Category Archives: Discussion

On American Exceptionalism and the Gospel

From Dave Black Online:

10:35 AM Arthur Sido needs help. He writes:

They are hawking a “God Bless America” T-shirt (to the exclusion of other nations I assume). How exactly is buying and wearing this particular T-shirt going to honor God? If someone living in Iran wears a “God Bless Iran” T-shirt, is he also honoring God? What about “God Bless Liechtenstein”?

As I think about this issue I have concluded that the one thing that might keep us from successfully insourcing missions, the one thing we have not learned from the past, is the danger of American exceptionalism. When evangelicals moved from cultural obscurity to become a major force in U.S. politics in the 1970s, along with this change came a pressure for conformity to the Religious Right. Calls to “Take America Back!” became ubiquitous. This rhetoric reflected a deep-seated theology of triumphalism — the Army of God marches forward to take over the federal judiciary, overturn laws deemed inimical to Christianity, support Israel, etc. Obviously this agenda is incompatible with a Great Commission mindset and with the Jesus who tells us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Jesus had strong words for the moralists of His day, the religious leaders who saw the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and paid no attention to the plank in their own. Evangelicalism, it seems to me, has lost its capacity to stand against what Paul called “the principalities and powers of this world.” As I argued in my book Christian Archy (p. 16):

It seems that our steel is fatality flawed after all. It is only faith in Jesus Christ, the Originator and Finalizer of faith, that we have any possibility of salvation. In reality, the Gospel is the only source of personal, familial, and societal renewal. What matters, then, is not that we lose ourselves in futile political or social agitation. What matters is that we recognize in the incarnation of Christ, and in his death and resurrection, that God was intervening in the course of human history to give us not only eternal life but an abundant life every day. There is now only one response we can give — calling all men and women into a relationship with God through this same Jesus.

In short, the purpose of the church is to be God’s missionary people in the world. To put country above the Gospel is a gross error. Such thinking is a sin against the truth.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

Religious Sanction for Political Actions

From Dave Black Online:

8:23 AM I see Newt is officially in the race. I notice, too, that he is eager to gain the backing of the Religious Right, despite his multiple marriages. More and more of the “clergy” will no doubt find it advantageous to lend him their support. In American politics it has become popular to be a Christian and to cast a religious coloring over one’s political ambitions. One day perhaps, religion will no longer play a major role in U.S. elections, but that day has not yet arrived. Popular campaigns for public office will continue to glorify their causes with religious sanctions, and this means that God’s people, the only “holy nation” that exists today, must maintain a guard against any symbiosis of church and state


(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

On Vernard Eller

7:57 AM As the year draws to  a close, I encourage you to read Michael Westmoreland-White’s excellent piece called Taking the Passed Torch: Theologians Who Died 2000-2010 As Challenge for Those Who Tarry. This is biblioblogging at its very best.

Update: For 2007 Michael notes the following death:

Vernard Eller (1927-2007). American theologian, pacifist, Christian anarchist, and minister in the Church of the Brethren.  A major interpreter of Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, the Blumhardts and Jacques Ellul, Eller had a folksy way of speaking and writing that led some to underestimate the seriousness of his theological writing.  He was a major critic of much feminist theology, especially the use of feminine imagery for God, which Eller believed led to a lapse into Canaanite fertility religion.  He was also a strong critic of materialism and nationalism in Christian churches, advocating for simplicity, reducing possessions, radical sharing of wealth, and critical of sacramental views of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (which he believed would rob them of their ethical content).

I call this to your attention for the simple reason that the writings of Eller are practically unknown today in evangelical circles. For what it’s worth, I have tried to popularize his thinking (and that of Jacques Ellul) in my book Christian Archy.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

Patriotism and Mission

Dave Black has written a new essay, The Persecuted Church: An Obstreperous Flower, which is well worth reading.  A taste:

When our sons and daughters go off to war we honor them for their willingness to die in military service. But the minute our children tell us they want to give up career or marriage for the sake of Christ we spend countless hours trying to keep them from “going off the deep end.” Much of today’s popular pseudo-patriotism and flag waving is centered around a horrible distortion of Bible doctrine. It denies the very heart of the Gospel and says, “Self-denial for the sake of the nation is honorable, but before we follow Jesus we must bury our dead or bid farewell to our families or build new barns.”

