Monday, April 27, 2009

Claiborne Recap

I enjoyed my maiden voyage to the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College late last week. I took a little heat for referring to the GAC campus as "simultaneously beautiful and bland" on Twitter...but I stand by my initial observation. The benchmark of our trip was to spend the day with Shane Claiborne.

(For those of you not familiar with Shane's work, take a moment to click here, here, and here.)

Shane preached at the daily chapel service and then spent some open Q&A time with a group of a couple dozen youth ministers. He is a person who has the gift to be fully present where he is. I never sensed anxiety or secondary agendas in the conversation. He is compelled by the Gospel to present his case for a radical new (or really old) kind of discipleship. Not once did he urge us to buy his book, visit his website, or donate financially to his cause. Instead, his focus was on honoring our questions and affirming this ragamuffin group of youth ministers for their work.

The group ate pizza in The Dive (an on-campus hangout) and a few of us traveled down to Mankato for relaxing and reflecting. It was a beautiful spring day. We ventured to the campus of Mankato State and soaked up the sun and college frivolity. I read a few chapters from the book of Acts in my Carolina-blue "Lutheran Study Bible"; others napped.

At night, Shane gave a more formal presentation to an auditorium filled with a predominately under-30 crowd. With my computer in the fix-it shop and my phone / voice recorder out of battery, I was forced to jot a few salient points on the back page of the aforementioned Lutheran Study Bible. Here were the money quotes:

On war:
Christians should be the hardest people to convince that violence is necessary; not the ones beating the war drums.

Referencing a sign on a church / homeless shelter in Philly:
How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?

On criticism:
The best critique of what's wrong is the practice of something better.

Quoting MLK:
We should lament deeply that the most segregated hour in our nation is 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Addressing accusations that he's a Socialist:
If we learn to love others as ourselves, Capitalism won't be possible and Marxism won't be necessary.

Much of what Claiborne presented aligned with my immersion experiences at the Centro Luterano in Mexico City. I am moved by this message and find myself inspired to make different choices in the way I live. Upon my return home, I re-read my New Year's resolution post about The Year Of Living Simply. Several friends misunderstood my intention for those resolutions. Out of genuine concern for my well-being, they thought I was trying to simplify my life so I would be less stressed and anxious. What I was really getting at, however, was trying to establish patterns that were more congruent with my faith. Embracing rituals, spending less money, and making smarter use of the Internet are a few ways that I can avoid the ruts that are associated with my residence in Suburbia. My road trip to see Shane Claiborne reminded me of the call to take up my cross and follow Jesus...and to joyfully live in response to God's grace.

(It also reminded me how much I like hanging around really smart people.)


  1. Greetings,

    I have been very much concerned about what I'm finding in "Lutheran Study Bible" and did a comparison between it and the forthcoming Lutheran Study Bible from Concordia Publishing House. Here it is:

  2. Paul,

    Thanks for taking time to be a part of *koinonia*. You have obviously spent a great deal of time analyzing and comparing the two Lutheran Study Bibles.

    A few reflections:

    I'm always saddened when human sexuality becomes a deal-breaker for Christians. From you critique, it seems your main frustration with Augsburg Fortress' Lutheran Study Bible is the editorial treatment of texts pertaining to sexuality. I certainly respect those differences, but surely there are broader aspects of both Bibles that are worthy of comparison.

    I also sense some bitterness about Augsburg Fortress "beating" Concordia to the punch on publishing a Lutheran Study Bible. Since Augsburg is the official publishing house of the ELCA and Concordia is the publishing arm of the LCMS, I'm not sure what the problem is. Both publishers have a specific clientele to consider when creating resources. Is your issue with the title? Did Augsburg infringe on a copyrighted title?

    I'm excited to see Concordia's Lutheran Study Bible when it is released. Thanks for directing my attention to this resource.

  3. Hi Erik,

    Thanks for the quick response. I appreciate this opportunity for dialogue and conversation.

