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Tim Mcninch
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Well I'm glad for that! I look forward to reading it. Thanks for the recommend.
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I'm a little late on the response here, Jeff. But your post has been rolling around in my heart for a couple days... I'm definitely a struggler here. I don't want to think of God as a religious vending machine, but on the other hand I need some kind of tangible feedback if prayer is to be an interactive endeavor. And I guess the honest truth is that I feel like getting "peace and contentment" in mystical prayer or in the midst of unanswered prayer is really slippery for me, which I'm sure is due to unbelief or unhealthy skepticism. How much of my peace is just a psychological coping mechanism for the cognitive dissonance of my unanswered prayer? What's that term for only experiencing what confirms your presuppositions? I have a friend who is exploring Jesus, but has some distance to go before really following him. He says he prays to God (and I continue to encourage him to do so), but he regularly tells me "God don't tell me nothing. God doesn't give me anything." How do I answer him? Well, just try to feel peace and contentment... Yeah, this is definitely one of those areas of real struggle for me as I (hopefully) transition from knowing a lot about Jesus, to knowing Jesus.
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Sounds like a fascinating book worth reading. Hard to imagine it being a game-changer, though. I've gotta say the blurb sounds a bit naive about the wide world of Pauline studies. Almost as if it's saying: "Hey! Here's a brand new idea: let's consider Paul in his own cultural context! No one's ever tried that before... This changes everything..." Not to be a party pooper, but studying Paul in his own context (including the Greco-Roman context of the various now-controversial cultural issues we wrestle with) has been an ongoing task for decades (centuries?). Maybe as a trained classicist, Ruden has some new research to contribute to the conversation and debate over Paul. But my hopes aren't too high for head-smacking "well that clears it up." All that said, I'm more frustrated with the oodles of contemporary folk inside and outside of churches who have no inkling of Paul as an author with any type of context... So hooray for a book that can help change that way of thinking, especially if it's accessible on a popular level!
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I appreciate the extra air space for this question. One of the things I'm continuing to mull over is the pitch I give to people outside of the church world, that if they take the risk of engaging with Jesus, their lives will actually improve. But how? If we can only "promise" the intangible of God being with them, and maybe something about the afterlife/resurrection, but not the tangibles of circumstances or life-situations actually changing for the better, how would you suggest talking about those intangibles? In a way that would induce in others more than, "Well that's good for you."? I had one friend the other day, as we discussed these things, say "Maybe in Boston people are longing for a mystical experience of God's presence... But I bet a lot of the people in our area [Michigan] would prefer a job." Food for thought.
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That last line of yours is key, and a really helpful clarifier for me. (I'd love to read a whole post unpacking it.) Thanks for the response!
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Friends, I hope this is not too much of a tangent; I think it relates to today's and yesterday's posts... With all our talk of "abundance" and "provision", and ideas in this forum like "God is always only good" and "God works for us", I still wonder how this is differentiated from a prosperity gospel. Are we saying that if people just trust Jesus, all their needs will be met? How do we square this with the many Christians around the world who are starving to death, or Christians in our own communities who are chronically jobless (though asking Jesus to provide), or the many who die accidentally or through sickness, etc? I guess this question goes beyond the specific social justice emphasis of Jeff's post, but relates: What do we say to the families of a missionary who answers God's call to work for social justice in an impoverished nation, gets sick on the boat, and dies before reaching shore? No downside? God always works for us? I'd love whatever insights you all may have.
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I felt the same way when I read that email. I fit the bill of much of the description, but do not exemplify the feared apostasy. To be fair, the argument was that we are on a slippery slope and may not be yet manifesting the natural consequences of our wanderings. But slippery slope arguments also seem, to me, to be artifacts of a modernist era. And I think it's common within our movement (Vineyard) to intentionally tread slippery slopes because it's in those risky areas that we find God at work. There's an axiom we often hear that "faith" is spelled "R-I-S-K". One interesting element in my reading was the concern that our movement was beginning to marginalize or exclude theological conservatives. Ideally, a centered-set movement would have abundant room for a variety of theological perspectives. I know the Boston Vineyard and NotReligious/Blue Ocean have been walking that centered-set tight rope for some time, but maybe he's right that the movement as a whole is beginning to marginalize those with conservative views. I wonder what your read is on that Dave.
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I just had a conversation about "should" last night with some friends. We were wondering if abandoning "should" would lead to a sort-of pick-and-choose Christianity. If it's all only about my own perceived benefits, then what's to keep me from, say, having an affair, and saying that I simply wasn't experiencing the benefit of Jesus' prescription regarding my marriage? When is "should" a helpful constriction? I'm also wondering if there may be intrinsic value in obedience to God, where the reasoning behind "should" is simply that he is creator and we are creatures... the latest issue of Vineyard's Cutting Edge magazine featured an interview with Marva Dawn about Sabbath, and "should" figured highly in her reasoning...
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Oct 18, 2010