I recently wrote a post about my hope that by blogging I will contributing to a middle way / extreme center theological position online. Kim left a comment asking what exactly that means. Here is a summary from our Bishop, Scott Jones, describing the extreme center in Adam Hamilton’s book, Christianity’s Family Tree: What Other Christians Believe and Why it applies to Methodism:
“In the Christian faith, there are people who are extreme right and people who are extreme left. But whether it’s clergy clothing or how our services of worship are conducted or how we read the Bible, we tend to be people of the extreme center. The extreme center means that The United Methodist Church at its best is conservative in some areas and liberal in other areas. We don’t fit a stereotype very well. For example, some denominations are good at helping nominally religious and nonreligious people enter into the Christian life. Well, that’s part of the gospel; and it’s part of what we do as United Methodists. Other denominations want to help the poor and address social issues, however they define them. Well, that’s part of the gospel; and Methodists embrace them as well. The center is a very hard position to maintain because there are always people who are sniping at you from the extremes. Sometimes it’s easier to hold an extreme position because you can be really clear and really forceful, but what you are lacking is the perspective of your brothers and sisters who disagree with you. By occupying the extreme center, we see the value of both sides and try to carve out a position, whether it involves theology or social justice, that embraces the whole gospel.”
You can find more information at Bishop Jones’ blog – Extreme Center.
I find that there are plenty of strong voices online at polar opposites of a variety of issues both inside and outside The United Methodist Church. I hope to contribute to conversations online in a way that represents an extreme center theological position.
In what ways have you found an extreme center approach to faith to be helpful? unhelpful?
A few weeks ago, I made a proposal to make publicly available the documents produced by candidates for ministry in The United Methodist Church. To that end, I have published my Doctrinal Papers in regard to Theology, Vocation and The Practice of Ministry for Admission to Full Connection and Ordination as Elder in the Kansas West Annual Conference. You can find the document online at http://j.mp/5DLk3i. I have licensed my work under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License
I hope that you will take time to read some of my responses and share your opinions, thoughts or feelings in the comments on this post.
I have been working to complete my paperwork for ordination and full membership as an elder in the Kansas West Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. I realized that this vast body of theological thought is going to waste after it is being turned in. It would be a great gift to the church if these were made publicly available. This would give a pulse of the theology of those entering ministry and provide a roadmap for where the denomination may be headed in the years ahead. A service such as http://turnitin.com could be utilized to maintain the integrity and original thought required as part of the process.
I will post my paperwork here in the days ahead. I welcome your thoughts, feelings or opinions about my work.
I am currently working on preparing my ordination papers to be considered for ordination and full membership in the Kansas West Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. I have made one of the primary documents, Theology, Vocation and The Practice of Ministry, available at http://ow.ly/NqmE so that you might know more about my understanding of theology, vocation and the practice of ministry. Will you please share your thoughts, feelings or opinions about this writing?
Please note that Theology, Vocation and The Practice of Ministry by Andrew Conard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://andrewconard.com/about/.
Various forms of this question were also common last Thursday at Discussions on The Shack. Also the follow up question of – Is this depiction of God okay?
I believe that God was depicted as a woman in this book to provoke strong reactions in people and push the reader out of her or his comfort zone. I know that it served this purpose for me.
Absolutely. I believe that it is fine for God to be depicted as a woman in The Shack. I experienced the descriptions of the persons of the Trinity in The Shack to be helpful in stretching my imagination about God. God exhibits characteristics that as humans we associate with both male and female, mothers and fathers.
While the depiction of God as described in The Shack will likely not be my prevailing image of God, I appreciated the push it provided me to consider other ways of knowing and experiencing God.
What do you think?
Out of all the questions that I received last Thursday at Discussions on The Shack, I experienced this as the most pressing from those that were there. All quotes come from Young, William Paul. The Shack. Los Angeles: Windblown Media, 2007. Here are a few my areas of disagreement…
- “‘It’s simple, Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now – just doing this – and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is all about relationships. You can’t build it. It’s my job and I’m actually pretty good at it,’ Jesus said with a chuckle.” (Young, 178.)
- I agree with this perspective.
- “‘Like I said, I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no, I’m not too big on religion,’ Jesus said a little sarcastically, ‘and not very fond of politics or economics either.'” (Young, 179.)
