Thinking Out Loud

April 19, 2018

Thursday Link List

Welcome to the what is only the 9th one of these in the history of Thinking Out Loud. I saw so many things on Wednesday night that I wished could have seen a day earlier.

  • At Relevant magazine, this headline: “Wheaton Is Going to Offer a Scholarship Named for Larycia Hawkins, the Professor Who Said Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God.” Wait, what? The professor they dismissed? Who supposedly said that “said Christians and Muslims worship the same God”? There’s more: “Wheaton officials said they made an ‘error in judgment’ in the way the original incident was treated and a task force said it “could not decisively say whether or not Hawkins’ theological views aligned with the school’s doctrinal statement of faith,” according to Christian Post.'” The Wheaton Record reports that “the scholarship of up to $1,000 will allow one or more student(s) to pursue a summer internship or project related to ‘the themes of the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) Certificate.'” That article notes that “Hawkins currently researches the intersection of race, politics and religion as a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.”
  • What is a church? Another interesting headline, at Right Wing Watch: “Here’s How Focus On The Family Convinced The IRS To Call It A Church.” Background: “Focus on the Family, the influential Religious Right organization founded by James Dobson, is now classified as a church by the IRS, meaning that it does not have to file publicly available tax documents like most nonprofits do. In response to our request, the IRS sent us copies of its correspondence with Focus about the change in its status.” A mockery of U.S. tax laws? This is the amazing part:

    In the letter, the attorneys claimed that Focus’ 600 employees are both its “ministers” and the members of its “congregation” and that the organization’s “chapelteria”—a cafeteria that also hosts regular staff worship services—is its “place of worship.” The organization’s board of directors are its “elders.” It’s president, Jim Daly, is its “head deacon and elder.” Listeners to the organization’s radio programs are “an extension of its congregation.”

  • I realize the timing on this, given other events currently in making religious news headlines, but was compelled to share this tribute John Mark Comer posted to his mentor, John Ortberg which shows the value of younger pastors being tutored (or if you prefer, apprenticing) in the faith with veteran pastors.

    For the last year or so, Dave Lomas and I have been spending time with John Ortberg, a pastor and writer near where I grew up in the Bay Area. I can’t remember the last time I was this moved by a person’s life. Starstruck isn’t the word; it’s not celebrityism. He’s just genuinely one of the most intelligent, wise, humble, present, down to earth, grounded, peaceful and joyful people I’ve ever met. Mentored by Dallas Willard for twenty years, he regularly repeats “the most important thing that God gets out of your life (and you get out of your life) is the person you become.” To see the “fruit,” in Jesus’ language, of decades devoted to formation into the image of Jesus is beyond inspiring. As we left our morning together, the first thing I said to Dave was, “That’s what I want to be like when I grow up.” I ache for that level of transformation. I believe we all do, even if that desire is buried under the rubble of our distracted souls. Grateful to have an older and FAR wiser pastor to speak into my life and give me a bar of Christlikeness to aim for. Also: if you haven’t read John’s book “Soul Keeping,” go order it now.

  • You know him as The Church Curmudgeon but church musician David Regier is a serious composer/arranger. This was the second time in 24 hours that the term “metrical Psalms” came up in our house, so I did some investigating on YouTube after reading this:

    I spent a great deal of my life as a worship leader/songwriter mining the Psalms for: A. words of spiritual encouragement B. words of praise to God Because there are lots of verses that stand out in that regard, and lots of songs use them to turn our hearts to praise. As I have begun versifying and writing music from whole Psalms, the breadth and depth of their content has significantly changed what I considered possible in congregational worship. I’ve noticed that many of the things that we’re all setting our hair on fire about on Twitter these days are addressed in the Psalms. If we all were in the practice of singing Psalms as part of our corporate worship, we’d have some more common language with which to settle some of our differences. That’s why I’ve been versifying them. We’ve been singing one in church every week, and some people are starting to see how much is there. Not everybody. Some people probably think I’m being weird and have a hang up. They’re probably right. But I will say that we’re singing about aspects of the Christian life we’ve never sung about before. And that’s a good thing.

  • Finally, author and radio host Brant Hansen is selling his Tardis. It’s actually a sound proof booth, the image of which reminded me of the recording booth built in the business incubator featured in the new ABC comedy Alex, Inc.

Clarification: A story linked yesterday implied that employees at Disney Orlando would never be able to afford admission for their families. A reader told us that “Disney cast members do get a certain number of complimentary passes each year.”

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January 9, 2016

Can People of Other Faiths Be Worshiping the Same God?

Larycia Hawkins Press Conference

Yesterday I ran a review of a kids video. I did it because I think the problem when facing current events is that bloggers feel the need to rush-to-publish and sometimes there is some wisdom in waiting an extra 24 or 48 hours. Sometimes it’s better not to weigh in at all.

I’m referring to the case of Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor at Wheaton College who was dismissed after demonstrating solidarity with her Muslim friends and especially for expressing the idea that we worship the same God.

