All posts tagged “Kuyper

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Repaso: June 7, 2013

1. The geography of Bob Dylan
Slate put together a great map representing all the actual places that have made their way into Dylan’s songs:

Bob Dylan’s music, it’s often said, happens in a world of its own—where the highway is for gamblers and you’re always 1,000 miles from home. It’s a surreal, ethereal realm, lawless but for chance, allusion, and rhyme. And yet it is our world, because there’s another, parallel tendency in Dylan’s songs: the direct place-name reference. Once the amateur Dylanologist tries to think of some, they flood the brain… And so, to mark Dylan’s 72nd birthday and the 50th anniversary of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, his breakthrough album, we present Bob Dylan’s World, an interactive map with entries for every place-name in a song written by Dylan and released on some kind of album.


2. Vocation and (com)passion
David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) on the dangers of utilitarian vocations that paradoxically serve to keep passions at a safe distance:

If you choose a profession that doesn’t arouse your everyday passion for the sake of serving instead some abstract faraway good, you might end up as a person who values the far over the near. You might become one of those people who loves humanity in general but not the particular humans immediately around. You might end up enlarging the faculties we use to perceive the far — rationality — and eclipsing the faculties we use to interact with those closest around — affection, the capacity for vulnerability and dependence. Instead of seeing yourself as one person deeply embedded in a particular community, you may end up coolly looking across humanity as a detached god.

3. Socio-economic reconciliation
The good folks at the Chalmers Center (@chalmerscenter) urge us to consider “the great divide” and where we fit in:

Take a moment to explore your city. What is the average income for your neighborhood compared to the rest of the state? Does the socio-economic makeup of your church reflect that of the community around it? If your church is in a wealthy community, are there strategically placed, effective ministries in low-income areas with which you might partner? If you want to go even deeper, examine rental expenses and income levels throughout your city. Does the relationship between rental prices and income remain roughly consistent between neighborhoods? Or do residents in particular low-income neighborhoods face equal or higher housing costs compared to residents in higher-income areas?

4. Why Kuyper matters
There has been a spate of new books published about Abraham Kuyper lately, and the American religious historian Mark Noll wrote the forward to one of the massive ones. Eerdmans published the forward on its blog, and here’s an excerpt:

The vigor of Kuyper’s convictions, along with his strenuous efforts at putting them into practice for religious, educational, and political purposes in the Netherlands — and with the significant numbers around the world who have found his ideas inspiring — makes him a figure of world historical significance. It also means that a biography like this one must be done with care, so that readers come to understand Kuyper in his own life context as well as the influence his ideas have had.

5. Churches and cities as partners
Here’s an interview with Kevin Palau (@kevinpalau), an evangelist, and Sam Adams (@PDXSamAdams), the former mayor of Portland (a city not necessarily known for its Christians) on what it looks like for churches and cities to act as partners for the common good.


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Repaso: May 24, 2013

1. Activism, justice, and shalom
In last week’s Repaso I included the first part of an interview between Jamie Smith (@james_ka_smith) and Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (@tylerws). Here’s a taste of part two (and tasty it is):

The question for me is: will our passion [for justice] extend to hating injustice even when the people against whom injustice is being perpetuated might actually hate us? Who might be thoroughly unsympathetic characters and yet, nevertheless, be victims of injustice? That’s why I think the next step for the justice movement, as it were, is growing into a commitment to peace, which I think is much harder because it involves places where people are committing violence.


2. Fear is the opposite of generosity
Aaron Ausland (@aaronausland), a long-time international development guy, reflects on Doomsday Preppers in light of his life experiences, and concludes:

The post-apocalyptic ethic that assumes a need for women and children to gun down the unprepared is sort of at work already. And this reminds me that the opposite of generosity is not greed; greed is a proximate cause underneath which lies fear. Fear is the opposite of generosity.

3. Kuyper is my homeboy
Byron Borger (@byronborger) of Hearts & Minds reminds us how great the late Abraham Kuyper is, and recommends four new books by or about him.

