Book Recommendation: @ashgate’s “Theological Reflection and the Pursuit of Ideals: Theology, Human Flourishing and Freedom”

I recently wrote a review for this book. It’ll appear in a journal so I can’t post it here. I have surrendered my copyright. However, I wanted to call your attention this. It is a new concept for me, called theological humanism. This book is filled with theologians, scientists, etc… discussing what it means to reflect upon God in our (post-)modern world. If you are familiar with the work of David Klemm — I was not — then you will enjoy this book immensely. If you aren’t, well you should make yourself at least acquainted. It is not for the lay reader, but for those who know something about the debate around human flourishing.

I would so far as to say that

From the official description:

Contemporary thought is marked by heated debates about the character, purpose and form of religious thinking and its relation to a range of ideals: spiritual, moral, aesthetic, political and ecological, to name the obvious. This book addresses the interrelation between theological thinking and the complex and diverse realms of human ideals. What are the ideals appropriate to our moment in human history, and how do these ideals derive from or relate to theological reflection in our time? In Theological Reflections and the Pursuit of Ideals internationally renowned scholars from a range of disciplines (physics, art, literary studies, ethics, comparative religion, history of ideas, and theology) engage with these crucial questions with the intention of articulating a new and historically appropriate vision of theological reflection and the pursuit of ideals for our global times.

You can read a preview about the book here.

da vinciI didn’t cover this in the review, so I can write about it here. There is a chapter on the inherent mystery of Catholicism. It is one that is freeing rather than restrictive. I encourage all of you who see Rome in a legalist or fundamentalist, or even rigid, light (given the Synod, why not?) to read this chapter in particular. Further, the first chapter co-written by William H. Klink and David Klemm addresses, deeply, the dichotomy between freedom and matter, proposing a middle ground without the logical inconsistencies inherent in those two ideals (idealism v. dogmatism). I have pondered the middle between determinism and free will, finding both unusable because of the problems hidden in each thought system. What Klink and Klemm propose is something I will need time to consider — if not understand.

I would like to address more of the chapters, and I might, later. For now, let me recommend the book to you. If you are a theologian, or even a dabbler in theological concerns, read it. If you are a theist, deist, atheist, or other, pick it up and see if it changes your self-identification.

“Romans” in @FortressPress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament

Romans is one of the most difficult New Testament books. It has started Reformations and continues to plague us as the artificer of poor readings today. I am always interested in seeing how Romans is presented… and as my readers know, I believe Romans is a rhetorical set piece designed to represent a dialogue between Paul and his imaginary interlocutor, whereby Paul is able to give his message as an explanation rather than a set of points.

First, the introduction includes a reference to Stanley Stowers and his “Rereading Romans.” Yet, nothing is mentioned about the scholarship on rhetorical practices involved in the letter. The author, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, does mention rhetoric, not as a form of discourse so much as a figure of speech. Douglas Campbell is nowhere mentioned, yet his proposals (and mine, although mine is only blogged) are central to the author’s presentation of Romans 1.18-3.31. Kittredge correctly notes that the “clobber passage” at the end of chapter 1 is Jewish agitprop against Gentiles and that Paul’s “you” in 2.1 is directed against them for this. In speaking about homosexuality, she doesn’t shy from the surface level statements but does offer a way around it by tackling “natural theology.”

If I read the passage the same as Kittredge (admittedly, I am close), I still would not buy her argument about Natural Theology; however, I believe she approaches this with unbiasedness and an admission that she understands why. It is, frankly, a pleasant read.

I have found a solid “New Perspective” throughout the chapter on Romans, much to my likely. Also included are connections (because they are there) between Paul’s Romans and the Empire.

Over all, I am impressed with what Kittredge gets right and could quibble over the rest — especially in reading Romans through a particular viewpoint. If anything, the sections may be too large I would like to have seen 1.18-3.31 divided up, as well as Romans 13-14.

 

Review, @degruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary”

 The Dead Sea Scrolls, as a mystical object the majority of Jewish and Christian believers still ignore, is relatively new. As an object of study, newer still. Yet, in recent years scholars have paid more attention to the content of the scrolls more than the scrolls themselves. We have come to understand a lot about these lost desert communities, isolationists who had retreated to wait for the end of their world. While many scholars focus on the more well-known works, there is still room yet to explore the richness of works largely ignored. Such is case with Ariel Feldman (Ph.D, University of Haifa) who has turned his attention the rewritten Joshua Scrolls (4Q378, 4Q379, 4Q522, 4Q123, 5Q9, Mas 1039-211).

