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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Catching Up with Radical Theology

 
 
 
This summer, in my spare time, I thought it would be fun and interesting to join Tripp Fuller and Peter Rollins each Thursday night in a reading group centering on what Radical Theology is, and how it is important to the Christian faith. First, I wanted to know more about the subject itself, and second, to be with a group of Christians who are interested, like myself, in updating our thinking about God and Christianity. Especially as it relates to today's 21st Century's global communities.
 
Importantly, the reading group's discourses have been from a Christian philosophical approach whereas mine have come at it from a postmodern/emergent theological one, as I, and others, have tried to develop and underscore Christianity's relatedness to today's living churches and global societies. Especially since my own, personal faith has evolved out of an evangelic past once focused on a Jesus-faith and Spirit-movement, away from an evangelicalism that now seems to have become dogmatized, institutionalized, and rhetorically excluding to my ears.
 
I believe evangelic Christians who can adopt the spirit of a postmodern, emergent Christianity will find their fellowships and churches busier in the work of the harvest than if they were to remain content with their present-day church forms and teachings that are non-critical of themselves while remaining intensely critical of others. But to begin down this road is to let go (or undo) some of the things we have clung too tightly onto. Confusing worship forms, dogmas, and religious mindsets that have usurped centrality to the Christian faith but in hindsight seem filled with extra-biblical socio-religious boundaries holding the church back from progressing forward.
 
Over the decades it seems that the Christian faith has been broken into thousands of belief systems and centering doctrines, each one emphasizing a portion of Scripture that is thought most important to one's faith-fellowship. But according to the Lord, the church is one, and should utilize its unity as a strength, and not as an opportunity to point out how one group is closer to God than another because of what they believe or practice. Moreover, it seems that Christianity has gotten too defensive of itself rather than listening to the councils of the Spirit everywhere present through this world of ours - as harsh as they sometimes are. We are but burden-bearers and servants, and are not to behave as unthinking, strident voices protecting our dying cultures and decaying time periods. We cannot cling to the past simply because we feel comfortable there. But must allow others in, and in doing so, must learn to bear other's burdens and become servants to their spiritual needs.
 
After many long years of witnessing this state of affairs within the church I began more recently on a journey that would culminate in discovering a postmodern, emergent Christianity that was more expansive and progressive. One without denominational or institutional boundaries. That sought a new voice amongst the din of religious voices everywhere abounding. An assimilating faith that would try to put into words the gleaning processes necessary for an evangelic faith I believed had become irrelevant to a global society's needs and questions. Towards an historic faith that is in the process of becoming more relevant to both believers and non-believers alike. One that might uncover the heart-and-mind of our living God whose handiwork is everywhere present amongst us though our spiritual sight seems too foreshortened to recognize it. One that might allow the updating of a classically-expressed faith delved from its Medieval and Reformational moorings, towards a newer postmodern, emergent orthodoxy that would embrace the past. But would also be more willing to move beyond its classical limitations once culled from within the dark fires and suffering turmoils of the Dark Ages and that of the twin kindred ages of the Enlightenment and Industrial Modernity as expressed by their syllogisms, logic, and humanism. An orthodoxy that has become out-of-date with today's present scholarship and academic discoveries as it clings to fading transitory truths that no longer work but serve only to separate the church from its missional calling as well as from itself.
 
Enter Radical Theology, a philosophical approach that has been 200+ years in the making through the likes of Kant and Kierkegaard, Spinoza/Hegel and Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, in their good, and bad, and ugliness. To be translated and moved forward by this past century's existential and phenomenological philosophers by the names of Ricoeur and Heidegger, Bonhoeffer and Tillich, Caputo and Zizek (not to forget Derrida and Whitehead who turned it all around). Whose insights have now become the responsibility of today's newer Christian disciples in relating God's Word and Self, Spirit and ministry, to a sin hardened world-and-church become blind-and-deaf to the sonorous sounds of God everywhere abounding. And when combined with a postmodern, emergent theology searching for linguistic expression and fluidity of biblical message, Radical Theology seems to be a partial answer along the road of life as we live and die, suffer and laugh with one another. Thus my interest.
 
As Christ followers, we wish to bear forth as expansive a gospel message as is possible given today's social technology and expanding pluralistic, global communities of trade and commerce. A message that might resound from as many sources as is legitimately possible. Nor do we wish to qualify those avenues of help based upon previously built-in religious exclusionary thought. But to listen to all voices - both sacred and secular - while trusting the Spirit of God to lead and direct His Church throughout this period of seismic epistemic growth and assimilation. To begin, we need to look at our own faith and fellowship - both the good and the bad of it - and to judge where it has failed as well as where it has been a blessing. And upon this judgment move it forward towards a more holistic faith that would do justice to God's Word and Mission for this day-and-age.
 
