Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Believer's Statement of Faith: What a “Confessing Evangelical Believes" and What a "Confessing Emergent Believes"

Why I am a “confessing emergent”
(an addendum to Dr. Roger Olson's statement of faith)

R.E. Slater
October 15, 2012

I wish to submit Dr. Olson's article written about his personal statement of faith (found further below) to show how a good Evangelical statement of faith should read and be about. Most importantly, my attention was drawn by what he did not say, nor included, in his statement of faith. Rather he left that door open as a personal preference to any Christian's faith convictions that would shade a follower of Jesus towards one doctrinal direction or another (as example, like myself, Dr. Olson doesn't teach the inerrancy of the bible, but does teach the infallibility of the bible where-and-when it speaks to salvation).  In fact, anyone that reads Dr. Olson's postings will soon discover that his brand of Evangelicalism is a bit more progressive in form than the typical Evangelical position. And by that I mean that he stands a little more temperate on divisive issues; a little broader in areas demanding exclusivity; a little more moderate in terms of politics and lifestyle; much less inclined to make judgement upon people (unless it involves rash and hasty Evangelics parading their lists of do's and don'ts about publicly); and overall harkens back to that earlier age of nascent Evangelicalism in the late 1800s and early 1900s that was less nailed down than it has become today. And by updating his faith has shown how to "progress" that faith to a more contemporary form of Evangelicalism that is relevant to today's societies, issues, and concerns.
In fact, Dr. Olson's understanding of progressive-conservative Evangelicalism is very much similar to my moderate-conservative Emergent Christian statement of faith as I currently understand it. The latter of which is an outgrowth from the former for some of us; for others it is not. Moreover, it is a newer expression of progressive Evangelical doctrine that is less interested in being included in Evangelical discussions where they are exclusionary; less worried that it speaks "the right way" about God and the Bible; less concerned whether it is accepted by the older regimes of God's Evangelical gatekeepers. That would speak up to the abuses and sins of Evangelical rhetoric and thought forms as much as it would to the ills and injustices of the world; that lives its faith by deeds and actions, and not by empty words and expressions; that rejects definition by logistical biblical statements melded down into systematic doctrinal statements and creedal confessions (not that these aforementioned statements aren't helpful so much as they are not binding in the denominational sense); more willing to see the mystery and majesty of God in our daily lives; more interested in discovering God's presence in humanity, society and the cosmos; less fixed to societal and religious forms; and more willing to allow the Gospel of Jesus to matriculate into its many multi-cultural forms of pluralism, pluralistic ideologies, religions, and faith in general.
And for my part, I wish to speak of an Emergent Christianity that is less careless with its doctrinal positions; less mystical and ignorant of its Christian heritage; more certain of its biblical direction; more grounded in the Word of God and not in presumptive ideas about the Word of God; more fixed in an expanding tradition of progressive, open hermeneutic that is incarnational and inspirational; that emphasizes narrative theology over syllogistic semantics; that prefers good biblical theology over good propositional statements; that pursues the story of faith over the mathematical precisions of exacerbating dogmas; that yearns for the grander horizons of possibility and invasive providence in a wider world lost in sin, death, toil, and turmoil. An emerging faith that can live and breathe again in the celestrial airs of the Spirit of God when embracing the Bible in dynamically re-invigorating ways freed from the cultural (or sub-cultural) boundaries of dead and dying faiths becoming more and more irrelevant to this and future generations; and lastly, in a faith that passes away like a thief in the night as God reveals the Gospel of Jesus given to humanity to know and understand, to believe and enact.
Yes, a good, clear statement of faith that is non-divisive and overall helpful to sorting out what Christianity is, is always something that can be helpful and directional in a person's life. But both I and Dr. Olson will be the first to say that our walk with God only begins there. It doesn't end there. And it is to that far horizon of what it could be, and become, that we each encourage those saints and sinners amongst us to know God's love for all men. Not just some men. And to know God's clear intentions to become an integral part of our life however much we might disbelieve His loving presence to never be part of our lives. For it is the Christian tenet of the Bible that God has given man hope through the resurrection of His Son Jesus, and through the ministry and empowerment of the Spirit, and by the guidance of His Word, and fellowship of His church. We are not without witnesses. They are bountifully present everywhere in our lives though we see them not. And like the Apostle Paul, when those darkened scales fall off our eyes we will see those witnesses in all their many forms, brightnesses, and variegated colours resplendent around us. Unwavering. Steady and clear. To this we give praise and thanksgiving to our loving Savior, Creator-God. This then is our further statement of a progressive, escalating, emerging faith. Amen.
R.E. Slater
October 15, 2012
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Why (and how) I am a “confessing evangelical”
(a response to Al Mohler, et al.)

