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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Answering Charges of Impropriety. Part 1 - Undermining the Bible




Answering Charges of Impropriety

Today's post presents the problem of libel amongst over-eager, judgmental Christians to slap names and labels upon people and movements that can be mis-representative of that individual or movement in endeavors to create (or foment) public mis-information that is demeaning and personally destructive.

Any astute observer of the Press or social media sees this all the time - from Wall Street to Congress, from public officials to well-spoken religious leaders and teachers. Usually this is done by well-meaning people who hold an imperfect knowledge of what they are charging linking one event with another that is actually specious and untrue. At other times the charge is true and valid and requires both parties to work out what it would mean for any future relationship (family squabbles are usually of this nature between husband and wife, or child and parent). During this time love and commitment will be tested and perhaps either healed and deepened, or broken and left in disrepair. But the risk is ever towards personal separation and dis-connection when argumentation unfolds and libelous charges are carelessly thrown back-and-forth. This is not of God, nor of the Spirit, as the church of God.

The process of accusation can be seen time-and-again in the Bible from its earliest Old Testament pages when Moses was charged by the people for misconduct to Jesus' day at the hands of the Pharisees. Even in the New Testament church there was the problem of false prophets, teachers, and shepherds. This is not a new problem but an old problem that often is be bounded by ignorance, well-meaning but errant loyalty, or desires to protect and save. At other times disruption is driven by hatred, envy, and jealousy. The motives vary by its audience. And the charges as old as humanity itself.

Some charges may be true. Some may not be true. Essentially, the accused and the accuser must come to a resolution with each other in order to move on in relational affiliation. In the case of religion, this can be of a very personal nature involving the deepest passions of man. Inquisitions and crusades have been created on the backs of religion. Families have lost loved ones over religion (a Protestant child leaving his/her Catholic family; a brainwashed family member to the cults; or even over so slight a difference as to whether one sings hymns in church or listens to worship bands on a Sunday's venue).

Essentially, the accused person or religious body must determine the charge's source: is it one of simple mis-understanding and mis-information? Perhaps a cultural or generational disagreement? Or is it one of a more personal nature stemming in attacks of vindictiveness. Charges that bear validity need to be resolved on the part of the accused, forgiven, and ended. But charges that are not true must likewise be resolved on the part of the accuser, forgiven, and ended.

Realizedly, some personalities can be business-like and do this quite nicely with one another. Other personalities deeply struggle with this process and compound the problem unnecessarily a thousand-fold. A wise person, or body of governance, will determine the nature of the working environment as they move forward in the process, deciding perhaps to work with a mediator (or mediating body) who/which may help heal a torn relationship. The process of remediation can be a difficult one. For a wise person, the initial charges brought forth must always be with the attitude of reconciliation should it come to that, and rapidly so, if it can be done.

But if untrue, charges of libel or heresy tend to "stick" to the person, event, or movement, once a charge has been made, and is never so simply removed or resolved, persisting on the willingness of its accusers to believe untruths, falseness, rumor, or innuendo. And once tainted, a ministry, or minister, can never quite shake off the charge(s) of mis-appropriation, mis-conduct, or mis-information. It becomes a life-long combat that can hinder an otherwise good ministry. Or in many cases redirect that ministry's efforts towards areas of compromise and injustice (a recent example of this is the evangelic furor over World Vision).

In some instances, highly influential church leaders that have fallen can be Teflon-like and are able to bounce back from disaster, somehow side-stepping accusations without having deeply addressed those charges of impropriety. But more often than not, charges that are valid must be addressed (unless tempered with extreme prejudice and hostile intent). In those cases, a court of public opinion (in the case of religion, a synod or council, for instance) must be held to determine the veracity of the charges whether true or not. In many cases, differences in religious doctrine may only lead to splits and disunity. Religious creeds, confessions, and church doctrinal bodies have been birthed upon this process until we now have, 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, as many differing kinds of faith as we do people holding them.

