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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Academic Jargon









The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say About Human Origins




I Could Have Used This Book Twelve Years Ago: A Review of “The Evolution of Adam” by Peter Enns

by Rachel Held Evans
February 2, 2012

Within the first week of my freshman year of college, my Introduction to World Literature class included a reading of Gilgamesh, an ancient Mesopotamian myth about a hero who is described as 1/3 man and 2/3 god.

As we read the text together in class, I couldn't help but notice some striking similarities between this text and the familiar texts of Genesis and Ecclesiastes, but when we got to the part where Gilgamesh speaks with Utnapishtim, a survivor of the Great Flood, I disintegrated into a full-fledged faith crisis. So much of the Gilgamesh flood story sounded just like “my” flood story from Genesis: Both accounts included a boat in which just a few people, along with animals, are saved from a universal flood. In both stories, the boat comes to rest on a mountain and birds are sent out to find land. And both stories end with a sacrifice to a deity. And my literature book dated the writing of Gilgamesh before the [date of] writing of Genesis!

I was at a conservative Christian college, and so my professor insisted that the texts had been misdated and that the story of Gilgamesh represented some sort of distortion of the historical/scientific account of Adam and Eve, Noah, and the flood. But my literary instincts had kicked in and I just wasn’t buying it.

“The similarities between these texts must mean that they are of the same genre and share a similar context,” my English-major mind was screaming. “Why would we regard one as history and the other as story when they use such similar images, styles, symbols, and plotlines? That just doesn’t make sense.”

Twelve years later, Old Testament scholar Peter Enns has confirmed my suspicions, but in a way that has somehow managed to strengthen my faith rather than weaken it, through a fantastic book entitled The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins.

“The early chapters of Genesis are not a literal or scientific description of historical events but a theological statement in an ancient idiom, a statement about Israel’s God and Israel’s place in the world of God’s people,” Enns explains. “The core issue raised by ancient Near Eastern data has helped calibrate the genre of the biblical creation accounts. The failure to appreciate that genre calibration is responsible for much of the tension in the evolution discussion.... To observe the similarities between the creation and flood stories and the literature of the ancient Near East, and to insist that all of those other writings are clearly a-historical while Genesis is somehow presenting history—this is not a strong position of faith, but rather a weak one, where Scripture must conform to one’s expectations.”

Enns goes on to remind readers that “a text’s meaning is rooted in its historical and literary context,” and to argue that the historical and literary context of much of the Old Testament can be found in the questions and concerns of post-exilic Israel.

I first heard Enns present these ideas at a conference hosted by the BioLogos Foundation in 2010, and it was as if a light clicked on in my head. As a lover of literature, it made perfect sense to me that the best way to understand an author’s meaning is to study the time and culture in which the author wrote, to get a sense of the sort of questions people were asking at the time. Taking this approach to the Bible does not weaken it, but rather respects it for what it is, not what we want it to be.

The Evolution of Adam not only answers just about every question I had after Enns’ Biologos lecture, but also includes a lengthy and thoughtful treatment of the apostle Paul’s Adam, again seeking to understand Paul’s intent within his unique context and culture. Enns is quick to note that it is Paul’s view of Adam rather than the Genesis account itself that causes most Christians to wrestle with the implications of evolution, and so it is Paul’s view of Adam that must be investigated.

“Paul’s use of the Adam story,” Enns concludes, “serves a vital theological purpose in explaining to his ancient readers the significance for all humanity of Christ’s death and resurrection. His use of the Adam story, however, cannot and should not be the determining factor in whether biblically faithful Christians can accept evolution as the scientific account of human origins—and the gospel does not hang in the balance.”

This may seem like an impossibly complicated topic to cover in a mere 147 pages, but Enns manages to do so with astounding clarity and insight. He is of the best scholarly writers I’ve ever encountered because he somehow manages to be thorough, personable, and readable all at the same time.

In The Evolution of Adam, you’ll find accessible introductions to everything from source criticism to the New Perspective on Paul, which will make you feel oh-so-caught-up on all the important trends in biblical scholarship. (Try not to show off at parties.)

For me, this book served as both a reality check and an inspiration—a rare combination that you just won’t find in most books that take historical and literary criticism seriously. I wish I could get into all the details of what made this book so helpful, but this would require a series of posts that will have to wait for a later time.

For now, just know that The Evolution of Adam comes with my heartfelt, enthusiastic recommendation. Learning to love the Bible for what it is, not what we want it to be, means taking its context and history seriously. Enns has managed to do that in a way that both enlightens and encourages.

I’ll conclude with a quote from The Evolution of Adam that ties together perfectly yesterday’s post and today’s:
For many, it is important for the future viability of faith, let alone the evolution-Christianity discussion, that we recognize and embrace the fact that the Bible is a thoroughly enculturated product. But it is not enough to merely say so and press on, with a quaint nod or an embarrassed shuffle of the feet. It is important for future generations of Christians to have a view of the Bible where its rootedness in ancient ways of thinking is embraced as a theological positive, not a problem to be overcome. At present there is a lot of fear about the implications of bringing evolution and Christianity together, and this fear needs to be addressed head-on. Many fear that we are on a slippery slope, to use the hackneyed expression. Perhaps the way forward is not to resist the slide so much as to stop struggling, look around, and realize that we may have been on the wrong hill altogether.
Be sure to check out the Brazos Press Web site this week. You can enter win a giveaway in which the grand prize is a book package that includes:
  • The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns
  • Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns
  • The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith
  • Testing Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible by John Polkinghorne
  • The Mind and the Machine by Matthew Dickerson
(Five runners up will receive copies of The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns).