by Dr. Roger Olson
October 7, 2012
In [the book,] The Spectrum of Evangelicalism (to which I contributed a chapter and responded to other authors’ chapters), Al Mohler touted what he calls “confessing evangelicalism.” I suspect he thinks I’m not one. In fact, he more or less wrote (in his response to my chapter and the book’s conclusion) that I’m not an evangelical at all. He said it in a nice way, though. :)
I want to go on record that I AM (!) a “confessing evangelical.”
Many people think that, in order to be a “confessing evangelical,” you have to sign someone else’s written creed or statement of faith. That’s nonsense. All you have to do is “confess” evangelical beliefs.
People ask me what I think about written statements of faith. Well, I’ve written one! (I’m not going to cite it here, but some years ago I was asked by the dean of a seminary to write one for his seminary and I did. He published it as that seminary’s semi-official statement of faith without revision. But I wrote it with the agreement that he would never require anyone to sign it.) But here’s what I think about statements of faith:
Churches and other Christian organizations should not rely on written statements of faith but should ask potential employees and community members to offer their own faith statements (by which I mean doctrinal statements). In other words, rather than putting a written statement in front of them and asking them to sign it or swear allegiance to it, they should ask them to produce their own statements of belief about God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. And then they should examine them and determine whether the person belongs among them. I hope that would be done generously.
Whenever I look at a statement of faith someone else wrote, I find a word or phrase or sentence or paragraph I’m not sure about. I might or might not believe it. Often it’s a matter of terminology. There’s no “one size fits all” detailed statement of faith. And too often such statements of faith (that pretend to be one size fits all) are poorly written, sloppy, vague and include paragraphs someone insisted on sometime in the past that are tangential to the gospel (at best).
Now, I do think it’s fine for a Christian organization (church, college, seminary, mission agency, etc.) to have a written statement of faith as a CONSENSUS STATEMENT only. “This is what our community generally believes to be true.” But I’m opposed to requiring individuals to sign them. In place of that, I suggest individuals wishing to join (be hired, become members, whatever) be given the opportunity to write out their own doctrines. Then there should be a trusted group (deacons, elders, pastoral staff, committee, whatever) who looks at it and decides if the person’s beliefs are sufficiently consistent with the organization’s ethos.
So, I always have my statement of faith ready for that purpose and for anyone who wants to see it. It’s not at all private; it’s my faith declaration to the world. “This is what I believe” as an evangelical Christian. Of course, I believe much more, but these are the beliefs that matter. If someone wants me to write down something else and sign it, I probably don’t want to belong to that community. This is sufficient.
So here is what I confess as a Confessing Evangelical. I challenge anyone to say I’m not a Confessing Evangelical in light of this. As I said, “confessing” doesn’t necessarily mean signing someone else’s creed or confessional statement. It can also mean (and in my case does mean) confessing evangelical Christian beliefs in my own words.
A Statement of the Faith of Roger E. Olson
No written statement of faith can express everything that a person or group believes. This is my brief confession of Christian beliefs. It contains what I consider the essentials of my own Christian faith (in terms of cognitive content). Of course, I believe much more, but this suffices to express my basic beliefs as a Christian.
Part One: Christian Beliefs
*The first paragraph of each article expresses what I believe all Christians ought to believe as Christians.
*The second paragraph of each article expresses my own beliefs that are not dogmas of Christian orthodoxy.
Jesus Christ
I believe that Jesus Christ is God, Savior and Lord of all creation; he is the perfect revelation of God as well as God incarnate, the only perfect mediator between God and humanity, “truly human and truly divine.” I affirm that he was born of a virgin, died an atoning death for the sins of the world, was raised from death to a new form of bodily life by God, and ascended into heaven. He will return in glory, establish his kingdom and inaugurate a new heaven and new earth.
Jesus Christ experienced human life without sin but including growth in knowledge and relationship with God. He was the eternal Logos, Son of God, self-emptied of glory and power, relying entirely on the Holy Spirit for knowledge of God and self and for power to accomplish miracles.
