Thinking Out Loud

September 16, 2013

Destroying the Idol of Absolute Certainty

…each one of us needs to be developing a personal, systematic theology so that we can respond when asked what we believe. We should know the ways of God; truly know what Jesus would do. But we should write our theology in pencil, not pen; remaining open to the possibility that what we see as through frosted glass will become clearer over time and therefore subject to change…

- me, Thinking Out Loud, 2/24/13

There are going to be those, on seeing this is a review of a Greg Boyd book, who will immediately dismiss everything that follows. While perhaps not as high on the controversy scale as Rob Bell, Boyd’s writings, sermons, and YouTube videos posted on his blog often reference the radical pacifism of his Anabaptist leanings; his belief that the American Church should be apolitical, not seen to be supporting candidates of either major party; and his teaching of ‘open theology,’ which offers the idea that for any given persons or group, the future could contain a range of possible outcomes among which God has not committed himself to knowing the final choice in advance.

Benefit of the Doubt - Greg BoydWith his newest book, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Baker Books), Gregory Boyd presents the thesis that far too many Christians — at least in North America and western Europe — are committed to a set of spiritual propositions more than they are committed to Christ; and that in fact the thing they worship and place their faith in are these ‘certainties,’ far more than they worship and have their faith secured in “Christ, and Him crucified.”

At this point, I want to step out and say that I while I believe this book has great potential for both seekers and skeptics, this is must-reading for every seasoned or veteran Christ-follower. Furthermore, I want also step out and, to use a cliché, that if the Lord tarries, I think Greg Boyd will be remembered as one of the great thinkers of our generation, even if he is not heretofore accorded such honor.

While the book clearly intends to shatter the idol of theological over-confidence, its equal purpose is to give some peace and comfort to people who, although they are long on the journey with Jesus, still don’t feel they have all the details of the contract worked out. He is writing to those of us who perhaps know people for whom all doctrinal and theological matters are settled once and for all, while we ourselves, as in the above quotation from a previous column here, feel our theological understanding is better jotted down in pencil rather than indelible ink and therefore feel our relationship with God is somewhat lacking.  He writes,

Think about it. If I was confident that God unconditionally loves me because of what he did for me on Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that his love for me does not increase or decrease based on how accurate or inaccurate my other beliefs are? So too, if I was confident God ascribes unsurpassable worth to me on the basis of Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that my worth can’t be increased because I hold correct beliefs and can’t be decreased because I hold mistaken beliefs? These questions answer themselves.

Unlike other books I review here, the chapters of Benefit of the Doubt must be considered sequentially, not only for the progression of thought the book entails, but also because of the many autobiographical sections that are introduced then later referenced. This book is Greg Boyd at his most personal, most transparent; even as he writes of weightier things.

While Boyd admits in a couple of places that he tends overall to lean to the conservative position on many doctrinal issues; and that he believes in the inspiration of scripture and even a version of inerrency; the book will resonate with people who wrestle with many of the more difficult parts of the Bible, or those who are stuck in a place overshadowed by past unanswered prayers. He gets into this in describing an upcoming conference based on the book:

There are those who might falsely infer that with a title such as this, the pastor of Minneapolis megachurch Woodland Hills is slowly moving away from orthodoxy. Based on my reading, I would say with deep conviction, don’t think that for a minute. This is a book about the value of doubt; a book that espouses the concept that perhaps in an atmosphere of doctrinal fragility, our ultimate faith in Christ is perhaps stronger, more enriched, and more able to withstand the realities of life. As the publisher blurb suggestions, “Let your questions lead you to a stronger faith.”

July 1, 2013

Happy Birthday to ReKnew

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 am

reKnew poster in a church

Never one to shy away from controversy, Minneapolis pastor Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills Church launched ReKnew one year ago to encourage people to rethink common Evangelical presuppositions.  Above, the ReKnew poster was adapted into a church sign.  You can click to read the ReKnew Manifesto

From the ReKnew launch one year ago:

Out of the rubble of this crumbling religion we are seeing a new kind of disciple rising up, fearlessly calling into question previous certainties; boldly rethinking what it means to believe in God and the Bible; bravely re-imagining what it means to “do church” and advance the kingdom. More and more, we are seeing people abandon the security of their civil religion to become part of a beautiful revolution.

May 15, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Giving Thanks

“For what we are about to receive…”  The human and the dog seem sincere but cats are always overly dramatic. (And why does the cat have a marking that looks like another cat’s tail? Photoshop? No way!)

Time for another link list. Try to have your suggestions in by 6:00 PM Eastern on Mondays. More during the week at Twitter.

