According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is Emergent Another Name for Evangelical?

If this guy’s an evangelical, then maybe I am too
http://rachelheldevans.com/roger-olson-evangelical

Rachel Held Evans
April 14, 2011

Roger Olson calls himself a post-conservative evangelical, and in this podcast interview with Homebrewed Christianity, he explains why he hasn’t given up on evangelicalism.

Considering our recent conversation about the future of evangelicalism and my generations’ discomfort with that label, I thought you’d be interested in his remarks. What’s more, Olson touches on just about every topic that’s been keeping me up at night over the past ten years, and does so in a way that makes me think “If this guy’s an evangelical , then maybe I am too.”

Within about an hour, Olson talks about:

  • What Calvinists misunderstand about Arminianism
  • What many Arminians misunderstand about Arminianism
  • The future of evangelicalism
  • The advantages and disadvantages of labels
  • The missional church
  • Neo-fundamentalism
  • Open Theism
  • Homosexuality
  • Atonement (I loved what he said about the meaning of the cross)
  • The Gospel
  • NT Wright
  • Rob Bell
  • The unfinished work of theology

Books by Olson include:
  • Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities
  • How To Be Evangelical Without Being Conservative
  • The Story of Christian Theology
  • Questions To All Your Answers

Kudos to my friends Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders for scoring the interview and asking some great questions.


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

Want to be an Evangelical Arminian?
Roger Olson will Help

By Tripp Fuller • Apr 7th, 2011 • Roger Olson Podcast

I am pumped to share my conversation with Roger Olson. This card carrying ‘evangelical Arminian’ joins the podcast to explain common misunderstandings around Arminian theology, the ethical problems of being a Calvinist, the nature and future of evangelicalism, Open theism, the Rob Bell controversy, and the impact of the homosexuality debate in American evangelicalism. It was really a blast to get to talk with Roger and will be looking forward to next time (because I am sure the Deacons will want more!).
  
Olson is a professor of theology at Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, he blogs, and publishes a bunch of books….including ones for a general audience.



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12 Ways to Make Arminianism Cool Again


Love requires risk and risk requires freedom,
love risks to love -

w/o conditions, expectations, qualifiers or obligations.

it is freely given, freely risked, freely offered.

it's response is in the form of a "relationship"
of an "I" and a "you"  -

previously non-existent
be/come alive with a "you" and an "I".
 
 
 
Today I felt like laughing and thought you may too. Rachel had a great blog on Arminianism and so I thought it should be passed along in the fun and the banter that it creates. On a side note, my personal preference leans towards Arminianism and the DAISY metaphor was great; so I think I'll keep it and kiss the TULIP goodbye. Too, Emergent Christianity necessarily favors Arminianism which is another reason that the idea of "God's love" gets so bantered about, misused, misunderstood, and held hostage by Calvinistic dogma. A little Arminianism will help open God and his love up to the mystery of life and meaning in much more encouraging ways than the dry desert lands we too often find ourselves lost within by our fellowships or our own hearts. Peace my brothers and sisters, and enjoy the laughter - we mustn't always take ourselves too seriously!

skinhead


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


12 Ways to Make Arminianism Cool Again
April 18, 2011

Roger Olson’s interview (http://rachelheldevans.com/roger-olson-evangelical) with Homebrewed Christianity got me thinking about how, with all the talk about the Neo-Reformed movement, Arminianism has been underrated. Maybe we just need some better PR. Here are some ideas:

1. Petition Microsoft to make Arminian an actual word so that bloggers ranting about the pros and cons of Armenians don’t sound like complete racists.

2. Create a Stuff Arminians Like blog. Entries could include: love, freedom, and “secretly wondering if we’re not elect.”

3. Three words: Driscoll. Boyd. Cagefight.

4. Instead of the “Gospel Coalition,” we’ll form the “Gospel Welcoming Committee.”

5. Get Roger Olson some thick-rimmed glasses and a pipe and send him to Catalyst.

6. The Calvinists have their own flower, so why shouldn’t Arminians? But instead of TULIP (“total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints”) we’ll adopt the DAISY (depravity of all, atonement for all, inclusion of all, salvation is a gift, you can accept or reject).

7. Start referring to Donald Miller as “Arminian Donald Miller.” (I don’t know if he’s actually an Arminian, but it’s worth a try.)

8. To counter the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement we’ll create the “middle-aged, Arminian, and not-in-the-mood-to-argue ” movement.

9. Start a “I bet we can find 1 million people who don’t want to be predestined to hell” Facebook group.

10. Launch an Arminianism Awareness Day to address some of the common misconceptions about Arminians—that we think grace is earned, that we have a “man-centered” theology, that we’re all dispensationalists, that just because we lost that one argument with our Calvinist roommate back in 2003 we’re always wrong.

11. Calvinists make T-shirts that say “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy.” Arminians can make T-shirts that say “Arminius is my homeboy…but not in such a way that I uncritically accept everything he teaches” (because we’re nuanced like that).

12. Keep talking about how real love requires freedom while extending kindness and grace to those with whom we disagree…because living your theology is more important than arguing it.

Can you think of a #13?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Humorous Commentary (Just for the fun of it)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Audie - (Spoken in deep confident voice) Look at me..Look at your Calvinist, now back to me...back to your Calvinist...I'm on a horse but I'm letting him choose where we go, now look at your Calvinist....don't you wish you were on the horse with me??...Arminian's we may not know exactly where were going but we will have more fun getting there!!

