The Journey

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To be known and thought of feels good. I don't really know why, but it feels good to know that someone that you haven't seen or talked to in a while is still interested in your life and is thinking about you. I have had two such occassions this Christmas season. First, a couple of days ago, a girl from high school sent a Christmas letter explaining that she had missed me at our ten year reunion, so she was just dropping a line to see how things were with me. It was pretty awesome. She is married and had become a growing Christian in the time since we had last talked. We caught up on the basics and were excited about each others faiths stories and that was that. Yet, it felt good, first of all, that someone I once knew had entered the Kingdom, and secondly, that someone from my past cared enough to be interested in me now. The second incident occurred just this morning. My wife and I were preparing to go to my parents for Christmas this morning when a package came. It was a beautiful crystal bowl with a note attached. As we read, we realized it was from my best friend's parents. They sent a note explaining that they knew we were in ministry and that my wife had just started a nursing job. My best friends mom explained how she sympathized with Mesha because she had been a new nurse once too. Then they simply said they wanted us to know they thought of us and prayed for us. It was so great to know someone, who you didn't know cared so much, is out there praying and thinking of you. What a wonderful blessing we had this morning. Thanks Mrs. Lind!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Here is the last in the series of posts about Hart's book Faith Thinking...

After only one reading of this book, I can honestly say that I cannot find a point on which to disagree with Hart. This is an unusual situation for me to be in after reading a book of this nature. Hart, it seems to me, presents some radically new ideas to the debate in this book, but they are ones that I have been searching for in my journey in thought and theology. I am determined to read this book a second time, once again with a critical eye. However, I am not sure that this second reading will uproot any points of contention. I feel that Hart has unpacked and organized the confused thoughts I have been fumbling over for years. Reading Faith Thinking has challenged and delighted me all at once. It caused me to question, while at the same time bringing me wonderful new understanding. Ultimately I believe Hart has built a new understanding of reality and truth that honors the traditions of both modernity and post modernity by transcending both and leading to a more complete picture of knowledge and human interaction with reality or God.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Here's another installment of the Hart stuff...

I have to admit at this point I was beginning to lose the line of argument from Hart’s original goal of brining faith back into the public realm. I questioned if I would understand his main point in writing the book. I also questioned how a theology that constantly adapted itself would have any sort of strength or authority. However, as I moved through the final chapter of the book, it all began to come together for me. In chapter ten, Hart brilliantly begins to show that while Christian theology must be open to criticism and reformation by our current cultural trends to remain coherent and integrated, it must also genuinely criticize and reform the culture it is coming up against. He acknowledges that it must be allowed to be reshaped and reformed in the light of new learning and insights, but also must at some point be allowed to stand out from the rest and offer an alternative way of thinking. Finally, Hart wrapped it all up for me in chapter eleven He suggests that we must recognize that our knowledge is not reality itself, but “a product of a transaction between the universality of the created order and the irreducible particularity of our personal standpoints, physical, intellectual and otherwise (p. 224).” Therefore we must put ourselves in a position to get the best possible view of reality. He goes on to suggest that we discover these positions through taking a stance or making a commitment on faith and then refining that through open dialogue with reality. Hart suggests that tradition, as he defined it, is this dialogue over time. He reveals that this reality is none other than God himself and his created order. In other words, faith must enter the public dialogue again if we are to expect a closer understanding of reality because we can only come into dialogue with God through faith.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

So, today is my b-day and I am turning 29 years old! I have one year until life is over for me. Well, not really and for all of you 30 and older I am sorry for that comment. However, for me, 30 has always been an age marker that fun ends and responsibility begins. The decade that entails the 20's seems to just exude fun right in the title. "I am in my 20's" sounds so much better than "I am in my 30's." It says, "hi, I am young, vibrant, and full of potential." The 30's say, "I am desparately trying to stay young and vibrant, but am losing the battle and if I don't cash in my potential now, I'll be a "has been" or a "what if." Sorry for the depressing thoughts. Wow, I didn't know I had it in me to be that glum. I really am having a good b-day and am enjoying my last year as a 20-something!!!
Here's more on Hart...

