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Showing posts from June, 2019

Creeds, Disciples, and Theology

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Last week I posted a couple of pieces suggesting that Disciples of Christ (my denominational tribe) might benefit from some more overt theological discussion. As one colleague responded, we tend to start with ecclesiology. Most of our denominational disputes have been over things like ministry, baptism, church structure. We haven't divided over the Trinity, though that has been a subject of controversy down through the millennia. Regarding the Trinity, I've written a small book titled The Triune Nature of God, which isintended to stir some conversation (but not impose a Trinitarian perspective on Disciples). 
As a denomination, our "tradition" is to be noncreedal. We have valued freedom as a virtue. I titled my book on Disciples core values Freedom in Covenant, where I lay some of this out in more detail. But here's the question -- might we benefit from engaging with different creeds and statements of faith, not as tests of fellowship, but as points of conversat…

Passing the Mantle - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 3C (2 Kings 2)

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2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
2 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let m…

Discerning the Spirit(s) (Amos Yong) -- A Review

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DISCERNING THE SPIRIT(S): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions. By Amos Yong. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2019.


Ecumenical conversations among Christians are not easy, but even if the participants in the conversation don’t share the exact same Christology, they can at least agree that Jesus belongs in the conversation. The same cannot be said for interfaith conversations, where Jesus is often a stumbling block. If we start with Christology, then the conversation often ends quickly. Jews aren't sure what to make of Jesus, but the history of Christian-Jewish relations down through the centuries doesn’t make for an easy conversation. Muslims affirm Jesus as one of the great prophets, even affirming the virgin birth, but they reject the idea that he is the Son of God, is divine, or even crucified. Hindus and Buddhists may have ways of incorporating Jesus, but probably not in the same way Christians would. So, is there another approach available to…

True Faith -- A Sermon for Pentecost 2C (Luke 7)

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Luke 7:1-10

What is faith? Is it assent to a set of beliefs? Or, is it putting your trust in someone else? We don’t recite The Apostles Creed very often, but it’s a standard Christian confession of faith. It begins with the words: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” It goes on from there to speak more fully of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, as well as his ascension and his partnership with the Father in judging the world. There’s also a brief mention of the Holy Spirit and then statements about the holy, catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. While we Disciples may have set aside the creeds in the name of unity, this creed does raise the question: what do I believe and why? Is belief the same as faith? 
As we approach the reading from Luke, the question is twofold: What did the Roman Centurion know and believe, and why was Jesus amazed at his faith?  
The opening …

Theology and the Disciples -- expanding the conversation

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Yesterday, I posted the question: Why Theology? I asked this question specifically to those who are part of my own denominational tribe, but it is a question that ought to be a concern for any who proclaim some form of belief in God. Being that the Disciples or Stone-Campbell Tradition is non-creedal, we tend to be all over the map when it comes to theology. There are conservative evangelicals in our midst and modernists (if I can use that term in the 21st century) amongst us. Over the four decades or so that I've been wandering with this community of Christians (I attended a Stone-Campbell college while still part of the Foursquare Church), I've discerned a discomfort with theology. This shouldn't surprise us as the founding generation was less a bit averse to it as well. 
I am finishing revising an article that will appear at some point in the Restoration Quarterly that explores a schism that occurred in Detroit that presaged the Disciples/Churches of Christ split that …

Why Theology? A Question for Disciples of Christ

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A friend and I, both of whom are Disciples of Christ ministers (and now both of us having Ph.D.s), have had conversations over the past few years about the need for ways of encouraging Disciples to engage in serious conversations about theology. We've talked about the need for resources that can be used in congregations. That's one reason why I decided to put together me brief book on the Trinity (The Triune Nature of God), which is a topic that many Disciples steer clear of (often claiming support from Barton Stone, who famously denied being a Trinitarian, though he also denied being a Unitarian, Socinian, or an Arian, all of which he had been accused of).. I understand why Stone felt the way he did, but my hope is that my contribution will stimulate some conversation. 
From conversations over the years, and from watching social media more recently, I have discerned a reticence to have deep theological conversations. Maybe it's because we're non-creedal, which means …

Woe Is Me -- Elijah's Lament -- A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 2C (1 Kngs 19)

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1 Kings 19:1-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get …

The Church of Us vs. Them (David E. Fitch) -- A Review

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THE CHURCH OF US VS. THEM: Freedom from a Faith that Feeds on Making Enemies. By David E. Fitch. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. Xi + 202.



We live at a moment in time where you’re either against us or for us. If you’re not for us, then my must be against us. There is no middle ground. The lines have been drawn and you pick sides, and if you’re on the wrong side of the line you must be evil. Such is true even in the church. We have become adept at creating banners around which we can rally against our enemies. We talk over each other but rarely speak with each other. So, congregations, denominations, even families are divided amongst themselves. I understand the importance of standing up for what is right and what is true. Sometimes, perhaps often, that will create division in the ranks. I also understand that moderation is often a path to the status quo, and not to the common good. But is everything up for grabs? Is there no room for conversation among those who disagree on important…

Wisdom Calls - A Sermon for Trinity Sunday (Proverbs 8)

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 

In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy joined his father, Henry Jones, Sr., on a quest to find the Holy Grail. Just like with Raiders of the Lost Ark, they’re in a race against forces aligned with Adolph Hitler. If you know the Indiana Jones movie series, you know it’s filled with many twists and turns, pitting good against evil, and of course, lots of booby traps to be avoided. According to the movie, legend had it that an ancient order of knights protected the cup, which was hidden in a cave. Henry Jones, Sr., had made the Grail his lifelong quest and had a notebook filled with research that would help lead them to the Grail. At one point or another, both sides get possession of the notebook, and in the end, those on both sides who survived the booby traps ended up in the room where the cup of Christ was hidden. This chamber was filled with many cups and chalices. Most of the cups were exquisite in their beauty and value. So, which of these cups …

The Triune Nature of God -- A Book Announcement

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In two days churches will gather for worship on a day designated liturgically as Trinity Sunday. It's one of those Sundays that might seem anti-climactic after Pentecost. For traditions that struggle with the doctrine, it's one of those Sundays to do something else.


As for me, I am a Trinitarian by confession. I'm also a Disciple of Christ pastor, and so I serve a congregation and a denomination that is non-creedal and struggles with the doctrine of the Trinity. As you can see by the paragraphs that follow from the introduction to my new book on the Trinity, I recognize the challenge we face. This little book, which I'm inviting you to purchase and read, was born out of a larger project that I've been working on that is designed to further our theological conversations within congregations. Who are we? What do we believe? How does what we believe fit within the larger Christian community? This is as much an ecumenical question as it is a denominational one. So here…