mars hill graduate school

one of these days, i'll actually take time to blog again.

in the meantime, here's a new video about my school.

mhgs what no. 2 from blaine hogan on Vimeo.

this is why i am at mars hill graduate school.


Organizing Solutions

i was in barnes & noble the other day hoping to find some books geared to helping people with ADHD get through post-secondary school. it seems though that virtually every book about ADHD spends the first half defining the disorder and talking about symptoms. when every single book starts with that, it gets very redundant very quickly, and leaves very little space for new material in each book.

after grabbing a stack of a dozen books about ADHD, i walked out with two books, once i realized that the majority of the books had only 20-50 pages of unique material. one of the books is specifically about ADHD and school (College Confidence with ADD by Michael Sandler), which i'm hoping to at least skim through before classes start in 2.5 weeks. the other, Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder by Susan Pinsky, is a general organization book geared more toward the home.

The layout of Organizing Solutions resembles a magazine, having glossy pages with lots of images and little text. the layout simplifies finding ideas and makes it particularly easy for those with ADHD or other learning disabilities to find tips quickly without getting lost in a jumble of text. it has sections covering each room of the house plus ideas of how to handle specific items or tasks that occur in those rooms (paying bills, folding laundry, etc.). as a basic intro for those who have not figured out how to organize many parts of their homes, or certain areas in particular, this could be a helpful book. but, for me, the flaws outnumber it's usefulness.

Pinsky spends too much time arguing for efficiency at the cost of beauty and frugality, which essentially means you need to have some money to implement her ideas. yardwork a hassle? hire someone. can't get your room organized? buy more furniture. there are a lot of helpful tips, but the wastefulness ("it is quicker and more efficient to use paper plates as your "china" of choice at everything but your most formal meals.") was too much for me to handle. in talking about efficiency, she frequently suggests using open shelves and open storage bins so it's easier to just toss (or, to use her term, "wing") things into the containers instead of wasting time with doors and lids. the problem with that system that she never addresses is how to handle the amount of dust that will get on everything and inside those containers, creating a new problem altogether (but i guess you just hire a housekeeper to handle that, as she suggests hiring one to clean other parts of the house).

if you're having trouble getting a particular part of the house organized, skim through that section of the book (they're nicely labeled and color coded) at a bookstore or library to get some ideas, but leave the book behind.

summer of fiction

looking through the list of books i've recently read, i realized that i read a lot more fiction this summer than usual. i used to read one or two novels a year, but have taken to reading more fiction in the last couple of years. since i'm between ideas as to what to post on, i figured i'd do a quick rundown of the fiction i've read in the last few months.

1. most recently, i read Feed by M.T. Anderson. i read about Feed somewhere a few months back, and thought Jak would enjoy it, so i picked it up for him. of course, he had to go to work the next day, so i read it first. it's young adult fiction, so it just took a few hours to get through. it's based sometime in the relatively near future, when air is manufactured, steaks are grown on farms (not cows, just steaks), and everyone has an advanced version of the internet plugged into themselves called the 'feed.' the feed plays on the idea of personalized advertising and banner ads that we're getting more and more of these days, but taken to a whole new level as all of that goes straight into people's minds. advertising, education, instant messaging, and shopping all take place simply by interacting with this implanted device.

as someone who has rarely read YA fiction, i was somewhat surprised with the portrayal of the characters. Titus, the protagonist, is a portrayed as an immature and self-centered teenager, who has to wrestle with questions about life and death and reality that push him beyond his abilities to cope. while living in an era where even the adults sound like idiots (since they've received no true education and are also bombarded with the constant advertising) and a popular show is called "Oh? Wow! thing!" he is challenged to experience and imagine a life beyond the propaganda of the feed and figure out if the reality he's lived with is truly real.

2. On the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree. Andrew Peterson, a ccm musician, released a children's book in march. i read some rave reviews about it, and picked it up for Jak as he tends to like fantasy. he enjoyed it enough for me to read through it a few days later. i don't really read much fiction, and up until this summer, i haven't read many children's books as an adult - so maybe my opinion on this comes simply from the limitation of not having much to compare it to. but i loved this book. it was so much fun to read, filled with crazy creatures and great descriptions. between the plot moving at a fast enough pace, and the names of people and critters (like Podo, thwaps, and Gnag the Nameless) this would be a great story to read to school age kids.