It is to translation and transmission that Hart turned to next, and again, in my opinion, makes an important point for today’s Christian community. Hart reminds us that Jesus has called the Christian community to the mission of making disciples of all nations. He starts with missionaries to other cultures and explains the process necessary to translate the message to that culture. The missionary must be able to translate scripture to the other language obviously, but less obviously, the missionary must translate concepts, metaphors, and ultimately understanding. This cannot be accomplished by simply cloning our cultural form of Christianity. We must be able to understand our unique cultural traditions and let go of them in order to allow the gospel to transcend culture and place. In the same way, Hart suggests, that we must also acknowledge that the gospel must be allowed to transcend time. Therefore the church must recognize that over time the human understandings and activities that surround it in a certain place change. Recognizing this means understanding our unique generational traditions and letting go of them in order to allow the gospel to transcend time. Christians must understand that the gospel needs to be regenerated to be relevant to new generations. This simply means that the same substance or message is delivered with new tools and in new ways that are relevant to new generations. I like that he dealt with cultural translation first paving the way for understanding generational translation. I think many people have a hard time understanding the necessity for this change. Understanding it in the context of cultural translation makes this understanding easier.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My wife (who is wicked smart) told me I need to stop apologizing for posting thoughts on Hart. So here is more and I am not sorry!!!

Hart does not, however, stop with a lecture on the importance of tradition, but moves on to discuss how it provides a launching pad for further development. In fact, Hart suggests that we absolutely cannot hold on to tradition as if it is something that can transcend all time and place without change. Hart goes on to say that this attitude, that does not allow genuine critical, reflective thinking, is a symptom not of sheer confidence in the truth of a person’s views, but is a symptom of insecurity. This is a very important point to me and one that I was looking for him to make as he presented on tradition. I have been in the middle of the debate that is still roaring in the evangelical church between traditional or contemporary styles of worship. While this debate, in many respects, is simply trite, it illustrates Hart’s point beautifully. While his presentation of tradition allows a contemporary proponent to see the error of rejecting and disrespecting the traditional church, it also supports the development and growth that contemporary elements bring to the church. Many traditionalists could benefit from Hart’s suggestion that opening tradition to critical and reflective thought might lead to growth in Christianity and will help secure it for the next generation.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Recently, I have been really investigating the gifts God has given me. I have been thinking through my heart's passions and looking at my strengths as expressed through the Strengths Finder evaluation. I made two pretty exciting steps today towards using my gifts in a way that furthers the kingdom and makes me really excited. First, I asked my senior pastor if I could preach sometime this next year. I had been asked before to preach, but gave the excuse of not having time. It was pointed out to me last night by my lovely wife that I was really just making an excuse because I was scared. She was totally right and I was totally exposed, so what else could I do. I gave in and now I am going to preach! The other thing that I got myself into today was a new youth pastor coaching gig. The Baptist General Conference, which our church is associated with, is starting a new program for mentoring younger youth pastors. I wasn't sure I qualified because I have only been in full time ministry for 5 or 6 years. However, the leaders for the metro area have decided that, for now anyways, my gifts and passions are enough to qualify me to be a part of the program. In addition, I am one of two yp's that are on a team to welcome new yp's to the area and get them connected to the network. I am so excited to be moving into areas that God has gifted me! Try it for yourself, it is sweet.
Okay, getting closer to being done with the Hart thoughts. Here's more...

