It's an Either-Or world. We find ourselves caught between competing factions, secular or religious, conservative or liberal. We are pulled between extremes on one side or the other. But the Christian faith holds together seemingly contradictory ideas: Jesus is both human and divine; God is both three and one. There is a paradoxical power in the both-and. Rich Nathan and InIt's an Either-Or world. We find ourselves caught between competing factions, secular or religious, conservative or liberal. We are pulled between extremes on one side or the other. But the Christian faith holds together seemingly contradictory ideas: Jesus is both human and divine; God is both three and one. There is a paradoxical power in the both-and. Rich Nathan and Insoo Kim show how Christians can live out the fullness of the gospel through the both-and. They affirm that we believe in both proclamation and demonstration of the gospel, justice and mercy, and unity and diversity as one body with many parts. The answer is not to choose one or the other, but to hold both together for a richer, more holistic experience of Christianity. Then we will live into the realities of the kingdom of God, both now and not yet, on earth as it is in heaven. Both-And Christians are both timeless and timely, hewing to the orthodoxy of traditional belief while always contextualizing our witness in a rapidly changing world. Discover how you can deepen your discipleship with the larger vision of the both-and....
|Title||:||Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World|
|Number of Pages||:||253 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World Reviews
The authors are pastors of a mega-church, Vineyard in Columbus, Ohio. I will use the pronoun “they” to refer to them, although the text is primarily Nathan’s, who writes in the first-person singular. They are proponents of a fusion of two strands Christianity: Evangelical and Charismatic; their name for it is “empowered evangelicalism” (phrase found on p. 41).The Both-And of their title is their way of expressing a long-recognized, common Christian insight that believers live between the now and the not-yet. It is not to be confused, they stress, with relativism. “Both-And does not involve advocating for the mean between two extremes or finding the average. Rather, it requires holding to both extremes at once and realizing the power that exists in this tension” (p. 235). The book’s structure is clear: there are seven pairs of chapters. Taken together, they read like a mission statement:Our Identity: Evangelical (ch. 1) and Charismatic (ch. 2) Our Community: Unity (ch. 3) and Diversity (ch. 4) Our Concern: Mercy (ch. 5) and Justice (ch. 6) Our Method: Proclamation (ch. 7) and Demonstration (ch. 8) Our Ethic: Personal (ch. 9) and Social (ch. 10) Our Expectation: Already (ch. 11) and Not Yet (ch. 12) Our Calling: Relevant Practice (ch. 13) and Orthodox Doctrine (ch. 14). The book starts in a surprisingly open-minded way. The authors could be characterized as pro-life, for instance, but they recognize the social responsibility that such a stance implies, and, if I understood the text correctly, they do not categorically rule out all abortions. In Chapter 4, they make a good point that it is not enough for a congregation to be open to diversity, rather, it must be intentionally diverse. One of the strongest chapters is Ch. 6, concerning social justice, which for the authors forms a tandem with exercising mercy. Their congregation has made a name for itself in central Ohio by actively helping immigrants, and the authors are strong advocates of public policy reform. Chapter 7, Proclamation, invites reflection and contradiction. The authors stress that it is not accurate to think that the believer is responsible for bringing a godless person to God. Rather, it is a matter of partnering with God concerning what He is already doing with a person or in a place. To explain this, they introduce a phrase used by John Wesley, prevenient grace, which is the assumption that God prepares hearts beforehand. They draw on the experience of Don Richardson, who explained the Christian message to the Sawi tribe in what was then Dutch New Guinea of the death of Jesus on the cross in terms of one of their customs, the peace child. Richardson generalized from this experience that there were similar “redemptive analogies” in other tribal cultures. Nathan and Kim concur, but don’t consider the possibility that the New Testament interpretations of the fate of Jesus are also a case of applying ideas already present in the culture of that day. To them, the crucifixion is the sacrifice of the Son of God to requite the sins of mankind and make peace between God and humans. Nathan and Kim then cite the conclusions of a colleague at Vineyard Columbus, Stephen Van Dop, who studied why people experienced conversion in their congregation and attributed all to the effect of life crises, which he then divided into three groups, intrapersonal (addiction, depression, etc. — the most common, 63%), interpersonal (with divorce or separation accounting for nearly two-thirds of those), and situational (for instance, loss of a loved one or unwed pregnancy). Is it really true that something bad has to happen to someone before he or she becomes a serious disciple? This leads to further questions — God’s agency? evangelism as opportunism? — none of them raised by the authors. Nonetheless, the conclusion they draw does have implications for the future of the church: “So when we meet a person in crisis, we can assume that the person may have exhausted their [sic] own resources for humanly solving their own problems and that the Holy Spirit is at work preparing that person to receive the gospel. They reference the typology of another colleague, Simon Ponsonby, who argues that various thinkers, Comte, Kierkegaard, Rahner, Otto, Lewis, and