Monday, June 9, 2008

An Implausible Scenario?

As resident aliens living in the semi-secularized West, we are finding that it's becoming harder to gain a hearing for the Gospel because it is considered implausible from the get-go. For example, "Jesus is THE (i.e., only or exclusive) way" strikes many as implausible as "The earth is flat." So two questions: what are the features in our culture that support people in finding the Gospel to be implausible? What might be good ways for us to respond?


smokin joe said...

good topic Brian ... I have not thought about how to answer you yet, but I wanted to mention this excellent piece by Dave Dunbar on the subtle distinctions between three current movements: missional, emerging and emergent.

The name of his web site/blog is "Biblical Seminary -- Missional Journal."

I'll think about your question and get back ... my problem will be to narrow them down to a few critical issues.

smokin joe said...

ok ... here I go on back-to-back comments ... I should know better.

I personally don't think it is the gospel that secular people find implausible -- it is the messangers that bear the gospel that lack credibility. Was it Marshall McLuhan who said "the medium is the message"?

We have already covered some of this ground before -- the church is messed up, Christians are messed up, I'm certainly messed up, yada, yada, yada.

I really don't think we have fully realized how far we have fallen from a classical-biblical Christianty especially in terms of spiritual formation.

I find that when approached properly, most secular people are very open to the core of the gospel message. They just not open to narrow, absolutist, intolerant, church-centered, black and white expressions of the gospel.

don woolley said...

I agree with Smokin Joe and would add a couple random thoughts.

First, I fully believe Jesus is THE way and there is no other, but I don't think we need to lead with this. Maybe we could focus on getting them to choose Jesus for themselves, even if they can't bring themselves to believe he is the only way for everyone.

Getting to the "church is / Christians are messed up" argument we always hear, in my experience people want to use this in part of a larger argument of what about Buddhism, Islam, etc. etc. In the past I would try to defend Christianity, but (I suspect like a lot of you) I realized I don't really have a dog in that fight. I'm not an advocate for the Christian religion, I'm an advocate of Jesus, which is a completely different conversation. I think people can choose Jesus without choosing the religion we've built around him.

I know that's stated in terms that are probably too black and white, but I'm tired and going to bed.

Brian Emmet said...

I'd like to not re-cover ground we've already traversed. So, granting all the critiques that should be brought to bear on the church, I'd like to see if we could explore some different, but related, territory.

Paul spoke of having spiritual weapons that were effective in pulling down strongholds (2 Cor 10) and that those strongholds were the vain ideas that set themselves up against truly knowing God. It is these ideas that can contribute to the Gospel's being perceived as implausible.

While I agree with Don that we do not need to lead with the exclusivity of Christ, the very idea of exclusivity is seen by many as a disqualifying feature of the Gospel--"how can anyone say that there is only one truth?" Another 'disqualifier' has to do with the question/problem, of evil--if God is all-good and all-powerful, how can disasters natural and man-made be permitted. without compromising either God's goodness or sovereignty?

Of course one of the reasons the church's witness is so compromised is that we own real estate in some of these same strongholds! So part of what I'm suggesting is doing some diagnosis of the ways in which the church has become thoroughly worldly... which requires us to think about what "worldliness" looks and sounds like in our day.

steve H said...

I believe that it's a prime opportunity to lead with "power evangelism." Signs and wonders won't save anyone, but an act of God's power certainly get a person's attention and open the door to conversation. And even when a miracle does not happen (on the spot at least), most people receive an offer and act of pray as a sign of caring.

Randy R. said...

Amazing! I have not contributed for quite a while, sorry, brothers, I have been super busy, but it has all been super good. However, I have enjoyed reading the blogs.

Today, Fred and I attended an all-day seminar by a guy named Gary Poole on starting "seeker" small groups. In many ways, I was reminded of what Joseph is doing. Gary is about our age and has actually been doing this since his college days! For the past sixteen years he has been on staff at Willow Creek. I don't want this to be too long, so I will add more with another entry!

Randy R. said...

