Tag Archives: postmodernism

Some interesting things elsewhere IX


So here we are back with another edition of ‘Some interesting things elsewhere’, after quite a long absence…

A picture of a Snowy owl, which has been taken just before newyear, here in Belgium close to the Northsea coast. This is an arctic species that very seldom come so far to the South, and scientist do think that this specimen does not come from Northern Scandinavia, but has taken a boar from Northern Canada… No matter where it comes from, it’s a beautiful picture of a beautiful bird. (Picture via natuurpunt on facebook)sneeuwuil

Lana Hope has started an interesting series about what is modernity that looks quite promising. Speaking of modernity and Christianity, Roger Olson had a series too a while ago that is worth reading: Christianity and modernity: oil and water? Part 2 part 3. As someone who does identify as postmodern and who wants to connect more to the non-modern roots of my religion those things are very interesting…

David Russell Mosley from the letters from Elfland has written a very interesting artcile On the economics of Elfland for the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. I recently reread the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which I like a lot) and watched the second hobbit movie (which was quite disappointing, you can’t make a movie of the hobbit without including the gradual arrival at Beorns house, and a love triangle with a female elf captian Kili the dwarf and Legolas who isn’t even in the book is just too much…) so I’m still in a Tolkien mood anyway.

To show how different life and gender issues can be in other places: Indian Eunuchs adopt to fulfill motherhood. The eunuchs in questions are living in special brothels, and the person the article speaks about identifies as ‘she’, and has a heartbreaking story. No matter how different and difficult their lives, they are humans like us!

Did you hear my EP instant pocket apocalypse from last summer, which might have been the least advertised release ever? It switches from abstract electronic instrumentals to weird semi-electronic indierock and other not-so-common stuff. I will never be able to play any of this live though…

Zack Hoag quits the progressive Christian internet for 2014 and I completely understand him. As a non-American I don’t even understand all the calling-out for using the wrong words and all the shibboleths of that strange niche…

On new years eve we had ‘de tijdloze’ in Flanders on the radio station studio Brussel, when the listeners choose the top-100 of classic rock-songs, including some hard ones. For the first time #1 was Led Zeppelin with ‘stairway to heaven’, which kicked ‘smells like teen spirit’ from its first place. (#3 was Pearljams ‘black’, a song I don’t care for much. Also, the weird song Mia (click for my blogpost about that song), a former #1, fell to 22, which means the end of an era… (singing that the middleclass rules the country better than ever before isn’t accurate anymore?)

And which means that there wasn’t any Belgian song in the top-20 left… (Only Americans and Brittish ones even, speak of colonialism? -edit: Wait, isn’t the arcade fire Canadian?-)

This sociological piece about American fundamentalism confirms my suspicion that unlike whatever it might claim it is not at all built around ‘the bible only’ at all, but more like a complex man-made (made up on the way?) tradition.

Speaking about American fundamentalism, this slice of life story at the broken daughters blog (by an American ex-fundamentalist girl currently studying in Germany) is quite funny to me. Don’t ask me why…

And this is just a fraction how we humans are being an abomination against nature and Creation: 10 animals that went extinct in 2013 (or declared extinct)

Another sad statistic from last year: 70.000 Christians killed in 2013

And then there’s this genius piece from the onion about brainwashed idiots feeding the poor (yes that’s satire, but it sounds like some atheists I’ve met)

What did you see that caught your eye?

Peace

Bram

Short thoughts on the futility of language


Rosetta_Stone

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If 2 or more groups disagree on the meaning of a word, communication is futile. When scientists use the word ‘theory’ they have a certain meaning. When creationists hear the word they attach a completely different meaning to it. And when working class people hear the word they just us it pejoratively, as in ‘its work in theory’, which means it does not work. (Like in a users manual)
what does the word theory mean? I do have my theories about it…

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Perspectivism is good, but hardline postmodernist relativism in the end dissolves all meaning that could be. Just as with post-structuralism and the futility of the meaning of words we need to find a balance or we have nothing left.
The other option would be completely naive though. To think that my perspective (or that of my tradition, the Western modern enlightenment tradition for example) is completely objective and not just the best but also ‘the right way’ to look at a certain thing. Same with the meaning of words, if we thing words can have a fixed meaning we will only get frustrated and confused in the end by the real world…

The question is how to find this balance… Continue reading

An apophatic video interlude with Peter Rollins…


I’ve been talking about apophatic theology, and the limits of language earlier, and the idea will come back in some future posts. Apophatic or negative theology is a very important way of doing theology in the Eastern Orthodox church and some church fathers. The basic idea is that God the Creator does not exist like we do, and is not bound to words and ideas that are derived from what we know as created beings in Creation, so the only way to speak of God is to say what God is not…

Another tradition that is very suspicious of the preciseness of language, when speaking about anything actually, not just God, would be postmodernist continental philosophy, which is quite popular in certain parts of the emerging church. So here is for you the guy with the coolest accent and the weirdest background music in postmodern christianity, Peter Rollins himself.

