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

Monday, November 26, 2012

From the Daily Beast: The Graying Religious Right


The Graying Religious Right

Public Religion Research Institute breaks down the religious beliefs
of Romney's and Obama's supporters.
~ click to enlarge ~
Mark Silk declares that "Republicans should be more
worried about appealing to Nones than to Latinos"
Romney's coalition most closely matches the over-65 crowd, only older. It's whiter and less religiously diverse than seniors are. Call it your great-grandfather's Oldsmobile.
By contrast, Obama's coalition fits snugly in between the youth cohort of 18-to-29-year-old Millennials and the 30-49-year-old Gen-Xers. It's unsurprisingly overrepresented among African-Americans and a little light on evangelicals and "other Christians," but generally presents a fair picture of where America's religious layout is headed in the coming decades.

5 Approaches to Biblical Theology (Barr, Carson, Wright, Childs, Watson)

When is Theology Truly “Biblical”

BT As A History Of Redemption
November 28, 2012

How does one read the Bible “biblically,” that is how does one read it right? That word “biblical” has some options and it is not quite as simple as some suggest. Some theologians study a theme hard and then run the whole Bible — or much of the Bible — through that theme and sometimes they discover some parts don’t fit their framework so they ignore those elements of the Bible. Very, very few “biblical” theologies or Story-approaches to the Bible know what to do with the Wisdom literature, which reading then ironically is a revelation of an “unbiblical” reading of the Bible!
How do you respond to the “salvation historical” approach to biblical theology?
What Edward Klink III and Darian Lockett, in their Understanding Biblical Theology, do is sketch five types (reminds one of Niebuhr’s types) of “biblical” theology, and they grade them from the historical to the systematic theological. The historical approach is typified by James Barr and in this post we want to look at the second type, “Biblical Theology as History of Redemption,” and they use D.A. Carson as their prototype. One of the highlights of this section in their book is the discernment of three “schools” in this approach, and when I began reading this chp I wondered if they’d factor in the various approaches — and I’m delighted they did. Furthermore, while Carson is the prototype here they use Graeme Goldsworthy throughout their sketch, and I would argue his many writings might even be a more forceful example because of his many writings directly on their theme.
What is not mentioned is that this “salvation history” approach to biblical theology is a species of Reformed, covenant theology. More needs to be said about this, but it would take us away from their sketch of this kind of biblical theology.
Here are the major elements of type 2:
1. The aim is to discern the historical progress of God’s work of redemption.

2. In the Canon of Scripture, all of Scripture, but tied together in the sweep of Scripture. Progressive revelation of the progress of redemption.

3. Themes discerned inductively are a major avenue to find this history of redemption.

4. Scripture is a revelation of God; Scripture is the source though other texts clarify contexts.

5. History is the arena in which God reveals himself; so history is fundamentally important.

6. Scripture is a profound, sometimes typological, unity revealing this history of redemption, and this biblical theology influences exegesis.

7. But exegesis builds into biblical theology and always has priority over systematic theology.

8. The church is the place where this theology is expressed — not just an academic exercise (as in Barr’s proposal).
The contribution of this chp entails their breakdown into three schools:
The Dallas School which focuses more on biblical books (Isaiah) and sections (Synoptics) as the arena for biblical theology, with larger syntheses being more systematics.
The Chicago School, which they use for Carson and his series of books in New Studies in Biblical Theology, extends the Dallas School to a larger synthesis of the Bible’s history of redemption. So the focus is a thematic coherence of the Bible.
The Philadelphia School, which is the Reformed tradition behind and at Westminster, with his great christocentric hermeneutical reading of the Bible — from the very beginning. I see this School as the origin of the second and which was countered by the more original forms of the Dallas School.
To continue the meme I began in the first post. What about the Image of God in Gen 1:26-27. Dallas might emphasize the meaning of “image” in Genesis 1 and Genesis and the Pentateuch; the Chicago School might focus on how Image becomes Image of Christ so that there is a progression in revelation leading to even fuller insights into the meaning of Genesis; the Philadelphia will begin in Genesis but will know that it needs fuller interpretation in light of Christ as the Image — leading them perhaps to say Adam, as Image, is made in the Image of Christ. Each of these will involve understanding Image in its Ancient Near East setting as the king representing God.
What is interesting, of course, is the division between Chicago and Philadelphia, and it illustrates the whole problem of “biblical” theology: a hermeneutic is formed, always on the basis of how the Bible is read, to the level that it becomes the guiding theme for reading each passage. The Chicago School focuses on redemption (salvation) while the Philadelphia School focuses on christology (though one might say their approach is also redemption history with a christocentric emphasis). The issue here is Who decides which theme guides our reading? I am convinced that all “soterian” and “history of redemption” readings are rooted more or less in Romans 5:12-21 or more broadly in Pauline soteriology (often enough justification theory). Other themes rise their hands asking for attention: like election, or the People of God, or missio Dei in a wider sense of redemption, et al.. But I want to emphasize that a cheap postmodern critique of this approach won’t work; the chp discussing Carson’s theory is laced together with his awareness of the issue of presuppositions, et al.
The authors provide what I think is an important reminder by way of critique: “Carson (and BT2 [this second type] in general) seems to underplay the abstracting character of history alongside that of reason and philosophy. History is not as neutral as Carson’s implicit construction suggests” (89). It is because NT Wright does deal with this “not as neutral” element that he is actually farther along the theological line for these authors, and yet one could make the case he is closer to the history end for the same reason.
BT As A Worldview-Story
November 30, 2012

