links: this went thru my mind

 

Age, Boomers, faith, mid-life, & generations: Aged Out of Church [required reading]

“… Boomers are leaving the church in numbers that we usually think of when we talk about the exodus of the Millennial generation: “‘…during the past 20 years the percentage of unchurched Boomers has risen dramatically, jumping up 18 points! At 41 percent, they are now the generation most likely to be unchurched, surpassing the 39 percent level among Busters.’”

Attitude, complaining & grumbling: Grumbling & Complaining

“My heart has been a grumbling one recently. I could give you a few reasons I think why my grumbling is necessary or warranted, but the truth is that even talking about those situations would invite more grumbling. People talk about it being necessary to say how we feel, but I usually think there is more merit to say less about how we feel, and more about who God is in spite of our feelings.”

Bible, literacy, Millenials & reading: American Bible Society Report: The Bible in America, 2014

“Now there are just as many Americans skeptical of the Bible as there are engaged with the Bible. According to the fourth annual State of the Bible survey, 19 percent said that they were skeptical of the Bible. This number is up from 10 percent in 2011. This trend is even more pronounced among the Millennial generation (who range in age from 18-29).”

Children, courtesy, manners & parenting: Ten Forgotten Ways to Teach Politeness to Children

“Not every day is going to be a rip roaring success when trying to teach our children politeness, but if we are consistent, we will eventually see them get it right more than they get it wrong.  And, when they have successful and pleasant encounters with others, we are setting them up to be more successful in life.  These ten skills will serve them well all through adulthood, too.”

Culture & sin: 5 Overlooked Cultural Sins Threatening the Church [essential reading]

“What if the biggest threats to the church weren’t the things we thought they were? What if the very foundation of our country’s culture actually resembles the culture of our churches? We may find that we’ve been blind to more subtle and subversive influences that are having a greater impact on the church than the issues that consume us. Here are just five overlooked cultural norms that are contrary to the Kingdom and are sinful within the Kingdom, unknowingly supported by many of us. …  Competition … Celebrity … Patriotism … Fear … Individuality.”

Gospel, moralism & preaching: Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think it Is) [required reading]

“… one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.”

Marriage, relationships, technology & Twitter: Frequent Twitter Users Are More Likely to Cheat on Their Spouses, Get Divorced: Study

“Comparing his two studies, Clayton was surprised to find that the length of time a couple had been together did not affect whether they would be negatively affected by one partner’s Twitter activity.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: “Is Capital Punishment in Harmony with Divine Law?”

“The children of God can take no part or lot in the work.”

Compulsory patriotism & nationalism: No, Thanks: Stop Saying “Support the Troops”

“I do not begrudge the troops for availing themselves of any benefits companies choose to offer, nor do I begrudge the companies for offering those benefits. Of greater interest is what the phenomenon of corporate charity for the troops tells us about commercial conduct in an era of compulsory patriotism.”

Full contact sports: N.F.L. Agrees to Settle Concussion Suit for $765 Million

“The settlement, announced Thursday, will be seen as a victory for the league, which has nearly $10 billion in annual revenue and faced the possibility of billions of dollars in liability payments and a discovery phase that could have proved damaging if the case had moved forward.”

Justice, restorative & retributive: A Better Story: How Our Understanding of Justice is Radically Re-defined by the Gospel [essential reading]

“Reflecting the assumptions of the surrounding culture, Christian theology has classically framed mercy as being in conflict with justice. This goes way beyond theology however, and can be found as the assumptions underlying any national debate over the use of state violence, whether in regards to crime or international conflict and war. To ‘bring about justice’ means punishing, it means violence, it means seeking to harm. Conversely, mercy means to refrain from violence. It is thus understood as an inaction. So in short: in this framework justice means inflicting harm, and mercy means doing nothing.

“Because these are our culture’s default understandings of both justice and mercy, it is common for people to think that the only way to address crime or conflict is by inflicting harm, by the use of violent force. It is either that or doing nothing, we think. … Because the options are framed in this way, many Christians reject the teaching of Jesus to love our enemies because they think it entails doing nothing in the face of evil, which would be unloving and morally irresponsible. We need to protect the vulnerable from harm, don’t we? We need to care for the wellbeing for ourselves and our loved ones. So while people may regret the need to respond with violence, they feel they have no alternative but to respond to violence with violence. It’s regrettable, but what choice do we have? How else can we stop violence?

“The tragic irony is that inflicting violence and harm in the name of justice does not in fact stop violence at all; it perpetuates it. … the fruit of this kind of ‘justice’ is that it makes things worse. …

“That’s where the gospel comes in.”

