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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Meet American Theologian Stanley J. Grenz: A New Kind of Successor to Charles Hodge

Stanley J. Grenz Amazon Link

Wikipedia Biography

Stanley James Grenz (born January 7, 1950 in Alpena, Michigan; died on March 12, 2005 in St. Paul's Hospital (Vancouver)) was an American Christian theologian and ethicist in the Baptist tradition

Early years

Grenz graduated from the University of Colorado in 1973. He then earned a M.Div. from Denver Seminary in 1976. Grenz earned his Doctor of Theology degree at University of Munich in Germany under the supervision of theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg. He was ordained to pastoral ministry on June 13, 1976. He later worked within the local church context as youth director and assistant pastor (Northwest Baptist Church, Denver, Colorado, 1971-1976), pastor (Rowandale Baptist Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba 1979-1981), and interim pastor on several occasions. He served on many Baptist boards and agencies and also as a consulting editor of Christianity Today.


While in the pastorate (1979-1981), Grenz taught courses both at the University of Winnipeg and at Winnipeg Theological Seminary (now Providence Seminary). He served as Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at the North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota from 1981-1990.

For twelve years (1990-2002), Grenz held the position of Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, Theology and Ethics at Carey Theological College and at Regent College in Vancouver. After a one-year sojourn as Distinguished Professor of Theology at Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas (2002-2003), he returned to Carey in August 2003 to resume his duties as Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology.

From 1996 to 1999 he carried an appointment as Professor of Theology and Ethics (Affiliate) at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois.

In fall 2004, he assumed an appointment as Professor of Theological Studies at Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, Washington.

Grenz' primary contributions were made discussing how evangelical Christianity ought to relate to the world. He wrote on a wide range of subjects, from sexuality to history to basic apologetics, and was one of North America's leading evangelical voices in the late 20th century and early 21st century.


Married to Edna Grenz, a church musician, Grenz was the father of two children, Joel Grenz and Corina Kuban, and was grandfather to one grandchild, Anika Grace Kuban. Included in two editions of Who's Who in Religion, as well as in the 2002 edition of Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors and Poets, Grenz died in his sleep March 12, 2005 from a brain aneurysm in Vancouver.

Remembering and Honoring
Evangelical Theologian Stanley J. Grenz

(and Responding to Conservative Evangelical Criticisms of His Theology)

by Roger Olson
November 26, 2014

I have returned from the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature where about ten thousand religion scholars convened in sunny San Diego, California. I was invited to read a paper in one session of the Evangelical Theology Group, a program unit of the AAR, about the theology of Stanley Grenz. Stan was my close friend and co-author. He wrote over twenty-five books and was considered one of the most influential evangelical theologians during the latter years of his life. He died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in 2005 at the age of 55. Recently Cascade Books, a division of Wipf & Stock publishers, published a volume of essays in Stan’s honor entitled Revisioning, Renewing, Rediscovering The Triune Center: Essays in Honor of Stanley J. Grenz edited by Derek J. Tidball, Brian S. Harris, and Jason S. Sexton. I wrote the book’s Foreword. The AAR session was organized around the book and most, if not all, of the speakers were authors of chapters. The book constitutes what’s called a “festschrift” in Stan’s honor. These are usually published while the person being honored is still alive, but not in this case.

Below I include my paper about Stan’s theology focusing especially on the label “postconservative evangelical.” About one hundred people attended the session which was a great honor to Stan considering that former president Jimmy Carter was speaking in a room only steps away during the session. I knew Stan well enough to know that he would have been torn between going to hear Carter and attending this session in his honor. He was a very humble person who did not think his theology was worthy of this much attention and would be embarrassed by it. And he admired Carter very much. Each of us panelists was given ten minutes to talk. Among the panelists were LeRon Shults, Derek Tidball, John Francke and Velli-Matti Kärkkäinen.

A few of the papers presented included comments about why Stan’s theology was controversial (and why Stan himself was controversial)especially among conservative evangelicals. The consensus was that he was perceived as pushing the envelope of evangelical theology, especially with respect to engaging positively and constructively with methods, approaches and points of view conservative evangelical theologians consider “out of bounds” for evangelicals. Also, he integrated spiritual experience and culture into his theological method in a way that shocked many conservative evangelicals who seem to think that evangelical theology works only with scripture and tradition.

During the discussion time following the panel presentations one audience member raised the question, often asked before, of possible parallels between Stan’s theology and that of Friedrich Schleiermacher, the “father of liberal theology.” My response was off-the-cuff and incomplete. Afterwards I wished I had said something different and more. I will include the response I should have given to the question (which seemed to me to imply an accusation) after my reproduced panel presentation below.