There is not merely a propositional monograph supported with eruditic footnotes. Rather, Feldman presents us a unique type of scholarship, so that while he examines the scrolls for their connectivity, he likewise gives us a solid commentary on the fragments therein. This book of 9 chapters is divided into several parts. First, Feldman gives us an introduction to the history of these particular scrolls. In the first chapter, Feldman makes the argument (as he reminds us in the final chapter) that Joshua is the most rewritten book among the Minor Prophets. He then gives details about the scrolls themselves. Following this are several chapters dedicated to succinct literary and contextual commentary on the various scrolls and fragments. Following this are two concluding chapters arguing for various positions on composition and vorlage. His conclusions, because he has invested such a great amount of work in the preceding chapters, are almost unquestionable at this stage of scholarship.

I will briefly focus on the commentary section. For this, I will use his chapter on 4Q378 (the second chapter of the book), for no other reason than the material provides for an allusion in my New Testament studies. We are introduced to the manuscript itself, giving us the sequence of fragments. Following this is the author’s summary of the contents. For this scroll, we are introduced to one relatively free of narrative but filled with discourses. The author gives us an approximate span of the canon where the fragment would appear. The central portion of each chapter is the text and commentary. The text, of course, is given in the original language. The commentary covers the text, different readings, and includes the author’s comments. I am reminded most of the Hermeneia series. After this, there is a detailed discussion of the contents of the fragment, calling attention to (in this case) Joshua and Moses and Joshua’s succession. Finally, Feldman gives us a list of biblical allusions and discusses provenance.

In total, this is a highly detailed and much needed contribution to these scrolls. If all such Dead Sea Scroll fragments were treated in such a manner, scholarship in this area would find itself near completion. I am most impressed with the attention to detail of the text and the sharp focus of the commentary. Feldman does not get bogged down into outlying issues but remains focused on the fragments and their suspected place as rewritten Scripture. Anyone studying this area, as well as the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism must find this book a necessity.

The Indefectability of the Church and the #UMC Extremes

English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer ...

DEAL WITH IT. English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Česky: William Tyndale (portrét ve Foxeově Knize mučedníků) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something Mark Shea wrote caught my eye.

In short, neither Progressive nor Reactionary dissenters really trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit or the indefectibility of the Church. Both believe the development of doctrine is, at bottom, not the Church coming to a deeper understanding of the will of Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but a random collision of power and mere human will in which anything might happen and any ideology might become top dog depending on who is the strongest.  And therefore, they believe it is all on them to (for Progressives) Change the Church into modern reflection of Liberal Values or (for Reactionaries) Save the Church from mutating into a “dark and false Church.”

And again, I call attention to something Pope Francis said at the close of the Synod. There are these extremes that are waging a war for their own place within the Church and waging war in the Church against one another.

William Tyndale (1494?–1536), translator of the Bible, Prologue to the Exposition of Matthew v, vi, vii, PS, p. 12.

The Church of Christ, then, is the multitude of all them that believe in Christ for the remission of sin; and, of a thankfulness for that mercy, love the law of God purely … and, of hate they have to the sin of this world, long for the life to come. This is the church that cannot err damnably; nor any long time; nor all of them: but as soon as any question ariseth, the truth of God’s promise stirreth up one or the other to teach them the truth of everything needful to salvation out of God’s word; and lighteneth the hearts of the other true members, to see the same, and to consent thereto.[1. G. R. Evans and J. Robert Wright, The Anglican Tradition: a Handbook of Sources (London: SPCK, 1991), 133.]

The Church universal is indefectible but people seemed to have forgotten that. Indeed, we no longer remember we are Christians together.

The two extremes in the United Methodist Church have likewise forgotten the nature of the Church. Both seek to control it. For them, it is there Church. Like Shea’s comment above, both extremes have lost faith in God — failing to realize the foundation of doctrine. Whereas the Church was once the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit that is supposed to lead us into all truth — it is now a battlefield between Justice-without-Righteousness and Righteousness-without-Justice. Both sides want to win in a place where we are to be made one, in a place where we are to be humble — in a kingdom established by the self-sacrifice.

Perhaps it is because in drifting further away from our Anglican heritage, we continue to lose important doctrines… like “Church.”

So, instead of complaining, let me suggest some remedies.

  • ignore the extremes

Well, that seems about it.

There are always two sides

 – One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

via Pope Francis speech at the conclusion of the Synod Vatican Radio.

And the middle, of course. Doesn’t this sound familiar? I mean, to those following UMC politics (I hate that) and the lead up to the General Conference in 2016, this above statement by Pope Francis as he closed the first portion of the Synod on the Family is familiar. It is exactly what is going on in the UMC.

