July 05, 2012

A Holy Anarchism

In That Holy Anarchist, Mark Van Steenwyk, co-founder Missio Dei in Minneapolis and an editor at JesusRadicals.com, has given us a wonderfully concise primer on the intersection of Christianity and anarchism. This is a great book for those who may have an interest in such an intersection because it is both brief and easy to understand without too much oversimplification. It also provides suggestions for further reading for those who wish to explore this lifestyle on a deeper level.

Let's face it, authoritarian religions and regimes are comfortable to most people. They are easy and smooth, even as they cause suffering and bondage. The rules are set and the "us and them" paradigm is like a big La-Z-Boy recliner for those who are included in the "us" part of the deal. But for a growing number of people whose consciences have been whispering that something is dreadfully wrong with the world as it is ruled by the powers that be, this book may well provide a starting point in both understand and practicing a better way.

I particularly enjoyed the historic overview Steenwyk provided in A Brief Survey of Anarchic Christian History. Another section that stands out is Mystical Christo-Anarchist Practices. I think there are a significant number of people who hold varying degrees of the anarchist philosophy (like me), but have yet to figure out how to implement these philosophies in real-life practice. As Steenwyk says, "Our most pressing need is for practices that help us see the world through a different lens than that of imperial myth and civilizational programming." This book goes a long way in helping meet that need.

February 07, 2012

Prayer on a Tuesday

O Lord, Please remind me...

That not everyone has ears to hear,

That if I'm not mindful, I could easily run out of pearls
before the world runs out of swine,

That spiritual enlightenment doesn't come by assent to reason,

That I, too, sometimes walk unknowingly in darkness and resist the light,

That my strange tongues often need interpretation,

And, That in spite of my frustrations, You make everything beautiful in its time.

Open my eyes to the beauty and simplicity of spirit and grace,

And open my heart to rest in You.

Lord, in Your mercy...

February 01, 2012

Like an Illumination from Some Other Sun

"Every one of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain - a sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of the universal vastness. Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world, that our origins are divine."

~ A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p. 74

January 31, 2012

Musing on True Revival

What would an authentic "Great Awakening" look like in today's America? I believe the immediate visible effect would be a breathtaking abandonment of American Cultural Religion and an instantaneous depletion of the power structures of the Religious Right. Political parties would go into spasms. Televangelist empires would crumble. Talking heads would be rendered silent. Christian hipsters would exchange their cool clothes and glasses for sackcloth and ashes. Religious bookstores would find dust collecting on their trinkets and fluff books while the sales of Bibles would skyrocket. Religious broadcasters would be forced to abandon their never-ending money changing and begin to simply send out crews to report on the phenomenon of sinners and saints suddenly acting like Jesus. Hierarchies would fall and sectarian denominations would fragment and dissolve as the people began to awaken from the hypnotic spell which has kept them in slavish servitude to worldly principalities and powers. The eyes of the people would be opened and we would finally begin to know and understand the true and deeper meanings of words like "grace" and "joy" and "life" and "all."

September 29, 2011

A Genuine Leather Edition of the NABRE from Oxford!

The Oxford New American Bible Revised Edition, Large Print Edition, bound in black genuine leather, is a real treasure for any person who is in the market for a Bible that is at once both readable and sturdy. Let's start with the cover. This Bible is bound in black genuine leather. So many Bibles these days - especially in this translation - are bound in imitation or bonded leather. Those covers will wear out quickly with moderate use. Genuine leather is the way to go. Very traditional and long-lasting, even with heavy use. The genuine leather cover is thick and tough and yet very pliable. The size is just about right, not too big and not too small. This Bible just feels great in your hands. When you hold it open in your hands you feel like you are holding a real Bible made in the old tradition. And it smells great, too!

