In the World, but Not of It

"Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. 'The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared.'"

Is Suburbanization Evil?

In my mind, there is no question that it is.

It is only the conservative values ingrained on the mind of the evangelical church that blinds us to this. The suburbs were formed when technology gave people the ability to commute; and hence to choose to live apart from where they work. People were beholden to the cities for jobs and economic infrastructure, but did not want to live with the problems that such environments create. In moving to the suburbs they could have the benefits of the city without the problems. They could share in the resources of the City without taking responsibility for the City.

Were this all there was to suburbanization it would be bad enough...

Unfortunately there is an explicitly racial component to the entire structure as well. The suburban environment is vastly different than the urban one in terms of ethnicity. This means that our economic system treats people of different ethnicities vastly different. Conservatives argue that it is okay that we treat minorities worse than whites because we don't treat minorities bad because they are minorities; we only treat them bad because they are poor.

It is the same argument used to disenfranchise minorities historically. "We aren't preventing blacks from voting, only illiterates!" Intentionally ignoring that blacks largely couldn't read because our nation had set up the educational system to educate whites and not blacks...

The real question is, will we see that no matter what has caused the problems the poor face, whether that is the actions of evil men with power, or well-intentioned but ignorant men with power, or the apathy and sin of the poor themselves; as Christians it is our duty and our joy to be among them!?

What Do We Live For?

What is important to you? Why?

What takes up the bulk of your time? Why?

Are the things you call important, the things that take up the bulk of your time? Why, why not?

Who is your 'teacher,' where do you come up with your ideas of what is important and why they are?

Is that teacher trustworthy? Do they live the life you want for yourself? Is that why you trust them, or do you simply follow them because you've never thought about it?

Gaptooth Grin

Can you believe it?

My firstborn has lost her first tooth!


Review: Beyond Belief pt V

5) Ignoring Other Theories

Pagels makes no attempt to address the arguments of other scholars and simply asserts her version. It is not problematic for her to have a diverse view, but certainly a credible argument must be given as to why her opinion is correct in the face of so much scholarly opinion to the contrary. She seems simply unaware of (or unwilling to tangle with) the realm of scholarship on an issue like the significance of the resurrection. She puts forth as plausible that Christians might believe in a 'spiritual' resurrection, when at least some contemporary scholars have argued significantly that no Jewish Christian would believe such a thing, nor would such a belief lead to the rise of the Church.

Even on issues where I do not know the opinion of scholarship, she still fails to argue for her assertions when they seem to have obvious alternative explanations. This is true of the dating of various manuscripts, the degree to which certain theological diversities would have been acceptable as 'within orthodoxy' prior to Irenaeus, and many other issues.

Case in point, she asserts that the 2nd Century argument by Irenaeus for a four-fold gospel canon (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and the simultaneous creation of Tatian's Diatessaron (the single book harmonizing these same four gospels), suggests that this was a new idea; that people would not have been familiar with the idea of a four gospel canon, and that this was why Irenaeus was so forceful in his argument for it. But to me it suggests exactly the opposite! Why would two men from two completely different parts of the world, from different cultures, simultaneously turn to these four gospels as authoritative if there were no previous weight given to those same documents? It seems a question that needs answering, not ignoring...

Even a basic working knowledge of orthodox doctrine seems to be lacking. She sees orthodox Christians arguing for a divine Jesus against the gnostic picture of a human one. This actually flips reality on its head; the gnostics were the ones who often pictured Jesus as lacking humanity (and a physical body), it was the orthodox position that affirmed both his divinity (and of equal importance) his humanity.


What I Say and What I Do

In the link above he shares the Barna statistic detailing how only 9% of evangelicals have a biblical worldview. Then he asks, "what are pastors preaching?"

The assumption, of course, is that pastor's preaching has a significant effect on what people believe!!!

Preaching is important, but it is far from central!

In short, the preaching isn't the problem.

The problem is the hidden curriculum of the church. We can preach something till we are blue in the face (eg" pick up your cross and follow me"), but if our lifestyle, our church culture, and even the very programs of the church itself, are communicating the opposite message (eg "come and receive our comfort-inducing programs and services"), our preaching will only serve as music on the deck of a sinking ship. The only thing this might actually accomplish is to lull people into forgetting that the ship is sinking! ("We aren't worshipping the idols of individualism, consumerism, and materialism, look at how biblical our preaching is!" says the man who doesn't know the name of a single person in his church nor in his neighborhood, has no meaningful ministry to anyone, and regularly attends the high dollar production the church puts on every Sunday morning.)

