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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Voices of Dissent - Unfolding God's Love Within the Heart and Conscience of Humanity



We have oftentimes spoken to the issues of God's sovereignty as it relates to human free will and to the indeterminacy of nature. It is one of those privileges that God has given to us when intricately creating our world and ourselves. But whenever thinking of this subject we must also remember to speak to (i) the "weakness of such a God" who gave to us our free will. As well as to (ii) the immediate consequence of sin that human freewill presented when used apart from God's heart of love and justice; His plans, purposes, and prerogatives. Or to (iii) creation's indeterminacy that was immediately set in motion to act out its natural beat of randomness and chaos (giving to us quantum physics, evolution, and human birth). Nor should we neglect (iv) sin's corrupting influence upon God's indeterminate design at the very onset of His holy fies of freedom. Nor even (v) God's willful sovereign-partnership initiated between humanity and Himself presented in a non-coercive manner which leaves the future as open to us today as it is to God Himself in His timeful, incarnate eternity. Even as our dear Lord guides all His creation through time and space towards renewal and recreation (as previously discussed under the several theological categories of relational theism, process theism, and open theism, amongst other topics here discussed).

Now perhaps I haven't summarize these concepts as eloquently above as I've stated them in my past articles under the banners of postmodern, post-evangelic (or, emergent) Christianity, but in a nutshell when we speak of Calvinism's misuse of God's sovereignty we are saying that as a theology it has gone deeply astray from these many biblical ideas mentioned at the outset of this article. Certainly, we have more than adequately shown its  doctrinal abuses and misuses (sic, refer to the various sidebars under "Calvinism," "Love," "Love Wins," "Church," etc.) and have offset its verbiage with a more helpful understanding of "Arminianism" as its theological polar opposite.... Leaving us to sort through just what, if any, of Calvin's theology might be kept. However, in today's posting, Scot McKnight chooses to tamper down Calvinism's excesses without writing much more in the way of its pros and cons. His is a moderating position cautioning the reader to remember God's love is not austere, but in all ways perfect, fair, and equitable. And that it is we ourselves who are free to roam God's universe in determination of whether His love is exactly that or not.

And to those of us who doubt God. Who distrust God. Who don't understand why things work out in life as they do, be at peace.... God has made room for our disbelief, our  heated arguments, anger and questioning spirit. It's what God calls "free will." But in the end, one doesn't lose God's love for expressing the more honest human emotions and tempering attitudes of our questioning spirit, but rather we lose the love of the church for confronting its many false arguments and misperceptions that have been perpetrated in the name of God. Of one's Christian peers and teachersfamily and friends, who proclaim the false non-sequiturs of God's holy love by unholy words and deeds. For the many misrepresentations of what a "biblical Christianity" supposedly "is" that has been willfully denied - and willfully reimaged - that is, "God's Good News of His Love" - into an assortment of austere, excluding, creedal confessions fraught amongst dithering Christian folklores and spurious religious ideologies purporting "goodness and light" where none can be found.

All of which has caused thinking postmodern, post-evangelic Christians to rightfully question how we, as free willed human beings, could be so gravely mistaken over such a simple concept as the love of God, choosing rather its unloving opposite of social exclusion and enculturated hate, as the church's more proper political platforms for the Gospel's outreach of Jesus. It isn't a recent phenomena. No it began long, long ago through the past expiring ages of the church until finally discovered lying amongst the many ruins of God's faithless people Israel. Even as God's person and being, His love and goodwill, was disseminated untruthfully amid the more ancient pagan worlds surrounding Israel by its own many essays and literatures, philosophies and assertions, of humanity's dithering freedoms, God's austerity and fickleness, and life's too-brief-beauties amid its present corruptions, lies and deceits.

As such, there must be made room for those of us who would rightfully question unjust, unloving church statements and ill-informed Christian perceptions, to play the role of the "apostate" in the eyes of some in order to help the church at large to better behave its voice and depictions of God's holy love. Without such voices of dissent and disruption we would remain within the unholy violence of our own sinful hearts as they play out our own misguided bigotries and vices, harms and injustices, upon the unempowered minorities of our cultural wars.

In the end, a true apostate is one who refuses God's love willingly, not its institutional portrayals as told to him or her by a well meaning priests or pastors. Even Jesus Himself was viewed as an apostate by the Jews of His own religion while ever being true to His knowledge of God's holy love. The cost He paid was at the expense of the hell held within our own apostate hearts that would reject God's love and nail it to a bloody tree beheld of spear and broken body. And the miracle - the mystery of it all - was that by Jesus' willing sacrifice He brought us nearer to God than any faith law or religious creed, rite or ritual, could ever have done. That is the miraculous strength of divine love. A faith that God has given to us that no ruling creed or dogma of man, by pulpit or by press, can ever remove.

