Over at Patheos: Progressive Brands, Sexism & DudeBro Politics: #CloseGamerGate

link to original post: here

Because this was now being handled in public, I was fortunate to receive the support of hundreds of people on Twitter – as well as attacks from others. I always expect some form of trolling, but I did not expect one of the attackers to be an editor at Salon, Elias Isquith, who questioned what my potential rape meant for “hashtags” and “brands”. “- Sarah Kendzior, On Being A Thing

Encountering the Emergent Church Brand

For a span of 2 years, my final semester of undergrad up until my second year in seminary,I tried and miserably failed to fit myself in the white Calvinist evangelical mold. As a black man in his early twenties, I didn’t fit in anywhere in predominantly white Christian educational settings. Some of my first friends in seminary were a group of white Christians who were well read with Emergent Christian literature: Tony Jones, Doug Paggit, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren will all names that were dropped during our weekly Tuesday night taco dinners.  I would eventually leave the Neo-Calvinist movement on my own terms and started to see some freedom in the Emergent Church movement. Two of the more influential books on my journey were Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed and Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. My Calvinist friends (who had not read these book/authors) were calling me a heretic for even reading these books, and as I look back then seven years ago, I can laugh.

I once preached a sermon on the Emergent church as the future of Christian tradition, and I even taught a Sunday School class on Black theology and Emergence Christianity.  However, I began to experience disaffection with the Emergent Church. All of the topics and controversies that the EC leadership wrote about/spoke about still made Whiteness as the center. Believers from marginated contexts were welcome to the table as long as they tacitly submitted to the ways of the dominant culture. In essence,  Emergence Christianities have become more about personal brands and the platforms of their recognized overwhelmingly White male leaders rather than being about the “future of Christianity.” You see, since we only live in the here and now, all talks of the “future of Christianity” are speculative. Yet, there is much money to be made when small groups of people decide to severe the multiracial Kingdom of God from any notion of the future. The “future” winds up looking very much like the status quo, and defenses (yes, even “progressive ones”) of the status quo are quite profitable.

Liberationist Killjoys And DudeBro Christianity

At Killjoy Prophets, there is a two-fold mission: first, we desire to center the experiences of Women of Color in Christianity, and secondly, we work to end DudeBro Christianity. Now, we often get asked, “what is DudeBro Christianity?” First of all, DudeBro is a descriptor of character traits; it is a politics in which any person of any gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background can embody.  DudeBro Christianity is the passive embodiment of dominant cultural norms that conceal commitments to White supremacist and male supremacist narratives as defaults. The bodies of women and People of Color are made to be objects of contempt. The practice of DudeBro Politics includes someone who insists that all social encounters occur on their terms.  The future of Christianity is their private property (“post-Christendom”); like the plantation oligarchs, People of Color and the bodies of women are to be supervised by DudeBro Christian leaders.

Emergent Christian leaders often make excuses such as, well many PoC and women just do not have a big enough platform to draw a big enough crowd for conferences. In other words, profit is the driving force behind abstract discussions of “the future” rather than the Kingdom of God, which is justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  DudeBro Politics is the anti-Christ, posing as an angelic voice of progressive Enlightenment in order to deny faithful victory over the sins of White Supremacy, rape culture, and economic exploitation. DudeBro politics can play out in non-liberating events such as a White Cisgender queer male informing me that I use too strong of language when describing economic policies as anti-black racism. DudeBro Christianity is when for the sake of inclusion in the United Methodist Church, a White CisHet man uses his privilege to compare the General Conference to date rape. In order to build her brand as a magenta politics leftist, one political theologian dismissed Sarah Kendzior’s claims to being threatened with rape. Jason is right: in order for DudeBro Politics to remain the pre-eminent regime in this kyriarchal, White Supremacist economy, men have to control the bodies of women and PoC.

