Tag Archives: the Kingdom of God

The revolution of the Kingdom (Greg Boyd)


Let’s go further with the idea of Christian pacifism

Christian non-violence is based on the words of Jesus in the gospel, the idea of love for our neighbor and enemy, and so on… I find it hard to read the NT without finding a lot about being called to love, not hate… The whole idea of the Kingdom of God like announced by Jesus, in which Gods will is done on earth as in heaven, does include it!

The basic idea behind Christian pacifism is the Walter Wink quote: ‘Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough‘. And indeed, Jesus brings us in his life, and in the cross and resurrection, something that goes beyond all our violence and other primitive responses…

Greg Boyd puts it like this in his book ‘the myth of a Christian religion‘. (A book that I quite like, even though I do disagree with the pejorative use of both words ‘myth’ and ‘religion’, but that’s another story…)

The revolutions of the world have always been about one group trying to wrest power from another. The revolution Jesus launched, however, is far more radical, for it declares the quest for power over others to be as hopeless as it is sinful. Jesus’ Kingdom revolts against this sinful quest for power over others, choosing instead to exercise power under others. It’s a revolution of humble, self-sacrificial, loving service. It always looks like Jesus, dying on Calvary for the very people who crucified him. (p.19)

This means more than the non-violence we are talking about, but a complete reversal of our human ways to view power, and a call for us as Kingdom people to live the reality not of this broken world, but the reality of the coming world. The current world is under the influence of the Powers of destruction and violence, but all those things will be dona away with, and the Power through which the new world will come is diametrically opposed to our human views of power:

The difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world comes down to the kind of power they trust. The kingdoms of the world place their trust in whatever coercive power they can exercise over others. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the sword.
In contrast, the Kingdom of God refuses to use coercive power over people, choosing instead to rely exclusively on whatever power it can exercise under people. This is the transforming power of humble, self-sacrificial, Christlike love. Exercising power under others is about impacting people’s lives by serving them, sacrificing for them, and even being sacrificed by them while refusing to retaliate, as Jesus did. We can think of this kind of power as the power of the cross, for the cross is the purest expression of humble,  servantlike, self-sacrificial love. (p.22)

Note here that Boyd is known to put a heavy emphasis on Christus Victor atonement: Jesus, God incarnate became human and suffered with us, and  on the cross Jesus he himself over to the powers of darkness and destruction, sin and defeated them in the resurrection… The self-giving Jesus who endures the powers is the conquering King destroying death and evil… And we are not just to ‘believe in Him’ but to follow Jesus, even in the example of the cross, which means that we are to be different than ‘the world’:

Kingdom people are called out of the world to be a holy, separate people. We’re called to be nonconformists, resisting the “pattern of the world” as we’re transformed into the image of Christ. This holy nonconformity isn’t just one aspect of who we are—it’s the essence of who we are. It’s how we manifest the beauty of God’s character and Kingdom. Out of the wellspring of the abundant Life we receive from Christ, we are to live in revolt against everything in our own lives, in society, and in the spirit-realm that is inconsistent with God’s reign. This can only happen if Jesus followers refuse to get co-opted by other things. (p. 23)

I leave you with one description from Boyd of the paradox of the enormous power of the cross:

While cross-power may look weak next to sword-power, it is, in fact, the greatest power in the universe. The power of the ‘cross is the only power that can overcome evil rather than merely suppress it for a while. It’s the only power that can transform an enemy into a friend. It’s the power that God promises will ultimately transform the world. It’s the kind of power the omnipotent God himself relied on when hè came in the person of Jesus Christ to overcome evil and redeem all of creation from its grip.

what do you  think?

shalom

Bram

Some of my doubts


Sometimes I doubt everything.

Sometimes everything I’ve been taught and everything that is taken for granted by this whole world seems like nonsense… We all swallow the propaganda and follow the authorized version ‘they’ want us to believe…

And I’m not just talking about my faith here… I’d rather deny all grounds on which Western thought are built than deny Him completely… since in a way I can’t deny God just as I can’t deny myself, but I can deny every system of thought describing Him. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe I do not actually exist…

It’s not that I can deny the supernatural, even if I have a hunch that most of it is actually natural but just outside of what we call ‘laws of nature’. I can’t deny miracles and the supernatural but I could attribute them to explanations that we don’t even know about in our thinking, maybe all our our thoughts about it is like medievals knowing nothing about electricity trying to understand how a computer works.

It’s not that I can deny science I can’t deny evolution but I can’t believe that the material world is all there is, so it can’t be the whole story. I do know we can describe enough of the universe in a meaningful enough way to manipulate it. But does that mean that we actually understand anything at all?

I can’t deny that the laws of Love like Jesus articulates them are better and more substantial than anything I’ve seen in the world, and yet hardly any Christian I know even tries to live them. Sometimes I wonder if my own ‘religion’ does even understand a thing about itself….

