SPEAKERS AND FACILITATORS
ICS publishes a quarterly online journal,
En Christo: A Journal for a
New Christianity, that includes book reviews and
commentary relevant to a re-visioning of what it means to be
a news and info letter is
available by email to all participants in
ICS programs and other interested persons.
Peace Memo Archive
A Journal for a New Christianity
Volume 1, Number 1
1st Quarter, 2007
James L. Foster, editor
En Christo is published by
Institutes for the Study of Christian Spirituality (ISCS), 204
Busbee Road, Knoxville, TN 37920. ISCS is an institute of
the Peacebuilding Institute, a voluntary association dedicated to the promotion and practice of
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Dialogue: A Vision for the 21st Century,
Article #1: Love Is a Gift of God, by James L.
Article #2: On the Search for Truth, by James L.
The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of
by Daniel Taylor; Glen Lloyd Foster,
The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
by Henri Nouwen;
Mary Jo Bezanson,
The Power Delusion
by Anthony Campolo
Glen Lloyd Foster,
This is the first edition of En
Christo published by the Institute for the Study of Christian
Spirituality (ISCS), 204 Busbee Road, Knoxville, TN 37920.
I, James L. (Jim) Foster, am the editor and am also the Founder
and President of the Institute. My intent is to create an
ongoing dialogue, with any who are interested, about the changes
in Christianity that have become increasingly obvious since we
entered the new millennium as well as the changes that still
need to happen. For now I will be using my personal email
firstname.lastname@example.org, to facilitate the dialogue, though
in the future I may convert to a website and blog format.
Submissions of articles and reviews
and reader responses may only be sent by email attachment to
email@example.com. Since I do not know
all of you personally, please include “En Christo” on the
subject line, as otherwise I may delete your email without
opening it. By like token, if you wish to be removed from
my “En Christo” email list please let me know. I do
not wish to hassle you with unwanted mail.
is a transliteration of the koine Greek for “In Christ.”
The focus of the journal is the experience of Christian
discipleship interpreted in contemporary and non-theistic
categories. The journal is ecumenical, even interfaith, in
its outlook and seeks common ground with lovers of God of a
variety of faith traditions.
Reviews of the following books are
solicited, though other books not on the list will also be given
consideration based on their relevance to the focus of En
Christo. All of the books listed are available from
Amazon.com in either new or used copies.
Books in need of Reviewers:
Amaladoss, Michael. The Asian Jesus.
(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006, paperback)
Apel, William and Paul M. Pearson.
Signs of Peace: The Interfaith Letters of Thomas Merton.
(Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006)
The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History.
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 2005, 2007)
Borg, Marcus J.
The God We Never Knew.
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 2006)
Borg, Marcus J. The Heart of
Christianity: Recovering a Life of Faith. (New
York: Harper San Francisco, 2004)
Borg, Marcus J. Jesus, A New Vision:
Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship. (New York:
Harper San Francisco, New York: Harper San Francisco,
Borg, Marcus J.
Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a
Revolutionary. ((New York: Harper San Francisco,
Borg, Marcus J.
Living the Heart of Christianity: A Guide to Putting Your Faith
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 2006)
Borg, Marcus J. Meeting Jesus Again for
the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary
Faith. (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1994)
Borg, Marcus J.
Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the
Bible Seriously but Not Literally.
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 2002)
Borg, Marcus J. and N. T Wright.
The Meaning of Jesus. (New York: Harper
San Francisco, 2002)
The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, the Promise of Our
Future. (Carlsbad, California: Hay House, Inc., 2004)
Brown, Deborah A., ed.
Christianity in the 21st
Century. (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co.,
Brown, Robert McAfee.
Kairos: Three Prophetic Challenges to the Church.
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990)
Delos, Andrew C. Myths We Live By:
From the Times of Jesus and Paul. (2006)
Dorrien, Gary. Soul in Society: The
Making and Renewal of Social Christianity.
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995)
Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities:
The Battles for Scripture and Faiths We Never Knew.
(Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)
Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Scriptures:
Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament.
(Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)
Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus:
The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. (New
York: Harper San Francisco, 2005, 2007)
Fox, Matthew. One River, Many Wells:
Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths. (New York:
Funk, Robert W. Honest to Jesus:
Jesus for a New Millennium. (New York:
Harper San Francisco, 1996)
Griffith-Jones, Robin. The Four
Witnesses: The Rebel, The Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic.
