Friday, May 18, 2007

You shall be my witnesses...

OK, OK--time to catch a quick breath, reshuffle the deck, and play a new hand.

I've noticed that in our conversations so far, the term 'witness' hasn't appeared, so I'd like to see if we can't adjust our trajectory a bit in that direction.

We are called to make disciples, and called to BE witnesses. The two are related, but I find the concept of 'witness' intriguing. In one sense, a witness doesn't 'do' anything; he or she is more of a pointer or a reporter. I don't mean to limit 'witness' to a courtroom definition... a 'witness' can function simply as a signpost for those who are looking for direction. The created order 'witnesses' to the Lord, but its witness is easily dismissed or overlooked, or mis-interpreted. In a similar fashion, Jesus on the cross was a witness to the world, and to the individuals in it. There is an interesting active-passive dimension to this: in one sense, Jesus doesn't 'do' anything, other than hang there and die, but at the same time, we understand that he accomplished everything, and the cross 'witnesses' to this reality. We're each in his way activists... and I'm not wanting to turn us into 'passivists'... but let's talk about the ways in which 'witness' might modify, shape, steer our conversations about building, making, demonstrating, discipling, getting it right, etc.

So: witnesses to Christ... to his resurrection... to the Kingdom.

Your turn to flip over a card.


John the Musician said...

I don't have much time, but I wanted to be the first to comment! I guess that means I'll be last in reality. =O)

First of all, I wrote a post on my dad's blog a while back about "doing," and through the course of the insueing conversation, we came to the conclusion that "doing" often means not "doing." In the since that if we are working to hard than that which we should do is to sit back in the presence of God and recieve, and if we are working to little than we had better do. Ultimately, it's about what God would prefer us to do. In Watchman Nee's book, Sit, Walk, Stand, he basically says that we do all three at the same time. We sit with God in the heavenly places to recieve all that he gives, we walk in the world and are witnesses in the sense that we are stewards of God's holiness, and we stand in defiance to the demonic realm, on the ground that God has already conquered. So I think to witness is not about words, or proclaiming, (which is not what you said) but about simply being in the world and being a vessel for God's love. I think that that is the most effective way to be a witness.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

John, you beat me to it. I saw the post up, but before I could be the first to respond, you won. I had the pleasure of participating in John's "doing" post and we did come to quite some excellent conclusions about doing. I also commend Nee's "Sit, Walk, Stand" idea. That clarifies our perception of purpose and "doing."

Witnessing - Acts 4:18-20 "So [the Pharisees] called [Peter and John] and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.' "

I believe this is a direct fulfillment of Jesus' declaration in Acts 1:8 when He said, "You shall be my witnesses ...".

steve H said...

After a week away, I find it impossible to read thoroughly, let alone process, all you folks have written. So -- thanks for starting a new topic, Brian.

To be OR to do is not the question, as you so rightly point out, John. We must be and do. "You are light in the world, [therefore]walk (or live) as children of light and find out what pleases the Lord." Eph 5.8-10. Obedience that comes out of our relationship with the Father is the goal.

William said...

In order for a person to be a witness they have to experience or see and hear. I think it is important to note that you cannot be a witness of something that you have not seen or heard.

In my conversations with different people I find myself at a loss for words when we converse in areas I have not seen God move personally or heard Him speak.

As we "sit, walk and stand" we will both see and hear God. Once we have seen and heard, we will take David's approach and proclaim the wonderful works of the LORD. How could we not?

steve H said...

As you probably know, in Greek the word translated witnesses is "martus" from which we get out English word martyr. The ultimate witness is to be martyred in the literal sense. However, I would propose that lives-laid down, that is, living out "agape" or covenant love toward God and toward our neighbor is our primary witness -- the actions that give meaning to our words of witness.

William said...

steve, could you go into more detail on your last post?

josenmiami said...

hi guys...I notice that you younger men never responded to the rounds of "Translating the kingdom" emails that were going around...but you were the first ones to jump in that a generational thing?

Something that appeals to me about the image of "being a witness" as compared to "making disciples" or "preaching the good news" is that it seems more responsive than aggressive.

In other words, we are not under pressure to produce something...we are only called to give a witness, then it is up to others to decide what to do with our witness. We cannot get people saved, (I am tempted here to say "we cannot command them to repent") --we can only witness to the truth.

Letting our light shine through good deeds is a similar concept. Reflecting him to others.

steve H said...

I'll give it a shot, William.

In court a witness "testifies" to what he has seen, heard, experienced -- to what he knows... "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

In another legal sense, a witness confirms or verifies on behalf of another; for example, witnesses to a wedding testify that those being married are qualified to be married and also can later be called upon to testify to the validity of the wedding.

I am suggesting that the martyrs exemplify what it is to be a witness in that they faithfully confessed what they had heard and seen and experienced concerning Jesus Christ even though tortured and unjustly killed.

They were able to be faithful witnesses in these extreme circumstance because they had already laid their lives down -- they had denied themselves and taken up their crosses and "lived a new way of life" in the power of the Spirit. To live for another and not for themselves had become their way of life.

Furthermore, they had so become like their Master in life that they could faithfully exemplify his character and manner (his agape/covenant love)even when they suffered for it -- which in itself testified to or verified the reality of what He is like. Agape is self-sacrificial love; agape puts the good of another above one's own interests.

The life of a disciple is to follow the way of the master/teacher -- to think like the master and to act like the master. Thus, in Acts the disciples of Jesus are called the followers of the Way.

In baptism we lay down our old lives and bury them in order to be raised to "a new way of life" (CSB) in the power of the Spirit. This "new way of life" testifies to the reality of Jesus; His message and character, are recreated in the lives of His disciples.

I think that Paul was speaking of this in 1 Corinthians 2.1-5. The "demonstration of the Spirit and of power" almost certainly included miracles and signs (which by the way should be an important part of our witness in a postmodern world); however, Paul did not specify that sort of demonstration here.

Rather, he said that his witness was not with "lofty speech or wisdom." Imagine it -- Paul living among the Corinthians "in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling" as he RE-PRESENTED the crucified Lord among them. Paul's demeanor here reminds me of Isaiah's description of Jesus (Isa 53).

I believe that the power of our words of witness are directly correlated to the reality of our lives as witnesses. To the degree that we "embody" our Lord, to that degree people will see Him in us, and to that degree we will be able to speak effectively about Him when called upon to do so.

In Columbus, OH last October, Bob Mumford presented this truth powerfully when he "revealed" to us the face of God according to Exodus 33.17-34.7. God revealed Himself in this proclamation to Moses.

"In these last days" God has revealed Himself through the Word who became flesh and lived among men demonstrating before them the character of God as Moses had seen him. Jesus embodied the proclamation.

Bob went on to say that this is exactly what the postmodern world waits to see -- the face of God revealed in the lives of His people, in us!

As I become like Jesus, then I will be a faithful witness in life and in death. I AM His witness: Oh Lord, help me to tell the truth, the whole truth, and knowing but the truth!

Brian Emmet said...

Part of what I appreciate about this set of comments is the way in which it reminds us that one aspect of our witness involves simply being who we are in the Messiah. For example, Kathy and I celebrate our anniversary this Monday, and the reality that we have kept our wedding vows is a kind of witness to the world. It is a small signpost, for those who might be looking, that there is another way to live that is not controlled by the fragmentation and brokenness of the world. In many or even most such instances of witnessing, the witness goes unnoticed, but that does not of itself make it less a witness.
Yes, there is more to witness than this--I liked Joseph's observation that witness can be a more responsive/relational idea (a witness typically holds his peace until asked)--but I do want to celebrate the reality that we witness to Christ and his kingdom through our everyday, ordinary, unremarked obediences... which makes those obediences important, perhaps far more important than we think!

josenmiami said...

agreed. I think there is a significant difference between what I would call 'apostolic evangelism' which is more aggressive and must pentrate darkness and cross cultural barrier and local church 'witness' which is of the more responsive/relational kind, although with martyrdom it becomes pretty serious.

Here is a verse that goes with the idea of being a witness:

1Peter 3:15 "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

Patrick said...

Oye Jose! (Regarding your essay on translating the Kingdom of God email, I can speak what I know. I didn't respond first because I saw the list of people who would be getting my response. Also, after the first few people commented, the caliber of discussion was so high, I thought it best to listen. Generational? Maybe. The "older" guys got into the email more readily. I like this blog better because Sean doesn't have to read my comments if he doesn't want to. The pressure of having to write something massively impressive doesn't exist here. If it does, I didn't pick up on it. I approach my elders with fear and trembling. "Choose your words wisely in the presence of the King." Ecc. 5:2)

josenmiami said...

oye muCHACHo... (Cuban accent).

Thats what I thought. This blog format is more informal, and more interactive (back-and-forth). The email, besides being something us older men have already gotten accustomed to, allows us to continue a 'text" base format rather than a more fluid digital approach. The emails can still be a little like a type written manuscript or essay.

Thanks...I am still learning. I am really glad you guys feel comfortable interacting here...and what you have to say (all of you) is VERY impressive. No need to feel intimadated.

William said...


Thanks for going into more detail on that. It amazes me that Jesus, our LORD, had to learn obedience and was perfected in suffering(Hebrews).

I was hanging out with some college friends earlier in the year and we were watching TV. One of the many sensual commercials came on, probably trying to get men to buy gum by showing a half-naked woman, I turned my head away until it was over. They couldnt believe that me, being a guy, just looked away from the girl on TV. They know that I follow Jesus, and I think it is little ways like that, in the every day hanging out, that people see the true changing power of Christ. Where we can live out "the new way of life".

John the Musician said...

I agree with you William, I've had the same experience several times. I think that most people just get used to the way the world views things, and if they see somebody suddenly doing something totally different then what the world does, it kind of shocks them. In the same way people often reply to my admission of virginity with a sort of longing in their eyes that says, "I wish I had taken that path." Which is a great oppotunity to speak into their lives about God's love.

Also, Joe, I read two or three of the translating the kingdom posts, but I just didn't find the discussion as appealing as the essay itself. I commented on your C-far blog.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, if it's any comfort, I didn't jump in on the kingdom translation discussion--my cup had already runneth-ed over...

( I hadn't done the homework assignment [read the original])

I echo Joseph that everyone who is participating in this blog has already demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, the necessary qualifications...didn't you get your secret decoder-membership rings in the mail?

Jeremiah said...

Hey guys,

I'm here and reading, but so far don't have anything to add. I would just echo everything Steve H. said.

steve H said...

It's refreshing to interact with all of you. Now I'm going to do something really important -- go to bed. Good night!

John the Musician said...

Funny that Steve H.'s idea of doing something very important is going to bed when mine was staying up. =O) Also, my ring hasn't showed yet. =O(

John M. said...

Good morning everyone! My internet was down for 36 hours, and I've got some reading to do! Yes, I did have some withdrawl being totally abstinent from the internet since Friday evening, but I'm feeling much better now. I'll catch you all after I've read through the posts.

josenmiami said...

morning John... I guess you and me are not in church this morning? (grin)

did you get my reply to your email?

josenmiami said...

