According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
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)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Context, Context, Context

I continue to enjoy Roger's sense of humor (yes, theologians can be humorous!) as illustrated in these next couple of articles and thought the latter article would help to clarify the relative term of "evangelical" from Roger's earlier blog of a couple days ago (in this same blog section below).

- skinhead

(A brief total explanation of American Christianity)

by Roger Olson
May 16, 2011

Totally tongue-in-cheek! Blame it on the mountain air. But I think there’s some truth in it, especially when referring to upwardly mobile religious people:

Pentecostals want to be Baptists,
Baptists want to be Methodists or Presbyterians,
Methodists and Presbyterians want to be Episcopalians,
Episcopalians want to be Roman Catholics,
Roman Catholics want to be Pentecostals.

by Roger Olson
May 25, 2011

A few comments responding to my post about the label “evangelical” and why I can’t give it up have stimulated me to think about and attempt to explain the importance of understanding people’s contexts.

I’ve often wondered why some people I admire and consider fellow postconservative evangelicals eschew that label and even sometimes criticize me and other postconservatives or progressives among evangelicals. I’m thinking of one person in particular. I won’t name him here. But he is a very well known progressive evangelical president of an evangelical seminary.

I’ve read him and heard him speak and I know his career well. The seminary he heads is noted as a progressive evangelical institution and his writings have demonstrated that he is open to new ways of thinking and often defends progressive evangelical thinkers like Rob Bell.

But he was adamantly opposed to our Word Made Fresh manifesto (about which I blogged recently and posted at my old blog). He wrote a column for Books & Culture saying we should drop the “post-” and just be conservative evangelicals. When we invited him to our first annual meeeting of the Word Made Fresh Forum he refused to sign the statement and criticized Stan Grenz and others of us who were trying to carve out some space for fresh and faithful evangelical theological reflection.

I had a hard time with that. And he’s not the only one. But when I sat back and tried very hard to understand I realized something. He’s a member of a mainline Protestant denomination that is drifting far to the left politically and theologically. As I thought about others who I consider progressive evangelicals who seem ambivalent and ambigous about their commitments I realized every one of them–people I think of as open and progessive among evangelicals but at the same time take very conservative positions publicly–I realized they ALL belong to mainline denominations that are dying out because of their liberalism (read “nominal Christianity”).

On the other hand, I have worked my entire career in contexts where fundamentalism is the main threat–not mainline wishy-washy-ness. I and some of my friends have to look over our shoulders for the heresy hunters who would love nothing better than to ruin our reputations as evangelicals–sometimes by lying about us. (Yes, as I’ve explained before, that has happened to me many times.)

Those other folks, who I think are, for the most part, right where I am theologically but refuse to join any movement to promote openness among evangelicals, are all looking over their shoulders at the ruins of their mainline denominations being destroyed by liberal theology. (By “liberal” here I mean like the mainline Protestant seminary president who I heard give a paper title “God and her survival in a nuclear age” at the end of which she said she didn’t really know anything about God. She was clearly using “God” as a cipher for nature to give a religious sound to her politically-driven agenda.)

I will name one person as an example of what I’m talking about. One of my theological heroes, someone who died recently and to whom I am dedicating a book, was Donald Bloesch. He was my mentor “from afar.” That is, when I was wavering theologically, reading him rescued me. He showed me how to be both evangelical and progressive. However, late in his life and career Bloesch took a turn–not away from his progressive evangelical project but toward outspokenness against radical religious feminism (including inclusive language about God) and panentheism, process theology, etc.

Why? I think because he saw his own denomination, the United Church of Christ, going down the tubes, so to speak, into vapid liberal mushyness. At least that’s how I think he saw it. He wasn’t very concerned about fundamentalism as it was no threat to him. He taught his entire career at a mainline Protestant seminary. Without giving up any of his progressive evangelical openness (e.g., authority of Scripture without inerrancy and a “big tent” view of evangelicalism), his main concern became the danger of liberal theology in mainline denominations. That was his context.

Others of us have found ourselves in total agreement with Bloesch and other progressive evangelical theologians and leaders but having different concerns because of different contexts. I got to know Don Bloesch toward the end of his career and we thought very much alike. But I didn’t share his passion to fight radical feminism because it didn’t exist in my context. And he didn’t share my passion to promote biblical egalitarianism, although he embraced it, because his context was way, way beyond that.

My thesis is that there are very many progressive, even postconservative evangelicals who won’t jump on that bandwagon or get with our program because they are mainly concerned with fighting extreme liberalism and radical theology in their mainline denominations. In other words, THEIR “conservative evangelicalism” is virtually synonymous with my “postconservative evangelicalism” but we are facing opposite directions in terms of the dangers we face.

In the overall scheme of things, meaning in the wider world of so-called “mainline Protestantism” (which should probably really be called “old line Protestantism” as Martin Marty says), I AM VERY CONSERVATIVE! Yes, you heard that right. I’m conservative. But context determines what those labels mean. I’M NOT CONSERVATIVE compared to the neo-fundamentalists in my religious social context. I AM CONSERVATIVE compared to the liberals and radicals so populous in the so-called mainline academy and denominational hierarchies. For God’s sake (I mean that literally)–I believe in the supernatural. I believe in the Trinity. I believe in the deity of Jesus Christ. I believe in the resurrection. I believe in hell! All that makes me a dinosaur among mainline Protestants. But just because I don’t wave the inerrancy banner high and believe in women in ministry I’m a “liberal” or “post-evangelical” among neo-fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention and other conservative evangelical contexts.

So when I say I’m “postconservative” I MEAN among evangelicals who I see as having swung dramatically to the right in recent decades. I DON’T MEAN I’m not conservative at all. In certain professional societies, for example, I stick out like a sore thumb as what many of them would consider a fundamentalist! I mean I can no longer consider myself a conservative within my own religious milieu which is evangelicalism because the center has shifted so dramatically to the right since I was in a centrist evangelical seminary.

For goodness sakes, people! I’m a premillennialist!   :)

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