The Death of Truth and the Commodification of Christ

Much has been written in recent months on several topics that I feel are important:

  • The decline of the church
  • The rise of the none & done
  • The decline of Driscoll
  • The emergent church movement
  • The trend of trolling for truth
  • Gay marriage and the church response
  • Racism and the church response
  • and more

Not that my voice is important or meaningful  – I just decided that I should add some thoughts to the conversations that are going on. I don’t have a lot of time these days, but feel we are at a tipping point in culture and that some alternative viewpoints may be helpful. The discussions on the topic of the decline of the church and the rise on the Nones has been intriguing to me. Evangelical have been saying it’s not us it’s them (them = mainline church) implying the decline is only among certain churches not church in general. But those in church, even the biggest mega-churches, know they are experiencing declining numbers, income, and interest in the programs and services they offer. IMHO the decline is not a shift in style – it is a substantial shift in epistemology and the decline will continue to grow. The its turtles all the way down response to questions of theology/philosophy/hermeneutics/understanding is at the core of the decline. In the future I’m going to expand my thoughts on this. I will post in the near future some thoughts on what I believe is the cause of this tipping point: The Death of Truth and the Commodification of Christ

  • The enlightenment project and the shift in the concept of truth
  • The elevation of human reason
  • The new god of empiricism
  • The embrace of absolutism
  • The shift in first order assumptions
  • Co-opting theology to the new first order assumptions
  • The death of truth
  • The reduction of God
  • The Commodification of Christ
  • Omni-competence of human reason and the elevation of mankind
  • The reduction of the Bible
  • The embrace of Maslovian motivation
  • The elevation of human needs
  • Positioning Christ as the ultimate to human needs
  • The church new position as service provider
  • The branded church
  • The franchised church
  • The decline of church

I haven’t posted in three years. I realize no one reads my blog ~ so this is a message in a bottle. I do hope someone finds this.


Post Modern and Proud

Tony Jones posted on his blog a link to a new documentary on the real roots of the emergent church by Elliot Nesch. At first, I thought it was a joke – until I watched the trailer and realized it is another critique on the movement because of the embrace of postmodern philosophy.

I just have to say again – I am POST modern and proud.

In reality I am probably best described as an Apophatic American Pragmatist (Rorty, Davidson, etc), but I am definitely POST Modern I am on the other side of the modern philosophical project. I believe modern philosophical assumptions FAILED and failed miserably and frankly am ashamed that Christian theologians embraced these modern philosophical assumptions to build theology. In fact, I am one of the few that believe that the usage of these assumptions to build theology is SIN and that the past 400 years has witnessed the gradual slide of theology into a sinful condition that elevated human reason to God like status and reduced God and the Bible to an object of human conceptual mastery the result is radical individualism and the contemporary consumer church. The postmodern turn provides a chance to repent and return to faith. I reject most of the modern assumptions: absolutism; universalism; certainty; objectivity; omni-competence of human reason; sufficiency of human language and on and on. I know this is difficult for most theologians because they married theology to the assumptions and understanding of the modern project BUT it’s time to repent and return. This documentary is additional proof that Christianity has become enslaved to modern philosophy – ENSLAVED!

God is beyond human reason and language – stop reducing God to this position and stop defending it! It is time to repent!

The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion – RFP

A Request for Papers has been issued by Syracuse for the next Postmodernism, Culture and Religion Conference. This is a good conference and a great resource for anyone desiring to listen in on the discussion of the future of Religion and Postmodernism.

last years conference was worth the effort  – just to experience Zizek live and in person – unforgettable. I am looking forward this upcoming conference.

Blackhawks, Franke and a Random story

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. I am not a Blackhawks fan, but an old friend, John Franke, is.

One of my most memorable dinner conversations took place in Houston, Texas over a decade ago. Chris Seay and the Ecclesia community graciously hosted the Emergent Theological conversation on the Bible. It was a great event, but as always dinner conversation was just as good.

