Monthly Archives: March 2011

Moving east to find lost treasures…


In the light of the current Rob Bell controverse (if you don’t know what I mean just google his name and ‘love wins’)  there are some thoughts that are not new, and there’s probably nothing new about them… For example, Kingdom Grace has made similar remarks earlier, but I’ll try to explain how I see it.

While not much seems to be happening here in Flanders in the (very small) evangelical world, it seems like the internet is announcing over and over the end of evangelicalism in the US, or its split. The fights over Rob Bells new book (ironically called ‘Love wins’, how naive of him, you know christians will never exhibit love if they disagree… hmm ) seems to make a division between the hardcore reformed who hold to a theology I find very troubling sometimes (and I’m not the only one) and all the others, who are not considered ‘in’ for some of those… But frankly,  I don’t believe calvinism is the most helpful tradition here.

I don’t think we need to return to seventeenth century ‘orthodoxy’ if we want to find our roots again, and neither do I think we need to read the bible through a few elect pauline verses… Yes we need to go back to our roots, but the problem with sola scriptura is that where we had 4 schisms in the first 1500 years, we have had 30000 church splits since protestantism, so even when teh bible is infallible, everybody seems to have another opinion about what it says… So we don’t just need to go back to the bible, but also look at the others who are going the same way as we do, and/or those who did in the past.

Yes I think that the ‘modern’ protestant church has been navelgazing too long, blinded by our cultural assumptions, and it might need some input from other traditions to refresh its vision (and more open ears to the Holy Spirit!!!). I might be quite unmodern being both pentecostel (which according to some is more pre-modern) and influenced by C.S. Lewis, who called himself the last ancient westerner, but I’m not going to do all the emerging church babble about postmodernism being better than modernism. Still I’m affraid that I’m convinced that modernism and Christianity don’t mix very well. Both fundamentalism and liberalism, the 2 polar opposite adaptions christianity made to late modernism are not the most vital and life-bringing forms of Christianity, and did much harm to the gospel.

So my proposal is to learn from non-modern christian traditions to find back what we’ve lost with the blind spots of our modern eyes. Thats’s in fact one of the things happening in and beyond the ‘emerging church’, and one of the problems for some is that those traditions are far away from standard dispensationalism and calvinism. One of those traditions which we can learn a lot from is the (neo-)anabaptism which probably is the most attractive side of the emerging church to me. A focus on discpleship and following the Jesus of the gospels is something we surely need in our churches! Every church a peace church!!

(another one would be the charismatic tradition, of which I am already part, which is frustratingly ignored in some parts of the emerging church tending too much to naturalism!)

So what’s the ‘new’ one I’m finding more and more interesting? It’s actually a very old one, and unlike anabaptism undeniably totally outside of protestantism, and it was even left out of Brian McLarens ‘generous orthodoxy’, but I don’t think it can really be considered ‘unorthodox’ in any way at all, since I’m talking about the so-called eastern orthodox church here. They own the word!

People who read here regularly know that I recently was very impressed with a video pointing out the differences between the orthodox and protestant view of salvation. I do indeed think that the orthodox have a much more complete, biblical and coherent view on salvation than the good-friday-only penal substitution some of us protestants preach! And we can and should also learn a lot from their non-dualistic view of reality, their insistance of the presence of God, and their embrace of paradox and mystery instead of trying to push all of reality into systematic theology!

And I’m not the only one who has been discovering this, even people in my own denomination (the vineyard) are discovering that the the eastern orthodox are theologically very interesting and very close to the ideas some post-evangelicals are (re)discovering. Yes indeed, the ‘heresy’ of some of Rob Bells or even NT Wrights views is in fact much closer to eastern orthodoxy and the church fathers than to calvinism, which is in return a heresy condemned by both the catholic and orthodox church… The whole idea that Jesus came to save us in the first place from the wrath of God would be totally alien to them. To quote American orthodox priest Father Stephen:

Intricate theories of the atonement which involve the assuaging of the wrath of God are not worthy of the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I can say it no plainer. Those who persist in such theological accounts do not know “what Spirit they are of.” It is not ever appropriate to exalt a Biblical system over the plain sense communicated to us in the Gospel. No matter the chain of verses and the rational explanations attached – we cannot portray God as other than as He has shown Himself to us in Jesus Christ. To do so makes the Bible greater than Christ.

It is very difficult in our culture, where the wrathful God has been such an important part of the gospel story, to turn away from such portrayals – and yet it is necessary – both for faithfulness to the Scripture, the Fathers, and the revelation of God in Christ.