Schleiermacher have seen certain innate qualities such as anxiety, dependency or a sense of beauty as pointers to God. The authors then make a sensible proposal: “What if we listened to people long enough that we were able to discover their own innate desires — whether for beauty, justice, satisfaction or morality — and helped them to make an explicit link between these desires and Christ? . . . What if our job is to simply help people find what they’ve always been looking for instead of trying to create an appetite for God where none previously existed?” (p. 119). What if indeed. It’s embarrassing to listen to attempts to “bring people to Christ”, well-meaning though they may be, that are framed in a one-size-fits-all assumption about what state of mind a prospective convert has to be in before “coming to Christ”. Typically, it is the assumption that the story of the cross can be reduced to “saving sinners”, therefore, the first step must be to hector someone into seeing him- or herself as one. This is not to say that no one is a sinner, but an all-encompassing sense of personal sin doesn’t seem very high on the list of concerns of people I know.Readers who welcome the openness and flexibility of the authors in the first half of the book might be disappointed when they come to Chapter 9, devoted to personal ethics. In it, the authors mention Sodom, rejecting the common conception that the primary reason for God’s judgment was sexual, then go straight into a discussion of sexuality. Their stance here is more strict and traditional than it is regarding other issues they discuss in the course of the book. For instance, their reading of Genesis is sophisticated enough that they see no need to ascribe to creationism. Whereas their recognition of cultural factors behind the prohibition of leadership roles for women found in 1 Timothy allows them to (rightly, imho) not feel bound to apply this stricture literally today, they expressly reject this possibility in their discussion of sexuality. Everything except heterosexual relations within marriage is forbidden, even — and the authors discuss it lengthily — sex within a committed gay relationship. Throughout the rest of the book, Nathan and Kim strive to overcome what they characterize as either-or thinking, but in this area, there are only two possibilities: commitment in the form of heterosexual marriage or what they term commodified sex. It is surprising then to have them report that several gay couples attend their congregation. The authors are unaware of the irony of writing early in the chapter, “The Christian church is often criticized for caring only about sexual ethics” (p. 141), then spending the rest of the chapter discussing only that. The book is written in a lively, straightforward manner. Long stretches of it read like transcriptions of spoken presentations. Many other authors are quoted, mostly from the evangelical and charismatic traditions. Sometimes, irritatingly, these authors are quoted in the process of citing other authors. All in all, it was interesting and enlightening to read, since I haven’t read much from this intersection of the evangelical and charismatic traditions. I went back and forth how to rate it. For me, the default is three stars, which signifies a good read. This is not quite that. Since the Goodreads system doesn’t allow wiggle-room through half-stars, I’ll give this two, which for me means that I don’t find it good throughout, but I recognize that readers more sympathetic to the stance of the authors might rate it more highly than I. Nevertheless, I did stick with it, and found much to think about in reading it.
I live in Columbus, the city in which Vineyard Columbus ministers but am not a part of this congregation, the largest congregation in the Vineyard movement and in central Ohio. The work of Vineyard Columbus is regularly featured on our local news outlets, and it is not in images of angry protesters with a hateful message but rather images of people serving throughout our community in the name of Christ. The congregation sponsors a community center providing free medical and legal assistance and other services to local residents and has planted at least 24 churches in central Ohio and around the world.This book, authored by their senior pastor, Rich Nathan, with the assistance of Insoo Kim, pastor of ministry strategies, helps explain the vision of this church, which so many have found so attractive. In brief, Nathan calls this a "both-and" church in an either-or world tired of the kind of polarization we see in our politics and civic life. Nathan believes that the Christian message holds in a creative tension the polarities that often divide us.The book is organized around a series of both-and polarities that Vineyard Columbus seeks to hold together and commends to other churches. Nathan describes an identity that is both evangelical and charismatic. He speaks of a community that enjoys unity and a racial diversity that matches the diversity of our city. He articulates the church's concern and activity around both showing mercy and pursuing justice. The church pursues its mission through both proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. He challenges his congregation to holiness in both its personal and social ethics. He expresses the church's kingdom vision in terms of both the miraculous works which might already be sought and the final transformation of our lives and world yet to be hoped for. He concludes with calling the church to both relevant practice (orthopraxy) and orthodox doctrine.Each chapter includes personal stories and illustrations from Vineyard Columbus ministry and the author's personal life. At the same time, Nathan writes with a lawyerly (he was an attorney and law professor before becoming Vineyard Columbus's pastor) carefulness on key