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RE: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

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  • Eland, David R
    Before we start discussing specifics essentials , is there agreement that there are essentials? Would it tell us something different about God if there are or
    Message 1 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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      Before we start discussing specifics "essentials", is there agreement
      that there are essentials?

      Would it tell us something different about God if there are or are not
      essentials? What kind of God requires some essential beliefs, rituals,
      etc., in order for us to have a relationship with him? What kind of God
      does not require any of these?

      Dave

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Rogier @ E-Claire [mailto:rb@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2003 1:34 PM
      To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?

      Hi,

      I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific
      proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different.

      Rogier
      www.thejourney.nl



      [Rogier Bos] -----Original Message-----
      From: DT2748@... [mailto:DT2748@...]
      Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 20:06
      To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?


      Hi Everyone,

      We can be thankful that there is only one essential. That is given in:
      -- Revised Standard
      John 1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he
      gave
      power to become children of God;

      Therefore it is simply accepting Christ and believing on his name.

      Denny


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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    • DT2748@AOL.COM
      In a message dated 5/20/2003 2:56:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time, david.r.eland@mail.sprint.com writes: Hi Dave ... You probably won t get agreement on this issue
      Message 2 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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        In a message dated 5/20/2003 2:56:16 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
        david.r.eland@... writes:
        Hi Dave


        > Before we start discussing specifics "essentials", is there agreement
        > that there are essentials?

        You probably won't get agreement on this issue

        >
        > Would it tell us something different about God if there are or are not
        > essentials? What kind of God requires some essential beliefs, rituals,
        > etc., in order for us to have a relationship with him?

        Probably the same type of personality as a husband that expected a wife to
        have some responsibility in the marriage relationship.

        What kind of God> does not require any of these?
        >
        > A God who has NO requirements will have to save ALL mankind. I am not
        > denying universalism, but was playing it safe by espousing the higher road with
        > the shortest path.
        >
        > Denny



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Chris G Criminger
        Hi Rogier, I don t think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials rather
        Message 3 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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          Hi Rogier,
          I don't think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can
          get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials
          rather than whether we have them or not. Or for a church to say we have
          no essentials? Is that an essential? Maybe like a wheel, it would be
          better for churches to speak about the center and those things that
          encircle it recognizing diversity here among churches but all or most for
          example have beliefs and practices that center around worship, teaching,
          communion, etc. Just like there is unity and plurality in the Trinity,
          maybe stressing both unity and plurality among churches would be healthy
          and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