The (un)Official Via Media Methodists Lexicon and Illustrated Dictionary, 1st Edition

Stripped image of John Wesley

You wouldn’t believe the people who hated my via media. Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is some confusion as to exactly what a Via Media Methodist is. In fact, not a single one of us will usually capitalize v or m when speaking about this topic. As many people know, when discussing anything, it is best if you engage the other person in the same language. For instance, if I wanted to argue about the failure of democracy in the United States, I would need to clarify democracy, failure, and to point to the specific entity known as the United States. To facilitate this discussion about VMM, I thought a short primer would be helpful.

These are some of the words I have found misused:

  • Progressive Methodist: (v) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who is affirming. 2.) a member of the United Methodist Church who believes creeds and a general attention to orthodoxy is restrictive to “Christianity.” 3.) a member of the United Methodist Church who believes “experience” is the individual experience in life or a group’s experience in history rather than the experience of Christian salvation. Likewise, this person tends to generally elevate “experience” above the other two legs of the Wesley Quad and makes it equal with Scripture whereas Scripture must agree with our “experience” or we must seek to change or otherwise ignore its implications. 4.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees the Book of Discipline as a power play for white privilege
  • Evangelical Methodist: (v) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who holds to traditional Western views of Christian marriage, so that marriage exists between one man and one woman (at a time). 2.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees little or no value in Tradition and Reason in reading Scripture and thus tend to hold to inerrancy and/or infallibility. They also tend to track 20th century American evangelical and are usually congregational in their approach to church polity. 3.) a member of the United Methodist Church who sees the Book of Discipline as unchanging and demands it be followed, except for itinerancy, doctrinal standards, and other non-sexual ordinances.
  • Third Way: (n) 1.) a political term used to describe the moderate or middle of the road synthesis that occurs between political agendas. Thus, the “third way” is an evolution out of the left and the right wings of political parties. It does not preexist those groups, but attempts to salvage a middle by mixing various elements acceptable to the majority. 2.) a term used to denote Christians who welcome in LGBT people but do not challenge denominational barriers. In this case, homosexuality is demoted to a non-essential. This is often used on congregational denominations.
  • Via Media Methodist (alt. 1, traditionalist; atl. 2, institutionalist): (n) 1.) a member of the United Methodist Church who does not align itself with either the progressive or evangelical wings (see above). Many hold diverse views on inclusion, but are unified on their desire to see the UMC remain unified, believing that the Church faces many issues and is a stronger-together force for good than if a splintering would occur. Via media is not a “third way” (see above) as it does not pretend to move forward or retreat backwards nor does it suggest a compromise between the two sides. Further, as via media pre-exists both the left and the right, it is impossible for it to be a “third way.” Rather, it is the way most likely to align with both Christian and historic Wesleyan orthodoxy. Thus, it is the way, rather than a wing or a “third way.” It is no more appropriate to call via media the “third way” than it is to suggest the Catholic Church was the third way in Reformation between the Anabaptists (Radical Reformers) and the Protestants (Reformers).  Whereas the left has decided the Gospel is about situational and privileged justice via bullying and the right has idolized “the bible” as a rule book, via media maintains the Gospel is about Christ only. While the left has closed the conversation to sin, the right focuses on one viewpoint on the matter, via media remains upon to God’s further correction upon our understanding of holiness. Both the left and right see ethics and morality as doctrine, while via media sees doctrine and then ethics. Further, via media continues to have faith in the Church rather than American political systems and the dichotomy of politicized sides and their agendas. 2.) All of the above, but inclusive of a generous orthodoxy with members holding various opinions on the atonement and other theological aspects not established in the creeds.
  • Dude bro (alt. dudebro): (n) 1.) White suburban males, usually 16-25 years of age, hailing from anywhere, USA. Characterized by their love of College football, pickup trucks/SUVs, beer,cut off khaki cargo shorts, light pink polo brand shirts (with collar “popped”), abercrombie & fitch, hollister gear, and trucker hats. Favorite bands include, but are not limited to, O.A.R., Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band, Avengened Sevenfold, The Fray, and often crappy radio rap (i.e. Nelly, Dem Franchize Boyz, D4L, etc.). Dude bro’s are incredibly insecure in their manhood, which makes them: insanely jealous of their girl friends, overly macho, and laughably homophobic. currently, there is no cure for being a dude bro. (Source: Urban Dictionary)
  • Brogressive: (n) 1.) Politically liberal or left-leaning person who routinely downplays injustices against women and other marginalized groups in favor of some cause they deem more important. (Source: Urban Dictionary)

By the way, since there is no caucus group or committee governing via media Methodists, this remains unofficial

