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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Do We Have an Open Bible or a Closed Bible? Or, What Makes an Open Bible Closed?

 
I recently wrote a post that detailed the differences between reading the Bible as a Scriptural Bible as versus an Academic Bible. For myself, I believe the Bible may be read broadly in both ways, and with an equal balance lest it become distorted by dogma on the one hand, or skepticism on the other. But when taking the Genesis account of creation and asking whether it is historical or figurative immediately can divide Christians between a literalistic reading of Genesis or a non-literal reading of the story of creation. And to further presage my case, I would call into question Paul's definitive understanding of the Genesis story by flatly stating that he could not know the answer, nor indeed was it necessary that he knew the answer. To tell Paul that mankind evolved would have made no sense to him in his ancient view of cosmogony filled with mythic import. For so it was, holding serpents that reasoned with man; god-like humans who could speak to the God of the Universe; who lived in undisturbed Paradise that bore a special fruit to give one life and another death; who nakedly walked-about in innocence with one anther without a care in the world or a fight between them; who daily communed within the pleasant, sheltering spaces of an environ that held neither harm nor ill to them such as sickness or death. No. Paul simply understood God to have created man and went on from there. Even so, an evolutionary view of man's creation can also see God as man's Creator. And though both viewpoints differ by the process (an ancient v. a modern cosmogony; a process of an immediate v. a mediated generation of creation) the outcome is much the same. And yet, it may not be as simple as all that because these very different approaches to the these questions affects how we read the Bible and understand God. Hence we have a secondary problem...
 
And that problem is determinative to how we read the Bible through the lenses of our belief systems (in several previous articles of late I've described these as our epistemologies). To read the Bible literally is to never question its texts nor to use any outside academic disciplines to be placed "over" the text of Scripture. However, a non-literal view will fully utilized any-and-all resources as necessary to determining the meaning of the Biblical text. As example, the applicable usage of the evolutionary theory coupled with a historical/critical method that would compare creation stories between ancient near eastern countries (from the same time period and place) would be considered just and proper. As such, and from what we know of history, Paul could not know anything about evolution because he was removed from the event (as common sense would tell us) and probably had an imperfect academic understanding of the similar ancient creation accounts that had existed at one time between very old cultures.Why? Because the Jewish text was written 600 years earlier from his century, and because the other similar creation accounts from Sumeria and Akkadia were much, much older even still (2500 years and more). And no, I don't believe that God told him, nor that it was necessary for Paul to know this information, based upon the message he wished to communicate. Namely, that Jesus is Lord and Savior. God simply used his ancient world-and-life view (or epistemic paradigms) and spoke to him of Jesus' comparative worth-and-meaning versus his interpretive knowledge of Jewish literature at the time (which now compounds our historic contextual studies four-fold! Requiring knowledge of ancient cultures - both Paul's and earlier; knowledge of Jewish beliefs as they transformed from Moses' Day to the Jesus'; Paul's biographical makeup himself; and of creation stories themselves; plus innumerable other details!)
 
The Scriptural Bible approach (also known as Sola Scriptura) would ignore all scientific and archaeologic criteria and tell us that what the text says is what it says (whatever that may be according to whoever is speaking at the time and according to the epistemology that they wish to vouchsafe). Whereas the Academic Bible approach would say that such a declarative raison de force reinforces a much larger religious view that is less naively dogmatic. While also saying that this same non-transparent epistemology creates in itself an unnecessarily restrictive (and protective) position not allowing additional tools and resources to be brought to bear on the historic understanding of the biblical text and culture of the ancient world at that time.
 