I commend the referenced work, the River of Fire, for its compliation of Patristic sources. I also beg other Christians to be done with their imagery of the wrathful God. They do not know the God of Whom they speak. Forgive me

So, I think we can and should learn a lot from the orthodox (among many other traditions), who have a much more complete view of salvation, and who seem to be able to make a lot more sense of the ressurrection, without which our hope is in vain according to Paul, but which is reduced to just some counterintuitive fact that should be believed in to be saved by some fundamentalists.

but no, I’m never ever going to become eastern orthodox myself. My theology of church would fall somewhere between those of Frank Viola and John Wimber and is quite opposite to the hierarchical liturgical view of an old church with only male priests: I believe in the priesthood of all believers, where ‘everybody gets to play’ and where men and women can excercise the gifts the Spirit has given them. And I don’t buy the stuff about relics and saints (even though their theology of the communion of the saints and the witness cloud sounds interesting to me!)

So if we want to restore a truly ‘evangelical’ faith, we have to recover the good news of God redeeming all of creation and of the hope Jesus brought in the resurrection. The vision of Gods kingdom as layed out in the gospels is incompatible with a gospel that is only concerned with saving individual souls from Gods wrath, it’s about the restauration of all of creation! And here I think can learn a lot from those older brothers in our faith in Jesus Christ.

(Even if we’ll still disagree about a lot of things and not be able to be in communion with them because different views on church, priesthood and eucharist. )

But it’s not about which tradition is best. It’s about understanding God more, and participation in the mission of His kingdom.

shalom

Bram

ps: I am in no way an expert in orthodoxy, so if anyone has helpful links or book titles to enlighten me more, please share them with me and my readers!!!

please don’t call me ‘arminian’!


warning: this post is for all those christians who identify themselves with the ‘calvins-ist’ or ‘reformed’ tradition and who feel the need to dub me or others ‘arminian’ because I’m not one of them…

All my life I’ve been a Christian, and I’ve encountered a lot of traditions in those 30 years (wow, am I that old?). I must say I’ve learned a lot from all different streams of Christianity. I’ve been a pentecostel kid, and now I’m a part of the vineyard movement with it’s centered ‘radical middle’ approach. I’ve been learning from a lot of traditions over the years. My charismatic background and the wesleyan evangelicalism underneath it were enriched by the human solidarity, charity and ‘creation care’ -as I’d call it now- that I picked up from the (otherwise mostly dead liberal-on-slippery-slope-to-atheism) catholicism of my catholic school. (did I tell you that I grew up in a dechristianising post-catholic countrty?)

I think that I’ve picked up what I would call now ‘a generous orthodoxy’ from C.S. Lewis, and I learned to find things of value in most Christian streams, and I read books, articles and websites from all kinds of traditions over the years since my teenage years, which enriched me a lot.

There were at least three streams of thought that never resonated with me within the broad range of Christian thought, without beginning about the pope and the magisterium that is… The first one is the so-called ‘liberal’ impulse to explain everything away that doesn’t fit with modern science, which is just unrealistic to a charismatic like me. The second one is the ‘I am right on all details or you can just throw your bible and faith in the trash’ approach of fundamentalism. and the third one is the weird doctrine of double predestination, which I find a blasphemous idea, even if it’s supposed to give God the most glory according to their philosophical framework.

I must say that honestly I’ve never encountered much calvinism before I got into some debates on the internet. And it never interested me, I didn’t recognise God, Christ and the bible like I knew them in their way of thinking. But one of the things I noticed when in debate on some websites was the label ‘arminian’ that some used to describe me or any other person brave enough to admit not to believe in the ‘TULIP’-doctrines. I soon learned that it was a derogatory term used by some calvinists to label anyone they disagree with, so they didn’t have to take them seriously. I later found out it had something to do with some Arminius guy, but reading about the guy he didn’t stir much interest I’m affraid.