          Just a thought - Chris Criminger
          Vallonia Indiana



          ********************
          On Tue, 20 May 2003 16:07:11 +0200 "Rogier @ E-Claire" <rb@...>
          writes:
          > Hi,
          >
          > This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a
          > forum next
          > month that asks a very similar question: 'what is the gospel we
          > preach?'.
          >
          > (I work with a Christian missions group that seeks to plant churches
          > ('communities of faith') in major European cities, and in so doing
          > we hope
          > to contribute to the start of a new grassroots movements of people
          > following
          > Jesus.)
          >
          > I can't get around the fact that, while totally understandable, the
          > question
          > actually seems a little modernist, in that it seeks to reduce our
          > faith (or
          > the Biblical story, for that matter), to it's essence. Reductionism
          > is a
          > trade-mark of modern thinking.
          >
          > As I have been preparing for this forum I have been studying and
          > reading
          > Jesus' teaching, and it seems to me that Jesus' gospel is
          > 'situational' -
          > it's different in every situation he encounters. Hence it is
          > possible for
          > Nicodemus and the rich young ruler to get different answers when
          > they ask
          > 'what must I do to be saved?'.
          >
          > Augustine's quote is great, but many religious wars have been
          > started about
          > the essentials. What are the essentials? Who defines them? What
          > happens when
          > I deem one essential more essential than another? What happens if we
          > disagree on the essentials in the first place? Can we still break
          > bread
          > together? How much tension can we cope with before we disassociate
          > ourselves
          > from one another? Here is a sociological observation: he who defines
          > the
          > essentials, holds the power. Historically you can make a case that
          > in some
          > cases people defined essentials not so much because they really
          > cared about
          > the essentials, but because they really cared about holding the
          > power that
          > deciding the essentials brought them. To put it simply: the will to
          > power is
          > part of our desire to define the essentials.
          >
          > And yet I have struggled with the question of the essentials myself
          > very
          > much. How could we ever be one (as Jesus prayed in John 17) if we
          > could not
          > reach agreement on the essentials?
          >
          > I have this novel idea I am playing with: what if God never intended
          > for us
          > to agree on all the essentials. What if the variation he has so
          > cleverly and
          > skillfully brought out in the natural realm is the same variation he
          > would
          > like to see in the church? What if he never intended us to be the
          > same, look
          > the same, talk the same, or (dare I say it?) believe the same? What
          > if he
          > always intended for a high degree of ambiguity to exist? I know this
          > raises
          > many questions, such as: 'how can we be one?', and 'how can we
          > organize
          > ourselves?' and 'how do we know we can fellowship together (when are
          > you too
          > far removed from me for us to still cross the chasm between us?)?' -
          > but
          > humour me, okay? I'm trying to make sense of God and life and
          > ministry after
          > relinquishing my desire for control and institutionalism and
          > monolithic
          > groups and order and ...
          >
          > What would happen if each local community would decide for itself
          > what its
          > essentials are? If all over the place each community of faith
          > decided on its
          > own identity and values and emphases? I know, there would be some
          > groups
          > that would probably go of the deep end - but then again, those
          > groups have
          > always existed, haven't they? It's not like our modernist drive for
          > a clear
          > definition of the essentials ever cured that problem. Actually, I
          > reckon
          > that in this day and age, in our global village, our many
          > cross-border
          > contacts would keep us in check, at least to a degree (call it
          > cross-fertilization).
          >
          > I imagine that what would emerge would be a lovely varied quilt of
          > communities accross our local maps, each with its particular
          > attractions and
          > particularities - come to think of it, not all that dissimilar to
          > nature
          > itself: varied, colorful, organic, interacting with its context,
          > growing,
          > struggling a bit here and there, producing fruit, each after its own
          > kind)...
          >
          > Come to think of it, it's not so different from what has happened
          > accross
          > history already - but it's very different from what we desired when
          > we built
          > our systems and organizations and institutions, when we fought our
          > religious
          > wars, organized ourselves, spoke out against each other, called each
          > other
          > heretics (I live in Europe where these religious wars are a major
          > factor in
          > the secularization of my continent)... I cannot escape the
          > conclusion that
          > the ideological and organizational unity we sought is just not going
          > to
          > happen!
          >
          > What if, in the meantime, God has been building his church, just
          > like he
          > intended, without agreement on the essentials, but with the
          > variation, the
          > color, the quirks, the oddities, the differences, the strengths, the
          > weakenesses, the fruits and the flowers?
          >
          > I'd be interested in your thoughts!
          >
          > Rogier
          > www.thejourney.nl
          >
          >
          >
          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: Eland, David R [mailto:david.r.eland@...]
          > Sent: dinsdag 20 mei 2003 15:12
          > To: findingfaith@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [findingfaith] What are the essentials?
          >
          >
          > Looking over some earlier postings I found this:
          >
          > >Augustine's tried and true "in essentials, unity; in
          > non-essentials,
          > liberty; in all >things, charity (love)."
          >
          >
          > What are the essentials?
          >
          > And how do you know they are the essentials?
          >
          > Thanks,
          > Dave
          >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >
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          >
          >


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        • Stephen Shields
          Hi David! dr: Augustine s tried and true in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love). ss: I do think that we need to
          Message 4 of 17 , May 20, 2003
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            Hi David!

            dr:

            Augustine's tried and true "in essentials, unity; in non-essentials,
            liberty; in all >things, charity (love).

            ss:

            I do think that we need to differentiate between what we must believe before
            God deals with us (I imagine that list is a bit short and God is mainly
            looking at the direction of our heart) and what we would teach in a Worshop
            entitled "The Essentials."

            I grew up Methodist, in college went to a Presbyterian Reformed church, then
            a Bible church. In graduate school I went to a Plymouth Brethren assembly.
            Since then I've attended two non-denoms. I suggest that one can make a good
            beginning at the essentials by determining what beliefs all of these
            different yet truly Christian churches held in common.

            For what it's worth!

