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

Monday, January 13, 2014

Christopher H. Evans - American Liberalism Isn't What You Think It Is

Christopher Evans' book, Liberalism without Illusions, discusses the affective movement of Christian liberalism upon the Orthodox Church, writing of its more positive religious impact in an historical context across a broader, dissimilar spectrum of lives and cultures incapable of remaining stagnant in time and space as many may think or wish. As such, a liberalism that can cause older, more popular traditions to rethink themselves is a good thing, and one that may create contemporary relevancy in the Gospel witness of Jesus to men and society in need of new ways of hearing the Gospel.

For myself, I regard the wider word "liberalism" as a more helpful word filled with illuminating tendencies evoking human compassion, generosity, greater self-reflection and awareness, and tolerance for other societies and cultures dis-similar from myself. My older tradition would castigate the term and banish all who deem it constructive as unlike themselves and worthy of condemnation. To the mature in Christ, this way of thinking and behaving cannot accede with the dictates and anti-intellectual posturings by this more conservative segment of Christianity. It would be wrong to do so and unhelpful in the study of God's Word. Placing authority in the hands of men and not in the hands of Almighty God through discernment, prayer, contemplation, historical reflection, scientific discovery, and affective scholarship. I give two-thumbs up for Evans' newest book discussing regenerative roots of American liberalism.

R.E. Slater
January 13, 2013

Amazon Book Description
Publication Date: January 12, 2010

By the 1930s most mainline Protestant traditions promulgated the key tenets of liberalism, especially an embrace of modern intellectual theory along with theological and religious pluralism. In Liberalism without Illusions, Christopher Evans critiques his own tradition, focusing in particular on why so many Americans today want to distance themselves from this rich and vibrant heritage. In a time when attitudes about “liberal” vs. “conservative” theology have become the focus of the culture wars, he provides a constructive discussion of how liberalism might move forward into the twenty-first century, which, he argues, is indispensable to the future of American Christianity itself.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly - Starred Review. Evans (The Kingdom Is Always but Coming), a professor of church history at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, makes no pretensions about the scope of his work. This book does not include a comprehensive view or extensive history of liberal theology-that can be found elsewhere, and in much larger tomes. Instead, he sets out to reclaim and rejuvenate this misunderstood, formerly vibrant, and ostensibly weakening movement in American Christianity. To rejuvenate any school of thought, that school must be understood, and here Evans is at his finest. He begins by immediately confronting the pejorative meaning the "culture wars" have attached to the word "liberal" and follows by proposing a new foundation on which to build a more historical, rather than hyped, understanding of liberal Christianity. Finally, Evans transcends the limits of stereotypical "ivory tower history" by offering more than just analysis. He offers solutions. The liberal Christian movement in America is not dead, he concludes, and history shows how to prevent it from dying. Anyone interested in 20th- and 21st-century American Christianity needs to read and consider the suggestions Evans has to offer.

Reviews

A strong argument for the appeal and relevance of a liberal theology. Evans brings the liberal and evangelical stories into a compelling conversation, making a case for a liberal theology that reclaims its evangelical roots and its place in the life and witness of the church. - Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Religion, Columbia University.

Evans transcends the limits of stereotypical "ivory tower history" by offering more than just analysis. He offers solutions.... Anyone interested in 20th- and 21st-century American Christianity needs to read and consider the suggestions Evans has to offer. - Publisher's Weekly, 1/26/2010 

Evans is an expert guide for the liberal Protestant tradition, showing us the lost treasure and nuggets of power and wisdom that can and should be harvested. This book is an antidote against those who separate piety and social action, levying a powerful argument that any adequate theology enables church leaders to inspire its members to love justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly in service to the world. It is a prophetic call and important reminder of the dangerous good news of an applied gospel waiting to be lived. - James K. Wellman Jr., author of Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest.

Product Details

Print Length: 234 pages 
Publisher: Baylor University Press (January 12, 2010) 




Liberal = Evangelical and Modern
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/01/10/liberal-evangelical-and-modern/
Theological liberalism is a historical movement born in the nineteenth century that supports critical intellectual engagement with both Christian traditions and contemporary intellectual resources. As opposed to more traditional forms of Christian theology, liberalism has been characterized by an affirmation of personal and collective experience, systemic social analysis, and open theological inquiry (6).
Notice what’s at work here: a creative synthesis of the Christian tradition (evangelical) and modernism. The result focuses on both personal and collective experience, a clear emphasis on systemics, and a general disposition of opennness. In chps 2 and 3 Evans sketches the dominating voices of liberalism, and it is a sketch to which I will at times turn again.

