Instead of blogging about the US and Pakistan today like everyone else is probably doing, I'm back in my own Stone Age of barely useable computers on dial-up speed at internet cafes. According to our latest update, we might get internet access at home sometime in the next 18 days. Maybe. Could be Tuesday (Monday is a holiday), could be two and a half weeks from now. Or maybe not. So, not much blogging until we're back online, and no reading other blogs either... like I said... the Stone Age. :)
Section II of Burke and Taylor’s book is called Questioning What We Know: New Horizons of Faith, but at first glance, I’m not really sure it lives up to that billing. For starters, the first chapter of this section, The End of the World as We Know It largely seems like it should have been placed in the first section of the book. It continues describing the crumbling of the modern world and the institutional Church, and will be familiar reading for anyone who’s been around “ec” literature for a while. The coming of what Spencer calls “spirituality” above and beyond what he terms “religion” is well-documented in many contexts in the Western world, and this chapter recaps some of those shifts while connecting current trends with Reformation events… again a familiar theme, probably more useful for anyone on their first trip beyond the Evangelical American subculture.
Chapter Five, “Grace Held Hostage, starts to get a little more interesting (and perhaps controversial). I agree with Spencer and hold great sympathy for his thesis here – there is a lot that is wrong about institutional “religion,” and American Evangelicalism in particular. And I think that a few years ago I might have been more sympathetic with his remedy, which seems to be to ditch the whole distorted mess and start over. It wasn’t really until moving to Africa that I realized how much God continues to use His Church despite our whorish tendencies. And that, to me, is a beautiful thing that prompts me toward more grace in my relationship with the Church – something I find oddly lacking in a book focused on the posture of Grace. I get it Spencer, I really and truly do, and I applaud your effort to release Grace from captivity in the hands of an angry, fundamentalist, irrelevant (and sometimes damaging) church, and I stand with you in hoping for a future church that is less bound up in capitalism, control, power, and survival, but I encourage more grace on our part directed toward that church.
It is in Chapter Six, Faith Remixed: The Fine Art of Bricolage, that Spencer begins to unleash the ideas that will ruffle all sorts of feathers and will earn him the label of “heretic” in many circles. I’m not an academic, and this isn’t an academic review, so this isn’t going to turn into some sort of dissertation on atonement theory, but Spencer’s discussion of John 14:6 in Chapter Six (pages 126-127 of this copy) misses the boat in its lack of inclusion of the Cross. There have been a few thinkers who, at various points in history, argued that salvation is found in emulating Jesus’ moral example, but this view seems, to me, to miss the grander arc of Scripture – not to mention the rest of the New Testament. I agree (most likely with Spencer, although he never says it) that certain prevailing views of the atonement miss the mark by focusing too heavily on proof-texts while ignoring a fuller picture, but Spencer here follows the same path in the opposite direction. Rejecting the centrality of the work of the Cross and Resurrection (as I see it) isn’t the path of Jesus at all. Don’t even get me started on Chapter Five’s (page 107) questioning of the accuracy of the quotation… why bother to read the Bible at all, then? (If you want to understand what I’m talking about, you’ll have to read the book.)
I fail to see how Spencer’s discussion of the Samaritan woman (page 130) calls into question the Christian “religion” or religious beliefs. God did indeed open the doors of salvation and the Kingdom of the Heavens wide to anyone – and throughout history, followers of Jesus have proclaimed that this door that was opened was Christ. Following, emulating, and through faith in his death and resurrection. Anything less has never been considered following Christ.
I think that my biggest issue at this point remains my contention that Spencer is writing against “bad religion” and has extrapolated that criticism to all existing expressions of Christian faith. Reform the Church, Transform the Church (as is Spencer’s stated desire), but remain the Church – the people of God in the way of Jesus who are reconciled to God through faith in Christ and by a commitment to radically following His example. That path is open to everyone, but it requires entering through Jesus. I’m not sure I’m seeing how Spencer is getting from “A” to “B” in this book… looking forward to the final section…
On 19 September, 2005, my wife Amy and I arrived in Cape Town from Atlanta via Frankfort, and we've had the most amazing year I could ever imagine.
Lots of people have been asking, "What do you miss?" - there's plenty I don't miss, but here are few things I think about from time to time:
College football. Definitely number one on the list.
Really good Mexican food. We make our own from assorted similar ingredients.
Mediocre Mexican food. Even that would be nice.
Our church. Emmaus Way and our friends there are always in our thoughts.
24-hour grocery stores. We do appreciate a less consumer-driven culture, but sometimes I want to shop past 7PM.
Efficiency. Americans are nothing if not efficient. Again, we love so much about a relational culture versus the American task oriented culture, but every now and then I really wish we could get something done a little quicker.
Central heat. Winter is a bummer when its the same temperature inside as it is outside.
Free Wi-Fi. I found one place... in the whole continent.
Family. Last, but not least. :)
The list of what we love about living in Cape Town would be too long for anyone to read - Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world, and feel completely at home here and everywhere we've traveled across Africa. From Sudan to Uganda to Kenya to Zimbabwe... this is our home.
Today is the Global Day for Darfur. Depending on who you ask, anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 people have been killled since fighting broke out in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Sudanese government is rejecting any attempt by international peacekeeping forces to move into the region and they are working to get the African Union force (which is undermanned, underfunded, and "undereffective") out of Darfur as soon as possible. There isn't a simple good guy vs. bad guy scenario here, as the government is supporting militias who wipe out entire villages, rebels fight the militias and the government with correspondingly horrible tactics, rebels fight each other for control and power over civilians, and everyone is raping and plundering their way through the women and children in their way. Millions have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands more lives are at risk.