Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Website!

Howdy Y'all - if you didn't hear it yet - let me tell you that the new website is up and running!  Please visit regularly for mind enhancing blog posts! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can God Be Surprised?

The eBook will be available here after July 1, 2010.

If you have suggestions for the new website email them to me: theologypirate(at)gmail(dot)com!

Team Church!

What team are you on?  This is a question I enjoy asking our youth on a regular basis.  As the seasons and the interests of young people change it is fun to find out what sport and what team a they are on.  Some youth make the rounds and try everything.  Others stick to one sport and play it year round.  There are moments of joy and celebration when a team does well.  And there are moments of pain and disappointment when a young person is injured from a sport or loses a competition.  There is always much to talk about with sports and youth.  The church and youth group has something to learn from sports.  The commitment and teamwork that a young person invests into a team is a lot like church.  So in this article I will explore what youth ministry has to learn from sports.
The team.  When a young person joins a team they become connected to that group of people.  Everyone on it shares whatever happens to the team.  A win is a win for the whole team, and a loss is a loss for every person.  When you are a member of a church you have decided to join that team.  The wins and the losses that are experienced on this team are shared by everyone.  The birth of a healthy baby, a Baptism, a wedding, and a graduation are all wins in life.  They are moments of celebration that the community shares.  This community helps to increase the celebration and joy at such a victory.  Imagine that you score the winning point in a basketball game.  Isn’t it the team that carries you on their shoulders and douses you with Gatorade?  So it is with the wins of your life.  The church is the team that lifts you up, prays for you, hands you a piece of cake, gives you hugs, handshakes, cards, and gifts to increase the joy of your accomplishments.

But just as no team has a totally perfect record, no church lives life without losses.  In the game of life we will all experience loss.  There is the loss of a job, the loss of life, the loss of a marriage.  There are personal failures: poor choices you make that lead to consequences you regret.  Sometimes you blow it and lose the game.  It’s what the kids call: “epic fail.”  When this happens it is the team that stands by you and shares in the bitterness of loss.  This why at a funeral the church comes together.  We are here to bear a portion of the sadness, to grieve, to hold one another up, and to wait with patient expectation for hope and new possibilities with God.

God is our coach.  A good coach knows her players and knows in exactly what areas a player can improve their game.  Similarly God works in each of our lives through the Holy Spirit to love and support us.  Pastors and youth ministers are like team captains.  You’ve called us to help lead as one of you, but we are in the team right next you experiencing the wins and losses just as you are.  We are not above the game.  And just as the team captain is not necessarily the MVP (most valuable player) neither are we.  There are leaders that rise up from within the congregation to take the lead in the game of life.  Some have been playing the game a long time and have advice on how to win more and suffer losses less.  Some players are younger and full of energy.  We need your youth and exuberance.  All of us look to God for guidance.

Commitment. A team is successful when its members are committed.  Any young person who has gone through confirmation knows that sports and church activities often compete for the time and attention of young people.  When a family has to decide whether to skip a church event or a sports game, I will often here the rationale of, “Johnny made a commitment to the team and he cannot skip out on that commitment.”  What about the commitment made to church?  What is the commitment one makes?  At Baptism parents and sponsors commit to the Christian education of their children.  That is a commitment.  There are no simple or easy answers to these challenges.  Each family and each person has to figure out what they will do and how to compromise. 

I hope that as you join and play with various sports teams throughout your life, that you would remember that there is a team that lasts for more than one season or even one year.  There is a team that has got your back, and is by your side at the highest highs and lowest lows.  You don’t have to retire from this team.  You don’t have to try out for this team.  All are welcome.  You are welcome.  Should you decide to stop playing for a while, you will be dearly missed, but you are never forsaken.  Should you decide to stay on and practice for the long haul, I can guarantee that you won’t regret it, and that the ride will be far wilder and unexpected than you can ever imagine!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Consider the Newsboys

So I've never been a big fan of "born again" theology, but consider the Newsboys.  Here is a new video that puts a spin on being Born Again.  I didn't catch all of the lyrics on the first listen, but the story of the video and the message that I get from watching and listening to it is that being "born again" means being born to the cause of justice and the struggle against poverty.  Is this a "born again" theology you could get behind?  What do you make of the images?  Would anyone like to go to Mexico and help build something?  Or go and learn something?