Gary does not offer a "programed method." However, he has learned some principles over his years of experience. I will try to be concise and summarize a whole day. The first key is frienships with unbelievers, highly critical and necessary. Everyone that Gary invites to his gathering he has already established a realtionship with (sorry to end with a prep.). Second, also like Joseph, he is not judgmental, and does much more listening than talking. He pretty much let's the group dictate the direction of the conversation. However, there is one point inwhich he is very intentional. At the first meeting, after more than 30 minutes of ice-breakers. He asks, "If there was one question that you could ask God, what would that be?" He then uses those questions (e.g., 8, if there are eight people) for the basis for their dialog over the next few weeks . . . again mostly listening on his part. For example, he shared that with one group, one woman asked him right off the bat, how do I get to know Christ? Rather than answering her question he asked the rest of the group (all unbelievers) what they thought. After about four or more weeks the question came up again. This time the WHOLE group wanted to know the answer and many came to faith! COOL! I love it!

Randy R. said...

One last comment! Gary calls his approach "Empathic Evangelism" -- Guiding explorers to self-discover biblical truths. He believes that we need to do two things: 1. Ask great questions. 2. Listen really well. On point two, his thoughts reminded me of our dear brother, whom I know that we all miss, Richard McAffee. Gary stated the following:
1. Be the best listener in the group.
2. Listen for the meaning behind words.
3. Listen for the emotion underlying the thoughts expressed.
4. Master the art of listening.
Good stuff!!!

smokin joe said...

thanks Randy, that sounds very similar to what we are doing.

smokin joe said...

seems like everyone is busy. Brian, I don't think we are hitting the bulls eye of the target you wanted us to shoot at. I think you had in mind more of a discussion of apologetics for post-modernism.

By-the-way, someone wrote me and asked for my opinion on the Lakeland revival. I posted my response on one of my blogs:

steve H said...

I appreciated and agreed with your comments on revival, Joseph. I remember year's ago hearing Bruce Longstreth say, "I am not a revivalist; I am an abodist." (Based on Jesus' command to abide.

John the Musician said...

This will be going back a few comments but I wanted to address the belief that Jesus is the only way. Now I know that many people have a tendency to say that all religions are the same or similar and that all religions lead to the same place and I don't agree with it. I don't think religion is the issue at all here. Like Don said I myself am stronger believer in following Jesus.

However, I recently had a friend point out an interesting thought, whether right or wrong he said that Jesus was specifically talking to the jews and not the gentiles when he said the only way to the Father is through me.

Personally I take the middle ground, I believe that for me Jesus is the only way, but I also know that Jesus describes himself as the way the truth and the life, as well as Love or Agape.

Dow Robinson says that for people who haven't heard the message of Jesus they're judged by how they followed the law written on their heart. I guess I personally don't see why somebody who has been turned off by christianity can't tap into Truth and Love and find the Way to Life.

If God is Love and Jesus is God incarnate in man then Jesus is Love as well which would denote in my opinion that by living in love some "unbelievers" might be miles ahead of some "believers."

Of course this does make the message of salvation a little more complicated but perhaps we'll save that for another post. =O)

Brian Emmet said...

Kathy and I are off for a week's vacation tomorrow, visiting our second daughter and her husband in Denver, a few days vacation in Boulder, then Robert Grant's team time in Colorado Springs, so I may go silent for a bit.

If interest wanes (or doesn't exist in the first place!)in this topic, feel free to move on. But I wanted to pick up on something Randy wrote about being the best listeners and asking the best questions. What are the questions that the people we seek to reach are carrying in their hearts, and what kinds of questions might we offer in response? There are aspects of the Good News that folks will tend to find plausible ("Jesus loves you, unconditionally") and others that make the Gospel seem implausible--the "opinions of God," if I could put it that way, that our culture finds incredible or offensive (e.g., it really is possible that people go to hell).

Brian Emmet said...

John, your post came in over top of mine, so I wasn't responding to you.

But now I am! Graet question/point you raised: are we made right with God because we live in love? I have no quarrel with the idea that there are "virtuous pagans" the quality of whose lives puts to shame those of many in the church. But do we conclude from this that they are OK with God, and God with them, because they live genuinely loving lives?

smokin joe said...

thats a whole topic, Brian ... I think C.S. Lewis would have answered your question in the affimative...remember the young enemy soldier in THe Last Battle who died and wondered into the real Narnia? When he met Aslan, he fell down but Aslan affirmed him and told him that what he was worshiping in the false god Tash, was actually Aslan himself. I believe this is called the "inclusivist" position.