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 2000)
Hamilton, William. A Quest for the
Post-Historical Jesus. (New York: Continuum, 1994)
Harpur, Tom. The Pagan Christ:
Recovering the Lost Light. (Toronto: Thomas
Allen Publishers, 2004)
Horsley, Richard A. Jesus and Empire:
The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder.
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002)
Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom:
The Coming of Global Christianity. (Oxford/New York:
Oxford University Press, 2002)
Krosney, Herbert and Bart D. Ehrman.
The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas
Iscariot. (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic,
McLaren, Brian D. The Secret Message of
Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything.
(Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2006)
Nelson-Pallmeyer, Jack. Jesus Against
Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus. (Harrisburg,
PA: Trinity Press International, 2001)
Nolan, Albert. Jesus Today: A
Spirituality of Radical Freedom. ((Maryknoll, NY:
Orbis Books, 2006)
Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Paul:
Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters. (Philadelphia, PA:
Trinity Press International, 1992, paperback)
Ranke-Heinemann, Uta. Putting Away Childish Things:
The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You
Don’t Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith. (New
York: Harper San Francisco, 1994)
Riley, Gregory J. The River of God:
A New History of Christian Origins. (New York: Harper
San Francisco, 2001)
Schonfield, Hugh. The Essene Odyssey:
The Mystery of the True Teacher & the Essene Impact on the
Shaping of Human Destiny (Rockport, MA: Element, Inc.,
Spong, John Shelby. Jesus for the
Non-Religious. (New York: Harper San
Spong, John Shelby. A New Christianity
for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New
Faith Is Being Born. (New York: Harper San
Spong, John Shelby. Why Christianity
Must Change or Die. (New York: Harper San
Wallis, Jim. The Soul of Politics:
Beyond “Religious Right” and “Secular Left”. (Harvest Book,
Wallis, Jim. The Soul of Politics:
A Practical and Prophetic Vision for Change. (Maryknoll,
NY: Orbis Books, 1994)
Wells, G. A. The Jesus Myth.
(Chicago: Open Court, 1999)
White, L. Michael. From Jesus to
Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries
& Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith.
(New York: Harper San Francisco, 2004)
Wink, Walter. When the Powers Fall:
Reconciliation in the Healing of Nations.
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998)
Wink, Walter. Jesus and Non-Violence: A
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2003)
Wright, Tom. The Original Jesus: The
Life and Vision of a Revolutionary (Grand Rapids: Wm.
B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990)
En Christo is not endowed with funds that enable it to
pay for submissions (or for editors, for that matter), there is
no remuneration offered for submissions of any kind.
Expenses incurred by contributors in the production of their
submissions are solely their responsibility, including the
purchase of books reviewed.
is a space given to readers to converse about the issues raised
by the various contributors to En Christo. Readers
are encouraged to email their responses other readers and to
authors of various articles and reviews. The editor will
include your responses in the next issue. The responses
must be civil in tone and display serious intent to wrestle with
the presented issues if they are to be considered for inclusion.
The editor reserves the right to edit accepted responses for
length, grammar and civility.
Vision For the 21st Century
(Editor’s note: As this is the first issue of En
Christo, John Lackey, a minister of the United Church of
Christ, is here priming the pump for future dialogues. In
the future it is anticipated that reader responses to other
readers, to the editor and to content of previous issues of
will constitute the bulk of the dialogue section.)
My vision for our world in this 21st Century is a
biblically sourced vision having to do with economics. Douglas
Meeks, in God the Economist,
points out that the Greek word from which we derive economy, “oikonomia,”is
a compound of “oikos,” meaning “household,” and “nomos,”
meaning “law” or “management of the household.” “Economy” means
literally “the management of the household.” The Bible,
throughout, is about a God whose purpose is to create a
household in which all of God’s creatures can find home and
abundant life. This suggests lines from the World
Citizenship Creed: “I believe in the dignity of all
humanity, that each person is a being of supreme worth...I
believe in the stewardship of life and resources to the end that
all may mutually benefit from the earth’s bounty and that no
person may have to go without food or shelter...I believe in the
global community, interdependent and mutually responsible for
our physical and social environments...a world where justice and
compassion rule and where greed and hatred are diminished...”
