Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

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Thank you!

Shownotes for Episode 13  Wine lovers have God to thank + guest Doug Jackson

First, I want to feature the book Doug and I wrote …

entitled Dog in the Gap because of a C.S. Lewis quote “Man and his dog close a gap in the universe”.


And there’s a BONUS EDITION with lots of goodies!
Read a sample here!

Will you fan the spark?

Inspired by how musician Amanda Palmer put it, “Don’t make people pay [for art]. Let them,” I am altering how Spark My Muse stays alive…from bottom to top (literally).

How does it work?

It’s up to you. I need at least $75 per episode to keep it solvent.
Every little bit helps!
So, I invite you to just listen, read, and give as you can.


Thank you! Enjoy the show!

With love,



Who do we have to thank for wine?

God and the Church, actually.

Wine lovers in Western civilization have the Church in Europe (and the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire–which was neither holy nor Roman ) to thank for the large-scale production, the prevalence and the excellence of wine!


Because liturgy involving wine for communion was central to Christian religious practice. Wine was ingested as the saving holy blood of Christ (and bread as the holy body of Christ), usually each and every day. The sacraments of Communion served as saving grace afforded to the Church.

As Roman Empire became officially a Christian Empire (circa 313 CE) many vineyards had to be planted, properly cultivated, and harvested. Grapes had to be made into a lot of to support the daily practice of communion throughout the Empire.

Communion served as wine was the norm among Christians world-wide until recently–in the era of pasteurization. To keep juice from grapes in a state were they would not ferment meant it had to be sufficiently boiled so the natural yeast would die. 

Vehemently opposed to alcohol, Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician, dentist, and Methodist pastor from Vineyard, New Jersey, figured out the process in 1869 with Concord grapes. Most churches did not accept the switch as proper and stayed with wine.

The juice later became more popular during Victorian era because of prominent values of abstinence. A shift then began in the U.S. that made grape juice the main communion beverage (at least among certain Protestants sects).

Several hundred vineyards operating in Europe today can trace their history to monastic origins.

In the 9th-15th centuries almost 1,000 monasteries dotted Europe. They were centers of education, stability, and technical innovation. Monks and nuns could read and write–this was quite uncommon then.

Monasteries cared for the sick, helped the poor, created places of education, and invented Universities. They could not fund all this through donations. Surplus wine was sold to finance ministry work (and also beer, fruit brandies, and cheese, among many other things..even prayers and Salvation ..which–in hindsight–appears to have been a mistake ) .

So, basically, thank God (and many monks) for wine!


Sparking your muse

 Enjoy the fantastic chat with Doug Jackson!


Douglas Jackson, D.Min.
Director of the Logsdon Seminary Graduate Program

Doug Jackson came to SCS in 2006, after serving as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, since 1993. In addition to teaching courses, Dr. Jackson functions as a liaison between Logsdon Seminary and local churches in Corpus Christi. His areas of specialization include spiritual formation and pastoral ministry. Dr. Jackson has published and presented several articles and essays in religious and literary venues, including articles and lectures on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.
• D.Min. – Truett Seminary (2006)
• M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985)
• B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)

His blog is here.


Interview / chat notes:


MIN 8:00
on Doug preparing for a his Fall class.

A resource he is using by NT Wright – “The new perspective on Paul”
The covenant people God has saved.

Reformers and the necessary correction in contemporary times.

Confronting individualism
and thoughts on human flourishing.

on the idea of being “spiritual but not religious”

on his work about CS Lewis

Mere Christianity

The importance of imagination for understanding that isn’t covered by rationalism.

on his Oxford lecture
Owen Barfield an influential life-long friend of CS Lewis

Another lecture on Walter Miller – A Canticle for Leibowitz
Apologetic self-proclaimed validity on the rational scheme of knowing.

“Scholarship is about knowing more and more about less and less so that eventually you know everything about nothing.”

James Sire

Malcolm Guite https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.guite
Chaplain of Gerton college and Cambridge
“Faith Hope and Poetry”

He covers the imagination as a way of knowing (an epistemology).

Holly Ordway
Houston Baptist University
“Not God’s Type”

Her 2-track movement toward conversion

Brainpickings.com Maria Popova (an admitted secular atheist on a continual spiritual search)

on Spiritual atheism

….if we come up with a system that covers everything (Christians and Atheists alike)…

“Humans are sensitive and emotionally vulnerable to a wasteful degree evolutionarily speaking…highly valuing the arts.” (Lisa)

Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monk and Abbot
Philip Lawrence, New Mexico
…slipping in and out of atheism….

