Monthly Archives: July 2010

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for


I remember when I was a kid (in the late 80′s) that people liked U2 as a ‘Christian band’, but that gradually a lot of Christians seemed to think they were not Christian anymore. The confusing Zoo-TV tour must have been a major factor in that. The darker, psychedelic and much more sexual and twisted shows must have been a shock to a lot of Christians. Maybe rightly so, I don’t know, and I cannot judge that from this point in the future where the Zoo-TV has already become a part of the history of media and performance…

But even without achtung baby some were also quoting older songs, like the classic ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ to prove how unchristian the band was. These words could in no way be sung by a Christian according to some, even if Bono called it ‘a gospel song for a restless soul’, and sings a very clear Christian creed directed at Jesus himself in the second verse:

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Oh my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

But you see, how could anyone who calls himself a Christian ever say he hasn’t found what he’s looking for? Isn’t becoming a Christian an insurance of salvation, and isn’t that all you need? Salvation being mostly not going to hell after this life, but in a pentecostel environment it also meant that God would be with us and intervening when we prayed with enough faith… If you haven’t found what you’re looking for there must be something seriously wrong!

Now I think it’s a beautiful piece with a lot of theological significance. But my theological worldview may have shifted a lot in between those years and now. When I was a teenager my parents started to attend vineyard churches to eventually do a vineyard church plant themselves, but I wasn’t able to see the full consequences of the ‘already and not yet’ Kingdom theology that I encountered there. I was too young anyway to see the differences anyway I think.

Now that I’m older I see the differences between an “enacted inaugurated eschatology viewpoint” and the ‘pre-trib pre-mill dispensational eschatology’ that the pentecostel movement for some reason had borrowed from another tradition (which was really anti-charismatic to begin with anyway).

But to not stick with long expensive words. I think Bono in this song beautifully describes the Kingdom of God like Jesus Himself preached it, and the tension between the already and not yet of the Kingdom: Even if ithas been anounced, and is present among us, it will only be completed at the end of this age, when Jesus returns. And untill that moment that the Kingdom has come in fullness, we will not have found what we’re looking for! And we should not be sitting in our seat like we have already earned our salvation and can await to go to heaven now… That’s horrible theology!

Like Jesus Himself taught us to pray:
Let your Kingdom come,
let your will be done on earth
as it is in heaven

We can only look forward to the completeness of the Kingdom of God, but we need to be looking realistically at this world, and see that it’s not how it should be. We are being saved into the Kingdom of God, but then Jesus sends us to the ends of this world to be the good news. This means that we have to partake in the bringing of the Kingdom of God, wherever we are.

And I feel like I’m still nowhere when it comes to that. It would be utter foolishness to not say that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

shalom

Bram

book review: Jonathan Brink – The God Imagination


Not every day you read a book that asks if we have the gospel wrong as christians, and proposes a new way of reading the bible… (Hmm, maybe there’s too much of that kind of books in some circles…) But this one called ‘the God imagination‘ by misional Church thinker Jonathan Brink more or less tries to argue for that thesis. Supsicious as a I am of people who think that they can re-invent the wheel without having it to be round I didn’t know what to expect. Especially with the esotheric-looking cover and title… But I know Jonathan Brink as an interesting Christian blogger, and if the book would’ve been new age I wouldn’t have bothered reading it.

So the book tries to look at the nature of atoment, and  to frame the problem that Jesus came te solve.Jonathan does this by thoroughly going through the whole narrative of the bible, starting with the genesis accounts of the fall, and seeing what happens. Pointing out that the problem that had to be solved was not located in God or the devil, but in the first place in ourselves. The separation we experience from God, the self, our fellow human and the rest of creation is not reality, it’s a lie that’s been rooted deeply within us. ‘The God imagination’ then is the process in which we learn to see the Truth. And Jesus came to teach that truth, and be the ultime example and sacrifice.

So where penal substitution portrays a wrathful God who needs to punish someone before He can forgive, and in the Christus Victor view jesus gives himself over to Satan in our stead, according to Jonathan the problem is located elsewhere, namely in ourselves. It’s not that God (or even the devil) needs a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven; we are the ones who need it.

The main point of the book is that we need to look through Gods eyes, with what he calls ‘the God imagination’, to restore the image of God within us, to uncover our dignity that establishes us as good. To abandon the false and limiting identities, the victim or perpetrator mentalities, idols and comparisons, and to embrace the freedom that is found in grace, the courage in loving, and the wholeness in being. And that ‘the fullness of life resides in the act of love’, which is the judgment of good, and any act that validater, holds or restores a persons dignity to wholeness. Like Rom 13:8 says.

