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
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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a18
 
Preamble
 
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
 
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
 
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
 
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
 
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
 
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
 
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. 
 

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
 

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
 

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
 

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
 

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
 

Article 6.

  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
 

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
 

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
 

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
 

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
 

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
 

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
 

Article 13.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
 

Article 14.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
 

Article 15.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
 

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
 

Article 17.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
 

Article 18.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
 

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
 

Article 20.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
 

Article 21.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
 

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
 

Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
 

Article 24.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
 

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
 

Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
 

Article 27.

  • (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
 

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
 

Article 29.

  • (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  • (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  • (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
 

Article 30.

  • Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
 
 
 

SOUL FREEDOM: "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" & "The Global Charter of Conscience"

 
 
Dusting Off a Table called Soul Freedom
 
by Scot McKnight
Aug 30, 2013
 
Evangelical Christians, prophetic Christians, and progressive Christians have one thing in common: passion. Passion for what is right and good and just and peace-bringing. Passion often enough leads to a lack of sympathy for those who disagree with those passions. In fact, passion leads to intolerance rather than tolerance.
 
Now ramp this up to the American public. Democrats, Republicans, libertarians, mixed as they are at times with cynicism toward others and ends up “othering” opposing views — Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher are good enough symbols for what we’re talking about — and we’ve got a conflagration.
 
Now one more level: the global context. Muslims of all sorts, Hindus of all sorts, secularists of all sorts, Christians of all sorts, socialists of all sorts, free marketers of all sorts… poverty “explained” by exploitation, exploitation "explained" by capitalism, capitalism "explained" by socialists... countries collapsing, markets falling, trade leaving one country for another… then there’s China and who knows what’s really going on, and Israel and Palestine and Syria and Iran and Iraq and Russia and India … and here we are again with the same problem. Who trusts whom? Who is hardest for you to grant space?

What can we do to get along better?  This is the sort of question Os Guinness addresses in his newest book, The Global Public Squarea topic always at the periphery of Os’ books over the last decade. His appeal is rooted in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948):
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
This has recently been expanded in the Global Charter of Conscience.
 
Surprisingly enough, Guinness pulls out of his big hat of ideas the notion of “soul freedom,” an idea developed in the USA by none other than Roger Williams and James Madison’s free exercise which improved upon Hume’s “toleration.” Roger Williams’ idea about freedom of conscience from public coercion ran head-on into the Puritan experiment in colonies. Soul freedom then is the belief that “I” should have freedom to believe and think what I want to believe and think; but it also means giving that same freedom to others without calling into question the integrity and viability of someone who disagrees. It works both ways, and Guinness proposes eight steps to make this happen, that is, to form a society and world that is safe and respectable for all of us:
 
1. Soul freedom is for the good of all, and that educated elites must surrender their prejudices about religion. Responsible religious believers and responsible secularists need soul freedom.
 
2. The challenges to living together with our deepest differences are unprecedented. Putting off the challenges puts our future at risk.
 
3. We need to restore the primacy and high priority of establishing freedom of thought, conscience and religion and belief for all people of all faiths and non-faiths. This is needed for the common good.
 
4. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is being eroded or degraded daily in the West. The multiple incidents add up to a rising constriction of freedom.
 
5. There are two visions and two extremes in the visions: the naked public square and the sacred public square. The former excludes religion the second gives preference to one religion.
 
6. We need to examine the weaknesses of the present responses to the problems of religion in public life and to see why they often disregard the soul freedom. Many are tone deaf to religion; it is inexcusable. He pokes here against the conservatism of the conservatives and the illiberalism of liberals:
 
7. Explore a public square that provides the greatest realization for the greatest number of people with respect to soul freedom for all.
 
8. Forge a partnership between religious believers and secularists to ponder how to make this all happen. The time is running short.
 
 
 
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a18
 
Preamble
 
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
 
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
 
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
 
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
 
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
 
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
 
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. 
 

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
 

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
 

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
 

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
 

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
 

Article 6.

  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
 

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
 

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
 

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
 

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
 

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
 

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
 

Article 13.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
 

Article 14.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
 

Article 15.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
 

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
 

Article 17.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
 

Article 18.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
 

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
 

Article 20.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
 

Article 21.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
 

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
 

Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
 

Article 24.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
 

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
 

Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
 

Article 27.

  • (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
 

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
 

Article 29.

  • (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  • (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  • (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
 

Article 30.

  • Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
 
 
 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Phase III: Christianity's Journey from Modern to Postmodern Theology

 
Bellagio Fountain, Bally's and Paris Casinos, Las Vegas, Nevada

 
The "acids of modernity..."
 
