A Book Not Written

There is no date on any of the pages, but recently I ran across the outline for a book that at one point I had hoped to write. The tentative title was An Apology for Christian Mission in the Modern World: The Particularistic/Universalistic Paradox. 

The outline I drafted for the book appears below. Reading through it makes me sad that because of the pressure of other responsibilities I was not able to do any more on this book other than make the outline. It could have been a good book, I think. But perhaps my teaching and administrative activities made more of a contribution to individuals and the school system than a book with a fairly limited audience would have.

Preface

  1. Who Is Writing?
    • My vocational situation (missionary by call, choice, & commitment
    • My educational background (Christian philosophy / apologetics; dissertation on the meaning of paradox)
    • My social concern (Christian social ethics).
  2. Why Is This Written?
    • The problem
    • An attempt to justify my commitment and my career; many others as well; who we are & who support missionaries; an apology for missionaries.
    • How Will This Be Done?
    • A paradoxical understanding is a way to solve the problem
    • A contribution I can make: no conflict between being a missionary & working with others, dialogue, recognizing God’s universal love, tolerance, etc.
  3. How Would This Be Done?
    • Ch. 1 – The Problem
    • Chs. 2-5 – Positive & Negative Analyses
    • Chs. 6-7 – The Paradoxical Situation
    • Chs. 8-10 – Some ramifications

I. The Problem

  1. The Fact of Plurality
  2. The “Failure” of Christianity
  3. The Results
    • Condemnation of others, conflict, divisiveness
    • Rejection of evangelism, cross-cultural mission

II. The Truth of Particularism (Uniqueness)

  1. The Meaning of Particularism
  2. Jesus as the Special Revelation of God
  3. The Decisiveness of Christ (Braaten: Jesus Christ is “the concrete embodiment of universal meaning.”)

III. The Falsity of Particularism (Uniqueness)

  1. Ethnocentric/Religious Pride
  2. Intolerance (religious wars, racial & cultural prejudice/discrimination
  3. Exclusiveness (divisiveness)

IV. The Falsity of Universality

  1. The Meaning of Universality
  2. The Error of Relativism
  3. The Rejection of Special Revelation & the Decisiveness of Christ

V. The Truth of Universality

  1. The Creator God
  2. The Cosmic Christ

VI. The Category of Paradox

  1. The Meaning of Paradox
  2. The Promise of Paradox
  3. Beyond Either/Or Logicality

VII. The Particularism/Universalism Paradox

  1. Affirming the Truth of Both
  2. Rejecting the Errors of Both
  3. Maintaining the Balance

VIII. The Place of Dialogue

  1. The Meaning of Dialogue
  2. The Value of Dialogue
  3. The Limitations of Dialogue

IX. The Place of Ecumenicity

  1. Mutual Respect
  2. Mutual Sharing
  3. Mutual Action (Cooperation)

X. The Place of Witness

  1. Humility in Approach
  2. Boldness in Word & Deed
  3. Faithfulness to Christ
Posted in Worth Noting | Leave a comment

Quotes from “The Shack”

{On March 5, I posted an article on my regular blogsite about “The Shack” (see here). I noted the following quotes when I read the book again just before seeing the movie by the same name which was released on March 3.}

William Paul Young, The Shack (2007), 250 pp. (This is the paperback by Windblown Media.)

Much of the book is a response to Missy’s question about “how come [God’s] so mean” (33).

Chapter 5 begins, “There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn’t mean that it is actually irrational, but is surely is not rational. Perhaps there is suprarationality: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that makes sense only if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in” (69).

Mack meets Elousia (“Papa”), Jesus (Yeshua), and Sarayu (the Hindi word that means the same as ruach, the Hebrew word for wind/air/spirit/Spirit). Mack asks which one of them is God. “‘I am,’ said all three in unison” (89).

When Mack first talks with Elousia about Missy, she said, “I want to heal the wound that has grown inside you and between us.” And then, “Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship” (94). The importance of relationships is stressed a lot in this sixth chapter.

In some ways the book is quite Jesus-centered. Elousia tells Mack that “the truth shall set you free and the truth has a name; he’s over in the woodshop right now covered in sawdust. Everything is about him. And freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with him” (97).