Tim - T-shirt: Calvinism: 500 Year of Reasoning Logically to the Wrong Conclusions

Dave - Arminimergent!
Rachel - Lol! What a mouthful!
Dave - Guess maybe I'm complegalitarimolimergent. Suddenly it all becomes clear...

Alan - Please, you Arminians most certainly don't want to become the annoyance that the neo-reformed crowd is, do you? On a more serious note, one of the most critically undefined terms in Roger's interview was the word "freedom" and you have used it in a serious way in #12. Theologically speaking, what is "freedom"? My sense is that most people who reject Arminianism do so over how this word is understood. Can we understand our freedom apart from God's freedom?

Cherie - #13. Another 2 ideas for T-shirt and/or bumper sticker:
JOHN WESLEY WAS NOT A CALVINIST (although he may have embraced some Reformed notions).
or,
ARMINIANS RULE!!! (well, metaphorically, because the idea of ruling kind of goes against our nature...)

chad - My wife already made a shirt for Roger Olson that says "Arminius is my homeboy" as a gift from his TNT 2 class last summer. You should ask him about it.

Cherie - Love this list. Re: #11, you should totally include the "(because we're nuanced like that)" on the T-shirt.

Nick - Perhaps you could call the distinction "John Calvin, Origen and the Stoics vs. Everyone Else."

Melinda - I like DAISY ... it was the first flower I heard associated with Arminianism, though it was as "daisy"-- re, "He loves me, He loves me not." I think we can TOTALLY rock that.

Cherie - I also like the daisy metaphor, because it's an open-faced flower. Tulips, once they open up, fall apart...

Chad - I think the problem is, Arminianism

Niki - The only reason Calvinism sounds cool, let's face it, is thanks to Calvin and Hobbes. Without C&H, Calvin would just be another theologian's name (well, and a movement, but I digress).

Ed - I think it's all about the name. I agree with Chad and Niki, though Calvin has two syllables and Arminius has 4. That's a huge number of syllables. Also, Calvinists can also say they're "Reformed," but Arminians don't have a word of their own even though they came from the same reformation. I think we need to keep things simple.

Ed - Here is the new Arminian acronym I propose - N.I.C.E. - Not . Interested in . Calvinist . Exclusivity. Then we can just say we're "NICE" Christians, and we're good... ;)




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McKnight - A Critique of Love Wins 8

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/04/18/exploring-love-wins-8/

by Scot McKnight
April 18, 2011
Filed under: Universalism

Share“There Are Rocks Everywhere” is the most controversial and important chapter in Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. This chp is going to take some special grace if we want a good conversation. I am asking that you pause quietly and slow down enough to pray this prayer as the way to approach this entire series:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing:
Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift,
which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue,
without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you.
Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.†

I want to sketch the substance of this chapter because it provides a sketch of how it is that God’s saving presence is made known to all people who have ever lived. Some people have profound religious experiences, seemingly out of nowhere, and some of them come to Christ as a result of those experiences. [Again, if you like this post or conversation, please Tweet this or FB share it. Thanks.]

This chapter is about the omnipresence of Christ, and by presence he means really present in an engaging and “God wants to save you” way.

What is your take on this chp? What are the implications of Christ’s omnipresence for world religions? For God’s mission to all people? Or backing up a paragraph: How does this kind of experience happen when it is not part of a church, or the gospel, or a preacher, or anything?

Bell finds a similar idea in the Rock that Moses rapped in Exodus 17 — and Paul tells us that the Rock was Christ. This is typology, not ontology. From this Bell asks how else Christ is present, and observes that early Christians believed Christ was present everywhere. Within proper limits, I agree: Christ is present everywhere. Christ is creator, Christ is life, where there is life Christ — the Life and Life giver — is present. This should not be denied by Christians with a robust view of Christ. John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 — Christ is Creator. All life is from God.

This fundamental conviction leads Rob to ask where Christ is also present. If Jesus is the Life and Life giver, Jesus is also “the ultimate exposing of what God has been up to all along” (148). A robust view of God’s mission in Christ will agree with this statement but it will want to ask, too, how distinctive the work in Christ is. What God did, is doing and will do is all summed up in Christ.

What Christ is doing, Rob says, is bringing unity to all things. Here he draws again on his universal reconciliation themes in the Bible — Colossians 1. Christ is the Life of all things and of everyone. John 12 where Jesus says he will draw “all people to myself.” And the “other sheep” of John 10.

Then Rob makes two major logical inferences: “As obvious as it is, then, Jesus is bigger than any one religion.” [He takes a cheap shot at our faith when he says "especially the one called 'Christianity'" (150). Especially? How about "including"? Why take a dig at the Christian faith and not others?] Next move: “Jesus is supra-cultural. He is present within all cultures, and yet outside all cultures” (151). So, “we cannot claim him to be ours any more than anyone else’s” (152).

There is so much possibly being said in this, and so little that is explicit, that I’m not sure what to say. But it sure sounds like a de-privileging of Israelite and Christian culture to me. It sounds like minimizing of the truth of Christian orthodoxy. When he says “we” who is that? If that is the Christian cultures of this world, then I disagree with him significantly. We don’t own Christ and he speaks against our culture, but to say that our culture has no more claim than an explicitly anti- or non-Christian culture makes no sense to me.

