Friday, March 31, 2006

A.W. Tozer on Unity
"Someone may fear that we are magnifying private religion out of all proportion, that the "us" of the New Testament is being displaced by a selfish "I." Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."

From Chapter 7 "The Gaze of the Soul" in The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Thursday, March 30, 2006

On Love that is Christian
A wonderful Lewis quote from a recording of The Four Loves radio broadcast series, more or less the same as in his book with that title.

"Such, I conceive, is the world of agape. A world of unbounded giving and unchained receiving. Where all blessed creatures need, and know that they need, nothing but God, and are therefore set free to love one another disinterestedly. And so your love shall be like His; born neither of your need or of my deserving, but of plain bounty. I think those are drawing near to heaven, who, in this life, find that they need men less and love men more, and delight more in being loved without being needed. For where agape is, there is in some degree, heaven."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Celebrating 60 Years

This is the Fender 60th Anniversary Tele. The Telecaster is not actually 60 years old, but the Fender name is. The Tele goes back to the early '50s. Guitar geeks already know this and don't need to read any Fender history, but I take some geeky pleasure in noting that the anniversary model they've chosen to feature is visually just like my '99 model, same finish, fingerboard etc. I remember standing in Guitar Center debating between it and some bright red plastic Parker. I almost didn't make the wise choice.

All sorts of attempts have been made by Fender to improve upon this, the first commercially successful solid body guitar over the years, but everybody comes back to the original. I even noted His Purple Highness on SNL last week playing a blond ash Tele!

If you're not a guitar geek, this all seems rather trivial, and of course it is.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Where Po-Mo Theory goes to die..."
was the flattering intro to this blog provided by cdugan. Thanks for your vote of confidence.

Daunted by the prospect of living up to that worthy service, for starters, let me point Po-Mo Theory (the theologically terminal aspects of the Emerging Church movement) to a real Kevorkian.

Doug Wilson reviews A GENEROUS ORTHODOXY by Brian McLaren, and hangs a Do Not Rescuscitate sign on it. It's OK, this is a mercy killing, swift and painless. Read at least the first part of his lengthy review.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Revolution Rolls On

A few months ago, on a tip from a friend, I picked up the book REVOLUTION by George Barna.

The essence of his analysis and proposal for the future of the American church is summarized in this promo paragraph:

"World renowned pollster George Barna has the numbers, and they indicate a revolution is already taking place within the Church—one that will impact every believer in America. Committed, born-again Christians are exiting the established church in massive numbers. Why are they leaving? Where are they going? And what does this mean for the future of the Church?"

In contrast to the conventional hand-wringing and admonishment over church members' "lack of commitment in this generation," coming from pastors and denominational leaders, Barna welcomes the "new" trend and even celebrates it as a harbinger of a new spiritual awakening in America. Is it really that? I suppose time will tell, but I do think he's on to something.

My reasons for thinking so were at first anecdotal and subjective. I don't have to look outside my own small circle, nor in fact outside my own shoes to find Christians vaguely disenchanted with church as we know it.

In my own case, leaving a church after 10 years of intense involvement was motivated by other and even more basic concerns: The growing awareness of a kind of authoritarianism and later, after further research, the conclusion that there was indeed something in the DNA of the local group and it's parent movement significantly at odds with New Testament teaching. While the church was and still is full of many wonderful, Godly people, there were issues regarding their leaders'inherited views of the body of Christ, the priesthood of the believer and the role of authority within the church. The church government afforded no place at the table for the church member, by vote or by representation. These factors certainly served to exaggerate some of the problems Barna says Revolutionaries are reacting to in more normal church experiences. This was System and Structure and Top-down management on steroids.

But it was then, in the wake of that experience, in thinking about Church and asking the question "now where? and "what?", Barna's REVOLUTION arrived on the doorstep.

Like Barna's "revolutionaries" many of us have not left the Bible, the Lord Jesus, or our fierce commitment to the Church, the body of Christ, in any sense of the word. But we have had second thoughts about the "church"—the structure, the hierarchies, the systems that in some cases have hindered, not helped our pursuit of and service to God and His people. Weariness of top-down strategies, programs and methods that justify the existence of professional staffs but don't necessarily center around God Himself, weariness of ambitious leadership whose motives we're not so sure of, and a desire for simplicity are the sort of things we talk about. We are ready for revolution, but we're not sure exactly what it will look like!

And now, with the discovery an old resource and line of thinking, my reasons for optimism about change are both forward looking (a la Barna) and historical. The book is THE PILGRIM CHURCH by E.H. Broadbent, published by Marshall-Pickering. Written in 1931, it cannot be construed as a trendy, band-wagon treatise. It is a scholarly, well-documented summary of church history—the non-official version—tracing the growth and movements of the "Revolution" in nearly every age and place around the world. Often maligned by the Roman and Orthodox authoritarian systems, and even by the supposed "Reformers", these groups are remarkably consistent with each other and with what many are longing for today, even in Evangelicalism: Simplicity, an end to the elevation of men and their expensive strategies, an end to the clergy/laity divide, a greater focus on God, His Word, and spiritual transformation. These early revolutionaries suffered terribly and often paid with their lives. We're only "weary and vaguely disenchanted," so we can't complain too much, but some parallels are remarkable. I'm only about 30% through this book, but the pattern is clear...and the theme timeless. Here's an excerpt:

"In addition to the circles to which these belonged, others were formed within the Church of Rome, the result of spiritual movements which developed in such a way as as to bring multitudes of persons, who belonged nominally to that communion, to leave the religious services to which they had been accustomed, and to gather round those who read and expounded to them the Word of God."

Such was the "revolution" in France, Bulgaria, Bosnia and other places in...1100!

Not to suggest, of course, that the modern American church is anything like the medieval Roman one in it's excesses and departures from the New Testament teaching. Or, that Christians need to run from their local churches and church commitments. But the pattern is interesting, and maybe the lessons Barna believes today's church leaders need to learn from the Revolutionaries can also be learned from church history. Developing...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Having been a long time fan of C.S. Lewis, it occurred to me at some point that it would be interesting to try some authors that he read, and who influenced his way of thinking. In his autobiography SURPRISED BY JOY, I think, he mentions some of them: George MacDonald, GK Chesterton and others, and in other places he speaks highly of the novels by fellow Inkling Charles Williams.

I have yet to dive into MacDonald, whose PHANTASTES Lewis says changed his way of thinking in dramatic ways. Chesterton is wonderful, though challenging. ORTHODOXY is worth coming back to again and'd think he's writing in the early part of the 21st century, not the 1910's and 20's. Where I really need help is with Charles Williams.

Reading and hearing so many good things about Williams novels, I've tried three: ALL HALLOW'S EVE, THE PLACE OF THE LION, AND DESCENT INTO HELL. I must admit I don't really get them. There are some intriguing ideas and plot lines that keep you going, but mostly I feel like I haven't broken the code, or maybe he's just over my head.

I just finished DESCENT INTO HELL and would love to hear what other readers think of it. Stanhope's taking on the suffering and anxiety of another character expands the idea of "bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ" and that theme I could follow, but little else, to be truthful. Somebody enlighten me!