Every Sunday morning, we’ll be posting articles and links that are saying something important about church, culture, and mission (or that just made us laugh). Here’s what resonated with us this week on the web:
On A Farewell to Mars
Brian Zahnd introduces his new book with an excerpt from Chapter 8:
As followers of the Prince of Peace, are we ready to bid farewell to Mars? We must be. The god of war has had his day. His day ended on the first Easter. In his death and resurrection, Christ abolished war. Christ made it clear on the cross that war will no longer be the way the world is transformed. The cross exposes the use of violent force as a shameful practice to be renounced. Yes, Christ has abolished war. The King of Kings won his kingdom without war. Jesus proved there is another way. Jesus is the other way. The question “What are you willing to die for?” is not the same question as “What are you willing to kill for?” Jesus was willing to die for that which he was unwilling to kill for. Jesus won his kingdom by dying, not killing. Ruling the world by killing was buried with Christ. When Christ was raised on the third day, he did not resurrect war. With his resurrection the world is given a new trajectory, an eschatology toward peace.
War is a thing of the past. War is anachronistic. War is regression. War is a pledge of fealty to a bloody past. War is a sacrament offered to Mars. War is a repudiation of the Lordship of Christ. The followers of Christ must lead the way in imagining something better than war.
War as a legitimate means of shaping the world died with Christ on Good Friday. Jesus refuted the war option when he told Peter to put up his sword. Killing in order to liberate Jesus and his followers from the violent injustice of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate would have been a just war — but Jesus refused to engage in a just war. He chose instead to bear witness to the truth, forgive, and die. Jesus took the death of a world framed by war into his body and he and it both died together. Jesus was buried and with him was buried the old world devoted to sin and death. On the third day Jesus was raised and a new world was born.
On Notes from the Missional Frontier
Andrew Perriman asks how the post-charismatic missional church might experience the gifts of the Spirit:
For many in the missional, postmodern-evangelical—or whatever we want to call it—camp the whole charismatic phenomenon appears now as a claustrophobic, self-indulgent, sensationalist, stultifying, and all too often abusive aberration. If we are not bored with it, we are confused by it. If we are not confused by it, we have been let down by it. If we have not been let down by it, we have been badly burnt by it. The bottom line? We don’t want to go back there. Can we please now just get on and do something useful in the world?
The problem is that charismatic experience is so central to the New Testament understanding of what it means to live by the Spirit that it does not really seem an option to discount it, no matter how disillusioned we may feel. My view is that the problem has to do less with the fact of charismatic experience than with how it is framed. The missing component in most of our thinking about the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, I suggest, is what we would probably now call the “missional” dynamic. That begs the question of what we mean by “missional”, of course, and how it relates to the mission of the New Testament church. But here I want only to highlight the narrativecontext of four of the main New Testament arguments about the Spirit, because I think that this will at least get us moving in the direction of a healthier and more meaningful “charismatic” theology.
Fr. Tony Bleything paints a picture of missional church planting as planting trees not crops:
American church planting has been in the business of crop farming not tree farming. We’ve been trained to think that planting churches is about producing fruit. And that fruit needs to come in the fastest way possible. How can we prove to our ‘investors’ that our call is legitimate if there is not fruit? But there is a cost to our plow and plant mentality, it’s destroying neighborhoods. Or maybe it’s not destroying our neighborhoods, it’s just making them look the same and eventually it will destroy the neighborhoods.
What if…what if. What if we were in the business of planting churches that looked more like trees? What if we aimed to plant churches that were planted and nurtured for years before they began to bear fruit?
John Chandler proposes three areas of life that the missional preacher must “attend”:
For a missional church planter, sermon preparation as a way of living within the larger set of responsibilities. It’s not just a list of steps to work through as much as it is a cycle of actions and postures — a way of living within our wider role. The fact is, in the early seasons of the church’s life, we might not have as much time to devote to sermon preparation.
The question then, is how can we devote as much attention? Attention is a good jumping-off point for our first posture, because it really is the first posture: Attend.
By attend, we don’t mean that you have to go to a church service on Sunday, though I suppose it would be hard to preach without doing so. It means we attend to life. We recognize the need for us to show up, to be present. To attend is to recognize that the work of the sermon is to engage God’s larger story with everyday life. If we are to help others do so in our preaching, it begins as we do the same in our own day to day.
On Neo-Calvinism vs. Neo-Puritanism
Scot McKnight hosts Bob Robinson on his blog to argue for the use of Neo-Puritan to describe the “New Calvinists”:
Scot: My friend, Bob Robinson, has made a good case for seeing the New Calvinists as Neo-Puritans. I don’t think we can know this for sure, but it is indeed possible that on this blog that group was first called the Neo-Reformed, but a commenter said they are not really Reformed since they are mostly Baptists and not officially connected with the Reformed denominations. Then another friend said you can’t call them Neo-Calvinists since that’s Kuyper.
Neo-Puritan is a good moniker, but that might work even better for the likes of J.I. Packer. So maybe “neo-reformed” with a lower case R? Anyway, Bob Robinson makes the case for Neo-Puritan and I have reposted this with his permission.
Bob: Neo-Puritanism appropriately enlarges our view of God’s authority and thus our view of evangelism, worship, and the church’s role in society. It is very concerned with theological issues like the reality of sin and its destruction in both individuals and society, Penal Substitutionary Atonement and Justification as the means for individuals to be saved, and the Five Points (TULIP) of Calvinism.
It is very active in the religious cultural clashes in todayís American society, especially the issues of gay marriage and abortion. Neo-Puritanism sees the answer to societyís woes as starting with personal piety and then it moves out toward society, seeking to influence the culture to live by the pious standards in which Christians live.
But this is not Neo-Calvinism, so for…others to call it that only confuses matters.
On Training Seminarians to Respond to Child Abuse
Boz Tchividjian reports on a recent G.R.A.C.E. initiative to create seminary curriculum on prevention and response to child sex abuse:
The issues related to the sexual abuse of children are many and complex. All the more reason that training must begin before-the-job, not on-the-job. Training must begin at the same time church leaders are being equipped to study scripture, preach, counsel, and administrate. What I am trying to say is that the equipping of pastors and church leaders on how to understand and address child sexual abuse must begin in our seminaries. And that’s exactly what we are going to do…
GRACE recently convened a team of Christian theologians, pastors, counselors, educators, and child protection professionals who have each demonstrated a commitment to protecting children and serving survivors. This historic committee has embraced the task of developing the first substantive seminary curriculum designed to educate and train Christian leaders on effective prevention and ministry responses to child sexual abuse.
On the Missio Alliance Blog
Against Revelation; or, On the Power of God’s Word, by Geoff Holsclaw.
The Feast of Ascension and the Human Experience, by Nathan Clair.