In a spectrum from history to systematic theology, where does someone like NT Wright fit? Is he closer to the history or the systematics end? Edward Klink III and Darian Lockett, in their fine new book, Understanding Biblical Theology, put Wright smack-dab in the middle of the two, but they put D.A. Carson’s history of redemption approach closer to history and Wright closer to theology. More of that later.
In their spectrum there are five types: history, history of redemption, worldview story, canonical and theological construction. BT1, BT2, BT3, BT4, and BT5, and today we look at BT3, worldview story. The big idea is learning to read each passage of the Bible in light of the worldview story/narrative of the Bible, however that might be constructed — and the commentary series of which I am the General Editor (now called “Story of God Bible Commentary”) will offer commentaries in light of this worldview story approach to the Bible. Had we had this book we would have asked each author to “subscribe” to BT3!
Where would you place NT Wright on the spectrum from history (left) to theology (right)? Is he more historical or theological than the History of Redemption/Carson?
Some major theoretical issues:
1. Narrative is both a literary and philosophical category.
2. Worldview story inherently critiques historical criticism in the direction of Hans Frei’s famous Eclipse of Biblical Narrative.
3. The way to read a passage is to see its location in the overall plotline of the Bible’s narrative/story.
4. This narrative speaks to modern readers/Christians.
This worldview story, in their view, is more connected to academy than to church, and here I would contend the pre-2oth Century church especially did not carefully distinguish church from academy so that appealing to anything before the (early?) 20th Century church is not much of an appeal.
Big for this approach is how the NT uses the OT; the sources for this approach are both canonical and non-canonical. The subject of the this kind of “biblical” theology is the narrative structure at work in the texts to which the author/s appeal, including both canonical and non-canonical authors.
Their sketch of NT Wright’s works is adequate, though it is more than difficult to read, let alone put together, all of them. My read of their sketch is that it is adequate. They focus on two words, story and worldview, then combine them into Tom’s approach being a worldview story. (I don’t know that Tom ever uses that expression.) But his “story” brings into concrete reality a worldview that is a set of assumptions. More important, NT Wright reads the NT in light of a “historically reconstructed ‘story’ of Israel’s Scriptures” (112). That’s dead-on. NT Wright’s method is critical realism. His worldview story is tied into Judaism’s story and stories and worldviews. The NT “continues” the OT story.
Well, what about the “image of God”? As I have said, I want to see if I can flesh out how each kind of biblical theology would explain “image of God” in Gen 1:26-27. NT Wright, connecting to folks like John Walton, sees the expression in light of the Ancient Near East and in the context of the role given to humans in creation: as those who represent God. We/they are, in other words, both kings and priests. This theme is unfolded in the Story of the Bible — to Abraham and Israel and to David and then to Jesus, as the priest-king, who is King/Messiah, and then as the Temple itself as well. And on to Paul’s use of Christ as temple and king and priest, into Hebrews, and with the people of God as kings and priests … to the new heavens and new earth. In other words, it’s not so much about progressive revelation as the continuation of an idea as the Story unfolds, a Story that gives meaning to the Bible and shows where humans fit in God’s Story, but also provides meaning for us today.
I have some issues with how the authors sketch the spectrum, and after reading the two chps on History of Redemption and Worldview Story I am less confident of their ordering. Here’s why:
1. NT Wright calls himself a historian; none in the History of Redemption self-identifies as historians. I find it odd then that they place Wright closer to the theology end.
2. Both read each passage in light of a “worldview” or “theology,” so this point applies to both: each reads each passage in light of a theology.
3. NT Wright is criticized in both of their chps for being too tied into a historical method; the BT2 History of Redemption approach is not criticized for its historiography.
4. Hovering over this entire set of chps is what the authors mean by “history,” and a good study of historiography shows that NT Wright’s approach to History is much more in tune with what history is — the creation of a story/narrative out of facts, sometimes conceived of as discrete facts, which is what NTWright does in his book. BT2 seems to me to be more in tune with theology and less in tune with this theory of history.

