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

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Jewish Perspective of the Bible

My Bible – A Jew’s Perspective (RJS)

by RJS
November 29, 2012
The first essay in the new book by Marc Zvi Brettler (Brandeis University), Peter Enns (Eastern University) and Daniel J. Harrington (Boston College), The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically & Religiously, is by Brettler. In this essay he reflects on the development and diversity of Jewish engagement with the Scripture and what this means for the believing Jewish scholar.
The picture to the right is of a fourth or fifth century synagogue at Bar’am National Park in Israel. It was long thought to date a couple hundred years earlier, but new investigations have demonstrated that it was built later using the remains of an earlier second or third century (probably pagan Roman) structure.
I found Brettler’s essay fascinating for several reasons: the sketch of the history of Jewish thought, the similarities and differences in the approach to scripture, and the insight it provides into modern Jewish thinking. Many, perhaps 20%-25%, of my colleagues are Jewish ranging from orthodox through the variations to thoroughly secular. About the only group not represented to the best of my knowledge are the ultra-orthodox.
Rather than try to summarize the whole of Brettler’s essay, I will instead point to two of the themes he develops. The first relates to torah or Torah, and the second to the Bible as history and science (a topic of concern in many of my posts).
[The Bible as] Torah
In looking to the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures Brettler chooses to focus on the Torah or Law because this is the central document for the Jewish faith. Brettler builds a case that there was a development through the biblical texts from torah as teachings and laws, lower case, plural (torot), including parts of the Pentateuch, to the view of single divine Torah. The view of a single divine Torah was accepted in the late books of the Old Testament, especially Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles.
The absence of this term [the torah of Moses] in earlier prophetic material bolsters the idea that the notion of a Mosaic Torah, identical with the Pentateuch, only developed in the Second Temple period.
Once this idea of a Mosaic Torah arose, it stuck. Thus, over a dozen times the Dead Sea Scrolls (second century BCE-first CE) refer to “the Torah of Moses,” alongside less frequent references to “the Torah of God/the LORD.” … The New Testament, written in the same period, also likely assumes in places that the Torah is Mosaic (see, for example, Matt 19:8; Mark 12:26) (p. 30-31)
The notion that parts of the Pentateuch are divine revelations to Moses dates from the earliest documents – the idea of the Torah as a single document of divine revelation developed later.
The knowledge that the Torah was composite in its origin was likely lost shortly after its redaction or compilation into a single document, and, thereafter, there was no prevarication involved in speaking of the Torah, or God’s [Torah], or Moses’ Torah, as a unified document. This belief, developed in the Second Temple period, reached the classical rabbis and through them Maimonides and other theologians. Yet I will suggest that it is constructive to return to this “lost” knowledge about the Torah’s complex composition. (p. 31)
Maimonides (1135-1205) took this general belief in a single unified Mosaic Torah and enshrined it for years to come. His shortened eighth and ninth principles read (p. 25):
I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah we now possess is the one given to Moses our teacher – may he rest in peace.
I believe in perfect faith that this Torah will never be changed …
The long forms are even clearer stating that the whole Torah was given from God “through Moses who acted like a secretary taking dictation” and “this Torah was precisely transcribed from God.” (p. 34)
Brettler suggests however, that tradition aside, a more complex view of the origin of the Torah is warranted both by the internal evidence of the text itself and the external evidence in the earlier rabbis and teachers. This is not to deny either revelation or inspiration. A revelation through a variety of sources complied into a unified document is still a revelation from God. The Torah can be better appreciated, even by the faithful, when it is viewed through the lens of critical study. An alternative view is that “the sanctity of the text derives from the redactor, or from the community as a whole. (p. 39)
That the inspiration of scripture derives, at least in part, from the work of the Spirit in the redaction of the text we have received is one that should resonate with Christians. Although the Jewish believer, of course, does not attach the Spirit to the process the way the Christian does.
Brettler also notes a bit later when considering the authorship of books in the Hebrew Bible that “canonicity involves authority, not inspiration.” (p. 56) [Consequently,] the Christian view of inspiration, while having roots and parallels in Jewish thought, should not be imposed on the Jewish view of scripture.
[The Problem of ] Literalism: The Bible as History and as Science.
Jewish tradition is much less concerned with the literal truth and the historical accuracy of the biblical text than is the Protestant tradition. This is true with respect to what would typically be categorized as history and as science. (p. 52)
History proves a somewhat malleable form of truth telling. Chronicles is “a creative revision of Genesis-Kings” and the plague narratives of Exodus are recounted differently in later books. The differences do not discount the work of God in history, but display an attitude that doesn’t assign significance to the precise details.
This is because in ancient Israel, as in other premodern societies, the facts themselves or the historical events were not primary – [but] what could be learned from the stories was primary. (p. 52)
Debates continue about what should and should not be read literally – inside and outside the Torah. But in Jewish thought there is “broad consensus … that the Bible should not always or primarily be read literally.” (p. 53) The book of Genesis was not viewed as “natural history” but as “about morality and our relationship to God.” The primary meaning is not the surface meaning. Within Judaism therefore, even among devout Jews, scientific views of evolution and the age of the earth cause relatively little trouble. The inferences drawn by some (especially those intent on promoting ontological natural or scientific materialism) are at odds with Jewish belief – but the scientific theories themselves are not.
Does the history sketched by Brettler surprise you?
What authority should we attach to the Second Temple view of the Torah as a unified Mosaic document?
Do the references in the New Testament to the books of Moses carry separate authority or could they reflect an (inaccurate) common view of the time?
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

