Monday, February 24, 2014

A Door Set Open, by Peter Steinke

Chapter 1 – There Once Was a World

1.  In many ways, Peter Steinke picks up where Douglas John Hall left off…namely, the sad but inevitable demise of American mainline churches.  Steinke assigns this change to a confluence of factors, noting the sea change is external or contextual. 

For purposes of discussion, let’s review/discuss each of these factors or forces briefly:

- Postmodern Philosophy

- Dogmatic Atheism

- Supermodernity

- Science and Religion

- The Neuro Society

- The Ghost of Gnosticism

- Therapeutic Dominance

2.  Steinke notes that the cultural response in spiritual things has shifted away from churches, which are challenged by the astonishing pace of change in the world.  Steinke believes this constitutes a rich opportunity for the church.  God has set the door open to the future, arriving in the person of Jesus Christ. 

Where is all this “dislocation” taking us as Christians today?

What new “opportunities” for mission do you envision before us?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Waiting for Gospel, by Douglas John Hall

Waiting for Gospel
Chapter 13
A Latter-Day Kierkegaardian Visits a Mega-church

Douglas John Hall saved his best critique for last!  As he recalls aloud his mega-church experience in various stages of confusion and repulsion, he invites us to reflect and respond in earnestness.  I shall simply quote his conclusion and invite us all to consider his departing questions:

“The point, however, is to ask what is being offered in these new temples (and our duller, less successful, and often nearly defunct churches)—not how it is packaged! What is it, and how does it stack up against the Bible, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Tillich, Ruether, Soelle—and (sic!) Kierkegaard. And others. Concretely speaking, in view of the four previous observations, I ask the following four questions:

“First, can Christians in North America today affirm and encourage the much beleaguered and belittled human individual without, in the process, implying that the lifestyle, together with the racial, sexual, economic and other assumptions and pursuits of persons shaped by our consumer society, is just what is ordered by the Master of the Universe?

“Second, how can Christian communities be hospitable without reducing faith to sentimentality, mystery to ordinariness, truth to slogan, hope to optimism, love to luv?

“Third, is it possible to perceive and present Jesus as the representative and revealer of true God without making of him all the God of God there is?

“Fourth, how shall we keep the cross at the center without turning God into a transcendent Shylock and relegating humankind and all the rest of creation to the status of a failed experiment?”

Monday, February 10, 2014

Waiting for Gospel, by Douglas John Hall

Chapter 12 – Many Churches * Many Faiths * One Planet

1.  Hall introduces this chapter with the heading, “The ambiguity of religion in the light of the new world-consciousness.”  He illustrates with the words, “Religion Kills,” which were used as graffiti on the outer wall of the Presbyterian College in Montreal.  A letter to the editor of the International Herald Tribune echoed a similar sentiment, citing “religious fanaticism and extreme belief systems.”  How has the rapid expansion of the global community forever changed the way we view religion and its role in our culture? 

2.  How do you respond to Hall’s statement, “Is there in this extended Christian experience of ecumenical dialogue any wisdom to be gained that is applicable to the larger diversity of religious faiths?”

3.  Next, Hall asks, “How Can Christian Ecumenical Experience Facilitate Interfaith Dialogue?”  He responds with four areas of ecumenical Christian experience from which certain principles may be deduced.  Briefly review and discuss each:

(1) That the well being of the world is the foundational rationale of ecumenical endeavor;
(2) That particularity profoundly appreciated is our entrée to a deeper universality;
(3) That the quest for power always impairs ecumenical discourse;
(4) That hospitality towards and dialogue with other traditions does not diminish but can in fact enhance one’s knowledge and appreciation of one’s own tradition.

“While keeping our eyes wide open to the conflicts that religion inspires or is caused to sanction, we should never lose sight of the blessings that all humankind’s great faiths, at their best, wish to bestow upon the world.”  What are these blessings for us?