Lord Jesus, Obama, Syria & warfare: * War on Syria? No [required reading]; * How A Reluctant Obama Ended Up Preparing For War

*”We call ‘Lord’ a man who told us to love our enemies but in his name make enemies to promote our values. We call a peaceful man “Lord” and then favor those who divide in order to conquer. … Why do we call him ‘Lord’ and not do as he says?”

* “‘It seems to me that we are going to be engaged in a strike because he had a lack of wisdom to avoid laying down a red line,’ says Rajan Menon, a political scientist at City College of New York. ‘This is the second time the red line has been crossed, so now he’s boxed in.’”

excerpts: Disciple of Peace (2)

 

Disciple-of-Peace-WattsFollowing are some more quotes from Craig M. Watts’ fine work entitled Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence, and the State (Doulous Christou Press, 2005).

* On the death penalty Tertullian wrote, “Even if he appeals to the power of the State, the servant of God should not pronounce capital sentences.” Such was the dominant position during the first three centuries of the church, just as pacifism was the prevailing position during this time in regard to war. The earliest Christians regarded all use of deadly force as incompatible with their faith. (p.113)

* The cross provides the lens through which we see the world and provides the form by which we are to live in it. It is for this reason that claims made from the time of Augustine to our own that Christian soldiers can kill in war and practice love even in that very act are not credible. Surely it is possible to kill and destroy without hate … But if love is defined by the cross, there is no room for making victims and creating misery either in one’s personal life or for the sake of a nation-state. Love reflective of the cross endures suffering rather than inflicting it and accepts death rather than causing it. Christ-centered love is cross-centered and for that reason is non-violent in all of its way. Campbell’s support of capital punishment was possible only because he failed to be cross-centered in his pacifism. (p.121)

* The cross is not an emblem of victimization so much as an eloquent demonstration of love by One who willingly took his place with victims to save both them and their oppressors. The cross is not just the means of salvation but the shape of Christian existence. To affirm one without the other is to be left with a fragmented, incomplete faith. (p.123)

* … pacifism arises from the call to be like Jesus regardless of the consequences. … It is a life lived in the conviction that God more desires to use our vulnerable faithfulness than our most clever calculation of consequences, and that God will make history come out right without our violent measures. (p.123-124)

* In Campbell’s view, to see war simply as a conflict between nations is not to see it truthfully. So long as Christians are involved in the conflict the rightful reign of Christ is distorted and misrepresented before the watching world. … Insofar as the churches throughout the world fail to repudiate the Christian participation in warfare, oneness in Christ will be treated as dispensable and subject to the Christian’s loyalty to the separated and often hostile nations. Only a nonviolent church can be united sufficiently to witness to Jesus as Lord that the world might believe. (p.125)

* Only as the church detaches itself from the narrow unity rooted in and fostered by the nation-state will it be able to develop a faithful global imagination and act in view of it to minister to the world as it ought. When the church in the United States – or any other nation – compliantly helps reinforce national unity, inevitably this compliance will weaken the credibility of the church’s witness to the God who loves the entire world. … The church does not exist to bolster any of the pieces of the fragmented world against any other, but to offer an alternative to them. The church exists to show that its brokenness is not necessary. (p.126)

* … the determination to utterly submit to God as Master and Sovereign … requires a willingness to live according to the standards of the world to come – to love defenselessly, serve indiscriminately, forgive persistently – without regard to the pride, preferences, or interests of the powers of this present world. To live in this way leaves no room for the preservation of hostile divisions or the use of deadly force but demands a willingness to share in the sufferings of God in Christ. (pp.133-134)

* So long as we are convinced that the historical results we desire for our nation, our cause, or ourselves should arbitrate the decisions we make about violence, we will trust ourselves rather than trust the God who raised Jesus from the dead. The practice of nonviolence requires that we relinquish our imagined control over our consequences and rely instead, upon the eschatological power of God. Violence can be seen as an option – even if it is limited to being a “necessary” last resort – only when we insist that we know what victory looks like and that we are responsible for insuring it is achieved. (p.135)

excerpts: Disciple of Peace (1)

 

Disciple-of-Peace-WattsHave you ever wondered …

what the earliest members of what we know today as “Churches of Christ” in the United States tended to believe regarding war, military service on the part of Christians, capital punishment, self-defense, etc. …

what Alexander Campbell, the leading figure in the Restoration Heritage in that time, thought about such …

or what Bible-based arguments for nonviolence might sound like …

then I have just the book you’ll want to read. Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence, and the State (Doulous Christou Press, 2005) by Craig M. Watts discusses all of the preceding in a clear, thoughtful, and well-documented way.