* * * * * * * * * *

Stanley J. Grenz:
Paradigm of Postconservative Evangelical Theology

by Roger E. Olson

Stan didn’t like most of the labels people put on him and the only theological labels he embraced gladly were “Christian,” “Baptist,” “evangelical” and, late in life, “pietist.” And yet when I coined (or thought I coined) the label “postconservative evangelical” in a Christian Century article I had Stan mainly in mind. That label has probably caused more trouble than it’s worth, but I still struggle to find a better qualifier for Stan’s and my approaches to being evangelical.

Like I, Stan would not give up on the label “evangelical.” He grew up evangelical, attended an evangelical Baptist seminary and always envisioned himself as an authentic evangelical. He stayed in the Evangelical Theological Society when others of us stayed or dropped out. To his dying day, so far as I know, based on what he wrote and told me in many lengthy conversations, Stan regarded himself as an evangelical among evangelicals. He did not think he was on any trajectory away from evangelical faith and theology.

However, and nevertheless, there were elements in Stan’s theology that caused others, perhaps more conservative than he or I, to question his evangelical credentials. It was to distinguish him and me from them that I used the label “postconservative”—not to say we weren’t and I’m not conservative vis-à-vis liberals but to say they, Stan’s conservative critics, had captured the center of American evangelical theology and that, in true Reformation fashion, he placed Scripture, or as he preferred to say “the witness of the Spirit in Scripture,” “the biblical message,” over and above “the received evangelical tradition” as defined by the neo-fundamentalists who managed to capture the fort, so to speak.

Anyone who has really read Stan with a hermeneutic of charity knows that he believed strongly in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. And in conversion, the cross as God’s atoning work through Christ, and Christian activism in evangelism and social transformation. In other words, in all four of David Bebbington’s four hallmarks of evangelicalism.

Still, and nevertheless, he courageously stepped out onto territory forbidden by the neo-fundamentalists and dared to speak in new ways about old doctrines.

Let me be specific:

Stan’s postmodernism was genuine but not extreme. He did not agree with the deconstructionists or anti-realists. His postmodernism was simply an acknowledgement of the necessity of humility in the face of the absolute—God. He was very afraid of idolatry and especially among those who would make a fetish out of the Bible and dogma. His postmodernism should probably be called, more accurately, critical realism. He was no cultural relativist even though he recognized the fallibility of all human systems of thought including those most treasured by evangelicals. He would say a hearty amen to Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote:

“Our little 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.”

Stan’s postconservatism, as I call it, appeared in his belief that spirituality, not dogma, is the true, enduring essence of evangelical Christianity. This is probably where he and his neo-fundamentalist critics first radically parted ways. But he went out of his way to say that doctrine is necessary and not dispensable or endlessly flexible.

Amazon link
Some people misunderstood Stan’s mission among the so-called “emerging” or “emergent” church types. His conservative critics saw it as proof that he was on a liberal trajectory away from his evangelical roots. Stan told me he was going among them to try to hold them, the emerging/emergent types, from slipping totally away from evangelicalism and to convince them that doctrine is important, to keep them from repeating the errors of liberal theology.

Some of his postconservative evangelical friends, including yours truly, could not understand his continuing membership in the Evangelical Theological Society. When I told him to “Come out from among them and be separate” he explained to me that they needed him—especially the younger members who knew in their hearts there was a better way to be evangelical but didn’t know how. He wanted to model it for them.

Stan was a true mediating theologian among evangelicals. I’ll end with two examples. First, with conservatives and neo-fundamentalists he opposed open theism, even if irenically. He had no sympathy with it. He told me he wanted to be “Augustinian.” Yet he would not have voted to expel open theists from the ETS.

Second, his Christology, which went largely unnoticed even by his harshest critics, perhaps because they couldn’t understand it, was anything but orthodox. I won’t say it was heretical, but it was, in my opinion, heterodox (in the textbook sense of that word). In Theology for the Community of God Stan rejected “incarnational Christology” in favor of a Christology based on Pannenberg’s eschatological ontology and his own eschatological realism. For him, as for Pannenberg, “as this man Jesus is God.” He denied any logos asarkosLogos outside of Jesus. In place of preexistence he posited retroactive ontological enforcement of Jesus as divine because of his resurrection and his unity with God because of his self-differentiation from the Father. He did not embrace or promote the Chalcedonian hypostatic union model of Christology. Stan’s Christology sought a via media or alternative to classical “orthodox” Christology and liberal, “functional” Christologies.

Stan and I often argued about theology—sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. When he and I roomed together at these meetings he would keep me up until 2:00 AM telling me what books I should write and correcting my theological opinions—like an older brother! One argument we often had was about life after death. Stan insisted that there is no bodiless human existence which he termed dualism. I argued for a bodiless, conscious “intermediate state” between death and the bodily resurrection. He thought that was a Greek idea, not biblical. His untimely death served no good purpose, but sometime after I suddenly realized I had finally won an argument with Stan. Now he knew I was right about that one. [lol]

(End of my panel presentation)

* * * * * * * * * *

Now to my “better response” to the question and implied accusation of parallels between Stan’s theology and that of Schleiermacher ...