“but I think it’s pathetic for some [recognized Emergent Church leaders] to stand around and comment on the failings [of Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill Church], while cowardly never admitting your own sh*& (which is strikingly familiar!!) misogyny, mental and emotional abuse all hidden behind a new found liberalism and feminism because the times they are a changin’, jumping on the same sex marriage band wagon because its the hot new ride in town, and you just might get to be relevant again…these people are very cunning and smart and they will use anything (theology, controversy, sensationalism) and anyone to get ahead. it’s a clinical diagnosis and a pathology that looks like this kind of carnage, and they ALWAYS leave bodies in their wake. soliciting white male leaders of the emergent church willing to cover it all up for their crony. wipe out evidence on organizations website. lies and betrayal.”- Julie McMahon, comment, Tony Jones On Mark Driscoll, What Came First, The Thug or The Theology?

On Ending DudeBro Christianity, #GamerGate, & #NotYourShield

Emergence Christianities and their leadership has unfortunately found itself more often than not on imperialist quests for fame and fortune rather than being in solidarity with the least of these. In the process, as Julie McMahon pointed out, brand-creation and marketing leave the bodies of the marginalized in its wake: objectification, emotional, physical and mental abuse, gaslighting, racist microaggressions, and “post-modern” defenses of White Supremacy. Progressive spaces such as Emergence Christianity have made it okay for others to promote themselves at the expense of others (women mostly). For example, the whole #GamerGate #NotYourShield movement is a whole group of gamer dudes violently backlashing against women gamers who have spoken up versus misogyny. Last week, my friend Drew Hart discovered that a #NotYourShield sock puppet had been using a picture of his to advance the racist*, sexist agenda of #NotYourShield / #GamerGate.

#GamerGate is more than a few Internet trolls. They harass their critics, take down their blogsites, spread vicious rumors, and send emails promising gun violence and sexual assaults towards women who dare speak out. It’s time for progressives to find new ways to brand themselves, and this should start by rejecting DudeBro Politics. It means living by the preferential option for the marginalized (women & People of Color), preferring to choose human life and people over profiteering and brand-making.  Such a rejection also means a public rebuke of #GamerGate / #NotYourShield.    #CloseGamerGate #CloseGamerGate #CloseGamerGate

“[...] upon this rock I will build my church; the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”- Matthew 16:18 KJV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Gift”

  • I refer to #GamerGate/ #NotYourShield as racist because of #1, the persistent blackface sock puppeteering that they do, and #2, their reliance on negative stereotypes of Blacks as thuggish, criminal, and culturally “backwards”/homophobic.

@FortressPress “Commentary on the Bible: The Old Testament and Apocrypha” – Additions to Esther

Since he-who-must-not-be-named is reviewing the “normal books,” I wanted to take some time and focus on the books you good Protestants are missing due to the drunk who threw them out. Frankly, they are among my favorites.

Yes, you Wesleyans like James and you Calvinists like the Institutes, but for those of us who love Jesus, there are books (used by Christians since the beginning) like Wisdom of Solomon and the (Greek) Additions to Esther. Admittedly, the former of these two is my favorite.

The introduction to the entire section (split off as as they do in Protestant bibles) is a short, but masterful work on the history of the deuterocanon (or “Apocrypha”) in Protestant bibles. I’m not going to spend much time reviewing it, but Eileen M. Schuller has done her considerable homework and gets it, as far as I can see, right. By this I mean, Schuller presents exactly what I want to see presented in a commentary of this scope and it is appreciated. She presents the ups and downs (the drunken brawl that led to the books being discarded right up to their reemergence in our wayward and biblically illiterate society) of these “hidden” books in Protestantism. Further, she doesn’t exclude, as many are apt to do, the Orthodox varieties of lists.

Let me spend just a moment on the (Greek) Additions to Esther, for no other reason than it was penned by my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Vivian Johnson. She begins by noting the surface problem with Esther — there is no God (at least in the book). Therefore, later Jewish scribes sought to remedy that, adding to the story as they needed to deliver the message they wanted. Rightly so, Johnson speaks to how this book dealt with identity in Empire and how the additions turn the book from a very limited scope to one that has far reaching cosmic implications.

