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

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Brand of Philosophical Theism Do You Carry In Your Bible?


Greek Philosopher Socrates

The other day Roger Olson mentioned "philosophical theism" in his article "Can God Make Himself Dependent Upon Us?" which I thought was both a good descriptive phrase as well as a most curious one. Curious in that any classic Christian position of theism is in itself embedded within its own vested "philosophical theism" of which there are many kinds and flavors: Greek Hellenism, Medieval Scholasticism, Rational Enlightenment, Secular Modernism, and so forth. Hence, to describe any theology (or theologian) one must necessarily look at their philosophical orientation embedded within their own education and schooling, the culture they write from, their predisposition towards the contemporary and vernacular, and so forth. To simply lob the title of philosophical theism upon someone is both too general and too non-specific to be of any help. The better question to ask is what kind of philosophical theism or faith tradition is the theologian in question espousing through his or her's theology, preaching, pulpiteering, and publishing?

Which gets to the greater problem of evangelicalism that tends to defend itself through mis-directive phrases and hot button idioms. For example, by saying that "THAT theologian is a philosophical theist!" "Oh my!" the naive respondent replies, "That's bad!" Not realizing that EVERY theologian is a philosophical theist, and the more responsible ones make a great personal effort in identifying their brand of philosophical theism, its limitations and any necessary qualifications within their own system of writing and thinking rather than simply declaring it as "orthodox," or what they think passes for "orthodoxy". Those less bothered by such prejudicial sentiments (or accuracy) will regard their own Christian faith traditions and heritage as the most appropriate to be written, published, and communicated to others. Nonetheless, it behooves the reader (and listener) to "critique" their favorite "bedrock" theologians for disposition, veracity, breadth, and wisdom. Without which there is only statement versus anti-statement as two or more philosophical traditions clash together in withering fire and lament (realizing, of course, that "traditions" are layered upon one another, and not so logically clean as first supposed).

Consequently, today's article written by Roger Olson follows up on his previous statement by his own words. Words that I think should be reconsidered and evaluated because the subject matter is so large and wide and deep. A subject that requires a pervasity of spirit and a mindedness of theological control, if not restraint and patience.

R.E. Slater
August 22, 2014

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Intuitive Evangelical Theology versus Scholastic Evangelical Theology: “Classical Christian Theism” as Case Study
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/08/intuitive-evangelical-theology-versus-scholastic-evangelical-theology-classical-christian-theism-as-case-study/

by Roger Olson
August 15, 2014

I have long been impressed by how foreign scholastic evangelical theology is to even the most devout, biblically literate evangelical lay people. What do I mean by “scholastic evangelical theology?” I don’t know a better term for the “official” theology taken for granted and promoted as “orthodoxy” by many conservative evangelical systematic theologians. When I was in seminary we were required to read Calvinist Baptist Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Systematic Theology and the book of the same title by Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof (not to be confused with revisionist Reformed theologian Hendrikus Berkhof). They are stellar examples of what I mean by “scholastic evangelical theology,” but there are Arminian-Wesleyan examples as well (though not as many, I would dare to say).

While Strong and Berkhof are long dead, their influences live on. Many of the standard, best-selling evangelical systematic theologies are little more than updatings of Strong and Berkhof (or Hodge and Warfield who influenced Berkhof). Backing up in time…what I am calling “scholastic evangelical theology” derives from and is strongly influenced by Protestant Scholastic Orthodoxy—a technical term for theologians and theologies almost nobody but historical theologians ever read or even know about. Perhaps the best example is Francis Turretin (d. 1687). His Institutio Theologiae Elencticae was required reading for students at Princeton Theological Seminary until Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology replaced it in the late nineteenth century. Turretin’s Institutions was one of the most influential examples of Protestant (especially Reformed) scholasticism.

When I read Hodge, Strong, Berkhof and their contemporary successors among conservative evangelical theologians I am always impressed with how, in my opinion, nobody just reading the Bible would ever even guess at some of what they promote as “orthodoxy”—especially in the doctrine of God. Of course there are differences of nuance among them, but, for the most part, they all articulate, defend and promote as “biblical orthodoxy” what is, in my opinion, a barely Christianized version of Greek philosophical theology. The story of that begins, of course, with the second Christian Apologists Justin Martyr and Athenagoras and the Alexandrian church fathers Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Even Athanasius and the Cappadocians were steeped in it—although they struggled to Christianize Greek philosophical theology. I don’t think they were entirely successful.