And I honestly don’t even trust the idea behind all our western thinking that the universe is rational and knowable… Seems like very naive to say the least… I seems sometimes like the other extreme from the Eastern idea that everything we see is an illusion and nothing more, and equally unbalanced…
And worst of all, all of this, all life on earth seems completely screwed up, and still it’s evident that everything is worth more than we can contain. Every human life, every ecosystem, every species that goes down in our screwed-up systems is of incredible worth. And then I get a Pedro the Lion song stuck in my head:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful

if everything would be meaningless?

But everything is so meaningful

and most everything turns to shit

(rejoice)

There’s so much that needs to be saved, but not much stuff that can save in this world. Look at how even our enlightened traditions exchanged the crusades with the nuclear bomb. We are not getting better, we’re getting more (rendabel) in doing work like the factories and computers do, and we’re getting further in death and destruction. From the dodo and the crusades to Nagasaki and drones and cluster bombs we didn’t become better people.

When will we learn that violence will not save us but only breed more violence and destruction? When will we break the cycle of greed and other nonsense?

That’s why I hope in Jesus. That’s why I think nothing else would make sense. Because I love this endagered world and it’s uncontainable creator…

Kyrië Eleison

Christe Eleïson

Kyrië Eleison

Bram

The lost psalters interview (from August ’11, Kortrijk)


Last August the psalters, one of the most remarkable, unique and impressing band of the planet, were in Belgium to play their amazing music, and they did a show in Kortrijk. I was happy to be the opening act, with just a crappy guitar as a substitute backing band, but I actually hardly remember anything of that, since the psalters concert itself that came after my set was much, much more impressing. (one bootlegged song of my own set, called ‘Ellulian glasses’ can be found here)

As was their new CD ‘carry the bones’, which was for me the best CD of 2011! You can mail order it through their site now btw. Do it, you won’t regret it! The real CD has a very cool package and does sound lots and lots better than mp3′s of it at 128 bpm.

I also did a very interesting interview that night for a Flemish website with the mysterious ‘Captain Napkins’, as the CD booklets call him), one of the two leading forces behind the band. Browsing through my old files I found the English version again today, and I found it way too interesting to not share it with the world. Sharing is what makes us humans…

So here it is (drum roll on oil barrel), the psalters interview from Kortrijk, Belgium on 8/23/2011, done by myself (Bram), originally for cultuurshock.net (read the shorter Dutch version here!)

Bram: So this is your second time in Belgium. please tell us about the first time you were here:

Captain Napkins: Well, the fist time here in Belgium we got to play in Antwerp. We were invited by some cool folks to stay in a squat-house, that used to be a customs building on the bay. It was an amazing experience to stay in there, and then on top of that we played a show in a squat bar (the Scheld’apen) The interesting thing was that Antwerp had just kicked a lot of gypsies out of the city and given them some land right next to the bar to camp out, so when we were there was a couple of acres full of gypsies and then there was anarchists, punks and different folks all together. It just made for an amazing night.

There was a big tree-house right behind the bar, a huge tree-house even, like a real house in a tree, And there was lots of good beer. It was one of our favorite shows that we have ever done, very intense, The place was packed. Yes, we loved it! We absolutely loved Belgium!

Bram: What’s the difference between playing your music in Europe and playing it in america?

Captain Napkins: Sometimes it overlaps, you know: There are places in America that we’ve played that remind me a lot of some places that we’ve played in Europe. But I guess as a generalization, I would say more consistently people in Europe take what we’re doing much more seriously, like they think of us more a like we’re trying to be ourselves: as an organization, as a community, as a movement of combining worshop and justice, and ehm, fighting the empires that we humans create. In America, I think a lot of venues and places see all of that as just a gimmick, and at the end of the day we’re just a band…. So I think in Europe people have been taking us more seriously, which has been great. Plus the shows in Europe, it seems like people take music more seriously, not just us, but in general. The venues seem to take sound more seriously, like they’re very apologetic if they don’t have exactly what we need.

Bram: I heard the same from an interview with Dave Edwards (frontman of woven hand and 16 horsepower) once. Who said that Belgium was the most receptive country for just listening to the music, and taking it very seriously, even in the details.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, but I would say lot of the countries we’ve been to in Europe. The venues seem to take the music and the show a little more seriously, you know they put more work in it. but Belgium is one of our favorite places, for sure.

Bram: Okay, let’s switch to another subject: you guys are known to be both Christians and anarchists, how do you combine that?

Captain Napkins: It’s not at all a matter of combining, for me, for us… Well, anarchy… (pauses) We’re Christians, In a way I’m a Christian and I’m just a Christian, but I like to articulate ourselves as anarchists because the concept of anarchy helps people to understand better what we’re talking about: that there’s no system of man that works. All systems of man end up oppressing other people and elevating some people at the expense of others, and for us end up in the way of God, the One who created this world, so, yeah.

