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
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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Roger Olson - Observations from Postmodern Readings....


Postmodern “Violence”: A Case Study in Stretching a Word to the Breaking Point
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/

by Roger Olson
July 9, 2013
Comments

For the past few years I’ve been reading a lot of postmodern philosophy—focusing especially on its implications for Christianity. I taught a course on “Postmodernity and Christianity” and included a section on postmodern theology in my forthcoming book The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction (InterVarsity Press). And I have participated in a book discussion group that reads primarily books related to postmodern thought and its implications for Christian theology, ethics and church life. Still, I feel that I have only scratched the surface of the subject.

I’ve learned a lot from my recent studies of postmodern thought. One thing I’ve learned is to be suspicious of all totalizing metanarratives—ideologies, worldviews, systems of thought that claim to explain everything and also exclude all dissenting perspectives and voices. Under the influence of postmodern thought I’ve also moved away from all forms of foundationalist epistemology although I still believe in the importance of logic in persuasive discourse.

My study of postmodern thought has revealed diversity within it. Not all postmodern philosophers are cognitive nihilists or relativists; some of the best known ones believe in absolutes. They just don’t believe in the “presence” of absolutes or direct apprehension of them. But one cannot read the later Derrida, for example, without realizing he believed in justice, for example, as absolute (although he preferred the term “undeconstructible”)....

....


One thing I have learned from my study of postmodern thought is that there is a continuum between unwarranted exclusion (e.g., tribalism) and violence and even between totalizing world views and violence. I have learned to be suspicious of attitudes and behaviors that try to “normalize” Others by making them the “Same.” (I recently observed a white male interacting with an African child and commenting on her “beautiful blue eyes”—which she didn’t have. It was clearly an attempt to normalize her—to bring her within his orbit of what he could relate to. Without my study of postmodern thought I probably would have had no idea what he was doing. And the point is not to judge him but to try to avoid such behavior and the attitudes underlying it myself.)



Intro and Approaches to Resolving OT Texts of Violence

I am providing here yet another article on the OT violence observed in the Bible. The opening article offers a "backwards" NT reading of the OT in the tradition of Anabaptism. The second article provides a list of approaches to resolving the dilemma faced by Christians ethically when reading the OT in light of mankind's historical development. For myself, I like combinations of points 7-10 but am not at ease with any of these suggestions as I've reported before in past articles on this topic.
 
Overall, Roger's articles will help introduce to the novice thinker a fundamental starting point from which to progress. I offer these articles then not as an ending point but as additional introductory commentary to all that we have previously reported upon within this topic (listed under the sidebar "Violence in the OT").
 
R.E. Slater
July 16, 2013
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * *
 
The Old Testament and Contemporary Christian Ethics
 
by Roger Olson
July 7, 2013
 
The background issue here, of this post, is the problem I see of appealing to the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch and historical books, to establish Christian ethics.
 
One does not have to deny the divine inspiration of the entire Old Testament to argue that it cannot serve as a basis for contemporary Christian ethics. Jesus himself offered corrections to Old Testament ethics (e.g., divorce).
 
Early Christians, after the apostolic age (and some would argue during it—in some of Paul’s epistles), handled the tensions between Christian ethics (e.g., the Sermon on the Mount) and the Old Testament by means of allegorical hermeneutics. They based their ethics primarily on Jesus and the apostles and sometimes on Greek philosophy.
 
Today, for the most part, that avenue (allegorical interpretation) is closed off to us. We have to find new ways of handling the tensions and most Christians do. Those of us in the Anabaptist tradition (which includes many Baptists who were known as Anabaptists during their earliest years) do it by “reading the Bible backwards”—the Old Testament in the light of the New. We freely and joyfully admit that much of the Old Testament, especially in the realm of ethics, must be relativized in light of the New.
 
Very few Christians take literally, as straightforwardly applicable to today, the entire body of God’s commandments to Israel in the Pentateuch and historical books.
 
This is true even of some of Jesus’ sayings which Christians have always interpreted non-literally (e.g., Matthew 5:29).
 
For most Christians, both conservative and liberal, biblical principles override biblical rules when they conflict.
 
The demand to provide clear, straightforward, explicit proof texts of Scripture to justify all ethical norms is simply wrong headed. There are many behaviors virtually all Christians regard as unethical, even evil, for which no clear, straightforward, explicit ethical prohibitions can be found in Scripture (e.g., abortion as a means of birth control, torturing a person’s spouse to extract information from him or her, birthing humans with the sole purpose of harvesting organs, selling organs for profit, etc.).
 
There can be little doubt that the Old Testament represents God as commanding Israel to practice ethnic cleansing—including the slaughter of non-combatant women and children. (And it won’t do to argue that it wasn’t true “ethnic cleansing” because it was limited to a certain time and place. The same could be said of much contemporary ethnic cleansing such as took place in the Balkans in the 1980s and into the 1990s.) And yet, the vast majority of contemporary Christians would consider ethnic cleansing absolutely wrong and Christian support for it and participation in it heresy.
 
Here’s the rub for those who wish to jump to the Old Testament and things God commanded there to establish or support contemporary Christian ethics. That makes it impossible to say that every particular contemporary instance of holy war or ethnic cleansing is unequivocally evil. How could a person know that God did not command it? The belief that holy war with ethnic cleansing (to be very specific with this case study) is always unequivocally evil must be based on a hermeneutic that bypasses and supercedes the Old Testament Pentateuch and historical books. The same could be said of many behaviors virtually all contemporary Christians condemn as evil: enforced racial segregation/apartheid, polygamy, slavery (one person owning another), totalitarian monarchy, etc.
 
