Monday, May 01, 2006

Christianity Rediscovered Chapter 4

And we come to the fourth chapter.

I read this chapter in my car, while waiting at a friend's baby dedication party. I had the sunroof open and thus I got a weird sunburn line on my arm. Ah the perils of reading.

I think he closes some of the open ends he created in the last chapter, but opens some more for us to explore.

what do you all think?


Josh said...

Holy Moly this chapter was loaded. I think books could be written on this chapter alone...

So I'll start with a novellete (Sp?)

1. HUMOR: from the way he writes, he sounds like he'd be a funny guy to be around. i love his accounts of the masai people. the story of the old man, Keriko, who was having a hard time thinking, was great. i think i feel like keriko sometimes...and when he tried to tell the story about creation...ha!

2. GOING TRIBAL: i really liked his thoughts on how many times it's easy to make God "god" by trying to fit him into our cultural framework, making him God of America, or god of the church.

3. NOT FOUND OR NOT COMPLETELY FOUND? i appreciated his honesty in talking about how his people hadn't found the most high God, but I'm a little skeptical of that approach. I might try to distinguish between saying that we haven't found God and saying we haven't discovered all of the depths of God. If we're talking in relational terms, I can say that I don't completely know my wife, but I wouldn't say I haven't found her and am searching for her. with that said, I come to what i liked about his statement...

4. SEARCH WITH US: with the idea that we are still discovering the depths of who God is, we invite others into the journey that we have already started (and maybe they have too)...the amount of humility in the invitation is inviting in itself. it seems that when he invited the people to search for the God of all people, the search led to...

5. AWAKENINGS: i loved the story where the lady has the brilliant insight that if God is the God of all tribes, then she must love the tribe down the road. i think about my own awakenings, and they have always been when i have been led to think differently of God. i think he is right when he points out that God is searching for us. God is the lion. our search for him is not complete without the knowledge that he's in pursuit of us. but i am not sure of his leaning towards not teaching about...

6. SIN: i agree that many times we put way to much emphasis on making sure people are concerned and convinced about their own sin. but i think what's really happened is that sin has become a topic apart from God (thus being a topic without hope), rather than an explanation of some of the difficulties we experience. if we continue with the thoughts of God as relational, driven towards all men, loving all no matter what, then we can talk about how man often goes another way. the term sin is merely a label for what all of us experience. i think part of helping people understand the world, is helping them label their experience in light of who God is. so sin is anything that tears apart the relationships that God designed to be good and true. so maybe the point of teaching about God is to teach who God is and who we were made to be. but i think it is difficult to talk about who we are made to be without talking about the reality we deal with every day, which is often far from the loving and generous people God made us to be. then you're not "selling guilt", but labeling what others are experiencing.

7. DANG THIS IS LONG: and there's way way more...sacraments, faith, church as salvation...

So, any thoughts?

Nate said...

I've got a few thoughts...
First of all, this whole chapter is fascinating.

What Josh describes as "Going Tribal" fascinates me. I've been working closely with American Indians and have seen how America's own sense of "Manifest Destiny" or the idea of a God who supports only the while euro-centric view of things has caused so much pain and bondage. His kingdom is bigger than sides. So the question to be asked becomes, what are the small ways that we rationalize our own culture's view of the world and make it the Lords? I run away from this question because it will change foundation on which I understand God.

His method of having a conversation with a friend to discover god reminds me of E Stanly Jones and his book "The Christ of the Indian Road." There is a vulunerablity to their methodology that I deeply respect and value.

"This young lady's difficulty lay in extending the obligation of love not to me and my white faced tribe, or to the brown-faced Indian traders, or to the people of hostile, alien tribes surrounding her own. Her difficulty lay within her own tribe, towards people of another clan who lived three miles down the road. That was a giant steop for her. That was the chasm impossible to cross. That was the testing point of Christianity."
The testing point for us now lies in the same love those we see every day and forcibly remove from our minds...
The future of the church in america does not rest on it's ability to make disciples in other nations...the future of the church rests, or decays, in it's ability to love those closest to it. How dare we pretend that we know how to best love and serve those on the other side of the world, when we are so quick to run away from loving those different from us, who live next door? This test of forgiveness and love is truly the testing point of christianity. It reminds me of the parable of the good samaritan and the question "who is my neighbor."

Josh I understand what you are saying about sin, and how we approach those things. I do think that our understanding of sin is highly culturalized. Donovan wasn't saying that sin wasn't part of the process, I think he just understands that the conviction of sin, especially in a foriegn culture isn't so much a question of what is sin and what isn't. But instead an issue of the Holy Spirit, asking for and looking for places where the Holy Spirit can find, seek out, and illuminate separation and brokenness, both in humans and between humans and their creator. And then allowing the redemptive nature of the Holy Spirit to show and illuminate the restoration and re-birth "the spittle" of Christ. Let us not forget that the law was developed so that one could understand his or her need for forgiveness and redemption. If there is a different way of communicating this same truth of separation that cannot be bridged, than the specifics of how that works aren't initially important.

Brian said...

I agree with you - loaded stuff here. Let me get at some themes.

1. Questions - it's interesting what struggles and stumbles Donovan seems to enounter lie in the places where he (and by extension us), brought in the question and the answer. For example - what is sin? who is God? where did it all begin? - are all questions brought to the culture with answers loaded in both barrels and a finger on the trigger. It seems to me that we should spend a lot more time listening, watching, learning and sharing. In the beginning of the chapter Donovan points to a question, actually THE question that arose from the comment of putting a spear through God. I guess I'm just ready to help people ask questions and to search those together rather than come with questions and answers in MY pocket.

One last thought on this... at what point as we compare our stories (what we'd say is THE story) with other cultures stories do we say this is RIGHT and this is WRONG, and at what point to do listen so as to learn more about THE story from each other? Kipper has often brought us to this place.