Following are some quotes from this work. I’ll reproduce some additional quotes from it in a post here this Friday.

* … Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) was the single most important influence in the American religious movement that produced the Disciples of Christ, the Church of Christ, and the independent Christian church. … Many of Campbell’s convictions remain apparent in the life of the present day churches that trace their history back to him. … However, other facets of his teaching, while once widely embraced by members of these churches, are no longer a conspicuous part of the churches’ teaching and practice. One such fact that is notably absent is a clear commitment to pacifism. (pp.9-10)

* Among the first generation of those in the religious movement he helped found – which he preferred to call Disciples of Christ – virtually all who committed their views to print opposed the participation of Christians in warfare. In the writings of the early Disciples, it was support of war, rather than opposition to it, that was exceptional. … [Alexander Campbell's] peaceable views were not refuted but rather out-shouted by those who raised their loud and impassioned voices for the so-called “necessity” of war. (pp.10-11)

* The commitment of Campbell to restore primitive Christianity included a commitment to the primitive church’s practice of nonviolent love that leaves no room for war. (p.15)

* … [Alexander] Campbell’s pacifist convictions were widely shared by the early Disciples. Many of the best known Disciples leaders were pacifists. These include his father, Thomas Campbell, Barton Stone, Jacob Creath, Benjamin Franklin, Racoon John Smith, Phillip Fall, Robert Richardson, Tolbert Fanning, Moses Lard, J.W. McGarvey, and others. (p.18)

* … Campbell held that in the time since Christ, there has been no divine warrant for war. Any presence on the battlefield by Christians is not only without God’s authorization but contrary to the command of Christ. (p.32)

* Campbell deplored the practice of elevating military heroes to a stature comparable to saints and of speaking of those who fall in battle as if they are martyrs. (p.34)

* For Campbell, it is not just the exceptional heroic individual who is called to nonviolence. Rather, it is the nature of the Christian community itself that demands nonviolence, not an individualist focus on moral perfectionism. (p.34)

* Campbell stood against the idea that war is a legitimate means for a just authority to oppose an unjust power that oppresses the weak and deprives people of their rights. … Campbell considered such a notion self-deceptive, spiritually hazardous, and biblically ignorant. (p.35)

* In Campbell’s writings on war and peace no words of scripture are cited more often than Jesus’ statement to Pilate … John 18.36. For Campbell, this passage alone was sufficient reason to restrict Christians from the battlefield. (p.37)

* Campbell stated, “Patriotism, it is conceded, has no special place in the Christian religion. Its founder never pronounced a single sentence in commendation of it.” As Campbell knew, Jesus Christ had a love that recognized no borders, “and as patriotism is only an extension of the principle of selfishness,” patriotism being a love of what is one’s own, “he deigned it no regard, because selfishness is the great damning sin of mankind.” … Campbell’s objection to patriotism implied nothing critical of natural affection for one’s own country. Rather he opposed that patriotism which promotes the love for and promotion of the interests of one’s own country at the expense of other peoples and nations or to the neglect of the needs of those beyond the boundaries of one’s own country. (pp.63-64)

* At the outbreak of the Civil War, Campbell lifted his pen to call for peace and to dissuade Christians from participating in the conflict. As he had in the past, Campbell again reminded his readers that “no Christian man who fears God and desires to be loyal to the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, shall be found in the ranks of so unholy a warfare.” (p.66)

* Since the purpose of the military was to prepare for, and when called upon to do so, participate in war, Campbell saw no place in it for Christians. (p.84)

* All of Alexander Campbell’s writings on war indicate that he was an absolute pacifist. He condemned wars of aggression and defensive wars alike. Repeatedly he insisted that Christians had no place in the military because the practice of war is utterly at odds with the spirit of Christianity. Further, Campbell taught that self-defense is contrary to the Christian life. In all areas he stood for nonviolent solutions to human conflict. However, he made one exception. Campbell supported capital punishment as the penalty for the crime of murder. Such a position seems incompatible with his pacifism. However, even Campbell himself recognized as much. (p.103)

links: this went thru my mind

 

American history & the Fourth of July: Debunking the Fourth: Top 10 Unsightly Facts about the American Revolution

“The majority of the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians, but deists.”

