Monday, August 23, 2010


God, Superman, and the Buckeyes is coming to an end. After over five years of blogging at this location, I've decided to begin a new blog and have a fresh start. This blog has taken a great deal of many formats and directions over the years, and I've decided on a fresh start and a new direction. I'll leave this site up, and maybe occasionally post here, but from here on out I am hoping to begin a new emphasis on my blogging and writing. I would invite all of you who have followed this blog here to update to the new location below and hopefully join me over there. I'll probably be engaging in a little shameless self-promotion to begin with to get the thing off the ground. With the ascent of Facebook, I'll also probably not be spending much time on personal matters on the blog, leaving it as mainly a format to discourse on some of the fun and challenging issues I've waded through here in the past. You can find the new blog at . . .

Thanks again for all your comments and readership!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review: Colors of God

What? A post? The summer has kept me incredibly busy, and when I haven't been busy, I haven't really felt like posting . . . so there. I got a book to review from Viralooze as some motivation to post again. I read through the book pretty quickly, and here is the corresponding post. As an aside, I've been thinking a lot about moving my blog to another location and reformatting it somewhat. It's been kind of a kitchen sink approach now for almost six years, and I think a fresh start is needed. Hopefully I'll have some time here in the next month or two to begin working on a new look and I'll definitely post the updated change here. Thanks to everyone who still checks around here, and here's a few thoughts on The Colors of God: Conversations about Being the Church.

Three authors and fellow leaders of the neXus church in Canada have taken their experiences and conversations regarding their church and put them into a book. The book is written in a conversational style (the reader is told which author is speaking throughout) and the style remains loosely dialogical throughout. I found this format to be a little cheesy and corny at times, but overall, it made for a fast-paced book and kept my attention throughout. The authors seemed like likeable and fun guys to hang out with. The conversations stay lighthearted while addressing serious and controversial matters. So much for the format . . . the content is surely what will catch the reader's attention more than anything.

My first observation is that the book title is a bit of a misnomer. I had envisioned a theological/ecclesiological interface with these "four colors" that never really materialized. The four colors they describe are not really about God as much as they are about the church. I would have expected each of the four colors to be rooted in theology proper, and then applied to ecclesiology. That wasn't the case.

The authors are self-professed "emergent" pastors leading a self-described "emergent" church. The influences of emergent leaders is evident (the first part of the book is entitled "The Stories we Find Ourselves in" - Bryan McLaren would be proud), and one of the authors talks about the influence Doug Paggitt and others have had on him. Clearly most impactful in this book has been the work of Robert Farrar Capon (whom I profess being unfamiliar with), and his work on the parables. He is referred to throughout and quoted often. So, in some regards, this may be looked upon as an example of the rapidly evolving second order or second level of emergent theology - putting the ideas of the leaders into practice.

I could ramble on tit for tat regarding many of the specifics regarding the book, but instead I want to make a couple general points. There were some places I found great insight and appreciated their perspective (in particular, I found the first section on grace to be a good articulation of a challenging concept - I love their point that if we are preaching grace like we should, people should think we are being too liberal with it - see Paul), other places I found myself a bit challenged, and a few I was cautiously skeptical.

If I was grading my experience with the book, I'd give it a B-. I like their four-part division as I think the four areas are worthy of discussion and a helpful way to divide the topic (btw: blue is the Gospel faith - the strongest part, in my opinion), green is health - I really, really liked this approach to ethics, as well - it reflects the way I've approached sexuality when talking with teens (they're emphasis is on research - what is destructive, what is healthy as opposed to letter of the law . . . my problem here is that it places a lot of trust in research . . . remember, homesexuality was at one time listed as a mental disorder . . .), red is inclusive community (here I felt that the authors had to do a little hermeneutical gymnastics to make their point and blew through some strawmen arguments while overpassing more challenging texts), and yellow is contextual engagement (which I thought was helpful to hear them address pastorally, but wasn't done as well as many other books that our out now.)