He’s too harsh on the Christian claims (or Jewish claims in Romans 2) but he’s seeking to expand our sense of the omnipresence of Christ. Anyone who believes in omnipresence has got to admit an important point here. The issue is whether or not that presence is a loving presence, and more particulare, an “I’m here to save you” presence. The issue is whether this Rock is present in a saving way — revealing salvation in an exclusive sense.

Sometimes people who have never heard about Christ and then who hear about Christ say “That’s who we’ve been looking for. Or that’s who we’ve been worshiping. You gave us his name.” Missionaries know about these stories. I believe the missionaries are right and I believe those people were and are experiencing the true Christ. How common is this? It’s rare.

Next logical move: He is the Way, Truth and Life. “What [Jesus] doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and and restore the world is happening through him” (154).

He clarifies now in ordinary, if very simplistic, academic terms: Bell says he’s not a traditional exlcusivist, he’s not an inclusivist (here he’s talking more about pluralism), but an exclusivist on the other side of inclusivism. God saves only through Jesus, and God is saving all through Jesus … but this means who is “Jesus”? And he pushes against the narrow views to this expansive, omnipresent Jesus, and in this expansion one has to wonder if the content of the gospel is falling out. He’s got an expansive Christ, an omnipresent Christ, an anonymous Christ, and he’s got that Christ saving in all of history and across the whole world.

He brings up three (pastoral) points:

1. We are not to be surprised when people stumble on this mystery. [This omnipresent Rock.] “Sometimes they use his name; other times they don’t” (159). OK, but… I’ve got questions I’d like to raise, a lot of them in fact.

2. None of us have cornered the market on Jesus. Of course, we haven’t. But, I ask, do some have the truth of Christ more than others? Did Jesus? Did the apostles? Do the NT writings? Does the Church? More than Islam? Buddhism? Atheism?

3. It is our responsibility to be careful about making negative lasting judgments. “We can name Jesus, orient our lives around him… and at the same time respect the vast, expansive, generous mystery that he is” (160). What’s he affirming and what’s he really denying?

I question whether he has (speaking in terms of missiology) sufficiently affirmed the distinctiveness of Jesus in the apostolic gospel, or a little more broadly, in the Bible. I question whether he has affirmed the privilege of the biblical and Christian tradition. I question whether, pastorally, he has so maximized the presence of Christ that gospel preaching, evangelism and missionary work are no longer necessary. This is getting too close to some kind of religious pluralism or religious instrumentalism, or perhaps better, less than a robust affirmation of the necessity of faith in Christ. In the Rock chapter not only the atonement metaphors no longer are in play but neither is his dying-to-live idea.

I do think Bell has discovered some of the theological categories at work in what to think of the salvation of those who have not heard: once you admit the deity of Christ, once you admit that Jesus is the Creator and the life that sustains all of life, once you admit the omnipresence of Christ, and once you tie to these the universal dimensions of God’s mission and reconciling work and once you believe that God loves all and wants all to be saved … you’ve got the possibility that Christ really is at work everywhere and to everyone. There might be some that believe this omnipresent life/Christ is general revelation and not the saving manifestation of Christ, and that general revelation does not save. This deserves more attention in Bell’s discussion. But I have major questions about whether or not Bell is dispensing with the cross in favor of a gentle omnipresent Christ. The content of the Rock simply isn’t clear to me.

And the universal scope of God’s mission in Christ, when tied into the omnipresence of Christ, does not mean all are saved. What it means is that everyone hears or knows or somehow encounters the one true God who saves in Christ.

What seems possible in an omnipresent Christ is some kind of “accessibilism” and a clear affirmation of everyone’s ultimate, final accountability before God.

Or what is at work perhaps is some kind of “a wideness in God’s mercy” or “God holds people accountable for the light they have received,” with the belief that the “light” is Christ at work.

But anything that minimizes the content and cross of the apostolic gospel of Christ is not sufficient.

This chp is inadequate for me to deal with the questions its raises.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit... Right?

By Kyle Roberts
April 11, 2011

The Holy Spirit is not an amorphous abstraction. He is active and embodied
in our efforts to transform ourselves and transform the world.

This was a long Minnesota winter. My snow-bound friends and I bemoaned the stubborn cold and the elusive thaw. We collectively longed for spring and for the warmth, the growth, and the new life it brings.

The renewal of life associated with spring reminds me of the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is known in scripture and theological tradition as the life-giver, healer, and Perfector of creation. One of the "two hands of God" (Irenaeus), the Spirit draws, awakens, and breathes new life into creation and humanity.

In its original form, the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) simply asserted, "we believe in the Holy Spirit." In 381 A.D., more was added: the Spirit is "the Lord, the giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified." The Holy Spirit was understood to be fully divine, an equal "hypostasis" (person) with the Father and to the Son. Why did it take so long for the Church to articulate clearly and emphatically that the Spirit is fully divine and equally worthy of worship, prayer, and praise as the Father and the Son?

The reasons are several. The Father and the Son had "faces" (the Father figuratively, the Son literally in his incarnation), while the Spirit seemed faceless. Amorphous. It blows where it pleases. It refers and defers. It is effective but elusive. Its particularity as a person seemed difficult to grasp. And the biblical witness for the full divinity of the Spirit seemed less clear or emphatic than for the Father and Son. An influential Christian sect, known as the "Pneumatomachoi," or "spirit-fighters," argued just this point in their assertion that the Spirit is not fully God. This position did not carry the day; the prevailing, orthodox position was that the Bible manifests a progression of revelation, and that the Spirit's full divinity and personhood is a burgeoning idea—even in the New Testament. So on what basis were early Christians justified in articulating the Spirit as the third person of the Trinity?

