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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Southern Baptist Call for Siebert's Removal re "Violence in the OT"

More Bullying by the Southern Baptists: but this time someone crossed the line
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/03/more-bullying-by-the-southern-baptists-but-this-time-someone-crossed-the-line/

by Pete Enns
March 7, 2013
Comments

Recently, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary broadcast another “panel discussion,” this one taking to task Eric Seibert for his views on God’s violence in the Old Testament. Seibert posted a three part series on my blog, the first of which is here, and has written two books on the subject, The Violence of Scripture and Disturbing Divine Behavior.
 
In brief, Seibert argues, “At times the Bible endorses values we should reject, praises acts we must condemn, and portrays God in ways we cannot accept. Rather than seeing this as a sign of disrespect, we should regard engaging in an ethical and theological critique of what we read in the Bible as an act of profound faithfulness.” (from the above linked blog post)
 
The panel, consisting of Al Mohler, Phillip Bethancourt, Denny Burke, and Owen Strachan (more on Strachen below), were predictably alarmed about Seibert’s handling of the issue of God’s violence. Seibert’s position is certainly outside of their universe of theological discourse, and they felt strongly enough to record their hour long session and post it. There is nothing at all wrong about that.
 
As for the content of the discussion, the panel’s position amounted to a marginalizing, if not dismissal, of the moral and theological difficulties with Yahweh acting like every other tribal deity of the ancient world. [In their estimation,] since the Bible is God’s Word, whatever it says holds as valid and binding, the standard by which our sinful human hearts are to be searched and tried rather than that which must be judged by sinful humans. God says it, and that’s that. Disagreement on that point is an attack on the Bible and God himself. [Hence,] they are welcome to publicize their position to any and all who would listen.
 
I won’t take the time here to rehearse the arguments themselves. They are transparently driven by the need to protect perceived theological non-negotiables, and they have been raised and answered many times. If they do not feel the need to engage their critics, their arguments are not worthy of serious attention.
 
What concerned me more than the content of the discussion was the calculating manner in which Seibert was set up not only for failure but demonization. I don’t know how else to interpret Mohler’s opening where he juxtaposed Psalm 106 (“the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever”) to–and here I was waiting for a good old genocide passage like Deuteronomy 20, but instead Mohler read a rather inflammatory excerpt from Richard Dawkins about the God of the Old Testament being a moral monster.
 
Apart from the fact that Psalm 106 speaks to God’s steadfast love for the Israelites and is therefore 100% irrelevant for the discussion of violence toward outsiders like Canaanites, the implication of the juxtaposition is quite clear: Battle lines must be drawn, and Seibert and others who wish to discuss how to rethink God are on the wrong side of the Psalm 106/Richard Dawkins divide.
 
Mohler is stacking the deck, but I think alert readers won’t be taken in by it.
 
Next, the specter of Marcion was raised (2nd century heretic who called for a dismissal of the Old Testament and significant portions of the New Testament that made God sound too–well–Old Testament like). The rhetorical stab being made here was that Seibert’s rethinking of the God of the Old Testament because of things like the violence God is nothing more than a repetition of old heresies. It’s all been said before.
 
I might have asked the panel to speak to the Orthodox tradition that saw these same violent portrayals of God as incompatible with the nature of God and so allegorized these portions of the Old Testament, but I would venture to guess that the tradition of Orthodoxy would not carry much weight at SBTS. Regardless, rather than juxtapose Seibert to Marcion, perhaps an acknowledgment that the violence of God has been a perennial theological conundrum in Church History would have been a more noble way of setting up the discussion.
 
Elsewhere the panelists juxtaposed Seibert to Nietzsche and then repeating the accusation of Seibert’s “postmodern reading strategy.” I think an objective observer would be able to recognize quickly the use of scare words, and so engaging Seibert’s thinking was not the primary focus of the meeting.
 
I feel that both the content and the rhetoric displayed by the panel are unbecoming of learned Christian discourse, but we all have our blind sides and those factors alone are not motivating me to respond. I am far more alarmed by an episode involving Owen Strachan, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College.
 
When Seibert’s first post came out, Strachan quickly registered his shock. Of course, it’s Strachan’s blog and if he wants to be shocked he can, and if he wants to rail against Seibert and warn others of him, that is fine, too. But what he does next is not fine, but reprehensible, and something of which I feel he needs to repent publicly.
 
Strachan apparently felt that he was serving Christ and furthering his kingdom by driving home what he considered to be the incompatibility of Seibert’s views with those of Seibert's employer, Messiah College. I was incredulous as I read the following, and I feel I must quote Strachan at length (my emphasis):
 
[Seibert] is subverting the faith of his readers and, I assume, his students. I don’t know what could be more problematic for a biblical studies professor than this. Remember–these aren’t my interpretations. I’m pulling direct quotations from his piece. He’s put his argument out there in public on a widely-read evangelical blog. He’s invited engagement; his unbiblical and spiritually dangerous argument deserves it.
 