- Walter Lippmann' 1929 essay "A Preface to Morals"
 
 
"Corrosion is an apt metaphor for the effects of overblown
certainty, legalism, inerrancy, and the insistence on
surely knowing everything. It can eat you alive."
 
- anon
 
 
As part of my conscious review of all things modern and postmodern in the Christian faith my friend Roger Olson has recently written a book on the influences of modernity upon the Western culture. For the past several years Relevancy22 has made a concerted effort to speak to the deficiencies of modernity's influences upon all things Christian - whether to our Christian faith, our reading of the Bible, our understanding of God, ourselves, our church, or even our ministries and missional callings.
 
As an offset, we have here offered a postmodern Christianity that attempts to move past modernity's constricting structures in attempts to tell of a faith that is post-secular, post-foundational, and post-structural. Many articles have been written to speak to what a postmodern Christian might look like if based upon a broader, more liberal perspective of thought and theology. Hence, topics have covered progressive ideas in hermeneutics, philosophy, science, and theology, to name a few in attempts to distinguish to the modernist Christian mindset a broader, more expansive form of Christianity that might embrace a less harsh, less judgmental, fuller perspective of faith, ministry, and mission.

To that end we have actively explored a Bible and faith that allows for multi-vocality of biblical narration, cultural pluralism, multi-ethnicity, scientific and hermeneutical criticism, the presence of paradox and mystery, personal revelatory existentialism (sic, the Spirit of God at work within us, our calling and ministry), and an epistemological re-orientation gained from today's postmodernal reactions to modernity's Western cultural influences. Thus, we've here described what an emergent, postmodern Christianity might look like; how to accept and utilize postmodern scientific discoveries; how to interpret religious surveys and postmodern movements both in our culture as well as in non-Western cultures that are uniquely different from our own; how to react to economic and political statements in a world filled with conflict and brokenness; how God and the Bible are much larger than our own modernal ideas constricting sociological structures; and so forth.

Part of this more recent effort to think through postmodernity's newer perspectives for the Christian faith was recently begun in a digest of articles presently being developed under Phase III of this blogsite. Here I wish to further break down modernity's philosophical reach by repositioning Continental Philosophy's postmodernal influences through a Radical Theology that returns the Christian faith to its apocalyptic roots set amid a theology of weakness (which, in the Kingdom parlance of reversals, means that such a weakness would be paradoxically overwhelming to the breaking of everlasting sinful bonds). Even as this present effort of thought and prayer is still in its formation as I write of it, I would ask for an openness of mind-and-heart by my readers knowing that my conservative background and roots have been in a constant turmoil of self-discovery and cultural re-awakening since beginning this blog journey several years ago. And so, any modernal fears of Continental Philosophy would be better shelved and reconsidered as a more helpful subject that might offset our own, more rigorous, Western individualism and excluding ideologies. Especially as set against any emerging, postmodern, Christian re-awakenings when explored through postmodern theological and philosophical research and perspective.

Assuredly, I feel a deep obligation to pay attention to Christianity's more recent roots as expressed within the past 500 years of church history. To not only pay attention to good doctrine as set forth by church decree, but to also pay attention to church decrees that have limited our Christian faith from seeing God and understanding His Word from His perspective rather than our own filtrations (or selective readings) of it. As such, a broadly flexible, expansive, and non-limiting philosophical hermeneutic might allow for this newer kind of outlook as compared to the modernal, Evangelic hermeneutic I had grown up with.... A doctrinaire that lamentably became excluding to science, preferential towards preferred "Christian" Westernized beliefs, preferential towards Reformed thinking and syllogistic debate, calling for enforceable religious boundaries (such as career firings from seminaries or removal from the church pulpit), and reinforced by spurious church folklore couched within assenting congregational agreement. Perhaps the prophets of the Bible were not unlike the prophetic theologians of today who walked the earth alone, chastised and ignored by those who disputed God's living Word when spoken by the Spirit through the pales of mortal flesh. Nor by forward-looking theologians alone, but by every lip-and-tongue that languishes under the sin's oppression before the tyranny of unloving, uncompassionate, unforgiving religious belief - including that of remorseless demagoguery - regardless of denominational faith or world religion.

