Interview with Liz Babbs, author of "Celtic Treasure"

2008_a8 Here's a portion of my interview with author Liz Babbs about her recently released book, Celtic Treasure: Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality.

Writing “gift books” seems like such a rare yet creative approach to writing. What led you into the writing of gift books, and why have you stuck with it?

Thanks for describing Celtic Treasure as a ‘rare creative approach to writing’. I enjoy writing gift books because I can reach a much wider and more diverse readership through a gift book and it crosses the sacred/secular divide. Christians can buy any of my gift books for their non-Christian friends and they won’t feel threatened, because many folk are interested in Celtic spirituality and these books are very accessible. A gift book is also given to people for Christmas, Birthdays and to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I’ve even signed ‘The Celtic Heart’ as gifts for Valentine’s Day! And one pastor bought copies of ‘The Celtic Heart’ for every woman in his congregation, as a Mother’s Day gift! Gift books also give me the freedom to write in a more visual and creative way, weaving in some of my original prayers and poems inspired by my travels to Scotland, Ireland, Lindisfarne (Holy Island) and Iona.

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Wrestling with Modern Sensibilities

Istock_000000708675small_smIt's exhausting.

The seemingly endless struggle with people -- steadfast in their modernity -- who do not see, do not understand, and therefore do not appreciate or welcome the reforms which are changing our culture, our churches, and even the ways we live out our faith.

In particular, I have the sort of modern sensibilities in mind that convince many Christians that "contemporary" understandings of worship are especially enlightened, anointed, and free from the "religious" shackles of the past.  We moderns are  somehow  further along in Christ than our predecessors, whose faith and practice had become little more than dead orthodoxy.  We claim "relationship" with God rather than "religion", yet cannot see that our own churches and worship services are viewed by millennial/gen-y'rs as being just as worn-out and traditional as we used to claim of the older generation when we were young.

The diversity within Christ's body is beautiful and worth celebrating -- racially, socio-economically, generationally, etc. -- yet the differences I see emerging between modern and postmodern evangelicals (in particular) may prove to be one of the most formidable barriers dividing the body of Christ in coming decades.

Many younger evangelicals are increasingly being drawn to the ancient teachings and practices of the Church.  As both-and postmoderns, they feel right at home blending the old with the new.  Older , "modern" evangelicals, however, often reject the reclaiming of practices such as the use of lectionary readings, common prayers, use of icons, creedal confessions, and following of the liturgical calendar.  For them, such practices "feel" far too much like their religious upbringings (often Roman Catholic, but sometimes Lutheran, Episcopalian, or Presbyterian), reminding them of the "deadness" they had experienced and.... finally broke free from.

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Emerging Synagogues: What's Next?

StarofdavidIt seems that postmodernism and emergence theory are having an effect, not only on Christianity, but on the Jewish faith as well. 

Apparently, the Emerging Church movement is being closely watched by innovative leaders within the Jewish community. The Synagogue3000 project is  certainly an example of this.  Here's a snippet of what they're saying:

Not only are many Jewish religious communities looking to the experiences of Christian innovators, especially in the context of worship that engages the unaffiliated, but they are seeing a similar paradigm shift from an individual-oriented seeker mode to a relational conversation aimed at spirituality in intentional community. (from Synagogue3000's "Emerging Conversation" site)

In partnership with Emergent/U.S., the Working Group on Emergent Sacred Communities was formed, bringing together Christian scholars (and friends of Emergent) like Ryan Bolger from Fuller Theological Seminary with progressive rabbis like Sharon Brous of IKAR and Rabbi Shir-Yaakov Feinstein-Feit of Kol Zimra.

This is absolutely fascinating to me!  And the more I think about it, the more I'm asking myself: "where will all of this lead?"

Is a new day dawning, where followers of Jesus are finally not afraid to learn from people of other faiths?  Is a new ecumenism emerging? Will all of this lead to an amazing 20th century revival where scores of Jewish people accept Joshua as the Messiah? Or, at least for some, are we watching a new kind of religious syncretism being conceived, one that will eventually give birth to a "new faith"?  Maybe it's none of the above.  And maybe it's all of the above.

What are your thoughts?

Photo credit: Google Images


What the Bleep Do We Know!? -- Interviewed by the Miami Herald

What_the_bleepI was recently interviewed by the Miami Herald in response to my recent post regarding the disturbing film: What the Bleep Do We Know!? (scroll down to second to last paragraph).  The interview, by journalist Alexandra Alter, was very interesting.  I'm often fascinated by how ordinary people outside of the Church think about things, and I'd enjoy hearing your response to Alexandra's piece (registration is required, but free).

I know, I know... my contribution to the article isn't much to sneeze at, but hey! I appreciated the opportunity to be a voice of reason from a traditional Christian perspective (Alexandra, if you're reading this -- thank you!).

Advances in Culture Doomed By Individualism


While various aspects of postmodernism seem promising (e.g. the valuing of mystery, spirituality, and experience), today's culture will forever remain hamstrung as long as individualism is encouraged and defended.

When compared with ancient peoples, Moderns have tended to view themselves as intellectually and morally superior.  Postmoderns have been willing to adjust this stance, but just how far?