It will be interesting to see how Messiah College responds to this. Will it take its own statement of faith seriously, as Steffan and Christianity Today pointed out? Or will it treat its confession as unimportant? Do professors at Christian schools need to abide by their doctrinal statements, or not? Is a statement of faith just a piece of paper with some well-intended but ultimately inconsequential thoughts, or does it shape the life and health of the students entrusted to the school by God?
 
Confessions aren’t for policing. They are for health. Doctrinal statements aren’t designed to punish, though that should happen if needed. They are intended to lead people to flourishing. In this doctrine, a school or a church says, you find the core of biblical teaching. This is what will give you life. This is what will bless you and lead your feet on sure paths. We offer this to you to guard you, protect you, and keep you. We will answer to God in some sense for your soul, and we are doing our utmost to shepherd you to glory.
 
It is therefore good and right and gracious when a school upholds its own standards and protects its students so that Satan cannot destroy them. And it is devastating when a school allows it standards to grow lax.
 
**Will Messiah College leadership allow this to happen? We’re all watching and waiting to see.**
 
With many others, I am praying that good will come from this, that error will be corrected, that the truth will be vindicated, that God’s Word will not be attacked but will be seen as right and true and without error and loving and good and life-giving.
 
And that students, young men and women who are put in the care of professors by their parents and churches, will thrive in Jesus Christ, triumphing over darkness and doubt and sin.
 
This is not a veiled comment. Strachan is publicly challenging Messiah College to terminate Seibert–which is to say he feels both called upon and competent to insinuate himself into a matter that, if I may be blunt, is none of his business. I cannot fathom the level of either self-delusion or a confused sense of spirituality that would lead a Christian professor to do such a thing.
 
What complicates the matter is the Christianity Today article Strachan mentions. The author, Melissa Steffan, in what strikes me as an incendiary piece of journalism, for some reason raised the specter of Seibert’s fitness to teach at Messiah, though hardly as confidently as Strachan. But, in what appears to be nothing more than a dig, Steffan felt it was of high priority–while writing under a strict word count–to cite a critical comment by Scot McKnight from his blog when Seibert’s Disturbing Divine Behavior was being discussed.
 
The use of the quote strikes me clearly as an attempt to cast Seibert in a bad light rather than simply report a story of interest. I know McKnight and contacted him, and, although he was clear he disagrees with Seibert’s position, he was not pleased with how his quote–in the midst of a lengthy vetting of the book–was used.
 
Far more disturbing was the deliberate use McKnight’s name in the title of the Facebook link to the article–thus giving the impression that the core of the CT piece and Strachan blog was McKnight condemning Seibert. The link has since been reworded after McKnight contacted Strachan.
 
All this is bad enough, and I was hoping that the issue would be raised in the panel discussion and that Strachan might give some account of his actions. Mohler did raise the issue, and Strachan justified his actions thus: ”I wanted to look at Seibert’s argument in light of his school’s confession of faith.
 
Really? Why? Just because? And after “looking,” Strachan made it the core element of his post. Again, why? The lengthy quote above makes clear why. Strachan wanted to nail Seibert and get him fired--for the good of the kingdom so that Satan could no longer destroy Messiah college students.
 
But Strachan had more to say. He next relayed anecdotes of students he has known who entered Messiah with a strong faith and left with a weak faith. As Strachan put it, the pieces fell into place, knowing now what Seibert teaches there. (Apparently Strachan is unaware that all schools, including his own, have all sorts of anecdotes.)
 
Strachan’s use of anecdotes in a public forum to build a case against a professor, a department, and a school is at the very least unwise, and at worst borders on immaturity. Such rhetoric will safely be ignored by wiser heads, but, to mimic Strachan’s words, “Will Boyce College leadership allow this this type of public display? We’re all watching and waiting to see.”
 
Without any disrespect intended, in my opinion the position of the panel on divine violence is theologically and hermeneutically naive and untenable, and their rhetoric unfair to Seibert. But neither should cause us to lose sleep because these things can be ignored. But Strachan crosses a line.
In exercising zeal to maintain sound doctrine, Strachan and others should also remember the biblical admonition to lives lives that reflect that doctrine (Titus 2:1). As a Christian college professor myself, that is something Christian college students need modeled for them, not public personal attacks [yes, it IS personal when someone is gunning for your job] against Christian brothers with whom you have a theological disagreement.


