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The Key Areas

Rather than reading the following as a set of "beliefs" to which you should be persuaded, look at them as the results of a journey which I will try in many ways to describe to you using the non-linear possibilities of the World Wide Web. One way to see these "beliefs" is as the fruit of many formative experiences and learnings which I have begun to list and describe in my "Balcony People" page.

The image of "balcony" people comes from an image in the New Testament where Paul writes of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses; those who have traveled the road before us. The balcony image comes from the imagery of theater and opera, and life is the stage upon which we carry on the journey that has been formerly trod by those "witnesses". They are in the balcony, cheering us on.

Links to be added as this Web progresses-


Baptist heritage

  • My Southern Baptist heritage taught me a deep respect for the Bible, and to see God speaking in the stories and the teachings. I feel fortunate that I got to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1978, before the academic apocalypse happened in the Convention, and changed the quality of the education there. It's such a miracle how I ever came away from there in those "liberal" years with a sense of the divine influence of scripture (if you were to hear me say this, you would recognize the sarcasm).
  • I do believe God is revealed in Scripture. I don't believe that every word of it is from the mouth of God. Could you imagine God or Jesus saying "Blessed is he who smashes their little ones against the rocks"? Now if there is an explanation for this that claims to fit this into the view that every jot and tittle in the present canon is verbally inspired by God, then there must be some kind of "symbolic" alternate meaning here, and if so, then how do we choose between those places to be taken literally and those not? I've heard people answer, "It should be obvious". Like the place where Jesus says "give it all away"? He couldn't mean that, so there 's something else there. Right? Right there is a good example of the "selective" literalism of the so-called "literalists".

Sociology and Interpretation

  • ON the previous thought in the Bible section on varieties of interpretation, it comes down to what is convenient. It should not be so, but it is often the case. This is precisely why I tend to gravitate toward the explorations of the wisdom in "alternate" (meaning non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian) traditions. The socio-political climate brings about some kind of syncretism of the theologies circulating throughout a society, and the assumptions of that socio-political climate. So too does the family history and heritage inbred in the lives of individuals and communities help determine the emphases of that culture. Those elements of the theology which speak to those tendencies are held as crucial elements, or interpreted more or less literally as it serves the relationships to others and that social climate.
  • When I lived for a short time in Arizona a pastor at my church where I served would often draw from the Native American wisdom literature and traditions. Not long before that I had seen the movie Gandhi, and used it on several occasions with groups to explore the notion of revelation, and how it might be that God is more than the version of deity we have learned of in the West and in our culture. The Bible IS indeed a Judeo-Christian history and tells of the trek of Middle Eastern people, and on into the Hellenistic and Roman times, when Western philosophic ideas began to work their way into the journey of God's people. It seems that there was a lot of God already out there in many stories of pre-Christian world people that bore witness in many cases, to what seems to me the same God, the same truths, the same discoveries.
  • Lately, in the past 15 years, I have noticed in movements such as the Christian coalition and the Moral Majority, as well as lately in the Gingrich/Rush Limbaugh kind of rhetoric, a blending together of right wing politics and conservative Christian concerns. Sojourners asks "Who Speaks For God?" in their Feb/March 1995 issue.

Battles for the Bible

  • Often carried out in a very "unBiblical", unloving fashion. The crucial problem here is the idea that interpretation is blind when one confuses one's own appropriation of scripture with "THE correct interpretation". I often heard it said "God said it , I believe it , that settles it". Someone interpreted for them what they heard God saying, and that became for them what God said. There is a blind spot in the communication down from other human "earthen vessels" which we often confuse with a "that's got to be it" feeling because it makes sense to us, and because there is such strong community reinforcement behind it. I have seen so many people I know adopt a brand of theology after finding community and support in a group espousing that theology.

The "American" Bible

  • Jim Wallis of Sojourners speaks of a preacher who held up a Bible clipped apart all through, having been "edited" for American spirituality, with "irrelevant" passages cut out. At Seminary I heard about "the canon within the canon, where certain groups have their own particular "canon" of scripture which are used in near exclusion to the rest, for "consistency's sake". Just as the canon of scripture today was chosen out of a wider range of written works, our "personal canons" are smaller sub-sections of scripture which can be retrofit into a "livable" theology.


The conversion

  • An ongoing process with a beginning, although it is not always clear as to when. I can point to a significant point at which I turned my energies toward learning as much as I could, and giving myself as completely as I knew how, to what I could understand of God. I also had the strong support of a tight knit group of youth during my High School and college years.

The process

Faith Alone

  • The biblical stance seems to be contradicting when reading Pauline epistles and James, but here I feel we have one of the many instances of the polarities of our existence; that while it is not just what we do that saves us, but our relationship to God which does, at the same time that relationship will result in fruits of action. I have never understood the basis for this debate. It seems useless to do without either.
  • To insist upon "faith alone" seems to be designed to excuse one's self from the responsibility to live out the conviction in our relationships to others, society, and community. Actually, the use of the word "faith alone" is the problem. It seems to be an oxymoron. Faith should imply the inclusion of outer response to that perspective or drive which enables us to go on without what would otherwise seem to be sufficient evidence or societal approval. "Faith alone" seems to be used to imply that the "faith" part is something exclusively inner and unrelated to action or reaction. This is a false dichotomy within this major theological concept.
  • The dichotomy is clear in scripture. James warns of faith without works. Paul warns of works without faith. More often, the use of the word translated "faith" is in truer, more multifaceted sense of the word: a wholistic faith which works on the totality of a person; on their outlook, their resulting actions, and their sense of place in the meaning of life.


Interdependence/ Giftedness

The Church is a body fit together and it is no small part of our mission to literally "get it together". We have this "treasure in earthen vessels" that is the body of Christ that is called into community, and to let this "seep out" ; "break out"; "infiltrate" the larger society.

To do our job; to heed the call, is to find what pieces we represent in the task of providing what is needed to live out community among us and to extend the reach beyond our inner circle and create community around us by bringing the broken in.

Journey Inward, Journey Outward

  • Church of the Saviour style community building as told in their stories written by Elisabeth O'Connor, and experiences in my visit in 1984 with my group from Iowa when I was Youth minister there. For 9 years prior to that visit, I had fed upon the stories of how that community built in an intentional structure for nurturing community and mission. No "meeting place" mentality here, but a devotion to community and the use of the strength of that community to build up the gifts of one another to provide some service.
  • The task of working out the resistances we have to forming close-knit communities are the forces which have beset us in our journey with each other. There are resistances to revealing our true struggles. There are resistances to giving up our "comforts" in order to get at what divides us so that we can set all this aside and get at what bonds us. We know there are bonds to be formed that give us life, and yet the barriers to that we tend to avoid because we have learned other "distractions" which keep us from the true task.
  • The church's job is to be a seminary to equip the laity. COS 's School of Christian Living is a required curriculum for members. To join here means to covenant together to journey and to search, and to do so in mutual accountability. This model has made it difficult for me to have patience with what I have seen ever since. I do not see any devotion to community except in some shallow , liturgically-mouthed platitudes sense.

Web-enhanced community

  • Ecunet was the outer edge of the web for me; a door through which I entered into the world of community online. As I have searched and browsed the diversity of the Net, and tasted of the "Web way" of looking for resources, I see ways in which the Web can enable a stronger ecumenism by providing ways for many in the theological community can explore a widely diverse community that is just a "click" away, and whom can easily be stored in a list to call upon again.

The following sections are included as outline points to be filled in as this Web progresses


Mail me comments, suggestions, warnings, flames, whatever  This site maintained and researched by Dale Lature, Lavergne, TN