Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Forgotten Gospel - Jersak, Parry, Kruger, Young, Hiett, Ramelli

Author and CWR Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Brad Jersak, will be speaking at "The Forgotten Gospel" conference in Denver, CO August 5-7. 

This is a great opportunity to hear and meet authors speak about the biblical declaration of God's relentless love and plan to reconcile all His creation. A time to develop new friendships and galvanize the growing community of Christians embracing the forgotten gospel. 

Location: The Sanctuary, 3101 W. 31st Ave., Denver, CO 
Website: www.TheForgottenGospel.com
Speakers: Brad Jersak, Peter Hiett, C. Baxter Kruger, Robin Parry, Wm. Paul Young, Ilaria Ramelli

Monday, July 18, 2016

Grace on Trial - CWR Interview: Greg Albrecht with Steve McVey

Greg Albrecht: I'm talking with a good friend, Steve McVey of Grace Walk Ministries. Steve is the president of Grace Walk Ministries. Steve, I've got to tell you that I wish there were more people in this world who are proclaiming radical grace.

Steve: When we talk about grace we're talking about Jesus, and I think folks need to have that firmly in their minds, that grace personified is Jesus Christ. So to those who say, well, that's great to talk about grace but there are other things too, I say, well, what else is there? The grace of Jesus Christ is the gospel. Radical grace—I like that. For those who may not know, let's remind them the word "radical" comes from the Latin word radic or radix which means root—like radish. The etymology of the word means the root. So when you and I proclaim radical grace (and I commend you— I have long had a respect for you and your proclamation of radical grace) let's remind people this "radical" doesn't mean "off the wall." Radical grace means taking people back to the roots of the gospel, because that's what we do—that's our goal.

Greg: Let's talk a bit more about you. How did God lead you, and what circumstances happened in your life to lead you to do what you've been doing for the better part of the last two decades?

Steve: At the risk of sounding self-serving, I'll say that my first book, Grace Walk, is my story. It tells how I came out of legalism and into an understanding of God's grace that I have today. Not that I've come to complete understanding— we're always on a continuum and still learning, but I wrote my story in the book. The short version of it is that I grew up in a Christian home, went to church all my life, started preaching at 16 years old and became a senior pastor at 19 years old.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Q & R: What are the Limits of Everlasting Mercy? - Brad Jersak

"And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." Genesis 6:3

"For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:5 
"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever." Psalm 136:1

 Question: If God's Spirit "shall not always strive with man" (Genesis 6:3), then what are the limits of God's mercy? David proclaims God's mercy as enduring forever and his lovingkindness as everlasting. But doesn't his patience run out? Doesn't the story of Noah, for example, show that God is patient and long-suffering, but that he also has his limits ... limits that ended in world-destruction through the flood? Doesn't Peter imagine God's wrath being stored up for a final incineration of this world? (2 Peter 3:10). And what about the Book of Revelation? Doesn't it teach that the love and grace of Jesus Christ extend throughout this age, but culminate in a second-coming marked by Christ's violent overthrow of the powers and its people? (Revelation 19). Does this mean his lovingkindness is only forever for believers or the elect?

Response: The best way to resolve this tension, in my view, is to locate the limits of God's mercy elsewhere than duration (because mercy is rooted in his eternal nature, which is love). Even in Jeremiah's Lamentations, the prophet insists, "Because of the LORD'S great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail" (3:22). That's a lot of faith for someone's whose city was under siege and would in fact be consumed.

Moreover, Peter describes how the mercy of God towards those who perished in the flood even outlasted their deaths. His first epistle (chapters 3-4) describes a God who never gives up, even on the prototypical wicked. The divine Word assumes perishable flesh so that Jesus Christ can pursue them even into the underworld, where the "gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (4:6). 

If the limit of God's mercy is neither death nor duration, then what? I would propose that divine mercy finds its limits at coercion. When the Bible says his restraining Spirit "will not strive forever," it means that when our defiance escalates to critical mass, it is not that God's mercy ends--it's that he will not rescue us by coercion. As I've written elsewhere, "he gives us over" to the self-destructive consequences of our choices rather than forcing us to obey. That is, his striving stops short of violent intervention, but he never ceases to wait in love for our eventual return home. 

In A More Christlike God I describe how this "giving over" reality can metaphorically be called "wrath." But in fact, if we persist in refusing God's striving call home, sin itself destroys us (not God, directly) ... and even then, God's mercy is not exhausted. It remains forever, outlasting our willful rejection, out-waiting our self-destructive choices and even outliving death itself. So the limits of this mercy are not gauged by a patience that gets weary, but instead, a love that wins by love, but never will-violating force.

Not that the limits of mercy (shy of coercion) are anemic or powerless. Illumination can seem very forceful ... recall the Apostle Paul's conversion! The commitment of God to turning Paul's heart did not come in half-measures. But even there, if we hear Paul's analysis in 2 Corinthians 4, God did not shackle him into submission, but instead, unshackled him for redemption. God's patience--the Spirit's willingness to strive with Paul--was to the extreme, even giving Paul over to his murderous ways. But his wickedness did not outlast God's mercy and did not require God's coercion (if only barely). 

The point is, for there to be no contradiction between a striving that ceases and a mercy that endures, we set the limits of mercy at coercive force while counting on everlasting (limitless) love, which means even beyond the grave. "We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to the LIFE of the age to come!" (Nicene Creed).  

