Category: Books

And Yet, Once More

To be a pastor is to regularly encounter people who find faith difficult. (It’s also to regularly encounter people who you suspect might find faith too easy, but that’s another post). There are all kinds of people in the post-Christian West whose faith kind of hangs by a thread. It retains a bit of nostalgic affection for Christian ethics, perhaps, and it craves the community embodied and offered, however imperfectly, by the church. It might even have an appreciation for mystery and a dim recognition that this life can’t be all there is. But it can often seem like not much more than a kind of half-hearted and undemanding openness to possibility.  It’s a long way from deep conviction and bold faith in the great creeds of orthodox Christian faith. All that talk of virgin births and resurrection from the dead and judgment is too much to stomach. And so, faith often coasts along on the fumes of memory and vague longing, coughing and sputtering until it stalls on the side of the road.
I’ve been reading Tomáš Halík’s Night of the Confessor over the past week or so. Halík is a Roman Catholic priest in the Czech Republic, one of the most secular countries in Europe. His is a voice that I have come to appreciate when thinking of those for whom faith remains difficult, or for when faith feels difficult myself. Here are a few passages from this chapter that I found memorable and worthy of further reflection.
In the context of a mountain top conversation with a long-time Christian friend who announced that he simply couldn’t believe in life after death any more:

In a sense, belief in “last things” is a kind of touchstone for the authenticity of our belief in God in general. If we restrict ourselves to the playing field of this life then maybe all we need of Christianity is what remained of it after the post-Enlightenment selling off of transcendence—a smidgen of moral principles and humanitarian kindness, a slightly updated version of existentialism, and a poetic sense of the mysterious. But when the curtain is about to fall on the stage of our earthly life, all of a sudden we are dreadfully alone in the auditorium—the god of such a humanitarian religion has disappeared through the trapdoor because he was too feeble to confront death.

On how to deal pastorally with those for whom faith is hard:

If people’s potential for trust and hope has been exhausted because of the pain they have suffered, it is up to us, their neighbors, not to assail their doubts with apologetic arguments, but instead to give them close support and encouragement to regain the courage to trust, to take that step of faith that says “and yet,” “once more.”

On the “nervous laughter of skepticism” from those too old for great expectations:

Only when we truly fall silent will we be able to hear once more the voice that says to us: Fear not. I have conquered the world. I am the resurrection and the life. I am with you always until the end of the age.
Fine words, but empty promises? From behind the tent awning—and from deep within ourselves—comes Sarah’s skeptical laugh. How could that be possible, seeing that we are not only adult already, but also too old for great expectations?
“Why did Sarah laugh?” Doesn’t she realize that there is “nothing too marvelous” for the Lord to accomplish? And Sarah lies, because she is afraid. Her laughter was also an expression of her fear of trusting. “Yes, you did laugh,” the Lord insisted.
You did laugh, the Lord tells us. But maybe He’ll treat us the He did our mother Sarah. Maybe our nervous laughter of skepticism and mistrust will be transformed into the happy laughter of those who have lived to see the fulfillment of His promises.

Syndicated from Rumblings


Love Over Fear: The Dan White Jr Interview (podcast)

Our own Dan Kent interviews Dan White Jr about his new book: “Love over Fear: Facing Monsters, Befriending Enemies, and Healing Our Polarized World“ Episode 511 Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS
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Can I say anything new about the resurrection of Jesus?

I have been re-reading NT Wright’s chapter on the “The Surprise of Resurrection” in Jesus: the final days, where he corrects some doubtful christian ideas about the resurrection, and offers reasons why we should regard the gospel accounts as basically historical. Understanding resurrection Pagans in Roman Empire in the first century might believe in an … Continue reading Can I say anything new about the resurrection of Jesus?
Syndicated from the Way?

Why Can’t God Stop Evil? The Thomas J. Oord Interview (podcast)

Greg and Thomas talk about Open Theism and how Greg’s views differ from Thomas’s. Theology nerds, get your compass and your flashlight and prepare to go DEEEEEP in the weeds!  Thomas’s book: God Can’t Episode 487 Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher ...
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Podcast: Confident Humility

The tables are turned. Greg interviews Dan Kent on his new book: “Confident Humility: Becoming Your Full Self Without Becoming Full of Yourself.” Available for pre-order now. Episode 472 Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS
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Interview: Phileena Heuertz, Mindful Silence

Phileena Heuertz joins the podcast to discuss her book Mindful Silence with Steve Kimes. Their discussion includes:

Phileena’s experiences around the world (1:07)
How did contemplative prayer help in her life? (7:45)
Reconciling God’s love with the amazing amounts of suffering Phileena has seen (12:20)
How Gravity helps create a balance between contemplative spirituality and activism (16:02)
Teaching Steve some steps on doing contemplative prayer (21:00)

Check out Phileena’s resource video from Vimeo:
Watch the video embedded below from our YouTube, or download through our podcast feed in your favourite podcast directory or directly below. Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Oh Boy, I Hope So!

