Theological Mutt

Theological Mutt. That is a term I’ve used to describe myself, as I have grown and read from a variety of traditions. I grew up in the United Methodist church. I have been in the Evangelical Free Church for a long time. I have read much from the Anglicans. I have read and been influenced by Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, and other friends from a variety of traditions. And then there’s seminary. If anything, it has moved me further from identifying too closely with any one tradition, while seeking out the things of value in all.

So what does that make me? What is the best term? I’m not non- or anti-denominational, because I derive value from the best of what they represent. I’m not multi-denominational. While I technically have affiliation in the first two mentioned, many would prefer you pick one and stick there. I’m not in the ecumenical movement. Rather than trying to get denominations to get along, I’d much rather Christians simply be Christians (it’s a John 17 thing). I’m not trans-denominational, as I don’t consider myself above them or so presumptuous as to transcend them, though that’s a term I flirted with.

Simply put (and please assume the most positive intent), I’m looking for a term that describes a disciple of Jesus who seeks communion with any and all who are also disciples of Jesus, who respect and value the best in those traditions to which Christians cling, yet is not beholden to them, but to Jesus.

Perhaps just ‘Christian’ or ‘disciple of Jesus’ would work. How would you describe it?

The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (CEB)

Look, my servant will succeed.
He will be exalted and lifted very high.
Just as many were appalled by you,
he too appeared disfigured, inhuman,
his appearance unlike that of mortals.
But he will astonish many nations.
Kings will be silenced because of him
because they will see what they haven’t seen before;
what they haven’t heard before, they will ponder.

Who can believe what we have heard,
and for whose sake has the Lord’s arm been revealed?
He grew up like a young plant before us,
like a root from dry ground.
He possessed no splendid form for us to see,
no desirable appearance.
He was despised and avoided by others;
a man who suffered, who knew sickness well.
Like someone from whom people hid their faces,
he was despised, and we didn’t think about him.

It was certainly our sickness that he carried,
and our sufferings that he bore,
but we thought him afflicted,
struck down by God and tormented.
He was pierced because of our rebellions
and crushed because of our crimes.
He bore the punishment that made us whole;
by his wounds we are healed.
Like sheep we had all wandered away,
each going its own way,
but the LORD let fall on him all our crimes.

He was oppressed and tormented,
but didn’t open his mouth.
Like a lamb being brought to slaughter,
like a ewe silent before her shearers,
he didn’t open his mouth.

Due to an unjust ruling he was taken away,
and his fate – who will think about it?
He was eliminated from the land of the living,
struck dead because of my people’s rebellion.
His grave was among the wicked,
his tomb with evildoers,
though he had done no violence,
and had spoken nothing false.

But the LORD wanted to crush him
and to make him suffer.
If his life is offered as restitution,
he will see his offspring; he will enjoy long life.
The LORD’s plans will come to fruition through him.
After his deep anguish he will see light, and he will be satisfied.
Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant,
will make many righteous,
and will bear their guilt.
Therefore, I will give him a share with the great,
and he will divide the spoil with the strong,
in return for exposing his life to death
and being numbered with rebels,
though he carried the sin of many
and pleaded on behalf of those who rebelled.

Lost the Plot

As evangelical Christians, we spend a lot of time navel-gazing to figure out where we’ve gone off the rails. I believe Neil Cole gets it better than most. Follow the money. Here’s what he says:

I often ask myself what non-Christians think of Jesus solely on the basis of how Christians spend their money. If indeed how we spend God’s money reflects what is most important to our God, then the conclusions the world makes about the Christian God will be important. If you look just at that, the Christian God must be concerned with our Sunday rituals, more so than anything else. It would appear that God is also interested in the idea that we know certain facts about the Bible and that He grants more spiritual empowerment to those who know the most. How could non-Christians think otherwise, considering the great deal of time, effort, and funding going toward an hour-and-a-half experience once a week in which teaching is the primary focus? We could show the world the love of Jesus in so many more tangible ways, but instead we continue to invest billions of dollars in a once-a-week event hoping to impress people into becoming church members. Perhaps we think they will also give us money to put on next week’s event. I am confident that our spending habits as a people reveal that we spend more on ourselves than anything else.

–Neil Cole, Church 3.0

Theological musing of the day

Though God possesses both, it says much of one whose theology begins with wrath rather than love.

