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Hi DB! I agree stage theory is more descriptive than prescriptive and so trying to follow Jesus is certainly a better life orientation than "trying to be stage 4". :) And I also agree that stage theory is more typically associated with larger chunks of one's life than with individual daily thoughts and responses, so I am playing a bit fast-and-loose with my application there. But I honestly couldn't think of a better way of truly diagnosing my own spiritual journey in response to my wife's question without really considering what the symptoms might be of the various stages at work within me in the various situations and circumstances of my life. Does that make any sense? Perhaps one might push back and suggest that it would be best to concern myself with whether my responses/thoughts/behaviors are Christ-like and not what possible stage they align with. I would not have a good response to that other than to agree but also suggest that possibly, like Vince suggested in his recent post, maybe stage 4 is the only stage where we're completely relying on God. And if that is true, than it is the only totally 'Christ-like' one.
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That makes a lot of sense Sandra. I wonder if as parents, since one of our great priorities for our children is 'safety', it might be easiest to remain in stage 2 in regards to child-rearing, since I think its the stage that feels safest what with its nice clear boundaries and all. (And perhaps one could argue it is actually a stage well-suited for children up until a certain age.)
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Amen to that! Well said Marcia!
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Wow - I like this so much! I love the idea of Jesus being the center of the church and him constantly seeking all of us while at the same time some of us may be seeking with him we're still the ones being sought to some extent! Wow! This also illustrates how the centered set model really affects the whole thing. I think we are saying that Blue Ocean folks and Willow Creek folks both care about people far from Christ being brought near, but in a bounded set mindset the approach will be us/them versus the "pure us" mindset of centered set. Very interesting.
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Good point Doug. That reminds me of something M. Scott Peck said that dogmatism isn't so much about the content of the beliefs themselves "I believe in God" or "I doubt God's existence" but rather the manner in which the belief is held. A dogmatic person holds beliefs tightly and with a high degree of supposed certainty, "staunch" as you well put it. It seems to me that close-mindedness may be a common enemy for all growth-oriented people, regardless of where one currently is on the existence/nature of God question. And perhaps it is close-mindedness, staunchness, the certainty of my own rightness, that leads me to become condescending (unloving) to the "moron" on the other side who doesn't seem to comprehend what I feel to be so very obvious. I think we are all capable of this kind of behavior, and I know I have behaved this way at times; but I believe it represents a kind of emotional/spiritual immaturity that must be challenged in both the believer and unbeliever alike.
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Just came across this quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky today and figured I'd share it here: "The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Faith does not...spring from the miracle, but the miracle from faith."
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Great post Dave! I especially like this line: "Being good" occupies very little mental space with me. "Experiencing as much of God as I can pull off" has annexed that entire section of my brain. Honestly I find atheism, doubting the existence of God, to be less offensive than some of the stuff that often comes along with it. It seems that smugness, condescension, arrogance, close-mindedness, mocking, ridicule, generally a real lack of loving communication, colors much of the rhetoric of folks in that camp. I have had some friends who have wandered into agnostic/atheistic waters but without taking on that sort of posture though. I guess I don't care too much about defeating atheism at large, although I wouldn't cry much of a river if it disappeared one day. But for my friends, I feel that atheism blocks them from experiencing God and all that He would offer them, and in some cases has turned them into unfriendly and arrogant people. So I'd like to see them set free from those things, and if atheism is at the root of it, well that should probably go at some point too.
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Looking forward to getting to know more of your story also Otto!
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2011 on Any Feedback? at Not The Religious Type
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That's great! I think it's cool that we're at a place culturally where such things can be discussed and questioned. Dallas Willard discusses the importance of evaluating "spirituality" intellectually in this article: http://dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=126 I do wonder if candidates that don't come across as "religious" will also have to answer similar questions like: Do you believe there is ultimate meaning in the universe? What are you views on God, Jesus, Allah, etc? I doubt any candidate, regardless of party, would be very comfortable answering such potentially polarizing and/or revealing questions. Easy to pick on the stage 2 christian republicans though and I suppose they are due. :)
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Sorry I'm commenting so much but I would like to add that I think you can inform people that your conversational relationship with God has been informed by Jesus without the need to historically prove he's the son of God, God himself, etc. You can simply share honestly your story of getting to know Jesus and the fact that his life and teachings have helped you meaningfully in your life and in your relationship with God, if indeed that is the case. If not by all means share whatever your experience has been (if indeed you've found your experience helpful and positive).