Deb and I are sitting here watching Mr. Incredible with little Alex...not in church, but God is speaking to us. Elasta-girl just said

"You have more power than you realize...and doubt is a luxury you can no longer afford"

...Deb and I are laughing through our tears...

Brian Emmet said...

I've been thinking that Joseph's work with some gay friends can maybe help us think through this idea of being witnesses. Please understand that I am not asking J to be a spokesman for "ministry to the gay community" or anything like that...just trying to figure out some things in concert with one another.
My concern [Brian here gets out his soapbox and sets it up in a prominent location] with the idea of allowing nascent Christian communities to develop organically [he unfolds his notes, clears his throat once or twice, and motions for the crowd to gather] is that the gay community will organically organize as a, well, gay community.

[Brian deftly dodges a tomato that seems to have come from the general direction of a spectator, whom we shall refer to as "Mr. H"]


At this point, Romans 2 needs to be requoted--"you who accuse others are guilty of the same things yourselves" (paraphrasing Paul). To which we all plead guilty and say, "Amen!"

Anyway, at what point, and how, do we raise the question of whether homosexual practice (as opposed to orientation) may be incompatible with a life of faithfulness to Jesus? Do we simply trust that, as the Holy Spirit works among this group, illuminating Scripture to them, that they will organically come to what I think we feel is the correct conclusion on this matter (that, i.e., that homosexual sex is contrary to God's ways and word)?

[Brian was about to use the term "unbiblical" at this juncture, but seeing Mr. H hefting a rather large and rather rotten head of cabbage, thought better of it].

I agree that this does not need to be the first thing we talk about--"we cannot share anything about Jesus with you until you repent of homosexuality!!"--but wonder when we might get around to it.

Without wanting to restrict or direct the debate, I wonder if those of us who have had good cross-cultural missional experience and/or academic training in the field, could come to my aid.

[Using his soapbox as a head protector, Brian slinks off, with the thudding of rotten fruit and vegetables ringing in his ears...]

josenmiami said...

hmmmm... did you read my email to John about the word 'unbiblical'? By-the-way, you brought a smile to my face.

Here are a couple of would not happen like that because the Holy Spirit is rarely linear..

but if several gays decided to meet with me and study the life of Jesus and his teachings... we could easily spend a couple of years in the commands of Christ.

What I have not gotten around to, is how to approach the epistles. Perhaps a series called Apostolic Commands?

If the Holy Spirit did not raise the issue first, and if these men or women make a serious commitment to follow Jesus, then eventually we should get to Romans or 1 Corinthians. Issues of sexual immorality.

At some point, a serious Jesus-follower will have to choose to obey Jesus and be his friend, or not.

Another issue is intimacy. In my opinion, intimacy with God (along with walking in the light) is the key to overcoming any kind of sexual sin.

So... to take a page from Jamie Johnson, rather than keep talking about this theoretically, give me a couple of years and I will report back to you.

John M. said...

I just read through the posts. I'm not sure where to get in on this excellent discussion. But I do have a question. Does "being a witness" have to do primarily with Christology, Missiology, or Ecclesiology? OK I've got to duck and run fast, rotten tomatoes and cabbage may seem fresh compared to what may come my way...

Patrick said...

Mark Driscoll, an ecclesiologist of sorts, wrote a book called the Radical Reformission. In it, he tells a fitting story. I have copied the story onto my personal blog so it would not take up space here. But please, read it and bring your comments back here so it will flow like a continuous thought. I am counting this as my contribution to the discussion.

Learning: Homosexual Story

josenmiami said...

hey guys, I went over to Patrick's blog and read the article by Mark Driscol. It was very good! I recommend that you check it out.

William said...

Has anyone read the book "The homosexual and the Church" (Or heard of it)?? I think it was written by a Catholic priest in the 60s or 70s. The "christian" homosexuals that I have encountered base their justification of homosexuality on this book.

Just a side note and interesting fact:

The head of the theology department at my school is an open homosexual. He wrote a book called "reading the Bible".

Jeremiah said...

Regarding evangelizing "Cross culturally" we must remember that every culture on the earth must bow its knee to the Culture of the Kingdom of GOD. Not Greek culture, not Hebrew culture, not western culture, not heterosexual culture, but the Culture of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. When we lift up Jesus Christ, He draws all men to himself. The mistake is always to lift something else up. i.e. two and three centuries ago it was western culture. In this current age it is "tolerance". None of this matters, what does matter is to "...preach Christ crucified..." We need to resolve " know nothing...except Jesus Christ and him crucified..." If we do this we will be able to say that" message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

josenmiami said...

hi Jeremiah,

I am with you in 'spirit' ... or perhaps I should say I support the spirit of your words...but are you sure that the kingdom has a culture?

I think when we say that there is a kingdom culture we imply that all other cultures must become the same. The way I see it, culture is a human thing, based on history, worldview, social interaction. The kingdom is simply God's rule in every cultre.

In my view, the kingdom invades, penetrates and permeates all cultures, elevating them to God's rule, but without obliterating the human variety of cultures.

An Aztec culture will still be Aztec in the kingdom under the rule of God.

I would prefer to say that all cultures ought to be permeated and transformed by the kingdom without losing their human distinctiveness.

This issue goes back to the Tower in Gen. 11.

John the Musician said...

Going back to Brian's post, I think that if anyone is truly seeking God, then the spirit will show them what is right and wrong in their lives. As Watchman Nee put it, the Holy Spirit is our guide which reproduces Christ in us. In other words, I would say that if God allowed a community of gay Jesus followers to arise, then the Holy Spirit would surely convict them of their sins, and it would be up to them at that point whether to follow Jesus or to give up on Him. That doesn't mean that's the only way it could happen, often we don't see our own faults until someone else reveals them to us in love. But the bible does teach that everybody has a chance to repent and ask the Lord into their lives. I actually had a friend once that I thought was leaning towards homosexuality, although he said that he wasn't. I asked him one day just to be clear and he wasn't offended. There have been many homosexuals that I've talked to who are usually not offended when asked about their sexual orientation or their beliefs. It's important to realize also that the term Homosexual I think lends to thinking of them as a specific type of person. I suppose a murder is called a murder, but if I were called by my sin, then I would surely be member of the Sexual Imoralitites.

Jeremiah said...


I am NOT talking about the a Kingdom Culture here on the earth. I guarantee that if you visited heaven for a day you would find yourself in culture shock. Just consider the ramifications of a land in which there is no death, even at the cellular level! I mean first of all you would only eat fruit and things which don't require something else to die. That is a huge cultural shift. Now I'm not advocacting being fruitarian as much as I am stating (what seems clear to me) that:

A) The Kingdom of Heaven has a culture.

B) We have been commanded from the very first command (i.e. the multiplication mandate in Genesis) until the very last command (i.e. to make disciples of all nations [as opposed to converts of individuals]) to bring the Kingdom of Heaven onto the earth.

C) Therefore all cultures should be infused & transformed with the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, I agree with you that just as embracing the transformation of the Cross of Jesus Christ doesn't erase my personal distinctions as an individual, so too when a culture embraces the transformation of the cross there will be idiosyncracies and distinctions which pass through the veil and are not lost. An excellent picture of this idea can be found in C.S.L.'s "Out of the Silent Planet"

Sean said...

Hey all,

I'm back - sorry for missing the past few days. I got busy.

Witnessing... I think Steve H. said it best - the imagery from the law court is very important here - this image was somewhat common and mostly understood to your average Palestinian Jew (and those of the Diaspora). After all, Paul was an ex-Pharisee.

I'm not sure I want to get into the culture discussion...the word has so many meanings. You can literally define it a hundred different ways. I do not think we'll lose our ethnicity when we get to heaven, but then again, I do believe we will be acculturated into something new.

GLTB (Gay, lesbian, trans-gendered, bisexual) is a a complex sub-topic to all of this. Our culture allows labels to overshadow who a person really is.

As for Chr-Mis-Ecc, I know I'm on the verge of finding myself in check mate. However, just one more thought: Christology is perceived by different people in different ways, and expressed thereof in different ways. One's understanding of Christology then is constituted by one's experience in mission and community. I realize that Christ is "head of all things" that He is the "Alpha and the Omega" and that He is the cornerstone upon which redemption stands. No argument there. But how it plays in the real world, how it is grasped in the real world, how it is understood in the real world, it through missiology and ecclesiology. Still collating.

I think I touched on everything and am sort of caught up...

Someone said (Mother Theresa): "Always preach the Gospel. Sometimes use words."


josenmiami said...

hi Sean,

actually, I think that it was St. Francis who said "preach the gospel every chance you get, and when you have to, use words." However, I am sure that Mother Teresa would agree with him.

Jeremiah: you seem very positive that Heaven, or the Kingdom of heaven has a culture (point A.)

how do you know that? Can you amplify on that or provide some evidence?

John M. said...

There actually are Christian communities of homosexuals who live openly gay lifestyles and who believe that God condones or at least does not condemn their lifestyle. There is even a whole gay denomination founded by a
former evagelical minister.

I agree with you in principle and ideally that the Holy Spirit will lead them to "flee immorality and sexual sin". But what if they do not acknowledge the possibility that God would require them to change their sexual activities? Let me ask the whole group.

How do we respond to those who form into churches because they are gay and intend to continue that lifestyle?

Sean said...

John, wow - there really are groups like that? I mean, aside from whatever activity it is (whether homosexuality, drunkness, or idolatry), forming a specific church for the express purpose of continuing a particular practice is the wrong motive for forming a church. The focus would seem to be the practice in question and not Christ.

But this brings up an interesting point: what other churches have assembled together so that they could continue to practice a particular lifestyle?

Homosexuality is a "high-profile" sin I suppose, but the New Testament is just as serious about greed (and maybe even more so!). I don't know. Perhaps there's white, upper-class churches who are insulated from other groups and horde wealth.

When we start asking these questions, then we start saying, "Well, there's no perfect church..." So where do we draw the line?

What about a church with a large number of homosexuals "struggling" with that sin? Is that okay?

We must remember, much of the ethical code found in the Hebrew Scriptures (specifically Torah) was considered still important by early Christians. So, perverse sexual practices, idolatry, adultery, and a host of other things were not looked favorably upon. But, the Corinthian church was one such place that was "struggling" with all types of sinful behavior. I guess the example John M. gives - the church that forms with the express intent to continue practicing that sin - that is not from the Holy Spirit. But, on the other side of the issue is something that plagues many churches: LEGALISM. Legalism is not from the Holy Spirit either.

"Having a form of godliness, but denying its power..." 2 Timothy 3


josenmiami said...

I agree with your comment, Sean about greed. Each culture (there is that word again) tends to weight certain sins as more serious than the U.S. we tend to frown upon sexual Latin America, they abhor individualism and disregard for family (they shrink in horror at our practice of putting elderly parents in institutional care). But they don't worry too much about sexual indescretions.

Alan Hirsch, in "The Forgotten Ways" says that he believes the greatest threat against true faith in Christ is global capitalism whch he equates with mammon in the Bible and a spirit of consumerism. He makes a convincing case that global free market capitalism is a pagan religion that has greatly infiltrated the U.S. church.