What is meant by “Schleiermachian” is unclear. Schleiermacher wrote a lot and so did Stan Grenz. The question is difficult to answer unless something specific is pointed to as the alleged commonality. To be sure, both Schleiermacher and Grenz were pietists; both emphasized the importance of Christian experience, spirituality, even in theological construction.

But unlike Schleiermacher, Stan did not “do theology” “from below,” making human and Christian experience the controlling norm of Christian theology. For him, in a way I do not find in Schleiermacher, “the Spirit speaking in Scripture,” the “biblical message,” was the primary source and norm of Christian theology.

Also, unlike Schleiermacher, Stan did not draw on “universal God-consciousness” (whether Gefühl or other) as a source or norm for theology. When he talked about experience as playing a role in Christian theology he meant the Holy Spirit at work among God’s people in what he called “convert-ive piety.” But he never even hinted that even this experience could trump Scripture. Stan’s theology was most definitely a “theology from above” even though he believed nobody can claim to have a God’s-eye view and denied any finally finished, complete, infallible system of theology.

There are many other differences between Schleiermacher and Grenz’s theologies. But I suspect most suspicions of similarities have to do with theological methodology. Conservative evangelicals looking at Stan’s theological method assumed that a “true evangelical theology” is drawn solely from Scripture—as Charles Hodge claimed in his Systematic Theology in the 1870s. Critics have noted, however, how Hodge was influenced by a philosophy called Common Sense Realism. (See my chapter on Hodge’s theology in The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction [InterVarsity Press].) In other words, his theology, in spite of his claims, was not drawn directly out of Scripture; it was not simply an organizing of Scripture’s truths. Nor is any contemporary theology influenced by Scripture alone; Scripture is always interpreted and theology constructed in the light of tradition, reason and experience. Conservative evangelicals are so afraid of relativism in theology that they have enshrined Hodge’s theological method (and, I would dare say, his Systematic Theology) as the only permissible one. They have done (without saying so) with Hodge what Pope Pius X did with Thomas Aquinas’s theology for Catholic theologians.

Nor do I believe Stan Grenz’s theology was unduly influenced by Schleiermacher - and I do not believe his theology bore any striking, constitutive resemblances with Schleiermacher’s theology. The resemblance is all in the minds and fear-driven imaginations of conservative theologians.

The only resemblance I see is that Grenz, like Schleiermacher, was concerned to free Christian theology from the shackles of a hide-bound tradition that was out-of-date and irrelevant to contemporaries. But Schleiermacher’s “contemporaries” were the “cultured despisers of religion” (Enlightenment-influenced Romantics) while Stan’s were (and are) God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians who were (and are) dissatisfied with the rigid, static, rationalist theologies of the neo-fundamentalists.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Gift of Reading the Bible Dynamically

is there payoff for the church in reading the Bible critically?

