I recently ordered a few books from IVP and they arrived yesterday! I’m looking forward to reading both of these!
Unsettled ChristianityOne blog to rule them all, One blog to find them, One blog to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category
By now, you’ve read Tony Jones’ call for schism. If you look at the new Apostolic Exhortation, you’ll see a more Christian stance:
Differences between persons and communities can sometimes prove uncomfortable, but the Holy Spirit, who is the source of that diversity, can bring forth something good from all things and turn it into an attractive means of evangelization. Diversity must always be reconciled by the help of the Holy Spirit; he alone can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity. When we, for our part, aspire to diversity, we become self-enclosed, exclusive and divisive; similarly, whenever we attempt to create unity on the basis of our human calculations, we end up imposing a monolithic uniformity. This is not helpful for the Church’s mission.
Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced. But if we remain trapped in conflict, we lose our perspective, our horizons shrink and reality itself begins to fall apart. In the midst of conflict, we lose our sense of the profound unity of reality.
When conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. “Blessed are the peacemakers!” (Mt 5:9).
My view of women ordination is much like Tony’s I expect, but my view of Church Unity is based in John 17 with the long view.
As many of you know, there is talk of schism in the United Methodist Church over the issue of homosexuality. I do not support schism. Of course, this has gotten me to thinking about original schisms. Anyway, Tony Jones, emergent pontiff, has called for schism over the ordination of women:
The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.
What is anti-Christian is schism.
In speaking with Bishop N.T. Wright this past weekend in a private reception (I’m going to get a lot of traction out of this), I asked him about the recent news regarding the Church of England and women bishops. His first answer was simple. He supported it. His second answer is something complex. He knows parish priests and others who will object to it. The issue for him, however, does not involve schism, but unity and how to achieve unity. Why? Because those same priests are among the poor and oppressed.
This is a theological answer by Wright. Jones? I really don’t know. What Jones is calling for is an isolationist approach to theology. If they do not agree with me, then they are banned. How is this beneficial? Yes, the theological issue of women ordination is important, but to destroy the ecumenical relationships many have worked to sustain and build upon over the past few centuries? Not worth it.
Instead, we organize internally. We embrace those who deny to women what men have. We embrace those, like Jesus did, those who we see as in error. We don’t ban or shun them. God will win. Love will win. Schism is neither of these.
- Tony Jones’ Troubling Call For Schism (homebrewedtheology.com)
- It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church (katieandmartin.wordpress.com)
- Tony Jones was wrong about Tony Jones, but John Piper was right. (samueljamesblogs.wordpress.com)
- Dear Tony Jones, I Didn’t Know We Were Married (travellingdisciple.wordpress.com)
- Church of England paves the way for women bishops (religionnews.com)
- Dear Tony Jones, I Didn’t Know We Were Married (alienrighteousness.org)
It is highly unlikely, unless I suffer some mental break or Sarah Palin is President with her own theocratic army, I will ever return to fundamentalism.1 However, others do. I do not fully explore this my essay in my co-edited book Fear to Faith; however, I do note that many in The Church of Jesus Christ make a habit of coming and going, often times spending years “in the world” before they are “back in church.” Never once do they question the religious construct creating this false separation of “world” and “church.” Many feel it is better to commit a host of sins of all kids rather than to question if in fact the belief system may be wrong.
The reason I will not return is because I was able to break from the structure, and like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave, I understood the shadow on the walls. It may be that I was so overcome with my sense of right and wrong that the event causing the break created that feedback. Or, it may be that because of my own brain and psychological make up I was not fully stunted by fundamentalism and thus could, when the time finally came, make a break, albeit one that is bloody and still lingers today. I did not do this without a great deal of help. Indeed, I attended several years of professional counseling (from a Christian perspective) and had a very patient wife. I had you, my friends and readers, helping me along the way.
My counselor and I explored this break through the lens of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Do not get me wrong; I was not diagnosed with it; however, he utilized some of the treatment (non-medical) techniques. Fortunately, my break occurred in my early 30s and not in, say, my teens or early twenties. I contribute the time and context of my break and recovery from fundamentalism to the fact it happened later in my adulthood. Otherwise, I may be like those who have since returned to the former cult or perhaps, like the one who resides just outside of the church doors. There is the state of perpetual anger, fear, and stress.