William said...

The book "The homosexual and the Church", I havent read it but I have heard about it, actually goes through the Bible and "proves" that God allows homosexuality. It takes scriptures and falsely interprets them, but many homosexuals who claim to be Christians use the book as a way to continue their lifestyle.

The gays I have talked to put a huge emphasis on people accepting them as they are. They desperately look for it in relationships, to find another man who will like them for being themselves.

I think that, just as Joseph is doing, the way to reach homosexuals is to build relationships. When they see Love acted and lived out towards them and others it will clear the way for repentance.

It is difficult to be a witness to them. One homosexual man I tried to reach out to ended up liking me and telling me alot. I was very clear where I stood and we talked about Islam and Christianity, he is Muslim. He wasn't hungry for God or looking for him, from what I could see and his attraction to me wasnt because he was drawn to the Light, so I had to end that.

I think this is a critical topic though and we need to know how to reach them as homosexuality is becoming more common and accepted. A man named Michael Brown has a ministry for Homosexuals and his view is "Reach out and Resist": Reach out to the homosexuals, while resisting them. He says that they are coming out of the closet and trying to push us in. Thus the resisting. Thoughts?

John M. said...

Joseph and Sean, good comments regarding greed and mammon. Sean and I were in a brief study last summer where he, I and another brother explored some of these issues. Although we just touched the topic because of time constraints, it is clear when you get into the scriptures that Jesus confronted the spirit of mammon wherever he saw it, as does James and other NT writers. Greed, materialism, mammon (The American Way?), are huge blind spots for us as American Christians.

Jeremiah said...

Some definitions will be helpful.


Culture is the sum total of what a people group worships or ascribes value to. (I won't go into the etymology here but "Cult" is the root).

That being so, every people group has different things the ascribe value to, some of those things are morally benign (i.e. a ship faring culture valuing the ability to make knots) and some are not (i.e. an anti-Christ culture valuing "tolerance" of evil behavior.).

Now, what are the values of Heaven, both the amoral (not morally based) and the moral? That should suffice for proof.

Sean, I am enjoying this discussion and I can't wait to sometime meet, maybe this side of the great transformation? Again another definition is warranted.

Christology- The knowledge of Christ. Your mission and your structure can help you know HIM, but if HE doesn't define those things first, you are in idolotry. I have already made that mistake and I won't go back. That way be dragons. (real nasty ones w/ long pointy teeth)

Got to get to work.

Brian Emmet said...

I understand, and am at the same time concerned about, the tendency to introduce modifiers to our descriptions of ourselves as followers of Jesus. For example, if I feel the need to say that I am a white, male, middle-class christian... or someone else is an African-American lesbian Christian... or a techno-geek libertarian Christian.

The position of the modifiers can be significant: am I a white male, middle-class Christian, or am I a Christian who is white, male, and middle-class? I think when the modifiers must come first, it's a sign that I am practicing a kind of idolatry that might go under the heading of "plus Jesus"--I am committed first of all to my middle-classness, or homosexuality, or libertarianism and to that core commitment and identity I desire to "add in" Jesus.
Yes, it is way more multi-layered than I have put it here! There is no such a creature as a culture-free, or culture-neutral Christian. However, I have to get to work...
...but Jermiah had to get to work at something like 3:19 AM! Jeremiah, what do you do for work?

josenmiami said...

morning Jeremiah.

Here is Clifford Geertz' standard definition of culture from the anthropology point of view:

DEFINTION OF CULTURE: “it denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attidudes toward life.”

- Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. Princeton: Basic Books, 1973, 89.

I agree that culture involves 'values' -- Geertz calls it shared symbolic meanings. I have about another half dozen definitions from various fields and perspectives such as IR, sociology, political science. What they all have in common are: 1) a shared historical experience (i.e. German national culture is different than U.S. national culture because of a very different historical path); 2) common language (shared symbolic meanings) which carries culture; 3) common religious values (or the absence thereof as in the case of Western Europe); 4) some definitions add a common social structre (institutions, etc).

Where can you point to a group of people who share heaven's values without also having very distinct ethnicities, religions, language and historical trajectories?

I would submit that a heavenly culture does not exist on earth apart from temporal human cultures. The kingdom culture is slowly permeating all human cultures and uplifting itself does not exist as a separate specific culture except perhaps in the spiritual world among angels or the departed saints.

God loves diversity and variety: he wants the kingdom of heaven populated with all nations, peoples, tribes, languages and cultures ...

josenmiami said...

Don't know if any of you want to read up further on this issue of the homosexual life style, but there is an interesting discussion on Open Source Theology about Romans 1, and Genesis 1-3 in this light at the following url:

steve H said...

I remember back in the late 80s and early 90s several of us were influenced by the writers of the "church growth" movement. While there was some value in their insights, one of the emphases with which I could never get fully comfortable was the idea of planting and building churches around "homogeneous groups."

I understand the human tendency to surround oneself with one's own kind. I understand the attraction of a group that looks and acts like me and shares the same interests. And I acknowledge that there may be some wisdom to the homogeneous principal when it comes to "fishing," i.e., evangelism.

Even so, the kingdom, and the 'ekklesia'/church which represents that kingdom, consists of the new humanity in Christ, a people among whom the walls of separation have been brought down through the cross.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of you. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, our were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God." 1 Cor 6.9-11

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Gal 3.27-29

"...seeing that you have put off the old self [man] with its practices and have put on the new self [man], which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. HERE there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all in all." Col 3.9-11

"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth" [Note: This multi-cultural kingdom of priest reigns on the earth, not in heaven.] Rev 5.9-10

So I'm going a step farther than you, Brian, to ask, "How dare we add modifiers to our description of ourselves when we are in Christ, i.e., followers of Jesus? How dare we define ourselves either by our former way of life --whether our former "amoral" cultural values or our former "moral" values, that is, our sins?

Shouldn't our local communities have the goal transcending all the cultural barriers? Ought we not insist on putting off all these of the former culture and insist on putting on Christ? Should not our local communities strive to reflect the new humanity in Christ?

Idealistic? Impractical? Impossible?

Yet, is there any other choice than for us to keep working toward representing on earth the reality of the kingdom of heaven?

steve H said...

I wrote my previous entry before I saw yours, Joseph.

To be clear, I am not denying that there will be elements of diversity in our expression of Christ and His kingdom.

I was trying to address the matter of defining ourselves according to those elements, or as Brian said, "making the modifiers first."

josenmiami said...

understood Brian. Actually, I think redeemed human cultures add diversity. I would imgaine if you put down a fully committed hillbily in northern Brazil...he is still going to be a hillbilly from eastern KY.

I agree with you about the church growth issue... I am currently reading a business book that uses living systems theory to analyze adapting for business, "Surfing the Edge of Chaos."

They are quite clear that homegeneity (equilibrium) equals death. Any living system that does not intentionally cultivate variety WILL die, according to living systems theory.

That is one of the reasons I like this blog: we have a lot of variety or diversity here.

Sean said...

Joseph - thanks for bringing in Geertz's definition of culture. And I do agree that capitalism is robustly counter-Christian in its most basic level. I'm more concerned with the moral ramifications of capitalism than capitalism itself. Fighting capitalism itself is impossible apart from armed revolution or the return of Christ; the latter we hope for, the former we must not be led astray to do. But we can fight capitalism in the sense of how it affects culture - our communities. There are so many ways it does affect us. For example - look at the Christian music industry. Actual praises to the Lord have been commodified - packaged and sold for a profit. There's something inherently wrong with that. Capitalism has bureaucratized society so that it is organized and efficient: the church has a professional class and a laity. Marx wrote that under capitalism the basic relationship between husband and wife becomes an economic relationship - a basic economic unit. Self-interest is one of the basic roots of capitalism - even in shared or cooperative forms of capitalism. Yet, capitalism is rarely challenged from the pulpit. You will hear preachers preach against greed or materialism perhaps, but I have not heard someone preach against the system that nourishes greed and materialism.

Jeremiah, I think you may have cornered me on the Christology argument. Check mate. How about this: Christology has primacy in that Jesus is the cornerstone of the church and the whole movement of God. But, you can only understand Christology for real people through the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, one's ecclesiological experience (whatever that looks like), and by following Jesus in the fields of life (missiology).

I wish I could comment on some things others have written - this blog is really encouraging.


steve H said...

Sean -- just a couple thoughts for you.

1) I agree with the premise that capitalism is a real problem to the degree that it is greed-based. Some have sought to distinguish between capitalism and free enterprise (in an effort to find some acceptable terminology). Whatever we label it, we still have to deal with the fact that socialism is not a good alternative either.

The principles of private (or family) property and of personal initiative and responsibility in business are soundly Biblical.

2) I teach that the husband-wife relationship is in fact an economical relationship. The word "economy" comes from the Greek words for law and household, thus economics at its most basic is the law of the household.

More importantly, in Genesis 1 God gave mankind -- men and women -- a commission, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth subdue it."

In Genesis 2 God gave Adam the first step in fulfilling the commission -- a garden to work and keep. But Adam could not fulfill the full commission without a helper. To be fruitful, multiply, and expand the garden into the whole earth took man and woman -- husband, wife and family. This is all has economic implications.

I am personally extremely grateful that God's idea of a helper also included providing a helper who would be a companion and lover as well a business partner. And why wouldn't it, since God Himself is "a community of love."

In my worldview class, I push this out a bit further. The breakdown of the contemporary family in our culture did not start with women leaving the home to enter the work place. Rather it is rooted in the industrial revolution when men left the farm or home-based business and thus the household/family began to lose a significant part of its meaning.

I had been teaching this for several years. Then I discovered that Nancy Pearcey addressed it quite effectively in chapter 12 of her book "Total Truth."

Jeremiah said...

The posted times are PST, not local times. I am a Structural Engineer. I am getting at what the Culture that exists in Heaven its transcendent self looks like. i.e. your last paragraph, Joseph. I agree with that.

I will retract my proposed definition of Culture, I will cling to the following:

"The application of labor or other means to improve good qualities in, or growth..."

This is definition #2 in Websters 1828 dictionary

Definition #4 is similar

"Any labor or means employed for improvement, correction or growth"

Basically these are saying that Culture is the process or product of adding value through labor.

Joseph, while your definition is a rather fascinating idea and hints loosly at this from a historical context, it is neither broad enough to encompass all of the things which add value through labor, nor specific enough to indicate that it has anything to do with labor or value.

Somebody commented that we can interpret the word in hundreds of ways, that may be true, but there is only one correct definition. If we don't assume absolute definitions (and allow for connotations to exist simultaneously) our conversations are meaningless and we dishonor "THE WORD" Who all other words point to.

Finally now some practical stuff. If this is our working definition of "culture". To apply it to society in general we have to reject anything which is not laboring to add value to society as "Anti-Culture" rather than Culture. So then worldviews which are focused on single generation ideas or activities which result in societal deterioration instead of societal building must be rejected or the society dies. Examples of these worldviews are homosexuality, Credit Card Debt, Rapture theology, anything associated with Darwinism.