Deconstruction or Reconstruction - Brian Zahnd

In describing my journey of rethinking Christianity over the past twelve years I’ve used a couple of metaphors. One I call “End of the Line.” I first used this metaphor when speaking to the staff of Charisma Publishing six years ago. Later I wrote an op-ed piece on this metaphor which was published in Charisma magazine in May of 2010. In that piece I introduced the metaphor like this:
“I’m reminded of the times I’ve been in Paris and traveling across the city on the metro system. If I want to travel from Notre Dame to Montmartre I can’t do it on one train. At some point I have to disembark, find the correct platform and catch another train. If you’ve never done it before it can be confusing. This may be a prophetic analogy for the confusion evangelicals feel in the first part of the 21st century. We’ve reached a terminus. We need to find another platform. We need to catch a new train. And we’re not quite sure what it is. But of this we can be quite certain: the train we have been on will not carry Christianity into the 21st century in a compelling and engaging way — no matter how enthusiastically we sing ‘give me that old time religion’ while we sit on a motionless train. What is this train stuck at the station? I think it can be summed up as ‘Christianity characterized by protest.’ We need to face the reality that the protest train has come to the end of the line.”
The other metaphor is “Water To Wine” — a metaphor I set forth in a memoir published earlier this year.

Finding the right platform to catch the right train to carry Christianity into the 21st century. 
Watered-down consumer Christianity being transformed into the rich wine of a robust Christianity.
I like these metaphors.
Which brings me to a way of talking about rethinking Christianity that I don’t like and my suggestion of a third metaphor.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

There Is No 'Us' or 'Them' - Jeff K. Clarke

One of the primary reasons we struggle with differing views on any subject is that we believe acceptance equals agreement. That is, to accept a person or their argument is to agree with them. As a result, we conclude that we cannot accept the person for fear of being seen as agreeing with them. However, there is a better way.

Bruxy Cavey, Teaching Pastor at The Meeting House in Oakville, ON., addresses this very concern.
“Acceptance does not equal agreement. When we confuse the two we withhold acceptance in order to show disagreement. Jesus shows us a better way.”
As we attempt to navigate a way forward we need to keep this idea in mind. While we can differ greatly on any issue, we will only move forward towards thoughtful conversation when all parties involved understand that acceptance does not equal agreement.

Everybody Worships by Mockingbird

“Everybody worships.” Two simple words, subject and verb. Everybody. Worships.
Google the dyad and the source explodes off the screen, a wholly unexpected wellspring for theologians (and Mockingbird).
David Foster Wallace was an enigmatic literary genius. It’s almost embarrassing for me to say, the height of clich├ęs, but I must: Reading Infinite Jest changed my life. DFW’s hyper-intellectual maze of words and atonal writing style sprung a creative trap in me that may not be evident in my novel, Eat What You Kill, but, trust me, both are woven through my very being. DFW did something that, naively and mistakenly, I did not, at that point in my life, believe possible: He made fiction an intellectual exercise, a measure of intelligence, a journey into random, self-indulgent, story-telling. David Foster Wallace gave me permission to write.
A decade after devouring Infinite Jest, about 40,000 words into EWYK, I found myself volunteering at Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s welcome table, and there it was, excerpted on a banner hanging on the wall:
Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Links to CWR Magazine - Summer Articles

Greg Albrecht: Whose Image is on the Coin? The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Politics

Why We Love the Walking Dead - by Kevin Miller

Zombies! They're everywhere, which is precisely the problem with these undead ghouls. Once one of them shows up, more of them are bound to follow, lurching out of the rubble of the ruined landscape or, if you’re really unlucky, running. Mindless, relentless, and insatiable—like a herd of shoppers on Black Friday—no matter how hard you resist, it’s only a matter of time before the zombies take over. And take over they have. 

Zombies began haunting movie theaters in the 1930s, with White Zombie (1932) considered to be the first feature length zombie film. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) brought them into the nuclear age, adding both the flesh-eating and the post-apocalyptic components, which have been the mainstay of zombie stories ever since. Zombies have gone on to infest comic books, television, video games, Jane Austen novels (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and even science. A recent paper out of Cornell University used a zombie outbreak to simulate a real disease epidemic and determine the best place to hole up and wait out the apocalypse (turns out Glacier National Park is a safe bet). 

Of all the zombific manifestations that have proliferated across our imaginations over the past few decades, one reigns supreme: The Walking Dead. What began as a comic book series has become a television ratings sensation. The show is so popular it’s spawned a spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, which is already breaking ratings records. The question behind all of this is, why? Why has a creature that used to lurk only on double bills at the drive-in landed itself squarely in prime time?

Experiencing the Peace of Christ - by Greg Albrecht

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit
.—Ephesians 2:13-18
Peace is, next to love, one of the peak experiences humans most deeply desire. We desire to be in love and we desire to be at peace. What kind of peace does God offer us? The peace of God is much more than simply the absence of conflict—God's peace is security, assurance and serenity, produced by knowing God, by his grace, in a special and intimate way.

Our keynote passage is all about being one in Christ. Paul begins by talking about separation—humans from other humans, and humans from God. He continues the discussion of separation and alienation by noting the divide between Jews and non-Jews (the biblical term for non-Jews is gentiles) and all humans from God.

In the first verse of our passage (verse 13) Paul says that now, because of Christ Jesus, those of us who were once far away are now near, through the blood of Christ. We have peace because the separation—the gulf, the divide, between us and God—has been bridged by Jesus. 

Because of Jesus we are now something we were not before. Because of Jesus we are not separated, we are near. Because of Jesus we now know God, as opposed to a time when we did not. Because of Jesus we now experience God's peace.