One evening John and I unintentionally ended up seated next to each other at dinner. A young couple attending the convo had asked if they could talk to me at dinner and I responded “of course” when we found our way to the restaurant we found a spot at the group table and sat down. When this occurred, in those days, it was usually because someone wanted to better understand what I was saying or because they wanted to argue with me to “fix my theology”, either way was fine with me. The reason this couple wanted to talk with me was not what I expected – they wanted to share something they felt very deeply about their future - I will never forget what they said next. They told me that they heard me speak at the Leadership Network, Church in Church conference at Santa Cruz Bible Church and that they felt God was leading them to move to Texas. They shared with me that “God was leading them to either work with me and the Axxess community in Arlington, TX or Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston, TX”. Not knowing how to respond to that – I just started smiling (I was a bit stunned). This was back before Joel Osteen was a household name and before Lakewood moved into the Compaq center,  Joel had just become the senior pastor of Lakewood after his fathers death. So outside of Texas, at that time, you may not have heard much about Joel Osteen or Lakewood, but even still I was stunned because Lakewood was almost antithetical to Axxess. I could tell the couple was not happy by my stunned smiling response, so I asked them two questions about size and scope of ministry they felt God leading them and said to them “I think it is clear that God is leading you to Lakewood” and explained to them that our Axxess community was never going to be the size and scope of Lakewood. I think they were a bit offended by my initial response, because they politely excused themselves after that and left the restaurant.

John Franke overheard the last part of our conversation, he did not know about Lakewood (at that time) and asked “Was Lakewood an emergent type of church?”. After, I laughed some more, I shared with him the difference, he understood my shock. We started talking and found out we had a lot in common, including a background of conservative theology and mutual love for the game of hockey – I found out he was a loyal Blackhawks fan.

Who knew, over a decade ago, Lakewood would eventually define “mega-church” and Axxess would become a diaspora.

Because this was such a random, but memorable evening for me – I have always remembered that John is a huge Blackhawks fan – so I was very happy for him last evening. Congratulations John and all Blackhawks and their fans. They haven’t put their name on the cup since 1961. I am pulling for them especially since they are an “original Six” team.

I have to also add I am still proud to be a part of the Axxess Diaspora and still believe God is using this community to shape the future of ministry.

Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers Journal had a great segment on July 3rd, 2009 it included three scholars Cornel West from Princeton, Serene Jones from Yale (now at Union) and Gary Dorrien from Union. The video(s) are worth watching. The topics include:

  • Social Justice
  • Original Sin
  • Pluralism
  • Morality
  • Capitalism
  • The Prosperity Gospel
  • The Social Gospel Movement
  • Walter Rauschenbusch
  • Modern Economics
  • the Age of Obama
  • the Post Christian World
  • Calvin
  • The New Reformation
  • Emergent forms of Christianity
  • the crisis of metaphysics
  • and the Funk of Life

good stuff!!

Be sure to watch the connected video on Hunger in America!!


The Divine Commodity

I started writing a book about ten years ago, the working title I gave the book: “The Death of Truth and the Commodification of Christ”. I have never sought to publish the book because the tone of the book is angry and back in the early days of emergent all of us were labeled as “angry young preachers” and I didn’t want to contribute to that idea. I truly wanted to foment a reformation and theological conversation and anger does not promote conversations.

My basic idea in the writing was this: Modern philosophical concepts of “truth” have killed it, turning “truth” into this static thing that is “out there” instead of a dynamic thing that is shaped by participation. This concept of truth de-motivates us by suggesting that “truth” can not change – it can only be discovered. As the church bought into the modern concept it changed the role of the church from being a participatory truth changer in culture to being a truth dispenser focused on the individual. The shift to the individual provides the framework that we are now trapped in – the framework that suggests that the individual possess “truth” (as long as they are rational and informed) and does not need anyone else(except to inform). Everything that exists outside the individual is just a commodity for the individual to be consumed and only valued by the “felt needs” of the individual. My conclusion – at this point in church history – we have actually elevated the individual to a “god-like” position and subsequently positioned Christ as the ultimate consumer commodity for the individual. etc etc etc

When I would discuss these ideas I could see that it was too foreign to suggest that our assumptions about individualism, felt needs and truth could be wrong, But that was 10-12 years ago. I was shocked when I saw the title of this new book – The Divine Commodity. I have not read the book, but I like what I am reading in the promotional material, and comments and when I listen to the author talk. I see that he is friends with an old buddy Dan Kimball – so I have ordered the book and am anxious to read it.