If some of these titles sound familiar, it’s because most of them are on my list of books to read and discuss on the blog. So go enter!



What I want to say to my daughter someday...

If I become the father of a daughter someday this is what I want her to know...

by Brian LePort
Posted on February 2, 2012
My beautiful, intelligent, strong wife
and I in front of Notre-Dame de Paris.

For many men our earliest interactions with women are from our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins, along with peers at school. Some of these relationships include being nurtured for a time, but eventually we go through the process of finding our own identity as adolescents. Our mother’s kisses cause us to blush in front of our friends. Other relationships are competitive like sisters and peers at school. Some day we will compete with them for scholarships, jobs, raises, and the like. Even our relationship with our wives can be quite complex. We are nurtured, we nurture, and there is always the day-to-day challenge of learning to live with each other. Some men assert that they are the final authority in the home and that may make things easier on them but it often is not received well by their wives. Others work to share authority and responsibility in the home, seeking to understand our roles in relation to each other, not in relation to the predetermined standards of our society.

When it comes to the role of women in the church of God many men bring the experiences of these relationships to the discussion. I’ve heard men say they can’t imagine a woman as their pastor. Often they think of the woman as being “overbearing” like their mother, “competitive” like their sister, or the uniqueness of their relationship with their wife is projected onto said woman pastor.

I wonder if we men would be better at this discussion if we asked, “What would I want for my daughter in this world?” Sometimes we men do not realize that we are playing games for power with our spouses, yet there is something in us that creates a different posture toward a daughter. I say this as a man without children, but I imagine that if I become the father of a daughter someday this is what I want her to know: you can be anything and do anything a man can do in society.

Now I hear some complimentarians chirping about how women and men are different biologically, emotionally, this and that. I am not denying that we are not the same. I am denying that these characteristics mean a woman can’t be a CEO, or a senator, or the pastor of my local church.

When I realize that I want this for my future daughter it forces me to rethink how I treat my wife who is another man’s daughter. Do I want her to be everything she can be? Yes! My wife is intelligent, she is talented, she is charismatic and personable. I want her to know that her gender doesn’t prohibit her from being fully human. (She knows this already; she is strong!) If I had a sister I’d want her to be everything God has called her to be.

If I have a daughter and she tells me, “Dad, I think I am called to be a pastor,” and someone with their Bible in hand tell her that she cannot follow that calling, let me tell you it will be a bad day for that person. I won’t stand for men using their Bibles to tell a daughter or wife of mine that she can’t be what they can be for the simple reasons that she is a woman. When Scripture was written it was written in a patrilineal society. I won’t allow someone to tell my future children who will be part Latino that their race prevents them from being what they want to be. I wouldn’t allow someone to use Scripture to tell a victim of human trafficking that “you should obey your master like Scripture says.” I know people have their portions of Scripture to quote, but this is where it is essential to stand against misguided biblicism.

If I become the father of a daughter someday I want her to know she is equal to me. She is fully human. She is loved by God. She is called by Christ. She is a vessel of the Holy Spirit. I want to be the type of man that Philip must have been to cultivate not one daughter who was a prophetess, but several!

So dear Christian pastor, scholar, theologian–if a few decades from now I have a daughter who says she is called to the pastorate you can give her your opinion, but tread lightly, she’ll have a father whose been telling her for years to follow God’s calling no matter where it leads.

Continued: Part 1 - Christianity began in a patrilineal society...
http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2012/02/christianity-began-in-patrilineal.html


Christianity began in a patrilineal society

Christianity began in a patrilineal society
The resurrection was witnessed by women first.

Christianity began in a patrilineal society. This influenced the language and concepts that became “biblical”. But does that make Christianity inherently masculine in nature?

I haven’t heard the audio of the recent talk given by John Piper where he claims that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.” But I have seen quite a few people talking about it. All that I have available to me are these excerpts (from “John Piper: God Gave Christianity a ‘Masculine Feel’”) to which I would like to respond:

“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother.”

Is it a coincidence that the powerful rulers in the ancient Near East has been men? If God is to depict himself as the most powerful ruler it makes sense to communicate this through imagery understood by the audience. That said, Scripture doesn’t avoid depicting God as having motherly qualities, some examples including Genesis 1.27 where the image of God is male and female, God as mother-bear in Hosea 13.8, a woman in labor in Isaiah 42.14, a comforting mother in Isaiah 66.13, and I am sure there are others. In other words, yes, God is depicted as masculine more than feminine, but that he is depicted as feminine at all invalidates Piper’s argument. If God was gendered in any significant way there would be no reason to describe particular traits of God using prototypical feminine characteristics of the audience culture. When God is depicted in male language it is the same idea.