Read more …

(David Alan Black is the author of Christian Archy.  Quotes from his blog are used with his permission.)

Alan Knox on Example

Alan Knox quotes from page 28 of Christian Archy and invites us to think about example:

Examples… we’re all examples. What kind of examples are we? How are we “deeply affecting” others?

It’s a good question!  This kind of interaction is better than a review.  Head on over and try to answer Alan’s question.

The Message of James and the Kingdom of God

From Dave Black Online:

We talked about the message of James in theology class today. James had plenty to say about greed. In this respect I think you would do well to read this essay by Greg Boyd (yes, that Greg Boyd; you may not agree with his open theology but here he is spot on) about the sin of Sodom. Greg writes:

The irony is that we often hear conservative Christian leaders publicly crusading against the sin of Sodom. And we have to grant that, if ever a nation was guilty of the sin of Sodom, it is indeed America. Yet the sin of Sodom for which we are most guilty is not homosexuality; it is greed, gluttony and apathy toward the poor! And if there’s one ungodly aspect of American culture that the Church has succumbed to, it is this sin.

Yet, instead of confessing that we Christians tend to be guilty of the sin of Sodom, many leaders rather pin the label on homosexuals. They’re trying to take the “speck” of homosexuality out their neighbor’s eye and don’t notice the “plank” of greed, gluttony and apathy in their own (Mt 7:1-3).

He concludes:

While our culture along with the prince of lies who rules it conditions us into thinking and feeling that possessing things gives us life, the truth is that whatever we think we possess actually possesses us. Owning things doesn’t give life: it sucks life out of us. The perpetually hungry life of pursuing wealth and possessions is a form of diabolic slavery.

In contrast to this, Jesus’ call to manifest the beauty of God’s self-sacrificial Kingdom is a call to experience abundant life (Jn 10:10). Yes, we must die to the self-centered part of us that is in bondage to the hoarding-god. But if we will crucify that old enslaved self, Jesus promises we will find true life.

Yes, Greg comes off a little soft on the sin of homosexuality. Still, he makes his point. Our Lord offers us an Emancipation Proclamation from our deadly slavery to greed. “Outrageous generosity” should characterize every one of us who claims to be a follower of Jesus. The believer is both a pauper and a plutocrat (see 2 Cor. 6:10). Because we have nothing, and because all we have belongs to God and we are only stewards of it, we can escape the miser’s worries about hanging on to everything in our lives. And, because we belong to God and are joint-heirs with the Son and have everything, we never need fret about our resources. We have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of being both poor and rich.

As everyone knows, I insist upon a complete dichotomy between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God, and that the kingdom of God is advanced only through powerless, self-sacrificing love. This is not a kingdom that fits anywhere in Constantinian Christianity since it is transnational. So if my poor brothers and sisters in Africa need help, it is my obligation to do whatever I can to help them. Why should we abdicate this responsibility to governments and NGOs?

I think it’s high time we let the Spirit of God start to do His work of generosity in our hearts!

(David Alan Black is the author of Christian Archy.  Quotes from his blog are used with his permission.)

Bearing Much Fruit

From Dave Black Online

“By this is My Father glorified,” said Jesus, “if you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples” (John 8:31). Living as obedient disciples of Jesus — that’s the theme of my latest book, which has just arrived at Amazon.

As James puts it, “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, so deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Knowing the truth is not enough; there must be doing as well.

Someone once admitted to me, “My German is good, except for the verbs.” Can you imagine trying to speak a language without its verbs? It is idle for us to claim to be Christians without showing it in our lives.

That is my goal. Is it yours?

(Extracts from Dave Black Online are used by permission. David Alan Black is the author of Christian Archy. This web site exists to support that book.)