I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how it’s hard to make and sustain community, even in seminary. I’m writing mainly about my experience at in in-residence seminary program (my experience with distance learning has been quite different, as you can imagine). But, even if you’re not in seminary, the lessons in the piece are entirely applicable to general church life as well. Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s the intro:
Seminaries are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to find a flow for school to survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of both the academics and communal side of seminary. And let’s face it: no one is holding your hand there; you mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there at seminary. Even things like prayer groups and chapels are still only as helpful as the attention you put into them.
Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.
(On a side note, I’m sorry that the picture above only has men in it. I hate that, but it represents some of the themes of the piece really well.)
Here’s a little casual Friday post for y’all.
As a child, my favorite show was Batman: The Animated Series. Likely, if you were born in the 80s, this show was part of your youth. Surprisingly, can you believe it was only on for 3 years?! Only 85 episodes were ever made.
But I loved it, and I watched it over and over again. It was dark and gritty (or as much as it could have been), had compelling stories, and (in hindsight) was full of complex characters. So complex, in fact, you could actually create an entire podcast psychologically analyzing them!
Today is the Christian Church Holy Day celebrating the Assumption of Mary. Now, I’m definitely a Protestant when it comes to Mary, but here are some thoughts I’ve offered in the past.
Mary: Ordained as Prophetess, Priestess, & King
This is the dedicated post page for the Male Feminist Theology Series on this blog.
This series is based on a white paper I wrote. It is more technical than these blog posts are and cites sources without giving introduction or explanation. The blog posts break it up into bite-sized chunks, and are heavily edited to (hopefully) make them more accessible to the casual reader. The full paper is posted below.
Background: Fear & Loathing
This series has been a long time in development and preparation. This was a post that summarizes the whole path leading to thought and process behind it.
Before we began, I felt I needed to explain why I, at times, would choose to use feminine pronouns for God. This caused such an uproar in my social media sites, it led to several posts in which I went more in-depth about this.
This whole series employed a very particular perspective on theology, in which we can freely choose what true things about God to emphasize depending on our context and concern in the moment.
I. Passion: A Theology of God, Creation, & Humanity
This whole Male Feminist Theology begins with laying out a doctrine of God that would motivate us to solidarity and action with women. This opening post lays out a vision in which God’s own nature is Suffering-Unto-Shalom/Goodness/Life
This Suffering-Unto-Life Nature of God extends from the Godhead and is exhibited in each of its Persons. In this piece, we talk about the centrality of Jesus, the Incarnate God, as the center of our theology, and what he can teach us about God.
In this post, we talk about how the Holy Spirit–within Herself–also suffers-unto-life, moving into the brokenness and injustice of the nitty-gritty of the world, to bring healing, life, and wholeness.
These Broken & God-Breathed Scriptures
Coming up next!
“I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is part of our series on Male Feminist Theology.
I’ve been arguing, at the outset of this journey into forming a Male Feminist Theology, that the way we think about God shapes and forms how we then live our lives. Further, God’s nature and character is so multifaceted that as theological musings enter new cultures, times, and situations, we must use particular language for where we are today. Just this weekend, I was reading Andrew Walls’ remarkable essay, “The Ephesian Moment”, where he talks about how this worked in the early church.
The transposition of a message about the Messiah to a message about the “Lord Jesus” must have seemed an impoverishment, perhaps a downright distortion. [But] Christian theology moved on to a new plane when Greek questions were asked about Christ and received Greek answers, using the Greek scriptures. It was a risky, often agonizing business, but it led the church to rich discoveries about Christ that could never have been made using only Jewish categories such as Messiah…. Crossing a cultural frontier led to a creative movement in theology by which we discovered Christ was the eternally begotten Son; but it did not require the old theology to be thrown away, for the eternally begotten Son was also the Messiah of Israel.
I see a similar thing today. Many issues of global injustice, the failure of 20th-century Enlightenment idealism, and (for our purposes) the abuse and marginalization of women gives a new prism through which to ask questions about God. We are not leaving old creeds and confessions behind; we are turning the Divine diamond of God’s nature and character to see through additional facets.
To this end, I have found it greatly helpful to focus on this idea that God’s very nature is one of Suffering-Unto-Life, or Suffering-Unto-Shalom. We’ve used these past few posts to talk about how we see this in each member of the Trinity, and today we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit. I’ve written about this before in general, but today we try to think of this in light of our sisters and their experience.
During the summers, when school was out, my mama and I would stay up incredibly late (like, until the sun came up) watching Nic-at-Nite and other TV shows. She would make nachos (using Doritos–don’t knock it til you tried it) and drink a Diet Coke, while I took part in the nightly dance of trying to get some of both for myself.
On one of these extremely late night/mornings, I asked, “Mama, how does someone actually get to heaven?” She answered in the usual Southern Baptist way. I don’t remember all of it, but I do know it ended with describing the act of praying the “Sinner’s Prayer”.
I said, “I want to do that!”
Mama said we could make an appointment to talk to someone at our church so they could make sure I knew what I was doing, and then I could pray that prayer and be baptized.
I ran down the hallways, incredibly excited, and woke up my daddy, only an hour or so from waking up for work. I shook him and said, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m going to get saved!”
I have a couple of new posts over at Going To Seminary on helpful apps for reading and studying while you’re going through school.
It won’t take you long upon your arrival at seminary how much things may have changed from previous generations of seminary educations. One of the biggest differences is just how digital everything is. Most seminaries have some sort of online class management system through which you will track grades, assignments, schedules, and get documents and readings necessary for your classwork. Lectures are on PowerPoints that are often shared online. Likely the very first official seminary swag you’ll get is an email address.