After taking us through the additions and what they mean inside the text, she turns to the interpretative tradition and the text in contemporary discussion (as is the case with all other books in this commentary). Since the Additions to Esther are so short, this has allowed Johnson to expand these two discussion sections greatly to the benefit of the reader. To my great joy, her section on contemporary discussion discusses the contrast between the Greek additions (and the story it produces) compared to that of the original and Hebrew forms. This is important in deciding which story to read — not necessarily which story is authoritative. Like Daniel and his additions, the additions to Esther are important to us as we discover how stories were told, retold, and redacted/edited to meet new challenges — not simply with mimetic reuse, but by adding directly to a sacred text.

In all, Johnson does exactly what this former student expects, delivers supremely.

Orthodoxy as Primary to Morality

These are brief thoughts on why I choose orthodoxy. I hope to edit, and develop this later. It is, thusly, unfinished.

I am asked why I strive for orthodoxy when it is presumed this since I came from a fundamentalist background I am less likely to navigate towards orthodoxy. Shouldn’t I be atheist or worse — progressive? Or because I would like to consider myself one who studies Scripture on the academic level, shouldn’t I refrain from the perilous seas of orthodoxy? However I believe that orthodoxy has a lot to offer and it is what I choose to believe is the better form of Christianity. My intention upon becoming a United Methodist was not to be orthodox but to remain just outside of doctrinally indescribable. I insisted that I could have my own view of the Godhead. I insisted I could define easily the boundaries of what I would and would not believe. However, the more I approached church history and scripture as well as engagements with both conservative and progressive Christians, the more important orthodoxy became. It is in orthodoxy where I find the refutation of both conservatism and progressivism as well as the stabilizing force needed to renew the Church universal.

If given enough time on this earth I would like to explore every facet of the Christian experience. However I would do so within the orthodox framework. It is not because orthodoxy is empirical or because I can prove (as a matter of science) orthodoxy is “best” or “absolute;” however, I can show it is a matter of value and worth and should not be so easily discarded upon the trash-heap of modernity, post or otherwise. Orthodoxy is that lens that has guided us for 2000 years and will continue to guide us forward.

I do not see it as a restriction or a boundary — neither as some evolution of a conspiracy centered on maintaining power and privilege. I see it rather as like a teacher to guide us, to shape us, to mold us and to finally set us free to find a value in the lessons we have learned. In fact, I would suggest that orthodoxy developed as a counter to privilege, either imperial or personal, so that no one person could place a stranglehold on the Gospel.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orthodoxy is not restrictive. Indeed as it restricts to contain heresy it also expands to build upon the lessons learned during the rebellion. We would not have the Trinity except we first had the faulty notion of the Father who died. Orthodoxy reigned and contained that heresy — and yet was able to expand into the doctrine of the Trinity we have today.

Orthodoxy does allow for exploration and even experimentation. Its rigidity allows for freedom. Indeed it allows for mysticism and challenging long-held notions. It allows us to experience Christianity from different points of view and different angles. But yet it always maintains that it is the truth even when it expands to take in that which we did not know.

I believe there is always room for improvement and to change no matter the system but if you seek to just simply abandon the system then it becomes an issue. We see the great thinkers of the past who improved upon what they had, not by destroying the foundations upon which they themselves were built but by tackling the subject at hand while grappling with new information and new questions. It is not that they shut everything out in a fundamentalist manner but they brought in new things to help enlighten truth that they already had.

We cannot too harshly judge the great thinkers and minds of the past and consider them as our contemporaries — complete with the problems and solutions we now ourselves enjoy. Orthodoxy does not mean that that which is past is always better; progress does not mean that which is now is likely any better.

When I examined orthodoxy, especially with my background as anti-orthodox, I find it a level that is both stabilizing and liberating. Without orthodoxy, without that ability to remain grounded on (not “in”) the past, the Protestant Reformation would’ve been derailed. This is why the free churches and others today have no specific context to progress or understand doctrines as the world itself shapes our questions and demands new answers. Orthodoxy is a structure in of itself and unites those who hold to it even if in the nonessentials they disagree strongly.