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2011 on Can We Skip the Middleman? at Not The Religious Type
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Hmm - interesting question Dave. I would say its a little bit of both/and. I mean, what we have is not just a generic chatting relationship with a generic concept of God. So how can we offer to someone what we do not actually have? If that is what you have by all means go ahead and offer it. But if what you have is a conversational relationship with the specific God whom Jesus reveals, well then of course you can offer that directly because that is what you actually have to offer. That being said I have a friend who has had "christian" experiences that have so turned him off that he now seems to have trouble hearing anything about Jesus without that negative lens preventing him from really seeing Jesus for who he really is. And yet my friend is really struggling with anxiety over his life. In his case I encouraged him to experiment with some sort of chatting/meditation without using any God/Jesus language. So I guess in that sense I am doing what you are talking about. But I am only doing it because there are some many barriers for him towards God/Jesus and yet I feel that he is really struggling in his life in ways only God can really help. And because of his particular sensitivities I am encouraging him towards God in the most gentle possible way I know how. But if a person was open to learning about Jesus, as he really is, without too much prejudice, I would certainly not hesitate to start there, as Brent suggested, and would not see it as a middle man method at all. Because I worship (and chat with) the God Jesus reveals, and not just some generic God of my own musings or some energy force or whatever else one might generically conceive God to be.
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2011 on Can We Skip the Middleman? at Not The Religious Type
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I hear what you are saying Titi. It prompted me to look more into the meaning of the word "repent". It does seem to indicate someone taking time to think something over, examine their current situation with an alternative being presented, and then turning towards the alternative. If I understand the word "conversion" properly, that is more or less describing what happens when someone indeed successfully "repents". Now I'm not sure what you mean by pre-requisites though?
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2011 on Can We Skip the Middleman? at Not The Religious Type
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I like this a lot Brent. Especially the part about the essential nature of Jesus and thus him not qualifying as a "middle man" in this sense. I think that could be a controversial point to some, but I think it is nonetheless true. I wonder what others think about this?
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2011 on Can We Skip the Middleman? at Not The Religious Type
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Ha...like!
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I dunno Scottie - I guess it seems that the point of the article was that christian men are trying to "compensate" somehow. Why would they feel the need to compensate if they were secure in their masculinity? If they are insecure what has made them insecure? I think perhaps these are the deeper questions at play here. What are your thoughts?
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Maybe I'm misreading because I'm a little confused. I am saying "We should listen to Jesus about how to handle the power we have." And you seem to be saying "No, we must never use our power at all." Is that right? If so, what if you are a governor with the power to pardon an innocent man, a political prisoner perhaps? Should you lay down that power and let the man stay condemned? What if you are a police officer with the power to rescue a woman who is being raped? Should you lay down that power and refuse to act on her behalf? What if your neighbor's donkey falls into a ditch on the Sabbath day? What if you have the power to heal a woman whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years on the Sabbath? Clearly some power is appropriately exercised right? How do you see all of this?
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Yeah - I think I like it said that way better too. But just like Jesus said about his own life "I lay it down, only to take it up again" we also mustn't be afraid of power any more than Jesus was afraid of life. Power is a good thing. Let me say that again...power is a good thing! Power is only bad when it isn't submitted to, lined up with, the will of God (which is always rooted in His nature of love.) So its not that power must always be laid down, but rather we must be willing to lay it down, or use it another way, or restrain it for a season, or heck sometimes even fully express it...whatever the case as Jesus leads us in various situations and circumstances. WWMDD forever baby!