Regarding the questions that are being asked, with my grad school friends, there are not many concrete needs in their lives... for the most part, they are smart, young, good looking and they have it together, otherwise they would not be in grad school.

But the one thing most all of them lack is a sense of meaningful purpose. This is the achilles heel of secular, pluralistic society ... perhaps it is why Rick Warren's book became a mega-success.

Brian Emmet said...

We are reconciled to God because of our sincere desire and honest effort to live loving lives?

Because Jesus is Israel's Messiah, he is the way for Jews, but Gentiles have other options?

I'm not being argumentative; I'm asking questions. We don't have to hash out "inclusivsm" "versus"
"exclusivism." The topic illustrates my point: for many people, the idea that a person's response to Jesus determines that person's eternal destiny seems implausible. We don't like anything that smacks of exclusivism (for some excellent reasons), so God couldn't possibly be that way. Do we agree with the assessment of implausibility, or do we have good ways to respond?

I wonder: is there something at work in the cultural atmosphere that is subtly starting to separate "Jesus" from "the Gospel"?

don woolley said...

great insights. could you define "the gospel?"

thanks, don

Brian Emmet said...

The Gosepl is the good news of God's Kingdom, pre-existent from before the foundation of the world ("his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion knows no end"), inauguarted uniquely in and through Jesus' incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension and glorification, and presently active by the Spirit. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, because in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. It is the good news that Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the chief. The Gospel embraces the recovering/redemption/restoration of the Creation as well of individual sinners who put their faith in Jesus.

I fear that in our desire to "get back to the simplicity and purity of following Jesus" we neglect the content, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social of that following.

Robert said...

Keep this going. It is too late for me on this Friday evening to post but I believe we are addressing the significant issue of how to address the current cultural climate with the truth of the Gospel. The message is always intentional. To the is one thing. To those in was an appeal to the tomb of the unknown god.

The "Four Spiritual Laws" don't seem to fit the present climate except for those who are biblically informed. Most I deal with don't have that foundation. We are likely on a new frontier of presenting the truth about Jesus. We don't have the comfort of dealing with those who readily get it...but with those who don't. All they know is the disparity of religion.

This is an important point of discussion...keep it going.

steve H said...

I'm off to a meeting -- to strategize (I hope) about how to deal with the fact that dozens are dying each year in our small community (about 40,000 in the county) from drug overdose.

The topic you raise is critical John the Musician. I want to think through my response and give it the attention it deserves. As I see it, on the one side it raises the issue of whether there is content (reality, substance, "true truth") in words such as love, truth, life, and the way. From a different point of view it also opens the question as to whether God is limited in his ability and work to draw people to himself.

smokin joe said...

This is not just a ‘post-modern’ cultural issue. Christian thinkers, including some of the church fathers have held to a variety of beliefs concerning who can be saved and how, including both exclusivist and inclusivist views. Further out on the edge is universalism, although none of these positions can be classified as heresy. Suffice it to say for now, that I believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, and that no one can come to the Father without him.

Here is a good quote from Reinhold Niebuhr that I think gives us the correct attitude with which to proceed forward:

“Religious humility is in perfect accord with the presuppositions of a democratic society. Profound religions must recognize the difference between divine majesty and human creatureliness; between the unconditioned character of the divine and the conditioned character of all human enterprise….Religious faith ought therefore to be a constant fount of humility; for it ought to encourage men to moderate their natural pride to achieve some decent consciousness of the relativity of their own statement of even the most ultimate truth…

Religious toleration through religiously inspired humility and charity is always a difficult achievement. It requies convictions be sinerely and devoutly held while yet the sinful and finite corruptions of these convictions be humbly acknowledged; and the actual fruits of other faiths be generously estimated.”

- Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1944), 135, 137.

david said...

Sorry guys, I'm just catching up.

