It would be hard to find someone more predisposed to the Christian religion than I am. I grew up going to church every Sunday, and I didn’t hate it. In fact, by the time I was in my late teens, I was certain God had “called” me to devote my life to the service of the church and the gospel. That is what I have done. I have been ordained in three different denominations, and I have friends in virtually every major tradition of the church from the fundamentalist right to the progressive left.
I have looked at the church from almost every imaginable perspective. I’ve seen the best and the worst, things that make me proud and things that make me ashamed, things that make me smile broadly and things that make me weep uncontrollably. I’ve seen the church be a place where people experience joy and delight, and I’ve seen it cause intense pain and do grievous harm. Continue reading →
Over the past decade, I have made a lot of changes in what I believe about life and faith and how I evaluate truth claims and worldviews. Like so many others in similar situations, I changed my mind about essential matters when I found that, at the most crucial times in my life, my previously-cherished beliefs simply did not work for me; they promised far more than they delivered.
When I looked more deeply, I found that the superstructure of my belief system crumbled because the foundation on which it rested was riddled with cracks. In philosophical terms, my presuppositions were flawed, so the conclusions based on them turned out to be flawed as well. You don’t have to agree with my assessment here; I’m just putting it out there. Continue reading →
You say your church is doctrinally orthodox, and you recite the Nicene Creed every week? I don’t care.
You say that, in your church, people speak in tongues, make prophetic pronouncements, and experience other manifestations of supernatural power? I don’t care.
You say your pastor is a brilliant orator, an exciting motivator, and a wonderful teacher? I don’t care.
I don’t care how many members are on your roll or how much your congregation has grown in the past year. I don’t care how many were “saved,” sanctified, filled with the Spirit, baptized, confirmed, commissioned, or ordained in your services last week. Continue reading →
The Road to Someplace Beautiful Chapel Address by Eric Kouns
Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia
November 10, 2015
[Note: If you’d like to hear this address as it was delivered at EMS, click here.]
Whenever a man of mediocre intellect is invited to address an audience in an academic setting—a pseudo-scholar who wants to foster the pretense of erudition—he will often begin his talk by referencing an obscure quote by a nineteenth-century existentialist philosopher.
I think it was Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist, who once observed that…
We live our lives looking forward, but we understand our lives only by looking back.
I would call that either profoundly self-evident or self-evidently profound. But it’s true, in any event. Continue reading →
Jesus of Nazareth stands at the center of the narrative that best explains, for me, the world, the universe, and the reason for human existence. That narrative, with Jesus at the center, gives me a sense of purpose for my life and fills me with hope for the future.
Jesus of Nazareth, whom the early church came to think of as Jesus the Messiah (or Christ, i.e. God’s anointed one) embodies the nature of God while, at the same time, he exemplifies the full potentiality of humanness. I come closest to realizing my own potential by aspiring to be like him. Continue reading →
Contemporary Christianity in the U.S., especially of the megachurch variety, is a typically American phenomenon. As soon as it achieved some popular “success,” its leaders began to treat it as a product and to develop programs to enable the product to scale in the marketplace. If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, you know where this leads. Ultimately, it’s not the quality of the product that is most important, it is the efficiency of the business plan and the energy and savvy of its marketers.
Genuine faith is not a commodity, however, and the church is not a merchant selling a product. Genuine faith is based on a trusting relationship, with God and with other people. It is not efficiently scalable. It is messy, inconsistent, and notoriously inefficient. It’s more like a family than a business. Continue reading →
Everybody knows the children’s story about Chicken Little who gets hit on the head by a falling acorn and immediately assumes the worst, i.e. that the sky is actually made of some sort of solid matter and is beginning to rain down upon the inhabitants of Earth. Chicken Little undertakes to spread the news of impending doom to all his (her?) friends, most of whom are barnyard fowl with goofy, rhyming names.
The origin of the story is unknown but its roots are apparently ancient. Some say a version of the story may have been circulating in Jesus’s day. The ending of the story, and thus the moral it attempts to convey, differs depending on the version being told and the storyteller’s purpose, but one element remains the same in all versions. Chicken Little has misinterpreted the data. The end is not near. Doom is not imminent. The sky is emphatically NOT falling. Continue reading →