Saturday, September 30, 2006

[LIF] Where'd Joe go?

Wow that is bizarre. I have been part of an interesting conversation over at Way of the Pastor (not sure where to link anymore) when all of a sudden I am cut out of the conversation? It was hardly a heavy conversation, so I'm left scratching my head as to what I did. I know Joe and I have ideological differences - he is way more conservative than I could ever hope to be. But hey, that is what I liked about the conversation. It stretched me, made me really think through my positions.

Joe. I was willing to overlook the way you would sometimes decide to play referee and try to halt the threads. The web is a wild thing Joe, it is not as easily tamed as some would like. But is that really so bad? If we never dialogue through things then we never really get to the answers that might be helpful. Maybe you found it offensive that I tried to steer the conversation to matters that actually matter, namely where this stuff intersects with our own lives. If that's the case then you probably did me a favour. I'm sure there were not that many others listening in on that conversation anyway, and I won't miss having to log onto Myspace to catch up. But I wish it could have at least ended in a better way then you taking your ball and bat and going home. Joe this post is for you, I hope you respond. Maybe we can just move the conversation over to my place for a while... what do you say?

Friday, September 29, 2006

[THO] The Disappearance of the Christian Prophet From The Early Church

What follows is a paper I wrote in my first year studying Theology. Because of some material I am engaging with this semester I wanted to have this on hand for easy reference, I thought some of you post-pentecostals might enjoy it. Bibliography on request. (Prepared for Prof.Kevin Coyle, April 3, 2000)


The office of the prophet has seen a considerable resurgence in the last century especially within the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Many contemporary Christian authors have attempted to provide guidelines for those pursuing the office of prophet.1 In light of such developments, it is interesting and worthwhile to develop an understanding of the history of the Christian prophet as a phenomenon and to explore the reasons that the prophet, as an office, disappeared from the early church within the first few centuries.

Prophets held a place of deep respect for the Jewish people. Since the days of Noah prophets functioned as the voice of God to the people, revealing to them the will of God and serving as teachers of religion.2 True to the its Jewish roots, the apostolic church also embraced the prophetic office as the voice of God to the church. The Christian prophet fit nicely into the Greco-Roman cultural worldview, which included the oracle as a legitimate profession.3 The Greco-Roman oracle was similar to the Judaic prophet in that they were both channels for their respective gods. Both the Jewish roots of the Christians and the existence of oracles made the inclusion of prophets in the makeup of the early church an expected and natural development.

The prophet represents the “contemporary voice of God to his [or her] generation.”4 The Old Testament shows prophets fulfilling many functions in relationship to presenting this contemporary voice. Old Testament prophets confronted sin such as Nathan confronted David after David had grossly abused his kingly authority by stealing another man’s wife.5 These prophets predicted the future of Israel (usually as a warning) as Isaiah predicted the God’s judgement on King Hezekiah.6 They declared the power and presence of God as Elijah did when he called down the fire of God to consume the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.7 And the Old Testament prophets taught Israel to remember the promises of their God.8 The long history and proven impact of the prophet with the Jewish people is reflected in the early church through their continuation of this office.

From its inception, the Christian church embraced the office of the prophet. Jesus himself is understood as a prophet.9 The prophetic ministry of Jesus included the same features the Old Testament prophets displayed. He confronted the sin of the people even overturning the tables of the corrupt moneychangers in the temple10, predicted the destruction of the temple as well as his own death11, displayed the power and presence of God12, and continually taught the people to remember the promises of God. The fact that these events were recorded in the gospels shows that the stage was set for the continuance of the prophetic office in the church.

It is the church’s union with Christ that solidifies the place of the prophetic office in the early church.13 The church does not question the actions of such prophets as Agabus, Judas and Silas, but accepts their actions as a normal aspect of the Christian community. It was not an unusual event for a known Christian prophet such as Agabus to stand up and predict a famine, or bind the apostle Paul’s wrists as a prediction of the treatment Paul would face at the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem. 14 The prophet was also expected to teach in the church as did Judas and Silas in Antioch.15 Unfortunately, the accounts of the normal activities of the prophets in the apostolic church are few; one can infer from this that the role did not cause a major problem in the developing church, otherwise the office would have commanded more of the literature. It is not until the church begins to seriously look at its own structure that the role of prophet comes into question.

Simply prophesying does not make one a Christian prophet. The prophetic gifts are seen in the New Testament accompanying the impartation of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the elders.16 The encouragement in first Corinthians that all believers should desire to prophesy does not indicate that Paul desired a church where everyone held the office of prophet, but rather that he believed that this gift was available to the common disciple.17 The office of prophet was reserved for “a select number of ‘leading men’ (cf. Acts 15.22) who exercise considerable influence in the Christian community.”18 To be a Christian prophet in the apostolic church meant that one not only possessed and exercised the gift of prophecy, but also held office in the church to teach and preach.19 The Christian prophet fulfilled the same role as the Jewish prophet had fulfilled for the Israelites.20

The prophet as an office within the early church had a very short life. Even towards the end of the apostolic period the Pauline pastoral epistles hint at a movement towards a new tripartite church governmental structure consisting of bishop, deacon and elder.21 These new roles eventually absorb all of the duties of the roles listed in Ephesians: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.22 Exactly how long the office of prophet remained is hard to determine because the focus of the early writings, including canon, was more concerned with the evolution of this new governmental structure than the established offices springing from the church’s Judaic roots. Moreover, the references to prophets that we do find in the early literature predominantly refer to either Christ as the Prophet or the Old Testament prophets; the Christian prophet, it seems, quietly disappeared from the scene.23

The reasons for this gradual disappearance of the office of the prophet are various and complex. The church began at a time when any government operating from a central point of administration proved to be a considerable challenge, especially for an organization of questionable status with the Roman Empire.24 This presented problems for the administering of such mobile ministries as the apostles, prophets and evangelists. It is no wonder that the church gravitated towards the stationary, local church roles of bishop, deacon and elder. As well, the influence of the extremes exhibited by pagan prophets and oracles, coupled with the Jewish idea that a prophet was beyond question, created a concern that heretical prophets would do much damage to the church in general.25 These factors created a climate in which the church, in seeking to address these issues, began a process of systematically dismantling the office of the prophet.

Although the Roman Empire had well established trade routes, methods of travel were slow. Because letters needed to be entrusted to travelers, correspondence could take months to travel between cities.26 This made it extremely difficult to provide an effective central administration for the newly developing Christian church. No express methods of communication were available to maintain accountability between the mobile ministers (apostles, prophets and evangelists) and the church as a whole. This was especially problematic with the office of prophet because of the prophets’ reliance on the Spirit rather than the teaching of the church.