Bram: I understand that, but some people might not: I’ve just heard that there is a group of anarchists here in Kortrijk that refused to go come to your show tonight just because you’re Christians. How would you react to that?

Captain Napkins: I understand that. There’s a lot of Christians that have been very judgemental and hurtful to a lot of people. You know been jerks basically, so I totally understand that. There’s also been times for that we’ve been invited to play in a place and we found out that they were Christian and we didn’t want to play, you know.

Bram: Well, I heard that about Christians too, when hearing that you were anarchists, didn’t want to hear your music…

Captain Napkins: yeah, same thing

Bram: I remember when I let someone hear the song ‘come now and join the feast, right here in the belly of the beast’, they thought you were satanists. So how do the common Christians in America react to your music and your message?

Captain Napkins: yeah we’ve been shut down sometimes. We’ve played some shows.We’re very anti, we’re very unpatriotic, you know, like I love, I love the people of my country, I love the l…

Bram: (interrupting quite impulsively) Belgians are the most unpatriotic people of the world.

Captain Napkins: Okay

Bram: We actually just don’t care, we still don’t have a government now for I one year and a half and we don’t even care.

Captain Napkins: That’s maybe similar… that’s how we feel. I’m sure Belgians love each other, and they love the land. That’s how I feel, you know, I love the land from where I come. I love the people, but I don’t care about the government, I don’t care about those people more than other people. so in all those ways I’m not patriotic at all. and that offends of some Christians, and so we’ve kinda shut down

Bram: In America?

Captain Napkins: some of them are very conservative people and we’re not….

Bram: So, conservatives in America are really patriotic?

Captain Napkins: yeah the conservatives in America are patriotic and they tend to be violent.

Bram: recognize this T-shirt? (show T-shirt of the ordinary radicals)

Captain Napkins: yeah

Bram: I guess you know the ‘litany of resistance’, where Shane Claiborne says something like ‘I pledge allegiance to the transnational church that transcends all borders’ or something like that. (losing my words) So, when you’re thinking of Christianity and being part of a country, part of a nation, whatever, Being a Christian and being part of a people, part of a nation, what’s the connection?

Captain Napkins: for me, I don’t consider myself a part of the nation. I just am a part of the

(We arrive at the bar, looking for a good Belgian Beer, and decide to get a Hopus, a rather strong one)

Bram (to bartender): He’s from America, he’ll really appreciate it, he’s the leader of the band who played.

Bartender: yeah, I know man, it was so nice.

Bram: He deserves a hopus, really!

Bartender: yeah man, of course, of course, of course!

Captain Napkins: yeah, we have a lot of Belgian beers in Philly, in Philadelphia, my city where I’m from they love Belgian beers.

Bartender: Belgian beers are the best.

Bram: So, let’s get back to the interview: one of the guy frsom the squat-house where you stayed last time couldn’t be here tonight but he really likes your sound. He said you were the most tight band heever heard. Like one voice playing together, like there’s no ego in the band. How do you do that?

Captain Napkins: Well it’s interesting. I haven’t really, eh

Bram: You’re just tight together without ego’s, like one band with one vision, musically.

Captain Napkins: (thoughtful) Well, if that’s true, well I mean I haven’t head that a lot, it’s a new thing to me actually. But if it’s true, then what makes it happen is that there is a theology to what we’re doing, there is a vision and a mission that.

Bram: A theology?

Captain Napkins: I mean it’s built on a whole thesis, you know.

Bram: I’ve read a short version of it on your website and I’m still waiting for the whole version to be released.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, I need to write it out… that’s what I want to do when I get back from Europe. some more writing. I wrote it long time ago when I was in college. it’s for college, so it’s not, you know, there is a lot that needs to be changed.

Bram: What would you change?

Captain Napkins: Well, not even so much change as I would just add a lot, there is a lot that needs to be added and kinda updated maybe. I still agree with pretty much everything that’s in there, just a lot of things need to be updated…

Bram: Okay, on to something else, and maybe very strange question: what’s the gospel for you as a Christian anarchist? That’s the most important question for a Christian: What exactly is the good news?

Captain Napkins: Well, for me it’s about… (pauses) Eh… This might sound a little bit vague, but it’s important to me. When you ask that question I think of how God is love and loved us all into existence. He loves creation into existence and because of that our faith is about being in relationship with God, with each other and with creation. And that’s where anarchy comes in, and that’s where radical justice comes in: because the world fights against creation, the world fights against the Creator, the world fights against relationships. But for me it starts with the idea that God is love, God loved us into existence and God wants us to be in a a relationship with Him, with each other, and with his creation.

Bram: Makes a lot of sense to me. When I hear this I’m reminded of the controversy of Rob Bell’s ‘love wins’ book, so maybe let’s just ask one of the hardest questions of our faith: what do you think about hell?