The binding is smyth-sewn and will open flat after a little breaking in and some gentle use, which is really outstanding if you like to study at a desk or table. The page edges are gilded with gold and the Bible comes with a black ribbon marker. These days, almost all genuine leather Oxford Bibles come with thumb index. I would actually prefer that Oxford gave us the choice of thumb index or not, but they do not. The thumb index is nice if you need it or are used to it. I actually prefer my Bible without the index, though.

The paper is nice. Smooth, opaque, strong, and non-glare, so it doesn't tire the eyes. The print is quite large - 12 point, I'd guess - and is extremely readable. This is a "readers" Bible with references and copious study notes which follow each book of the Bible rather than interrupting the flow of the text. It is surprising just how many study notes are included; this really turns this edition into a study Bible for anyone who wants to use all the notes and references. There are also concise introductions at the beginning of every book. There is no concordance in this edition, however, and there are no maps.

The New American Bible (2011 Revised Edition) is one of the most accurate translations available. It is a joy to compare this translation with others. I've found that in most cases I prefer the rendering of a verse as it is given in the NABRE.

If you appreciate traditional Oxford quality, you will love this Bible. Easy to read, well-bound and designed to last a lifetime with normal use and care, this Bible is worth every penny you spend.

August 23, 2011

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God by Steve McSwain

The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God is a book by my friend Dr. Steve McSwain. It's important that I call him my friend because “heretics” like us need all the friends we can get! I jest, of course, but wouldn't be surprised to find that a few might find a way to be offended by some of what he has written and attempt to relegate him to the “heretic” column without honestly examining what he is proposing in these pages. In spite of this possibility, let me just say that The Enoch Factor may well be one of the most “Christian” books you'll ever read.

Thoroughly saturated with the Holy Scriptures and other wisdom writings from throughout the ages, this book is a powerhouse! But the dynamite isn't in dogma or theology or even theory. The dynamite is in the deliverance from dogma, theology and theory into the freedom of an authentic walk with the One who transcends all dogma, theology and theory! Steve doesn't teach you all the things that are important to know about God. In fact, he doesn't talk much at all about what you should know about God. What Steve writes about is knowing God, not knowing “about” God. There's a huge difference. As he says on page 47, “To know God is the supreme purpose of life.”

The Enoch Factor is a hard-hitting book. No holds barred here. Parts of it will be uncomfortable – at least they were for me. In fact, you may end up not liking at all how Steve McSwain requires a close and unfiltered look at ourselves, but you'll be hard pressed to suggest that he did not tell you the truth as he has personally experienced it from a heart filled with the love of God. There are certain of Steve's perspectives that I have not yet been able to completely embrace, yet I feel that I have tapped into something profound in his words and stories. And that brings up another wonderful detail about this book: Steve McSwain is an outstanding storyteller! The unfolding of this divine panorama will keep the reader enmeshed and enthralled until the last page.

There are many precious jewels to be found in the pages of The Enoch Factor. The long chapter on Ego alone is worth the price of the book. It's an eye-opening revelation and a bondage-breaker for those who have spent years battling a foe they didn't even know existed.

Let me recommend that you acquire this book and examine what Steve has written. Allow yourself to ask the questions and to examine the answers which Dr. McSwain has uncovered in his own journey into an authentic life walking with the Presence of God day by day. If you are hungry for the authenticity that comes from a thoroughly examined life and the reality of change brought forth by an ongoing encounter with the imminent and transcendent Spirit of Life, read this book. You may well find that if Enoch walked with God, so can you!

August 21, 2011

Sagan on Science and Spirituality

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both."

~ Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

June 26, 2011

A Review of Mystical Union by John Crowder

There are two things you should know about this book before you spend any money on it. First, there is absolutely nothing in this book that even vaguely resembles classic mysticism in any form. The followers of John Crowder call themselves the "New Mystics." Fair enough. But it would be disingenuous for them to portray anything he teaches as classic mysticism, because it is not mystical at all in that sense. If you are interested in the mystics, my suggestion would be to go to the mystics. Go to John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton and A.W. Tozer and other time-tested and authentic Christian mystics. Read Evelyn Underhill. Don't settle for an imitation when the authentic is available. Sure, delving into real mysticism will cost you something, but the fruits are far sweeter than the ready-made and easy-to-use alternative, trendy and cool as it may appear.

