Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Theology".
Consumption and Conflict Avoidance
November 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Consumption and Conflict Avoidance
Well, friends, it’s November. Fall colors. Crisp, cool air. Football. Family. Thanksgiving. And yes, Black Friday. The shopping season is upon us once again, calling us all to order our time and schedules to the rhythms of super sales and dynamite deals, hurtling us toward Christmas at breakneck speed. How is it that Thanksgiving—memorializing a surprising friendship that significantly aided the tenuous survival of the Plymouth Plantation—is now seen as the launch of the shopping season? Perhaps shopping provides a welcome distraction from all the underlying family tensions that the Thanksgiving season inevitably raises. It’s now common when discussing holiday plans to hear friends worry about how they will get through those pressures unscathed. SNL hilariously memorialized these tensions when a family, hopelessly mired in ideological warfare, is rescued by their common love for Adele’s hit song “Hello.” I think there’s a significant link here between conflict and consumption – be it of gluttonous quantities of food, Black Friday specials, or Adele’s trendy tunes. On the surface, these distractions save us from dealing with the deep divides we most fear. While we are filling our stomachs, schedules, and credit cards, our lives are marked with a scarcity of love and life-giving relationships. We live fearful and shallow lives, unable to discuss the things we care about most. Beneath this lies the Nietzschean presumption that the core of the world is conflict, not communion. As original a thinker as Nietzsche was, his perspective was hardly new. Augustine engages the problem in relation to the Roman Empire. The Pax Romana (peace of Rome) mercilessly suppressed dissent through fear and violence. Rome determined the shape of life for Augustine’s known world, structuring time (July for Julius, August for Augustus), family (the gods’ love patronage), and forms of fellowship (Colosseum for blood sport anyone?). In his work, The City of God, Augustine describes the world not as determined by the coercive power of Rome but as two cities, or two stories played out simultaneously. The old story of fear, conflict, and death, was the City of Man controlled by the narrative of sin and human fallibility (fallen-ness?). But Augustine saw a hope-filled tale; the City of God upstaging the Roman City of Man. Two cities. Two cultures. Two understandings of one world. These cities overlapped and competed against each other. But the fate of each city was already sealed hundreds of years earlier, by a backwater prophet from a backwater province, supposedly crushed under the Pax Romana. Problem was, he didn’t stay dead. And in his resurrection, we see the City of Man’s principalities and powers destroyed; death dethroned; fear and conflict defeated. They no longer have the last word. In the resurrected Christ, we see a foretaste of what’s to come – the reason for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15). Yet, there are still two storylines playing out and we live with a foot in both worlds. Jesus shows us the trajectory of the new narrative from within the old. He’s grafted us into his people. He’s made Israel’s story our story. In fact, he’s grafted us into himself, as part of his very own body. And as his body, our lives are ordered by new time toward a future full of hope. We’ve also been given a new calendar (the liturgical calendar) by which to order our lives around his birth, life, death, resurrection, and gift of his Spirit. We’ve been adopted into a new family (the church) and offered new forms of fellowship through worship, the sacraments, sacred celebrations. Our new family calendar culminates not in Thanksgiving and the shopping season but in a celebration of Christ the King Sunday (Google it), a celebration of Christ’s Kingship over all creation. As God’s people, we celebrate the victorious City of God right in the middle of the City of Man. Together, as his body, we celebrate Christ’s ultimate victory over fear, conflict, sin, and death, and the vindication of hope, communion, life, and love. And we get to be a part of it! But we don’t do alone. We can only live in liturgical time, Christ’s time, as we order our lives to Christ’s life together. As one, we celebrate by confessing and believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and our conflicts are overcome. Although, we still live with a foot in both worlds. I invite you to live primarily as citizens of the City of God—citizens who have been reconciled to God and one another through Christ’s victory. And as you celebrate the rituals of Thanksgiving Thursday, remember that first there was Christ the King Sunday. Worship and reconciliation replace consumption and conflict avoidance.