Songs with substance: Classic worship

If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

February 14, 2013

Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills: Weighing Denominational Options

Greg Boyd 2013Typically, the Anabaptist movement doesn’t grow megachurches. But as evidenced by their growing relationship with The Meeting House in the greater Toronto, Canada area, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Woodland Hills Community Church, led by pastor Greg Boyd, is looking at making an existing affinity a formal affiliation with either the Mennonite or Brethren in Christ denomination.

The Mennonite News carries the story in depth, while Christianity Today noted that, “According to data from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there is only one other Mennonite megachurch in America: Northwoods Community in Peoria, Illinois.”

The Anabaptist movement is closely identified with pacifism, something that is at odds with the military mindset prevalent in the United States. But Boyd is also at odds with many over his teaching of open theology, a teaching that grates on those who believe that God has already factored in the predetermined outcome for every choice people will make and therefore knows every aspect of every detail of the future.  The Wikipedia article linked above notes that the teaching embodies the idea that

  • God knows everything that has been determined as well as what has not yet been determined but remains open.
  • Open theists do not believe that God does not know the future; rather, that the future does not exist to be known by anyone. For the open theist, the future simply has not happened yet, not for anyone, and thus, is unknowable in the common sense.

Some people render the essence of open theology as a question: What does God know and when does he know it?” Millard Erickson authored a book with this title, which was subtitled, “The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge.” The Wikipedia article goes on to list four variants on the concept, and does note in passing that many of the arguments on this subject come from atheist philosophers as well as Biblical scholars.

Boyd’s education includes a Masters from Yale Divinity School and a Doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary. While these aren’t the Evangelical movement’s schools of choice, it’s important to note that his sermons, in fact the whole tenor of his ministry, reflect a somewhat Pentecostal vibe, Anabaptist influences notwithstanding.

So Boyd is no doubt an enigma to many, and certainly a hybrid when it comes to core beliefs.

The aforementioned Hartford Institute’s list of the largest churches in the United States shows clearly that many of the American megachurches are interdenominational or nondenominational, or unknown. (After many years, a Canadian list is now being developed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.) The Mennonite World article cited above was titled, in part, “Seeking a Tribe;” which describes the process which gives independent churches identification, pooled resources and accountability.  Woodland Hills has an average weekend attendance of 5,000.

June 24, 2012

When Our Words and Our Words Contradict

Bruxy Cavey is the teaching pastor at The Meeting House, Canada’s largest multi-site church centered on a location in Oakville, just west of Toronto. The Meeting House has developed an affinity with Woodland Hills Community Church in Minneapolis, where Greg Boyd is the pastor, and there have been a couple of pulpit exchanges recently, including this one, where Bruxy was at Woodland Hills completing a two-part series that Greg started on the Anabaptist tradition that has influenced both churches.

In the Q&A time there was a question about church and state and the homosexual marriage issue. The question is on the video at the WH website, but the answer posted here was from a different service, and I found this audio transcript (there’s no video) more direct. Basically, Bruxy is saying that as Christ-followers, we bring a general response that leaves gay people feeling excluded from the church, but when the cameras are rolling, the sound bite on the evening news is an affirmation of God’s love for all mankind.

The disconnect between the sound bite and everything else we say is something Bruxy believes we have, at the very least, got backwards.

Sermons: Bruxy Cavey, The Meeting House, Oakville, Canada
Sermons: Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills

December 8, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The finest links have been assembled for your reading pleasure…

