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
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
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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Super Soul Sunday with Rob Bell & Oprah Winfrey (Nov 3, 2013)

Rob Bell Speaks With Oprah Winfrey on 'Super Soul Sunday'
http://www.christianpost.com/news/rob-bell-speaks-with-oprah-winfrey-on-super-soul-sunday-105312/
 
by Nicola Menzie , Christian Post Reporter
September 25, 2013
 
Christian Author, Pastor Wins Gets Winfrey's Recommendation
for 'What We Talk About When We Talk
 
Controversial Christian author and former megachurch pastor Rob Bell sits down with Oprah Winfrey for an interview in an upcoming episode of her spirituality-theme program "Super Soul Sunday." Bell's latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, has been listed as the first recommended title in "Oprah's Super Soulful Book of the Month" club.
 
According to a publicist for OWN's "Super Soul Sunday" program, Winfrey's interview with Bell will air Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. ET/PT with the title "Oprah & Rob Bell: What We Talk About When We Talk About God."
 
"The Emmy Award-winning series 'Super Soul Sunday' delivers a thought-provoking, eye-opening and inspiring block of programming designed to help viewers awaken to their best selves and discover a deeper connection to the world around them," reads a press release from Winfrey's network.
 
In its announcement on the new season lineup, OWN noted that Bell would be among "Super Soul Sunday" guests that include Anne Lamott, Jack Kornfield, Steven Pressfield and others.
 
Winfrey has written on Oprah.com about her time talking with Bell, whose books she said opened her heart and mind.
 
"When Rob Bell — pastor, best-selling author, provocative thinker — recently joined me on the show, we talked for two and a half hours, and I could have kept going," wrote Winfrey. "The ideas Rob sets forth in his books Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God opened my heart and my mind. People like him are the reason I set out to build OWN in the first place: to be able to gather a global community of like-minded seekers."
 
The post titled, "What Oprah Knows for Sure About Spirituality," was accompanied by a picturesque photo of Bell and Winfrey deep in discussion with the media mogul grasping a copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About God.
 
Oprah Winfrey shared a photo of her and Christian author and pastor Rob Bell during filming for an episode of her Super Soul Sunday series on OWN. (Photo: www.oprah.com)
Oprah Winfrey shared a photo of her and Christian author and pastor Rob Bell during filming for an episode of her "Super Soul Sunday" series on OWN. Winfrey wrote about her discussion with Bell in an article dated Sept. 17, 2013.
 
Bell states in What We Talk About When We Talk About God (Harper Collins) that he wrote the book because "there's a growing sense that when it comes to God, we're at the end of one era and the start of another, an entire mode of understanding and talking about God is dying as something new is being birthed."
 
In explaining the main point of What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Bell says in a book trailer, "God is not behind us dragging us backwards into some primitive, regressive state. God has always been ahead of us pulling us forward, into greater and greater peace, integration, wholeness and love."
 
In her praise of the book, Winfrey said Bell was "shaking up the way we think about God and religion."
 
She added, "When I first started reading it, I was highlighting my favorite passages, but then I realized — what's the point? I've marked every page! It just wowed me. In the book, Bell explains that God is and always has been with us, for us, and ahead of us — and then explores how we can really absorb this knowledge into our everyday lives to become more connected to spirit."
 
Glenn Kreider, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, concluded in his review of What We Talk About When We Talk About God in May: "Fans of Bell will likely resonate with this book. His critics will likely suspect that there is a great deal he is not saying and will be more skeptical." Suggesting that fans and critics should read the book jointly and discuss what they find to be its strengths and weaknesses, Kreider added, "The book is helpful for people on the fringes of Christianity, but even church and ministry leaders might find their view of God enlarged."
 
On the other hand, Dr. Michael Kruger, president and professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, wrote that he found Bell's book to be "really just spiritualism with a Christian veneer" and not about the "God of Christianity." Kruger concluded in his May review of What We Talk About When We Talk About God, "It's a book that would fit quite well on Oprah's list of favorite books."
 
Other Christian figures featured on Oprah Winfrey's OWN programs include "limbless evangelist" Nick Vujicic, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen, and The Potter's House's Bishop T.D. Jakes.
 