The church initially begins in Jerusalem with a “group of Judaic Christian elders” and practically no official structure apart from this.27 By examining the Pauline epistles in chronological order, one can see a response to the growing awareness of this problem.28 The initial letters to the Thessalonians show simply a call of order in the church with no real governmental vision. The next groups of Pauline epistles (Galatians, Romans and the Corinthian epistles) preach that the Christian should maintain an overall sense of responsibility to the Christian community. This involves using one’s giftedness to serve the church. The attempt in first Corinthians to provide a list of offices in the church is still loose containing what seem to be both offices and gifts.29 It is difficult to imagine an office of helps or varieties of tongues in the church. Finally, in Ephesians we find the first pure office list.30 This list is a refinement of the previous Pauline attempts. Once we get to the pastoral epistles we see hints of a completely new governmental structure emerging with bishops, deacons and elders.31

As the church moved out from Jerusalem, it began to loose its Jewish character and look for a more effective way to govern itself. This is further augmented by the fact that the church begins to spread, through proselytization, to the gentiles. In Comby’s words “the Christian faith was no longer tied to Judaism.”32 The church needed stronger local leadership than a council of elders in Jerusalem could provide. Much of Paul’s struggles with the church in Jerusalem consisted of confronting the Judaizers who were resisting this evolution and trying to maintain the original Jewish structure in the church.33

Despite these efforts to organize the church, the fact that the apostles and prophets were free to roam wherever they pleased created a problem. The issue was not so much with prophetic groups, but with individuals claiming a prophetic office. There was nothing to stop anyone from claiming prophetic inspiration and deceiving the Christians. Ash tells us that in the writings of Lucian of Samosata, a second century Greek writer, such a situation is described. Peregrinus profited from “the gullibility of some Christian communities.”34 He became prophet and leader to many within a short period of time, which is reflective of both the spiritual hunger and the inherent trust the early Christians expressed for the prophets.35 Fortunately the Christians did eventually wise up to Peregrinus’ scheme and abandoned him.

The Jewish tradition of respecting the prophets and the Greco-Roman acceptance of ecstatic oracles contributed to the idea that the prophets, because they are divinely inspired, are beyond testing.36 The Didache gives direct voice to this fear in saying that you “shall not attempt or dispute with any prophet who speaketh in the spirit; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven.”37 The inference is that to speak against a genuine prophet was to speak against, and therefore blaspheme, the Holy Spirit. Jesus claimed that the only unforgivable sin was the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; the Didache presented an interpretation of this scripture.38 When individuals can claim such power and authority in the community, the community is in danger of those who, like Peregrinus, abuse this power and authority.

The danger of prophets introducing heresy was one that Paul recognized. First Corinthians introduces the idea that prophets should judge the prophecies of other prophets.39 First John, which was written late in the first century, warns that many false prophets have gone into the world and gives us the mandate to “test” the spirit of the prophet.40 The Didache, which represented the teaching of the twelve Apostles, attempted to address this problem by establishing rules for judging the prophets rather than the Pauline mandate to judge the prophecy.41 The Didache states that “by their disposition they therefore shall be known, the false prophet and the prophet.” 42 It is clear that the test of a prophet now included judging the fruit of the prophet’s actions and words. This reveals the obvious gravity felt by the church experiencing visitations from prophets and apostles.

The appeal of the gospel to the common person was a major proponent in the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. The church was not overly discriminate with regards to its adherents’ social standing.43 Christianity considered everyone to be equal before God and therefore opened wide its arms to any who would come; this drew the members of society who were less fortunate such as the poor, slaves, women and children.44 Many of these people would not have been well educated; therefore, they would have been less likely aware of what to expect from their Christian teachers. This would be especially true of the Christians in rural areas whom the urbanites considered uncivilized.45 The rural areas were primarily populated with farmers to whom education would have been a rare luxury. The leadership of the evolving church would have been aware of this situation. The rumors already surrounding Christianity in the urban centers continually brought the threat of persecution to the fore of their minds, the last thing they needed was more controversy.46

As more and more gentiles became Christian, they brought with them a whole array of new worldviews. The fact that Christianity could identify with the mystery cults created an appeal amongst those people who were looking for a new spiritual experience. The mystery cults offered religious experiences often including a personal encounter with a deity; a personal encounter with Christ was also fundamental to Christianity.47 The mystery religions also brought an openness to mystical experiences to which the ecstatic prophet conformed.

History has left us the Montanist crisis to help us better understand how the early church responded to the ecstatic Christian prophet. The Montanist sect, claiming to be Christian, was accused of practicing wild and uncontrolled prophecy, an extreme form of the ecstatic prophecy known to the Christians.48 This Montanist prophecy form is described as being like the prophecies of the pagan oracles.49 Also, the rural nature of this sect drew the suspicion of the developing urban church. The Montanist sect experienced conflict with the steadily developing urban Christianity despite the sect’s best efforts in appealing to Rome to become a recognized part of the developing Christian religion.50

Montanus, who initiated this sect, lived in the village of Ardabau, Phrygia, where there was considerable occult influence from the pagan religions.51 It is not surprising that the Montanist sect would adopt, or at least be accused of adopting, a rather extreme form of ecstatic prophesying as the local pagan worship of Cybele included “ecstatic visions, wild frenzy, and fearful self-mutilations.”52 Stewart-Sykes offers an alternative possible influence, that of the cult of Apollo; but, in either case the feared influence was the pagan forms of prophesying.53 This cultural understanding was compounded by the fact that Montanism was a rural form of Christianity which the urban Christians saw as being tainted with paganism, especially in the Montanist understanding of the prophet.54 The movement’s founders, Montanus and two women Priscilla and Maximilla, all claimed special revelation from the Holy Spirit and took up a prophetic office.55 The Montanist sect was serious enough about the office of prophet that successive leaders were sometimes handed prophetic mantles from the founders.56 The prophetic mantle refers to Elijah’s passing of his office to Elisha in second Kings.57 However, as the Montanist sect grew institutional, we see that they themselves end their days without prophets.58

Reading the anti-Montanist statements in Eusebius, one can sense the alarm with which this sect is viewed. But, in the midst of the criticisms, there are valuable lessons to be learned. The emphasis on the fruit of the prophet is one that every generation of Christians should take to heart.59 It is reminiscent of the law concerning the messages of false prophets.60 The early church would have felt the distrust more acutely because of its relative newness, difficulties in administering remote incidents, proximity to cultural acceptance and trust for prophetic voices.