Therefore, we wish to rightly distinguish how Christianity has changed over the eras of man from its even older roots found within the pages of the New Testament - even as the NT itself was built upon the more ancient pages of the older Old Testament. Thus, I am not bothered to critique, or throw off, any Reformational (or Calvinistic) doctrines should they not be more biblically oriented than as it was first developed under the lingering Greek influences of Aristotle and Plato. This was known to the Early Church as Greek Hellenism (sic, a syncretism of Greek culture with that of the Semitic); and within the early-to-late Medieval eras as under the aforesaid Aristotelian and Platonic influences of Medieval Scholasticism as summarily re-worked under Thomas Aquinas' studious pen. Following these significant periods of plague, illiteracy, conflicts, and medieval kingdom came the era of the Renaissance's arising enlightenment, and along with it, the church's rebirth under the Reformational influences of Luther and Calvin (amongst others) who would lay down any future philosophical foundations of incipient modernity. Knowing of these historical developments, it may be too simplistic to seek a discerning Christian faith more rooted in past Jewish perspective knowing that even in Jesus' day He too spoke within Hellenism's dominating Greek influences. (That is, Jesus made cultural adaptations to His message of redemption even as Paul would in his missionary travels throughout the Roman Empire).

But even so, was not the Old Testament constructed by its ancient authors within the religious, socio-economic, and political influences of the more ancient Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian (Persian) cultural beliefs of their day? Let us not then be so ignorant to the fact that we must each speak and live out our faiths within this world's cultures, philosophies, attitudes, and platitudes.... Sorting out the good from the bad, the legitimate from the illegitimate, the helpful from the debilitating, as we weigh out God's Word to what we think we know and observe in humble obedience.... So then, what does this mean for us today in light of God's revelation and revelatory presence in our midst by His Spirit, His cosmos, His Word, and church?

That like the prophets and theologs of yore, we may also speak God's Word to the generations of our time in discernment and in spiritual wisdom. To some we speak words of enlightenment; to others words of healing; and yet to others words of death and cessation. Thankfully, postmodernity has been in formation for some time (as early as the 19th century) but has more recently been embraced since the early 1970s under the Jesus and Vineyard movements; the calls to church reform in the 80s; the early Emergent church movements of the 90s; the restyling of church worship and message in the 2000s; and even now in updated discussions of scientific assimilation to biblical doctrine (think of the Catholic Church's "rope-a-dope" doctrinal mind-benders when confronted by Copernicus and Galileo's concurring discoveries of our solar systems heliocentrism!). Moreover, postmodernism had by now made the church seriously aware of its secularism. But rather than despair, as the political commentator Walter Lippmann did after studying the ill-affects of World War I upon society, asserting that the church should discard its religion for the religion of humanism, a postmodern Christian sees all the enlightenment that has come from this movement and excises it towards the Christian message of hope and reconstruction. As Jesus-following Christians we do indeed agree with Lippmann that the church must throw out the affects of religion from its faith even as we hold onto faith's assurances amidst modernity's humanism and postmodernity's flight to post-humanism. The answer isn't in humanism, nor in neo-humanism, but in Jesus, and all the paradox and conflict that He brings to our Christian faith as we try to discern it against the ages of man and all that man's turmoil brings with his largesse.

Which also means that we are free to reconstruct (or promote) a more progressive, enlightening form of philosophy that might more helpfully critique our past even as it might help us to re-construct our Christian faith and church doctrines (sic, the ideas of deconstruction and reconstruction as found in postmodernism, even as God does the same in our lives casting out sin and bringing love's redemptive healing). By utilizing the academic labor of ANE biblical scholars, the ceaseless research of postmodern philosophers and scientists, and even by listening to the observations and complaints of agnostics and atheists, we might better distinguish the shortcomings of our well-meaning, Christianized cultural perspectives in order to better approach the God of biblical faith. A God whom we truly cannot know except through His incarnational presence through the Jesus of the NT who set forth God's rule of love against His animosity to religion's idols found in our works of self-righteousness and religious legalism. Though the Pharisees and Scribes of the NT believed they knew God, His Word, and His will, even so did Jesus say that by their very faith, and works, they were dead. Unseeing and blind. Lepers that led God's sheepfolds to certain destruction. Who killed the Son of God but could not kill the Risen God nor His follower's resurrected faith. Yet even now, God so works His divine will within the moiling masses of mankind - making it known both to the seeing un-believer and the un-seeing believer alike (remember, we live in an upside-down, inside-out Kingdom of reversals that would defeat our magistrates of knowledge and faith). No man, church doctrine, nor miscreant theolog may defeat God's restless spirit of renewal and proclamation.

