"Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world." - Todd Littleton
"I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see." - Anon
"Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all." - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
"Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut
"Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals." - Jim Forest
"People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." - Anon
"... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all." - R.E. Slater
"An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst." - R.E. Slater
"Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics." - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
"Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated." - Emil Brunner
"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Answering Charges of Impropriety. Part 3 - Underminining Tradition




Answering Charges of Impropriety

Today's post presents the problem of libel amongst over-eager, judgmental Christians to slap names and labels upon people and movements that can be mis-representative of that individual or movement in endeavors to create (or foment) public mis-information that is demeaning and personally destructive.

Any astute observer of the Press or social media sees this all the time - from Wall Street to Congress, from public officials to well-spoken religious leaders and teachers. Usually this is done by well-meaning people who hold an imperfect knowledge of what they are charging linking one event with another that is actually specious and untrue. At other times the charge is true and valid and requires both parties to work out what it would mean for any future relationship (family squabbles are usually of this nature between husband and wife, or child and parent). During this time love and commitment will be tested and perhaps either healed and deepened, or broken and left in disrepair. But the risk is ever towards personal separation and dis-connection when argumentation unfolds and libelous charges are carelessly thrown back-and-forth. This is not of God, nor of the Spirit, as the church of God.

The process of accusation can be seen time-and-again in the Bible from its earliest Old Testament pages when Moses was charged by the people for misconduct to Jesus' day at the hands of the Pharisees. Even in the New Testament church there was the problem of false prophets, teachers, and shepherds. This is not a new problem but an old problem that often is be bounded by ignorance, well-meaning but errant loyalty, or desires to protect and save. At other times disruption is driven by hatred, envy, and jealousy. The motives vary by its audience. And the charges as old as humanity itself.

Some charges may be true. Some may not be true. Essentially, the accused and the accuser must come to a resolution with each other in order to move on in relational affiliation. In the case of religion, this can be of a very personal nature involving the deepest passions of man. Inquisitions and crusades have been created on the backs of religion. Families have lost loved ones over religion (a Protestant child leaving his/her Catholic family; a brainwashed family member to the cults; or even over so slight a difference as to whether one sings hymns in church or listens to worship bands on a Sunday's venue).

Essentially, the accused person or religious body must determine the charge's source: is it one of simple mis-understanding and mis-information? Perhaps a cultural or generational disagreement? Or is it one of a more personal nature stemming in attacks of vindictiveness. Charges that bear validity need to be resolved on the part of the accused, forgiven, and ended. But charges that are not true must likewise be resolved on the part of the accuser, forgiven, and ended.

Relizedly, some personalities can be business-like and do this quite nicely with one another. Other personalities deeply struggle with this process and compound the problem unnecessarily a thousand-fold. A wise person, or body of governance, will determine the nature of the working environment as they move forward in the process, deciding perhaps to work with a mediator (or mediating body) who/which may help heal a torn relationship. The process of remediation can be a difficult one. For a wise person, the initial charges brought forth must always be with the attitude of reconciliation should it come to that, and rapidly so, if it can be done.

But if untrue, charges of libel or heresy tend to "stick" to the person, event, or movement, once a charge has been made, and is never so simply removed or resolved, persisting on the willingness of its accusers to believe untruths, falseness, rumor, or innuendo. And once tainted, a ministry, or minister, can never quite shake off the charge(s) of mis-appropriation, mis-conduct, or mis-information. It becomes a life-long combat that can hinder an otherwise good ministry. Or in many cases redirect that ministry's efforts towards areas of compromise and injustice (a recent example of this is the evangelic furor over World Vision).

In some instances, highly influential church leaders that have fallen can be Teflon-like and are able to bounce back from disaster, somehow side-stepping accusations without having deeply addressed those charges of impropriety. But more often than not, charges that are valid must be addressed (unless tempered with extreme prejudice and hostile intent). In those cases, a court of public opinion (in the case of religion, a synod or council, for instance) must be held to determine the veracity of the charges whether true or not. In many cases, differences in religious doctrine may only lead to splits and disunity. Religious creeds, confessions, and church doctrinal bodies have been birthed upon this process until we now have, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, as many differing kinds of faith as we do people holding them.

In a postmodern church, or an emerging assembly of believers, these differences are being lowered as today's 21st Century Christians seek a greater spirit of unity over disunity. They are more willing to irenically discuss doctrinal differences within the greater center of Christ's healing atonement and fellowship rather than focusing upon the many dividers and dissemblers of the Christian faith. Others have taken it upon themselves to point out the historical background of dogmatic and doctrinal disagreements in hopes of providing an expanded biblical basis for sound judgment, understanding, and reconciliation, without jettisoning the faith altogether based upon premise and suspicion.