Elousia tells Mack, “I am far more . . . above and beyond all that you can ask or think” (100). A little later, “To begin with, that you can’t grasp the wonder of my nature is rather a good thing. Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended, eh?” (103).

The Incarnation is presented on page 101: “When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations this entailed.” And then, “Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human [p] being.”

Then Elousia talks about Sarayu: “She is creativity; she is action; she is the breathing of life; she is much more. She is my Spirit” (112).

In the eighth chapter, Elousia explains to Mack, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it” (122).

Elousia also talks about human freedom, and she says to Mack, “But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome” (127).

Chapter 11 is a pivotal one, and a type of universalism is presented in it. Mack is brought before a “judge” [and I was not clear who she was or represented, but in the next chapter she is identified as Sophia, “the personification of Papa’s wisdom” (173)]. She says to Mack, “You believe [God] will condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from his presence and apart from his love. Is that not true?” (164). Mack agrees that it is—and then she goes on to emphasize how God loves all his children just like Mack loves each of his children. She says, “You have judged them [his children] to be worthy of love, even if it costs you everything. That is how Jesus loves” (165). Shortly after that she says, “Nothing is as it should be, as Papa desires it to be, and as it will be one day.”

There is a definite “other-worldly” emphasis. Near the end of the eleventh chapter, Mack gets to see Missy in the “afterlife,” although she cannot see him. The judge says to Mack, “This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to come. No one reaches their potential in your world. It’s only preparation for what Papa had in mind all along” (169).

Jesus says to Mack, “I’m not too big on religion, and not very fond of politics or economics either. . . . What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?” (181).

At the end of chapter twelve, Jesus says, “Remember, the [p] people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda” (183-4). When Mack asks, “Is that what it means to be a Christian?” Jesus replies, “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian” (184). Then in references to others, Jesus says, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my
Beloved” (184).

“Does that mean,” said Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?” – “Not at all.” Jesus smiled . . . . “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you” (184).

In the next chapter Papa says to Mack, “Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes” (187).

Mack admits to Papa that he “always liked Jesus better than you. He seemed so gracious and you seemed so . . . “And then Papa breaks in, “Mean? Sad, isn’t it? He came to show people who I am and most folks believe the qualities he portrayed were unique to him. They still play us off like good cop/bad cop most of the time, especially the religious folk” (188).

A little later Papa states, “Faith does not grow in the house of certainty” (191).

Then as a part of the book’s theodicy, Papa explains to Mack, “All evil flows from independence, and independence is your choice. If I were to simply revoke all the choices of independence, the world as you know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. . . . If I take away the consequences of people’s choices, I destroy the possibility of love. Love that is forced is no love at all” (192).

At the end of the 13th chapter, Papa emphasizes that “through [Jesus’] death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.” Then, in responding to Mack’s rejoinder, Papa says, “All I am telling you is that reconciliation is a two-way street, and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love to open the way” (194).

In the next chapter Sarayu says to Mack, “I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they have only the power to accuse” (205).

In the 16th chapter Papa explains to Mack, “I don’t do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation. They don’t produce one speck of wholeness or righteousness, and that is why they were nailed into Jesus on the cross” (225).

When Mack talks about his wanting to get revenge on the man who killed Missy, Papa talks about redemption and says, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person’s throat” (226). She also explains, “Forgiveness does not establish relationship.” And she says that forgiveness is first of all for him, “to release you from something that will eat you alive, that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly” (227).

In talking more about forgiveness, Papa says that “forgiveness does not excuse anything” (228).

Later Papa says to Mack, “Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak” (230).

Not long before leaving the shack, Sarayu says, “Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again” (237).

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Regular Post | Leave a comment

“The Post-American”

After nearly five years in Japan, my family and I came back to the U.S. in 1971 for a year’s furlough from our missionary work there. During those years I had been a full-time faculty member at Seinan Gakuin University for five semesters. There was considerable student unrest on campus, much of it protest against the war in Vietnam.