As to Brian's question - I think there are two issues that i see most. the first is the lack of mystery and the second is the idea that if things can't be proven or studied (ala Dawkins), then they can't be real. These issues, of course, overlap plenty.

Dostoevsky wrote that "beauty will save the world" - we are very far from that concept. we are black and white, concrete thinkers. we are a society of "let me just google it to find the answer" kind of folks.

There is very little beauty left to this life, very little mystery -or so that's the current thinking. This leaves us with simply the nuts and bolts (the facts) of this world to fulfill us and to give us some sort of validation.

I am not as anti church as others, but I do find that what is most needed is simply real Christians living Christian lives. I am not opposed to signs and wonders - but what i find that those around me don't see much of, is love. Love for God and love for someone other than ourselves. Love that actually means more than just "I love you for as long as I want to love you".

We are supposed to be imitators of Christ - and He denied Himself, carried His cross and did the will of His Father. This is what i think the world sees very little of.

John the Musician said...

David I agree with your assessment that the world doesn't see whole lot of real christians practicing real love. I'll have to disagree on the black in white comment unless I misunderstand where your coming from. It seems to me that if anything our society (strictly american) has grown more and more grey. People constantly reniging on their opinions and the political astmosphere that seems to be something like, "just say what people like to hear."

But as far as the real christians bit, hell yeah. I mean I tend to consider myself in a category of people who are really seeking out real love and real obedience to God and yet I see very little of those christian's you speak of. It seems like what I want to see is a bunch of radical Jesus lovers on fire to bring about the kingdom of God in the world. Rather than a huge group of people who just talk the talk. I'm affraid that's exactly why the world has become so turned off by religion as a whole, they see a bunch of people claiming to be about love that in reality are exactly the oposite.

Also wanted to make a quick response to Brian. I definately believe that Jesus is the way, I just think that it's possible for people to encounter Jesus outside of our christian box.

steve H said...

Love is at the core of everything. Whether we are seeking to influence people with the gospel using reasonings, signs and wonders, works of mercy, or any other thing... if it is not done from love, because of love, in love... then it's nothing of value.

david said...

john, i agree with your assessment that our society is becoming or has already become very "grey" in the philosophical sense. when i talked about "black and white" i was meaning more that many see life as nothing more than facts, figures and things to possess. life is only what they can see, touch and quantify.

on the one hand many are living such a watered down version of what life is supposed to be that they stumble around seeming to not know anything of real life and on the other hand these same folks let the facts and knowledge of this world blind them and keep them from Life Himself.

i've read things by very early christian writers that speak of the fact that when someone comes to Christ, that they are restored to life in the garden. that with Christ now we can live an actual existance - living the way that we were intended. full communion with Him - no lies, no hiding - just Truth.

don woolley said...

I've been out for a bit, and man if you don't check in, you get way behind. Thanks Brian for the Gospel definition. I wish I could remember the exact words, but I recently heard someone describe the gospel as "the good news that the King has come."

I agree with John the Musician that there is a lot of grey / mystery and people seem very comfortable with it. Maybe too comfortable, but in a sense it is a reaction to our oversimplifying.

Brian, can you elaborate on your comment: "I fear that in our desire to 'get back to the simplicity and purity of following Jesus' we neglect the content, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social of that following.'"

I don't want to be guilty of any of that, but I tend to think that being faithful in each of these areas actually requires getting back to the simplicity and purity of following Jesus.

I'm not looking for an argument, or to offend, I just want to understand.

thanks, don

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks to all for thoughtful, insightful comments!

I'm not wanting to make inclusive vs. exclusive a focus for right now (although feel free to discuss if you like). I raised it simply as an illustration of an idea that causes many to see the Gosepl as implausible--"how could anyone possbly claim that only one religion is right?" For me, that connects to the "content" of the Gosepl. I'm not trying to put any kind of wedge between "following Jesus" and "the content of the Gospel"--but I do think, as things become ever "grayer", that te direction of some Christian thinking is starting to insert such a wedge. Everybody feels great about Jesus--this in sharp contrast to how they feel about "church"--but what we think and feel about Jesus is more formed by our culture than the NT. As we knock the sharp edges off Jesus--and the church in every age has had the tendency to do this, as has the culture in which it lives--we can migrate away from the robust moral, intellectual, social etc. commitments that discipleship entails.