Here’s what I mean—to be specific. What ordinary lay Christian, just reading his or her Bible, without the help of any of the standard conservative evangelical systematic theologies, would ever arrive at the doctrines of divine simplicity, immutability, or impassibility as articulated by those systematic theologians (e.g., “without body, parts or passions” as the Westminster Confession has it)? Without body, okay. But without parts or passions? The average reader of Hosea, for example, gets the image of God as passionate. While “parts” isn’t exactly the best term for the persons of the Trinity, a biblical reader will probably think of God as complex and dynamic being rather than as “simple substance.”

Take the doctrine of God’s “aseity”—absolute self-sufficiency. According to Protestant (and Catholic) scholasticism, including much conservative evangelical theology, God cannot be affected by anything outside himself. He is “pure actuality without potentiality.” Who would guess that from just reading the Bible? I wouldn’t. And yet it is touted by many conservative evangelicals as orthodox doctrine not to be questioned. To question it is to dishonor God and detract from his glory!

I much prefer “biblical personalism”—a term I borrow from Emil Brunner. I don’t agree with Brunner about everything, but he was right to take the doctrine of God back to the Bible and strip it of philosophical theism—especially attributes derived from the Greek idea of perfection. The God of the Bible is intensely personal, relational, interactive, emotional, even reactive. Or shall we throw Hosea out of the Bible? Oh, I remember—from seminary: it’s all “anthropomorphism.” There is anthropomorphism in the Bible (God does not literally have hands or eyes as we do except in the incarnation), but to attempt to explain the passions of God in Hosea (and other parts of the Bible) as all anthropomorphism is to start down the road of de-personalizing God. The end point is [Paul] Tillich’s Ground of Being or Being Itself. (Of course, conservative evangelicals never arrive there, but sometimes what they say about God’s attributes leaves one cold as ice with God seeming to be unfeeling and anything but relational.)

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[One of the problems of theology, especially systematic theology, is the use of language itself. It is never pure syntax or syllogistic logicism but narrative and personalization, poetry and metaphor, if not very ambiguity itself in the very language it uses to tell us of God and ourselves. Perhaps the better question to ask is which philosophies best allow the many traditions of the biblical text to breath its greatest airs? I suspect we must always start with the tradition of the text itself in the ancient lost lands of the middle east, its bygone kingdoms, mindsets, and idioms if possible. At which point we must also use today's most current philosophies to critique those of their past heirs and precedents. Hence, "to strip theology of its philosophies" is to foist yet another "philosophy" upon the Bible. It cannot be done and would be naive to think to do so.  - R.E. Slater]

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I’ve taught Christian doctrine and systematic theology for thirty-two years now and I have one recurring experience when introducing students who grew up in evangelical Christian homes and churches and are themselves biblically literate to standard conservative evangelical teaching about God’s attributes. They usually say something like “I’ve never heard anything like that.” And often “where’s that in the Bible?” I have to agree with them that much of it is foreign to the Bible, alien to Christian experience, and spiritually deadening. How does one relate to a God “without passions?”

No doubt many conservative evangelical theologians (and others) think they are honoring God by paying him metaphysical compliments derived from Greek-inspired philosophical theology, but what they are really doing is making God very much unlike Jesus who wept, was provoked to anger, rejoiced, etc. Scholastic theology tends to say those were only possible for the Son of God in and through his humanity—as if emotions are ungodly. Interestingly, virtually all theologians who portray God as unemotional are men and men are often inclined to view emotions as feminine and therefore unworthy of God. Could it be that traditional scholastic theology is infected with a tendency to justify male aversion to emotions, especially those associated with tenderness, by denying that the God of the Bible has such emotions?

This is where narrative theology (about which I have posted here before) can be helpful. Our doctrine of God should not be derived from philosophical presuppositions about what is appropriate for the divine but should be derived primarily from the biblical story of God—beginning with Jesus Christ as the fullest revelation of God’s person and character and spreading out from there to embrace the passionate God of the Bible who dared to open himself up to pain and peace, sorrow and joy in relation to the world and who could do that because feelings and emotions are part of being personal and God is eternally personal. Having appropriate emotional feelings is part of being in the image of God whereas scholastic theology tends to portray the image of God as reason ruling over emotion, being apathetic.


