All posts in Church

  • Bread, Circuses, and Violence


    Bread, Circuses, and Violence
    Brian Zahnd

    On Sunday the Gospel reading was the temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11). After church someone asked me if I thought the temptation of Jesus was literal. The questioner was struggling with what seemed to be a cartoonish contest between Jesus and the devil. This person was particularly perplexed by the idea that Jesus would actually be tempted to worship Satan.

    So when asked if I thought the temptation account was “literal,” what did I say? I said, yes and no. I certainly believe Jesus encountered Satan in the wilderness and was tempted. But I don’t think the devil showed up in a red suit sporting a tail and a pitchfork saying, “Hello, I’m Lucifer, and I’m here to put you through your paces. Alright, shall we get started? First off, how about turning that rock into lunch? No? Okay. What about showing off with a leap from the temple? No again? Well, how about you just fall down and worship me and I make you king of the world and we’ll call it a day?”

    No, I don’t think it was quite like that. It wasn’t cartoonish. It was far more subtle and insidious than that. I suspect the satan came to Jesus the same way he comes to you and me: disguised as our own thoughts. Just like the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. I’ve never met a talking snake, but I’ve sure had some serpentine thoughts crawl through my head! So let’s treat the temptation of Jesus seriously.

    What was Jesus doing in the wilderness? Fasting, praying, preparing to begin his ministry. What was on his mind? We might assume he was contemplating how to go about his work. That’s when subtle and satanic thoughts entered the mind of the Son of God.
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  • A Premodern Sacramental Eclectic


    A Premodern Sacramental Eclectic
    Brian Zahnd

    Ten years ago I was a poverty-stricken Christian…and I didn’t even know it. My poverty was theological and it was the sad consequence of my arrogant sectarianism. By restricting my Christianity to the narrow confines of modern charismatic evangelicalism I suffered from a self-inflicted theological poverty. I needed the riches of the whole church. I needed to be able to draw upon the broad spectrum of Christian thinkers and theologians, mystics and writers. I needed to become eclectic in my approach to Christianity. A Christianity that is sufficiently broad and eclectic liberates us from an arrogant and impoverished sectarianism.

    In my youthful arrogance (the word I really want to use is stupidity) I effectively defined and limited Christianity to my kind of Christianity — a charismatic flavored evangelicalism. As far as I was concerned, most Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and mainline Protestants needed to “get saved” — which is to say, they needed to become my “style” of Christian. There were times in my twenties and thirties when I was particularly antagonistic toward Catholics and mainline Protestants. I thought Catholics belonged to the “whore of Babylon” and mainliners were all “liberal goats.” How egotistical! How stupid! I’m ashamed of all that now. I have repented. Which means I’ve called my former attitude sinful and changed my mind — I simply don’t think that way anymore.
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  • When America Went To Hell

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    When America Went To Hell
    Brian Zahnd

    “How I wish that you of all people would understand the things that make for peace.”
    —Jesus (Luke 19:42)

    Whether or not slavery was the direct cause for the first shots fired upon Fort Sumter in April of 1861 is a matter of scholarly debate. What is undeniable is that two and half centuries of slavery was the fuel that caused the American Civil War to ignite into a conflagration that resulted in 623,000 deaths. From its Jamestown beginnings the American colonies and later the United States practiced one of the most brutal forms of slavery the world has ever known. The preservation of an institution that systematically dehumanized millions of people for the sake of economic gain was not a thing that made for peace. Inevitably that kind of cruel exploitation would overflow its cup and unleash death and hell, bringing everything that is the opposite of peace. During the horror of the American Civil War, the “land of the free” became a burning Gehenna. Thirty percent of Southern men of fighting age were slain on battlefields that saw the birth of modern warfare. From now on, war would be totalized and mechanized. The four horseman of the Apocalypse galloped across America leaving a wake of war, disease, famine, and death.
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  • Ring Them Bells


    Ring Them Bells
    Brian Zahnd

    We now have a church bell at Word of Life! I’m ridiculously excited about this. I’ve wanted a bell for several years and recently an old church bell was donated to us. We will “debut” our bell this Friday at our Thanksgiving Communion Service and Christmas Tree Lighting.

    But let me tell you about me and the bells.