I’ve mentioned (and quoted) Ben Myers’ fantastic little collection of line-by-line reflections on the Apostles’ Creed a few times over the last little while. I’ve been going through it again this morning as I reflect on the beginning of the season of Lent tomorrow and, ultimately, the staggering hope of Easter coming. There were a few passages I encountered today that I thought were too good and too profoundly hopeful not to share.
On “And he will come to judge the living and the dead”:

The judgment that Christ brings… is not just a division between two kinds of people. When Christ’s light shines into our lives, it creates a division within ourselves. None of us is entirely good or entirely bad. Each of us is a mixture. The bad grows up in our lives like weeds among wheat, and the two are so closely entwined that in this life we can’t easily tell the difference (Matthew 13:24-30). Sometimes our worst mistakes turn out to produce good fruit. And sometimes we discover that our virtues have produced unforeseen collateral damage. Our lives are not transparent to ourselves. We cannot easily tell where the bad ends and the good begins.
So it is a comfort to know that one day someone else will lovingly separate the good from the bad in our lives. The confession that Christ will come as judge is not an expression of terror and doom. It is part of the good news of the gospel. It is a joy to know that there is someone who understands all the complexities and ambiguities of our lives. It is a joy to know that this one—the only one who is truly competent to judge—is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He comes to save, not to destroy, and he saves by his judgment…
Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. That will be the best thing that ever happens to us. On that day, the weeds in each of us will be separated from the wheat. It will hurt—no doubt it will hurt—when our self-deceptions are burned away. But the pain of the truth heals; it does not destroy. On our judgment day we will be able for the first time to see the truth of our lives., when we see ourselves as loved.

On “The forgiveness of sins”:

A church that takes its stand on the forgiveness of sins can never be a church of the pure. It will always be a community that is patient and understanding toward the timid and the imperfect. Whenever a judgmental, elitist spirit enters into the Christian community, we need to hear again the confession: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
We believe that we stand not by our own achievements but by the achievement of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We believe that the spiritually strong and the spiritually weak are both sustained by the same forgiving grace. We believe that we rely solely on grace, not only in our worst failures but also in our best successes. We believe that if ever we should turn away from grace, if ever our hearts grow cold and we forget our Lord and become unfaithful to his way, he will not forget us. His faithfulness is deeper than our faithfulness. His yes is stronger than our no.

On “The communion of saints”:

Becoming a Christian is not really about institutional membership or about adopting a system of ideas. To become a Christian is to be included in the circle of Jesus’ followers. I am washed with the same bath that Jesus and his followers have had. I get to share the same meal that Jesus shared with his followers. Four of Jesus’ followers have left written records of what he said and what he was like, and I get to spend my life continually pondering these four accounts. I read them not because I am studying ideas about Jesus but because I am studying him. I want everything in my life, right down to the smallest and most disappointing details, to enter somehow into communion with the life of Jesus.
I share the holy bath and the holy meal, and I read the holy stories because I am seeking Jesus. But when I do these things I am also seeking myself. I want to find myself among the circle of Jesus’ followers. I want to be wherever Jesus is—and he is in the company of his friends. I want my whole life to be “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). I want my life’s small story to be tucked into the folds of Jesus’ story…
Perhaps at the end of the age, the Total Gospel will be read out and will be found to contain everything—every life, every story, every human grief and joy, all included as episodes in the one great, infinitely rich story of Jesus and his friends.  The world itself is too small for such a book. Life and death are too small for the communion of saints.

On “Amen”:

A friend told me once that he always crosses his fingers when he gets to the line about the virgin birth. I replied, “What? You mean the rest of the creed is so easy that you can say it with uncrossed fingers? Does the rest of it make perfect sense to you? Do you mean to say that you can verify the truth of everything else—creation, incarnation, resurrection, the last judgment—all except the virgin birth?”
Is there anyone who never feels a flicker of doubt when they contemplate the mysteries of faith? Can anyone really say the amen with all their heart? Isn’t it really here, at the last word of the creed, that we ought to cross our fingers? Shouldn’t we end the creed by saying: “Oh boy, I hope so!”

Amen. Oh boy, I hope so!

Syndicated from Rumblings

Podcast: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Greg talks about a book he enjoyed: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.  Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS art: “Still Life with Three Books” by: Vincent van Gogh date: 1887;
The post Podcast: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

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Church for the 21st century?

This is possibly the most revolutionary, revelatory and important book about the church and mission I have ever read. If you are interested in how the 21st century church can become a missionary community in first world countries, this book can teach us new ways, and inspire us to new efforts. If you are tired … Continue reading Church for the 21st century?
Syndicated from the Way?

