Tag Archives: Brian McLaren

Some postmodern paradigm-shifting: from C.S. Lewis to chaos magic and back…


Today we’re going for a trip to explore some paradigm shifting. We will revisit some of the oldschool ‘emerging church’ topics, but that will only serve to better be able to venture far into grounds where both angels and academics fear to tread (and maybe not without a reason) like the obscure postmodern occult art of chaos magic. Although for the regular readers nothing here should be a big shock…

Sa new kindo, on to paradigm shifting or a change of how one understand Reality and the rest… Let’s start on more or less safe ground and firmly inside of cliché emerging church territory with some C.S. Lewis quotes lifted from Brian McLaren’s vintage emerging church classic ‘A New Kind of Christian’. (It seems that the EC prophecies of the emergence of a new and better form of Christianity can be filed with a lot of end-times madness and hypercharismatic promises of a ‘great revival, but the ANKOC trilogy remains worth re-reading nevertheless)
It is from Lewis lesser known book ‘the discarded image’ that talks about medieval literature, but the last chapter is about the paradigm-change between the medieval and modern world. And Brian McLaren got it more than right here in that this chapter has a lot of insights that are able to help us understand the modern-postmoden paradigm-shift. I will give you the extended version:

It would therefore be subtly misleading to say ‘ The
medievals thought the universe to be like that, but we
know it to be like this’. Part of what we now know is
that we cannot, in the old sense, ‘ know what the universe is like’ and that no model we can build will be, in that old sense, ‘ like’ it.
Again, such a statement would suggest that the old
Model gave way simply under the pressure of newly discovered phenomena-as a detective’s original theory of the crime might yield to the discovery that his first suspect had an unassailable alibi. And this certainly happened as regards many particular details in the old Model, just as it happens daily to particular hypotheses in a modern laboratory. Exploration refuted the belief that the tropics
are too hot for life ; the first nova refuted the belief that the translunary realm is immutable. But the change of the Model as a whole was not so simple an affair.
There is no question here of the old Model’s being
shattered by the inrush of new phenomena. The truth
would seem to be the reverse ; that when changes in the human mind produce a sufficient disrelish of the old  Model and a sufficient hankering for some new one, phenomena to support that new one will obediently tum up. I do not at all mean that these new phenomena are illusory. Nature has all sorts of phenomena in stock and can suit many different tastes.

Lewis is talking here about the historical shift in worldview which madeCSLewis_Pipe the old way of looking at the world impossible. And yet the ‘proof’ of the new worldview had always been there, and had only ‘turned up’ because people looked for them.

Our views and explanations of Reality are always just in part, as through a dim ancient mirror. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing 1 Cor 13 here)  Even if our models and paradigms are only working models and approximations, it’s all we have and all we can have. No paradigm or ‘model’ as Lewis says it will ever explain our world completely accurately, and every model has its weak sides and strong sides. Key here is Lewis’ last sentence: “Nature has all sorts of phenomena in stock and can suit many different tastes.’ Reality is like the elephant in the parable, and we are the blind men who only have one part of the elephant and try to reconstruct a whole ‘theory of the Elephant’ from one bodypart of the animal.

Why do we even assume that the human brain is able to fully understand the universe around us? As a Christian believing in a Creator God that made us in His image I already find it a bit too much. But if I were an atheist such a illusion would for me only be a lingering relic from naive belief in a Creator…

What I would propose when it come to these things is just a humble epistemology. Acknowledge that any paradigm is just ‘seeing in part’ and that there’s a strangeness in the universe that makes it simply unable to just pin it down to one paradigm. Sometimes different models that cannot be reconciled do accurately describe the same thing. (Even in modern science that is true: look at light, which can be described as both a particle or a wave. Both paradigms work and can be used to explain different things, but they are in fact mutually exclusive and at the same time both true!)

