Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today


May 2011

Freedom Isn’t Free

On this holiday when we remember those who served and died, there are so many interesting things that get presented and portrayed in regards to our national storyline. Some of them are valiant and deep, others are pithy and cliched. There is one, however, that gets used pretty flippantly and after I hear it a dozen times or so, it starts to grate on me a little bit.

“Freedom isn’t free”. You see on T-shirts, bumper stickers and hear it is discussions about past wars. I get it. I see what is behind the saying.
No, freedom isn’t free – not in this world of selfish sin (on a small scale) and dominating Empire (on a big scale) but I think that it is important to make two clarifications about this saying.

Freedom is not solely the result of our military – and freedom is not all our military does.

  • The first one is important to clarify because in our Military Industrial Complex (Dwight Eisenhower warned of it and those who profit from it in his farewell speech), our the freedom that we enjoy is not bestowed  by military action. That is not the source of our freedoms.
  • The second one is important to clarify because freedom is not the only business that America’s foreign policy participates in. The US involvement in S. America, Asia, Africa and Europe is not simply explained as a ‘force for freedom’. There is a lot more going on than just a heart for global democracy.

I think this is appropriate to address on occasions like Memorial Day. It is not dishonoring to those who served and died to use our freedoms in order to call for accountability for America’s addiction to militarism or to examine America’s foreign policy.

Seen from my point of view – it is downright honoring to utilize my freedom this way and it demonstrates an appreciation for the exact freedom that allows me to spend time on this day off to do so.

In fact, I think that the only thing that is not honoring to their sacrifice is to spend the day sales shopping or at a BBQ and to not think about these things at all.


The Hangover: Rapture edition

Here is a newspaper report and interview with Harold Camping:Washington Post article

The thing that people seem to be feeling bad about is that some gullible individuals got duped. I am sympathetic with the mild compassion. But I think that there is something far more sinister and devastating that we should be piping mad about and are justified in mocking (or at least being cynical about).
I remember in 1988 and 1991 people dropping out of the Bible College that my dad taught at to go home and ‘save’ their family and friends…. also no sense in racking up credits for a degree you are never going to finish!
 Look – until we stop all this mumbo jumbo stuff, the newer folks are going to continue to get duped.

I was shocked last week at how many Christians said things like “well – Camping is mostly right, this stuff will all happen, its just that we don’t know the day or hour.”

SO basically (as it has been presented to me)

Thinking all this stuff will happen on May 21 = crazy.
  • Thinking all this will happen but we don’t know when = acceptable.

I was raised to read the Bible this fantastical way. But I noticed that even knowing a little bit about the 5 centuries before Christ and the 2 after quickly made reading the Bible that way nearly impossible.
Reading the Bible in this ‘dispensational’ way – or what is called the “mountain tops” view of history – is not really faithful to the text or historically accurate. It is based on linear view of time, a literal reading of the text, and sketchy view of history. Continue reading “The Hangover: Rapture edition”

The world is not ending

Here are some collected thoughts about the events of the week:
IF we don’t know how to read the books of the Bible within their genre, AND we were taught that time is scripted from the beginning, THEN it makes sense why people are so fascinated with the end of the world.

It’s a bad way to read the Bible inside an faulty way to understand history… of course it all comes crashing down (in our minds).

I thank God for Harold Camping. I didn’t realize how many people thought “well he is half-right. It is going to happen, it’s just that we don’t know when” until this week. This has been eye opening.

May 21 will pass without incident, but then 2012 is hanging over head.

Jesus said that all these bad things he was predicting would happen “within this generation” (Matthew 24:34).  I think it was all in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 ad.  Others say that he was somehow referencing that founding of Israel in 1947. But we have to be coming to the end of that ‘generation’ too.

At some point we are going to have to admit that we may have taken a wrong turn or we may be reading the ‘map’ wrong.

At least part of the wake up will be realizing that it is not a “map” at all – but an ancient style of political critique that is couched in prophetic imagination. 

It’s called Apocalyptic literature and since we don’t know how to read it – we think that Revelation is some sort of Newspaper account written ahead of time. It’s not. It is theo-poetics addressing the Roman Empire of the first century.

I would love to get your comments or hear any questions that you might have. I want this to be a safe space for honest conversation.

Here is a post after the last round of Earthquakes and Prophecy talk: LINK The Bible is not about the end of the world

Week of Videos

Here are the Videos of the Week:

#4 Driscoll yelling at Easter

#3 Bill Maher on Bin Laden and the Christian response (bad words included)

#2 The Rapture is this Saturday and Some Grey Bloke wants to share some wisdom

now, those were funny – but here is a real, sincere, and thought provoking one:

#1 My buddy Tripp Fuller on the Resurrection (this is the ONE you should watch)


Training Imams, Rabbis, and Pastors at Claremont Lincoln University

Today the new University Project announced it’s official name – Claremont Lincoln University. You can read about the background story of the name here.

As a Claremont student, I am invested in the future of the project. I had desired to come to the School of Theology for a while but that was considerably amplified with the announcement of the project [read the Time Magazine article here] to train Imams, Rabbis and Pastors in close quarters and in close contact.