HG Wells, and the fundamentalist reaction to him and others of his ilk.

on how science and religious circles have had an absolute unwillingness to be in one another presence and (have not wanted) to admit any weaknesses and (instead) just shout louder.


“The best apologetics can do is make Christianity credible and I don’t think it can make it inevitable.”


22:30 “Any belief in any ideal is still a leap of faith for anyone… like Justice, Love, Hope…” (Lisa)

on How people appeal to a standard outside themselves. (CS Lewis)

Theories of “survival behavior value” for Morality and Justice kicks the can. or it lands on simple absurdity and meaninglessness where suicide becomes a valid option.


Doug answering the question….”Is fundamentalism evolving”?

Richard Foster’s classic over 50 years old “Celebration of Discipline”

A story of a crucial pivot point for Doug.

How the psalmists had to cry out to God when the answers didn’t suffice any longer. For us, this is a return more than a departure.”

“I have gained the gift of being able to respect other traditions and admire things they bring us, but I talk to people across that spectrum that have that experience.”


“We go from trusting our denominational address or theology address to trusting Christ but it doesn’t mean an abandonment of it. Choosing a room in the same house to live in.”

Spiritual disciplines most meaningful to him:
On solitude and privacy (the difference). Henri Nouwen explains the difference.
 Henri Nouwen explains in “Out of Solitude” 

Doug: Solitude is for battle. Privacy is to be alone.

Demons come in our solitude (Desert Fathers). The outcome is awareness and purification.

Wanting “the listening heart” (what Solomon really asked God for).
on the importance of listening to God…

My Stockholm syndrome at parties. (Lisa)


“(My) Inability to be with people was driven by a failure to have a real self.”

“you are nearer to me than my own self.” Augustine

Doug realized:

“My real Self can’t be with people because it’s threatened by them, because they’re going to colonize my Self and going to make me into something I’m not. As opposed to having a real Self that can listen because God is protecting that Self.”

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck wrote
The way of Spiritual Direction (his director)
…Doug and I discuss Detachment and Holy Indifference…

St John of the Cross
(Exploring the spiritually obscured times and darker emotions.)

“the nada” (God is “no thing” the silence before God

…on staying in the problems and not panicking.

…on the crucial lesson from his mom that revealed his theology

(unknowing) Apophetic theology

“John of the Cross didn’t want that we should abandon the metaphors but move through them.”


“We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology.”

(which is terrifying but life-giving)

Further exploration in a future episode of John of the Cross with Doug coming soon!


If you enjoyed the show please give it a stellar review on iTunes here!

Watch for new episodes each Hump Day (Wednesday).

“The Tyranny of the Left Brain”: Thoughts from Len Sweet

(click photo to enlarge)

As promised, I’m writing a bit more to summarize the fascinating Leonard Sweet event at Evangelical Seminary this week. (Here’s the first one in the series.)

Dr Sweet had some interesting things to say about the legacy and effect of the Protestant Reformation which he calls “The 2nd Wave of Christianity”.

Wave 1: Catholicism (which is still growing in the global East and South).
Wave 2: Protestantism (which is in decline everywhere in the world and got its start by saying “no”.) It seems there is a shelf life to this version of Christianity. More on that in a second.
Wave 3: Pentecostalism (which is flourishing in the global East and South. Other Christian traditions are being influenced by its effect too.)

Sweet says that Pentecostalism is considered something other than Protestantism because it more fully integrates the Third Person of the Trinity (the Spirit) and perceives God as active and engaged in everyday life unlike previous versions of Christianity have done. He said that we in the West are slow to realize this seismic shift because we’ve been focused on Liberation Theology. L.T. accounted for the poor and was in essence created for the poor, but the poor didn’t pick it; instead they picked Pentecostalism.

In the West, we are in a post-Christian era. The “big-box churches” have put an end to most of the “mom & pop” churches, but mainly a reshuffling of Christians is occurring–not an increase of new devotees to Christianity. Sweet mentioned that on the West coast in the U.S. things have moved beyond simply disparaging Christians to open hostility. This promises to be the norm throughout U.S. culture, he says.

Why the “shelf-life” for Protestantism?
Protestantism was birthed just as a technological revolution hit. The moveable type of the Gutenberg printing press was one such breakthrough and Protesters of Catholicism used this technology along with their reforming ideas and desire to make the Bible available for everyone to create a major shift in how Christianity was practiced. According to Sweet, no invention was more anti-social and individualistic than the mass-produced book (you take a book and go off by yourself and absorb it). It seems, no worldview had been so individualistic until that time either (my note).