Second, although Crowder fancies himself just about the only true exegete of truth to the modern Church, what he's actually teaching in this book is a confusing blend of American cultural fundamentalism, sinless perfectionism and a strange sort of antinomian bondage wherein if a person does sin, they probably need to "get saved!" Crowder's theology is so jumbled he continually stumbles over himself in the confusion. For instance, on page 39, Crowder boldly asserts that, "Saved people don't sin." Then he immediately states that if you do sin you are either "an unbeliever" or just haven't been taught his peculiar method of not sinning. He attempts to twist a veritable cornucopia of scriptures into meaning precisely the opposite of what they say in order to prove his doctrine that believers don't sin, except sometimes, but not really, well maybe, perhaps, no, definitely not... He uses a plethora of off-beat Bible translations in order to attempt to prove the biblically unprovable.

Again, my suggestion is that if you are interested in the mystics and authentic Christian mysticism, then go to the mystics. If you want to know what the Bible teaches, read the Bible. If you'll stick to the simple and true path, you'll find that you will avoid the pitfalls and confusion that await those who seek shortcuts.

June 21, 2011

Little Hellions (Or, You Reap What You Sow)

Under the traditional doctrine of Original Sin, the first thing we proclaim to and about a child is that this child is a child of the devil, lost and evil, separated from wholeness and deserving of hell. What a horrible seed to plant! Yet we act surprised when that seed grows and produces its fruit! Here is how evangelical superstar John MacArthur sees babies: “There is no evil of which they are incapable,” he states. “The depravity that lives in their hearts is just waiting for the opportunity to express itself.” Calvinist Paul Washer described the first cries of his own newborn baby as screaming out, “Lost! Lost!” Washer proclaims that children are “evil from a babe” and that “an 18-month-old baby, if he had the strength, would slaughter you there where you stand and rip the watch off your arm and walk across your bloody body and out the door without feeling an ounce of remorse.” This is the doctrine of Original Sin, the seed tradition plants in children from birth.

But what would happen if we planted the seed of Original Blessing? What if our first proclamation to and about our children is, “You are a child of God! You are blessed and a blessing!”? Imagine the crops from that seed coming to fruition! It isn't God who curses our children and declares them to be separate from wholeness, it is we ourselves. Imagine an entire generation of children in whom is planted the seed of God's blessing! Such a generation could turn the world upside down.

June 10, 2011

Parable of a Mother and Her Son by Will Willimon

Sometimes Christians get to become gracious parables of salvation in Christ.

"Our son has been putting us through hell," she said. "Didn't even know where he was for months until last night. My husband and I were eating dinner, and suddenly, without warning, he bursts through the front door and begins cursing us, demanding money, refusing to join us at the table. After an ugly scene, he stormed down the hall and slammed the door to his room."

It's sad what parents are sometime forced to endure from their children.

"Well, my husband gets up, goes over to the kitchen, pours himself a drink, turns on the TV, and slumps down in his chair. That's how he handles these moments. I walked down the hall and said, 'Son, can we talk? I just want to talk.' I could hear him curse me from inside his bedroom. I tried to open the door. It was locked.

"So I went to the garage, got a big hammer, walked back in, stood before my son's bedroom door, drew back, and with only one blow was able to knock the doorknob clean off the door. Took about a third of the door with it. Then I lunged at my surprised-looking son, grabbed him around the throat, and said, 'I'm not going to put up with this shit anymore. You are better than this! I gave birth to you, went into labor for you, and I'm not giving you away!'

"I really think something important happened for us last night. I think he heard me. We're on a new track," she said.

