Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Book I Wish I Wrote @TBBMediaGroup @audrajennings

Over the years, explicit doctrine, firm belief, and absolute proof from the Bible and science have become rather unimportant in my faith. In many ways, they provided the early foundation of my faith, with the experiential elements of faith being central now.

In Pressing Into Thin Places, Margaret Harrell Wills explores the powerful idea of being grounded in the knowledge of faith later being augmented by the powerful experience of thin places. The concept of thin places is rooted in Celtic Christianity, but has since expanded through many traditions. It explains a location or experience where the boundary between heaven and earth is virtually nonexistent, or thin. This idea fits very nicely within the incarnational tradition I so love.

Wills does a beautiful job demonstrating the power and diversity of thin place experiences. It helped me note how many such experiences I've had that I never recognized as such. She also explains how these experiences can help create and maintain hope through challenging, dark times of both faith and life. It's also helpful to see how we can encounter God in thin places even during dark nights.

The book is broken into nice, small sections that makes it an easy read casually, devotionally, or even intently. Ultimately, this is the book I wished I had written. It has helped reliven my heart and get me back in touch with core of my faith. I found it far easier to encounter God in this book than in any of the other Christian books I have read and reviewed lately.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher
. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Peacemaking Heart @PMMinistries @christianaudio @caReviewers

During my graduate program, I got to be involved in a research project exploring Muslim-Christian interfaith peacemaking. It included dialogue between evangelical Christians and Muslims from across the country to create a new peacemaking manual. My dissertation was a secondary study on this initial project, too, so I became very familiar with ideas of faith-based peacemaking.

Since that time, I have been very interested in the few faith-based peacemaking programs in existence, particularly those that are of any good quality. Peacemaking Ministries has been one that I have been following for a few years that I have really liked. They offer a variety of paid and free resources, including a weekly email devotional.

Ken Sande, the founder of Peacemaking Ministries, wrote Resolving Daily Conflict along with Kevin Johnson. This book provides some very strong peacemaking techniques that are well grounded in both the Bible and peacemaking theory.

The thing that frustrated me in my peacemaking research is that many of the peacemaking suggestions were rather repetitive and separated from actual practice. Sande's work is augmented by his own peacemaking work, which makes it far more credible. However, being familiar with the peacemaking literature, the techniques are not that novel.

There were two elements of this book that I really appreciated. The first was the broad definition of peacemaking. Rather than just looking at traditional violence, Sande and Johnson note how managing daily conflict is actually peacemaking,

The more notable element coincided with one of the conclusions of my dissertation, that peacemaking activity needs to be rooted in the development of a peacemaking heart. What I noted is that virtually all peacemaking literature solely looks at actions. The problem with that is action without real intent will fall flat, hence the relatively ineffectiveness of peacemaking training programs and interventions to revolutionize the world. I proposed that developing more of heart of peacemaking would make the techniques more successful.

Sande and Johnson's work is the first and only text that explains peacemaking strategies that actually explores and encourages developing such a peacemaking heart. They initiated their tome through explaining how peacemaking is central to God's heart, the Christian faith, and Christian living. They emphasized how important it is to be close with God and have our hearts shaped by God in order to be effective peacemakers.

Again, although the actual peacemaking strategies are nothing new, the emphasis on heart and connection to God puts this text far above other resources that I have encountered.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Revising Christian Language @christianaudio @caReviewers @FrankViola @TBBMediaGroup @audrajennings

There has been a lot of talk in Protestant Christianity lately about continued reformation. And many people and sects of course argue that they are being true to the apostolic church (assuming there was a monolithic idea of such an organization). The more progressive people often attack the conservative evangelicals on being too narrow with their definition of the Gospel. In contrast, fundamentalists criticize liberals as being unbiblical and therefore heretical.

Frank Viola recently released his newest book, Revise Us Again, exploring ideas of what a modern revision of the Church would look like. While no one book can really tackle all of the ways we need to be continually reformed, Viola does a nice job of not really getting into the endless debated details. Not that those issues are not important.

However, as a psychologist, I have come to value the role of the process of communication. Content is was is being said, while process refers to not just how things are being said, but the emotional aspects involved in the conversation. Usually, the process is really what is at stake when there is conflict, not the content itself.

Viola spends more time examining the process of current Christian dialogue. He nicely notes that people have different communication styles that either allow two sides to communicate effectively or to not understand one another at all. The goal, of course, would be to notice one's own style and that of the person with whom they are communicating and then attempt to adjust the style in order to effectively engage one another.

Some of the problem I see is that what he simply calls communication styles are more than just a style. I think they actually reflect paradigms or world views that are expressed in different language. I'm planning on writing another blog post specifically exploring these points in his book. Nevertheless, I found the three styles he presented (charismatic, quoter, and pragmatist) quite compelling and accurate depictions of how various groups communicate.

Ultimately, Viola does a good job of providing logical and biblical evidence for a reasonable faith, both in doctrine and practice. While at times simplistic, it is also written in a way that makes it accessible to a very wide audience.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is the Bible Necessary for Faith?

I've been noticing statements of faith more frequently recently. Such statements can be for churches, universities, nonprofits, and even individuals. One of the things I've seen is that the authority of the Bible as inspired or inerrant usually is placed rather high on the bullet points of faith.

Of course, the inerrancy v. infallibility v. other options debate is something on its own, and making a position on that spectrum is probably part of the purpose of this part of the statement of faith. Yet I think this debate also reflects onto the presence of this element of such statements of faith.

People frequently question the authenticity of others' faith if they do not view the Bible in the same way they do. The new president of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, for instance, has been implying that people may not be true Christians if they do not take inerrant views of the Bible that support Creationism.

However, does believing in any form of biblical inspiration necessary for faith and a relationship with God?

I'm inclined to say no. Obviously, millions and billions of people over the millennia have had no Scriptures. It really wasn't until the Protestant Reformation that the Bible became more accessible and widely known. People who don't have access to the Bible in their language do not have any less faith.

I think this drive toward the demand of biblical authority is for everyone to have a single document to be able to root their faith. This is fine and even good. However, I think many times people use it as a proof text, needing something to prove a belief system "beyond a shadow of a doubt," which I simply believe is not possible.

At the same time, could someone be a Christian and not believe the Bible was divinely inspired? They might agree with it wholeheartedly but only see it as a reflection of several humans' journeys. It can still be something to root faith in, but not as something to defend oneself against those they disagree.

While I do believe in biblical inspiration (infallibility, not inerrancy), I also wouldn't necessarily question someone's faith if they did not have faith in the Bible. Communication from God occurs in many other ways, too. And as others have said, the Holy Trinity is not Father, Son, and Holy Bible. And then there's the whole controversial history of what's considered canonical...


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).