Things have changed, for sure. But luckily, we live in a time of unparalleled resources to help you engage all the more deeply in your seminary education; resources that help you focus on what you need to focus on while letting technology do much of the heavy lifting.
Read the rest:
Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.
This post is part of a series on Male Feminist Theology.
Just as the Godhead itself is Suffering-Unto-Life, so are each of its members. Today we look at the second person of the Trinity: Jesus, the Begotten of God.
It’s my contention that we need a concept of a God who both knows suffering within his essence as well as fights against it. This is the only conception of God that can actually move us forward in fighting against the marginalization and abuse of women.
More traditional views of God (often having their historical source in Greek thought rather than Hebrew) make God into a Transcendent Male, Kingly, Lording figure whose primary relation to us is as one to whom we are meant to submit. This is so common, many (most?) people that just read that sentence may have not disagreed with any of it.
We are now, finally, after a long time, starting our series on Male Feminist Theology. This is the first of many posts to come.
God is infinitely complex and beyond our articulations. It’s impossible to hold in our minds at any one time all the different paradoxical truths about who God is. (As I’ve described before) depending on the particular context, concerns, or questions at hand, there are different truths about God we should dwell on and emphasize a little more for that moment.
In our day and place, I think one of the biggest issues facing the church is our treatment of women, so this post will focus on what truths about God that we (especially men) should emphasize and hold in our minds when moving forward on this issue.
I like to think I listen to really good music–and I do. My most recent listens have been Sufjan’s Carrie & Lowell, Mozart’s Requiem, Miles Davis’ A Kind of Blue, Fugees’ The Score, and Taylor Swift’s 1989. But I also have a secret, closeted (until now) habit of listening to Christian Praise music on my own.
One of my favorite more recent songs is called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by the Australian artist Matt Redman (video below). We sing it at my church, and I listen to it on my own. It’s one of the better contemporary worship songs out there, but there is a grave grammatical error in the song that, for at least me, colors my experience of this song in a distracting way. Here’s the chorus of the song:
Bless the Lord oh my soul, Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before, Oh my soul
I’ll worship your holy name
Do you see it? Yes, there is an odd tense change from present imperative verbs to a future verb in the last line, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Rather, it’s that the first three lines are speaking to one’s soul about God, and then it says “I’ll worship your holy name”. Who is being spoken to? Throughout the chorus, the singer is speaking to their own soul, telling their soul to worship God, and then it jumps to second person.
I know, I know, the song’s intention is to turn to worshipping God, but grammatically, it is offering this worship to one’s own soul. And I think this matters for several reasons.
The seminary program I’m in is one focused on urban centers, and to that end we end up reading writings by a crew of pastors and theologians and who want to give a theological emphasis to cities. I’m currently in a course in which we’re reading people like Tim Keller and Harvie Conn.
I bought in to all of this for a long time, but now I’m having some reservations (some of which I’ve mentioned before), which I want to offer up to you all and get your thoughts.
Urban “versus” Rural?
Ever since moving into cities, I’ve fallen in love with them. After hearing Tim Keller talk about them for the first time while in college, I totally bought into the centrality of cities into God’s ongoing mission.
And then….I met my now-fiancee, who grew up Mennonite on a 300-acre dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania. And it threw all my thoughts on this issue upside down.
I’m going on three decades of attending church services. I’ve heard a lot of sermons on gratitude and almost all of them are the same.
They spend much of their time trying to convince us Americans that we actually are far more wealthy than we ever thought. We have more stuff than most any other people in human history, and so we need to stop being so consumeristic and unsatisfied and just learn to be grateful and give thanks for what we have—because we have a lot. And us Christians have even more reason to be thankful, as we have the greatest gift of all: Jesus!
But all this does is lead us towards some brief, unsustainable, inch-deep emotion of happiness which we then call “gratefulness” and then walk out the door thinking we’ve gotten our annual “gratitude shot”—all while being able to ignore the violence raging in the world and in our souls.
So where is gratitude when we face violence and doubt, or when we hit the muck and mire of life, the pits and poverties of existence, the pain and injustice? Does gratitude have nothing to say?
Well that’s what my most recent sermon discusses (I’ve also written about this before). The sermon text is Psalm 40, Let me know what you think. Here’s the audio:
You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here is my manuscript for your perusal. Continue reading
“We receive God’s promises only when they are confirmed by the blood of Christ … we hear God speaking to us only when we see Christ offering himself as a pledge in what is said to us. If we could only get it into our heads that the Word of God we read is written not so much with ink as with the blood of the Son of God.”
–John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews
(from Martha L. Moore-Keish’s excellent book, Do This in Remembrance of Me)
Today is the Church Holy Day called Corpus Christi (Wiki), Latin for “the Body of Christ”, in which the Church takes a few moments to reflect and meditate upon the gift that is the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist, or Communion). In honor of this, I thought I’d share a recent essay I wrote articulating what I believe is happening in the Sacraments. Let me know what you think!
A sacrament is any material thing that God uses to communicate himself within Creation. Yes, this is quite the broad definition for “sacrament” (little “s”). Every single way that God has ever revealed himself in this world has always been in a mediated sense. God has never been revealed in his full “Godness”. It is always through a material means, and mostly clearly in Jesus Christ.
In this sense, I can accept things like marriage and confirmation as sacraments; but I can also see a good beer, TV show, conversation, or even suffering (like the Cross) as a sacrament. Any material means by which God communicates any part of who he is a sacrament. It has also been quite freeing for me to see all of life as inherently sacramental.
In this sense, sacramentalism becomes a primary filter through which to understand and describe reality as it is and the nature of the Creator/Creation distinction. This collapses the old unhelpfully-gnostic “transcendence/imminence” dichotomies.