These are practical considerations and do not even address the theological issues of how GOD is building society (which ultimately gets into the law and HIS blueprint for Heaven on Earth).

John M. said...

Wow! I post before going to bed last night, then I return this afternoon and there are about a dozen posts after mine. You guys have been burning up cyber space today! Hot bloggin fingers! There I just created a new explitive.

Brian I really liked what you said about modifiers. At some point we end up with a pretty big oxymoron. That's a big, dumb ox isn't it? Sorry, I have been giving finals and grading papers all day. Had to get a little relief.

What if we had a description something like this? "I am a mammon worshipping, sex-crazed, sports honoring, Hollywood admiring, American Idol watching, white, upwardly mobile, leveraged and living way beyond my means, saving face and very narcisstic, full of pride Christian." Whew! I'm glad I finally admited it!

The culture discussion is very interesting to me. I lean strongly toward Joseph's perspective. I have used the term "Kingdom Culture" before, but I'm realizing that perhaps it projects something different than God's perspective. Jesus used the analagy of leaven penentrating the dough and influencing the whole loaf of bread, rather than going off and baking a "kingdom loaf" of bread.

I would ventrue beyond that to caution about thinking of a homogeneous "culture" even in heaven or in the new heavens and the new earth. Revelations speaks of every tribe, every nation being gathered around the throne worshipping. In that worship gathering, English speakers and western Caucasions will be in the distinct minority. Heaven will have a lot more color, and rythm and musical and cultural diversity than most of us will see in our lifetime -- way more than we see in the gatherings of our communities and churches who tend to band like with like.

God created the cultural diversity on the earth. Why would he obliterate it in heaven? Of course we will, and idealy should now, share God's values and reflect his character and nature. But that does not change our skin color, the music we create, the way we express worship, the language and idioms we use etc.

I've heard Dennis Peacocke say that when you remove the non-kingdom aspects of all the cultures and then take all that is left, you see a true picture of God's nature. I like that. I don't have his exact quote. I'm giving a rough approximation. Do any of you "Peacocke Heads" (just kidding) out there have the exact quote?

I haven't even read through all the homosexuality posts yet. So I'll be quiet and go back to reading.

josenmiami said...

there is only one "correct" definition of culture!!? and you just defined it for us? (I wish I could do the shocked smiley face here)...

sorry Jeremiah...I love you man but that won't fly.

The very use of the word "culture" as applied to describing human societies and values did not exist much before the end of the 19th century. It arose with the rise of sociology and anthropology as academic disciplines, and with the evolving Englightenment concept of civilization as continuously progressing toward some greater ideal.

The 1828 definition you are giving is something altogether different. "Culture" was originally an agri"cultural" concept, as in laboring to grow 'cultures' or 'culturing' crops. Hortaculture for example. A scientific version emerged which has to do with nurturing biological 'cultures' in petrie dishes...

these definitions have nothing to do with the modern anthropological, historical or sociological concepts of human cultures accross time.

I'm afraid a "culture" that exists only in heaven, or only in some undetermined eschatological future is not yet a reality, but perhaps an "ideal" (Plato?) that we are striving for. Be careful with idealism, it will bite you in the ass.

I'm not trying to be patronizing ... I do enjoy the conversation...but, although the idea of a "kingdom culture" sounds appealing and even has romantic-idealistic tinge to cannot point to anywhere it exists on earth today in any large concentration if one sticks with accepted social science definitions of human culture.

if it ever is destined to exist (the kingdom here now, but not yet in fullness) will be at the point in history where 1 Cor. 15 is fulfilled and Christ delivers up all of creation to the Father. I will concede that it MIGHT exist then, but even then, it will be a marvelous diversity of languages, people and ethnic groups, tribes and nations, with hundreds of historical trajectories leading to that point in time.

Brian Emmet said...

Uh, witnesses, could we get back a bit to talking about what it might mean for us (individually and corporately) to be witnesses to Jesus in the midst of our culture (which actually means in the midst of a variety of subcultures)...

...which further means a variety of subcultures that, despite their superficial differences, are nevertheless expressions of a single overarching culture (something along the lines of "global consumer capitalism")?

So, to release a potential red herring into this rabbit hunt (obvioulsy a mangled mixed metaphor)--is it immportant for followers of Jesus to witness to His Lordship by observing a common sabbath/Lord's Day on Sunday? Please do not jump to the conclusion that I am advocating for "Sunday church," "Sunday worship service," etc. Respond instead, if you'd like, to the question as posed.

Jeremiah said...


I think (believe it or not) that I can both respond to Joseph and get back on topic at the same time.

First of all I am deeply sorry if I offended you Joseph, I tend to be very good at doing that, and usually when I'm not even trying.

Secondly, the question I am trying to answer with my discussion of the Archetypical Transcendent Culture of Heaven is "What have we witnessed? What have we "seen with our eyes and touched with our hands" Have we stood amidst the rainbow clouds of incense listening to the Strange Creatures chanting "Holy, Holy, Holy..." Have we seen the all consuming fire of GOD seated in the form of a man on a throne surrounded by an emerald rainbow? We talk about the Kingdom of GOD coming from Heaven to Earth, have we received a vision of what that looks like? Have we seen the Land without Death? Have we seen the City of Shining Eternal Light?

I am not meaning to be rude, but we can either be fashioned by that City or we can be fashioned by the city of man.

If we are going to be witnesses, we have to have witnessed something first.

steve H said...

Jeremiah's statement, "If we are going to be witnesses, we have to have witnessed something first" is powerful.

One thing to consider in our witness is the possibility that we might try too hard to connect with people and to identify with them. We have been called to a way of life and entrusted with a message that we dare not compromise.

I am more and more aware that it is only by absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit that we can "be witnesses" as He bring forth His fruit in us or "do witnessing" as He enables us with His gifts and guides us in the Truth.

Ultimately as Billy Long brought out in another discussion, the responses of others are up to the Lord. We can only be faithful witnesses to what we have seen and heard.

John M. said...

This blog is awesome! As I read the posts, I see the pastor, the evangelist, the prophet, the teacher,...the apostle?...that one's not quite as clear.

Now Brian, to bring this comment to the topic. I propose that each of us filters our witness for Christ through our primary gifting.

A pastor, cares for people and they see Christ and are drawn to his Kingdom. I find myself naturally pastoring unbelievers before I "evangelize" them. I had related to my neighbor pastorally for a couple years. He would talk to me about his marriage, I baptized his stepdad and then did his funeral when he died. During that brief window I functionally became "pastor" to his whole family. Then at my reccomendation he went to a friend of mine who is a professional counselor and is more of an evangelist in gifting. Afterward, my neighbor came to me all excited and said, "During my counseling session I prayed to receive Christ." I had already been treating him as a believer, and from God's perspective he may haave already been (that's another topic), but it took my friend's gifting to help frame my neighbor's confession of Christ into time and space. I witnessed by pastsoring; my friend witnessed by evangelizing.

Our gifting is our "defaut witness" so to speak. We can witness to Christ in other ways, but that takes conscious effort and thought. When we witness through our giftings, it is spontaneous, and "instinctual".

Thoughts anyone?

josenmiami said...

Good topic Brian, good points Jeremiah, Steve and John.

Jeremiah... you didn't offend me at all! You basically put a smile on my face and shocked me a bit all at the same time, but I am thoroughly enjoying our conversation. I was just amazed at the ease with which you went back 180 years for a definition and assumed that settled the discussion. I'll talk to you more about that later. Suffice it to say that I am having too much fun in this much so that I have to discipline myself not to respond to every single post.

In answer to Brian, rather than lay out some theory, let me just report that I just got back from a couple of hours of being a witness at a local pub where the vampire tribal people hang out.

They always get excited when I come in there, 1) because I am the only one over 33ish.. and 2) because they have never seen a father come into a bar to hang out with his daughter (Ruth is the bartender). one girl actually got deppressed the first time I went there because she knew that her father would never do that. They all have father issues... so my commitment to involve myself with Ruth and her friends is a 'witness.'

I took Brian (27) and Shawn (31), two of the leaders of our young couples hc with me tonight. Shawn has tattoos covering both of his arms...he immediately connected with Clay, on of the vampire people who has been stand-offish with me. Clay and his sister (the manager of the bar) were raised by a Jehova's Witness pastor who was cheating on his wife and fighting constantly at they have some trust issues with both fathers and pastors (and religion).

The first time I met Clay, they had called him to tell him I was at the he put on his fake vampire teeth, and vampire contact lenses and a shirt that showed his tattoos, and buzzed over to the bar to meet me. He wanted to see my reaction. I think I passed the test.

Tonight, he seemed to enthusiastically connect with Shawn, who is from a similar background and who used to be a "techno" DJ.

Tonight was not homosexual night, that was last Wed. This is the vampire tribal night. Tomorrow I put my thinking hat back on and return to postmodern academia!

I am pretty sure that the next organic ecclesia that we will plant will be with these people. They are hurting a lot more than my academic friends, and therefore are more desperate and receptive.

I'll keep you posted....but I LOVE this job assignment!

John, as far as the 'apostle', maybe we need to get Robert back in here now that he had his week away with Sue.

Jeremiah said...


That is pretty profound observation regarding giftings and it is closely related to what Steve is describing in theory and what Joseph is describing in practice. Our witness is based on who we are. What we have witnessed determines who we are and who we are is what shines out to all around. Basic stuff I know and I don't want to belabor small issues like this, I get the sense that we are all pretty much on the same page both in our orthodoxy and orthoproxy on this one.

John M. said...

Joseph, I get vicarious "benies" just hearing about your adventures. Awesome! And I share your enthusiasm for this blog.

Regarding, the apostolic, I would welcome Robert's presence, but I was thinking last night about what I said in my post.

Originally I saw you as the evangelist but, along with focusing on the individual trees, also see the big pictutre. So I think you bring an apostolic gifting to the mix along with the evagelistic. In fact, I would submit that the apostolic and evangelistic gifts work in tandem gathering people and formning them into organic communities. If an apostolic individual does not have an evangelist on site, he/she becomes an evangelist to gather people, but they always have a larger goal in mind. The "pure evangelist" usually sees only the individual(s) that they are working with.

Disclamer: I can hear the responses now about the church being built on the Apostles and Prophets and about the need for all of the Ephesians 4 giftiings to have a full expression of the Body. I affirm all that. I'm speaking here of the initial gathering and planting, not of the on-going life or maturity of either individual disciples or a community of disciples.

Sean said...

Steve H. - I'm giving your response on capitalism some more time to digest. The issue of alienation is key I would think, which differentiates Adam and Eve and small business owners from the transnational maegacorps we see today.

I basically agree with what everyone has said about witnessing. John M.'s gifting post is enlightening. Witnessing is expressed through who you are and who God is making you and what He has given you (did I understand that right?). I'm really learning a lot in this blog. We should keep it going until either 1) the Lord returns, or 2) cyberspace ceases to exist due to some cataclysmic event.

It does relate to the capitalism topic: some in the body of Christ allow the world market system or society define for them what their calling or gifting is.