Estrangement: Living Alone Without Family


Shaheen Hasmat hasn't spoken to her family for six years Photo: KATE PETERS


It's rarely discussed, but 27 per cent of people will be estranged from family at some point.
Here, Shaheen Hashmat, 31, who's cut off all contact with her parents, tells her story -
and says the stigma of estrangement is one of society's last major taboos.




Estrangement: 'I haven't spoken to my family for 6 years'
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11046600/Estranged-from-my-family-I-havent-spoken-to-my-parents-in-six-years.html

By Shaheen Hashmat
7:00AM BST 22 Aug 2014
Comments

Our families are supposed to be the ones who love us the most, who will take care of us and support us through difficult times. But what happens when they treat you so badly that you have to walk away?

Estrangement is not a subject that’s spoken about often, but it affects 27 per cent of people - who cut contact with at least one member of their family at some point in their lives. More than 8,000 adults in the UK are estranged from their loved ones at this very moment. The word ‘estrangement’ actually originated from the French 'estranger' and then Latin 'extraneare', meaning ‘to treat as a stranger’, or ‘not belonging to the family’.

For me, this is the perfect description of a situation that can leave those affected in a profound state of isolation and has a deeply negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.

When I was twelve years old, I was helped to escape the threat of forced marriage and honour abuse. I'd seen it happen to other members of my family and suffered various abuses myself, although I was made to feel like the 'attitude problem' was mine. The local police force and social services helped me get away, but that wasn't the end of my ordeal.

For thirteen years afterwards I struggled to overcome great confusion and emotional turmoil in an effort to maintain some semblance of a relationship with my parents. In this I was unsuccessful: the abuse continued, in less extreme forms that prolonged the psychological damage that had already been wrought.

I had a huge panic attack

When I was twenty-five years old, I finally realised that things were never going to change. I simply could not have a relationship with people who so consistently trampled on my boundaries. Since then, my mother has attempted to contact me only once. When I recognised the number she was calling from, I had a huge panic attack, from which it took me two days to recover. It’s been six years since I exchanged a word with either of my parents. The impact of legal and local authority involvement in my escape tore the family apart, and over the years I stopped speaking to all my relatives, except for one sibling with who I exchange a rare text, or phone call.

Shaheen Hashmat

Of all the psychological issues associated with escaping from honour abuse, I believe that estrangement poses the most serious challenge to recovery. Since there is usually more than one perpetrator, it’s not just the devastating loss of close family ties that victims have to deal with - they often become estranged from their entire community as well. It’s also likely that they have been raised in an isolated, highly restricted environment at home.

So they often have to learn how to socialise in a culture that feels completely unfamiliar to them, in order to form new friendships with other people. Without the close-knit support network that so many take for granted, it’s impossible to survive. It can be hard enough to lose just one family member. To lose so many made me feel like a ghost.

Estranged people tend to withdraw

Stand Alone is a UK-based charity, founded in 2012 by CEO Becca Bland, who has herself been affected by estrangement. Bland agrees that the experience can often leave people very vulnerable.

"Because of the stigma surrounding estrangement, people tend to withdraw. They feel scared about properly interacting with others and revealing their situation. Abuse survivors and others who have been rejected may have problems trusting others. For students who are estranged there is the added problem of needing to find somewhere to live when the end of term comes. Many spend the summer months sofa surfing, but there are others who run a real risk of homelessness.

Compounding the pain of estrangement itself is the strong stigma associated with it. There is deep judgement towards those who, for any number of valid reasons, have chosen to cut contact with family. I’ve lived in London for ten years now, but my Scottish accent is still strong. It’s natural for new people I meet to ask questions.

My heart often sinks when, upon hearing that I’m not in contact with my parents, they say, ‘but they’re your parents! How can you just not talk to them?’ Or, ‘you’ll regret it before long – they won’t be around forever you know’.

We need to accept estrangement

Stand Alone

There is no consideration of what those parents are sometimes capable of doing to their children. And the stigma doesn’t stop with well-meaning strangers. An old boyfriend of mine was told by his father that he could do better than being with someone from a “broken home”. When new partners, or their families, discover that they can’t meet my family, there is a definite sense of mistrust - as though estrangement indicates ungratefulness, or an inability on my part to do the work it takes to commit to a relationship. Bland says: “There is a strong pressure to reconcile, when in fact what’s needed is acceptance of the reality of estrangement and provision of support to help people deal with the impact of this on their wellbeing.”

