The Mind of Christ

Here's some quotes from the apostles Paul and Peter on the training of the mind.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:5-6

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:5

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 15-16

Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
2 Timothy 2:7

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
1 Peter 4:7

Soul Food

One of life’s little incongruities:

I was sitting eating my lunch this afternoon in a commercial food hall in North Sydney. During the course of my meal, a group of five businessmen at the table on my left started talking rather animatedly. One of the men let out a volley of, “I can’t believe Jesus was such a good guy because…” I didn’t catch all of the conversation due to the noise; however I noted that they were back to discussing business five minutes later. Hmmm. Zipping in and out of secular and spiritual issues with hardly batting an eyelid. Interesting, I thought.

About fifteen minutes after that, an inter-religious discussion started up between two business women at the table on my right. One woman was curiously probing her female colleague about her Muslim faith and showing great signs of interest. The enquirer didn’t appear to be a Christian. It struck me that, here I was, in one of the most secular settings you can imagine, surrounded on both sides by alternative religious discussions. This was after I had spent last night composing a letter to a young (totally unchurched) teenager who’d been conversing with me and other youth leaders about her ghost experiences the previous week.

And my local minister considers alternate spirituality / new religious movements to be a side issue – the implication being it shouldn’t concern most Christians, and leaders don't need to speak about it too often.

Animals, God and morality

I'd like to draw attention to two article recently posted on Sacred Tribes Journal that look at animal theology.   

Animals and Morality – Four Views

"The German Christian mystic, Hilkdegard, instructed, 'do not regard other creatures as existing merely to serve your bodily needs. By cherishing them as God requires, your soul will benefit.'"

"Calvin DeWitt, director of the AuSable Institute for Christian Environmental Education rightly says, 'If you translated that story [Noah's Ark] into modern terminology, you would frame it as saving threatened species'"

Animals Matter to God – Rediscovering Creation Guardianship

"There are contemporary Christians for whom the subject of animals is important on ethical and theological grounds, just as there has been in the past. It is clearly a matter where Wiccans, Pagans and Christians need to talk to each other about their respective views, concerns and actions."

Various Justice Links

Friends of the earth An environmental campaign group.

New Economics Foundation An independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being.

Trade Craft The UK's leading fair trade organisation helping poor communities work their way out of poverty.

Corporate Responsibility (CORE) The steering group of CORE includes: Action Aid, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth and Traidcraft. The Coalition represents over 100 charities, faith-based groups, community organisations, unions, businesses and academic institutions.

UN Calendar Annuals events

American Youth and Religion

I was inspired by Amos Yong's review of “Global Religious Movements in Regional Context” at Sacred Tribes Journal to look up one of the authors, Christian Smith.

As a consequence I came across an interesting article about American Youth called Youth and Religion. It has interesting implications for youth ministers and Christians working with youth in America (PS. I have doubts that it is equally helpful for the UK, NZ and Australian contexts but it is still thought provoking).

Some excerpts:

Christian Smith is one of the leading sociologists of American religion on the scene today. The Stuart Chapin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Smith is the author or co-author of several acclaimed books, including American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving and Christian America? What Evangelicals Really Want. His most recent project has been the massive National Study of Youth and Religion. Over the past five years, he and his team have conducted over 3,200 telephone surveys and over 250 in-depth, one-on-one interviews with American teenagers. Many of the findings, of extreme importance for youth workers, are available at www.youthandreligion.org.

…………………………..

TJ: You found that, contrary to much that's been written, American teenagers aren't particularly influenced by postmodern-pluralistic culture, that they don't claim to be 'spiritual but not religious.' If young people are really religiously conventional, why do you suppose many of us have this false perception of seeking?

CS: Good question. This view certainly seems to have created a major impression among many observers. This is probably partly a sampling problem: journalists, book authors, and other religion commentators often base their impressions and stories on small groups of 'convenience sampled' teenagers who may not well represent all of them.

TJ: Do you suspect that young adults between 18 and 22 (even the college students that you teach) are more influenced by postmodern cultural shifts like pluralism and globalization than the teenagers seem to be?

CS: Yes, I suspect it increases as teenagers move into young adulthood, especially among those who go to college—though we're not sure yet how dramatic that change is. Still, it's important to know that this normally isn't the case among 13-17 year olds. In the summer of 2005, we'll be re-surveying all of our teen survey respondents three years later and will know what changed as they grew older.