So, we are witnesses for Christ. What have I seen of Christ that I can tell others? I guess my testimony and the testimony of others I know about. And the narratives found in the Scriptures. And the message/word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit (which should always be appraised by others if possible, unless you're the only one who hasn't kneeled to Baal). Witnessing is always relational I would think. You're always saying something to someone.

Joseph - I was in a vampire club once in New York, although there were others in there besides just vampires. There were tarot card readers and all sorts of others.


John M. said...

Brian, my apologies, but I want to make another comment about the Kingdom/culture discussion. I find it most stimulating and keep thinking about it. The best way for me to focus my thoughts is to write them down. What better place than here? Hee. Hee.

The Kingdom of God is supernatural. Culture is man-made. The Kingdom transends and transforms cultures just as it/the King does individuals. The Kingdom in me changes my heart, my beliefs, my values...makes me a new creation, and yet does not destroy my indiduality, my personality, nor my culture.

In the same way, the Kingdom is designed to penentrate and transform cultures, but it does not destroy them. Just as in an individual. A culture permeated by the Kingdom should lose it's ungodly, unjust, self-centered qualities, but the basic reality of the culuture itself will not disappear.

The one new man that we become in Christ transcends and supercedes our culture, but each individual in the new man retains their culture.

Example. My Aztec friend, Sebastian. Neither of us speaks a common language. The only "conversations" we have had are through a translator. But we can sit together in silence and communicate deeply. We have laughed together, cried together and experienced the power of God together. I love him and his family and he loves mine. We know one another spirit to spirit.

In many ways I have more in common with my brother than I do with my neighbors in Lexington. Yet, culturally we are worlds apart. He is Aztec. I am American. The Kingom hasn't changed his "aztecness", nor my "americaness" -- just transformed the way we walk and live in our culture.

One more story. When I was in Sri Lanka several years ago I came across a demonized girl. Being the expert from the Kingdom, I used my Kingdom authority to minister deliverance to her. Makes sense, right? Wrong! Because I didn't understand the culture I actually stirred up a bunch of unintended reactions in the spritual realm.

The pastor who was hosting me shared my Kingdom authority and beileved in deliverance. He could have easily have done what I did, and in fact, as I discovered, had actually ministered to this girl in the past. It turns out that the "demon" affecting her was actually connected to a really big strong-hold connected to their culture.

My host took me to his office and showed me a chart with a whole chain of command of principalities over their culture. The girl was at the bottom of the feeding chain, but through her family and her own choices she was under the influence and "protection" of the big guys up the chain. To be honest I couldn't fully understand the whole thing, and even wondered about its veracity, (notice how I avoided the "biblical/unbiblical" issue?!) but one thing I did understand was that I didn't understand! My culture had no catagories for what these people took for granted. When I approached the situation from my cultural assumptions, I got in trouble.

Culture and Kingdom are different even though they deeply influence one another.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, no problems! I feel like a host and a guest at a cool cocktail party. If the guests want to linger a bit over this particular tray of canapes before moving to the next, I'm happy. I'll only move us along if we get to the point where we're only chewing on toothpicks.

John M. said...

Thanks! You are a gracious host/guest.

Jeremiah said...

I think it is obvious by now this blog is meeting some sort of deep need in all of us. I don't know who to thank, but thanks.

I was going to let this lay, but since John M. has picked up again, here goes. I'm sorry but I still think the definition I dug up for culture is a good one and the more I think about it and the more I read what you guys are writing the more I think this. Our problem lies in the confusion of "Society" with "Culture". Society is the noun and Culture is the verb. If Culture is the act of adding value through labor (Cultus is actually Latin for care) Then this confusion between Society and Culture has contributed to the error I made in asserting that the Kingdom of Heaven has a transcendent culture. A flawless Kingdom has no room to improve and thus labor for improvement does not happen, the Kingdom expands, but does not improve in quality. My assertion should have been that there is a transcendent Society of the Kingdom of Heaven which stands as an "ideal" (if you want to use that phrase). Our labor to bring our human societies into conformation with this Society is the act of Culture. Obviously this starts at an individual level with Personal Transfromation (i.e. Romans 12:1-2) which incidentally is defined as Worship. So how much more is the corporate conformation Worship!

Good stuff!

John M. said...

Jereimiah,I admire your persistence, but how can you take a noun and just arbitrarily decide it is now a verb?

Culture is a noun as I am using it to describe the sum total of the history, expriences, language, art, myth etc. of a particular ethnic or social group. For me, the word culture would be nearly synonymous with the term society. I'm not an anthropologist nor a sociologist, so there may be some technical differences between the terms, but looking them up in an ordinary dictionary reveals only very slight distinctions.

Making culutre a verb with the idea of "culturing" or growing something moves from the realm of anthropology and sociology to othere brances of science, ie growing a culture in a petri dish. Or it takes us back to an earlier meaning associated with the word's etymology, which is the definition you seem to be using. By doing that you are imposing a meaning on the word that no longer exists in our collective understanding.

To simply declare that we have not really been talking about culutre but society, is smoke and mirrors. You are making a semantic point, but not a real point.

You can decide that you're going to define culture differently than everyone else, but that doesn't accomplish anything, except to create the constant need for you to redifine the term for everyone you talk to, and then have them walk away scratching their heads when you won't use the term in the way that everyone else understands it.

Do I agree with the idea of working, being productive, and bearing Kingdom fruit to add value to my culture and to transform my society to more clearly reflect Kingdom values? Absolutely! So why are we arguing? :)

Jeremiah said...

AAAAAAH! I yield I yield!

Unfortunately Culture & Society have come to be synonyms. I still think this creates confusion and the original definitions are much better... but none of that matters if no one knows...

As Shawn said, Checkmate

Ok we better move on before Brian comes back around with the stick.


Brian Emmet said...

All right, Jeremiah: we've got you cornered. Come out with your hands up and no one gets hurt.

To your points about culture and the kingdom. We do not yet have any direct access to the culture of the kingdom of God. In one of your earlier comments you said "What have we witnessed? What have we "seen with our eyes and touched with our hands" Have we stood amidst the rainbow clouds of incense listening to the Strange Creatures chanting "Holy, Holy, Holy..." Have we seen the all consuming fire of GOD seated in the form of a man on a throne surrounded by an emerald rainbow? We talk about the Kingdom of GOD coming from Heaven to Earth, have we received a vision of what that looks like? Have we seen the Land without Death? Have we seen the City of Shining Eternal Light? which I can only respond, Yes, No, I think so, maybe, I don't know. This may be due to my lack of spirituality, wisdom and maturity, and it also has to do with the reality that, especially when speaking of GOD, we're at the limits (and beyond) of language. This does not mean that we cannot say or know anything true about God, just that we need to be humble about the 'precision' of that knowledge.

The other quarrel I have with your formulation is that none of us reads or hears Scripture with culture-neutral eyes or ears. Imagine asking ten Christians what "the culture of the kingdom looks like" and the ten varied responses you'll get will all run on the rails of the cultures from which each respondent is operating. The only language I have is the language my culture gives to me--even if I'm bi- or tri-lingual, I am still quite limited with respect to GOD.

But perhaps I have toally misconstrued what you said and it is I who am about to be cornered, surrounded and commanded to surrender! But I have to stop here and now, because otherwise I'd have to use the Meadows Move of splitting one L O N G comment into two!

Sean said...

Culture and society are related but different.

Words go through changes in definitions. Call a girl cute today it is a compliment. If you called her cute a 100 years ago, you'd be insulting her, as cute used to mean bow-legged. But nobody today says cute and means bow-legged. See how much fun language is?

Which brings us to the edge of chaos to use Joseph's words. The edge of chaos is Deconstructionism. Words have multiple uses and definitions; the definitions of these words are made up of words that have multiple meanings and definitions. The end result is that you cannot talk about anything, because you can always question someone's definition of a waord or how they use/understand that word. So, the extreme opposite of Jeremiah's definition of culture is a deconstructed view of culture.

Anyways, great discussion!

I believe there is a Kingdom culture of sorts, but much of it we will not experience or realize until the latter. But not all of it.

John M. said...

Ouch Brian. You got me! I can no longer blame Jimmy, now that you have put my name on the move. Thanks for your clarifying, summarizing comments.

Jeremiah, thanks for being good-natured about my last post. I was afraid I came on too strong after I published it.

Sean, thank you for taking what had began to feel like some resolution, and throwing it into chaos...

Fooey on deconstruction, I like resolutin.

josenmiami said...

wow, you guys covered a lot of ground while I was gone!

I received several really good responses to the Surfing the Edge of Chaos book review, especially from LeRoy and Scoggins but all of them private so far.

I think you all covered the culture issue pretty well. I am going to try to look up in one my books when and where the modern use of the word 'culture' began, as distinct from the 1828 def. I am thinkig it might have been Emile Durkheim around the turn of the century...but it might have been earlier.

John M. said...

I'm going to go over to Faith and Reason and read Joseph's book review.
Joseph, tell those guys to publish their comments. We need to hear their perspective.

Jeremiah said...


I know I said I yielded, but... I thought about this issue all the way home from work, and it is not that I reformulated a new defense for my previous position, but I thought about the context of words, their meanings, our covenantal communities standing as a witness against the societies of this age and, again, the Transcendent Society of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Here is how all of those relate.

1) We are all in agreement that we must "Witness something" so powerfully that it changes who we are in order for our transformed lives to be a witness those around us.

2) Just as we have all seen multiple small candles become a giant flame when combined (i.e. my dad's 36th birthday cake was a scary example) so to when we come into unity with each other as a covenantal community of believers sharing in the transcendent Life of Christ we become such a powerful witness to the world that their defenses are stripped. A good example is Joseph and his daughter at the bar. They didn't react to Joseph, they didn't react to his daughter, but the girl went into depression when they were together. See also "they will know you are my disciples by your love one for another.

3) When we come together, we all bring a piece of revelation of the Transcendent Kingdom of Heaven. II Cor. ch. 2 says "...but WE have the mind of Christ" that is plural. Brian it is not one person who sees it all. But we all see a little and when we combine our little pieces it makes a contiguous whole of revelation. Here is where it gets exciting. See we have to corporately stand counter to the society we live in and raise up an alternative society based on what we (plural) have seen. As we do this, lifting up Christ in all we do, making HIM the center piece, then what happens is all men are drawn to HIM.

4) The key here is we are raising a counter society. We must reject everything from the society we are in which is Anti-Christ, and this includes, especially includes, the Language. Yes, the curse of Babel is still affecting our words. New dialects are still forming. But if we are intent on forming this Counter-Society based on our collective revelation of what we see from the Kingdom of Heaven, then we won't hesitate to take the language and force it to be obedient to Jesus Christ. II Cor. 10:3-5 clearly states that the goal of Spiritual Warfare is to take captive thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. So I ask you, what sums up a thought better than a word?

5) This being so, it is our responsibility to define words in regards to what we see from heaven and then communicate that to the culture at large. John, I know that that is difficult, but it will be like building a house on a rock foundation.

I don't have any idea if this defends or reduces my position on culture and society, but frankly I don't care, this idea of raising a counter society is bigger and definitely worth it.

