Tag Archives: church

105: A Trip to the White Horse Inn

In this episode John and Gregg discuss their thoughts on two podcast episodes from The Whitehorse Inn (“Sustainable Churches” and “Consumerism, pragmatism, and the triumph of the therapeutic“) which listener Amy linked to in the Untangling Christianity Facebook group.

John explains how he found the first podcast rather inaccessible. Specifically, he had trouble relating to what seemed to be a heavily Reformed emphasis, the use of Christian jargon, and the general sense of “inside baseball” among the participants. So John is curious about what Amy values in these podcasts and, at the same time, he is careful to note his hesitation that his critical comments not discourage listeners from initiating discussion or offering feedback.

Gregg notes big differences between the two podcasts. On the one hand, Gregg also perceived the first podcast as an “inside conversation” that abounded with assumptions (many of which were problematic and needed to be challenged). Yet all the more Gregg appreciated how the interviewee in the second podcast, Christian Smith, was very careful not to overstep his research or to speculate beyond his findings.

Despite this, Gregg takes issue with Christian Smith’s notion of relevance and what Smith calls the Pathetic impulse in American evangelicalism to be respectable and relevant” (24:50). Yet where Smith seems to define relevance in terms of being present / visible on the socio-political stage Gregg counters that the lack of Christian evangelical credibility, and so their irrelevance, is based on their unwillingness to engage thoughtfully with the larger issues facing Christianity (such as evolution, human sexuality, the nature of hell, etc.).

John expresses frustration with the approach taken in the first podcast. For instance, their explanation that the church should focus on “word and sacrament ministry” is repeated numerous times yet not defined. He also finds their summary that “what the church should offer is the communion of the saints and the fellowship of believers and a life that grows out of the gospel” to be inaccessible and incoherent–what does this even mean and how does it connect with real life?

Gregg agrees. He also found several of their examples to be really problematic. So at 27:30 “The reality is that you go to church . . . (or that you ought to go) to hear the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen again for the forgiveness of all of our sins.” Gregg sees this as the focal understanding shared by the three participants, yet in Gregg’s view this is an incorrect view. In other words, this quotation amounts to the view the Bible’s principle role is to offer information about God.

Yet Gregg understands the Bible to be offering information about who / what God is, who / what human beings are, and how / what the optimal relationship between the two should be. And then, secondarily, the Bible offers information about how humans should relate to each other and to the natural world.

Thus in Gregg’s view the participants in the first podcast have a fundamental misunderstanding about what Church is and what should be happening there. So Gregg views human existence and action / engagement (generally, and especially with God) to be crucially important, whereas the participants seemed overly focused on their theological positions that did not “touch ground” and make sense in light of real, lived existence

Lastly, John and Gregg discuss how starting from different places necessarily brings us to different positions. In this regard Gregg insists that everyone, and especially Christians, must start with their humanity because to do otherwise is to lose touch with one’s origins (and so one’s context for existing and in existence).

99: Is Christianity Easy?

In this episode John and Gregg discuss the idea that being a Christian should be “easy,” a notion with which Gregg largely disagrees.

As part of doing his own work John has been making slow progress in his reading of a Chronological Daily Bible, with commentary by F. LaGard Smith.  John has been in Genesis and comes across a section where Smith inserts a section observing that the book of Job possibly happened at the same time.  Gregg references Dillard and Longman’s Introduction to the Old Testament to offer some information on Job, including considerations of its genre.

John questions Smith’s conclusion about the reason for Job’s adversity.

Job’s life will become the basis for a literary masterpiece dealing with suffering and the issue of its causes.  Little does this humble man know how his very personal adversity will be a source of comfort to multitudes of fellow-suffers for centuries to come. That fact alone might well have something to do with why he is called upon to experience such adversity. (page 22)

So John wonders, does God really bring suffering? Or, at what point does suffering amount to “evil”?

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97: Talking Church with Dan Dailey

In this episode John and Gregg welcome Dan Dailey, author of the blog post that’s been the subject of the last two podcasts–Episode 96 and Episode 95. Dan’s posts, The Sin of Forsaking Fellowship, is here: https://danieldailey.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-sin-of-forsaking-fellowship/ .

John and Gregg talk with Dan to get a better sense of the intentions behind his blog post with the goal of giving him “a fair hearing” regarding his perspective on church and church-going. This after speculating in previous episodes about Dan’s situation and motives.  They’re grateful for Dan’s willingness to dialogue and the opportunity to talk with him firsthand.

John and Gregg both look forward to the listener feedback on this episode.

96: Evangelizing a Church?

In this episode John and Gregg continue from last week’s podcast by resuming their conversation concerning Dan Dailey’s blog post titled “Sin of forsaking fellowship.”

Gregg notes, concerning his comment about being obligated to attend church in last week’s podcast, that this is, more accurately, an obligation to love others “rightly” (i.e., even as one loves oneself). And we best manifest this by offering to those in need. Particularly, where we are in a position to offer to other Christians this is an opportunity to follow the example of Jesus, as noted in John’s epistles, where Christians distinguish themselves on the basis of how they love each other.

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95: Obligated Church Attendance?

In this episode John and Gregg discuss a blog post entitled “The Sin of Forsaking Fellowship,” by Dan Dailey, first raised in the Untangling Christianity private Facebook group. John wonders about a comment that Gregg left on the blog post.

Gregg explains that he was struck by what he saw as a crucial contradiction at the beginning of the post. For example, the author both appears to be writing from a personal perspective and has made a rather drastic choice for a Christian (to “quit going to church . . . permanently”), yet the author claims that his reasons for making this decision are not relevant to the post. Gregg explains that he finds this misleading (because his reasons for leaving church surely are relevant to the post!) and so wanted the author to know that this approach created distrust for Gregg.

So Gregg underscores that knowing why someone holds a particular perspective, especially where it appears to deviate radically from accepted norms, is essential to understanding the perspective (and perhaps, being persuaded by it). Particularly, the idea of being a Christian but permanently leaving the church is extremely uncommon and so Gregg wants to have information about why this decision was made and why this might be a good decision for others (which Gregg believes the post is advocating).

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