Category: The Church

Movie Theatre

MennoNerds Vlog: Movies and TV

Civil War shows several of the Avengers characters, divided by sidesOver on the MennoNerds vlog, I introduced a new topic about movies and TV. My script is below, or go and watch it on YouTube:


Hi MennoNerds vloggers,

Way back when we started this vlog, we talked about the value of stories, as well as more specifically about books. Stating propositions is rarely as effective as helping people relate through stories. The Bible is a great example of this. That doesn’t mean there aren’t facts involved in the Bible, but it isn’t a systematic theology textbook. It’s a story of God and God’s people told by particular authors, in particular locations and particular times, dealing with particular social issues, with particular theologies, and so on.

When the Bible was written, stories were most commonly spoken, not written down. Now again in more recent history, books are not the most common way we tell stories in our culture anymore. Whether that shift is good, bad, or neutral, that role of shared cultural stories now most often comes through the medium of video with movies and TV.

So my next question for the vloggers: what are your favourite movies or TV shows, and why? I invite the vloggers to go deeper if they’d like, but I’ll run through a few of mine quickly.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Evangelical Christianity

Allegiance to a Label

Complete Idiot's Guide to Evangelical ChristianityLinguistics 101: language changes. Language assigns words or phrases as a way to communicate different ideas. These ideas are not fixed for eternity. English is very different today than it was 1000 years ago. Before that, there were several source languages that became English. Even today, we are adding new words and phrases every year. Language is inherently arbitrary, with the exception of onomatopoeia. That’s just how language works.

This is significant for me when talking about questions like why I don’t identify as an “evangelical” anymore. Yes, I used to. And yes, by most historical definitions, I would probably still qualify. In the 18th and 19th centuries, even the first half of the 20th, “evangelical” was the majority of Christians. It meant something specific about how you approached the Bible: as authority but something that must be studied and wrestled with. It was the middle ground between liberals who assumed that the Bible was fundamentally untrustworthy and fundamentalists who refused to ask any questions, preferring to retrench in what their tradition had told them.

Gerard van Honthorst - Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)

Christmas Without Incarnation

Gerard van Honthorst - Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)

Yeah, the Shepherds visiting this baby is a cute story, but is it much more without anything more to it?

This past Christmas I noticed something: a lot of Christians talk about Christmas without talking about the incarnation, at least not in any meaningful way. This can be from conservatives or liberals (usually the terms theologically, not politically). For conservatives, it most often appears by way of talking about the incarnation as nothing more than a first step in getting to the cross where the real work happens. That’s a problem. The cross was a big part of what the earliest Christians wrote down as “the Gospel” but there’s a lot of other stuff in there, too.

I’m going to focus on the liberal side today, though. Liberals do this more by abstracting away the Christmas narrative into a good inspirational story. To be clear, there are a lot of important details in the Gospels about the birth of Jesus that provide important social commentary. The shepherds being included is a big deal because they were generally not welcome in the upper echelons of society, much like we look down on many blue-collar professions today. The magi were from farther East – probably something like modern day Iran – and were astrologers, a profession explicitly forbidden in the Law and probably associated with another religion.

Political Spectrum Horseshoe

Liberal and Conservative: Insufficient Labels

Political Spectrum Horseshoe

5 segments on a scale instead of 2 is still too simplified in politics and in theology.

The labels of “conservative” and “liberal” Christianity are becoming less and less useful. For that matter, the labels of “conservative” and “liberal” politics aren’t really even that useful. To demonstrate, in my seminary and the church I was attending at the time, I was definitely a “conservative”; in many of my interactions now, I am definitely a “liberal.” My views haven’t substantially changed, just who is doing the judging.

Ways I am a “Conservative”

I have a very high view of Jesus. I see Jesus as Lord (meaning practically following his teachings and example), as fully God, and as fully human.

I have a high view of the Bible. I believe it is useful for teaching Christians about following Jesus. I believe it is completely true and trustworthy in accomplishing its self-identified purpose of pointing us to Jesus.

I believe in spiritual forces, both good and evil, active in the world today. I believe this spiritual warfare is happening around us.

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

Modern and Postmodern Christianity

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

A while ago I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.

You write that the decline of the church is happening because of our obsession with possessing the “truth;” “The message sent by the modern churches view of truth is that it is more important to assert opinion as absolute truth than it is to actually connect and share Jesus with the world.” Why did that work for so long but no longer today?

It worked because that was the modernist epistemology that was the world was primarily operating under. It aligned well with nationalism that taught our nation was better. It aligned well with colonialism based on one culture being better than another so you justify forcing that better culture on them by any means necessary.

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

Developing the Cult of the Bible

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

A while ago I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.

How did what I call “the cult of the Bible” initially develop in/after the Reformation period?

That’s a good phrase that I haven’t run into. I went to a church once that actually sang a song to the Bible about how great the Bible was. It was a great church in a lot of ways, but cultish is definitely an apt descriptor for how I felt during that song.

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

Creative Process of A Living Alternative

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping God

Recently I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.

What was the process in the book A Living Alternative?

Marginalized quote from Searching for Sunday

Review: Searching for Sunday

Searching for SundaySearching for Sunday is Rachel Held Evans’ best book yet. The main reason for that is because it is full of hope. A Year of Biblical Womanhood was a fantastic analysis of various biblical texts along with a fun engagement of how many different ways genuine Christians (and Jews) interpret those texts. Faith Unraveled (previously Evolving in Monkey Town) was very easy for so many to relate to, discussing her departure from conservative Evangelicalism into a world with a lot more questions. Those are definitely valuable, but they are by far the most valuable when those steps in the journey bring you to something more like Searching for Sunday. It’s a mature faith that has wrestled through many questions and reached answers with a sense of humility intact.

I’ve had a journey similar to, but much less dramatic, than Rachel’s. If we see her three books as three stages in that journey, I could say I read Biblical Womanhood at right around the same time I needed that content for my own journey. Then I read Faith Unraveled, which was interesting but a stage of life somewhat removed for me. I don’t know how to make this not sound arrogant, but I think Searching for Sunday came a bit later after I reached many elements of the same stage for myself.

Ryan and Emily's Wedding Party

Searching for Sunday: Marriage

In the final section of Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans tackles the sacrament of marriage. She makes an important point which should preface everything else. When we talk about this sacrament, we aren’t strictly talking only about legal marriage. In broader terms, it is the sacrament of living life together with others in a way that shows the Kingdom of God to each other and those around you. Official marriage covenants may be the most common way we see this kind of sacrificial love manifested, but single people aren’t excluded from this sacrament.

When we got married, we picked a text from Romans 12:

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.