 
 

Peter Enns, "Rob Bell, Oprah, and N. T. Wright. Yeah, you heard me"

 
Wright continues,
 
The official guardians of the old water system (many of whom work in the media and in politics, and some of whom, naturally enough, work in churches) are of course horrified to see the volcano of “spirituality” that has erupted in recent years. All this “New Age” myticism, the Tarot cards, crystals, horoscopes, and so on; all this fundamentalism, with militant Christians, militant Sikhs, militant muslims, and many others bombing each otherwith God in their side. Surely, say the guardians of the official water system, all this is terribly unhealthy? Surely it will lead us back to superstition, to the old chaotic, polluted, and irrational water supply? They have a point. But they must face a question in response: Does the fault not lie with those who wanted to pave over the springs with concrete in the first place (pp. 19-20)
 
“The hidden spring” of spirituality is the second feature of human life which, I suggest, functions as an echo of a voice; as a signpost pointing away from the bleak landscape of modern secularism and toward the possibility that we humans are made for more than this. (p. 20; the “first feature” is the topic of chapter 1, the cry for justice)
 
I think what Bell is doing is helping unstop the springs, and I’m glad he’s doing it. Those who lose sleep over the damage he’s causing may, even in the name of Christ, be more in league with the dictator than they may realize. As many have noted: American fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism have more in common with modernity than many may be able, or willing, to see.
 
But why Bell? Why not someone with “better theology” (some might ask) for such a time as this? Because the tools of evangelical theological fine-tuning are not suited for excavating concrete. Plus, Bell is a truly gifted communicator who doesn’t use in-house lingo. He knows how to market his ideas, i.e., to get people to listen.
 
Test and discern, yes. But with some humility, being ever willing to turn that searching gaze inward.
Don’t assume God is not in this because you disagree.
 
 
 

Discussions in Science and Religion - Week 4: Recap - "Imago Reductio or Imago Dei?"

Religion and Science wk. 4 Neuro-religiosity: Imago Reductio or Imago Dei?
 
React:
 
It’s here that a now familiar tension in the class arises. We seem to be at a stalemate where nothing more can be said beyond brute disagreement as to whether there’s anything more real [or substantial] going on in religion. The reductionist wants to wager the claim beyond the science that experience of the religious is illusory and [therefore, there is] no metaphysical reality [while] the spiritual or religiously-inclined believer disagrees [to these conclusions]. Is this story then, of man's "neuro-religiosity reasoning," to reject a divine reality connecting with the evolutionarily explained structures in our heads and social networks (imago reductio), or [further] reason to praise the divine [evolutionary structures and inclinations within the very] nature of our imaging (that divine imago dei) within our complex neural capacities?! What wildly different readings of the evidence right? What can adjudicate such a divide? Do we only have experience? (These are questions I’d love reactions to).
 
Tripp, following Cobb’s evolutionary story, is a profound YES! to the imago dei reading of the [human] story. Using John Cobb’s process theology Tripp then went on to frame the quantitative difference in our capacities as a vocational imago: a vocation based on our being subjects (beings with subjective conscious experience) related to God as subject. The "image of God" [metaphor is about man's] creativity, language and stories—it is an invitation to live in right relationships [with one another, and to] our ecosystems (recall week 3). [The] communally expressed "depth of living" (Cobb’s imago) based on our being able to, having the qualitative complexity to relate and right others relationships.

Philip made an interesting comment in response to Tripp’s "Cobbified anthropology" that it seems to be a integrated, this-worldly, vocational understanding that certain traditional theists can equally subscribe to right?  Without the subjectivity in everything and other (at first blush) quirky elements of full-fledged process thought? Id like to hear a but more from Tripp, more Cobb, as to what that system will give us that we can’t get from something like Philip’s use of a more classical model with Pannenberg?
 
 

 
 
 
 

