First this: Peter the Irishman got an extended, passionate standing ovation for his "talk."
The essence of his "talk": we need substantial change.
Not intellectual change, but gut change.
Christianity is not violent enough: a violence against the principalities of this world that enslave and deceive and corrupt and wreck the hearts and homes of humanity.
What kind of violence are we talking about?
The violence of Jesus that subverted the Roman Empire
The violence of Ghandi that subverted the British Empire
The violence of MLK that subverted the racist stranglehold upon America
The violence of Mother Teresa that subverted the caste stranglehold upon India
Substantial change comes from how we know God.
Do we know God like the biologist knows biology? Is God another fact alongside the other million facts we sort and catalog in our libraries and universities?
According to Anselm, there are three ways to think of God.
God exists as an idea.
God exists as an idea and reality.
God exists as reality, but not in a way that we can fully comprehend.
Peter prompts this consideration: God in Jesus is a mystery not fully revealed; rather it is a mystery that is brought nearer, is deepened.
When it comes to parables - they are designed to be incarnated. Parables are to rupture a person unto change, transformation, life-full obedience. Parables are an insurrection against evil.
What if theology was less about explanation and more about grounded, disruptive provocation?
If Christianity is about God bringing heaven and earth together unto the New Heavens and the New Earth, then shouldn't theology be less about description and more about poetic action?
* the attempt to capture some of Peter's talk in this blog is completely insufficient. How to capture his energy and passion and obvious loyalty to God and Christ, his throbbing mind and racing heart to follow the Spirit in this world, to be used as a disciple for substantive change. It's clear that Peter is overflowing with enthusiasm for the renewing work of Christ in our world. It was the same Spirit that is seeking to overflow in us...in me...
The talk by Shane Hipps was quite unlike anything I've ever encountered. Thought provoking, breaking new ground in considering the idea that "the medium is the message".
As Shane explained it, there are three bodies: our physical body, our energetic body, our essential body. We are wise to consider how our body - physical, energy, essence - contributes to the message that we communicate through word, action, attitude, etc. If body language is the bulk of what we communicate when we use words, then we are obligated to consider how our physical, energetic, and essential body contribute to what is actually communicated - especially when it comes to the Gospel.
I may have missed it, and maybe in one of his books, Shane Hipps cites the sources for the stuff he shares about the body. I'll be tracking that information down. He didn't spend much time discussing the effects of the physical body on our communication - he noted that many people have written many things about it already. He wanted to spend time on the effects our energetic and essential body have on our communication - especially since this is new stuff to most of us. Agreed!
What is the energetic body?
Everybody exudes a certain amount of energy. It's what you sense when someone is angry, afraid, or aching. It's more than just reading body language of the eyes, of the posture. You can sense something in the room - it can be palpable. It's the energy that exudes from the person, from the crowd. Just as some people have unique physical bodies, so people can have unique energetic bodies. Shane gave the example of Bono having enormous energetic capabilities - someone who can affect a stadium of tens of thousands of people. Just as people can neglect or strengthen their physical bodies, so people can shape their energetic body. We all have an energetic identity - the question is what will we do with it? Will we seek to use that energy for good, or will we ignore it's influence on our communication?
What is the essential body?
Everybody has an unchanging essence - the deepest part of us, that part of us that is made in the Imago Dei. We can't develop it, we can't alter it, we can't shape it - it is unlimited and free. It is the part of us that endures and emerges (or is shrouded) as our body grows, our voice changes, our attitudes shift, our personality develops, our skills are modified, our interests change, etc. Knowing who we really are is connected in a profound way with who God made us to be; when we live out of this essential body, we live in a union with God that Christ prayed for in John 17. To live in union with Christ, to be "in Christ" as Paul states it, comes out of our emerging awareness of who we really are, who we were created/born to be according to God's desires. When we live out of the essential us, we are able to better develop our energetic self and physical body - and when there is a kind of unity between the three bodies, our communication becomes much more powerful. Unity with God, self, and others is part of what Christ prays for...and it's something we ought to work towards, especially if we go as his disciples and ambassadors.
How serious are we in considering that our body affects the message we communicate?
Rob ended the event with a challenge to all preachers everywhere: become masters at forgiveness.
We all experience "death by papercuts", those words and comments that wound - whether intentional or not. When people criticize or lambast or twist or misunderstand, and it comes back in a way that wounds, be willing to forgive.
Let go of the hurt, learn from the experience, take what is true, and forgive whatever grievance emerges from the situation.
Obviously Rob Bell has become a lightening rod for controversy. Any preacher worth anything will stir up controversy, just maybe not on such a global scale. Nobody pickets when I show up!
Nonetheless, learn to forgive the people who you are in community with, forgive those who are outside the community, forgive those whose words come from distant places but still find a way to hurt. Forgive, just as in Christ God forgave us. Forgive, for they do not know what they are doing. Forgive for this is the way of Jesus.