For this is the depth of commitment that God's love gives to us in the re-discovery of His own love for the you-and-I over any church doctrine however meticulously laid out in the foolishness of mankind's heart. Misspending valuable energies attempting to distinguish who is "in" and who is "out" of God's kingdom (sic, predestination, election, hell, etc). Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. But to those truer theologians and wiser bible teachers who steadily work to apply God's love to all our doctrines of God and church, God bless you. May His Spirit give to you a wisdom and discernment little found in the vast majority of His sheepfolds yearning for great, and good, shepherds. Who would labor heart-and-soul in the vineyards of life's sufferings, pains, and injustices. For these good shepherds lie everywhere about us - and not simply within the folds of the church office, nor within the congregations of His grieving servants.

Nay, God has placed His faithful shepherds everywhere throughout the many societies we live within - from the overworked nurse at our local hospital, to the overwhelmed social worker serving on our city streets. From the black-robed justice behind the civil bench, to the listening governor behind his elective desk. From a patient business woman working steadily against male pride and hubris, to the policeman and fireman willing to protect and to serve, to care and defend. From a kindly neighbour or caring relative, to a weary school teacher and overspent friend. These are God's kingdom pieces whom He moves about the spiritual chessboard of His loving, all-gracious heart, who Himself is patient, kind, longsuffering and compassionate. Who is of immeasurable understanding and suffering heart. Who seeks to draw near to us even as we draw near to Him. Who is our reflection even as we look to be His. So then, may God's peace, wisdom, and love be ever yours, both now and always. Amen.

R.E. Slater
June 12, 2013

*as always, any comments made by myself to any following articles posted below, will be marked as mine own and highlighted as separate from the author's presented material, if only to help make that article's depictions of ourselves, God, and the church, clearer in content and character. Thank you.



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Scot McKnight vs. Those “Pesky Calvinists”:
What Does it Mean for God to be Sovereign?
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/06/scot-mcknight-vs-those-pesky-calvinists-what-does-that-mean-for-god-to-be-sovereign/#

by Peter Enns
June 12, 2013
Comments 
Kindle Edition only - $3.47
Last week I read a brief e-book that just came out by my friend Scot McKnight, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian PerseveranceHis point is a simple one and he gets to it in the very first paragraph: McKnight doesn’t like how “the resurgent Calvinism” talks about God’s sovereignty.

These “pesky Calvinists,” as McKnight calls them, promote “meticulous (or exhaustive) sovereignty,” where all things that come to pass are determined by God (weather, disasters, murders, sexual abuse, etc).

Though applicable to many issues, McKnight focuses his comments on personal salvation, namely whether someone can “choose for God and then later choose against God.” In other words, whether someone truly saved can lose that salvation.

McKnight makes it clear he is not arguing for Arminianism, nor is he critiquing all of Calvinism. He is just going for the “meticulous sovereignty sort,” such as John Piper, D. A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, and David Wells, as well as the institutions that “prop up these voices.”

McKnight says one can lose his/her salvation–it’s called being apostate. Calvinist theology, by contrast, includes “double predestination,” that God determines who will be saved and who will be damned. Though acknowledging that Calvin himself did not teach this, and many Calvinists do not adhere to it, for McKnight the two are necessarily linked if you adhere to “meticulous sovereignty”–for God to choose sovereignly one group means he is also choosing sovereignly the other no matter which way you slice it.

McKnight takes direct aim at this view by turning to the “warning passages” in Hebrews (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:1-29).

Here is a quote from the introduction to set up the book’s argument:

My aim is to defeat this view of meticulous sovereignty among resurgent Calvinists by showing that the biblical view of sovereignty–a robust version if ever there was one–means God has chosen–because he loves those whom he has created and grants them freedom–to limit his sovereignty by giving humans that freedom. My argument is not philosophical; my argument is biblical. I affirm what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, and biblical sovereignty entails human freedom both to choose God and un-choose God. If that view of sovereignty can be demonstrated from the Bible, then resurgent Calvinism’s view of sovereignty is unbiblical, pastorally disastrous, and harmful to the church.

After an opening chapter outlining his own journey through Calvinism and relaying the story of Dan Barker–who went from preacher to atheist – McKnight spends most of the book in Hebrews. He interprets each of the warning passages through the lens of four questions: Who is the audience? What is the danger? What are they to do instead of the sin? What will happen if they don’t respond properly?



McKnight’s conclusion: According to Hebrews, “God gave us the freedom to choose, but if we choose to walk away we will be damned.” [( ... and I will add that we will be damned by ourselves alone if refusing Jesus atonement for our sins... - res)]. Hence, meticulous sovereignty in salvation is wrong. In the concluding two chapters, McKnight looks at the profound practical implications of these warnings and briefly how all this relates to another biblical theme, God’s faithfulness to us and the “assurance of salvation.”

