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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

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.

Why?

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.


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... 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


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What Happened to Evangelical Theology? [#ETS2014 Liveblog]
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/11/20/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.






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