Rest in Peace

Death has been on my mind a lot lately. Not my own, necessarily, although I do think about that more than I probably ought to. But just death as a phenomenon. Both of my grandmothers have died in the last six months. Several people in my orbit could well be approaching this threshold. I just returned from a pastors conference about death, funerals and the Christian hope. Death has been a hard thing to avoid lately.
For most of my life, I have stubbornly rehearsed the familiar Christian maxim that death is the final enemy to be defeated, the destroyer of human flourishing to be fought against with everything we have. Death is bad, full stop. I still feel like this most days. But of course death is also the most natural thing you could hope to find. Everyone dies. Everything dies. Christianity has always insisted upon the unnaturalness of death but we must acknowledge that this is, on the face of it, a thoroughly counterintuitive claim in light of observable reality. It’s not hard to imagine how some would write off post-mortem hope as so much wish projection and fear assuagement—”projecting our paltry selves ad infinitum,” as Christian Wiman puts it.
At the conference this week, a friend commented in one of the forums that they don’t spend much time thinking about the post-mortem component of the Christian hope anymore. Who can say what, if anything, lies beyond? Maybe what comes after death is something like a sabbath rest—the cessation of struggle and pain and conflicted pursuits. Maybe death is when we finally get a really long break from our tormented selves. We Christians tie ourselves in knots trying to do enough, believe enough, think clearly enough to prepare ourselves for eternity. What if it’s all a bunch of puritanical striving toward nothing. What if, in the end, we are destined to simply rest in peace?
A theology reading group that I’m a part of has been reading Dale Allison’s Night Comes over the past few months. It’s a book about death—about what might become of us, what we might hope for, and what death might mean. In keeping with the theme of the book (endings), I skipped to the end of the book even though our group is still in the middle. Allison’s last few paragraphs caught me off guard, initially. And then, after a few more readings, they began to resonate a bit more deeply.

Although some might find this a tad morbid, part of me, with a sort of reverent curiosity, now looks forward to [death]. Most of the time, to be sure, life is full, and I’m all for staying with the familiar as long as possible. On the usual morning I eagerly anticipate the coming day, and on the usual evening I return thanks for most of what’s happened.
On occasion, however, the adventure seems stale, and it’s not so easy to feel grateful. The world, which is ever full of wonder, isn’t the problem. It’s rather me. I repeatedly resolve to do better, and I fail. I set out to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful, and my attention wanders. I aspire to love God with all my heart and soul and mind, and my neighbor as myself, but I get distracted.
My incessant failures are more than frustrating, and sometimes I grow weary of myself. My fatigue can be such that I long to quit this stage for some other stage, to wake up in a new and different world, to swap my current self for something better, to undergo whatever will turn Romans 7—“I can will what is right, but I cannot do it”—into nothing but a bad memory. As it became evident long ago that this isn’t going to happen in this world, I don’t always mind the aches and pains and the memory glitches that attend aging. They remind me that night comes. My hope is that light shines in the darkness.

Maybe all of us, in our more honest moments, feel this way. Or, maybe not. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s only introspective melancholic types who think along these lines. I admire those whose whose conviction about what comes next seems unshakeable. I really do. I have never been able to manufacture such certainty about the topography of the afterlife and I’m not sure I ever will. I take comfort in the fact that Jesus said a mustard seed of faith was enough.
But I, too, hope that light shines in the darkness. Desperately so. I long for life where the reality of Romans 7 recedes into a shadowy and unremembered past. And I am still convinced that the bare existence of this hope is itself powerfully suggestive of what might lie on the other side of death’s door. The good, the true, the beautiful—these cannot just be pleasant and useful fictions to keep our overactive prefrontal cortexes occupied for a few decades on a chunk of rock hurtling through space. They somehow have to mean more than that.
They point, surely, to the God who has set eternity in the human heart and who finally offers rest, wholeness, consummation, forgiveness, peace and, yes, even life, unnaturally eternal and eternally unnatural.

Syndicated from Rumblings

7 Essential Steps to Declutter, Downsize, and Rightsize Your Books and Anything Else

In a recent survey, one reader suggested I write an article on “downsizing.” Hmmm, I confess that at first I mentally set that idea aside since I don’t have much experience with downsizing and wasn’t sure I had anything to offer. Although I helped my mom downsize from her house to a condo, then to … Continue reading 7 Essential Steps to Declutter, Downsize, and Rightsize Your Books and Anything Else
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Love’s Way: Aging, Respect, and Solutions for the Whole Family

My mother always said she didn’t want to live with any of her children. After my father died, my mom decided the family home was too big for her and moved into a condo. Then some years later she decided to move into an independent housing complex for seniors, and there she would tell people, … Continue reading Love’s Way: Aging, Respect, and Solutions for the Whole Family
Syndicated from April Yamasaki


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