Captain Napkins: (pauses) Wow, about hell? I actually was just talking to somebody last night about that and, eh, I do think that there is a hell. I don’t really know, but Jesus talks about it a lot, and our scriptures talk about it a lot, and eh… I’m uncomfortable, but at the same time I think that, eh, you know, I don’t know what it is and I don’t know who goes there, but I think that God is all-powerful (pauses) There is this woman, Julian of Norwich, who’s the first woman ever published in English. She is way back in the 12th century and she wrote something like she had a vision of hell, and she wrote something about like “and all is well and all will be well and all matter of things shall be well”. And it was just this, like it sounds redundant, but it was just her saying that God is kinda makes it work. And God makes it right, and God bring the healing but it’s tough how, I don’t know man, I mean it’s too tough.

I’m not one of those people that thinks that people who don’t confess Jesus automatically go there and stuff. I mean, I don’t know who goes there. I’m not one to decide who goes to hell and who doesn’t, you know, I do believe. I don’t even want to say that people definitely go to hell for eternity and all I think maybe that’s something that’s out of our understanding I’m also one to not say that hell does not exist, I think that hell does exist. And I think there is this suffering. there’s this horrible mess that’s out there and I think that there is such a thing as justice. I think that when injustice happens there is a need for retribution.

Bram: Would you say that there is retribution in justice, or just only putting things right and cleaning up evil without taking revenge?

Captain Napkins: yeah, I don’t necessarily believe in revenge, but I think when something evil happens I think that something needs to be made right, and it isn’t simply forgiven. It’s not a matter of like this horrible thing happens and well, it’s just okay now. No, I believe that like, when people, when a whole village is slaughtered by another group of people, that evil isn’t simply forgiven by God, there is a payment for it, there is a suffering that makes it right again.

Bram: And Jesus took that on him to give us forgiveness. (looks at watch) Looks like it’s getting late, so it’s time to end the interview. So I’ll have one last question: If I’d ask what you’d say to Christian people in Belgium, just regular Christian people, what would you say? What would you challenge them to?

Captain Napkins: Well, eh… People respect authority too much. People respect the Powers that Be too much. Because maybe the governments here are better than our government and so it’s easy…

Bram: Well, we kinda do have healthcare…

Captain Napkins: Yeah, yeah so there’s a lot of good things, and, ehm, it’s easy to not respect the American government but maybe it’s harder for Europeans to not respect theirs. But still I think that any government,and any system still falls short to the Kingdom of God. I think we always have to question them, and that we first have to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, and not citizens of a human government or a King. Maybe I’d say something like that…

Bram: Thank you very much! One more beer?

Some interesting things elsewhere


Travelling missiologist Andrew Jones, the blogger also known as Tallskinnykiwi, wants to write a book (that I want to read!!!) and needs some help with money to be able to do the stuff he’s doing, which is travelling around with his family to meet with all of gods children on planet Terra, and helping all kinds of Christians and Christian communities around the world.  There’s only one Andrew Jones on the whole planet Terra who does what he does, so consider helping him! Or at least read what he’s up to on the blogpost I’ve linked to…

Matt stone on glocal Christianity has started a very interesting series, which starts with six different Christian approaches to war and peace, something we need in times when it seems like a false dichotomy between ‘just war’ and ‘pacifism’ (which sometimes is explained really poorly) is dominating the discussion, while there are much forms of Christian pacifism on one hand, and ‘just war theory’ isn’t really followed by much people on the other hand actually.  His position is ‘apocalyptic pacifism’, and the other posts are OT bible verses that he sees as pacifist prophecies (part 1, part 2, part 3) to back his position up.

Apocalyptic pacifism starts from an ‘already and not yet’ framework, in which the ‘coming age’ (the Kingdom of God)  is breaking in into this age, and in which we as Christians are already living in the reality of that new age. Living as radical peacemakers is one dimension of the Kingdom, but if we read the gospels there is another one that can’t be denied: the supernatural signs of the kingdom are as clear and confronting in the gospels as the radical love for our fellow humans that includes enemy-love… And Ray Hollenbach has a very interesting meditation on this aspect of the Kingdom of God on Students of Jesus. The anabaptist peace tradition and vineyard Kingdom charismatics can learn a  lot from each other and make the Kingdom vision more complete together!

He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9: 1 – 2)

[The perfect soundtrack here would be this gungor song, that we've sung last sunday in Vineyard Antwerpen. I love me some bluesfunk from time to time, and Michael is a very good musician!!]

And then for something else: Laura Ziesel has an interesting series on Christianity, intersex people and eunuchs in the bible. Thanks to Sarah Moon for  making me aware of them and posting an orderly list of them! We should stop seeing this kind of things as ‘issues’ and start looking at it as people who are loved by Christ and should be loved by us all the same!

shalom

Bram

The emmancipation of myth as a truer form of truth, and Truth beyond theory…


So here we go again with my weird rants, that might irritate some people.

