Adam Copeland is a haunted man, haunted by the memory of where he once was, who he once was, who interacted with hinm on the road to faith. The result? He doesn’t really go to church, even though he has a part in the church as institution. His article in the Christian Century considers this circumstance:

… frankly, the church of our future may not be as life-giving as those of our past. More likely than not, it will be in decline. It may be experimenting—badly—with ways to attract millennials. It may not have hit its budget target in years. It may struggle with mission beyond its doors. It may be somewhat uncomfortable, even painful, to visit and to join.

This closing thought has it almost right: we have to settle for the imperfect, rather than pursue the ideal. The point of having great memories of life-changing congregations is to treat them as the gift they are. They not only have shaped you to be the person you are, but also are a sort of gift to be shared with others. Keeping them only to yourself, refusing the messy and imperfect, does not keep the memory fresh it only curdles it.

And it’s Lent: what are we called to do but lay aside our own self for the sake of others? How can that be done alone. Only with the messy and imperfect can we have the mind of Christ who emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant. Only with the messy and imperfect can we open ourselves to being surprised by God’s goodness in the face of another.

Finally there’s the Table: how does one come to the Table except in the context of the messy and imperfect?

My recommendation? Talk with the custodian at the school, where does she go to church? Go there.

Adam Copeland, “I’m a ‘church leader’ who doesn’t really go to church” The Christian Century. March 28, 3029

The Carpenter


We live in our home, heedless of the carpenter who first gave it its frame. To live theologically in the late 20th C meant living in the post-liberal house build by George Lindbeck. Ephraim Radner gives a very sympathetic understanding of his project:

The point of his theory was to outline how religious communities might better understand other communities, such that dialogue might be fruitful. Lindbeck proposed a now well-known threefold typology that contrasted more conservative scholastic communities (at least in their self-understanding) with more liberal experientially oriented communities, commending finally a third type that was construed in a more “culturally” ordered fashion, in which language, social rules, and coherence provided the framework by which truth is identified. Doctrine, Lindbeck argued, functions differently in these three types of religious community. In the first it is a set of cognitive propositions regarding truth; in the second, it is the articulation expressive of some common religious experience; or finally, in the third “cultural-linguistic” understanding of a religious community, doctrine functions as a kind of ordering “grammar” for practical life with God, and truth is somehow evident in this coherent life.

Another very nice tribute can be found at the Christian Century, where Matt Fitzgerald explains how Lindbeck rescued his faith.

in my last semester, I was assigned The Nature of Doctrine. The force of Lindbeck’s argument overwhelmed me.

The book explained to me why God felt close when I slept on Noah’s Ark sheets, but utterly vague when I tried to be religious without the story I was raised on. If you learn a particular religion’s vocabulary—its strange, unique way of ordering existence—the Divine will become clear (or at least clearer). It is not possible to take a superior stance to a faith tradition and also experience the power it holds. In Lindbeck’s words: “One can no more hope to be religious in general than one can hope to speak language in general.”

As beguiling as the appeal to general knowledge, to the universalization, faith is only known (and practiced) in the particulars, the local, this place and time, this tradition.

Quiet, Modest Pioneer
George Lindbeck saved my Christianity


Can the Middle Be Claimed? part 2.

Carol Howard Merritt at The Christian Century will have none of Tim Keller. Keller had been selected as the recipient of the Kuyper Award for Excellence in Reformed Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, until faculty, students and friends furiously objected.

But Keller’s position on women and LGBTQs in the church, by comparison, would silence at least half of Princeton’s student population. And that’s the issue. I have not and cannot keep Keller from preaching. A PCA church can and does restrict women from preaching.

The student body and alumni had every right to protest the award. That is free speech.

Churches (and other entities) face the double challenge of purity and hospitality. One seems to invalidate the other. Take our pick: be true, or be welcoming, which will it be? Here the Lenten theme comes to bear: sometimes inclusion means, even demands seeing (and including) the enemy. We include, not because of some sentiment like “hospitality” or “inclusion” but because of a cross. In the poisonous partisan world, this reality claims our tongue, and it should claim our welcome.