Book Update

As some of you know, I’ve been writing another book, this one tentatively titled “Unboxing God–An Unevangelical Guide to Christianity.”

Well, I’ve completed the manuscript and have now hired an editor (with a theology background) to go through it. As with most creative types, I go between “this is excellent” to crippling self-doubt. The editor helps, and I think will be well worth the investment.

You might get the idea from the title that it’s just another postmodern, deconstructionist thing, but it’s actually more of a pre-modern, constructionist thing.

You’ll have to read it when it’s done.

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Do you need a bigger God?

A lot of people brag about believing in a “big God,” but what I’ve found is that mostly they’re bragging about their own theological box which is only slightly larger than the next person’s box. People have a tendency to be afraid of a God who won’t fit into some kind of box, whether it be a Catholic box, a Baptist box, or some prosperity/faux faith box. I tend to think that we’re afraid that without a box, God is just uncontrollable.

Yep. That’s the God I’m looking for. It’s like that old “if you love something set it free” thing–if you really have faith in God, let him out of your box and just find out who he is. Perhaps his rules aren’t your rules. Maybe he’ll save someone you won’t let in to your particular group. What if there’s no rapture…or hell? What if no one gets left behind?

Perhaps God–whoever he turns out to be–doesn’t need or want you to defend him. Perhaps the Bible is fine the way it is, without the need for apologetics to try to make sense of it. But perhaps Calvin was right and God is full of wrath and trapped by his own attribute of justness.

I sure hope not–I’m counting on grace, a whole lot.

You see, I wonder about a lot of things, and ask a lot of questions. It helps that many of the early church fathers thought about the same things. So if I figure I’m in good company, however it works out. Mostly now, I’m wondering just how big God really is.

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Christianity: The Missing Years

If you’ve been raised in the western world, chances are pretty good that you are completely unaware of 600 to 1,000 years of Christianity, even if you’ve gone to seminary. In the same way that conservatives don’t like to talk about our racist history, the western evangelical church doesn’t like to acknowledge that a different Christianity once existed (and still does, but it’s largely ignored). The reason that it’s ignored is because early Christian history not only disagrees with western theology, it undermines it.

What we know as Eastern Orthodoxy is the continuation of traditions that began before Constantine made Christianity legal, before Augustine perverted the gospel, and before the enlightenment created the western mindset, and before the reformers reformed anything. The Eastern Church was never reformed; it didn’t need to be. While not perfect, by any means, the Eastern Church avoided the western pitfalls such as Augustine, Cartesian philosophy and the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, and certainly has avoided Christian fundamentalism. I believe there are many things we can learn from the Eastern Church without becoming Orthodox, although they frown upon that concept.

Several years ago I began studying a bit about Augustine, clearly the inspiration for both Luther (who was an Augustinian monk) and John Calvin. What I found was that Augustine had some very strange ideas about the nature of good and evil that predated his conversion to Christianity, and seemed to be continually plagued by his very worldly past. I believe these things contributed to his concept of original sin (not an early Christian belief) which in turn spawned doctrines of the total depravity of man, penal substitutionary atonement, eternal damnation, and more. Good stuff, right?

The main reason that he got away with these teachings is that he wrote in Latin, which the Church leadership didn’t read; they were a Greek-speaking Church. It wasn’t until long after that they discovered his ideas, which they have rejected. As a result, Augustine is not considered a saint in the Orthodox Church, although he is respected as having been a Bishop.

I have been writing what someday might be a book, tentatively titled Unboxing God. I’ll be posting tidbits here from time to time.

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Evangelical Shadow Games — Plato’s Cave Reimagined

I was in the shower a while back thinking about Evangelicalism’s newest boogeyman, Critical Race Theory, and I thought of this analogy. (Yes, being pelted with steaming hot water can have revelatory effects.)

Some of you will be familiar with the Plato’s Cave analogy, where reality exists outside the cave, creating shadows on the walls of the cave. The shadows are the cave-dwellers’ (i.e. us) view of reality—they have no concept of the 3-D, full color reality outside. Likewise, the world we see is a mere shadow of reality which exists outside of our view.

The Cave is an interesting concept. Now imagine the world of Evangelicalism, the post-Enlightenment, Modernist theological construct that Evangelicals call reality, is a cave. Along comes something called post-modernism, which starts throwing unwanted shadows as well as some light on the wall of Evangelicalism. Then along comes “emergent” or “progressive” Christianity, throwing more shadows and light. If that isn’t enough, an imaginary monster they wrongly call Critical Theory comes along, throwing even more shadows and light. The original shadows are being threatened. The Modernist evangelical cave-dwellers go crazy.

Evangelicals cannot deal with anything from outside of the cave. They must do one of two things:

  1. Retreat further into the Cave.
  2. Coax you inside the cave with them so they can argue with you about the shadows. Once that happens, you have lost, as you are no longer talking about reality, but about the 2-dimensional shadows of the cave.

This is why the responses to “progressive Christianity” and so-called Critical Race Theory that I’ve seen are complete nonsense. Much of it boils down to “it doesn’t fit in our cave décor, so it’s wrong,” or more simply, “it’s wrong so it’s wrong.” In philosophical terms, it’s a hodgepodge of fallacious reasoning, including strawman, generalization, false dichotomy, false equivalence, slippery slope, and the list goes on. Basically, it is the same collection of logical fallacies used to combat any other non-evangelical thoughts. Even if their arguments are technically valid (the form of the argument is logical), their presuppositions are flawed—so garbage in, garbage out. Everything eventually goes back to their foundational premisses which need to be challenged.

Here are some takeaways from my analogy and related thinking:

  1. I have, over time, developed an anti-Evangelical bias with, I believe, valid reason.
  2. The prime directive for Evangelicalism is to protect Evangelicalism at all costs, even at the expense of truth and the gospel.
  3. Don’t get stuck arguing about the meaning of shadows.
  4. Stay outside of the cave.
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