How the Early Christians Read the Bible

Scot McKnight
November 28, 2012
It is not unusual for a first-time Bible reader to encounter a New Testament author quoting an Old Testament author, for the reader to wander back to the Old Testament to read that text too, and discover — “Wow, that’s not quite what the Old Testament author had in mind.”
One of my favorites is how Matthew sees Jesus’ parents taking him to Egypt and then back to the Land of Israel (to the Galilee in fact) and to see in that move a “fulfillment” of Hosea where it says “out of Egypt I have called my son.” In Hosea “son” means Israel and refers to the Exodus… well, that’s not quite the same as what Matthew was on about.
Have you ever explained to a Bible reader how the New uses the Old? What would you tell that person? What are the major ideas? Which text in the NT would you use first?
Which is why we need an introductory book to how the earliest Christians read the Old Testament. Greg Beale, in his book Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2012) provides for advanced college students and seminary students such a book. One does not have to know Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek to make use of this book even if it is rich in detail at times.
That problem of “non-contextual” readings of the Old Testament (remember, it was the one and only Bible for the earliest Christians) has a number of arguments in its favor though Beale thinks the arguments are often taken too far.
Some Proposed Readings of the OT by the early Christians
There is the argument which Beale thinks has been overcooked:
  • that the earliest Christians were using typical, non-contextual Jewish methods of interpretation,
  • that the early Christians were using a “testimony book” which had quotes and not full contexts of the Bible,
  • that their “christocentric” or “christotelic” approach permitted them to override the Old Testament context,
  • that they were using the OT rhetorically but not contextually,
  • and that postmodernity reveals that those authors were reading their ideas into the OT.
The Argument of Typology
The issue is also over typology, something that gets abused in the church and therefore gets a bad name, but it’s something the NT authors clearly do — do the NT authors see analogies within their theology that would not have been seen in the original OT? We are drawn back into the salvation-history discussion: once one admits that Christ is the fulfillment, the Old begins to be read toward and in light of Christ. In other words, it is “contextual” exegesis.
  • Salvation-History
  • Christological Focus
  • A Contextual Exegesis
Some Practical Guidance Then
What Beale can do for most any Bible reader is provide some method for anyone wanting know how to begin seeing how the NT appropriates and reads the OT: 
  • Identify the OT reference: is it a quotation or an allusion? (He’s got criteria for determining allusions.)
  • Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs.
  • Analyze the OT context both broadly and immediately, esp thoroughly interpreting the paragraph in which the quotation or allusion occurs.
  • Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism that might be relevant to the NT appropriation. [Requires some texts and some time.]
  • Compare the texts carefully, including the textual variants: NT, LXX, Hebrew Bible, targums, early Jewish citations of that text, etc.
  • Analyze the author’s textual use of the OT (which text does this author use?).
  • Analyze the author’s interpretive (hermeneutical) use of the OT.
  • Analyze the author’s theological use of the OT.
  • Analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT.
OK, this takes lots of work — for each text analyzed! But some of you are interested in this sort of thing, and this is a great place to start.
So, then, how does the NT use the OT?
  • To indicate direct fulfillment of prophecy.
  • To indicate indirect fulfillment of typological prophecy.
  • To indicate affirmation that a not-yet-fulfilled OT prophecy will assuredly be fulfilled in the future.
  • To indicate an analogical or illustrative use of the OT.
  • To indicate the symbolic use of the OT.
  • To indicate an abiding authority carried over from the OT.
  • To indicate a proverbial use of the OT.
  • To indicate a rhetorical use of the OT.
  • To indicate the use of an OT segment as a blueprint or prototype of a NT segment.
  • To indicate an alternate textual use of the OT.
  • To indicate an assimilated use of the OT.
  • To indicate an ironic or inverted use of the OT.
Complex indeed, but here is what is at work under it all:
  • They believe in corporate solidarity or representativeness.
  • Christ is the true Israel and church.
  • History is unified