Quote of the Day: Inerrancy v. Inspiration (Joel Stephen Williams)

From the conclusion of the matter:

Positive statements about the usefulness of the Scriptures in instructing mankind for salvation affirm more about the Bible than a negative statement that it is without error. The Bible is not the ultimate end. Instead, it is a witness to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As John the Baptist pointed toward Christ, the Bible is a witness pointing toward God. A witness is not identical with that to which it attests. The Bible stands under the authority of God. By calling the Bible a witness, the emphasis is placed on God as the end, with the Bible as the means to that end. The Bible is revelatory as it points toward the will and nature of God. God is infallible and the word of God that we learn from the Bible will thus be infallible, but the two should not be confused. The Bible is our final court of appeal in this world, since it is the written document which records God’s historical revelation of his will to man, especially in Jesus Christ, but the Bible’s authority derives from God. In this context the truth claims of the Bible should be examined and accepted.

Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Dictation.

a few links for Protestants who have no idea about #synod14 but feel compelled to open mouth and remove all doubt

English: Johannes de Campo, St. Peter, a Saint...

English: Johannes de Campo, St. Peter, a Saint Pope, St. Francis, fresco, XV century, Oratorio di San Pantaleone, Boccioleto (VC), Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, start here.

Yes, there’s chaos, but this too shall pass. Ignore the alarmists. Anyone who disrupts a Christ-centered peace is doing someone else’s work, not Christ’s. Read Church history. We have always been a rather muddled mess. That’s what proves the Church is divinely instituted. No merely human institution could withstand humanity and all its foibles as long as the Church has.

Second, go here.

Only Group B responded to the section of the report on homosexuals. It notes that the church “must continue to promote the revealed nature of marriage as always between one man and one woman united in lifelong, life-giving, and faithful communion.” Gay people should find within the church “a home where, with everyone else, they hear the call of Jesus to follow him in fidelity to the truth, to receive his grace to do so, and his mercy when they fail.”

Reporters at the synod were thrown into confusion when the English translation of the relatio was changed from “welcoming” homosexuals to “providing for” them. No explanation was given for this change that clearly was not an accurate translation of “accogliere in the official Italian. It appears that some of the English-speaking bishops got the secretariat of the synod to change the translation.

You can read more about the various proposals by English-speaking groups here.

Finally, Cardinal Kasper, who gave a homily in honor of John Wesley’s 300th birthday, is under fire. Essentially, he said there are different taboos at work in the Synod. In Africa, as he points out, homosexuality is often something not discussed. It goes without saying that Uganda, under influence of colonizing white Evangelicals, has discussed it – urging death to gays. This is not the only discourse available, but his point is taken.

Now, for Protestants who have no clue about the formation of Catholic moral law, how synods work, or pretty much how theology and doctrine work, well… they can go kiss the back of the Amblyopsis hoosieri‘s head.

By the way, the Cardinal that started this bit and the one who first clashed, heavily with Cardinal Kasper and through Kasper Pope Francis has been ousted.

Dare you withhold Apportionments? Indeed, I dare you. #UMC

English:

You wanna hurt the global mission of the United Methodist Church? Bring.it.On. English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a move, a threat, something akin to civil disobedience (if we must bring secular methods into the sectarian realm), unfolding before us. Various pastors, leaders of the fringes, have threatened to withhold apportionments if the United Methodist Church does not turn, or return, their way.

For those not blessed with this connexion, let me explain. Apportionments are not organizational dues. Congregations do not pay to belong to the United Methodist Association or Convention, but have a responsibility as stations of the United Methodist Church. This apportionment goes to support the global missions of the United Methodist Church in various ways, beginning with the Annual Conference and all that it takes to support it (including Bishops, etc…).

There are three particular paragraphs I want to call your attention to:

¶ 622. When the apportionments for bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Compensation Fund for the several districts and charges have been determined, payments made to the same in each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportional to the amount paid on the clergy base compensation (¶ 818.3). The treasurer or treasurers of each pastoral charge shall accordingly make proportional distribution of the funds raised in that charge for the support of the ordained ministry and shall remit monthly if practicable and quarterly at the latest the items for bishops, district superintendents, conference claimants, and the Equitable Compensation Fund to the proper treasurer or treasurers.

¶ 639.4. Proportional Payment—The board shall compare the records of the amounts paid by each pastoral charge for the support of pastors and for pension and benefit programs, computing the proportional distribution thereof and keeping a permanent record of defaults of the churches of the conference that have failed to observe the following provisions pertaining to proportional payment, and shall render annually to each church that is in default a statement of the amounts in default for that and preceding years.

