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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Suggested Summer Reads by Roger Olson

Some Good Summer Reading (Recommended New or Forthcoming Theology Books)
 
by Roger Olson
June 22, 2013

Summer is a time when I try to catch up on reading. During the academic year books tend to pile up on a table in my home study. Eventually, usually during the summer, I get around to reading some. I’m often reading (or listening to) several books at the same time (don’t take that too literally!). I’m usually writing one book while finishing the “details” of a previous one (e.g., creating its index) and planning the next one. So I’ll start with what I’m working on (books-wise) and then mention some good books I’ve recently read or am reading right now.
 
My magnum opus will probably be the forthcoming The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction scheduled to be published by InterVarsity Press later this year. My teaching assistant Jared Patterson and I are working on the index now. The manuscript is 900 pages; the book itself will probably come in a little over 700 pages. It’s up at Amazon without the cover (as of the other day when I checked). I’m not sure why the cover doesn’t show yet. The cover will feature Friedrich Schleiermacher and Karl Barth—“bookends” of modern theology (in terms of approaches to modernity). Journey is a comprehensive revision and expansion of 20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age written with Stan Grenz and published by IVP in 1992. It’s really a completely new book that incorporates some material from that earlier one. The theme of Journey is theological responses to modernity (including postmodern theologies). It includes new chapters on: Kierkegaard, Thomas Reid, Coleridge, Bushnell, Hodge, Dorner, Catholic Modernism (Tyrrell, Loisy), Troeltsch, and many more including the final two chapters on Hauerwas (postliberalism) and John Caputo (deconstructionism).
 
Right now I’m writing a book with my friend Christian Collins Winn entitled Reclaiming Pietism. That will be published by Eerdmans sometime in 2014. My next project is a book on contemporary versions of ancient heresies for Abingdon. That’s slated for 2015.
 
I’m also working on a couple of articles and talks—for churches and professional society meetings.
 
So, here are some excellent books you should read. Some are already published; a couple are forthcoming—watch for them (I’ve read them in pre-publication forms):


Scot McKnight, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance (Patheos Press available in Kindle edition only). It’s an extremely concise but thorough biblical and theological examination of the doctrine of “eternal security of the believer” or “perseverance of the saints” aimed at defeating deterministic theologies of salvation. You can see my endorsement at the Amazon page for the book. I think this little book (only 64 pages!) presents one of the strongest challenges to the doctrine of “inamissable grace” (its technical name) ever. Scot’s thesis is that IF the Bible contradicts that doctrine and actually teaches amissable grace (the real possibility of apostasy), then deterministic salvation (monergism) is false. The book is irenic toward those with whom Scot disagrees; it is not overly polemical, but it is pointed.


David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass). The authors are pastors and seminary professors; the book is aimed at the broader evangelical (and post-evangelical) community about being missional in a post-Christendom culture. The book resonates with the recent “Missio Alliance” gathering (at which I spoke) in Arlington, Virginia. Clearly these authors are not satisfied with the two main options in contemporary evangelical and post-evangelical church life: “Neo-Reformed” (e.g., The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel) and “Emerging” (or “Emergent”) as that is represented by Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, et al. They think both of those have much to offer that is valuable, but ultimately they see them as either too defensive and authoritarian or as too enamored with conversation that ultimately goes nowhere. They talk about developing “welcoming and mutually transforming” communities of faith and offer both general and specific paths toward them. People who consider themselves broadly evangelical but not satisfied with either Neo-Reformed or Emergent/Emerging types of contemporary church life may find this book helpful and rewarding. Underlying it and in its background is a generally Anabaptist approach to Christianity, but one that is sensitive and relevant to contemporary (postmodern) culture.*
 
[* I have listed a rejoinder here - Are You Missional or Are You Emergent? Is There a Difference? by R.E. Slater]


Peter C. Blum, For a Church to Come: Experiments in Postmodern Theory and Anabaptist Thought (Herald Press). This is a series of previously published essays in which the author experiments with comparing John Howard Yoder and key postmodern thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida and Levinas with an eye toward community Christianity. The author opposes “top-down,” authoritarian, foundationalist modes of Christian theology and church life and favors an Anabaptist model informed by such postmodern ideas as openness to “the Other.” I’ve only read the first half and found it familiar territory, but that’s because I’ve read quite a bit of literature like this in recent years and have already noticed the points of compatibility between certain themes of postmodern philosophy and Yoder’s approach to Anabaptist theology and ecclesiology.


Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton University Press). Heavy sledding but definitely worth the work. Here Wolterstorff argues against that basic human rights are inherent in persons and not dependent on communities and their orders. I was not familiar with this debate before diving into this book and am still struggling with understanding why anyone, especially a Christian, would think that basic human rights are granted by communities and their orders rather than inherent. So far I’m finding that I have agreed with Wolterstorff’s position for a very long time without knowing it was controversial. He is definitely giving me a lot of philosophical, biblical and theological reasons to continue believing what I have believed.


Gregory Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Baker, forthcoming). Without doubt (pun intended) this is one of the best books on this subject. (Others include the classics The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor and The Christian Agnostic by Leslie Weatherhead.) In this book Boyd reveals much about himself, his personal and spiritual biography, as well as his mature theology. The thesis is that absolute certainty is humanly impossible—even in spiritual matters—and that we Christians need to learn to live with doubt and even embrace it. One of Greg’s main themes throughout his ministry and writing is “Be real!” He believes too much of contemporary evangelical (and, again, I use the term very broadly) religion revels in a kind of unreality—expecting Christians to rise above mere humanity into perfection. One myth attached to that is that “real Christians” rise above doubt about God, the Bible, etc., and achieve absolute certainty. Greg thinks that sets Christians up for disillusionment when they realize that isn’t happening for them or anyone they know. Greg’s alternative is faith, what Lesslie Newbigin (in Proper Confidence) calls “proper confidence.”


Alan P. F. Sell, Confessing the Faith Yesterday and Today: Essays Reformed, Dissenting, and Catholic (Pickwick). I’ve been asked to review this for Evangelical Quarterly—a British theological journal—so I won’t say much about the book here. Let me just say that Sell is one of my favorite Reformed theologians even though most neo-Reformed (fundamentalist and hard core confessionalist) types in the U.S. would probably consider him not truly Reformed. But, then, he might return the favor. Sell used to be theological secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (now called the World Communion of Reformed Churches)—an ecumenical group of over one hundred Reformed denominations worldwide. (By the way, the Remonstrant Brotherhood of the Netherlands, the direct descendent denomination of the original Remonstrants, is a charter member of the WCRC!) Sell wrote two little books many years ago that had a great impact on me: The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Salvation (Baker) and Theology in Turmoil: The Roots, Course and Significance of the Conservative-Liberal Debate in Modern Theology (Baker). Both are excellent books. But my favorite Sell books (which I reviewed for Christianity Today) are his three under the over arching title Doctrine and Devotion (unfortunately they are now out of print and hard to find). Sell is a British Congregationalist, a “Dissenter,” and one of his main theological heroes is P. T. Forsyth, also one of mine. Forsyth was a progressive evangelical of a century ago—someone who managed to avoid the pitfalls of both fundamentalism and liberalism.


* * * * * * * * * * *


More Recommendations by Roger re "The History of Philosophical Thought" within the cultural milieus of Christianity

Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 1: From the Ancient World to the Age of Enlightenment
by Colin Brown
IVP Academic, 2010

Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 2: Faith and Reason in the 19th Century
by Steve Wilkens & Alan G. Padgett
IVP Academic, 2010

Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 3: Journey to Postmodernity in the Twentieth Century
by Steve Wilkens & Alan G. Padgett
IVP Academic, 2009


       
 
 
 
 

Stories of the "Not Yet Healed"

 
 
Testimonies of the Not-Yet Healed
 
By John Espy
June 24, 2013
 
It's time for churches to tell the other side of the story.
 
There is one story Christians are hungry to hear. It is not precisely the Gospel story, which we think we know; it is the good news made personal, made real in our bodies and before our eyes. It is the story that concludes, “... and then someone prayed, and I was instantly and completely healed.”
 
In many churches, this is the only personal story that we hear. That is, if someone other than a pastor or worship leader is allowed to speak in church, it is to tell a version of this story. Accounts of physical and emotional healing have become our only public testimonies.
 
These stories should be told, repeatedly. Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts.” In the New Testament, healing miracles bear witness concerning Jesus (John 10:25, 38) and sometimes draw entire communities to listen to the Gospel (Acts 3:1-11; 9:32-35, 40-42).
 
