Methinks thou doth protest too much; and against yourself!

There are rampant protests all over the world and commonly they are against Israel. It all happens because of the current events of the Middle East, which one must be living under a rock if, of which, he is still unaware.

A protest, however, is not legitimate when the people fostering, conducting, influencing, and reporting on the protest are the very reason, the very cause, for the events against which they are protesting.

Arabs who are Palestinian haters, Muslims, supporters of Hamas and the destruction of the Nation of Israel are the very cause as to why Israel takes extreme measures to continue to survive as a Nation. To quote Golda Meir: “when the Arabs start loving their children more than the hate the Jews, then there may be peace”. It is clearly a demonstration of the evil of humanity when the cause of the evil protests against that evil he caused as if he blameless. The reports in the major press outlets all over the world, are, on the part of the press, the dissemination of evil and the enabling of those who refuse to receive peace while their enemy is still breathing and functioning as a free nation.

The cycle of violence will continue indefinitely until Hamas and their counterparts decide that it is okay for Israel to exist, and Israel realizes that Palestinians have a full right, unconditional right, to statehood and land, and Arabs, yes, Arabs, and Muslims stop fostering a war between two ethnic groups they hate. If you do not know that many Arabs want to see the end of the Palestinian people, you do not know much!

So, there it is! One does not have to take sides or elaborate too much on the millennial old reasons for this war; one only needs to take a good look at the perpetrators… Once the perpetrators assuage their hatred, war in that area may be something that we will not hear very often. The protesters shown in the international press are often protesting against themselves as enablers of this war!

is it about positions or priorities? #UMC #UMCschism

CELIBATE

Never be sorry to celebrate

You should read Matt’s post. At the end, he asks several questions. I wanted to see if I can provide some answers from my perspective.

If two people with irreconcilable views can both be said to occupy the middle, it’s not clear to me that language of “a middle way” really gets us very far. It may help us have a conversation without it devolving into fisticuffs, and for that it is commendable, but it’s not clear to me that this is sufficient to bring about unified United Methodist Church, which seems to be a goal of those who see themselves in the middle.

For me, the via media focuses on Christ. As a subset of this, it focuses on orthodox doctrines of the Church. For most of us, the issue of homosexuality is not a doctrinal matter (i.e., Trinity, baptism, episcopal authority) but is a matter (in Wesleyan terms) of holiness. That is why I can focus on episcopal authority even while arguing for inclusion. I can focus on orthodoxy, hold to prima scripture, and attempt to be a part of the Great Tradition while arguing for inclusion.

If the via media is a way of thinking about an issue and not an actual position on a particular issue, how does it actually move us forward? Who can help me? What is the via media? How do I know it when I see it? What am I missing?

I would say it is not a way of thinking about an issue but about priorities. I have argued consistently for a return to a theological grounding. I believe if we focus on affirming the proper role of Scripture, on what it means to be human, and how to stand as a Protestant in the Great Tradition, we can slowly began to answer the questions posed by all of the fields related to the issue of inclusion. In my opinion, via media is the theological finger trap keeping inclusionists from going liberal protestant and conservatives from going fundamentalists, or worse — Southern Baptist.

For me, via media is not the middle between left/progressive and right/conservative — because those two sides are usually defined, or start with, the issue of LGBT. Rather, the via media is about placing orthodoxy before other issues. Thus, we argue for orthodoxy and attempt to build up from there.

Rather, it is not about sex, but about the Virgin-born.

via Incarnatio: Scripture & Culture in Wesleyan Perspective: Defining the Methodist middle: Is there a via media for the #UMC?.

Taking a tip from the left, Christians created the “P” word.

The left-wing in this country has been very clever in creating what I call “buzzwords” whose purpose is to intimidate people from voicing opinion on almost anything. For example we have the “R” word so that when one voices any opinion of disagreement with the White House, the left automatically raises the “R” word for racism, meaning that, if you keep disagreeing with the most disagreeable policies of the man who occupies the White House, then you will be labeled, zeroed in, attacked, slandered and ultimately ostracized as a racist only by being so bold as to speaking out your conscience.