In 1985, as part of his seminal work: Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah made a very astute observation:

We thus face a profound impasse. Modern individualism seems to be producing a way of life that is neither individually nor socially viable, yet a return to traditional forms would be to return to intolerable discrimination and oppression.  The question, then, is whether the older civic and biblical traditions have the capacity to reformulate themselves while simultaneously remaining faithful to their own deepest insights (p. 144).

And now 20 years later we're still asking whether or not those older biblical traditions can (or even should) be "reformulated" and embraced in our future as a corrective to how modernism has failed us.  Emerging leaders often articulate a commitment to and an embracing of the contemporary, popular culture (c.f. Neibuhr's "Christ of Culture" in Christ and Culture), without adequately addressing the individualism which dooms its success.

Stan Grenz represents one of the voices opposing this view.  In his book, Theology for the Community of God, Grenz asserts the following:

The modern Western fascination with individualism, however, is waning, especially within the human sciences.  Many thinkers are realizing that our understanding of the human phenomenon must reflect a more adequate balance between its individual and social dimensions (p. 23).

I sincerely hope that Grenz is right, but am growing increasingly convinced that he's wrong.  Yet something must be done.  Rampant individualism cannot continue to go unchecked.  So what's the solution?  I'm fairly confident that it's the recapturing of a bibliohistorical ethic, but I'd enjoy hearing hearing what you think. 

Bringing Hubbard out of the Cupboard

Elbert_hubbard_2American philosopher and author Elbert Hubbard -- born in 1856 and lost at sea along with his wife aboard the Lusitania in 1915 -- held some interesting beliefs, especially in light of today's postmodern world with it's climate of personal "spirituality." He was obviously not a religious conformist, yet affirmed what many would consider "conservative" values. I'd be very interested in hearing your reaction/response to his personal credo.

Hubbard's Personal Credo:

I believe in the Motherhood of God.
I believe in the Blessed Trinity of Father, Mother and Child.
I believe that God is here, and that we are as near Him now as ever we shall be.
I do not believe He started this world-a going and went away and left it to run by itself.
I believe in the sacredness of the human body, this transient dwelling place of a living soul,
And so I deem it the duty of every man and every woman to keep his or her body beautiful through right thinking and right living.

I believe that the love of man for woman, and the love of woman for man is holy;
And that this love in all its promptings is as much an emanation of the Divine Spirit as man's love for God, or the most daring hazards of the human mind.

I believe in salvation through economic, social, and spiritual freedom.
I believe John Ruskin, William Morris, Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Leo Tolstoy to be Prophets of God, who should rank in mental reach and spiritual insight with Elijah, Hosea, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.
I believe that men are inspired to-day as much as ever men were.
I believe we are now living in Eternity as much as ever we shall.
I believe that the best way to prepare fore for a Future Life is to be kind, live one day at a time, and do the work you can do best, doing it as well as you can.

I believe we should remember the Week-day, to keep it holy.
I believe there is no devil but fear.
I believe that no one can harm you but yourself.
I believe in my own divinity - and yours.
I believe that we are all sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.
I believe the only way we can reach the Kingdom of Heaven is to have the Kingdom of Heaven in our hearts.
I believe in every man minding his own business.
I believe in sunshine, fresh air, friendship, calm sleep, beautiful thoughts.
I believe in the paradox of success through failure.
I believe in the purifying process of sorrow, and I believe that death is a manifestation of life.
I believe the Universe is planned for good.
I believe it is possible that I shall make other creeds, and change this one, or add to it, from time to time, as new light may come to me.

Please Don't Kill Us!

Uncovering_1Update: my apologies for the recent slowdown in postings. Between pastoring, serving as interim principal for our Christian school, and completing my final semester of graduate studies, I've been a bit swamped -- but hang in there, I'm catching my breath!

As I continue thinking about last week's lecture by Cheryl Bridges Johns, Ph.D. -- professor of Christian Formation & Discipleship at Church of God Theological Seminary, I've been reflecting on a number of assertions she made that really grabbed a hold of me, including this one:

Under modernity, we sought to kill God.

Under postmodernity, we will beg God not to kill us.

In what ways do you see this claim as being true or not true?

Our Obsession with "Event" Spirituality

Cross24We've lost touch with any real, enduring sense of community.

Despite the "longing" for community that characterizes today's postmodern condition, I fear we may unknowingly be distancing ourselves... distancing ourselves by means of the event-oriented spiritually we continue to pursue.

A Fascination with Events --
This human attraction to "the event" is surely not a modern phenomenon. In thinking about this, my mind instantly conjures up pictures of a Roman arena, brimming with enthusiastic spectators. Maybe the "event" is more Western than we realize? But then again, there were probably scores of "spectators" among the crowds that followed Jesus too. Even the gospel writers seem to emphasize "events" within the life and ministry of Christ -- purposeful events, but events nonetheless. So I'm not suggesting that "events" are bad or evil or without worth. I'm just concerned by what I see as an "obsession" with the event, and how it is affects our spirituality and a sense of genuine community.

Ours is undeniably an entertainment-oriented culture that seems to promote "events" everywhere we look (e.g. season premieres, programable DVR "events", "DVD Tuesdays"). And that "event-mentality" seems to permeate all of life (e.g. sporting events, entertainment events, political events, sales events, etc., etc.) I think we've lost touch with what David Adam calls the Rhythm of Life.

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