More often now than ever, the Bible's earlier faiths were built in a time without today's greater hindsight of church history, science, technology, and the arts, and pervasive global communications amongst world religions and cultures. As such, theology today is rapidly, if not expediently, working towards more enlightened definitions and expanded religious categories not previous thought in light of postmodern theological movements and cultural resettlement forced upon despised unfortunates (think of the many refugee populations that have shifted under threat of death and torture). As a result, faith has tended towards despair as much as towards the spiritual. Towards nothingness as much as towards a God-ness. And a deep response of love and acceptance is needed, especially of the church of God, if not very humanity itself.

For the church today the charge is to make the gospel relevant, meaningful, personal, and healing. To adjudicate Christ and His Word is now being re-contextualized towards less judgmentalism and more openness and acceptance. Even the word "adjudication" itself is wrong, communicating attitudes of "rightness and wrongness," of "black-and-white" thinking, against a postmodern world that sees life's categories in terms of non-binary, non-dualistic hyperboleparadoxmystery, pattern-and-flow.

What this means is that yesteryear's doctrines and dogmas must come under a re-evaluation so that the postmodern Christian church might move forward in missional witness that is more open, receptive, and reconciling than ever before. Showing by love and good works the majesty of Christ and not simply the austerity of church politics and polities. To speak to a post-Christian world of the love of God and the power of His Holy Spirit in the action-words of redemption, resurrection, renewal, reclamation, reformation, and rebirth. As any good parent will know, good words vastly outweigh harsh words of duty and honor. So too has the Lord called us by the same in this day and age. To reach out to those different from ourselves in respect and goodwill to share a faith that has the power to heal the sin-sick soul and broken spirit. To bring justice to oppressive lands and households of discord and abuse. To share in the labor of life with others - both in its sufferings and toils, as well as its joys and laughters - as with a fellow souls traversing this world of reclaim and shalom. Amen.

R.E. Slater
September 15, 2014





* * * * * * * * * * * *




Amazon link

The controversial Bible scholar and author of The Evolution of Adam recounts his transformative spiritual journey in which he discovered a new, more honest way to love and appreciate God’s Word.

Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible, the more he found himself confronted by questions that could neither be answered within the rigid framework of his religious instruction or accepted among the conservative evangelical community.

Rejecting the increasingly complicated intellectual games used by conservative Christians to “protect” the Bible, Enns was conflicted. Is this what God really requires? How could God’s plan for divine inspiration mean ignoring what is really written in the Bible? These questions eventually cost Enns his job—but they also opened a new spiritual path for him to follow.

The Bible Tells Me So chronicles Enns’s spiritual odyssey, how he came to see beyond restrictive doctrine and learned to embrace God’s Word as it is actually written. As he explores questions progressive evangelical readers of Scripture commonly face yet fear voicing, Enns reveals that they are the very questions that God wants us to consider—the essence of our spiritual study.


---


Cathedral of St.-Etienne, Bourges, France


Moving Tradition from the Modern to the Post-Modern

R.E. Slater
September 17, 2014

When reading from the pen of Peter Enn's latest book, The Bible Tells Me So, the reader is introduced to what first appears as a whole range of non-traditional teaching that is cognitively disruptive and smelling of liberalism.

But it simply isn't.

What one thinks is the difference in Enn's scandelous words is the distance it has moved away from the church's more pendantic evangelic words of Scripture that have arisen over the past century's worth of great preaching.

Working from the ancient texts of the Bible (or what has been preserved of them through the oral teachings and religious traditions of ancient cultures), the reader at once sees its "airs" and "vernaculars" to differ substantially from our own English vernaculars steeped in an American ized context of modernity. Moreover, this modern, American context has also been re-contextualized religiously into a doctrine and dogma known as evangelicalism that has rigorously reworked the text of the Bible to become unlike its own pages - and more like us with our expectations of good and evil, God and sin.

At which point the wary reader must know that reading the Bible from our own expectations can be both confusing and misleading when approaching the ancient pages and cultures of the Scriptures. Doctrines no longer work - and dogmas no longer persist - except within the culture of its supplicants. They become less plain and more tumbled and confused within the jargon of modern day societies filled with its own systematic arguments and pagan conventions of thought, means, and outcomes.

But for the text of the Bible to be like itself one has to revisit the text of Scripture from its own basis written within more ancient times than the Americanized (or Western civilization) context that the modern church has placed upon it. And when it is read like this than the Scriptures become unlike what we have heard and believed for so long within our evangelic Protestant and Catholic cultures.

Not that all evangelic teaching is bad. It's main points of salvation by grace through an atoning God of grace and forgiveness upon penitent sinners is to the point. But it is between the points, and the across the points, that it's tumbled thoughts about the Christian faith has become more like a dryer full of washed clothes in a jumble of words and schisms that have become decidedly more like us and less like Scripture.