Jason Coker on the pastoralia blog has a very interesting post called ‘the Lords prayer as a political manifesto‘. It’s about a very important subject that I’m struggling with myself at the moment, but I’m not going to repeat his point, you’ll have to read it for yourself (you really should!)

What I want to discuss is (in my opinion) probably one of his most controversial paragraphs up to date, at least from a more or less evangelical point of view.

It’s time to grow up. As long as the religious concept of evil remains limited to the personification of a mythical creature and our ability to imagine better possibilities remains limited to a mythical place, we will be forever relegated to the individualized realm of dualistic pietism.

We must follow Christ and the prophets in moving beyond our childish metaphors and concretely name evil for what it really is – starvation, exploitation, exclusion, vengeance, violence, and the like – so we can name goodness for what it really is: equality, provision, peace, and so forth.

My first reaction is one of protest. Calling satan a mythical creature and heaven a mythical place at first sounds like some kind of liberal theology that tries to do away with all things supernatural. But maybe that’s just how my modern bias tends to read it.

The use of the word ‘mythical’ here is interesting, because in a modern discourse its use would mean something negative. But that’s not the case, as Jason makes clear in the comments in an answer to his use on the ‘m-word’:

Well that’s a big question, but a fair one since I’m the one that dropped the m-word. I have no problem with the idea of realms of existence beyond our field of perception. Such a thing has already been demonstrated in theory by physicists.

However, I think we actually know almost nothing about that sort of reality. Moreover, I think the Bible communicates about those realities along the continuum of myth and folklore – which is not a bad thing, in my opinion, as long as you don’t confuse myth and folklore with objective facts. In other words, I think those stories represent real knowledge…just not the kind of knowledge we wanted it to be in the Modern age.

Especially with the note of Jamie Arpin-Ricci that “mythical” does not equal “fictional” and that Something can be mythical and still be true, I think this is a very important discussion. Tolkien and Lewis already spoke of Jesus as ‘true myth’, but I think it’s time to stop the pejorative use of words like myth, or even fable. (And I’m also talking here to people who use ‘myth’ as a synonym for ‘lie’ as Greg Boyd does in book titles as ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ and ‘the myth of a Christian religion’)

We cannot describe everything in modern categories of scientific knowledge… The fact is, that some of the most important things are far beyond fact and measurement. Creation, atonement, the nature of God, the nature of evil and the powers, the Kingdom in its full realisation/heaven, the final judgement, etc… are all things that are too big too describe with our language and the concepts we know from this world. We need to use methaphor and -yes- myth, because our modern conceptions of absolute truth are inaccurate. This is where Derrida and the medieval mystics meet: language nor science could ever descibe those things. Not because they’re not true, but because they’re more true than our so-called ‘scientific’ knowledge…

So all our methaphors fail. All our ways of decribing and imagining fail too, and indeed, if we think that our litteralised methaphorical stories about satan and heaven are all there is to say, we miss a lot. We cannot speak about these things with more scientifically accurate precision than my pet mice can speak about the openoffice program I’m using.

So what I’m advocating is the opposite of the modern ‘liberal’ idea that discards anything that’s non-scientific. Myth, methaphor and parable are the only ways to speak about the things that are most real! And still it’s not at all about speaking of those things, but about living the Life, and letting Christ transform us. Knowledge, be it scientific or mythologic, is not what saves us, except when we are gnostics maybe, but in reality it can only describe things.

If all we have is a faith in theory, we only have faith in theory, and are left with nothing. I am reminded here of the words of a bend from Antwerp called ‘think of one’ who sing ‘tzen gien fabels ginen thejorie’ (‘it’s no fable, and no theory’) in our beautiful dialect, which in turn reminds me of the working class people I’ve worked with. They used the word theory in a pejorative way, and did not believe that anything mattered that could not be used practically… If we don’t have the life of the resurrection in us, what use is there in all our theology?

So myth can be the only way to communicate something that’s truer than any scientific language can contain, and yet truth that’s not incarnated into our lives is not of worth…

Does any of this make sense?