But you may find this ranting of mine implausible... or simply incomprehensible! No one needs to dance to my tune.

John the Musician said...

Thanks for clarifying David I totally agree with you on your black and white mentality idea.

To Brian, I understand what your saying and I think that's part of why I tried to clarify that I think Jesus is the way and that the gospel "message" (in quotes because Jesus is the word thus he himself is the revelation of the message of his salvation although he wants us to be a part of the proclamation)is excellent and I've found personally to be the only way to continue seeking God not by our own efforts but by the spirit that's within us. It's taken me a long time to get to the place where I'm at but I feel like I finally understand what and why Jesus did what he did. I'm starting to understand how neccessary it is for us to claim that salvation that Jesus provided rather than to try "create" our own salvation by works, and yet not to slide into complacency.

This has been a very hard line for me to walk and I'm at a place right now of discouragement about this very issue.

I realize there is a danger of making Jesus out to be a "nice" guy. Buddy of buddy's Hah! Yes he's love but what's the definition of love? Surely love isn't being a really nice guy whom everyone can feel comfortable around... because that would be me and I'm pretty sure I'm no where near what I'm supposed to be in Jesus. =O)

So yes let's get down to the nitty gritty, yes let's be passionate and strong and meek all at the same time. If a friend says he thinks a sin is alright you tell him the opposite, "no man it's not alright, it says right here in the bible not to do let's pray."

I hope I'm making sense =OP
I guess I'm trying to get to a place of grasping the both and. A place where I can show unconditional love to a lost soul and yet turn to my brother and be brutally honest in my love for him. Different types of love for different people. Does that mean I think we should decieve people about walking with God? No way! But there's a season for every word.

Brian Emmet said...

Thanks, John. I want to be clear that I wasn't accusing or attacking you; your comments sparked some ideas in my own mind, so apologies if you felt put on the spot in any way.

I guess we're all prodigal sons and daughters ("prodigal" = "recklessly extravagant")--I think that's really our only option, either the recklessness of the younger son, or that of the elder. You may have noticed that I lurch more to the elder brother side of the ditch, but we're all ultimately in the same ditch, just falling in from different sides.

Of course the point of the story is the prodigality of the father's love for both his boys. It's probaby the case that we are more deeply screwed up that we have any idea of, and more deeply loved than we could begin to fathom. "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"

smokin joe said...

I agree Brian ... at least I know that I am more deeply screwed up than I realized...and that his love is greater than I imagined!

I'm off to Ohio with Deb for about a week, so I might not be dropping in here frequently.

I think there is a lot more to talk about regarding our view of Jesus "as the way" than we (or I) have had energy to engage as of yet.

I'm reading a great book in my 'free time' called "Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World" by John G. Stackhouse Jr. He is a Christian ethical philosopher and is presenting the case for what he calls "Christian realism" (as opposed to Christian idealism or utopianism).

Scot McKnight did an overview of the book in his blog.

Stackhouse begins with Richard Niebhurs typology of "Christ and Culture" and examines his brother Rienhold, C.S. Lewis and Bonhoeffer's views of how Christians should engage culture.

for Stackhouse Christian Realism boils down to Christ and Culture in Paradox.

so far, it is really good.

John the Musician said...

Sorry I haven't been back to check for a couple days but no I didn't feel accused at all. =O)

As with most topics of this sort I think it always comes back to the point that each person has their own road to walk and each road is different. We can talk to eachother about our walks, we can encourage eachother in our walks but in the end we can't walk someone else's road for them.

John M. said...

Joseph, I agree that we have a lot more to explore regarding the topics that are being raised here. I am one who has not had (or taken) the time and energy to engage, but I agree with you. We should either continue this thread or begin a new one, but not abandon the questions being addressed.

Thom said...

Greetings from Colorado, where the air is pure and the mountains are tall. Sorry I've been away, but I've been, well, away, and this is the first chance I've had to check
back. I'm home Monday, and if there hasn't been a lot of activity on this thread, I'll try and fire up something new. Any other suggestions?