We know this because 2000-4000 years ago the area of science and technology had not occurred. Nor had 20th century genocidal warfare. Nor the rapid disillusionment of whole societies when viewing the horror and carnage of societal warfare and class struggle upon one another. Consequently, philosophy has changed. The academic disciplines have changed. Even literature itself has changed from pre-dated medieval thinking to a post-Renaissance, post-Reformational thinking that has given way to a whole range of Enlightenment's predecessors.

In essence, humanity had grown up. Matured. Moved past the ancient eras and thinkings of biblical societies to confront their own histories and traditions and to find God still present within the sins and turmoils of our present. But also distant from us even as He was to His own people who spoke un-God-like words met with actions of hatred and war, injustice and unholy posturing.

The church within a society of men and women struggles as deeply now as the tribes of Israel of believing men and women did then. Who asked the deep questions of "Who is God? Why has He forsaken me? What are we to do?" is no less pertinent then as they are now.

And with these questions must come a better idea of "Who God is. What He wants from us now. And why we live a life that is like the life we now live."

It is a truth that the unchangeable One has changed. The immovable One has moved. The impassive One has lamented for our destructions, our lostness, our sufferings, and deep darks. The God of the universe - the God of eternity - has changed by His passions for our eras and times. Been moved to present Himself for our atonement and redemption. Cried in His heart for the destructions we have heaped upon our heads and our souls. Surely this God is no less than the God of the Scriptures who did the same in ancient times though we understood Him not.

And much less today with our biblical philosophies and predialections for dogmatic conventions and teachings denying the Holy One of Israel to be who He is when raising the very Bible that tells of Him beyond the Author Himself to a standard that has become Pharisical and not Jesus-like.

But surely it is to this God of Scripture whom we must look for salvation and healing. To begin to do so will require abandoning unquestioning doctrines and dogmas of the Bible that are no longer tenable in this day and age. Doctrines like inerrancy that have removed this God from our eveyday living. Dogmas like "intelligent design" and "special creation" that do not purport with today's sciences and technologies. Thoughts like God has abandoned us when He is the move present in our lives than even the closest Holy Spirit moment in Scriptures through the lives of His prophets and disciples.

Yeah, it is we who have changed and must change yet again to be able to read and hear this God's Words afresh. And from within the context of our civilizations when properly read.

God is with us. This is a truth. And He has come through His Son who has made God's homecoming possible. We are not abandoned but we are held to a judgment to repent and forsake the sins of this world and give all to the Savior who has given all to us.

Let us yield yet one more time and look with favor upon the freshness of Scripture as it comes to life under the pens of these new theologic reformers crying out, "Stand ye and hear!" Amen

- re slater




Recent blog articles from Peter's Pen



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Answering Charges of Impropriety. Part 2 - Underminining Inerrancy




Answering Charges of Impropriety

Today's post presents the problem of libel amongst over-eager, judgmental Christians to slap names and labels upon people and movements that can be mis-representative of that individual or movement in endeavors to create (or foment) public mis-information that is demeaning and personally destructive.

Any astute observer of the Press or social media sees this all the time - from Wall Street to Congress, from public officials to well-spoken religious leaders and teachers. Usually this is done by well-meaning people who hold an imperfect knowledge of what they are charging linking one event with another that is actually specious and untrue. At other times the charge is true and valid and requires both parties to work out what it would mean for any future relationship (family squabbles are usually of this nature between husband and wife, or child and parent). During this time love and commitment will be tested and perhaps either healed and deepened, or broken and left in disrepair. But the risk is ever towards personal separation and dis-connection when argumentation unfolds and libelous charges are carelessly thrown back-and-forth. This is not of God, nor of the Spirit, as the church of God.

The process of accusation can be seen time-and-again in the Bible from its earliest Old Testament pages when Moses was charged by the people for misconduct to Jesus' day at the hands of the Pharisees. Even in the New Testament church there was the problem of false prophets, teachers, and shepherds. This is not a new problem but an old problem that often is be bounded by ignorance, well-meaning but errant loyalty, or desires to protect and save. At other times disruption is driven by hatred, envy, and jealousy. The motives vary by its audience. And the charges as old as humanity itself.

Some charges may be true. Some may not be true. Essentially, the accused and the accuser must come to a resolution with each other in order to move on in relational affiliation. In the case of religion, this can be of a very personal nature involving the deepest passions of man. Inquisitions and crusades have been created on the backs of religion. Families have lost loved ones over religion (a Protestant child leaving his/her Catholic family; a brainwashed family member to the cults; or even over so slight a difference as to whether one sings hymns in church or listens to worship bands on a Sunday's venue).