Orthodoxy, then, allows for us to actually progress, to move forward, to handle the world that is revealed to us daily. It gives us a basis for deciding how to handle these new things our sacred writings did not speak to. We cannot simply say “the Bible says” or “the Bible does not say” and expect that to remain unchallenged. There is a logic and consistency at work in orthodoxy. This logical consistency is met by the Mystery of freedom provided for in orthodoxy. But when we meet new forms of life and love we can expect orthodoxy to provide an answer for us, not in restricting ourselves to the past, but an opening ourselves up to what it means to understand the incarnation of Christ. Orthodoxy is founded not upon one thing (Scripture) itself a part of orthodoxy, but but several experiences.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, every doctrine must have a social intention.1 Therefore if we hold to the incarnation we can build our doctrine from the proper use of this, we can build our doctrine on the proper use of the body, the proper use of love, and the proper use even of doctrine. Justification likewise has a social intention we should explore in this modern world. Justification, like incarnation, is not a holdover of the past. It is one of the grounding doctrines of the Christian faith. The creeds mention that Christ has died for us. While we can explore atonement models and theories, we must always remember that the basis of justification is that we as a church, as a people, even as individuals are set right with God through the death and physical resurrection of Christ. Likewise, these two doctrines are dependent upon one another. Justification is effected only because of the unique, divine Son of God.

Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten ...

Westminster Abbey, West Door, Four of the ten 20th Century- Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These two doctrines are related in no less way to the doctrine of Creation itself, including to the image of God as St Athanasius tells us in his tract on the incarnation. If we properly understand the incarnation then we know what justification achieved. If we can grasp this, then we can finally understand the imago dei.

Everything we do as Christians — whether it is liturgical, practice, ethics, or morality — must come from proper orthodoxy and orthodoxy in its proper place. Without these things, the foundation of Christianity as we know it falls. For those like Oneness Pentecostals who believe in “Jesus only,” we must remember that the very book given to us that tells about Jesus — that book which we recognize in someway as an authority in our spiritual lives — is likewise given to us through orthodoxy. It was assembled by those who sought not to control or to have power but to protect and defend the Gospel as once for all delivered to the Apostles by Christ. Those who believe in a “Jesus only” Christianity do not truly exist as a Christian specimen except in their own minds. “Jesus only” Christianity is a logical fallacy and a paradox.

Is orthodoxy oppressive? No, not in of itself. Are people oppressive? Surely so. Those on the left who continuously claim that orthodoxy is oppressive fine their replication on the right with those who claim all things are persecution. I contend, with experience, that the oppressive systems are not orthodoxy but generally built around an independent personality, who believing him or herself more knowledgable than all of Church Tradition has created themselves a church. Orthodoxy itself is not oppressive, only those who misuse it and those who ignore it for their own private revelation.

Is orthodoxy biblical? Indeed, very much so. Further, the gospels testify to a level of orthodoxy, as well as a door to generous orthodoxy — if not heterodoxy. In Matthew 16.19, Jesus gives to Peter the much-discussed keys of the Kingdom. In John 20.21-23, Jesus gives to the Apostles the door of forgiveness. Matthew establishes a view of orthodoxy by not only using a rabbinical legality but also by pinning it to the role of the prime minister as found in Isaiah 22.22. Jesus created a line leading directly to orthodoxy. Further, Jesus was likewise exclusive. Jesus threatened to throw some into outer darkness. He had no issue saying “depart from me.” As much as Jesus was exclusive Jesus was likewise inclusive. He allowed that people could fall into that gray area of the middle as we see in Luke 9.49-50.

Let me return to Bonhoeffer. In Cost of Discipleship (293n.), he writes,

False doctrine corrupts the life of the Church at its source, and that is why doctrinal sin is more serious than moral. Those who rob the Church of the gospel deserve the ultimate penalty, whereas those who fail in morality have the gospel there to help them. In the first instance doctrinal discipline applies to those who hold a teaching office in the Church. It is always assumed that only those will be admitted to the ministry who are didactikoi, able to teach (I Tim. 3.2; II Tim. 2.24; Titus 1.9), “able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2.2). If hands are laid on any man before he is ready for his office, the responsi­bility rests with the ordaining minister (I Tim. 5.22). Doctrinal discipline thus starts before the actual ordination. It is a matter of life and death for the Church that the utmost care be exercised with regard to ordinations. But this is only the beginning. When the candidate has been approved and admitted to his office, he must, like Timothy, be admonished unceasingly to maintain the true saving doctrine. In this connection the reading of the Scriptures is especially emphasized. The danger of error is only too strong (II Tim. 3.10, 14, 4.2, 2.15, I Tim. 4.13, 16; Titus 1.9; 3.8). Further the minister must be exhorted to live an exemplary life—“Give heed to thyself and to the doctrine.”