Brian Emmet said...

Just realized I was using Thom Bergeron's laptop--the previous comment was from me: Brian.

smokin joe said...

I guessed it was you, although it would also be great to hear from Thom B. I'm in Ohio, getting ready to drive home tomorrow in my son's car.

To summarize my 'inclusivist' views on this subject, I personally believe that there are many, many ways to God ... and that all of them, at one point or another, lead through Jesus, Isa (Arabic), Yeshua, Joshua, Jesu (Creole) the son of man, the living water, the living bread, the good shepherd, the messiah, Immanuel, God with us... you get the point.

It is in the 'name' of Jesus that we are saved ... but as we learned many years ago, it is not so much the linguistic pronunciation of the name as in "Je-sus" which varies in many different languages, but it is in the character, the spirit, and in the agreement with the nature of the one in whose name we worship.

To do something in the 'name' of Jesus, means to do it in accordance with his character, in the same spirit as himself. When someone does something in the ‘name’ of Jesus, they are doing it in the same spirit as he would, even if they do not know cognitively that they are doing it for the Jewish messiah, the founder of Christianity. Gandhi came to a love for and appreciation of Jesus through Tolstoy, but he chose not to ‘become a Christian’ because of his experience with Christians. So, yes, Brian, I think as we move toward a globalized view of pluralistic world cultures (and a deepening appreciation that he is Lord of all the earth, as well as head of the church), there is a growing appreciation for the distinction between the Lord of History, the Eternal Logos and the Christian religion, perhaps just as there was between the Messiah and Judaism as a religion of Moses.

In Matthew 7, Jesus said that many on that day would say to him, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name?” and he would say “depart from me, I never knew you.”

Is it not just possible that there will also be those in that day that will NOT say “Lord, Lord” but he will say “come closer, I think I know you… what you did in the name of Truth, and in the name of selfless Love, you did as unto me, you did it in my name for you did it in accordance with my spirit and my character…come to me and let me reveal myself more fully to you!”

I realize that this might be considered a bit speculative, but so is most of the thinking of the exclusivist view, in my humble opinion.

There are many ways to God, and they all lead through his son … but he is not a “tame lion.” He has other sheep in other folds by other names.

Ok, I am rested up and I have a prescription for anti-depressants… have at me. ;-)

smokin joe said...

maybe not ... I left the prescription meds in my hotel room in Atlanta ...

Anyway...thanks to Brian, I have been thinking alot about this but I don't feel ready to try to put my thoughts out there.

by-the-way, I had a delightful time at Cracker Barrel with John M and Steve H. on my way through Lexington on Monday... thanks guys!

Perhaps Steve or John can suggest a new topic for discussion. Have any of you read McClaren's book "Everything Must Change"? I got it on a gift card in Ohio and have read the first 80 pages ... very easy reading, but provocative content. I would say that it is centered around the concept of the kingdom of God, as is his other book, The Secret Message of Jesus, with applications for social issues and the environment.

Perhaps at some point, we could all agree to pick a controversial book like that and read through it together and discuss it. This is a book that I would not hesitate to give to some of my liberal friends who are semi-open to the gospel but turned off by the religious right.

steve H said...

It was indeed good to hang with you even for a little while, Joseph.

I am reading (among other things) N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church." I haven't finished it but I'm pretty sure that I will be challenged by (and probably disagree with details of) the section on the church's mission. His material on the Christian's hope regarding heaven and the resurrection provides the scholarly support and more for the views that I have been moving toward in the last 30 years.

A possible topic: What is our hope? What was the hope of Jesus' early followers -- what kept them motivated in the face of great opposition?

If that is not a good topic, perhaps we could get off the "heavy theology" for a bit and discuss something for fun -- perhaps Bob Dylan's worldview or some such topic.

Brian Emmet said...

Good thoughts, all-- I, too, am part way through Wright's "Surprised by Hope"... I think J's idea of a common book is a good one--in addition to his suggestions (McLaren) and Steve H's (NT Wright), any other recommendations for a group "book review"? I also liked Steve H's, "How about something lighter for a change" idea--any other thoughts there?

smokin joe said...