 
Every believer lives a story charged with suspense.
 
Yet today we face two difficulties. First, because all our testimonies are alike, they don’t grip us. When there is only one story, there is really no story at all—no suspense, no valuing of developments along the way. The congregation isn’t excited; the community isn’t transformed. And soon the voices fall silent. We listen only to the newest story or the person raised from death trumps the one who had a limb restored. This woman was healed of cancer, but that was 30 years ago, and now she has a heart condition.
 
Which brings us to the second problem: Some of us have quite different testimonies. We have not been instantly and completely healed—at least, not yet. Some of us are very sick indeed, requiring much help and patience from others. Yet we still have testimonies. We strive, like Habakkuk (3:17-18), to rejoice in God even in a time of barrenness. We seek to serve, like Paul, despite “a bodily ailment” (Galatians 4:13), or, like Timothy, despite “frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23). In various ways, we confess, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50) and “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees” (119:71).
 
We have testimonies, but no one wants to hear them. That is a great pity, for Christians are urged to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Most testimonies of healing don’t rouse me to stand in the noble, active waiting of hope or to walk in costly deeds of love. That is not their function. Rather, the story of a brother or sister who was instantly and completely healed awakens my faith in a good and steadfastly loving God, who still delivers.
 
Hope and love require a different sort of testimony. They require accounts of missionaries and persecuted Christians, or people—like Joni Eareckson Tada, Dave Roever, and others in our own congregations—who are living models of patient endurance. The gap between these groups is not as wide as we may imagine. The churches of Paul’s day sent many emissaries, but when he says to “honor such men” (Philippians 2:29), his immediate reference is to Epaphroditus, who risked his life by falling sick. We tend to miss this, perhaps because we would rather celebrate power than emulate long suffering.
 
Of course, not every story of sickness is a Christian testimony. Samuel Johnson, who knew both physical maladies and depression, observed, “It is so very difficult for a sick man not to be a scoundrel.” Pain makes us self-centered, grumbling, and manipulative. And yet, in the midst of trials, some believers eventually find strength to rejoice (James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6), grace to give (2 Corinthians 8:2) and comfort to share (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
 
We need heroes. There is much that is heroic in the lives of people who have been healed, in their preceding days or years of pain and doubt, but we rarely hear of this, because of the one story that emphasizes faith and power. We forget the power of God also supplies hope to the one who walks in darkness and love to the one who gives from scarcity. Ultimately there is only one Hero, but how many are His stories!
 
In the midst of trials, some believers eventually find strength to rejoice, grace to give and comfort to share.
 
In her book Affliction, Edith Schaeffer suggests Heaven’s Museum contains two complementary exhibits. Each presents every torment that Satan can devise, every trial that the Accuser calls too big for God. One gallery showcases instances of God delivering from each circumstance; the other, believers who overcame because they continued to love and trust God even though He didn’t deliver them. Without taking this literally, can’t we acknowledge that every believer lives a story charged with suspense? Where are those testimonies?
 
My brother once attended a church with a TV ministry. Each week, the camera swept over the congregation on its way to the platform. Often it captured a man with quadriplegia, sitting in a wheelchair. One day the elders approached this man and said, in effect, “We are delighted that you come here, but this church believes in healing. Our viewers deserve to see only people who are whole and happy. Please, would you sit on the sidelines, in the shadows, just until you are healed.”
 
Today many of our churches believe that to be a Christian, to have any testimony at all, requires that one be whole and happy. We have no Pauls with thorns in the flesh, no Timothys with frequent ailments, no terminally ill Elishas—or, if we do, we accuse them of lacking the faith to be healed, instantly and completely. We fail to perceive that, if we live long enough, this theology will banish every one of us to the shadows. We have no place for broken vessels, with Jesus’ life and power revealed through cracks and amid putrescence. We will honor Epaphroditus only when he becomes camera-ready, or for an hour when he dies.
 
I crave stories of healing as much as anyone. One day I hope to tell such a tale. But, God knows, I also need to be prodded and encouraged by those who haven’t yet received the things promised, but still live by faith because they consider God “reliable and trustworthy and true to His word” (Heb. 11:11, Amplified). They too have a story to tell.