Since we lived in southwest Missouri during our year back in the States, I saw little student unrest in the U.S. directly, but I saw and heard about that unrest on TV and radio. I also read about anti-war protests and other student activities in newspapers and magazines.

During that academic year of 1971-72, I somehow heard about a new movement that called themselves the People’s Christian Coalition. And early on I became a subscriber to their publication which they called The Post-American. The editor of the new 16-page tabloid-style quarterly periodical was Jim Wallis, who was a 23-year-old student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at the time.

A few years later I purchased a bound copy of the first twelve issues of The Post-American, and it was very nostalgic for me this evening to run across it and to look through it again. Here is a picture of the first page of the first issue.

post-american

Last month I posted an article on this blogsite (see here) about how I was influenced by the book The New Left and Christian Radicalism by Art Gish. I was likewise influenced by The Post-American–and there is an advertisement for Gish’s book in the second issue, so that is probably how I learned about it.

When the first issue of the second volume of the publication was published in Jan. 1973, there were 18 people listed as contributing editors. Gish, who had an article in three of the first four issues, was one of them. You may have heard of some of the other 17, people such as Sen. Mark Hatfield, Richard Mouw, Clark Pinnock, William Stringfellow, and John Howard Yoder.

Later, Wallis and some of his People’s Christian Coalition friends moved from the suburbs of Chicago to Washington, D.C. They changed the name of their community and the publication to Sojourners. And now over 45 years later, Jim Wallis is still Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, which continues to have influence across the nation and the world.

I remain grateful for The Post-American/Sojourners. From  its beginning to the present my understanding of the meaning of Christian discipleship has been and continues to be very favorably impacted by its ongoing emphasis on faith in action for social justice. 

Posted in Worth Noting | Leave a comment

Criticism of American Christianity

[This is the English summary of a Chapel talk I gave at Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka City,  Japan, on October 24, 1972. My wife and I returned to the U.S. for the first time after spending nearly five full years in Japan as Southern Baptist missionaries. During our year of furlough, as it was called then, I spoke often in Missouri churches and in at least six other states–mostly Baptist churches beginning with the First Baptist Church in Anchorage, Alaska. This Chapel talk was given about three months after returning to Japan. For my regular blog article about this Chapel talk, click on this link.]

Last year in America I found myself very critical of Christian as practiced by most churches and Christians that I saw. I was critical of what appeared to be much more concern for self than others. I was critical because there seemed to be too little concern for four of the great problems of our day: war, poverty, racism, and pollution. I was critical because I felt that American Christianity is too often too much a supporter of the status quo.

In reflecting upon these criticisms, I have come to the following conclusions:

(1) I can understand why many Japanese university students have doubts about Christianity. There is not much attractiveness in Christianity as it is demonstrated by many of its adherents.

(2) In spite of the obvious hypocrisy of some Christians and the limited concern of most, I am still convinced that most of the best, the most genuine, the most conscientious people in America are Christian people.

(3) A person does not become perfect upon becoming a Christian. If we expect Christians to be perfect, we expect too much. When a person becomes a Christian, his knowledge, attitudes, and personality traits do not change immediately. Perhaps that is what we expect. Maybe that is why we are often so critical of Christians. What changes when a person becomes a Christian is his direction, his loyalties, his values. These things can and will change other areas in his life if there is Christian growth and development.

Please remember this: becoming a Christian is not like receiving a prize for winning a race. It is merely the first step in the race. Those who have become Christians have started the race, but no one on earth has yet finished the course and achieved the prize. Even the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian of all times, realized his imperfections and knew that the goal was still out ahead. (Read Philippians 3:12-14.)

It is true that I have become critical of American Christianity. But by realizing that Christianity is the start and not the end of the race, I can be a Christian and a proclaimer of Christianity in spite of the criticism that I have. I am not about to get off the track and start looking for something else.

If you are a Christian, I encourage you to join with me in seeking to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If you are not a Christian yet, don’t you want to get in the race too? I would be delighted to show you where the starting-line is.

