Thursday, May 22, 2014

Abi ponders privilege and purpose....

There has been something that keeps coming back to me these past few months, as I have been pondering patriarchy and the purpose of God.  It is something that one of my college professors, Dr. Knofel Staton, used to just hammer into us:  Privilege is given for a purpose.  If the purpose is abandoned, the privilege is no longer valid.

God called Abram to be the Father of the Hebrew people.  Not because Abram was exceptional, but because God was faithful. The Hebrew people were set apart as God's chosen people.  Not because they were exceptional, but because God was faithful. God was, as Baxter Kruger so frequently says, preparing the Womb of the Incarnation.

Abram, when his name was changed to Abraham, became the first of the great patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of these men were deeply flawed in character, but God was faithful.  They were given privilege in order for the purposes of God to be accomplished.  When they held to the privilege and lost sight of the purpose, things did not go well.

In those times we saw the cHesed of God move to prevent disaster in what we call wrath. Wrath, since it is an aspect of cHesed (love, grace, mercy), does not strike without warning.  Those on whom wrath is visited usually know they have strayed.  (I think Job may be one exception.)

The patriarchs and the prophets and the priests and the kings of the Hebrew people frequently had problems keeping their privilege aligned with the purpose of YHWH. They too often became enamored of the glory and honor that accompanied the privilege...and not only forgot the purpose, but frequently they abused their privileged positions.

When the fullness of time had come, and the Womb of the Incarnation was fully prepared, Jesus took up human flesh in order to dwell among humans and bring about their Adoption--which, by the way, has always been the purpose.

Jesus--by his words and deeds--gave notice to the patriarchs and prophets and priests and kings that their time of privilege was coming to an end. The Holy Spirit was about to be poured out upon all flesh, and Father, Son and Spirit would dwell within each of us.  We would become a Royal Priesthood for King Jesus and God would hold the title of Father in the Kingdom of God.

Throughout history there have been those who continue to grasp tightly to the privileged positions which Jesus set aside. Clearly they had not understood...they did not wish to understand...they were unable to understand.  The mind that is not renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit remains darkened and confused. And so history is cluttered with those who would claim privileged positions given by God...but who used their privilege for their own, or others, purposes and call them God's purpose.  Multitudes of the abused cry out against their abuses.

Surely, I do not need to list out the abuses of the Popes, bishops, priests, kings, nobles, officers, leaders...those who used their privilege to deprive others of their privilege as Children of God and Joint Heirs with Jesus.

I mourn the millennia of abused and confused privilege...and rejoice where it has been rectified by the work of the Holy Spirit.  There is, unfortunately, much work yet to be done.

Happily, the Word of the Lord does not return void.  This victory is already won...but it has not yet been fully realized.

May we each, in our own way, be beacons of the Kingdom...where all are brothers and sisters in Christ and only Jesus is Lord and God is Father...where the purpose of reconciliation and restoration can only be delayed but not thwarted.

We walk in suffering solidarity on this journey with those oppressed by the hand of men who hold to a privilege that has been rescinded because its purpose has already been accomplished.  May they see that there is a new task set before us by the Master....

Patience is a difficult discipline, but our God is full of love and grace and mercy for us as They walk the path with us.

Be blessed...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Abi links to a great post which asks: Is God Male....

Friends, you must simply take the time to read this beautiful post--shared on their Facebook page by the wonderful folks at The Junia ProjectIs God Male or Masculine? 

I have written posts about patriarchy and accommodation and about pondering the Spirit as the Grand Mother.  This post is an important background document to flesh out what I have so imperfectly tried to say in my broken, purple way....

Be blessed!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Abi and May's Synchroblog..."What the hell?"

Update 6/10/14 -- interesting chart over at Jesus Creed.  Why am I not surprised that I don't seem to fit any of the options?

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Update 4/25/14 -- added another blogger at the bottom...

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This post of part of May's Synchroblog.  Please see the listing of other bloggers at the bottom of this post, and take the time to read the variety of responses with as much openness as your heart and mind will allow.  

I encourage you to follow J.R.R. Tolkien's advise and "suspend disbelief" long enough to enter into the narrative and let the Spirit speak--either to confirm what you have come to suspect (but thought you were the only one) or to challenge your own belief in what you have been taught.

If there were ever a time to be Berean, it would be for such a time at this!

Be blessed....

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As with just about everything else, my ideas about wrath and hell have changed significantly over the past five years. It has been a slow and confusing process of looking at things that I hadn't really thought about--just taken them for granted as they had been taught.

When one's foundational ideas shift, the whole house shifts....