It is not merely enough to say that what we teach must be biblical. Indeed what we teach must be orthodox. Because it is only by orthodox teachings we can understand the social intention of the Gospel. This is our fabric and our lens for viewing Christianity and questions that arise. Orthodoxy is not a rulebook nor is it a fence. It is a pathway protecting against stumbling blocks. It is what teaches us about morality and ethics and indeed, assigns to them importance. Likewise, it teaches us what love is and brings forth its primacy.

While John Wesley never articulated it so well, Wesley’s intention was not that far off from Bonhoeffer, which is not completely surprising given the Lutheran influence on Wesley along with Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran formation. While this is the case, Wesley did not suffer from the false notion that morality can exist independent of nor primary over doctrine. His teachings always began with correct doctrines, including justification. Justification, if we understand it correctly, leads us to holiness which is the goal of the Gospel. Even in his interpretative strategies, Wesley began with Scripture. He did not begin with morality. Correct morals comes from understanding God’s revelation and covenant. Orthodox doctrine without holiness is Gnosticism — that ancient and modern way whereby our salvation is dependent upon correct knowledge.

One of the stranger things about protestant orthodoxy is the fight’s inherent paradox. Perhaps if we contend for orthodoxy, we must likewise contend for those who established it, as enshrined better either in Rome or the East. Or, rather, we contend for the creedal orthodoxy, allowing for a small measure of Protestantism whereby we hold to the Creeds, forgetting that these were established by Councils and Councils Bishops and Bishops Apostles. If we contend for this creedal orthodoxy, wherein the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Resurrection are held as paramount next to Creation, Mary’s place in the Gospel, the Scriptures as a testimony to Christ, Justification, and a Church universal then we will do well enough. I still, however, find it difficult to contend for orthodoxy while ignoring, even in small pieces, those who establish orthodoxy.

When it comes to other forms of Christianity, I do not generally concern myself with them, finding something of value in Paul’s words of preaching Christ. On the other hand, if they pretend to be orthodox or if they are fundamentalism, then it raises my rancor. Indeed, I have little or no issue with gnostic Christians, Mormons or even American Baptists. I do, however, take issue with oneness pentecostals and progressives. I try to always watch my language and call those who attend or pretend to orthodox Christianity “orthodox Christians” and expect of them to be true to their self-identification.

So… there you go. Some thoughts. I wrote most of this while traveling down the road. Apple’s iOS dictation is awesome.  

  1. “Because God has entered human history, new relationships are engendered. Those who respond to this revelation bear a responsibility. Bonhoeffer insisted on the social intention of every Christian doctrine.” (Bonhoeffer’s Costly Theology – Christian History & Biography – ChristianityTodayLibrary.com).

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.

How Churches Can Avoid the Nightmare of Lawsuits over Wedding Ceremonies

WEDDING

This is simple and perhaps even simplistic, I admit, but, I guarantee you it is at least one first step to avoid legal problems, that is, if you object to performing gay marriages.

(Disclaimer: I have voiced my opinion as to gay marriage plenty of times in different ways with the same main thrust, so, this is not an opinion on gay marriage but an advice to Churches that want to avoid the nightmare of lawsuits.)

Many Protestant churches reject the idea of marriages as a sacrament. Too bad that they perform and require that marriages be performed by their ministers as if it were a sacrament. However, many of these Churches use wedding ceremonies as a revenue generator for the Church and even rent their facilities for other ministers to perform marriages of people outside of the host Church membership. Well, that was fine and dandy up until now, but, unless Churches find a way not to “have it both ways” or, a quasi sacrament, whereas saying is not one, which they charge everyone to offer, and even offer it to people whose spiritual life they do not oversee, Churches will be open for all kinds of lawsuits because now we have a different, uncommon before, group of people who feel that, in spite of the fact that they never cared for that church facility in their neighborhood, and even when it is not in their neighborhood, they want to challenge that Church by wanting to have their gay marriage in that specific facility. In my not expert opinion, as it is plain to see, and as I consult friends of mine who are attorneys, it will be hard for that Church ministers to deny their facilities to perform a gay marriage on the basis of religion, since they only have an “expectancy” that the people whose weddings are performed in there are indeed religious people. My discussion here is not whether it is right to sue a Church for that or not, my discussion is that it will be hard for a Church to prove that they are not discriminating!