Essentially, the accused person or religious body must determine the charge's source: is it one of simple mis-understanding and mis-information? Perhaps a cultural or generational disagreement? Or is it one of a more personal nature stemming in attacks of vindictiveness. Charges that bear validity need to be resolved on the part of the accused, forgiven, and ended. But charges that are not true must likewise be resolved on the part of the accuser, forgiven, and ended.

Relizedly, some personalities can be business-like and do this quite nicely with one another. Other personalities deeply struggle with this process and compound the problem unnecessarily a thousand-fold. A wise person, or body of governance, will determine the nature of the working environment as they move forward in the process, deciding perhaps to work with a mediator (or mediating body) who/which may help heal a torn relationship. The process of remediation can be a difficult one. For a wise person, the initial charges brought forth must always be with the attitude of reconciliation should it come to that, and rapidly so, if it can be done.

But if untrue, charges of libel or heresy tend to "stick" to the person, event, or movement, once a charge has been made, and is never so simply removed or resolved, persisting on the willingness of its accusers to believe untruths, falseness, rumor, or innuendo. And once tainted, a ministry, or minister, can never quite shake off the charge(s) of mis-appropriation, mis-conduct, or mis-information. It becomes a life-long combat that can hinder an otherwise good ministry. Or in many cases redirect that ministry's efforts towards areas of compromise and injustice (a recent example of this is the evangelic furor over World Vision).

In some instances, highly influential church leaders that have fallen can be Teflon-like and are able to bounce back from disaster, somehow side-stepping accusations without having deeply addressed those charges of impropriety. But more often than not, charges that are valid must be addressed (unless tempered with extreme prejudice and hostile intent). In those cases, a court of public opinion (in the case of religion, a synod or council, for instance) must be held to determine the veracity of the charges whether true or not. In many cases, differences in religious doctrine may only lead to splits and disunity. Religious creeds, confessions, and church doctrinal bodies have been birthed upon this process until we now have, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, as many differing kinds of faith as we do people holding them.

In a postmodern church, or an emerging assembly of believers, these differences are being lowered as today's 21st Century Christians seek a greater spirit of unity over disunity. They are more willing to irenically discuss doctrinal differences within the greater center of Christ's healing atonement and fellowship rather than focusing upon the many dividers and dissemblers of the Christian faith. Others have taken it upon themselves to point out the historical background of dogmatic and doctrinal disagreements in hopes of providing an expanded biblical basis for sound judgment, understanding, and reconciliation, without jettisoning the faith altogether based upon premise and suspicion.

More often now than ever, the Bible's earlier faiths were built in a time without today's greater hindsight of church history, science, technology, and the arts, and pervasive global communications amongst world religions and cultures. As such, theology today is rapidly, if not expediently, working towards more enlightened definitions and expanded religious categories not previous thought in light of postmodern theological movements and cultural resettlement forced upon despised unfortunates (think of the many refugee populations that have shifted under threat of death and torture). As a result, faith has tended towards despair as much as towards the spiritual. Towards nothingness as much as towards a God-ness. And a deep response of love and acceptance is needed, especially of the church of God, if not very humanity itself.

For the church today the charge is to make the gospel relevant, meaningful, personal, and healing. To adjudicate Christ and His Word is now being re-contextualized towards less judgmentalism and more openness and acceptance. Even the word "adjudication" itself is wrong, communicating attitudes of "rightness and wrongness," of "black-and-white" thinking, against a postmodern world that sees life's categories in terms of non-binary, non-dualistic hyperboleparadoxmystery, pattern-and-flow.

What this means is that yesteryear's doctrines and dogmas must come under a re-evaluation so that the postmodern Christian church might move forward in missional witness that is more open, receptive, and reconciling than ever before. Showing by love and good works the majesty of Christ and not simply the austerity of church politics and polities. To speak to a post-Christian world of the love of God and the power of His Holy Spirit in the action-words of redemption, resurrection, renewal, reclamation, reformation, and rebirth. As any good parent will know, good words vastly outweigh harsh words of duty and honor. So too has the Lord called us by the same in this day and age. To reach out to those different from ourselves in respect and goodwill to share a faith that has the power to heal the sin-sick soul and broken spirit. To bring justice to oppressive lands and households of discord and abuse. To share in the labor of life with others - both in its sufferings and toils, as well as its joys and laughters - as with a fellow souls traversing this world of reclaim and shalom. Amen.