Human reason matters, and here he dips into both Kant and Hegel, and he rightly (I think) sees the impact of Hegel on liberalism because of his more immanent approach to divine activity in history. God can be known through reason and in historical processes, and this all leads him to speak of the undeniable significance of Schleiermacher for understanding liberalism.

Now briefly:

1. American liberalism emerged out of New England Calvinism.

2. A leading influence can be seen in Charles Sheldon’s famous “What would Jesus do?” question and life. Christology was refashioned in exemplary terms and also in anti-Trinitarian ways with Unitarians (William Ellery Channing’s voice). Then comes Horace Bushnell and “new theology.” He saw Christianity as a historical religion and was one who helped create a more positive sense of human goodness (Christian nurture flowed from this) and he pushed for a sacrifice of his life on the part of Jesus against typical penal substitutionary theories.

3. The pulpiteers included Henry Ward Beecher (anti-slavery) and David Swing (4th Pres Chicago), and it was Swing who perhaps best articulated emerging liberal theology: OT criticism was embraced, as was Darwinian thinking, and cultural conditioned-ness.

4. Kingdom theology, and this means socialistic Christianity, or the application of Jesus’ compassion and justice to national and global problems.  Here he looks at Shailer Mathews.

5. All leading to his specialty: Walter Rauschenbusch and the social gospel and social Christianity. Salvation becomes more robust and the focus is on social problems with the church taking the initiative in justice issues. The social gospel gave important ideas to liberation theologies. He looks, too, at Washington Gladden and Howard Thurman. The social gospel is the most enduring legacy of Protestant liberalism and is in my view here to stay. It can tie hands with Kuyperian thinking to focus the energies of Christians on the public sector, on politics, and on social activism — though the two orientations (social gospel and Kuyperian thinking are hardly the same).

The arena of God’s work was history and society, Jesus’ moral vision and his humanity were central, and they tended to diminish theological centralities of orthodoxy as well as the church. This led in part to therapeutic emphases in the gospel as well as to pastoral care and prophetic theology. Social justice was combined with pastoral care for the folks in their local church (e.g., Ernest Fremont Tittle, from Evanston). It garnered interest in the ecumenical movement… but listen to this observation Evans summarizes from Sidney Mead: “the social gospel was a movement that did not lead to the creation of any new churches, and was largely consigned to the corridors of power within preexistent Protestant denominations” (76).

And it’s focus, even obsession, with economic concerns made it blind often to other concerns, like race and gender equalities.



D. Oiver Herbel - "Turning to Tradition": Why American Evangelicals Turn to Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism



Evangelicals Turning to Eastern Orthodoxy
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/01/13/evangelicals-turning-to-eastern-orthodoxy/

by Scot McKnight

So, let me put this together again: these converts search for the original-est NT church by riding the American encouragement to be anti-traditional. Yet, their restoration spirit encounters the Great Tradition of the Orthodox church as the best form of restoring the NT church so they end up being anti-traditional by being un-Americanly traditional. Clever, and right?

I wish Herbel had compared why the restorationism of the evangelical converts is not on par with the traditionalism of the Orthodox when their theological orientation is more or less the same (and frankly the evangelical-rooted Orthodox converts are some of the best witnesses today for Orthodoxy). The tension appears to be over what one thinks is restoration while the others see it as a millennia long living tradition — rather than (just?) the original faith.

Herbel’s work lacked nuanced analysis of the crises at work in the conversion of his subjects. Rambo and I have both explored this in our books (mine in both Turning to Jesus and in Finding Faith, Losing Faith) while Herbel stuck with little more than general (if accurate) orientations. There are a variety of crises at work when one converts and these could have been explored.

Finally, this book, especially the endnotes, was riddled with typos. I found enough that I got irritated and stopped marking them. OUP ought to be embarrassed with its copyeditors.

- Scott

* * * * * * * * 

A short note here.

To Herbel and McKnight's observations I would like to add my own observation that for some Evangelicals, having become exasperated with the state of affairs of evangelicalism, may also turn to "safe" groups that are perceived as remaining in the older Protestant tradition but differ by degree by practice or worship. Hence, groups like the neo-Anabaptists, or even re-invigorated mainline denominational churches such as the UMC United Methodists, would serve as examples of evangelicals moving left of right (but not too far left) while remaining snug within Protestantism's older traditions. However, I would not include Christian groups such as the Charismatic, Emergent, or non-denominational Bible-fellowships, in this category as they are simply variants of a wider, older, Evangelical tradition, which some may transition into, or out of, for one reason or another over their lifetimes.

