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Posted by Fred Clark

Every day of the "Trump Era" it's something new -- something completely new that you've never seen before and can't quite process because you never expected such a thing and have no experience responding to it. And before you can manage to wrap your head around this strange and unbelievable thing, you're forced to consider something else -- some other horror or astonishment you've never seen before either.

Cultures of Violence Die Hard

May. 25th, 2017 03:23 pm
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Posted by Libby Anne

Ingraham's "most Montana men" comment presents reporting a crime to the authorities as something only a wuss would do. It's unclear whether she thinks Jacobs should have slugged Pianoforte in return, or whether she thinks Jacobs should have crept off in shame, duly beaten, but in either case the way she approaches the situation reflects toxic ideas about masculinity.Click through to read more!
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Posted by Libby Anne

We don't live in a fascist state. We don't live in a dictatorship. We don't live under martial law. Disagreeing with and protesting politicians in elected office is a thing we are allowed to do. In fact, the last time I checked, it was a thing we were encouraged to do. Civic engagement, right? Isn't it Graham's generation that is constantly complaining that millennials aren't sufficiently engaged in the political process?Click through to read more!
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Posted by Richard Beck

Regular readers know that on Wednesday nights I'm a Freedom Fellowship, eating a meal and worshiping with our friends and neighbors in a poor part of our town.

When I share stories about Freedom people often approach me saying they'd like to come over and help out. And my response is, "Well, there is nothing for you to do, but you can come eat with us."

When people hear about Freedom they envision something like a soup kitchen, where volunteers stand behind tables serving a line of needy people. There are people serving behind tables and there are people in a line to get food. But the people cooking, serving and cleaning up after the meals aren't outside volunteers. The Freedom community does all that.

So there's nothing for a volunteer to do. But you can come, get in line, get a plate of food and sit down and eat with us.

And yet, that prospect seems to throw a lot of people. They don't want relationships, they want a service project. It's profoundly disorienting to many Christians to be told that they are not needed. We'd much rather serve than be asked to share a table with others. It's fascinating to watch how new people wanting to help at Freedom will stand around looking for a job to do, something to make them feel useful, when all they need to do is grab a plate and sit down.

Stop trying to serve, I want to say.

Just sit down and eat with us.

Some questions about DE and AiG

May. 24th, 2017 09:48 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

What do our friends the young-Earth creationists make of diatomaceous earth? Here, after all, is a tangible, fluffy-white embodiment of deep time. It's one more thing that such illiteralist fundamentalists cannot allow themselves to look at or think about. So I wonder what kind of filter system Ken Ham uses for his hot tub. Or if Al Mohler allows himself to use D.E. in his garden.
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Posted by Libby Anne

Those who advocate against abortion rights refer to themselves as pro-life, but, as Runkles' situation makes clear, their opposition to premarital sex places limits in their ability to celebrate life. We can imagine a group that opposes abortion on the grounds that life is always better than not-life, but why would such a group limit or stigmatize the act that creates such life? For abortion opponents, it's frequently not so much about life as it is about rules---and the consequences of not following them.Click through to read more!
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Posted by Richard Beck

From Saint Bernard concerning the stages of contemplation:
Let us take our stand on secure ground, leaning with all our strength on Christ, the most solid rock, according to the words: He set my feet on a rock and guided my steps. Thus firmly established, let us begin to contemplate, to see what he is saying to us and what reply we ought to make to his charges.

The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is constantly to consider what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rectitude of God’s will, being neither one with it nor wholly in accord with it; let us then humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and be concerned to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze, saying: Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved. And again, Lord have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.

Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations we no longer abide within our own spirit in a sense of sorrow, but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself. For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way more advantageous and fitting for us. And so, concerned as we are to preserve the life of our soul, we should be equally concerned, insofar as we can, not to deviate from his will.

Thus having made some progress in our spiritual exercise under the guidance of the Spirit who searches the deep things of God, let us reflect how sweet is the Lord and how good he is in himself; in the words of the prophet let us pray to see God’s will; no longer shall we frequent our own hearts but his temple. At the same time we shall say: My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.

The whole of the spiritual life consists of these two elements. When we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with a salutary sadness. And when we think of the Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the first we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love.
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Posted by Fred Clark

That reads like a caricature -- a fantasy stereotype concocted by someone who has recently been told about the existence of white evangelical colleges, but who has never actually seen one. What do you suppose students learn at such a school? Who knows? Ronald Reagan, probably. And maybe C.S. Lewis? Oh, and the Bible, of course. This isn't what students are really studying at these schools, but it's what their nervous evangelical parents want to hear.

What Do Atheists Do All Day?

May. 23rd, 2017 09:00 am
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Posted by Libby Anne

Many people who don't believe in God also don't give a whit about atheist figureheads. Atheism is not a church, with members and theology and an authority structure. It's not a belief system, and it has no dogma. There are conservative atheists and progressive atheists, anti-abortion atheists and pro-choice atheists, feminist atheists and misogynist atheists---the list goes on and on.Click through to read more!
[syndicated profile] experimentaltheology_feed

Posted by Richard Beck

Last summer our bible class at church was working through the book of Colossians. In one of the classes I was teaching we came to this puzzling text:
Colossians 1.24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
What does Paul mean when he says that he is "filling up what is lacking" in Christ's afflictions? We tend to assume that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was sufficient, lacking in nothing.