The chief goal of this 21st century must be to develop the
potential implied in these words.
This requires an understanding of today’s system of Global
Economics--why it has failed to live up to its heralded promise
that, in time, all of earth’s citizens would enjoy a decent
standard of living. The basic problem is that global economics
is under the control of the developed nations and giant
corporations, which exist for profits and not for people. Even
so, as Joseph Stiglitz says in Globalization and Its
“I believe that globalization--the removal of barriers to free
trade and the closer integration of national economies--can be a
force for good and that it has the potential to enrich everyone
in the world, particularly the poor.”
This raises some vital questions:
(1) How did it come about that globalization became a
“domination system,” to use Walter Wink’s term?
(2) What changes are necessary if globalization is to be
transformed into a just, humane system that benefits all of
the earth’s peoples and nature?
(3) How does “outsourcing” fit into the picture?
(4) How can the greed in human character
that drives the profit motive be transformed for the sake of
both the victims and the oppressors?
(5) How can peoples of the developed nations begin to
recognize how we support the system?
It seems that the needed reforms require that
people around the world work together with collective action in
shaping international agreements and regulating international
corporations. Global public institutions must be created
to help set the rules. Concerned world citizens need to
join and support organizations that are working toward economic
and environmental justice.
This kind of vision calls for a global communications system. It
seems that such a system is available to us today through the
World Wide Web. With global access to the Web:
(1) There could develop a common
understanding about how the global economic system works and
what is needed to change it.
(2) Workers in a given nation could
share information with those in other nations about how the
corporation-controlled system is affecting their lives.
(3) Peoples involved in the
struggle for justice in their homeland could enjoy encouragement
and support from around the world.
(4) Global action could be brought
to bear on a local situation of injustice (refusal to pay a
living wage, refusal to provide health care, damage to the
environment, etc.). Peoples in other nations could write the
corporation CEO with appeals for justice. When a corporation
knows that the eyes of the world are on it, it may feel inclined
to change its ways.
How important to the 21st century is the vision
discussed here? William Sloan Coffin, in his Credo,
says it well: “the war against terrorism will finally be won by
economic justice. There is nothing meta-physical
about terrorism. It springs from specific historical
causes--political oppression and economic deprivation.
Until these injustices and our complicity and their furtherance
are faced, our escalating counter violence will predictably
result in more and more terrorists attacking more and more
American institutions at home and abroad…”
What’s at stake in the 21st Century
is world peace! This world must become a household in which all
of God’s creatures find home and abundant life.
LOVE IS A
GIFT OF GOD
“For God so loved the cosmos
that he gave his only begotten son, in order that whoever
him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Love is our gift to the world
because Love is God’s gift to us.
Bear with me while I tell you of a dream through which God’s
gift of Love was made more real to me than it had ever been
before. I was in a huge auditorium-like courtroom. I
was on trial. The charge: unfaithfulness to God.
Everyone I had ever met was present and filled the auditorium.
The charge was presented, I pled guilty, and sentence was
passed—death and hell. Though it was a dream, I felt
deeply the trauma of that moment, knowing as I did that the
sentence was right and just. But then I flashed back in
the dream to a point just before the sentencing. In this
flashback, Jesus entered the courtroom from a back entrance.
The court proceedings stopped. The courtroom fell silent
as Jesus walked slowly down the long aisle and over to where I
was seated. He said nothing but motioned for me to stand.
When I did so, he took my seat. The court proceedings
resumed and Jesus took my sentence.
I was appalled and overwhelmed and incredulous and grateful.
I awoke crying, having learned experientially something of the
cost of God’s Love. Never since have I been able to
contemplate casually the cross of Jesus. Never since have
I been tempted to denigrate the Love of God, for I know the
dream portrayed the reality. What I experienced there was
a vision of what has really transpired—and that billions of
Dorothy Day asks, “What is God but
love? What is religion without love? We read of the
saints dying for love and wonder what it means…. Our Lord did
that, but most people no longer believe in Him.”
Aren’t we a crazy people? We say we are dying for love, we
sing odes to it, we saturate our language with it, and bombard
ourselves with televised and printed images of it, but when we
are presented with the real thing, we neither recognize nor
Love is a free gift. Agape love is a free gift of
God. Perhaps it is the very fact that it is free that
makes it difficult to accept. In our Western society at
least, we have our minds set against anything labeled “free.”