How the church responded to the Montanists in a sense reveals how they dealt with their own prophets. The Montanists evoked an attitude of distrust from the institution of the church towards the prophets. As well the growing emphasis on the developing nature of the urban church left little room for travelling ministries such as the prophet. Graham Cooke, a contemporary Christian Prophet, gives his opinion that “prophecy usually goes into decline when church leaders usurp their authority and try to control what is said and done in the body of Christ.”61 This statement may be a bit strong but the room for the Christian prophet to operate in the church was continually shrinking. This would also account for the decline of apostles in the church.

The early church initially needed the prophets and apostles to help spread the gospel. Even after dismantling the office of the prophet the church held that the role was critical to the ongoing development of the Christian church. The assertion that “the prophetic gift must continue in the whole Church until the final coming” echoes the epistle to Ephesus.62 The movement from an initially Judaic church government to a tripartite structure gave the church considerable local power to address such roles in the church. The Didache shows the continuance in changing attitudes towards both apostles and prophets. The Didache represents the last real instruction on the issue of prophets. The reason for this is that the end of the prophet as an office had been determined, and as we shall see, it was the solidification of the role of bishop as the only voice in the church that brought the extinction about.63

The bishop, in absorbing the prophetic role, brings greater control to the governance of the church. Eventually the bishop becomes the only official voice within the church. As Ash explains “once Ignatius’ [Bishop of Antioch] oracle ‘do nothing without the bishop’ became accepted, the prophet’s essential authority and freedom was dealt a mortal blow.”64 The prophetic gift is then rendered “a harmless and sometimes forgotten tool” for the church.65 As the bishop became the clear authority in the church the authority of all other roles were removed. All we are left with is the bishop as the “‘prophetic’ man” and the only official voice in the church.66

The office of prophet is also redefined by the early literature to refer only to the Old Testament prophets of the person of Jesus Christ.67 By associating the prophet with a bygone era, the questions of where the prophet had disappeared from the church were skirted. The prophet literally became a person of the past, leaving the bishop to govern the church of the day.

The disappearance of the prophetic office from the structure of the church remedied the problems of potential heretical influence and the need to develop strong local government. The growing church felt it could get along better without the encumbrance of the prophetic office. The church began to shake off its Judaic heritage and give itself more fully over to the emerging governmental structure. Hence the stage was set for the complete dismantling of this role in the early church. The challenge for us today is to understand the problems that the early church sought to solve by dismantling the prophetic office, and to determine if the church would be best served by reinstating the Christian prophet in our midst today.


  1. A partial list of recent authors on the topic of the prophetic within the contemporary church includes Mike Bickle, Graham Cooke, David Pytches and John & Paula Sandford. I have included bibliographic information in the bibliography.
  2. Israel Mattuck, The Thought of the Prophets (London: George Allen and Unwin ltd., 1953), 22.
  3. James Ash, “The Decline of Ecstatic Prophecy in the Early Church,” Theological Studies 37 (March 1976), 228.
  4. “Prophet”, The Revell Bible Dictionary, ed. by Lawrence O. Richards, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1990), 825.
  5. 2 Samuel 12:1-15
  6. 2 Kings 20:16-18
  7. 1 Kings 17:20-40
  8. An example would be the major and minor prophetic scriptures.
  9. Graham Cooke, Developing Your Prophetic Gifting, (England: Sovereign Word, 1994), 21.
  10. For example Matthew 21:12
  11. For example Matthew 24:1-2, Matthew 20:17-19
  12. For example Matthew 12:15
  13. Charles Grierson, “Prophet”, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, eds. James Hastings, et. al. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909), II, 441.
  14. Acts 11:27-29, Acts 21:10-11
  15. Acts 15:32
  16. Acts 19:6, 1 Timothy 14:4
  17. 1 Corinthians 14:1-5
  18. E. Earle Ellis, “The Role of the Christian Prophet in Acts” in Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1978), 139.
  19. Ellis, “Prophet in Acts,” 130-1.
  20. David Smith, The Life and Letters of St. Paul (New York: Harper & Row, 1920), 72.
  21. All three members of the tripartite ministry are present 1 Timothy 3:1, 3:8, and 5:17.
  22. Ephesians 4:11
  23. Ash, “Decline,” 244-5.
  24. Jean Comby, How to Read Church History, (London: SCM Press, vol.1, 1985), 20.
  25. Ash, “Decline,” 239.
  26. Comby, History, 20.
  27. Robert Payne, The Making of the Christian World, (New York: Dorset Press, 1966), 76.
  28. The chronology of the Pauline epistles was determined from the following sources which are included in the bibliography: David Smith The Life and Letters of St. Paul, The Interpreter’s Bible, and the Spirit Filled Life Bible study notes.
  29. 1 Corinthians 12:28
  30. Ephesians 4:11
  31. 1 Timothy 3:1, 3:8, 5:17
  32. Comby, History, 13.
  33. Albert Henry Newman, A Manual of Church History (Philadelphia: The American Baptist Publication Society, vol. 1, 1904) 94-5.
  34. Ash, “Decline,” 233.
  35. Lucian, “The Death of Peregrinus” in A Treasury of Early Christianity (New York: Mentor Books, 1960), 217-8.
  36. Jonathan Draper, “Social Ambiguity and the Production of Text: Prophets, Teachers, Bishops, and Deacons and the Development of the Jesus Tradition in the Community of the Didache” in The Didache in Context (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995), 296.
  37. Hoole, Didache, 82.
  38. Matthew 12:31
  39. 1 Corinthians 14:29-31
  40. 1 John 4:1
  41. Ash, “Decline,” 233.
  42. Charles Hoole, trans., The Didache (London: David Nutt, 1894) 82.
  43. Comby, History, 28.
  44. Comby, History, 28.
  45. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, “The Original Condemnation of Asian Montanism,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 50 (January 1999), 11.
  46. Comby, History, 30.
  47. Comby, History, 24.
  48. Stewart-Sykes, “Asian Montanism,” 9.
  49. Stewart-Sykes, “Asian Montanism,” 10.
  50. Newman, Manual, 204.
  51. Eusebius, The History of the Church, trans. by G. A. Williamson, (New York: Dorset Press, 1984), 218.
  52. Newman, Manual, 204.
  53. Stewart-Sykes, “Asian Montanism,” 10.
  54. Stewart-Sykes, “Asian Montanism,” 2.
  55. Eusebius, History, 217.
  56. William Tabbernee, “Montanist Regional Bishops: New Evidence from Ancient Inscriptions,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 1 (Fall 1993), 249.
  57. 2 Kings 2:14
  58. Ash, “Decline,” 242.
  59. Eusebius, History, 224-5.
  60. Deuteronomy 13:1-9
  61. Cooke, Gifting, 21.
  62. Eusebius, History, 222 see also Ephesians 4:11-3.
  63. Ash, “Decline”, 228.
  64. Ash, “Decline,” 235.
  65. Ash, “Decline,” 236.
  66. Ash, “Decline,” 235.
  67. Ash, “Decline,” 248.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

[LIF] More Books

OK so the last of the books for this semester arrived in the mail today! I found a great deal at on Christianity & Ecology! This monster has come up in a few courses for me already and I'm sure I've got photocopies of half of it somewhere... but now I have the book. It has some really good articles in there, Berry, Eaton, Ruether, Johnson, etc.