Together with the biblical witness, it was partly the collective experience of the early Christians that fortified the belief in the divinity of the Spirit. The Spirit was experienced as Savior, healer, guide to truth, bringer of new life, restorer of harmony, and facilitator of unity. Wherever Christ and the Father were known in the Church, the Holy Spirit too was there, bringing the love and grace of God to bear on communal, liturgical, and individual life. Converts were consistently baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Conviction about the Spirit arose from a palpable sense that the Spirit, while instrumental in the creation of the universe and in the original animation of human life, continues to be active in its preservation and redemption. The Spirit brings life and salvation as human beings encounter and participate in the energeia, the divine energies of God.

Eventually, and with consensus, the Church determined that the Spirit, too, is a divine person (hypostasis). The Spirit brings new birth (Jn. 3:3-8); the Spirit empowers us to witness (Acts 1:8); the Spirit intercedes for us in prayer (Rom. 8:26); the Spirit can be grieved (Eph. 4:30); the Spirit guides us into truth (Jn. 16:13); and the Spirit will bring righteousness and justice to the "needy" and "poor of the earth" (Is. 11:4). Gregory of Nazianzus asserts, "it is the Spirit in whom we worship and in whom we pray." Our experience of the Spirit is our experience of God: Father, Son, and Spirit in economic union.

Although interest in the Holy Spirit has revived recently in churches and in academic theology, it may still be true that the Holy Spirit is the most neglected of the three persons of Trinity. This has been my experience in the evangelical Baptist tradition. Just as it took the early generations of the church some time to acknowledge the full divinity of the Spirit, so today there is a gap in our appreciation for and acknowledgement of the Spirit and its significance for Christian communities and individuals. This is not because we are not experiencing the Spirit. It's because, when it comes to the working of the Spirit, we may not know what to look for or how to recognize it. When we assume a dichotomy between the workings of the Spirit and the embodiment of concrete practices, we end up looking for the Spirit in all the wrong places.

For the most part, the early Christians' experience of the Spirit was a concrete, embodied experience that coincided with practices of the church and discipleship. Experience of the Spirit was eminently bodily, practical, and not only life-transforming but world-transforming as well. As David H. Jenson writes, the Spirit "claims our bodies and our prayers and makes them participants in the life given for the world" (The Lord and Giver of Life, pg 11). The Spirit grounds and renews concrete visions of hope in and among embodied life and in broken communities. The Spirit proclaimed by the prophets and encountered at Pentecost calls forth justice for the oppressed, salvation for the hopeless, and unity in the Church.

If the activity of the Spirit is not "spiritual" (in the Gnostic sense of invisible, immaterial, and disembodied), then we are experiencing the Spirit whenever we are working along with God and seeking his Kingdom and righteousness. The work of the Spirit is everywhere present: in soup kitchens, hospitals, schools, community centers, mission and social work and, of course, in the Church itself.

The Spirit creates a unity in diversity, a presence of the new and different, a transformation of our selves in community, a re-direction of mission and conviction. The fruits of the Spirit include love, joy, peace, and faithfulness, but they also result in communities of people and coalitions of churches who are satisfied with nothing less than righteousness and justice and who prophetically advocate for the oppressed and for the "least of these." In short, the work of the Spirit leads to God-intoxicated, kingdom-inspired people.

Trinitarian theology tells us that where any one of the three persons is working, they all are. So where the Spirit is, there is Jesus, and where Jesus is, there is the Father. There are good reasons to enrich our God-language and to long for, in a focused way, the purifying, healing, and reconciling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our churches, and our work on behalf of the world. If we are not experiencing the Spirit in manifest and transformational ways, neither are we are experiencing the transforming presence of Jesus, the Father, or of that which Jesus called the Kingdom of God.

Winter is over. Spring has come. May we also, and with far greater significance, witness a fresh work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

We proclaim in our creed, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life . . ." And we should ask ourselves: Do we really?

Kyle Roberts is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN). He researches and writes on issues related to the intersection of theology, philosophy, and culture.

The New Apologetics

By Kyle Roberts
February 08, 2011

A "new apologetics" for a post-modern, post-Christian society will focus less on
winning arguments than witnessing to the redemptive power of Christ.

Is the place of apologetics in contemporary Christian theology and ministry changing?

Apologetics, within the modern evangelical framework, is understood as a reasoned defense of the coherence and intellectual validity of Christian faith and belief. It tends to draw upon "worldview" language and usually involves an active comparison of religious, philosophical, and ethical frameworks. Apologetics is usually considered an evangelistic enterprise, though one characterized by cerebral discussions. The "target" of apologetic practice is normally an intellectually sophisticated non-Christian, agnostic or atheist.

When talking about apologetics, the question usually arises regarding how many non-Christians are "converted" to Christianity through an apologetic dialogue. A common concession one hears is that apologetics often ends up being more about strengthening and encouraging the faith of Christian believers than winning and converting new ones. In either case, whether it is for the evangelism of unbelievers or for the discipleship of the converted, apologetics—even as traditionally practiced—can be fruitful and positive.