What happened soon because of that shift was the over-emphasis on the left-brain. “The Tyranny of the Left Brain”

And my what a power it’s had!
What was left behind? Mainly the arts, story using image, memories, relationships, emotional expression and recognition, intuition, creativity and a “whole person” view of Christian (body+mind+spirit).

What was favored? Reasoning, thinking, dissecting, apologetics/critical thinking, and textual language. Sometimes the right brain qualities weren’t just ignored, sometimes they were even despised. Whole sects of Christians took down art and have kept places of worship plain and non visual (More on left and right brain here). Logical left brain thinkers are often thought of as smarter even in our culture today, but it is the right side of the brain were some of the most meaningful things occur. And the combination of the hemispheres in balance makes us most fully alive.

We need both sides of our brain to be fully human.

Now something bigger than Gutenberg as come along: Google. All the information of the world is there for the taking, and the visual is back! Story is back again (and this is the format Jesus used too.) Word-heavy presentations are on the decline as many marketers have already noticed the shift and accounted for it (see ad below). Now we have interconnection of the internet and it’s been supercharged more recently by a new technological revolution even more significant than the internet: social media. (Apparently without Facebook the revolutions and movement toward democracy in the Middle East and in other important parts of the world wouldn’t have happened. So, yeah, it’s a big deal because it makes news and ideas travel so quickly.)


Social Media promises something we’ve been missing out on the interconnectedness. But, it cannot deliver fully on it’s promise, because face-to-face relationships are so transforming and vital. The internet and social media start to give us what we as humans crave, but a formidable wall persists that only the messiness of in-person interaction offers.

The shift is here and people are looking for a more holistic (whole) way of perceiving the world. Narratives, metaphors, image, story, and emotion are rushing back into the forefront and the it’s not a trend. It’s the new way the world works.

Future post: In the next post I’ll wrap up and focus on the “power of image” which includes metaphor, symbolism, and the affective powers of the brain and mind. Does Protestantism have a fighting chance?

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See how the narrative doesn’t need words much anymore?

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In Tribute to MLK

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my favorite Christian figures of the 20th Century.

7:37 min of the Knock at Midnight sermon:
“He promised NEVER to leave me alone.”

Each year I try to post on something about his work and mission.
I refer you to my  previous tribute posts here and here.

These posts include his thoughts, quotes, a famous prayer, and an extended quote on “loving ones enemies”. All quite inspiring, so please enjoy them, as you remember this Christian brother who lived out his core Christian convictions on social justice, and maintained the highest level of ethical devotion.

To fix your mind on what is good, and right is counter-cultural. It’s much easier to get a laugh at someone else’s expense, to find something smug or snide to say, to look for the negative in circumstances or other people, and to grow cynical. But doing that changes us. It spiritually forms us into a malformation. Then our aim, and our work in this world is badly compromised and less effectual. MLK is a model for us to live out such ideals–even to die for them.

Today, co-opt with these thoughts. Thoughts close to this pastor and leader in the American Civil Rights movement–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..
Ingest them and emulate them. Thank you for reading.

Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)

Also-American King James Version
Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Can a Person Absolve your Sins? Drum roll please…

A penitent confessing his sins in the former L...
Image via Wikipedia (confessing to another)

About 500 years ago there was this spat. At the time, having your sins forgiven was a sort of pay as you go thing. It was a bit like a toll road.

The toll booth worker was the Priest. If you bought “indulgences” the Priest could better settle up your debt with God.

Handy little business model, especially when folks hope to avoid damnation, right?

This became rather upsetting. So these Reformer types started protesting. It was not so much to split from the Church, but to transform it–at first.

Of course, men can get pretty riled up about their new fantastic ideas (ever seen that?), and before anyone realized it, a huge split…others might say a heresy or rebellion… was cemented into place in history–forever changing the landscape of Christianity.

Spiritually speaking, some good was gained (and Catholics adjusted to these grievances by the 1960s with Vatican II), but as more and more people are beginning to realizing now, some very good and important things were lost because of going this route.

So, what is the real purpose of a priest, or priest-like figure? Is it necessary? Can absolution of sin come from a man in a white collar? What about a teenager in a crew neck? Or a lady with a scarf?

Drum roll, please…..

Oh!  Wait! Before, you start gathering firewood and a sturdy stake for my conflagration, please hear me out the entire way. (Then have at it; I’d like to hear from you.)