What I take from all this is that we must hold onto a healthy reserve of doubt about ourselves and our beliefs while becoming more open to God's movement of His Spirit within this profound postmodern era we live within. That today's Christian faith and interpretive theology is as open now as it was for Abraham, David, John, or Paul. That we are allowed to think of our Creator-Redeemer God in more expansive forms than we currently have limited ourselves to as set within our cultural boundaries and limiting regional (if not temporal!) perspectives. That we may mitigate all past doctrinal creeds and confessions to scientific discoveries and advancement without rapprochement; even as we would submit our theological beliefs to God's overriding decrees of love and goodwill to exclusionism's unwanted, and hateful, discriminations (think homosexuality, gender, and race inequalities here).

That we might learn to speak to one another in tones of uplift, reassurance, truth, and community, without fear of violating the self-righteous doctrines of man as set forth by unloving, ill-timed church charters should they come into conflict with God's broader divine authority. No, we are not saying that there is no sin to be found in man. Assuredly there is, and it lives well and high upon the feast tables of the self-righteous and unrepentant. But to the despised and ill-regarded amongst us who are humble of heart, and hungry for God's healing presence and personal restoration, know that God's love and forgiveness will be their first master against our own unforgiving hearts, however it is played out upon the church dockets and public presses. God's Spirit will not be defeated. But if we do, we do to our own certain destruction which would bind and enslave our souls to death's benighted strongholds and hell's bounded deeps.

Not unlike the carousel's of this wicked world, we must know when to get off, and not be misled by its withering dawns. But to discern our unenlightened past and there realize that our future is brightly open. That our faith is as boundless as the blue-studded skies above our heads. That our missional calling made more powerful when accompanied by the graceful dresses of love's remit. That we might embrace all that seeks God to His great delight. To preach Christ crucified as our humble Savior-Redeemer. To overfill the church with God's apocalyptic Kingdom presence come suddenly upon us. A presence that is weak, humble, believing, resurrected, hopeful, sacrificial, serving, and spiritually alive. To know that our most recent journey in modernity has ended if by nothing else than by the bloody, torn, evil World Wars, regional conflicts, and terrorism of our past global history. And that our formidable journey towards a kind of radical postmodernity even now begins. Yeah, let the church be biblical... but let it also be visionary in its spiritual quest for revolution... and no longer withholding from cultural irrelevancy like a fly stuck on glued paper. Know that God will surely dissettle us even as He did when He called Abraham to follow Him from Ur's safe fleshpots. Or the Shepherd-King David's learned obedience. Or the beggarly prophet's ignored messages to repent and obey. God is not in the business of making us comfortable. Keep to this knowledge even as we, the church, face humbly in the Spirit's grasp turmoil's heightening revelations yet to come. "Even so Lord Jesus, rain down on us." Amen and amen.
 
R.E. Slater
August 29, 2013
 
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Modernity and Christianity
Part 1

Part 2

Those things happened forty years ago. Since then I have immersed myself in the study of modernity and modern theology (or perhaps it should be “modern theology-ies” as there is no one modern theology).

I certainly don’t agree with my youth pastor and camp evangelist friend that merely reading a modern theologian corrupts a person. However, my study of 1960s radical theologies, including especially the various “death of God theologies,” convinced me that, modernity, taken to an extreme, taken to its logical conclusion, embodied certain impulses strongly inimical to authentic Christianity, to the gospel itself. What I have found in modern theologies is a series of sometimes bold, sometimes lame, sometimes intriguing, sometimes disgusting attempts to merge, integrate, accommodate modernity with and to Christianity and vice versa.

Of course all this begs the question “What is ‘authentic Christianity?” In my immediately preceding post I described how I regard modernity—its basic impulses, tendencies and trajectories. Here I will layout briefly, wholly inadequately, I’m sure, how I regard authentic Christianity as a worldview, as a blik, as a  life-and-world perspective. Yes, to be sure, it’s more than that, but it includes that. If Christianity is compatible with any and every view of reality it is meaningless. While we must not inflate the cognitive aspect of Christianity to the whole of it, neither should we minimize it to the point where it is endlessly flexible.

Here, due to limitations of time and space, I will focus on one point of an authentic Christian worldview that raises problems for modernity and vice versa—belief in the supernatural.

The word “supernatural” sends shudders down many Christians’ spines and makes their skin crawl. I understand that. Like “awesome” it has been over used so much and so wrongly that it seems almost useless. But I can’t discard it. Authentic Christianity necessarily includes belief in the supernatural in the sense of acts of God that transcend anything explainable by scientific reason alone. One example, the crucial and obvious one, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many modern theologians, allergic to anything supernatural (because they think it contrary to science), have “reinterpreted” the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an existential experience of faith (Bultmann and Tillich). They regard the resurrection appearances reported in the gospels as “visions.” Bultmann spoke for many modern theologians when he said (paraphrasing) “We know dead men do not rise.”

