Mosaic Bible Giveaway and review  

Posted by Adam

The Holy Bible: Mosaic NLT (Meditations) is a treasure, particularly for those of us with a religious heritage that tended to be somewhat isolated from other traditions. The Mosaic bible intentionally calls together voices from across the spectrum of Christian traditions and from across the ages to provide commentary and devotional meditations. The first section of this edition of the Bible is organized around "church time", beginning with meditations on advent. Coming from a non-liturgical tradition, I found this section to be fascinating and quite helpful. Additionally, I love the fact that they chose the New Living Translation for this edition. The NLT is one of my favorite Bible translations because of its accuracy and readability. Believers from all Christian traditions will find a valuable resource in beautiful devotional Bible.

We are giving away one copy of Holy Bible: Mosaic NLT (Meditations). The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, Dec. 2, and no entries will be accepted after noon on the day of the drawing.
You may enter...

  • once by commenting on this post
  • once by re-tweeting this post on Twitter (tag your RT with @adamellis)
  • once by linking to this post on facebook (tag your fb post w/ @adamellis)
Good luck!

*Disclosure: Tyndall House Publishers provided a copy of this book for review free of charge, and provided are providing an additional copy for the giveaway.

Hopeful Fruit #3 - The Populist Insistence  

Posted by The Metzes in ,

One of the marks of the Protestant Reformation, of course, has been the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. As a direct result of a priesthood that had become thoroughly corrupt and overly powerful, believers found life and hope knowing that Scripture was for all and shouldn't be reserved for the most educated and annointed. There are few groups of Protestant groups that have realized this as significantly as the Church of Christ.

I always find some humor in explaining to pastors from other denominations how our churches find their ministers. When you really step back and think about it, it is quite humorous . . . and yet, somehow strangely, refreshing. In a postmodern world where skepticism abounds and trust of "The Man" has all but deteriorated, it seems as though this tenet of our churches just might push us through a difficult transition. It seems to me that outsiders will be excited to know that our ministers are not the product of some denominational appointment or designation, but that this is who the local congregation chose. There is a great connection with our populist emphasis and our insistence upon autonomy.

I find myself talking out of both sides of my mouth on this topic. On the one hand, I am encouraged by our desire to level the playing field of interpretation and leadership. Regardless of education, background, or perceived expertise, everyone pretty much comes in on a level playing field. This is overstated, a bit, obviously, in that we still maintain some hidden or unwritten "weights" based on family demographic in the congregation (more prevalent families often have a more vocal place), socioeconomic bias I'd like to think we are free of, but are just as susceptible as other groups to injustice there, as well as racially and culturally. However, finding no perfect system, we may just have something to offer here.

I am writing these words as the Sarah Palin circus has come to town. They are expecting 5,000 to 8,000 to attend the Columbus-area bookstore where she'll be promoting her book. The Sarah Palin political entry last year has proved to be an interesting example of the power of populist appeal. Regardless of your political leanings, you can't help but find something attractive to the "normal person" who takes on "the Man." This is the heart and soul of Palin's attraction. She speaks for all the soccer and hockey moms - her now famous self-identification. And the response? A great outpouring of support (at least in the Midwest and Southeast . . . she's not surprisingly avoiding the coasts in her book tour - now there would be some interesting events!) In any case, I bring Palin up here because she illustrates the power of the populist voice still today. People like the story of the underdog. They like to think that no office is too big for the common folk.

Sociologically, Churches of Christ fit this mold for the religious sects perfectly. We don't ordain our pastors. The local congregation maintains the criteria and job assignment for the ministers. Worship assemblies are overseen equally by "clergy" and "laymen" (and maybe someday "laywomen" - we'll get to that into the pruning portion of the posts!) Ministers are generally appreciated and respected for their unique Bible knowledge and ministerial expertise . . . at least generally.
It is here I find myself speaking out of both sides of my mouth. On the one hand I believe the populist appeal of our Movement speaks volumes for how we can traverse the postmodern matrix. However, at the same time, I feel as though it has been one of our most signfiant liabilities. In my ten plus years of ministry, now, I can assert that one of the most challenging aspects of working for churches is leadership. I have taken special interest in leadership in the past three or four years, seeing it as such a glaring weakness of my own, and many ministers I have worked alongside and known. It is tough to know how to lead a church.

However, I believe in the midst of such a populist driven church, the issue is ampiflied. Suddenly, the minister's voice is watered down, and his significance dulled a bit. "He makes some interesting points, but let's hear what lukewarm member who doesn't do anything but warm a pew has to say," and we have to keep in mind that so and so just isn't there yet" and those kinds of comments abounds. It seems, from my experience, that the power and influence of a minister in Churches of Christ is truncated even to a greater extent than those in other denominations. This makes the task of leadership extremely difficult and probably says a lot about why our churches tend to remain pretty small.

Again, I see this populist approach as both a potential bonus for our involvement with non-Christians. Realizing the only folks setting doctrine and making decisions and excommunicating members and hiring and firing ministers are those folks you worship right beside on Sundays. However, it has potential risks as this populism can just as easily make us lazy and myopic in our understanding of our role in the invisible church. Group think can (and I think has) set in quickly under populist-driven congregations. Looking around at congregations of Churches of Christ throughout the rural parts of the United States, I think this is exactly what is ailing them.