“Second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male.”

Again, fathers were considered the head of homes in the biblical world. It was thought that the man’s seed was what brought forth the “begotting”. Likewise, most Kings and their heirs were male. Piper’s point about Genesis 1.27 makes little sense to me since all that passage is saying is that God created “human” and he created “human” with the genders male and female.

“God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose twelve men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”

God appoints male priest in a patrilineal society. Surprise? Also, it seems that many pagan temples often used women in an overly sexualized way. In other words, it doesn’t mean it is God’s ideal, per se. God had no trouble with female nation leaders like Deborah who was a prophetess (Judges 4.4) and Huldah who according to 2 Kings 22.15-20 speaks with authority on behalf of Israel’s God to Israel’s King! The story is told in 2 Chronicles 34.23-28.

The apostles are a reconstruction of the twelve tribes of Israel. The males chosen are significant because of this reconstruction and likely because of the intimate nature of their time with Jesus. Even then, Jesus has female disciples whom he taught and commission, who were present to receive the Spirit at Pentecost, and who could even be apostles (e.g. Junia in Romans 16.7).

Other offices were available to women as well in the church like Philips prophetess daughters and those women given permitted to use their prophetic gifts in 1 Corinthians 11.

While Piper may ignore the debates over the nature of Paul’s statements regarding male headship (I’m a bit surprised when this is argued so matter-of-factly when the same hermeneutic can be used to justify the master-slave relationship and has been used this way), this doesn’t mean his interpretation (and all of his friends at CBMW) isn’t full of problems both exegetically and hermeneutically.

“Now, from all of that I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel. And being God, a God of love, He has done that for our maximum flourishing both male and female.”

If this is so then there is little we can do. Often I ignore people like Piper, Grudem, and Driscoll. I came into Christianity through Pentecostalism where this is often less of a problem than evangelicalism (though a problem still). As Gordon D. Fee once said in an interview when asked about women as clergy, “It just isn’t an issue for me.” But I know many of my sisters in Christ who feel various calls from the Spirit cannot ignore this type of misguided rhetoric. They must stand for themselves and I stand with them.

I have many close friends who are some form of complimentarian. I disagree with them, but we can be civil (my local church has male elders only). But I disagree when they tell women “You can’t do this because….” Sorry, wrong. If the Spirit which is poured out upon our sons and daughters choses to anoint someone their gender doesn’t stop that. I’ve been in a church where one of the pastors was a woman and I thought she was wonderful in her calling. When she left our church to plant one elsewhere it was sad to see her go. She preached. She prayed. She functioned in the gifts of the Spirit. We lost something when she left.

Christianity is not a man’s religion. It is not a story where men should be in the spotlight while women stand back. While this may have been so in Israel’s past and the church’s, this is not what the prophets foresaw when they said God’s Spirit makes sons and daughters into God’s prophets. At the heart of the Gospel is Paul’s claim that there is neither “male nor female”. While Paul wrestled with the practicality of this, and we have wrestled ever since, it is my starting point, and I hope for people like John Piper it can become their’s as well.

Continued: Part 2 - What I want to say to my daughter someday...
http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-i-want-to-say-to-my-daughter.html


Give Me a God Who Raises the Living!



Your God Raises the Dead? Give Me a God Who Raises the Living!

by Peter Rollins
posted 19/1/12

No matter how great a song is it cannot raise the dead, cure cancer or make your lost lover return. Music does not change the world you live in, reverse time or change history. It does not promise snake oil solutions to life’s woes. But music is anything but impotent; indeed it can be experienced as one of the most potent forces in our universe. For music can assist us in changing the way that we interact with the world we live in.

Great music can help us to affirm life, embrace it, face it and sublimate it. In other words music can help sensitize us to, and celebrate, the life that we participate in.

The poet is one who helps us experience life as inscribed with a rich and sensuous texture. S/he helps us to call forth, confront and confirm our existence. Inviting us to find the courage that might enable us to say “yes” and “Amen” to life in the midst of its complexity and in spite of our anxiety.

In light of this we might begin to understand how a divine miracle is not something that simply raises the dead but one that is able to raise the living to a place where life is not experienced as death. For without the latter the former would appear to be nothing more than the work of an evil demon.

I guess that is why I was never that interested in gods who raise the dead. The real power lies in raising the living: something that is testified to in the act of love.

Love is that which experiences another as worth more than the mundane matter of which they are composed. In love we find a cause for which we would be willing to die, and it is there that we experience life as worthy of living. In love we find a world worth dancing in and celebrating.

The claim that “God is love” testifies to this miracle. It points to the idea that, in the act of love, we encounter a transcendent depth and mystery that sets our world ablaze, a depth and mystery that we cannot grasp, but which renders our world worthy of being grasped. In other words it hints at the idea that the highest good is not some object that we should love, but a reality we participate in through the act of love itself.

Love is then the true miracle; it is in love that the living are raised from death to life. In love we do not run from our world, but learn to embrace it and raise it to the level of the sacred.