John G. Stackhouse, Jr.'s "Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World" is excellent ... I am getting a lot out of it although it probably does not qualify as "something lighter."

The central theme of McLaren's book is the kingdom of God turning everything on its head, in terms of values. I just read a passage that I would love to share in here... but maybe tomorrow after others have commented.

I was down at the bar tonight, smoking cigars and hanging out with the gang ... it was nice to just 'waste time together.' There were several people there who are part of the social network but do not yet come on Tuesday nights...

John M. said...

Joseph and Steve, ditto your comments about our time together. It was good to get to talk face to face. Thanks, Joseph, for initiating.

Is anyone inclined to grab Joseph's comment on "inculsivism"? I would like to have a discussion along those lines at some point because I've been doing a lot of thinking about the topic myself.

Regarding the original topic of this thread, the current issue of Christianity Today (July 2008) addresses the whole idea of apologetics in our current social and intellectual climate. The two lead articles are titled, "God is Not Dead Yet" and "A New Day for Apologetics".

There is also an excellent article on evangelism titled "From Four Laws to Four Circles". It deals with communicating a robust Gospel that has a Kingdom focus and deals with the big picture of bringing healing and restoration to a broken world -- while not dismissing the need for personally embracing the cross.

Speaking of evangelism, here's a good book that we could read together. It's by two Inter-Varsity campus ministers and is titled "I Once Was Lost, What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus". They have drawn from a composite of over 2000 students they have personally dealt with between the two of them over the last 10 years.

They also note the changes that they have observed in the climate and attitudes of college students during the last decade.

They feel that they have discovered a consistent pattern, not a program or a system, but a relatively predictable pattern that many if not most of those 2000 students fit as they move from being distrustful of Christians to becoming curious, to becoming seekers, to entering the Kingdom and becoming Christ followers. Obviously some of the 2000 did not become followers of Jesus, but most of them followed a similar path to others until they dropped out.

I would like to read it again, and would enjoy interacting around it with you brothers if it sounds like something you would want to do. I would be particularly interested in what some of the younger guys (John, you there?) would say about it. And I would like to hear Joseph's responses in terms of his experience at FIU and at Stick and Stein's.

McLaren's book sounds good to.

John M. said...

Hey,I just went from here to Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog and he mentions the "I Once Was Lost Book", along with the book that the "Four Circles" CT article is taken from. It is called "True Story, A Christianity Worth Believing In", by James Choung.

Brian Emmet said...

Please cast your votes for a book that you will be willing to (a) purchase or obtain, (b) read, and (c) comment thoughtfully upon! There have been several excellent choices suggested--any others?

smokin joe said...

I’m reading the book on Christian Realism by Stackhouse, that I have already mentioned. I’m also reading at the same time “Everything Must Change” by Brian McLaren. Despite the title, which some of you might be put off by, the book is good – Everything must change, is a paraphrase of “Repent, for the kingdom of God” is at hand, and the central theme is the kingdom of God.

Next up are either the book on the Resurrection by N.T. Wright (can’t remember the name right now) or “Life Fire in the Bones” by Walter Brueggemann. I would be fine with discussing any of these with you guys.

Also, if others besides John wants to pursue the ‘inclusivist’ discussion, there are two books we could look at:

Terrance Tiessen, Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions and Gerald McDermott, God’s Rivals.

I didn’t feel comfortable getting backed into a corner defending a position earlier … especially one that I have not studied much.I have only had some personal reflections based on passage of scripture. Brian and I are probably going to read the book by Tiessen and discuss it. I ordered both books by Tiessen and McDermott on Amazon for five bucks each.

John M. said...

My vote: Tiessen and McDermott first. Second "Everything Must Change.

steve H said...

Hey guys, to be completely honest I will not likely take on a new reading assignment this summer. I am backed up on books to be read and I "am reading" at least three now. My current projects list is my priority at this time.

Please don't hear this as read my suggestion or else. I will be interested in the discussion of whatever you decide to read. I'm only trying to communicate openly about present commitments.

smokin joe said...

I agree with John about the top three priorities ... John you can get Tiessen and McDermott's book for five bucks apiece on amazon.