So I need to start with wrath as an aspect of love. I started thinking about this after reading The Shack and meeting Wayne Jacobsen. There was plenty to ponder about in these conversations...and ponder I did.

But there was something that just wasn't setting right...and it wouldn't be until I finally took the time to read and listen to C. Baxter Kruger that things began to fall into place in a way that really helped my ideas about wrath and hell shift. I started sharing that shift in the April Synchroblog. A shift that I have begun to talk about as Perichoretic cHesed.

Perichoretic cHesed is all about the very nature of God as Father, Son and Spirit. But that nature has been clouded by an infiltration of pagan Greek philosophy by some of the most influential church fathers--like St. Augustine and Martin Luther.

Baxter Kruger has done a tremendous job of documenting this subtle infiltration--and I'm so very grateful to him! In a nutshell it comes down to this:
  • A Deistic GOD which is basically solitary, distant, impersonal, disappointed and angry--among other things--is mostly a reflection of Greek ideas about god. Those ideas made a lot of sense to people steeped in the Greco-Roman culture of Western Civilization. But those ideas appeal to the fallen mind...and that is problematic. A solitary God does not love by nature. 
  • A Trinitarian God which exists in the loving relationship of the Father and the Son in the Spirit, that I have come to describe as Perichoretic cHesed, is consistent with the realities of the Hebraic culture of covenant that God developed as part of what Baxter calls "the womb of the Incarnation." This Triune God loves by nature.
And this is where all the troubles arise....

When God does not love by nature and is cast in the most of humanity's fallen mind, we're going to get an angry judge, offended and looking to punish sinners.  Jonathan Edwards did an unfortunately great job describing that God.... It is this God of wrath who condemns sinners to a Hell of eternal punishment and torment, as Dante's Inferno popularized.

But what if that God is not what God is really like?

What if God, dwelling eternally as Father, Son and Spirit, are a community of self-giving and other-centered love that always looks out for the best interest of the other? What if they planned, from before they even created, to include their creation in their relationship of Perichoretic cHesed? What if that is what Jesus took on human flesh to accomplish--our adoption? What if the task of the Spirit, for all these centuries, has been one of educating the human race concerning their inclusive adoption into the very Family of God? And what is part of that education is the pruning away of ideas and habits that hurt and destroy us and keep us from living in the truth of who we are in Jesus? What if the things we have build in this world have been made from wood or straw or stubble rather than gold and silver and precious stones...and when the fires of trials in this world burn up that which is flammable?

What if the fires of hell are not ones of eternal torment and punishment but rather are ones of purification and restoration? (HT: Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger)

What if hell is what we experience when we separate ourselves from the love of God...and the fires around us are a way of herding us back to the Shepherd?

Hour #33, starting in minute 43:35, in Baxter's "Big Picture" series of lectures gets to this definition of hell:  " is the form of human existence that takes shape in wrong-headed takes shape in the "I am not".  It is false religion. It's the misery of your own soul because of what you believed under the lie and harassment of the Evil One. And that can be extended indefinitely. But even though we suffer eternal  hell and misery, it doesn't change the fact of who we are. Who we are is beloved children of the Father. The Spirit's been sent to us to help us know the truth.  Whether we believe it or not doesn't change the Real World. It just means we are living in an illusion. And, to me, as the New Testament testifies, we can live in that illusion for eternity. That's the scary part."

That means that heaven is living in the reality of the Good News that Jesus has laid hold of us and brought us to live with with him and his Father and the Spirit. We hear and receive by faith what Jesus has done, and if we believe it and repent (change our minds), we experience heaven.  If we don't believe it--because "I am not" ... you fill in the blank--then we experience hell, because of what Baxter calls "our stinking thinking."

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I think there is a lot of room for more thinking about this, especially because we just do not have that much really clear teaching about hell and a lot of murky teaching has resulted ... and I am looking forward to the rest of the folks writing about this.

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Here's the collection of links from the May participants in this Synchroblog:

Jeremy Myers – Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven?
Wesley Rostoll – Hell, thoughts on annihilationism
K. W. Leslie – Dark Christians
Angie Benjamin – Hell Is For Real
Paul Meier – Hell Is For Real – I’ve Been There and Came Back
Glenn Hager – Abusing Hell
The Virtual Abbess – What The Hell?
Kimbery Klein – Hell, if I know.
Michael Donahoe - Hell Yes…or No?
Liz Dyer – Hell? No!
Margaret Boelman - Hell No I Won’t Go
Loveday Anyim – Why the hell do you believe in hell?
Linda - If you died today, where would you go?
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.
Mallory Pickering -- The Time I Blogged About Hell
Elaine – What The Hell?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Abi redefines and refocuses the controversy....