I might not agree with everything in this book, but the overall point he makes is not one that can be ignored, and it’s an important book to wrestle with, and to sharpen ones view of the story of the bible, the atonement, Gods justice, and the condition of mankind. And in the debates about the atonement Jesus brought us on the cross, this is a voice that should be given a place at the table!

I’ll end with a quote:

a quote:
Jesus is giving us perhaps the most unorthodox idea ever presented. We often think that the way to overcome evil and death is to refuse it, to deny its power in our life and even pretend it’s not true. Our resistance to evil and death actually fuels its power over us. To deny its existence is much the same as covering it. Our primary concern is its capacity to fundamentally change us. We assume that if we experience it, it will make us evil. We cover what is true, pretending to hide it, and in doing so, partner in our own demise.

What Jesus is revealing is that the way to overcome evil and death is to surrender to the presence of it. By surrendering to the presence of evil and death, we’re destroying its hold over us. We’re calling it out and addressing it for what it really is. We’re being honest that it exists in our lives. And it is only then that we can overcome it. It is only by surrendering to the reality of evil that we discover we are not changed by it. It is only by surrendering to death that we can discover that it is not our end. (p 153)

Amazon page

shalom

Bram

laughing at God?


some songes make you want to sit in silence

like this one

it’s only a girl with a piano…

Lyrics:

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When its gotten real late
And their kids not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No ones laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No ones laughing at God
When theres a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke,
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When theyve lost all theyve got
And they dont know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No ones laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told hell give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when theyre starving or freezing or so very
poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

Reclaiming supernaturalism III: on small coincidence miracles


At the pastoralia blog there is a very interesting discussion about smal coincidences and litte miracles, with the question if they are just coincidences or God. Jason gives an example of lost keys that were freakily found again (read it yourself) and he frames it as free will, but I’ll look at it from a totally different angle. Free will and providence don’t seem to exclude each other anyway for me…

Re-reading it my explanation that I’ve worked out here could not be relevant, for I don’t see him praying for those keys, but the things that have worked this way in my life were… And I’ve been thinking about those things from a different angle, and some aspects of it might be a bit ‘flashy’ and both ‘unorthodox’ from a charismatic view and totally ‘unscientific’. I have had a lot of ‘small coincidence miracles’ in my life, even though I tend to forget them. And I can not deny that there must be at least something beyond the material stuff we know behind them.

If it’s God acting, then woe to me! Why do I only have faith fo pray in faith for small insignificant things? Why don’t I have faith to pray in the same way for things that matter? I don’t know, and it’s very frustrating that most of the time that I have faith like a musterd seed only for things
most of the time that I have faith like a musterd seed only for things smaller than one… If it’s been GOd, the I have been faithfull in the futile and totaly unable in anything that matters…

And now for the flashy part: If it’s not God, what is it then? The power of faith and positive thinking is not only somehing that works psychologically nor something that only calls on spiritual beings to do something for us (God, demons, angels, whatever) but it must be an unknown power that lies in our own spirit. I would definitely place it in the category of what people call ‘paranormal’, or in the field of what we’ve left behind when we built up a whole science system on the materialistic dimension of the world. Things that might be a part of humans as spiritual beings, who don’t know about the abilities of their spiritual side… (I do think a lot of the ‘occult’ falls into the same category, not done by any kind of demons, but by the human spirit itself, which is not to say I don’t believe in evil spiritual entities, I can’t deny them at all) So what I say is that strong faith and willpower focussed in the right way can sometimes manipulate the physical world and do things that seem impossible. I know, it sounds magical and unscientific, but I am a supernaturalist after all, and this is by definition beyond the physical realm of science…

And now I’m reminded of Adrian Plass in one of his sacred diaries, who wants to unfold a paperclip ‘in faith’ I don’t dismiss psychokinesis, but I don’t see how God or demons could have anything to do with it.

And by the way, I think some of the miracles of some strayed-away hypercharismatics must be in the same category. They are so trained in the spiritual side that they wouldn’t even notice if they’ve scared away the spirit and doing it in their own power now (and sometimes they might be channeling something else too)

(and now everybody looks at me, yells ‘freak’ and never takes me serious anymore…)

shalom

Bram

judgement day on may 21, ’11 or wacko theologies


The people of the flemish ‘atheism campaign’ facebook group like to share sites they find that ridulise ‘faith’, which seems to be so monolithic to them that the most wacko example of it in their eyes only affirms their ideas about ‘religion’. For me that’s like linking to satanic blackmetal to say that all music in itself is evil and unchristian, but I’ve noticed that such discussions don’t work with them. Which is another sign that those ‘new atheists’ can be very fundamentalist… But that’s another story…