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Good stuff Brent! I would say that the source of Jesus' power was not weakness but rather the Holy Spirit - Jesus' intimate connection and submission to the Father. That being said God does seem to love displaying his power in surprising ways, using the weak things of this world to shame the strong, the mystery of power made perfect in weakness - so you definitely have a strong point there. I think of Jesus being approached to be arrested and Peter drawing his sword to defend him. Jesus responded that lack of power was not the issue (he could call on his Father and at once have many angels come to his aid) but rather he was choosing to lay down his life, no one took it from him. So there is paradox here, namely power displayed often thru seeming weakness. But I don't think any man longs to be weak, except to the extent that what may appear weakness is actually the secret wisdom of God so that an even more powerful end result may occur. I think of men like Ghandi and MLKJr. They chose nonviolent resistance not because they were weak but because it was actually the most powerful way to accomplish their goals. Similarly Jesus chose to lay down his life for us in what appeared to some to be weakness, but it was not weakness but the very secret wisdom and power of God! Additionally, Jesus has no problem describing the powerful and authoritative way he will return one day to set the world right. I think the key to genuine masculine strength is power under control. Namely, submitting whatever resources we have to the leadership of Jesus. So whether he commands us to clear the temple or to turn the other cheek, in every situation we are not operating on our own, but seeking rather the will of Him who sends us. Personally, I find it helpful if I wear my WWMDD bracelet so I can remember to ask myself in every situation...What would Mark Driscoll do in a situation like this?
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"Meanwhile, their secular peers demonstrate their masculinity in counter-productive ways: through sexual conquest and physical domination." It seems to me that men long to be powerful. Jesus, Paul, Moses, they are all reported by the Bible to have been powerful people. Secular men also long to be powerful but they seek to demonstrate this through sexual conquest, physical domination, acquiring wealth, knowledge, positions of authority, etc. Could it be that the longing for power is a legitimate longing in the heart of a man, one put there by God to be used for his purposes? If so this might explain why secular men act they way they do and why perhaps christian men struggle to combat the model of manhood presented by the secular world. Perhaps if men were told "Yes, be strong, be powerful, this is a good thing and our world needs you to be strong and powerful. Use your power and strength to help the weak, defend the oppressed, build the wall, cure cancer, make a difference...the Lord has need of you!" christian men wouldn't feel so emasculated or end up acting like posers trying to show strength through loveless attempts to dominate others.
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So I emailed the previous post on this topic out to some friends and my friend Jen had a reply that I thought was great. She agree to let me post it here. It's a little long but well worth the read IMO: So I am merely a woman and don't know if it is my place to speak of such things but I do have an opinion so here it is. I think there has been a bit of a pendulum swing in the Church as far as "appropriate Christian maleness" goes. Men used to be stereotyped as barbaric cavemen who beat their wives over the head with a club and dragged them by their hair. And in general that was acceptable male behavior because let's face it us women folk (or females as some call us ;) didn't have much smarts what with our smaller brains and we were so helpless with our delicate flower physiques and basically didn't deserve to be treated as equals because we couldn't possibly take care of ourselves even though we could birth a dozen babies squatting in a field while plowing and didn't skip a beat. Ok, Does anyone sense my tone here? We can agree I think that men have used the Bible to justify their barbaric ways- whether it's beating their children or demeaning and belittling their wives (Submit woman! The Bible says so). Lord knows they justified unspeakable acts of war and violence in God's name as well. There has been some naughty behavior by men in the church. Well then that pesky movement called feminism came around. We women got the right to vote (who came up with that idea) and it all went to hell from there! Ha. Seriously though feminism, the psychology age, everyone getting in touch with their issues. The realization that Jesus loved women too and championed for them. Women became leaders and heck Pastors. Women are smart and strong- what do you know. "Girl Power!" Those damn Spice Girls. Fast forward to the age of ambiguity and sometimes inability to tell apart the sexes.Women and men do the same things, act the same, dress the same, etc. We women earned the right to get "male oriented" jobs, study at the same institutions, wear pant suits, even run for President. And thank God for that, mostly. But now we have metro-sexuals, men who want to wear murses (that's a man purse), get their nails done, go to hair dressers and still be "real" men just as women did in their own right. Hey, I think Dan should get a good pedicure now and then (no polish mind you) but it would do his toes and my feet in bed a world of good. But there is this blurred line now. What makes a real man? What makes a real woman? Thus the pendulum swing. Christian men are now taught to be passive, meek,and gentle almost at any cost. Men are shamed for being aggressive and driven by what do you know a hormone called testosterone that they were actually created to manufacture. I mean there are legions