Posted in Sermons/Talks | 1 Comment

A Further Look at “Silence”

Over the last couple of weeks I have read a number of reviews about Martin Scorsese’s movie “Silence,” based on the 1966 (Eng., 1969) novel by the same name written by Endo Shusaku. Endo (1923-96) was a Catholic Christian who became widely known and read as a Japanese novelist.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

One major problem with most reviews of “Silence” is their, well, silence concerning the historical background and context of the events portrayed in the movie.

Francis Xavier, one of the original seven Jesuits, was the first Christian missionary to set foot in Japan, landing at Kagoshima August 1549. Kagoshima is on the southern tip of Kyushu, the island on which Nagasaki is located in southwest Japan.

Xavier’s missionary activities were so successful that by 1587, Hideyoshi, the most powerful daimyo (feudal lord) in Japan, became so alarmed that he promulgated the Purge Directive Order to the Jesuits in July 1587. That Order included a ban on missionaries.

Hideyoshi’s primary concern was not about religious beliefs. Rather, it was about the power of the Christian feudal lords in Kyushu. The ban was Hideyoshi’s attempt to expand his political power.

Ten years later Hideyoshi took even harsher measures against Christians in Japan: he had 26 Christians (literally) crucified in Nagasaki in February 1597. Six were missionaries and 20 were Japanese believers.

Hideyoshi died in 1598, and after a decisive battle in 1600 Ieyasu became the first shogun of the Tokugawa Era, which lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

In 1614, Ieyasu was so concerned about Spanish territorial ambitions that he signed a Christian Expulsion Edict, banning the practice of Christianity and expelling all foreign missionaries. This decision, made partly through discussions with Englishman Will Adams, is described in the fourth chapter of Oliver Statler’s intriguing book Japanese Inn (1961).

All of this stands behind the characters in “Silence,” beginning with Cristóvão Ferreira the Portuguese Jesuit priest who was a missionary in Japan from 1609 until he apostatized in 1633. The beginning of the movie shows Rodrigues and Garrpe, two young Jesuits priests, deciding to go to Japan in order to find Ferreira, their revered teacher. They arrive there in 1639.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

The most important thing to keep in mind from the historical background just given is the connection of the missionaries to the European countries that were involved in economic activities, and potentially imperialistic, activities in Japan.

While the movie gives the impression that there was a religious reason for the persecution of the Christians, in reality it was much more based on the fear of foreign political and economic influence in Japan. Religion, especially religious beliefs, was of a far lesser concern.

Many who see the movie think the actions of the Japanese were very cruel—and they were. But we need to remember that at the same time, the same sort of persecution of Jews, Muslims, and even Christian “heretics” was carried out by the ruling “Christians” in Europe.

Actually, the Spanish Inquisition lasted from 1478 to 1834. According to Wikipedia, “Although records are incomplete, about 150,000 persons were charged with crimes by the Inquisition and about 3,000 were executed.”

In a different vein, it is also important to pay close attention to the end of the book, an ending that was amplified in the movie. I found two websites with quotes from “Silence,” but neither had the most important of all, words from the end of the eighth chapter of the book:

. . . the Christ in the bronze [fumie] speaks to the priest [Rodrigues]: “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross (p. 183).

Those who miss the significance of those words, miss the whole point of Endo’s book. According to Japanese-American artist and author Makoto Fujimura, Endo gave this explanation of the purpose of his book: “I did not write a book about the Silence of God; I wrote a book about the Voice of God speaking through suffering and silence.”

Surprisingly, Endo’s original title of his novel was “The Aroma of Sunshine”!

fumie

Stepping on a fumie

INSIGHTS FROM FUJIMURA

Makoto Fujimura, just mentioned, is the author of a book titled Silence and Beauty (2016). It is a marvelous book that gives insight into the nature of Japanese thinking, including the nature of the widespread Japanese understanding of beauty as well as silence.

Among other things, Fujimura explains that Endo’s novel is about grace. He writes,

By stepping on the fumi-e, Father Rodrigues inverts into his genuine faith, faith not dependent on his religious status or on his own merit, but a faith in grace— grace that, like the rays of sunshine after a rainy day, provides an aroma of the light (loc. 2263-65).