I believe in the one God, Yahweh, creator of all ex nihilo, who eternally exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three divine persons sharing one eternal divine life and being. God is the creator of all whose rule knows no end. This one triune God is eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent as well as perfectly good, loving, just, holy, righteous, wise, faithful and merciful.
God graciously and freely enters into such intimacy of relation with creation that he is affected by it; God experiences genuine feelings of sorrow and joy in response to creatures’ decisions and actions. All that is to say that God is more like a person than a principle or power.
I believe that human persons are created in God’s image and likeness but that all persons (except Jesus Christ) come into the world under the curse of sin and need reconciliation with God when they attain the age of accountability and sin willfully.
Humans (except Jesus Christ) are totally depraved due to inborn sin (original, inherited sin); they are unable to initiate a right relationship with God apart from God’s prevenient grace that restores free will and ability to respond to the gospel call.
I believe the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ provide the only redemption from sin and that Christ died for all people; reconciliation and new life connected to God are possible only through his death and resurrection.
Reconciliation of God to the world was accomplished once and for all by the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for all people. Individual redemption as restoration to right relationship with God depends only on a person’s repentance and faith which are free and uncoerced responses to the gospel made possible by God’s prevenient grace.
Salvation by Grace
I believe that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith and that people cannot save themselves by works of righteousness but that works of righteousness are products of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers by faith.
A right, saving relationship with God is entirely God’s gift as is inward transformation in righteousness, but these depend on faith which is passive reception of God’s gift and not a meritorious work.
I believe that authentic Christian life begins with conversion to Christ which involves repentance and faith in him; conversion to Christ results in justification (forgiveness) and regeneration (new birth). These are gifts that cannot be earned or inherited.
Conversion to Christ is individual and conscious and cannot happen to an infant or by means of any outward sign or symbol (sacrament). Children of believers before conversion are not Christians but pre-Christians. Their inclusion in the people of God is by means of covenant between God and families.
Sanctification and Glorification
I believe that converted persons receive the indwelling Holy Spirit who unites believers with Christ and who imparts inward holiness for obedience to God, love of God and other people, and power for service to God, his church and the world. The culmination of this process is glorification in which believers, at the resurrection, are made partakers of the divine nature (“deification”).
Sanctification is a gradual process of cooperation between the believer and the indwelling Holy Spirit. The ability is entirely God’s, but the accomplishment depends on the believer’s willing reception of the Spirit’s work in his or her life. “Infilling of the Holy Spirit” is a work of the Spirit subsequent to conversion and crucial for empowerment for service to God and his kingdom.
Scripture and Creeds
I believe that the sixty-six books of Holy Scripture are supernaturally inspired by God’s Spirit and are the sole supreme authority under God for Christian believing and living.
Jesus Christ is the criterion of interpretation of Scripture. (“Scripture is the cradle that holds the Christ child.”) Creeds and confessional statements are not instruments of doctrinal accountability but expressions of common faith under the authority of Christ and Scripture. They have at most a relative authority for individual Christians and congregations.
The Church
I believe that the church was instituted by Jesus Christ to be the people of God and is made up of all true believers regardless of race, gender, age or station in life. Its necessary marks are unity in the Spirit, universality (diversity), apostolicity of teaching, and holiness (separation from evil), proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and celebration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The church visible is the local congregation of believers. I regard evangelism and missions for the salvation of the lost and social transformation of the world to approximate the future kingdom of God to be essential works of the church as well as individual callings.
The Lord’s Return and Kingdom
I believe in the future, visible return of Jesus Christ and the bodily resurrection to glory of all believers who welcome his return. I believe in the consummation of God’s kingdom over all beginning with judgment. Heaven and hell are the eternal destinies of the righteous and unrighteous.