Tog get on topic: Today they had found a site unlike anything that I’ve ever seen in Christianity: A tract from the so-called e-bible fellowship about the end of the world, which says judgement day will happen at may 21, 2011. Yes, indeed, that’s what they say, the rapture will be may 21 next year, followed by a compete ending of the world 5 months later, including the annhilation of all non-saved people…:

“On October 21st, 2011, God will completely destroy this creation and all of the people who never experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ along with it. The awful payment for their sinful rebellion against God will be completed by the loss of everlasting life. On October 21st, 2011, all of these poor people will cease to exist from that point forward. “

Oh, and the church is now since 1988 the domain of satan:

“On May 21st, 1988, God finished using the churches and congregations of the world.  The Spirit of God left all churches and Satan, the man of sin, entered into the churches to rule at that point in time.  The Bible teaches us that this awful period of judgment upon the churches would last for 23 years.”

I have no idea what awful period of judgment upon the churches we have been experiencing the last 22 year, but it must be serious. Is it the evil Toronto belessing? Or the worship music explosion? Or even worse the emerging church heresy? I have no idea that we in church are in an awful period of judgment, but I guess I’m a lost non-elect and my eyes are closed to the truth because of that… (If that is the case then I like the idea of annihilation more tha eternal conscious torment!) Since the site is also extremely deterministic-calvinist I suppose that if I’m not one of the elect I can try whatever I want but God will destroy me anyway because he only wants to save some not including me…

Okay, to be serious now. The nonsense from this site is dangerous bullshit, dare I even say destructive heresy. Yes I  dare to use the BS-word, and even the h-word. As someone who has in my life only suggested the h-word just once, for extreme dispensationalists who declared the Lords prayer part of the law that was abolished with the cross, and not for us Christians from the church dispensation. But now I’ll use it. I may be too eucumenical for some, believing in a generous orthodoxy and all that, but some things cross the line. And surely not much thinking people in the educated west will fall for this kind of false teaching. But they are distributing their message also in a lot of different languages including a lot of african ones.

The harm that such a teaching can do in unevangelised places where people do not know the basics of the gospel is big… And it will be bigger when there is no judgement day on may 21, and no end of Creation five months later… Those who believed in it will probably never be able to trust the bible or christianity again. While the e-bible guys may just say ‘sorry, we miscalculated, it will be within 3 years’. And indeed, a miscalculation isvery possible with people who say that jesus was born in 7 BC and died in 33 NC, giving him a lifespan of 40 instead of 33 years…

sigh…

what more can I say?

shalom

Bram

prayer, distractions, and stuff…


I’ve been thinking about prayer a lot lately.

One of my prayers lately has simply been ‘Lord, teach me how to pray!’

I know that when the disciples asked that same question to Jesus, He taught them the ‘Lords prayer’, and I’ve been indeed praying that prayer a lot lately. But just saying, mumbling or even shouting words alone is not praying. Prayer is supposed to be communication, connection to the Supreme  Author of Everything and more…

So what I need is not to learn to say words, but to connect with God more. To learn how to communicate and be together with God, from within my soul. I’m tired of asking for stuff and telling Him stuff that He most probably already knows, I want to be with God.

And the contemporary evangelical worship music isn’t working that way for me right now most of the time. Ironically, as a vineyard worship leader I’m better at bringing people into worship with music than connecting to God myself while I’m playing that same music. I know I have the gift of letting the Spirit work through me this way, but sometimes it’s like like me as a channel being unaffected… I don’t know much about how those things work…

And my ADD is distracting me like always. It’s always harder for me to focus, except when I’m 100% interested and get into hyperfocus… Which doesn’t happen that often when I’m praying I’m affraid.

The strange things is that when I’m in crisis situations I tend to be so awara of God being near, and it’s natural for me to communicate with him.? How come that in the most hopeless situations I feel God closest? Why is my mind and spirit so blurred all the time, as if I’m living in automatic pilot mode? I’m wrestling with that… I need to have my heart and mind and soul renewed, and I need to let the Holy Spirit guide me. But in the end I’m just lost in pointless hazy thoughts…

Why is it so hard for me to focus????

Hmm, I’ve asked that question before. Time for a musical flashback, an old Bram Cools song in which I even sang choir myself, some kind of experimental lo-f/indie worship song, and one of the songs I do still playat those occasions I do perform live, as long as I have at least one person to do backings…

by the way, here is an interesting article with the weird title “prayer = sex with God” that I really like. Only for those who are at leat a bot mature both sexually and spiritually I guess, but I can connect with  what it says very deeply.

(and you are all allowed to pray fom me in this…)

shalom

Bram