Archive for November, 2008

A Biblical Theology of the City

Tim Keller posted a theology of the city on the website RESURGANCE.  Here is a couple of takeaways he included at the end.

 

HOW TO LIVE IN THE CITY

  • A. Models of life in the city
  • In every earthly city, there are two ‘kingdoms’ present, two ‘cities’ vying for control. They are the City of Baal (or Satan or the god of this world) and the City of God.
  • * The city of Satan deifies power and wealth and human culture itself (making art, technology, business an end in itself instead of a way of glorifying God).
  • * The city of God is marked by God shalom (Jeru-shalom) – his peace. His peace is a place where stewardship of God, creation, justice, compassion and righteousness lead to harmony and family building and cultural development under God.
  • * Christians are to see the earthly city as something to love and win. They are to win it by seeking its shalom (Jeremiah 29) and seeking to spread the city of God within it, and to battle the city of Satan within it.
  • * We are to see that, though the fight between these two kingdoms happens everywhere in the world, earthly cities are the flashpoints on the battlelines, the places where the fighting is most intense, where the war can be won.
  • Models of urban ministry are then:
    We despise the city. Church as fortress. (Forgetting the city as Jerusalem).
    We are the city. Church as mirror. (Forgetting the city as Babylon).
    We use the city. Church as space capsule. (Forgetting the city as battleground).
  • We love the city. Church as leaven. Jeremiah 29.
  • Any theological model of the city will fail if one or more of these three biblical themes of the city is neglected, omitted, or over-emphasised.
  • B. Basic methods/ministries
  • * WORD (Ezra). Ezra recovered the Word for the people. Preaching, discipling, teaching. evangelising in a way contextualised to the concerns and capacities of the people of the city.
  • * DEED (Nehemiah). Nehemiah made the city safe and functional. Mercy and Justice! Holistic ministry. Safe streets, good jobs, decent housing, good schools.
  • * WORK (Esther). Esther rose high in a pagan society but then used her position at great risk to work for justice in society and for her people. A key part of city ministry is to equip Christians to work distinctively as Christians in their vocation.
  • * COMMUNITY (Jeremiah). Jeremiah’s letter (chapter 29) told the exiles to neither assimilate nor separate but live out their lives as a community ‘seeking the peace of the city’. So we are not only to be ‘witnesses’ by our individual lives, but by the beauty of our communal life. a) Generosity with money and simplicity of life, b) races and classes loving together over barriers, c) sexual purity and respect shown by men/women to one another in relationships.
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Cars like cell phones?

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PRI (Public Radio International) produced an interesting segment on an innovated business plan by entrepreneur Shai Agassi. Agassi, who is the president of Betterplace, wants to start marketing and selling electric cars in a fashion similar to the way we purchase and use cell phones.

 

“The way this would work is, basically, you would get your car through Shai’s company. He doesn’t make the cars. He only works with the car companies to make sure that they have cars that work on his standards. He buys the batteries and then you buy an electric car from him. You buy a plan. You get a certain number of miles per month that you can drive or you get an unlimited plan – it’s just like buying a cell phone.

 

“(Agassi) thinks that he needs – at least in Israel – he says he needs one charging spot for every six parking spots in the country. That’s how he has decided that you’ll feel like you have ubiquitous charging. And he’s making sure that these cars have a PC inside of them to figure out where the closest charging spots are, when you need to get charged, whether you can make it or not

 

My immediate response is that this is a great idea. It an easy way to take on oil companies and it is done so in a way that everyone is familiar with.  I do wonder if this business model will encourage people to replace cars every two years or feel as if they can just throw away their car when they are bored with it. Regardless, I am still hopeful, I am up for almost anything that would be more environmental friendly and that will help us reduce out dependency on oil.

 

The cars are going to be tested in Isreal first and then move to the Netherlands and Australia. I hope they make their way to the USA.

 

VIDEO on Agassi

Jazz & Faith

Sam Shellhamer, the former – – at Wheaton College, came in to speak to my College Student Development Class at Taylor University. He offered great wisdom to our class as we are preparing to go into the Student Development Field. One comment that stuck out was the importance to be aware of those things that are spiritually affecting students. With this, he read a passage from Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. Shellhamer has some serious issues with some of Miller’s conclusions that assume the supremacy of feelings over belief.  I wanted to add some of my own comments. I, like Shellhamer, have my issues with Donald Miller. I struggle with the widespread praise Miller had received for his books. Although he brings up some great questions, sometimes the answers to his questions are ones that I see as insufficient.

 

Near the end of Blue Like Jazz, Miller summarizes his book by saying, “Christianity is more like Jazz; something you feel?”

 

Miller, in some degree, is correct. Jazz is something that you feel. But if you know anything about improvisational Jazz, you realize that undergirding the creativity and emotion of Jazz is a theoretical framework. Musicians take classes in Jazz improvisation, they learn theory and they are mentored by seasoned Jazz artist. Great Jazz artists don’t just pick up and instrument and play. Miles Davis, who is seen as one of the most creative Jazz musicians, didn’t produce The Complete Birth of Cool or Kind of Blue by picking up his trumpet and just playing. He practiced, and developed a framework that worked base upon some of the essential elements, both theoretically and culturally from Jazz.

 

Similarly, Christianity is something you feel. You cannot divorce our faith from our emotional connection with God.  Our souls emotionally connect with God, love is something not merely understood, but true love is felt. But Christianity is only Christianity in a certain theological framework. A Christian does not develop by just assuming elements. A Christian learns what the Bible say and what faith is and from that they create the music of their individual faith. True Christianity (and Christian orthopraxy) is rooted in Orthodoxy, not just in feeling.