Forgive me for my self-indulgent, poorly informed, initial excitement. It it just hard to constrain when you hear others say things that you have been saying for a while – because it makes you feel “that you are not crazy” and more than once I have felt that way on this journey. Now I hope the book is good!

In Defense of Driscoll

I am not a blogger – by evidence that I never post, so most will never read this, but I should write this just the same – it is the right thing to do. I am posting in defense of Mark Driscoll.

There is recent discussion/posting about Driscoll’s cussing, in part due to the NYTimes Magazine piece that labeled him the “cussing pastor” and dust-ups at evan-fundy conferences like the Shepherds conference and some Southern Baptist stuff where Mark is on the line-up; but also in part to Tony’s Book, The New Christians, about Mark’s behavior at Axxess in Arlington, TX over a decade ago.

Mark contacted me when the book came out to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I forgave him with no hesitation and passed on his thoughts to the people in our community. I have accepted his apology and forgiven him and have no problem with Mark regarding the language he uses. Mark is a good man – IMHO

My problem with Mark is his theology. I think neo-calvinism is cowardly and weak! It is just cuddling up with thought leaders that were brilliant/forward thinking/thought provoking theologians for their time - but today – not so much.

My opinion is that the failure of modern philosophical/theological assumptions caused this return to “calvinism” as people grasp to the comfort of the convoluted evangelical concept of “sovereignty” that exists in that circle. neo-calvinism is such a waste – classic calvinism was built on a covenant hermeneutic and, at least, held a “cultural mandate”; neo-calvinism is built on a dispensational hermeneutic and has no mandate at all. neo-calvinism is cheap, easy and good-for-nothing and it is not at all “true to scripture” as is often claimed.

let me say again: Mark “manned-up” and ask for forgiveness regarding his cussing. His neo-calvinism that is another matter.

Politics of Love

The Religion and Postmodernism conference next year is The Politics of Love

A group of us from Texas are going – if you are planning to attend – let me know and we will plan to hang out some evening! We are planning on renting a House on Lake Oneida – it should be fun! Marion, Moosa, deVries, Westphal, Caputo and maybe even Driscoll (he owes me after cussing at my congregation in the 90’s) The irony is – Driscoll is the one who introduced me to Caputo with a copy of the fabulous book God, the Gift and Postmodernism


Pete Rollins was in town over the weekend and I had a chance to hang out with him at Peyton and Lauren’s house on Saturday. It probably goes without saying – I am a big fan. You just don’t meet a lot of folks who can reference Wittgenstein, Descartes, Caputo, Westphall and Rorty in response to a question about spiritual formation. This is a shame – I think Christianity has lost it’s intellectual base. Anyway – I find his take on God very encouraging and humble. I wish there were more philosophers/theologians like him.

The big surprise to me is that he talks very fast. I guess it is not unusual for an Irish man to talk fast, but it is hard to absorb a lot of the ideas in one sitting. The good news (for me) I got to hear him twice (once at Peyton and Lauren’s and the other at Journey )

Some Advice – if you get a chance to spend some time with Pete – find out where his next stop is!

Thanks Pete for what you are doing!

A Dual Reading of Acts 8 – this is a re-post from a discussion board at

This is a post from a discussion board on theooze many years ago. Rob sets out to mock emergent ideas about truth, certainty and the Bible…I thought it was necessary to respond with my own thoughts on the matter.

By Rob Woodrum

WARNING; long post ahead, laced with extreme sarcasm, my own personal frustrations and my attempt at venting them through the use of satire. This just seems the simplest way of expressing my own struggle to understand.

Heat waves rippled the horizon as the sun pressed its heat against the desert terrain. The tall dark man wiped a bead of perspiration from the side of his face, seemingly oblivious to the extreme temperature. It was hot, even in the shade of the large umbrella that had been stretched over his chariot.

For the third time that morning, the man had summoned his driver to pull to the side of the road, so he could concentrate on what he was reading. He moved the scroll back and forth as his eyes regained their focus, and began again to trace the Greek letters scrawled across the surface of the papyrus.

“Who are you?” he whispered to himself, hoarsely.

With a start, he suddenly realized someone was standing beside his chariot.