Such a label often means that (1), the gift offered isn’t worth
much and (2), there’s a catch to it.
What about the gift of agape? What is it worth?
The value of a gift may be measured either by its cost to the
one who gives it or by its worth to the one receiving it.
In the case of God’s gift of agape, I think it can fairly
be said that it cost him a great deal. God laid the life
of his “only begotten son” on the line in giving his Love.
If our freedom to accept or reject his Love means anything at
all, then his gift was at the risk that nobody might
accept it, that all of us might choose to go our own way.
There was the risk that all the pain and trauma of the cross
might have been for naught. But that risk, that
insecurity, that possibility of indescribable heartbreak was,
for God, part of the cost of loving.
Jesus’ death on the cross was God’s gift of his own life for us.
It was a gift so reckless and given with such abandonment of
self as to exceed the limits of human credibility. But it
happened. History attests to it and both our faith and
life experiences affirm it. From the standpoint of the one
giving it, it was a gift of unsurpassed worth, costing Life
What if all had rejected God’s gift of Love? Would there have
been resurrection? For all his riches, God had nothing
greater to give. Having given his Love, was there anything
left that could have been as effective in wooing us to him?
If Love had not worked, nothing else would have. Perhaps
all, all, would have been lost—which leads us to the
Is there a catch to God’s gift of Love? Is it a gift with
strings attached? After all, what is it that Love wants to
effect? What is the goal of Divine Love? Love has
been defined, as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose
of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” 3
Love may also be defined as the pull towards unity of that
which should never have been separated, as the urge towards the
healing of relationships that are broken, thus a move to
wholeness. Yes, if spiritual growth, unity,
restoration and wholeness constitute a “catch,” then there is
definitely a catch to
agape Love. God is out to kill us with Love. He
is out to kill that man or woman who is living the illusion of
separateness, transforming us into that image of himself in
which he first created us. He is out to kill the illusion
and confront us with our essential unity with each other, with
our shared identity, and with our birthright of oneness with
The pull towards unity, towards oneness, is the pull on the
created towards the Creator. The Hebrew prophet spoke for
God, “You shall seek me and find me, when you shall search for
me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). In loving us, it
is God’s purpose to bring us back to himself, to reestablish the
union which once was and, in so doing, to restore us to our true
selves. Yes, there is a “catch” indeed. In
responding to God’s gift of his Love we are freed from the
bondage of our illusion of separateness and we come into the
glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. In
responding to his gift, we reestablish our “luminous and noble”
place in God’s family.
There is imagery in Francis Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of
Heaven,” where God is portrayed as the relentless pursuer, we
the pursued. God pursues us until, at last, there is no
escape. But we try to flee, even though we should know
that the quest for independence is futile. “This is
eternal life,” Jesus prayed, “that they should know you, the one
true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
God so loves that he gives—even to the point of pursuing us to
Love is a gift of God. It is the free and sacrificial gift
of Jesus Christ. It is a gift of union, of wholeness and
of life—and that eternal. It is also a gift which, when
openly received, transforms us and infuses us with the same
capacity and compulsion to be channels of agape for
others. It is only natural that when we come into union
with the giver of Divine Love, into a real oneness, we will
participate in the giving. In receiving Love, we become
Love. Love becomes our nature. And in so becoming
Love we learn first hand a little of what it cost God. We,
too, experience the pain and trauma of being misunderstood and
rejected. But worse still, we see those we love still
trapped in their illusion, still trying to go it alone when all
the freedom of life in God, life in its unimaginable fullness,
is theirs for the asking. We learn what God has always
known—that we must love and accept all persons just as they are
love them for who, in God, they can become.
When we give the Love that God has given us, we allow ourselves
to be drawn closer to those we are given to love. “…this
aspect of love says, ‘I love you as you can be, beyond
who and what you are now, in your boundless possibilities.