  • Without doubt, the site to see this week is Paperless Christmas.   Start your tour by clicking on the guy in the delivery uniform and the other clips (all approx 1:00 in length; 9 in total) will play in sequence.   Great music, too.
  • A big HT to Vitamin Z for the above book cover shot.   He got it from Brian Lopez who got it from [drum roll] Exotesparemboles, which everyone knows means… [cricket, cricket] …
  • After being involved in a four-car crash, Greg Boyd is asked how an event like this squares with his open-theology view vis-a-vis praying for protection before you drive somewhere.
  • Don’t blow it, guys.  Trey Morgan has ten gifts your wife would like for Christmas;  which, three days later, resulted in a list of ten gifts your husband would like for Christmas.
  • England’s John P. Richardson gets into the moral and ethical dilemma created by the WikiLeaks story.
  • Linda at the blog, I Wonder as I Wander, would like you to meet Josh Garrels, who she describes quite well when she says, “He ain’t your typical Christian musician.”
  • The whole NIV thing gets a little more complicated for Bill Mounce after hearing someone’s proof that the Holy Spirit is a “she.”
  • Here’s the link for this year’s edition of Boston.com’s Big Picture series of Hubble Space Telescope advent pictures; with a new picture added each day.  I like to call this Artwork by God.
  • Here’s another website dealing with issues of sexuality; check out Six:11 Ministries, in particular, this organization ministers to the GLBT community.   Here’s their blog.
  • Brian Welch, a former member of the band Korn was a guest last week on The 700 Club.
  • Carlos Whittaker gets told, in essence, that he’s not white enough to lead worship in a particular church.
  • Tim Elmore guests at Michael Hyatt’s blog with a piece on teaching your kids generosity at this time year.   Would your kids be willing to think in terms of giving away some toys this season?
  • Youth worship from Canada:  Here’s a link for a free download of the band Nine O Five from east Toronto doing Hillsong’s With Everything with guest Aaron Gillespie.
  • Producers of the third and newest Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawntreader, are hoping to capture the spirit and the profitability of the first one, as explained to the L.A. Times.
  • Ron Pai, aka The Brown Kid, is back blogging — or was — and asks the question, How Then Shall We Church Plant?   Some good thoughts.
  • Here are your CCM/gospel category nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards, not including Christian musicians who may be part of projects nominated in other categories.
  • Our picture this week (below) was found at the blog Ironic Catholic.

August 18, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This was a week for reconstructing the blogroll here.   “Oh, Oh, The Places You’ll Go” lists all the things that are NOT blogs, along with, for a limited time, a description of each one on-screen — you don’t even have to mouse hover — which for some strange reason Made Every Word Start With A Capital Letter.

The actual blogs are now found further down in a new section called “Blog Stops.”

And now on to this week:

May 16, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two of my favorite pastors together in the same service!

Bruxy Cavey

Today we drove to Oakville, Ontario where Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor of The Meeting House — Canada’s largest and fastest growing church movement —  welcomed Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.    It was the sixth and final week of a series on the New Testament message of pacifism.

Early in the message Boyd stated — and Bruxy, not knowing this, repeated it to me in a conversation between services — that of all that megachurches in North America, he only knows of two that are taking the time to highlight what The Meeting House and Woodland Hills see as a prominent them in scripture.

What neither said, but what is implicit in the comment, is that most North American churches subscribe to what is generally called “Just War” theory; or perhaps “Just War” theology.

Bruxy devoted week five to considering the objections people have to this, those “But What About…?” questions that led him to call the message “But What About? Sunday.”   He often records an appendix to the sermons called “The Drive Home” and in this instance the supplement was actually longer than the sermon itself.    You can find the series online by going to The Meeting House and clicking on “Teaching” and then clicking on the series “Inglorious Pastors.”  (Yeah, they really called it that.)   You’ll see the “Drive Home” messages available there as well for listening live or downloading.

Greg Boyd

Boyd was in excellent form, and didn’t seem to miss a beat — or lack any energy — moving from the platform to handling individual questions  between the three services.   The audio portion of this morning’s teaching is also already uploaded, and a quick scan of the nearly two decades of sermons archived at the Woodland Hills site may help you find messages where he’s covered this back at home.

I got to shake Boyd’s hand tell him I was one of his “podrishioners,” his term for people who are part of the church’s vast podcast family.   Then I added — since Bruxy was standing nearby — that I was also one of Bruxy’s “podrishioners” as well.

I wish both of them well in proclaiming this aspect of Jesus’ teachings that is relatively absent from our churches; it’s gotta feel like swimming upstream sometimes.

…For my local readers, after leaving TMH, we drove across almost the entire stretch of Dundas Street, cutting through a variety of ethnic neighborhoods in Toronto, considered one of the world’s most diverse cities.   We ended up at Gerrard and Coxwell in an area specializing in Indian and Pakistani food, making somewhat random choices from a menu we didn’t fully comprehend and enjoying it all not knowing exactly what it all was.

Starting on Friday (5/21) you can catch a one-hour radio interview with Boyd and Cavey broadcast on Saturday (5/15)  on the Drew Marshall Show.

