According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kintsukuroi - "Broken Jars of Clay Repaired with Gold"








We are but broken jars of clay
healed by the precious blood of Jesus
made more beautiful for the imperfection ...

- R.E. Slater, August 14, 2014



But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

- Isaiah 64.8



But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power
belongs to God and not to us.

- 2 Corinthians 4.7



there are some pots that
are cracked,
others that leak,
that can give no service
until bound-up and restored
into service’s assembly
and there, in service,
find fulfillment,
not in itself,
but in what it bears.

- from Jars of Clay, R.E. Slater, November 7, 2011









The Collision Between "Beliefs and Facts" and the Evangelical Narrative


evangelicalism, evolution, and the facts
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/08/evangelicalism-evolution-and-the-facts/

by Peter Enns
August 13, 2014

A recent article in the NYT talks about the collision between “beliefs and facts.” It struck a chord.

The author, Brendan Nyhan, argues that simply “knowing” scientific data, for example on evolution or climate change, isn’t as important as one’s beliefs and group identity–be it political or religious.

The force that determines where people eventually wind up is their ideology and the group to which they belong, which give them a coherent life-narrative.

Here is the key point of the article:

In a new study, a Yale Law School professor, Dan Kahan, finds that the divide over belief in evolution between more and less religious people is wider among people who otherwise show familiarity with math and science, which suggests that the problem isn’t a lack of information. When he instead tested whether respondents knew the theory of evolution, omitting mention of belief, there was virtually no difference between more and less religious people with high scientific familiarity. In other words, religious people knew the science; they just weren’t willing to say that they believed in it.

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. This finding helps us understand why my colleagues and I have found that factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines. With science as with politics, identity often trumps the facts.

---

Applying this to the question of Christianity and evolution, it’s not enough to “show people the facts” of the fossil record or genetics, even if in doing so some change of thinking results.

If anyone wants to re-educate evangelicalism about evolution, they need to do more than “re-educate” evangelicals–it takes more than slides and YouTube videos explaining the compelling evidence.

Education doesn’t correct bad thinking if one’s narrative relies on that bad thinking. One also has to offer an alternate coherent and attractive structure whereby people can handle these new ways of thinking without feeling as if their entire faith and life hang in the balance.

I wrote Inspiration and Incarnation, The Evolution of Adam, and The Bible Tells Me So with this process in mind. The “aha” moments series I am currently running lays out examples of others (and more to come) who have come to accept, for various reasons, an alternate “structure” for their theological narratives–specifically, how they read the Bible.

If you’ll allow me to get on my soap box, this entire evangelical dilemma comes down to: “What is the Bible and what do I do with it?”

Learning to read the Bible differently–in a manner that is consistent with reason, tradition, and experience (yes, that is the Episcopalian “three-legged stool” and 3/4 of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral)–is the key issue for evangelicalism in order to relax a bit about evolution and think through it rather than reacting and vilifying others.

Unfortunately, holding fast to familiar ways of reading the Bible is the core pillar of the evangelical narrative structure. And there you have the problem facing evangelicalism in a nutshell.

It’s a hard thing to let go of. But for those who are ready to, alternate narrative structures abound and many have found a good home elsewhere and haven’t lost their faith in the process.


* * * * * * * * * * *



Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/upshot/when-beliefs-and-facts-collide.html?_r=1

by Brendan Nyhan
July 5, 2014 

At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the publicbelieves “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.

As a result of surveys like these, scientists and advocates have concluded that many people are not aware of the evidence on these issues and need to be provided with correct information. That’s the impulse behind efforts like the campaign to publicize the fact that 97 percent of climate scientistsbelieve human activities are causing global warming.

In a new study, a Yale Law School professor, Dan Kahan, finds that the divide over belief in evolution between more and less religious people iswider among people who otherwise show familiarity with math and science, which suggests that the problem isn’t a lack of information. When he instead tested whether respondents knew the theory of evolution, omitting mention of belief, there was virtually no difference between more and less religious people with high scientific familiarity. In other words, religious people knew the science; they just weren’t willing to say that they believed in it.

Photo Credit: Eiko Ojala

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. This finding helps us understand why my colleagues and I have found that factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines. With science as with politics, identity often trumps the facts.