N.T. Wright, "Paul and the Faithfulness of God" (Vol 4) - Paul the Pharisee

Paul the Pharisee

Who  are we? We are a group of [religious] Jews who found ourselves dissatisfied with the way our country is being run. And with our life as a people, at home and abroad. We are therefore devoting ourselves to the study and practice of Torah, as a kind of elite corps, intending to advance the time when Israel will finally be redeemed, when our God will reveal his faithfulness to our nation. 
Where are we? Mostly, it seems, in the holy land, which is where we might prefer to be; but some of us live and work in the Diaspora [(the scattered 12 tribes throughout the ancient world, primarily from Eqypt to Asia Minor)]. We are, however, mostly living under the rule of the Roman empire (some, perhaps, far out in the east, have other pagan overlords [(such as the gods of Persia)]), and we have struck a deal that we will pray for the emperor, not to him as everyone else is forced to do. 396 
What’s wrong? There are not nearly enough of us who take Torah with proper seriousness, and even among those who do there are schools [of thought] developing which the tough-minded among us regard as dangerously compromised. What counts, after all, is absolute purity. We do not imagine that we never sin, or never incur impurity, but we deal with it at once according to the methods and means of atonement and purification given by God as prescribed in the law. That is what it means to be ‘perfect in the law’. But we cannot compromise or collude with the wickedness we see in the nations all around us, and that goes especially for the rulers of the nations. Ever since the days in Egypt, and then again from the time in Babylon (where some of us still are) to the present, we have known what pagan rulers are like, and what it’s like to live under them. We will not be content until we no longer have to live as, in effect, slaves under these pagans, paying them [horrendous] taxes [from our meager wages]. Behind the problem of Israel’s large-scale failure to obey Torah properly is the much bigger problem [of our grievance with God]: "When will our God reveal his faithfulness to the covenant, by judging the pagans, liberating us from their wicked grasp, and setting up his ultimate kingdom? That’s what’s wrong: it hasn’t happened yet!"
What’s the solution? To the smaller-scale problem: a campaign to persuade more Jews to take upon themselves the yoke of Torah. To the larger-scale problem: to pray (prayer is especially important; the Shema alone is the very foundation of our existence) and to wait in purity, to keep the feasts and the fasts, to study scripture . . . and perhaps, so some of us think, to join up with those who are eager for armed resistance and revolution. We have as our great models of ‘zeal for Torah’ the heroes of old, Phinehas and Elijah especially. They were not afraid to use the sword in the service of God. Nor were our more recent heroes, the Maccabaean freedom-fighters. We venerate, too, the martyrs who died cruel deaths rather than defile themselves with pagan food and practices. We are waiting for a new exodus, and perhaps a new Moses to lead it. Some of us want to hurry that process along. 
What time is it? Well, there is a lot of discussion about that, because nobody is completely sure how to calculate the Great Jubilee of Daniel 9. But it has to be soon. The ‘present age’ will give way to the ‘age to come’;397 the present time is the time of continuing exile and slavery, despite various false dawns; some of us did make it back to our own land, but whether we did or didn’t we are still in the long, dark period [for didn't] Daniel 9 predicted the ‘exile’ of Deuteronomy 28? The coming age, however, will be the time of freedom, and some of us have begun to think that maybe that coming age is being secretly inaugurated as we develop and pass on the oral law and do our best to keep it. Maybe that’s the way God’s faithfulness is being revealed. Meanwhile, we are frustrated that the great biblical laws about jubilee have usually been honoured in the breach rather than [in] the observance. We who keep the sabbath very carefully week-by-week are hoping and praying for the great Sabbath, the time when our God will have completed the work of rescuing Israel, and we can enjoy ‘[a Sabbath's] rest’ like Joshua’s people did once the land was settled. It is time for a ‘messianic time’ - for a new kind of time - for the same thing to happen to our time and history as happens in space and matter when we go to the Temple: an intersection of our world with God’s world, of our time with God’s time. That’s what happens every week, every sabbath. We want all those times of rest to come rushing together as the [one] true Jubilee, the real freedom-moment, not just because we want a new exodus but because we want to share God’s ultimate rest, the joy of work complete. (177-179)
Here is how the Pharisees, according to NT Wright, saw their problem:
We have thus approached, from the theological angle, the topic we discovered at the heart of our study of the narrative world of second-Temple Jews. If Israel is chosen to be the people through whom the Creator will put the world to rights, what happens when Israel itself needs to be put to rights? The answer given by the Pharisees was reasonably clear: Israel needs to learn how to keep Torah, and how to keep it properly this time. If Israel wants the covenant God to be faithful to his promises and bring the restoration they longed for, Israel has to be faithful to this God, to Torah, to the covenant. Plenty of evidence in scripture itself indicated that something like this was the right answer. Since Paul the apostle basically agrees with this answer, though providing a radical and shocking fresh analysis of what ‘keeping Torah properly’ and ‘being faithful to God’ now looks like, we may confidently conclude that this was what Saul of Tarsus, the zealous Pharisee, had believed as well. (183)
Now what about justification by faith in this worldview?
The point can be summarized thus. First, God will soon bring the whole world into judgment, at which point some people will be ‘reckoned in the right’, as Abraham and Phinehas were. Second, there are particular things, even in the present time, which will function as signs of that coming verdict. Third, those particular things are naturally enough the things that mark out loyal Israelites from disloyal ones; in other words (remember Mattathias!) strong, zealous adherence to Torah and covenant. Fourth, as a result, those who perform these things in the present time can thus be assured that the verdict to be issued in the future, when the age to come is finally launched, can already be known, can be anticipated, in the present. This, I believe, is what a first-century Pharisee would have meant by ‘justification by the works of the law’. (184)
So here’s Paul’s basic worldview coming into view on justification:
We may therefore suppose (supposition is all we have, in the absence of direct evidence, but this is where all the lines of evidence converge) that a first-century Pharisee like Saul of Tarsus would have seen the picture like this: 
a. In the ‘age to come’, the creator God will judge the wicked (pagans, and renegade Jews), and will vindicate (= declare ‘righteous’) his people (i.e. will declare that they are part of his ‘all Israel’). 
b. The present marks of this vindicated/justified people will be the things which show their loyalty to their God and their zeal for his covenant. 
c. These things are, more precisely, the true keeping of Torah: (a) keeping the ‘works’ which mark out Jews from their pagan neighbours, and (b) keeping the ‘works’ which mark out good, observant Jews from non-observant [Jews] – in [more] extreme cases, [from] the skeptics, and the wicked, though there might be other more fine-tuned categories as well.426 
d. You can therefore tell in the present who will be ‘vindicated’ in the future, because they are those who keep ‘the works of Torah’ in this way in the present time. 187
 Paul as a converted Pharisee to a Christ-follower:
That is why, if we are to understand Paul the apostle, we must see him within this rich, many-sided world. To move through the different concentric circles: the Pharisaic worldview was about the whole business of being human; of being a Jewish human; of living in a Jewish community; of living in a threatened Jewish community; of living with wisdom, integrity and hope in a threatened Jewish community; of living with zeal for Torah, the covenant and above all Israel’s faithful God within a threatened Jewish community (196). 