However, it is worth considering, in our evolving cultural context, whether a fresh paradigm for apologetics might render new energy and vitality to a time-tested practice. Theologians over the centuries have always reexamined the right way to engage with unbelief. For followers of Aquinas, for instance, apologetics includes "natural theology" (reflecting on the qualities of God made manifest in nature) and takes an optimistic outlook on the place of general human knowledge in articulating Christian belief. For followers of Karl Barth, on the other hand, apologetics, when it bases its argument on propositions independent of Christian revelation and practice, is regarded with deep skepticism. Both perspectives are still found in the dialogue today. Yet the Thomistic and Barthian concerns might find some common ground in a "new apologetic" for the 21st century that would be 1) evangelistic, 2) integrative, 3) holistic, 4) communal, and 5) contextual.

Evangelistic: We still need to practice apologetics today, because evangelism is no less important today than it was in the first century. Christ is still Lord and redeemer, but many still have not personally experienced his Lordship and redemption. Apologetics, as I see it, is simply what happens when theology (and philosophy, science, history, and sociology—but more about that later) is utilized in an evangelistic dialogue.

When a Christian is engaged in conversation with non-believers or skeptics, questions invariably arise: Why do you trust the Bible as your primary source of divine revelation? Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Why should I accept the uniqueness of Christ in an age of many putative gods or potential saviors? Apologetics simply is the attempt to address these questions with pastoral sensitivity, communal embodiment, and intellectual viability.

A caveat: While Christians ought to continue to practice evangelism, we need to maintain a poignant—though painful—recognition of our past and present failures to respect the other and to distinguish between Jesus-styled evangelism and triumphalism. We need to be aware that colonialism and imperialism have often masked themselves as evangelism and mission. But this awareness should not keep Christians from sharing the Lordship of Jesus and from answering probing questions about their faith and theological convictions. With that caveat in mind, the "new apologetics" should be:

Integrative: "All truth is God's truth." If something is true, it counts—no matter whether it comes from scripture or from science, from "the book of God" or the "book of nature." Apologetics should take an explicitly and intentionally integrative stance and methodology. Science can show us how nature works, introduce us to the outer reaches of the cosmos and explore the inner workings of the quantum world, and detail the origins of the universe and the remarkable development of biological life. Apologetics ought to embrace the discoveries of science, while recognizing that contemporary scientific consensus does not have the final word (as any responsible scientist would acknowledge). Prevailing scientific explanations will eventually be outstripped and outdated by new discoveries. This does not give us continual license, however, to pit interpretations of the Bible against science while closing our eyes to evidence. Models of integration between science and theology can be found in the work of people like Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, Nancey Murphy, and Francis Collins. While these figures are not often labeled as apologists, they offer resources for communicating the reasonableness of the Christian faith in positive, integrative ways. If apologetics is intentionally integrative, then it need not worry so much about "defending the corners" (per Daniel Harrell's phrase) as about exploring the intersections.

Holistic: Apologetics has often been characterized and practiced as a "lone ranger" discipline. The "brave Christian apologist" (usually a white male) takes his stand against the secularist, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc., attempts to poke holes in the armor of his opponent, and to persuasively defend his faith against all comers. While we could locate, perhaps, examples of early Christians in the New Testament articulating their faith and defending their convictions in the public marketplace (Paul and Peter come to mind), it seems that early Christian witness, on the whole, was a communal and holistic enterprise. Christians cared for the sick, fed the hungry, and clothed the naked—just like their master taught them—and in so doing they proclaimed the Lordship and salvation of Christ. Perhaps apologetics ought to work at integrating not just other disciplines, but also the practices of Christian life and discipleship into and along with intellectual discourse.

Communal: The most influential book I have read on the topic of the "new apologetics" (and the book isn't all that new!) is Brad Kallenberg's Live to Tell: Evangelism in a Postmodern Age. Kallenberg points out that people learn a new language best by immersion in a culture and community. In the 1950s, Christians could pretty well assume an in-depth familiarity with the Christian language. Americans in general knew what sin, grace, and forgiveness meant. They had at least a rudimentary familiarity with the doctrine of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. They had heard the "old, old story" many times. But in our post-modern, post-Christian, increasingly secular age, these words and concepts can be as foreign as German or Spanish words to an English-only speaker. In order to learn a new language well, one must observe the meanings of words in a lived context. Those words need to be embodied and enacted in a community of people committed to living them out with authenticity. Apologetics, then, is not merely a defense of certain truths; it is an invitation into a community that seeks to live out those truths deeply and daily.

Contextual: The narrative of the history of the modern Western Christian missions movement contains much that is positive and good. However, as renowned missiologist Paul Hiebert pointed out masterfully in his formative essay, "Critical Contextualization," it also contains a good bit that is deserving of critique, repentance and sadness. Too often Western missions became about transmitting American culture rather than biblical truth. The exporting of "Christianity" wasn't always about the Lordship and Redemption of Christ. Too often, perhaps, the discipline of apologetics has fallen into the same trap. Winning intellectual arguments may come not only at the expense of relationships, but also at the expense of authentic contextualization. When non-Christians engage the message of Christ and the hope of the Gospel, there needs to be a range of freedom to appropriate that message in ways that are authentic to that person's (or that community's) context. The earnestness of the apologist (and his or her conviction about "the truth") may at times preclude a genuine contextualization of truth.

For some, the term "apologetics" has taken on too many negative connotations to continue to be useful. They believe it is time to dispense with the term altogether. I am not convinced. Saving the term, however, is less important than revitalizing and re-contextualizing the concept. Christians need to continue to talk about the best way to communicate the heart of the gospel and the saving message of Christ in compelling and coherent ways. To that end, apologetics (or whatever one may call it) should be evangelistic, integrative, holistic, communal, and contextual.