The same is done with the “H” word, or homophobic even if you accept the legal right for gays to marry in the legal system but you oppose their intolerant persistence in destroying those people whose professions involve a service that, once performed, implies a personal endorsement of the persons or events in which the services will be used, such as photographers and bakers, oh, if you say that these professionals should be left alone, along with churches and ministers who prefer not to bless a gay marriage, and that there are plenty of ministers and churches that would, then you are labeled with the “H” word, and then all the process used for the “buzzwords”, that is, labeling, zeroing in, slandered and ostracizing, commences.

How about the P.C. (political correctness) buzzword for any attempt to point out that which is, in your opinion, an opportunity for societal revision? Try that one and you would suffer the same process of influence murder (because this is what it is) even if you present the most reasonable of all reasons. After all there is nothing you can explain to people who refuse to understand. Well, Christians, since it has worked so well for the left-wing, decided to take a stab on creating a buzzword of their own,  and they decided that perhaps, because of all the historical implications, the past examples, and recent events in the Middle East, the word “persecuted” with its initial “P” would be a great idea and cause the same deadly impact of the left-wing buzzwords. So, if anyone levels even any childish opposition to any of the, so called, Christian symbols, as Santa Claus, for example, Christians will immediately scream “bloody persecution”, and label the opponent as a “persecutor” because, after all, Christians in America are persecuted.

 Trust me here, but He didn’t mean persecution by having your opinions and childish symbols questioned in the public arena, but that you would be persecuted by being in the arena with ravenous animals.

Fellow Christians, allow me to point a few things to you so you would veer off the path of using the left wing method of influence murder:

First, The Man to whom you credit for founding that which you call Christianity, told you that, by following Him, which supposedly is what the word Christian should mean, you would be persecuted. Trust me here, but He didn’t mean persecution by having your opinions and childish symbols questioned in the public arena, but that you would be persecuted by being in the arena with ravenous animals. Even if some of the claims that this ever happened in great scale may be doubtful, but if they are true, having your neighborhood oppose to your Christmas decoration, having a rock with the Ten Commandments removed from a Court House, having pundits mocking you on television, having the government interfere with the free practice of your religion, is far, far, far, may I say, far, better than to be martyred and genuinely persecuted, whether it be in the Roman Arena or in some town in the Middle East. There is a Brazilian saying, obviously inherited from our Portuguese ancestors that says that “hot pepper in the other fellow’s eyes, refreshes the eye of the beholder.” That means, in other words, someone else’s suffering and agony can often make us feel comfortable and blessed! Yes, Christians today should look upon genuine cases of persecution and martyrdom and quit the stupidity and the laughable use of the “P” word and enjoy their very real peace they have in America.

Second, I have said many times, I believe that those who are opposing to what is labeled Christian symbols today are unknowingly doing God’s work because it is past the time that Christians would stop cheapening the message of the Gospel attempting to tell its story with nothing but nursery rhymes as if everyone was in the toddler Sunday School class of a small church where the Sunday School teachers are as trained in what they do as the toddlers they teach. Christianity should stop developing public displays of faith so as to replace their inability to reasonably do what one of their leaders of the past said that they should do which is “be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you”.

Oh, Christians today have had it easy in America; no one for ages questioned them “Christian what you believe?” The overwhelming majority of Christians cannot provide a public profession of faith that will give them some credit for thinking and believing the way they do. The opposition to high Christian education is rampant among some Christian circles, the opposition and the name calling of theologians who attempt to train Christians and to equip them with “intellectual ammo” (to parody a known Christian Web Site), is so fierce that, a few theologians of whom I know will refuse invitations to speak in Churches, which is the very place they should be! So, you are not being persecuted; you are just not being persuasive enough about your faith.