I also ordered Kate Turabian's Style Guide. This semester some of my profs are suggesting we use that instead of the faculty style sheet. Saves me running to the library every time I come up with a new situation to try and footnote!

I picked up Fuellenbach's Church: Community for the Kingdom which is surprisingly good. I only read the prerequisite chapter but it left me wanting more. He is a bit overly technical in his format, could relax a bit there John and make it an easier read. But I'm definitely a Kingdom man so I really appreciated his exploration of the dangers of identifying the Church as the Kingdom of God.

My Aunt Sharon is coming over tonight, she's a Lutheran minister and is going to send me some of her book from seminary up! Wahoo! I am thinking of exploring Luther's concept of grace for one of my courses so she might just save me some big bucks!

[THO] Eastern Rose Coloured Glasses

I am surprised, no slightly shocked, how Eastern Christianity seems to have a warm and fuzzy attitude towards things that should be shocking. This has to be a byproduct of their epistomological starting points. There seems to be a basic assumption that old is better which I find troubling, to say the least. A lot of movements begin with an incredible romanticism for the past, "we are building the pure New Testament church!" But these romantic notions do give way to reality as the movement grows up. But it is exactly this that I find in the Eastern Church. Don't get me wrong, I love some aspects of the Eastern Church, especially their sense of mystery. But to affirm the heirarchy as some from of godly community betrays its entrenchment by Ignatius as a reaction to the problem of church governance. Worse, Eastern writers like Bouteneff (Sweeter than Honey) even want to compare the Trinity to the Hierarchy - wasn't Sabellianism condemned by their own councils? But I can get over mistakes in structure and thoelogy - it is how the language to describe these aspects is filled with glowing wonder that bugs me? But maybe I just don't get it. I'm sure Bouteneff doesn't speak for all Eastern Christians. And I must say that I appreciate that they hold the Patristic tensions intact, they live with the tension of a complicated dialogue which is admirable. But you would think they would carry that same spirit on and bring something fresh to the ongoing conversation of theology. For better or worse the early church fathers were not afraid to engage with their contemporary culture and philosophy. Even though there is much I disagree with in their writings I don't think they would be happy with the fundamentalist posturing of the Eastern Church. But perhaps the lesson they took from the confusion of the past is that it is safer to "have all the answers". How many protestant movements are guilty of the same mode of fear? Maybe we aren't as far apart as it first seems? Maybe this is why it so truly bothers me.

God save me from my own pride of knowledge. God forgive me for thinking I have such a firm handle on truth. Lord come and show Yourself strong, break the back of all arrogance in your Church. Lord, we all need you. Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2006

[THO] Worship VI

It is important to understand the parts of worship as well as how these various parts interact with each other. If we understand what is going on in the part of the liturgy (service) then we can better know where we can improve the liturgy.

The whole of the service is called a liturgy. The liturgy literally means the work of the people. It is interesting that a secular term was employed by the early church to define what it was they did when they came together to corporately worship God. We sometimes think of work as a bad thing, or at least an exhausting activity. But work in this sense indicates that it is something we all come and participate in. It is something we do together as a community. And it is something that accomplishes. The liturgy then is not meant to be a task we come and experience once a week. But it is something we come together to be a part of doing that builds us as the people of God. Worship must have goals.

This might seem odd to some of us, we love worship and the idea of worship as being utilitarian seems just a bit perverse. I think we need to hold the creative tension of worship, but it does do something. In fact if we can't see worship as being intentionally oriented towards accomplishing certain goals then we will not know how to judge if our worship is growing more worshipful. These are not arbitrary goals, they have to do with the whole idea of liturgy.

Work of the People
Worship creates a people. Worship has the goal of creating community. It points a gathered body of people in the same direction. It shapes the community as one that comes together before God to be God's Church (ecclesia). Far from a mundane task, worship is about togetherness. When worship becomes all about the self it loses much of its creative potential. There are many moments in worship that are intensely personal, but it is the shared aspect of these deeply personal experiences that makes us the people of God's presence. This is why we have people share their experiences in worship. There is much about the liturgy that is oriented specifically towards building this common shared experience.

But what is this work? It is the worship of God. Worship must also have a goal of actually worshipping our God. This is done through a variety of ways. We could spend a whole series just on what is worship. Worship is presenting ourselves to God. Worship is glorifying God. Worship is telling God's story faithfully. Worship is giving our time, energy and money. Worship is loving God. Worship is encounter with God. Worship is singing praise. Worship is resting in God's presence. Worship is all these things and more. Different communities will emphasize different aspects of worship, and they should. There are few wrong ways to worship God who is worthy of all worship and praise. The goal here is not to cover all the bases, but to know that at the end of the liturgy God was worshipped.

I think the temptation is to make it more complicated than that. Surely there must be more goals then I've listed. Really I've only given you two goals: that it brings us together and that God is worshipped. We might want to add a goal of our own transformation, perhaps. But when we do we begin to shape what God wants to do with us as a people, and this is dangerous territory. Our prayer, as a people, is always "Your will be done."

Three Crescendo
The typical Vineyard service is not unlike other evangelical churches. We have what is known as a three crescendo service. Each crescendo, for us, is important and not subserviant to any other. Each crescendo is important in and of itself. There are a lot of liturgical forms, in fact we use quite a different form when we celebrate the Eucharist. But there is something profoundly powerful and the typical Vineyard liturgy.

Worship in Song
We begin with worship in song. For us that is all about singing. We sing intimate songs to God and sometimes lovely songs about God. There is often some interaction between those leading and those participating, but it is all about the singing in this section of the liturgy. There is something about this time that gathers us together and transports us before the very throne of God. And for this liturgical structure worship isn't about the teaching or the giving or anything else, it is simply a time for us to corporately express our love to God.

Teaching of the Word
The second cresendo for us usually occurs after a break. There are technical elements such as prayers, offerings, etc. that occur around this time, but those are often treated in a very peripheral way. The crescendo here is a message that is most often an exposition of scripture. My community is lectional, but that is not the case for the majority of Vineyards I've been to. But there is a strong value of the bible as our foundational text. This section of the liturgy orientes us towards common values and often draws us into a common story.