After Christ’s return he will rule and reign on earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20) after which will come the new heaven and new earth, a resurrection of all creation (Romans 8).
Social Justice
I believe God calls his people to anticipate the coming kingdom of God through acts of charity and social justice. We are called to help the poor and powerless to live truly human lives and to be prophetic witnesses for Christ’s lordship over every area of creation. We cannot be comfortable with what will not exist in God’s future kingdom on earth. Individual churches must determine for themselves, under the leadership of God’s Spirit, what involvement for social justice means for them.

Christian social justice includes striving by all means compatible with Christian love to eradicate oppression and war.
Part Two: Baptist Distinctives
I believe in the autonomy of the local congregation, rule of the congregation’s affairs by its regenerate members under God, separation of church and state and voluntary cooperation between congregations for evangelism and education.
I believe in freedom of conscience from government domination or control and in the liberty and competency of every Christian believer to interpret Scripture and go directly to God in prayer.
I believe individuals ought to function as believers within accountability to the body of Christ which means respect for the Great Tradition of Christian doctrine and for the faith of the local congregation.
I believe there is no absolute line of demarcation between mature believers and clergy; every adult believer is to function within the body of Christ as a minister. The role of ordained clergy is primarily that of prophecy and teaching although every Christian may prophecy and teach. Some (clergy) are especially trained for these roles and recognized as especially gifted for them by the congregation.
I believe in two ordinances instituted by Christ to be observed by his people until he returns: water baptism of believers and the Lord’s Supper. These are public acts of commitment to Jesus Christ and his church.


Jesus, the Torah, and the Law of Mercy

Jesus and the Torah

by Scot Mcknight
February 25, 2011

Matthew 5:38-42 contains Jesus’ famous words on the lex talionis, the law of retribution. Here are the words and then I have one reflection:
Matt. 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
My reflection:
Perhaps the most neglected element in interpreting this text is what is said in the text Jesus is quoting, Deuteronomy 19:21.
Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
The judicial posture in the Torah for the lex talionis was this: “Show no pity.” To be sure, Israelites soon converted the equal retribution dimension of this law into financial fines but the stringent theme in all of the tradition was that justice was required, and the requirement was “show no pity” even if the punishment was converted into economic value. What a person has done wrong needs to be undone by doing that same wrong back to them.
But Jesus’ posture is the opposite and it cannot be seen as a form of exaggeration. His revolutionary preface, in effect, to the lex talionis was “Show mercy.” While he doesn’t say this explicitly when he quotes the Old Testament, his own words that form the antithesis are clearly a variant of “show mercy.” His words again are “Do not resist an evil person.”
Instead of prosecution and instead of exacting retribution to redress the imbalance of justice, Jesus forms another way: show mercy and unravel the system of retribution that pervades our society.

An Emergent Review: "What Galileo's Telescope Can't See"

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
Yup, Christianity Today (CT) doesn't get it. In fact, they disregard it with a whisk of their evangelical hand still clinging to the arguments of fear and uncertainty while with the other hand they whisk away those Christians admitting to the fact that such age-worn arguments just don't add up anymore. On the one side we are given all the old reasons why Genesis and the Bible don't add up to today's newer scientific discoveries in quantum mechanics, biology, anthropology, genetics, geology, fossil records and archaeology (to mention a few!). Nope. For the "well-informed" Christian s/he must be properly skeptical. Critical. Even downright rejecting of all things scientific to evidence a more acceptable form of a faithful Christianity. And for those of us who chose to think differently, than it is we who are regarded as the hasty ones. The ones that really don't understand the Bible. Nor God. Nor our historical Christian faith. Its precious creeds and confessions. Nor even much else it seems.