I can't embed the video, so here is a link.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An Open Letter to Open Theists

I've just finished my first year of seminary at Claremont School of Theology. Claremont is known for being a locus of Process Theology/Thought. There are two centers devoted to it and many faculty who prescribe or are very sympathetic to it. From what I have been exposed to it, I find many facets appealing. I also have several questions.  So here is my experiment: I will post a series of questions centered on process theology and invite people to respond. Perhaps other students wiser than I, maybe some of our fine PhD candidates, or even faculty will weigh in. I welcome the input from wherever it comes.

True Autonomy
I just posted this question on the excellent blog: Ponderings on a Faith Journey.
But I will restate. To what extent does Process Theology advocate a free will? Process theology advocates an openness to both God and the future. However, is the best most creative imaginative off the wall thought a person could ever have, an actualized potentiality offered by the divine? If so - is it really that creative? Is it free? It doesn't really feel that free if the best we can be is already in the mind of the divine.

A corollary question: Is it only human sin, that is, humanity's tendency to not choose to live in accordance to what God's will that creates the openness of reality? In other words, IF all humans and all created beings were to choose to be fully in accordance to the divine lure would the future, in a sense be determined? Is it theoretically possible to "fast track it" to God's ultimate vision of reality?

Diminishing Returns
If each moment is open to influence by all past moments and also by a novel divine lure, does the quantitative power of that novel lure have to increase? Or do past moments diminish or disintegrate over time? This is to say, if the force of past moments do not diminish then as time moves forward all past moments will accumulate and grow larger and larger with each passing moment. Thus their force will grow by (+1) after every moment. Given an infinite amount of moments their force will have to be or will be (depending on one's conception of the origin of time) infinite. If this is the case, then any novelty suggested by the divine must also increase in force or appeal to have the capacity to overcome the weight of past moments. But can anything be bigger than infinity?  So it must be the case that past moments deteriorate in their force, if true novelty is a possibility at every instance.  This is obviously a more technical question, but I raise it because--correct me if I'm wrong--I've heard it said that past moments don't go away in process thought.  What say you?

A Logical God and the Role of Faith
Up to this point in my life there has always been a characteristic in my faith life that I learned to live with.  It is summarized in the great dictum by Anselm, "Faith seeking understanding."  To me this has meant that faith precedes understanding (which is why it is faith) and the task of theology is to seek to understand.  There is not promise that one will ever get there, to total understanding.  But the finer point is that faith precedes understanding.  For this reason any metaphysics that explains God in such a way as to seamlessly integrate into science, reason, and everything else we know about the world seems too good to be true.  What's the use of faith at that point?

Neo Neo Platonism
Is there a qualitative difference between a divine lure and a platonic form? If so please explain.

Hopefully this is enough to get some conversation going. Thanks for your consideration.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nothing Sells Like Fear - Of Teenagers

Check out this commercial I saw on TV this past weekend.  It features an incredibly messy room that is supposed to belong to a teen-ager.  The commercial is for Hyundai autos and the tag line is, "you may not have to share a room with a 16 year old, but you do have to share the road."  The Hyundai is supposed to be the car of choice for this endeavor because of its safety.  The ad has generated quite a reaction on youtube, and you can read the comments yourself, but beware, they are very explicit.

Never mind the ugly stereotyping and prejudice toward young people in this ad - what about the soundtrack?  The tune is from the Sound of Music.  It is the young Rolf singing to Liesl persuading her to find refuge in him.  He is later recruited or conscripted to be with the Nazis and "blows the whistle" on Liesl's family who barely evades them.  The message of his song - the one in this commercial - is to "grow up" put trust in in the things that can provide and abandon childhood.  But it is Rolf who decides to put his trust in a fascist regime.  Now here is Rolf singing his song to the consumers of America wooing them to grow up and buy a car that will protect them from those foolish teenagers who are on the road like the fascist resisting Liesl, I suppose.  What does this say about youth?

It is an unintended consequence of this commercial that protecting oneself from the dangers of youthfulness is associated with consumerism.  Isn't it young people themselves who are stereotyped as being uber-consumers?  This stereotype should be examined and dismantled.  It is consumerism that in fact spoils the soul of the living and especially of the young.  But instead, Hyundai, and many other people and institutions capitalize off fear of young people to push their product and consequently consumerism.  But what is there to fear?

Don't young people in fact learn their behavior from adults?  And if young people imagine new ways of living, should this change be feared?  How can negative stereotypes of young people be avoided?