Well, I know that many will disagree with me and say that Christians do not have to explain anything, that this is the role of something questionable called “apologetic” and that I am saying the things that I say because I am myself a liberal (thus labeling me and drawing slanderous conclusions abut me as well), therefore I think the way I think and write these things here. I know that persecution must come for the reason I mentioned above, namely, Jesus Christ said they would! But we are far from there yet! We are still feeling that sense of comfort as we gaze upon the visual effects available in art which depict the real result of persecution in the past. It is not because one is liberal or conservative that they will call balderdash the exaggeration of that which Christians call persecution; it is because, simply, by the “standards” of persecution, no one yet is being persecuted!

Perhaps, at this point, to be fair, I should say that I am fully aware when things go against my ways and the ways of those who write mocking, or fairly warning, Christians for their persecution complex, we will raise the same banner of the “P” word, but until then, allow me to create my own “P” word, but rather than persecution, let that “P” word be a few other good “P” words: Perseverance, Persuasion, and Patience.

What motivated to write this? Well, there is a movie, supposedly a Christian movie (what is a Christian movie anyway?)  called “Persecuted” a name that, for the reasons expounded in this piece, I refuse to go see! From this right-wing perspective Christians should be imitators of Christ and not imitators of the methods of those who prefer to shut the opposition up by emphasizing words whose purpose is none other than to shut up open and salutary discourse.

Ken Ham, not content on sending humans to hell, now looks to the stars for the godless

War of the Worlds

Do you know our lord and savior, Zenu-nu-nu the Bloody Conquerer? (Photo credit: jurvetson)

A few weeks ago, Ken Ham posted something decrying the United Methodist Church and our internal troubles. Several of the more conservative people on the forums ate it up as they do with most things non-Wesleyan. I suggested it would be easier to tolerate the basest of changes to “traditional marriage” than it is to swallow anything by Ken Ham.

Ham’s latest spewing is why. A few weeks ago, NASA (not a UK news site) suggested we may find proof of alien life within 2 decades. Ken Ham has, by far, the most expected response:

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

via “We’ll find a new earth within 20 years” | Around the World with Ken Ham.

He goes on to say “Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.” Beyond this idiotic statement is the underlying misunderstanding anthropos. I can do nothing but laugh at how silly his reasoning is. But, I note it is in line with fundamentalist views of God. God is limited to our words and to our expectations. Further, our notion of atonement is limited to those with the correct knowledge. Ham’s philosophy is no more evolved than the small-pox soaked blankets given to Native Americans or the enslavement of Africans, both actions taken (in part) because those people were somehow less worthy of humanity (and salvation) than the rest of us.

So, beyond the inane stupidity this represents, let me offer you some correct approaches.

  • The end of the world as pictured in the New Testament seems to be more in line with Stoic conflagration. Regardless, it is not a physical destruction but a symbolic change of order. We find this idea in Genesis but especially in Isaiah with its talk of “new creation.” We need to learn biblical cosmology and how to apply it to soteriology and eschatology. We need to understand words like creation and universe before we make sweeping proclamations about the state of the universe beyond our blue jewel.
  • If Jesus repairs the sin of Adam, and if Jesus’s death is only for humanity, then only humanity under the curse. Then, by necessity, the xenozoic would not fall under the Fall and would not need the death of Christ. This does not mean they “go to hell.” This simply means our religious expectations as Christians do not apply to them. On the other hand, if all of “creation” is under the “curse,” then likewise all of creation is under the death of Christ.
  • If alien life is discovered, we are going to be a world of hurt theologically. I am not sure Christianity, or rather, Protestant Christianity, can survive. Judaism will. Islam may. Some of the eastern religions as well. Catholic Christianity may find it difficult, but we will see. Fundamentalism will retreat even further into intellectual darkness.

What happens if when we discover alien life? Our theology either gets really small, really big, or dies.

Also, I have a real issue in how Ken Ham describes the atonement.