I believe God is something like that.

And that's why we can't pronounce some last word on the possibility of the salvation of all. The story continues in your life and mine, maybe even in your death and mine, because the story of the possibility of our eternal destiny isn't over until God says it's over, until God gets as much victory as God wants.

~ William H. Willimon, United Methodist Bishop of Birmingham

June 01, 2011

Sermon to the Birds

Sermon to the birds: "Esteemed friends, birds of noble lineage, I have no message to you except this: be what you are: be birds. Thus you will be your own sermon to yourselves!"

Reply: "Even this is one sermon too many!"

~ Thomas Merton, Day of a Stranger, p. 51

May 29, 2011

Teilhard de Chardin on the Cosmic Christ Becoming (or, "Holy Evolution, Batman!")

"Since Jesus was born, and grew to his full stature, and died, everything has continued to move forward because Christ is not yet fully formed: he has not yet gathered about him the last folds of his robe of flesh and of love which is made up of his faithful followers. The mystical Christ has not yet attained to his full growth; and therefore the same is true of the cosmic Christ. Both of these are simultaneously in the state of being and becoming; and it is from the prolongation of this process of becoming that all created activity ultimately springs. Christ is the end-point of evolution, even the natural evolution, of all beings; and therefore evolution is holy."

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe, p. 132 (Pensees #58)

May 06, 2011

Better Christians

On someone's facebook wall this morning: "I'm still not convinced by infant baptism and still I keep meeting Presbyterians and Anglicans who are better Christians than me." (John Piper).

And my mind instantly said: "I may not agree with all they teach, but every day I meet Buddhists and Hindus and others who are better Christians than me."

How dangerous, those radical words of the Nazarene: "Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." (Matthew 7:20 NLT)

May 03, 2011

That Voice Again

“You are here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. There is something wrong with the world but you don’t know what it is. But it’s there like a splinter in your mind…”

~ Morpheus to Neo


Tobin: God speaks in the least of creatures. No man is give leave of that voice.
The Kid: I ain't heard no voice.
Tobin: When it stops you'll know you've heard it all your life.

~ Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

May 02, 2011

On the Day After Bin Laden's Death

In mainstream Christian theology, the government has been given "the sword" of justice. The government has now used that sword to eliminate a mass murderer. My feelings are mixed. I am certainly not unhappy that Bin Laden is no longer plotting massacres against innocent people. And I do admit a sense of nationalistic pride in President Obama and our military. But I also find the whole idea of splashing about in the blood of our enemies in a joyous celebration of death (as one of my facebook friends approvingly put it) to be quite macabre to me. The celebration of death just doesn't sound at all like the Jesus I know. When Christ was contemplating the impending destruction of Jerusalem, his heart was broken as he gazed out over the city. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34 NIV84).

If I am to believe the Scriptures, God does not party when the wicked receive the wages of their sins."‘As surely as I live,' declares the Sovereign LORD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die...?'" (Ezekiel 33:11 NIV84).

We are programmed, I think, to rejoice over the deaths of our enemies. I mean, who didn't cheer when Dorothy's house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East? But there comes a point where our adherence to the Red Letters should override our carnal instinct to celebrate death. At least I would hope that such would be true in me. "Bloodthirsty Christian" should be an oxymoron, shouldn't it?

So I wrestle with these issues and emotions, as I'm sure all gospel-observant Christians do, hoping to strike a biblical balance wherein the death of a mass murderer is both a righteous thing and an opportunity for an honest look into my own heart in order to see if the Jesus of the Red Letters is being authentically reflected there.