R.E. Slater
September 15, 2014





* * * * * * * * * * * *



Theologian Carolos Bovell

on being a mouthpiece of satan
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/09/on-being-a-mouthpiece-of-satan/

by Peter Enns
September 15, 2014

Today’s blog is by Carlos Bovell, a frequent contributor here. Bovell is a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and The Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto. He is the author of Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals (2007), By Good and Necessary Consequence: A Preliminary Genealogy of Biblical Foundationalism (2009), an edited volume, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Authority of Scripture (2011), and Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear (2012).

---

A disturbingly common response from inerrantists to those who ask historical-critical questions about the Bible is that they are undermining inerrancy and are thus mouthpieces of Satan. Defenders of inerrancy are following Jesus’s lead, while non-inerrantists, who are perceived as denying the Bible, are doing what the serpent did to Eve in the Garden, which is get her to doubt God’s Word by asking, “Has God really said?”

In my last post, I observed that Bob Yarbrough is representative of inerrantists when he suggests that Jesus had a word-that-proceeds-from-the-mouth-of-God view of scripture (see Matthew 4:4), which according to Yarbrough is approximate to modern day inerrancy.

In this post, I observe that while inerrantist writers of this sort pose themselves as the good guys (doing and believing what Jesus did) they also have no qualms about presenting views that “challenge” God’s Word as being in step with the devil’s motives.

I give two examples. First, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, makes the claim in a 2013 Alumni chapel at Southern Seminary concerning the denial of inerrancy:

There’s always a spiritual element behind it because I think the first recorded attack on the inerrancy of scripture we see is in Genesis chapter 3: “Has God really said?” (41:25)

So, inerrancy is a spiritual issue and to question inerrancy is to follow Satan’s lead.

Second, David Garner, associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theology Seminary, adds some heated polemic for good measure in his introduction to Did God Really Say?

When the serpent asks, “Did God actually say?” (Gen. 3:1b), the manner in which he tempts our first parents exposes his consistent modus operandi. God’s Word serves as Satan’s point of attack . . . With the force of spiritual authority itself, we turn the question, Did God Really Say?, right back on those who continue to misrepresent the gospel with serpentine-compatible methods. (p. xxii)

I have devoted quite a bit of time researching and writing in an effort to help Bible-believing Christians come to see that large swaths of American inerrantist culture is taken in by a rhetoric of fear, the sociological effect of which is to keep people from voicing honest and genuine questions concerning inerrancy (see again my last post).

As soon as students begin to think that they may have good reason to become critical of inerrancy, it is suggested they are ceding to temptation and being seduced by “serpentine-compatible methods,” as Garner puts it.

In these examples, commitment to inerrancy is presented as a spiritual obligation: If a student wants to make sure they aren’t following the devil’s lead (and who would ever say that they want to do that?) then they’d better quit asking such critical questions about the Bible let alone entertaining critical answers to those critical questions. Indeed, so long as there remains some solution to a problem that can save inerrancy, one had better accept it since trust in and obedience to God requires it. [observation: this attitude betrays a philosophical commitment to the dogma of inerrancy and not to the Bible itself - re slater]

This clear-cut, either/or choice–side with Jesus or Satan–poses a troubling dilemma for inerrantist churchgoers and students who begin having genuine questions.

But I am encouraged to see that more evangelical believers are coming to understand that the dilemma posed by some inerrantists is a false one—and in doing so they are actually the ones following Jesus’ lead.

You have heard it said that “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I say to you do not resist an evildoer (Matthew5:38-39)

Wait a minute! Is this not in essence what inerrantists claim that the devil was trying to do in Gen 3 in the Garden? But here in Matt 5, it’s Jesus who’s doing it. Didn’t the devil question the meaning of what the Word of God requires from believers? Well, according to Matthew, this is exactly what Jesus did throughout his preaching.

In fact, questioning what God really said appears to be Christ’s “modus operandi.” The main difference is that Jesus claimed that he was fulfilling scripture.

So (Jesus continues) you heard that God said he wants people to love their neighbor and hate their enemy? I tell you that God wants people to love their enemies. (Matthew 5:43-44) If this is not a challenge to God’s word then I don’t know what is, but Jesus explains that it misses the point to see it as a challenge. To understand what Jesus means to say and do by presenting scripture in the way he does, one must accept what Jesus says (and does) as its fulfillment.

Therefore, if we ask, does Jesus challenge people to doubt the popular way of understanding scripture? Or perhaps more provocatively, are Jesus and the devil then not doing more or less the same thing in challenging scripture? We should answer, at least on one level, absolutely.

But on another level, there’s also a world of difference because Jesus’ challenge purports to fulfill scripture, to achieve its purpose, to bring out its full meaning, to re-direct scripture so that it can be put to the service of God’s will.

How does Jesus set out to do this? By tying scripture directly to his mission, by enlisting it in his revelatory message that he is God’s Son and by consistently drawing upon it to support his ministry to the cross.