4. Micro and macro development
Pranab Bardhan, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, reviews four relatively recent books that are shaping how we think about – and do – economic development. They roughly fall into two camps:

In the past decade, development economics has grown to extraordinary prominence, not just in academia but also in the public arena. This new development economics has moved in two strikingly different directions. The first focuses on micro-level policy interventions… The second trend focuses on macro institutions: the structures of democracy, autocracy, centralized and diffused power, and legal protections of property and contracts that organize politics and markets.

5. Neighborhood Film Company
I’m working on a story for This Is Our City these days on the folks behind Neighborhood Film Company. They’re up to some really cool stuff.

[Photo: Franco Pagetti via]

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Repaso: Chris Wright interview; refugees in Lancaster; science in a fallen world; most read books; Jeppe on a Friday

1. Chris Wright interview
Chris Wright, Old Testament scholar and head of the Langham Partnership (a ministry started by John Stott), was interviewed on the UK-based Nomad Podcast about mission in the Old Testament and gives his perspective on what appear to be ethical conundrums in the Bible. Here also are my notes from a talk Wright gave when he was in town earlier this year.

2. 25 years of refugee resettlement
My former boss, Sheila McGeehan, is profiled by Church World Service for her decades of work resettling refugees in Lancaster. I love the way refugees and immigrants have turned Lancaster City into such a unique, vibrant place, and though she’s too modest to take credit, Sheila has played a big part in that:

Not many people can claim to have resettled thousands upon thousands of refugees to their hometown – but Sheila McGeehan can. Since she began her work with the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program (CWS/IRP) 25 years ago, she has introduced refugees from all around the world to Lancaster, Pa. – the “tranquil, prosperous, safe, pretty” city she loves. In turn, newcomers from Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Burma, Bosnia, Iraq and numerous other countries have transformed this small city in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country into what McGeehan calls a “very cosmopolitan” community, population 55,000-plus.

3. Science in a fallen world
Jason Summers, a real-life scientist, has written a new essay for Q Ideas, calling Christians to faithful engagement in science:

Taking seriously our uniquely human role as practitioners of science, Christians must approach science with a deep grounding in theology and proper understanding of its practice in society. The most significant questions about how science is to be practiced in a fallen world will be settled on the field that spans the two poles of antithesis and common grace. But, if we are to have meaningful input in answering these questions we must heed Pope’s admonition to “check yourself before you wreck yourself” (as a more recent poet has phrased it). Overemphasis of common grace in the practice of science diminishes the unique epistemic perspective of Christians to the extent that faith is made private. In contrast, an overemphasis of antithesis magnifies issues of “ultimate explanation” to the extent that artificial barriers are created to use of valid theoretical constructs. Both distortions are barriers to creating a God honoring culture of science within a society that is pluralistic and fallen, but redeemed and image-bearing.

4. The most read books in the world
A guy by the name of Jared Fanning created an infographic featuring the ten most read books over the past fifty years. Some would be expected, but some are a bit more puzzling. (HT Jesus Creed)

5. Jeppe on a Friday
Here’s the trailer for a “collaborative neighborhood documentary,” set in Johannesburg, South Africa and showing “a day in the lives of eight residents of this area on the brink of massive change.” It looks really fascinating. (HT polis)

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit:]

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Repaso: Evangelical Anglophilia explained; doxology & desire; pastors & their people; Kristof goes to church; Kuyper mindmap; Tom covers Bob

1. Why American Evangelicals love the British
Molly Worthen has an interesting post at the new Religion & Politics blog (tagline: “fit for polite company”) about people like us and why we’re so hung up on guys like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Stott. We Americans apparently have an intellectual inferiority complex, for one thing. Whether you buy all her arguments or not, it’s a good read. Here’s a bit of what she has to say about Stott:

John Stott represented British evangelical moderation at its very best. He spent much of his career advocating dialogue among evangelicals, Catholics, liberals and charismatic Christians. He recognized early on that the center of gravity in global Christianity had shifted to the developing world, and worked to break down the ethnocentric mindset of evangelicals in Europe and North America and convince them that preaching the Word and fighting for social justice were two sides of the same coin… Just as Tolkien and Lewis baptized the world of myth, magic and fantasy for evangelicals whose churches had long proscribed such things as demonic, John Stott helped evangelicals recover a capacity for compassion and civil conversation that was lost in the fog of the culture wars.