Ministry of Prayer
The final crescendo in a Vineyard service is a time of prayer. This is important to us as a community. It isn't like an evangelical altar call, often it has nothing to do with the actual teaching. But it is a time for us as a people to gather around each other and be the body of Christ. Of all the things we do in our services it is this crescendo that has touched people the deepest.

The Flow
Even though there is a seperation of these crescendos, there is also a flow that goes through them. We begin together, open before God and asking for God's visitation. From there we listen to God's word, letting it orient our hearts towards God's own heart. Finally we put this into practice, being the people of God who are so moved by His love for us that we reach out in love for each other. Like any good liturgy each part flows into the other so that we accomplish the goals of worship: being God's gathered people and worshipping God.

We could analyse other liturgical structures in a similar way. Knowing how each part functions helps us to understand how well these parts are functioning both independantly and corporately. Understanding that there is a flow that moves through our service of worship helps us to see if the parts are functioning as a whole. Understanding all this we can continue to develop our worship so that it gets better and better.

Next Worshipaholic!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

[LIF] Mini Meme - you complete me...

Byron tagged me to continue Rachel's Mini Meme. I am honoured actually. I find these things fascinating, really get you thinking. This one is interesting as it is all about art that touches you deeply. Here goes.

A Piece of Art that you Love

Like most artistic things, I love to wrap myself in a picture but I don't often keep track of who does what. So best I can do is describe the piece that moves me most. In our National Gallery there is a pop-art section that I really like, but the sculpture of the bag lady always gets me. Hey I found a picture but I still do not know who sculpted it. Enjoy.

A Line in a Song or Line of Poetry that Reaches Your Core

I used to write a lot of poetry. One of those things that my early Christianity kicked out of me, unfortunately. I have been trying to reawaken that side of my being, but it is hard to find time. Songs are easier to find a reference point in for me. For some reason everytime I hear Peter Gabriel's More Than This. I get goosebumps all over. It just resonates so deeply in me.
so much more than this
there is something else there
when all that you had has all gone
and more than this i stand
feeling so connected
and i'm all there
right next to you
Oh yeah, that's the stuff.

An Experience in Nature that was Really Special and/or Spiritual
I was driving back from Cambridge (Ontario) with my friend Kathryn. We had been at the Regional Leadership meetings for my denomination. Once we had gotten about an hour past Toronto the Aurora Borealis painted the night sky a brilliant purple. It was the most intense I'd ever seen it. We were treated to this amazing lightshow almost the whole way back to Ottawa. It was profound and seemed to usher us right into the presence of God.

A Movie that Changed the Way you Saw the World
I love movies! There are so many that have really impacted me. The most recent film that shook me up was Lord of War with Nicholas Cage. Also Final Cut with Robin Williams really made me think a lot about the idea of memory.

A Piece of Music that Makes You Cry
Drowning Man by U2 really gets me in this way. I find that there are a number of worship tunes that also can get me.

Who to tag: Kenny, Joe, Tim, Matte, and Danny.

Monday, September 18, 2006

[REV] The Hallelujah Revolution

My first instinct is to tuck this book back on the shelf and forget I ever read it. Not that it isn't good, it definitely wasn't a hard read. Well, not hard to read, it was hard in the sense that it was too close to home for this Charismatic. I think Ian Cotton's synicism was meant to be funny, but for someone who has lived, enjoyed and at times been embarassed by charismata, this book is too familiar to be funny.

I appreciate his effort to present what he calls the New Christians as both well intentioned and off their rockers. New Christians are those pentecostal and pentecostal influenced evangelicals that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s. The movement that spawned March for Jesus and a tonne of social initiatives in England and around the world. It is a fascinating study of the culture I am familiar with and it is always interesting to get a different perspective on the life you live. However, that said Cotton does not seem to have run into what I would call the best that world has to offer. But he does get the gamut from good to horrid.

What is most troubling though is that halfway through the book he begins to focus on the charismatic experience. He is looking at what factors lead a society to be more spiritually activated, I mean in an ecstatic fashion. In fact he does a decent job of the ebbs and flows of religious life in the West. He investigates the ties between right and left brain experiences and spiritual encounters, that is quite interesting especially when he ends up in Sudbury testing out a machine that stimulates the right hemisphere inducing "supernatural" experiences. I found this troubling, I think I should have, as I am inclined to have such experiences. While I don't think I was a classic case subject, there are some ties. I am more right brained to begin with. But the whole area of the psychology of ecstatic spirituality is something I think would be worth investigating. If we could understand the psychological mechanisms more then we might be less inclined to use systems of hype to try and "force the hand of God" so to speak.

So I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with their charismatic faith. But I would think it useful for a mature reader who is interested in that movement. Especially in how charismatic folks sometimes fall into the flakier end of things. Meanwhile, I'm tucking it onto my shelf and moving onto other things.

Friday, September 15, 2006

[LIF] Books this Semester

One of the coolest things about starting a new semester is getting my books, these are all books I know I will read, at least in part, over the semester. I'll probably purchase a few more when I nail down my research projects, but for now here is what I have scored!

Sweeter than Honey by Peter Bouteneff (required for course) - it is a bit better than I expected an apologetics for dogma would be, I love his one Pelagean statement - don't know how that got by the editors (post that one later for fun).
For the Life of the World by Schmemann (interest) - my buddy was wigging on Schmemann, this isn't the text recommended for my course but will likely frame my research paper.
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Lossky (recommended) - this was the old textbook for the course, bought it before I realized he changed the books, but it looks useful.
The Orthodox Way by Ware (recommended) - it was cheap and I'm hopelessly Western in my thinking so I need lots of fodder for this course.
Vatican Council II: Constitutions, Decrees and Declarations (required for course) - yeah now I have them all in one volume.
The Gift of the Church edited by Peter Phan (required for course) - yeah Peter Phan, I laughed too. So far it is pretty good, better be though it was the most expensive text so far this semester.
Experience and Language of Grace by Haight (required text) - this one is really good.
We Drink from our Own Wells by Gutierrez (required for course) - We are also reading from his Theology of Liberation but a classmate graciously copied the chapter we need from that one, wasn't that sweet? Thanks Marilyn!
The Mystery of Faith by Alfeyev (required for course) - This one starts out ok, for an Eastern text that is.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

[LIF] Close to Home

Earlier today I discovered what had happened in Montreal, I found myself deeply saddened. Montreal is not more than 2 hours from Ottawa, so close. What gets me is that if it could happen there it could happen anywhere. I've got kids just entering the public school system and this scares the crap out of me. How do you make sense of such a random act of violence? How do I explain this to my own kids? Is there any way I could ever prepare them for such a screwed up and fallen world?

The only answer I have is falling at the feet of Jesus. God, please comfort all those who mourn tonight.

