len on July 25th, 2014

During the time scholars were first recovering the notion of principalities and powers, James S. Stewart suggested in a path-breaking article still relevant today that something but vital had been lost in Christian anthropology by the reduction of the concept to mere apocalyptic imagination.

Stewart claimed first of all that the sense of a cosmic battle manifested visibly on the stage of the world events had been lost. More significant, he continued, was the loss with respect to the doctrine of the atonement. Theologies stressing only the revelatory dimension of Christ’s death have not taken seriously the New Testament focus on the demonic nature of the evil from which humankind must be redeemed. Thus, a basic component of the Christian gospel has been sidelined as extra. Stewart underlined this New Testament concentration as follows:

“The really tragic force of the dilemma of history and of the human predicament is not answered by any theology which speaks of the Cross as a revelation of love and mercy — and goes no further. But the primitive proclamation went much further. It spoke of an objective transaction which had changed the human situation and indeed the universe, the cosmos itself. It spoke of the decisive irrevocable defeat of the powers of darkness. It spoke of the Cross … as the place where three factors had met and interlocked: the design of man, the will of Jesus, the [purpose] of God… This three-fold drama can be understood only when the New Testament teaching on the invisible cosmic powers… is taken seriously and given due weight.” (194-95, 1950)

Marva Dawn, Powers, Weakness and the Tabernacling of God 8-9

len on July 23rd, 2014

cover

“In this thoughtful and interesting work, Leonard explores the importance of place, locality and presence to the Christian faith. In an age when we see the rise of the network to the demise of geographic location contemporary expressions of the neighborhood can feel like co-habilitating strangers. This book creatively explores the place of Christianity to be counter-cultural, to recover the importance of the sacred in the local.”

Ian Mobsby, Writer, teacher and Anglican Minister and leader of the Moot Community, a New Monastic Community in Central London UK.

No Home Like Place is a walk through dense woods, theologically and poetically, guiding the reader into contemplation and reflection. And it’s a thin place, offering a spacious venue for astonishment and encounter. To find someone rebuilding place after the great postmodern deconstruction is beautiful. This book offers itself as a worthy companion for miles to come.

Brad Jersak, PhD. Author: Her Gates Will Never Be Shut. Westminster Theological College

There are many of us in places far and wide, practitioners seeking to live God’s call to the neighbourhood. We are committed to the most local expressions of discipleship because we have a gut sense that place matters to God and to the nature of Christian mission. What Len provides in this book a wonderful resource to those of us committed to the neighbourhood, a cogent, carefully researched and sensitively written theology of place that will sustain and strengthen our commitments.

Simon Carey Holt, Author: God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood

In a society in which families are spread out across the continent, and suburban shopping malls from Vancouver to Halifax to Phoenix all seek to sell us the same goods from the same chain stores, Len invites us to think deeply about “place”: about being located and rooted. Hjalmarson draws an extraordinary range of sources into conversation, which in turn provides the reader with a marvelous array of writers and poets to explore. His closing chapter, “Re-placing the World through the Arts,” does not so much end as invite us into the terrain of imagination and possibility.”

Jamie Howison, Priest and pastor, St. Benedict’s Table.
Author, God’s Mind in That Music

“Deep down, all humans are homesick for a place they have never been. It’s the post-Eden trauma: Man searching for the one place that God hangs out. But that particular search can only be found where heaven colonizes Earth. That’s the big idea of Jesus: the Kingdom as God’s uncontested rule comes to a place near you. I call these places Kingdom Colonies, Gardens of God that will increasingly emerge as people stop ‘doing the church thing’ and start to model what the whole world has been waiting for far too long…”

Wolfgang Simson, Coach and Innovator. Author, The Starfish Manifesto, and Houses That Change the World.

No Home Like Place is now available with The Urban Loft Publishers.

TOC

Download a sample Theology of Place – Introduction2014

len on July 22nd, 2014

booksWho had heard of “missional” church prior to 1998 (the publication by the GOCN)? Now “missional” is everywhere. What really changed? Sometimes we need new language in order to see. The language of “place” recovers a lost imagination, one obscured in the legacy of Modernity where we traded “place” for “space,” the concrete for the abstract. Recovering language helps us recover an ability to enter the texture, colors and rhythms of the places we dwell. “Place – An Introduction” introduces the concept and why it’s important. At the end of this post I’ll share links to some videos connected to the most recent books on neighbouring.

Some time ago I uploaded an image of the best books on “place” currently available. These are the ones I have, and there are related books that deserve mention, like Simon Carey Holt, God Next Door (Acorn Press, 2007). So let me walk through this stack. I’ve cracked each of them, read most of them, but also a disclaimer: I don’t have a degree in philosophy, human geography, phenomenology or culture :) In alphabetical order:

Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. 1951. 241 pp.