So what should we do? One implication of Mr. Kahan’s study and other research in this field is that we need to try to break the association between identity and factual beliefs on high-profile issues – for instance, by making clear that you can believe in human-induced climate change and still be a conservative Republican like former Representative Bob Inglis or an evangelical Christian like the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.Continue reading the main story

But we also need to reduce the incentives for elites to spread misinformationto their followers in the first place. Once people’s cultural and political views get tied up in their factual beliefs, it’s very difficult to undo regardless of the messaging that is used.

It may be possible for institutions to help people set aside their political identities and engage with science more dispassionately under certain circumstances, especially at the local level. Mr. Kahan points, for instance, to the relatively inclusive and constructive deliberations that were conducted among citizens in Southeast Florida about responding to climate change. However, this experience may be hard to replicate – on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, another threatened coastal area, the debate over projected sea level rises has already become highly polarized.

The deeper problem is that citizens participate in public life precisely because they believe the issues at stake relate to their values and ideals, especially when political parties and other identity-based groups get involved – an outcome that is inevitable on high-profile issues. Those groups can help to mobilize the public and represent their interests, but they also help to produce the factual divisions that are one of the most toxic byproducts of our polarized era. Unfortunately, knowing what scientists think is ultimately no substitute for actually believing it.



Scot McKnight's Review of "Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy," Part 4 - Kevin Vanhoozer




There is little doubt that the inerrancy of the Bible is a current and often contentious topic among evangelicals. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy represents a timely contribution by showcasing the spectrum of evangelical positions on inerrancy, facilitating understanding of these perspectives, particularly where and why they diverge.

Each essay in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy considers:

  • the present context and the viability and relevance for the contemporary evangelical Christian witness;
  • whether and to what extent Scripture teaches its own inerrancy;
  • the position’s assumed/implied understandings of the nature of Scripture, God, and truth; and
  • three difficult biblical texts, one that concerns intra-canonical contradictions, one that raises questions of theological plurality, and one that concerns historicity.

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy serves not only as a single-volume resource for surveying the current debate, but also as a catalyst both for understanding and advancing the conversation further. Contributors include Al Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, Peter Enns, and John Franke.


* * * * * * * * *


Scott McKnight begins a discussion of Inerrancy to which I will add
occasional emendation, notes, links, and resources. R.E. Slater, August 4, 2014


Well-Versed Inerrancy
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/13/well-versed-inerrancy/

by Scot McKnight
Aug 13, 2014

Kevin Vanhoozer
In a book where the biggest terms are the last two, Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy, the problem is the word “biblical.” If this adjective means “inerrancy of the Bible” we haven’t much of a problem. But even this raises a problem I have with the book: a biblical view of inerrancy ought to be about the Bible’s view of inerrancy but this book — all five views — are much more theological and philosophical and historical studies of inerrancy instead of a serious attempt to show from the Bible what the Bible says about the topic of “inerrancy.”

The criticism applies less to Kevin Vanhoozer’s fine chapter, “Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, and Literature Interpretation in the Economy of Biblical Discourse,” than to the other essays. Still, we are a long way from a truly biblical approach, because that approach leads at least in part to Matthew’s or Paul’s midrashic, allegorical exegeses that at times have nothing to do with the author’s intent

Vanhoozer’s remains very theoretical and the categories are more or less set up before we get to the test cases but his section “God and Truth” is an exceptional example of a more biblically-framed approach to inerrancy. His approach is Augustinian, but the more important expression is that he’s about a “well-versed” inerrancy, one that is well versed in hermeneutics enough to know the following:

God’s authoritative Word is wholly true and trustworthy in everything
it claims about what was, what is, and what will be (202).

Or,

… the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations),
and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when right readers read rightly) (207).

Yes, hermeneutics is at the core of this issue, but determining what is “affirmed” is more than a little challenge.

So both semantics and poetics are at work in reading Scripture. So the quest is the “speech act content” not just the content. That is, find the literal sense to know truth and falsehood of the Bible.

I’ll say it again: The problem for inerrancy is the Bible itself so we need far more attention on what the Bible says about truth and how it speaks before we can have anything approaching a “biblical” inerrancy.