I dream of you, for you, and with you toward a limitless future
of love’. In Gabriel Marcel’s phrase…’I hope in you for
The gift of God’s Love is given to others through us. We,
too, are Divine Lovers. The gift we have been given is
ours to give. “For everyone to whom much is given, from
him much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)
ON THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
By James L. Foster
It is recorded by the author of the Gospel of John, that Pilate
asked Jesus, “What is truth?” It appears that Jesus either
chose not to respond to the question or that the question was
rhetorical in the first place. In either case the question
was not answered. Jesus, it must be noted, did prompt the
question by saying, “To this end I was born, and for this cause
I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the
Was this a real conversation or were Pilate and Jesus just
talking past each other? Or was it the writer of the
Gospel who was obsessed with getting across the idea some 70
years after the death of Jesus that somehow truth and Jesus were
to be equated. He ascribes the word “truth” (Greek, άληθεια or alēthěia) to Jesus 26 times in his writing, compared
with one time recorded by the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, 3
times by the writer of the Gospel of Mark and twice recorded by
the writer of the Gospel of Luke. It is the author of John who
has Jesus saying, this time in response to a question put to him
by his disciple, Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No man comes to the Father except by me.”
It is quite possible of course that John got it right, and that
Matthew, Mark and Luke, perhaps because they attached less
importance to matters of truth, did not see Jesus’ assertions
about truth important enough to include in their accounts.
The fact that particularly Matthew and Luke had little
compunction about bending the “Jesus story” to their own
purposes only lends credibility to the suspicion that they did
not highly regard “truth.”
But in the Gospel of John, truth is a prominent concept, and my
inclination is therefore not to ask Pilate’s question, but
rather to ask “why is truth important?” This is, after
all, at the root of much of the biblical scholarship of the last
100 years and especially that of the last two decades.
There has been a prodigious effort to nail down the “truth” in
Scripture simply because it was deemed important to do so.
However, it has not been an easy task to separate the truth
about Jesus from the mythology that developed around him
following his martyrdom. One only has to look at all the
books written as part of this quest over the past 20 years, to
realize that the separation of truth from fiction in the Gospel
accounts has become a monumental industry. It has also
been a perilous journey, because through the centuries there has
been an enormous effort on the part of some to protect their
investment in the fictions about Jesus. Many of these
people, unskilled and uninterested in the ways of scholarly
research, are inclined to believe tradition, taking that to be
the final and authoritative word of truth. There are
others, who do have the requisite skills, who nevertheless
decline to break with the dogmas that quite literally have
become their bread and butter. When it comes to religion,
with its volatile mix of emotion, devotion and unquestioning
obedience to the proclaimed “truth,” any deviation is easily
written off as an attack on the religion, as out and out heresy,
or worse, apostasy. It is a dangerous waters upon which
responsible scholars sail, and not a few have been destroyed in
their sailing of them.
But there is strength in numbers and in recent years the number
of capable, earnest, Christian scholars, who have gone public in
their search for the truth about Jesus, has grown impressively.
Their searchings have been meticulous and widespread, including
the disciplines of not only biblical theology, but also history,
archeology, linguistics, and science. Together these
scholars, most of them deeply committed Christians, have made
significant strides in uncovering truth. Sometimes, that
which they uncover destroys coveted doctrines and concepts that
have been cherished as foundational to the religious structures
that have been erected over two millennia. When this
happens, those who are not able to adjust to the newly revealed
truth find themselves floundering in a sea of confusion and
often striking out at those who try to pull them to safety on
firmer ground. In the process it is sometimes the rescuers
who are drowned.
So why does it matter? Why is the truth so important?
Why do people risk their livelihoods, their reputations and
life-long associations to pursue it? I would suggest that
they do it because they are people of integrity who cannot
tolerate the thought of basing their lives on error. Error
is, after all, the alternative to truth, and where there is
credible evidence that error has been parading as truth, the
choice is to base their lives on a lie or to base their lives on
the best evidence they have of the truth. A person of
integrity chooses the latter.
Given the propensity of many of us to wear blinders, preferring
not to know things that may dislodge us from our uninformed
comfort, it is not surprising that we resist ideas that are not
normally in our field of vision. That is why we need
capable investigators in many arenas to alert us to new
perceptions of truth. It is no secret that the Christian
Church through the centuries has been wrong on many occasions
and in many ways—the crusades, the inquisition, indulgences, the
earth as the center of the universe, the world as flat, papal
infallibility (including our present Pope’s suppression of Nag
Hammadi scrolls for 40 years), and in later years slavery,
shunning, segregation, participation in wars and genocide, and
character assassination, consumerism, and neglect of the poor –
to name a few. Injustice has been our credo, and greed our
perversion. Is it any wonder that we shrink from the truth
– the truth about ourselves, about Jesus, and about God?