Bachelard applies the method of phenomenology to architecture basing his analysis not on purported origins (as in Enlightenment thinking) but on lived experience of architecture. He considers spatial types such as the attic, the cellar, drawers and the like. He implicitly urges architects to base their work on the experiences it will engender rather than on abstract rationales. Bachelard is concerned with the architecture of the imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

len on July 19th, 2014

genderMy friend Dave Fitch writes,

“The NT church is not about whether women should be “over” men or men “over” women. It is about eliminating the “over” entirely. It is about abolishing the politics of anybody being over anybody and instead we all come together mutually under one Lord where the organization of authority is centered in the recognition of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit at work regularly in the body of Christ under the one head – Lord Jesus Christ This is the new community created in Christ, a foretaste of the Kingdom.

“Too often however the complimentarian/egalitarian logic thwarts this dynamic. “Complementarian” approaches to leadership keeps hierarchy (and thereby patriarchy) in place. “Egalitarian” approaches to leadership often (unintentionally) become the means to ensconce “male dominant” ways/structures of leadership and then invite women into them…”

Dave suggests that what is greatly needed is an exploration of the New Testament view of women and men in leadership in light of –

** the Kingdom
** the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church
** the already/but not yet eschatology of Scripture.

Dave has really pushed this conversation over the past few years, going back in fact to around 2006 IIRC. You can always hear his heart coming through — his heart to follow Jesus without compromise, and to encourage others to do the same, regardless of gender, and in light of the very things he lists above.

From my own listening to the pain, and passion and vision, of Christian women who have endured in the church, with great patience and grace, under patriarchal systems it’s important that we also acknowledge the subtle dynamic of theological frameworks, grounded in faulty and transparent cultural assumptions. Those assumptions, and the distortions they produce in theological frameworks, have to be confronted in the spirit of mercy and truth, at the same time as we attempt to approach the Scripture afresh.

Moreover, that work, both negatively and positively — the deconstruction of existing systems and creative engagement of the text — should be led by women, with men working alongside. Women need to set the pace and the agenda: they need to be given that power also. It’s always very risky for those who have held the reigns to lead any oppressed people to freedom: it can subtly reinforce the stance of “you really need us to help you” – the existing power dynamic we are attempting to subvert. And the voices of those who have experienced prejudice need to be heard as we work together. There are nuances to the conversation that we will otherwise miss, and thus richer opportunities for healing and growth.

I don’t think dave excludes any of this: I just want to make it explicit. So while it’s a somewhat different category, I want to extend his list. An exploration of the New Testament will have to be paired with an exploration of tradition and cultural liturgies, the deconstructive side of the work.

len on July 17th, 2014

“For in these three is all our life: Nature, Mercy, Grace: whereof we have meekness and mildness; patience and pity; and hating of sin and of wickedness,—for it belongeth properly to virtue to hate sin and wickedness. And thus is Jesus our Very Mother in Nature [by virtue] of our first making; and He is our Very Mother in Grace, by taking our nature made. All the fair working, and all the sweet natural office of dearworthy Motherhood is impropriated to the Second Person: for in Him we have this Godly Will whole and safe without end, both in Nature and in Grace, of His own proper Goodness.

“I understood three manners of beholding of Motherhood in God: the first is grounded in our Nature’s making; the second is taking of our nature,— and there beginneth the Motherhood of Grace; the third is Motherhood of working,—and therein is a forthspreading by the same Grace, of length and breadth and height and of deepness without end. And all is one Love.”

Showings, LIX

len on July 15th, 2014

In an interview at Comment, Jonathan Bradford describes key values at ICCF:

Respect

“We believe strongly in our responsibility to respect the Johnson and Hernandez families. God has thought enough of them to create them in His image. He wants good for them. He wants opportunity and hope and flourishing and nurture. He wants shalom. He wanted shalom for my wife and I when we were married forty-two years ago. We had various ways that helped us achieve that, a college degree, supportive parents, and so forth. The Johnsons and the Hernandez families may not have that.

“Respecting these families that God sends our way means not holding wrongs against them, just as we read in 2 Corinthians 5: “The old is gone and new has come.” God’s care extends far beyond my heart and to every area of my activity, all of my being as a citizen in His Kingdom and in the city. Respecting the family, not holding the wrong turns against them, communicating hope and optimism is an extremely important thing.