As such, what messages have been bourne here upon the pages of Relevancy22 have not come easily nor without cost. It has been bourne through a very long process of evaluation and learning, research and listening. Of sharing a burden that might allow similarly burdened souls the Spirit's freedom away from the old epistemic boundaries that would bind and kill. That would legalize God's love as Law. A Law that would crucify again the Son of God upon the altars of human pride and religious zeal. That repented not of its judgmental spirit. Nor asked the Lord to open the doors of a closed-minded heart. Nor sought God's grace and mercy to fall afresh from the living councils of His Holy Spirit. An Incarnating God, who came as the Messiah/Savior Jesus to lift the sorrows we bear for the joy of the Cross set before Him.
 
These things have not come easily but at a cost... a cost of giving up old ways of thinking and doing. Of no longer clinging to the older doctrines intemperate of all things unlike itself. Of praying for spiritual wisdom and discernment so that God may again be seen as clearly today as He was eons earlier by Israel and the early church. Of learning to write a new language unlike the evangelic one I've grown too accustomed. A language that lives again under foreign names, tongues, symbolisms, and new theological categories; that is expansive, embracing, enjoining, and enlightening; that is reforming, reclaiming, renewing, rebirthing, and resurrected. May these things, and this mindset, become yours as well, as we pursue the Lord and His mission together by all the avenues made available to us by the Lord's Spirit. Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
July 23, 2013
 
*Side Note - Interestingly Bo Sander's article came out after mine own (Bo works with Tripp at Homebrew). So I have included it below, along with Peter's helpful outline, to help us better understand what Radical Theology intends or subtends.
 
 
 
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High Gravity Radical Theology Reading List
 
by Peter Rollins
posted July 23, 2013
 
Recently I’ve been leading an in-depth, online reading group with Tripp Fuller that aims to introduce people to some of the seminal thinkers behind the movement often called Radical Theology.
 
With two hundred people having signed up for the six weeks the whole thing has been a great success and is something I’m keen to experiment with again. Anyway here is a list of what we covered in the course. If you sign up you can still access all the articles and video lectures.
 
Week 1 – Paul Ricoeur
 
“The Critique of Religion” and “The Language of Faith”
Union Theological Quarterly, 28, no. 3 (1973)
 
Week 2 – Martin Heidegger
 
“Phenomenological Explication of Concrete Religious Phenomena in Connection with the Letter’s of Paul”
 
The Phenomenology of Religious Life
 
Week 3 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
 
Excerpts from Letters and Paper’s from Prison
 
Letters and Papers from Prison
 
Week 4 – Paul Tillich
 
“God above God” and “Two Types of Philosophy of Religion”
 
Theology of Culture
 
Week 5 – John Caputo
 
“Theopoetics as the Insistence of Radical Theology”
 
The Insistence of God
 
Week 6 – Slavoj Žižek
 
“The Fear of Four Words: A Modest Plea for a Hegelian Reading of Christianity”
 
The Monstrosity of Christ
 
Over Lent in 2014 we will be running another online reading group as part of Atheism for Lent. More information to follow.
 
 
 
For Additional Reading:
 
Paul Tillich's "God Above God" and, the "Restlessness of the Human Heart"
http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2013/07/paul-tillichs-god-above-god-and.html
 
 
 
 
 
 Radical Theology Cliff Notes

by Bo Sanders
July 23, 2013
“Self… folks may not know what some of this stuff means. This is sad because much of it has deep implications on living out faith in the 21st century and even deeper implication on the cultural conversation that each of us finds ourselves caught up in the middle of.”
SO I thought it might be interesting to throw a few of the notes out there and to attempt to attach a helpful note on a few items.
 
Here is what I am up to: if you feel like you are interested in a Radical approach but find it out of reach or unclear … please respond in the comment section and we can either A) figure this out together or B) I will point you in a helpful direction if I know of one.
 