Theologian Peter Enns
At this year’s annual “help me I’m wearing tweed in San Diego” conference (a.k.a. Society of Biblical Literature) I was part of a panel discussion on “Reading the Bible in the 21st Century: Exploring New Models for Reconciling the Academy and the Church.” On the panel with me were N. T. Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Lauren Winner. John Dominic Crossan was scheduled to be there but his flight was delayed.
At any rate, we were each given 10 minutes to address the topic and here is what I said.
* * * * * * * * *
About 10 years ago a friend of mine, who teaches systematic theology at an evangelical seminary, told me of a faculty meeting held to discuss my recently published book Inspiration and Incarnation.
During the faculty discussion, a biblical scholar pointed out, “You know, there’s really nothing new here”—which, of course is not only true, but largely the point of the book: well known and widely accepted things like the presence of myth, contradictions, and numerous historical problems in the Old Testament, not to mention the New Testament’s midrashic use of the Old, have not been handled well within evangelicalism.
My friend chimed in, “Wait a minute. There’s nothing new here? I never heard of this stuff—and I graduated from this school and had you as a teacher.” The Bible professor replied, “Our job is to protect you from this information.”
Or consider the following: it’s been known within the evangelical community to encourage promising seminary students to pursue doctoral work at major research universities, but for apologetic purposes: infiltrate their ranks, learn their ways, expose their weaknesses. Or, related, they are told to “plunder the Egyptians”—a phrase actually used. To appropriate whatever in critical scholarship can aid the cause and either ignore or fight against the rest.
And so you have three postures by this faith community toward the threat posed by the academic study of the Bible: gatekeeper, spy, or plunderer. What lies beneath these postures is a deep distrust of the academy.
But the academy isn’t just a problem for evangelicals or other conservatives. On the other end of the spectrum we have the mainline church and theological interpretation—which is a movement to recover scripture for the church (the mainline church) in the wake of the historical critical revolution, which has not always been friendly to life and faith.
This is no rejection of the academy, though. What’s done is done. We’ve passed through what Walter Wink calls the “acid bath of criticism,” which has done the necessary job of stripping us of our naïve biblicism. But now, what’s left? What do we do with the Bible? How does it function in the church? What does it say about God? What should we believe? So, whereas evangelicalism distrust the academy, the mainline has felt a bit burned by it.
What binds both groups together is the problem of the academic study of scripture for the church—though there is also an important difference between them that goes beyond simply their different attitudes toward biblical criticism. Let me explain.
Evangelicalism’s suspicion of the academy appears to be justified by the mainline church’s embrace of historical criticism at first only to wind up advocating for theological interpretation as a corrective to it. “See, I told you so. Biblical criticism is a dead end. Look at the mainline churches and their shrinking numbers. They’re on life-support. Let’s learn from their mistake, not repeat it.”
I can see the point, but not so fast. Evangelicalism can’t simply adopt as its own the mainline response to historical criticism. The mainline embraced historical-critical insights; it’s had its acid bath and is working toward, as Gadamer and others put it, a second naiveté that acknowledges the critical revolution. In other words, the mainline church is postcritical, and there is no going back to the way things were before.
Evangelicalism, by contrast, hasn’t gone through the acid bath of criticism, nor does it seek the second naiveté. They are certainly willing to acknowledge that critical scholarship has shed some light on scripture, but the overall critical “posture” as it were is largely a mistake that one should be suspicious of, guard against, infiltrate, or plunder. In a sense, the evangelical reading of scripture is more at home in the precritical world, lamenting the slow erosion of biblical authority and inerrancy at the hands of biblical criticism.
If I had to pick, I’d rather be postcritical and wounded than precritical and defensive, but this is not to say that the mainline project of theological interpretation holds the key to binding together church and the academy—at least I don’t see it yet.
For example, I remember 25 years ago reading Brevard Childs’s excellent commentary on Exodus, but feeling frustrated. He acknowledges throughout the undeniable insights of historical critical methods, and even explains the text’s incongruities on the basis of source critical analysis. But when it comes to the theological appropriation of Exodus, all his learned critical analyses is left behind—because source criticism won’t get you to theological reflection. In fact, it gets in the way.
A lot has happened since Childs, and I respect the larger project championed by Walter Brueggemann, for example, but my experience of theological interpretation in general is that the relevance of biblical criticism for the church’s life and faith can be hard to discern. It’s not always clear to me how the academy is brought constructively and intentionally into the theological life of the church.
In fact, at times I see little more than a bare acknowledgment of the “importance” or “necessity” of biblical criticism, but when it comes to theology, it’s sometimes hard to see the importance or necessity. Biblical criticism seems to be more of a negative boundary marker to distinguish the mainline from the religious right—“We’re not fundamentalists; we embrace criticism”—but where’s the payoff?
As I see it, the academy and the church have at best an uneasy relationship when it comes to the Bible, whether for evangelicals or mainliners. In my opinion, true reconciliation of academy and church must strive for a more intentionally theological synthesis of the academic study of scripture and how that contributes theologically to faith and life, to seeing—perhaps in fresh ways– how God speaks to us in and through scripture today.
As I tell the story in The Bible Tells Me SoI’ve been captured by this synthetic idea since my first few weeks of graduate school—and some of how I put the pieces together has made its way into the book, albeit on a popular churchy level (which is exactly where it needs to be). For me, one payoff of this synthesis is a Bible that is remarkably dynamic and therefore personally meaningful.
For example, when I understand Deuteronomy as a layered work that grew out of the late monarchic to postexilic periods, I get happy. I see canonized a deliberate, conscious, recontextualizion, actualizion, indeed rewriting of earlier ancient traditions for the benefit of present communities of faith.
The same holds for Chronicles—a realignment and reshaping of Israel’s story for a late postexilic audience. Or taking a big step back, we have the Old Testament as a whole, which has woven into it the exaltation of the tribe of Judah, a theme that reflects the present-day questions and answers of the postexilic Judahite writers that produced it. Scripture houses a theological dynamic that is intentionally innovative, adaptive, and contemporizing.
Scripture’s inner dynamic provides a model for our own theological appropriation of scripture. As Michael Fishbane reminds us, within scripture the authoritative text of the past is not simply received by the faithful but is necessarily adapted and built upon. And this is a noble quality of the Old Testament that continues in Second Temple Judaism and, for Christians, the New Testament, where Israel’s story is profoundly recontextualized, reshaped, and re-understood in light of present circumstances.
And what the Christian Bible does is continued as soon as the church got out of the gate in the 2nd century and beyond: reshaping the ancient Semitic story in Greek and Latin categories, giving us creeds; and then through the entire history of the church, where everywhere we look people are asking the very same question asked by the Deuteronomist, the Chronicler, and Paul:how does that back there speak to us here? 
And answering that question is a transaction between past and present that always involves some creative adaptation.
I don’t see this dynamic as a problem. It’s a gift. What more could the church want from its scripture? Don’t make a move without it, but when you move—you may need to move, not just remain where things have been. This is what I mean throughout The Bible Tells Me So when I say that the Bible is not an owner’s manual or an instruction guide.
It is a model of our own inevitable theological process, because the question is never simply what did God do then, but what is God surprisingly, 
unexpectedly, counterintuitively, in complete freedom, doing now?