In the late 80s and early 90s perhaps no Old Testament scholar had built around him a way of Bible reading more than Brevard Childs at Yale. Childs resisted two approaches to Bible and theology — the historical-critical method that all but ignored theology and the “biblical theology” approach because it was too historical-critical in approach. He proposed what is often called a “canonical approach.” Childs knew his Bible well, and not just his Old Testament — so much so that he wrote an The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction, which I read as a young professor and then reviewed in TSF Bulletin. I sent my review to Childs, and he wrote back a long response which TSF Bulletin also published. I often greeted Childs at the SBL meetings and was saddened to hear, years later, that he was not physically well … a full study of Childs has been published by Daniel Driver, Brevard Childs, Biblical Theologian.
Today our concern is how Edward Klink and Darian Lockett, in their Understanding Biblical Theology, sketch a fourth type of biblical theology: Biblical Theology as Canonical Approach. The big issue here is to call attention to biblical theology as something involving decisions by the church on what constitutes its Bible. Bible is not just a document; it is a church’s book, a canon (as list and as norm for its theology).
But the big point is this one: the place for determining meaning is not the original setting or the original author but the text in its final form in the context of the canon. The task then for biblical theology is to affirm importance of canon.
What do you think of the “canonical approach” to biblical theology? What happens to our study of the Bible if we recognize canon as an important theological approach?
It looks more specifically like this:
1. The goal is not to find the original event, etc but to examine/explain the final “construal” of the event in the Scripture. The problems with the “find the original event/text/history” approach: history determines truth not the text; hypothesis makes all conclusions speculative; the Bible as the church’s text is denied; history trumps theology. Childs himself embraced the hist-crit method but it was swallowed into his canonical approach.
2. OT and NT are interwoven in this approach because they are unified. The Hebrew Bible becomes the Christian Old Testament, and Jesus Christ becomes the substance — though this does not mean the OT is swamped by NT theology. The OT is the initial hearing that is heard more fully in Christ.
3. The Bible as canon means the Bible is the church’s theology.
4. The substance and scope of the Bible is Jesus Christ. [This cuts a bit into BT2, the history of redemption approach, which makes redemption the substance of the Bible.]
5. I add this one: the canonical approach also asks what a given text — say John — now means in light of its inclusion in the canon, and might even ask what its ordered location (fourth Gospel, just before Acts) in the Bible means for how to read that text. My point here is that the canonical approach shapes each text in light of its placement in canon. As with BT2′s salvation history influence and BT3′s worldview-story influence, so this approach sees the decisive influence from canon. One might say BT2 and BT3 are “canons” within the canon influences — they ask what is driving the canon while the canonical approach asks that from a wider angle.
His approach has three “steps”:
1. Begin with the ancient text and its “plain” sense.
2. Dialogue between ancient text and canon.
3. Dialogue between subject matter and ancient text.
Christopher Seitz, a disciple of Childs, sees three areas: literary/exegetical (the final form is a commentary on the preceding forms of the text), catholic/ecclesial (the questions the church has posed to the Bible matter), and theological.
There are problems here, some of them overblown a bit, but many have pointed to lack of clarity on the meaning of “canon” — though I think this distracts from the genuine contribution of Childs and, at the same time, the challenge of making this approach work. A significant question for me is “Whose canon? Which canon? Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish?” And “Which text?” This one is interesting because Childs embraces the entire textual manuscript tradition of the church … variants, too!

BT As A Theological Construction
December 4, 2012
"Restoring Theology to Biblical Theology"

The problem is that Old and New Testament scholars, almost uniformly, ignore (systematic) theology in favor of what is demonstrable from the text in its historical context. Yet, yet, yet … who can read the Bible and not observe that it is theological? For theology, by theologically minded and for those who worship? This backing away from all things theological occurred from the Enlightenment on and now has a fierce (and oft-protected) grip on biblical studies and therefore some on biblical theology.
Where does theology invade biblical theology the most?
To the “rescue” comes a kind of biblical theology concerned with the theological dimension and focus of the text. This is BT5 in Klink and Lockett’s Understanding Biblical Theology, and they have chosen Francis Watson as their major proponent of this approach.
What is the “biblical theology as theological construction”? It is how the church reads Scripture as church and how the church reads Scripture as Scripture. That’s theoretical and, to be blunt about it, both “biblical theology as theological construction” and “theological interpretation of Scripture” is no clearer — in any statement I’ve seen. Maybe they’ll consider my definition for understanding their discipline.
Reading the Bible, then, is a theological enterprise — for the present. The Bible is not a historical text; for the church the Bible is Scripture. It is unlike any other book and so is unique as a genre. Those who judged this discipline are those for whom it matters: those of faith, those in the church. It involves the whole Bible — OT and NT, seeing a two-Testament Bible. Christian tradition matters.
There are emphases: the revelationist approach (Vanhoozer), textualist (Lindbeck), and functionalist (Fowl). The subject matter is God and secondly the church.
They move then to Watson, who offers a textually-mediated theology and a textually-mediated Jesus. The Gospels are narrated history (neither just history nor just narrative). This mediated theology is taken up into Christian worship and praxis, which influence how we read the Bible. Watson discusses the Old and New issue: a twofold Bible, with one preceding and one following, with the New taking on precedence in the person and work of Christ. So he argues for a christocentric reading of the Bible.
Most of Watson’s critics think he is not theological enough (not Trinitarian enough) while historians will say he’s too theological.