April 26, 2011

Review: Revise Us Again by Frank Viola

Frank Viola has given us a dandy little tune up in Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script. In this very readable volume, Viola brings to light with great simplicity many of the areas wherein we, the church, have followed the wrong script and are now paying the price of those wrong turns we've taken. Viola shows us that we have been scripted since day one in "churchianity." We all have these scripts, yet we all want to follow Jesus. So, we want our scripts to fall in line with Him and His Way. The first step in doing this re-scripting is to acknowledge that there is the possibility that our learned scripts may not be perfect or complete. It is a powerful thing to be willing to examine our scripts and then to revise them in accordance to the Way of Christ. This is not always pain-free.

God's speaks to us in a variety of ways, but our religious conditioning allows us to hear only in that one conditioned way. In the same vein, we Christians tend to speak our own dialect - Christianese. Both of these areas need revision - both the way we claim God talks to us and the way we talk to each other. I loved the way Viola demonstrated the varied uses and meanings of Christianese. For example, "Let me pray about it" is Christianese for "No. The answer is 'No' but I don't have enough integrity to just say 'No' plainly."

Another area in which we need revision is our perspective of the Gospel. Our Gospel is too small, too restricted. It needs to be fuller. Viola lists several areas in which our Gospel should be expanded: 1) It needs to include the reality of an indwelling Lord living His life through us. 2) It needs to include an understanding of the greatness of Christ. 3) We are falling far short in our grasping of the eternal purpose of God. 4) We must come to understand how to live a fully human (reborn) life. And 5) Christ must reign as the radical center.

Viola goes on to discuss how we experience the felt presence of God. His discussion of the "Dark Night of the Soul" is fascinating and beneficial. His chapter about being captured by the same spirit we oppose is worth the price of the book all on its own.

How we live out the Christ-life is so very important. If we miss the fullness which God intends for us, it not only means loss for us personally, but also for everyone we encounter, for our families, our church fellowships, our entire world. It is high time we stripped our script down to Christ alone. In doing so we will find that our scripted Christ is way too small, that our pursuit of Him is too weak and narrow. But there is a fuller life, a fuller story available for anyone. It all depends on how close our script lines up with God's story.

April 25, 2011

Review: NIV (2011) Thinline Reference Bible, Premium Leather

I have two "addictions" to which I will confess: Bibles in general and Bibles bound in fine leather. Having such an addiction, I recently acquired the updated 2011 edition of the NIV Thinline Reference Bible in premium leather and have spent some time examining both its binding and the new translation.

As for the binding, this edition is very soft and supple. On some online sites, the leather is said to be cowhide. This may be the case, but nowhere on the Bible itself or on the packaging material does it say so. It just says "premium leather." Whatever the leather is, it feels great in the hands, very smooth and buttery soft. The Bible has a very strong smell of leather, which I like very much, like walking into a leather shop. The cover itself is sewn around the edges and everything about my copy was quite symmetrical and well made. The Bible appears to have a sewn binding so that it lays flat right out of the box, although, again, it does not say so anywhere on the box. This feature of the Bible is very nice - the Bible seems to come straight from the box already broken in and will lay flat on the table immediately.

The Bible paper is clear and bright without too much bleed through. The pages are edged in silver and will have to be carefully separated so as not to tear them. Once you have separated the pages the Bible will be perfectly limp and you will be able to easily turn to any passage. The print is good, very clear and readable. If you have trouble with smaller fonts, you may want to consider the large print version.

I have two complaints about the binding, however. First, for apparently cosmetic reasons, the binding has a sewn seam which runs from top to bottom on the front cover. While this might give the Bible a distinctive look, it also gives it a weak point where the cover will begin to bend and wear out. The cover would have been much better if it had been constructed out of one single piece of genuine leather. Secondly, the end papers are made of thin paper rather than the traditional faux leather. This will result in the cover separating from the text block with normal use.