Another problem is how God spoke to Paul. That is, how Paul received God's revelation. At base here is whether God spoke to Paul as an automaton-like transcribing machine. Or if He spoke to Paul through all of Paul's primitive knowledge of the world, his character and personality traits, his temperament, life-based experiences, and so on. Of course the answer is yes to the second proposal and no to the first. Which is a relief because it then leaves a lot of room for the multi-dimensional uses of the human symbolic language consequently providing Scripture with its relevancy of communication to us today (I think of this as the mystery of language - that is, its currency and relevancy). If the human language were simply a machine language or even a reductionistic mathematical expression of formulaic syllogisms than it would have very little value for us today. In fact, I think we could rightly argue that by its very exactness of statement we would find the Bible immediately conflicted and obtuse (as machine type languages become requiring upgrades to the relevant environment around itself because it cannot transition on its own). But as expressed inside of human language instead of machine language interpretive relevancy and vogue lives and breathes and remains open to us today. As example, its stories (or narratives) in-and-of themselves would defeat any of our efforts to systematized the Bible into a complete collection of systematic statements or doctrines. It can't be done. And when it has been done creates too many fractured interpretations of God and the world.
 
And yet another problem is that the academic approach helps to take away the magic-like qualities attributed to the Bible which causes us to think of it as a mysterious answer book. And placing us in jeopardy of worshipping the Bible rather than the God-behind-the-Bible (what we call bibliolatry). And by adding magic-like doctrines of inerrancy to the Bible (where the Bible is meant to have no errors and is unbowed before man's more finite comprehensions) we remove it once again from the realms of external resources like science or ancient literary studies or even the study of the human language called philology. And when all is said-and-done we've created an iron-clad dogmatic system of belief that cannot interpret the Bible in any other way than through its own use of a strict literalism (dogmatic systems like Evangelicalism are an example of this). Completing the circle, modern day science and academic disciplines are no longer allowed to as outside resources helpful to understanding the Bible because they do not have the "deified" status of the Bible and thus cannot critique its sacred pages. This final qualifier makes the circle complete, as we say.

However, it has been the argument here at Relevancy22, that biblical/historical/scientific criticism must be used in understanding the Bible. If not, we can no longer hear God's living Word having created a closed Bible that speaks back to us of our own systems and beliefs, rather than of God's faithful and everlasting voice. An open Bible says that one must use both approaches - the Scriptural Bible AND the Academic Bible approach - in order to properly hear and understand God's Word. Even more so, we have an open Bible that is not closed off in its communication to us. That is not speaking back to us our own dogmas and religious beliefs. As a broadly Scriptural Bible I understand it as God's Word(s) to me (one which requires the reader to identify his epistemic sense of interpretation; thus requiring self-doubt and honesty). And as an Academic Bible I understand that it retains mysteries lost through the years from its originating authorship that cannot be understood except through the use of external academic tools provided for the task. That my own naive or simplistic interpretation of biblical texts couched within my own epistemic framework may not be enough to fully disclose its truths. By doing all this and more, dogmatic religious beliefs are kept at bay and the Bible remains living and relevant for us today.
 
R.E. Slater
November 16, 2012 
 
 

What is Biblical or Historical Criticism? Part 1 of 3


The Roles of Biblical Criticism
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/11/15/the-roles-of-biblical-criticism-rjs/

by RJS
November 15, 2012

“Historical criticism,” which means placing a biblical text in its original historical context, is our preferred term. Historical criticism often involves comparing the text with parallel or analogous biblical or extrabiblical texts from the same general geographical area and the same general time period. This helps us better understand what was “in the air” at the time and what may have been the cultural assumptions underlying the biblical texts, its authors, and earliest audiences. (p. 4)
The sketch of the history of biblical interpretation begins almost immediately after the writing of the earliest portions of the Hebrew scriptures. The later writers wrestle with and interpret the earlier texts. The inter-testamental authors wrestled with the text – as we see in works like those found among the Dead Sea scrolls. Large portions of the New Testament “can be regarded as an interpretative process of connecting Israel’s story with the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.” ( p. 11) This later point is important. Unless we understand the Old Testament, and the general cultural assumptions concerning the Hebrew Scriptures at play in the first century, we will almost certainly misinterpret large parts of the New Testament message. The New Testament authors, Brettler, Enns, and Harrington note, “quote the Old Testament well over 300 times and allude to it over a thousand times.” These are significant quotations and allusions, deeply entwined with the meaning the authors wishes to convey.
 