Brian McLaren on moral absolutes and certainty  

Posted by Adam

The following question and response is taken from a post on

What are your thoughts on his response?

Here's the q:

Please help! I am currently taking a graduate class on church growth and we are using your book More Ready Than You Realize as an example of "friendship evangelism." You book has caused much discussion...which is what I guess you were wanting.... [details of class discussion removed] Here is my problem. I consider myself a postmodernist, but I can't really give a good answer why. What I do know is that the modern way (while once extremely effective) of evangelism is no longer effective. The following criticism is what I hear as an attack towards postmodernism, "they believe that there are moral absolutes." Is this true? I find it hard to believe that you would not take any moral stances. Also, I do not get this when I read your books.... I'm rambling, but if you could help me with the question on moral absolutes it might help me in the quest of better understanding postmodernism.

R: Thanks for your question. The discussion in your class sounds like a classic case of how a postmodern viewpoint looks to sincere modern-minded people. To modern-minded folk, postmodern people seem to be moral nihilists, relativists, compromisers, with no moral compass. No wonder they get so upset!

And you can't blame your fellow students for seeing things this way. This is how they've been taught by most of their pastors, youth leaders, and other authority figures - who were in turn taught this way of thinking by their authority figures.

As I've written elsewhere on this blog (just search on "postmodern"), the term "postmodern" is often defined in the worst possible light by modern-minded folk, so defending it will make you look like a kook (or worse) to them. So, I won't try to speak for "postmodernism," but let me speak for myself.

Of course I believe that some things are morally good and others are morally evil. Of course!

But I do not believe that Christian fundamentalism (or Islamic fundamentalism, or secular fundamentalism, etc., etc.) has a superior record of identifying what is moral and what isn't moral in contested situations. For example, in my lifetime Christian fundamentalists have been among the last to release racism, sexism, a careless attitude toward the environment, a careless attitude toward the rights of Palestinians, a fear of science, and a fusion between the gospel and American nationalism.

Go back farther in history, and there were a majority of Bible-believing Christians in the South who were pro-slavery - and held that as an "absolute truth" or "absolute moral principle" that they could quote chapter and verse to defend. (I'll explore this in some detail in my upcoming book.)

Go back still farther, and our Christian ancestors refused to believe Copernicus and Galileo - again, based on their conception of moral absolutes based on their readings of the Bible. The same was true regarding the age of the earth, Darwin, etc.

So here's my concern: If a person or group pushes the "we've got moral absolutes absolutely figured out" button too fast or too often, they run an increased risk of behaving in immoral ways, and they are the last to know it because of their excessive self-confidence. If conservative Christians would acknowledge this pattern at work in their own history more openly, and if they would show how they have taken corrective action to avoid similar patterns of misjudgment in the future, a lot of us would feel more confident in their moral judgment.

I'd also add that I do think moral standards change - but not in the direction of going down - just the opposite. That's why Jesus said, "You have heard it said ... but I say to you..." in the Sermon on the Mount. Over time, I believe God calls us to higher and higher standards of morality. Let me state this very clearly: the goal isn't to lower moral standards, but to raise them as we grow more morally mature. So - before it was don't murder. Now it's don't hate. Before it was only one eye for an eye. Now it's seek reconciliation, not revenge. Before it was love your neighbor, hate your enemy. Now it's love everyone - including enemies.

So - perhaps we can put this question to rest for good: the issue isn't morality - with some "fer it" and others "agin it." We're all for morality, as we understand it. The issue is two-fold. Postmodern-leaning folks are concerned whether this or that preacher's claims to have "absolute certainty" about this or that moral viewpoint of his are "absolutely justified," and whether his confidence will increase the chances of behaving immorally. Modern-leaning folks are concerned whether leaving the door open to the possibility that "we" have been or are wrong will lead to moral collapse. If you let an absolutist system go, there will be nothing left, they fear.

I'd say there are dangers on both sides - the danger of excessive moral confidence on the one side and the danger of insufficient moral confidence on the other. I'm seeking a proper confidence ... one that is aware of both dangers on both sides.

In my view, only God has absolute moral knowledge. Human beings have shown a remarkable propensity to misinterpret God, all the while claiming to speak for God on morality, which (sadly) often degenerates into speaking as if they were God. I hope that helps! (Feel free to share this with your class.)

Hopeful Fruit #2 - The Passion for the Sacred Text in Churches of Christ  

Posted by The Metzes in , ,

Perhaps it is one of the most enduring qualities of the Churches of Christ that we have managed to be unapologetically Bible-focused and Bible-centered, while at the same time remaining outside the limiting circles of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism [Richard Hughes argues that this may no longer be the case for much of the movement in his Reclaiming a Heritage (a great read for any reader of this blog!) ACU Press, 2002 - see especially chapter seven entitled: "Why Restorationists Don't Fit the Evangelical Mold; Why Churches of Christ Increasingly Do" Another topic for another day]. In compiling the "Heart of the Restoration Series," ACU Press was quick to release a work centered on the place of the Bible in our heritage [volume 2 in the series is entitled God's Holy Fire: The nature and function of Scripture, 2002.] Gospel meetings, mission statements, sermons, and classes echo from congregations of Churches of Christ the world over with the message of "Back to the Bible." Any study taken upon by her students inevitably begins with the question, "What does the Bible say about that?" Stated simply, there aren't many groups who know the Bible as well as our people do, and to not recognize that as a hopeful fruit would be disingenous and a disservice.