Shalom

Bram

Prophecy, free will and the openness of the future…


This older post from Richard Becks Experimental Theology site has been popping up in the dutch blog- and twitterverse a few times lately:Why the anti-christ is an idiot. It’s kinda funny, but it also reminds me of old King Herod. I’ve always wondered what was going on in the guys head: he hears from the magi about a newborn king, and supposes it is the messiah of which the prophecies speak. So what does he do: he tries to kill the newborn messiah…

Isn’t this very strange? How can anyone in their right mind believe in the prophecy that tells about the birth of the messiah, and then still think that they can stop the rest of the prophecy by killing the baby? It’s a strange way of taking prophecy serious: believing in it and still believing you can change the end of the story in a way that workes out better for you…

It’s a strange subject: prophecy and the openness of the future. I as a Christian do believe in prophecy, including foretelling prophecy. (I even believe as a charismatic that it still happens today, even though I’m very sceptical about the wacko prophecies that arise out of some corners of the hypercharismatic world that never seem to be fulfilled) For example I believe that Jesus was the fulfilling of a lot of prophecies in the Old Testament, like the gospels tell us, and like Jesus told the guys on the way to Emmaus. So I believe God can, and does, show us the future. (And sometimes hide it in weird cryptical pictures that only are clears afterward…but that’s another story)

But yet I don’t believe in a God that micro-manages everything, but in free will. So even if God is above time the future is in a way ‘open’. We do what we do in free will. We might be influenced by our instincts, our DNA, our trauma, the Holy Spirit or even more evil spirits, whatever,… But our deeds are ours, and we more or less choose them. Otherwise justice cannot even exist. If God micromanages every very deed we do, He is the cause of our sin, not we. Then He is behind everything He says He hates in the bibles, which does not make much sense at all… (I don’t say that God should always follow our human logic, but this is evil nonsense and even blasphemy[1])

So I wouldn’t use the modern concept of the universe as a watch and God as a watchmaker (an idea which did much harm to christianity defending itself in modernity, sorry mr. Paley) The universe is not a machine (and neither is the human being, or any living organism) But more as God sheperding both this world and the lives of believers -and non-believers-. Leading it, and where needed influencing it, probably correcting it here and there, but letting the world mostly unfold in it’s onw free will. Except of course that when God wants to do someting, it will happen. God will maken it happen. After all, He is the Almighty…

I was thinking about the same concept when I was re-reading the silver chair, one of the narnia stories by C.S. Lewis, who in his non-fiction also speaks of God above time and seeing all time at once (I think it was in mere christianity) and who says to defend a traditional view there. In the beginning Aslan sends Jill on a quest to find the lost prince, and he also gives her some signs that she and Eustace should follow, which they mostly don’t. They pretty much screw op most of the time! But in spite of that, they manage to find the prince, and save Narnia from an evil witch who wants to enslave it once more… So Aslan is working towards something with the 2 children, and probably cleaning up the mess behind the scenes, but in the end he gets to the goal. It could’ve happened more easily is they had talked the old King, or not had gone to the city of giants, but still the outcome is there: the prince is found, and Narnia is saved!

God has an outcome, but that does not mean that the ways are fixed. So that means that foretelling prophecy might just be God telling what His plans are, not revealing a fixed future… Like Jonah foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, which doesn’t happen because the people change their mind…

So, is this ‘open theism’? I honestly don’t know. I guess I should read some Greg Boyd on the subject. I don’t know if we as humans can even understand how the relation is between eternity where God lives and our time… We probably are flatlanders explaining a goldfish in the terms of our 2D worldview. I believe that God created time as we know it together with our universe -so I reject process theology- and I also know that God the son entered time in the incarnation. Maybe it is a mystery. God does probably influence a lot more than we realise, and the paradox between free will and predestination might be solved from a view outside of this time…

But the future is calling us. The Kingdom of God is already breaking is into our world here and now sometimes. That which started with the resurrection will once be a whole new earth and a whole new heaven, and it’s inviting us to join in already. God is calling us, and will do all he can, and fulfill His promises. But that does not mean we have to sit back and wait…

shalom

Bram

[1] I am aware that some in the reformed tradition try to make sense of this kind of ideas, in order to protect their faith from problems that I don’t see, but that’s not my problem… It’s not my tradition and I don’t care any more about supposed calvinist theology and philosophy(of which some wouldn’t even be recoginised by old John Calvin) than I do about the infallibility of the pope. It only would distract me from the Christ and the bible to engage in such discussions, even when I see both reformed and catholics as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

What do we want? (reflecting on a sufi prayer)



Sufi Comics: Imam Ali's Prayer

I was reading a blog by a sufi muslim, and found this prayer which made me think:

O My Lord,
if I worship You from fear of Hell, burn me in Hell;
and if I worship You from hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your own sake,
do not withhold from me Your Eternal Beauty.

~ Rabia

I have no intent to convert myself or anyone to sufi islam, but I think we all need to reflect upon this prayer, and we all should investigate our heart. For this is a serious matter!

We should also question the way we communicatie Christ to the world. Like the saying says ‘what we win them with, we win them to’. If we ‘win people to Christ’ with flashy videos and rock’n roll, will they stay in our church if we cut down on the electricity?

If we win people to Christ because He is the way to not go to hell, do we really bring them to Christ? Or would they pragmatically choose any other way to get out of hell?? Would we bring animal sacrifices or buy indulgences if they were convinced that was the way out of hell, or do we follow Jesus for who He is?