Yep. CT completely adds to the fountain of Evangelical knowledge with this well written piece of disinformation. A piece I can't even begin to agree with, nor find anything helpful within, to those of us searching for answers in the areas of biblical statement, beliefs, creeds and theology. Unless, however, we are to act like the proverbial ostrich and simply stick our self-righteous heads into the biblical sands of gnarly avoidance and retributive statement. But to begin the storyline by decrying the usage of analogies because of their double-edged power of persuasion and condemnation while not recognizing that this magazine journal has committed that same error, smacks of an air of exclusivity. Heightened only by their verbose and Socratic statements of non-commitment (and/or outright rejection) by saying "We can't know for sure! Who can say?"
And so, it is left to the reader just how to handle this quandary when really what we are talking about is one's philosophical commitment to a particular frame of reference. Either evolutionary creation is true. Or it is not true. Either immediate creation is true. Or it is not. And if immediate creation is true, then how did this spontaneous process become intermixed with evolutionary progression, as evidenced throughout every area of scientific study? But here, at Relevancy22, I've been careful to set forth a straightforward evolutionary understanding of origins while also showing how this impacts the reading of Scriptures, our thoughts about God, and even ourselves. I've tried to be fair and forthcoming with questions and potential answers. But when reading articles like the one posted below, the thought "buyer beware" can only come to mind. If this is the type of theology that gives one comfort at night than who am I to argue otherwise? So be it. Feel quite at home tucked snugly into your theological bed of cotton and wool, and snore away at the world beyond your fanciful dreams. But for those of us attempting to re-orientate our minds and hearts to a better understanding of the Scriptures, of God and man, and the cosmos, please feel right at home here to continue to investigate, ask questions, and search for answers.
In fact, the articles written or posted to date should quite comfortably serve as guide and counselor without so much as another article needed. Why? Because the tone and direction has already been set and can only be further augmented by newer discoveries distilling what already has been written here in tenor and speech. True, more can be said. And will be as has been demonstrated across-the-board in areas of hermeneutics, biblical theism, emergent faith, biblicism, theology, church doctrines and creeds. Because this endeavor does not simply affect science and faith, but many, many other Christian thoughts and teachings as well. Which is why you are encouraged to read. To discover. To test. To think through all the many topics and issues that have been presented here. Relevancy22 is not a daily blog and should not be taken as such. No. It is biblical index containing important issues and topics that is being compiled and compounded as I have time to work through each one similar to a wikipedia-like resource for directive theology and faith.
Consequently there is a lot here to read and discover. And if you haven't been reading along than its simple enough to pick an area of interest and begin reading through each past article in whatever order you think can be helpful to you (my latest article may help set the tone - Thinking Through an Emergent Christianity). Because what we're talking about here doesn't simply involved just one or two issues but many, many issues, each one as inter-related to the other as the last. Which I think is yet another reason why the old-line faith of yesteryear is hesitant to embrace further development. There is just too much at stake and the artless simplicities and naivete's must drop away if one is to begin again on this new Christian journey of discovery and biblical encounter. But when you do you will be pleasantly surprised to find that there are a of host of other frustrated, perplexed, unsure Christians doing the same thing. And if not here than on other emergent blog sites (listed in the right hand column here) so that you will not be alone in this demanding task to live and enact the faith of Jesus.
So strap yourself in and please forgive me for my forthrightness here. It is seldom done with as much fervor as was given to it in the wee hours of this very late night. But the solution isn't to hold onto the past and wait. Time, language and culture do not wait. Rather they demand your attention. Now. Dithering simply shows indecision. Perhaps cowardice. Perhaps the lack of trust in a God bigger than ourselves. Jesus once said, "This day have I come." Let us make our Lord and Creator-God welcome in a much larger house of faith. A faith that is generous and trusts God enough to be bigger than we can imagine. I think you will be pleasantly surprised and glad that you did. However difficult it may be to re-frame your philosophical picture of the world you once thought you understood.
R.E. Slater
October 15, 2012
What Galileo's Telescope Can't See