The reformation laid the groundwork for scholarly biblical criticism and the rise of skeptical biblical criticism. The reformation doctrine of sola scriptura required that the faithful believer pay close attention to what Scripture is actually saying. This also led to a political twist to biblical criticism. Biblical criticism moved out of the church and became a tool to undermine the authority of the church, and the authority of the state when church and state were intertwined. The deep enlightenment and modernist skepticism grew further and became tied to questions of science and faith – with miracles denied and the text demythologized. There is much more to this history – more in the brief sketch provided by Brettler, Enns and Harrington; and even more in the books suggested for Further Reading.
 
Out of this history though, there is perhaps a path forward. A path that does not ignore the results of textual criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, historical criticism, but considers them critically in conversation with traditions of religious faith.
While we may sympathize at times with some of the critics on either side, we are convinced that it is possible to read the Bible both critically and religiously. Although historically it has been the case that “the scriptural Bible and the academic Bible are fundamentally different creations oriented toward rival interpretive communities,” we do not believe that this should be so. We used the broad understanding of historical criticism, proposed by scholars like John Barton, as outlined earlier: biblical criticism refers to the process of establishing the original contextual meaning of biblical texts with the tools of literary and historical analysis. Whatever challenges such study raises for religious belief are brought into conversation with religious tradition rather than deemed grounds for dismissing either that tradition or biblical criticism. (p. 18-19)
The next three or so posts will look at how this conversation between historical criticism and religious tradition plays out for Brettler’s Jewish approach, Harrington’s Catholic approach, and Enns’s Protestant approach.
 
What does it mean to use historical criticism in conversation with religious tradition?
 
Does the Protestant refrain of Sola Scriptura require that the conversation occur?
 
After all, if Scripture is our authority, whatever contributes to a a better understanding of scripture should help us better understand the faith.
 
Or does the Protestant refrain of Sola Scriptura relegate historical criticism to a back seat?
 
After all, the plain meaning of scripture should be accessible to anyone, anywhere, with only a moderate education required.
 
 
 
 

What Is the Number One Obstacle in Living for Jesus?

 
Jesus Doesn't Want You to Be Afraid
 
By: Adam and Christine Jeske
November 12, 2012
 
 Three weeks ago, I asked several hundred college students a question:
 
What is your biggest obstacle today to giving your whole life for God’s global mission?
 
Let me be clear, as I was that day—I wasn’t asking about dropping out of society, selling everything, and moving to Turkmenistan (although that was fair game).
 
Rather, I explained that giving your whole life for God’s global mission is being fully given over to God’s purposes in the world. If you’re following Jesus' calling, you can serve God just as well as a businessperson in the U.S. as a church planter in Sri Lanka.
 
I had people text me their biggest obstacles to fully following Jesus. Some answers were not very surprising: selfishness, busyness, lust, health issues, lack of self-discipline, and materialism.
 
And the Number One Obstacle Is . . .
 
But one answer stood out, named by a quarter of those responding as their biggest obstacle to giving their whole life to global mission: fear.
 
These students—and Christians, no less—were afraid of everything:
  • Being alone
  • Failing
  • Being uncomfortable
  • Not knowing where they’re going or what they’re doing
  • Entering a new culture
  • What their parents would say
  • Not hearing God correctly
  • Not being good enough
  • Being unprepared spiritually
  • Not speaking well
  • Being too broken
 
I couldn’t believe it. Fear is the biggest obstacle to these followers of Jesus fully joining in his mission, whether here in the U.S. or anywhere in the world. How did this happen?
 
Real Reasons for Fear (Escalators Not Included)
 
We know there are people around the world with seriously fearful surroundings—gnawing hunger, no education for their children, violent crime, unjust local officials, unhealthy water, and spreading disease.
 
And most of us know, when we’re logical about it, that a lot of our fears here in the West are wildly spun out of control. We find TV reports like, “The Hidden Dangers of Escalators.” Really?
 