of these competitive, sexually driven, assertive little chemicals coursing through their veins. Hmmm could God have made a mistake? It has become a bit twisted I think this notion of masculinity and femininity. I believe we are created to be either by God but I also don't think these attributes aren't necessarily innate. We all need to be mothered and fathered and there is so much of that lacking. We are all so wounded and it often shows itself in these areas of sexuality. And the truth is where many, dare I say most, of us have been deprived that parenting in a healthy way by our earthly parents, God can more than make up for in His parenting of us. He can heal the depravity of our broken upbringings. Clearly this Driscoll dude is broken and must have some area of woundedness in the area of fathering or mothering or both and it seems in his sexual identity (and I don't mean orientation). But I can understand his frustration a bit. I am completely opposed to where he takes it though and how he expresses it. But I do think we have emasculated Christian men in our church society. It is sad to see. In the end there is a balance which clearly he does not have (Driscoll). I don't particularly agree with the one-dimentional image of Jesus and the baby lambs, the angelic, beautiful, feminine Jesus. I mean yes, I love the Jesus that spoke with compassion, acceptance, even gentleness. I especially appreciate how he communicated with the women He encountered. But is that all? Is he just this feminine passive person? How can we miss the other aspects of His character? To ignore it it is to misunderstand His character and thus His whole self. Hello Lion of Judah. Anyone know a lion in the wild that goes up to his neighborly gazelle and licks him to death with kindness and love? Dude he rips his throat out, quick and fierce, all bloody and gross. That is the image of a lion I have. (exactly why I don't keep one as a pet). We know we are in a spiritual battle, warring for the souls of every human on earth. Do I want this smooth-skinned, doe eyed, lamb coddling Jesus coming to my rescue? Maybe if I was being tickled to death by cute fuzzy bunnies. No, I want a fierce lion to rip out my enemies throat thank you. If I was being mugged would I want Dan to say, "I'm sorry sir I really don't want to start any trouble. Take my wife, please. God loves you and I speak love over you my brother. Do you need a hug?" Well unless the HS prompted him to say that of course. But no, I want my man to defend me, protect me! (Unless he has a weapon, Sweetie please don't fight a guy with a knife). But I want him to break his fingers while telling him no one lays a hand on his wife and then beat that guy's ass into the ground. Fierce, aggressive, strong, protective. And then turn around with nothing but love and compassion in his eyes as sweeps me up in his arms and cries over the possibility of anything ever happening to me and tells me how much he loves me. I mean come on that's balance right? There it is! No pressure by the way Dan. We all know you'd do that but let's face it if we were mugged we would probably tag team spanking that guy til he runs home to his Momma (who let's face it is probably a man-hater and why he leads a life of violent crime to begin with). Sorry, I'm a little punchy today.
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Ha - thanks Dave. Maybe you guys could upgrade the blog technology at some point to include "like" or "found helpful" clicky-things below the comments. Thanks again for this blog!
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Lots of great comments here. To continue my obsession with stage theory, I want to say that perhaps in stage 2 we want to define male and female roles and identities with strong clarity and boundaries (whatever our basis for doing so). In stage 3 we throw all of that out, mostly as a reaction to the harm we've seen it cause, but true to stage 3 form, we are over-reacting a bit, hence the eye-roll over the value of diversity here whereas everywhere else we'd celebrate diversity until the cows came home. So perhaps a stage 4 view says there are meaningful differences between men and women, but we have to be careful how we observe this and what kind of generalizing we do. Because like Jung said (I'm paraphrasing) every individual is ultimately an exception to all the generalities and averages and so we must hold the two in tension. We shouldn't pretend there are no generalities to be observed, but we must suspend such generalities when dealing with individuals, in case they don't fit that person, or don't fit in a way that is immediately obvious. And yeah, it seems that these issues are more relevant for men (and women) who have had either zero same sex parental presence in their formative years or a pretty negative one. On the other hand, folks who've had some decent model, picked up some degree of healthy masculinity and femininity in a way that was more caught than taught, and so talking about it may feel strange and unnecessary for them. But for us who feel lost at sea in terms of identity in general and gender identity in particular, some talk on the subject can be helpful, but the most helpful of all is participation in healthy and regular community of the same sex as Crispin pointed out, and talking to Jesus and asking him about all of this can't hurt either I suppose ;) As an aside, I think there could be some kind of hierarchical framework here that might help those who feel we're making too big of a deal out of this. I think identity is first as a human being, as a follower of Christ, then as a man, than as a botanist or pastor or whatever. So the main issue is obviously what is my identity in Christ and what does it mean to follow him wholeheartedly, to love God and my neighbor all out. But after that there are smaller questions of what does it mean to be a man/woman doing that, what does it mean to be a botanist/pastor doing that, etc. Just a thought...