Cardinal Ratzinger on Discipleship of Jesus v. Discipleship of Christ.

Jesus will return!

)Photo credit: Bazstyle | Photography)

I am going to help lead a new class in the fall (if it all works out) on covenant discipleship, from the Wesleyan perspective. I am looking for various quotes and thoughts at the moment. This one…

Well, he was pope for a reason:

This linguistic change reveals a spiritual process with wide implications, namely, the attempt to get behind the Church’s confession of faith and reach the purely historical figure of Jesus. He is no longer to be understood through this confession, but, as it were, in and through himself alone; and thus his achievement and his challenge are to be reinterpreted from scratch. Consequently people no longer speak of following Christ but of following Jesus: for “discipleship of Christ” implies the Church’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, and hence it involves a basic acknowledgment of the Church as the primary form of discipleship. “Discipleship of Jesus”, however, concentrates on the man Jesus who opposes all forms of authority; one of its features is a basically critical attitude to the Church, seen as a sign of its faithfulness to Jesus. This in turn goes beyond Christology and affects soteriology, which must necessarily undergo a similar transformation. Instead of “salvation” we find “liberation” taking pride of place, and the question, “How is the liberating act of Jesus to be mediated?” automatically adopts a critical stance over against the classical doctrine of how man becomes a partaker of grace.

Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology (trans. Graham Harrison; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 14.

No.

United Methodist Church, in

United Methodist Church, in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I consider Dr. David F. Watson one of the brightest minds, sincerest hearts, and better Christian scholar-theologians I know. Nothing here is to suggest any deficit in his person, character, or otherwise.

I am dismayed.

I am greatly disheartened.

I am saddened that the first three items were even suggested.

(1) Suspension of the Trust Clause (BOD ¶2501) for one quadrennium specifically and only for the purpose of allowing local churches who cannot in good conscience live within the parameters of our Social Principle on human sexuality to leave the denomination with full ownership of their properties.

(2) Addition of new paragraph to BOD ¶248 allowing local churches to use the Church Conference as a venue for voting to leave the denomination. New paragraph at the end of existing ¶248: “The church conference may be convened for purposes of withdrawing the local church from The United Methodist Church for reasons of conscience related specifically and exclusively to the Social Principle on human sexuality (¶161F) and the Qualifications for Ordination (¶304.3). Ordained clergy of said church conference may withdraw to unite with another denomination under the provisions of ¶361.1. The local church of said church conference shall be released from the requirement of the trust clause of ¶2501. The local church shall retain full rights to its properties. Debts upon such properties and any other debts payable by that local church are assumed by the local church.”

(3) Empowerment of the General Board of Pension & Health Benefits to allow clergy who cannot in good conscience abide by our Social Principle on human sexuality to leave with full benefits.

via Some Suggestions for a Unified UMC (or, The A&W Plan) | David F. Watson.

The other suggestions have been bandied about for a while. They are good and I believe should be passed.

However, these first three suggestions regulate the total of United Methodist Church and the whole of our vows and obligations in the Book of Discipline to the issue of homosexuality. There are many other ways to break the BoD and yet, the only reason you can leave (or, rather, go) is because of the sexuality issue. This brings the sole focus of the United Methodist Church and the Book of Discipline unto sex.

Further, for two who have rightly critiqued A Way Forward for the congregationalism backdoor that it is, I am surprised at a proposal ridding ourselves of that which administratively prevents congregationalism. In other words, their suggestion is congregationalism, if only for a quad. The local church exists as a community a part of the universal church. To suggest it can suddenly be independent is not our connexional system.

And, I suspect — and I do not want to believe this was intentional — but if the UMC ever did “go liberal,” then it would not be the conservatives staying, but leaving. I can see a scenario like this: This passes, but so does the end to exclusion. Guess who leaves then… This is, simply, a backdoor to congregationalism.

Specifically, let me address the points.