Trauma of the mental type does stunt normative psychological development. According to Dr. Bruce Perry, “All experience changes the brain – good experiences like piano lessons and bad experiences like living through a tornado as it destroys your home. This is so because the brain is designed to change in response to patterned, repetitive stimulation. And the stimulation associated with fear and trauma changes the brain.”2 Thus, if you experience the repeated trauma associated with fundamentalism, you will, even after leaving (rather, “backsliding”) still experience the same anger, fear, and stress associated with fundamentalism. There is one huge difference, however.
While you will still have the same fear, anger, and stress of fundamentalism you will not have the same reasons given for what you feel nor the same “help.” The best way to explain this is an analogy. Simply, if you beat a child and tell them it is because they deserve it, but if they are good then you will relent, you will instill into that child anger, fear, and stress. Because their brain becomes adapted to that, when they leave your care they will still feel the same conditions. However, they will not have you punching them, only the memory, threats, and scars. This feeling produces chaos. To feel that order once more, as strange as it sounds, the child will seek to return to the abuse. The person who is only abused understands love as abuse, sadness as happiness. This is why battered women return to their abusers and so on. It is a structure.
We cannot judge the abused as incompetent as we all live in structure, we just don’t recognize our own. Some are healthy structures and others are not. Not all unhealthy structures are abuse; do not mistake my intention here. The structure is what guides our responses, needs, and wants. The abused and traumatized need a structure alleviating the stress caused by not being abused. It is up to the community discover ways to break the structures by creating a better repetition, replacing the cycle of abuse with a cycle of healing.
Unfortunately, I know someone who has yet to break out of the structure binding them for so long. Rather than understanding that the abuse given from one person is not asystematic of the cult but a part of the whole, and a part that is needed to make the whole, my friend believes that the abuser is the variable and the structure innocent. Thus, this person seeks to undue 25 years of pain by resetting everything in their life to the point of the trauma inflicted, even to the point of resetting life to the exact geographic locale. The problem, among many, is that instead of the abuser, my friend is resetting their life to include the one person he/she believes could have saved him/her from the pain.
A cult is a community of abusers and abused. You can be both. I was. The person my friend believes would have saved him/her from the abuse inflicted by the abusive community was part of the original problem because the original problem is rooted in the fundamentalistic cult. The entire structure is established on abuse. The pastor abuses the laity creating a cycle whereby one lay member abuses another, husband abuses wife and wife abuses children. The entire structure of fundamentalism is in of itself abuse. However, if one does not internalize the fact that it is the structure and not the abuser themselves as the main cause, then the person is likely to return to the structure time and time again and abuse will always occur.3
As I look back, I know no one, nor any singular argument, would have awaken me from my trance. Rather, to see fundamentalism for what it is, one must come to that realization on his or her own. For those who must experience it, I pity them, but I maintain it is one they need. They must come to understand that it is not simply this one or that one that is the problem with their system, but the entire system built on the forms of abuse so often present in fundamentalism. Likewise, it is an experience many will not have because of the repetition of fear, anger and stress prevalent in these circles. This repetition, especially if occurring at an early age, will stunt the development of the person making it less likely the needed-break will ever actually take place.
I was fortunate to find a church community that ended the cycle of theological bullying and pastoral abuse. I was equally fortunate to have had the break in such a way as to have my eyes flung open rather than allowed to me stay asleep, clinging to a cancerous structure. The former cycles of solitary confinement, hate, and stress were replaced with seasons of community, love, and giving. Now I sit here and weep about the prospect that my friend has yet to realize just how bad the structure he/she insists on remaining in. If I come off disgruntled at fundamentalism or even angry at the prospect of one returning to the horrible theological rot that is fundamentalism, it is because I understand the abuse latent in the structure. My emotional maturity of accepting fundamentalism as a valid expression of Christianity is stunted by the truth of the danger it poses and imposes.
- The Neuroscience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (psychologytoday.com)
- Let’s talk ABUSE, Shall We? (esewalter.wordpress.com)
- The Worst Advice This Abuse Survivor Ever Received (cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com)
- I must be stupid for not leaving (firenmisoul.wordpress.com)
- The nature of “fundamentalism” is not the topic of this post. For the sake of this post, “fundamentalism” includes those smaller Christian sects removed from Christian Tradition, usually focused on one doctrinal quirk or another. For instance, the TCOJC believed that the name of Jesus Christ was the only proper name to call a Church, that the KJV was the only bible, and the pastor (and doctrines) could not be questioned. Likewise, “fundamentalism” includes as a founding principle the prohibition of intellectual inquiry and accountability of the pastor to the laity, believing instead the pastor is the sole voice of God. ↩
- See here. ↩
- Structures also normalize abuse. The abuser in question here is one that would have been abusive outside the structure; however, given the divine allowance to be abusive as a way to maintain a proper household hierarchy, the level of abuse increased. It was ordained by the pastor and almost expected by other members. In this case, the structure gave a purpose to the abuse. ↩
We knew that if we were going to “reach out” to evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic Christians, we were going to have to re-brand ourselves (note the crass language of business). And so we agreed as a faculty to focus our branding on three things: 1) basic Christian Orthodoxy; 2) holiness; and 3) church renewal.