Maybe that sounds too postmodern to some, but note here that I do still have a Ground, even when it cannot be Pinned down, or grasped. Truth and Reality do exist, even if they defy complete description and understanding, and even if different understandings of it can be both accurate in a way and completely exclusive of each other.  Real hardcore postmodernists will most likely not have such a ‘Ground’, which is a completely different story altogether

Groundless postmodernism, even more than my moderatie ‘humble epistemology’ is a radical meta-paradigm that makes all other paradigms invalid, and that makes every use of a paradigm pragmatic. Nothing is true, but still we believe things because it helps us in some way. We can’t be Groundless all the time, so we take on a worldview for the moment…

But there’s more we can say about paradigm-shifting. Up until now I’ve been just talking about understanding and describing the universe, as is done for example in science. Which is important, but only the first step. The second step is reacting to the universe, and often also manipulating it in various ways. We are not just spectators in this world, we are living in it, connected to it, and we need to interact with it…

And our paradigm is very important here. The way we view the world around us does change the things we’ll do with it. If we do not believe that there is a land on the other side of the ocean we won’t make a ship to go there. If we don’t believe something can be don’t we won’t try it, etc…

But like I wrote this ‘power of belief’ can go further. Like the song says, there can be miracles, if you believe…

Now what do we get if we combine groundless postmodernism in which no paradigm is true with the power of belief and magic? This is not a rhetorical question, as the answer is an existing occult tradution; Chaos magic (or magick in the Crowleyan spelling) is what you get when you combine Groundless postmodernism with pragmatism and the idea of ‘belief as a tool’. I don’t think you can go further than that into postmodernism than pragmatic paradigm-shifting-at-will as a tool, it does outpostmodernise the most postmodern postmodernist and its implications are far-stretching.

Yes, pragmatic paradigm-shiftng-at-will! While Lewis and McLaren wrote about paradigm shift as something that happens with a society when the world cannot be viewed in the same way any longer, and the emerging church generally saw it as something happening once in a lifetime (or a few times). Chaos magic starts from the idea that ‘nothing is true, everything is permitted’. (Which is derived from Aleister Crowleys ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ and can end up not far from Voldemorts ‘there is no good or evil, only power and those too weak to seek it’…)
So it does not matter whether or not a paradigm is true, if you need it you ‘climb into it’ and exercise enough belief to accomplish your purposes. Andrieh Vitimus describes it like this:

“The most telling thing about a chaos magician is their ability to change their beliefs and paradigms at will. This is a complete change of perspective on the world that they live in to be able to see their reality from a different point of view. If you think about it, this would mean one day a chaos magician might be a Christian, while the next week they would be a Buddhist. These two philosophies are radically different in their orientation towards the world and an adoption of either worldview would have implications towards the person’s daily actions and attitudes. Chaos magic will demand that the practitioners be able to meaningfully switch between any beliefs about themselves, others, and religious beliefs. To the chaos magician, beliefs are choices. Belief is the tool that empowers the magic.”

(And yes, chaos magic can be pretty dark stuff. Invoking made-up dark gods like Thanateros (god of death achaosnd sex) or fictional ones like Chtulhu seems to be popular for example among chaotes. But that’s outside of the scope of my post about paradigms now, and the same principles could work without this dark side and without invoking any deity at all.)

I’ve written before about ‘belief as a tool’ and magic, and I do believe in this power. But on the other hand I also believe it has its limit. Even chaos magicians pragmatically try a lot of paradigms and discard those that don’t work… Pragmatism tries what works, and in that process a lot of things are thrown away that don’t work. Not every paradigm is equal, even in Groundless postmodernism or chaos magic.

There is something scandalous in the pragmatic combination of ‘belief as a tool’ and paradigm-shifting in a Groundless postmodernism. Is it an echo of a snake whispering ‘you shall be like gods’ and the temptation of a Power that isn’t safe for a mere mortal to wield?