In two short weeks she has raised a number of issues, and my personal take is that just as I waited a day or two to respond, I think that Wheaton College should have considered a more measured approach. While their action may appease conservative Evangelicals — many of whom form much of their donor base — I keep thinking this may come back to haunt them. As I did here, I wish they had not felt the rush-to-publish need to create the most drastic of all possible outcomes.

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The knee-jerk reaction is to say, ‘Of course not.’ But an historical perspective yields different responses. Google the phrases “Three Faiths, One God” or “One God, Three Faiths” and you start to see the complexity of the issue.

But I want to ask a different question.

Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?

Again, the hard-line response of many is to say, ‘Of course not;’ after all, the God we worship is the God revealed in Jesus Christ, He who co-created the world with the Father, and sits at the Father’s right hand, and said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (And he really said cometh, according to my KJO friends.)

But the God we serve and sing to at weekend services is the same “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” I really believe you have to answer this two-step question before trying to answer the three-step question that includes Islam.

I can hear some saying, ‘Well, that’s different, it doesn’t apply here.’ But again, there are three (major) Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. There is some commonality.

And may I say, echoing Paul’s approach at Mars Hill, we certainly all seek the same God.

I wish Larycia Hawkins the best. She has left her mark on the ongoing, contemporary theological conversation.

 

 

 

 

July 22, 2013

Fresh Insights into Jesus’ Encounters

Encounters With JesusThrough the Willow Creek “Midweek Experience” teaching videos, I’ve gotten to hear a number of messages by Wheaton College professor Gary M. Burge. So I was due to read one of his books, especially when I stumbled over a sale-priced copy of Encounters with Jesus: Uncover the Ancient Culture, Discover Hidden Meanings; published in 2010 by Zondervan. Clocking in at only 128 pages — and filled with pictures — finishing this book on Sunday afternoon was no major feat.

Before I continue, two observations. First, I’ve noticed a pattern developing lately in the people I’ve been watching/listening-to/reading online and all I can say is that if I were a high school student considering a Christian college, Wheaton College would be at the top of my list. Be sure to check into this school, okay?  (Oh, to be young again, and know what I know now about the direction my life is headed.) Second, I’ve noticed a pattern where despite my access to the latest review books, some of the best finds lately have been among the backlist titles picked up from a variety of odd sources, including scratch-and-dent titles, remainders and items on sale.

With Gary Burge’s voice audibly sounding in my head as I read the book — an advantage to having watched him teach on video — I thoroughly enjoyed his take on five specific encounters Jesus has with:

  1. The woman who was hemorrhaging
  2. Zacchaeus the tax collector
  3. The centurion with a slave who is ill
  4. The thirsty woman at the Samaritan well
  5. The Gentile woman with a sick daughter

…though I have to say that since the historian in me and the anthropologist in me are both entirely non-existent, I did not look at a single one of the color photographs. I was too engrossed in the text.

In the case of Zacchaeus, I once again found myself in the position of having to potentially un-learn something I had been taught from infancy in Sunday School. Surely anyone who has an encounter is immediately changed, right? Maybe not so much in this case. If the interpretation here is to be considered, then Zacchaeus doesn’t have so much of a before-and-after transformation; rather, Jesus is affirming the person who Zacchaeus has always been, and the “salvation” that has come to “this house” refers more to the saving of Zacchaeus’ reputation in the wider community.

I always thought that Zacchaeus’ speech is a pledge or promise of something he is about to do to make things right, however…

…This is not what Zacchaeus says. His comment to Jesus is in the present tense. “Look! I give half of my possessions, Lord to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone, I repay them fourfold.” Greek has what we call the “future use” of the present tense and interpreters sometimes apply it here. But this is not demanded. Generally these uses imply some immediacy or certainty…

…But many scholars refuse to use it here in Luke 19. We have no suggestion that Zacchaeus needs to repent, nor does the story imply any conversion on his part. He even refers to Jesus as “Lord,” a mark of high honor and discipleship in Luke. As Joel Green remarks, “On this reading Zacchaeus does not resolve to undertake new practices but presents for Jesus’ evaluation his current behaviors regarding money.”

This would be a great revelation to the electrified audience standing on the street in Jericho. Zacchaeus is not what everyone has assumed. He has been honest; he is collecting what is demanded without corruption and abuse, and he is generously giving away large portions of his wealth. The law required that if there was financial fraud, the original amount had to be returned plus 20 percent. (Lev. 6:5)  Here Zacchaeus practices fourfold reimbursement…

When word of this emerges outside, the crowd that thought it had seen one shocking scene for the day now witnesses another. Their notorious tax farmer, who has colluded with Romans, is a man of principle. Rumors of his corruption are evaporating like a mist… (pp. 67-68)

This approach is entirely new to me. And the above excerpt is just a small portion of the insights into this story.

Got you wanting more?


Other books in this series include: The Bible and the Land, Finding the Lost Images of the Desert, Jesus and the Jewish Festivals, Jesus the Middle Eastern Storyteller, and Finding the Lost Images of God. If anyone at Zondervan is reading this, you have my address, right?

February 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Bart Simpson - Love Wins

Link and the world links with you…  The cartoon? See item 4 below:

For Heaven's Sake - Feb 4 2013

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