What Galileo's Telescope Can't See

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in contemporary understandings of science and faith.
by James K. A. Smith
poarws September 28, 2012
Analogies have persuasive power, a suggestive force that operates on an almost unconscious level. To say that A is "like" B is to suggest that everything we associate with A should also be associated with B—whether good, bad, or ugly.
So, for example, if I describe American soldiers as "crusaders," I have just painted them with an analogical brush that colors them as religiously motivated warriors guilty of the worst bigotries of the West. The analogy is loaded with a moral depiction that exceeds what's actually said. So all the disdain we have towards our (usually caricatured) understanding of the Crusades is now overlaid on our perception of military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Conversely, if I describe the proponents of my cause as "prophets" or "martyrs," I have loaded the perceptual deck with images of heroism and purity. Just by the analogy, we get to don our white hats and claim the moral high ground. Or if we describe our regime as "Camelot," we associate ourselves with romance and royal privilege. Never underestimate the power of an analogy. And never simply accept it.
We are all Galileans now
There is a particular analogy often invoked in current discussions about the relationship between Christian faith and science. Ours, we are told, is a "Galilean" moment: a critical time in history when new findings in the natural sciences threaten to topple fundamental Christian beliefs, just as Galileo's proposed heliocentrism rocked the ecclesiastical establishment of his day. This parallel is usually invoked in the context of genetic, evolutionary, and archaeological evidence about human origins that challenges traditional Christian understandings.
Historical analogies like this are often particularly loaded because our age is characterized by chronological snobbery and a self-congratulatory sense of our maturity and progress. Since we now tend to look at the church's response to Galileo as misguided, reactionary, and backward, this "Galilean" framing of contemporary discussions does two things—before any "evidence" is ever put on the table.
First, it casts scientists—and those Christian scholars who champion such science—as heroes and martyrs willing to embrace progress and enlightenment. Second, and as a result, this framing of the debate depicts those concerned with preserving Christian orthodoxy as backward, timid, and fundamentalist. With heads in flat-earth sand, any who voice hesitation or skepticism about the "assured/obvious" implications of evolutionary evidence are cast in the villainous role of Galileo's putative persecutor, Cardinal Bellarmine.
Seeing Beyond Science: A 'Galilean' framing of conversations on faith and science stacks the deck against the claims of faith.
It bears mention, of course, that the conventional Galileo narrative—pitting narrow-minded, inquisitorial clerics against a courageous champion of open scientific inquiry—partakes in large part of historical myth. Careful scholars of science and religion have come to reject this simplistic picture of church dogma stifling what today we might call "academic freedom."
But even if the Galileo myth was factually accurate, it should hardly supply the symbolism that governs all subsequent dialogue between theology and science. The "Galilean" framing of these conversations assumes a paradigm in which science is taken to be a neutral "describer" of "the way things are." Consequently, it treats theology as a kind of bias—an inherently conservative take on the world that has to face up to the cold, hard realities disclosed by the natural sciences and historical research. Christian scholars and theologians who (perhaps unwittingly) buy into this paradigm are often characterized by deference to "what science says." They become increasingly embarrassed by both the theological tradition and the community of believers who are not so eager to embrace scientific "progress" and an updated faith.
Such "Galileans" are not looking to reject the Christian faith tout court; indeed, they will often emphasize their commitment to the "essentials." In fact, they take it upon themselves to help us sift through what is, and is not, "essential." Sure, Galileo challenged our geocentric picture of the universe—which required re-reading passages of Scripture that seemed to suggest the sun revolved around the earth. But geocentrism was not "essential" to Christian faith. This is precisely why the church of Galileo's day looks so foolish now. Who among us would deny that the earth revolves around the sun?
You can see where this goes: Just as Galileo's telescope taught us to give up on what wrongly seemed "essential" to the faith, so today's fossil record and genetic evidences press us to give up clinging to a historical couple [sic, (Adam and Eve) - res] or a historical Fall. Apart from any assessment of the evidence or consideration of alternatives, the analogy does its own persuasive work. Do you really want to be the Cardinal Bellarmine of the future? Does anyone really want to be that guy—the one who committed himself to an "orthodoxy" that not a single Christian would later believe?
Part of the Solution
Christians today feel what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls a "cross-pressure" on our faith: The scriptural witness seems to tell us one story about the world while evolutionary science seems to tell another.
But the Galileo analogy doesn't help us work through that tension because it says too much too fast. To invoke the Galileo analogy is to have already made up our minds. When we construe current debates about human origins in "Galilean" terms, we rhetorically position ourselves as if the implications of common descent were "as obvious" as the earth revolving around the sun. The Galileo analogy is a conversation stopper. It effectively suggests that resistance is futile.
Underneath the analogy is a more serious problem. These "Galileans" exhibit an essentially "whiggish" stance toward the theological tradition—an underlying confidence in progress and the unquestioned assumption that "newer is better." At work here is a sense that faith needs "updating," and that clinging to historic concerns and formulations is merely "conservative," as if seeking to preserve historic doctrines were just a matter of fearing change.