Kyle Roberts is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN). He researches and writes on issues related to the intersection of theology, philosophy, and culture.

Roberts' column, "Theological Provocations," is published every second Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS. http://kylearoberts.com/wordpress/

Blessed are the homeless

http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2011/03/blessed-are-homeless.html

A sermon by Kim Fabricius
Sunday, 6 March 2011

Have you ever been homeless, spent time without a roof over your head? I have. In the autumn of 1971, in Amsterdam, no money, my best mate and I slept in a derelict building for a couple of weeks. Not a pleasant experience. Fear of intruders, fear of the police, but, above all, it’s the cold I remember most – we had only our Moroccan burnooses for cover – the interminable sleepless wait for sunrise and warmth. That was for only a fortnight. But for some people it’s a way of life – and death.

That’s one kind of homelessness – the “homeless and broke” kind. Here is another kind. Remember ET, Steven Spielberg’s 1982 sci-fi film? ET is an extra-terrestrial who, stranded on earth, befriends a lonely little boy who lives in a fatherless household, whose name is Elliott (observe that Elliott’s name begins with “e” and ends with “t”). ET begins to learn the local language – English – by listening to words that Elliott’s little sister repeats as she watches Sesame Street. And the first word he picks up – home; and with Elliott’s help he builds a device to “phone home” (a phrase BT was quick to deploy in a famous advertising campaign). The rest of the film is all about how ET finally heads for home – and also about how Elliott himself gets home, in the sense that he ceases to feel “alien-ated”. Why was ET at the time the most financially successful film ever? Because, I think, it tapped into deep feelings of rootlessness (the Emmy Award-winning TV mini-series Roots ran five years before ET) and a longing for home – wherever that is.

Here is a third, historical take on homelessness: the refugees of the world. Let us look at the Palestinian people. In 1915, during the First World War, Britain made a deal with the Sharif of Mecca: in exchange for an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, Germany’s ally, the promise of British support for an independent Arab kingdom when the war was over. But then, in 1917, Britain reneged on the deal and issued the Balfour Declaration, promising to support the establishment of a Jewish state – in Palestine. Here, as Arthur Koestler put it, was one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation. It was a formula for a catastrophe. Fast-forward to 1947-48, the UN partition plan, and the blessing of the establishment of the state of Israel for the Jewish people becomes a curse for the Palestinian people – 700,000 uprooted, evicted. Palestinians themselves call this massive dislocation the Nakba, which is Arabic for – “Catastrophe”. Over sixty years later and one generation of homeless, refugee people has become three. There is no reason to be optimistic that it will not become four.

Do these varied experiences of homelessness have anything in common? I think they do. A sense of isolation and vulnerability for one thing, and, conversely, a yearning for safety and peace: a roof over your head and an electric fire, the return to a world from which you’ve been separated, or a land from which you’ve been forcibly expelled. The Welsh understand this concept by their word, hiraeth – which conveys a connection with the land, the valleys and the hills, a sense of “belonging” (the title of a rather good Welsh soap), and if you have the misfortune to live beyond Offa’s Dyke, chronic homesickness.

And yet, without belittling in the least all these feelings, or the terrible life of the homeless or the landless, indeed praying for their rectification, I wonder: for Christians, is not homelessness a metaphor for the way of life that we sign up to at baptism? How interesting, and noteworthy, that Peter addresses his first letter to “God’s chosen peoples who live as refugees [NRSV: exiles]” (1:1). And later on in the letter (2:11), he appeals to his readers as “strangers and refugees” (NRSV: exiles). And in the Epistle of Diognetus, a second century Christian writing, the author says that while “Christians are indistinguishable from other people by nationality, language, or customs,” nevertheless “there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through… Any country,” the author declares, “can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country.” On this reading of discipleship, the church is an outpost for pioneers colonising an alien territory in which we can never be at home, because, as Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians (3:20), “we are citizens of heaven.”

There has been a lot of talk over the past decade or so about the church at the end of Christendom being a church in exile, often rather glib talk, in my view, because it has neglected to acknowledge the Old Testament significance of exile, and the traumatic experience of exile, namely, God’s judgement on Israel, God’s punishment of Israel by their dispersal to Babylon. Without this recognition, it is easy for Christians to slip into a victim mentality, in which we blame church decline on secularism or atheism. Without this recognition, we rather too quickly start “re-imagining the future” (as the process of renewal was called in the URC in Wales) without confessing and repenting the sins of our past – sins mainly of taking too much for granted, sins of apathy and lethargy, the sins of civic religion.

And then there are the three dangers of living in exile. The first is nostalgia, pining for the good old days and trying to re-inscribe them in the reality of today. But – remember King Canute – you can’t command the tides of time to withdraw. The second danger is withdrawal, disengaging from the big bad world of today altogether and circling the wagons. This is the sectarian option and it is not only cowardly and faithless, it is also a recipe for further decline and ultimate disappearance. And then there is the third danger, assimilation, whereby we think we can save the church by aping the ways of the world, as if all we’ve got to do is to market and manage the church more strategically and effectively to be “successful”. But then the customer, not the gospel, becomes sovereign, and though the church gain the whole world, it loses its soul.

What then do I suggest? I suggest what Jesus himself and the New Testament suggest: that it is by living in exile that Christians find their true home, that living in exile, which begins as a judgement, actually turns out to be a blessing,turns out to be our vocation. Remember Jesus himself was homeless, permanently homeless, itinerant, from his time as a child with his refugee family in Egypt, to his vagabond ministry when he says: “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest” (Luke 9:58).