2) What is with this "supracultural" thing? Stop it already. While he keeps coming back to this gospel floating somehwere in space that we've got to find and bring into culture, he seems to be discovering that the very gospel he's searching space for is right under his nose at work in the culture already. The God of "ehad" oneness is already at work mending the brokenness.

3) I love this phrase, "I know they will have to work out their own response to it. And their response, whatever it is, will not have very much to do with me. As the message passes from us to them, I find myself hoping that they will make better use of it than we did." I love it because it is the heart of a father with his children. In particular this father and my children.

4) Sin - see my comments on question above, but one last thing... can't we see that the whole of creation understands brokenness? I'm not claiming to have a corner on the good news, but healing the brokenness seems to be a universal hope.

Josh said...

back to the sin comments...Nate, I think it would be an interesting conversation to explore how our concept of sin is "highly culturized". I agree with you there, and I think it would make me feel even more like Keriko to have that conversation.

Brian, yes, the world sees brokenness. maybe the term "sin" isn't the important part...actually, when i think about the kids that i work with, they know that things are effed up. I don't have to label that stuff in their lives as sin. i've found the most important things i've said are more about how god feels towards them and what he desires for them.

and going to your question thing...maybe we address "sin" when it becomes a question.

i like bonhoeffer's comments in "life together" when he talks about listening...

"he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too...One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point and be never really speaking to others, albeit he be not conscious of it."

Kevin said...

Like the rest of you, I liked this chapter much better. A few of the items I questioned last chapter, he seems to be correcting.

Josh, your discussion about his "search with us" really resonates with me.

Nate, you have given us a needed check into the glass with your comment, "How dare we pretend that we know how to best love and serve those on the other side of the world, when we are so quick to run away from loving those different from us, who live next door?"

Brian, your comments about his hoping the Masai will make it their own are powerful. It's my hope too that my kids will learn from my experiences and go farther and deeper in their journey. Maybe they won't have to be such a slow walker as I have been.

Now for a few comments of my own:

1. Did anybody read the conversation between Donovan and the Masai elder and not picture The Chronicles of Narnia frame by frame? I especially loved the conclusion, "All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God."

2. In that same conversation, I like Donovan's assessment of "My role as a herald of that gospel, as a messenger of the news of what had already happened in the world, as the person whose task it was to point to 'the one who had stood in their midst whom they did not recognize' was only a small part of the mission of God to the world." Brian, maybe this is the point he hears your pleading to stop the supracultural thing. We'll have to wait and see. He also says it like this, "St. Paul says this happiness is a sign of God among them. He was there before we ever got there. It is simply up to us to bring him out so they recognize him." Brian, again, maybe he is starting to get what you said, that "The God of "ehad" oneness is already at work mending the brokenness."

3. And one more comment on that conversation. (I'm sorry to belabor this but it's been the best two pages for me so far.) The elder's description of a better word for faith is how I want to live out my faith. That's a wise distinction for the elder to make and one that fills me with passion.

4. I think that his realization about why he was sent out can teach us some things. ". . . we were sent out as church-planters, church-builders. For all practical purposes we were sent out to preach not Christianity, but the church. The church was the Ark of salvation. Those inside the ark were saved. Those outside perished. This was an unanalyzed assumption on which all missionary work was built. According to this assumption, we were to consider the Masai a lost people, and therefore had to convert as many of them as possible by converting them in great numbers. That would, of course, imply that all the Masai who died before we got there were lsot."

5. I loved the comment of Ndangoya, "This High God of whom you speak, he ould not possibly love Christians more than pagans, could he? Or he would be more of a tribal god than ours."

6. I thought that the comments about the struggle of the people with the Garden of Eve story was interesting. I had never ever thought about the challenges people might have with it because of their perspective on farming verses cattle raising, etc.

7. I liked the description of how two families in the same community find restoration of their relationship through the exchange of holy food. That is community.

8. And finally, what all of you dealt with, the conversation about sin; esp. our role to bring about conviction of it or guilt because of it. I'm okay with his distinction because like you said Brian, the world gets "brokenness." And like Donovan said, what they don't have covered is healing.

Okay, so I promised to not be long again and like you said Josh, "DANG, THIS IS LONG." Oh well . . .

Nate said...

A few comments:
First, the story of a family who finds restoration in a meal isn't just about community, it's probably one of the best stories that I've heard to explain communion. Often communion for us is a litergical thing. There was a reason that Christ picked the elements to be bread and wine...two vary common parts of a meal in their culture. The litergical times of communion are an important time for all of us, but let us not forget that every meal is an opportunity to remember and have "communion" not only with Christ, but with brothers and sisters. Sometimes I think I take the act of sitting down, and eating a meal together with friends for granted. How would that time change if I understood that can be sacred time.

Second, Kevin's comment on the impications of farming vs cattle raising is enlightening. We struggle with the same idea, only we assume that becasue someone doesn't have access to electricity, running water, or lives in a mud hut that they must be less intelligent. I bring this up only to illustrate how our understanding of God, and ourselves is totally dependant upon our cultural norms. It's hard to know how to step away from those norms... especially when our understanding in our culture is being passed on to another person in a different culture.

Finally, I'm a little lost with Brian's frustration with the idea of a superculture. Admitedly I haven't had a chance to flush the idea out myself. Brian is there anyway you could give us, or at least me, a better understanding of what you think donovan means by this, and why you struggle with it so much. I think I missed something somewhere and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

By the way, does anyone else appreciate the fact we are reading a book whose cover is literaly a picture of some masi in the bush. I would have read it just for that. But, I am a bit odd so....

daveapplegate said...

i just want to agree with nate on the points he made about communion (communion has the same route of community, i think they have alot in common).