There is another limit. One cannot put the sun in a bag and make slices of cheese from the moon with mere positive affirmations and choosing the right paradigm. Even if we would have a lot of power to create our own universe we are not solipsists. There are other powers in the Universe that might be stronger than us. There are solid things in Reality that won’t liquify or even go out of our way no matter how hard we believe they will. The power of belief is strong, but even if it can change our percerption of reality, and in some cases affect Reality sometimes, it is not able to change the real inner structure of reality. And sometimes our perception of is only an illusion.

Let’s go back to where we started, to C.S. Lewis. In the chronologically first book of Narnia, ‘the magician’s nephew’ we do find a arrogant ‘magician’ named uncle Andrew, who’s by accident present at the Creation of the world of Narnia. The poor soul does have a lot of modern sensibilities though (a lot of colonial and capitalist ambitions that would turn Narnia in a hell and made him richer if could accomplish them…) and the idea of talking animals does not work for him. After a while he isn’t even able to hear them talking even if he would want to. He just hears growling and hissing and barking of a bunch of wild beasts, while they are actually are discussing what they would do with the guy…

Yet the animals are still talking…

Dwarfstable

Another example of this comes from the last of the Narnia book, the last battle, where a bunch of dwarves have been put in a stable by the enemy, but are not able to see that the door worked as a portal to the Land of Aslan. The lion Aslan wants them to open their eyes, but all they want to see and can see is still a stable. They keep on mumbling that “the dwarves are for the dwarves” and that no-one will be able to take them in, stuck in an illusion they can’t get out that is only kept in place by the power of their belief.

Our views and explanations of Reality are always just in part, as through a dim ancient mirror. Even if our models and paradigms are only working models and approximations, it’s all we have.

And after all we should watch out for illusions and lies…

What do you people think?

Love your enemies!


Jason Barr posted some interesting quote lately, from the didache, an old christian book from the same time as the New Testament:

If you love those who hate you, you shall not have enemies. – Didache 1.9

There was some discussion about how this does not apply to the devil, and indeed, I do believe that both the didache and Jesus speak about human enemies, not about the ‘Powers and authorities’ Paul describes.

A person that is against us is not the real enemy, but a human being created in Gods likeness and image. Seeing the person as the enemy is a distraction from the real evil… If s/he is channeling something evil then the evil is first and foremost destroying that hostile person him/herself. So we are to love all humans, and the real enemy is not of flesh and blood, but spiritual… Evil powers are never the friend of our human ‘enemies’, but their enemies as much as they are ours.

Likewise is the idea of non-violent liberation theology, that a real revolution sets both the oppressed AND the oppressor free. This is the real revolution, away from the never-ending spiral of violence… But even we as Christians seem to not be able to believe this… Which brings me to the ending quote:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried – G. K. Chesterton

what do you think?

Shalom

Bram

ps: coincidently I just read a very good article by Brian Mclaren on the subject of enemy-love: In responding to our enemy imitatively, in catching our enemy’s hostile spirit, we can become an even worse enemy to ourselves. We can do ourselves more damage than the enemy ever could.   Recommended reading!

quotes


So here are a lot of quotes; most of them which I’ve posted though twitter and facebook throughout the last year.

I noticed that Shane Claiborne, C.S. Lewis and Brian McLaren are great contributors to my stock of quotes…

just read one; and think about it… and then another one… and so on

True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. ‘Love thy neigbor’ is not a piece of advice, it”s a command. and that means that in the global village we’re gonna have to start loving a whole lot more people. – Bono

“Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not to be shared.” -Henri Nouwen

if you think nuclear disarmament is impossible, South Africa did it in 1991. They saw it as something to leave behind along with apartheid, just as previous generations saw slavery, the inequality of women, and child labor as things to leave behind. (Brian McLaren)

A genuinely new, more perfect and better life comes from within, and not from without, it comes from a spiritual rebirth, and not from a mere change of social conditions, of social means. (Nikolai Beryaev)

“When a man is thirsty, whether he be learned or ignorant, young or old, in order to quench his thirst what he needs is not knowledge, but water. Before he drinks the water he does not need to know that it contains oxygen and hydrogen. If he ref…used to drink it until he could understand what we mean by oxygen and hydrogen he would die of thirst.” Sadhu Sundar Singh