For me, I am not so sure what place in the pecking order the “rhetoric of warning” in Hebrews should have in New Testament theology, but that is a huge issue that McKnight only touches on in this brief book. At the very least, interested readers will find McKnight’s exposition of Hebrews thoughtful and compelling, and one that “resurgent Calvinism” will not be able to answer easily.


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About the Book

Amazon.com (Kindle Edition only) - "A Long Faithfulness," by Scot McKnight
Publication Date: May 2013

Can we choose and un-choose God? Or does he choose and un-choose us? In The Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance, theologian Scot McKnight examines what the Bible says about human salvation. Inspired in part by a resurgent Calvinist movement and its particular emphasis on God's meticulous sovereignty, McKnight invites us to a clear and captivating discussion about securing the way to eternal life--the role God plays, the role we play, and the key Bible passages that illuminate the mystery of salvation.


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A Long Faithfulness: Preface
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/05/20/a-long-faithfulness-preface/

by Scot McKnight
May 20, 2013
Comments

The following is from my new e-book, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance. The aim of this book is to present how the warning passages in Hebrews teach perseverance and the possibility of genuine apostasy of genuine believers, and this theme is applied to the notion so popular today called “meticulous sovereignty,” that God determines or brings about all things. If humans can resist God’s will, or undo their redemption, a case can be made that meticulous sovereignty overreaches the biblical evidence. As such, the e-book is not a direct challenge to Calvinism but to one kind of Calvinism, and neither is it a challenge to what I call the “architecture” of Calvinism. Now to the preface.

The aim of A Long Faithfulness is to cut the central nerve—the sovereignty of God—that informs a dominant theme in the resurgence of Calvinism in our time. Mind you, I affirm God’s sovereignty as the foundation of our faith, so my aim is to defeat one particular but pervasive conviction about God’s sovereignty in the resurgent Calvinism.

That particular but pervasive understanding of God’s sovereignty is what might be called “meticulous” (or “exhaustive”) sovereignty. In regards to this subject, there are only two real options: either God determines everything (meticulous sovereignty) or God does not determine everything. A well-known example of meticulous sovereignty can be found in various statements made by notable evangelical leaders in the wake of natural disasters, such as hurricanes from Katrina to Sandy. If one affirms meticulous sovereignty, then one must also believe God decided, desired, and carried out the weather conditions, the speed and direction of the winds, the deluges of water, and precisely which homes would be destroyed and which homes would escape.

If God determines everything (as in the meticulous sovereignty approach), then God not only permits but must determine that some young girls and boys will be abused while others will be spared, that some adults will suffer more in this life while others will suffer less.  For this essay’s purposes, it is not relevant how tragic situations are explained (e.g., that we are all sinners who deserve these tragedies and even worse; or that God wants to make an example of humans as depraved). What is relevant is that—in this understanding of divine sovereignty—God determines everything, that God can do otherwise but chooses to bring about awful conditions and events.

This essay takes direct aim at this belief.

But this essay is not about human tragedies, but about God’s sovereignty when it comes to personal salvation. My theme is whether or not humans can both choose for God and then later choose against God; whether or not saved humans can become unsaved humans; whether or not humans can choose to walk away from the grace they’ve experienced; and whether or not they would have entered into the eternal blessing of God had they remained fast in their faith.

For the meticulous sovereignty view, God determines—for whatever reasons—who gets saved, and that means—whether the resurgent Calvinist will admit it or not—who does not get saved. I’m aware that John Calvin himself did not always teach this theory—called double predestination—but that this was a development later in his theology.

I’m also aware that not all Calvinists—perhaps not even the majority—affirm double predestination. No wonder! It’s morally despicable for God to create humans only to send them to hell because he did not choose them, when they could do nothing about it, and that this somehow glorifies him.

It may be the case that many Calvinists do not believe in double predestination, but that will not for one moment undo the necessary logic of election as many Calvinists understand it. If God is the one who both awakens and creates faith in the human, and if the only ones who believe in Christ are the ones whom God has chosen, then anyone not chosen is un-chosen by not being chosen. Double predestination is not an option for those who believe in meticulous sovereignty because it is a necessary corollary—even if it is hidden in the corner or if alternative explanations are offered.

My aim is to defeat this view of meticulous sovereignty among resurgent Calvinists by showing that the biblical view of sovereignty—a robust version if ever there was one—means God has chosen—because he loves those whom he has created and grants them freedom—to limit his sovereignty by giving humans that freedom. My argument is not philosophical; my argument is biblical. I affirm what the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, and biblical sovereignty entails human freedom both to choose God and to un-choose God. If that view of sovereignty can be demonstrated from the Bible, then resurgent Calvinism’s view of sovereignty is unbiblical, pastorally disastrous, and harmful to the church.