 

I have heard people try to just pick up a trumpet and play. Honestly, they are horrible. It sounds like they are killing a duck – if they can get noise out at all. Additionally, I have heard novice trumpet players try to play Jazz. They get up and try to put some notes together. Sometimes they sound good, but those occasions are rare and usually the product of mistakes rather than on purpose. They are “feeling” the music, but music isn’t feeling them – at least not by the way it sounds.

 

Similarly, I have seen people just try to assume Christianity. They try to live what is Christian, but there is a dissonance between what they are saying and doing and what their faith really is. I have seen religious folk call themselves Christian; they can put something together, but they don’t really know what it means to be Christian. They are banking on the culture of their faith and the feeling of what they have always known to be Christian.

 

Another group includes the musicians who can read Jazz on paper, but not improve it. This is where my thoughts match some with Miller. Those “Christian” and religious folk who know how to stick to the script may look good, they may have their ducks in a row, but they really aren’t living full Christian life. They understand the concepts, but haven’t interacted with the emotion of a relationship with Christ. That is something that is foreign. Don’t get me wrong, there are those who earnestly feel emotional when they are playing Jazz from a paper. They are not producing music because that is the way it is. They are playing music because it is beautiful. Likewise, there are Christians who earnestly live vigorously in Christ, but that seem rigid because they stick the script. There is nothing wrong with these Christians; perhaps for them the structure of Christian helps them experience the emotion of their relationship with God.

 

The reality is if we focus too much on the emotion of Jazz (Christianity), than Jazz becomes something we do for our own consumption rather than because of its beauty, but if we are too attached to the rigidness of a script than we have allowed tradition and pious behavior overcomes our relationship with the music (God).

 

If Jazz veered away from its roots and began to sound exactly like classical music, or sounded too much like Classical music it would no longer be Jazz. Additionally, Christianity that looks like generic spirituality is no longer Christianity. We must realize that real improv. spawns from a solid base and that real spiritual fervor spawns as a result of a correct theological understanding of who God is.

 

Another note on Jazz, the Jazz Theologian, Robert Gelinas, has just released his book, Finding the Groove,  on pre-order on Amazon. It will be one I am checking out.

The Religious Vote

The Pew Forum posted a brief about how religious Americans voted.

 

I am going to post the charts so you can take a quick look, if you want some descriptors check out what the statisticians at the Pew Forum put together.

 

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Post – Racial

La Shawn Barber has posted an interesting commentary about Obama & Post-Racialism

I read quite a few music and book author blogs, and some are run by Obama-supporting liberals. I can almost see them patting themselves on the back as they try to convince themselves race means nothing, and Obama’s presidency signals the beginning a new era of diversity, tolerance, blah, blah, blah. But they’ve got it twisted. Voting for Obama because he represents some post-racial ideal is to inject race into the equation.

“When whites — especially today’s younger generation — proudly support Obama for his post-racialism, they unwittingly embrace race as their primary motivation,” Shelby Steel writes. “They think and act racially, not post-racially. The point is that a post-racial society is a bargainer’s ploy: It seduces whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation. A real post-racialist could not be bargained with and would not care about displaying or documenting his racial innocence. Such a person would evaluate Obama politically rather than culturally.”

It the end, it doesn’t matter why white people voted for Obama. He’s the leader of the free world now (shudder). Who I am to interfere with their “I voted for a black man because I don’t care about race” back-patting?

Steele asks what Obama’s election means to blacks. Well, I doubt it will do anything to decrease illegitimacy among blacks (70 percent; as high as 80 percent in some urban areas), or decrease child killing, or strengthen families and communities, or much of anything. It’s a proud moment for many blacks, to be sure, but having a black man in the White House will not motivate black Americans to wait until marriage to have babies, to stop killing their babies (and at three times the rate of white women), or to stop uttering the word racism whenever they don’t get their way.

Both in La Shawn’s commentary and Shebly’s LA Times article, the issue of Obama’s blackness serving as a symbol is addressed. Both claim that electing a non-white President is a way for Americans to promote an equality that will allow America to pat itself on the back, without really making real racial progress.

I wrestle with the validity of this. A real – and influential – part of me agrees. It seems that being a minority and being post-racial, multi-racial, multi-cultural, is sexy, but not real. I know several people who cognitively desire to have a multi-cultural society and enjoy the spoils of being able to listen to Jay-Z, and Beyonce on the radio, but in reality they have embedded stereotypes, have few, if any, real multi-cultural friendships and are. for the most part ignorant of the lives of those who don’t look like them. In reality, these are those who I think voted for Obama because it is the thing to do and they wanted to feel good about how diverse they are, rather than because they have really moved beyond racial prejudice both personally and socially.

However, I want to hope that this isn’t that case. I want to eliminate my cynicism and believe that Obama being elected is more than a shallow simple and that he is more than a racial place holder or a token minority for Americans.

When it comes down to it, I believe Obama is a token for many Americans – regardless of what race those Americans are – and I believe that the majority of Americans believe they are much further in eliminating their racial prejudices than they actually are. But I also believe tokens can turn into positives forces for real change. Though a token is placed in their position for the wrong reason, they are in a position to influence others. Let’s say Obama is a token, the reality is he is going to be the President of the United States. In that position, he has not only the position to inspire minorities around the world, but he also has ability to bust the stereotypes American’s have of blacks and other minorities.

Let us pray that Obama, regardless of whether he is a token or not, helps to move our country towards one that is more racially just.

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