Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Secret of Unsuccesses: lastness, leastness, and lostness, as well as littleness and death itself

Here is a selection from the last few pages of Chapter 2, of Parables of Grace by Robert Farrar Capon (who just died a few days ago by the way). I have emphasized certain lines that I think are critical to understand where he is going in this book.

"When the disciples argue about who is greatest (no. 166), Jesus tells them that anyone who wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. He then stands a little child in their midst and puts his arms around him, saying, "Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me." We twentieth-century Christians-with our basically nineteenth-century view of childhood as a wonderful and desirable state-miss the point of this passage. 

In Jesus' time, and for most of the centuries since, childhood was almost always seen as a less than human condition that was to be beaten out of (Kindle 229-233) children as soon as possible. Therefore when Jesus sets up a little child as an example, he is setting up not a winsome specimen of all that is simple and charming but rather one of life's losers. He is telling his disciples that if they follow him in his mysterious messiahship, they will-like him-have to become something no one has any real use or respect for. He is exalting not the plausible greatness that is the only thing the world understands but the implausible greatness that he himself intends to pursue. He is, in short, proclaiming his own version of what Paul in 1 Cor. 1 later set forth as the "foolishness of the preaching," namely, that God works not in the great, the wise, and the powerful but in the weak and the foolish: (Kindle 233-238).

"for the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25). 

Accordingly, even though Jesus' holding up of the little child contains no reference to death as such, I find that his emphasis here on life's "little deaths"-his exaltation of a panoply of unsuccesses which, before he is done, he will round out to include lastness, leastness, and lostness, as well as littleness and death itself-is part and parcel of his ever-deepening awareness of himself as a Messiah who will do his work not at the top of the heap, as everyone expects, but in the very depths of the human condition. Likewise, I find that Jesus' warnings (no. 168) against scandalizing "one of these little ones" have the same force. His disciples are to be extreme in their pursuit of lastness, lostness, and littleness: "If your hand scandalizes you, cut it off . . ." (Mark 9:43ff.). They are to become, in other words, what he will become: despised and rejected" (Kindle 238-243). 

Questions for discussion:

What does it mean for us to become last?



and Little?

In what ways are we already lost? Last? Least? Little?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Religionless Christianity

You would be surprised, and perhaps even worried, by my theological thoughts and the conclusions that they lead to: and this is where I miss you most of all, because I don’t know anyone else with whom I could so well discuss them to have my thinking clarified. What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.

The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and acience – and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (ed. Eberhard Bethge; New York: Touchstone, 1997). for the original notes, click here


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why are millennials leaving church: Let's make it 5 contrasting views

(I added below one more post from Scot McKnight. He says there is no compelling evidence that millennials are leaving the church any more than in any other generation of young adults)

There has been an online debate going on this week, sparked by a post by Rachel Held Evans about why millennial are leaving church. All three of these blog authors make good points. Food for thought.

Is Miss Evans primarily addressing a specific problem with evangelicalism? Is this a deeper trend of secularization? Is it the ongoing demise of Christendom as Bevere implies? I really don't know.

RACHEL HELD EVANS - Why Millennials are leaving the church?

United Methodists wear a Millennial evangelical face.

Would Jesus Attract Millennials?


How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.

Millennials and Leaving Church: Really?


Inactive and unchurched

I have not posted on this blog for awhile. I am thinking about reactivating it. Let me know if you have an opinion.