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May
28
2013

The False Gospel of "Fairness" and the Kingdom Tribalism of Jesus

There is a false gospel being spread around parts of the blogoverse by well-intentioned Christians who are probably enneagram 9s. This "gospel" claims that "fairness" should be a Christian's top priority, and that no matter how repugnant a person's defamation of God's character is, if they are religious, they deserve to be treated "fairly." Additionally, this same false gospel claims that "tribalism" is to blame for the mistreatment, and that this "tribalism" is antithetical to the Way of Jesus.

Well, in the spirit of Paul, I ask, "Who has bewitched you? If even an angel from heaven preaches to you another gospel besides the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let them be accursed!"

Fairness should Not be the highest priority of Jesus-disciples. The Jesus-disciple's highest priority is Love. And as Cornell West said, "Justice is what love looks like in public."

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May
26
2013

The Story that Subverts the Myth: A Review of Torn by Justin Lee

Author: Justin Lee
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Jericho Books (2012)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781455514304

Amazon

"For a gay guy, Justin Lee is incredibly straight-laced."

That's what I kept thinking as I read Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. I realized about half way through the book, that I was waiting and looking for the "edge" that a gay Christian author is supposed to have. I expected him to be super-opinionated, angry, vitriolic even. Why is that? It quickly dawned on me that, even though I was reading this book from a place of openness, I was nevertheless projecting my own stereotypes of gay people onto Justin. Oh how wrong was I. Justin Lee is the nicest, 'goodie-two-shoes' you should ever expect to have written a book on such a controversial topic. He couldn't have had more grace and nuance. He couldn't have broken more molds.

Does that mean I agree with every conclusion at which Lee arrives? No, not necessarily. But what it does mean is that Torn is not a book that can be easily dismissed. Lee is careful to present his story and his perspective in a very winsome way. One of the reasons Lee's story is so powerful is because of its clear ring of authenticity. Antagonistic readers will have a difficult time claiming Lee isn't completely sincere. Lee doesn't come across as "having an agenda", like the common caricature of the homosexual community holds. And Lee professes devout faith in Jesus. That is why this book will challenge any reader who thinks their position on human sexuality is unshakable.

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May
25
2013

A Generous Pentecostalism, Part III: Eschatological, Missional Urgency

I'm wrapping up this series (Part I, Part II) I've been calling "A Generous Pentecostalism" on a "lowercase 'p' pentecostalism." In this post, I'm describing the third characteristic I find in this 'catholic pentecostalims': Eschatological, Missional Urgency. (Bear with me, this might require a little explanation.)

The Eschaton Isn't Just the End; It's a New Beginning!

By "eschatological," I simply mean a look toward the way God is completing the great narrative of history, or the way God is remaking all things. Modern, Western Christians (particularly U.S. Americans, for at least the last two hundred years or so) have exclusively interpreted Revelation as a book about the future. This has unfortunately led to a largely escapist theology that discounts the Kingdom's role in the here and now. But what if the whole point of Revelation was not just to tell us about the future, but about how we are to live in the present? What if John, and the other authors of the New Testament, weren't primarily concerned with what the future will look like when Jesus reappears, but instead are inviting the church (then and now) to join with God in establishing God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?

When we think about the proverbial "Last Days" do we think about the end of history, or do we think about the age in which we are currently living?

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May
16
2013

A Generous Pentecostalism, Part II: The In-Breaking of God's Kingdom

If you're just tuning in, in honor of Pentecost Sunday, I'm sharing my thoughts on a "lowercase 'p' pentecostalism," in which the whole church can share—a "Pentecost for the Rest of Us" so to speak. In part one, I shared that I think the first characteristic of this 'catholic pentecostalism' is a direct and dynamic relationship with God through the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In this post, I'd like to share about a second characteristic of this pentecostalism I'm describing: The In-Breaking of God's Kingdom.

What Does "Kingdom Come" Look Like?