2. Doxology and desire
Sandra McCracken makes amazing music and she also happens to write beautiful essays, like this one at Art House America:

So with each passing day, I am becoming more attuned to the particular DNA I have from each of my parents — biology and theology — pushing me forward on the journey of conservation. I might be unqualified, but everybody has to start somewhere. Rather than burying my head in the sand like I am inclined to do, I have to lean into my discomfort. I’d rather deepen my longing, not assuage it. And I look to the great hope that all things will one day be restored and renewed. I want to honor and care for God’s creation not because of a marketing team pulling on my checkbook, but because of a doxological pull that tugs on my conscience.

3. Pastors and their people
I’ve decided I want to read everything Rich Mouw has written. I first read this and then this and, most recently, this. In a recent essay at Faith & Leadership, hosted by Duke Divinity School, he writes about the gap between the worlds in which pastors and their congregants live. He describes a conversation with a successful businessman who lamented the fact that his pastor didn’t understand the challenges he faced day to day:

I have thought much about that conversation. If I were that man’s pastor, what could I do to speak more directly to his felt needs as a businessperson? One thing I would not do is to preach detailed sermons about economics. My lunch partner made it clear that he was not asking for that kind of thing, and I agree with him. What this person was asking for was more sensitivity to the kinds of complexities he faces on a daily basis — a reasonable expectation. And his pastor could respond to this need in helpful ways without becoming an expert on corporate finance.

4. Kristof and Hybels have a chat
Last Sunday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was interviewed by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Church about oppression against women and opportunities to right those wrongs. It’s a fascinating conversation, and the 40 minute video is (for the moment, at least) here. If you’re interested, here also is my review of Kristof’s book on the subject.

5. Wisdom & Wonder mindmap
Fellow Kuyper nerds will be interested to see this amazing mindmap by Steve Bishop of the first four chapters of Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art. It all makes sense now.

6. Tom covers Bob
Some of you may have seen this already, but during a stop in Nashville this week, N.T. Wright picked up a guitar and played a Bob Dylan song, citing its “wonderful biblical imagery” and its solid eschatology. What a treat (though, admittedly, this might just be evidence of my own Anglophilia).

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: a man lights his pipe and enjoys a pint at the Eagle and Child, where The Inklings met to plot goodness - via]

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Michael Goheen on worldview and mission

This one might not be of general interest, I’m warning you now.

Yesterday Michael Goheen was in town, speaking at a Surge Network event for a bunch of Phoenix church planters and at least one blogger whose presence was akin to a fly on the wall. Goheen’s talk was both autobiographical and theological — I guess you could say it was the autobiography of his journey through different Christian traditions in five stages. In showing the reasons why he has moved from tradition to tradition, including the pitfalls he discovered along the way, he spoke charitably about the traditions he has left behind, which I really appreciated.

In my own theological journey, lately I’ve been reading some stuff by Abraham Kuyper and folks with a Kuyperian take on things (for example, this, this and this), and I’ve found it deeply encouraging and instructive. So yesterday’s talk with Goheen was just what I needed: he too has been shaped by a Kuyperian framework, though he has also recognized what he perceives to be some of its weak spots. It’s some good food for thought. So, as I’ve done once or twice before, I offer you a blog post consisting of lecture notes, most unvarnished. This is Goheen’s journey — not mine — though it’s a journey I’m grateful to learn from, and I hope it’s helpful for you too.

1. Born again into Pietism, which consisted believing and confessing the right things and being born into the church; not much concern for a warm, deep relationship with Christ or the ethics that follow. It was largely cold, cerebral orthodoxy. It was very individualistic and very other-worldly, without appreciation of the resurrection of the body or the new heavens and new earth. The mentality was getting people onto a lifeboat and off the sinking ship of Creation.

