Final 2007 Post: Grad

I mentioned the two biggest themes for 2007 for me: gospel and forgiveness. One more that I can't ignore is my grad.

It feels good to be done. Graduating was a way to mark the occasion but it really wasn't as big a deal was the experience of being pushed to integrate study, ministry, and life. The other big benefit was relationships I developed with people I wouldn't otherwise have met.

2007 was a very good year.


The other day I mentioned that 2007 was a year of rediscovering the gospel for me. The other theme of 2007 for me is forgiveness.

I was describing to Bene a while back some of what happened to us in 2005 and especially 2006. I won't get into all the details here, but we had to extend forgiveness to a few people. We began that process in 2006. At first we had to forgive dozens of times a day. Over time you find your heart is changing and you're only having to forgive the people who hurt you 3-4 times a day. Eventually you realize that you're free and they're forgiven for good. In 2007 we found ourselves at the end of this process and finally freed from having to dig up what happened, even though what happened was truly brutal at the time.

Last year on this day Scott Williams wrote:

it seems somehow natural to put things behind you on this night, to move on. it's easy to say, harder to do. so much baggage is accumulated. too many memories, too many episodes.

is forgiveness the hardest part of life?

i hope in 2007 we can learn to forgive. i hope i can. i hope some people can finally let me go, you know who you are. i hope a few can forgive me for things i've done, and for things they think i've done. i hope i can move on in life. i hope i can forgive my outstanding accounts...

welcome to 2007. there are a few bridges to build, a few to mend, and a few to burn. that is my prayer for this year. i hope this year i will also come to peace with my station in life, and boldly dream again for the future. i am glad i have a future.

i forgive you.
please forgive me.

2007 has been a year of forgiveness, and it feels good.

Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion - without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person's humanity and imitate God's love for him. And when one knows that God's love is greater than all sin, one is free to see onself in the light of God's justice and so rediscover one's own sinfulness. (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace)

Pagan Christianity


"I can't believe this book is getting published by a big-time publisher," writes blogger Brant Hansen. "This is going to be interesting...This book is going to honk people off."

The book he's talking about is Pagan Christianity (available for pre-order at Amazon or for immediate purchase at the book website), originally written by Frank Viola but now updated with George Barna as co-author. This book comes with a disclaimer from the publisher: "Tyndale does not necessarily agree with all of the authors' positions...The authors raise important questions...These questions should not be ignored."

Here, in a nutshell, is the argument of the book:

  1. The origin of many of our church practices (examples: church buildings, orders of worship, sermons, pastors, tithing, clergy salaries) is non-biblical, and these practices are inconsistent with those of the early church. "Almost everything that is done in our contemporary churches has no basis in the Bible." (p. 4) Much of it was lifted from pagan culture.
  2. Just because something does not appear in the Bible does not mean it is wrong. However, our non-biblical church practices often hinder the development of our faith and keep us from encountering the living God.
  3. "The church in its contemporary, institutional form neither has a biblical nor a historical right to exist." (p. xx)
  4. The church must return to its biblical roots. At a personal level, we must ask questions of church as we know it and pray seriously about what our response should be.

I think that covers the basic argument of the book. I'm going to return to each of these and take a second look to see if their arguments hold up.

For now I will only leave this comment. This book threatens a lot that pastors and churches hold dear. But that shouldn't scare us. If they're right, it doesn't matter what it threatens. This book has to be evaluated on the evidence and the strength of its arguments, not on how much it will cost us if they're right.

More to come. Rumor has it that Bill Kinnon will be blogging on this book as well today.

Is there a right kind of church?

Without thinking too hard, I can come up with five kinds of churches:

  • New churches that follow traditional models
  • Older, established churches
  • New, non-traditional churches
  • Older, non-traditional churches
  • Organic churches with little structure or leadership


I can think of examples of churches in each category. Each type has its unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

You can argue that some of these types are better than others. Some, however, argue that some of these categories are unbiblical or wrong.

A couple of questions:

  • Did I miss any categories?
  • Is there a right kind of church, or are any of these legitimate forms of church with unique sets of strengths and weaknesses?

All of this is leading up to a review of Pagan Christianity, but it also mixes with some of what I've been thinking about lately.