Before we start – a couple of overly-simplistic definitions: 
  • Radical Theology – a theological approach that is not tied to a congregation, denomination or other sanctioning body. The freedom of not being anchored in a confessional approach allows thinkers to interact with daring, innovative and contemporary schools of thought without consequence of consideration of how the outcome will impact faith communities (at least not primarily). 
  • Confessional Theology – a theological approach rooted in both historic tradition and local expression. Confessional theology takes classical perspective and either tries to update it for the current context or attempts to return to some previous incarnation with the hopes of a purer expression or acceptable orthodoxy/practice. 
  • Theo-poetics – born out of an awareness that all of our god-talk is both perspectival and provisional. When we speak of god/the divine we do so in imagery, metaphor, and symbol. This awareness of our limitations of language release us to confess that our signifiers (symbols) can never fully or truly represent that which they signify. The result is a freedom to explore, innovate, ratify, renovate and adapt our god-language in order to both expose idolatry and inspire creativity in how we express our beliefs. 
  • Big Other – The father-figure in the sky who watches over those [‘s/he’] loves and keeps track of who has been naughty and nice. This being can be called upon to bail one out of a jam or to intervene in some unpleasant situation. This Being also rewards those who live right with good things on this earth as well as eternal rewards and punishments as appropriate.
 
Here are some of Tripp’s notes:
Radical Theology v Confessional
 
 
1) Radical Theology is parasitic to Confessional Theology… on its behalf. Radical Theology is being faithful to what is harbored in the name of ‘God’ – the event & not the tradition on the tradition’s terms.
 
2) Radical Theology reserves the right to ask any question. Because Confessional Theology is accountable to a tradition & its institutions there will be places where questions-conversations-operating conclusions will serves as “conversation stoppers.” Places in which that activity of critical thinking puts one out of the building. (ex. Trinity or Same Sex Marriage)
 
3) Radical Theology seeks to be EXPOSED to the Event w/in the Confessional Theology tradition but not PROPOSE a new articulation of the tradition.
 
4) Radical Theology rejects both the apathetic silence about the Big Other & the theist\atheist debate about the Big Other. The Big Other does not exist.
 
5) Radical Theology displaces the boundaries & certainty of ‘belief’ w/in Confessional Theology – the “how” w/out articulating another ‘what.’ Why? Whatever the ‘what’ is w/in a tradition doesn’t correlate to ‘how’ it is enacted.
 
6) Radical Theology affirms the Event contained IN but not BY Confessional Theology.
 
7) Radical Theology is a material (therefore a political) theology. God’s insistence is about our existence, here in the world, in relationships, & not about our continued or reanimated existence elsewhere. Radical Theology is about faith enacted for this world, not faith in another.
 
8) Radical Theology leaves the logos of Confessional Theology behind for theo-poetics. For the Radical Theologian there is no divine-logic to be learned or sacred syllogisms to be mastered. When ‘words’ are used to close the circle around the truth, the poet protests ‘words’ enslavement… their demonic possession of the impossible possibilities that vanquished on behalf of the actual – the certain – the final – the verdict of Confessional Theology.

.....................

I thought it would be helpful at this point to outline how [John] Caputo frames the turn from Confessional to Radical Theology in his amazing and short book “Philosophy And Theology” . In chapter 5 he illustrates 3 turns that converge together to make the BIG turn:
 
 First up is the Hermeneutical Turn – this a confession we each read a text or interpret our experience from an angle [(e.g., "...from our own personal, socio-religious, point of view." - re slater)]. We all have a location and that means that we all see things from an angle.

Second is the Linguistic Turn – this is a recognition that every discipline and every tradition has its own set of vocabulary and [ideological] concepts that form the ‘rules of the game’ [(or, the rules of our religious faith or religion. -re slater)]. Just as one can not play ‘Sport’ but plays A sport (football or baseball) so one can not speak ‘Language’ but A language. One can not practice ‘Religion’ but A religion. One must learn and abide by the rules of language game that one is playing.
 
Third is the Revolutionary Turn – this is an admission that things changeor rather that the way we see things changes. Working off of Kuhn’s idea of ‘paradigms’ and scientific revolutions, we readily admit that even where the data does not change (the universe) the way that we conceptualize it does periodically alter in radical ways.
 
These three come together to form the Postmodern Turn. They are also helpful for illustrating the sort of thing that Radical Theology is up to [(e.g., Relational Theology will help one to "de-construct" his/her's images of God and faith so that it stands out more clearly, or more purely, against the idolatrous images we unknowingly would serve without thought or question otherwise. It is a form of deep spiritual insight or awareness.

A purity of aspiration or revelation to unlink from ourselves as religious beings, and to leave the "window-dressing" of our faith for its more singular elements of devotion, trust, belief and love. As example, its like becoming a monk without leaving the world; or becoming a more tolerant form of Christian without exposing more rules and confessional creeds; or becoming more devout in your heart, mind, and soul, without seeking the external dresses of devoutness so that others may see it about you. - re slater)].