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: Ask a Conditionalist (Annihilationist) … Edward Fudge Responds

“Conditionalists begin with the premise that only God is inherently immortal. For humans, immortality is God’s conditional gift, bestowed at the resurrection but only to the redeemed. Those who reject God’s grace throughout life do not live forever. When John 3:16 says the options are eternal life or perish, conditionalists say that means just what it seems to say.

According to conditionalism, at the end of the world, the good and bad alike are raised to face judgment. The righteous enjoy eternal life with God; the lost are sentenced to hell. But God does not keep billions of them alive forever to torment them without end. Instead, those in hell suffer such precise pains as divine justice may require, in a destructive process that ends in extinction. This is the second death, the wages of sin. Eternal punishment is eternal destruction, eternal capital punishment.”

Christianity, civil religion, nationalism, & nominalism, & the United States: 7 Marks of A Stereotypical American Christian

“Obviously, many Christians are more complex and inspiring than the attributes listed above, but we need to start realizing the influence American culture has on our faith. Unfortunately, many of these stereotypes are still perpetuated by American Christians who have strayed away from Christ’s example of sacrificial love and are using religion to serve their own misguided agendas. Nobody is perfect, but we need to start emulating Christ instead of subtly allowing our social surroundings to dictate our spiritual priorities.”

Climate change: Bill Nye The Science Guy Explains The Basics Of Something You Should Really Know [4 min., 34 sec. video]

“If you know anyone who’s having trouble wrapping their head around climate change as a human-driven crisis, this video could really come in handy.”

Culture, evangelism & outreach: Christians and Cultural Engagement

“… Jesus established a relationship in which he could speak and have it heard as a word of grace rather than a ‘I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong’ word of condemnation.”

Children, fatherhood, parenting & singles: The Rise of Single Fathers: A Ninefold Increase Since 1960

“In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.”

Communication, credibility, gossip, lies, slander, speech & words: Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

“Slander is a serious sin, and according to Paul, slanderers will be barred from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).”

Divorce & marriage: Jesus Never Moves On

“…  he has chosen me, he has set his love on me, and nothing will cause him to abandon me. He will never give up.”

Doctors, health & medicine: Common End-of-Life Medical Terms

“Here are some terms likely to be used in such situations as defined by Dr. Darlene Nelson, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic.”

Head coverings, interpretation & women: Head Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair is a Testicle (parts 1 & 2)

“Recently, my colleague Trevor Thompson, who is a New Testament scholar here at ACU, shared with me some of the work of another NT scholar, Troy Martin, who is a friend of Trevor’s. One of Martin’s areas of expertise is using ancient medical texts to illuminate NT passages, particularly passages that seem confusing to us. In various studies Martin makes the observation that some of these confusions stem from the fact that we don’t share the same medical understandings of the NT writers and their audiences. When ancient medical terms or ideas are used we often miss the meaning. A good example of this comes from 1 Corinthians 11.2-16.”

Ministry & preaching: * I Am a Preacher; * 10 Things You May Not Know About Senior Pastors

* “I offer this in tribute to all the brave men and women of God who bear up under the weight of our call. I hope it articulates some of the ambiguity, beauty and tension wrapped up in saying ‘yes’ when God summons you to the pulpit.”

* “… I know this is a representative list for many.”

Poverty: Greg Kaufmann on the Truth About American Poverty

“Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for The Nation, says the poor in America are stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.”

Tipping: Tipping: To Ban or Not?

“If I had my way, we’d take this idea to its logical conclusion and get rid of the practice of tipping altogether. Just outlaw it …”

Worship: Ready to Worship

“As we prepare ourselves for worship each week here are three things we should keep in mind.”

this went thru my mind

 

Atonement: What DID Jesus Do? The Atonement Symposium Videos Now Online

[Videos featuring Scot McKnight, J. Daniel Kirk, Leanne Van Dyk, and Vincent Bacote]

Christian faith, idolatry, nationalism, patriotism & the United States: * Are You Anti-American? by Greg Boyd [essential viewing; 2 1/2 min. video]; * Nationalism: The Nationalistic Corruption of Worship in America by Craig M. Watts

* “I am not anti-American. … What I am is, I want to be kingdom. And that means I want to be trans-national in my perspective. … What I’m impassioned about is that followers of Jesus don’t become co-opted by the nationalism of a country, or by any other political or national agenda. And the history of the church is that going on, and on, and on. … It’s so important; I think it’s so, so, so so important that we understand the kingdom of God looks like Jesus, dying on the cross for the people who are putting him there … The kingdoms of this world look other than that. They look like America, or China, or Russia. They’re always some version of Caesar. … In America, precisely because it gives us more freedoms than most other countries, we have to guard against the temptation that identify it as anything more than a good country that gives us some good rights and some good privileges.”