Book Review - Genesis for Normal People, by Author Jard Byas

Why We Wrote Genesis for Normal People

The 5 Biggest Changes for Pastors in the Last 50 Years


Bo Sanders
November 26, 2012

I’m preparing to facilitate a conversation with some colleagues in the new year about ministry and honoring tradition. I want to begin – and thus frame – the conversation with the changing culture that we are products of, interact with and attempt to minister to.

It is a different way to approach the topic of tradition, admittedly, but my thought is that we start where we are and then trace threads into the past to uncover their significance. I almost always find it unhelpful to start in the past – say at the Protest Reformation – and then slowly work our way up. It is simply too limiting (in scope) and cumbersome (in process) for the contemporary expectations of ministry.

I have been reading a little Gordon Kaufman. He has me thinking about the ‘nuclear age’ and how deeply that shift, from the end of WWII, has impacted us sociologically, psychologically, and spiritually. I take this as my launching off point.

So here are my Big 5 – in no particular order. I wanted to throw them out here and see what others who are older, or wiser, or more insightful might add to the list or modify.

Pervasive Pop Psychology - My dad tells a story about interviewing retired pastors 30 years ago. He asked them when things seemed to change. All of them, without exception, pointed to the window from 1968-1970. They talked about Woodstock, Vietnam, and Nixon among other things.
Many of them also talked about people’s awareness and pop psychology. I will always remember the story of a son who came home from college to visit his folks on the farm. He tried to talk to his dad about his feelings, motivations, childhood memories, his subconscious, etc. His dad responded, ‘Son, what the hell are going on about?’ He just had no frame of reference for it. Similar stories were repeated, in differing configurations, over and over by the ministers.

Pop psychology has permeated every facet of society. From Oprah on daytime TV to Self-Help books – it impacts what people expect from a pastor and what they want from things like premarital counseling.

In my first 10 years of ministry, I often said that I would have more prepared for the actual way I spent my week if I had gotten a degree in psychology rather than in Bible.

Biblical Scholarship - speaking of the Bible, I am shocked as to how much different those conversations go than they did 20 years ago when I was trained in Apologetics/Evangelism. Between the Jesus Seminar, the Da Vinci Code and Bart Ehrman popularizing the stuff many pastors knew from seminary but were not allowed to say in the pulpit, it is a very different playing field.

It is an odd split: people often know little of the Bible – because they know so much stuff about the Bible. We can’t assume even a Sunday School understanding or a surface devotional reading. But at the same time, the culture wide awareness of critical Biblical scholarship is shocking. That was not true 50 years ago.