[LIF] Ecclesiology

First class on ecclesiology today. Should be fun but the emphasis is on Vatican II which I find doesn't go near far enough. We started out with an interesting question, can't remember who the prof was quoting but this question was in response to Vatican II and ecuminism.

"What non-Catholic church would dare to enter into full communion with Rome the way Rome is right now?"

Good place to start for a course called: Church in an Ecumenical World.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

[LIF] Diametrically Opposed Classes

My Mondays are going to be very interesting. I swapped out my AM class for an afternoon one, I thought it would be a shame to spend so much time at St. Paul University and not take a course from the Eastern Studies department. I think I voiced my concerns here about the Eastern Christians I've had run ins with, I bit too cocksure for my taste. I think it bugs me because I used to be that way about the Vineyard - glassy eyed romantic. So I enjoyed the first class but the Professor John Jillions is not careful with his words. His Eastern pride crept out around his lecture. But this could also be a realization of how hopelessly Western I am in my thinking. So the stretch will be good but I'm going to cringe a fair bit.

Then that evening I had the joy of starting up a new class with Professor Heather Eaton. Eaton rocks! And this course is her area of specialty - Ecofeminism. It is going to be a tonne of work but I think, like other courses I've had with her, the payoff will be big. The course is called: Ecology, Justice and the Sacred. And I think we will spend most of our time looking at Ecojustice and Deep Ecology (like Thomas Berry, she is a Barryite). Funny thing is one of the Eastern boyz is in that class too. He does more than twitch, he keeps asking questions that expose his hopelessly Eastern ways of thinking. At least I won't be the only one squirming on Mondays.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

[LIF] Gone Baptizing!

The first Freedom Vineyard baptism service was awesome! In the past we've partnered with other churches, but this time we had access to a pool. Mind you the pool temperature was only 72, the cool air made that a bit more bearable! We baptized two candidates, both who have been part of our community since beginning their walk with Christ. Sharon only captured a few shots, so when the rest of the images come in I'll post some more of the service.

[DDM] For you Bunny Puncher!

When I was in Nova Scotia I discovered that Bunny Puncher was selling custom repaints of Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures. The repaints were very sweet. I snagged this Mountain Troll repaint to sick on my adventurers. And yes he did elicit the obligatory, "oh crap" from my players.

Thanks BP, I have a few more shots I can email you if you like.

[THO] Worship V

In the classic, Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss tells the story of Sam, apparently a market research analyst for the pork and poultry industry. It tells of his exploits in finding taste testers for a new product, coloured ham and eggs. This book was written long before government regulations prohibiting testing new products on folks by sheer coercion. Ah the good old days.

You might have guessed that this is one of the stories I love reading my kids. But I think there are a few interesting observations that this book makes about our tastes. This is important for worship leaders who are concerned with seeing the worship of their community enriched. The first observation is quite obvious; we all see that there are types of worship that we just outright reject because of taste.

In most of the traditions I have been a part of there is an anti-Roman undercurrent. I admit that this was my view as well until God mercifully kicked my arse*. But still I notice it in many of my friends who jokingly ask when I’m going to convert to Roman Catholicism, but I know it is a nervous joke and actually an unintentional slam against my Roman brothers and sisters. So in my world I know that tastes are informed by what we trust and what we distrust, and so anything that looks too Roman is distrusted. I found this truth painful last year when a very dear friend told me he could no longer continue hanging out with me as long as I was polluting the gospel with this “sacramental” stuff. Ouch.

I bring this up to underscore how deep tastes go within us. When we don’t like something, it can appear quite irrational, but it is anchored deep within us. As worship leaders folks are pretty forgiving, but they will tell you what they don’t like and it is important that we listen. Because if we just hammer the same thing the same way week after week our worship will degrade into personality warfare.

Does that mean we pander to every whim of taste? No, this is where listening is so important. We need to know who is finding the ‘in question’ aspect of the liturgy troubling, and we need to find out why. Often tastes vary and it takes some work to find a liturgical form that everyone has enough ownship and trust in so that they can simply give themselves over to worship. I’ve argued before that this trust is essential to deeping the worship and having the ability to take people beyond their comfort zones.

Ok I’ve introduced a few new ideas I should cover off before we hit the second point of our Dr. Seuss lesson.

At the beginning of these articles I talked about developing a liturgy that is specific to the community. This gives you two advantages: ownership and trust. I think trust is the most important commodity for a worship leader, but ownership should not be overlooked. A worshipper has ownership when they feel all or part of the liturgy is specifically there for them. Now we know that it is not doable to cobble together a liturgy made up of everyone’s suggestions, but when a worshipper feels they can express their preferences regarding your worship, and that these things are acknowledged and considered they will feel, rightfully, part of the process of crafting the liturgy of the community. Liturgy is after all the work of the people. So this is essential.

This same transparency builds strongly into the trust aspect. But there is more to trust that should be noted here. I think that we’ve polluted our ideas of trust with business metaphors, some of those ideas work great in managing the organization of church (if you are the CEO leadership type that is, for me they always just fall flat), but leading worship is a whole other story. It is all about relationship, both vertical and horizontal. If you aren’t willing to go where you want to lead others, your worship will be forced, even contrived. I see this a lot actually, worship that is about evoking an emotional state to prepare, I guess, the folks for whatever comes next in the liturgy. That form of manipulation will sadly work for a while, but the broken people coming out of that have a hard time learning to trust in worship (I know I’ve had many of them come to my church). But when you begin to worship, to literally offer yourself to God, then this builds a foundational trust.

But this trust isn’t just something you can expect will draw others into worship. The worship leader must also work on the horizontal aspect of calling others into that place. So things that help here are making sure worship is free of roadblocks. You can make a lot of mistakes in private worship, but if you are always fumbling over lyrics or chord or readings then you make it harder for your congregation to follow because they are not sure if you aren’t going to make a mistake. (It is worth noting that mistakes will happen, and it is better to acknowledge them and re-establish trust in the process, this is what really marks a seasoned worship leader*). Add in a healthy rapport with the worshipping community and you will have the trust needed to see worship soar in your community. Now let’s turn back to the story of Sam and see how in an environment of trust you can enrich the liturgical experience of your community.