Opportunity

“How do we respect? By expecting the pursuit of opportunity. That might sound like just a little clever turn of a phrase but, hey, you know what? If you regard the Hernandez and Johnson families as perfectly capable—as wanting good for themselves, as reaching for something more—for stability that has eluded them. We want to say to them: here is your chance to learn, to grow. “Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, what have you aspired to achieve?” Inevitably, we’re going to hear a financial roadblock. They’re going to say, “Yeah. I wanted to take that course at community college so I could qualify for a raise at work but I could never get the $300 tuition together.” “Well, sure, Mr. Johnson because you’re spending 55% of your income on inadequate, unsafe housing and there’s no reason why you should have to continue to do that.”

“When Mr. Johnson can go from spending $850 to spending $550, Mr. Johnson has a $300 a month raise. That’s $3,600 post-tax cash stays in his pocket. What, Mr. Johnson, can you do with $3,600? Will you take that class at the community college? Will you address the health issue you’ve been denying, ducking? On and on, the pursuit of opportunity.

“The final word, the final value that is, to my way of thinking as powerful, as important, as central as anything: that is simply beauty.

More…

len on July 13th, 2014

imageIVP has released this book- subtitle “Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis” – new this month. A wide and diverse group of contributors – diverse in location and in perspective. In an interview with the editors IVP editor David Congdon asks:

“How would you characterize the ‘evangelical’ nature of this project? What positive resources do you find within evangelicalsim for pursuing a postcolonial theory and praxis?”

Daniel Hawk answers: “The vitality and growth of the evangelical movement around the globe makes the evangelical voice a particularly important contributor to emerging postcolonial conversations and movements. Speaking as one, I ask, are we willing to honor the intellectual and cultural resources that non-European evangelicals offer and engage them as co-equal partners in shaping theology and biblical interpretation? Are we open to having our identities and thinking changed by this global dialogue, or will we insist that theology and interpretation must still continue on our terms and on our turf?”

The description on the website follows:

“Colonialism involves more than just territorial domination. It also creates cultural space that silences and disenfranchises those who do not hold power. This process of subjugation continues today in various forms of neocolonialism, such as globalization. Postcolonialism arose in the latter half of the twentieth century to challenge the problem of coloniality at the level of our language and our actions (praxis). Postcolonialism seeks to disrupt forms of domination and empower the marginalized to be agents of transformation.

“In 2010, the Postcolonial Roundtable gathered at Gordon College to initiate a new conversation regarding the significance of postcolonial discourse for evangelicalism. The present volume is the fruit of that discussion. Addressing themes like nationalism, mission, Christology, catholicity and shalom, these groundbreaking essays explore new possibilities for evangelical thought, identity and practice.

I’ve become more aware of the need for this kind of contribution as I’ve seen the narrowness of perspective on the ground in Canada, even among thoughtful people. Isolation breeds closed conversations — we talk to others who are too much like us. This silo effect works against rich reflection and deep engagement. As so many have been learning, we need ‘the other.’

TOC

Introduction
Why Postcolonial Conversations Matter – Brian McLaren
Reflection on Postcolonial Friendship – Brian D. McLaren
The Importance of Postcolonial Evangelical Conversations – Steve Hu
A Response to the Postcolonial Roundtable: Promises, Problems and Prospects – Gene L. Green
The Postcolonial Challenge to Evangelicals – Editors
Prospects and Problems for Evangelical Postcolonialisms – Robert S. Heaney

And then follows Part I -
Mission and Metanarrative: Origins and Articulations

And for those of us involved on the ground with first nations friends, this is a great start!

1. From Good: “The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian”; to Better: “Kill the Indian and Save the Man”; to Best: “Old Things Pass Away and All Things Become White!” An American Hermeneutic of Colonization
L. Daniel Hawk and Richard L. Twiss

2. North American Mission and Motive: Following the Markers
Gregory L. Cuéllar and Randy S. Woodley

3. Postcolonial Feminism, the Bible and the Native Indian Women
Jayachitra Lalitha

4. Converting a Colonialist Christ: Toward an African Postcolonial Christology
Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo and Reggie L. Williams

Part 2 The Stories behind the Colonial Stories
Introduction to Part 2 – Kay Higuera Smith

Part 3 Revisioning Evangelical Theology
Introduction to Part 3 – Jayachitra Lalitha

Part 4 Transforming the Evangelical Legacy
Introduction to Part 4 – Kay Higuera Smith

Part 5 Closing the Circle
Introduction to Part 5: The Evolution of the Postcolonial Roundtable
Joseph F. Duggan

The page on the IVP website – HERE
See also “Take the Other to lunch” (TED)

len on July 11th, 2014

coversI’ve finished the two introductory volumes I began working on last summer. They are each 85 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. The first is an introduction to theology of place, and the second, an introduction to missional spirituality.

I considered checking with a major publisher before doing the layout work — but the delay got me thinking that I am less interested in mass distribution than just getting these to people who will appreciate the work and find them useful.