So what's Paul talking about?

The scholarship I consulted argued that what Paul is referring to here has to do with the "Messianic woes," a belief held by many Second Temple Jews, Paul included.

The Messianic Woes goes back to the book of Daniel where many passages suggest that the coming reign of the the Son of Man will be ushered in with suffering, persecution and tribulation. The Kingdom of God doesn't come painlessly.

Crucial here is the Jewish view that there are two ages, "the present evil age" and the Messianic "age to come." Many Jews felt that these ages would happen serially, with the "present evil age" ending to be followed by the Messianic age. The Messianic woes, the painful birth pangs of the new age, happen at the transition point, the ending of one age to usher in the next

Paul, however, nuances this two age view, seeing the ages as overlapping. With Jesus the new age has been inaugurated alongside and within the present evil age. This is the classic "already, not yet" dynamic. The new age is breaking into the present evil age but the Kingdom has not yet arrived in its fullness. We await a final consummation.

But in the meantime, as the new age breaks into the present evil age, the transition between the ages--the birth pangs of the coming New Creation--are still characterized by the Messianic Woes, by trials, persecution and tribulation. As Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." Also, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted for my name's sake." Or James 1.2-3: "Count it all joy, brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."

In short, participation in the Kingdom is accompanied by an expectation of suffering and trials. As pioneers of the new age Christians carry the burden of the Messianic woes.

All that to say, what Paul seems to be saying in Colossians 1.24 is that the corporate body of Christ, who is suffering to give birth to the kingdom in the present evil age, "fill up" the sufferings that must take place from now until the consummation of the kingdom. There is X amount of suffering that will take place to fully usher in the Messianic age. So as Christians suffer to inaugurate the new age we are "filling up" this quota of suffering.

In short, to be the people of God is to participate in the Messianic woes. We endure the suffering to make the new age a lived reality in this present evil age.

Christians share and participate in Christ's sufferings to "fill up" what is left of the Messianic woes until the kingdom comes in its fullness.

What to Do When Belief Dies

May. 22nd, 2017 05:16 pm
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Posted by Christian Piatt

Being in congregational ministry means dealing in death. Actually, being alive means dealing with it. At its best, religious community helps bear witness to the entire cycle of life, from miraculous beginnings to often-difficult ends. And as the average age in Christian congregations continues to rise, the work of institutional and personal hospice for ministerial [Read More...]

Evangelicals’ Sexual Double Bind

May. 22nd, 2017 12:25 pm
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Posted by Libby Anne

In some sense, evangelicals' approach to sex is caught in a double bind. If they must forbid sex before marriage, evangelicals are stuck either arguing that marital sex will be (or should be) mind-blowingly amazing (and denying the existence of sexual incompatibility) or acknowledging that marital sex may suck (while contending that sexual fulfillment within marriage is not actually important).Click through to read more!

‘Fighting for our children’

May. 22nd, 2017 10:59 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

Today’s protest anthem and Monday morning open thread comes courtesy of Mavis Staples. If necessary, you can invent and add an infinite number of verses to this song, and sing it forever. I mention this because that may soon, again, be necessary. So this is a good one to learn, just in case.

Material Koinonia

May. 22nd, 2017 05:00 am
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Posted by Richard Beck

I've been researching the Greek word koinonia. This won't be news to many of you, but it's really a remarkable word.

The definition of koinonia is fellowship, participation, contribution and sharing.

We generally think of koinonia in the context of the fellowship enjoyed by the early church in Acts 2:
Acts 2.42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to koinonia, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Because of this text we tend to think of koinonia in relational terms. Koinonia, we think, is about emotional intimacy. But koinonia is also used to describe sharing in concrete, material and monetary terms.

Actual money, when it's shared, is koinonia:
Romans 15.26
For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a koinonia for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.
We see this in Acts 2. Being devoted to koinonia involves material acts of sharing. Koinonia shouldn't be reduced to emotional closeness and social intimacy.

Koinonia is sharing and fellowship that is concrete, material and sacrificial.

Lesbian Duplex 121: An Open Thread

May. 21st, 2017 09:00 am
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Posted by Libby Anne

It’s time for another Lesbian Duplex thread! If you have a link or article or interesting thought that’s not relevant to an ongoing thread, you can share it here. If a conversation on another post has turned entirely off topic, you can bring it here also. Every so often, as the number of comments on a given Lesbian Duplex post becomes unmanageable, I put up a fresh post.Click through to read more!
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Posted by Fred Clark

You should always work hard and do your best. This is a moral obligation. That seems reasonable. Who doesn't think that working harder is better than slacking off? And who could possibly quarrel with something as uncontroversially wholesome as "always do your best"? But it's misleading -- and morally wrong -- in at least two ways.

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