It’s not up to me to judge anyones intentions or faith, but we all know God sees the heart… Accepting Jesus to get something (like a free ‘get out of hell’ card) and not because of Jesus Himself. If we don’t really love God but just want to ‘get out of hell’ we still won’t have much fun in heaven, because it’s being with God for all eternity. There’s no point in believing in God if what we want is not God, we cannot use God to get something else. There’s no point in following Jesus if what we want is not Jesus, and there’s no Christianity without Him at all.

Christianity revolves around Christ. God incarnate who became one of us and shared in our humanity, even til death, and who conquered death and evil in the resurrection. And he calls us to follow, to bring His Kingdom, and says the gates of hell will not prevail against us, His Church.

So what do we want?
Do we want Jesus?
Let’s go for it then, brothers and sisters!

Let us pray

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as in heaven

Amen

Bram

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

Reclaiming supernaturalism II: on my problem with christian materialism


I’m in a blogging streak right now. so one more post in this ‘open-source theology project’ on post-evangelical thought and supernaturalism in Christianity, and I hope that after this one I’ll be writing one more post about Dan Brennans book on cross-gender friendships (see posts  -1, 0, 1).

So I started with my concern about how the currend trends of accepting evolution (and other ones) to me seem to open the door to (post-)evangelicals for a christianity without supernaturalism. I know very well this such a thing is not necessary outcome of accepting a more evolutionary creation view, and also that for example in the more liberal churches that there already are pretty naturalistic forms  of christianity. But still I do see that a lot of people beyond the post-modern paradigm shift and in the emerging church discussion don’t have much to say about the supernatural realm, and tend to be or silent on this subject, or to lean more to the ‘liberal’ side, which accepts naturalism as a reality and tries to incorporate it into a more materialistic kind of christianity.

But my problem -as someone from a charismatic background who from experience cannot deny the supernatural in different forms- with this christian materialism is that I can’t see it as something other than unrealistic synchretism of christianity with the theories of post-enlightenment western thinking, without being informed by a more spiritual reality. I don’t believe that the line between natural and supernatural is more than a practical line, which has been drawn during the enlightenment period between what could be measured and investigated, and what not… So we as westeners divided the visible from the invisible and made a materialistic wordview, in which only the visible exists, the rest is nonsense, superstition, whatever. (Very safe worldview if you are affraid of the onknown and looking for security…)

I do believe that this form on naturalism is mainly a western idea, and Christians nor non-christians in other parts of the world wil never fall for it since they do experience the supernatural…

Now it is true that the one big problem with the invisible still is that it is invisible, and we don’t know much about it… We cannot research it in a scientific way, as we can do with the visible. So it’s one area that we cannot know much of, except from experiences and subjective interpretations of things that go beyond our rationality. And what I lump together here as the invisble does not have to be monolythinc, in fact I very hard doubt it is… There might be lines and divisions in the invisible that could be drawn, that are way more clear than our natural/supernatural divide…

There are cultures in which there is no divide between the natural and the supernatural, in which all of the world is one continuum including both. And even if there might be a lot superstition, wrong explanation of the invisible and even demonic influenced false information, I think they are closer to seeing the world as it is than western materialism will ever be able to be. For example I think there is more than just demonic lies behind all the talk about chackras, auras and stuff, even if the explanations given are wrong, there is some reality behind them. And some stuff in the paranormal department might also be just ‘invisible physics. The problem with us westeners and the invisible is that we are totally disconnected with it, which is very dangerous if we are going to experiment with it unprotected. New agers flashing on everything spiritual and supernatural are very likely to meet some things that are not as friendly -and useful- as they seem….

So I believe that here in the ‘natural’ world there also is an invisible half that we don’t know of, and can’t know of in the same way as we know the visible half, since we are not able to investigate it in any meanigful way according to the standards of our rational and emprical paradigms… But to dismiss it for that reason is just wishful thinking in my eyes, like the proverbial ostrich who pust its head in the sand to not see his enemy. Or is that only an expression in dutch?

(this subject gives funny conversations with new atheists btw…)

The realm of angels and demons might be something totally different than the invisible part of ‘our’ universe… I’ve even wondered if there is a category of more ‘natural’ spirits that are part of our world, and that totally different from the messenger or archangels who have their own world… But that would be more speculation…

But my proposal is that we as postmoderns, even if we don’t know how to categorise it, make room again for the supernatural in our christian worldview. And then I’m not even speaking of the works of the Spirit, just about the supernatural site of Creation (our universe, and maybe beyond…)

(and I do not say that naturalist christians are heretics, I will only say that in my opinion they might miss an entire dimension of Christianity, in which they can experience the Salvation of Christ in the ‘here and now’ part of the Kingdom…)

shalom

Bram

Jesus saves, or the red pill out of Babylon?


