Esp 103: When the church has hurt you, guest Carol Howard Merritt

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Carol Howard Merritt is an award-winning author, speaker, and minister who often speaks and writes on the topic of ministering in a new generation. Besides the book we will discuss today, Carol is the author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation and writes for Christian Century.

For more information and show notes for today’s show, click here!

Here is Carol’s book. I highly recommend it.

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

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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!

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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
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

18:00 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!


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Watch for new episodes each Hump Day (Wednesday).

Everything Happens for a Reason?…probably not

Part of my journey, spiritually, has been to move from a fundamentalist upbringing, to an Evangelical / post-conservative theological formal training, and then toward “the mysteries” (i.e. mystic tendencies). What brought me there? Tremendous pain. I usually don’t talk of it for too long. Maybe there’s a memoir in me that should come to light, but the progression is palpable.

In “the mysteries” this means that I don’t think of suffering as a problem, sorrow as un-wellness, or bouts of profound unhappiness as a sign that I have too little faith. In fact, most of the biblical characters were kind of tortured souls. It’s a more recent construct that we should think the life of faith has a “Sunshine Mountain” feel to it.

So, I wanted to write out a few thoughts about what Mark Lepper posed out there on the Twitter-verse (see lower image).

My initial Twitter response (you see below) was less than 140 characters, so I thought I’d add a bit more.

@thelepper Nah. That notion helps us cope, but we can’t possibly verify it. It’s part of “the mysteries”

For just a moment…

Imagine your child kills himself. The most horrid thought (you needn’t linger there).

In the first few days, probably 20 people will tell you, “Everything happens for a reason.” Or, they’ll say, “All things work together for good…” You know the verse, right?


(Probably most people don’t realize how out of context that verse is used that way. Erroneously they utilize just a part of it as a “band-aid platitude” to offer kindness.)

There are a great many things that have no good explanations and will not. The reasons won’t be revealed later either. On earth or in heaven. It really doesn’t work that way. And it really shouldn’t. Otherwise movement toward maturity would be at stake.

Really, it would be too confusing for us that God would answer these questions, so don’t count on an inquiry at the “ask the author” line in heaven, my dear friends.

When the pain of suffering wallops you and you can’t shelve your doubts long enough to work through the real hardship of it, one temptation is to consider that God must be malevolent or AWOL, instead of considering that we can’t possibly know the answer.

It is in the unknowing that we become enlightened to the ways of God.

It seems the two most common tactics (ways of coping) in tragedy are…

1. Try to believe that something horrible or evil has some sort of good redemptive reason, or will eventually come to something good because of it.

(Though it is true that God makes it his business to redeem everything…eventually….somehow…. we can’t think of this backward when we come into pain, and try jumping ahead. Pain can serve a point.)

2. Realize that so much is unexplainable and let our hope and faith erode or dissolve.

But there is a third option. And maybe more than just one more (you can let me know). Another way that’s been employed since humans have had optimism and spirituality (read: a very long time) is…

“the way of the mysteries”. And it’s not a cop out.

It’s farsighted. It’s a perspective that holds that the beauty we witness in this world is almost out of place in the nastiness and madness of it. It’s the idea of (good) ideals we all seem to possess that point to a greater, underlying and sustaining beauty and goodness obscured by the ways of the world, suffering, and the hardships of being human.

To embrace our situation as the mystics do is to not shun hardship or revel in it, but rather to let the pain refine us and make us wise. Oh, and it hurts. It hurts like hell.  And it, in some real sense, beats the hell out of us, and makes us endearing and compassionate. Beautiful.

The trouble is that if we’re satisfying with answers like, “Hey, friend! Don’t worry there’s a reason this horrible thing is happening,” then we are of very little good to those who are truly suffering.

In fact, our notions of “reasons” are often so pale and wanting. They just couldn’t possibly be sturdy enough. They don’t reveal what is legit and accurate.

Only when we can sit there alongside in the pain of those who hurt, and even take a part of the sorrow itself do we find we can make our way, honestly. And too, we must sit in our own pain. It’s uncomfortable. It’s dark. Sometimes horrid.

But to have the permission to hurt can send us toward wellness. It shows us that great sorrow comes on powerfully, and hurts badly, but does not have the final word. In the process of living well and deeply do we like a tender shoot become oaks of maturity and grace.

Please friends, be careful and don’t make a mockery of pain by disrespecting it or minimizing it (for yourself or anybody else). There is no human life without pain. There too is no growth without it. That’s the bit about incarnationality: The divine enters the human experience. That is our model.

So very deeply have I hurt, but now deeply can I love.

It’s true that redemption is chosen.

To be chosen it must first be acknowledged.

(that’s my longer answer)

“Is Mark Driscoll a Cult Leader?” (Infographic)

In the last post I talked about the qualities of a cult, or a group that has social decay (some cult-like qualities). I got some questions, such as: “So, are you implying that Mark Driscoll is a cult leader?”

Gosh… that’s awkward. Instead of making a pronouncement, I’ll let you judge for yourself.

I made this handy info graphic to make the whole thing easier to understand. Enjoy.

Cool bonus. This image may be shared. Official Creative Commons license of this work. 


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