And no, whatever the description on youtube says, he could actually not be further away from classical christian liberalism, and fits more between old orthodox mystic apophatic negative theology and postmodern linguistic deconstructionism… Both thought systems that couldn’t be removed further from the rationalist roots of the original Christian liberalism… And yes, some of his stuff here is just semantic wordplay probably… Some atheists would object to his definition of atheism probably, but I see where he’s coming from.

What do you think? Is Pete making sense here? Or is he just talking heresy or plain nonsense to you?

shalom

Bram

For those wondering, a spiritual autobiography…


I grew up in a post-catholic country at the end of its dechristianisation process. After WW II Belgium had changed from a catholic country into a secular one, and when I was a kid in the ’80s the catholic school I went to was on its way from a dilluted liberal catholicism to some kind of secular nothingness. But that wasn’t my main influence for my faith: my father was active in a small pentecostel Church, and I’ve been going to pentecostel churches all of my childhood. To be complete I should add that my parents were not just pentecostals, they were originally converts of the catholic charismatic renewal movement coming out of a cultural post-catholicism.  All evangelical type churches I’ve seen were small (the biggest one in Antwerp is 250 people, most are around 30), and there are not much of them… And the catholic ones mostly have only have a small group of old people in it, and younger living groups are almost as rare as evangelical ones I think.

What I remember from the catholicism is that they did not seem to believe in anything very much; though I felt an outsider in school since I as a protestant wasn’t allowed to do my first communion. The faith in God that was presented may have been at the end of the slippery slope towards atheism, but the traditions were still very alive. But it was in my ‘real’ church that I learned about Jesus and started to believe. I can remember the atmosphere that only we pentecostels were ‘true christians’ because only we ‘had the Holy Spirit’ and were born-again. Another thing that I vaguely remember was the Jesus people influence, the last traces of the jesus hippie movement were still alive when I was young, and lost of people from the pentecostel scene were jesus people conversions…

When I was a teenager, my father, who had been a pastor (unordained, I hardly know any ordained pentecostel or evangelical pastor here) left the church we were in to get involved in a church planting project with Vineyard, which was a fairly new movement in the benelux at the moment. I don’t think I noticed the theological differences, but now I do. The Kingdom theology, and the relative eucemenical openness to the whole Church I readily accepted. It felt natural to me.

what I didn’t care for was the whole Toronto stuff… My father had been there in its early days, I think even twice (before the Toronto airport fellowship and the vineyard movement parted ways) and they did some holy-Spirit nights I think, but for adults, so I wasn’t there. And I never qualified for a good pentecostal, for till this day I never spoke in tongues… There were some controverses about the whole Toronto fire stuff in the flemish evangelical and pentecostel circles, but I do not remember well enough.

Also, it might sound strange for me as a musician, but I’ve never really been into the whole vineyard (or other) worship music hype. The thing is that I as a teenager had the opinion that music played towards God wasn’t something tolisten to and buy on Cd, but to play live to worship God. I must say that I only really got into worship with the discovery souljunks 1950 album, which may sound terrible to a lot of ears, but the honest, raw cries to God really resonated with me. I still am not fond of lots of woship and praise music (a style problem) but I appreciate its connection with God. But please keep your hillsong CD’s far from me…

As a young adult I was (and still am) active as musician and worship leader in our small vineyard congregation (10 years after we officially started it’s still just 30 people, but all evangelical churches are small here, and there are not exactly much of them -except for african and brazilian pentecostel churches in a few big cities, but that’s a third world enclave with not much connection to the flemish culture-) I tried to work out how to live out my faith, and out of my questions I started some kind of very primitive email-magazine ‘hallo medechristentjes’ (‘hello fellow christians’ in funny dutch), in which I wrote articles about thing concerning my faith, my questions, and stuff… I did that for several years; but it finally faded away when I ceased being the hopeless single and found the one girl who is now my wife… Relationships can take time, energy and inspiration…

but I started to broaden my spiritual scope. I first read a lot of evangelical, vineyard and pentecostel books, and a lot of C.S. Lewis, and then some catholic books. And then I got interested in a more radical Christianity, and discovered Christian anarchism (jesusradicals forum style) and read Jacques Ellul, and more stuff like that.  And I got married, in a controversial way for some, but that’s another story (part of it is contained in my emerging joneses and marriage post)
Then a few years ago came the memorable psalters concert here in Antwerp. I was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. And they were also extremely nice people with whom I had some theological discussions. They told me to read a book by one of their friends, called Shane Claiborne. Which really shaked me, and totally resonated with my way of thinking, though I’ve never been able to live it out until now. I need to work that out…

