Shuck and Jive

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Way of Letting Go

I had a wild dream last night. I dreamed that our congregation was connected with the ministry of John Hagee. He is the dispensationalist who figures out the end of time for us. The basic gist of my dream is that part of my job at First Pres. is to fill in for Rev. Hagee on his TV program when he is on vacation. Shocked, I couldn't believe my church was really in to this guy and that I was expected to continue his ministry. Apparently, his organization donated to the church. My duty as chaplain to the institution was to carry this out. My dilemma was how to do this. What do I say? Do I preach the Hagee line or what I really think? Either way I lose something, either my integrity or my position. Thankfully, before my first show I woke up.

My dream gave me the idea for my series of sermons on Lent. Here is the heading: "Beliefs Worth Giving Up in Order to Grow." It starts off this Sunday. Once per season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) we devote a service to one of the four spiritual paths of Creation Spirituality. This coming Sunday is the celebration of Winter and the spiritual path of letting go. My sermon is entitled, "Why Negative Theology Matters." This will be a nice kick off to Lent.

What are some beliefs worth letting go in order to grow? I suggest that one of the beliefs worth letting go is that the Bible is of supernatural origin. Don't misunderstand. I am not advocating letting go of the Bible, but letting go of a view of the Bible that stunts our growth. I love the Bible. I have read it since I was a child. Still do. I no longer read it through the lens of divine inspiration. To do so clouds our view of it and misrepresents the writers of it. Here is a quote from Robert Ingersoll in his book Some Mistakes of Moses:

Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature's night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free, unbiased soul is foced to raise the standards of revolt.

I found this quote in a book I recommend for your Lenten devotion, The Reason Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? by Robert M. Price. Price's book is a critique of Rev. Rick Warren's bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life. But much more than a critique, Price with wit and grace offers another way of creating meaning and joy in this life. For those who are becoming disenchanted with fundamentalism/evangelicalism, this one is a winner. The book is divided into 40 chapters (like Warren's book) and in each he responds to some bizarre and non-sensical statement Warren makes (like the doctrine of hell for example, or that the Bible is infallible) and offers a view that makes more sense of the Bible and of life itself.

Robert M. Price is one of the smartest and funniest guys I have ever met. To top it off he was a Baptist preacher. Do yourself a favor for Lent. Get this book and check out his web page. Click on his pic to see him in action in an interview.


  1. I know quite a bit about Mark for two reasons:

    (1) He was featured on the documentary 'the God who wasn't there' - which I watched

    (2) I go onto the Rational Response Squad Atheist site quite a bit and I have heard some of his speeches (via radio) -calls himself 'bible geek'.

    Mark Price isn't someone I honestly look up to but he is a funny guy - that is totally true. His stand and my stand are many shades away from being the same but I do respect his ideals and I have actually thought about getting his book - since it looks interesting.

    He tows the atheistic line too much and plays the fable card a little much for my liking - but that's his perogative and I respect that. He is onto a few things, which I commend, but he stepped too far into criticisms that have no solution as of yet - and likely never will. I think this is where we part ways a bit.

    But the book looks like a good read.

  2. I think you will find Robert Price's book very helpful. The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man is another good one.

  3. John,

    You'll never be able to stand in for John Hagee for two reasons:

    1) FPC-Liz doesn't have enough room behind the pulpit for a giant, detailed chart of the end times; &

    2) Your hair won't do a pompadour!

    In seriousness, can you help me understand what you mean when you say that the Bible has no "supernatural origin"? That seems to conflict with all of the material in our Book of Confessions touching upon the subject. And as sola Scriptura is a foundational Protestant belief, is it possible that you have removed yourself from the sources of Protestant Christianity?

    What does that mean for a Presbyterian who has taken vows to sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in those confessions? Especially since your charge of "privileging" the canon already runs against the vow to "accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
    to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ..."

  4. Chris,

    Someday in the near future you will make the long and lonely walk up to the pulpit to which you are called to preach the word. It doesn't matter from whence you come or from what side of the pulpit you preach. You will reach a point in which you stuggle with the congregation, or your colleagues, or with your own self regarding what is true and good. It is the prophet and the chaplain struggling within you. You can project that onto others (all the baddies who don't believe the Bible, or all the fundies who turn it into an idol), but eventually you will need to face it on your own. Everyday you will make a choice, a small one. Each day you make a compromise. Day after day, more small choices. Prophet or chaplain? Which today? Am I a defender of the faith or an apostle of the truth? Now as a seminary student you attack the failings, the compromises, the choices of those in the ministry. That's fine, that is your job. But don't ever think that you are too special to avoid the same fate. One day, you too, will be making these choices.


  5. I've always held that only Jesus is able to exercise the three-fold office (prophet, priest/chaplain, and king/ruler) with perfect balance. The rest of us will always gravitate to one extreme or the other.

    The question becomes what forms the center? Where do we expect to get balanced? Where do we turn for the corrective? I would suggest that it is Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Scripture that grounds a minister. I preach (in fact, will be doing so this Sunday) and I preach like every word of the Bible is from God because I truly believe that. It doesn't mean that I agree with everyone else who believes every word, but at least I have a point of unity with them. Together, as brother or sister, we can turn to the Lord who alone has the words of life (John 6:68ƒ). But if we only expect to find there some mirror of ourselves or an irrelevant culture that has been far surpassed by our technological and intellectual achievement, then we have no ground of unity.

    Jesus prayed that his church would be one, and that they would be sanctified in the freedom-giving truth (John 8:32; 17:17). Only in the Word of Truth do we have unity.

  6. Who knows, Chris. Maybe someday you will give up the belief that "every word of the Bible is from God." Then where will you be?

    Many of us have given up on a belief that makes absolutely no sense from any possible perspective. Hold that, maybe from the perspective of pantheism, that everything is from God, then the words of the Bible as well as the words of Mein Kampf and the "Love Boat" are from God. I digress.

    The thing is, Chris. You are a smart person. I can tell. Eventually, your intelligence will win out over the world view that has been drilled into you.

    Eventually, you will realize that this fundamentalist/evangelical horseshit is just that.

    Come to the light. Come, come to the light...

  7. John Hagee? Oh my goodness! I think I would classify that as a nightmare, and not just a dream!!

  8. Actually, it did feel like a nightmare!

  9. John,

    I've been a pentecostal and I've been a pagan. It's not like I had this drilled into my head and have been uncritically assenting to it. Rather, it was my study of the Scriptures - along with the convincing of the Holy Spirit (WCF 1.5) - that convinced me of its infallibility. Smarter people than either one of us have believed in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and folks stupider than either of us have scoffed at the notion.

    It's not so much a matter of intellect as intention, viz. will you submit to God being the authority rather than your understanding of God. It's one thing to have a nuanced view. It's another to read something in the Bible and say, "I don't buy it!"

    I find it ironic that you would call unbelief "light," when the Holy Spirit tells us through the pen of the Apostle Paul that it is a darkness with which we are to have nothing to do.

  10. Chris,

    Submitting to the ancients' views (I use the plural intentionally) of God is not the same as submitting to God.