Jesus also said, “the truth will make you free.” I know
very few genuinely free Christians. We are enslaved by our
mixed allegiance to the fearsome God of the Old Testament and
the God revealed by Jesus in the New. We are enslaved by
our dogmas. We fear real freedom and we are terrified by
love, so we opt to put constraints around both. But when
we do we are not even following the Jesus that we do know, much
less the Jesus that modern scholarship is revealing.
The real Jesus has not really been hidden. A few have
always known him for who he really is. Not God incarnate,
but the Son of Man (read that human); not a theologically
contrived redeemer acting in behalf of a God who could and does
redeem his creation in a myriad of ways; and not a judge but a
role model who has come to show us that we, like him, are also
children of God. That is what it means to be created in
God’s image. That is what it means to be human.
Human beings, divine beings – they are the same thing. The
people we call mystics have known this for centuries. And
now, the Jesus we are discovering anew is calling us to the
glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of the Creator God.
That is Truth.
The following books were chosen from among reviews written some
years ago for print edition of En Christo because each one, in
its own way, points to the kind of change required of
Christianity, if it is to be the dynamic and relevant faith
espoused by its founder.
The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of
by Daniel Taylor (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987).
Some Reflections on Reflectivity
The reflective Christian in a world of secular doubt: Will
his or her reflection lead to passivity or to commitment, to
paralysis or to action? Daniel Taylor, writing as a
reflective Christian from his base as an English professor at
Bethel College in Minnesota is writing reflectively for
reflectives. He is one who has clearly opted for
commitment and action. By putting his reflections down in
black and white, he has frozen them as it were at a point in
their evolution. It was a very non-reflective thing to do,
and Taylor has become an illustration of his own thesis.
“The Reflective person,” Taylor says, “is first and foremost a
question asker…To be reflective is to be sensitive to and
fascinated by the complexity of things.” And of people.
And of God. “Reflectiveness,” he continues, “is a
character trait deeply rooted in what one essentially is.
Taylor sees the end of reflectiveness in an “either/or” sense:
“Being a reflective is both a blessing and a curse, a potential
for strength and for weakness. It can lead equally well
toward truth or error.”
But there is yet another way open to the reflective that Taylor
does not discuss. That is to accept certain conclusions
while retaining doubt as to how such conclusions can be reached.
For example, it is possible to have faith in God—perhaps just a
gut-feeling faith—and yet to admit to several different ways of
reaching God, and for that matter, to question them all.
So is it also possible for a Christian reflective to accept that
a Hindu, like Gandhi, was no less a servant of God than Mother
Theresa, a Christian?
Taylor, quite rightly, says “Everyone needs relief from the
potentially endless cycle of assertion, analysis, counter
assertion, qualification, redefinition, exceptions, extenuating
complications, hidden presuppositions, emotional colorings,
summation ad infinitum. He sees the needed relief
coming in commitment and action, supported by her or his own and
the church’s memory, by the community in which the reflective
lives, and by plain perseverance. I would suggest that
relief is also available through faith and that there is nothing
wrong with a faith that admits doubt. Furthermore, the
reflective Christian can legitimately say, “I don’t know
altogether why, but I accept that it must be so.” As the
biblical writer concluded in I John 4:12, “no one has ever seen
God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his law is
made complete in us.” (NIV)
If, as Taylor says, action is the remedy for reflective
paralysis, the New Testament is the handbook for action, the
what-to-do, and the how-to-do-it manual. It is also
conclusive evidence that Jesus was a reflective. He found
value in the questing use of the mind. He doubted a lot of
things. He doubted that upon his return he would find
faith in the world. He doubted key elements of Old
Testament law and its interpretation. And he was
sympathetic with Thomas, a doubter. Finally, as Taylor
notes, he doubted that God the Father, his Father, was still
with him. Yet Jesus was a reflective who found surcease in
commitment, and in commitment, action. Jesus
did and as Taylor so admirably points out in the last
chapters of his book, so can we do. – Glen Lloyd
The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
by Henri Nouwen (New York: Doubleday, 1988)
always thinks that a book by Nouwen will be worth reading and
that expectation was certainly fulfilled. But one
expectation not fulfilled was that of hearing a story of L’Arche
and day-to-day life in that community of handicapped people and
their assistants. Although that community is the setting
and background for most of the book and some details are given,
the focus is on Nouwen himself.