The I Timothy 2:5 “one mediator” verse is often used to underscore that Christ alone can forgive sins and be our mediator to God. It’s true. This was the mission of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Protestants have, by the over-reactive trailblazing of the Reformers, missed quite a bit of the spiritual benefits of what Jesus’ brother James talks about:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

What is James saying…that confession and other believers’ prayers are powerful and effective against sin? Yes.

Okay, not a total gasp. But how does this play out? You may wonder…

This confessing to each other is not the same as be able to actually take Jesus’ place (obviously). James shows us that confession to each other works. It does something important. God wants it to be done this way.

It absolves us (because God absolves us). So, it is true that we personally experience the relief of our guilt being removed. We experience, in real terms, the agency of God’s forgiveness of our guilt. Someone is there beside us, standing in the gap for us, so we can be reconciled more thoroughly, more completely than we can experience it otherwise. It is God’s work; and we are agents of his ministry.

These confessors  to whom we confess become a flesh and blood representation of God’s love that promotes gracious forgiveness and offers wholeness. It offers us freedom from guilt (felt guilt, and feeling or thinking as if Christ‘s work is not complete). It puts flesh on our spiritual justification.

It seems we can’t handle our sin on our own too well, at all.

We are sinful, and it’s not a private matter.

Just confessing to God, and keeping our mistakes and sin to ourselves, is not the recommendation and requirement of Christ’s disciples.

The Community of God (i.e. the Church; our brothers and sisters in the Lord) plays a vital role in our spiritual growth and growth in grace. Confession ushers in that felt healing of the sin and guilt which weigh us down, and disables us.

Our sin is a rejection of community (aka The Bride of Christ) and an act of selfishness.

Our sin is a destructive thing. Socially and spiritually destructive.

Confession and absolution, (the kind you might say/declare out loud to another person) restore us at a core level. To ourselves, to God, and to community (aka The Bride of Christ).

In this way, we act not as God, but on God’s behalf. We minister.

It is simply true that he forgives us. We concur and offer social restoration, and remind the confessing one of God’s gracious work and love for us.

We minister to each other, on equal footing, and we may offer God’s grace to a brother or sister who cannot yet properly apprehend it. We can accept their confession and offer forgiveness, so we speak the Truth of God’s Kingdom into their life. We help set the captives free. (Not because God can’t do it without us, but because he wishes to use us this way.)

YES. We may say, “You have confessed, and you are forgiven. God absolves you. I, too, forgive you. Go in peace, and rest in his love.”

Please offer this to others. Ask for it on your behalf, too.

Will you comment on this topic, please? Your input is vital on this one. Thank you.

Prayer: Martin Luther King Jr.


Christian Man of God: Martin Luther King Jr.


A  Prayer by Martin Luther King, Jr.

O God, our heavenly Father, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee, the only true God of the universe. We come to thee today grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We are mindful, O God, that man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of things and humanity is not God.

Bound by our chains of sin and finiteness, we know we need a savior. We thank thee, O God, for the spiritual nature of man. We are in nature but we live above nature. Help us never to let anyone or any condition pull us so low as to cause us to hate. Give us the strength to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us.

We thank thee for thy Church, founded upon the Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that man was created to shine like the stars and live on through all eternity.

Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all of God’s children — Black, White, Red, and Yellow — will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and of our God, we pray. Amen.

Source: Harold A. Carter’s Prayer Tradition of Black People (1985)

“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember the time that MLK day became a national holiday. My mother had just remarried, and I wasn’t too fond of my stepfather, at the time, for various reasons. Namely because it meant my parents could not reunite. Jim got the day off work on this first MLK day, but he was disgruntled.
“Martin Luther King (Jr) doesn’t deserve a holiday, he was just a trouble-maker,” said Jim.
Needless to say, this infuriated me, and I liked my mother’s husband even less. I realized Jim didn’t see Martin Luther King as a non-violent Christian brother-in-Christ who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs, and for standing up for equality, justice, harmony, and God’s love to reign.
Finally, I swallowed my anger, and I said, “Just be thankful that he gave you the day off.”
To that he commented, “Yeah, I guess that’s the good part.” Each year, this conversation would take place, in some form, but thankfully Jim grew less hostile, overall.
One of my favorite things about MLK is that he lived out his worldview which was completely sold out to God, as the center of reality, and God’s ways (love.) To him, this was the answer, the remedy for human weakness, and injustice. It was the way toward redemption, peace, and equality this country was supposedly founded on. His Christian beliefs were thoroughly sincere and ruled his heart, life, and actions. That is inspirational to me, and something to celebrate!

What reflections do you have about MLK, his prayer posted above, or the holiday day we have to celebrate his life?

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