Then, in spite of the several times Inoue, the Japanese “inquisitor,” refers to Japan as an unproductive swamp for Christianity, Fujimura writes,

Christian faith is more than a mere rational proposition. It can take root deeply in a muddy swamp if it is designed for propagation there, like, for instance, planting rice in rice paddies (loc. 1189-91).

Later Fujimura claims that through Endo,

we may begin to detect the aroma of the sunshine and to see the possibility of the Golden Country of Japan, a country filled with rice paddies, a muddy swamp now resplendent with golden hues of the abundant harvest (loc. 2239-40).

That is the reason why Scorsese dedicated “Silence” to Japanese pastors. However, a review by a young Japanese pastor, while insightful and helpful in some parts, misses the point, even saying that “Silence” will drive Japanese people away from an understanding of God’s love.

I hope that that pastor, and that you who read this, will at some point read Fujimura’s book and learn from his insights.

And while “Silence” is probably too “heavy” for the general public and even though it demands more thoughtful reflection than most people are willing to expend, I do hope there will be many who go see the movie and then spend adequate time thinking and talking with others about its deep meaning.

In this time when the “prosperity gospel” continues to grow in popularity (think about some of those who will be praying at the presidential inauguration on 1/20), this is a good time to consider the gospel of grace for those who are not, and will never be, rich and powerful.

God is not silent. God speaks through suffering–and through the hidden beauty of the gracious Christ on the cross.

Posted in Book Reviews, Movie Reviews | 6 Comments

“The New Left and Christian Radicalism”

[Rather than a summary of the book as such, the following is mainly a compilation of what I found to be the most important statements made in this powerful book.]

Gish, Arthur G. The New Left and Christian Radicalism. Eerdmans, 1970. 158 pp.

Preface

“To be radical is to go to the root, to attack a problem at its base. To be radical is to present a fundamental alternative to the status quo. It means to start with what could be rather than what is.”

“Part One of this book is a comparison of the New Left and sixteenth-century Anabaptism.”

“Part Two of this study is an attempt to make a synthesis of New Left and Anabaptist thought by examining the current issues in theology, ethics, and politics from the radical perspective presented in Part One.”

“This study is written both for the humanistic radical who has never seen the relevance of theology to social change and for those Christians who have never realized the radical implications of the Christian faith” (7).

PART ONE

“Chapter One  An Analysis of the New Left”

People working in the New Left “are dedicated to ‘changing the system’” (15).

Gish cites a 1967 article by Edward E. Sampson: “Those over thirty are not to be trusted, because of their increasing investment in the system as it exists” (21).

“In the eyes of the New Left, the system is so corrupt that is must be completely changed. This is probably the fundamental difference between Liberalism and Radicalism.” “The New Left suspects that the liberals are first committed to respectability and only secondly to justice. The liberal is seen as one who wants to share in the affluence of the existing order, but is at the same time burdened [p] with guilt feelings which he tries to assuage by disavowing its wrongs” (30-31).

In his short critique at the end of this chapter, Gish says, “Whenever one decided to follow his ideals seriously, the danger is moralism, pride, and self-righteousness” (47).

“Chapter Two  Anabaptism: A Sixteenth-Century Analogy”

“When I asked my grandfather why he grew a beard his reply was that it was to show that he was different from the world. The beard of the protester is to demonstrate that he is not a part of the establishment. My own beard is a conscious attempt to bring together these two radical perspectives” (49).

“The Christian for Luther has dual citizenship and thus must live by two sets of standards. The Christian must live in both realms.

“The Anabaptists, however, separate the two realms. . . . Christian discipleship involves all of life. The whole Christian life must be lived under the New Covenant, separated from the world. He no longer lives by the standards of the fallen world” (58).

Gish says that for the Anabaptists “the important word . . . was not faith as with Luther, but discipleship (Nachfolge Christi)” (59). “Rather than focusing on personal salvation, they stressed living in the new kingdom, living by a new set of values (love, peace, forgiveness, etc.)” (60).

“The simple life was also stressed. They urged people to avoid anything that would lead to pride, and opposed living on a high economic plane” (61).