But from Shane Claiborne I came unto the ‘emerging Church’ discussion the last 2 years or so. I read some books and articles and blogs, and discovered I was more than 100% postmodern. I could read ‘a new kind of Christian’ as a native. I had words to describe my worldview and paradigm. I never was sure what ‘emerging church’ was, and I think I’m most attracted to the Kingdom emphasis, the neo-anabaptisch radical discipleship influence, the missional approach to faith, the humble postmodern epistemology and the new monasticism which still impresses me. I hope to one day join it…

But here in Flanders the whole emerging church is still under the radar, and even though there may be some influence in the mainstream of the NOOMA-stuff and some people reading shane Claiborne, most of it is still far away from our small isolated evangelical churches. And the world around is is so thoroughly secular, and the answers we have to give as a church and the questions people in the world have don’t always seem to match… So I pray that we’ll be able to find new ways to live out and bring the gospel, and bring a light to this society that is so lost sometimes…

Now I’m here… Still active in Vineyard (music and sometimes preaching) but looking for new ways to live my faith. I don’t know where we’ll go from here. I want to follow Jesus, and bring His Love and Life to these people… But it’s a long way to go…

Father

Let Your Kingdom Come

Let Yoy will be done

here on earth and in Belgium as in heaven

shalom

Bram

the fossilisation of Christian tradition…


so what’s the core of Christianity? Go to 10 different Christians and there are 10 different stories. Go to 10 churches and you get maybe 10 different ways of telling it. Which is not necessarily a problem: everybody has his own unique way of telling the story that is much bigger than us… Everybody has his own context, in which God intervenes in another way. The things Christ done on earth were already so much that all the books of the world could contain them, so what about what He’s done in all those places in all those years after that…

I think all christians agree that we have the bible, but then the next question is: what should we do with it? how should we read id? And then we take this verse here, and this idea there, and build theologies on them… And in the end we come with some systemathic theology or some fundamentals and stuff. and no it’s not an exact translation of the bible into our systemathic thinking, but it mostly can be proved with this, verse here, and then this verse, so it’s biblical. And so it’s important… Problem is that pastor A sys X; and church B says Y, and theology C says Z, and they are all not compatible and yet al very biblical… And that’s when christianity gets very exhausting: you have to be very unhealthily post-modern to accept all these stories that are all built on ‘the truth of the bible’ as equally true and all leading to the God of the bible…  And on the other hand it is very unhealthily modern to think that these 5 point or this list of dogmas is all there is to say about the gospel, and that it would totally sum up the bible…

Now, it’s true that every time and culture has its own contextualisation of the gospel. he gospel must be explained in terms the people can understand, and lived in a way that Christians can be salt and light in that particular place where they are…

Something new happens, and maybe God does something, and people built their own structures around that. I guess that’s unavoidable ti a certain degree, but the problem is that in the end the structures and systems take over, and the dynamics get static, and in the end the Holy Spirit has no place to move anymore (so He may start a totally new movement in this stagen totally opposed to the old one…) But the old tradition then is in danger of just getting fossilised…

So in this 2000 years we have accumulated fossilised tradition. I won’t say that a lot of it is initially started as a movement of the Spirit itself, but lots of it are not relevant anymore, and more of an obstacle between us and Christ than that they’re very helpfull… What to do with them?

I would say that all that does not lead to a life closer to the following of Christ should not be given too much time and credit… We should worship God, and not try to just uphold any human tradition…

So maybe it’s always time to rethink all those old ‘fundamentals’ and ‘lists of doctrines’ from older ages that may be based on the bible (but also on a historical context. That’s what I like about fresh expressions that I meet in the blogosphere like ‘the doctrines of grace‘ (the acronym BEERS instead of the old ‘calvinistic’ TULIP) or the ‘five fundamergent fundamentals’. We need that, if we want the bible to be living and if we don’t wat to get fossilised…

Now one note: the other opposite of fossilised tradition is as evil. We have to see that we stand in that Big Tradition, and that we need it, even when there are dangers attached to it. If we throw everything over board and we try to reinvent the wheel and the warm water we are really really really stupid too. Surely we can and should learn from all those Christians and followers of Jesus in other times and places. But we should never let one tradition be absolute. The incarnation of Gods will in Jesus, not a human construction of ideas and practices…

shalom

Bram