Review: Beyond Belief pt IV

4) Flawed Recreations of History

Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that she simply misconstrues history. She paints the entire era of 2nd and 3rd Century Christianity in an inaccurate way.

She describes gnostic beliefs in ways that might seem attractive to contemporary spiritual seekers but leaves out central 2nd Century gnostic tenets that might be deemed 'unattractive.' She paints gnostics in the vein of free-loving, undogmatic, New-Agers, but she fails to communicate that the gnosticism of the day viewed the material world as evil. They disdained the creation and everything with it, food, sex, and pleasure were to be eschewed; the physical world was not a place of beauty, but rather a prison.

The same is true of orthodoxy. She portrays the orthodox Christian community as primarily seeking political power, or at least political autonomy. It is this undergirding force that she claims led early Christians to embrace 'orthodoxy' and its attendant creeds in the first place. Christians were not orthodox until it became politically expedient to do so. This is simply a failure to understand the political situation of the day, or the political, social, and economic ramifications of orthodoxy in that situation.

It seems as though Pagels is unaware of the enormous disfavor the early Christians faced for their beliefs. Orthodoxy was far from political expediency, it was actually political suicide! Strike that, it wasn't political suicide, it was actual suicide! To proclaim an orthodox faith was to court martyrdom. Certainly this was more or less true depending on the Emperor and the local governor in question, but it was largely a reality until 313 AD, 150 years after Irenaus' arguments against the gnostics.

The opposite is true of the gnostic communities. Rome simply didn't care about the wellspring of new spiritualities, or even the proclamation of the name Jesus (even a Jesus executed by Romans). So long as those who practiced this new faith were willing to proclaim "Caesar is Lord," and give worship to his name, the Romans were quite pluralistic. The gnostic communities were not the ones facing persecution, nor even political pressure.

Whatever pressure gnostics faced from orthodox Christians was pressure from those without power. You would hardly call a group being persecuted a seat of cultural or political power. When men like Irenaeus spoke their words it cannot be viewed as persecution of others, rather their words were born out of a need to clarify what exactly was true about Jesus, and what exactly needed to be held to in the face of their own persecution.



18 Jacob will be a fire
and Joseph a flame;
Esau will be stubble,
and they will set him on fire and destroy him.
There will be no survivors
from Esau.”
The LORD has spoken.

Obadiah 1:18

The flame of Jacob, and the Fire of Joseph will destroy Esau...

Is the presence of the righteous, itself a part of God's judgement upon the unrighteous?

I know I get scared around holy people sometimes. ;-)


A Glorious Night

Just 20 minutes ago everyone finally left our house...

It was a glorious evening. Our house was full of people, and full of the Spirit. We had lots of first time guests.

India and her two kids came with Jamie. She hasn't been to church in years, and she teared up while we sang, and again when she told me afterwards that she could feel the weight lifting off her shoulders when she walked into our house.

Eddie came with Alan. He is a believer, but he just recently lost his father. We were able to pray for him, and hopefully, offer him some encouragement and brotherhood.

John and Bob came with Martin. John passed out on the couch, sleeping off his beer while we sang and prayed. Bob seemed encouraged to be there, we were blessed to have him. And Martin received a word from God, prayer, and hope.

The house was full of kids playing. We celebrated Faith's 4th birthday upstairs at the Kauffman's, the food was amazing! The kids had cake and then beat the tar out of a pinata. Then we came downstairs to sing songs to Jesus with Paul and Jeff banging the drums. During worship Jamie, India and her kids came in. We prayed, and Janine shared an image God had given her, for herself, and for others, of an open space that represented her heart, surrounded by pillars. The pillars represented things that kept God out of our hearts, the enemies lies that we believe, disobedience and rebellion, confusion, but God wanted to knock the pillars down! Martin responded to the word, and we prayed for Martin and Janine. Then Eddie came in and shared. We prayed for him too...

It is nights like these (surrounded by friends, and welcoming newcomers, to a community where Jesus is the center) that make me so grateful to God for sending us to this City. I wouldn't trade this away for anything.