The result is that the Christian theological tradition is seen to be a burden rather than a gift that enables the Christian community to think through such challenges. The Galileans never entertain the possibility that some of our ancient theological and confessional traditions might actually be a resource in contemporary debates—a wellspring of theological imagination to help us grapple with difficult questions. Instead, they suppose that the cross-pressure between theological tradition and contemporary science can only be alleviated by "updating" the tradition. On this account, our orthodox theological heritage—including the creeds and confessions—is part of the problem rather than a valued resource for articulating a solution.
The Chalcedonian Breakthrough
Perhaps most glaringly, this "Galilean" framing of the conversation barely references Jesus the Galilean. Even Christian scholars operating within this paradigm tend rarely to see any implication for central Christological affirmations. Instead we get discussions of "creation" with little or no reference to Christ—as if his role in creating and sustaining the world (Col. 1:16-18) were irrelevant to conversations about "nature." But as Mark Noll argues in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Christian scholarship should not be rooted in a functional deism. Rather, the proper place for Christians to begin serious intellectual labor "is the same place where we begin all other serious human enterprises. That place is the heart of our religion, which is the revelation of God in Christ."
This is why Noll points to the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) as one of the first encounters between the church's faith and (then) contemporary science. When Christians wrestled with questions about the Incarnation and Christ's divinity, they were grappling with the "science" of their day—paradigms of personhood and nature. In this task, the "Chalcedonian definition" of Christ's identity, which affirmed at once his full humanity and full divinity, represented a major breakthrough. By awakening imaginations to an awareness of what Noll calls "doubleness"—the possibility of apparent contradictions masking deeper harmonies—Chalcedon promoted a creative response to the conflicting testimonies of science and revelation.
There is a model to follow here: Early Christians mined the mysteries of the faith to grapple with the challenge of the day rather than whittling down what's scandalous to fit the expectations of the day. Guided by the Chalcedonian consensus, church leaders did not have to settle for a merely defensive or conciliatory posture. They were not reduced to looking for nooks and crannies in the reigning scientific paradigms that left room to make religious claims. Instead, their central conviction of the lordship of Christ over all creation gave them a courage and confidence to theorize imaginatively and creatively. They didn't look for ways to blunt or downplay the particularities of the gospel. Animated by the conviction that all things hold together in Christ, early Christian theologians forged new models and paradigms which we now receive as magisterial statements of the faith—the heart and soul of the "Great Tradition."
We 21st-century Christians have a lot to learn from our 4th-century forebears. Unfortunately, the Galilean story coddles our contemporary smugness and encourages us to look down our nose at those unenlightened generations that preceded us.
But unless—and until—we are willing to recognize the creative wisdom of Chalcedon, or generate any kind of sympathy for Cardinal Bellarmine, we can't have much hope for authentic Christian witness in these contested areas. Instead, contemporary conversations between faith and science will continue to be dichotomous bartering games that simply try to "update" the faith ("I'll give up original sin if you let me keep the Resurrection," etc.).
Chalcedon shows us otherwise. We can boldly, imaginatively, faithfully, creatively tackle the most challenging issues, secure in the conviction that all things hold together in Christ. "Thick" theological orthodoxy and serious engagement with contemporary science are not mutually exclusive. We just need to foster the Christian imagination to underwrite more creative approaches.
That would require, first, remembering and appreciating that the Christian intellectual tradition is uniquely "carried" in the practices of Christian liturgy, worship, and prayer. It is in the prayers and worship of the church that we are immersed in the Word and our imaginations are located in God's story. It is in worship that we are constantly invited to inhabit the conviction that all things hold together in Christ. Intentional liturgical formation must be the foundation for rigorous, imaginative, and faithful Christian scholarship.
Second, and relatedly, we need to approach the Christian theological heritage—rooted in the Word and articulated in the creeds and confessions of the church—as a gift, not a liability. After all, the church was wrestling with faith-science tensions well before Galileo.
Our sensibility (following the late Robert Webber) should be an "ancient-future" one: The church will find gifts to help it think through postmodern challenges by retrieving the wisdom of ancient Christians. The goal is not to simply repeat ancient formulations while sticking our heads in the sand; rather, the contemporary church—and contemporary Christian scholars—can learn much from the habits of mind that characterized church fathers like Athanasius and Augustine.
Guided by these convictions and practices, we might be less inclined to congratulate ourselves for following Galileo and more concerned with following the Galilean in whom God has reconciled all things to himself.
James K. A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College and senior fellow of the Colossian Forum on Faith, Science, and Culture (colossianforum.org). His new book, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Baker Academic), will be published in February 2013.