There are two things that I am especially excited about and a third that I am concerned about:

  • There has been a lot of talk around training Imams. I have been following several conversations about the domestic training of those who will serve in U.S. Islamic communities. Historically, the first wave was bringing over foreign trained Imams to serve in the American context. That had inherent limitations. The second wave was to send American candidates for foreign training. The challenge was then to translate the training into a context that was significantly different than the training environment.

Imams in the U.S. are asked to provide services and play roles that are unique to the North American context. Imams are asked – not just to be experts in theology and textual interpretation – but serve as social workers, counselors, and all sorts of other roles that are not traditionally in the job description or accounted for in the training they may receive. The Islamic Center of Southern California and Claremont Lincoln University will address these concerns in a uniquely particular way.

John Cobb: what went wrong with the Mainline?

Last week I was editing the 101st episode of Homebrewed Christianity. It was a conversation primarily between Paul Capetz and John Cobb. It was a fantastic theological dialogue … and then then subject turned toward practical matters.

What happened to the Mainline church? Why is it in such decline?

It turns out the answer, according to Cobb, is both complex and not absent of theology.

He details three major shifts that were a recipe for disaster:

The first shift was an acculturation. In post World War 2 America, there was a boom in church attendance as it played a vital role both socially and in the family. In a twist of fate, the Mainline churches (and social gospel) were successful – maybe too successful. The church got comfortable. The church liked its forms – especially liturgy. The church was satisfied with the direction and changes of society. Cobb doesn’t use the word complacency but self-satisfaction about success can become paralyzing in future discussions.

The second shift was a diminishing of the importance of theology. It was the ecumenical  mentality and apathetic attitude toward theological difference  that somehow resulted in a mentality that it doesn’t really matter so much what you believe about this specific or that. At some point one has to think that this casualness about theology is not simply laziness but an abdication of core responsibilities.

The third shift came in the 70’s when the Liberation Theologies showed up and “they knew exactly what they believed and were not afraid to say so.” The Mainline was impotent and irrelevant by comparison. (my words, not Cobb’s)

When you put these three together, you see a perfect storm: loss of intensity due to acculturation, loss of identity due to theological abandonment, and loss of relevance (potency) due to shifting contexts. Continue reading “John Cobb: what went wrong with the Mainline?”

The work of God’s Spirit

This was a post on a blog from earlier this week: Hey Bo!

First, in what ways have you changed the WAY you talk about the Spirit’s work in light of “the 21st century update”? Examples?

Secondly, in what ways do you talk about the Spirit’s work SPECIFICALLY in order for it to be a “subversive danger to the systems of this world” or are these two questions one and the same?

I’d be curious to hear more!

This blog looks great. I, for one, and much more likely to hit it up now that it’s all in one place. It’s a very human thing, but it’s true that we are quite lazy, even in web-browsing! Can’t wait for the return of the POD!

I started to respond but realized that it was far too big a topic for a little reply so it morphed into a whole new post:

There are three big changes:

  1. I got rid of Dualism (like my understanding of  Transcendent and Immanent) that were both unhelpful and antiquated. I had been sold a bad (simplistic) understanding called the 3 tiered universe.  This change is essential to understanding WHAT is happening.
  2. I brought in an understanding of the Trinity called Perichoresis (or Circuminsession) that speaks of HOW it works.
  3. I have adopted a “relational” model (process) that explains WHY the Spirit’s work looks the way it does.

These three changes have revolutionized both my understanding and my practice.

I will give you an example: at church we often open a service by praying and asking God to “come” and we sing songs about the spirit/grace/power/rain coming “down”. We talk about God breaking “in” or breaking “through”.

Now I understand that this is all just language (theo-poetics) that comes from our PERCEPTIONS. That is fine. But God has already come “down” and is already “in”, God has “come” and IS at work among us.  So I don’t get caught up on the imagery – I understand that it is just how we imagine it.

This has then freed me up to stop looking at things in ‘kind’ and see them in ‘degree’. Continue reading “The work of God’s Spirit”

Healing, Nature, Miracles, Prayer and Medicine

> I am at the end of my school year and, thus, writing papers. Here is an email conversation from a couple of weeks ago I had with a fellow minister. I wanted to post it and see if anyone had any reflections, objections, questions or comments.

If you already know the basics or have A.D.D. – just jump down to the sentence in orange and start there.

I will put JD’s thoughts in bold green and my responses will follow.

JD: Two thoughts on healing, medicine, and health care:

  • Our lack of theology of creation results in average people pushing against both modern medicine and many forms of holistic/folk medicine.
  • Many people are fearful of holistic medicines because of non-Christian spiritual components.

Me: I’m just going to throw out some ideas:
1) Creation was not ONE week a long long time ago. Creation is still happening. Look at the Hawaiian islands. Look at the tectonic plates that cause tsunamis.
This is ongoing creation.

2) In scripture God works through nature almost all the time. Burning bushes , winds on the sea of Reeds (Red Sea), clouds by day – fire by night… walking on water (the sea was Chaos in the 1st century) calming the storm, Sky turns dark, etc. This is Biblical.

3) The old saying is that there is no use praying for the cool of Spring in the heat of Summer. The seasons will be.
Continue reading “Healing, Nature, Miracles, Prayer and Medicine”

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