“Freedom was especially important for the Anabaptists.” They “were the first to proclaim religious liberty in the way we think of it now.” That freedom “meant that the church must be a voluntary association of believers. . . . The most radical act of the Anabaptists was baptism” (62). They “became early proclaimers of the disestablishment of the church” (63). Also, “the distinction between laity and clergy almost disappeared” (64). In addition, “They were early socialists” (66).

“Important for the Anabaptists was the conviction that the Christian must be different from the non-Christian” (68). “The main reason for excluding the Christian from public office was because the ethos of the state conflicted with redemptive love” (69). “Thus because they were convinced that the state cannot be Christian, they believed that the Christian should not take part in it. First of all the Christian must be obedient to Christ” (70). “We see then that the Anabaptists rejected the notion of bringing change from the top down. . . . Rather, change must start with communities of believers who live changed lives” (71).

“Possibly the best-known characteristic of the Anabaptists was their emphasis on nonresistance. They did not believe in the use of force or participation in war” (71).

Harold Bender in his seminal essay “The Anabaptist Vision” (1944) wrote, “There can be no question but that the great principles of freedom of conscience, separation of church and state, and voluntarism in religion, so basic in American Protestantism, and so essential to democracy, ultimately are derived from the Anabaptists of the Reformation period” (73).

“There is one aspect of Anabaptism of which we need to be critical. . . . they did not have a strong enough impulse to witness to the social structures. . . . they failed to realize that we can change social structures even though we cannot build the kingdom. . . . Those who today would take the Anabaptist tradition seriously must find ways of combining a forceful witness to the state with the knowledge that the kingdom is not for us to establish” (75).

PART TWO

“Chapter Three  Biblical Faith, Radicalism and Hope”

“To be a Christian it to be a radical” (79).

“The Lordship of God means that no finite group can claim ultimacy for itself, for only God is Lord. Thus the Christian cannot pledge allegiance to any institution. The Christian, because of his [sic] higher allegiance, is by nature disloyal to all institutions” (87).

“The kingdom [of God] is that final revolution toward which all the faithful look. . . . It is this vision of the kingdom that is the hope of the revolutionary” (88).

“One of the weaknesses of liberalism is that it fails to take evil seriously enough.” But Gish goes on to say that “one of the common pitfalls for the radical is pride and self-righteousness” (89).

The last part of this chapter is “The Christian Hope.” “Hope frees one from becoming reconciled to the present. Because of his anticipation of the future, he need not cling to the past or defend the status quo” (91).

Chapter Four  Compromise, Expediency and Obedience to Christ”

“To be a Christian is to be an extremist” (94).

“For either individuals or institutions to remain silent in the face of injustice is to participate in that injustice and to be responsible for it” (97).

“The very premise of radicalism is that there is an ought standing over against the is. The radical is one who is not satisfied with the way things are” (104).

“Chapter Five  A Theology for Revolution”

“To be a Christian is to be a subversive, or at least that is how he will be viewed by society. . . . to be a peace with God means to be in conflict with the world (113).

“Revolution is an attempt to close the gap between the ideal and the real. It is a struggle to move from the is to the ought” (116).

“Change is inevitable. The question is whether that change will come violently or nonviolently. . . . Basically, violence comes not from those seeking change, but from those preventing change” (118).

Gish suggests “A Christian Theory of Social Change” (120-136). “There are three basic approaches to social change. First there is the individualistic approach of changing individuals. This is often identified with both political conservatism and religious fundamentalism. . . . The second approach is to focus on the power structures. This is the approach of political liberalism. . . .

“The third approach, which will occupy the remainder of this chapter, is a synthesis of Anabaptist and New Left strategy” (121). “The early church did not try to take over the Roman Empire or change it. They simply believed and acted as though it was not the center of history” (122). “The radical approach is not only to suggest alternatives, it is to be and to live those alternatives. It is to live in the new realities” (123). “We are not called to make a sick world well. We are called to act well. That is a powerful political act in itself. It means being the revolution” (124). “Only living in the light of the kingdom if truly revolutionary” (125). “. . . the church at its best should be a parabolic community, embodying those ideals it wishes to proclaim to the world” (130).