I do not think authentic Christianity includes gullible belief in every supernatural story that emanates from a seemingly spiritual source (e.g., popular books and television testimonies). But I do think belief that God raised Jesus from the dead such that the tomb was empty is part and parcel of authentic Christianity. Modernity inclines against that. Swallowed whole, modernity tends to force one to reinvent Christianity such that it does not include any miracles or supernatural events even interpreted as special acts of God insofar as they are in principle unexplainable by scientific methods and means.

The impulse I’m talking about in modernity is “naturalism”—an inclination to be skeptical of anything, including Jesus’ resurrection or ours, that is in principle beyond science’s ability now or ever to explain.

But, of course, not all modern Christian theologians have gone so far. Some have pushed back against naturalism and attempted to rescue belief in the supernatural (even if they don’t like the term) by various means.

I studied under German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg in Munich who is famous for pushing back against Bultmann and the whole existentialist, “demythologizing” approach to the New Testament and Christianity. Pannenberg is most definitely “modern” in some regards while not swallowing modernity hook, line and sinker. His modernity shows especially in his epistemology which, even though not foundationalist, is rationalistic. He does not believe truth should ever be based on special revelation and faith alone; in order to be considered truth it must be publicly verifiable using the ordinary (modern) canons of rationality.

The range of accommodations to modernity by modern theologians is vast—all the way from the deepest accommodation, wholesale sell-out by 1960s radical theologians and their contemporary followers (such as Don Cupitt), to conservatives who don’t realize they are accommodating to modernity when they emphasize propositional truth as the [truest] form of revelation (Paul Helm) and biblical inerrancy as essential to Christianity.

My conclusion is that modernity represents something new in human history—new as of modernity’s birth in the later 17th century and especially its pinnacle in the eighteenth century. That something new is a secularized view of reality—the idea that life can be lived successfully without any reference to anything spiritual beyond what is discoverable by science.... Hellenistic culture, the Greek-inspired “blik,” was not wholly congenial to Christianity, but at least it included belief in a spiritual reality beyond the physical and its governing laws. Plato’s philosophy, Aristotle’s philosophy, neo-Platonism, even Stoicism believed in a spiritual reality beyond complete human comprehension and control.

The secularizing impulse in modernity has forced Christianity and religion in general into a defensive posture. Too seldom have Christian intellectuals gone on the offensive with strong arguments against modernity’s secularity. One reason I appreciate John Caputo, in spite of thinking he is not wholly consistent, is his scathing scorn aimed at the over-reaching rationalism of modernity. Postmodernity has opened doors for taking religion seriously that modernity tried to close.

In sum, I consider modernity, taken to its logical conclusion, inimical to authentic Christianity. Christian theology’s various attempts to escape its threat by radical revisioning of Christianity, especially de-supernaturalizing it, were, I believe, misguided. Only a few theologians really rose to the challenge and defended authentic Christianity in the face of modernity without retreating into pre-modern obscurantism. They include especially (and they are my heroes for this reason) Karl Barth among Protestants and Hans Urs von Balthasar among Catholics. Neither can be accused of obscurantism. Both saw modernity as inimical to authentic Christianity without retreating into an escapist anti-modernism that failed to wrestle with it.

What is needed is a form of Christian life that preserves the essence of Christianity (not redefined and reduced so that it cannot conflict with modernity), including belief in supernatural acts of God, past and present, and at the same time takes the cultural changes modernity has introduced seriously. Such a form of Christian life would:

1) value and encourage critical thinking without reducing truth to what autonomous human reason can discover unaided by the Spirit of God or His Word],

2) believe in and look for supernatural acts of God in persons’ lives without miracle mongering [that is, God's supernatural acts is how God normally communicates with people, even as we communicate with him by our life's witness and activity; this communication between the Father and His church, between His son and daughter with His Spirit is not deemed strictly as a miracle even though its sum and activity is miraculous. As it were, it falls more along the lines of God's providence and even must be considered as part-and-parcel salvifically with that of our redemption through Jesus and by His Spirit. - res]

3) allow the biblical narrative to “absorb the world” without withdrawing from modern discoveries and contributions,

4) value science without idolizing it, and

5) embrace those aspects of postmodernity that re-open the doors of the spiritual without rushing into relativism.