To support my proposal (and it’s only that, a proposal), I appeal to Matthew 4:1-11 where Satan tests Jesus in the wilderness.

For my part, I think that the scholars who view Jesus’ baptism and temptation as an “apocalyptic journey” or a “visionary experience” are definitely onto something. The heavens opening, the heavenly voice, and the Spirit (and other spirits) guiding Jesus to places throughout the world leave no question in my mind that Jesus underwent altered states of consciousness (and probably regularly did so and taught some of his disciples how to do it too).

Either way, Jesus’ faithfulness to scripture does not lie in a show of his belief in inerrancy (as Yarbrough and others claim) over against the devil’s questioning of it. Jesus’ faithfulness to scripture rather is shown through the dispute over whether now that Jesus has been revealed as God’s Son, he would have what it takes to obey God by carrying out his ministry to the cross.

It is this kind of faithfulness that must prove “according to the scriptures” because it is what God would have Jesus do.

I suggest that this is the aspect of Jesus’ view of scripture that post-inerrantists are trying to emphasize: that the scriptures are to be read in light of Jesus because he is the Son of God and the main way that Jesus showed this is by faithfully carrying out his mission to the cross and folding scripture into that mission.

So it misses the point to suggest that inerrantists are following Jesus while post-inerrantists follow the devil. We are all trying faithfully to follow Jesus—though we have serious disagreements about how best to do this.

Perhaps one important difference between inerrantists and post-inerrantists is that a post-inerrantist may be comfortable saying something like this:

The fact that Jesus is the Son of God is the fact that dictates that the scriptures must now always be read—if they are going to have significance for Christians—with him in mind.

Whereas an inerrantist might feel more comfortable saying something like this:

It’s the scriptures that dictate whether Jesus was right or not, whether he was the Son of God, and it would be mostly on the basis of their authority that we believe.

But, as I see it, this has it exactly backwards. It is Jesus that gives the scriptures meaning (for Christians) in the first place. To ask, “What is the best way to describe this? Should we call it the “authority” of the Bible?” does not make post-inerrantists the devil’s advocate. It’s a believers’ relation to Jesus that attests to this, not how one decides to approach scripture.

- Carlos


Monday, September 15, 2014

Answering Charges of Impropriety. Part 1 - Undermining the Bible




Answering Charges of Impropriety

Today's post presents the problem of libel amongst over-eager, judgmental Christians to slap names and labels upon people and movements that can be mis-representative of that individual or movement in endeavors to create (or foment) public mis-information that is demeaning and personally destructive.

Any astute observer of the Press or social media sees this all the time - from Wall Street to Congress, from public officials to well-spoken religious leaders and teachers. Usually this is done by well-meaning people who hold an imperfect knowledge of what they are charging linking one event with another that is actually specious and untrue. At other times the charge is true and valid and requires both parties to work out what it would mean for any future relationship (family squabbles are usually of this nature between husband and wife, or child and parent). During this time love and commitment will be tested and perhaps either healed and deepened, or broken and left in disrepair. But the risk is ever towards personal separation and dis-connection when argumentation unfolds and libelous charges are carelessly thrown back-and-forth. This is not of God, nor of the Spirit, as the church of God.

The process of accusation can be seen time-and-again in the Bible from its earliest Old Testament pages when Moses was charged by the people for misconduct to Jesus' day at the hands of the Pharisees. Even in the New Testament church there was the problem of false prophets, teachers, and shepherds. This is not a new problem but an old problem that often is be bounded by ignorance, well-meaning but errant loyalty, or desires to protect and save. At other times disruption is driven by hatred, envy, and jealousy. The motives vary by its audience. And the charges as old as humanity itself.

Some charges may be true. Some may not be true. Essentially, the accused and the accuser must come to a resolution with each other in order to move on in relational affiliation. In the case of religion, this can be of a very personal nature involving the deepest passions of man. Inquisitions and crusades have been created on the backs of religion. Families have lost loved ones over religion (a Protestant child leaving his/her Catholic family; a brainwashed family member to the cults; or even over so slight a difference as to whether one sings hymns in church or listens to worship bands on a Sunday's venue).

Essentially, the accused person or religious body must determine the charge's source: is it one of simple mis-understanding and mis-information? Perhaps a cultural or generational disagreement? Or is it one of a more personal nature stemming in attacks of vindictiveness. Charges that bear validity need to be resolved on the part of the accused, forgiven, and ended. But charges that are not true must likewise be resolved on the part of the accuser, forgiven, and ended.

Relizedly, some personalities can be business-like and do this quite nicely with one another. Other personalities deeply struggle with this process and compound the problem unnecessarily a thousand-fold. A wise person, or body of governance, will determine the nature of the working environment as they move forward in the process, deciding perhaps to work with a mediator (or mediating body) who/which may help heal a torn relationship. The process of remediation can be a difficult one. For a wise person, the initial charges brought forth must always be with the attitude of reconciliation should it come to that, and rapidly so, if it can be done.