The above was written by Jason Vickers, the Church Renewal prof at United. And of course, the Birchers of the UMC have given their approval.
My question – and yes, I know some of you fall into those categories – is whether or not evangelicals, Pentecostals, and charismatic Christians meet the definition of “basic Christian
Let me explain.
Nearly all of the Evangelicals I know are nominally anti-creedal. Charismatics and Pentecostals are the same and generally eschew Tradition. Both are highly individualistic and thus are against the corporate and communal experiences of historical Christianity.
Of course, this may mean we can define or redefine what “basic Christian orthodoxy” really means. Is it just a shared element of doctrine? Such as a belief in the Trinity? Perhaps that is all that is needed for a basic Christian orthodoxy, but if that is the case, then those who espouse such sentiments are themselves part of the issue with liberal mainline churches. Christianity is boiled down to nothing, leaving an empty pot.
Perhaps it is participation in the Great Tradition, replete with the full trappings of Canonical Theism; however, this places most Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics out of the picture.
Or, perhaps basic Christian orthodoxy means something along the lines of voting Republican and detesting historical criticism? That seems to be the defining characteristics of most Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals.
Holiness is another concept. Is holiness Wesley’s holiness or is it what I grew up with, with a near-monk like existence, ready for nothing else by God’s ultimate act of wrath, the destruction of the world? And let’s not kid ourselves, even Wesley’s holiness is not truly defined but.
I rather like Pope Francis’s example. Keep in mind, I disagree with the Holy Father on several issues, but he is causing Church renewal by maintaining a very generous orthodoxy and performing a holiness of work.
Oh, and I personally don’t believe most Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics meet the demands of basic Christian orthodoxy. I don’t care much for the concept. I agree with a generous orthodoxy, theologically speaking. Theologically speaking, one should believe in the Trinity, accept the Great Tradition (including the Reformation), and seek to remain in union with other Christians.
Personally speaking, orthodoxy is a constricting noose one can use to strangle out any form of actual renewal. Just watch what the Traditionalists say about Pope Francis… or what the Anglicans said about John Wesley… or how the Gospels pictured the reaction to Jesus. I believe orthodoxy is about the mind, but the Gospel is about the heart.
On the other hand, the Gospel without canonical theism is often a motivational speech or absolute theological fascism.
I’ve stated this before. I tend to disagree with Vickers about a good many things, or maybe just a few things, but all in all, if you get a chance, read his blog and continue the conversation yonder ways.
Yesterday, I posted my displeasure at the line from In Christ Alone, a modern day hymn.
“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”
I do not hold to the atonement theory known as Penal Substitutionary. I find it abhorrent and not the most representative of the biblical images of atonement. Readers know my stance on Romans and the oft-quoted passage used to support the ‘wrath of God poured out on all’ theology.
Anyway, Jim posted
Personally, I don’t believe in ultimate free will, either for God or his Creation. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is freedom and liberty, but the notion of free will is rather blatantly false. Free will and sovereignty are highly nuanced, so I may not mean what you think I mean.
I affirm Christus Victor as my preferred method of examining the death of Jesus. It incorporates the OT with YHWH victor, ANE combat myth, and henotheism. Was the death of Christ a sort of substitution? Sure. He gave his life so that others may live, but he did so in the context of Christ victorious over death, the powers, and the like.
PSA is not the most important aspect of the atonement images, but it is an aspect. CV is the most important because it recognizes the eternality of the sovereignty of God, for one, and the ontological existence of the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Further, it erases the notion that God is a wrathful, vengeful deity first and foremost and only abated by requiring his son to suffer and die to appease his honor. God is not such a one like us, after all.