Review: Beyond Belief pt III

I don't have the energy to deal with these systematically, so I will just address these points in no particular order:

1) Telescoping History

This is a common problem with people who talk about history in general, and early church history specifically. A prime example is the discussion about the influence of Constantine on the Church. Constantine's influence is far reaching, and certainly deserves to be discussed in a book on early Christian doctrine and lifestyle, however, Constantine's Edict of Milan was in 313 AD. From our 21st Century vantage point this may seem like a short jump from the lifetime of the Apostle's and Church Fathers, yet we must remember that the U.S. Declaration of Independence is closer to us in history than Jesus' crucifixion was to Constantine's Edict; Irenaeus' argument for a canonical fourfold gospel is removed from the influence of Constantine's conversion by a period of time equivalent to our own removal from the Civil War. In short, there is a common confusion about the timeline of ancient history, and a subsequent muddying in people's minds about which events have an impact on which other events.

Pagels certainly makes this mistake, arguing about Constantine's effect on the early church in a way that reveals she simply is unaware that what was going on in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Centuries could not have been influenced by what was going on in the 4th Century.

2) Confusing Literary Genres

The Gospel of Thomas is simply not a gospel. There is an attempt made by Pagels to compare and contrast the Thomas writings with the Gospel of John. But Thomas simply has no 'good news' to it. It is only a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. The very attempt to label the Gospel of Thomas a gospel reveals how derivative a work it is. But none of this is addressed by Pagels.

3) Fails to Address the Historical Question

Pagels' book makes much of her recreation of the history of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Centuries. She paints a very particular picture of the life of the church, and of individuals within the church. And yet, the glaring omission from the book is her failure to ever address questions of the 1st Century. Not only does she not address the life and events of Jesus and the Apostles, but she never even tells us why she doesn't discuss them. In a book that takes sides on the 2nd Century debate about 1st Century history, that she herself never even touches the question of 1st Century history is a bit confusing.

Society of Vineyard Scholars Conference 2011


I get to go hang out with some real smart cookies in a month...

Anyone want to come to Seattle with me?

(Click the title link to read the conference schedule...)



The Greatest Leader, by Patrick Lencioni
March 2008

I have been asked on a number of occasions, by journalists and curious clients, whom I believe to be the greatest leader in America. And I usually respond with my own question. “Are you asking for the name of a famous leader?” This usually leads to a fair amount of confusion, until I explain that the best leader in the world is probably relatively obscure.

You see, I believe that the best leader out there is probably running a small or medium-sized company in a small or medium-sized town. Or maybe they‘re running an elementary school or a church. Moreover, that leader‘s obscurity is not a function of mediocrity, but rather a disdain for unnecessary attention and adulation. He or she would certainly prefer to have a stable home life, motivated employees, and happy customers—in that order—over public recognition.

A skeptic might well respond, “But if this person really were the greatest leader, wouldn‘t his or her company eventually grow in size and stature, and become known for being great?” And the answer to that fine question would be, “Not necessarily.”

A great company should achieve its potential and grow to the size and scale that suits its founders‘ and owners‘ and employees‘ desires, not to mention the potential of its market. It may very well wildly exceed customer expectations and earn a healthy profit by doing so, but not necessarily grow for the sake of growing.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where bigger is often equated with better and where fame and infamy are all too often considered to be one and the same. And so we mistakenly come to believe that if we haven‘t seen a person‘s picture on the cover of BusinessWeek or in a dot-matrixed image in The Wall Street Journal, then they can‘t possibly be the best.

Consider for a moment those high profile leaders we do read about in the newspaper and see on television. Most, but not all, of them share an overwhelming desire and need for attention. You‘ll find them in all kinds of industries, but most prevalently in politics, media, and big business. Look hard enough at them, and there is a decent chance you‘ll discover people who have long aspired to be known as great leaders. These are the same people who also value public recognition over real impact. And based on my experience, you might also find that they‘ll be more highly regarded by strangers and mere acquaintances than by the people who work and live with them most closely.

The truth is, our greatest leaders usually don‘t aspire to positions of great fame or public awareness. They choose instead to lead in places where they can make a tangible, meaningful difference in the lives of the people they are called to serve. The challenges and consequences of their decisions are no less difficult or important than those of higher profile leaders, even if they don‘t quite qualify for a cover story in TIME Magazine.