(Side Bar: In at least one example I can think of we contemporary Christians almost all condemn as unequivocally evil, wrong, bad, condemnable, heretical something that at least some Christians (“King James Only”) think is commanded in Scripture and that nobody could argue is explicitly condemned in Scripture: snake handling as part of Christian worship.)
 
Just war theory, developed primarily by Christians (such as Augustine) borrowing elements from Greek and Roman sources, stands in direct conflict with holy war/ethnic cleansing as practiced according to divine commands by the Hebrews as recorded in the historical books of the Old Testament. It stands as an example of the evolution of Christian ethics beyond anything explicitly taught in Scripture. And “Christians” who practice holy war with ethnic cleansing can claim that their behavior is more consistent with Old Testament ethics, even divine commands recorded in the historical books, than is just war theory. Just war theory is a clear example of Christians developing ethics away from commands and rules found in Scripture on the basis of principles found in Scripture. (However, even those principles upon which just war theory is based have shaky biblical support. Just war theory was clearly developed for a totally new situation not found in Scripture—Christian involvement in creating public policy.)
 
I would even go so far as to suggest (these are my musings) that contemporary Christians need to take seriously philosopher Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative (one version of it) that “One ought always to treat other persons as ends in themselves and never as means to an end” without embracing all of Kant’s philosophy. Early Christians found much in Greek philosophy that was consistent with and even helpful for Christian ethics. Capital punishment clearly violates that principle, that imperative (to say nothing of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount). The abolition of capital punishment is, I believe, an imperative now partly because it is never necessary. There may have been a time when it was necessary (e.g., to protect other life), but it is now never necessary.
 
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Every Known Theistic Approach to
Old Testament “Texts of Terror”

Christianity is Falsifiable - Which Makes it Distinctive among Religions

Christianity, the World’s Most Falsifiable Religion
 
by C. Michael Patton
July 8, 2013
 
This belief has been a source of contention with many people, even Christians, in the past. But the more I research, the more I find it to be the case that Christianity is the only viable worldview that is historically defensible. The central claims of the Bible demand historic inquiry, as they are based on public events that can be historically verified. In contrast, the central claims of all other religions cannot be historically tested and, therefore, are beyond falsifiability or inquiry. They just have to be believed with blind faith.
Think about it: The believer in the Islamic faith has to trust in a private encounter Muhammad had, and this encounter is unable to be tested historically. We have no way to truly investigate the claims of Joseph Smith (and when we do, they are found wanting). Buddhism and Hinduism are not historic faiths, meaning they don’t have central claims of events in time and space which believers are called upon to investigate. You either adopt their philosophy or you don’t. There is no objective way to test them. Run through every religion that you know of and you will find this to be the case: Either it does not give historic details to the central event, the event does not carry any worldview-changing significance, or there are no historic events which form the foundation of the faith.

This is what it looks like:
 

 

A few months ago, I was emceeing an apologetics event in Dallas hosted by the Christian Renaissance Apologia Conference. The scholars present were Dan Wallace, Darrel Bock, Gary Habermas, and Craig Evans. Each of these are men that I admire and trust, as I believe they are seeking truth and not a confirmation of their prejudice. I asked them during the conference if there are any other religions or worldviews that they knew of that had apologetics conferences the way Christianity does. In other words, can other religions pull together enough objective intellectual backing to form a solid defense for their faith? Each of them responded with the same: no. They went on to express the same sentiments of my present argument. “Even atheists,” Habermas said, “have nothing but ‘negative apologetics’.” In other words, Christianity has a significant amount of historically verifiable data which forms the bedrock of the faith. This is “positive apologetics.” An atheist conference, for example, does nothing but belittle the claims of other religions (primarily Christianity). “There is no positive defense that one can give for naturalism,” Habermas concluded. Therefore, the only thing available to the atheist is an attempt to overturn the massive amount of evidence that Christianity has.

This makes a lot of sense. If I decided to start a religion, deceptively or not, I would not make false claims to recent historic events that did not happen. Why? Because I know those claims could be tested. Also, I would not give details about the time, place, and people involved. More than that, I would not invite contemporaries to investigate these claims. For example, if I were to say today that in 1965 there was a man named Titus who was born in Guthrie, OK and traveled about Oklahoma City doing many miracles and gaining a significant following, this could easily be falsified. I would not say that Mary Fallin, the governor of Oklahoma, along with Tom Coburn, US Senator from Oklahoma, had Titus electrocuted. I would not detail that the electrocution was in Bricktown on January 13, 1968 at 9am. I wouldn’t claim that Titus rose from the dead and gained a significant following throughout Oklahoma City which has spread across America. Why wouldn’t I make these claims as the foundation of my new religion? Because they can be easily tested and falsified. This religion could not possibly get off the ground. If I were to make up a religion, all the events which support the religion (if any) would be private and beyond testing.

This is why you don’t have religions based on historic events. They are all, with the exception of Christianity, based on private encounters which cannot be falsified or subjective ideas which are beyond inquiry. The amazing thing about Christianity is that there is so much historic data to be tested. Christianity is, by far, the most falsifiable worldview there is. Yet, despite this, Christianity flourished in the first century among the very people who could test its claims. And even today, it calls on us to “come and see” if the claims are true.

The only reason why I can say Christianity survived in the midst of such historic volatility is because it is true. And this is exactly what I would expect if there were an all-powerful God who created and loves this world. When he intervenes, he makes a significant enough footprint that historic inquiry is demanded. Think about that next time you are critiquing the Christian faith. The only reason you can is because it is the only religion that has opened itself up to such critique.  Simply put, Christianity is the most falsifiable religion there is and yet it has survived. Why?