I do not believe in the impassable God. Rather, I do believe God is angered and grows indignant, but likewise, these are not his defining characteristics. The Creeds do not begin with ‘I believe in God… the vengeful.’ Rather, we believe in God, the Creator. We will in the Son who suffered under Pilate, not under God.
Anyway, it is a fun conversation.
- Clement of Rome: Penal Substitution Atonement (withalliamgod.wordpress.com)
- The Trinity: In the Words of Great Minds (experiencingthelamb.wordpress.com)
- Penal Substitution & Christus Victor: Means and Goals Of Atonement (withalliamgod.wordpress.com)
Even choosing to write the words ‘disability theology’ is a statement. Why not theology of disability? I’m really not sure what to even call it.
However, I do believe a serious discussion and some resolution regarding a theological view of disability and people with disabilities would go far in determining the future course of the Church and her interaction with those otherwise deemed unacceptable.
There are several books I’d like to recommend. Amos Yong and Candida Moss have contributed to this discussion. (Don’t forget this review of Moss’s lecture on the topic by Brian LePort.) David F. Watson has written about it as well.
I have had the pleasure of taking a class on the subject as taught by Watson, but my interest exists beyond the class. It was a class I had to take to graduate and not one I was initially happy about; however, after taking this class I was grateful. I learned a great deal about theology — perhaps more in this class than in actual theology classes.
I want to encourage you, dear readers, to take a gander at some of these books listed here and dig deep.
Usually, disability is something we can identify. We know what Down’s Syndrome looks like. We know what MS and other physical disabilities look like. Some of us can identify mental illness as well. These things set others a part from us and has for much of human history. Read Mary Douglas on this.
But what about those things we use to separate others from us, especially in the Church? Color. Gender. Orientation.
I firmly believe if we can correctly grapple with a correct theology in relation to people with disabilities — one affirming their humanity — this will lead us to examine those we regularly dehumanize.
But, there is more. In an age where we are on the brink of cures for what we call disabilities, we must understand the ethical considerations laying wait for us. I’d had this discussion with a few people, actually. There is a possible cure for Down’s Syndrome. If it is a cure, the the person with DS is sick, right? If they are fully human with Down’s Syndrome, then do they need a cure?
Several scientific studies have suggested homosexuality is connected to birth order and hormones in the womb. What if a cure for this was found? What if by taking a tiny pill, one could become straight?
What are the ethics of these medical advancements?
I have a lot of questions, but few if any answers. It is, perhaps, due to the fact I am not faced with disability nor do I have a person with a disability in my family.
But, these questions do weight on my heart and soul at times…
What are your thoughts?
- Robert Jenson on theology and ecumenism (externalword.wordpress.com)
- Roadblocks to rural theology (onpreaching.com)
- Inclusion Handbook (Resource) (disabilityandfaith.org)
- Why Curing Disability Should Not Outweigh Equality (emilyladau.wordpress.com)
- A Truly Perfect Heaven (debdebbarak.wordpress.com)
…some bad beats.
What’s interesting about this is that it essentially reverses the role of scripture during the period of canonization. Scripture was used to teach the faith of the church, a faith one could locate in various forms of the Rule of Faith.
I intend to agree with this statement. Because I do not feel like writing much, I’ve made a video.
Scripture does not come first — therefore, no solo/sola scriptura. We can settle for prima scriptura, however. Why? Because Tradition creates the Canon by authorizing it. Note, literary works existed before and after Tradition, often in conflict with Tradition. The canon – the set of books considered authoritative – is authorized by the Tradition shaped and shaping those literary works. Later, the canon becomes to shape tradition.
I know… right?
I am no Wesleyan Scholar, so help me out here. First, this is an older post from Roger Olsen.
Purgatory? Well, perhaps that’s not a felicitous name for the phenomenon I am imagining. But I can’t think of a better name right now. C. S. Lewis called it purgatory while distancing his idea of it from the typical Roman Catholic explanations of it.
This site has assembled some evidence that Wesley was drifting towards a Protestant notion of a place whereby the ‘good man’ grows in holiness until the resurrection of the dead.
Note, later Protestant theologians who desired to refrain from association with Romish purgatory invented new ways of drafting the image.
Since the discussion is ongoing at the moment, I wanted to include several authors that have in some large way affected the way I think.
- Karl Barth
- James Cone
- Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
- Mary Douglas
- Clement of Alexandria
- Sarah Coakley
- John Wesley (oh come on, you knew I had too)
- Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
These aren’t all, but I do believe these are essential readings for those engaging in modern theological discussions.
What are yours?