R.E. Slater
January 13, 2013












4 Epistemological Approaches to God



To make matters worse, starting with ethics (the outside-in direction) has a tough time getting all the way to ‘God’ by trying to equate ethics with evidence that there is a God. While you can see that the ethics and belief in God may have some overlap, it is not the most efficient of effective approach and thus it has fallen out of favor.

REVELATION

Revelation is a tried-and-true approach historically. Protestants of almost every stripe love this approach. From fundamentalist, to thoughtful Barthians, and even the Radical Orthodox crowd feast on a steady diet of the revelation approach.

That God reveals God’s-self in creation, in history, in scripture and in experience, is a staple of the Christian religion.

The problem is that there is often a gap. If you start with what is revealed you might not make it all the way to God… and likewise, if you start with God it can be tough to make it all the way out to what is revealed.

The problems come in things like Biblical (historic) criticism, modern science and the pesky pluralism of the post-colonial era.

REDUCTION

Reductive approaches are perhaps the Most problematic. We are haunted in late modernity by this shadow of foundationalism. As we are all aware, the scientific reductionism of the New Atheists is just the flip-side of the coin from fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell. If you start out there, you never make it in to God. If you start with God, you never make it all the way out there.

This approach has left us with a nasty enlightenment hangover and many (if not most) people are weary of the contentious and often combative result of this attempt of making your way in the world.

LINGUISTICS

Linguistic approaches (I include the hermeneutical crowd in this) seem to me the most promising in the 21st century. The problem, however, is that they can often be so different from classic or historic approaches that the uninitiated have a difficult time even recognizing them as the same Christianity one is trying to engage.

Take for instance the much debated sentences of Jack Caputo. What does it even mean that God does not exist but that God insists? Is God just a concept of our highest good? And how does one fend off the Feuerbach critique that religion is nothing more than a human projection by talking about ‘language games’?

Does God ontologically exist or not? Is the linguistic approach just a fancy way of skirting the question of metaphysics?

Most importantly, for the epistemology question that we were originally attempting to get setup, how do you even move forward if linguistics / hermeneutics are your preferred entry point?

So [these are] my “4 Approaches – 2 Directions” schematic. It [may] lead to a fruitful conversation even while it clearly needs some adjustments.

I would welcome your thoughts, questions, concerns, revisions, suggestions and innovations.

p.s. I’m going to start linking to the Kindle version of Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms at the bottom every post. It is only $5 and it is so [very] helpful to new readers of this blog.

- Bo

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
SYNOPSIS
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Epistemology (Knowledge of Truth):

  • Ethics - Truth  is what I  do 
  • Revelation - Truth is what God claims as truth
  • Reductive - Truth is what I claim as truth (or, what people have historically attributed to God)
  • Linguistic - Truth is interpretive, and I have no private claim to God's truth.

*It should be noted that when speaking of bare intellectual apprehension of God is not enough (sic, God is not an insect to be studied but to be apprehended). That this apprehension must approach our whole being and way of life, and not simply the head alone.

Hence, there must also be room for contemplative practice (worship, prayer, fellowship, etc) or some kind of direct "experience" of the Divine (interpersonally or in community with others) in some way or fashion. Perhaps this falls more into the areas of revelation or reduction (sic, receiving the "word of God") - whether falsely, or truly, can only be evaluated in hindsight by error and omission, ofttimes far removed from the actual occasion of  the revelatory (or inspired) events when reviewing the resulting practice, attitude, or doctrines of the church and its people.

Essentially this affective process speaks to the idea of opening one's heart up to God and others (or within to ourselves, or to God's creation). This divine-human union may also be described as a transformational (or conformational) process, and is spoken of many times in the Bible (described popularly as "divinization" in Christian doctrine, or as "theosis" within the Eastern Orthodox tradition).

In summary, intellectual apprehension of God alone remains barren without the divine touch of God in one's life and in some way showing by attitude or action, word or deed, thought or attitude.

R.E. Slater
January 13, 2013



Thomas Jay Oord - Making Sense of Love & Evil, Chance & Purpose




Making Sense of Love & Evil, Chance & Purpose
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/making_sense_of_love_and_evil_chance_and_purpose/

by Thomas Jay Oord
January 6, 2013

I'm beginning a new book project! Thanks to a generous grant from the randomness and divine providence project, I'm offering a proposal for how we might best believe God acts providentially in our world.

Almost all of us want to make sense out of life. Most of our attempts to make sense of things address immediate questions: Why did she look at me? Why is it so cold? Why can’t my team win a championship? Why do I feel hungry? Why can’t I relax? What’s for dinner? Etc.

