Conversation with Natan Mladin: “Of work and ‘Christian work’”

Natan Mladin writes on his blog:

Below is another attempt to immortalise and, at the same time, paradoxically, carry forward a conversation about the relationship between Christian work (what I here call ‘Word-ministry’) and all other types of work.

Feel free to join the conversation:

My initial question was: from a theological perspective, is Word-ministry (the study, exposition, explanation and application of the Word of God in ecclesial, para-ecclesial, academic settings) a more important type of work that all others (e.g. writing software, banking, plumbing, knitting etc.)?

It was initially highlighted (by Daniel Manastireanu) that the answer would be affirmative only if the Kingdom of God and the Church were identical, but since they are not, all vocations are important. The question however is: Are they equally important? Before answering that question we honed in on the relationship between Kingdom and Church – a difficult and controversial topic.  Daniel pointed out that, “the Church is an outpost of the Kingdom of God. The church is the visible body of Christ in the world, setting an example of what the Kingdom could be for the whole world. The Kingdom is a wider concept. It is basically whereever God’s will is done, wherever God’s justice prevails, wherever there is obedience to God’s vision for life. Sometimes it happens in the church. Sometimes outside of it, sadly.”

Read the entire article here

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From faith to belief?

Here’s a interesting quote from Kevin Lewis, a Lutheran theologian, on the heresy of literalism:

“there are better, more legitimate, less blasphemous ways than this to affirm that the Bible is the Word of God. The Word is to be affirmed without the heresy of divinizing each word of Scripture as though it fell from heaven a perfect expression of the mind of God. The drive for certainty in a skeptical age is more dangerous to our faith than we might suppose. It leads away from “faith” to a calculating “belief” not satisfied with the promises of God but restless to prove, verify, and guarantee those promises with scientific precision.”

Source here!

The Bible is not a constitution!

I love this quote I read today from Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity. I fully resonate with his opposition to reading the Bible as a constitution, and to the assumption that sola scriptura entails such an approach. Also, I agree with him that the Bible is not an answer compendium, but an invitation to conversation. Thus it is not designed to give answers, but rather to ask the questions we are not asking, or the questions we thought we answered:

“Does the Bible alone provide enough clarity to resolve all questions as a good constitution should? No. We have no reason to believe it was ever meant to do that, as much as we’ve tried to force it to do so. From all sides it becomes clear that the Bible, if it is truly inspired by God, wasn’t meant to end conversation and give the final word on controversies. If this were its purpose, it has failed miserably. (This fact must be faced.) But if instead it was inspired and intended to stimulate conversation, to keep people thinking and talking and arguing and seeking, across continents and centuries, it has succeeded and it is succeeding in a truly remarkable way.” (p. 120)

Colonizing the name ‘God’ with concepts

Peter Rollins on speaking or not speaking about God – a quote from his book “How (Not) to Speak of God”:

“While [the mystics] did not embrace total silence, they balked at the presumption of those who would seek to colonize the name ‘God’ with concepts. Instead of viewing the unspeakable as that which brings all language to a halt, they realized that the unspeakable was precisely the place where the most inspiring language began. This God whose name was above every name gave birth, not to a poverty of words, but to an excess of them. And so they wrote elegantly concerning the limits of writing and spoke eloquently about the brutality of words. By speaking with wounded words of their wounded Christ, these mystics helped to develop, not a distinct religious tradition, bur rather a way of engaging with and understanding already existing religious traditions: seeing them as a loving response to God rather than a way of defining God.”

Younger generations prefer human contact

Here’s a magical quote from Dear Church. Letters from a Disillusioned generation, by Sarah Cunningham. Even if it is slightly American, I think it works everywhere. See what you think of it, but for me it is another proof that media gimmicks and contemporary music are not enough for a new reformation of the church. Something else is needed.

“Thanks to our rapid culture, it can be easy to assume that twentysomethings crave a church of constantly changing flash animation and live-action video footage. But I should let you in on a secret: while twentysomethings appreciate and are familiar with multilayered technology, we are actually very skeptical of our media-driven advertising-crazed world.

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Atonement questions

I have been thinking lately about the atonement, and especially about the substitutionary atonement, as it is clasically understood in most Evangelical circles (of which I am a product, even if I moved on). I heard some good questions about this:

  • Did God have to kill Jesus in order to forgive me?
  • If God was unable to forgive me without killing his Son, then how come he asks me to forgive others?
  • He doesn’t ask me to forgive my wife, and then go and beat the dog.
  • Is God asking me to do something that he is not capable of himself?

I think these are all good questions. Here are some quotes from John McLeod Campbell, a celebrated Scottish theologian of the mid nineteenth century, in his book, The Nature of the Atonement. I found him very helpful in this area:

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