Sorry I wrote so long. John, I know pastorally you worry about being to strong, but its all good. I personally learn best in this debating style conversation. I deeply appreciate everybodies willingness to be vulnerable.

One last point I can't resist. Brian you are right, none of us reads the scripture as a blank slate. In my opinion that is the absolute biggest challenge we all face is coming to it with an open attitude, looking to be changed by the Word and ruthlessly submitting to the Refiners Fire. Also, I believe that is why there is so much imagery. It is more difficult (but not impossible) to misinterpret imagery than it id anything else. A sword is a sword. it might be shorter in Rome than in Japan but they both cut heads off. etc.

steve H said...

This has been a most challenging discussion.

I'll be gone a couple days now because I need to go to Ohio to help my Dad and Mom. Mom is in the later stages of Alzhiemer's. We are waiting for an opening in the Alzheimer's unit at a nearby nursing home. Dad is understandably overwhelmed. It's a challenge to know how best to respond to all of this in the light of our call to give witness to the King and His kingdom in all of this.

josenmiami said...

hey guys, I am having a little trouble keeping up. I am supposed to be translating a 30 page academic paper from Spanish to English for the head of the history dept. but not making much progress...this is more fun! so..I might duck out some over the weekend.

Steve: you will be in our prayers!

Jeremiah: I think you are making progress in the right direction! I like what you are processing. The issue is not "Is there a single, overarching Kingdom Culture" but rather, how can we reflect the rule of God in our particular cultre? and even more, how can we extend the rule of God by effectively and COLLECTIVELY reflecting his rule in our particular cultre...especially in ways that run counter to our culture.

I actually did a good part of my masters thesis on that subject...using Max Weber's book on "The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" as my springboard to show how Catholicism has influenced the "political cultures" of Brazil and Colombia. I also brought in pluralism and religious tolerance in the form of pentecostalism.

I fully agree with you that our purpose as "secret agents" of the kingdom is to light enough candles that our culture will gradually change to reflect more of the values of the kingdom. Same in every other cultre.

so maybe there really is a mystical end-point down the road when all the 'cultures' of this world will become the 'culture' of our Lord (Rev: paraphrase)...and all things will be summed up in Christ and he will yield it up to the Father.... we just have to remember that it is here, now among us, but not yet.

By the way, I found the 1871 definition of culture that became the classic standard for social science until Geertz:

E. B. Tylor. In his Primitive Culture (1871, p. 1) he defined
culture as “that complex whole which includes knowl-
edge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member
of society.” This holistic conception was, however, not
entirely novel; it had its intellectual antecedents from
Vico to Herder and beyond.:

A recent survey of the concept, by A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn (Culture, 1952), brought no less than 164 definitions to light. Distinctions between “culture”
and “civilization” have also been rather abundant.

Sean said...

And culture has an underlying power structure to it. If you can influence the culture, then you have power. Corporations do this through advertising. Chevy trucks: An American Revolution. It appeals to the rugged, individual, American man who is still comquering the West (with a truck now instead of a horse). It draws on our cultural icons: patriotism, individualism, consumerism, freedom, ruggedness (machismo). These are some of the currents in American culture.

The Kingdom then, is different as Jeremiah says. What are the currents in the Kingdom's culture. How can those be broadcasted into the American culture to change it?

John M. said...

I like what you're a point. The ideal you're presenting is in the heart of everyone who has "seen" the Body of Christ and/or The Kingdom of God.

The problem is actually making it happen. I agree that when a commiunity of the King is formed, that the light should/will be brighter than just an individual. It is true that many aspects of character development and growth in maturity will happen best, perhaps only, in this context. It is also true that the corporate revelation of God's purpose should exceed the individual's.

I question, though, the idea that any number of individuals "seeing throujgh a glass darkly" will the totality of what we can know and understand of God. Perhaps, it exists if we include the Whole Church that exists through the ages including all the departed saints and those living on earth now. But that is impossible to access.

Even those living in close community have trouble accessing the entire body of understanding resident in the group -- just as it is a challenge to mobilize and activate all the resident giftings.

I have lived in two such convenant communities, each with a common vision to experience exactly what you have described, one for five years, one for nearly 20 years. We never achieved that ideal. I can think of only one example (which I did not "witness", but only heard about in testimony) of a person who actually was attracted to Jesus by just watching us. There may have been many more, but they were not evident.

This could be because we were too ingrown, too messed up, dysfunctional etc. I don't know. We did make an impression. People did notice. But they preceived us as a cult, a "country club" church, a closed exclusive group etc.

I admit that I carry a degree of cynicism, which I resist and ask God's help with. But I also have to allow my idealism to be tempered by the reality of life experience.

I keep singing the old U2 song, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

But I still believe I will see that community, whether in time or when time ceases. When I see it I'll know it and I pray for the privilege to be part of it.

In the meantime I'm still looking for fellow pilgrims to walk with as we attempt to follow Jesus more fully in his purpose to where ever that leads.

John M. said...

I was just over at Josph's family blog, "Friends for the Journey"

I highly recommend that you all read the post "A Future Not Our Own". It is a short poem that expresses much more eloquently what I rambled on about in my last post.

steve H said...

One more comment before I head out the door.

John, we do know the failings. However, let us not identify the wineskins of specific "covenant communities" with the "wine of covenantal life." And let us not forget that God has decided to make his light shine through fragile clay pots. In fact, the light may shine even more clearly when the pots are broken -- be they individual pots or corporate pots.

Blessings, all of you.

Sean said...

John M. thanks for the sobering reality. You will one day find what you're looking for. I'll be standing right next to you brother.

I don't think we should be focused on changing the culture or being counter-cultural or anything. It's people that need changing - I'm looking at it wrong. Culture is an abstraction that needs definition; it can be defined in multiple ways and doesn't help us very much. People should be the focus.

We need to focus on what people and ourselves are supposed to look like - that is Jesus.

Maybe I've been focused too much on these abstract ideas (I tend to do that) - like culture, theology, society, alienation.

But, I don't know - maybe it still has some value. I think we need to sift through our own cultural lens honestly. Some things in our culture conform to Jesus, and others don't. Just like in one's life. In the American culture, there are things that conform to Jesus. We are one of the most generous nations on earth. But, our culture/society is at best contradictory.

Sometimes I just think we need to not say or do anything, but just watch the Lord. Just watch what He does. We should watch Him, then do that - the issues of culture will take care of themselves and maybe we don't need to overanalyze whether we're looking at things correctly. Whether we've grasped what the kingdom culture is. We should just watch Him and do that.

Who knows...shalom.

Brian Emmet said...

Not only does a 'fuller' vision of the Kingdom and its culture require the presence and particpation of the Body of Christ currently on earth, and not only the parrticpation and contribution of the church triumphant in the Presence; it also requires those yet to come, the "generation not yet born."

Focus on people? Focus on cultural structures? Probably some of both at the same time, all the time. "individuals" do not, and connot, exist as discrete Cartesian 'points,' who then partipcipate in a culture (society, civilization); a human person cannot be formed or exist apart from his or her particpation in a social-relational-personal network.

That's why I raised the question earlier about Sunday worship. I think we understand what we may gain through the popular contemporary notion of "my personal sabbath day"; do we lose something through this individulaitis approach. Same for corporate worship: what do we gain, and lose, through "our" worship day being whatever day best fits our schedules (which are CULTURALLY DETERMINED to a large degree).

What kind of witness might it present to the world if followers of Christ witnessed to God's Lordship over time by observing a common Lord's Day on Sunday... especially if it included a commitment not to work and not to partiicpate in commerce?

John M. said...

Thanks Sean! We can look at each other and grin! :) I really like what you said.

Brian has a good point that it's probably "both/and". Either way, I think we can get too self-conscious and have too elevated a perception of how important our contribution is to God's Kingdom work. If we just humbly seek his Kingdom above all else and follow Him with all our hearts, he will show us whose are his and what he is creating of his Church and Kingdom on the earth and in heaven.

Steve, agreed that there was a lot of good wine in those wineskins. Most of my spiritual formation took place in that context. I'm just making the point that I don't think we were effective witnesses. Most all of our growth was "transfer growth" from other believers being imported into our midst. And I certainly don't intend to limit what God is doing beyond the little part of the Body to which I'm connected.

I think Brian is rasing a good point re corporate gathering for worship. Especially for some of us who are doing a more organic/house church thing.

John M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
josenmiami said...

Cultural change

To borrow Brian’s phrase, you guys are making me a little “nervous” when you talk about the kingdom culture or a culture of the kingdom in the singular (Sean and Brian). I thought we had put that one to rest. I continue to believe that it is important to distinguish between present reality (many varied human cultures) and a possible eschatological hope (many human cultures converging into one diverse kingdom culture at some unknown point in the future the after Christ returns).

I did my thesis on the basic idea of how religious values distributed among a large percentage of a population can gradually shape or change culture, for good or ill. My case studies were Brazilian and Colombian cultures: both Catholic but very different. Catholicism preserves the sense of community, and resists individualistic modernity (both possibly good things). As Max Weber pointed out, Calvinistic ascetic Protestantism (the puritans and some would include the early Methodists), contributed greatly, if not caused, the rise of modernism and especially modern capitalism.

In the first case, of Latin American Catholicism, much blood has been spilled between conservative Catholics and liberal (and Protestant) modernists. Eight civil wars in Colombian in the 19th century alone, and another 200,000 dead in 1948. (Of course, I am over simplifying). Catholic values have many positives, but at the same time led to intolerance, authoritarianism and a underlying cultural attitude that makes true democracy almost impossible, until the power of Catholic values is broken.

In the Protestant work-ethic case, enough people adopted the values of hard work, thrift, and modest living that it changed an entire civilization (Anglo-American and Western Europe) and eventually the world through creating wealth, technological breakthroughs, modern democracy – all good things. However, there are serious moral and social justice problems with the global free market, and the spirit of capitalism has devolved into the spirit of consumerism…certainly not a full reflection of the kingdom, despite its roots in godly values of the Protestant Reformation.

All of that to say, we need to be careful about promoting the “culture” of the kingdom. Values adopted by large numbers of people DO eventually change cultures, usually over several generations. However, it is NOT a linear process and there are all kinds of potential unintended consequences, and most of them not necessarily good. Witness some of the excesses of the politicized religious right.

John, that U2 song is one of my favorites…. I would climb the city walls, and I would climb the highest mountain…but I still have not found what I am looking for.

Brian, I totally agree with your point about individuals not existing as discrete Cartesian units. Dallas Willard uses a radically different definition of the human soul in his latest book. He includes a person’s closest social network as part of the human soul. A very good insight. Although, I have to say I think you are beating a dead horse on the common SUNDAY worship issue…that would be Christendom. Nice thought, but we cannot go back. We have to go with common worship and community and delete the day.

Steve: I agree. The church has always failed the most when it has social prestige, lots of wealth and power. The kingdom always advanced through small seeds, and weak vessels.

Sean: I agree that the focus should be on people, not on theological abstractions or ideal-types. AMEN. Ditto on ‘watching’ the Lord and only doing what he is doing. He is the only one who can shepherd complex living systems in the right direction.

