Most people are scared of dying, and that fear will motivate terrible, panicked behavior when a disaster breaks out. I’m not afraid to die. I don’t look forward to it but I’m not afraid of it.

I try to live in such a way as to overcome the fear of death more and more. I’m convinced this is the very best way to live and, when my time comes for dying, I’ll be glad I learned to live that way.

I don’t want to live, or die, in fear.

David Flowers

When Scholarship Serves Superstition

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I just came across this statement on a blog I was reading. It refers to a book written by Dr. Peter Enns, former professor at Westminster Seminary, who was fired for writing said book.

Here’s the statement:

Upon my second reading and more reflection, however, I questioned whether Enn’s answer helped doubters to keep the faith.

Is this what scholarship is about? Helping doubters keep the faith?

Some people think the Christian (or any) faith is about deciding first what’s true, and then making sure one never says anything that conflicts with the truth one has already decided is true. Enns, and most real scholars, believe one decides what is true based on where the data leads.

Enns got fired several years ago for not holding to the truth the seminary had already declared. The problem, of course, is that this conflicts with the very essence of scholarship itself. It makes no sense to declare one’s self a Biblical scholar if one has already decided, before even approaching the text, that the Bible says this or means that. That’s not scholarship, that’s superstition, which scholarship is meant to combat.

If I say, “I believe the human hand is made of gummy bears,” and then every time somebody tries to show me evidence to the contrary, I dismiss them, saying, “You’re misleading me because your evidence is telling me the opposite of what I know to be true,” then I have — with that statement — surrendered my right to be a called a rational person. And if I surrender my right to be called a rational person, then how much more have I surrendered my right to be called a scholar?

Scholarship — when it is real — has not decided in advance what the outcome of a study must be before the study has been done. Neither does it dismiss the results of a study simply because the results conflict with the beliefs of those who did the study (or their bosses, or the stated beliefs of the organization they work for). Indeed one of the things that makes the work of academics so critical is this commitment to following truth wherever it leads.

It is deeply disconcerting for me to see such a lack of understanding of what sound thinking is in an academic environment that awards Ph.D’s to people, calls itself a university/seminary, and claims to value knowledge.

Do You Need to Move Past Fundamentalism?

Unfortunately, the Onion gets it right again, I’m afraid.

When I was a fundamentalist many years ago, I would hear negative media reports about Christians and think, “What’s wrong with us? We’re perfectly nice people! Super friendly. If only others would learn about Jesus, and come to our church, the world would truly be a better place.” I meant this sincerely, and no I didn’t understand — at all — how scary that way of thinking was.

It allowed me to say and do some really dehumanizing things to people.

I was sincere. I truly loved the people I hurt. But for some reason they just couldn’t see my love through my words and actions that were constantly hurting, devaluing, and patronizing them, treating them as “marks” or “targets” or “lost.”

[I’m not denying people can be lost. I’ve been lost myself. Lately I feel I’ve been lost for weeks. But if anyone else told me I was “lost,” I wouldn’t respond well. When I already know I’m lost, I already know it. When I don’t know it, chances are pretty good I won’t be very receptive to someone else telling me that.]

I wasn’t an evil person during this time.

I meant well.

Most Christians do, I deeply believe that.

But when Christians can use our faith to explain away the call to sacrificial love for all people (yes, including even those gays!), defend war of all kinds, defend hostility toward the poor — the very people Jesus loved and defended most — and somehow explain away the life Jesus lived and taught, something huge is missing.

And just like when I’m lost no one can tell me that but me, the journey out of the strange kind of religious lostness we call fundamentalism is a personal journey. I can’t make someone see it. The harder I try, the more they will dig their heels in.

My life now is about making sure people know it’s not just between fundamentalism and atheism. There’s a deep, rich, Biblical, nourishing Christian life beyond fundamentalism that offers more than you could ever imagine. But everyone is on their own journey and everyone needs different things.

For those who have burned out on fundamentalism and strict and rote evangelicalism, maybe you would allow me to introduce you to something else.

It’s not new, but it will be new to you.

Stay tuned.

Question: What is your story about coming out of fundamentalism? Engage with  me in the Comments section!

“Don’t Miss the Horizon”
by David Flowers/Wildwind Community Church

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Sermon Podcast
July 27, 2014

In this message I talk about the recent loss of one of my closest friends and try to bring out some of our faith’s most important lessons. It is these insights we must cling to in these times.