Help!

Why this blog?

Do I really think I can share some theological truth that hasn’t been explored with more depth or presented with more eloquence over the past two thousand years? I don’t have a PHD. I’m not ordained. Unpublished. I don’t even have a denominational affiliation, not officially. What can I possibly contribute to the conversation?

Maybe I’m just trying to prove something. A superior intellect. A literary talent that comes along once in a generation. Hey, if I wanted to impress people, I could just post pictures of my twelve-pack.

Maybe I’m just bored.

No, this is not about filling time, or flexing intellectual muscles, or working my way toward the John Barnts Study Bible. This is a personal challenge, and a way to enjoy fellowship with other believers. More than that, it’s an experiment.

A few months ago I listened to an audio book called “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. I knew Bryson as a travel writer, but had no idea that he was some kind of scientist. Come to find out, he’s not a scientist. He’s just a genius with words. And if there’s one subculture that needs help communicating with the general public, its the scientific community. 

Here is an excerpt from the book:

By the early twentieth century it was known that atoms were made of parts—Thomson’s discovery of the electron had established that—but it wasn’t known how many parts there were or how they fit together or what shape they took. Some physicists thought that atoms might be cube-shaped, because cubes can be packed together so neatly without any wasted space. The more general view, however, was that an atom was more like a currant bun or a plum pudding—a dense, solid object that carried a positive charge but that was studded with negatively-charged electrons, like the currants in a currant bun.

Sometimes a reader is not confused for lack of intelligence, but for the writer’s lack of clarity or creativity. This has become my crusade. How can I communicate some of the more challenging and revolutionary concepts of theology in a way that is clear without dumbing things down or pandering to sentimentality?   

I have been immersed in theology for as long as I can remember. My third grade Show and Tell was my Bible collection. I had three, each a different translation, each read from cover to cover. Call it strange. Call it obsessive. I distinctly remember sitting on the playground in elementary school reading through Jeremiah, then pulling it out again on the bus ride home. By the time I graduated high school, I had read the Bible about twenty times. 

After years of leading Bible studies, teaching Bible classes in both high school and college, earning a Masters degree in Biblical Literature, spending a majority of my life rubbing shoulders with people of different denominations on different continents, and reading about a zillion books, I think I have enough theological balloons floating around in my brain to pop a few on the internet.

But I don’t want to just spew out thoughts and ideas. I want to learn how to take the most challenging topics and make them as clear as possible. I’m not talking about explaining the Trinity to teenagers with an ice cube and a heat lamp. I’m talking about being simple without being simplistic. 

I also want to be challenged. If I’m writing heresy, speak up. If you want to expand the conversation, please do. This is how we grow. 

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Let me know when something I write is confusing or seems overly clever or pretentious. I want to minimize distractions. I want the reading experience to be enjoyable and enlightening, like Bryson.
  1. Let me know what topics you think would be a good challenge for this experiment. I’m not opposed to addressing divisive issues like election or speaking in tongues or homosexuality, but I’m not trying to build fences. I have too many friends on both sides, and I like them all.
  1. Send money. Don’t ask me why, just do it. Right now. Lots of it. 

14 thoughts on “Help!

  1. Of course. It all makes sense, now.

    Why didn’t I think to just ASK for money?

    Especially a specific amount, like “lots of it” … it’s absolutely GENIUS.

    Like

  2. Hi,
    Um…I found you by following a link from Facebook which Bill Zinn had liked and commented on, and I think maybe it was this one, but then somehow I got onto another article/blog/post about worship and the pointlessness of ‘contemporary worship’ and the advent of the corporate approach to the gospel. I was really sure that was you, but i can’t find it on your WP feed. Did i jump blogs without realizing it?

    Anyway, I’m now following you and look forward to future posts.

    One question, though. Have you read The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis?

    Like

    • Glad you found me! I never wrote on the pointlessness of contemporary worship, though I can definitely see that being a future post. I have a few thoughts on the matter having taken a tour through all kinds of denominations, pros and cons.

      I own The Imitation of Christ. It’s on my list. Should I make it next? What are your thoughts on it?

      Like

      • Vow to read it one section per day. It’s a book that I find hard to put down. But really, it is WONDERFUL as a more or less daily devotional. There’s just a lot there and each section warrants thoughtful consideration. I am partial to the Image Classic version based on the 1530 A.D. translation by Richard Whitford, Edited and Introduced by Harold Gardiner. There are newer translations, some with Scripture annotations, but I prefer this one. You’ll find it is divided into several books. I think the grouping of the books may vary from one translator to another. One chapter I recommend for random reading is Book 3, Ch. 6, Of the Proof of a True Lover of God. At least, I have often had recourse to that particular chapter. I hope you find it as edifying as I and many others have.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. 1. Don’t mention the Trinity to teenagers or anyone else. “Trinity” is not used in the text of the Bible. It is a loose canon. Jesus only says that He and the Father are one, and prays that we will all become one with the Father. Instead of apologies about the Trinity, dig in and let’s figure out what the Bible really says.