  • a) When the apportionment to the pastoral charges for the pension and benefit program of the annual conference has been determined, payments made thereon by each pastoral charge shall be exactly proportionate to payments made on the salary or salaries of the ordained minister or clergy serving it.

¶ 818.3. Proportionality—The amount apportioned to a charge for the Episcopal Fund shall be paid in the same proportion as the charge pays its pastor (see also ¶ 622).

To sum, I quote the Oklahoma Annual Conference, which places on their budget this statement:

Items must be paid in an amount proportional to the amount paid on the pastor’s support, as required in Paragraphs 622, 639.4, and 818.3 of the 2012 Discipline. If the pastor is paid 100% of salary and support, then these items must be paid 100%.

In other words, if the apportionment is paid 70%, then the pastor can only receive 70% of his or her salary/support. If the apportionment is withheld completely, then pastors are going to work for free. This is a penalty of sorts imposed by the Book of Discipline. This should not even need a trial.

For examples of those withholding, or threatening to withhold apportionments, see here, here, here, here, and here. Others have graciously addressed the folly of such a move. Some don’t quite get who should pay, but they don’t get a lot as it were. Others, who I refuse to link to because of their habit of  misappropriating narratives and abusing others, criticize the move, but fail to note the penalty. I don’t find this particularly ironic given their sense of justice is usually some form of white savior universalism.

Granted, others may have noted it – and I may have missed it. If I have, then I guess we’ll just restart the conversation.

But, I want to call attention to the penalty of withholding the apportionment, especially as we move into 2016. Pastors who withhold apportionments should have, if they are serious about following the Book of Discipline — and likewise, if we are intent on enforcing it — have their salaries likewise withheld.1 I propose that we begin to enforce this part of the Book of Discipline now. .

Perhaps, we can look at those who repeatedly miss these covenantal responsibilities, examine their expenditures and consider how seriously we want to enforce the Book of Discipline.

What sayeth ye? Do we enforce the Book of Discipline or not?

 

 

  1. I define “withhold” as purposely not paying apportionment as a sign of protest, not because you failed to meet it due to budgetary issues.

Two new Greek Geek Books in November (@kregelacademic and @bakeracademic)

An up-to-date commentary on all the significant manuscripts and textual variants of the New Testament

This small and insightful volume is an essential resource for the committed student of Greek New Testament. Using the same trim size as UBS and NA28 Greek New Testaments, this reference commentary, based on the latest research, is designed to aid the reader in understanding the textual reliability, variants, and translation issues for each passage in the New Testament.

Unlike any other commentary, this volume contains commentary on actual manuscripts rather than a single version of the Greek New Testament. There are nearly 6,000 existing manuscripts, and just as many textual variants, with thousands of manuscripts having been discovered since the time of the King James Version. This commentary is filled with notes on significant textual variants between these manuscripts.

And

This in-depth yet student-friendly introduction to Koine Greek provides a full grounding in Greek grammar, while starting to build skill in the use of exegetical tools. The approach, informed by twenty-five years of classroom teaching, emphasizes reading Greek for comprehension as opposed to merely translating it. The workbook is integrated into the textbook, enabling students to encounter real examples as they learn each new concept. The book covers not only New Testament Greek but also the wider range of Bible-related Greek (LXX and other Koine texts). It introduces students to reference tools for biblical Greek, includes tips on learning, and is supplemented by robust web-based resources through Baker Academic’s Textbook eSources, offering course help for professors and study aids for students.

William Law on the effects of a church decree

Benjamin Hoadly by Sarah Hoadly

This guy is being laughed at by Zwingli. Just imagine that scene. Benjamin Hoadly by Sarah Hoadly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Basically, and help me if this sounds familiar, the Bishop of Bangor said that there is no biblical support for church government/authority of the church. William Law did not take kindly to this rank heresy and proceeded to literarily flay the bishop alive.

Again; I presume it may very justly be said, that the Christian Revelation hath some Effect towards the Salvation of Mankind; but then it hath not this Effect always and in all Cases, it is only effectual upon certain Conditions. Now if Excommunication can have no Effect, because it is not effectual when it is wrongfully pronounced, then the Christian Revelation can have no Effect towards saving those who embrace it as they should, because it has no such Effect on those who embrace it otherwise. The Reason of the Thing is the same in both Cases, and anyone may as justly set forth the Vanity and Insignificancy of the Christian Revelation, because it does not save all its Professors, as your Lordship exposes the Weakness and Vanity of spiritual Censures, because they do not absolutely, and in all Cases, throw People out of God’s Favour.1

  1. William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 1, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 160–161.