As with several of his other works, this one is written in diary
style from his personal journal so the reader is given a glimpse
of the author’s inner life. The original 700 pages of
manuscript were edited considerably to shape the book and give
it direction. Even so, we are presented with a painfully
honest picture of the author during a time of transition in his
life when he felt that following Jesus required a change in his
life but he wasn’t sure what change or if he wanted it.
Because of the diary style the thoughts and ideas in the
individual entries can often stand alone and do not necessarily
flow in a logical progression. The thread running through
the book, which ties it together, is Nowen’s desire to be shown
his place of mission. He attempts to answer the question,
“How does one follow Jesus unreservedly?” The journal
entries are always interesting, thought provoking and even
moving. Nowen’s struggles with relationships, friendships,
rejection, fear and hurts are very human and any reader will be
able to relate to them.
The material about the call to a new vocation or lifestyle is
more difficult to follow. True to life there is no clear
trail, no large signposts. Nouwen tells us his thoughts
and feelings, but their development and the emerging conviction
that this new way was God’s leading remain somewhat obscure.
This certainly is not a “how to” book for finding one’s
mission or discovering the Lord’s will for one’s life.
More authentically it is a description of one man’s search and
the answer he discovered.
There is an aspect of Nouwen’s thought that is very difficult
and painful. He perceives his being led away from those
areas where he has great abilities, where he has been
successful, where he is inclined to feel pride of
accomplishment. So much must be left behind. The
Lord appears to be separating him from the two areas on which
Nouwen seemed to build his sense of self: the
accomplishments and the acclaim of teaching, lecturing, etc.;
and the nurture and support of close relationships and
The Epilogue of the book, in which he looks back over his first
year at Daybreak, is one of the saddest writings I have read.
“Sometimes it felt as though the spiritual house I had built up
over the years was now proving to be made of cardboard and ready
to go up in flames.” He experienced a radical
confrontation in his new environment and struggled with the
question “’Is Jesus truly enough for you, or do you keep looking
for others to give you your sense of worth?’” He feels his
life at Daybreak is an invitation to loneliness. “It is a
loneliness that asks of me to throw myself completely into the
arms of God whose presence can no longer be felt and to risk
every part of my being to nothingness.”
This is not what he expected after having struggled for a year
(as recorded in this journal) deciding to enter Daybreak House.
Most of us expect that if we discern the Lord’s will and follow
it life will somehow become smoother and more pleasant.
Nouwen writes, “It is a dark agony. It is following Jesus
to a completely unknown place. It is being emptied out on
the cross and having to wait for new life in naked faith.”
As a reader I ask, “Does God really require and ask that much of
us?” I weep when I read the answer Nouwen discovered for
it rings true with what others who also followed unreservedly
have written. Nouwen concludes with some hope, “I am just
starting to see the light of a new day and I still do not know
if I will have the courage to walk the long road ahead of me.”
But he strongly affirms that Jesus has led and sustained him on
this long and arduous journey and is guiding him toward the day.
– Mary Jo Bezanson, reviewer
The Power Delusion
by Anthony Campolo (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books Division of S P
Publications, Inc., 1983)
Power is the enemy of love and this little book is finally a
profound book about love. It is also a handbook about ways
to eschew power and to replace power with love. Power and
love are facets of humankind’s free choice and they are mutually
exclusive: “…the coercive nature of power gives expression
to its potential for evil. Coercion is the crux of why
power is irreconcilable with Christianity.”
If God chose to retain power, he would be a coercive God.
But God is a loving God, so people are free and uncoerced in
their relationships to God and to each other. Campolo
suggests that persuasion is a loving alternative to coercion,
and often it is. But he fails to note that persuasion may
also be an exercise of power, and not always to a good end.
Through several chapters Campolo anecdotally examines those who
would exercise power and explores the love-centered alternatives
to power in each case. He looks at exploitive husbands and
at wives who would use power in their marriages; at children who
take power and are victims of it; at clergy who try to retain
power in their churches and at members who would deprive them of
it; and at the alternatives to the political uses of power.
Unfortunately, Campolo equivocates when he comes to questions of
governmental power and the participation of Christians in it.