And what do we do as a church in exile, a church of permanent dispersion, diaspora? Exactly what the exilic prophet Jeremiah, in a letter, told the Israelites to do in Babylon. While false prophets were engaged in a cover-up and calling for a return to the land (preaching old-time religious revival, if you like), Jeremiah modestly, but radically and bravely, advised: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7 NRSV). Which is not to romanticise exile – far from it: Jeremiah recognised that a deracinated, decentred life is lonely and hard; that swimming against the stream takes determination and energy; that being mocked and mistreated erodes your self-esteem and confidence. Nevertheless, exile is just the right place to prune and refine, to explore and experiment, to make tactical critiques of prevailing cultural norms, and to practice that peculiar counter-cultural way of being human called “discipleship” which is embodied in the Sermon on the Mount. Freed from the compulsion to be in charge, and from the delusion that we control our own destiny, we can get on with being faithful, being Christian, being church, being mission.

Many in the church are still in denial about exile, or we grieve our losses, yes, but don’t repent our failures. I think it’s about time we lose the self-pity and move on – and out: to embrace our homelessness, and travel on with the fearless conviction and hope of a people called and sent to do just one thing: to bear witness to the new humanity, the new creation, disclosed in the eruption of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Blessed are the homeless” is a beatitude truly in keeping with the teaching of our Lord.

Theology of Suffering and Evil

Course Outline
http://kylearoberts.com/wordpress/?p=401

by Kyle Roberts
Posted on March 4, 2011 by admin

Course outline for my 2011 summer doctor of ministry seminar on “theology of evil and suffering”:

Topical Course Outline and Schedule

Introducing the Challenge of Evil and Suffering (Monday AM)•

Major Theological Perspectives on Evil and Suffering (Monday AM and PM)

1.Calvinism
2.Arminianism
3.Open Theism
4.Eschatological Theism
5.Liberation and Contextual TheologiesBiblical Interpretation and Evil and Suffering (Tuesday)

Old Testament Issues (Tuesday AM)

1.Is God a “Moral Monster”? and “Disturbing Divine Behavior”
2.War and Violence in the OT
3.The “Untamed Creation”: Earthquakes and Tsunamis

New Testament Issues (Tuesday PM)

1.Suffering and Christian Discipleship
2.Jesus and the Cross
3.Did/does God Suffer? Is God impassible?

Assessing Prominent Theodicies (Wednesday)

1.Free Will / Free Process Defense
2.Best of All Possible Worlds/Greater Good
3.Soul-Making
4.Eschatological Theodicy
5.Issues in Theodicy and Science

Toward a Theology of the Cross and a Vision of Hope (Thursday AM)

Forms of Suffering and Pastoral Reponses (Thursday AM and PM)
1.Depression and Suicide
2.“Senseless” Tragedy and Trauma
3.Physical and Mental Disability 4.Personal and Local Poverty

The Dark Night of the Soul and Pastoral Care (Friday AM)

1.Creating Alternative “Future Stories”
2.Facilitating Communities of Empathy, Care and Justice

Texts
Boyd, Gregory. Is God to Blame? Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering. InterVarsity Press, 2003. ISBN 0830823948 (211 pages)

Fretheim, Terrance. Creation Untamed: The Bible, God and Natural Disasters. Baker Academic. ISBN 0801038936 (160 pages)

Greene-McCreight, Kathryn. Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness. Brazos Press, 2006. (176 pages)

Hall, Douglas J. God and Human Suffering. 03, Augsburg. ISBN 0806623144 (224)
 Hasker, William Triumph of God over Evil: Theodicy for a World of Suffering. 08, InterVarsity. ISBN 0830828044 (228)

Kelleman, Robert W. and Karole A. Edwards. Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African-American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Baker Books, 2007. ISBN: 0801068061. (250 pages)

Lewis, C. S. (2001). The Problem of Pain. HarperOne, 2001. ISBN 0060652969 (176 pages)

Sobrino, Jon. Where is God? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarism and Hope. 04, Orbis. ISBN 1570755663 (156 pages)

Other Required Readings (Instructor will make these available)
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (excerpt: Book 1, chapter 17, pp. 210-237).

Copeland, Shawn. “Wading Through Many Sorrows,” in A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Suffering, pp. 109-129 (20 pages)

Piper, John. “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God: Ten Aspects of God’s Sovereignty Over Suffering and Satan’s Hand in it,” in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, eds. John Piper and Justin Taylor Crossway Books, 2006. (15 pages).

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/april/5bookspoverty.html
My Top 5 Books On Poverty

Picks from Brian Fikkert, co-author of 'When Helping Hurts.'
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=WW457051&p=1006327
posted 4/12/2011 12:00AM



Let Justice Roll Down
John Perkins (Regal)
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=WW743073&p=1006327

This classic documents the riveting story and enduring principles of one of the greatest heroes of the civil rights era. Despite little formal education, Perkins combines practical theology, a deep understanding of grace, and keen insights on the essential elements of community development.

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity
Ronald J. Sider (Thomas Nelson)
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=WW945305&p=1006327

Sider's 1977 book was a prophetic call for evangelical Christians to make a radical commitment to end global poverty. His appeal to Scripture moved a generation of Christians to believe loving poor people is inherent to following Jesus Christ.
 
 
The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good
William Easterly (Penguin)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0143038826/christianitytoda

Easterly, a secular economist, demonstrates that good intentions are not enough. Improper incentives and inadequate information plague most attempts at poverty alleviation, with profound implications for Christian efforts.