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Good stuff Vince. Yeah, christians fighting cultural wars are frustrating because, to quote David Bazan "That's not what bearing witness is." I remember in my VLI Missions class the speaker (maybe it was Rick Love?) saying that in every culture there are elements in line with the kingdom of God and elements opposed to His Kingdom. Every culture will have both going on. So the key is to find the bridges in culture where God is already working and to encourage those things and also to expose and oppose that which is out of line with God's kingdom. Of course pointing people to Jesus is the simplest route as He will likely take care of the rest but if we are talking about engaging the culture I like that balanced perspective the best. To bring it to stage theory talk, if stage 2 is known for us/them bounded-setness then of course culture wars make a lot of sense. But if stage 4 is seeking to be salt, yeast, and light or even farmers scattering seed, than there is no need for such boundary drawing because seed should be cast all over, and salt, yeast, and light get all up in the mix. And lets not forget that our battle is not against flesh and blood either, so the secular person is not your enemy, even if they are caught up in some practices that rub against the most excellent Way.
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Yeah - I 100% agree that defining masculinity or femininity in a public and rigid way could definitely alienate people and thus create barriers for them to seeing Jesus and moving towards Him. That is definitely not good! I guess the good I see in looking at possible differences but in a non-rigid way, especially for me who grew up without a dad or any real consistent male figure, is that I do think a man brings something unique to a boy's life that a woman can't really bring. I don't think I can say exactly what that something is, but I would say that its real and it matters. And I see Eldredge different from Driscoll in that Eldredge does not say macho misogynistic things and has a great deal of respect for women. Also it was thru his private counseling practice that he began to discover some common themes in the core desires of the men he counseled. Those themes led him to believe that perhaps there are universal needs and desires unique to being a man and that we had even, as a larger culture and church culture, began to devalue or suppress some of those things in unhealthy ways in reaction to the ugliness, violence and arrogance of many men throughout history. I can't say for certain that Eldredge is 100% right in his conclusions but I don't feel that its fair to lump him in with Driscoll and I do believe that I have been personally helped by his message. But to bring it back to Stage theory. Perhaps in stage 2 we had some really rigid roles for men and women that were too restrictive and in some cases downright oppressive. So society went thru a stage 3 over it and some great things happened (women's suffrage, etc) but perhaps, in the spirit of stage 3, we threw out all concepts of the possibility that men and women may actually be meaningfully different in beautiful and complementary ways. So to me I see men like Driscoll as perhaps pulling more for a return to the rigidity of stage 2 whereas folks like Eldredge are just saying "I think maybe we threw out the baby with the bathwater". So maybe there is a stage 4 way of seeing this that doesn't espouse a return to exclusive rigid definitions but rather is open to see if there is any truth to meaningful differences that were meant to be a complementary blessing of diversity, and not a system of oppression?
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Hi Brent. Good push back. Yeah to be honest its just my own observations of men and women, girls and boys, that leads me to believe there are some meaningful differences that transcend anatomy that I don't think are just culturally absorbed. So I think your push back will lead me to think and research more on that topic because I have just taken it for granted I suppose. But aside from that I still feel like some your pushback, particularly regarding who gets in the kingdom and stuff like that, has zero relevance to what I am talking about. I mean, if men and women are different in their makeup or if they truly are not, I not sure how either case either helps or hinders movement towards the kingdom of God. Did you see the example I gave about my messianic jewish friends? I just don't think diversity has to equal disunity. I think we can learn to value the uniqueness of others, we don't need to try to eliminate any idea of difference in order to love each other do we?
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