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October 23, 2013

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Thank you Tim for this post. I considered putting something in the comments section on one of your recent posts... being a Southern Baptist pastor, I bet you can guess which one... wink, wink.

As I reflected on your words, I began to think along the same line on what you have posted here.

For the last 15 years, I have struggled with the popularity of many of the books from McLaren, Chan, Driscoll and others. When I was not scratching my head wondering why anyone read these, I was troubled to see them used in place of good curriculum for small group Bible studies and Sunday school. Also, it seemed to me that as soon as a book like Chan's Crazy Love became popular, any discussion on the theological problems in it were only answered with, "you're just being to critical" or "you need to overlook those things because the message of the book is good."

I found this condescending shut down of the conversation from fans of every author you mentioned, especially MacArthur fans. It has become a very real "I am of Peter and you are of Paul conversation."

For my part, I do admit I have my favorite authors, but having you, Devon Wiens, and Edmund Janzen as professors during my time at FPU has caused me to keep that in check and follow the advice you give in this post.

Also, I am pleased and was a little more than pleasantly surprised to find my professors at GGBTS are teaching us to follow the advice you give here.

Thanks, Jason. And those people who criticize you for being too critical? If questioned they'll just say they have the gift of discernment, which is a problem for the "literalists" because that particular gift isn't mentioned in scripture!

Wait, so you want me to take all of the Jesus stuff seriously? Things like humility, grace, and forgiveness? Jesus was being literal when he said to love my neighbors?

Tim, I'm not sure where you come up with such crazy ideas, but I guess I could give it a try.

Justin, what I find fascinating is that the only people Jesus comes in conflict with are religious leaders. Why don't religious leaders ever catch that? Humility, grace and forgiveness are almost always received and acted upon by sinners (i.e. tax collectors and prostitutes). It's mindboggling if you stop to think about it long enough. Thanks for the comment.

Thanks Tim for being able to articulate a bit of the tension and thoughts I have been feeling.... If you follow Jesus, and love others, what else matters?

Love this! Thanks.

Yes, reading some decent books would help. I don't think i would touch any of these guys books with a barge-pole. They are over confident (as you say) but also simplistic and lacking in self-awareness.

(Oh dear, have I just done what you were talking about?!)

That's why, after taking a leap of faith into the arms of a loving, trustworthy God, I have had to take a leap of doubt away from the systems men have created supposedly in His name (be it theological, philosophical, or organizational systems). Bottom line is that people have made stuff up for centuries and added a "thus saith The Lord" to it to try to scare us into conformity. Even right down to how we view the Bible. I love Jesus and believe his way is the only hope for shalom, but this hair-splitting that goes on has nothing to do with love and peace, and it has everything to do with manipulation, control, and fear...and we are old that God hasn't given us the spirit of fear....so in the end, it's some other source.

Thank you for this, Tim. I recently completed an MA in Religion and witnessed the vicious in-fighting of the American church first-hand. It's disappointing and distressing; and people are being hurt. Finding a voice of reason in all this is a blessing. Thank you for your words.

(sorry if this posted twice - some login weirdness)

Paul, you're cracking me up! I suppose if one can be as self-reflective as you are, the danger is minimal. I love your website. Thanks!

Michael, You're too kind. (Or can one be TOO kind? Maybe that's what we need more of.) Thanks so much for the comment.

Shane Claiborne's website details how you can book him to be a speaker, and his speaking calendar shows him at at least 8 speaking engagements in 3 countries this month alone. You can also fill out a form to request an interview.
On Amazon, where he has at least 10 books listed, his bio reads, "Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. He is featured in the DVD series...and is the author of the several books.... Shane speaks over 100 times a year in a dozen or so countries and nearly every state in the US. Shane has given academic seminars at Vanderbilt University, Duke University Pepperdine University, Wheaton College, Princeton University, Goshen College and Harvard University. Shane also speaks at various denominational gatherings, festivals, and conferences around the globe. Shane's work has been featured in everything from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal to CNN and National Public Radio."

I just discovered this discussion, and I'm impressed with the perceptive statements by Tim and with the comments. I have long wondered why the popular names mentioned above have such an appeal to the popular evangelical audience. I resonate strongly with your concerns to work within the message and spirit of Scripture rather than seeking the latest expose' and condemnation. I've seen a lot of unsavory attitudes and unsightly expressions of Christ in my 45 years as a Religion/Theology professor. I believe none of it glorifies Christ and fuels distorted perceptions of Christianity. Our question should be: "Is Christ glorified by our speech, writing, and attitudes?"

Well said good and faithful servant! Dr Ray Anderson comes to mind when relating theology and ministry. He was a best seller in my course of study. He preached the Theology of the heart.

Jim, thanks for raising this issue. I, however, will stand by my original assertion that Shane is above the fray in this area for a number of reasons.
1) Shane has not been prone to aggressive, critical language of other Christian leaders. If anything, the charge against him is that he is too gracious.
2) Shane does have an extensive speaking and publishing history. However, I have worked with him personally and know that his approach to this is quite different than the mainstream Christian subculture. Rather than foster a sense of elitism, Shane has one part-time college student who handles his booking (this is refreshing in that people never feel like they're entering into some kind of corporate or contractual business transaction when dealing with Shane). He also has a discernment group placed tightly around him to help him decide which opportunities to consider. He could be busy every day of the year if he wouldn't have an accountability team helping him say "no" to many options.
3) Shane's primary focus of ministry is on the ground, in the city of Philadelphia. Publishing books and leading conferences is not his focus, not is it his means of income (Shane has taken monastic vows including that of poverty--I don't think I've heard any of the other pop speakers/authors do that!). He'd give up the publishing and speaking in a heartbeat if it began to hinder him from his primary love--ministry.
Thanks again for your comment. I certainly can understand why people could make the assumption that Shane is just another cookie from the same cutter.

Larry, I love that question: "Is Christ glorified by our speech, writing, and attitudes?" Thanks!

Pam, Dr. Anderson is very helpful in helping us think about the church's place in a postmodern culture. I'm grateful for theologians of his depth and thoughtfulness. Thanks for the comment.

>>He simply wants to serve the poor in the name of Jesus. << As we all should.

Amen and amen! Very well said! (But I thought that cloneliness was next to godliness, right!? And smug is just built into our DNA. (j.k.) But seriously, if one gets a chance to read Andrew Walls or Lamin Sanneh (both Christian Historians) one will get a picture of how the various phases of Christian history have each left us with a fallacy which tends to be carried on long after the original vestiges of that 'Christendom's' cultural Christianity is through.

I thought the suggestions at the end were particularly well said and important-- very important to read outside our traditions and to get other cultural inputs.

Another person similar to Shane Claiborne is Australian Jarrod McKenna. I really like his perspectives too.

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