“Do you understand what you’re reading?” asked the stranger. He was dressed in commoner’s clothes. This was unusual behavior for a man in low position, and the dark man was intrigued.

“How can I, unless someone explains it to me? Why don’t you come up here and enlighten me?” said the dark man with an inviting wave from his hand. He held out the papyrus for the stranger to see for himself, and with a grin, inquired, “Whom is the prophet talking about? Himself, or someone else?”

“Whoa, hold on there bub,” the stranger said, pushing the papyrus aside, “let’s get some things established first. I need to know what kind of epistemology you hold to!”

“Pistol…what?” the dark man shook his head slowly, not understanding.

“You’re asking me to give you an answer, but if I do, I would be asserting that as a universal truth! How I read this bit of papyrus may be completely different from how YOU read this. Who’s to say who is right? The REAL issue is, we just don’t know for sure!”

“What are you talking about? I was just wondering who the prophet is…”

The stranger cut him off.

“Listen, first you need to examine what you hold to as true, and how you came to assess it as such! What are the community agreements that formulate your worldview? Mine are probably completely different from yours…and that is completely acceptable!” The stranger’s voice began to rise with excitement.

“You see,” the stranger continued, “I have a specific paradigm that was handed to me by my cultural upbringing, and it colors everything I view as being true. If I were to impose my preconceived evaluations of truth on this portion of papyrus, I would be asserting my view as something that must be universally agreed upon!”

“So…he’s talking about the universe?” the dark man hesitantly ventured to ask.

“Huh? NO!” said the stranger, rolling his eyes and vigorously shaking his head. “Don’t you get it? By asking me for an answer, you are falling prey to the lure of rationalism, which suggests there IS an ANSWER, instead of a process of discovery. And even there, this can’t be achieved on an individual basis, so what really needs to happen is we, you and I, need to recognize ourselves as community and find our agreement on what we perceive as a working ‘truth’”. The stranger made quotation signs with his hand as he finished his words.

“I’m a eunuch…in case you had some ideas here” the dark man was beginning to edge away from the stranger.

“Ok, look…you asked me a question, ‘what is this papyrus talking about’; and I’m telling you that I can’t answer that with any certainty, I can only give you my evaluation, but a different evaluation may be just as valid. My evaluation of this is based on the assumptions of those who went before me and who influenced my community worldview. So, in essence, I’m doing something BETTER than answering your question, I’m giving you permission to NOT KNOW! I don’t know, and now you don’t know, and we can have harmony in our mutual inability to really know anything for sure, and God is pleased with that….well, at least I think He is, I can’t really say that for sure, can I?”

“Look, I gotta’ get going now” said the dark man, his eyes darting in the direction of the chariot driver.

“Hold on bub,” the stranger said, grabbing the dark man’s shoulders, “we’re just getting started here! Let’s consider for a moment that truth emerges from cultural perception….”

The dark man shrugged off the stranger’s hands. “No, really, I have to go….I just was wondering if you knew the answer to my question, it didn’t want to get into all this other…”

“Aha! There’s the REAL issue, you’re afraid to be challenged by a new way of evaluating truth! You’re afraid of the chaos that could result from deconstructing a foundationalist approach to reasoning. That’s just arrogance, man!” The stranger’s face was turning red.

“Let go of me, I’m seriously going to hurt you if you don’t!” the dark man warned.

“Oh, I see, if I think outside of the box, and challenge you to do the same, you feel so threatened that you need to black-ball me, or discriminate against me. That’s just the reactionary attitude inherent in the….”

With one quick movement, the dark man signaled his driver to go ahead, and he deftly pushed the stranger out of his chariot at same time.

“Go, go, go!” said the dark man, as he watched the stranger tumble in the dust behind him. He still had the papyrus gripped tightly in his right hand. Looking at it for a moment, it’s tender page crumpled from the struggle, he sighed. Without looking back, he tossed it from his moving chariot, and went on his way back to Ethiopia.


My response: by Brad Cecil

Heat waves rippled the horizon as the sun pressed its heat against the desert terrain, an oasis appeared in the distance. The tall dark man wiped a bead of perspiration from the side of his face, and instructed his driver to head toward the oasis, but after a few miles it became apparent they had experienced the dreaded desert illusion – there was no water – it just appeared that way.