    2. With a Masters degree in Biblical Literature, you could lead a discussion of the Bible as Literature and provoke thoughts about parables, mythology, and allegory. John Steinbeck based “East of Eden” on Genesis 4, so there is much more material that can be discussed as parables. C.S. Lewis is gone, so step up to the plate! Meanwhile, Big Bucks are being spent on a museum that attempts to demonstrate that the Creation Story in Genesis is literal. There be dinosaurs there, so it is popular. These are Replica dinosaurs as no real dinosaurs were injured or mistreated in making the museum.

    3. I agree with Paulo C. Lets all just ASK for money. If your request does not produce lots of money, it may be that this group should be asking for lots of money so that we have lots to give to you. It is the Divine Economedy.

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    • 1. Yes, the Trinity can be a bit of a loose canon. And we assume a whole lot about it. Maybe that would be worth a post!

      2. I was a little worried about those dinosaurs, but when you told me that they were uninjured, enjoying a life of validation and safety, I breathed a whole lot easier! I bet they’re pretty excited about the book of Job. As are the dragons and sea serpents!

      3. You got it, man. Money. Money. Money. Isn’t that what evangelism is all about? Hey, I gave you some of my thoughts about the Bible, now (by faith) sell your home and give me the proceeds. It’s only fair. 🙂

      Like

  4. “And if there’s one subculture that needs help communicating with the general public, its the scientific community.”

    I might disagree with this comment. It might be the case that the most basic scientific concepts cannot be put into words that the general public can understand because the general public has no framework or experience with which to understand those words. And analogies to more familiar ideas are actually cheats. I have heard Richard Feynman, one of the most well-known physicists ever, make this claim repeatedly in different contexts. A fascinating example is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO0r930Sn_8.

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    • The problem with Feynman is that he is a victim of his own mind. Because he has a profound scientific mind, he has a hard time hearing a simple question without breaking it into its parts, analyzing each part, then presenting the other person with a million variables. I’m sure he’s right, but he is also wrong because he is misreading his audience. Sort of like how women and men often misunderstand one another even though, from their perspectives, they are both “right.”

      I appreciate what Stephen Hawking did with A Brief History of Time. He tried to communicate very hard issues (each of which could take a lifetime to explore) in simple analogies and pictures, trying to reach the curious layman. The book was a bestseller, but there were complaints that it was still too academic, so he came out with A Briefer History of Time. Bravo, Dr. Hawking! Rather than throwing his hands in the air, he got on one knee and tried again.

      Think about C.S. Lewis. Using children’s books to express the most profound theologies? Analogies? Plays? Yet he has reached more believers across all denominations than anyone I know. Now we know that Aslan is not going to give us the most holistic picture of God that we can get. Not by a long shot. But I think it gives us a range that can arrest believers of any age or culture. Much to be considered, but not completely tapped.

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    • There is some tongue in cheek going on, but not all. I think a Trinity post would be in order, but . . . it’s not an easy one. Christians argued for 500 years about the concept of Trinity before a council finally locked it down and basically said, “believe this or be damned.” The Reformers didn’t touch it when they revisited the core doctrines of the church.

      I could make a strong case that Paul was not a Trinitarian. For example, think about the intro to many of his letters, “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Father was the God of Jesus? The one that really gets me is I Cor. 8:6: “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him. And one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

      Is Paul saying that only the Father is God, and that Jesus would call him Father and God as well? Does he consider Jesus as less than God? Even now in his resurrected body?

      John seems to disagree when he claims that the Son was “with God and WAS God.” Also, John 14 – 17 presents a divine unity (what John calls the “Godhead”) that requires independent persons, but is bound inexplicably in love.

      There are many verses that equate the Father and Son. But other verses that not only differentiate them, but subjugates the Son to the Father, even now, as he is seated BESIDE the throne, not on it.

      There is much to discuss and stir, but I’ve been avoiding it. Partly because people typically don’t read my more theological posts, preferring social issues. When I explore topics that I find flexible or controversial, many see them as an assault on orthodoxy and are quick to label the ideas as heresy rather than really think critically about them. We tend to be more defensive than objective when it comes to studying theology. Maybe afraid of more division? More infighting?

      Like

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