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
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
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
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

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Acids of Modernity and Christian Theology, Part 4

Modernity has been an age of revolutions—political, scientific, industrial and the philosophical. Consequently, it has also been an age of revolutions in theology, as Christians attempt to make sense of their faith in light of the cultural upheavals around them, what Walter Lippman once called the "acids of modernity." Modern theology is the result of this struggle to think responsibly about God within the modern cultural ethos.

In this major revision and expansion of the classic 20th Century Theology(1992), co-authored with Stanley J. Grenz, Roger Olson widens the scope of the story to include a fuller account of modernity, more material on the nineteenth century, and an engagement with postmodernity. More importantly, the entire narrative is now recast in terms of how theologians have accommodated or rejected the Enlightenment and scientific revolutions.

With that question in mind, Olson guides us on the epic journey of modern theology, from the liberal "reconstruction" of theology that originated with Friedrich Schleiermacher, to the post-liberal and postmodern "deconstruction" of modern theology that continues today. The Journey of Modern Theology is vintage Olson: eminently readable, panoramic in scope, at once original and balanced, and marked throughout by a passionate concern for the church's faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This will no doubt become another standard text in historical theology.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Getting Beyond the Liberal Conservative Divide

by Scot McKnight
Oct 3, 2014

Modern theology is the attempt to accommodate the great tradition of the church with modernity and so to make Christianity more appealing to modern/postmoderns. A very typical example of modern theology, in a liberal mode, is Schleiermacher who focused the Christian tradition on the experience (of God). Responses to modernity’s theology included robust defenses of the tradition — and sometimes these defenses were strident, but not always, and it is a mistake to think defense of the tradition means defensive or strident or fundamentalist.

But some sought a mediating path, or a third way. This is often called “mediating” theology. And Roger Olson, in his very useful The Journey of Modern Theology, outlines mediating theology. Olson insists that mediating is not the same as moderate (which he thinks is too soft of a category to be of use — I disagree but it all depends what one means and who one wants to classify as moderate). Mediating means not landing in the middle but finding a higher synthesis or a bridge of opposites. It is to find an inner reconciliation or a higher standpoint or a more original unity.

Where do you see mediating theology today? Take inerrancy vs. errancy: where is the mediation? Moderation might do little more than take the heat out of the discussion and leave both sides wondering which side the moderate is on. But what would mediation look like in this debate?

Olson focuses on two examples, one German (IA Dorner) and one American (Horace Bushnell). He knows most take J.W. Nevin and P. Schaff are the typical examples of an American mediating theology (called Mercersburg theology), but he think Bushnell is actually a better example. He says Bushnell advocated “progressive orthodoxy.” They sought to utilize Schleiermacher, they wanted to bridge the subjective and the objective (experience and Scripture), they sought to combine liberal Protestant with Protestant orthodoxy, and they reconstructed theology with an eye on modernity.

Mediating theology is often forgotten because extremes make a bigger impact: “It is always the bold, the innovative, the radical who are remembered” (242).


Dorner, for instance, wanted a view of God that was both relational but not Hegel’s pan/entheistic view of God evolving through history. Hence, he anticipated some concerns of late 20th Century’s process theology and open theism: "God, for Dorner, loves in perfect freedom and knows in relation to human freedoms and actions. Immutability concerns God’s free activation in love (or God as love)."


Bushnell represents the American mediating theology for Olson, and it all begins when he had a profound experience of the “gospel” after he had been pastoring for 15 years. True Christian faith is not about propositions or tenets but “of trusting one’s being to a being” (267). It is encountering God in an unmediated direct way. He approached it all from an experiential mode from that day forward. He became America’s most influential theologian of the 19th Century, many ranking him with [Jonathan] Edwards and Reinhold Neibuhr. He influenced the Christian education movement with his famous Christian Nurture book. He was opposed to systematizing the Christian faith.

He opposed the anti-supernaturalism and mechanical theories of life of modernists and at the same time pressed against traditionalists in arguing for updating and making things relevant.

He preferred imagination and metaphor over dogma. Instead of classical theories of the Trinity he thought it was all too speculative, and he argued for worship as an expression of God’s revelation to us. What matters most then is in the realm of the aesthetic.

He approached postmodernity’s penchant in understanding theological language. God language is metaphorical.

And he strove for Christian comprehensiveness — a way of getting beyond the dichotomies and tensions in theological discourse. His view was not accepted in his day but his approach has become standard fare for many today — and is at work in some ways in the ecumenical movement.

Olson suggests Lindbeck’s approach to theology is not that far away from Bushnell’s Christian comprehensiveness.

On atonement… Bushnell was dissatisfied with both the exemplary subjective theory and the objective penal substitution theory and eventually came to the view that God suffered in Christ because he was forgiving. He did not suffer in order to forgive but because he was gracious and forgiving.*

- Scott



*Bushnell's idea of God suffering because He is forgiving is a close idea
to an earlier article I published entitled, "What Is Radical Theology?."

R.E. Slater

October 27, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment