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epiphany

The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity

All Mother, its been almost 2 months since my last post. And I confess that it was a bit of a downer: the non-event (for me) of Lausanne 2010.

That shut me up for a bit. But now, the news just got good again…

I’ve been following one of the most inspiring events of recent times online. It’s called “The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity” and curated by Michael Dowd, author of the 2009 book “Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World”.

Continue reading “The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity”

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World Machine Dream

David Priilaid hates descriptors, but 5 things that best describe him are:

  • He is an academic working at the University of Cape Town
  • He teaches entrepreneurship with a view that people have lost their voices and with insight can rediscover their “abilities to sing”
  • He is a post-anglican evangelical charismatic christian
  • Has experienced 10 years of Jungian psychotherapy and is a great fan of James Hollis
  • Loves Steely Dan, Bill Evans and a good glass of Cape Red at his right elbow

I had this dream in the early hours of Sunday 29 November.  The vivid and technicolor character of it made me feel that this was some kind of vision.  You as reader can be the judge.

Continue reading “World Machine Dream”

Muzi Cindi – A postmodern nigger in the woodpile

Talking About God Thinking About GodAs epiphanies go, Muzi Cindi’s stands way out. As a preacher and churchman of some 25 years standing, God appeared to him in 2007 during a Radox moment in the shower. So far, only slightly unusual. Then, God actually spoke to him. That deserves, I suppose, a hearing, even in this day of revelation overload. But the clincher is the message, and it was this: “God does not exist”.

But instead of creating a debilitating crisis of faith for Cindi, this subversive “a-theist” anticreed has become his catharsis, motivation, and passion. The evangelical zeal which was his all along merely adjusted to a new message and is as far as one can tell, as strong as it ever has been, and certainly no less radical. The outcome of his visitation is now available as a book, “Thinking about God, Talking about God”.

Well, maybe I should say that it’s not so much a conventional book, as a documented process, largely unedited, full of spelling errors and dubious assertions, brimming with contradiction, but ultimately held together in a burning vision. Lordy Lordy Hallelujah! this is surely a testimony for the postmodern age.

As a text, and because this is a review, let it be noted that the index of howlers is unusually high, the problems ranging from simple spelling, incorrect word usage, to un-researched shortcuts, and the appropriation of whole chapters from other sources. This I am sure is due to the fact that this is an entirely self funded enterprise, and therefore wholly sidesteps normal publishing channels; but this is part of the “Thinking about God” charm. To stop at such nitpicking would be to miss the point.  

Cindi’s essential point is this: the Christianity he was brought up in, is not only unsustainable and discredited, but already defunct. “The Christian world is disintegrating, because the story on which it is based is losing its power.” He supplies abundant (though somewhat chaotic) data to support his claims. But his offering is essentially a visionary one, involving wide theological, philosophical, and scientific thought. He seeks to address the seeming incompatibility of a deep love for his evangelical tradition – and his faith in Jesus – with his philosophical embrace of the new atheists such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris.

And this embrace extends to just about everything that contributed to the end of the modern era, from Copernicus and Galileo’s pioneering cosmologies, Darwin’s evolutional insights, Einstein’s discovery of relativity, Paul Tillich’s theological atheism and Karen Armstrong’s religious demythologising.

DoNotBelieve“Don’t believe what I believe” is one of Muzi’s rallying cries, and I look forward to the T-Shirt. In case this gets interpreted as mere reactionary anarchy, he explains to us the apophatic (negative theology) traditions from where he draws his succour: Meister Eckhart, the 13th century mystic, Paul Tillich, and Don Cuppit. And he gives credit too to all reformers – Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, the evangelical fathers Wesley, Edwards, Moody, and the South Africans such as John G Lake and Nicholas Bhengu. And references are not just to Christianity: universal, ecumenical appeals to the wisdom of all the worlds’ faith traditions pepper the book.

One of the most curious questions I have about Cindi’s explosive energy its relatively sparse dealings with the question of African roots, and bringing in more post colonial thought to buttressing his extensive postmodernism. Where, for example, are the fathers of the African revolutions, where is his own South African literary tradition amongst the plethora of first world sources? I do not want to prescribe who he should be, but it is a little vexing that the vast majority of his thesis of a post-God God is found in European and American thinking. I’d be delighted to see him take on African traditions with the same zeal he has taken on his own Evangelical roots, and even further to see him unpack an authentic Ubuntu as part of the rebuilding of Christianity.

I find myself identifying with Cindi’s vision, including his passion for knowledge, his hermeneutic of suspicion, his honest confusion, and his pariah status. At the same time I share his love for the evangelical tradition, and the ancient way of Jesus. He affirms, “A redefined Jesus still stands at the centre of my God experience”. Furthermore, I broadly concur with his inclusivity and embrace of all wisdom traditions as a way forward in a post Christian age. “Thinking about God” is flawed and fabulous, a headily chaotic brew, diverse, divisive, and delicious.

Muzi Cindi is a self confessed heretic, and draws strength from making peace with heterodoxy. The book is prefaced with an unattributed quote, “For every orthodoxy was once a heresy, and every heresy is fated to be orthodoxy. All countries were founded by traitors. All our churches were founded by heretics. The patriotism of today glories in the treasons of yesterday.” But to accuse him of lack of accountability would be short-sighted indeed; in addition to his relational ties to his mentors, the book is remarkable for its sheer range of references.

MusiHis vision is no idiosyncratic delusion, but rather an extension of a variety of well acknowledged intellectual and spiritual traditions. And we need his energy and his attempt to reconcile the old and new views of God and the cosmos. Despite his rambling style, I do not believe that this is a “mish-mash” of thought, so much as an emerging, integral vision.

Overcoming the taboo associated with thinking outside of our boxes, especially our religious ones, is a foundational shift which requires great courage; as Seal sings, “We’re never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy”. Cindi is not shy of being regarded as a holy fool, and having recovered from the fear of asking questions, the potential for “error” appears to have no limit. And yet, all progress, and all evolutionary shifts, require these chaotic conditions. With startling audacity, Cindi has created them.

His life’s work, I intuit, will be to ensure that this chaos does indeed lead to a sustainable spirituality. Perhaps chief amongst the questions will be the one “Where, now, is our authority?” which emergent thinkers like Phyllis Tickle have been addressing.

If the world is to remember Muzi Cindi the author, he will have to employ a good editor. And if it is to celebrate his personal legacy, he will have to help those still ensnared in modernistic thinking, to emerge. He will need to fully develop his empathy, creating sound bridges for others to cross. And he will have to gain the trust of those who not so long ago, would have gloried in his immolation at the heretic’s stake.

Muzi’s Website.

The European Post-Colonial

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” [Desmond Tutu]

“I went to India to find the other half of my soul”. [Bede Griffiths]

amahoroI have just spent a magical week at the 3rd Amahoro Conference at the YFC Cyara Centre near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Above all things this was a conversation involving probably 300 people, from countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, UK, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Dominican Republic.

In recent years I have become aware of what can be described as the “post modern condition”. This epiphany has been instrumental in my current spiritual awakening. To accept that I have moved beyond modernity has meant that I now find myself in a new “framing story” in which God’s word, revelation and mission, can be fundamentally freshly understood. Continue reading “The European Post-Colonial”

The Ambivangelical

The kind of conversation I like is one in which you are prepared to emerge a slightly different person.
[Theodore Zeldin]

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” [Mark 16:15]

I became an adult under the influence of evangelical Christianity. Quite willingly – it was my idea, or at least my assent to someone else’s idea, and it was based on a primal epiphany. And as I re-evaluate my life and my choices, as we all should do, I see good and bad in what I took on.

The key tenants of the church culture I made mine, were those of the evangelical. To quote Wikipedia,

Evangelicalism is a theological perspective, most closely associated with Protestant Christianity, which identifies with the gospel … most adherents consider belief in the need for personal conversion, some expression of the gospel through evangelism, a high regard for Biblical authority, and an emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus to be key characteristics.

Continue reading “The Ambivangelical”

baptised – a journey

into air 61
into manhood 74
into music 75

into christ son of g-d 79
into spirit and water 80
into fire 82

into justice 85
into matrimony 89

into shadow 94
into mammon 95

into fatherhood 99
into cosmos 06
into jesus son of man 07

baptised
into fullness of life
incarnate, re-incarnate
into a festive g-d
immersed and re-immersed

baptised, rebaptised
towards completeness
towards celebration

towards that abiding joy

Incarnation, Inclusion and Hell, part 1 – a question.

I’ve just got my haircut in Cape Town. I get bored, so I asked the 5 people in the salon “Do you believe in Hell?”. Answer: 5 unswerving affirmatives.

Hell is a hot topic. Arf arf. Tomorrow, Friday 13th, US audiences get to see a special entitled “Hell: Our Fear and Fascination” on ABC. For further background to this issue in the context of this debate, see the posts on Universal Restoration and The Scandal of Carlton Pearson. You will see some of the bile and retro-bile associated with it in the latter. (And this includes my own; we’re all affected by this disease.)

Let me give you a little background to a question you may not see much relevance in. Theologically speaking, this last year has been an adventure for me. I’ve broken into new territory, and things are beginning to work together, to resonate in a very profound way.

The 3 areas that have come into my field of vision are these

1. Creation Spirituality. This was introduced to me via Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing”. This is is a spiritual tradition going back to the earliest writers of creation accounts, including the Yahwist (author of Genesis), David, Jesus and Paul, and having a profound expression in the 11 – 13 Centuries in writers and saints such as Meister Eckhart, St. Francis of Assisi and Hildegard of Bingen. The tradition also espouses many other faiths as well as the new science. It has been misunderstood by the casual and uninformed observer as simply “New Age”.

2. Emergent church and alternative worship. This started to form as I deconstructed by own disaffections with worship as practiced by various (not least Charismatic) church traditions. However Brian Malaren is perhaps its leading prophetic figure. I have yet to read his “Generous Orthodoxy”. My view or EC/AW has been informed by fellowships associated with alternativeworship.org, specifically UK ventures Greenbelt Festival , Vaux  (1998-2005) and Grace . “Incarnation” is the key concept holding together a loose, diverse and heterodox grouping.

3. Universal Restoration. This was a line of enquiry started by my closest friend, who suffered much anxiety over the notion of “hell”. It led to the likes of Martin Zender, Tentmaker and Carlton Pearson. Essentially UR contests the 1500 year old doctrine of eternal damnation, based on the myth of Fear, Gods character and the misreading of scripture. “Inclusion” might be UR’s watchword.

Now, Creation Spirituality has been a big influence in the Emergent Church, and this link is reasonably well established. The theme of Incarnation runs throughout these 2 streams.

But what has seemed to be quite separate has been how Creation Spirituality and Emergent Church relate to Universal Restoration. When I saw that Carlton Pearson was talking at the “Sacred Activism and the power of Inclusion”  conference in Tulsa Oklahoma (The so-called “Buckle of the Bible belt”), I thought – this must be the missing link. Wisdom University is based in San Francisco and emerged from Matthew Fox’s now defunct University of Creation Spirituality, giving it a Creation Spirituality pedigree.

I ordered several recordings from the conference, which I have now listened to; I think Podcasts are also available (I’ve not hear them yet). I am now convinced that there a profound connection exists, but am not aware of too many explorations of the link between Incarnation and Inclusion, so I will introduce my view on this in this and related posts.

Let’s try define 2 key terms as briefly as possible.

Incarnation: the belief that we know God through Gods working in the World, not apart from it. Its mystery is alluded to in the scripture “In the world but not of the world.” There is an excellent debate on this hosted by Matt Stone.

Inclusion: The belief that all people (and all of creation) will be saved, and that none shall be excluded or punished for eternity. Note, Judgment and free will still exist, in case you think I am disappearing down a new age rabbit hole. This view is evolving, and I don’t have it all neatly tied up, but good scholarship indicates the “official” Church may just have been in heresy for the last 1500 years. Paul alludes to the truth in 1 Tim 4:10 “The savior of all men, especially those who believe”.

To some (perhaps Anglicans, Anabaptists, leftfield Catholics, and Universalists) this might appear a non-issue, but to many others, including those emerging from the Charismatic, Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic worlds, hell has always been a prerequisite for faith.

I will at a later stage attempt to round up thought on this, but for part 1, I pose a question, and it is this:

Is it possible to adhere to the Incarnational without a proper acknowledging of the Inclusive; can you hold to Incarnational teachings of the Emergents and Creation Spirituality whilst still holding a belief in Eternal Punishment aka Hell?

The scandal of Bishop Carlton Pearson

Carlton PearsonCarlton PearsonCarlton PearsonCarlton PearsonI mentioned in my post about Universal Restoration  the story of Bishop Carlton Pearson. For those who have any interest in the debate concerning beliefs around eternal destiny, aka Heaven and Hell, this man’s journey is significant.

Pearson was branded a heretic by the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops in 2004, for his version of UR, called the “Gospel of Inclusion”. For the sake of his doctrine (read “faith”), in giving up hell, he found that his congregation fell by over 90%, he was forced to give up his church building, and he virtually lost his entire ministry.

Most painfully, he fell out with many friends and loved ones including the great (in pentecostal-charismatic terms) Oral Roberts who saw him as a son. He paid a heavy price to break away from the 1500 year old ideology of Ultimate Fear, and embrace a radical expression of Grace.

The scandal of Carlton Pearson is qualitatively different to what we have come to expect from the Church. Crucially it has not involved hypocrisy, as in extramarital liaisons, pedophilia, embezzlement, or substance abuse. No, the scandal of Pearson is not unlike the scandal of Christ, who took on the religious-political-cultural establishment for the sake of G-ds rule of Love and Justice.

Take a listen to Carlton’s Story on This American Life.

Watch the MSNBC coverage.

Browse to the website for his church, New Dimensions

Pearson links on Universal Restoration website Tentmaker.

His involvement with Wisdom university in his hometown Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a seminar called Sacred Activism and the Power of Inclusion.

You told me your name.

By Chris kutscheraYou told me your name; if I could just remember it then maybe I could frame the life you laid at my feet. No meat, no bread, nothing to eat, your system is no longer accepting nourishment. I gave you water. I gave you clothes that you could sell to earn your ticket home. Or maybe, just the memory of home.

You said, “Maybe you are lucky to help me.” At first I read arrogance but upon reflection, you were so right. Fortune was finding a way to my heart, finding me via the way of your abject misfortune.

Your clothes were clean and ironed; i saw your pride in life in the face of its demise. And you are as thin as a sword and just as upright. Yes, righteousness itself flashes from the shook foil of your emptiness. Your story overflows, but there is no self pity, just the welling waters of the acceptance of your mortality.

No self pity, perhaps, but there was panic. The panic of a soldier about to mount a final charge over into no mans land. Metallic, hard, the flavor of machinery. I tasted it too, but the lingering tang was simple Rightness, and thanks to you, I tasted my own true place in things.

You show me the doctor’s letters, your anti-retrovirals. A small purse, a small collection of artifacts. It may be all you own. But this predicament, is not yours alone, we all return to dust and we all face our Creator. And at this moment in time, here on a sidewalk, this is hallowed ground. Our feet are unshod, my brother, we both see the consuming fire. I feel your panic, but I also feel the birthpangs of your freedom. You are unfettered by illusion, sojourning as you are through leafy, vacant suburbia, you have no attachments.

You’ve gone, but you won’t go away…

You have already gone through the loss of your very self. No friends in this city, no more work, no more strength to work, your father, mother and grandparents, no more. And you, man in what may have been your prime, have not had the privilege nor earthly honor to have a family of your own. Ah to hold my babies, to hold my loved ones; but you, life has torn through you
like a devouring scourge.

And yet you believe, you look at me a stranger and honor me with the title “Brother, my brother.” Will I ever have the purity of your knowledge, the depth of your worship? There was an ocean of words someplace, just waiting in the wings, ready to issue forth, but all I could muster was muteness.

The closest you could come to locating yourself in a history was your uncle. Not that he could support you in your hour of need, having no work himself, nor even a room for you. But he is your connection with a time spend on Earth, he is Blood. You needed an insurmountable sum for transport. It’s yours, take it.

It was 10 minutes cutting into my day but I was staring into a great fissure in time and space, I was staring into Eternity. All I can say is, go well my unnamed brother, go well, and think of me when you reach paradise.

You’ve gone, but you won’t go away…

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