Lessons In The Leaves

Leaves

I spent this afternoon engaged in a typical fall activity – raking, mulching, bagging leaves.  I did it all. While doing so I thought of a couple of “Lessons in the Leaves.” 

The first lesson was “Gratitude.”  Gratitude has never been my response to the chore of “leaf maintenance.”  I’ve been grateful for the brilliant red leaves falling from our maple trees creating a soft carpet on our ground – until it was time to bag those leaves.  Then my gratitude quickly turned to complaining.

But not this year.  For some reason, each sweep of the rake brought with it a breath of thanks…

Thanks for the beauty of the leaves.

Thanks that I’m still able to rake and bag. 

Thanks for the change of seasons…

How’d I make a switch from griping to gratitude?  I wish I had a simple recipe to share. I think it’s just about being present.  “What is there right now that shows me the beauty of love?  The beauty of God?”  

Which made me think of the second lesson: Change.

Things change.  Seasons change.  I change.  You change. Methods change.  Theology changes.  I may have lost you with that last one…

It’s a common understanding of conservative Christianity that theology never changes.  Progressive Christianity understands that theology is fluid, never static.  

I guess that makes Martin Luther a progressive.  We celebrated last week on October 31, not just Halloween, but the beginning of the Protestant Reformation – the day Martin Luther nailed or mailed his 95 thesis to the church in Wittenberg Germany.  

Martin Luther and the other reformers – re-formed – the church’s theology.  

They changed it.  Drastically.  

Yes, theology has changed.  Is changing.   Will change.

That fact scares some people.  I get that. I mean, where do you stop changing? It’s the slippery slope argument.  Change is hard because the things we are asked to let go of have been important to us.  It was hard for Peter to let go of the Scripture’s prohibition against eating certain foods.  Yet, who can deny that God changed?  At least God changed his word (Acts 10:9-16).

There are things I believe today I didn’t believe a few years ago.  And there are some things I believed a few years ago that I don’t believe today.  How about you?  I wonder if a lack of change reflects a lack of thought?  That was true for me.  

One thing hasn’t changed:  Love.  

I wonder if the way to tell if one’s theology is “right or wrong” is to observe if it leads or doesn’t lead to being more loving?  Paul is talking theology in Galatians 5 – the theology of circumcision.  For centuries the theology on circumcision was set – Any true follower of God had to be circumcised.  Period.  

But Paul’s theology changed. And he challenges others to change, to allow love to shape their theology:   “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” (Galatians 5:6).

If my theology doesn’t make me more loving, maybe I need to change it.  Maybe I need to change me.  

Changing leaves.  Changing theologies.  Changing people.  

Let’s Not Miss What Matters

bonhoeffer

 

I just finished Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Charles Marsh. I’ve always been a fan of Bonhoeffer – everyone in the evangelical world is, right? He’s a hero, our go-to guy.  “Would you like to know what a committed Christian looks like? Go to Bonhoeffer. Would you like to know what it’s like to follow Christ no matter the cost? Go to Bonhoeffer.

 

Theologian, poet, pastor, professor, a guy who dressed like he just jumped off the pages of GQ – oh, and dissident, spy, and martyr, who was executed for his role in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. See? A hero!

 

Maybe you’ve read his classic, The Cost of Discipleship. If you haven’t read the book but you have attended an evangelical church sometime since 1980, you’ve more than likely heard it quoted by a pastor of said church.

 

For as long as I can remember anything about Christian authors, Bonhoeffer has been at the top of the evangelical heap – portrayed as the voice of evangelical values. Such was the position in another popular biography of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. In an interview for his book, Metaxas said this about Bonhoeffer, “I have to say, with unbounded joy, I discovered him (Bonhoeffer) to be the most straight-up, theologically orthodox believer I have ever encountered. He is as theologically orthodox as St. Paul and Isaiah!”

 

Not so fast. Experts on Bonhoeffer came out of the woodwork to contradict Metaxas’ perspective. Even a fan of the book, Tim Challies, admits that these experts “may well be right in suggesting that Metaxas got in over his head and they may be right in suggesting that the true Bonhoeffer was simply too unorthodox to appeal to the likes of me…”

 

What does the “true Bonhoeffer” believe that doesn’t fit with the “likes” of some? Here’s a sample:

 

*In a lecture in 1928 Bonhoeffer stated that the Bible is filled with material that is historically unreliable.

 

*In discussing the first three chapters of Genesis in Creation and Fall (1933) Bonhoeffer criticized the idea of verbal inspiration and stated that the biblical author was restricted by the state of knowledge when it was written.

 

*In the summer of 1933, Bonhoeffer presented a series of lectures on “Christology.” Later, his good friend Eberhard Bethge published the notes under the title Christ the Center. In that writing, Bonhoeffer said this, “It is through the Bible, with all its flaws, that the risen one encounters us.”

 

What do we make of these views? What do we make of Bonhoeffer in light of his views?

Do these beliefs knock him down a notch or two?

Do these beliefs negate his role as a “go-to” guy?

Do these beliefs change his love for Jesus and people; his passion to follow Him fully?

 

Tylor Standley, in a blog post carried by Relevant Magazine, asks these questions:

What does it mean to be evangelical?
What must you believe?
What must you reject?
He then lists other “heroes” of the faith who like Bonhoeffer may be cut from the evangelical team because of their theological views and positions.

 

You’ll recognize some of them – Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, even Billy Graham.  Maybe you’ll be surprised by the views of some of them.

Maybe we all will realize how easy it is to miss the essence of Christianity – to miss what really matters.

 

It was Christmas, 1934. a 28 year old Bonhoeffer preached a series of sermons on  1 Corinthians 13 -the Love chapter.   Speaking of doctrine and the churches of Germany, he asked, “Is it not obvious? They have not made people who love. It does nobody any good professing to believe in Christ without first being reconciled with his brother or sister – including the nonbeliever, his brethren of another race, the marginalized, or outcast … In the end everything must become love…perfection’s name is love.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer got it.  I hope I do too.

This I Believe….Continued

“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.” These words from the  confusing Yogi Berra made me laugh.

I began this blog to correct some misstatements made about my theological beliefs.  The misstatements were made in public – at a Sunday morning gathering of people whom I love and have led for several years.  I truly believe that those who know me know the truth about me.  So, maybe these posts are unnecessary.  I don’t know.  We see what we want to see. We believe what we want to believe.

Maybe these posts are my attempts to restore a reputation that I feel has been marred. Honestly, there’s a bit of that in here – maybe a lot.  I have more than once prayed David’s prayer recorded in Psalm 43:1, “Declare me innocent, O God! Defend me against these ungodly people.  Rescue me from these unjust liars.”  Sounds harsh.  David was pretty honest.  I don’t believe the “misstatements” came out of “ungodly” hearts – I can’t judge someone’s heart.  I just know that the statements are gross (Look it up in a thesaurus – not just “yucky” but “glaring”) misrepresentations of my beliefs.

Maybe these posts are opportunities for dialogue.  But let’s not limit the questions, the doubts, the discussion to a web page.  Why can’t the gathering of people that is often called a church be a place for this dialogue?  Let’s talk here.  But let’s create “church” to be a safe place for dialogue.

Have you ever been “misrepresented”?  How did you handle it?
What would you like to discuss but have never felt “safe” to bring up?