But if untrue, charges of libel or heresy tend to "stick" to the person, event, or movement, once a charge has been made, and is never so simply removed or resolved, persisting on the willingness of its accusers to believe untruths, falseness, rumor, or innuendo. And once tainted, a ministry, or minister, can never quite shake off the charge(s) of mis-appropriation, mis-conduct, or mis-information. It becomes a life-long combat that can hinder an otherwise good ministry. Or in many cases redirect that ministry's efforts towards areas of compromise and injustice (a recent example of this is the evangelic furor over World Vision).

In some instances, highly influential church leaders that have fallen can be Teflon-like and are able to bounce back from disaster, somehow side-stepping accusations without having deeply addressed those charges of impropriety. But more often than not, charges that are valid must be addressed (unless tempered with extreme prejudice and hostile intent). In those cases, a court of public opinion (in the case of religion, a synod or council, for instance) must be held to determine the veracity of the charges whether true or not. In many cases, differences in religious doctrine may only lead to splits and disunity. Religious creeds, confessions, and church doctrinal bodies have been birthed upon this process until we now have, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, as many differing kinds of faith as we do people holding them.

In a postmodern church, or an emerging assembly of believers, these differences are being lowered as today's 21st Century Christians seek a greater spirit of unity over disunity. They are more willing to irenically discuss doctrinal differences within the greater center of Christ's healing atonement and fellowship rather than focusing upon the many dividers and dissemblers of the Christian faith. Others have taken it upon themselves to point out the historical background of dogmatic and doctrinal disagreements in hopes of providing an expanded biblical basis for sound judgment, understanding, and reconciliation, without jettisoning the faith altogether based upon premise and suspicion.

More often now than ever, the Bible's earlier faiths were built in a time without today's greater hindsight of church history, science, technology, and the arts, and pervasive global communications amongst world religions and cultures. As such, theology today is rapidly, if not expediently, working towards more enlightened definitions and expanded religious categories not previous thought in light of postmodern theological movements and cultural resettlement forced upon despised unfortunates (think of the many refugee populations that have shifted under threat of death and torture). As a result, faith has tended towards despair as much as towards the spiritual. Towards nothingness as much as towards a God-ness. And a deep response of love and acceptance is needed, especially of the church of God, if not very humanity itself.

For the church today the charge is to make the gospel relevant, meaningful, personal, and healing. To adjudicate Christ and His Word is now being re-contextualized towards less judgmentalism and more openness and acceptance. Even the word "adjudication" itself is wrong, communicating attitudes of "rightness and wrongness," of "black-and-white" thinking, against a postmodern world that sees life's categories in terms of non-binary, non-dualistic hyperbole, paradox, mystery, pattern-and-flow.

What this means is that yesteryear's doctrines and dogmas must come under a re-evaluation so that the postmodern Christian church might move forward in missional witness that is more open, receptive, and reconciling than ever before. Showing by love and good works the majesty of Christ and not simply the austerity of church politics and polities. To speak to a post-Christian world of the love of God and the power of His Holy Spirit in the action-words of redemption, resurrection, renewal, reclamation, reformation, and rebirth. As any good parent will know, good words vastly outweigh harsh words of duty and honor. So too has the Lord called us by the same in this day and age. To reach out to those different from ourselves in respect and goodwill to share a faith that has the power to heal the sin-sick soul and broken spirit. To bring justice to oppressive lands and households of discord and abuse. To share in the labor of life with others - both in its sufferings and toils, as well as its joys and laughters - as with a fellow souls traversing this world of reclaim and shalom. Amen.

R.E. Slater
September 15, 2014





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What is Marcionism?

Wikipedia - 

Marcionism was an Early Christian dualist belief system that originated in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope at Rome around the year 144.[1]

Marcion believed Jesus was the savior sent by God, and Paul the Apostle was his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology; notably, both are dualistic, that is, they posit opposing gods, forces, or principles: one higher, spiritual, and "good", and the other lower, material, and "evil" (compare Manichaeism), in contrast to other Christian views that "evil" has no independent existence, but is a privation or lack of "good",[2] a view shared by the Jewish theologianMoses Maimonides.[3]

Marcionism, similar to Gnosticism, depicted the God of the Old Testament as a tyrant or demiurge (see also God as the Devil). Marcion was labeled a gnostic by Philip Schaff,[4] while other scholars have rejected that categorization.Marcion's canon consisted of eleven books: A gospel consisting of ten sections that also appear later in the Gospel of Luke; and ten Pauline epistles. All other epistles and gospels of the 27 book New Testament canon are not yet present in Marcion's canon.[5] Paul's epistles enjoy a prominent position in the Marcionite canon, since Paul is credited with correctly transmitting the universality of Jesus' message.