Brightly hanging down from the branches of the Churches of Christ tradition is their abiding love for the story of God. I remember sitting in Bible classes learning the books of the Bible, the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 Apostles, the chronology of the Old Testament . . . just about everything that's in those 66 books, we covered it. Bible bowls, Sunday school, lectureships, Vacation Bible School, and Gospel meetings still retain the undeniably Bible-focus even today. From the smallest, most rural congregations to the largest suburban megaplexes among Churches of Christ, these churches love to teach the Bible.

Among members of Churches of Christ, a person's age, education, and life situation all are considered secondary to how well she or he knows the Bible. Bible knowledge is often directly equated with spirituality - the more Bible you know, the more spiritual you are. Quoting Scripture is sometimes seen as paramount to a spiritual gift. These latter case points illustrate some worms that lay underneath the skin of a perfectly healthy piece of fruit, but shouldn't take away from the fact that Churches of Christ hold steadfast to the biblical text.

It is widely held that children within Churches of Christ are not learning as much Bible as they did in bygone days. Biblical literacy across denominational boundaries is suffering and the Churches of Christ are certainly not immune to this phenomenon. However, there remains, by and large, an incredible commitment to teaching our people the Bible. While there may be a general laxity in the general audience when it comes to the biblical literacy, it also should be noted that scholarship in Churches of Christ has gained an increased audience in recent years and is more widely respected by the broader theological community than ever before (could this be evidence of an increased Evangelical leaning??)

While the commitment to being biblical and Bible-people should be seen as hopeful fruit, the good fruit has not come without potential worms. Often, in Churches of Christ, the story about God has been elevated to a higher plane than God Himself. Bibliolatry has become the golden calf for many in Churches of Christ - this excessive emphasis on the bonded leather and gold-tipped pages to the neglect of the mysterious Creator and Savior of all that is in existence. Too often we have bound God to the ink on the pages instead of allowing Him the freedom to work apart from the Scripture itself (we seem to have overlooked Paul's point in Romans 1 all too often).

Just as damaging, we have often married our love and emphasis of the text to our love and emphasis of "necessary" antiquated interpretive devices. The thoroughly modernistic hermentuic evolving from Enlightenment philosophy is often valued equal to the text it seeks to interpret. Churches continue to be taught the interpretive system of command, example, and necessary inference both directly and indirectly. The limitations of this foundational philosophy has been exposed over the past several years (see the work of Michael Casey, John Mark Hicks, along with others). Unfortunately, for many in Churches of Christ their love for the sacred text is married to their love for their interpretation of the sacred text. The certainty demanded of foundationalism has created skepticism of alternative voices and a myopic view of the hand of God. As the Churches of Christ engage the world of postmodernism, nothing has been more harmful to her cause than the lack of place for alternative voices and this begins at the table of biblical interpretation.

I believe we must reinvigorate our love and passion for the story of God, and not find ourselves so committed to one interpretive device or another. Instead, we need to find our way beyond the need for certainty and past the place of answers, as very difficult as that is going to be. If we will once again fall in love with the text and, in the spirit of Psalm 119, meditate over it, take it to heart, allow it to sink into our very ethos . . . and allow part of God to be revealed in the text, but not limited to the text. Our churches should be filled with people who love the text and love to learn about the text and engage in long discussions about what the text means. Churches of Christ must become a place where conversation is encouraged and facilitated instead of streamled monologue and uniform teaching dominate the floor. May diversity abound and the unity of the Spirit be what unites us instead of the unity of thought and homogenous hermeneutics.

"Drops Like Stars" WINNERS  

Posted by Adam

Here are the winners of our "Drops Like Stars" Book Giveaway:

1. Blair Andress

2. John Wilson

3. Lee Taft (Taftastic)

If you won, please contact me within the next 3 days with a mailing address or I will have to give your book to someone else. Congratulations! Enjoy the book.


Giving away 3 more copies of "Drops Like Stars" by Rob Bell  

Posted by Adam

Surprise boys and girls! Zondervan publishing noticed our recent giveaway of Rob Bell's book, "Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering", and has authorized me to give away 3 more copies. You have until noon, Monday, Novemeber 9th to enter.

You may enter...

  • once for commenting on this post (on the actual blog, not facebook)
  • once for retweeting this contest on Twitter or posting a link to this post in your Facebook status message.
  • once for mentioning this contest with a link to this post on your personal blog.
Good luck! Winners will be announced on the afternoon that the giveaway ends.


P.S. If you aren't interested in the book, don't feel compelled to comment. I really have no desire to read about how you know that Rob Bell is a heretic...even though you've never read anything he's written or heard him speak...but you know because some "discernment" watchdog website told you so.