- I disagree with this perspective. What is the definition of “religion” or “the church”
Jesus as fully divine and fully human
- “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood. It would be like this bird, whose nature it is to fly, choosing only to walk and remain grounded. He doesn’t stop being the bird, but it does alter his experience of life significantly.” (Young, 99.)
- I believe that this tries to explain away the mystery and is inadequate
God as Father
- “Let me say for now that we knew once the Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Don’t misunderstand me, both are needed – but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence.” (Young, 94.)
- I disagree here – Father is how Jesus refers to God and it is in this relationship that we know God
- “Try as he might, Mack could not escape the desperate possibility that the note just might be from God after all, even if the thought of God passing notes did not fit well with his theological training. In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course.” (Young, 65.)
- I disagree and was not taught what Mack was taught in seminary. God does continue to communicate overtly.
- “It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia.” (Young, 66.)
- At Resurrection we hope that you love God with your mind.
Last night, I had a great time leading over 100 people in discussions on the book, The Shack by William Paul Young. Thanks to all of you who were there.
You can find the handout, notes and schedule that I had prepared before the class at this link. Feel free to use it to lead a class of your own or for your own information.
One of the best parts of the class was the opportunity to respond to questions from those who were there. Below you will find all the questions that were asked by the group. Look for my response to questions beginning today and continuing on Monday.
So the collective wisdom of the crowd led to these questions in no particular order:
- When did the vision take place? (when did it begin – at mailbox or at car accident)
- What was the significance of red spots on rock when they found her – any Christian signifiance?
- How does the church react to the portrayal of the Trinithy and their characteristics? i.e. God as a black woman, the group as a fun loving, joking entity as a whole.
- Is there a part of the book that may be theologically incorrect?
- Explain the character of the Holy Spirit Sarayu.
- Comment on the books view of the trinity and perspective on lack of hierarchy.
- The book’s viewpoint on eternal consequences is challenging and hard to accept.
- Where would this book misguide (mislead) me in knowing God?
- Would the church recommend this book to nominally religious people?
- Why was God a woman? Why did He reveal Himself that way?
- A lot of people suffer in grief… What about Mack’s opportunity to view his daughter after her passing?
- What is the background of the author?
- Why do you think Mack didn’t take his wife to the shack?
- From your perspective, what aspects of the book are not compatible with Methodist theology and tradition?
- Does the church have any problem with Poppa being portrayed as a woman? And is She really a good cook?
- Does the church have a problem with all of the members of the trinity being on equal standing?
- Was the accident before he went to the Shack? (Friday vs. Sunday)
- Is it sacreligious to put God in another form? (for instance, Papa as an African American woman)
- What is your perspective as clergy regarding the comment that this book is dangerous for “babes in Christ?”
- Where does it not fit into theology?
- What mentioned theological things did you disagree with?
- Responsibility named in the BIble?
- P. 205 – Does religion use law to empower itself and control people?
- Was this a dream? a vision? or reality?
- How do you like how the trinity was presented?
- Do we expect too much of people we love? Agree or disagree
- Why was Papa (God) against organized religion?
- What was the significance of the description of the characters?
- How was shack transformed from place of evil and Missy’s suffering and death into a place of God’s sanctuary and salvation?
- Was it a dream or did it really happen?
- What was the author’s purpose of giving to the character’s their role, name, etc. so out of the unusual than what we would normally think of?
- Why did she call him Papa?
- What was the author’s denomination?
- What gave him the idea for the story had he experienced something in his background – autobiographical?
- What theology do you feel does not align in the group?
- P 99-100 What was Jesus true nature while on earth with regard to healing?
- Papa being a female. Why?
- Why was food so important?
- Elaborate on noun verse verb? pg 205-206
- Elaborate on being a Christina? pg 183-184
- Explain who Sophia is?
- Thoughts on God being depicted as a woman.
- Was Mack’s experience a dream or did God suspend time?
- Where the book conflicts with the UM beliefs?
- What does “The Shack” represent?
- Why doesn’t God make Himself more real and visible to us like He does in the book?
- How do we cultivate and accept that kind of intimacy with God? (cooking, eating, etc.)
- When we die will we see and will God present in accordance with our personalview of how we envision him / her?
- Does God punish evil on earth or does he / she wait until the evil doer is judged or dies (Chapter 11)
- How do you think the author came up with the characters to represent God, Jesus and Spirit?
- What is your response / opinion of when Mack asked Missy if she was in Heaven and she said she “was in the waiting room.”