I have mentioned before that I'm not really comfortable with the terms currently used in the debates. I have had my synthesizing hat on for the past few years, looking to see if I could get my brain about things enough to describe what I have come to understand about the foundational issues that underpin the controversy.
Some of the key players in my thinking  these past 20+ years include: S. Scott Bartchy, Scot McKnight, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Mont W. Smith, Lewis B. Smedes, Wayne Jacobsen, Alan & Deb Hirsch, Eugene H. Peterson, Neil Cole, Michael Frost, Tony and Felicity Dale, Len Hjalmarson, Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger ... and all the thinkers of the past they have brought with them into today's arena. I would have a very difficult time separating the various threads each of these persons contributed to the wee tapestry I want to share today.
The following definitions are intentionally very dense as I try to squeeze 40 years and millions of words into something that begins to represent what I believe about how humans are meant to treat one another.  These concepts have been heated white-hot in wrath's purifying and restoring hell-fire (not sure whether I'm ready to join the May Synchroblog: What the hell? ... I may need a rest!) and hammered out on the anvil of spiritual formation over the past five years in my wee purple experience. And now they have been plunged to cool in the Living Water of Truth to harden and prepare for service.
My glasses are still a bit fogged from the steam...and I'm still a bit tender in places that have been pruned and cauterized...but I trust the love of Sarayu that sometimes wounds in order to heal.
I pull no punches today, so I know those brothers and sisters who have invested their lives in what is currently called Complementarianism will not be very happy with me.  The term "Patriarchal Subjugation" will probably offend them.  I am intending to be precise, not offensive. I endeavor to speak the truth in love, spritzing a bit of Trinitarian Windex on their Augustinian glasses, as Baxter says...but I know that they will not see differently until they get a new prescription.
And I realize that it is not my task to convince them and call them to repentance--that is the work of GrandmotherI trust that Jesus is on their journey with them right where they are and that the Spirit will lead them according to their readiness to follow.  I certainly know how long it took me to make this difficult transition. They are still my brothers and sisters in Christ, but that does not mean that I must agree with them.
If you've been following my thoughts over the past eight years, you will see how I've come to this particular synthesis. And, as Craig Groeschel told a group of us at a Church Planting Conference in Kansas about seven years ago:  I only guarantee what I'm saying for 90 days. The Spirit is always at work teaching and leading me toward deeper growth along this journey...and there's always something being pruned, weeded, mulched... hey, it's spring! ;^)

Here goes--I suggest that you read it slowly and out loud (if your surroundings allow!) 

Patriarchal Subjugation 
is a male-centered, domination-based 
functional social structure of scarcity 
implemented by coercion and aversion. 
It's Christian practice flows from 
Augustinian-based scriptural interpretation and tradition, 
which is influenced by the pagan Greek philosophy of Socrates 
as taught by Plato, Aristotle and others. 
(Interestingly, Socrates rose to influence 
as the 400 years of prophetic silence 
was beginning for the Hebrews 
and his philosophy was firmly entrenched 
in the dominant culture of the Roman Empire 
when, in the fullness of time, Christ was born.)
Its infiltration from Western Civilization into Western Christianity 
was as subtle as a pagan wolf in Christian sheep's clothing 
and its practice ultimately fosters bondage and stunted maturity—
both of the oppressor and the oppressed.
Its peace is built on the coercive order
and cruel efficiency of the PAX ROMANA.
[I will need to come back and unpack this later...
probably with lots of links
to things that have already been said better
 somewhere else!]

Perichoretic cHesed
is an other-centered, self-giving 
relational social structure of abundance 
implemented by gracious loving-kindness 
and manifests as unmerited favor, 
mutual submission and 
mutually-initiated helpfulness
based on the best interest of the other. 
It flows out of Trinitarian-based scriptural interpretation, 
which is influenced by the Hebraic covenant philosophy of YHWH 
as revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, 
and given to Moses in the Law,
known as the Old Covenant, 
and taught by the prophets. 
As it was radically reinterpreted by Jesus 
and introduced as the New Covenant, 
(cut in his very own body 
and shedding his very own blood,
to bring about our rebirth and adoption)
and taught by Paul and the very Early Church Fathers, 
its faithful and humble practice
results in the growing freedom
and growing maturity 
of ALL toward Christlikeness. 
Its peace is the very own peace of Christ Jesus, 
which is not at the world gives,
but rather removes both anxiety and fear
as all come to learn of their 
inclusion in the very Life Eternal
of the Father and the Son in the Spirit
as adopted children and joint heirs with Christ Jesus.

Perichoretic cHesed...

It's News...because we didn't know it.  And it's Good!  (HT: C. Baxter Kruger)

Grace and peace to you!