Steve, did you tell me that you have the new book by N.T. Wright already? Regarding the Tiessen and McDermott books, and even the McLaren book, I think you can find rather thorough summaries of the contents on McKnight's blog if you want to just read the summaries and track along with us ... I think I even have some of the summaries downloaded on my laptop I could send you.

Brian, what sayest thou?

steve H said...

Yes. I'm reading (between other things) Wright's book. I've been asked to report on it for the KMI brothers.

Thanks for the heads up about the summaries.

smokin joe said...

there is no reason among all of us why we couldn't read through more than one book at the same time. A number of people have strongly urged me to read Wright's book.

Randy R. said...

Hey, I have a book idea: There are actually several books in a collection from which we could choose one and discuss it. The book is called the Bible! I would suggest Romans, Ephesians, or the Gospel of John. Although, there is a lot in a little book called Jude. "Hey Jude!"

I am not trying to be cute or funny. I actually believe that we could have a very fruitful discussion, covering a chapter a week or possibly with a longer book, two per week. Just an idea from one of your many lurkers.

Like Steve, I have a stack sitting on my desk and am currently reading three books too! (By the way anyone read any of the following tombs: The Crucifixion of Ministry, Somebody Cares, Dying Well, Seeker Small Groups, or The Separation of Church and Faith?)

Brian Emmet said...

Here's my recommendation, subject to your approval: let's give McLaren's "Everything Must Change" a try. I think McLaren may be a bit more accessible than some of the other suggestions, and that might allow some lurkers to join in. You needn't read the book to participate, but you should at least check out some reviews of it, so that we don't run down too many rabbit trails.

My proposed start date would be July 10, to give everyone interested time to obtain the book and read the first couple of chapters.

How's this sound?

smokin joe said...

sounds good to me, I am already about 80 pages into it ... easy reading, but some provocative thoughts.

I think we need to wrestle with the thinking coming from the emerging church ... it is seriously rocking the boat of contemporary American evangelicalism ....


John M. said...

I'll order McLaren's book and probably the others on inclusivism, since I've been pondering some of the same scriptures that Joseph has.

I will probably be quiet for the next few days. I'm helping friends of ours move to Wash. D.C. He's starting a degree in International Relations at John's Hopkins.

I'll plug back in when I get back Tues. evening.

Randy R. said...

Hey John, Johns Hokins is in Baltimore, thirty minutes from where we live. Can we help you? Some of our youth are doing an outeach in the city with YWAM this week!

John M. said...

Randy,I'm glad I checked the blog before we leave. I'm not sure exactly when we're unloading...either Sunday evening or Monday morning, depending when the other gal gets her stuff moved out of the apt.

Here's my cell phone number. If someone wants to give me a call and leave their contact info, I could get in touch when/if we need some help.

Send me your contact info and I'll pass it on to my friends. They think they have found a church already -- Capitol Hill something, but it would be great if they could meet you while they're in DC for the next couple years.

John M. said...

Oops, Randy, I forgot to give you my cell: 859-797-5985

Hey, while we're talking about books, has anyone heard of a novel called "The Shack"? I keep having people ask me if I've read it. If you know about it or have read it, let us know what you think.

smokin joe said...

yeah ... it is kind of a cult "hit" ... a friend is going to give me a copy and wants me to read it.

steve H said...

Hadn't heard of "The Shack." The reviews on Amazon are interesting -- including the very negative. Sounds like it shakes people one way or the other.

smokin joe said...

Rod Evansen told me that it was a powerful story about forgiveness and healing ... it is about a father who's 11 or 12-year-old daughter diaappeared and they believe that she was killed. After some period of time, (several months or years I think) he gets a letter inviting him to the shack where the girl had disappeared ... persumably from the abuductor ... and he goes there with the intention killing the abductor ... and something powerful and divine happens ... thats about all I know. Dennis Coll read it and liked it.

Brian Emmet said...

I noticed that Eugene Peterson gave it a positive blurb, so that counts for something with me. I'll see if I can find it while we're up in NH this week... I'll try to keep in touch via the library computers in beautiful, bucolic Peterborough!