired. It is mostly not true, but it makes for a kind-of-funny bit we do here.

At 2:36 in you will see Doug Pagitt do a short intro, saying he is going to try and sneak in and see who attends the Twin Cities emergent cohort. When he enters the room, you may not be able to tell, but we all held strips of paper over our eyes, to play up this idea that we want to remain anonymous. I am the guy in the center with a blue shirt on and a backpack sitting between my feet. There is light behind me, so it is hard to tell it's me, but it is me nonetheless.

I encourage you to go to the cohort finder and find an emergent cohort in the area, if free and open theological discussion excites you. I have been going for several months now and never want to miss. It is a fun time. Are any of you involved in emergent cohorts where you are?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Boyd on OT Violence, Continued.

Greg Boyd is moving right along in his series on violence in the Old Testament. He is to the point where he is offering theories, and then critiquing them. Here is an overview of what he has done so far.

Introduction- Linked Previously

What's at Stake?

[L]et's do our best to explain the depictions of God as violent in the Old Testament and to thereby reconcile them with the revelation of God in Christ. But for God’s sake (literally), don’t leverage your faith in Christ on the outcome of this investigation!

The Violent Strand of the Old Testament and Our Picture of God

[W]hatever else is at stake in the issue of explaining the violent strand of the Old Testament, our picture of God should not be. Fix your spiritual eyes on Jesus (2 Cor. 3:17-4:6; Col 3:5; Heb 12:2), not on the warrior God of the Old Testament.

OT Violence and Christian Behavior

Jesus himself seems quite aware that the attitude towards enemies he commands his followers to embrace is very different from some aspects of the Old Testament. For example, in the Old Testament God twice reigned down fire from heaven in judgment on various individuals and groups. Yet, when John and James wanted to do this same thing in the New Testament, Jesus rebuked them (Lk 9:52-55). It violated the spirit of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish to want God to act the way he did in the Old Testament!...Clearly, the way of the Kingdom Jesus was establishing was very different from the way of Yahweh in the violent strands of the Old Testament.

Could Old Testament Warriors Have Been Mistaken?- View #1

This is how God handles all violence, according to Eller. All war is the result of human estrangement from God, and so in this sense all war is a punishment for rebellion against God. “God doesn’t approve of war,” he says, “but this isn’t to say war is completely outside his plan.” Rather, “war is the punishment brought upon themselves by those who foster and create the kind of situations that lead to war. " Moreover, Eller argues, "it is not that the losing nation is the punished one and the winner merely the punisher. War is always punishment both ways”(79). So, as a regrettable concession, God worked with Israel’s Nimrodian mindset, as he worked with the Nimrodian mindset of others, to accomplish his purposes, as much as possible, in the world. And part of this purpose was to punish the sinful violent-mindedness of both the Israelites and their pagan enemies.

And all the while Yahweh was laying the groundwork for a future revelation of who he really is, what his character is really like and what kind of warfare he has really called us to.

A Defense of Eller's Thesis- Support for View #1

The basic point is that the Bible does not give us the unmediated voice of God. It gives us God’s voice mediated through culturally conditioned human witnesses. In this light, it doesn't seem too outlandish to suppose that certain Old Testament warriors and authors were right when they heard God telling them to fight his battles, but reflected their cultural conditioning when they interpreted this to mean they were to slaughter men, women and children. They expressed a God-inspired truth when they affirmed that God wanted to fight for them and give them the victory. But the way they expressed and applied this truth was culturally conditioned.

A Critique of Eller's Thesis- A Critique of View #1

These episodes of God causing carnage seem no more consistent with the God revealed on Calvary – the God who chooses to be killed rather than to kill – than the episodes of slaughtering that involve human agents. Hence, while Eller's thesis nicely removes the inconsistency between the Old and New Testaments regarding how God wants his people to treat enemies, it doesn't at all help remove the inconsistency regarding their portraits of God.

What do you guys think of Eller's view (view #1)?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Reading Rundown

I've been reading a lot of Brian McLaren in the last month. I appreciate his mind and his outlook, not to mention his remarkable grace in writing and dealing with sensitive matters. Let me give you a quick blurb of my opinions about the books I've recently read of his.

A New Kind of Christian

I read this a few months ago, but I should really start with this to pave the way for the rest of what I'm going to talk about. This was a cutting edge book written right at the time the Emerging ChurchMovement was being born. The book is about the shift from modernity to postmodernity.

I should mention, each of the books in this series is written in narrative form. I've read other books like this too, where it is written in narrative but the point is the material the characters talk about rather than the story itself. This method can tend to be really dry and cheesy as far as the story goes, showing very obviously that the narrative needs to get out of the way for the "material" that the author wants to share. This trilogy is not like that at all. McLaren is very good at writing story and makes the story important. He pulls you into the characters and their lives, emotions, and feelings.

In A New kind of Christian, a pastor (Dan Poole) is fed up with the ministry and the fundamentalist, simplistic rut that his church is stuck in. He starts making plans to quit and get another job, when he meets a guy who goes by the nickname "Neo", who begins to help him see a shift that is starting to happen in the world and in the church. The book is the story of several months in Dan's life as he goes on this mental and philosophical journey with Neo. It is a great book. It is one of those I want to reread sometime soon.

The Story We Find Ourselves In

About a month ago, I jumped back into the series and read this, book two in the New Kind of Christian Trilogy. It involves telling the story of God in the Bible and how he works in our lives. It deals with evolution (how a person can be a Christian and embrace evolution) among other topics. It is my least favorite of the trilogy, but still worth reading.

The Last Word and the Word After That

The last in the series, but a very good book. The book is primarily about Hell, but dabbles a bit in talking about homosexuality as well. It involves the same characters (Dan, Neo, and others), and Dan's search to find out what he really believes about Hell, and whether Hell is the point. There is a great look at the history of the different beliefs about Hell predating Jesus, and what Jesus' audience would have had as a context when he talks about Hell. It is a very interesting study.

In addition, the narrative part of the series really hits a fever pitch in this volume. You go on a very hard, emotional ride with Dan in this book. I don't like this quite as much as A New Kind of Christian, but it is definitely a close second.

Generous Orthodoxy

In Generous Orthodoxy, you see Brian for who he is. After reading the trilogy above, it was nice to have him just come out and say it, if you know what I mean.

I love the idea of the book, that we should embrace all of these different streams of Christianity for the good that they bring to the table, rather than fight about the differences. The book is good, but the primary arch, this theme that he continues throughout, is the greatest contribution that the book makes. After establishing this point and telling a bit of his testimony, Brian begins going through a number of movements one by one, taking out what he admires about each one (streams like liberal/conservative, protestant/catholic, Calvinist, Emergent, unfinished, etc.).

It is a pretty good read, worth a purchase.

Next on my plate is They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball and Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. In a few months I may go back to McLaren, and if so the next in line would be The Secret Message of Jesus followed by Everything Must Change. Anybody read any of these?