In a postmodern church, or an emerging assembly of believers, these differences are being lowered as today's 21st Century Christians seek a greater spirit of unity over disunity. They are more willing to irenically discuss doctrinal differences within the greater center of Christ's healing atonement and fellowship rather than focusing upon the many dividers and dissemblers of the Christian faith. Others have taken it upon themselves to point out the historical background of dogmatic and doctrinal disagreements in hopes of providing an expanded biblical basis for sound judgment, understanding, and reconciliation, without jettisoning the faith altogether based upon premise and suspicion.

More often now than ever, the Bible's earlier faiths were built in a time without today's greater hindsight of church history, science, technology, and the arts, and pervasive global communications amongst world religions and cultures. As such, theology today is rapidly, if not expediently, working towards more enlightened definitions and expanded religious categories not previous thought in light of postmodern theological movements and cultural resettlement forced upon despised unfortunates (think of the many refugee populations that have shifted under threat of death and torture). As a result, faith has tended towards despair as much as towards the spiritual. Towards nothingness as much as towards a God-ness. And a deep response of love and acceptance is needed, especially of the church of God, if not very humanity itself.

For the church today the charge is to make the gospel relevant, meaningful, personal, and healing. To adjudicate Christ and His Word is now being re-contextualized towards less judgmentalism and more openness and acceptance. Even the word "adjudication" itself is wrong, communicating attitudes of "rightness and wrongness," of "black-and-white" thinking, against a postmodern world that sees life's categories in terms of non-binary, non-dualistic hyperbole, paradox, mystery, pattern-and-flow.

What this means is that yesteryear's doctrines and dogmas must come under a re-evaluation so that the postmodern Christian church might move forward in missional witness that is more open, receptive, and reconciling than ever before. Showing by love and good works the majesty of Christ and not simply the austerity of church politics and polities. To speak to a post-Christian world of the love of God and the power of His Holy Spirit in the action-words of redemption, resurrection, renewal, reclamation, reformation, and rebirth. As any good parent will know, good words vastly outweigh harsh words of duty and honor. So too has the Lord called us by the same in this day and age. To reach out to those different from ourselves in respect and goodwill to share a faith that has the power to heal the sin-sick soul and broken spirit. To bring justice to oppressive lands and households of discord and abuse. To share in the labor of life with others - both in its sufferings and toils, as well as its joys and laughters - as with a fellow souls traversing this world of reclaim and shalom. Amen.

R.E. Slater
September 15, 2014





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What is Marcionism?

Wikipedia - 

Marcionism was an Early Christian dualist belief system that originated in the teachings of Marcion of Sinope at Rome around the year 144.[1]

Marcion believed Jesus was the savior sent by God, and Paul the Apostle was his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the God of Israel. Marcionists believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology; notably, both are dualistic, that is, they posit opposing gods, forces, or principles: one higher, spiritual, and "good", and the other lower, material, and "evil" (compare Manichaeism), in contrast to other Christian views that "evil" has no independent existence, but is a privation or lack of "good",[2] a view shared by the Jewish theologianMoses Maimonides.[3]

Marcionism, similar to Gnosticism, depicted the God of the Old Testament as a tyrant or demiurge (see also God as the Devil). Marcion was labeled a gnostic by Philip Schaff,[4] while other scholars have rejected that categorization.Marcion's canon consisted of eleven books: A gospel consisting of ten sections that also appear later in the Gospel of Luke; and ten Pauline epistles. All other epistles and gospels of the 27 book New Testament canon are not yet present in Marcion's canon.[5] Paul's epistles enjoy a prominent position in the Marcionite canon, since Paul is credited with correctly transmitting the universality of Jesus' message.

Marcionism was denounced by its opponents as heresy, and written against, notably by Tertullian, in a five-book treatise Adversus Marcionem, written about 208. Marcion's writings are lost, though they were widely read and numerous manuscripts must have existed. Even so, many scholars (including Henry Wace) claim it is possible to reconstruct and deduce a large part of ancient Marcionism through what later critics, especially Tertullian, said concerning Marcion.