  1. This is a moral issue. If you are a conservative, then you are more than likely guided by the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Further, you may believe the Church is God’s, that souls are at stake, and to not address such matters lays the problem at your doorstep. For the left, LGBT inclusion is a justice issue. If you withdraw from injustice, then the problem is laid upon you. Further, the allowance to leave only for the left will likely be met with suggestions of discrimination and please from the increasingly evangelical right to leave as well. Suspending the Trust Clause to allow those who do not agree with the official stance (whatever it is at the time this may pass) would dissolve the union with congregations leaving left and right.
  2. While I am sure this would change, local churches are allowed to leave only to join another denomination. This is a schism. Left and right will leave, with only a few remaining in the middle. Not only this, but this does nothing for the congregational members who do not want to leave. I cannot believe I am about to do this, but as Mark Tooley pointed out today, hardly any congregation will swing completely one way. What happens to those who are left behind? What happens to them if their family has deep roots or perhaps wanted to lay down roots? What if the pastor wants to go one way and the congregation another? This will, as others would do, split congregations and communities. It will split them upon the issue of sex.
  3. While I am not as dead-set against this clause as I am the others, and indeed, it may actually help — my concern is awarding bad behavior. They want to leave, let them. I would rather none leave, all stayed, and all obeyed the Discipline.

In the end, this is a modest attempt at schism with a door open for future problems. It allows congregations to be identified by one issue alone — sex. Not scripture, not orthodoxy, not even polity, but that which occurs (or should) in the privacy of a closed room.

Kevin Carnahan has a response as well.

Review of @fortresspress’s “Reading Theologically (Foundations for Learning)”

After spending a considerable amount of time reading theology and thinking through some of the more serious matters in biblical scholarship, I went to seminary. I was joined by more than a few fellow students who had read little more than Scripture itself and considered it the total of theological evaluation. This reality disheartened me about the future clergy and how they are going to respond to the increasing barrage of questions from parishioners and others. To serve the Church in any way, you have to know how to read and think theologically. There are scarcely any tools focused solely on that missing element in our ministerial training.

The editor’s introduction to Reading Theologically does not state this fact in as dark of terms as I but instead focuses on the positive. Eric D. Barreto writes, “reading theologically is about the formation and cultivation of a particular posture toward texts…(r)eading theologically is not just about building your academic skills, but about your formation as a ministerial leader.” (11). To do this, Barreto has assembled “eight exemplary scholars” who are likewise teachers and theologians. Their essayed voices bring to light different goals and methods for reading while in seminary — goals that should be the intended result of each seminarian. I am more than pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of a variety of voices in this volume.

Educational Comic:  "Developing Understan...

Educational Comic: “Developing Understanding when Reading” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

The eight chapters cover everything one needs to read academically. Seminary is not a Jesus/summer camp (a fellow student believed this). It is an academic institution of higher learning, requiring reading that goes beyond understanding the words on the page. As Melissa Browning says in the first essay, reading is an enterprise whereby one engages with the person writing. She offers several helpful (even out of seminary) strategies to engaging the material — even the material the is uninteresting, or worse, challenging. Of interesting note is Jacob D. Myers’s chapter, “Reading Critically,” which begins with an acknowledgement that authors have ideologies. How often do we see books castoff because the author is “X?” Myers suggests otherwise – admit this, admit we have our own ideology, and then because to read the text. This stance is his ideological criticism (77) and it works well. He writes to encourage us to look at the author, understand their place and our own, and then read the book. The final essay I will call attention to is “Reading Spiritually,” by Shanell T. Smith. After all of the ways to read, after all of the things to read — after all of the confirmation and challenges — there is a need to read for spiritual formation. This method does not exclude the previous ones, but is “intentionally reflective” and “deepens your connection with God as you read.” (126). Her model, S.o. W.h.a.t?, is a very helpful paradigm for the seminary reader who may find they no longer know how to read for a connection with God. This capstone shows the editorial intent of providing a whole reader.

