Tag Archives: reformed

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).

76: Plug Me Into the Bible Matrix

In this episode John begins by voicing concern that his current “infatuation” with N. T. Wright may be misplaced: is Wright as good as he sounds (and as right as Gregg seems to think he is)? John explains that he went looking for criticisms of N. T. Wright and found several such podcasts, and so wonders whether he is being persuaded more by Wright’s convincing speech or by his standing in the Christian community?

Gregg responds by highlighting how, relative to the prominent theologians of the past that Wright’s perspective contradicts (Augustine, Luther, and Calvin) Wright is seen by many who champion the views of these historical thinkers as second-tier scholar or even an upstart. So on the question of eminence persons versus evidence of facts, Wright, as an exegete, offers a densely argued factual presentation of his conclusions that other can—and have—engaged with. Yet among scholars Wright’s views have stood the test of counterargument.

In Gregg’s mind, then, the issue here is essentially how rightly to view / understand God, humanity, and the relationship between the two. Yet Gregg argues that this three-part issue cannot be resolved by deciding between Wright’s view and, for instance, a reformed or Calvinist view. Rather, N. T. Wright’s work represents the essential groundwork to address the issue but remains insufficient because it too remains tied to the very terms of engagement according to which the discussion, to this point, has taken place. And these terms are insufficient.

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75: Covenant, Promise and Mystery

In this episode John and Gregg continue their discussion about the relationship between the covenant with Moses and the promise made to Abram (Abraham) in Gen 12:1-3, to bless all the nations through Abraham and his offspring.

John wonders how Gregg would present the gospel, and this past week Gregg spent a number of hours compiling a variety of Accordance search on the subjects of the promise and the blessings (or benefits) promised to the Israelites at the covenant at Mt. Sinai, through Moses as an intermediary). Gregg’s question: how much of the promise to Abraham is included in the (eventual) covenant blessings?

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