 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Scott McKnight, Disturbing Divine Behavior

it is not uncommon for an innocent Bible reader to read a text like the flood of Noah or the death of the firstborn in Egypt and wonder how in the world God can be involved in such actions, and then to ask what such acts would inform the Bible believer about what God is like.
Some just tell such folks to knock it off or to silence such critical thoughts or they offer thoroughly unacceptable theories, but others want to ponder such texts and to do so within the faith and within some kind of traditional view of the Bible. One such scholar is Eric Seibert at Messiah College, and his new book is called Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God.
 
After sketching the principle passages, Seiberts makes a few suggestions, and I want to call your attention to three and see what you think:
 
1. The God who really is and the God who is sketched in the Bible, that is, the Textual God vs. the Actual God, must be distinguished. And here he is saying that the Bible’s depictions of God are from a human point of view and reflect Ancient Near Eastern views of God that are not modified.
 
2. The God of the Bible, he says, must be judged by God in Jesus or Jesus as God so that what conforms to Jesus is the Actual God and what doesn’t may be the Textual God.
 
3. And he argues that the Bible’s inspiration is “general” instead of “comprehensive.” He doesn’t care for accommodation theories and finds the traditional evangelical view of plenary inspiration too problematic so he concludes that inspiration is general instead of comprehensive.
 
Thoughts?

- Peter Enns


To be Continued -
 
 
 
 

Repost: Thinking Through an Emergent Christianity, by R.E. Slater


In my spare time this past year-and-a-half I have been working through a newer form of theology to help deepen the poems I wish to someday bring to life. Under the web blog title, relevancy22, I have taken both an academic and contemporary approach to the issues of the day that have unnecessarily narrowed the Christianity I grew up in; and, have tried to give newer life-and-breadth by reconsidering non-apropos issues which friends and family have lately been taught to criticize, or not consider, by this past generation of overly-conservative theologs and hasty pulpiteers. It is known as emergent Christianity, which in its own way is a more moderate (or is it progressive?) form of evangelical Christianity become politically unbalanced by the rightist issues of today. And consequently, has limited the gospel of Jesus to our postmodern, 21st Century, pluralistic, and multi-cultural societies. Societies that we as humanity apparently struggle to live within given the many incidents of civil warfare and terroristic atrocities witnessed globally between religious, ethnic, and ideological temperaments rather than seeing the good, the beautiful, the helpful within our human differences.

For myself, I don't pretend to live in the failed eras of yesteryear, nor to pursue the enlightened, late-modernism issues of the 50s and 60s by revisionistic historical practices (from either side of the political aisle). Mostly because I firmly believe that today's Christian faith can be as vital now as it was fifty years ago without having to artificially create invasive thought-barriers and protective screens to shield the faithful from the dialectic events occurring around us in contemporary society. That the life of Jesus was one of action combined with a broadening-out of Jewish theology, itself become constricted and divisive in His day of revelatory illumination. That our actions count as much as our words. That seeing the value of human life is more important than clinging to the traditions of a rich, and faithful, church heritage become insular to the criticisms and needs of the 21st Century. That the human faith must allow for the majesty and mystery of God while doubting the foibles and wisdom of man. Especially as considering God's love as the prime motivator in our Creator-Redeemer's communion with man (and the cosmos) in everything He has done - and is now doing - within our expanding worlds of knowledge and industry and societal evolution.

Consequently, I have spent many recent days and nights digesting the current affairs of Christian theology and practice, and have re-positioned those issues alongside the thoughts and actions of fellow Christian contemporaries excited by the same possibilities as myself of a newer, more gracious form of faith than presently being discovered or practiced. Along the way I have contributed what articles I could to this emerging discussion through personal insight and experience to help lend vocal support to those fellow "miscreant" theologs that my conservative branch of Christianity has purposely flagellated, or worse, ignored, in its struggle to update itself and embrace the unknown, the feared, the obvious and the unavoidable. So that in my first six months of blogging I began unsure of myself, but passionate to the burden placed upon me, by adopting the pseudonym skinhead (which in hindsight more probably indicated mine own personal deconstruction at the time) until feeling surer of myself to hazard my name to that signatory list of evolving practitioners and writers, elocutioners and philosophers, poets and minstrels. I find that I write best in prose but have attempted during that same time to duplicate the more pedantic form of my brethren to help readers along who are likewise investigating the root forms, and basal energies, of their faith. What poetry I attempt (and in truth it has been very limited) is written hastily to match the temperament of the article of that day's contribution or edition. And usually, I save my best prose for the concluding portions of the posting trusting the reader to better appreciate its words when having first read through the opening structures of the ensuing proposition and juxtaposed teaching.