For the third time that morning, the man had summoned his driver to pull to the side of the road, so he could concentrate on what he was reading. He moved the scroll back and forth as his eyes regained their focus, and began again to trace the Greek letters scrawled across the surface of the papyrus.

“Who are you?” he whispered to himself, hoarsely.

With a start, he suddenly realized someone was standing beside his chariot.

“Do you understand what you’re reading?” asked the stranger. He was dressed in commoner’s clothes. This was unusual behavior for a man in low position, and the dark man was intrigued.

“How can I, unless someone explains it to me? Why don’t you come up here and enlighten me?” said the dark man with an inviting wave from his hand. He held out the papyrus for the stranger to see for himself, and with a grin, inquired, “Whom is the prophet talking about? Himself, or someone else?”

“Whoa, hold on there bub,” the stranger said, pushing the papyrus aside, “let’s get some things established first. Do you believe that this Papyrus is the Word of God?

“What?” the dark man shook his head slowly, not understanding. “I think this was written by a man named Isaiah – is that what you are asking?”

“Before we go any further with this conversation …you must believe that this papyrus is the Word of God, because if you don’t believe this we could be reading from just any piece of literature and that would only contain ideas, this papyrus is different – it is the Word of God and contains absolute truth.”

“What are you talking about? I am almost certain a guy named Isaiah wrote this”

The stranger cut him off.

“No, Isaiah did not write this, God wrote this. God wrote through Isaiah. Isaiah did not even know what he was writing about.”

“Wait, are you sure?” the dark man hesitantly ventured to ask. “What do you mean he didn’t understand what he was writing? How is that possible?”

“God dictated these words to Isaiah. Isaiah was just the transcriber. One of the problems may be that you are reading from the Greek, you must examine the words in Hebrew, these are the actual Words God used and by reading in the Hebrew you will be able to understand the very words God used and the truth of this papyrus.”

“Wait are you saying that if I study this in Hebrew I can understand perfectly what God was saying?”

“Yes, if you know Hebrew you can understand with absolute certainty what God was trying to convey.”

“OK, I am not sure about this being the actual words from God, but for discussion sake lets say you are correct. What is this passage talking about”

“It is taking about Jesus” the stranger said, “It is clearly a pre-incarnate messianic prophecy“

“Pre in car what?” said the dark man.

“A pre-incarnate messianic prophecy, this passage is obviously about Jesus.” Said the stranger

“But, how could this be about Jesus when Isaiah lived hundreds of year before this person you speak was even born?”

The stranger responded: “Remember Isaiah didn’t write this….”

“Oh yea, God did” finished the dark man “I am sorry this gets a little confusing.”

“Don’t worry”, said the stranger “I can teach you to see many writings in this same way and also how to recognize all the false writings that claim to come from God but don’t – it gets easier as I teach you what to look for”

“That must have been weird for Isaiah to write stuff he didn’t understand, maybe there are several ways to interpret this passage?

The Stranger responded: “No there is only one correct interpretation, but if this helps you- there are many ways to apply this papyrus passage.”

“Wow” said the dark man” Just one correct interpretation – how do you know if you have interpreted the passage correctly?”

“That is easy.” said the stranger “It is authorial intent…you find the correct interpretation by simply asking what did God mean? The answer is the obvious answer. Always remember God says what he means and means what he says.”

“Could the passage have a dual meaning, maybe even contradictory meanings?” asked the dark man.

“No because that would violate the law of non-contradiction and everyone knows God would not do something illogical.”

“Wow this is great – you mean I can understand communication from God in a complete way and be absolutely certain that I am correct in my interpretation because God is logical, he never contradicts, the obvious meaning is the most likely and He even uses our language and concepts?” asked the Ethiopian

“Isn’t that Great?” asked the Stranger

“Yes, it is” said the Ethiopian “God isn’t a Mystery at all!”

The Ethiopian went with the Stranger to the land of Evangelapolis to learn how to see the whole world through this unique perspective and they both lived happily in the land where Man is big and God is small, there are no contradictions, paradoxes or mysteries, everything is easy and just as it seems and all the people sing happy songs.