* “… if there has been little serious conflict in the United States between Christian devotion and American allegiance it is not due to some Christian nature of America that some people imagine exists. Instead this is an indication of the extent that the church has been conformed to American ideals, interests and identity. No clear distinction between being American and being Christian is even a possibility because the two have become one in the hearts of many. The God being worshiped is the American God and the nation they love is in some fashion God’s nation. Consequently, many Christians find it incomprehensible that incorporating the rituals of America into the worship of the church could be anything other than a positive, edifying practice.”

Church & generations: How to Connect Different Age Groups Within the Congregation by Matt Dabbs

“LIFE Groups – the vast majority of our LIFE groups are inter-generational. … it is good to have a mix of different types of groups in small group ministry and inter-generational is a big part of that.”

Contribution, electronic giving & worship: I Need Your Ideas by Ed Stetzer

” Does your church offer online giving and, if so, how do you incorporate it into worship?”

Gospel & kingdom: * Paul’s “Gospel” Ministry in Romans by Tim Gombis [required reading]; * The Ugly Beauty of the Kingdom of God by Kurt Willems

* “Paul’s conception of the gospel … is not merely the tidy presentation that gets one into the Christian faith. According to Paul’s gospel conception, God is at work to restore creation.”

* “The cross is ugly, but the wonder of the kingdom is that God takes on ugliness and uses it as the ultimate example of beauty.”

Evangelism, Hispanics, immigration Latinos & outreach: It’s Time to Reach Out to Immigrants by Tim Archer

“… let me encourage churches to get ahead of the curve. Those churches that reached out to immigrants during Reagan’s amnesty program are the ones that today are making important inroads into the Latino community. Lay aside your political feelings and think about the ministry possibilities. This could well be the critical time.”

Learning & understanding: Questions vs. Assertions by James McGrath

“Confident assertions often weigh us down and tie us to ways of thinking that often are not as well founded as we initially assumed. Questions raise us up to discover new things that we could never have if we refused to ask them. Even if the questioning leads us to conclude that what we thought initially was correct, we are better for having asked.”

Les Misérables: * The Miserable by Casey Picker; * On Forgiveness and Escaping the Past by John Byron

* “True love isn’t a butterfly feeling, but an action with skin and bones. And it’s not just something we do for people we are attracted to or who are lovable to us, it’s something we extend to all who are around us. It means having eyes to see the broken and the hurting around us, a heart that feels compassion for them, and hands that are willing to give them the grace that they need.”

* “… what caught my attention this time was the struggle between being forgiven and escaping the past.”

this went thru my mind

 

Age & technology: In Wi-Fi Intoxicated Manhattan, a Generation of Teetotalers

““The worst is not knowing what it is, not knowing how to get there, and knowing that everyone around you is completely hooked in.”

Americanism, faith, idolatry & nationalism: * Why Americanism and Christianity Will Never Be Reconcilable by Paul Smith; * How America Can Become Like Christ by Paul Smith

* “A word of warning here. Hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool, wrap the Bible in the American flag, ‘America first and always’ patriots are not going to like this post.”

* “One of the main problems I have with my fellow Christians in this country today is that we have surrendered our spiritual birthright for a pot of political stew. We equate patriotism with Christianity.”

Non-violence & pacifism: * Should Christians Really Only Use Non-Violent Resistance to Things Like War/Genocide? by Greg Boyd [required reading]; * From Soldier to Pacifist by Matt Young

* “There is no denying that it is easier to be a pacifist when your loved ones are not being slaughtered. But that doesn’t mean that only a person who is in the midst of having loved ones slaughtered can espouse pacifism – though it does mean that such a person must try, as much as possible, to imaginatively place themselves in a position where their loved ones are being slaughtered. … The thing is, Jesus advocated this pacifism in a context where his loved ones’ were being abused and even slaughtered!”

* “As a result of this new-found conviction, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I wanted to follow what I believe are the clear teachings of Jesus, but I was also a Soldier. What could I do?!”

Husbands & marriage: 10 Things Husbands Should Never Do in their Marriage by Trey Morgan

“Never plop your fat rear-end down in a chair after work without first asking your wife if she needs some help with something.”

Money: How Should I Manage My Money? by Patrick Mead

“Is it better to help few now, or plan to help, and carry out helping, many later?  If later, what about the people that need help now and don’t get it, supposedly suffering or dying in the meantime?”