Overall, I have not so much personally blogged as to try to create more of a timeless biblical index to what I consider an emerging form of theology and practice in need of definition, sorting-out, and topical discussion. One that can appreciate the contributions of the church's past creeds and confessions, beliefs and practices of yesteryear, but is willing to move beyond any current mis-conceptions or mis-representations of the bible. Or even the faith of the faithful seeking cultural acclamations rather than the biblical charter and precedence shown to us by the prophets of earlier times struggling with their generation of well-meaning religious priests and temple guardians. An emerging faith which has come to understand that "the human language is both a problem and a gift" - a problem because we wish to make it so mathematic-like. So precise and formal when it is anything but that (credit the Enlightenment for this effort of definitive syllogism and logistical precision found in Evangelical Christianity's popularly acclaimed systematic theologies of today!). And a gift, because through it we may use all the forms of human language and human presence to speak of God - whether poetically, or musically; in chants or in liturgical practice; or even non-verbally by our actions, body-language, and symbolic usage (art, film, etc).

To understand that "last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words are awaiting another voice" and by that mean that each generation has its own concerns and frames of reference that must be addressed. That if we don't learn to speak to one another between our generations - from old to young, and young to old - that we instead will speak past one another. To be aware that the Christian faith is meant to be expanded and stretched past any previous thought categories and semantic definitions into newer thought forms and meanings (Jesus showed us that in the Gospels, even as His disciples and the old guard of Judaism struggled with the same). This is because language itself can be both time-bound to the generation it lives within, as well as timeless to the generations to come. To recognize that human language bears a fluidity, or metamorphosing ability, which allows for its continual reconstitution and reconfiguration through the many eras and societies of mankind. So that we may use this uniqueness of human communication that it might breathe and find new lands of discovery and settlement amongst a wider variety of human habitat and mental conception. That how we might "think" in our people groups may be different from how other societies and generations "think" in their regional (and era-specific) people groups. That one is neither wrong nor right in their Christian thoughts and language. And that by this process we learn to communicate with one another from within our differing philosophical reference points without feeling threatened that our Christian faith is under attack every time we do. For me, Emergent Christianity is just this. No more and nor less. And because it is a different animal from Evangelical Christianity it gets undeservedly bad press by its different look and feel when it is simply learning to speak to the younger generations more attuned to their own issues and needs of their era.

Or, in another sense, we might say "it is of no use to going back to yesterday's voice (or being) because I was a different person then." And by this learn to appreciate and recognize the epistemologic and existential (e/e) growth of a person as experience catches up with the age of our time-worn souls and personhood. As example, I began life within a pre-modern enclave of farming families carrying on the deep traditions of their remembered past (from the mid- to late- 1800s) even as they were trying to absorb the industrial, World War 1 and 2 eras of the early- to mid- 1900s. They began as homesteading families to the wilderness areas of West Michigan when black bear and aboriginal natives were still common to the land. My brothers and I were the sixth generation of a farming lifestyle quickly going out of existence (as well as inheritors to a Scandinavian heritage newly come to America from the "Old Country"). And with it, all the ingrained traditions and agrarian practices of the past. We were left "out-of-time and out-of-place" with a modern day era of public schooling, gas and electricity, TV, music and an encroaching urban lifestyle far more diverse than our own. And when entering university during the upheaval of the Vietnam War era with its civil unrest, angry riots, peace sit-ins, LSD drug experimentation, and societal turmoils, I struggled to "adopt" this strange new land I found myself within which later caused me to enter into a bible school environment which held closer life values to my own remembered background. And yet, over the years I have learned to wean myself away from this (e/e) dependency and to finally make the leap these past dozen years or so towards a more metropolitan way of thinking. So that in a way, its been my third revision of myself, though more probably, my older soul still lives deep down inside of my fractured being even though I am more accepting of contemporary change. And by nature, am predisposed to understand the change I am confronted with, not being content to simply allow it to haunt my pysche without pursuing its causes, permutations, and dissatisfactions.

And yet, this gives me hope that through personal adjustments, whether small or great (however personally painful or disorientating these can be), our God may arightly affect both ourselves and succeeding generations to become fuller participants to this precious life we have been given and seem daily seem to fail to embrace as completely as it could be. To receive each day with thanksgiving. And to learn to behave ourselves more wisely with one another through the service of our gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses. And at the last, to allow for the mystery and majesty of life itself through Jesus our Lord and Saviour. That language can be a problem, but it can also be a gift, as we accept the fact that we must grow in our communicational strengths with those different from ourselves. And by this communication allow it to bind us into a stronger, healthier society of men and women that celebrates our differences and sees those differences as the key to a brighter future not fraught with warfare, hate, fear, and distrust. May this then be our prayer. Our practice. Our desire. And in all things may we learn to share the grace of God with one another. To allow God's grace to become a vital part of our language with one another... and even within our very selves matriculating with age and experience to adopt God's love and forgiveness within our own lives and livelihood. Family structures and friends. Communities, churches, and workplace. Amen.

R. E. Slater
October 13, 2012
reposted from "the poetry of r.e.slater"
 
 
 
 
by R.E. Slater