As for the translation itself, this is where I was truly disappointed. While I applaud the translators' efforts to render the text in a more gender-inclusive fashion (something the New Revised Standard Version did over 20 years ago and the New Living Translation also does), the result in the 2011 NIV is grammatically atrocious. Consider the rendering of the last sentence in Colossians 2:18. "Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind." I will admit that my own grammar is far from perfect, yet this sentence makes me cringe. I showed this sentence to an English teacher, who was appalled. And the problem is systemic. Check out 1 Tim 5:8, 1 Tim 6:3-4a, James 4:17, 1 John 3:9, and there are scores of other similar texts. In my opinion, there is no excuse for this level of bad grammar in such a major publication.

This update is quite massive, on a par with the differences between the 1977 NASB and the 1995 update, between the RSV and the NRSV. If one is expecting the classic NIV with a few tweaks, he will be gravely disappointed. Most of the translation updates seem to reflect the scholarship of the 1989 New Revised Standard Version. Another problem, for me at least, is that while the 2011 NIV has made improvements in certain renderings, those improvements are not consistent. Consider the updating of "sinful nature" in Romans 8 to "the flesh," which is more accurate. Yet in Romans 7:14, the same phrase is rendered "unspiritual," which is just confusing. Why not be consistent?

Overall, this Bible gets high marks for the construction and binding, but very low marks for the new translation itself. Grammatically, I find many passages extremely distracting, and if I'm distracted by the horrendous grammar then I could be missing something important the Bible is trying to say.

March 30, 2011

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr - A Review

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Fr. Richard Rohr is a much needed and deeply spiritual look into the two halves of our lives. Although Rohr has much to say to those who are engaged in the first half of their spiritual lives, this book is especially valuable to those of us over 40 (I'm on the far side of 50).

In order to fully appreciate and engage the second half of our spiritual lives, it is imperative that we realize we are no longer in that "container" which housed our earlier paradigm and outlook. We continue to grow up, to change, to mature, to become "elders." Without the wisdom of elders, we can find ourselves in a cauldron of error and disfunctionality as individuals, families, communities, and as a society. "Without elders, much of our history has been formed by juniors reacting, overreacting, and protecting their own temporary privilege, with no deep-time vision like the Iroquois Nation, which considered, 'What would be good for the next seven generations.'" (p 32). This is so evident in our American society right now, which is driven by contemporary greed, political pragmatism, and hateful cynicism. We need the wisdom of elders. And not everyone who is elderly is an elder. Many have never matured and grown out of the container of youthful immaturity. Rohr addresses this very carefully in this book. "Many of us cannot move ahead because we have not done the first task, learned from the last task, or had any of our present accomplishments acknowledged by others." (p 23).

Part of the wisdom of maturity is for helping the younger generations to learn from their own lives. "We are parts of social and family ecosystems that are rightly structured to keep us from falling but also, more importantly, to show us *how* to fall and also *how to learn* from that very falling. ... We are not helping our children by always preventing them from what might be necessary falling, because *you learn how to recover from falling by falling*." (p 28).

Fr. Rohr kicks over several sacred cows in this tightly-packed little book. But he also sheds a lot of light on who we are and who God intends us to be. "I am afraid that the closer you get to the Light, the more of your shadow you see. Thus truly holy people are *always* humble people." (p 132).

In the first half of life we settle for answers and organizations, according to Rohr. In the second half, we discover wisdom, gentleness, inclusion. "Basically, the first half of life is writing the text, and the second half is writing the commentary on that text." (p 143).

April 08, 2010

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright

Surprised by Hope by Bishop N. T. Wright is a defense of the traditional eschatology of the mainstream church. Wright is quite eloquent and I always learn something when I read his books. This one is no exception. Here Wright journeys through the good, the bad, and the ugly landscape of current eschatology and compares it with his take on the beliefs of the early Christian believers. From time to time on this journey he ventures briefly onto more progressive roads-less-travelled, but (frustratingly for me!) he always retreats back into the safe haven of traditional orthodoxy. Wright does envision a future with hope - a hope based squarely in the resurrection of Christ - but he comes short of embracing the radical hope of a complete and ultimate cosmic renewal and unity in Christ, saying, "One cannot forever whistle 'There's a wideness in God's mercy' in the darkness of Hiroshima..." (p. 180). Those who still espouse that particular "wideness" will be disappointed by Wright's theory of hell: one in which sinners are stripped of their humanity and become "beings that were once human but now are not" who are "beyond hope" and "beyond pity" existing forever in "an ex-human state... no longer [exciting] in themselves or others the natural sympathy some feel even for the hardened criminal" (p. 182-183). This, despite the book's title, is not the kind of hope that entails the glorious vision of God as "all in all".

