Thursday, July 12, 2007

God and suffering

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"It’s good to learn early enough that suffering and God are not a contradiction but rather a unity, for the idea the God himself is suffering is one that has always been of the most convincing teachings of Christianity. I think God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong a courageous heart."

amen and amen

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Church in 2050

Sociologist Philip Jenkins has written two books on the changing worldwide face of the Church -- his main thesis is that the nexus of church vitality has moved from the global north (Europe and North America) to the global south (South America, southern Africa, and south Asia). At Cornerstone, Professor Jon Case taught on challenges the church faces in light of this.

a) Although the spiritual vitality is in the south, the resources (money being the most important one) are in the north. Will we be able to support these growing works financially without the paternalism that so often comes with money -- growing churches in the global south don't need our programs, leadership, or ideas. They just need our money!

b) God's movements in the south challenge established denominations in the north. For one thing, these churches tend to be much more theologically conservative than established churches in Europe and North America. This will continue to strain denominations that have adopted moderate/liberal theology. Case reported that some individual Episcopal churches in the US have removed themselves from under American authority and placed themselves under (more conservative) Nigerian bishops.

c) The north will become a mission field -- how will American and European Christians respond when they see this happening?

d) Growth in the global south is largely a charismatic phenomen, including movements within traditionally non-charismatic denominations. Relationships between charismatics and non-charismatics (both individuals and churches) must become more loving and accepting for the southern church to reach its potential. As Case said, "It's a hundred-year-old debate. At this point, both sides need to get over themselves!"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back from Cornerstone!

I spent last week at the grand-daddy of Christian festivals, Cornerstone, in Western Illinois. And boy did I have fun!

I have been to more than a dozen festivals before (Alive, Creation, Atlanta, Fishnet, and others), and have enjoyed them. But there are a few ways in which Cornerstone is different from the others, and why I finally wanted to make it out there.

Cornerstone is visually artsy. I am not artsy myself in that way, but can appreciate the high value the fest places on visual expression. Much of the evangelical church is skeptical of the visual arts, so enjoyed being in a place that puts such a high value on that type of expression.

Cornerstone is an eclectic community. It's where the hippies meet the punks meet the goths meet ...... me!

Cornerstone is not just music. Before it was a fest, it was a magazine of ideas, and this spirit is alive and well in the seminars. I expect to share some of the notes I took, on such topics as the theology of NT Wright, the globalized gospel, and the emergent church.

One stream that I found running through some of the teaching and expression was "the ancient modern," the church recovering worship modes and teaching from ancient Christians. This includes the Celtic monastics, who I started paying attention to more than a decade ago, and have become "in" in the last few years in some circles.

And the music, too. I dug that, needless to say.