On the problem passages, I have one big comment: Inerrantists tip-toe and tap-dance around the fall of Jericho’s walls and end up denying the overwhelming conclusions of the archaeologists. Pete Enns is right to challenge dust-in-the-eyes proposals of resolution to these sorts of problems. So, what we really need is an inerrantist to explain their view of inerrancy if the account of Joshua 6 really does not correspond to the archaeological evidence. Vanhoozer shifts to “extreme caution” about the archaeological evidence. But then he provides, at least in my view, a way out: he asks what the author means to do with the text of Joshua 6. God is faithful to his word by granting the Israelites the Land. Jericho 6 communicates that promise of God. But does this just shift the content from the historical to the theological? Is this dodging or offering an alternative reading that can accommodate a non-historical reading of Joshua 6?

His approach to these difficulties is to discern the larger rhetorical intent of the author as a generalization whose truth outdoes the historical tension. Vanhoozer rightfully wonders this: since Jesus never distanced himself from the God of the Old Testament, maybe we should use his version of God. Well, isn’t this about what Jesus affirms more than what he doesn’t deny? Is affirmation of Israel’s God an affirmation of everything found in the OT?

Jesus, Vanhoozer says, reads the Bible with an over arching salvation historical drama driving his vision. The herem instructions then are about God clearing space for his own dwelling in the Land. I am unconvinced of this over arching narratival solution: the problem is the actual propositions of the text about what God wants for his people — the tension between Deut 20:16-17 and Jesus’ eschewing of the same in Matthew 5:44. By permitting that act to be God’s way in that time one finds tension with God’s way in Jesus’ time. (Right?)


* * * * * * * * * * *


Addendum by R.E. Slater

From the onset of discussing the subject of inerrancy it has been mine own conclusion, along with many others like Peter Enns, that inerrancy as a philosophical proposition placed upon the biblical text has been unhelpful. That it adds additional religious (Christian) layers to the discussion of the biblical text and by doing so speaks more from the reader's more culturally-defined (and not Spirit-defined) preferences and prejudices.

Scot touches upon the real issue here in that the reading of the biblical text must also be done with an eye to what the author of that text (or its oral legendary component) is trying to communicate. Now it might be assumed through biblical archaeological work - coupled with anthropological research - that the study of ancient cultures might portray a credible idea or two about what may have been going on many thousands of years ago. But it might also be credibly assumed that we may have no idea whatsoever as to what was in the mind of the author, or the intent of the legend being communicated, down through its generations of song, psalm, hymn, and poem.

As such, theology can get itself in a real bind when pretending to "compare verse with verse" to itself without consulting the ancient customs and cultures of the biblical text. Moreover, it can also do a great disservice to its discipline when not also considering the intentions of the ancient society when transmitting its oral histories of God and His revelation to one another. This is what is meant when saying that a fuller biblical hermeneutic must not only be contextual, grammatical, and linguistical, BUT ALSO anthropological. It is not enough to consider ancient society's philosophies and ideologies of their day, but also its receptive readership and what they may have wanted from God by communicating their specific ideas of Him through oral legends and ballads, testimonies and narratives.

Thus the anthropological component is crucial to the biblical text both then, as it is now, in our day. As readers of God's Word we must ask ourselves "just how do we come to its ancient script to read of God?" Do we come with an intent to re-enforce what we believe about God and thus come to the ancient text by way of our own preferences and prejudices? Or do we come to its text willing to unlearn what we think we know in order to reconsider other possible avenues of spiritual discovery and revelation?

And so, not only must a proper hermeneutic include an anthropological orientation to the past and to our own times - including ourselves - but it must  also be contemporary, relevant, dynamic and open. Why? Because a closed faith coupled with a closed Bible simply leads to dogmatism and undue critical judgment and not to a true biblical doctrine. Rather, this approach is not loving but critical of everyone and everything. But an open faith and an open Bible may lead to a gracious God who is doing mighty works against the evils of our day - even within our own lives!

Interpreting the Bible then is a complex set of tasks and not so simply read as first thought. But then again, it must be read and studied. It takes capable teachers of its many stories and narratives - and it takes a wisdom not of man but of God Himself. Hence, to layer one more "philosophical or theological" idea upon its text like the spurious doctrine of "inerrancy" is unhelpful. It can lead to Christian ideas that are not biblical but fallible, harmful, unhelpful, both to ourselves as to our friends and family, church and nation.

Let us be wise then to "unbind" the shackles we would unadvisedly place upon the Bible when pretending we are speaking up for the One who needs no Speech except His own through our still, small voices, offering crucified lives of dedication to the atoning Savior claimed and known with eyes and hearts not of this world. Amen.

R.E. Slater
August 14, 2014
edited August 18, 2014