Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Peter Enns - Historical Criticism and Evangelicalism: An Uneasy Relationship

by Peter Enns
July 1, 2013
An Introduction.
Modern biblical scholarship—also referred to as historical criticism, and less often today “higher criticism”—has an uneasy history with evangelicalism. In fact, evangelicalism’s intellectual component is largely a sustained response to the methods, philosophy, and conclusions of historical criticism. In some cases that response has come in the form of the rejection of historical criticism, in other cases a synthesis or adaptation of its methods and conclusions with evangelical theology.
The tensions are rooted, I feel, in the core commitment of the evangelical movement to the authority of Scripture. Since Scripture is divine revelation, i.e., God’s self-disclosure, its “authority” is tied explicitly to inerrancy and a number of corollaries such as historical accuracy and the essential theological harmony of Scripture.
Scripture’s function in evangelicalism is to lay down the basic map of Christian thought and practice, what we are to understand about God, Christ, Scripture itself, the human condition, and Christian practice. The task of historical criticism, on the other hand, is to peer “behind” Scripture and inquire as to its origins and meaning as understood within the cultural context in which the various texts were written. These two diverse approaches to Scripture are not easily compatible.
In principle, evangelicalism is not inimical to historical inquiry. In fact, one of evangelicalism’s hermeneutical pillars is the interpretation of Scripture in its historical context and in line with its original, intended, meaning—what is typically referred to as “grammatical-historical interpretation.” The tensions with historical criticism are not over the mere idea of investigating Scripture in the context, but in manner in which historical critics get there and the conclusions that they reach. In both respects, historical criticism has tended to undermine evangelical premises of biblical authority.
What complicates matters considerably for evangelicals, however, is that the general contours of historical criticism are widely persuasive, even universally so outside of evangelical (and fundamentalist) communities. I see four general, interrelated, aspects of historical criticism that are well established in biblical scholarship and also, in various ways, at odds with mainstream evangelicalism’s understanding of the nature of Scripture.
1. Biblical origins. The Old Testament we know today has a lengthy developmental history, both oral and written. The drawing together of these traditions that did not commence in earnest until the Babylonian exile (6th c. BC) and did not come to an end until sometime during the Persian period (roughly 5th and 4th centuries BC) at the earliest. This does not mean that the Hebrew Bible was written out of while cloth during this period. Some books or portions of books clearly were, but many others were added to or updated in some way.
[Similarly,] issues surrounding the formation of the New Testament are similar, but involve a much shorter period of time.
2. Perspectives of the biblical writers. When speaking of their past, the Old Testament writers were not working as modern historians or investigative journalists to uncover verifiable facts (as we might put it). They were more storytellers, conduits for generations—even centuries—of tradition, which they brought together to form their sacred text. In the Old Testament we have Israel’s national-religious story as seen through the eyes of those responsible for giving it its final shape.
This is not to say that they invented these traditions on the spot, but they “packaged” their past as they did to address their present crisis—exile, return, and an uncertain future. Israel’s inscripturated story both accounts for this crisis and also points the way forward to the hope that God has not abandoned his people but has a glorious future in store for them.
A similar issue holds for the New Testament, where the Gospels reflect the experiences and thinking of various Christian communities a generation and more after Jesus’ ministry on earth. They, too, are presentations of Jesus and the early missionary activities that reflect the perspectives and needs to the respective communities.
3. Theological diversity. Given historical criticism’s focus on matters of biblical origin, the diversity of the various biblical texts is highlighted with no pressing concern, as we see in evangelicalism, to draw these diverse texts into a harmonious whole. Hence, historical criticism speaks freely of the different theologies contained in Scripture.
One practical implication is that the evangelical hermeneutical methodology of allowing “Scripture to interpret Scripture” tends to fall on deaf ears among historical critics. Reading Genesis, for example, through the eyes of Isaiah or Paul in order to understand the meaning of Genesis would be like reading Shakespeare through the eyes of Arthur Miller and expecting to gain from it an insight into what Shakespeare meant.
4. The problem of historicity. This last aspect of historical criticism in effect summarizes the previous three: the Bible does not tell us what happened so much as what the biblical writers either believed happened or what they invented. This is not to say that historical critics think nothing of historical importance can be found in Scripture, but that any historical information is inextricably bound up with the perspectives and purposes of the biblical writers.
In Summary.
There are other ways of outlining the nature of historical criticism, of course, but this will do to highlight why tensions exist between historical criticism and evangelicalism. The former presents us with a Bible that the latter is loathe to accept in toto because of its significant theological ramifications.
Yet, most evangelical biblical scholars understand the persuasiveness and positive impact that at least some aspects of historical criticism have had on our understanding of Scripture. One need only glance at a decent evangelical Study Bible or commentary to see that impact.
The tensions between evangelicalism and historical criticism have not been settled, nor will they be in the near future, at least as I see it. There seems to be an implicit détente, where it is acceptable to mine historical criticism and appropriate its theologically less troubling conclusions but to draw the line where those conclusions threaten evangelical theology.
This sort of back-and-forth dance can ease tensions temporarily, but it virtually guarantees that each generation of thoughtful evangelicals, once they become sympathetically exposed to historical criticism, will question where lines should be drawn and why seemingly arbitrary lines have been drawn where they are.
The fact that these inner-evangelical tensions keep coming up anew each generation suggests that older solutions to these tensions are not persuasive but more a temporary stopgap measure to maintain evangelical theological stability. A possible way forward is to promote an explicit synthesis between evangelical theology and historical criticism in order to achieve, potentially, a more lasting peace. The difficulty here, however, is that such synthesis might threaten the very structure of evangelicalism to the breaking point.
I am an advocate for such a synthetic discussion, though I would also stress that historical criticism is not the end all of biblical interpretation for the spiritual nourishment of the church. But where historical matters are the focus, historical criticism is a non-negotiable conversation partner.
As I see it, the pressing issue before evangelicalism is not to formulate longer, more complex, more subtle, and more sophisticated defenses of what we feel God should have done, but to teach future generations, in the academy, the church, and the world, better ways of meeting God in the Scripture we have.

Translation and Theology - Jesus and the Early Church's Reading of the Greek OT Bible (the Septuagint)

Here’s Something about the Bible of the First Christians I Bet Many of You Didn’t Know (you’re welcome)
Accordingly, when anyone claims, “Moses meant what I say,”and another retorts, “No, rather what I find there,” I think that I will be answering in a more religious spirit if I say, “Why not both, if both are true?” And if there is a third possibility, and a fourth, and if someone else sees an entirely different meaning in these words, why should we not think that he was aware of all of them?
- Augustine, Confessions 12.31.42

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"One of my observations is to ask how language can be fluid and flexible enough
to accommodate limited theological and historical understanding. Indeed, this
is the strength of the (b)ible as it passes between the generations of man from
one socio-cultural era to another!" - r.e. slater
cf. sidebar: "Bible - Authority and Interpretation"
For additional reading  pursuing articles under the sidebars of "Bible".
Here are a couple you may find: 
A Jewish Perspective of the Bible
Barnum Synagogue
Development of the Hebrew Bible Canon
A Jewish Bible Passage Unscrolled