Historical criticism doesn’t get a free pass—and I’m thinking here for example of Brueggemann’s critique. But it has nevertheless helped us understand something of this dynamic.

If I can put this in Christian terms, scripture bears witness to the acts of God and most supremely to the act of God in Christ. But scripture bears witness in culturally and contextually meaningful waysThis is where historical criticism comes into the picture—not as an enemy to be guarded against or plundered, and not as an awkward relative you don’t know what to do with, but as a companion, a means of understanding and embracing the complex actualizing dynamic of the Bible as a whole.

This is what I am aiming for in The Bible Tells Me So, albeit at a popular level, because that is where this discussion needs to be—with those who feel they have to chose between accepting academic insights or maintaining faith. I don’t believe that is a choice that has to be made, and miss out on a lot when we feel we need to.

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Related Articles -

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Church and Kingdom as Inaugurated Eschatology in Process of Finality

Amazon Link

Book Description

According to Scot McKnight, "kingdom" is the biblical term most misused by Christians today. It has taken on meanings that are completely at odds with what the Bible says. "Kingdom" has become a buzzword for both social justice and redemption so that it has lost its connection with Israel and with the church as a local church.

McKnight defines the biblical concept of kingdom, offering a thorough corrective and vision for the contemporary church. The most important articulation of kingdom was that of Jesus, who contended that the kingdom was in some sense present and in some sense in the future. The apostles talked less about the kingdom and more about the church. McKnight explains that kingdom mission is local church mission and that the present-day fetish with influencing society, culture, and politics distracts us from the mission of God: to build the local church. He also shows how kingdom theology helps to reshape the contemporary missional conversation.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Biggest Mistake in Kingdom Talk

by Scot McKnight
Nov 21, 2014

The most common mistake I hear when people are talking about kingdom is comparison talk. It goes like this or this or this or this:

  • “So you think kingdom and church are the same (but not identical), then you need to come to my church because that will show you the difference.”
  • “Kingdom is the ideal, church is the reality.”
  • “Kingdom is justice, but church is injustice.”
  • “The church is but an approximation of the kingdom, a manifestation of the kingdom, but it is not the kingdom because the kingdom will be a utopian, perfect, just, reconciled, loving society.”
  • “The church is now but the kingdom is not yet.”

Each of these fails on a fundamental element of how the NT talks about kingdom. So, I want to provide a crash-course in just a few paragraphs in what is often called “inaugurated eschatology.” (I am using Kingdom Conspiracy in what follows.)

Present, Future, Both Present and Future

Instead of providing an RSS feed-length listing of Bible verses, I will give two statements of Jesus for kingdom as present and kingdom as future.

The kingdom as present:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

The kingdom as future:

Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (Mark 14:25).

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once (Luke 19:11).

No matter how you cut your bread – lengthwise or crosswise or just nip off the crusts – these texts indicate with clarity that the kingdom of God, that long awaited promise, was already present and still in the future. It is reasonable then to argue that for Jesus the kingdom was both present and future. It was, to use the terms of the arch inaugurated kingdom scholar, George Eldon Ladd, “present without consummation.”

The Church as Inaugurated Reality

Back to our point about the big mistake: What do we compare the church to? The present inaugurated kingdom or the future complete and glorious kingdom. Read on because the church too is an inaugurated reality.

Church as Now and Not Yet

There is one fundamental observation that changes the whole perception of what church is and once we do we will be able to compare church and kingdom more accurately. The church is an eschatological reality as well. The futurity of the church is often ignored. We now need two columns on the board: on the left write “Church Now” and on the right write “Church Not Yet.”

The Church Now

For the Church Now we think of Paul’s constant struggles with his churches, and who can ignore Corinth and the back and forth letters and travels all over morality and theology and division and … well, the church at Corinth was a mess. The same messiness is found in all other churches.

The Church Now is the church gathered in broken leadership, broken fellowship, broken holiness, broken love, broken justice, and broken peace. Every page of each of Paul’s and Peter’s and John’s letters and the Book of Hebrews and Jude leads to the same observation: the Church Now falls short of the Church Not Yet.

(Dan Kimball, what say you?)