Sam was quite insistent on selling the goodness of green eggs and ham. He was sold on the product! Heck he even thought it would be still good soaking wet! There are aspects of liturgy that when they grab our hearts completely win us over. And this can be a problem if we don’t learn how to isolate the heart of these practices so that they can be integrated into our community to enrich the worship of all. When something looks too Catholic or too Baptist, the congregation might have a knee jerk reaction when you bring it into the liturgy. If you have trust then they will simply let you know. We wanted to integrate scripture readings into one of our kinships, but to stop everything and throw a reading in just didn’t feel natural. So I tried using CDs with ambient techno and reading over that, still a little too clunky. Until we finally found integrating the readings into the set of songs and having the musicians play, even if it is just djembe, during the readings really worked for our community. Unlike Sam, we didn’t have to try tonnes of things, but we did have to recognize when the things we tried fell flat. Now that we’ve been doing readings in our service, it is quite natural for our worship to include readings without musical accompaniment. In fact, our worshippers don’t even bat an eye at being asked to stand for the gospel (which we do on occasion). Like Sam we kept at it until we had the heart value, having a community that hears the scriptures read aloud, packaged in a way that our congregation could enjoy, until it was no longer a road block but rather an enrichment of the experience of worship.

The last lesson from Sam is tenacity. As a worship leader our own personal worship should stretch us, it should take us beyond our comfort areas (remember you cannot expect to lead where you are not willing to go). Occasionally we stumble on something that so moves our hearts that we want to share it with others. I have discovered that with liturgical actions, crossings and blessings, laying on of hands, sprinklings and anointings, these things have profoundly move me in worship. Some of them are quite natural in the settings I am used to; every tradition has some actions that are normative. But what I fell in love with was how obedience in actions becomes a powerful mediator of meaning. Especially when we resist the evangelical impulse to explain everything with words. Ash Wednesday was a perfect example of this, after our service several people began explaining what God was doing in them when they received the mark of the cross in ashes. I was blown away because there were several different takes and all of them profound. For me I wrestle with actions and have a real desire to be in step with the Spirit, so I don’t assume an action is appropriate, but when it is there is the potential for a deeper meaning to be conveyed. Like Sam we have to really be gripped by the goodness of an element if we are going to be able to bring it into a community in a way that will profoundly move others.

The worship we grow into often looks nothing like what we expected. This is good; worship should cause us to leave our comfort zones, even just a little. After all our desire is to come before God, something you can never do on your own terms. This is the work of a worship leader, to help the community see that there are always greater riches to be found in worship. So be tenacious, discern the heart of where God wants your worship to go and don’t be afraid to change the packaging until the heart grips your congregation. Until they all cry in unison, “I do so like them, Sam I am!”

Next, let's get technical.

*Sorry Chris, but I thought arse fit the tone of my article.
*I really want to insist that everyone who takes part in any aspect of the liturgy is a worship leader.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

[LIF] Cough, cough, etc....

I hate colds! I've had a tickle for a few days now and last night it ruined my sleep. I woke up with a great radio announcer voice. How I feel seems to be on a rotating basis of good to that of being juxtaposed with the ethereal realm. Could be worse, but still I hate getting sick.

My first class, Grace and Christian Existence, started up today. It is going to be awesome! We are exploring the idea of grace from Augustine to Gutierrez. And we have an opportunity to explore one area on our own in depth. The prof is Ken Melchin, I've had him before and he is an excellent teacher. I hear he's quite a jazz guitarist as well, but we've only chatted about guitar so far (over coffee, not in class).

I also bumped into Prof. John Gibaut in the halls, it was nice to see him again. I am hoping to corner him and talk about some possible research projects at the grad level. he has been very encouraging in the past.

I'm likely switching my Monday AM class for an intro to Eastern Orthodox theology. It will be a lighter class but expose me to some thinkers I wouldn't normally go looking for. I still haven't done this yet, I've had my head buried in a book called the Hallelujah Revolution. Freaky thing that book, I had breakfast yesterday with my good friend Rudy Pohl. Rudy has been leading a congregation in our city through the adoption process into the Vineyard. He's a great guy actually. So I drop off my mother-in-law and decide to hit this mall that has a cast-off bookstore (me and cheap books, mmmmmmmmmmm cheap books). In there I picked up "The Hallelujah Revolution" by Ian Cotton and another Penguin classic "Early Church Lives". So at the coffee shop I straddle a stool, take a slug of java and thumb through my new purchases. Well I almost fell off my stool when I read a quote from Rudy Pohl! Right underneath is a quote from Don Kantel (his son Tim reads this blog so I hope he'll catch this). Freaky to say the least. The book is a somewhat cynical look at the rise of the evangelical/charismatic movement, the cover says it is often funny but it is a little too close to home to be funny. But I do love his perspective, I just wish he'd stop with some of the sweeping generalizations about evangelicals and charismatics. And some of how he situates these movements sociologically and historically is like reading a list of words swirling down a sink drain (I wonder if they read backwards in Australia?).

Saturday we need to hand a Ned Flanders "Gone Baptizing" sign on our door. Cause that is what we are off to do. I still need to finish the Eucharistic portion of the liturgy, but the rest is in place. It should be awesome. Potluck after and I, with my cold, get to stand in an outdoor pool pushing people under in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit! Sweeeeeet!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

[THO] The Call: Mission and Concluding Remarks

I must admit being a bit disappointed with the Call. I was all excited when it started. I lost track of it when I replied to a final draft with an indication that I was unsure if I could attach my name to it. Not that my name would really carry any real weight, but I see now that the document we ended up with was a far cry from what I would be comfortable with. I do think it raises some excellent points though and perhaps a simplified version would find greater appeal for the future. So I do what I can do, which is simply offer my observations here.

The final statement concerns mission and frames it in a way that I think Karl Jaspers would be comfortable with, I am less so. I think it is full of great stuff, but the evangelical in me says we can't throw out the aspect of calling people into the story. It is not enough to just do good things and live in a way that we can have a legitimate prophetic voice. It is also not enough to ignore how we live either. So for me this statement is too much a reaction to an overemphasis on "saving faith" within evangelicalism. Personally I think the groundwork is already being laid for a more wholistic evangelicalism, at least I see it in my own denomination and in other movements I am able to observe. But it doesn't hurt to reiterate (or iterate in some cases) this restored emphasis on social justice. But if you want to capture the hearts of evangelicals don't miss where it already is - the message of salvation, take what is there and broaden the brush stroke.

Also again the language is overly complicated, 'cruciform holiness' is simply a confusing statement trying to evoke an image that has little meaning for the reader. Did we somehow think we didn't have enough cross references in this document? These out of place statements feel like square pegs hammered into round holes and don't lend credibility to the rest of the document. Sure the cross needs to be part of this section, but there have to be better ways to include that then tacking it onto a buzz phrase and forming a speedbump and the very start of the statement.


Why is the epilogue so much better than the rest of this document? The language is a bit over the top in places, but it is better than any of the statements. In fact if I were to read just the epilogue I might be more interested in reading the rest of the document, perhaps it would make a better introduction.