In general, I think this is a book worth taking a look at for church leaders. They will no doubt challenge you (unless you too think cursing isn't that big of a deal and that sexual sins are less devastating than sins of pride and exclusivity - I challenge the authors who say that the Bible teaches the sins of pride and judgmentalism are more detrimental than sexual sins - you could argue the heart of the Old Testament antithesis began with sexual misgivings (Moab and Ammon came from where?) . . . but they raise some very helpful and insightful conversations - like this one regarding sexuality. I think they help raise questions that can push our thinking forward. I also think that they give a little insight into where the church will be heading into the future as younger leaders with different ethical mores, but strong spirituality lead them to cutting edge churches. This may be a good book for anyone fluent in emergent church conversations who feel themselves agreeing with everyone at every point . . .this book should offer a challenge to your status quo at some point.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


If you're not sure what exactly I'm talking about when I talk about compromised nationalistic messages . . . somehow I ran across this one today (I really wasn't looking for it!) . . . this is not the Gospel . . .

Why Wright Is Wrong from bellshoals on Vimeo.

Glenn Beck and Dealing in Politics

I have made it pretty clear through my posts here that I believe the American political system has compromised much of the Gospel in the American church. It has become difficult to discern the Gospel from the right wing political alignment of the Religious Right. There is certainly a wealth of disagreement when it comes to the nature of the Gospel and politics. Whenever I have some time, I'll be taking some time to study and work through some of the more critical matters involved here - I've recently just touched the surface. I foresee a discourse on Romans 13 coming soon.

For now, I want to take a moment and post a thought or two about Glenn Beck. I used to tune into his show occassionally just to stay abreast of what his very influential show is teaching. I would get so frustrated in watching it I came to the conclusion that it wasn't very beneficial for me to participate. However, I went to the gym last week and, his show on one of the televisions, I caught wind of his recent attacks on the "social justice" movement. As someone who has read a good bit in this area, I was intrigued as to what this great conspiracy was holding.

I actually dvr-ed the Glenn Beck show (never thought I would do that!) and, when I later watched what ensued, to say that I was outraged, disappointed, saddened, and appalled all at the same time wouldn't do justice to the range of negative emotions I felt. What Beck says doesn't bother me much - he is what he is; an entertainer, a personality, larger than life - all that. What I found so appalling was to see two prominent figures in the American church standing behind his shadow and mimic his agenda. All you conservative friends, keep in mind, I have no political allegiance - what appalled me wasn't so much the Republicanism (I'm used to that) it's their compromise and public debunking of fellow Christians . . . right next to Mr. Latter Day Saint, Glenn Beck. Beck's LDS is another topic for another day . . . what I find so amazing is that, by their actions, the president of the leading Reformed seminary (Westerminster) and wellknown evangelical (from Liberty University) more closely align their ideology and perspectives from someone from a false teaching - the LDS than from a liberal-voting evangelical Christian (though they didn't come right out and say it).

I have been looking for some perspective in addressing this sensitive matter. No doubt any posting in this regard will stir quite a flurry of comments and downright arguing. Is it possible to avoid that? Perhaps not. I found this blog posting over at Vanguard Church that I think has helped me focus this on the pertinent matter.

Glenn Beck is a false prophet. That's the title of his post . . . and I think Bob, the blog's author, is getting at the issue. I keep hearing people - Christians - crying out that we can't get involved in politics, that we must remain neutral. I know what they are saying. I'm not in complete disagreement. However, Glenn Beck's false teaching and compromise of the Gospel must be addressed. It is perhaps here more than anywhere else where the church's Constantinian compromise most vividly comes alive. I just read a book by Alan Hirsch entitled The Fogotten Ways. The point is about how the methodology of the church has been compromised by culture to the point that we can no longer envision another kind of church. At one point he makes the point, "the template of this highly institutional version of Christianity is so deeply embedded in our collective psyche that we have inadvertently put it beyond the pale of prophetic critique." (p. 51). The point of the book is more about the form and life blood of church but I make the same accusation of the church's involvement with politics. We have become so compromised by political power and might that we have lost our way - we can have put ourselves beyond the pale of prophetic critique.