For biblical portraits of God's Kingdom, there are few better places to look than Isaiah chapter 2 and Revelation chapter 21. Isaiah's vision of God's Kingdom is a mountain to which all "nations" (meaning ethnic groups) stream to worship YHWH. And in a related way, this mountain is also God's temple, another way of saying the location of his dwelling presence. There, Israel and the nations are taught God's "ways" and how to "walk" in his "paths." YHWH will act as judge and provide justice for all peoples. There will be no favoritism, as all people receive what they need. Furthermore, Isaiah pictures justice as the end of war in the beautifully vivid picture of swords being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (2.4; see also Micah 4).

John's vision is strikingly similar, yet utilizing a different metaphor. Instead of a mountain, John sees God's Kingdom as a renewed heaven, a renewed earth, and a beautiful city—the New Jerusalem. This city, like Isaiah's "mountain" is also the dwelling of God's presence, so there is no need for the city to have a temple (v.22). In this city, which is the bride of Christ (i.e. the church), there is justice just as in Isaiah's vision. For God will "wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (v.4) And just like the mountain of God, this city too will be the home of the "nations." (v.26). Earlier in John's vision (chapter 7), the nations were seen by John worshipping the Slain Lamb (Jesus) as a great multitude from "every nation, tribe, people and language"(v.9).

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May
16
2013

A Generous Pentecostalism, Part I: A Direct, Dynamic Relationship with God

This strange, amazing, and sometimes perilous journey of discipleship, on which I've been traveling with Jesus since I was a teenager, began among a wonderful, loving Pentecostal congregation. It was among those warm-hearted and open-minded folks that God met me in a very specific and undeniable way. And it was among them that I learned what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Eventually, it was time for me to leave the nest, and the following several years were filled with questions. When I encountered a much different incarnation of Pentecostalism in the South, one frought with excesses and abuses, my foundation was severely shaken. "Is Pentecostalism really like this?" I thought. "Am I really even Pentecostal then?"

You see, for some, Pentecostalism is merely evangelicalism plus speaking in tongues. And, for others, Pentecostalism is a drastic departure from historic Christianity, an aberration of which we should be highly suspicious. Still others dismiss Pentecostalism entirely as the misguided fervor of the under-educated and overly-emotional. For many years now, I've found none of these characterizations satisfactory in the least, even though I continued to wrestle with the question of whether or not I can fully identify with Pentecostalism. That is why, after exploring many other traditions within the broader Christian tradition, I have come to appreciate Pentecostalism in a new way, and I am now proud to call myself a "lowercase 'p' pentecostal." I believe there is a pentecostalism for all of this Jesus Movement we call the Church. Call it: "Pentecost for the Rest of Us."

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Apr
18
2013

Oz and the Cross: Reflections on God's Love and the Boston Marathon Bombings

 
Tuesday was my 31st birthday. In the days leading up to it, and on the day itself, I didn't really get the chance to reflect much. But now that a few days have passed, and I've sown up several loose ends, I'm looking back with renewed vision, and deep gratitude. Not only have I lived to see another year, I am also incredibly blessed with a wonderful family and greater clarity as to my calling in life than I've ever had. When I look back on who I was at 16, before I became a Jesus-disciple and entered this adventure called discipleship, I can't help but stand amazed at who God has made me, and continues to pour out grace on my life. I was a rage-filled, violent teenager on a self-destructive path. But the love of God transformed me, and every day I get to tell my story and witness God at work in the lives of others. I am a richly blessed man!

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Apr
14
2013

A Few Brief Reflections on the OPEN 2013 Conference

Last week, I had the honor of co-directing the first conference on the Open View, that was intentionally designed for church leaders and laypeople, with Tom Belt, Tom Oord, and Marcia Erickson. Two previous conferences that were devoted to the dialogue between the Open View and science were held in 2007 and 2008, in Quincy, MA and in Azusa, CA respectively. But many Open View proponents felt it was time for a deliberately non-academic conversation. That's why "OPEN 2013" focused on practical subjects related to the Open View and implemented dialogue, rather than exclusively lectures, as the primary method of participation.