To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City

Combining theology, social science research, and grassroots experience, Gornik narrates how the New Song Church in Baltimore created one of the premier examples of Christian community development in the U.S.


Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development
Bryant L. Myers (Orbis Books)
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=WW752753&p=1006327

Arguing that poverty is fundamentally relational rather than material, Myers critiques the standard Western approaches and provides an essential handbook for pursuing transformational development for both the rich and the poor.


Previous Christianity Today articles on poverty include:

An Obligation to Remember Eternally?
Resentment, even in the name of justice, is not for those who expect God's final reconciliation. (May 18, 2007) - http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/mayweb-only/120-52.0.html

Centering on Poverty
A coalition of the Right and Left launches a new project to reduce poverty. (February 17, 2009) - http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/februaryweb-only/107-21.0.html

How We Fight Poverty
U.N. Millennium Development Goals are good—as far as they go. (December 5, 2007) - http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/december/17.20.html

Can We Defeat Poverty?
Unless Africa tames corruption, new aid efforts will fail. (September 26, 2005) - http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/septemberweb-only/9-17-53.0.html
Which is Stronger: Grace or Law?
http://peterrollins.net/?p=2664

by Peter Rollins
posted 2/4/11

Aesop was such a powerful and insightful storteller. I was recently reminded of this fable he wrote that beautifully sums up the nature of grace and its transformative effect.

********

A dispute once arose between the Wind and the Sun, which was the stronger of the two, and they agreed to settle the point upon the issue – that whichever of the two soonest made a traveler take off his cloak, should be accounted the more powerful.
The Wind began, and blew with all his might and main a blast, cold and fierce as a Thracian storm; but the stronger he blew, the closer the traveler wrapped his cloak around him, and the tighter he grasped it with his hands.

Then broke out the Sun. With his welcome beams he dispersed the vapor and the cold; the traveler felt the genial warmth, and as the Sun shone brighter and brighter, he sat down, quite overcome with the heat, and taking off his cloak, cast it on the ground.

Thus the Sun was declared the conqueror; and it has ever been deemed the persuasion is better than force; and that the sunshine of a kind and gentle manner will sooner lay open a poor man’s heart than all the threatenings and force of blustering authority.

What is Love

Love does not exist – A valentines post
http://peterrollins.net/?p=2127

by Peter Rollins
posted 2/14/11

"Love does not belong to the beholder of love, but to the subject to which it loves. True love cannot help but overflow, to give, to reveal itself to the object of its desire." - Soren Kierkegaard

Love is so humble that it seems impossible to ever really catch anything but the briefest glimpse of her. She is like a tiny field mouse dwelling in the dark. Should we hear her scratching in the corner and shine a light she will, quick as a flash, scurry away so that we catch sight of only the tip of her tail. Indeed love is so bashful that we often forget about her entirely. For love, to change analogies, is like light. When we are sitting with friends we do not think about the light that surrounds us but only of the friends that the light enables us to see. Likewise love illuminates others and so our attention is focused on what she illuminates rather than with the illumination itself.

Love, in a very precise way, enables us to see. For in daily life we perceive others in much the same way as a cow gazes at cars. We walk past thousands of people without really seeing anyone. I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine told me of something that happened when she took a train from Connecticut to New York. As the conductor, a large and imposing man, approached she realised that she had left her purse at the house. When he got to her seat and asked for her ticket she, with much embarrassment, explained the situation and braced herself for the worst. But the conductor just sat down in the seat opposite and said, “Don’t worry about it”. Then, for the remainder of the journey they talked. They shared photos of their family, they exchanged jokes and they spoke of the ones who meant most to them. When the conductor finally got up to continue his rounds my friend began to apologise again, but the conductor stopped her mid sentence and smiled, “please don’t pay it any thought, you know its just really nice to be seen by someone.”

This might initially seem like a strange thing to say as the conductor was being seen by thousands of people every day. But only in instrumental terms, only as the extension of a function he performed. In this brief conversation with my friend he felt that he had actually been seen as a unique individual and that was a gift to him.

This is what love does. It does not make itself visible but rather makes others visible to us. In a very precise sense then love does not exist but calls others into existence: for to exist means to stand forth from the background, to be brought into the foreground. Love does not stand forth but brings others forth. When we love our beloved is brought out of the vast, undulating sea of others. Just as the Torah speaks of God calling forth beings from the formless ferment of being so love calls our beloved from the endless ocean of undifferentiated objects.

In this way love is not proud and arrogant. It does not say, “I am sublime, I am beautiful, I am glorious”. Love humbly points to another and whispers, “they are sublime, they are beautiful, they are glorious.” It does not tell us that they are perfect despite their weakness and frailty, but that they are perfect in the very midst of their weakness and frailty.

Love does not want our hymns of praise or prayers of adoration. She does not want our sacrifices or seek our time. One cannot and should not even try to love love. For love always points away from herself. To honour love is to be in love, to swim in the world illuminated by her.

That which love illuminates means everything to us: a reality that can be exquisitely pleasurable or devastatingly painful. As such we will always experience the one we love as the most sublime existence in the universe. This experience however hides within itself a deep truth, a truth that we would do well to forget as soon as we learn of it (for it works best in darkness). Namely, that the most sublime presence in the universe is not our beloved but the love that exposes them as our beloved. The love that does not itself exist, but which raises our beloved to the level of existence.