By-the-way, what happened to Patrick, William and Johnthemuscian? Did we lose (or bore) them by going too conceptual? I sure hope we don't lose them out of here (I know where Jimmy went, he just got busy).

Both Patrick and John have their own blogs....perhaps we should visit them?

Ok, back to translation work!

Brian Emmet said...

Not so fast, Jose--we have a 2000-year legacy of Lord's Day worship, that follows upon and is organically-related to an additional 2000-years of Israel's celebration of sabbath, so I think the Christendom charge is weak. I am not talking about the government enforcing 'sabbath laws'.

I also did not mean to speak in terms of a unitary 'kingdom culture' and agree with you that, at least until the kingdom comes, what we will have is the kingdom incarating itself within a variety of human cultures.

Back to Sunday worship: how ought we to bear witness to Christ's Lordship over time (and of course space)? I think there may be some parallels with money/tithing: in the same way that sound financial management begins with the tithe, doesn't sound time management (bad phrase) begin with 'sabbath'?

josenmiami said...

ok... I'll give it some thought.

Jeremiah said...

Wow I'm out for 21 hours and so much is said. Joseph, I am not pointing to anything which is currently manifested on earth and proclaiming that that is "The Transcendent Society of the Kingdom of GOD" However, when the author of Hebrews says that " have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect..." Isn't this speaking to a Transcendent City, currently existing and describing the Society that is there? I am fully aware of the "Now/Not Yet" aspect of the Kingdom. But when Jesus says to pray that "...Your Kingdom come and your will be done on the earth just as it is in Heaven..." I've got to think that includes making our society conform to the Heavenly one as well. We live with both the now and the not yet.

What I am after is bringing the "not yet" closer to the "now". John, my heart aches for you. For the pain of visions and hopes which were dashed in pain. I want you to know that we are behind you and there will be an entire generation of us who keep looking for that incredible Unity of the Spirit. I have been through the fires as well, maybe not as fierce as the ones you have endured, but fires nonetheless. And I know that my prophetic gifting causes me to see the goal without always seeing the obstacles or the details. But just because there are obstacles, and just because there are details which are difficult, doesn't mean that the goal is any different. Though I am still young, I am getting a little patience, and if the vision is so much hotter, I also carry the knowledge that what I see, what we see is beyond us. And so my hearts cry is that my boys will rise to be faithful men who passionately seek after bringing the Transcendent Society of the Kingdom of God onto the earth and into the hearts of all men. And should the Lord tarry I pray with all my heart that my line will never fail to produce at least one who carries the Martyrs Crown.

So much has been tried, failed, and sinned in in the pursuit of this "...City with Foundations..." The point of error, as near as I can tell, has always been in focusing on something other than the Covenantal Relationships. The schisms of the Body of Christ have wrought such havoc! Joseph, it is hard not to weep when one considers how much has been lost at the hands of disunity in the body of Christ. I suspect that every major societal breakdown in a society exposed to Christ comes at the hands of disunity. But the day will come when the Bride is Whole again. Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, what would the world be like if we were united in heart? Brian, I think your point on the Sabbath is a good one. That is the kind of thing I am getting at. If we could raise a counter society the power of the Love of Jesus would be a bonfire none could ignore. But first we need the critical mass...

As you said Brian, the individualism is so devastating, we must seek after Unity first! Jesus is not coming after any one person, or collection of persons, He is coming for a Bride without spot or blemish. I know I am in the presence of men who have given their lives to preparing a "pure virgin" for our Lord. And yes

Jeremiah said...

(cont'd from before)

I know that it is a deadly game we are engaged in, one fraught with peril and enemies (not the least of which quietly whisper from within). But what else is there?

Steve we are praying for you.

John M. said...

I'm cheering you on. We always said, that our children (the next generation) would build on our shoulders. I know that is happening and will continue to happen.

A burning desire in me is to "pass the baton" to the next generation. That's what gets me up and gets me to school each day to teach 7th graders! I asked God for the chance to impact the next generation. He answered by putting me in Junior High for the last 10 years! I had these grand ideas of rebuilding the ancient ruins and the streets in which to dwell, and the Lord gave me my assignment -- the 7th grade classroom.

One generation shall proclaim the wonders of Thy Kingdom and Thy glorious works to the next...

One other observation. I have seen more unity, acceptance and mutual recognition develop between Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox in my adult lifetime than I would ever have dreamed. God's Big Story continues to unfold!

William said...

Joseph: I am still here and reading. I havent had anything to say on the current topic, so I am just chillin.

I have a blog that I have been posting on for a little while...there isn't much but feel free to visit and comment...

William said...

it might help if I gave you the site address...ha

josenmiami said...

thanks William, on my way there now.

Brian, you got me thinking...

By-the-way, John mentioned a poem on my blog. It is by Archbiship Oscar Romero who was killed by the El Salvador military for his stand on social justice issues. Here it is. It might have some relevance to our kingdom and culture discussion.


It helps, now and then, to step back
And take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
It is beyond our vision.

We accomplish it in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
Which is another way of saying
That the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection…
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day grow.
We water seed already planted.
Knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
And there is a sense of liberation in that.
This enables us to do everything,
And do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the results…
We are prophets of a future not our own.

-Archbishop Oscar Romero

John M. said...

Thanks Joseph. That poem speaks more deeply to me each time I read it.

Sean said...

Joseph, I still believe there is a singluar Kingdom root, if you will, that affects and hopefully overtakes all cultures. The root is God's glory and dominion, man's dignity, justice, and peace - perhaps a few others. I don't like the term kingdom "culture" because I'm not sure what culture is exactly, and then we tend to think in human terms about things we aren't sure about. Too many connotations to it and it gets messy. So, there is a Kingdom strain, a movement, a root, a power or authority, a word that is going forth and infecting all cultures. There will be multiple cultures under the dominion of a single King.

So, I'm not going to use the term "Kingdom culture" because it is too abstract. I'm going to use something like the "Kingdom movement"... it is moving, growing, shaping us, shaping is His dominion and power going forth through the Holy Spirit... That's what it is. It is His scepter, not "culture"...

John M. - just want to say - you have impacted the next generation. I'm a gen-Xer, which is the next generation for you, and you've impacted me greatly. And look at your extended family! You are doing it right my friend, even though you're not perfect. If I'm like you in 25 years, I will be a blessed man.

Joseph - interesting thesis. I love it. Max Weber is one of my favorite social theorists.

"...certainly not a full reflection of the kingdom, despite its roots in godly values of the Protestant Reformation."

As a man with a Jewish background, the assumption that the Protestant Reformation was "good" all the way around makes me nervous... I think the Holy Spirit was involved - but I also think that it man corrupted it. I think that capitalism did come out of Protestantism, but that's not necessarily one of the good things that emerged from Protestantism...(I think you basically agree with that, right?)

Steve H. - I am not sure the Scriptures endorse capitalism as it functions today... I also wonder about the economy of the early Christians described in Acts 2 and 4...

Capitalism is the world system - it is how things are. To the degree we allow it to affect the practices and ethics of the Church is my main point. The early Christians decided to sell their PRIVATE property to support the community.

I think what's really going on is this: the Kingdom of God - the Christian communities, were finally able to practice the ideal of Jubilee.

I'm still working on this...


josenmiami said...

yes, Sean, I agree with you are though, as you say, I am still working on it. There are some good things that came out of the Reformation relative to the monolithic hegemony (did I just lost John, Patrick and William again?...hey Michael! you there?) of medieval Catholicism. Or too use religious free-market terminiology, the religious monopoly of Cathoicism.

It opened the way for religious tolerance, pluralism and a modern conception of human reights. All partially good...none an absolute good.

Sean: I think this is like living systems theory: a little bit of chaos, a whole lot of complexity, a lot of unintended consequences, and some how, in a non-linear interactive fashion, the singular kingdom keeps on advancing like leaven in all the different cultres, mixed motivation and qualified religious values. Make sense?

John: if you like the poem by Archbishop Romero, you might also like the movie based in his life. The title is "ROMERO"

John M. said...

Thanks! We've got several generations going at once, don't we? You all (especially you and Travis) have impacted me so much, I tend to forget that it goes both ways! I love the reciprocity, though, that I expeience with you guys and with my natural extended family.

I really like your opening paragraphs about the Kingdom. That may be as close to a consensus on the "Kingdom Culture" issue as we'll get. I certainly agree with what you're saying. I'll be interested to see what others have to say. How about it Jereiah, do Sean's statements resonate with you, my young prophet?

Regarding the economic ideas. Do economic systems transcend culture or are they part of culture? Is there one "Kingdom Economic System", or can the Kingdom permeate various systems with honesty, justice, generosity, contentment and so on...?

Jeremiah said...

Yeah John, He's getting at what I'm saying. You may have noticed, I keep using the phrase "Transcendent Society of the Kingom of GOD" for the exact reason Sean stated. I don't know what real meaning of "culture" is, all of the definitions I've heard except mine are unwielding, confusing, shadowy, or based out of the enlightenment and since we all agreed that Society and Culture were synonomous, instead of fight over the definition (which isn't the point) I dropped the word and am just using Society and have tried to open a dialogue on effective ways that this Transcendent Society of the Kingdom of Heaven can "...advance like leaven..."

I think one way is by lifestyle changes. (Like what Brian is advocating) I think another way is by taking command of the speech. I think another way is relationally. I think this is a big one. Jesus said the "Kingdom of Heaven is like a net..."

The question I ask is if the Kingdom is a net, what are the strands and what are the Knots? It seems to me the strands are individuals and the knots are relationships. Fish get entangled in the network of relationships and knots and then, this is where it gets neat, the fish, being entangled in the net, are now a part of the net and catch other fish. I have/am seeing this happen in our circles, I don't know about the rest of you.

But whatever the case, we have to witness something profound enough to change us and the change needs to not only be personal but corporate. One of the BIGGEST lies I hear in "Christendom" is the lie that "If you were the only one on earth who needed salvation, Jesus would have still died for you." That statement has the sincere problem of being refuted scripturally in the first 4 chapters of Genesis. When there was 1 person who needed Salvation, Jesus did NOT die for her. And why not? For the simple reason that He is after a Bride with out spot or blemish, NOT an individual.

Sorry I'll get off my soapbox now.

So the most effective way we are going to "...Leaven the Lump..." is going to be as "...One Man contending for the Gospel"

One more thing and then lunch is over, as much as I am beating the drum for "The Transcendent Society of the Kingdom of Heaven" I am looking forward very much to the day when The Bride is presented to the Glorious Son of Man. I believe that in that day, every Tribe, every Tongue, and every Society will come in a great processional before the Throne. And all of the best things from each different societal expression will be presented at HIS feet. Boy oh Boy! What a Day!

Jeremiah said...

Dang, I keep writing long posts. Sorry

John M. said...

Amen! What a day that will be!

I can't fault you for the length of your posts! After all, I am master of the "Meadows Move".

Brian Emmet said...

Well, it appears that peace, harmony, consensus, mutual love and respect and admiration are dropping as the dew from heaven on our little electronic community--

--so time for more controversy!