You might or might not like this song, but I’m affraid I  do. And for more than just the quirky industrial rock aesthetics. I always get some chills, some kind of apocalyptic feeling of urgency over me when I hear the words Brian sings. As if someone is telling me, matrix-wise to use the red pill , that I happen to have with me, but always forget that I can take it…

Run away from all your boredom
Run away from all your whoredom
and wave Your worries, and cares, goodbye

All it takes is one decision
A lot of guts, a little vision to wave
Your worries, and cares goodbye

It’s a maze for rats to try
It’s a maze for rats to try

It’s a race, a race for rats
A race for rats to die

It’s a race, a race for rats
A race for rats to die

run away
run away

So I get the feeling I should run, even though I don’t know where to, and take the red pill, and pick up my bed and leave all things useless and harmfull, and look for the light and go for it. Let’s call it an escape from Babylon system, the soulless monstruosity which turns us into less than humans, and reduces us to the part of a machine. A machine that may even be a suicide machine that could consume the whole planet and turn it into shit while all we do is just endure the status quo of our great civilisation.

But for some reason I never get far. I have my dreams of getting away, and maybe I might even try, but it’s no use. The sad truth is that I can run away as far as I want from Babylon, everywhere I could go I’ll still have Babylon in my heart, and if I’d find unspoiled territory I’d only contaminate it with the very thing I’d try to get rid off…

It’s like an addict who tries to stop his drugs. One decision may be enough, but like a marriage which is not one moment of vow but a whole life of living that vow together, I do not seem to be able to make it real. I’m not strong enough, and I don’t know what to do, I’m programmed by the patterns of Babylon…I seem to stay in nomansland in the best moments, and I’m just asleep or actively participating in Babylon in the worst ones… From the viewpoint of  human being I’m pretty hopeless…

I need help. And I know that the only One who can really help me is the one who is not from Babylon. The One whose Kingdom is the one place I long for… The Prince of peace, bringer of salvation. To use great Christianese words that may be totally meaningless in the real world if we don’t watch out how we (ab)use them.

I’m a christian. I’ve been one all my life, even though there were moments that I’ve been struggling. I believe that the core of christianity lies in Jesus as God incarnate, and that Jesus saves us. Now that statement can be interpreted in very different ways. Sometimes I’ve been told things that seem like it only means that after this life we won’t go to hell, and nothing else. Just some mystical change in the heavenly realm, but nothing else. God does not intervene much… I find that kind of deism very tiring I’m affraid.

In the pentecostel church as a kid I learned that God does intervene, but it was totally cut loose from salvation as far as I could see. Even when YHWH saves the israelites out of Egypt, that is not salvation. Salvation is going to heaven. But then in a lot of places salvation seems to mean a lot of things. The example of the israelites taken out of egypt surely is a form of salvation… I do believe that salvation is more than just going to heaven after this life. I believe it is connected to the coming of Gods Kingdom, which Jesus announced, in and through our lives. I believe in salvation as a process, ongoing salvation, which ends in being with God forever, but that’s not the only thing there can be said about it…

Jesus  invades our life when the Spirit fills us. Where the light is the darkness cannot be. Where the Spirit is Babylon cannot exist. Where perfect love is, there cannot be fear. But that’s just theory for me. Just as the assurance that after this life I won’t go to hell. It doesn’t change my life. In the worst case I could be the irritating protestant who avoids to do anything good because then I would be trying to be saved by works… But that’s just nonsense. Being saved also is a process of being changed, of bringing the Kingdom into our lives, so that ‘His will can be done on earth as in heaven’. and then we wil automaticly do those good workd, not to be saved, but because being a new creation is not theory, or at least, it ought not be…

Shane Claiborne says somewhere (roughly parafrased) that when Jesus says ‘follow me’, that he invites us into a new way of Life. And that’s what I need. I need Life, for me and for this starving world around me. I need salvation, to pass it on to this poor planet… We are lost. and if Jesus is not being saving us here and now, what sense does it make to discuss about atonement theories and soteriology and whatever academic subjects we can make out of it? Does it make sense to discuss about all those things, or are we just called to follow?

And like John Wimber asked: When are we gonna do the stuff? I’ve been a christian all this time, and it’s still mostly theory, even the commandment to love is not being very actual in my life all the time. I’m still at the beginning of my way. And maybe I need to take the red pill daily; and convert time after time. But I believe Jesus saves! And I want to take new steps in that faith!!

Jesus,
learn me to follow You,
and to live Life,
and to bring salvation
to this broken world

Father,
Let Your kingdom come
Let Your will be done
on earth
as it is in heaven

spirit
flow through me
and let me be transformed
to the patterns of Jesus

Jesus can get Babylon out of me, and send me back into Babylon as an ambassador of light.

I pray He does, for nothing else would make sense for this life

shalom

Bram