And then there are big fears. At the end of it all, we are dead. And that scares us. So we run around trying to do whatever we can to preserve our lives, whether through work, success, family, relationships, art, or health. It makes sense to me that people who don’t know Jesus would be afraid. We hear messages all day saying, “If you’re not afraid of all these things, you’re not normal.”
 
A Call to Abnormality (Yes, This Includes You)
 
But I thought that’s exactly what Christians are supposed to be—not normal.
 
Think about what we read in the Bible:
  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
  • “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
  • “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,’Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).
  • “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
  • And perhaps most pointedly: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
 
Admittedly, we are outliers on this one. We got married while we were still college students. A year later, we boarded a plane for Nicaragua with a vague connection to a friend of a friend that we hoped would meet us when we arrived. We lived without power, water or transportation. We took our baby daughter to the most polluted city in the world, Lanzhou, China. We rode motorcycles across southern Africa.
 
That doesn’t mean we didn’t get scared. We got scared when Adam’s amoebas wouldn’t go away in Nicaragua and then his already weak body picked up malaria. Or when we blew black snot out of our noses in China. Or when our neighborhood had its third break-in within a month in South Africa (where you’re 20 times more likely to get murdered by gunshot than in the U.S.), and then Chrissy found police dealing with a dead body down the street.
 
But do you think God didn’t really mean that stuff about fear in the Bible? When you get scared, you have to do something about it. Naming it helps. Reading and claiming these biblical reminders can helps. Praying light-saber prayers that cut your fears to pieces can help.
 
As we wrestled with trying to follow Jesus here in the U.S., Chrissy wrote a chapter on fear in This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling. She said fear is like underwear. Everyone’s putting it on every day and keeping it politely covered up.
 
Here’s your chance to bring your fear out into the light.
 
A Step Through Our Fear
 
The hundreds of Christians I spoke to named fear as the greatest obstacle to joining in God's global mission. And, truth be told, there is good reason to be afraid. I work for Urbana. Each year, we hear about Urbana alumni who have suffered and even been martyred for their faithful proclamation of Jesus Christ, even while serving obvious needs in hard places around the world. Jesus' call to give up everything we have (Luke 14:33)—the call to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the call to take up your cross and step into God's global mission—is not to be taken lightly. But a life of playing it safe rarely results in God being glorified or our neighbors being loved.
 
So. What are you afraid of? Name it as a first step in facing your fear. And then ask God—the stronghold of your life—if you should go to Urbana as a next step in facing your fear and being open to his mission for your life, whatever it might be.
 
 
 
 

Henry Rollins on "Civil Rights, Gay Marriage and American Homophobia"




Henry Rollins on Gay Marriage

 
Published on Jul 1, 2012 by
 
 
 
Why are some Americans so strongly opposed to gay marriage? Henry Rollins is convinced that not so many people are actually opposed. Instead he sees it as a fundraising tool for small fringe groups.

Henry Rollins is an American singer-songwriter, spoken word artist, writer, comedian,publisher, actor, and radio DJ.After performing for the short-lived Washington D.C.-based band State of Alert in 1980, Rollins fronted the California hardcore punk band Black Flag from August 1981 until mid-1986. Following the band's breakup, Rollins soon established the record label and publishing company 2.13.61 to release his spoken word albums, as well as forming the Rollins Band, which toured with a number of lineups from 1987 until 2003, and during 2006. Since Black Flag, Rollins has embarked on projects covering a variety of media. He has hosted numerous radio shows, such as Harmony in My Head on Indie 103, and television shows such as The Henry Rollins Show, MTV's 120 Minutes, and Jackass. He had a recurring dramatic role in the second season of Sons of Anarchy and has also had roles in several films. Rollins has also campaigned for various political causes in the United States, including promoting LGBT rights, World Hunger Relief, and an end to war in particular, and tours overseas with the United Service Organizations to entertain American troops.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd
http://bigthink.com/