(I’m fully aware that not all calvinists and reformed Christians are like this, but this is part of my experience that I can’t deny. My excuses to all good christians in the reformed tradition who don’t use the word ‘arminian’ as a synonym for ‘bad christian’ or even ‘heretic’. It’s the loudest ones that get heard and that spoil the reputation of the group for all of the rest…)

I’m sorry, but I reject the label ‘arminian’. I don’t follow the guy named Arminius. In fact the guy was, unlike me, a calvinist. He might even have been a better calvinist than the guys of the synod of Dordt, who made up the 5 points of calvinism (TULIP) but history is always written by winners, and he and his followers were the losers… But that’s an in-house discussion for calvinists and those inside the ‘reformed’ tradition, and none of my business. It’s as relevant for me as what’s going on in the vatican…

Calling all evangelicals, or more or less protestant Christians who believe in free will over predestination ‘Arminians’ is just plain nonsense from a calvinistocentric worldview, creating non-extisting dichotomies where there’s a whole lot of traditions of which the ‘reformed’ is only one. It would be the same if I as a Charismatic would call all non-charismatics ‘darbyists’ and trace all forms of cessionism or otherwise non-charismatic christianity back to Darby. The guy has nothing to do with most of non-charismatic christianity, and it’s the same with Arminius and non-calvinists…

So, I’m a Christian, and I believe in free will, or more exaxtly the synergy of Gods grace and free wil, it’s not that we do everything alone. I reject the ideas of irresistible grace and limited atonement. If you use small letters I won’t be offended with labels as evangelical, charismatic, or even (neo)anabaptist or wesleyan.  All these traditions are part of my roots I guess, and I’m even inpired by the eastern orthodox and greek church fathers lately.

But I’ve never cared about that rebelious and rejected calvinist called Arminius. And I don’t need to be named after the guy… There are followers of him who still identify with him, so keep the name for them!

shalom

Bram

Mia, or the all-time greatest timeless classic song in Flanders


Let’s go on with the country I’m living in: Belgium, and more specifically speaking Flanders, since there’s not that much cultural exchange with the parts that speak other languages.

Today I want to take a look at the all-time greatest timeless classic song in Flanders, which is called ‘Mia’, by the dutch-singing rock band Gorky (they made only one CD under that name, and then singer Luc Devos started the band Gorki with other musicians, wikipedia mingles the 2 bands together in english) who sings in dutch.

Like I said, we are not very patriotic here in Belgium, and as a matter of fact, we don’t seem to like music in our language that much. We have a lot of rock bands, but most of them do sing in English, and a lot of rock-minded people don’t tend to like music sung in dutch, since English is the proper language for rock ‘n roll (as Tom Barman, singer of dEUS, would put it)

So which are the Belgian rock bands? Bands like dEUS, Arid, Millionaire, soulwax, absynthe minded, and K’s choice… In older days we had TC Matic, and Ferre Grignard. In other genres we also have a lot of electronic dance music: from front 242 to praga khan, the pop of hooverphonic (they started out more triphoppish, but alas, that didn’t last) and a lot of commercial stuff like Milk inc.

So if you have the list with timeless classics called ‘de tijdloze’ (the timeless one’) at new year on the alternative radio studio brussel, you won’t find much songs in dutch in there. As a matter of fact, since I’ve been a teenager in the nineties, there have been 4 songs in dutch that happened to find themselves there, while mostly all the others are English, with one occasional instrumental… (Look up the 2010 list here)

Believe me or not, Mia by Gorky being on #5 last year, this song has been the #1 in the list for years, before smells like teen spirit, creep, stairway to heaven, one; … And it has also had very high places on other radio stations. (all other belgian songs in the list are english, or instrumental)

The funny thing is that it hasn’t even been a hit, it was a B-side for another single… They never had big hits, but debut hit ‘Anja’, Lieve kleine Piranha’ (sweet little piranha) and ‘soms vraagt een mens zich af’(sometimes a man does wonder) were at least singles… One of the other songs has a sing-along chorus which translated says ‘sweet little piranha, sweet little piranha, sweet little piranha, devour me’…

Strange lyrics, and a voice that always forms the same minimalistic melodies are also the recipe for lots of later Gorki-albums, but he never really had any big hits afterwards. But for some reason people voted the song into the timeless list, and it kept on getting higher with the year, until it finally kicked nirvana off the first place. No-one understood, not even Luc Devos himself, who found it funny but never seemed very impressed, I think he just wanted to have more of his recenter songs to become classics…

So let’s listen to that great song, and look at the lyrics.

