Tag Archives: anabaptist

Citizens (Book Review)

Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom begins with author Rob Peabody standing on a Balcony overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. In that moment, life seemed to become so much clearer – he came to a breakthrough…. He realized that the Christian life he had been experiencing had been quite anemic, he realized that he wanted more. Thus kicked off a process that led him all the way from Texas to the UK.

Throughout Citizen Rob Peabody challenges the reader to re-imagine their life, reposition what she values, re-identify who she is, and re-center life around the true King of the world…

Here is what he says about that sort of life:

“It will be hard at times, then sweetly exhilarating and right at others. In the end, you will find the life you were created to live: a life so extraordinary and full of joy that you cannot even fully comprehend it right now; a life not wasted, a life that goes beyond just you, a life that gives worship and glory to the One who is worthy. The Father is standing with open arms, inviting you in to experience all that he has created and called you to be. You have been saved for this…” (pp. 33-34)

As Peabody begins to stoke the reader’s imagination for what this sort of life looks like by using a “Citizen” metaphor throughout the book. Citizens have a particular identity, they have a particular community, they have certain allegiances, they represent certain sovereign bodies, etc. Each one of these aspects of citizenship get fleshed out in each chapter of the book. All in all, Peabody shows that as citizens of the Kingdom of God Christians will play a certain role in this world, and their roles will stretch across various spheres including home, church, work, and mission.

I absolutely loved this book, as I read it I was very encouraged and motivated to live out my identity as a citizen of the kingdom. As a minister I was especially encouraged to re-infuse the concept of citizenship into my sermons. Over the summer I had begun to stray a little bit from the Kingdom emphasis that I was regularly placing in my sermons, but this book reminded me that citizenship in the kingdom is a central aspect of our identity as Christians, so I can’t overlook that as I am preaching.

To sum things up, I really recommend this book, it challenged me and reminded me of some central truths that I had begun to overlook in my own ministry. (Pair this alongside of Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy and you will be set on Kingdom & Ministry books for a while!)

As a special offer to you, the reader, you can now get Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom on sale (this week only) by clicking the image below – at only $0.99 for the next few days an $1.99 for the rest of the week its a real steal.

citizen sharable image

(Note: I received this book courtesy of Kregel in exchange for an impartial review.)

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The Lego Movie – an Anabaptist (ish) Review

Spoilers ahead….

Everything is awesome! If the song is not stuck in your head after seeing Lego Movie then you probably watched it on mute and in closed captioning. Seriously though, the song plays over and over and over again – until you start believing that everything really is awesome. It’s a really clever trick though, play a song with a very simple message that reinforces the main message of the movie.

Everything is awesome – Everybody is awesome!

It’s a really simple message if you think about it. Everybody, even normal people have the capability to radically affect the world. However the key to actually affecting the world around us is “believing” (as a stupid cat poster once told us) that we really are awesome.

Name it and claim it! I am awesome! I can do awesome things!

I’m not going to pooh-pooh the movie though. I loved it, the humor was sophisticated – the “honey where is my pants” tv show was genius. The jokes about $30 cups of coffee, Lego cars stuck in traffic, popular songs, etc. are brilliant social commentary – kids won’t get it but who cares, this movie isn’t just for kids! And then to top it off (another spoiler alert) Will Ferrell showed up! Yes I loved it!

The movie was also filled with some great messages: creativity as opposed to conformity for the sake of conformity is something to be valued, working together as a team is better than working as an individual, we shouldn’t overlook “normal” people because “normal” people are often at the root of social change. I loved these messages. There is plenty of fodder for sermon illustrations in this movie, there were also plenty of clips that I would love to show in a sermon too!

Of course I had some issues with the movie. Maybe its me being too philosophical, but I noticed a lot of existential themes running through the film. Not that this is a bad thing (necessarily) but children are so easily swayed and indoctrinated that I am not sure I want them to draw from this movie in order to form their worldview.

