Book Review: Morgan Guyton, How Jesus Saves The World From Us

Today I wish to direct your attention to a book that seems intriguing to me, which I have not yet had the opportunity to read but hope to one day.  It is by Morgan Guyton and is entitled “How Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity“.  Click the link and you can see more about it, read the introduction, and even order a copy for yourself if you are interested.

Guyton is a fairly influential voice in the world of progressive Christianity.  He and his wife are campus ministers at the NOLA Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist campus ministry at Tulane and Loyola University in New Orleans, LA.  Guyton blogs at Mercy Not Sacrifice.

The big idea in this book is that the loudest voices coming out of the Christian world today sound almost exactly like the voices of the religious leaders who had Jesus crucified two thousand years ago.  Guyton identifies twelve toxic attitudes prevalent in Christianity today and their antidotes.  In the introduction, he laments that though there is beautiful and genuine Christian faith to be found in every generation, it seems like it is always the loudest, meanest voices that get all the attention.  He then asks a poignant and disturbing question:  How would Christians live differently if we believed that Jesus needs to save the world from us?

For now, I would like for you to just sit with that question.  Meditate on it, and ask yourselves who we resemble more:  those who turned the world upside-down through lives of unexpectedly self-giving love, to the point of being willing to die so that the love of Christ might flow through them to a world desperately in need of it–or those who had Jesus crucified out of allegiance to God in order to preserve their religious system and way of life?

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Pete Enns on the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post by Pete Enns entitled “I still think there is a “scandal of the evangelical mind” and here it is: we’re not allowed to use it“.  Reaching back to Mark Noll’s provocative 1995 book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, in which the big idea was that there was little if any in the way of serious evangelical research and scholarship, Enns notes that things have changed since then but there is still a huge problem:  The exercise of the evangelical mind is not wanted or encouraged in evangelicalism.  Enns states poignantly:

…Calling for Evangelical involvement in public academic discourse is useless if trained Evangelicals are legitimately afraid of what will happen to them if they do.

…The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that degrees, books, papers, and other marks of prestige are valued—provided you come to predetermined conclusions.

…The scandal of the Evangelical mind is that doctrine determines academic conclusions.

But behind all this lies a much deeper problem:  Evangelicalism came to be as an apologetic movement, not an intellectual movement.  In other words, evangelicalism’s raison d’etre is not to promote intellectual discourse but instead to maintain certain theological distinctives via intellectual means.  Thus intellectual discourse is always circumscribed by evangelical dogma.  This is a problem, because it means that evangelicalism may lack the means to create safe space where intellectual discourse is truly free, and it may lack the self-corrective mechanisms to change itself theologically if such change is necessary.

Read:  “I still think there is a “scandal of the evangelical mind” and here it is: we’re not allowed to use it” by Pete Enns

Michael Spencer: Our Problem with Grace

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post from Michael Spencer which has been around for a long time yet which still speaks prophetically to us today.  As evangelicals, we talk a great game when it comes to grace yet in many places people are way uncomfortable with the idea of actual grace.  This is a long piece but well worth the read.  Here are some money quotes to whet your appetite:

“Amazing Grace” may be the church’s favorite hymn, but I’m not the first person to notice that the subject of God’s actual grace seems to give many Christians a case of hives. Singing about it is way cool. After that we need a team of lawyers to interpret all the codicils and footnotes we’ve written for the new covenant.

…Sometimes Christians go very, very far down the road of sin’s allurements and dwell there for years. When this happens, we shouldn’t be outraged by such behavior, as if the church is scandalized. The church ought to be a scandal of grace every day, and when it’s not, the Gospel is missing. Go find it. Our treatment of that wayward person, in personal relationships and in the congregation, is all about God’s determination to be glorified in the lives of those for whom Jesus died as a substitute and a sacrifice.

Grace doesn’t approve. Grace just refuses to give up on us. (God really is amazing!)

Read:  Our Problem with Grace by Michael Spencer

That Does It

trumpI try not to talk about politics too often around here.  There are a wide variety of people out there with a wide variety of diverging opinions on the subject of politics, all with different stories and life experiences which led them to these opinions.  If I had lived their lives and experienced those experiences myself then perhaps I would have greater understanding of what has led them to these opinions.  It is way too easy to lose friends over the subject of politics, and it is never worth it to sacrifice relationships for the sake of being right on issues that will probably be non-issues by the time the next election cycle rolls around.

But you Donald Trump supporters have pushed me completely over the edge.

You have now robbed me of all possible hope for a reasonable conservative option.

I am giving you President Hillary.

You have brought this upon yourselves, and you deserve exactly what you are getting.

Don’t try to tell me that it is my duty as a conservative to support your Donald Trump for no other reason than because he’s not Hillary.  Don’t try to tell me that I have an obligation, moral or otherwise, to oppose Hillary because of Benghazi or the secret email thing or because of her positions on abortion or gay rights or whatever your issue of concern happens to be.

Party loyalty is not a one-way street.  If you want my support then you have a duty and a responsibility to offer me candidates whom I can support.

You have willfully and wantonly flouted that responsibility.

I refuse to accept the argument that this is a team sport and an either-or situation.  You will not get my support by robbing me of all my reasonable conservative options and then telling me I’m a flaming liberal if I don’t shut up and get in line and support your Donald Trump.

By the way, I know all about Benghazi.  I know all about the email thing.  I know Hillary may be indicted before the summer is over.  (With a Democrat currently in the White House, I wouldn’t hold my breath.)

At this point, I don’t care.

Yes, Hillary is an enemy.  That much is true.  But she is an honest enemy in that she is an obvious one who can be opposed by honest and obvious means.  As long as there is a Republican majority in Congress, she won’t be able to do much of anything.

But Donald Trump–after four years (to say nothing of eight years) of his boorish buffoonery in the White House, there won’t be a soul alive who can distinguish between “Republican” and “Donald Trump”, between “conservative” and “crazy, stupid, angry, hateful ideologue”.  There won’t be a Republican candidate able to get elected dogcatcher–anywhere.

That is a future which I refuse to accept.

And I refuse to accept that what love requires of me as a Christian is to support a candidate whose message is nothing but anger and hatred–simply because he is not Hillary.

So I am prepared to hold my nose and my stomach–and let it be clear that I will be holding my nose and my stomach–and vote for Hillary.  Not because of any great love for her or because of any dawning liberal sympathies, but because I have now been robbed of all possible hope of a reasonable conservative option.

As noted above, there are a wide variety of people with a wide variety of diverging opinions on the subject of politics.  If I had lived your lives and experienced the experiences that led to your present convictions, then perhaps I would understand.  It is never worth it to sacrifice friendships in order to be right about issues that will probably be non-issues by the next election cycle.

But this had to be said.  I couldn’t keep it in any longer.