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
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 16 - Jared Byas

Jared Byas

“aha” moments (19): Jared Byas

by Peter Enns
March 16, 2015

Today’s post is part of our continuing yet intermittent “aha” moment series, this from Jared Byas.

Byas (BA in Philosophy from Liberty University and an MAR from Westminster Theological Seminary) was in pastoral ministry from 2004 until 2011. He then left to teach Philosophy & Ethics at Grand Canyon University and co-launch MyOhai, a collective of creatives and advisers (that he now runs under the name EMDASH) where he advises individuals and organizations on how to communicate better. In 2012 he co-wrote Genesis for Normal People with me and in 2013 he became the founding operations director for Experience Institute, an innovative graduate school alternative based in Chicago.

Byas and his wife Sarah live in suburban Philadelphia and have four children: Augustine (6), Tov (5), Elletheia (3), & Exodus (1).

* * * * * * * * * *

Some teenagers dream of being musicians or sports stars. My dream was seminary — and becoming a Christian apologist. So, after receiving a B.A. in philosophy at a self-described conservative Christian university my new wife and I moved states for me to live the dream.

Little did I know the dream would include lying awake for countless nights alternating between intense fear that I might go to hell for changing my views about the Bible and giddy excitement, like I had just opened the Bible again for the first time.

Just like many in this series, my “aha” moments concerning the Bible came from actually studying it in my seminary Bible classes and followed Thomas Kuhn’s description of paradigm shift perfectly: minor shifts that over time forced a new framework for understanding the whole.

But a few of those shifts were more memorable than others.

The first was discovering the work of Walter Brueggemann. His Texts Under Negotiation and Prophetic Imagination reminded me of a quote by the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, “Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget that shit and just play.”

When Brueggemann could quote the latest scholarship and garner the respect of the academy while also penning phrases like,

Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet
to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures
alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one...
(Prophetic Imagination, 40)

it was evident that he was engaged in playful mastery.

His writings asked that I stop trying to make the Bible “relevant” (an important phrase in my tradition), whether it be to culture, contemporary church polity, or theology, and instead immerse myself with such abandon that I became relevant to the text.

He showed me that scholarship coupled with deep imagination is the heart of the theological enterprise; that is, he modeled for me the responsibility of pursuing biblical scholarship beyond my own ideological idols and gave me the permission to do it with imagination and passion.

And he let me know it probably wouldn’t be well received by those in power.


My second memorable “aha” moment was my interaction with Jon Levenson, professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard. After reading his entire corpus and exchanging emails with him for a graduate seminar on Old Testament Theology I felt like I had gone through rehab and boot camp, all in one semester.

Like Brueggemann, Levenson continued to indulge my fascination with “playful mastery.” But Brueggemann, though he had given me the courage to chart a different course, hadn’t really given me any maps. Through his sharp analyses of biblical conflict, tension, and contradiction, Levenson was my map.

Levenson effortlessly quotes biblical and rabbinic texts to animate the conflict within the traditions behind the Hebrew Bible in Sinai & Zion. He creatively interrogates how Deuteronomy and the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17–26) may point to a cover-up about child sacrifice in The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son.

And he does it all with an evident passion and respect for the text that avoids both religious eisegesis and dismissive antagonism.

I came to seminary with an protectionist Calvinist orientation, and chose my seminary for that reason. But I came to see that Levenson and Brueggemann took the Bible more seriously than I or my tradition did—or anyone I had read before—and it led them to dangerously refreshing and compelling conclusions.

Their tenacious sincerity about the text wasn’t a means to defending already existing dogmas but a means to understanding, and beyond that, imagination. That was new for me. And I was hooked.

In full disclosure, those months were difficult for me. During this time, I was a teaching pastor and was constantly wrestling with how these “aha” moments would affect my congregation, and, to be honest, my paycheck. They were also hard on my wife, who noticed a change in me. One morning she finally said, “I feel like you’ve lost your convictions about Christianity. What’s going on?”

That stung. I had always prided myself on being a person of conviction. But she was right. And she was also wrong.

I said, “If you mean my convictions about how to read the Bible, then yes. But if you mean my love for the Bible itself, then no. I think I’ve just now found it.” That was enough for her. And thankfully we’ve been on a beautiful journey of faith together ever since.

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