At this point we need to make an observation: because so much of “church” thinking focuses on the Church Now without examining the Church Not Yet, any comparison of church with kingdom, which tends (as I have said already) to focus on the Church Now over against the Kingdom Not Yet, tends to conclude that they cannot be the same.

Yet, if we compare Kingdom Now and Church Now we arrive at the same place, and as we are about to see, if we compare Kingdom Not Yet with Church Not Yet, we will discover once again a full overlap.

The Church Not Yet

For the Church Not Yet I think not only of the promises that the church will inherit the kingdom (Matthew 16:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:18; Philippians 3:20) but even more of Ephesians 5:25b-27, where you can see the Church Not Yet in full glory:

… just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (see also Colossians 1:22).

Notice the terms Paul uses of the Church Not Yet: radiant, without stain, without wrinkle, without any blemish, holy and blameless. These terms do not describe the Church Now except in part; they instead describe what the church will be.


When the kingdom’s fullness arrives or, to use now completely appropriate terms, when the church’s fullness arrives. I think, too, of Revelation 21-22, but especially of the long, beautiful passage about the church as the bride of the Lamb descending in full glory into the New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and the New Earth, proving once and for all that the church, like the kingdom, is an eschatological reality with a Now and a glorious Not Yet [aspect to it]. I quote Revelation 21:9—22:5:

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. - Rev 21-22

Kingdom describes the people governed by King Jesus. All we see of that kingdom now is an inauguration creating a tension between Kingdom Now and Kingdom Not Yet.

But church describes the very same realities: the People of God (Israel Expanded to be sure), is an eschatological reality, a People of God that has a Now and a Not Yet.

C.K. Barrett, a leading New Testament scholar of the former generation, called the church an “eschatological monster, a prodigy.” And he defines the church as “the people of the interim.”[ii] He’s right: the church is now and not yet, partially redeemed on its way to full redemption. So, what is said of the kingdom in the New Testament is said of the church in the same New Testament. To quote Bonhoeffer:[iii]

… the church according to Paul’s understanding presents no
essential difference from Jesus’ ideas [about the kingdom].
- Bonhoeffer

If we want to make comparison, we need to compare Kingdom Now and Church Now or Kingdom Not Yet and Church Not Yet. To compare, as so many do, Church Now with Kingdom Not Yet is not fair to the church (or the kingdom).

The mistaken notion that only the kingdom is the final form of God’s redemptive community drives the current inability to see the important overlap of kingdom and church today. If kingdom is the future perfection and the church the modern mess, then kingdom and church are not comparable.

The mistake is to compare the incomparable:

  • To compare present church to future kingdom is to compare the incomparable. (Kingdom wins.)
  • To compare the present kingdom with the future church is to compare the incomparable. (Church wins.)
  • To compare present church with present kingdom is to compare the comparable. (The same.)
  • To compare future church with future kingdom is to compare the comparable. (The same.)

So let’s return to that opening and I’ll rework the whole by comparing present kingdom with the future perfect church:

  • “So you think kingdom and church are the same (but not identical), then you need to come to my inaugurated kingdom group because that will show you the difference.”
  • “Church is the ideal, kingdom is the reality.”
  • “Church is justice, but kingdom is injustice.”
  • “The kingdom is but an approximation of the church, a manifestation of the church, but it is not the church because the church will be a utopian, perfect, just, reconciled, loving society.”
  • “The kingdom is now but the church is not yet.”

Let’s get our analogies straighter.

Let’s not diss the church in the name of the kingdom. The church is the Body of Christ and Jesus is the king of the kingdom. You can’t have one without the other.

Thank you. God bless.

- Scot


[i] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a seminar paper for his theology professor at Berlin (R. Seeberg), all but identified church and kingdom but found two (mistaken) distinctions: the church is present while the kingdom is both past Israel, the present church and the future completion. I see the church as Israel expanded and I see the church as future as well. See “Church and Eschatology (or Church and the Kingdom of God),” in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Young Bonhoeffer, 1918-1927, ed. Hans Pfeifer et al, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 9 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 310–324, here referring to p. 314. On p. 315 he says the church and the kingdom in the here and now are “temporally identical entities.” But see his more expanded sense of kingdom of God when it includes the state’s mandate for order in Bonhoeffer, Berlin: 1932-1933, 292–295.

[ii] C.K. Barrett, Church, Ministry, and Sacraments in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1985), 13, 25.

[iii] Bonhoeffer, The Young Bonhoeffer, 1918-1927, 316.

The Many Voices of the Church - A Quick Assessment of the 2014 ETS & AAR Conference Meetings

Each November the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and American Academy of Religion (AAR) conferences meeting separately as independent organizations to discuss Christianity and Religion both in America and globally throughout the world. ETS emphasizes its evangelical doctrinal themes as it perceives them (largely now through the Southern Baptist lens it seems: sic, What Happened to Evangelical Theology?) while AAR speaks to a broader range of non-evangelical themes.