* * * * * * * * *
 
Addendum

Thus there is a Pharisaical emphasis on 1) divine judgment, 2) believer faithfulness, 3) strict adherence to Scriptural obedience/duty/honor, and 4) a future that vindicates God's faithful. Which becomes easily translated into today's evangelical beliefs with its own corresponding emphasis upon Jesus, in place of Torah. From which have come Christian doctrines emphasizing: 1) God's judgment over His divine grace, 2) God's austerity over His divine forgiveness, 3) blind obedience to the Scriptures without consideration for their tone and import, and an 4) emphasis upon future judgment: such as apostasy, tribulation, and apocalypse; and future reward: heaven v. hell.
 
When each "faith" is tallied up we then find a faith that is works-oriented, ungracious, unduly harsh, and ill-forgiving - as compared to Jesus' works of grace and compassion, which are largely met in Spirit-faith and Spirit-empowerment. A faith that emphasizes God's grace over His Torah Law (sic, Jesus' many debates with the Pharisees). That presents a compassionate covenant of inclusion over those of exclusion and hate (NT examples abound of Jesus curing the lame, the sick, helping the poor, defending the whore, and ministering the despised). Of a more hopeful future than one dipped in fear, dread and blood (where God's great salvation will be proclaimed by all His Church). And of a future that is here, now, as present in Christ's atonement and His Holy Spirit's ministry to this world of humanity - and not to a select few of God's supposed "chosen" (the mustard seed, the lost coins, new wineskins - each telling of a Kingdom that will grow disproportionately to our unbelieving thoughts and incredulity supposing it to be stingy, miserly, or ungenerous). One that envisions this present world as a heaven on earth which can become more fully a place of God's divine rule and habitation when recreated in Jesus' resurrected fullness (the idea of an upside-down Kingdom in holy tension with man's stubborn sin, and judgment to man's evil and wickedness). Which does not discount the future coming of Christ, but envisions Christ's presence now through His Church on this earth in works of compassion and justice, and ecological care and restoration.
 
R.E. Slater
October 10, 2013
 
 
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