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
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
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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Short History of Thanksgiving & Thanksgiving Theologies

In an earlier post Tom discusses How Does God Move and Act in the Universe? - "Eight Positions of Divine Sovereignty,"  reviewing each position one-by-one. Today he takes the practical side of this chart and makes it relevant through the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which many believe was an institution originating with the Pilgrims for their safe passage and survival in the wilds of early America thanks to their Indian friends, whose relationships with one another quickly soured (cf. The Landing of the Pilgrims and The Pilgrim's Mayflower Compact). But the early story of this holiday is is not true.

However, it was more true that the holiday became a later Calvinist thanksgiving established by the Puritans of New England based upon earlier English Protestant Reformations made under King Henry VIII. Whose radical Protestant reformation groups wished to remove the many Catholic holidays down to two special kinds of observances: "Days of Fasting," for remembering times of sorrow and destruction; and "Days of Thanksgiving and Feasting" for remembering especially noteworthy, and joyous, events.

Wikipedia - Thanksgiving (around the world)

In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is commonly, but not universally, traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. Several days of Thanksgiving were held in early New England history that have been identified as the "First Thanksgiving", including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.[9][10] According to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pilgrims may have been influenced by watching the annual services of Thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, while they were staying in Leiden.[11] In later years, religious thanksgiving services were declared by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford, who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623.[12][13][14] The practice of holding an annual harvest festival did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.[15]

Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress,[16] each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes.[17] As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God".[18]

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

Wikipedia - The Pilgrims (Thanksgiving)

"First Thanksgiving"

The autumn celebration in late 1621 that has become known as "The First Thanksgiving" was not known as such to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims did recognize a celebration known as a "Thanksgiving", which was a solemn ceremony of praise and thanks to God for a congregation's good fortune. The first such Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims would have called it did not occur until 1623, in response to the good news of the arrival of additional colonists and supplies. That event probably occurred in July and consisted of a full day of prayer and worship and probably very little revelry.[43]

The event now commemorated in the United States at the end of November each year is more properly termed a "harvest festival". The original festival was probably held in early October 1621 and was celebrated by the 53 surviving Pilgrims, along with Massasoit and 90 of his men. Three contemporary accounts of the event survive: Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford; Mourt's Relation probably written by Edward Winslow; and New England's Memorial penned by Plymouth Colony Secretary – and Bradford's nephew – Capt. Nathaniel Morton.[44] The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans.[45]

Now let us turn our attention to the idea of Thanksgiving for both the religious, and non-religious alike, from a theological point of view....

R.E. Slater

November 28, 2013




Thanksgiving Theologies
November 22, 2013

The Thanksgiving holiday is a terrific time to talk theology. But some theologies make more sense when offering thanks to our loving Lord.

Whether the setting is private or public, secular or sacred, hundreds of millions express gratitude. Often, even the day’s newscasts are laden with words of Holy appreciation.

For what, however, are we to thank God? What credit is due the divine? And which theologies best account for our desire to express gratitude?


Atheists

One group giving thanks consists of those who consider theology a mere form of language without a Referent. There is no Holy Reality, they say, to which their rituals relate. Theology is nothing more than anthropology. Giving thanks to God is merely an expression of a shared cognizance that life is not entirely within our control.

These folks can utter the words, "Thank you, God." But their disbelief in a Being exists to whom they should be grateful makes their theological sleight of hand far from satisfying.

A Controlling God

Many eager to express their indebtedness at Thanksgiving have ties to a second option in Christian theology. This view says God either directly or indirectly controls everything. When someone from this tradition says, "Thank you God for _____," he or she can fill the blank with any event.

Such events in that blank may be joyous and hopeful. But others are utterly evil and horrific. The God of this theology is responsible for respect and rape, peace and pain, havens and holocausts. God directly or indirectly controls everything.

Most in this theological tradition express gratitude at Thanksgiving only for events they deem good. Reminding them their view implies God is also responsible for evil dampens their holiday spirit.


Classical Free-will Theology

A third theological alternative at Thanksgiving takes the form of classical free-will theology. Those in this tradition believe they sidestep theological potholes in which other believers fall. They thank God for good and benevolent acts, while blaming free agents or natural forces for evil.

A closer look at classical free-will theology, however, reveals that the God of this theology is culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil. Classical free-will theology says God voluntarily gives freedom to others, but God essentially retains the ability to prevent genuine evils by taking that freedom away or failing to provide it in the first place.

The God with the capacity to control others entirely by either failing to provide, withdrawing, or overriding their freedom is ultimately culpable for failing to prevent dastardly deeds. Although free creatures initiate evil in classical free-will theology, the view implies that God is ultimately culpable for whatever occurs. After all, this God has the capacity to control others entirely should God so decide.

Those affirming classical free-will theologies could insert any event into the “Thank you God for _____” phrase. The God they espouse voluntarily permits free creatures to use their freedom to cause genuine evil.


Essential Kenosis Theology at Thanksgiving

A fourth option may be more adequate as the theological framework for this year’s Thanksgiving prayer. I call this framework “essential kenosis,” because it says God necessarily loves in each moment without ever trumping creaturely agency and/or freedom.

Essential kenosis says God’s eternal nature of love includes giving freedom and/or agency to creation. Because God’s nature is this kind of love, God cannot fail to provide, cannot withdraw, and cannot override the freedom and agency God necessarily gives.

Essential kenosis theology says God’s loving actions in each moment present a spectrum of possibilities to each creature for response. This is not deistic theology, in which God sits uninvolved on the sidelines.  Instead, God actively creates, provides, and interacts with creation.

Not only does the God of essential kenosis offer possibilities, God also calls creatures to respond to the best possibilities. Our loving Creator inspires and empowers creatures to love. Genuine evil results from the responses these creatures make contrary to God’s call.

Essential kenosis theology affirms at Thanksgiving that every good and perfect gift originates in God. God alone is the source of good. But the good things we enjoy also require creatures to respond well to God’s loving activity. In other words, we should thank God for being the source of goodness, but we should also thank the chef for making a great Thanksgiving meal!

Without scruples, the Christian adopting essential kenosis theology can offer thanks to God for being the source of all this good and not the one responsible for causing or allowing evil. She can also thank God for inspiring, empowering, and creating others to act in love, peace, and beauty.

A Short Thanksgiving Prayer

"Our loving God, in deepest gratitude, we thank You for the good you have done and are doing. We thank you for empowering and inspiring us to respond well to your perfect goodness. We are grateful now and forever. Amen!"



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