…………………………..

TJ: Now the bad news. Although most American teenagers are faithful, you say the faith they practice can best be described as 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.' Can you take a sentence or two to unpack each of these terms?

CS: Yes, I am suggesting that MTD is the actual de facto functional religious faith of the majority of teenagers, regardless of their official affiliation.

By 'moralistic' I mean oriented toward being good and nice, in ways that assert certain moral claims (for example, 'You should never have sex with someone you don't really care about.') in fairly arbitrary ways without their being integrated into any larger, coherent moral tradition.

By 'therapeutic' I mean being primarily concerned with one's own happiness, good feeling, personal comfortability, and emotional wellbeing—in contrast to, say, a focus on glorifying God, learning obedience, or serving others.

Finally, by 'deism' I mean a view of God as normally distant and not involved in one's life, except (as qualified by the 'therapeutic') if one has a problem one needs God to solve, one can call on God to fix it and make one feel better. In MTD, in other words, God functions as a combination divine butler and cosmic therapist.

Sacred Tribes Journal: Neo-Paganism Issue

The latest issue of Sacred Tribes Journal is now (finally) out. I've yet to go through it all so I'll save any further commentary for the moment other than to say is a bumber crop of articles related to neo-paganism.

Summary of topics:

Part One: Fact-finding and Reflections

  • Christians and the New Pagans – Nicola Hoggard Creegan
  • Contributing Factors in the Resurgence of Paganism in Western Society – Michael Cooper
  • Postmodern Counterculture – Michael Cooper
  • Neo-Paganism: Is Dialogue Possible – McLean
  • Musterion – God's Story & Our Story – Saxby
  • Wiccans and Jesus – Woolcott
    Neopagan and Wiccan Views – Schulzer

Part Two: Dialogue and Challenge

  • The Wheel of the Year – Smulo, Stewart & Hallum
  • Paganism, New Spirituality, and Christianity: Looking for a Holistic Ecological Ethic – John Smulo
  • Animals and Morality: Four Views – John Smulo
  • Animals Matter to God – Pollard/Johnson
  • The Deeper Magic: Paganism & Christianity in Kenneth Grahame and C. S. Lewis – Jon Trott
  • Reading and Reference Room – Johnson

I commend this to Emerging Church leaders as a valuable resourse for learning about new spirituality in the emerging culture.

Ekstasis

Ekstasis is the ancient Greek word for trance. It literally translates as outside of oneself.

Ekstasis the blog [which I have now rolled into this blog] was inspired by the trance experiences of the apostles Peter and Paul in Acts 10:10, 11:5 and 22:17, experiences which awakened them to the realisation that Jesus’ message of hope transcends cultural taboos and traditions. In ekstasis they were welcomed into the mystery of God, the mystery that there is neither Hebrew nor Hellenist, Slave nor Free, Male nor Female, for all are one in Christ Jesus, the mystery which the ritual of communion signifies.

In a world were many people are turning from the way of Jesus towards alternative pathways of ecstatic experience – towards animism, paganism and pantheism – it is important to be reminded of the place that trance and meditation hold within the ancient Christian tradition. Instead of ecstatic experience being a barrier to conversation it should actually be a bridge.

It is my hope therefore that Ekstasis can be a positive contributor to the emerging conversation between Contemplatives and Charismatics, Evangelicals and Esoterics, Christians and Wiccans.

May the Spirit guide you in your journey.

Community isn’t what it used to be

What are people reading to stimulate their thoughts about community? What blogs? What books? What research data? I have a confession. I’m back to square one on the community issue.

One of my disappointments with the Emerging Church in its current liminal form is that it still strikes me as relatively insular. Granted, it’s more open than the established church, it’s demonstratively more attractive to creative types, it’s less hierarchical; it’s lots of wonderful things. But, what yardstick are we using? The established church! Any animal looks fast next to a three-toed sloth; any tint looks colourful next to protestant grey. But what do we look like next to really edgy forms of community? Decidedly moribund.

Please hear me out. I’m not saying this to put people down or big note myself. I’m not saying I have discovered the magic bullet that’s going to fix the churches problems. I am simply making the observation that there’s still lots of ecclesiological deconstruction to be done before we can say we’ve arrived.