There are hints of Jurgen Moltmann in Wright's thoughts and concepts, but the hope which surprises him is not nearly as startling and comprehensive as that put forth by Moltmann. Consider this from Moltmann's The Coming of God: "True hope must be universal, because its healing future embraces every individual and the whole universe. If we were to surrender hope for as much as one single creature, for us God would not be God." (p. 132). The parts of the book that reflected Moltmann were the most enjoyable to me.

Let me also add that one of my concerns in this book is Wright's caricature of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It is either a caricature or Wright does not fully understand Teilhard. Chardin comes across in this book as something of a secular progressive who was looking starry-eyed into a glorious future accomplished by a godless evolution alone. This is simply not what Teilhard taught or believed.

Having mentioned a couple of my concerns, let me happily say that there are some great concepts and paragraphs throughout the book - too many for me to quote here. But I will indulge you with one on the subject of what Wright calls collaborative eschatology: "Because the early Christians believed that resurrection had begun with Jesus and would be completed in the great final resurrection on the last day, they believed that God had called them to work with him, in the power of the Spirit, to implement the achievement of Jesus and thereby to anticipate the final resurrection, in personal and political life, in mission and holiness. It was not merely that God had inaugurated the 'end'; if Jesus, the Messiah, was the End in person, God's-future-arrived-in-the-present, then those who belonged to Jesus and followed him and were empowered by his Spirit were charged with transforming the present, as far as they were able, in light of that future" (Page 46).

My take on the book is that it is very well written, it is a joy to read, and it will be especially appreciated by those who want to see an outstanding apologetic on orthodox amillennialism from a perspective they may not have encountered before.

March 24, 2010

A People's History of Christianity by Diana Butler Bass

Diana Butler Bass does a fine job of writing a history of Christianity in the vein of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Instead of focusing on what Butler Bass calls "Big-C Christianity: Christ, Constantine, Christendom, Calvin, and Christian America," she unfolds the history of the faith through the stories of the little people and the grassroots movements. This provides for a fascinating and extremely refreshing understanding of our past and an illumination of the effects it has had upon our present and possibly our future.

This is the other side of Christian history, or as Paul Harvey might have said, the rest of the story. There are great lessons and cautionary tales herein concerning what it means to radically follow Jesus Christ, especially in the face of opposition from the powers that be, both pagan and hierarchical. Butler Bass provides a cool drink of water for many of us who have found that power, prosperity and aggression are not necessarily signs of God's grace and favor, in other words, those who oppose the current captivity of the church by American Cultural Religion and the exportation of that demonic malformation to the rest of our planet.

A People's History is a salve for the hurting. Well written, innovative, redemptive, open and honest; the story of God's people rather than the hierarchy's Towers of Babel. I particularly appreciate how Butler Bass tells our story from the perspective of Jesus, ethics and devotion rather than from the perspective of power, dogma and conquest.

"More than anything else," says Butler Bass, "Christianity is a love song." That is so evident in her lyrical look at the story. Our story. The story of the "Generative Christians" who live a faith that births new possibilities of God's love into the world; transformative rather than hierarchical, formative instead of triumphant, gracious rather than merely victorious. This is a book that has found a permanent place on my bookshelf from whence it shall be often retrieved. I highly recommend it to everyone, and particularly to those who follow Christ. The story is still being unfolded!

This new paperback edition also includes a study guide.