(Sidenote: It goes without saying, but we need to be careful what we teach our children. We Christians are so quick to jump on objectionable material – sex, cussing, violence – and are willing to accept anything as long as it doesn’t have those three sinful things as a part of it. For instance, I know many Christians object to things like Harry Potter, yet they have no qualm with The Secret Garden because the secret Garden doesn’t contain evil things like witchcraft. Yet the Secret Garden espouses a pantheistic worldview; why don’t Christians ban stuff like that?)

There was another kids movie released recently that was chock full of existentialist messages. That movie was so over the top with existentialism that it was laughable. The Lego movie isn’t that blatantly existentialist, yet its still there. For instance – Vitruvius makes up the prophecy, yet if one chooses to live by the prophecy then the prophecy is true. This is basically the existentialist position on religion, there is no metaphysical backing for religion, yet if one chooses to live as though it were true, then that makes it meaningful and hence true. Then, and this is way more subtle, Emmet has to stare into the abyss before he can make the leap of faith…. Okay Kierkegaard!

Now onto the “Anabaptist” part of this review; I am no Anabaptist, I am reformed, yet I find something strangely attractive about Anabaptist political theology… So let may lay down some Anabaptist foundations before we examine The Lego movie,.

Howard Yoder distinguishes between three different forms of church: 1) activist, 2) conversionist, and 3) confessing. The Activist church’s primary concern is the building of a better society. The Conversionist church’s primary concern is inward change. Its primary concern is the individual soul, it isn’t concerned with social change or social ethics. The Confessing church however rejects the individualism of conversions and the secularism of the activists (as Yoder would say), its concern is primarily to be a faithful witness to Christ. For this reason the confessing church sees itself as an alternative polis. According to Stanley Hauerwas, the confessing church “knows that its most credible form of witness (and the most effective thing it can do for the world) is the actual creation of a living breathing community of faith.

Bare with me! We are getting to the Lego part!

The primary symbol of the confessing church is the cross. Hauerwas says that “the cross is not a sign of the church’s quiet, suffering submission to the powers that be, but rather the church’s revolutionary participation in the victory of Christ over those powers. Anabaptists call this “revolutionary subordination.”

The Anabaptist position of “revolutionary subordination” is the position of taking a similar stance towards the world as Jesus did on the cross. On the cross the powers and authorities used their power for evil, Jesus “revolutionary subordination” is Jesus commitment not to play according to the power games of the powers and principalities. Rather than fight back, or try to convince them of his innocence, Jesus willingly takes on the cross and in turn shows them their weakness and lack of power.

Revolutionary subordination suggests that one need not play according to the rules of the “power game” with the oppressive powers and principalities. It suggests that one ought not “play” according to their rules and their ways, rather one should let them “defeat” us because in our defeat they will be shown impotent.

Now on to the Lego Movie!

Think back to Lord Business’ goal in life; he wants everything to be perfect. He wants perfect towns, perfect workers, perfect models, etc. He wants awesomeness to rule the world! Now think of the Master Builders. How do the Master builders want to defeat Lord Business? They want to build the perfect model, they want the perfect spaceship, they want the perfect plan. They want something that is awesome.

Everybody’s world revolves around perfection/awesomeness – even though they (Lord Business and the Master Builders) are on the opposite team, they are playing the same game.

It’s the game that says “only some things are awesome – and we know what those things are.” Enter Emmet – the guy who doesn’t look so awesome on the outside (or on the inside for that matter). Here is a guy who doesn’t know how to play the perfection/awesomeness game. He is normal, he has nothing to offer. His plans aren’t awesome. The things he builds aren’t awesome. He is as boring and simple as you can get. He is a Lego man who cannot play the “awesome game,” if it were up to everybody else he would be on the sideline watching. Yet in the end, it is Emmet who defeats (of better yet reforms) Lord Business. How does he do that? Emmet refuses to play the awesome game. In a world that says that “some things are awesome” Emmet says “everything is awesome.” Now this is not strictly true, not everything is worthy of awe, yet everything is awesome in the way that Emmet redefines awesome. Emmet defeats the threat by redefining terms and by refusing to play the game that the “powers and principalities” are playing. One might call this an act of revolutionary subordination.