doctrinal issues of our day. For example, to the contention that opening leadership in the church to women leads to opening leadership to those engaged in same-sex relationships, he observes a key distinction rarely noted in these discussions between roles, which are culturally determined, as in the case of women, and behaviors which carry moral implications that are trans-cultural.This example also underscores how this will not be a book that those wedded to an either-or view of reality will embrace. Nathan speaks both of the loving acceptance their church shows all who seek services in their community center and all who come to the church and of the church's uncompromising call to things like sexual integrity and its decision to only appoint leaders and pastors who exemplify that integrity. Similarly, in another place, Nathan both speaks critically of our nation's militarism and warmly of those who serve in the military.My sense is that we like to define the world in either-or terms because it makes life seemingly simpler. However, what we miss is that in doing so, it also makes life smaller and leaves no way to include those who think differently. One of the most delightful aspects of this book were the repeated instances where Nathan shows how this "both-and" thinking brings us into a far richer reality than the "either-or". Here's one example, from his section on both evangelical and charismatic: "If we emphasize the Word without the Spirit, we dry up. If we emphasize the Spirit without the Word, we blow up. If we hold the Word and the Spirit together, we grow up.... "The most exciting aspect of the Both-And marriage of evangelical and charismatic Christianity is the bringing together of evangelicals' historic focus--the salvation of the lost--with the charismatic power to get the job done."Are you one of those like me who tires of being presented with the polarities of "either this, or this" in the church or in the culture and wonder, is there a third option? If so, you will find this book helpful in casting a vision of a different paradigm and as well as explaining the powerful ministry Vineyard Columbus has had in its host city.
This book starts off great. While it comes from an Evangelical/Charismatic persuasion, the author talks about doing away with polarizing Christianity, practicing peace, caring for immigrants, risking for mercy, standing for justice, sharing our faith in love in our stories, loving all. Sounds good right?And then he begins to judge. The entire second half of the book is committed to proclaiming the sin of homosexuality and how it is not a "biblical" view of marriage or relationship. He proclaims that the church should offer love, grace, and forgiveness but put forth a call for homosexuals to deny who they are. Because of course, God's plan for marriage is between one man and one woman.I'm not really sure which "bible" he has read, but the biblical view of marriage is very diverse - in other words, it depends on which cultural time frame the story you read is in. And that he knows God's plan for marriage in this century? Well. I honestly could do no more than skim the second half as it totally negated everything he had said in the first half of the book. As a follower of Jesus, we cannot pick and choose who we will serve with. Who are we to question who God chooses to be in ministry? We also cannot stand in judgement against people we don't agree with. We are called to love like Jesus - unconditionally. To offer grace to everyone - period. To forgive no matter if the offender asks to be forgiven or not! This was an upsetting read for me. But I do realize that there are varying beliefs within Christianity, and so I recommend that you read it an make your own observations.
Great book. Many denominations avoid teaching Biblical truths for fear of offending people. As a result how many know what the Bible says about pertinent issues in our culture? I agree with the authors contention that the church asks too little of it's members. Living a Christ-centered life is not easy, especially in a world where morals/values are upside down from Biblical truth. This is a great book for exploring what we believe as Christians and why we believe it. More importantly it challenges us to maintain relevancy in a world of skeptics so that when the unchurched visit, they can realize "they have come home." This is one book I will keep on my shelf.
This book made total sense to me. I would recommend it to all Christians to read it. We can be in but not of the world, and it is how we walk the Christian life before others that attracts them to or away from Christ.
This is a very good overview of what it means in practice to live out the both/and tension of the Kingdom of God.
Very good and thought-provoking practical theology work. Longer review here: http://eyesandearsblog.blogspot.com/2...
Full disclosure: I attend this church. The book reclarified why i do attend Columbus Vineyard. This book provides a lot of reasons why Christians should avoid getting too involved with the 'either' 'or' approaches that tend to polarize people depending on what stance you take. The Apostle Paul articulated this approach when he proclaimed he wanted to be 'All Things to All People' for the sake of the Gospel. I also strongly believe the church should be providing both spiritual and physical help to a person. Sometimes a person needs some money/physical assistance, but sometimes they need a community around them and a touch of the Holy Spirit to re-ignite their faith. I believe Rich provides good basis to ensure that Christians be 'Jesus - led' first and foremost and that will take many forms of expression depending on the need and direction of the Spirit. He is also very clued in to the pitfalls of being too one sided when emphasizing certain beliefs and this book provides a healthy dose of wisdom.