Sunday, November 30, 2008

Would Jesus Shop on Black Friday has an interesting little article on Black Friday spending. Unless you live in a cave or spent Thanksgiving under a rock you couldn't miss all of the dire economic predictions for this years Christmas season. But now that the totals are in Black Friday spending was up 3% to over 10 billion dollars. Which leads to a prediction of a 2.2% increase in total holiday spending, totalling 470 billion dollars.
Just for some perspective Bread for the World has projected that $4Billion dollars would cut world hunger by 50%. something to consider as we light the advent candles.

Also in the same article is the mention of shootings and other violent tragedies as shoppers rushed about trying to get the best deals on Black Friday. A friend told me that while waiting outside for a store to open a woman in front of her in line felt that a man had tried to cut in front of her so she grabbed him by the throat and wouldn't let go until the police got there.

Here is the thing. Churchy folk, we like shake our heads and click our tongues at this thought. But very few of us would abstain from shopping on Black Friday altogether. And perhaps we should. It seems to be getting particularly dangerous. You could get choked or shot. And it is particularly dangerous for the rest of the world... we would rather spend 470 billion dollars on video games than 4 billion on world hunger.

Today marks the first day of preparation forthe birth of Jesus. This same Jesus would warn us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. I wonder if Jesus would want us to celebrate his birthday this way? Maybe he would just tell us to quit and start over.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Existence of God and my Experience

Is it possible to convince someone of the existence of God if they are already predisposed to doubt?
This question has begun to haunt me recently as I've been doing some studying. I've been reading two book simultaneously; Christian Theology, An Introduction to Its Traditions and Tasks edited by Peter C. Hodgson and Robert H. King, and Essentials of Christian Theology Edited by William C Placher. I like to review the basics of theology occasionally. I learned some French in High School, but didn't keep up with it and so its gone. So I review the basics of theology now and again to stay 'sharp'. In 'Essentials' an essay is included by John B. Cobb Jr. entitled 'Does it make sense to talk about God' in which we addresses some of the doubt and skepticism regarding a belief in God in our age. Interestingly enough I have been encountering this same skepticism recently. Cobb addresses the skepticism of those who trust only in experience in order to believe. Since they have not experienced God in a direct way, the idea of God cannot be accepted or trusted. Cobb makes an astute but simple argument to this skepticism by showing the logical progression of this line of thinking. If we can only trust in that we have directly experienced, then history does not exist.
Since I did not meet George Washington, I should be skeptical of his existence. Since I did not witness the Holocaust with my own two eyes I should be skeptical of its reality, and so on. (Cobb doesn't say that specifically, that is my example, and I don't believe it... this is just an example. Just to explain, there are photographs from WWII but not of Jesus... yes, but photographs can be faked. When I explain my trust in the Biblical witness this is the nature of the argument... it could have been faked. A fanciful myth that I cannot trust. Could we not wonder this about a number of things? including our own birth-certificates?) Personal experience, he posits, cannot be the sole authority for belief since it would mean that history would no longer have any bearing on our present or future.
I think he makes an excellent argument. But I wonder if it would hold any influence 'on the ground' so to speak. I could offer that argument to those skeptics that I have met recently, but I wonder if they would find that argument compelling.
So my questions are...
is a sound theological or philosophical argument for the existence of God compelling? If not, what will be?
given Cobb's argument re: Experience, isn't the Bible a collection of personal experiences of the living God? So isn't the Bible itself built upon experience and the telling and re-telling of personal experiences?
Should there be room in church for skeptics... people who have doubts about the existence of God or the divinity of Christ? How do we make that room for those who are seeking or open, but still doubtful... or for those who are comfortable doubting frankly, but who want to be a part of a community of integrity, honest, compassion and generosity?
My next few posts will follow this line of consideration and I look forward to your input.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Rose By An Other Name

Lately I've been viewing some 'evangelical' blogs such as Jonathan Merritt's. He is a young Southern Baptist very interested in among many things, I am sure, the environment. I was raised evangelical, biblically literal, actually. I am grateful that my mom raised me to be a follower of Christ, but I found the evangelical, biblically literal mindset very constricting. As much as I love the Bible, I cannot accept the idea tha the earth was literally created in six days despite what Genesis says.
Upon moving to Rhode Island and attending Andover Newton I found a home in Liberal theology and felt very comfortable there. Recently, due to study (reading Hauerwas) and conversations with pastor friends I have found the idea of being identified as 'liberal' wanting and so I have dabbled in the 'evangelical' blogosphere to see if there might be a place for me to feel comfortable.
But nope, I can't do it. Jonathan Merritt's most recent post sealed it for me. As intelligent at he is (much moreso than I) and as much as I admire his work for the environment, his latest post addressed the issue of women in ministry in the Southern Baptist Church. while he was being critical of the SBC, he stated that he remained undecided about women being in ministry. I can't do it, be associated with a group that is stuck on this issue. It's absurd.
so here I sit not liking the options; evangelical won't work, but neither will liberal. Post-liberal gets thrown around by some but it sounds too jargony to me. Even Baptist is problematic, as proud as I am to be Baptist. but it is problematic because so many assume that because I am Baptist I am against women in ministry, (just one example of the assumptions people will make).
So what am I exactly? What name will explain briefly to people where I stand in Christendom?
Does it really matter that much