When I was hungry, I came to you
you said you can eat, if you wash the dishes
people like you shouldn’t behave difficult
give them a chance before they do stupid things

the middleclass rules the country, better than ever before
Mia has seen the light, she says nobody gets lost

currently we’re still going on, on the lighted path, the wrong track
people like me can be found anywhere,
on the market of labor in this valley of tears

stars come, stars go, only Elvis keeps existing
Mia never suffered, she asks can you still dream

What does the english wikipedia say about the impact of this song:

After ‘Anja’, several other singles were released from the debute album ‘Gorky’. Among them was ‘Soms vraagt een mens zich af’ (Sometimes a man wonders), the b-side of which was ‘Mia’. By making number one in the ‘Tijdloze’ (the Timeless), the ‘best of all times’ charts in Flanders by the music station Studio Brussel, for three consecutive years, ‘Mia’ became known as their largest hit. Likewise, it made number 1 in a similar chart of Radio 1 in Flanders, and best Belgian song in the chart by Radio Donna (in 2005). In 2006, it was elected the best song about girls on a TV-show on the public network ‘één‘. In 2008, the early music consort Capilla Flamenca issued ‘Rosa (Mia)’, a polyphonic adaptation of ‘Mia’ sung in Latin.

In 2008 a new award show was founded called “de Mia’s” (the Mias). It was named after the best Flemish song of all times, and officially stands for the Music Industry Awards..

I had almost forgotten that the MIA awards were named after this song…

Do I like this song? Yes!

Do I find it the best song ever written? No!

Are there better songs in my own language? definitely…

What do you think?

peace

Bram

No-one knows the Belgian national anthem (not even belgians)…


so since people from all parts of the world are wondering about Belgium, I decided to write something about my own little country from time to time…

Belgium is a small country that indeed does exist, even when some say it doesn’t, in the middle of Europe, the Western part fo the Eurasian continent, which is the biggest continent of the ploanet. Belgium has almost 11.000.000 inhabitants, three national languages, and a King (Albert II) that has no practical function at all as far I know. (And only a government ad interim, but that’s another story)

I live in Flanders, the Northern part, where flemish is spoken, which is actually the same written language as dutch (the language from the Netherlands), but another dialect. (The Pennsylvania dutch language spoken by some American oldschool anabaptists is actually old german, not dutch.) The other languages are French (actually it should have been Walloon, but the French language is an invasive exotic pest that eradicates all other languages) in the south part  calles Wallony, and German which is the offical language of a very small part that we recieved after the second world war if I remember correctly…

But I was going to talk about the national anthem, the so-called Brabaçonne: Nobody knows it, and nobody cares! And why would we sing those words anyway, it’s not like we’d mean them (translation of the dutch lyrics, from wikipedia)

Belgium – O dear, O holy land of fathers -

Our soul and our hearts are devoted to.

Accept our strength and our blood veins,

Be our goal, in work and struggle.

Prosper, O country, in unbreakable unity;

Be yourself and serve no man,

The word faithful, you may speak boldly,

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

The word faithful, you may speak boldly,

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

For King, for Freedom and for Law!

That’s right, everybody sort of knows the melody of the first lines, but I hardly know anyone who knows the whole melody, or the entire lyrics. We simply don’t care enough, and it’s a boring song anyway. And we don’t devote our souls and hearts to our country anyway. We don’t care for our King, and don’t believe that our political machine brings freedom… (only more bureacracy)

It’s even hard to find a decent vocal version on youtube… So here, for your pleasure and education, is Helmut Lotti, a very popular (ahum) flemish singer, who sings it for our King in the three languages (starting with french and keeping dutch for last, for some obscure reason)

Truth is, we don’t care at all about any anthem. We don’t like to be patriots and we don’t like our country (or any country) and we don’t believe in politicians or Kings (and rightly so, they just screw up…)

There also is a Flemish movement, which wants to separate Flanders from the rest of Belgium. (the relations between the 3 regions are very complicated) and some of it is more extreme right, and so associated with fascism, and that’s why we are also ashamed of the Flemish antem, ‘de Vlaamse Leeuw’ (the Flemish Lion)

So we don’t know no anthems. We don’t care about them. And if you listen to them you know why… That’s us…

peace

Bram

a truly orthodox view on salvation…


a little video break for the hellish discussions here…

You can’t get more orthodox than the eastern orthodox. and I found this video so beautiful I instantly thought I’d share it. I got it from Scott Morizots blog, which is definitely worth reading!!

Something in the eastern orthodox view on salvation reminds me of why I cannot not be a follower of Christ. Something unexplainable that I cannot deny and that is more try and more valuable than all of this world… I have the same with the (neo)anabaptist emphasis on the sermon of the mount, and with the Kingdom vision of both the vineyard and some voices in the emerging/missional church. And with hearing the psalters live.

Christ truly is great, and the gospel truly IS good news….

shalom

Bram