He sees political as proper in the restraint of evil, while
recognizing the corrupting tendency of power. He concludes
that civil disobedience is a proper response to abusive
political power only if the disobedient Christian is willing to
take the legal consequences of his or her disobedience.
Campolo is also somewhat equivocal about unilaterally forsaking
nuclear disarmament even at the risk of exposure to military
adventurism saying, “…those advocates of love and peace claim we
are not supposed to ask whether the principles of Jesus are
practical or will work; our obligation is to live them out – the
only response to power is love.”
In a late chapter, Campolo discusses the “sin of the powerless.”
“Resentment,” he says, “is often the sin of those who feel
powerless to change circumstances that leave them feeling
trapped and cheated.” It is the sin, he says, that
afflicts the exploited, such as women and blacks, and those who
feel abandoned or ignored by God. He sees confession and
forgiveness as the keys to exorcising resentment. But one
feels that this is an oversimplification of both the problem and
the solution. Resentment of the power trip is the reason
that many blacks regard Christianity as strictly a white man’s
trip. It is such resentment that lost to Christianity the
likes of Mahatma Gandhi. Campolo asks with regard to
Gandhi, “Can it be that a Hindu understood the teachings of
Jesus on love and power better than the theologians and
preachers of the church of Christ?” Well, yes.
Campolo’s last chapter is worth the book. Called “Living
Without Power; The Triumph of Love,” it is an unequivocal
statement: “The Christian alternative to power is
love….Without love, people always die.” Love is a two-way
street, “unless we show our need for others, we cannot be loved
by them.” But he notes, “It is not only more blessed to
give than to receive — it is easier too.”
The theme in the closing pages is a powerful testament that the
living Christ is mystically present in
every person that we meet. “I believe that every
person is an agent through whom Jesus wants to express his love
to me….I believe he is trying to love me through that person,
even as he expects me to love him in that person….Sin takes
place when the person refuses to allow the love of God to flow
through his life into mine.”
One of Campolo’s final anecdotes is a personal one of a failure
in love. He had realized only belatedly that the
distraught mother holding a starving baby, left futilely
appealing for his help on a remote Haitian airstrip, had been a
special opportunity missed. “It wasn’t long,” Campolo
wrote, “before I realized who I had left behind. It wasn’t
just a dying Haitian child. I knew I had left Jesus.”
What a searing, life-changing realization! Such a scene
should haunt us all. One time or another, each in his or
her own way, have we not all stood face to face with Jesus?
And left him? – Glen Lloyd Foster, reviewer
WORLD CITIZENSHIP CREED
As a citizen of the world...
I BELIEVE in the dignity of all humanity, that each person is a
being of supreme worth.
I BELIEVE in the wholeness of the human race, undivided by
economic, cultural, racial, sexual or national differences.
I BELIEVE in the stewardship of life and resources to the end
that all may mutually benefit from the earth's bounty and that
no person may have to go without food or shelter.
I BELIEVE in the primacy of human relationships as a person
committed and responsible to other persons, regardless of their
economic status, race, creed or nationality.
I BELIEVE in the global community, interdependent and mutually
responsible for our physical and social environments.
I BELIEVE that we are One World and affirm that I am a citizen
of this world. My allegiance to it and its people, my brothers
and sisters, is primary over all other political entities.
I AM, therefore, committed to the promotion and care of the
whole of humanity without partiality or prejudice and with such
resources as I have at my command, both within and without.
I HEREWITH AFFIRM that I wish, as much as I possibly can, to
base my actions on my beliefs and thus contribute to a world
where justice and compassion rule and where greed and hatred are
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Meeks, God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and
Political Economy (Searching for a New Framework),
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989).
Citizenship Creed is appended at the end of this issue.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents,
(W. W. Norton & Co., 2003).
William Sloan Coffin and James Carroll,
Credo, (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2004).
Author’s translation of John 3:16. The use of
“into” to translate the Greek eis is consistent
with the usual translation of that preposition. It
also adds significantly to the meaning of the text.
Robert Ellsberg, ed., By Little and By Little:
The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day (New York:
Alfred A. Knopft, 1983), p. 226.
W. Harold Grant, Magdala Thompson, and Thomas E. Clarke,
From Image to Likeness: A Jungian Path in the Gospel
Journey (New York; Ramsey, N.J.: Paulist Press,
1983), p. 192.
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