It’s like looking through a telescope through the wrong end. To start with wrath makes everything appear small and insignificant, saved from destruction only by the benevolence of a cruel master. To start with love makes everything appear vast and wonderful, held and cared for by a nurturing creator.

Wrath diminishes. Love magnifies.

To Simplify

I need to simplify. You aren’t going to see me on a show about hoarders any time soon, but I have too much stuff. Of course there are things I’d like to have and don’t, but I need to get rid of all the extra clutter to make room.

So here’s what I’m contemplating. Starting in 2013, I’d like to set aside a period of time in which I will choose at least one thing each day that I don’t need. Once that’s done, I need to donate it, sell it, or toss it.

Aside from the everyday trash humans produce, it could be anything: clothes, music, gadgets, toys, books (perish the thought).

So here’s the question: Should I do this over a reflective period like Lent, or should I make an honest effort to purge one thing each day for the entire year?

Spreading the Word

Solving Problems in Space

Sure, people online mostly know me as a seminary student, but what many don’t know is that I make a living in computer networking, and that I geek out a little bit whenever the topic of space and engineering comes up. You see, I like science just fine. At its purest, it’s a quest for understanding via discovery, and has much in common with my current passion, theology. But, the thing I appreciate about engineering is the drive to take the things that are discovered and make something useful, or to solve problems with the things at hand. There are fewer finer examples of engineers at their best than those who turned a near fatal problem into triumph in the Apollo 13 misison. As if they knew my need to geek out about space, the IEEE Spectrum wrote a fascinating 3 piece article about just that.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Now I need to go re-read Gene Kranz’s Failure Is Not an Option and watch The Right Stuff (and the recent Big Bang Theory episodes with Howard in space).

No Professional Christians

The clergy-laity caste system is killing churches and hindering the mission of God. Let’s kill it. –Ed Stetzer

I agree, and so should you. Not much more I can add to that.

With apologies, I must get this out of my system…

The following comments will inevitably get me labeled a radical right-winger by the left, and a radical left-winger by the right. I don’t care. Both parties have become so divisive over their respective social agendas that they’ve forgotten that it costs real money to do anything. Until they address the money issue, they have no credibility, and we are fools to continue supporting them.

At some point, both parties are going to have to figure out that there are not enough people and businesses to tax to support the spending they want. We may be able to put off the inevitable for a little bit by raising the debt ceiling or playing games with numbers, but our own money supply and the patience of the world financial markets can only stretch so far, and there will come a time when we simply have to make tough choices to cut the budget, and it will hurt.

Real people will be affected, and it won’t be pretty, and there is nothing government can do about it.

Blaming the social policies of one party or another isn’t going to fix it. Blaming prejudice isn’t going to fix it. Identifying what is obvious and true isn’t going to fix it. The only thing that is going to fix the financial problem is to stop spending more money than we have. Period. End of discussion.

We can argue over which lines on the budget get cut by how much, but every item will have to get cut. The lines with the largest numbers will have to get cut more drastically than the lines with the smallest numbers.

Government leaders had better pull their heads out of their backsides and figure this out now, because the real people they tax at every economic level will start running out of money. When that happens, they’ll stop feeding the machine. No laws, no threats, and no armies will change that.

Is this really so hard to understand?

Post-Election Thoughts: Part 2

I have two observations after last night’s election. One is from the “secular” perspective, and the other from the “sacred.” Here is the latter:

(See Part 1)

This thought is primarily for my Christian friends. Non-Christian friends, feel free to observe in mute curiosity or ignore:

If you are a left-leaning Christian who thinks that the outcome of the American election somehow validates God’s endorsement of your views and represents a new reality for the future of the faith,

If you are a right-leaning Christian who thinks that the outcome of the American election s

omehow represents our inevitable decay toward certain doom,… then you have a very small god.If, however, we believe that God truly is sovereign and has revealed his will in his Son, then it is wise to remember that his purposes will ultimately come to pass, regardless of the human empires that currently struggle to dominate the lives of others. Our calling has never been and never will be to seek to wield the power of human institutions. It has been and always will be to love and seek God first, and out of that love people and guide them toward discipleship. Stick to that, and it will not matter who thinks they’re in power at any given time.

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