Most of us ask the big questions of life too. These questions and their answers make up the heart of the world’s various religions, the impetus for scientific endeavors, and the domain of philosophy. Big questions and our attempts to answer them are a big deal! The disciplines of theology, science, and philosophy explore both the minute particularities and the big picture in their attempts to make sense of reality.


Those of us who believe in God – and I am one – think fully adequate answers to the big questions of life involve God. This does not mean that science, philosophy, the humanities, arts, or other disciplines cannot contribute to our quest to answer well life’s biggest questions. Fully adequate answers involve them too.

The discipline of theology should not play the trump card in attempts to understand reality better. But if God’s presence and influence has the kind of far-reaching effects most believers like me think, theology cannot be set aside in discussions about the meaning of life.

And what an amazing life it seems to be!

Existence as we know it is abounding in information, values, mystery, and more. We experience love, joy, and happiness, along with evil, pain, and sadness. We act purposefully and intentionally to reach our goals, but we encounter randomness, chance, and luck as well. We seem to act freely much of our lives, but circumstances, opportunities, bodies, and environments limit our freedom. At one moment we may be in awe of the goodness and beauty of our lives, while in the next moment we get discouraged by the horror and ugliness we encounter. And most of the time, our lives are made up of the mundane, usual, and routine.

Making sense of life – in light of such wide-ranging diversity – is a daunting task. But it is a task we inevitably take up. In more or less sophisticated ways, we attempt to figure out how things work and what makes sense.  All of us are metaphysicians, in the broad sense.

This book explores the big picture with a special emphasis upon the randomness and evil we encounter in life. This does not mean that purpose, beauty, goodness, and love are ignored. They will not be. But in these pages I offer a theological vision of reality that takes seriously both purposiveness and randomness, both good and evil, both love and sin.

Those who believe in God have for millennia wrestled with what we often call the problem of evil question: "Why doesn’t a good and powerful God prevent genuinely evil events?"

In recent centuries, a different but related question has gained prominence: "How can God act providentially if we live amongst randomness and chance?"

In my book, I will propose a theologically, scientifically, and philosophically informed answer to these questions. In doing so, I face directly the realities of life, in their wide-ranging diversity.

I'm looking forward to this adventure!



Christianity 21 - A Celebration of Church





God Has Died... And He Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/01/10/god-has-died-and-he-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life/

by Tony Jones



Christianity21 is a ground-breaking gathering of leaders who want to fashion
the future of the Christian faith. 21 Talks, 21 Big Ideas, 21 Minutes Each.
Plus, over forty 7-21 Talks by amazing people just like you.
Join us in Denver, Colorado, January 9-11.


FAQS


Q: Are all the presenters for Christianity 21 women?

A: No. One of the first years, we did present an all women roster, which was a great success. But this year, both male and female presenters will join us.

Q: Does Christianity 21 have specific themes? Will everyone be presenting on the same topic?

A: No. We have presented Christianity 21 as a theme-specific event in the past, but have come to appreciate the flexibility and diversity produced when influencers are given free reign to share their biggest and best ideas, regardless of subject. We’re asking presenters to share one big idea this year, which will result in 21 big ideas.

Q: Are there opportunities to share ideas too?

We will be accepting suggestions until October 1st with a goal of responding with the team’s selections by October 15th. We appreciate your patience until then.

Q: Can I make changes to my tickets?

A: We try to be flexible so some changes are possible. For example, up until 7 days prior to the event, you can transfer your registration to another person, or you can bank your registration fee for a future JoPa Group event. In order to keep all of our events and conferences affordable, The JoPa Group works efficiently. We have a small staff, and we try to keep overhead (like credit card transaction fees) to a minimum. For that reason, we cannot offer refunds for canceled registrations.


History

Birthed in 2009, Christianity21 invites attenders to live a 21st century Christianity with 21 speakers who deliver 21 big ideas in 21 minutes each.

It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere that is created when energized people from across the Christian spectrum come together to imagine a healthier, better faith for the future. But if you didn’t have the chance to join us for the original event, we hope this highlights video produced by Don Heatley will help you get a taste of what happens in this sort of “come together” event.





21 Voices…Plus Yours.

We work hard to fill the stage with some of the sharpest and most unique voices of the Christian faith.  But this event isn’t just about their voices. It’s about yours as well.

Whether it’s sharing ideas with those seated in your row, around the dinner table, or in your social networks, there are plenty of ways to share your perspective on the content presented. If you’re comfortable facilitating a small group discussion on a favorite topic or getting up in front of people to present a good idea of your own, please feel free to submit yourself as a possible discussion leader or presenter. We’re trying to make room for as many voices as possible!

2014 Presenters




http://thejopagroup.com/

... for information on coming events,
retreats, conferences, and workshops
go to this link here.