Stand Alone provides a range of services for those who are affected by estrangement, from regular therapeutic meetings in a group setting, adult foster care for those aged between 18 and 30 years, and practical support for students experiencing issues with finance and accommodation (as detailed in a 2008 NUS report).

Their work is unique. What's more, I’m glad to finally hear it said, publicly, that “there are always times when it’s right to walk away”.

I’ve come to realise that, despite the pain of estrangement, I have greater freedom than most to explore and create my own identity, and to enjoy the autonomy previously denied to me. The friends I have now are the family I wish I had. Even through the worst of times, they have loved and supported me unconditionally. I’m also able to offer support to others who have been through similar experiences. Although I still encounter stigma on occasion, I can be confident that my partner will love and respect me for the person I am, rather than judging me by the absence of family I left behind.


Stand Alone



Faith v. Logic: "Holding Creative Tensions Against A Binary Way of Thinking"



faith is messy–which is where God is found
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/08/faith-is-messy-which-is-where-god-is-found/

by Peter Enns
August 17, 2014

"As long as you can deal with life in universal abstractions, you can pretend that the usual binary way of thinking is true, but once you deal with a specific or concrete reality, it is always, without exception a mixture of darkness and light, death and life, good and bad, attractive and unattractive.

"We who are trained in philosophy and theology have all kinds of trouble with that, because our preferred position is to deal with life in terms of abstractions and universals. We want it to be true “on paper” whether it is totally true in concrete situations is less important or even denied.

"This is what the dualistic mind does because it does not know how to hold creative tensions. It actually confuses rigid thinking or black and white thinking with faith itself. In my opinion, faith is exactly the opposite—which is precisely why we call it “faith” and not logic.

"The universal divine incarnation must always show itself in the specific, the concrete, the particular (as in Jesus), and it always refuses to be a mere abstraction. No one says this better than Christian Wiman:

“If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love
for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time ravaged self.”

"When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and –isms, we too often stay there—and forever argue about theory, and making more “crucial distinctions.” At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to think that “I love people” (but not any individual people). We defend universal principles of justice but would not actually live fully just lives ourselves. The universal usually just gives us a way out. The concrete gives us a way in!"

Richard Rohr (from his Daily Meditations)













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CHRISTIAN WIMAN:



Eight years ago, Christian Wiman, a well-known poet and the editor of Poetry magazine, wrote a now-famous essay about having faith in the face of death. My Bright Abyss, composed in the difficult years since and completed in the wake of a bone marrow transplant, is a moving meditation on what a viable contemporary faith—responsive not only to modern thought and science but also to religious tradition—might look like.

Joyful, sorrowful, and beautifully written, My Bright Abyss is destined to become a spiritual classic, useful not only to believers but to anyone whose experience of life and art seems at times to overbrim its boundaries. How do we answer this “burn of being”? Wiman asks. What might it mean for our lives—and for our deaths—if we acknowledge the “insistent, persistent ghost” that some of us call God?

One of Publishers Weekly's Best Religion Books of 2013



An Analysis of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy by Peter Enns





Several years ago in June of 2011 Peter Enns gave an analysis of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy which may be helpful to those wishing to read through its vernaculars. As you do remember that the editorial language and phraseology used by Dr. Enns may be a bit dated and require some nuancing in light of more recent discussion.

R.E. Slater
August 22, 2014

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Science, Faith, and Inerrancy
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/science-faith-and-inerrancy/

by Peter Enns
August 22, 2014

Below is a link to a PDF of a 14-part blog series I did for BioLogos between June and August  2011: Science, Faith, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (Enns) – Edited. (For a non-watermarked version, click Science, Faith, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (Enns) – Edited (no watermark).) The series is no longer on BioLogos’s website. The PDF was created by Mike Beidler, who got permission from BioLogos to do so.

BioLogos asked me to write this series in an effort to diagnose those elements of CBSI that impede evangelicals from entering into a fruitful dialogue with evolution. I am not sure if I would write this series today (in 2014) exactly as I did back then, especially after collecting my thoughts in an essay in inerrancy last year. Still, I think some may find it useful.