            Stephen Shields
            sshields@...
            http://www.faithmaps.org
            http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
            "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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          • Eland, David R
            Chris and Stephen, I wonder if we are using the word essentials in the same way. For example, ... Does that mean churches should have unity in essential
            Message 5 of 17 , May 21, 2003
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              Chris and Stephen,

              I wonder if we are using the word "essentials" in the same way. For
              example,

              Chris said:
              >Just like there is unity and plurality
              >in the Trinity, maybe stressing both unity and
              >plurality among churches would be healthy
              >and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

              Does that mean churches should have unity in essential beliefs? Or are
              you saying they have unity in love, mutual respect, etc. but can have
              different even contradictory beliefs?

              Stephen said:
              >I suggest that one can make a good beginning
              >at the essentials by determining what beliefs
              >all of these different yet truly Christian
              >churches held in common

              I wouldn't think that sharing common beliefs means those must be
              essential. However I would expect essential beliefs to be shared by all
              Christians.

              I am using "essential" in the sense of what is "required and absolutely
              necessary." To remove something essential means that the first thing no
              longer exists and it becomes something different. For example Christ is
              an essential part of the Trinity. Remove Christ and there is no
              Trinity. A god that is not triune is a different god from a trinitarian
              god. That does not necessarily mean that everyone must believe in the
              trinity. It just means that one belief is true and the other is false.
              God may or may not require that people believe that he is 3 persons in
              one being. He may graciously accept many people with incorrect beliefs
              about his nature. Certainly God cannot require that we have a perfect
              conception of him because finite beings cannot fully understand an
              infinite being.

              On the other hand, is it likely that God requires some minimal
              requirements for what we believe? Certainly Paul expressed this at the
              Areopagus in Athens. Acts 17:16 says, "While Paul was waiting for them
              in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of
              idols." If all conceptions of God are equally acceptable then why would
              Paul be distressed? Paul goes on to tell the story of Christ and his
              resurrection. Then he states in Acts 17:30, "In the past God overlooked
              such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For
              he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he
              has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from
              the dead."

              "He commands...he will judge...has given proof..." those are strong
              words. If we do not have minimal correct knowledge of God then is it
              possible we are really worshiping an idol rather than God? If there are
              essentials then it would be good to know them.

              Thanks,
              Dave
            • Stephen Shields
              Hi Rogier! It s been a while! r: This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a forum next month that asks a very similar question: what
              Message 6 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                Hi Rogier! It's been a while!

                r:

                This is an interesting question to me, as I will participate in a forum next
                month that asks a very similar question: 'what is the gospel we preach?'.

                (I work with a Christian missions group that seeks to plant churches
                ('communities of faith') in major European cities, and in so doing we hope
                to contribute to the start of a new grassroots movements of people following
                Jesus.)

                I can't get around the fact that, while totally understandable, the question
                actually seems a little modernist, in that it seeks to reduce our faith (or
                the Biblical story, for that matter), to it's essence. Reductionism is a
                trade-mark of modern thinking.

                As I have been preparing for this forum I have been studying and reading
                Jesus' teaching, and it seems to me that Jesus' gospel is 'situational' -
                it's different in every situation he encounters. Hence it is possible for
                Nicodemus and the rich young ruler to get different answers when they ask
                'what must I do to be saved?'.

                Augustine's quote is great, but many religious wars have been started about
                the essentials. What are the essentials? Who defines them? What happens when
                I deem one essential more essential than another? What happens if we
                disagree on the essentials in the first place? Can we still break bread
                together? How much tension can we cope with before we disassociate ourselves
                from one another? Here is a sociological observation: he who defines the
                essentials, holds the power. Historically you can make a case that in some
                cases people defined essentials not so much because they really cared about
                the essentials, but because they really cared about holding the power that
                deciding the essentials brought them. To put it simply: the will to power is
                part of our desire to define the essentials.

                And yet I have struggled with the question of the essentials myself very
                much. How could we ever be one (as Jesus prayed in John 17) if we could not
                reach agreement on the essentials?

                I have this novel idea I am playing with: what if God never intended for us
                to agree on all the essentials. What if the variation he has so cleverly and
                skillfully brought out in the natural realm is the same variation he would
                like to see in the church? What if he never intended us to be the same, look
                the same, talk the same, or (dare I say it?) believe the same? What if he
                always intended for a high degree of ambiguity to exist? I know this raises
                many questions, such as: 'how can we be one?', and 'how can we organize
                ourselves?' and 'how do we know we can fellowship together (when are you too
                far removed from me for us to still cross the chasm between us?)?' - but
                humour me, okay? I'm trying to make sense of God and life and ministry after
                relinquishing my desire for control and institutionalism and monolithic
                groups and order and ...