Michael Moore: ” It doesn’t seem you can call yourself a Capitalist and a Christian”

the blood of the dodo still cries, that our so-called civilisation is nothing but a very advanced & sophisticated form of barbarism (Bram cools)

Mutual aid is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle – Peter Kropotkin-

everything we consume, we turn into shit… (McLaren wrote a censored version)

the real christian work ethic is not the so-called protestant work ethic which is embedded in individualism, but it is found in Eph 4:28: If you are a thief, quit stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need.

“Talk about God is not repressed talk about sexuality; talk about sex is, in fact, repressed talk about God.” – sarah coakley

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? – Thomas a Kempis

Sadhu sundar singh the question who were right, Christian Fundamentalists or Liberals? — Both were wrong.The Fundamentalists were.uncharitable to those who differed from them. That is, they were unchristian. The Liberals sometimes went to the extent ofdenying the divinity of Christ, which they had no business to do.

“The more I get to know Jesus, the more trouble he seems to get me into.” -Shane Claiborne

Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These godless Galileans (ie. Christians) feed not only their own poor but ours: our poor lack our care – Roman emperor Julian

the real christian work ethic is not the so-called protestant work ethic, but it is found in Eph 4:28

“Never forget that u are beautiful, just like everyone else. And never forget that u are a fool, just like everyone else.” -Shane Claiborne

everybody knows that the moon is made of cheese – wallace from wallace and gromit

we are not punished for our sins, but by them – Elbert Hubbard

Christianity is not a doctrine to be taught, but a life to be lived.” Søren Kierkegaard

“Change will have to come from outside, from the margins. The desert, not the temple, gave us the prophets.” -Wendell Berry

Jesus light the light we were asleep beside the roadside waitng on rescue this relationshp it isn’t how its really supposed to be -souljunk-

love your enemies, pray for those who persecute your [Jesus of Nazareth]

There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it. [Lord Voldemort]

Our hope today does not lie on Wallstreet our hope doesn’t rest in America our hope does not come from a new caesar or even a new president, our hope today is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness on Christ the solid rock we stand all other ground is sinking sand, indeed as we look around all other ground is sinking sand but christ will live forever – shane claiborne

everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes (shane claiborne)

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature. — St. Augustine

don’t buy the lie that new is always better: evolution can be both progress and regress, but mostly it consists of both… -abe Claeysson

if you’re looking for the devil, check out the inquisition, not just the witches…

“A private truth for a limited circle of bellivers is no truth at all” – Leslie Newbigin

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. – Mother Theresa

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” -Jesus of Nazareth-

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”- C.S. Lewis

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C. S. Lewis

Look into the eyes of the ones who are hardest for you to like, and see the One you love. – Shane Claiborne

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. — Einstein

lust reduces the riches of the deep attractiveness of masculinity & femininity to mere satisfaction of the sexual need of the body pope John Paul II

seek first His Kingdom, and Hid justice, and all the other things will be given you as well… – Jesus from Nasareth, the christ

“God comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.” – Shane Claiborne

Every year we waste enough To feed the ones who starve We build our civilization up And we shoot it down with wars – woody guthry

It is more courageous to love our enemies than to kill them – Shane Claiborne

We Haven’t Just been Told, We Have Been Loved – half-handed cloud album title

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Religious debate can be a lot like pornography, drug abuse, and gambling: stupid yet attractive and potentially addictive, and therefore dangerous spiritually. -Brian McLaren-

“I believe people are saved not by objective truth, but by Jesus. Their faith isn’t in their knowledge, but in God.” – Brian McLaren

the third way of Jesus is always asking if there is an imaginative, subversive, brilliant, creative path- Rob Bell

you can be [insert anything here] but without love you ain’t nothing – Larry Norman

“Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived.” – Shane Claiborne

“Some Christians use Jesus as a shortcut to being right. In the process they bypass becoming humble or wise.” Brian McLaren

“The World can’t afford The American Dream” – Shane Claiborne

Each time the people of God becomes effective according to the world´s criteria, this only implies that society has absorbed our action and is using it for its own ends and for its own profit. (jacques ellul)

that’s enough for today…
shalom
Bram

If America was a christian nation…


Then it’s president would act like this.