I was pleased to see Hart move on and bring tradition into his discussion of knowledge and faith. Many areas of our culture reject tradition as outdated and less developed than our current society. While there is some truth to these attitudes, tradition should not be rejected wholesale. Hart’s point that tradition is the foundation of development is an important point. For example, it would be foolish to attempt Christian theology without the benefit of the developments both successfully and unsuccessfully of those who developed systems of thought throughout the centuries. Hart made his arguments here so well, in my opinion, that he even convinced me of the benefits and the necessity of indoctrination. As I began to read about his ideas on indoctrination, my thoughts first turned to concerns about the irresponsibility associated with accepting beliefs without full understanding and good justification. In fact, I resonated with all the concerns he addresses on this subject on pages 170 and 171. However, Hart’s example of the learning process of young children and then his movement into the learning process of any field using indoctrination as a starting point hit home with me. I realized at this point that new Christians are all indoctrinated into the faith and with that cornerstone in place they can begin the process of further growth and discipleship.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Here's another installment of my thoughts on Hart. For those of you that are getting bored, I think I am almost done???

It was at this point that I began to lose some of my enthusiasm and question Hart’s thoughts. His argument seemed to lack some strength when suggesting that we could make claims on Scripture by faith and then simply refine those claims as we came into contact with opposing claims, bringing us closer to reality. Where was the authority in Scripture and what gave this system superior standing over modern systems of interpretation and postmodern systems of interpretation? The answer to my question came quickly as Hart addressed Scriptural authority and inspiration. His argument that Scripture holds authority both in its place in Christian community and in the fact that the Holy Spirit guides both the writing and reading of scripture was fascinating to me. By faith we accept God’s story as our own and join the community giving this story sole authority in our life. By faith we accept it as told by the Spirit through the historical writers and that the same Spirit guides our reading of it. Therefore, we can interpret it in faith and in faith allow our interpretations to be refined through the process of experience and study.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sorry, if you have been reading about my thougth on Trevor Hart, I took a break. I will now continue to post segments of my paper.

The more I thought about Hart’s system of thought and ideas on reality, the more I realized how deeply they cut into my thoughts on Christianity. I wondered, even before he began to address it, how this new system affected both Scripture and Christian faith. I was captivated as I read Hart’s thoughts on Scripture as story and how we embrace this story and make it our own. The idea that Scripture is God’s story and the nuances that go with a narrative reading of it were not knew to me. However, viewing this material through the new lenses of Hart’s ideas on knowledge of reality gave me a whole new perspective. When we accept the story that Christianity has to offer as our own, we take it on faith and through process and reformation we constantly get closer to the reality of that story and therefore reality itself. I am not rejecting the more formal systems of study of the Bible for this narrative system. They have their place and are helpful for gaining insight into certain ideas. However, if objective knowledge in general is tainted by our individual situations, than certainly we cannot make objective or rational statements about the Bible. On the other hand, if we read the Bible any way we like, then there is no real authority in the Scriptures. It is by faith that we can make statements about scripture, while maintaining the obvious truth that none of these statements are provable.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I saw the movie "Just Friends" last night. It is pretty funny and not too dirty. However there are the usual innuendos and sexual jokes that Hollywood makes its money off of. I would recommend it if your in the mood to cash out, not think real hard and laugh, while looking for a pretty mushy ending!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Here's the second installment...

My previous journey in this area of study led me to reject the modern system of thought as too simplistic and ultimately fatally flawed. I reckognized, as does Hart, that we all look at things from our own unique perspectives. Even scientific experiments that are supposed to be objective, leave room for subjectivism in the explanation or interpretation of the results. We all have a unique upbringing with unique life events that shape our beliefs systems and in the end these belief systems shape our interpretation of future phenomenon. My rejection of modernity led me to a weak and unsatisfying connection to postmodernity. As a Christian I was uncomfortable with the idea of rejecting universal truth and was unable to embrace the type of pluralistic tolerance that this system embraces. Because I was uncomfortable with this association, I have been seeking an alternative to both modernity and postmodernity for a while. Trevor Hart’s introduction and explanation of “faith thinking” has given me that new system. The idea that we can still make universal truth statements using faith, while acknowledging our unique perspective in a situation, is so logical to me. Hart’s idea that we only get closer to reality through taking a stance on faith and then allowing experiences and truth claims to refine our thoughts makes a lot of sense to me.