The Internet - The Internet changes everything. From the way people spend time to the way that they shop for a church. Facebook has changed how people connect to each other. Google has changed the way people access information. It is impossible to overstate how big of an impact the Internet has had on Western society. If you are still doing church the way you did 50 years ago – and think that it will have the same effect – you are fooling yourself. You may have the same seed, but the soil itself has changed. It will not grow the same crop or produce the same fruit.

Two little examples: When kids who grew up in your church come home from college and sit in on Sunday school (for example). They will assume that they get to share their opinion. They don’t sit quietly and honor the elders by talking last. They will raise their hands and talk first. Is it that they are over empowered? No. It is that they assume that they get to help shape the discussion and their opinion is valid. They don’t sit quietly and try to get up to speed or catch up on what they have missed.

  • This is the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. A church website is 1.0 – the staff puts out the information that it wants people to see. You read it like a newspaper. It is not interactive. Facebook is 2.0 – it creates the environment but does not generate the content. Young people live in 2.0

Doug Paggitt talks of ‘the pastor as Google’. I love this. People don’t go to Google for Google. It is not a destination. It helps people get to their destination. If it does this well, people trust Google and go it often. Pastor used to be like encyclopedias. They were a resource, a destination for information. Now, the pastor’s office is not a destination, the art of pastoring is help people find theirs. If we do that well, they trust us and come back the next time they need direction.

The Pastor as an encyclopedia is a repository of information.
The Pastor as Google is a resource that knows how to find information.

24 Hour News & Christian Media - Cable news and Christian radio probably have a bigger impact on the people who fill the pews that any pastor can be expected to have in a 30 minute sermon once a week. There is no other way to say it, the narrative that is being put out on media outlets like Fox News (Clash of Civilizations) or Christian Radio (the 6 Line Narrative) is so pervasive and so monolithic that it can feel as if your parishioners are being pastored far more by their TV and car radio that you will ever be able to.

This is also part of why our country and culture have become so:
  1. polarized
  2. adversarial
I am horrified by this trend more than all the others combined. I think that it hurts the heart of God and I know that it hurts our Christian witness.

Fractured Globalism and PostModernity - People have great troubles conceptualizing and articulating how fractured, dislocated, overwhelmed and powerless they feel in the global marketplace. Things are not simple now. Things have never been more complex and overwhelming. Look at the food on your table? Do you know where it comes from? Think about your Thanksgiving dinner last week and imagine how many miles and from how many countries those ingredients were trucked to end up on your table. You might be shocked.

Think about your car. Was it all made and assembled at the same plant? Or even in the same country. The automotive industry was fairly straight forward 50 years ago. Now it is an example of inter-national, multi-corporation conglomerates. We have been de-centered, and people feel it. The way we conceptualize ourselves, our connection to family, the way we picture the world working, the universe and thus God. The best book I have read on the subject is “Identity, Culture, and the Postmodern World” by Madan Sarup.

The PostModern Turn - speaking of PostModern, this may be the biggest of the 5 changes. It is funny to me that some christians still want to debate if the category is real just because it can not be succinctly or universally defined (how very modern!) Look, call it what you want: late-modernity, hyper-modernity, high-modernity, or some other thing – what can not be denied is that something big and deep has shifted. Blame it on the philosophers (Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault, etc) if you want. Make up a new name for it if you must. But please stop pretending that what we are looking at is nothing radical or unexpected. Even the ostrich thinks that it is time to pull your head out of the sand!

One interesting reaction, and this applies to denominations, is the counter-modern responses that want to go back to an imagined past and reclaim a romantic pre-shift relationship between the Christian religion and:
  • society
  • the economy
  • science
  • other religions
You can see this in counter-modern responses like Radical Orthodoxy (retreating to the hills of Thomism), Post-Liberal thought, Hyper-Calvinism and the Tea-Party in politics. Even if you pastor with an established denomination (and many don’t) you have to contend with these fractious groups that will impact your congregation.

Those are my 5 Big changes for Pastors over the past 50 years. I would love your thoughts! What would you take out and what would you add?

- Bo