This is Brian McLaren at his best, proposing things that sound impossible and even stupid to some I guess. It’s so contrary to all we know of world politics. And yet, it’s so deeply rooted in the words of Christ. and it’s not that new, Ghandi, Mandela, ML King, Tutu,… All of these lived out these ‘politics of Jesus’.

Taking the deep christlike peace church inheritance to the white house would be a formidable idea!

This could transform our world.

If only the guy would listen…

let’s pray for that…

shalom

Bram

New musical discovery: Brian McLaren


New musical discovery: Brian McLaren

For those who like soft folky singersongwriterstuff with a seventies sound, I’ve found this onscure gem on a site that archives old and rare  christian records: an album called ‘learning to love’ by some guy called Brian McLaren. He seems to have made only one record, back in 1978, filled with christian inpired dreamy acoustic folk & rock.

Brian McLaren - learning to love

Brian McLaren - learning to love

So how does it sound? Mostly like soft acoustic mellow folky music of the kind that had a revival some years ago with the ‘quiet is the new loud’ movement, but with Christian insipired lyrics… If we’d do a more ‘classical’ namedropping it would fit somewhere between the acoustic John Michael Talbot, Nick Drake, and sometimes some Larry Norman or Neil Young… I don’t say it’s as good as those names, but there something in the sound that reminds me of them. Brian seems to be a skilled guitarplayer, and the arrangements are quite good. My favorites are the Larry Norman-like ‘publican and pharisee’ and the acoustic talking blues ‘depersonalisation blues’.

It’s a shame that this album was never re-released on Cd, I find it actually quite good for christian music from the seventies(I say that as someone who is very critical of so-called Christian ‘music’…) Anyway I’m very glad that the heavenly grooves have made it available in 320kbps mp3 format. check it out here

such a shame nobody has ever heard of this guy… I wonder what he’d be doing right now. aging and without hair he probably would look like this:

Brian McLaren

an older guy

Wait, what did you say he was called???

shalom

Bram

Derek Webb’s controversy


So I’ve been listening to the supposed ‘controversial’ new Derek Webb single ‘What matters more’. And I was totally shocked… Check it for yourself:

YEs I am really shocked when I heard that song! Really, does he really mean that??? What an awful stupid way to ruin a great song with such a terrible arrangement… sorry Derek, the electronics don’t work for me… sounds to cheap to me, or too empty, don’t know, and it ruins the beauty of the voice. But maybe that’s just me…

Now about the controversy… what’s that about? I don’t understand the whole shit-thing. Maybe a cultural issue, but why even bother about such a word? Americans are really weird people… Remember, all you americans: We in this part of the world have learned to use the S- and the F-word from your great culture… We use them all the time, and no-one gives a bleep… It all is so inconsistent to us. why would anyone be offended by a word that just means poop?

It’s a weird cultural issue. No, a subcultural one really, from some weird conservative kind of ghetto… Frankly, I way am more shocked by this kind of sensitivities than I could ever be by the lyrics of this particular song…

But then again, the Christian music industry is just weird…

The weird thing is some people just are reacting against the use of that one word, and then they don’t even listen to the message. Which is something that should be heard I affraid… But maybe I shouldn’t go in that discussion and just qoute Brian McLaren’s response when asked about gay marriage: ‘You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there’s no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side.’

Gays are not the enemy, hate is.
satan is.
pride is.
and stuff like judgementalism and legalism and farrizeism…

Oh and check out my little song I made with some Shane claiborne samples… (Hope he doesn’t mind…): can’t find a home

shalom

Bram