I don't expect most people who read this to agree with me. I know my audience much too well. My hope is that you can take a moment and look inside yourself. What factors have led you to these political ties and perspectives that you hold so dearly? Why do you get so energized in the midst of these conversations? Could you be wrong?

I will share this on Facebook . . . not sure that's the best idea . . . but I hope you can engage in constructive dialogue . . . no matter what your perspective.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: The Naked Gospel

I received a free copy of Andrew Farley's book, The Naked Gospel, a few weeks ago in the mail from Viral Bloggers and didn't know a whole lot about it. The subtitle is enough to stir intrigue - "the truth you may never hear in church." Sounds in line with a lot of the stuff I've been reading. Even the section titles are interesting enough, "Obsessive-Christianity disorder," "religion is a headache," and "cheating on Jesus" to name a few. I set out with high hopes of the book.

About half way through, I kept waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . two-thirds of the way through I actually went to the Viral Bloggers website to seek out some of my fellow reviewers in hopes of finding something positive to say. What I found there, instead, reinforced the opinion I was forming.

The premise to Farley's book is well-intentioned. He confesses to having been consumed with an unfulfilled religiosity that had basically created a monster. He had become a stereotypical evangelical preacher/evangelist and was serious about it - heartfelt, ambitious, and (mildly successful. However, in the midst of all that - he felt as though he was missing something. For the most part, a beginning exercise that prefaces the gist of many evangelical books gracing the new release shelves as of late. However, in my opinion, Farley falls far short of following through.

In hindsight, I think there is a great deal of similarity between what Farley attempts to do with his book and what David Dark does in his book: The Sacredness of Questioning Everything in attempting to get beyond a rules-based "Uncle Ben" (from Dark) kind of God who is lurching in the dark to zap his people for their sins. Unfortunately Farley isn't nearly as adept in navigating this premise. I don't wish to question Farley's ambition or the the relevance of this "naked gospel" for himself and others who have benefited. I am glad that he has found rescue from the oppressive and guilt-ridden past. However, there are so many glaring weaknesses, for me, I did not find this book enjoyable or helpful much at all. To summarize some of my biggest disappointments:
- I found Farley's Reformed theology to be an obstacle to overcome. I certainly have no problem reading material that stands outside of my own preference or belief, but I found Farley's Reformed take to be trite and lacking in several areas.
- While I applaud Farley's desire to rescue Christians from the guilty pretense of salvific works and moralism, I was disappointed by his exclusively individualistic focus. The communitarian (essential - I would say) aspect of faith is all but absent. Salvation remains the outlook solely of the individual for Farley.
- Farley's perspective of sin was also something I found too narrow. Related to the above point, Farley seems to completely overlook the communal nature of sin. What of the sin inherent in the powers and principalities? What of the addictive powers of sin? I could say more about this shortcoming, but I'll leave it at that.
- The disconnect Farley draws between the old law and new law (old and new covenant) is much too sharp. To relegate Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as simply convicting the Jews of the impossibility of keeping the own laws with no real moral implication for Christians today since we've been relieved of the law (I think that is a fair take on Farley's presentation) was seriously lacking for me. His Reformed bias didn't do much for me and his treatment of James as well.
- Beyond the theological and ideological shortcomings I saw in The Naked Gospel, if I would have resonated better with Farley's writing style I could have become more engaged. Instead, I found Farley to be often trite with many shallow and random illustrations that didn't flow well and were often over-explained. I found myself saying, "OK, I get it."

Unfortunately, I couldn't wait to be done with this book and move on to something else. There were times when I felt like I was reading some kind of Reformed version of Joel Olsteen - probably more from his style than from his theology. A few words synopsis: Not what I expected, Good intention with poor follow-through.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Moving words from David Cone

On my way home from work yesterday I heard about this exhibit in San Antonio that highlights poverty and hunger in the United States. I just caught the end of it, but was moved by what I heard. I listened as they played clips from the exhibit as people reflected upon times in their lives when they were hungry. It dawned on me as I pulled into my driveway, "I have never been hungry." Now, that sounds like a pretty obvious comment, but I delved into the deeper ramifications of that fact. I've never been hungry. Ever. I've fasted on occasion, but never for more than 36 hours or so - and you don't get really hungry in 36 hours. So to relate to these voices - real people who have experienced real hunger. It was moving to me. Convicting.