Jesus, Women, and the Universe (and it all hangs on the Yankees)


Thoughts about "A Year of Biblical Womanhood," by Rachel Held Evans

Then I joined the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. (ABCUSA) which ordains women and has many women pastors and leaders including presidents of the denomination. My wife and I have been members of two Baptist churches pastored by women with other female pastoral staff members. The church we attend now has more women than men deacons and the church council has been led by women frequently.
All that is to say that I don’t live in Rachel Held Evans’ world—at least not in the one she’s struggling with in her book. I see it and hear of it, but I stay out of it. However, I see the damage it does to young women called to ministry. They are among my students and I watch them struggle to be affirmed by their home churches and families. Often they are not affirmed.
I simply don’t know why anyone, especially any woman, would want to be a part of that world. My advice to them is “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” However, I know how difficult that can be. In some cases it means losing friends and even loved ones.
Reading Evans’ book got me wondering about other possible books with similar titles. I wish someone would write A Year of Biblical Manhood. One thing such an author would have to do, of course, is lift his hands without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2:8). That would be hard for many conservative evangelical men to do!
How about A Year of Consistent Feminism? Maybe one month would be devoted to lobbying congress to change the law to require young women to register for the draft! I don’t see it happening.
How about A Year of Obeying Jesus? But then, the author would have to give away all his or her possessions to the poor.
As anyone who has read my blog consistently for a long time knows, I am steadfastly against so-called “complementarianism” as it is taught by leading conservative evangelicals. In a truly godly marriage there is no need of it. And it reeks of male resentment, fear and desire for control.
On the other hand, I’m no fan of feminism. Of course, much depends on what “feminism” means, but far too often these days it means implicit, if not explicit, belief in female superiority and requirement for men to become like women in order to be acceptable. It too often means the total obliteration of masculinity (I’m not talking about “machismo,” but non-threatening male ways of relating).
Some years ago I was asked to give a speech at a national gathering of egalitarian Christians. I was happy to do it. But I don’t think it benefits anyone to hear what they already believe. So I spoke on “Beyond Equality to Interdependence.” My talk was not very well received by many of the audience. I spoke about how feminist slogans like “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” are unchristian and how Christian egalitarians need to resist such anti-male attitudes. God created us male and female and we need each other. That’s true complementarianism.
Biblical womanhood: Learning to live by the good book
the Today Show, October 22, 2012