2. Became interested in Calvinism as a theological system after stumbling upon the Westminster Catechism, and went to study reformed theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. There, he found two traditions at work: Scottish and Dutch. While he deeply appreciated the Westminster Catechism, and continues to value it contextually, he found it to be a dated document that was still very individualistic, whereas Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck and other Dutch theologians were onto the bigger picture.

3. In the Kuyperian/Reformational stage, he was seeing that the Bible is one big story, which stood in contrast to Pietism’s individualism and other-worldliness, which he found refreshing. It seemed to him that systematic theologians had taken the story and turned it into a system; basically saying the Bible got its form wrong, and they were finally getting it right. His belief was reinforced that the gospel wasn’t just about Jesus saving individual souls, but about the gospel of the kingdom. Its cosmic scope challenges our individualism and other-worldliness, and the concept of covenant helped him see the importance of community. As a pastor at this point, he wanted those in his church to believe the right ideas; they in turn started asking what it meant for every area of life: what does the gospel of the Kingdom have to say about literature, business, education, and all kinds of social, economic and political issues? He wasn’t sure, but together they started trying to find out.

4. The next stage was rediscovering Kuyperianism not as a theological system but as a worldview. Kuyper saw the Enlightenment/modernism as a pagan force that shrunk Christianity down to individualism, which he saw as a direct threat to the gospel and the church. Further, he saw modernism as a religious worldview, and a dangerous one; it wasn’t spiritually or morally neutral as many claimed. Christ is Creator, Reconciler and Lord of all, and as such he is concerned about individuals but also cultures. Therefore we need a rigorous all-of-life worldview recognizing the Lordship of Christ. In this stage, Goheen began to understand the importance of creation and its goodness, and how that understanding shapes our worldview, and in turn, all spheres of life.

5. The fifth stage began when he was introduced to the work of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, who was deeply rooted in both scripture and tradition, and what he said was relevant to all of life. Newbigin showed him that mission is central to the whole biblical story. He began to see that mission is as wide as creation. Newbigin was radically Christocentric and saw the relevance of Christ to every area of life. Kuyper started with creation and moved toward Christ; Newbigin started with Christ and moved to creation. Realized that if he’s going to understand the biblical story, he needs to start with Christ. Mission was not for a chosen few in the church; rather, it’s for laypeople in the context of “secular” workplaces. Newbigin, however, didn’t have a full doctrinal appreciation for creation, so it excited Goheen to do synthesis with these two mutually enriching traditions. Kuyper spoke of transformation a lot, but not of suffering (we can learn from Pietism on this point); he learned about that from Newbigin as well. He also gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of spirituality, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, good preaching, fellowship and meditation on Scripture. Without that deep rootedness, you’ll give up or you’ll get arrogant, using any methods necessary to reach your goals. Finally, he learned from Newbigin the indispensability of the local congregation; in emphasizing the importance of all spheres of society in God’s plan, Kuyper had minimized (intentionally or not) the uniqueness of the local church. This fifth stage, and the present one, is what he calls missional Kuyperianism.

Some various scribbles from the Q & A time…
- Christ is central to mission, and the church is indispensable
- Worldview studies is helpful in preparing us for mission
- “Story” is more than biblical theology; it’s the true story of the whole world
- Worldview is a servant to help us open up that story and equip us to be faithful in all of life
- Mission is as wide as life: we witness to the good news that Christ transforms marriages, politics, etc. – every area of life
- Is there a preference given to personal evangelism? We do need to speak, but our lives and our actions need to back it up. Nietzsche said something like this: “If I’m to believe in their Redeemer, they’re going to have to look a whole lot more redeemed.”
- Asked who else is along similar “missional Kuyperian” lines, he said there are pockets here and there, but Richard Mouw and Tim Keller are two prominent ones, though neither necessarily use that term.
- The already/not yet tension keeps us from being triumphalistic and also keeps us from defeatism or escapism.
- Overwhelmingly, critiques from Christians in Africa, Asia and Latin America are that the Western church is too rationalistic, individualistic and dualistic. We’d do well to listen to them humbly.

Is there any congruence between Goheen’s journey and yours? Do any of his conclusions along the way strike you as particularly insightful — or worrisome, for that matter?