While I approached the subject with an aim to integration and an appeal to both artistic and structural types, they still lean to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection. Links –

Intro to Theology of Place
Intro to a Missional Spirituality

“If we are to avoid the legalisms associated with driven activism or the disobedience associated with wimpy passivism we will need to learn how to worship God in the fulness of life. This is no mean feat and in fact requires a serious reorientation from the prevailing evangelical spirituality of quiet times in quiet places. Len has gifted us with precisely such a reorientation in this book. I am grateful.” –Alan Hirsch

Download samples here –

Intro Theology of Place
Intro Missional Spirituality

len on July 10th, 2014

Siegrist and Wiebe write,

“Can the Coalition distinguish its articulation of the gospel from the work of Christ? The problem is the epistemological confusion that arises when we mistake our description of a thing for the thing itself. This is the same sort of confusion often propagated by invocations of “objective truth.” On one level, at least, the Coalition recognizes this. In a document they refer to as their “Theological Vision for Ministry,” the group claims: “Our theoretical knowledge of God’s truth is only partial even when accurate, but we nevertheless can have certainty that what the Word tells us is true.” What this statement seems to miss is the distinction between “what {170} the Word tells us” and what we say the Word tells us. Projected into the organization’s mission this means that a popularized Calvinism is pushed as the answer to evangelicalism’s woes.

“A second factor we believe accounts for the Coalition’s growing influence is the theological comprehensiveness of Reformed doctrine. At its best Anabaptist theology makes no pretentions about being a totalizing system. The historian William Estep has observed that formal statements produced by early Anabaptists show a general reluctance to delve deeply into theological specifics… The Creeds, though not often used in worship or as tests of faith, also contributed to the theological grammar Anabaptists employed. By showing that there is a traceable genealogy of formalized theological statements from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries, Karl Koop has demonstrated that Anabaptism does constitute a theological tradition. Nevertheless, the Anabaptist tradition does not possess the theological breadth of Calvin and his heirs; persecution is an old reason, worry about intellectual hubris more recent. Anabaptists have not been great systematizers. We like to think that daily life is the place where our theology finds its integrity and scope.

“What Anabaptism does not offer is a totalizing, self-contained vision of the whole of human life. The challenge and the opportunity this carries is that the Anabaptist tradition will always be dependent. As a reform movement within the church catholic, Anabaptism requires a vital relationship with the universal, historic church. Anabaptist communities make a serious mistake when they substitute groups with a slightly more comprehensive vision, like the Coalition, for the church catholic.”

More…

len on July 8th, 2014

“Ms. Paglia argues that the softening of modern American society begins as early as kindergarten. “Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys,” she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. “They’re making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters.”

“She is not the first to make this argument, as Ms. Paglia readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the “war against boys” for more than a decade. The notion was once met with derision, but now data back it up: Almost one in five high-school-age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.”

Interesting stuff from a very vocal, secular feminist, Camille Paglia. This interview occurred in late December in 2013, but remains interesting. Culture in general does seem more friendly toward traditional feminine modes of being more than male ones. While feminine qualities have been lauded in recent years, masculine ones have been denigrated, leaving many western males with an identity crisis.

Elsewhere, at Q-Ideas, Rebekah Lyons responds to third-wave feminism with a call to gospel selflessness. Admirable, no? Who could disagree that this is not a gospel call – an anchor in kingdom ethics? Yet her talk left me uneasy. One woman responded like this:

“Third wave feminism has morphed into a broader movement that is more inclusive of other minority groups as it sees the elevation of the status of others as tied to our own equality as women. Hence the fight for LGBT rights. It also preoccupies itself with liberating women from harmful societal myths and common beliefs that create such things as rape culture and a society that normalizes or justifies domestic abuse.

“As for being a kind of ‘power grab’, it’s kind of vital in the fight to protect women and children from domestic abuse to enable them to become self-sufficient and independent and to create a culture that assists them in this endeavor.”

To which I said :

While I found myself sympathetic too her emphasis on servanthood, I agree that there are unresolved issues, both in the church and in the wider culture. And arguing that some women are after power seems irrelevant to the issues of justice – some men are also after power. How does the church respond in those instances (often with a promotion and more responsibility). ANd frankly I wonder if we overplay the call to serve — to serve is to willingly offer ourselves, not to demand that others follow our example. That’s simply oppression. And service is not the only important quality in our call, and maybe not even the ultimate one – Jesus said, “I call you friends.” Honestly, I found myself wondering if she has really grappled with the issues. It’s so easy to speak like she does if you are white, wealthy and comfortable. It’s easy to say what she says from the center, not so easy from the margins.