I’ll be blunter than the editor or the essayists. Americans are the poorest readers in the world. Maybe that is a bit much, so don’t read too much into it. However, we take things at face value and apply an “all/or nothing” approach what we intellectually digest. There is little to no engagement across the broad-swath of the reading public. It gets worse in seminary, I believe, because each person becomes protected to challenges, first, by the capitalistic system for paying for the degree and, second, due to the “call of God.” Because God called them into the ministry, and because the denominational requires seminary, they do not need to be challenged. The seminarian never becomes a student, but is always the customer. I believe this is detrimental to our Church(es) and is part of the reason we see a decrease in Christianity in the West today. It comes down to reading. Do you read to learn or to read simply?

If I could, I would commend and command to every seminarian this single-volume and a class on it. I would implore them to take it apart and to eat it up as John was commanded by the Angel in Revelation. The words on these pages should become the theological sojourner’s nutrients. This book, without exaggeration, is a godsend to seminarian students.

 

Mark Tooley of @theird has joined the middle #umcschism

: United Methodist Church

: United Methodist Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not because he wants too, of course,and maybe not officially — shoot, he may just be doing this to lull us into sleep and then pop one or two caps (schism resolutions) into the hind-end of the UMC… But, for now, he has something of a common sense approach, even if it seems awfully familiar to what others are saying.

Behind the full throttle of his hyperbole are several key factors many of us in the middle have already known and acknowledged. They are,

  • GC cannot pass the necessary changes to create a formal schism. This is what I’ve said to Ritter about his plan (and others who are pushing an internal schism that would have a mini-denomination identified only by their stance on LGBT). When you need not only 2/3 of the GC and then annual conferences to pass something like this — not to mention then requiring congregations to pit themselves against each other, while members pit themselves against each other in these congregations…it will not happen.
  • An actual schism, internal and/or external, would destroy local congregations and the whole of the largest arm of the Methodist movement. As Tooley accurately notes, “Few congregations are purely liberal or conservative.” Well, yeah. I’ve said this before. So have others. Glad Mark is finally listening. 
  • Any split would cause the extremes to develop anti-Wesleyan orthodoxy. Granted, Tooley focuses on his vision of a liberal-led wing of the UMC, that with heterodoxy and little in regards to doctrinal standards. But, his silence for the conservative side should be addressed because I think I can sense some fear of a conservative heterodoxy — congregationalism, neo-Calvinism, and militant fundamentalism.

He goes on to warn against compromise because it would force evangelicals to abandon the United Methodist Church. But, that really falls into the final category above. Evangelicals who abandon the denomination will more than like look like a normal baptist-sect denomination in a few short years. They will simply become the pre-Mohler Southern Baptists (4-point Calvinists) with a polity structure in flux.

I am no fan of Tooley because I view the IRD much like I do Love Prevails and other outside groups — they are lobbyists with their own agendas; however, this is a nice breath of fresh air. Now, I just have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

in the mail from @hendricksonpub, “UBS5 Greek New Testament with Dictionary”

From Hendrickson (click through, as there is a sample chapter on the publisher’s site):

While the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece is designed for scholarly research, the Greek New Testament, 5th Revised Edition is designed for translators and students. Like NA28, this is the leading edition of the original text of the New Testament. It contains the same Greek text as NA28, differing only in some details of punctuation and paragraphing.

The critical apparatus includes exegetically significant variants (fewer than NA28) but adds extensive manuscript evidence (more than NA28) for each variant, thereby offering in-depth instruction for students on how variants and the evidence for them work together. An introduction in English is included and an optional Concise Greek- English Dictionary of the New Testament by Barclay Newman is available.

This user-friendly volume comes in three editions:
• The Greek New Testament (UBS5) hardcover
• The Greek New Testament (UBS5) with Greek-English Dictionary, hardcover
• The Greek New Testament (UBS5) with Greek-English Dictionary, Flexisoft Black Leather