    Actually, my main concern is not with what the Bible says about human sexuality. Frankly, I expected it and was not surprised, given AF's track record on this issue in recent years. I expected the AF Bible to go wobbly on homosexuality and I was not even surprised that nowhere is marriage defined in the Bible as being between a man and woman.

    If I had to pick one thing that most concerns me, and which, frankly, blew my mind, it was the comments on Matt. 28. I'm still shocked, baffled and grieved about what is said there in regard to making disciples of all nations. I'm most concerned by what I regard to be a huge theological collapse on this issue, in addition to all the other things I find highly problematic in the AF Bible, things which are so foreign to historic/classic Lutheran Biblical studies and understandings.

    So, I'd say the "deal breaker" for me is the AF Bible's take on the Great Commission. That's also what I am hearing from many ELCA pastors and lay people as well who are looking more closely at the AF Bible and are stunned at what they are seeing.

    I mean, wowzers, if we can't get things right on the Great Commission everything else is a moot point, as far as I'm concerned.

    I think it is great, however, that we do have TWO LUtheran Study Bibles, or soon will. What a great opportunity to do a careful comparison and contrast of the Bibles, so to better understand the profoundly fundamental differences between the two major streams of Lutheranism that exist today.

    I'm urging all my friends to get a copy of both Bibles and do their own careful comparison work.

    You might like taking a look around at The Lutheran Study Bible's web page:


    PS -- Bitterness? Nope, none at all, actually. I am disappointed AF decided to call their Bible what they did, particularly since it is not really a study Bible and also in light of the fact that they had known for several years about The Lutheran Study Bible. They moved ahead quickly on their Bible and the content is, frankly, light-weight in comparison to The Lutheran Study Bible. I'm not sure why they didn't call their Bible "The Book of Faith" -- I think that would have been awesome name, wish we had that kind of church-wide initiative in The LCMS, frankly. But calling it a "Lutheran Study Bible" really stretches the meaning of "study Bible." It strikes me that is is more of a "beginner's Bible" or a "student Bible." I was told by AF officials that they wanted, at first, to call it a "Lutheran Student Bible" but the copyright owners at Harper-Collins didn't want them using that name in light of the NRSV Student Bible.

  4. Egads, make that "lite-weight" not "light-weight."

  5. Good stuff, Paul. I incorrectly assumed that the major bone of contention for you was the treatment of the sexuality texts. Several of those texts appeared in your 4/22 blog post, so it seemed that you had concerns about the how theme of human sexuality was presented in the Lutheran Study Bible.

    "Bitterness" was a bad choice of words on my part..."disappointed" makes sense. It seems like CPH has been spending a lot of time and resources on their Lutheran Study Bible. I'm not very familiar with the publishing industry, but it seems like the consumer's insatiable need for instant response makes it difficult to work on a long-range project. Six years on one resource indicates that CPH has taken great pains to create their best possible Bible...but it also meant that, in taking so long to complete, another resource emerged in the meantime.

    I, too, wrestle with what is communicated in the notes of the Great Commission section of AFP's Lutheran Study Bible. Throughout my life, I have been conflicted by the various messages of salvation found in scripture. Though I may not always agree with it, I think the commentary in AFP's Bible offers a well-articulated, scripture-based argument for what is meant in the Great Commission. I think our confessions are clear that Christ died for the sins of the world - the entire world. In that sense, we find ourselves somewhere in the tension between Universalists and Baptists...but not always on the same place in the continuum.

    It's unfortunate that there appears to be such a chasm between the two branches of Lutheranism. Even though ELCA & LCMS have a lot in common, it seems that our handful of inter-denominational differences continue to win the day. I pray that changes in the near future...

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  7. I'd be particularly interested to know why the note writer said about Matt. 28:

    "Jesus now send the disciples to make disciples of all nations. That does not mean make everyone disciples."


  8. Have you heard yet from the author of the notes on Matthew 28?

  9. No reply from Dr. Priebe yet...


Thank you for taking the time to be a part of "koinonia"