Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valley Lenten Teaching and Reading

I'm currently preaching a teaching series I'm calling "The Jesus Way." While we're in this series, I'm encouraging Valley people to read Scot McKnight's book, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed.

The book will compliment much of what I'll be preaching about. It also serves as a wonderful plan for daily devotions during the season of Lent. For a complete outline of the teaching series with a suggested Lenten schedule for reading the book, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Meaningful Differences

Yesterday I posted a link to a "conversation" between Christopher Hitchens and Marilyn Sewell that appeared in the Portland Monthly. It stirred up quite a few comments on Facebook, which, as usual, went a lot of different directions.

My main point of observation was a simple one. I agree with Hitchens that if one is to call one's self a Christian and expect that to mean anything, the word Christian must have some meaningful definition. If one refers to one's self as a "person of faith," there must be some defined object of belief.

You can't just take hold of a label--any label: atheist, republican, socialist, fundamentalist, optimist--and divorce yourself from the commonly understood definition of that label. I understand that labels are frequently misunderstood and very often need clarification and nuance. However, if you tell me you're a bicylist, but have no real interest or experience in riding bicycles, you will understand my bewildered annoyance.

Beyond the whole "I'm a liberal Christian" assertion made by Sewell, I found it equally amusing that her assertions to be in agreement with Hitchens failed similarly. She flattered and agreed and admired, but he would have nothing of it. I'd caricature much of their conversation as:

Sewell: "You're a brilliant guy, and we agree on so many things."
Hitchens: "You're a nice person, but you simply have no idea how many light years we are apart from each other. Please stop confusing yourself to be someone who agrees with me or with Christians."

If you're a christianish, atheistish sort of "person of faith," you will have to get used to neither Christians or atheists mistaking you as one of their own. You should not be surprised at their chagrin when you hijack their name.

In contrast to the Hitchens/Sewell conversation, you might want to check out Christopher Hitchens' relationship and dialogue with Douglas Wilson. These two guys know that their perspectives are in direct opposition to each other, and they both deeply appreciate the other's ability to recognize and confront their collision of ideas in honest argument.

A 'Collision' Of Beliefs: Atheist Vs. Theologian
NPR: All Things Considered - October 25, 2009

COLLISION: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson (DVD)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hitchens on Christianity

In addition to debating the credibility and value of Christianity, outspoken and well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens apparently finds himself in situations where he has to explain Christianity to people who call themselves Christians.

The Portland Monthly recently invited
Hitchens to participate a conversation with "a liberal believer"—the recently retired minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Marilyn Sewell. Formerly a psychotherapist and teacher, Sewell has also authored a number of books.

In this exchange,
Hitchens, the atheist, demonstrates a clearer understanding of orthodox Christianity than Sewell, the person who claims to be a Christian. Ouch!

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Sewell: Let me go someplace else. When I was in seminary I was particularly drawn to the work of theologian Paul Tillich. He shocked people by describing the traditional God—as you might as a matter of fact—as, “an invincible tyrant.” For Tillich, God is “the ground of being.” It’s his response to, say, Freud’s belief that religion is mere wish fulfillment and comes from the humans’ fear of death. What do you think of Tillich’s concept of God?”

Hitchens: I would classify that under the heading of “statements that have no meaning—at all.”