Sean, Patrick, William, how about one of you taking a turn at "hosting the post"? You would get to write the next post, and then steer/moderate the ensuing, uh, brawl!

josenmiami said...

hmmmmm..... it is quiet in here...everyone gone for memorial day weekend, I suppose? I guess I will go ahead and take us right up to the edge (of 100).

Brian's suggestion is a good one, I hope one of you will step forward.

By-the-way Brian...I need to concede a couple of points to you. About worship on Sunday: I think you may have a point. I have been thinking about it, and it struck me that in our two house churches, and our one outreach PDL group, all of which can choose to meet whenever they want, they all meet on Sundays! Imagine that. Must be part of what Alan Hirsch calls the "DNA" of the church.

2nd point: I am being richly blessed by Eugene Peterson's book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I have not read enough to say that it is the best book of the last few years, but so far it is definitely in the running.

It is hard to compare with Alan Hirsch's book -- two different kinds of books like apples and oranges.

Hirsch's book is more analytical, more activist. It definitely will appeal to the 'missional' types. And in it's genre, it is the best I have read since Watchman Nee's "The Normal Christian Church Life" of the 1930s and Roland Allen's "Missionary Methods" of 1912. Another 'missional' type book that influenced me was written by a Catholic priest named Vincent Donovan, "Christianity Rediscovered."

Peterson's book is a different kind of book, more like a healthy meal than an appetite stimulant (not sure that makes sense). As I read it, I find myself being edified, like a sponge soaking up water. Part philosophy, part theology, and all devotion. I would compare it to some of Dallas Willard's books, or Henri Nouwen.

Peterson translation of the Bible has been ministering to me and Deb for a long time.

I remember sitting on the floor with Deb, in tears in the Mexico City airport, due to a pending 6 week travel separation for us. I opened the message to the Sermon on the Mount and read:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule."

"You're blessed when you feel you have lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."

Robert said...

Speaking of books..."Just Walk Across the Room" by Bill Hybels is a refreshing relational approach to witnessing. He is candide about his own struggles and offers anecdotal accounts of how he and others have been used to help people toward Jesus.

He uses the "3D" principle...Develop friendships...Discover stories...Discern next steps. This is really not know thinking...Jose, you are doing all this big time...but is refreshingly packaged to renew your enthusiasm about what is means...and does not mean to "witness." It also interfaces with the other issue of language we use to effectively communicate. It may not be a matter of retiring words as much as seeing what is in the tool box to use for current context. It could be that in another setting the old "tools" work better. Fun stuff...

josenmiami said...

HEY! My old friend Robert just walked in the room and took us "over the edge" of 100.

I read a couple of books by Hybels that blessed me several years ago. Actually, one was a cassette tape: "gages, gifts and games" on burn-out. The other was a book that gave the story of how they got started as a youth group (before they were a church) by innovating and using the arts to reach people.

I noticed that he is hosting a conference called "Ancient-future groups" on community coming up in Sept. A couple of my emerging guys are going to be speaking, Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch. I like Hybel's approach to diversity.

I agree with you Robert "something old, something new".... what did Jesus say about a scribe who enters the kingdom? He brings out of his treasure things both new and old? both/and.

I am reading Peterson's book at Brian's encouragement. I am still in the first chapter where he is dusting off the word "spiritual" and, rather than defining it, or redefining it, he is filling it with content from the Hebrew for 'breath and 'wind' and with scriptural narratives.

Hey, one more thing. Do you still have that list of "Cowboy Wisdom" one-liners? If you do have it digitally, can you send it to me?

John M. said...

Hey Robert,
Good to hear from you. So you've been here, just quiet? Congratulations on being the 100th post.

If Steve Humble were here he would give you a historical context for meeting on "The Lord's Day". Seems that it has been tradition to meet on the first day of the week since Jesus came out of the tomb on that day. Btw, when the tradition started, Sunday was a regular work day, so the meetings were early in the a.m. Interetingly, Sunday morning, even in our 24-7 society, is still the most quiet and unencumbered time of the week. I think that's why Joseph and I enjoy cocooning during that time. Are we being selfish?

Sean, Patrick, William... Who's going to take the challenge? Us old guys are starting to wander. Set a path for us.

Brian Emmet said...

Hoo, boy, I'm in a dangerous place: it's a sunny Saturday morning, long weekend, beloved wife off doing errands, and I don't feel really motivated to cut the grass and perform other necessary and overdue chores...

I know! I'll blog some more, see if I can stir up some more snakes for us to chase and then look forward to many happy hours of electronically-induced irresponsibility.

WARNING: if one of you doesn't soon volunteer to host the next post, I'm going to seize the reins, commandeer the bridge, take the lead and do it myself. I think a couple of hundred comments on fifth- and sixth-century church order should be punishment enough!

josenmiami said...

thanks John! i'll look forward to hearing from Steve.

...and Robert, if I could make mony blogging, I would be on my way to wealth and retirement.

By-the-way, I found an interesting article in the New York Times discussing the passing of Falwell and the changing face of evangelicalism. It mentions Warren and Hybels. I just posted an except on my blog

here is the link directly to the New York Times:

Question for the Covenant Thinklings: are you guys ready for our own generational transition? Its just around the corner.

josenmiami said...

Brian: I bet that Patrick and William are still in bed. Sean is probably studying Hebrew or Greek.

steve H said...

Yo! I'm back. This blogging is something. There is no way for me to catch up on all the threads of thought -- so many worth catching up on and engaging too.

Sean, I do want to make clear that I do not endorse modern capitalism. I don't even endorse all of Adam Smith (Don't get me wrong; I'm no expert on his writings.)

Acts 2 and 4 are very important. Just as challenging, and in some ways more so, are the implications of 2 Corinthians 8 -- the principle of equality drawn from the gathering of manna, applied to churches even in differing nations! Does that have cultural implications for kingdom people or not?

There may be a difference in our understanding due to the fact that I approach the application of Scriptures "jurisdictionally." That is, Jesus is the only one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus delegates that authority into several spheres or jurisdictions -- self government, family government, church government, civil government. These four I have found can be pretty clearly seen in Scripture. [Some suggest a fifth sphere, that of the marketplace or business. So far as I can tell this is a "construct" derived because of the modern corporate structure. Bibllically, economic matters seems to me to be primarily related to the personal and the family/household sphere.]

The issue is to attempt to discern from Scripture which jurisdiction is held responsible by God/Jesus to deal with a particular issue. Even if there is jurisdictional overlap, which is most responsible? This a great tool for problem solving.

Acts 2 & 4 as well as 2 Corinthians 8 present strongly the idea of sharing in common within the spiritual family -- the church. However, there did not seem to be any coercion in this; rather, it was the "natural" and expected expression of agape. It is this lack of coercion as well as the lack of civil government's involvement that distinguishes it from modern socialism.

This brings us back to kingdom culture, I think, which, speaking economically is neither capitalist or socialist.

Joseph, I would suggest that there is or should be a kingdom culture in a broad sense -- the culture of agape, expressed in fulfilling the "one anothers" and Christ's commands. Within that broad shared culture, there will be many applications.

For instance, I think back to the cultural "legalism" concerning dress that I grew up with -- or even to the Amish. Scripture indicates pretty clearly that kingdom people need to be concerned about modesty and probably even about simplicity in dress. However, there appear to be many ways to express modesty and simplicity within a given kingdom community and a given social context.

I think it's a good thing for a kingdom community to come to some common agreement on how that community will express modesty and simplicity. The hard part then is to not treat this agreement as a moral absolute and to not try to hold other believers and communities to the same expression.

josenmiami said...

hi Steve,

I am hesitant to engage this 'culture' issue work is stacking up. I will say that it depends on how you define 'culture' whether one can say that there is, or should be a kingdom culture.

I am using the social science definitions of culture (there are several) which, for me, precludes the existence of any current kingdom 'culture.' However, I noticed that you migrated to the phrase kingdom 'community' which I think works better in the context you are giving.

You probably mean a kingdom community in which there are commonly held values. I agree. I especially see the need to seek to develop a consensus within kingdom communities on agape....the one-anothers...the covenantal life. Funny, I had neglected that in my previous church became a major emphasis in our house church because I wante to quickly work myself out of a job. We spent nearly a year, discussing our way through covenant in the O.T. and the one-another's in the new. So far, everyone in our church is caring for everyone else...and I am out of a job and ready to move on to the next one.

I accidenty created new blog last night...I put on it whatever name came to me first...when I sobered up this morning (just kidding-- oh, well not really!) I added a photo and some humor.

daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

alright guys, you are getting a little antsy...I'll have another path for your feet to land on by tonight

Brian Emmet said...

William's Da Man! William's Da Man!

josenmiami said...


William: you DA PERSON! you da Person!

(quote from one of my slightly ironic, but politically correct professors)

John M. said...

Let's see if we can get up to 200 posts before William shows us a new path.

Brian, did you ever mow your yard. I never did mow mine, and after reading your post, I felt much better.

I know how to get us up to 200. I'll write one of my regular lenth posts and then didvide it into 88 parts. On second thought, that'd be too much work... I think I've been napping too long... I'm going to go eat... maybe that'l help.

William said...

Eugene Peterson in Ephesians paraphrases Chapter 4 verse 17-19 like this:

"And so I insist-and God backs me up on this- that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They've refused for so long to deal with God that they've lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They cant think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion."

I think that America is definitely in this category of empty-headed and mindless and in feeling no pain. Also out of touch with reality.

The Church is needed to step in and say with Paul "Wake up! Arent you embarrassed you have been living like this for so long?" Both to secular and christian circles.

One problem though, is our faith is weak (stay with me, I am getting to the thesis). Many meetings and services can be likened to a concert. Worship has been saddled up with emotion and me-ism. Along with this God's title as a lover has been magnified. The feminism movement that started in the late 1800's seems to have seeped into the Christian world view.

I dont think that the "worship" part of our services is as important as we have made it out to be. It is critically important to surrender to God and praise Him, but did not Abraham do that when he sacrificed his son?

What is worship? What will it look like in the future with the post-modern generation?

josenmiami said...

sounds to me like a clear prophetic burden ... I agree with you on the worship. We have veered WAY to far into music as worship and often forget worship as a lifestyle of obedience.

thats why in our 'mirco' ecclesia's we have made music optional.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, William's comment becomes the next post. Rce you to "Comment #1"!

Jeremiah said...

You guys are pretty funny when I'm not landing bombastic comments for you to reply to :)

William, I gotta say this is a great topic and one of my favorite things to dwell on. Now I'm going to do something that the older crowd loves. I'm going to define worship in terms of the etymological roots. (Oops my sarcasm slipped out) As near as I can tell Worship has the same root as Worth, or Work. I believe Work is creating value in the world and Worship is ascribing Value to something. I think that is a very simple very workable definition that is also consistent with (gasp) Webster's 1828.

I believe in a practical sense this definition leads to a lifestyle where all that I do is done out ascribing worth to JESUS. Every action will either indicate that I am valuing Who He is or that I am devaluing Who He is. I am either laying down all that I am to HIM or not.

My whole life is worship. Who am I worshipping is the question.