In closing, I would like to see this document engaged with. Perhaps even reshaped into a usable form. I think without that it is in danger of going the route of the Chicago call, lost in obscurity. When this project started I had a lot of hope that it could be a significant landmark in the emerging evangelical culture. Perhaps some dialogue here can restore that sense of hope. I am eager to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

[THO] The Call: Spiritual Formation

Ok this is one of the more exciting sections. We North Americans tend to want to reduce things to systems, programmes, steps and rules. But the gospel is about story, story that overtakes our own and becomes our story. Yet many Christians don't know that story, they sure and make a point with prooftexts, but they don't know how it all fits together. It is like not seeing the forest because we've got our focus on just a few of the trees, each group has a few different kinds of trees they like looking at best.

Apart from the unneccesary insistance on a Trinitarian narrative, again it is out of place not incorrect, this is one of the better statements of the call. I even appreciate listing some of the ways dropping the narrative (mythical) focus impoverishes our Christianity. But I am concerned that the term catechemunate is not defined adequately. I would like to see that in a simplified form of this call. That term, like others used in this document, is a potential stumbling block for some of the more modern traditions, you know the ones who think they are not 'liturgical'.

One more left to go...then I'll return to our regular series on Worship.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

[THO] The Call: Worship

There were iterations of this statement that I completely adored. But again what is with all the granularity. Ok I need to dig into this one a bit. Let me say though that the restoration of both Word and Table is a much needed reformation in the Evangelical church. It isn't about doing one or the other well, but bringing them together to tell God's story that becomes our story.

But I find my frustration in one little sentence: "We call for a renewed consideration of how God ministers to us in baptism, eucharist, confession, the laying on of hands, marriage, healing and through the charisms of the Spirit, for these actions shape our lives and signify the meaning of the world."

Seems all well and good, but what does it really add? It doesn't invite those traditions that have no understanding of the terms eucharist, confession, laying on of hands, charisms of the Spirit. In fact I can think of many different groups that would be turned off by this statement. And on a personal note, why did they include marriage? Maybe to give some hope to the fundies who are already freaked about the references to eucharist and confession?

Take this sentence out and you are starting to really have something. The opening line is a zinger that grabs the attention. The third sentence is a bit heady, but forgivably so it doesn't throw you off like sentence two does. The next is meant to jar everyone, but in a good way. It might not be necessary, but it doesn't hurt. But the last sentence does it all for me - here we are calling the Evangelical church to grapple with historic Christian worship, beautiful. And it is the substance that we are calling for, not just the accidents, even more beautiful. This is what I've been about for the last four years as we've discovered just how rich tapping into these deep waters can be. I don't have any illusions that we look like the ancient Church, but we do share some substance with that Church which has made all the difference.

[THO] The Call: Theological Reflection

This is where Trinity belongs, but instead we are given what I think is an overly ambitious statement. It is in no way clear what we are called to as "the tradition that has been believed everywhere, always and by all". The appeal to the early Church Fathers is a bit romantic for reality, anyone who has tried to find concensus in the Patristics should know this. Part of the appeal is that in its earliest forms Christianity was a wrestling theology, one wrestled with theology as the theology wrestled with you. There is a dynamic relationship that defies being reduced to a lowest common denominator.

Also I am uncomfortable with the unqualified attack on modern theology. I suppose, if I had to guess, that this statement would like to see the creedal faith a serious part of theological reflection. Also I kind of get the sense that they would like to bridge the gulf between acadamia and litugia, great but they don't say that directly and I could be reading my own heart into the statement. Perhaps the problem, once again, is that we have tried to overcomplicate this section of the call and not brought forward a single clear thought that the reader can latch onto and run with.

These statements do get better, one of the best ones is coming up next.

[THO] The Call: On the Church

I really like what this statement says and I think it is challenging. How many of us actually think about our ecclesiology in relation to the whole of the Church? Not many I suspect. Again I feel like there is too many packed terms for folks to run aground on. Which is unfortunate because this statement has such potential to call us to a more generous and Christ-like ecclesiology.

Friday, September 01, 2006

[FUN] Blogday???

Wow, I didn't know it was a blogoliday! Thanks for the heads up Kenny!

Hmmm. Who to tag, who to tag.

OK I've never tagged anyone before so my regular reads are all fair game.

1. I love CT's blog, especially the funny bits. This is one of the few blogs I check multiple times a day!
2. Danny has a great heart for his ministry, which comes through in his posts.
3. I stumbled on Pentecostals doing theology and am really impressed, WTG Shane and crew.
4. Tim has the best blog name!
5. Joe and I like to spar with his weekly throw downs, I still don't get it but I like that he doesn't think the same way as I do.

Man, I could say lots of great things about all the blogs I frequent. There is a list to the right, give some of them a try sometime.

Happy Blog Day!

[LIF] Updating my Library Thing

In an effort to make my Library Thing actually useful for me this semester, I have decided to beef up my listing. I want to be able to quickly access what books I have at home from the school library and from bookstoring outings. I'm not listing everything, but a lot of the stuff I would look for during the course of the year as well as some that is just plain fun. My library has books that are directly related to my studies (theology, history and philosophy), pastoral work (biblical studies, counselling, spirituality, sexuality), past work in missions (missiology) and other stuff. Some of the stuff is just plain wacky, Pigs in the Parlor anyone? And I am not going to list couple of shelves of commentaries I own, well at least not for now. I find I'm less inclined to pull open a commentary these days, at least until I've wrestled with the text myself for a while then it is good to see if I'm completely out to lunch or not. Oh and that set of bible encycolpedias my wife picked up from a yard sale, yeah not going to list those. Nor am I listing the obligatory Strongs, Youngs, Crudens and Smiths of my library (how many Smith's Bible Dictionaries can one man need anyway?). But all in all this should be helpful for my research efforts this year.

[THO] The Call: Primacy of the Biblical Narrative

I think it is unfortunate that this section is first. It is clunky and until you get all the way through it you are likely scratching your head as to what it actually wants to address in our handling of scripture. This is doubly unfortunate in that I think what it calls us to do is the right thing to do, but I wish they had hammered on this one a bit more and not tried to stick so many exterraneous qualifiers in there. Right off the bat, why the need for an acknowledgement of God as Trinity? And why the appeal to Rules, rules does not carry the same meaning in our culture as what I believe they are intending and just serves to complicate this section further.

I think that the primacy of the Biblical narrative should be early on in the call, it is interesting where statements regarding the role of Scripture in communities falls in their statements of faith. But as a call this document has to zing and grab your heart. Restoring the Biblical narrative as God's "story of the world" has a lot of traction, that should be the focus and forget the posturing. This is a call, not a statement faith. As a call it should grab our hearts and make us long to wrestle through to meaning in our own contexts. And at the risk of sounding heretical, this should capture our hearts whether we are Trinitarian or not.