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The Apostle John and Marcion of Sinope,
from the JPM LIbrary, MS 748, 11th_century



What Is “Marcionism?” My Response to a Ludicrous Accusation
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/09/what-is-marcionism-my-response-to-a-ludicrous-accusation/

by Roger Olson
September 9, 2014

It has recently come to my attention that some critics are accusing me of “Marcionism.” A few commenters here have thrown that wild accusation at me—based on my questioning the literal interpretation of some Old Testament “texts of terror.”

Anyone who throws that accusation at me is either ignorant of what I have said or ignorant of the meaning of Marcionism or both.

By all credible accounts, Marcion, the second century Christian heretic after whom the heresy Marcionism is named, did two things that define his heresy.

First, he proposed a Christian canon of Scriptures that excluded all of the Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament) and many of the apostles’ writings. His truncated canon included only portions of what we now call the New Testament that he considered purely gentile and not Hebrew.

Second, he denied that the Hebrew God, Yahweh, the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, was the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, he argued that the god (as he would put it) of the Hebrews was a demiurge, a demented or evil demi-deity.

“Marcionism” is by all credible accounts:

1) a denial of the inspired status of the Old Testament, and
2) a denial of belief in the true deity of the Yahweh of the Hebrew religion.

However, in popular usage, the term has come to be applied to any denial of the Old Testament as not equally inspired with the New Testament. In other words, the “German Christians” of the 1930s were Marcionites (whether they knew it or not) insofar as they rejected the Old Testament as inspired.

The issue here, that I have raised for consideration and discussion, has never been whether the Old Testament or any portion of it is inspired. The issue is, and has always and only been, hermeneutics—how best to interpret portions of the Old Testament.

Christians have always disagreed about that—going back to the early church fathers themselves (not including Marcion who was not a church father [but named by the church fathers as a heretic - r.e. slater]). Origen and Tertullian [who were church fathers] both wrote against Marcion, but neither interpreted the whole Old Testament literally. Especially Origen interpreted much of it allegorically (as did the unknown Apostolic Father who wrote the “Epistle of Barnabus”). [That is, Origen (c.184-254), if anything, was guilty of adding to the NT Canon that was generally accepted by then - with debateable questions about the antilegomena, or disputed NT writings - but not standardized until around the mid-300's a hundred years later (cf., the Development of the New Testament Canon for further information) - r.e. slater]

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Antilegomena, a direct transliteration from the Greek αντιλεγόμενα, refers to written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed.[1] Eusebius in his Church History written c. 325 used the term for those Christian scriptures that were "disputed" or literally those works which were "spoken against" in Early Christianity, before the closure of the New Testament canon.

It is disputed whether or not Eusebius divides his books into three groups of homologoumena (or, accepted), antilegomena, and heretical. Or four, by adding a notha/spurious group. These antilegomena or "disputed writings" were widely read in the Early Church and included the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2and 3 John, the Apocalypse of John, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter (unique in being the only book never accepted as canonical which was commentated upon by a Church Father), the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache.[2][3]

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Would the critics who accuse me of “Marcionism” apply that epithet to all the church fathers who interpreted portions of the Hebrew scriptures allegorically? I doubt it. In fact, in my opinion, insofar as they are knowledgeable about church history and theology at all, that accusation aimed at me not only misses the mark but is sheer demagoguery [broadly, the shaping of public misinformation about a person who is popularly esteemed. Examples abound: Past and current presidents, church pastors and leaders, even newsworthy individuals who hold a great sway to the public imagination. - r.e. slater].

I have never advocated expelling any part of the Old Testament from the Christian canon. Nor have I denied the inspiration of any portions of the Old Testament. And I will say it again: Nobody takes every part of the Old Testament literally.

In fact, in my view, taking the Old Testament texts of terror literally contributes to the problem of implicit, practical Marcionism. Why did Marcion deny the inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures? Well, there were almost certainly several reasons, but one was the Old Testament 

texts of terror taken literally.

In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, the only worthwhile reason even to respond to such a ludicrous accusation is the “teachable moment”—for those open to facts.

- Roger