This movie shows us that one does not defeat the threat by playing according to the threat’s rules. One doesn’t need to “play” according to their rules and their ways, rather one should let them “defeat” us. Once they accepted the fact that they weren’t going to build “awesome” (at least by Lord Business and Master Builder’s definition) things, they were capable of disarming the treat that they faced.

All this to say….

The Lego movie is funnier, more complex, more philosophical, and more theological than any animated movie that I have ever seen. Yes there are some messages that I don’t agree with, but this kids movie is so thought provoking, that you cannot help but pass it up. Go watch this movie!

 

Recommended books on Christ and Culture

If you are looking for some books on the interaction between Christianity and Culture here are some I definitely recommend.

D.A. Carson – Known more for his exegetical prowess than his cultural engagement, but in recent years he has entered the arena of “Christ and Culture”.

Carson, D. A. Christ and Culture Revisited. Eerdmans, 2008.

Andy Crouch – He has quickly become the expert on Christ and Culture (at least in my mind and the minds of a lot of other evangelicals). His books have reshaped the discussion of Christ and Culture in recent years.

Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Stanley Hauwerwas – He brings wisdom from the Anabaptist tradition.

Hauerwas, Stanley, and William Willimon. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Abingdon Press, 1989.

Abraham Kuyper – A true man of all trades. He was never a professional theologian, yet as a lay theologian-politician he isn’t just a man sitting up in the ivory tower theorizing. He put his theories to work!

Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. Eerdmans, 1943.

Richard Mouw – A true Kuyperian. If you want to know about Kuyperianism read Mouw. More than anybody else Mouw has shaped my understanding of Calvinism and the reformed take on Christ and Culture.

Mouw, Richard. When The Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem. Eerdmans, 2002. ISBN: 978-0-8028-3996-1. $14.

Richard Neibuhr – This book is a classic. It is the starting point for all discussion about Christ and culture.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

Kevin Vanhoozer – He is a theological beast! Enough said….

Vanhoozer, Kevin, Charles Anderson, and Michael Sleasman. Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends. Baker Academic, 2007.

Church and Culture, Eschatology, and the Biblical Meta-Narrative

Question: How should the church engage culture? Should it seek to transform it?

Answer: One of the major conflicts in evangelicalism revolves around the notion of how much the Church should engage culture. Although there is conflict, there are certain things that most traditions agree upon. For instance, there is agreement that the Church should not conform to the idolatrous ways of the world. Yet what exactly those idolatrous ways consist of will vary from tradition to tradition. Also, most traditions will agree that God will restore and redeem creation at the eschaton. Disagreements will arise as to when God begins to restore and redeem creation.

Some of these disagreements arise due to some misunderstandings over eachother’s beliefs. For instance in Resident Aliens: A Provocative Christian Assessment of Culture and Ministry for People Who Know that Something is Wrong Hauerwas and Willimon discuss the differences between Niebuhr’s typology and Yoder’s typology. Hauerwas and Willimon end up advocating for Yoder’s position of the confessing church, the visible church is an alternative polis, being something that the world is not and can never be (46). Its influence lies in it being church rather than actively trying to influence the world. This position is incompatible with Niebuhr’s position, exemplified by F.D. Maurice, this is a view in which the Church can effectively make the world a “better place.” I think that the disagreement between these two positions lies in the lack of allowing the meta-narrative of scripture to influence our views of church and culture.

If we take seriously the meta-narrative, as Carson does in Christ and Culture Revisted (Chapter 2), we arrive at a position which sees that the arrogant position that people of the Church itself can change the world (the position advocated by Niebuhr and opposed by Anabaptists), is wrong and misguided. Under the view influenced by the meta-narrative of Scripture (creation, fall, Israel, Jesus, Church, Restoration) we know that the church is still called to love the world because God loves the world, this love for the world will necessarily influence the world and seek to help the people of the world. For instance, the people of the church will help to alleviate the problem of the lack of clean water in Uganda, not because the Church believes that it can solve the problem (the meta-narrative says that certain issues like this cannot be solved before the eschaton) but because the church loves the people of the world. So the church can seek transformation, yet it must realize that complete transformation cannot be attained this side of the eschaton.