The ETS meeting will be held Wednesday through Friday, November 19-21, 2014
at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center in San Diego, CA.

AAR site link here
The AAR meeting will be held Saturday through Tuesday, November 22-25, 2014
at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California

Because there are so many program sessions between each group it is hard to digest specifically the heart throb of 21st century Christianity without paying attention to book titles and media-generated themes throughout the year from a variety of publishers and news organizations. Generally, to read through the program sessions of each conference is to notice news worthy trends of interest to everyday Christians around the world in one fashion or another:

ETS Program Sessions - 128 pages

AAR Program Sessions - 133 pages

For instance, for the Tony Jones follower, we see an interest in whether Emergent Christianity is still a viable player within today's brand of evangelicalism, and if not, then in what way it may have left its dissenting mark upon present church structure, worship, governance, and ideology since the 1990s (sic, Is the Emergent Church relevant?).

For the Christianity Today reader the question of Stan Grenz as a proper evangelical was discussed as to whether the revered evangelic theologian in his remaining years was pursuing Open Theology, gay rights, and a postmodern theology ala the later paths of Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones (sic, see article below, What Happened to Evangelical Theology?). Or whether he might rightly be acclaimed by the conservative Protestant and Catholic church as its own brand of conservative evangelicalism which has traditionally been less open to these contemporary Christian movements.

And inasmuch as Grenz is the theologic divide between a conservative Christianity or a postmodern one may be the very reason that we are having these discussions today against a more dogmatic form of Christianity.

Learning How to Divide True from False

It is to this divide in evangelicalism that Relevancy22 had responded over recent years to provide another voice to a non-dogmatic version of enculturated conservative Christianity. That is, the themes that have been rehearsed in each of the separate sessions of both the ETS and AAR should be themes that have been well-responded to in the many articles found within this blogsite over the years. Built not as from one voice or denomination but broadly from many voices, theologians, scientists, and scholars.


So that a broader, more inclusive Gospel of Christ might be proclaimed relevantly into this needful, contemporary world crying "God is Dead (or unconscious)" when in fact this very God is dead to us and not to Himself. A God who lives through His church by willing hearts, minds, hands, and feet able to hear His voice and grasp His plan of salvation not by structure or device but by Christ's very heartthrob for humanity itself.

To understand that no one branch of Christianity gets a say on how to interpret the Bible by delimiting its message to a more preferred message by some - whether they be a majority or a minority of Christians. But to learn to read the Bible in a broader manner based upon the certainty of its major themes - that of love and reconciliation to all men everywhere through Christ Jesus our Lord.

To recognize deceptively trendy arguments declaring Scripture as primary authority and tradition as presumptive authority can be both true-and-not-true based upon the decreeing church body announcing this (con)scripted phrase. Mostly, for conservative evangelics, the message of the Bible can be a stricter one than for the non-conservative, progressive, or post-modern evangelic who sees the Bible's message more broadly and less limiting to its gospel message and lively contents.

What Is Theology When Measured in Relational Terms?

Again, at Relevancy22 we have questioned evangelical premises such as these by providing a larger base of reasoning to help the searching reader against the pulpited mantras of the day through basic deconstructions and reconstructions of today's church messages (mostly schizophrenic it would seem to this writer/theologian) of the Gospel of Christ.

That all theology is driven by the gospel's trinitarian mission of evangelism emphasizing relational openness and outreach with a passion for humanity. That God's love must be the primary trajectory of all doctrines, dogmas, and theologies of the Bible upon which hope and truth are built. For without God's love there can ultimately be no hope nor persuasive truth, only a hopelessness measured upon a foundation of certain death and destruction.

R.E. Slater
November 23, 2014

*as reminder to new readers, Relevancy22 is primarily built as a
reference-and-resource site rather than as a daily blog.

* * * * * * * * * *

... Grenz was on the forefront of introducing trinitarian mission to evangelicalism. The fundamental definition that “God is love” is the beginning of seeing that God passionately pursues a relationship with humanity. The eternal life of God is lived out in a set of relationships, including the inner relationship of the Trinity and the relationship between God and humanity. “God is social, not solitary,” was one of Stan’s axioms- John Franke

I suppose it’s to be expected that a group of evangelical scholars would want to have some control over the legacy of one of their most creative colleagues. But I think that Stan was on a trajectory of openness and relationality that would have made him quite uncomfortable with the current climate of evangelical theology. Maybe he could have stemmed the tide of ideological expulsions and such, but others have tried that here and left instead of continuing to fight- Tony Jones

* * * * * * * * * *

What Happened to Evangelical Theology? [#ETS2014 Liveblog]

by Tony Jones
November 20, 2014

This weekend I’m attending the Evangelical Theological Society and American Academy of Religion, and I will be liveblogging some of the sessions that I’m attending.