                What would happen if each local community would decide for itself what its
                essentials are? If all over the place each community of faith decided on its
                own identity and values and emphases? I know, there would be some groups
                that would probably go of the deep end - but then again, those groups have
                always existed, haven't they? It's not like our modernist drive for a clear
                definition of the essentials ever cured that problem. Actually, I reckon
                that in this day and age, in our global village, our many cross-border
                contacts would keep us in check, at least to a degree (call it
                cross-fertilization).

                I imagine that what would emerge would be a lovely varied quilt of
                communities accross our local maps, each with its particular attractions and
                particularities - come to think of it, not all that dissimilar to nature
                itself: varied, colorful, organic, interacting with its context, growing,
                struggling a bit here and there, producing fruit, each after its own
                kind)...

                Come to think of it, it's not so different from what has happened accross
                history already - but it's very different from what we desired when we built
                our systems and organizations and institutions, when we fought our religious
                wars, organized ourselves, spoke out against each other, called each other
                heretics (I live in Europe where these religious wars are a major factor in
                the secularization of my continent)... I cannot escape the conclusion that
                the ideological and organizational unity we sought is just not going to
                happen!

                What if, in the meantime, God has been building his church, just like he
                intended, without agreement on the essentials, but with the variation, the
                color, the quirks, the oddities, the differences, the strengths, the
                weakenesses, the fruits and the flowers?

                I'd be interested in your thoughts!

                Rogier
                www.thejourney.nl

                ss:

                Thanks for this!

                Rogier, I would say that balance is the watchword here. The NT docs do seem
                to clearly differentiate those who are in the kingdom and those who are not.
                And surely there is some essential set of facts that **derive** from a real
                relationship with God. (I phrase this carefully. A modernized
                evangelicalism would posit the facts themselves as the foundational thing).
                So we would do well to avoid the Scylla of requiring complete agreement on
                every point of theology and the Charybdis of saying "Hey, it doesn't matter
                what you believe." Surely there are some non-negotiables about which we
                would be held accountable if we did not make earnest effort to share these
                with others.

                That being said, I tend to be an agnostic inclusivist. I simply don't know
                what God's gonna do with the possible category of folks that are genuinely
                seeking God but haven't yet been exposed to these nonnegotiables. All I
                know for certain is that belief in the Lord Jesus Christ (and I use "belief"
                in both its propositional *and* transpropositional senses) brings one into
                the kingdom. So this I proclaim and leave that which I don't know to God.

                Thanks!

                Stephen Shields
                sshields@...
                http://www.faithmaps.org
                http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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              • Stephen Shields
                David Eland commented: It s funny that you would describe the words of a 4th century pastor as modernist, how far back does modernism go? (I m not well
                Message 7 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                  David Eland commented:


                  It's funny that you would describe the words of a 4th century pastor as
                  "modernist," how far back does modernism go? (I'm not well versed in
                  the definitions of modern vs. post-modern.) Wasn't it Greek
                  philosophers who said everything has a true essence? And that it should
                  be possible to strip away the outward appearances and find the true
                  essence. I think one example I heard was that there are many kinds of
                  chairs but each one contains the true essence of "chairness" and without
                  that, it would not be a chair.

                  Was Augustine saying that there can be great varieties of Christian
                  communities of faith but all are united by some essentials. I'm also
                  pretty ignorant of Augustine--did he describe these essentials?

                  ss:

                  I think this is a good point, David. It does seem sometimes that those
                  writing in the pomoChristian thoughtspace equate a modernized approach to
                  propositional truth with all categories of truth (I'm not accusing Rogier of
                  this, btw).

                  thanks,

                  Stephen Shields
                  sshields@...
                  http://www.faithmaps.org
                  http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                  "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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                • Stephen Shields
                  Rogier commented: I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different. ss: Yes!
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                    Rogier commented:

                    I find it interesting that three people have responded with specific
                    proposals for essentials - and all of them have been different.

                    ss:

                    Yes! Larry Crabb recently said that repentance is idiosyncratic. We might
                    suggest that the same thing is true of what traditionally has been called
                    "saving faith". If we accept that there is some set of nonnegotiable
                    truths, surely the exact way I explain them and hold them in my mind in
                    paradigm will vary from others. And so our wise Lord is the one that
                    determines the acceptable degree of correspondence between our paradigms and
                    objective truth.

                    'Course I realize I"ve opened another can of worms! But I suggest that a
                    full appreciation of the subjective nature of truth doesn't vitiate its
                    objective nature. The variable and highly differentiated subjective
                    experience of truth can coexist with its objectivity. You might be bored by
                    my comments and can't wait for me to shut up as the minutes creep by. Or
                    you might find this moderately philosophical discursive highly stimulating.
                    But the quartz in your watch still vibrates at a defined number of times per
                    second irrespective of your subjective experience of time. So also God and
                    His truth.

                    fwiw,

                    Stephen Shields
                    sshields@...
                    http://www.faithmaps.org
                    http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                    "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"

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                  • Stephen Shields
                    Chris opined: I don t think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials
                    Message 9 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                      Chris opined:

                      I don't think we can get away from essentials anymore than a wheel can
                      get away from a center. Maybe the dilemma is how we define essentials
                      rather than whether we have them or not. Or for a church to say we have
                      no essentials? Is that an essential? Maybe like a wheel, it would be
                      better for churches to speak about the center and those things that
                      encircle it recognizing diversity here among churches but all or most for
                      example have beliefs and practices that center around worship, teaching,
                      communion, etc. Just like there is unity and plurality in the Trinity,
                      maybe stressing both unity and plurality among churches would be healthy
                      and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

                      ss:

                      I like it!

                      Stephen Shields
                      sshields@...
                      http://www.faithmaps.org
                      http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                      "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in postmodernity"


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                    • Stephen Shields
                      Dave differentiated with: Chris and Stephen, I wonder if we are using the word essentials in the same way. For example, ... Does that mean churches should
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jun 1, 2003
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                        Dave differentiated with:

                        Chris and Stephen,

                        I wonder if we are using the word "essentials" in the same way. For
                        example,

                        Chris said:
                        >Just like there is unity and plurality
                        >in the Trinity, maybe stressing both unity and
                        >plurality among churches would be healthy
                        >and stressing one against the other would be unhealthy?

                        Does that mean churches should have unity in essential beliefs? Or are
                        you saying they have unity in love, mutual respect, etc. but can have
                        different even contradictory beliefs?

                        Stephen said:
                        >I suggest that one can make a good beginning
                        >at the essentials by determining what beliefs
                        >all of these different yet truly Christian
                        >churches held in common

                        I wouldn't think that sharing common beliefs means those must be
                        essential. However I would expect essential beliefs to be shared by all
                        Christians.

                        I am using "essential" in the sense of what is "required and absolutely
                        necessary." To remove something essential means that the first thing no
                        longer exists and it becomes something different. For example Christ is
                        an essential part of the Trinity. Remove Christ and there is no
                        Trinity. A god that is not triune is a different god from a trinitarian
                        god. That does not necessarily mean that everyone must believe in the
                        trinity. It just means that one belief is true and the other is false.
                        God may or may not require that people believe that he is 3 persons in
                        one being. He may graciously accept many people with incorrect beliefs
                        about his nature. Certainly God cannot require that we have a perfect
                        conception of him because finite beings cannot fully understand an
                        infinite being.

                        On the other hand, is it likely that God requires some minimal
                        requirements for what we believe? Certainly Paul expressed this at the
                        Areopagus in Athens. Acts 17:16 says, "While Paul was waiting for them
                        in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of
                        idols." If all conceptions of God are equally acceptable then why would
                        Paul be distressed? Paul goes on to tell the story of Christ and his
                        resurrection. Then he states in Acts 17:30, "In the past God overlooked
                        such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For
                        he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he
                        has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from
                        the dead."

                        "He commands...he will judge...has given proof..." those are strong
                        words. If we do not have minimal correct knowledge of God then is it
                        possible we are really worshiping an idol rather than God? If there are
                        essentials then it would be good to know them.

                        ss:

                        Thanks Dave, a helpful distinction.

                        Stephen Shields
                        sshields@...
                        http://www.faithmaps.org
                        http://faithmaps.blogspot.com
                        "navigating theology, leadership, and spiritual formation in
                        postmodernity"

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