A liturgical alternative to evangelism proper

Todd Hunter, Charismatic Vineyard pastor turned church planter turned Anglican bishop (that took 30 years) had this to say about evangelism proper:

In much of post-World War II evangelicalism, we asked people to cross a finish line. So it went: apologetics, apologetics, apologetics, then, okay, you get it now, you need to make a decision, and you get to go to heaven when you die. What I’d prefer to see is apologetics, enculturation, saying the prayers, and then you come to a line, but it’s a starting line: Are you ready to become a follower of Jesus? Can you now see the big intention of God for the earth and what he was doing through Christ and Pentecost and creating the people of God? Are you willing to join that family and take up that family’s cause through following Jesus?

Here’s my real vision: I feel I really understand the postmodern, post-Christian angst of the 16- to 29-year-olds. I know people this age who are sleeping with whomever they want and are vaguely spiritual but not sure they want to be religious. I have a vision of them praying the prayer of confession week after week, and me doing spiritual formation with them, not saying, “Bad dog, you can’t sleep with him or her,” but saying, “Why don’t you come to church every week and just pray this prayer, and then come back and see me in a month?”

Some of these people honestly don’t know what they can believe. I have a vision of saying to them, “Don’t worry about it. I want you to come to church every week for six months. Just say the Creed, and let’s connect every few weeks over coffee.” And we’ll ask, “So, what are you stumbling over?”

I have a vision of liturgy as a tool for evangelism and discipleship, a tool that is grounded in Scripture.

Christianity Today Interview (9/09)

Interesting, interesting.

Ancient Future Faith

I just finished Robert Webber’s Ancient Future Faith.

Magnificently concise and instructive. I need to get a copy and read it again.

Trying to blog about it also brings to light the shortcomings of my current note-taking method.

For the past couple years, I’ve put those tiny multi-colored post-it notes to great use, bookmarking paragraphs if interest and then going back the next day to write a post on each one. These are the things I want most to remember.

Webber’s book isn’t full of pithy comments and quotes though. I think I would be better served by outlining the whole thing.

Alas, there are no shortcuts. Real study takes a lot of energy.

A few key ideas that I love from the book (whatever I can remember just now):

The emphasis on remembering the cultural and linguistic context of Christians throughout history. Instead of trashing everyone who has come before us, we can better appreciate their expression of faith by understanding why they wrote what they did. For example, in the middle ages, the church didn’t have 2 hours Puritan-esque sermons. Well, if you understand the literacy rate (virtually nil), the political situation (serfs and lords), you would see how their Christianity, for better or worse, would be primarily something that was lived and acted out in their communities and to their neighbors. They wouldn’t have written lots of books about it. It was the dark ages. That doesn’t mean there was no creativity, it just means that the records of it have not survived.

He also lays the smack down on rationalism and treating the Bible as an object of textual criticism to be pushed through the logical meat-grinder.

Throughout the book though, he’s very positive. Yes, he smacks down rationalism, but does it in such a nice way as to not bad-mouth any of the reformers, but praise them for all the good the accomplished.

He’s cool with the Catholics, but very up front about how in the 600’s, the Romanization of the Catholic church caused it to gradually absorb all sorts of philosophies from the medieval society – much of which persists until today.

He likes to emphasize the Christus Victor view of the resurrection, rather than exclusively focusing on the penal substitution atonement side of the story.

He’s always asking: “Wait, all these early Christians didn’t have all these long creeds and confessions. Did they really know what they believed? Yes, actually they did.”

He’s big on the Christian year. He’s annoyed by moralism.

I would think he would advocate infant baptism, but he doesn’t mention it much. Instead he favors a return of sorts to the long gradual church membership process so as to more thoroughly integrate people into the Christian community.

A lot to chew on here and a lot of our history that I think it would be really valuable to recover.

Long live the king

Bly takes a chapter to discusses to idea of “the eternal king”, rather an idea about authority and order that pervades our thoughts. The political king derives his power from his figure or idea. Our existing leaders derive their power from him too, though it is more obscured.

The Sun King and his Moon Queen, in any case, held societies together for about four thousand years [in China]. As principles of order, tey began to fail in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe. Under the tittle of Kaiser, Tsar, Emperor, Maharajah, Sultan, Bey – one after another, the kings fell, all through Europe and then throughout its colonies.

During the Middle Ages, kings would take tours of their earthly realms. Hundreds of people waited in English village lanes, for example, to see the king go by. They probably felt a blessing coming from the Sacred King as the physical one passed silently by.