The conference was held at Woodland Hills Church and senior pastor Greg Boyd was one of the conference's keynote speakers. John Sanders and Thomas Jay Oord also delivered keynote talks. All three keynote speakers did a fantastic job, and each one provided substantive Q&A sessions following their talks. Dr. Oord even integrated Q&A into his presentation making it extraordinarily interactive. But one undeniable highlight of the conference was Jessica Kelley's sharing of Henry's Story. Her testimony of how the Open View and the Warfare Worldview has helped her process her pain and preserved her faith in God was definitely the emotional pinnacle of the conference. Several of us on the planning team noted her poise during Q&A and her powerful gift of clear communication.

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Apr
04
2013

OPEN 2013 - Open Theology & the Church

The first Open theology conference for church leaders begins tonight. I'm honored to be helping to lead this historic event, and I hope that it becomes an annual event.

OPEN 2013 - Open Theology & the Church is being held at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN and sponsored by ReKnew Ministries. The conference keynote speakers are Greg Boyd, John Sanders, and Thomas Jay Oord.

For livetweets of the event, follow @OpenTheology on Twitter.

Q&A sessions with the conference speakers will be live streamed at The Open View website. To participate in the discussion, tweet your questions using #OPEN_2013.

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Mar
30
2013

Politics, the Jesus Way (A Quick Reminder)

Jesus's "disciples" are His apprentices. That means, when we signed up to be a part of His army—this Jesus Movement we call the Church—we covenanted to do things His Way! Jesus's Way was to walk along the villages and towns preaching the Good News, healing the sick, and loving on people despised and rejected like Him. Jesus's Way was Not to put more rules on people on whom the Pharisees had already put so many—but to be ruled by Love. Jesus was in relationship with people who were different from Him: people the religious establishment called 'sinners.' Jesus's Way was Not to force anyone to follow Him, but to Invite them to follow him—to show them a better Way of being-in-the-world. This is what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.
 
When we, Jesus's apprentices, cozy up with the Empire and use their methods (laws, legislation, force) we are not following the Way of our Master: Jesus. Instead, we are following the ways of the world. All the kingdoms of the world operate the same way: By Force! Either you pay your taxes, or prison! Either you obey the laws, or prison! And, ultimately, every law is backed by the power of the sword to enforce it.
 
The Way of Jesus is not the way of the sword, but the Way of the Cross. Jesus's Way is to lay down our lives for our friends, our neighbors, even our enemies!! Jesus's Way is to triumph over Satan through unconditional, self-sacrificial love—because it is More Powerful Than The Sword! Jesus's Cross is the most powerful force in the universe—because it defeated sin, Satan, and reversed Death itself!
 
So, to love our neighbors the Way Jesus loved His neighbors (or enemies, if they are outside your empathy), is to advocate for them, to treat them with dignity as people made in the image of God, and to lay down our lives for them: demonstrating unconditional, self-sacrificial love for them.
 
That is the Jesus Way!
 

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Mar
25
2013

Best Episode Yet of "The Bible" Miniseries: Mission

I've been a vocal critic of "The Bible" miniseries on the History Channel since it began. Part of my critique has been due to the many historical, cultural, and biblical inaccuracies. But my primary criticism has been the complete mishandling of ethnicity, racial stereotyping, and glorification of violence. That's why it may come as a surprise that I actually liked this week's episode: Mission.

Yes, Jesus was still a white guy with dirty blonde hair—which is mind-numbingly ridiculous! But, several of the scenes in this week's episode were actually pretty well done. It was definitely hit and miss, like the scenes were voted on by the writing team the way the Jesus Seminar votes on his sayings. But overall, I was impressed.

So, in this post, I'd just like to highlight several brilliant aspects of the episode and several missed opportunities.

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Welcome to TheologicalGraffiti.com

T. C. and Tyson Moore

Theological Graffiti is the offical blog of T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban church planter @NewCityCovenant, designer @NewCityPro, teacher, student, and friend. Discussion is welcome, so long as it is conducted in a spirit of charity. First and foremost, this blog is for self-expression—then community. More About.Me

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