Marcionism was denounced by its opponents as heresy, and written against, notably by Tertullian, in a five-book treatise Adversus Marcionem, written about 208. Marcion's writings are lost, though they were widely read and numerous manuscripts must have existed. Even so, many scholars (including Henry Wace) claim it is possible to reconstruct and deduce a large part of ancient Marcionism through what later critics, especially Tertullian, said concerning Marcion.


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The Apostle John and Marcion of Sinope,
from the JPM LIbrary, MS 748, 11th_century



What Is “Marcionism?” My Response to a Ludicrous Accusation
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/09/what-is-marcionism-my-response-to-a-ludicrous-accusation/

by Roger Olson
September 9, 2014

It has recently come to my attention that some critics are accusing me of “Marcionism.” A few commenters here have thrown that wild accusation at me—based on my questioning the literal interpretation of some Old Testament “texts of terror.”

Anyone who throws that accusation at me is either ignorant of what I have said or ignorant of the meaning of Marcionism or both.

By all credible accounts, Marcion, the second century Christian heretic after whom the heresy Marcionism is named, did two things that define his heresy.

First, he proposed a Christian canon of Scriptures that excluded all of the Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament) and many of the apostles’ writings. His truncated canon included only portions of what we now call the New Testament that he considered purely gentile and not Hebrew.

Second, he denied that the Hebrew God, Yahweh, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, was the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, he argued that the god (as he would put it) of the Hebrews was a demiurge, a demented or evil demi-deity.

“Marcionism” is by all credible accounts:

1) a denial of the inspired status of the Old Testament, and
2) a denial of belief in the true deity of the Yahweh of the Hebrew religion.

However, in popular usage, the term has come to be applied to any denial of the Old Testament as not equally inspired with the New Testament. In other words, the “German Christians” of the 1930s were Marcionites (whether they knew it or not) insofar as they rejected the Old Testament as inspired.

The issue here, that I have raised for consideration and discussion, has never been whether the Old Testament or any portion of it is inspired. The issue is, and has always and only been, hermeneutics—how best to interpret portions of the Old Testament.

Christians have always disagreed about that—going back to the early church fathers themselves (not including Marcion who was not a church father [but named by the church fathers as a heretic - r.e. slater]). Origen and Tertullian [who were church fathers] both wrote against Marcion, but neither interpreted the whole Old Testament literally. Especially Origen interpreted much of it allegorically (as did the unknown Apostolic Father who wrote the “Epistle of Barnabus”). [That is, Origen (c.184-254), if anything, was guilty of adding to the NT Canon that was generally accepted by then - with debateable questions about the antilegomena, or disputed NT writings - but not standardized until around the mid-300's a hundred years later (cf., the Development of the New Testament Canon for further information) - r.e. slater]

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Antilegomena, a direct transliteration from the Greek αντιλεγόμενα, refers to written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed.[1] Eusebius in his Church History written c. 325 used the term for those Christian scriptures that were "disputed" or literally those works which were "spoken against" in Early Christianity, before the closure of the New Testament canon.

It is disputed whether or not Eusebius divides his books into three groups of homologoumena (or, accepted), antilegomena, and heretical. Or four, by adding a notha/spurious group. These antilegomena or "disputed writings" were widely read in the Early Church and included the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2and 3 John, the Apocalypse of John, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter (unique in being the only book never accepted as canonical which was commentated upon by a Church Father), the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache.[2][3]

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Would the critics who accuse me of “Marcionism” apply that epithet to all the church fathers who interpreted portions of the Hebrew scriptures allegorically? I doubt it. In fact, in my opinion, insofar as they are knowledgeable about church history and theology at all, that accusation aimed at me not only misses the mark but is sheer demagoguery [broadly, the shaping of public misinformation about a person who is popularly esteemed. Examples abound: Past and current presidents, church pastors and leaders, even newsworthy individuals who hold a great sway to the public imagination. - r.e. slater].

I have never advocated expelling any part of the Old Testament from the Christian canon. Nor have I denied the inspiration of any portions of the Old Testament. And I will say it again: Nobody takes every part of the Old Testament literally.

In fact, in my view, taking the Old Testament texts of terror literally contributes to the problem of implicit, practical Marcionism. Why did Marcion deny the inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures? Well, there were almost certainly several reasons, but one was the Old Testament 

texts of terror taken literally.

In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, the only worthwhile reason even to respond to such a ludicrous accusation is the “teachable moment”—for those open to facts.

- Roger