    I grew up with church bells. My Baptist church had a bell. A group of old men were in charge of ringing it on Sunday mornings. They were quite serious about it. A few times when I was a small child they let me “help” ring the bell. I would hold onto the rope, be pulled off my feet, and the old men would have a good laugh. It’s a fond memory.

    But somewhere along the way church bells began to disappear. They became antiquated. We moved to the suburbs, built our new non-descript utilitarian metal buildings and left the bells behind. Church bells were passé. When we built our church facility in 1996 it never entered my mind to have a bell. And I never thought a thing about not having a church bell.

    Until I began traveling in Muslim countries…
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  • Rhythm (Redo)


    I’ve been thinking about Advent today. It starts Sunday, you know. (For those of us at Word of Life it really starts Friday night with our Thanksgiving Communion Service and Christmas Tree Lighting.) Anyway, alert reader Gerald Lewis reminded me of this four and half year old post and it seems apropos. So with a few alterations, here is Rhythm (Redo).


    Life is full of rhythm.

    The daily rhythm of sunrise and sunset.
    The seasonal rhythm of winter, spring, summer, fall.
    The lunar rhythm seen in the cycles of the moon.

    When we consider the human body we can say life is rhythm.
    The steady rhythm of breathing.
    The syncopated rhythm of the heart.
    The many rhythms of a healthy body.
    When your body is out of rhythm you are sick.
    If the rhythm is not restored you are dead.

    Art is rhythm.
    Dance is rhythm
    Poetry is rhythm.
    Music is rhythm.
    (Pitch is the varying rhythms of frequency.)
    Is symmetry (the essence of beauty) a kind of rhythm?

    Strength is rhythm.
    The engine in your car is a machine for maintaining rhythm.
    When your car is out of rhythm you take it to the mechanic.
    One of the secrets to climbing a mountain is rhythm.
    It’s easier to climb a mountain with rhythm than in fits and starts.

    If String Theory is right…
    (The quantum world consists of single-dimensional oscillating strings.)
    …the entire physical universe is rhythm.

    But we have lost our rhythm. Read more

  • The System vs. The Kingdom

  • On Going To Church

    Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome guest blogger, Joe Beach!

    Joe Beach pastors Amazing Grace Church in Denver and is a dear friend. Joe loves a lot of the same things I do — things like Jesus, church, mountains, theology and Bob Dylan. Which goes a long way in explaining why we like to hang out together so much. Joe is also an avid reader and a keen thinker. (Have you ever noticed that reading and thinking tend to go together?) Anyway, Joe has written a thoughtful article entitled On Going To Church. I would like to share it with you. Read. Think. Act.

    by Joe Beach

    You’re probably familiar with statements such as, “we don’t GO to church. We ARE the church.” There are similar ones that go something like this: “Church is not what we do when we gather on Sunday mornings for an hour or so. Church is not a place or a building. It’s what we are OUT THERE.” Well, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and, although there’s some truth and some wisdom in these statements (which I’ve spoken myself), I’m no longer so sure about them on the whole. Read more

  • End of the Line

    This is an article I wrote for the May issue of Charisma Magazine at the request of the new editor, Marcus Yoars.

    By Brian Zahnd

    God is shifting the church from one seasonal platform to another. Are we ready?

    Western Christianity is at a critical juncture. Those who care deeply about the church are aware of this. Things are not as they once were. Things are changing. Dramatically so. Even if we don’t understand what is happening, we can certainly feel it. There is an uneasy feeling throughout evangelicalism that everything is changing. Long-held certitudes are being challenged from both within and without the Christian faith. The way things were even ten years ago is no longer the way things are today. It’s easy to be disconcerted by it all. Read more

  • A Bolder Reformation

    Alright, I’m just going to say it. I’m not going to take the time and effort to fully develop and defend it (it’s just a Monday morning blog after all), but still I’m going to say it.

    The Reformation for all the good it did, did not go near far enough.

    Ecclesial and theological reform were long over due and the reformers, Luther et al., made their contributions, God bless ’em.

    But the reform which was most desperately needed never happened. And what might that be? The reform of the church’s allegiance to Constantinianism. Which would be the abandonment of Constantinianism. Read more