God of the Victors?

I have been for many years now rethinking my Christian views and my faith.  I, like many Christians, have been greatly influenced over the years by a specific “brand” or “version” of Christian thinking.  This does not mean that my Christian formation stopped with the influences of Protestantism and, specifically, Baptistic type theology; many more perspectives and theolgical thinking has found a home in my personal theology.  I did attend an undergraduate program steeped in Baptist theological thought and I attended a seminary that had been a “Conservative Baptist” seminary until a name change less than 15 years ago, but enough about my background.

I was sitting here thinking on a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was thinking about history and theological thought.  I heard once that history favors the victors, meaning that history is written by those who win the conflicts that have existed throughout history.  As I thought about this tendency and I thought about theology and Church history a question began forming in my mind.  I am not sure that I can adequately articulate it yet but here is the gist of it.  Our theology and our believing, historically, have been formed, shaped and influenced by those who won the many metaphysical, doctrinal and cultural clashes that have existed in the church over the years.  One question is whether winning or losing the conflicts and arguments of history, necessarily indicate truth or error?  

For instance, we don’t really have much extant from Pelagius because the victor of the battle, Augustine, had his writings burned.  Arius was another debater of theological and metaphysical things but the image we have of him was cast by those who were in fundamental disagreement with him.  Nestorius was another historical guy whose article in the annals of history bears the signature of those who banished or exiled him.  I am sure that, were I to do some research the list of individuals would grow.  I am sure that not all of the list would be big names from notable skirmishes in Church history, but some ideas probably just didn’t have the gas to continue and others did.  

Now, I already know some of the answers that come regarding this short list above.  The reason that they lost and the reason that we don’t have their side of things to consider is because they were contra-biblical or unorthodox in their perspectives.  For me that answer isn’t as compelling as it once was.  Maybe the canon of Scripture is also a result of the “victors” choices and preferences.  And how is Bible to be approached?  Is it a prescriptive map of the whole of God’s kingdom or is it descriptive record of how we have approached “kingdom” or “theology” and “God”?

At any rate the question is whether current Christian orthodoxy is the doctrine of the victors and is God only the God of the victors?  Is there room for differing thought and still be on the “Christian map”?  This question is still rough, as I mentioned earlier, and I hope further thought will produce a more clearly articulated question.


Back from Cali

I just got back yesterday from southern California.  I was born there, grew up there and each time I return, I remember why I left in the first place.  I know that folks who live there love San Diego, but for the life of me I really don’t understand what it is that they love.  San Diego is a great place to visit, some beautiful things to see, fun parks to visit but it is crowded, expensive and just not my cup of tea. 

Give me mountains, four seasons and fewer people; that is where I enjoy living.

“Bucket List”

Last night I watched the movie “Bucket List”. Man, what a great movie and food for thought! I won’t go into a movie review here, although I highly recommend you watch that movie. Rather I want to shoot around the idea of creating a bucket list. In th movie, the bucket list idea came from Morgan Freeman’s character and was an idea he was introduced to in his youth. However, he never really created the bucket list until his life was ebbing away.

I want to create a real and honest bucket list and keep it edited over the course of my life. In the movie it was more of a metaphorical device for contemplation until Jack Nicholson’s character got the idea of actualizing it. I suppose the answer to the question of whether this list will be metaphor or something to actualize, is yes.

The reality is that it wasn’t because of his youth that Morgan Freeman’s character never created a genuine “Bucket List”. Rather, I think that it wasn’t until faced with one’s own mortality did true clarity of what is really important come plainly into view. That is why my bucket list will need to be in a constant state editing, because with life, with age, with experience and knowledge gained will come a more authentic and genuine list. However, maybe the discipline of keeping an active list over the course of one’s life, too, will lend to a more honest contemplation and, consequently, appropriate redaction along the way. We’ll have to see.

Thus far I have three items on my list that I would like to do before I die: visit England, Ireland and Scotland with my wife, experience what it is like to chase after tornados with a storm chasing group and lastly, visit Antartica.

Finally Justice prevails

I read this morning about the Supreme Courts split decision to grant habeas Corpus to the Guantanamo detainees. IT IS ABOUT TIME! Finally some sensible and just dealings with this whole secretive, skirting the laws of the land, thinking we are above the law administration that has been in power over the last 8 years. We have held these men for upwards of 7 years and there has been no opportunity for them to challenge, with any clarity or understanding of the charges levied against them, their detention. That is just wrong!

Let’s hope that we will be swearing in President Obama in January, who has pledged to close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus. This administration has done everything it can to avoid operating within the bounds of law, in fact I would go so far as to say that they have sought to re-write the law according to their ignorant and extreme right wing perspective. I am so sick and tired of this president and his politics or, rather his attempted tyranny. He (bush) is a special kind of idiot, his type of idiocy has to be cultivated and nurtured, it isn’t just the result of bad genes.

It is interesting that the justices appointed by him, followed his lead. Scalia writing his apocalyptic response to the decision, when in fact I think the bush perspective is more likely to bring the apocalyptic results that Scalia described. We need to restore some sanity to our federal leadership.

I hate it when this happens!

Don’t you just hate when you wait patiently for a vacation or the ending of a school semester or, somthing significant and right before that happens, you get sick with a cold, and a summer cold no less (they are often the worst).  Well here I am in sunny southern Cali and now I have a nasty head and chest cold. 

Maybe this will force me into the rest that I said the vacation was all about.  At any rate, I am determined to enjoy myself.

Adam’s Apples

My wife and I watched a great movie the other night.  The movie is called “Adam’s Apples”.  It is foreign movie (Danish) and is therefore subtitled.  It is also rated “R”, I believe so if you are easily offended, this may not be the movie for you.  The movie is very redemptive: one of the most redemptive movies I’ve watched in a while.  

The setting is a little country church where a priest has ex-convicts come stay with him after their release.  This priest is over the top in faith and optimism and Adam is a skin head who is released from prison and decides that he is going to burst the bubble of this happy priest.  I’ll hold off telling you anything more, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the movie once you’ve watched it.

Challenging encounter

I attend a group who gathers once per month to discuss, faith, culture, religion and many other topics.  I had an encounter with one of the people who attends this group tonight that just leaves me angry and sad.  This guy is self identified as an Christian apologist and when we began to talk about theories of atonement tonight he was very dogmatic about his perspective of the substitutionary atonement theory.  However, he wouldn’t let anyone else have a differing opinion.  If we did not agree with his so called “essentials” of Christianity, then we were just wrong.  He asked my pastor and I “if we even knew what Christianity was”, implying that we were not Christians because of our openness to some ideas and our lack of dogmatism in the “essentials”.  

I have to tell you that having grown up in a conservative Christian environment and having moved away from that, it takes a lot of energy to keep my mouth shut in those situations.  I am angered at what I perceive as arrogant dogmatism that really doesn’t, in my opinion, again, have much to do with God but more with our need to have power and authority.  At one time I was like that gentleman (though he wasn’t very gentle), and I thought that I had thing figured out and that I was serving God when I argued and brow beat others with my theology. 

I am sad because I have done the very same thing to other people and I am sure that I have injured their understanding and view of who God is and what he is like, what his grace, mercy and redemption are all about.  For that I am truly sad.

I pray that the Lord would lead me to be gracious to this man, to act in love and grace and not react from anger or my own arrogance, because, honestly, I wanted to put my boot up his ass.  I promised to be honest on this blog, so there you have it.  Not very Christian of me, huh?  Good thing there is grace and there is mercy and good thing we don’t decide who gets in or out of God’s redemption.