Global Reflections on Loneliness
May 3, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Global Reflections on Loneliness
Dear Friends, A humbling and rewarding aspect of writing and sending these prayer letters each month is hearing your feedback. Last month’s letter really struck a chord with many of you, as I shared about the underlying issue of loneliness that rose to the surface during a recent experience with The Colossian Way. A lot of our fear of conflict is rooted in our fear of loneliness. Interestingly, we also see that conflict can create and reinforce loneliness. In conflict, many of us tend to either withdraw from relationships and situations thereby becoming isolated, or fight with others who have different perspectives resulting in alienation and separation. One of the responses I received to last month’s prayer letter framed this matter through a global lens. Sandra Costen Kunz, a friend of TCF, recently taught Christian Education at Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana, West Africa. Here are her international reflections on loneliness: It’s incredibly refreshing to have you name one of the primary “demons” driving the departures from “traditional sexual morality” in Ghana and the U.S.: fear of loneliness. It’s not just departures from that “traditional sexual morality” that are becoming the norm in Ghana and the U.S. now, but also departures from traditional understandings of the ties that bind children, adults, and the elderly together in long-term extended family networks through day-to-day relating, face-to-face time, and mutual care. In both the United States and Ghana, fear of loneliness also seems to be driving the frantic tone of both the ecclesiastical and political contentiousness around the following issues: How people form and fund household economies Where sexual activity fits into household economies How much face-to-face time the young and elderly (who don’t earn wages) enjoy with relatives who do earn wages How our society will support, via tax cuts, various configurations of household economies Naming the fear of loneliness as the root of much of the suffering driving ecclesiastical contentiousness reminded me of the powerful conversations that took place in my youth ministry courses in Ghana. My deeply thoughtful students connected the fear of loneliness with many kinds of suffering Ghanaian youth are experiencing due to changes in economic and sexual norms in that nation. We’re grateful for partners and friends, like Sandra, who help us stay connected with our deep theological core and challenge us to reframe and broaden our vision of a more beautiful church centered on the love of God and love of neighbor. This post is excerpted from our May prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
Faith, Science, and Hard Work
October 10, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Faith, Science, and Hard Work
This month’s conversation at RespectfulConversation.net ventures into the territory of faith and science, specifically “Evangelicalism and Scientific Models of Humanity and Cosmic and Human Origins.” Here at TCF, we hear story after story of the painful fallout surrounding these particular issues. We hear of young people, seeking career advice, being warned that they can become scientists or remain Christians – but not both. We hear of awkward holiday dinners, family members doing their best to skirt the antagonisms that have flared over differing perspectives on creation and evolution. All that to say, this month’s topic is near and dear to our hearts. Dr. Peter Enns brings to light a theme we’ve seen surface time and again. The disagreements – ostensibly about the mechanisms by which our world and life came to be – in fact reflect much deeper matters. Because where we line up on these “scientific” positions has significant implications for how we understand God, and our place in God’s world. The two are inescapably intertwined – and our job, as faithful Christians, is to work out how that entanglement might be understood as God’s good gift. We at TCF are convinced that the church can work this out – that in fact, all things already “hold together in Christ,” and what remains for us is to find what that might mean in the arena of God’s creative work. The conversation at RespectfulConversation.net brings together Christians – from widely divergent backgrounds and perspectives – to begin to sort some of this out. Please join in!
Launch of new interdisciplinary project
July 16, 2013 | Lori Wilson
Launch of new interdisciplinary project
Beyond Galileo – to Chalcedon: Re-imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall "If humanity emerged from non-human primates—as genetic, biological, and archaeological evidence seems to suggest—then what are the implications for Christian theology’s traditional account of origins, including both the origin of humanity and the origin of sin?” In late June, TCF helped convene a gathering of Christian scholars to explore some of the knotty issues which arise from questions like these. This gathering launched a three-year project designed to help the church wrestle with the theological implications of contemporary scientific models. The starting point for this project is a respectful engagement of scientific research, while maintaining the primacy of a profound commitment to theological orthodoxy. The project creates a context for interdisciplinary work, rooted in Christian commitment and developed for the benefit of God’s church. It proposes that theological investigation flourishes in conversation with the rich Christian tradition and in dialogue amongst friends. Differences of interest and opinion, in this context, are not seen as threats, but as gifts to enliven and clarify theology and ultimately, to build up the resources of the church. In this way, the broad range of expertise represented by participating scholars can be brought into generative interplay, resulting in fruitful theological collaboration. This event, therefore, was uniquely designed to foster relationships that will underlie the project in the coming years. Participants were invited based on their shared interest in addressing doctrinal concerns relating to human origins and the nature of sin. In order to facilitate the possibility of fruitful collaboration, this first gathering created space in which new relationships could be forged and healthy interactive dynamics established. The structure of the event was perhaps more slow-paced than most, allowing the group to focus less on deliverables and more on one another. The pace practically reflected the Christian virtue of patience, rooted in the assurance that comes from TCF’s core conviction that “in Christ, all things hold together.” The pace of the colloquium was furthermore framed by the practice of prayer. Morning and evening prayers formed a crucial aspect of the event, as participants worshiped together and remembered the significance of their work for the sake of the church. Academic purposes aside, this project has profound implications for the lives and practices of Christians worldwide; prayer situated the work properly, as service to God and the church. Prayer furthermore reminded participants of the rich heritage available in the traditions of the church. Though the questions under consideration are weighty ones, this is not the first time the church has confronted difficulties – nor will it be the last.  Over the course of time, however, the church has worked out controversies and emerged the stronger for them, and our confidence in God’s goodness allows us to anticipate the same for these issues. The intentionally relational and ecclesial frame positioned the team to tackle some of the difficult questions that lie ahead.  Current scientific understandings of human origins undoubtedly challenge our conceptions of several fundamental Christian doctrines. These include questions about the goodness of God, the goodness of Creation, and the historical nature of the Fall.  We believe that by taking these basic beliefs as the creative confessional constraints within which the Christian imagination operates, new possibilities for understanding God and his world will emerge. In this sense, this project will faithfully extend the Christian intellectual tradition. As team members explore these issues– or others like them – they will  share their work as it progresses. This in turn will allow for feedback and input between participants, sharing ideas and refining one another’s proposals.  The group will convene again in 2014 to discuss these questions in light of continuing research. And once again, the event will be structured to promote friendship, unite Christians in worship, and foster a specifically ecclesial approach to difficult questions.