It's the last week of Lent, and I feel a sense of accomplishment after having left both candy and pop behind for the duration (though I did have one bottle cap, and Monday convinced myself that chocolate covered cashews were more nut than candy). That's how trite I am. This story helped me stop in the mundaneness of my suburban life and reflect on the hunger pangs that so many people in our world feel. It doesn't make any sense to me, as I sit amidst so much excess it's hard for me to comprehend. I decided it's time for me to feel real hunger pangs. I'm committed to working towards a three-day fast in the near future. Three days seems sufficient for me right now. Just to connect. To reflect. To receive a kick in the butt. A wake up call. People feel this all the time.

Then, to top it off, I am reading Marvin McMickle's book Where Have all the Prophets Gone? with some minister friends of mine, and I came across his quotation of an incredible poem from African American theologian David Cone. It seems timely as I reflect through these things:

I was hungry
And you formed a humanities club
And you discussed my hunger.
Thank you.

I was imprisoned
And you crept off quietly
To your chapel in the cellar
And prayed for my release.

I was sick
And you knelt and thanked God
For your health.

I was homeless
And you preached to me
Of the spiritual shelter of God.

I was lonely
And you left me alone
To pray for me.
You seem so holy
So close to God.

But I'm still very hungry
And lonely
And cold.

So where have your prayers gone?
What have they done?
What does it profit a man
To page through his book of prayers
When the rest of the world is crying for his help?

From Cone's essay entitled "The Servant Church" in The Pastor as Servant. eds. Shelp and Sunderland Pilgrim Press, 1986.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Life has gotten quite hectic over the past few months. The kids keep growing, and they keep us on our toes. If you didn't know, my wife directs the preschool at our church; Clark and Clementine both attend the preschool. Our youngest - Cecilia - gets to come along and hang out with Mary Beth and I in the office. I'm not sure I would change anything - but that all makes life quite hectic. We're out the door running with all three by about 8:30 in the morning. School starts at 9:00. It's over at 12:00. Folks are around until almost 1:00. We've got to feed the kids lunch. Mary Beth sticks around until 3:00 or as long as she can. Then I try to get a few more things done in the afternoon. I try to get out and visit folks most afternoons . . . or have meetings . . . or whatever. In the meantime, I also have to clean up from lunch and help Mary Beth get out the door with all three. We try not to complain, but it is a busy time, and it's hard to keep it all in balance. We need to enjoy it while it lasts, because the big pictures reminds me how fleeting it all is. Clark will begin Kindergarten next year. Cecilia will be in the preschool the following year, and then off we go. So . . . in the mean time, we do our best to get as much work done as possible, and still keep our sanity and our family intact. It's great to all be here together, but it limits what we can do quite a bit.

And, on top of all that, I began my doctorate of ministry degree program today. I will be pursuing a D. Min from Fuller Theological Seminary over the next several years. This, again, will limit my blogging. I've thought about cutting the whole thing out, but I still really enjoy connecting here and, more than anything, venting, exploring, and creating here. I look for more opportunities in the future - possibly overhauling things and changing it up . . .but again . . . time . . . time . . . time. So, in the meantime, I'll be posting a random link or post here on occasion. I've already enjoyed my reading for the current class and look forward to further teasing out my thoughts here.

My program emphasis is on missional leadership. I hope to study in the area of the missional church and the potential that we have in Churches of Christ for engaging that ministry paradigm-change. That is where I am in the beginning; we'll see where I end up. Thanks for all who check in here on occasion and I look forward to what the future has in store.

Also . . . I have turned in a book proposal to ACU Press in regards to some of the things I had posted here earlier in the year. I'm excited about the potential, but we'll see if there is any reason to be :-) It's a bit of a shot in the dark, but something I think is needed, and something that, hopefully, will go along with my direction of study well.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010