3. i'd only read CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia once before, nearly a decade ago. i wanted to reread them (or at least the first one) before the movie came out, but never did (our copies have been packed away for a few years). so i decided i'd reread them before Prince Caspian came to theatres. i didn't do that either. but, i did snag a copy from a friend just afterwards and read the series earlier this summer. i was surprised with how little i remembered from any of the stories, most of them felt brand new to me.

having remembered so little, it was a blast to read them all and to be drawn into the magical world of narnia. i'd forgotten - and thoroughly enjoyed - Lewis' brilliant humor and fantastic descriptions throughout the stories. these books ought to belong in nearly every home.

4. i heard a local pastor bash The Shack by William Young, which of course drove me to buy it immediately. i didn't think i'd actually make it through the book once i started it. the absurdly excessive use of metaphors and weak editing at the beginning of the book made it hard to read more than a few paragraphs at a time. i don't know if the story eventually picked up enough to make it easier to ignore the glaring literary deficiencies, or if the writing improved later, but after the first few chapters, the book read much more fluidly.

of course, this book has been riddled with controversy, as some have accused Young of goddess worship and modalism, among other things. i felt it was a very bold move to dare to write a dialogue with God, which i give him props for. i didn't agree with everything he said or how he said it, but it's a novel - not a theological treatise. it's a story of grace, mercy, and forgiveness, written in the framework of one man's meeting with the Trinity for a weekend. it seems that those caught up in accusing Young of heresy are missing the fact that it is simply a story. though it definitely could have used more editing and a bit more clarity at times, it does pose an interesting read to challenge many of the assumptions about God, church, theology, and christian living that tend to exist in many circles.


new pixar short

like all the others, the newest pixar short is brilliant. i've loved all the pixar movies so far, but have stalled on going to see Wall-E as i figure we'll buy it on dvd once it's out - but it's hard to resist. if you've seen it, would you say it's worth catching now on the big screen even though we tend to buy all the pixar films?

[ht to ysmarko]


Jak and i moved to seattle two years ago. the trek across country was for us to go to mars hill grad school. Jak wanted to do the spiritual direction certificate to balance out his mdiv degree, and managed taking several sd classes before his work schedule made it impossible to continue (but he at least got to take enough classes to let him feel a bit more balanced in his education, and still plans to take more as he can squeeze them in). i wanted to get my master's in counseling at mhgs.

when we first decided to move, it was mid-summer and a bit late for the application process. so when we arrived, i began taking classes with plans to apply for the following year.

i loved my classes that first year, but life got in the way of my plans to apply, and i never did. after all, by the end of the year i was doubting i'd even take more classes. but i did take more classes all of this last school year, and completed about as many credits as i could as a not-real student there.

at the end of spring term, i finally applied - and got in! so i'll be starting my master's program this fall. the counseling degree at mhgs is usually considered a 3-year program, but since i've already taken a bunch of classes, i'm hoping those credits will allow me to finish in another two years.

anyway, i do hope to take time to blog about my classes (as i've failed to do for the most part these last two years) and my experience at mars hill - which will hopefully have me posting here more often.


last egg standing

to break up the monotony after so many book reviews, here's something fun: last egg standing. i can't managing beating level 8, but it's an amusing little game.


Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, pt. 6

last chapter, finally.

i'll admit some bias right at the start: Karen Ward, the author of the final section of this book, is the abbess/vicar of our church. i originally picked up this book a few months after we'd begun attending church of the apostles (COTA), moving it from where it had sat for months on my amazon wish list into the cart once i realized that she was one of the contributors.