When I launched my first fledgling attempt at an alternative Christian community gathering some years ago, my primary focus was the ‘how do we disciple people question’. I’d been assisting Philip Johnson with Community of Hope at some Mind Body Spirit festivals for a number of years and was experiencing a growing conviction that a major problem with the parachurch model of ministry we’d been pursuing was its inherent assumption that people who responded could be slotted into a church. However, what we found was that that this was sometimes one of the last things you really should do. The more hard core the seekers were, the more likely they’d be chewed up and spat out. Regular church was just way too much of a culture shock.

So my thoughts started drifting towards church planting, small group formation, etc. If you were to start a group, where, when and how would you do it? We started thinking through the whole contextualisation process. And one of the immediate problems we ran up against was the commuting phenomena. People we met were from all corners of the city, yet conventional church wisdom was centred on neighbourhood family-based strategies.

We’ve experimented like many and I won’t go into that now. But what I would like to draw people’s attention to is the new forms of communitas that are springing up in the wake of cultural changes such as mass commuting, instantaneous global communications and social dislocation.

Here’s just a few:

  • Blended families
  • Commuting lifestyles (ie weeknights in city, weekdays up the coast)
  • Alternate reality gaming
  • Rave parties
  • Alternate festival nomadism
  • Flash mobs
  • Wiccan circle networks
  • And (of course) blog communities

The list goes on. These groups are held together by demographic bonds rather than any geographical ones. Not only don’t they meet in custom built facilities, some don’t meet in any facilities or even in the same location from month to month. I’d like to see some Emerging Church conversation threads looking at real alternate forms of community, Fellowship of the Ring forms of community, sojourner church.

Tibetan Monks at the Shopping Mall

Sand-mandala Which is more accessible in Australia these days, Christianity or Tibetan Buddhism? Ben Askins, a Buddhist software engineer living on the Central Coast north of Sydney, recently made this observation:

There are a group of Tibetan Buddhist Monks visiting our local shopping mall this week. They are conducting daily meditation sessions in the morning, and creating a sand mandala which will be completed and then dissolved at the end of the week. I'll explain the process and post some more photos over at the Open Faith Network as the week progresses.

Check out his blog for the full story.

I find it interesting to observe that forms of meditation and devotion that were considered very exotic only a few decades ago are now being showcased in suburban shopping centers. Could you imagine a Christian worship group receiving the same reception?   

Augmented reality closer to reality

I caught an interesting story on Beyond Tomorrow earlier this evening that featured some of the latest augmented reality (AR) prototypes.

For those that have never heard of it, augmented reality is the total reverse of virtual reality. Instead of you entering the computer’s world, it enters yours via heads-up-display style glasses. I’ve been reading that this hot new technology is on the way for ages but these were the first working products I’ve seen.

The interactive children’s books caught my eye in particular. As News Target recounts:

“A child can flip through its pages and read it like a conventional book. But with a handheld display and computer vision tracking technology, kids can literally watch the story come to life. ‘You can see animated virtual characters overlaid on the real book pages and hear the voice of Gavin Bishop reading the story,’ says Billinghurst, director of the HIT Lab NZ…”

Makes me wonder how long off the worlds first augmented reality bible is. Could be R-rated, particularly if Mel Gibson sponsors it. Actually…maybe the bit about David’s bride price for Saul's daughter (1 Samuel 18:27) is best left in 2D text. Anyway, you get the idea, a world of interactive possibilities …

Here’s some links for further reading:

Beyond Tomorrow

Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand
(Lot’s of prototypes featured here)

Man arrested for drunk-in-the-Spirit driving

Lark News reports:

FORT MORGAN, Colo. — Bill Henderson hopped in his F-150 pickup after a revival service where he'd been powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit. But at a check point just outside of town, police officers pulled him over and arrested him for "driving while spiritually intoxicated."

"He was swerving all over the road, and laughing and staggering around when we got him out of the truck," says an officer.

Henderson could not stand on one leg, nor walk a straight line, and was thrown into the city jail for the night, where he giggled and spoke in tongues.

"I was so high on the Holy Spirit, it was a good night for me, no matter where I was," he says. Fort Morgan's "drunk-in-the-Spirit driving" ordinance prohibits people from driving in "a mentally impaired or intoxicated state." Police perch near revival meetings to hand out tickets to erratic drivers. The city is also considering a law against "spiritual drunkenness among young people" which could land pastors and visiting evangelists in hot water.

Henderson drove home from jail the next morning, and says the $55 fine won't deter him from attending revivals and "receiving from the Lord."

"But next time, I'll bring a designated driver," he says.