March 24, 2010

First Spring Wednesday Links

While New Mexico and Arizona had snow this winter, we here in Southern Ontario, Canada have hardly seen a flake of it.   But snow in May is not unheard of, especially out on the Canadian prairies.   Here’s the past seven days online as I saw it:

  • If you haven’t seen it already, Peter Hitchens, brother of noted atheist Christopher Hitchens details his conversion in this Daily Mail (UK) article
  • Kent Shaffer has once again dusted off his calculator and slide rule and using a mathematical formula known only to NASA, brings a list of the Top 100 Christian Blogs plus 30 bonus blogs.   (I’m pretty sure the one you’re reading now was # 131.)
  • Speaking of charts and lists, the blog Floating Sheep offers a map showing the dominance of different forms of Christianity around the world, although, maybe it’s just me, but the North American map and the world map seem somewhat conflicted.  See for yourself.
  • Because I don’t watch the animated TV show, King of the Hill, I had never seen this incredibly accurate, must-see bit from two years back where Hank Hill and family decide it’s time for choosing a new church.
  • On a more serious look at the same subject, J.D. Greear — whose goal is to plant 1,000 churches in 40 years (it’s true) — discusses the thorny topic, “On What Grounds Should You Move to Another Church?”  He sees this as finding a balance between two truths.
  • The graphic at the right is apparently page eight of a coloring book, Jesus and the Dinosaurs as posted online by David Kirk at the blog Frogtown.  Love the line, “He probably did.”
  • We talk a lot about the “un-churched,” but Skye Jethani asks the musical question, “Who are the de-churched?” in Part one of a two-part post at Out of Ur.
  • John Stackhouse discusses what happens when pastors — or any of us for that matter — get asked to offer a prayer at an academic, civic or sports gathering, and comes up with an answer you might not expect.
  • Jim Lehmer adds up all things he’s looking for in an ideal church, and finds them in a completely different kind of place.
  • Ever wonder what kind of books pastors are reading?  Greg Boyd — who may not be 100% representative! — shares his list and they’re not titles most of us are familiar with.
  • C.S. Lewis may no longer be with us, but he seems most contemporary when he discusses the where our focus should be in worship.
  • Internal links:  If you missed the two-part series on the weekend, my wife Ruth grieves the loss of our church (again) on Friday, while I look at the issues of who gets to serve — and who decides — on Saturday.
  • The website Fast Company summarizes the implications of Google’s pullout from China, including how it might affect a similar situation in Australia.
  • From The Online Discernmentalist Mafia site; first there was Build-a-Bear, and now…



And before I started this blog, I remember happening on the Prayer Pups. After a two year run, there haven’t been any new strips posted since August, but the archives are worth visiting.


March 3, 2010

B(link) and You’ll Miss It

Don’t miss this week’s links or else!

  • The blog Man of Depravity considers why websites like Church Rater are a bad idea;  and then, the next day, considers why they might be a good great idea.
  • Catholic seminarian Mike G. provides our “classic art meets modern convenience” photo images at right, from his blog The Night Is Passing.
  • It was actually a good week for discovering Catholic bloggers.  That’s where I discovered Nick Alexander aka the Catholic Weird Al Yankovic.  This YouTube video explains the traditions of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  (Also recommended for fans of The Police!) [HT: The Ironic Catholic]
  • Blog of the Week:  You think you know a thing or two about Bibles don’t you?   But forget translation for a minute; what about types of leather, binding, gilding, fonts, features, etc?   That’s where you need to know someone like J. Mark Bertrand at the Bible Design Blog. [HT: Christian Book Shop Talk]
  • Pastor Ed Young raps his way through an admonition to pastors to be themselves in a video simply called UBU.  [HT: Wil Mancini]
  • New word of the week: “Acedia.”   If you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, you may be in the company of early church saints, therefore Catholic author Kathleen Norris wants you to know this word.
  • David Housholder explains why you’ve never met any missional Lutherans, or read any Lutheran prophecy books for that matter, at this lengthy but extremely interesting and well-written post at his Journal blog.  Seriously, don’t miss this one.
  • Ruth Wilkinson (who may or may not be related to me) now has a new relationship to crucifixes.
  • Book Review:  Jamie Arpin-Ricci looks at The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray (Herald Press) (forward by Greg Boyd) in this excellent summary.
  • Storytime:  Mark Sayers walks us through The Parable of the Lotus, The Impossiblly Handsome Man and The Church.   A must read for pastors and leaders especially.
  • Here are some pictures of the damage in Chili from the weekend earthquake at Boston.Com’s The Big Picture.
  • Internal Link:  I really thought Friday’s piece on Peter Rollins’ interpretation of The Prodigal Son story would have evoked a comment or two.   When did the younger son actually repent?
  • A USAToday article about sex on television warns that things are scheduled to get worse.  [HT: Brett Hendrix at Changing Lanes]
  • For the third week in a row we return to Baptist Press for our cartoon, this one is Doug Michael at Beyond The Ark.

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