Karen's chapter, "The Emerging Church and Communal Theology," is very different from all the others in three key ways. first, she uses a metaphor of cooking to describe theology and the metaphor runs throughout her chapter to describe the communal aspect of theology. second, a good chunk of her chapter is actually taken from blog posts and comments written by members of the community, thus actually incorporating such communal theology into the very fabric of the text. "This chapter has been written in communitas (in community) as that is how we operate at COTA." third, while the other chapters mention the authors' communities, they are primarily about each individual author's views, whereas Karen's chapter centers on the communal theology to the exclusion of her own, therefore even the responses to the chapter must be read as a response as much aimed at the community as to the actual content of her chapter.

there's a huge shift to move from the beginning of the book, where Mark Driscoll emphasizes scripture through the quoting the bible endlessly to reading Karen's chapter where she describes the difference in how scripture is approached in mainline churches: "In some ways we are being so immersed in Scripture within liturgy that we are like fish in water. It is all around us, and so we often seem unaware of it."

in true emergent church/postmodern fashion, the section on the atonement begins with, "First we are a bit weary of words. Somehow we don't expect that the latest framing of the atonement will help us any more than the last one did; instead, we are looking for nonpropositional ways of coming to understand the atonement, ways that involve art, ritual, community, etc."

"The closest image or analogy I have for how we do everything ("preaching," community, and theology-making) at Apostles is the "potluck," as this is how we function at our Abbey community kitchen meals, at our theology pubs, and in our weekly eucharistic gathering and other forms of community life." she explains how potlucks are not "quick or neat," yet they are nourishing and rich.

she describes the Abbey's kitchen as a constant mess (which after cleaning it once myself, i can attest to), but says that the mess is necessary as "you learn best by cooking, and it seems we learn Christian faith and life best by living it, so let the mess and the glory of community and kitchen living go on."

Karen's chapter (as do the others) covers much more than I quoted here, but the general gist is the idea that community is where faith and theology are discovered, learned, and lived-out.


  • Driscoll: "For the sake of pleasantness, I will begin with what Karen and I hold in common and then explain some of our more significant differences. First, Karen holds to the essential tenets of the Christian faith as articulated in . . . [the] Creeds. Second, Karen planted her church, something that is the logical outgrowth of a truly missional theology." he then goes on to his criticisms: 1. her role as pastor because of her gender; 2. her use of Scripture (because she has three scripture references - which tend to be passages as opposed to the 700 out of context verses he quotes) and use of non-scriptural (read: cultural) texts; 3-6. continue along the same vein (but i'll spare you the length this post will become if i continue).
  • Burke: likes her creative chapter "as a reminder that God invites all willing guests, both good and bad, to his party. Not all will reply, not all are suitable to stay, but his church's theology must pragmatically be lived out with this open party invitational approach."
  • Kimball: found her creative approach refreshing, and allowing "the other "cooks" in her church to contribute. . . obviously lines up with what she is saying about how her church approaches theology." he continues, "I was refreshed and happy to see that a church doesn't just teach theology in a one-way format, but allows people to be in dialogue and discuss it and "cook" it together."
  • Pagitt: "[within the context of her denomination] Karen is effectively seeking to bring change from within, which active theology ought to do. "


Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, pt. 5

it's been a long time since i've posted. i wanted to finish posting on this book (Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches) before continuing on with other things. fact is, i found Pagitt's chapter went a bit over my head at times, so i was going to have Jak guest post for me on this chapter. but since he hasn't, and i'd like to resume blogging regularly, i figured i'd skim over the chapter (as it's been ages since i read it) and jump back into the blog world.

it's been said that this book was ordered from start to finish by most 'conservative' to most 'liberal,' and though i hate that those terms don't really tell us much, i'd have to disagree. i think if that order were true, i'd have to put Pagitt at the end. of the five authors, he tends to lean furthest from classic christianity (particularly as defined by evangelicals).

(btw, i recently heard Pagitt speak at the church basement roadshow and felt that what he said seemed pretty wild, but very cogent. he definitely strays from typical views of the gospel, but in ways that are refreshing. though i can't say i agree with much of what he says, i appreciate the breath of fresh air that he breathes into the church and the fact that he pushes people to think and challenges their assumptions.)

Pagitt states towards the beginning of the chapter that he is a contrarian, and that is clearly seen through many of the statements he makes. but i'll just pick out a few things he says that struck me.

in the section, "Theology is meant to be temporary," he says "Theology is the living understanding of the story of God in play with the story of our lives."