The problem is that when the political king disappears from the lanes, even for good reason, we find it difficult to “see” or feel the eternal King. I am not saying that the king-killing was an error, nor that we should resurrect the king and send him out along the lanes again, but we need to notice that our visual imagination becomes confused when we can no longer see the physical king. Wiping out kings severely damages the mythological imagination. Each person has to repair that imagination on his or her own.

-Robert Bly, Iron John, p.109

I think Gerard would have a lot more accurate things to say about the king (and his role as scapegoat), but I think what Bly is drawing attention to here is right on.

The Lost Road

Well, I had to special order Tolkien’s 5th volume of notes on Middle Earth via library loan. I was intrigued by a story titled “The Lost Road” that it contained. Allegedly, this was some sort of time-travel tale involving a couple of blokes from present-day England traveling back to the time of the elves, before the fall of Morgoth. I was hoping it might connect some of the geography in Middle Earth to present day England, France, etc.

Alas, J.R.R. only completed the first few chapters and sketches of a couple more. The main character begins to have dreams of an ocean covering a city and words in a strange tongue come to his mind. Eventually, he meets an angel of sorts in a dream who offers to take him and his father back in time to learn what happened. The whole thing is just a light vehicle for Tolkien to have characters monologue at length about his mythology. Sorry fans. I absolutely loved LOTR and the Hobbit, but have never been able to drum up more than a passing interest in the world itself.

The protagonist is obviously a picture of himself: A young college student who likes to invent languages. Also, the dreams of Numenor are discussed in his biography as a recurring vision that troubled his own youth.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. A fish out of water story? Alas. Unless you are a Tolkien myth aficionado, you need not bother with this one.

School us to sleep

Here, Bly isn’t the first to express this sort of sentiment at all.

He’s in the middle of recounting a fairy tale (The Maiden Tsar) where an evil stepmother prevents the hero son from escaping to his destiny on the sea.

She gives the tutor a pin, and tells him to slip it into Ivan’s collar as soon as the ships arrive in sight the next day, and that will put him to sleep. The tutor does exactly that; Ivan grows tired, lies down, and does not wake.

This act of the Great Mother, in collusion with the tutor, is more subtle than the father’s curse, and it leaves no mark: as soon as the ships are gone, the tutor pulls the pin out; Ivan wakes up. But the boy’s growth, or initiatory process, stops just before he is able to bring the wild flowers to the Holy Woman; it is stopped dead by the stepmother. During the moments crucial for his next step of consciousness, he was asleep.

I like it that the tutor, nominally male, and the stepmother, nominally female, do this bad-news work together. The story suggests by the word “tutor” that the educational system, which puts boys and girls to sleep for years, right up through graduate school, is in collusion with the dark side of the Great Mother. Essays on deconstruction theory are written by people with pins in their necks. Each of us knows enough about collectivized education to take this idea much father. The colleges call themselves Alma Mater. And the negative matter in materialism puts whole nations to sleep.

-Robert Bly, Iron John, p. 184

Sorry this passage is a bit confusing out of context. Read that last paragraph again though!

The latest thing in wildness

In Iron John, Bly toss around a lot of New Age ideas and Eastern Mysticism. Nevertheless, you can tell he has a hard time taking some of this stuff seriously. As I commented earlier, he doesn’t quite fit in with his intellectual liberal peers:

The people who are wholeheartedly devoted to infantile grandiosity – the Wall Street man, the New Age harp player – why should they go with the Wild Man? They imagine themselves to be the Wild Man already – they are the latest thing in wildness, able to stay up all night playing with their computers, or able to think nonpolluting thoughts for four days running.

-Robert Bly, Iron John, p.36


Wounds from father to son

Here, Bly talks about the wounds that a father (or father figure) give to their sons:

Let’s list some inward injuries, as we listed some outward injuries above. Not receiving any blessing from your father is an injury. Robert Moore said, “If you’re a young man and you’re not being admired by an older man, you’re being hurt.” How many men have said to me, “I waited for two days with my father when he was dying, and wanted him to tell me that he loved me.” What happened? “He never did.”

Not seeing your father when you are small, never being with him, having a remote father, an absent father, a workaholic father, is an injury. Having a critical, judgmental father amounts to being one of Cronos’ sons, whom Cronos ate. Some blow usually comes from the father, one way or another.

-Robert Bly, Iron John, p.31

Good stuff to remember with my own son. Maybe sons some day. Who knows. The one that sticks out the most to me is the idea of “being admired by an older man”. That is incredibly valuable I think, and something that even a kind, present, loving father might miss. “Being admired”, having someone think you are really cool, is not the same thing as love.