“To assert that we cannot bring in the kingdom through our own effort does not mean inactivity or resignation. Rather we accept the kingdom as a gift, as a given, and begin living in it. We participate in movements for social justice, because we already live by that new vision” (134).

Gish’s last subsection is “Toward a Revolution of Nonviolence” (136-142). “Civil disobedience is a witness against an evil itself, and also against the immorality of silence and passive cooperation with evil” (137). “Out assumption is that violent revolution is occurring because nonviolent revolution is not occurring.

“The basic problem with a violent revolution is not that it is too radical, but that it is not radical enough, not that it brings too much change, but too little” (139). “The pacifist argument is that violence has a disastrous effect upon those who use it. To fight fascism with fascism is to become a fascist. . . . To accept the standards of the opponent is to be defeated by him. Nonviolence is the real method of liberation” (140). “While we can support the aim of the revolutionary, we cannot support his violent means. We dare not forsake our vision of the new humanity. We must still witness to that reality” (142).

Posted in Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Following the Plough

Following the Plough

Although I grew up as a Worth County, Missouri, farm boy and worked many hours in the fields on most summer days during my early-teen years, I never did plow with a horse or a mule. My father and especially my grandfathers certainly had that hard experience. For some reason I hardly ever even plowed with a tractor; my father did the plowing and I did most of the disking during my high school years. Plowing is hard—especially so with a horse- or mule-drawn plow.

Clarence Jordan, the Bible scholar and theologian who founded the Koinonia Farm near Plains, Georgia, once remarked, “Following a plow under the hot sun on a red Georgia hillside has called many a man into the ministry.” (Or something like that; I couldn’t find the exact quote.) And while I felt called into the ministry when I was a teenager, it was not because of following a plow under the hot sun on a Missouri hillside.

I have long been an admirer of the just-mentioned Clarence Jordan. After finishing his doctorate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is also my alma mater, in 1942 he and his wife Florence established Koinonia Farm as a community seeking to follow Jesus’ teachings as thoroughly as possible. It was devised as a “demonstration plot” to show how to put the teachings of Jesus into practice.

Others previously had sought to do the same sort of thing, and the Jordans doubtlessly knew about and learned from them. For example, there is similarity between the Jordans and the Anabaptists, who broke away from the dominant church of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1525. More particularly, there is considerable affinity between the Jordans and the Anabaptist group known as the Bruderhof, a Christian community founded in Germany by Eberhard and Emma Arnold in 1920. Even though they had five children and little money, the Arnolds started that “demonstration plot” 96 years ago, and it is still going in several other locations.

Eberhard Arnold, who was born 133 years ago (on July 26, 1883), died in 1935. But even before his death, some of the men of Bruderhof (literally, “place of brothers”) had to leave Germany because of their pacifism. Eventually most of the community moved to England, then to Paraguay, and finally in the 1950s to New York, about ninety miles north of New York City. Eberhard’s son, Johann Heinrich Arnold (1913–82) led the Bruderhof from 1962 through 1982, and J. Heinrich’s son Johann Christoph Arnold was their leader from 1983 through 2001.

From the beginning, the Bruderhof published books and articles, long using the name Plough Publishing House. Now simply called Plough, they recently began publishing a very attractive, and challenging, magazine called Plough Quarterly, which claims to be “breaking new ground for a renewed world.” (Outside North American plow is usually spelled plough.) The theme of the Summer 2016 issue is “Living in Community,” and I have found it very worthwhile. In addition, Plough sends an email called “Daily Dig” to anyone who asks, and I enjoy reading those words of wisdom each morning.

So while I have not had experience of following a horse-drawn plow (plough), I am now following (reading) the Plough. As Philip Yancey, the Christian author some of you know of, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the latest issue, “Plough Quarterly is the richest publication I get these days. . . . The entire magazine is beautifully conceived and professionally executed.”

For you who use the Internet, http://www.plough.com is worth checking out, and perhaps some of you would like to sign up for the “Daily Dig.”

{This was originally written for, and published in July 2016 by, The Times-Tribune, my weekly hometown newspaper in Grant City, Missouri.}

 

 

Posted in Worth Noting | Leave a comment