Thinking Out Loud

January 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Bible is like a software license
A lot of people are critical of short-term missions, but right now, a plane ticket to somewhere warm would look really appealing. In the meantime, here are some links to keep you warm, clicking anything that follows will take you to PARSE at Christianity Today and then you can click through from there.

We leave you today with “the thrill that’ll gitcha when ya get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.”  In this case, Pope Francis in the current issue; click the image to read the story.

Pope Francis Rolling Stone Cover

Paul Wilkinson is based in Canada — “You liked the first Polar Vortex so much we’re sending you another one” — and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and Christian Book Shop Talk

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.”

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.

November 28, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Some extra graphics this week for your Facebook page or tumblr blog.

  • UPDATE from yesterday’s post here concerning Two-and-a-Half Men actor Angus T. Jones: Journalist Maria Cowell has asked all the right questions in this interview posted at Christianity Today.
  • Christmas songs: How soon should they start and how many should you do? For worship leaders, Jason Hatley offers a programmatic approach to building Christmas music content. (Mainline churches don’t have this problem as tradition pretty well dictates content.)
  • Or you could do this song. (Nobody would ever forget it.)
  • Which reminds me, our 2010 post, Should Audiences Stand for the Hallelujah Chorus still gets a lot of readers and the odd comment. (But you should probably stand for And Can It Be and All Hail The Power, too.)
  • Lots of music-related stuff this week, like Rich Kirkpatrick’s list of questions about worship ministry that weekend service attenders might like answered. (Some of which I hadn’t thought of before.)
  • Of course you can’t please everyone with church music; here’s a classic Perry Noble response from 2007 — five years ago — about loud music in the church.  (He’s running a top ten list from each of the last seven years of blogging.)
  • Or you might prefer Perry’s 2006 post on seven reasons why Jesus wouldn’t qualify as a pastor in most of our churches. (He’d certainly be under review by now.)
  • Mark O. offers some great advice for the parents and youth leaders of middle-school teens on how they see themselves.  (It actually does involve using a mirror.)
  • I’m not sure why I made this a ‘page’ and not a ‘post’ — probably the extreme length of it — but we still get lots of hits on The Eight Things That Destroyed Our Marriage, culled from eight different blog posts by Justin and Trisha Davis. (I think Justin turns up occasionally on Pete Wilson’s Sunday service online feed.)
  • Sometimes the things that turn up in a week of faith-based web-surfing are just bizarre, like this April-released movie, Seventh Gay Adventists. (I think it’s more about gay than the SDA church.)
  • Greg Boyd — a major proponent of what’s called ‘open theology’ — defines the phrase in terms of ‘unrealized possibilities’ in this four minute video.  (But does God know if you’re going to click on this link or not?)
  • Here’s another review of a 2009 book that is proving to be the sleeper title of 2012: The Lost World of Genesis One. (Note to friends and family: Since you can’t get review copies of 3-year-old books, this one is at the top of my Christmas list.)
  • A word of the week for preachers and public speakers: Fermata.  (Hint: It’s a music term.) (HT: Darryl Dash‘s Saturday Link List for pastors.)
  • Ken Ham responds to a website written for teens who need encouragement in living as atheists, including a section on how they can ‘come out’ to their parents. (He encourages parents to have a counter-response.)
  • There’s an app for The War Cry, the Salvation Army magazine that traces its history back to 1879 enters the digital age. (Canadian readers: Ours is a different edition; not sure if it’s online.)
  • Are there people at your church you try to avoid? Just asking. (Maybe I’m the guy everybody else is avoiding.)

I love this well-marked Bible; it’s my current desktop theme.

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.

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