“Assessing Stanley Grenz’s Contribution to Evangelical Theology: 10 Years Later,” that’s the name of the session I’m attending at ETS. But Stan’s death isn’t the only thing that happened ten years ago at ETS. That was also the year that ETS voted against Open Theology, for all intents and purposes expelling people like Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders. Now, when you look through the program book, in addition to the annual reaffirmation of inerrancy in the image above, you will see that many sessions are dominated by Southern Baptists.

8:50am Jason Sexton just presented Edna Grenz, Stan’s widow, with a volume of 20 essays in his honor. She implored the gathered scholars to not just continue Stan’s theological rigor, but to also treat one another with humility and respect as they debate one another.

8:54am Sexton continues that many, looking back, do not think that Stan really understood postmodernism. Some also incorrectly believe that he had departed evangelicalism before his death. This would only happen, Sexton says, if we look exclusively at Stan’s academic work and ignore his spiritual and ecclesial life.

Sexton also thinks that Stan is unfairly criticized for his book on homosexuality,Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality. Instead than being a recalcitrant evangelical, Sexton says, Granz was “ahead of us” on sexuality, women, postmodernity, and the Trinity.

Who’s the real Stan Grenz? That’s what Sexton tried to discover in his dissertation, but he says Stan cannot be found in the secondary literature — the books and articles about Grenz. That’s because, “Maybe we’re afraid of what we might find, how the real Stan Grenz might push us beyond our own boundaries.”

Stanley Grenz
9:05am Derek Tidball takes on the topic of Stan Grenz and Evangelicalism. He says that evangelicalism is virtually impossible to define doctrinally, so others define it historically. But Grenz argued that evangelicalism is a living, mutating organism. By seeing the Bible as the book of the community, Grenz was faithful to his Baptist roots, and that’s something that evangelicalism at large should heed. Stan is wrongfully called the “godfather of the emerging church.”

Comment: Already the tone in the room is to say as loudly as possible, Stan Grenz lived and died as an evangelical! In other words, people who think he was anything short of evangelical when he died are wrong. Implied is that, had he lived, he would have not followed the path of people like McLaren, Pagitt, and me — who were so influenced by him — but he would have stayed firmly within the evangelical camp. Looking around this conference, I cannot affirm the same. I didn’t know Stan well, but from what I knew of him, he would not feel comfortable with the strident conservatism of ETS.

9:20am Gregg Allison, from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is tackling Stan Grenz’s ambiguity, a subject that has been raised in every presentation so far. Allison is “mildly critical of Stan’s vagueness.” Allison lists a litany of doctrines that evangelical’s believe, and he quotes Grenz as saying that tradition has “presumptive authority.” That’s a phrase from the field of law, saying that there are presumptive truths, but they can be overturned by evidence. Scripture has primary authority, tradition has presumptive authority. That, in a nutshell, was Grenz’s theological method.

Comment: It seems that since Stan’s death, evangelical scholars have worried about where Stan would have ended up, especially because his theological proposals were not as settled and definite as they would have liked. But it’s the very “presumptive authority” that would have allowed Stan to change his mind on something like homosexuality. For so many of us, Stan opened up the beauty of postmodern philosophy. The epic talk in which he compared the original Star Trek to Star Trek: The Next Generation, put the most complex of ideas in a common, vernacular language. 

Indeed, I would argue that when you read Brian McLaren’s writings on homosexuality, for instance, you find the very kind of theological reasoning that Grenz taught us. The very vagueness that makes evangelical theologians uneasy is what made Stan so compelling as a theologian to us in the late-90s and early 2000s.

9:45am John Franke, who co-wrote an excellent book with Stan, knew Stan for 10 years before he died. When John thinks about Stan now, he always thinks about the man, not necessarily ideas. The ideas matter, Stan taught John, but what really matters about theology is whether it makes you a better person. When John first attended ETS, he was very put off by how competitive the environment was. But Stan was immediately hospitable to John, and even came to Biblical at John’s invitation to lecture — for free.

Franke says that Grenz was on the forefront of introducing trinitarian mission to evangelicalism. The fundamental definition that “God is love” is the beginning of seeing that God passionately pursues a relationship with humanity. The eternal life of God is lived out in a set of relationships, including the inner relationship of the Trinity and the relationship between God and humanity. “God is social, not solitary,” was one of Stan’s axioms.

“He was a beautiful man, who lived out his theology, and invites us to do the same.” That’s Franke’s final word on Grenz.

[Final] comment: I suppose it’s to be expected that a group of evangelical scholars would want to have some control over the legacy of one of their most creative colleagues. But I think that Stan was on a trajectory of openness and relationality that would have made him quite uncomfortable with the current climate of evangelical theology. Maybe he could have stemmed the tide of ideological expulsions and such, but others have tried that here and left instead of continuing to fight.