Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately. Economic challenges have required that I be more involved in the details of Woodland Hills Church than usual. I’ve also been more obsessive than usual with my studies (which is saying a lot) and I’ve been traveling more than usual. Anyway, here’s a couple random items by way of providing an update on what’s going on in my head and in my life.
Thank you. I want to first give an appreciative shout out to those who were able to respond to my end-of-the-year call for help. THANK YOU! This funding allows Christus Victor Ministries to fund invaluable research and other work going toward CVM projects – right now, primarily The Myth of the Blueprint and The Cosmic Dance. It also allows CVM to continue to help selected impoverished families get on their feet financially. Like most non-profits, CVM is feeling the impact of the recession and is now staying afloat basically on a month-to-month basis. So we really appreciate your support.
Out and About. Two weeks ago I engaged in a “Skeptics Night” at Kensington Community Church in Troy Michigan, answering questions and objections from a crowd of several thousand. It was an absolute blast and, I’m told, made a significant impact on some of the skeptics who attended. I don’t know of any church that does a better job at reaching out to skeptics than Kensington. The following day I conducted an “Escaping the Matrix” seminar for their staff (based on the book I did with Al Larsen, Escaping the Matrix). Seems to have landed well.
This last week I traveled to Pittsburg and gave several talks at the Mennonite Education Leaders Gathering. God had put a rather confrontational prophetic word on my heart to share with these dear people. In a nutshell, I made the case that Mennonites are at a defining moment in their history. All over the world groups of people are getting the vision of the beautiful, peaceable, service-oriented, community based, non-nationalistic, Jesus-looking Kingdom that Mennonites and other Anabaptists have treasured for the last 500 years. Many of these groups are looking for a “home” in the Christian tradition. But for Mennonites to embrace these groups into their fellowship, I argued, they must be willing to offer up the Isaac of their own distinct culture and become “scandalously flexible” on all non-essential matters.
This will not be easy. Many may find it impossible. But if the Mennonites on the whole can do this, while holding fast to their Kingdom vision, I believe their fellowship will enter a new era and explode with a wild and beautiful diversity unlike anything they’ve seen or probably even imagined. But if they do not, I said, I believe their fellowship will increasingly become a geriatric society and their churches will become museums.
It’s a bit odd, given that I’m not (officially anyway) a Mennonite, but God has given me a sense of urgency about this message. Judging from the feedback I got, it seems many in the audience felt the prophetic word as dead-on.
Family. Shelley and I babysat our 2-year-old grandson Soel for a week while my daughter Denay and her husband Heighlos were enjoying a much needed vacation in Mexico. We had a great time. Soel and I played drums every day and, if a proud grandpa may say so, he’s getting pretty darn good. (Here’s Soel drumming on Christmas day – but he’s honestly gotten a lot better since then.
Soel, who is half black, is also sort of obsessed with Obama. He gets excited and shouts “Obama!” whenever he sees him. On inauguration day Shelley and I took him to a Coffee Shop down the street that is a staple in the African American community in our neighborhood. They were hosting an inauguration party. We joined 50 or so other excited people, most of whom were African American, in a jam-packed room to watch the event. The place was teeming with energy and emotion, and Soel was obviously picking up on it. Toward the end of Rich Warren’s (somewhat long) opening prayer – while everyone was quiet with their heads reverently bowed – Soel shouted out at the top of his lungs, “Obama!” The place erupted in laughter.
Many were choked up as Obama took the Oath of Office. I too was moved as I considered the fact that when I was Soel’s age African Americans were in some places forbidden to attend certain schools, eat at certain restaurants, ride in the front of buses, and the like. My grandson will never know the America in which only white males held the highest office in the land.
As a side benefit Soel had a half-second appearance on the evening news after a news crew showed up at the coffee shop to cover what this inauguration meant for the African American community. Soel made us watch it about a hundred times.
Reading. After completing my obsessive study of Plutarch, I’ve now become addicted to Plotinus (3d cent. A.D.), arguably the single greatest mind in the ancient Platonic tradition and the most influential thinker on St. Augustine (as well as the Cappadocians and Boethius). In the last three weeks I’ve completed about half of his massive compiled work The Enneads (I’m reading the 4th edition of MacKenna’s acclaimed translation [Larson Publicatins, 1992]). I’ve been impressed by the inner coherence of Plotinus’ mystical vision as well as his sometimes insightful and occasionally elegant style of argumentation (though, I must add, Plotinus is at times remarkably circular and his style almost unintelligible). Most importantly, given the thesis of my work Myth of the Blueprint, its been stimulating to see just how close Plotinus’ is to Augustine and other church fathers (especially Gregory of Nyssa and Boethius) on a number of important points, especially concerning providence and evil.
On top of this I’ve been devouring a number of pretty decent books and articles on Hellenistic philosophy and the early church. For those fellow egg-heads out there who might be interested in such matters, I’ll provide a brief, annotated list of my best finds over the last two months in my next post.
There’s the quick update. Blessings on you all.