"There are far too many people inside Christian faith who feel the need to "give a nod" to the theology of their church or tribe, but it really has nothing to do with their lives. . . . In my views, this kind of disconnected theology is not useful nor should it be encouraged."

he writes a lot about the need for theology to be contextual, saying that we aren't to simply restate ideas of the past, but actually figure out what the gospel means - that we actually rethink the gospel not only in how it looks in our situation but to make sense of it in new ways.

overall, i'd say Pagitt would bring a bit of a shock to those from most 'traditional' backgrounds, but primarily because he realized that each of those 'traditional' backgrounds excludes a variety of other traditions: "When those from the Reformed tradition spoke of "traditional views," they were often not including the Anabaptist or Eastern Orthodox traditions (and the same worked the other way around). " it's easy to see our own theological lens as the correct one, and Pagitt shifts so far from all of them in so many ways, that it offers the corrective of reminding us that christianity exists around the world in different times and cultures through many different expressions - so much so that isolation in a particular tradition can cause the others to seem completely alien.

  • Driscoll: finds Pagitt's chapter the toughest to respond to, "One. . . I remain uncertain of his position on these issues (Trinity, atonement, Scripture). Two, his chapter is highly conceptual on how theology is not to be done." (then he spends a lot of time critiquing an author Pagitt quoted.)
  • Burke: "I find so much I agree with in principle, and yet I do not agree with how it appears he is applying some of those principles." (somewhat expected when responding to a self-professed contrarian.)
  • Kimball: "Every single time you talk to Doug, you'll generally have a new theological discussion of something he has been thinking about. I suppose that is why the basic theme of his chapter is that theology changes rather than being stagnant."
  • Ward: ". . . I really resonate with Doug and his views of theology as temporary, professional, contextual, particular, Spirit-led, and taking place in times of change." "So theology is not a done deal and a sealed canon written for us by others, that we need to swallow whole and espouse, but instead it is a living "art form" to which we as Christian practitioners are all given a brush."


Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, pt. 4

i'll return to the blogosphere now to finally finish up this set of posts on Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.

Dan Kimball fits neatly in as the middle author of this book with his chapter on missional theology.

(though, before getting into his chapter and theology i must point out that as much as he's known for his speaking and writing, he is most well-known in emerging circles for his wild pompadour hairstyle: see picture.)

while Kimball says that he would still consider himself a "conservative evangelical," he is concerned about the reputation of that term in our society.

in practice, his interpretation of being emergent consists of rethinking how we do church in light of cultural changes. "We must rethink leadership, church structure, the role of a pastor, spiritual formation, how community is lived out, how evangelism is done, how we express our worship, etc."

theologically, he focuses on the nicene creed, believing that there are a few basics beyond the creed that are standard orthodox beliefs, but is "comfortable in saying both 'I don't know' and 'this I know'" to most issues beyond the creed.

his church's (vintage faith church) tagline is 'a worshiping community of missional theologians,' as a community that comes together for worship, steps out into the community to serve (instead of remaining isolated), and where all are seen as theologians (not just the academics).

i like Kimball a lot, especially his passion for working to make the church a more approachable place for folks who don't usually go to church (i posted previously on his book They Like Jesus but not the Church), as well as his emphasis on core beliefs (like the nicene creed) instead of 'majoring on the minors.'

a quick run-through the responses:

  • Mark Driscoll: Driscoll starts by saying that he met Kimball, "when he and his very cool hair picked me up at the airport," and says that he appreciates Kimball's emphasis on Jesus but that a nicene creed Christianity is not enough because it doesn't answer certain "current issues." he goes on to outline a computer-speak concept of christianity, splitting into different 'versions' from 1.0 to 4.0 christianity, saying he "fear[s] that less thoughtful Christians will agree on the need for the kind of Christianity 1.0 that the Nicene Creed provides, but will refuse to also upgrade to the Christianity 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 as needed." [comment: i won't even begin to post my thoughts on his various upgrades to christianity.]
  • John Burke: Burke agrees with Kimball throughout his comments, and commends his focus on core theological questions answered, "so that we can decide if we will truly follow Jesus, not just in profession, but also in practice," leaving the rest of the issues as ideas to wrestle with after we've got the basics covered.
  • Doug Pagitt: Pagitt and Kimball are longtime friends, yet Pagitt disagreed with Kimball's view of the creed believing that the creeds are "cultural theological responses," and even the core issues as defined in the creed are ones that we should still struggle with. "To suggest that these creeds constitute some sort of timeless doctrine of the finality is to put a pressure on the creeds they were never meant to withstand."
  • Karen Ward: a large part of her response is quoting things Dan said that she agrees with. the first that stood out was how he defines the emerging church as "those who notice culture is changing and are not afraid to do deep ecclesiological thinking as we are on a wonderful adventurous mission together for the gospel of Jesus." the other one that felt very true to what i know of Karen was "his view of his role as 'a pastor and leader in a local church community, on a mission striving to be true to Scripture, but also engaged in the culture and thus enjoying wrestling with theological issues our culture raises.'"


Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, pt. 3

the second author in this book is John Burke, the founding pastor of gateway community church in austin, texas. in reading this book, particularly Burke's chapter on incarnational theology, i find it helpful to recall something Webber wrote in both the introduction, and again in the conclusion. in the intro, Webber writes:

These five contributors are not scholarly theologians, but practitioners. All are currently engaged in ministry at the local church level. The question of this book is, "What kind of theological reflection motivates your ministry?
and in the conclusion, repeats the thought by saying:
First, and very importantly, the contributors to this book are pastors, not professional theologians. They are not called to the classroom, but to the pulpit. Therefore, we must read them as pastors reflecting on how theology forms and shapes their ministry. We should not look for insights into biblical, historical, philosophical theology, but for applied theology.
in light of Webber's words, Burke's chapter fits in perfectly.

Burke has found that in his ministry setting, he faces many questions regarding the exclusivity of christianity and about the differences between christianity and other religions. these sorts of questions shape his ministry and the way he communicates the gospel.

three things that Burke emphasizes are how we represent Jesus, the veracity of scripture, and acknowledging commonality with other religions. he points out that christians "proclaim that Jesus is the only way and the right way. . . yet following Jesus makes no difference whatsoever in the way these so-called Christians live and treat people, except that it makes them more judgmental and hypocritical." thus, Burke says, "We need a new job description as the church. . . we're misrepresenting Jesus if the world hears our message as a message of judgment."

for Burke, the prophecies fulfilled in scripture stand as proof of its truth, and scripture serves as an authority and anchor to theology, though "we must subject our interpretations to a broader community."

in writing about other religions, Burke balances a respect for other belief systems while holding to the uniqueness of Christ. he explains, "Some truth can be found among the religions of the world. . . . [but they] do not say the same things about God's identity." like the apostle Paul when in Athens, Burke emphasizes truth in various religions as arrows pointing to the truth of scripture and the gospel.

key ideas from the responses to Burke:
  • Mark Driscoll: Driscoll disagrees with Burke's interpretation of how christianity interacts with other religions in light of a transcendent moral law. "But Jesus stands against religion and morality as enemies of the gospel because, as Martin Luther said, religion and morality are the default mechanisms of the human heart to pursue righteousness apart from him." and ". . . all religions do not have in essence the same morality."
  • Dan Kimball: "I really don't disagree with anything John wrote. I can only admire his missionary zeal. But more than just having zeal, John then puts this zeal into action as he is involved in lives of people outside the church. And. . . has been forced to grapple with the[se] theological questions. . . [and] admit that we need to do some deep theological thinking."
  • Doug Pagitt: "John makes a persuasive argument for making important the uniqueness of Scripture and Jesus. But i wonder if that emphasis is not a result of a culture that finds value in distinction, thinking "We are better because we are different from the other.""
  • Karen Ward: ". . . I especially appreciate his acknowledgment and willingness to take on and examine the problematic tendencies of evangelicalism (harboring parochial cultural perspectives, seeing divine truth as totally knowable and "locked in" by human beings, and clinging to forms of unexamined biblicism that often come off as arrogant and patronizing).