What then can be done?

Number one, from start, Churches should get out of the business of performing marriages. By that I mean, they should not charge for that which they believe to be a function of the Church. Otherwise they have to deny that such ceremonies are relevant and the function of the Church. They can’t have it both ways. They cannot charge; perhaps a nominal fee is fine for “maintenance” purposes, such as removal of flowers, or things of this nature, or cleaning the “social hall”, if the reception is also carried in its facilities, but charging a fee for the marriage itself, should be a “no, no”.

Then, not only should Churches not use weddings for a revenue generator by charging wedding fees, but also they should perform, or bless marriages of members of their congregations only, or the people whom the Ministers of that Church oversee spiritually. That means that they would not rent their facilities for marriages of people outside those who are under spiritual supervision of the ministers of that Church, whom they know, counsel, pray with, and to whom they offer communion regularly. I know that this will hurt churches financially, but it will hurt even more to have a lawyer in their payroll or to pay expensive legal fees to dispute lawsuits. All that is happening may be a Sovereign act of God in turning Churches more like the Body of Christ, and turn to their main purpose here on earth than to simply “server” the community as a venue for community indiscriminant celebrations.

In fact, Churches who want to avoid lawsuits, as long as it is legal to present issues (which is about to be legally debated in America) to your members, you should have a formal teaching plan where you teach your members about sin, sexuality, marriage, along with all your doctrinal foundations such as justification, the Trinity, etc. That alone will prevent anyone who disagrees with you from even the desire to be in your zip code, let alone get married in your Church!

Lastly, Churches should write all the above in their Constitution and By-Laws and ensure, assure and reassure that such is being followed to the letter!

How can this protect a Church?

Some may ask how these measures will help a Church avoid lawsuits; let me ask them that if you want to fly shirtless in an airplane there will always be a hard nose flight attendant, or steward, whatever they call it nowadays, to tell you that “it is not the company policy that people fly shirtless”. Churches need to know what their policy is. Whether they choose to perform gay marriage or not, they have to enact a policy that is understood by the community so as not to invite anyone even to consider attempting to violate such policy. That, added to the Constitutional provisions will aid a Church to be protected against most of the lawsuits and local ordinances that ultimately violate the Constitution right to assemble, which may be interpreted with “right to associate with likeminded folks”, freedom of speech, or religion and freedom to worship as one desires.

The advantages of a well established policy in their Statutes and By-Laws will be that Churches will get out of the “wedding business”, will be able to bless only the marriages of whom they oversee whereas being kindly and legally able to sustain a claim that any rejection of weddings of the general public within their walls is not discrimination.

The time has come, and again, I think by God’s Sovereign Act of disciplining the Body of Christ, that His Churches function more as the “assembly of those who worship God” and are under the supervision of a duly established Pastor or Bishop (the overseer) and not a community pleasing organization in the sense that, instead of “Christianizing the community, they are allowing the community to worldanize the church.”

Whatever has befallen to some Churches and Ministers in facing lawsuits from gay activists because of denial of facilities and ministerial blessing of a gay wedding (if such lawsuits are still in vogue…) is often the Churche’s fault for not safeguarding the mission that God commanded them to fulfill. Now a couple, from that church or not, can walk up to a minister, “rent” the church facilities for the wedding, either pay the minister of that Church for the wedding or bring their own minister and all is good. How is that not a fertile ground for all kinds of legal problems, including discrimination, if these same Churches deny the same facility and ministerial blessing to anyone? How is that not transforming a religious act, or a quasi sacrament for some, and a real sacrament for others, into a business? Want to keep your wedding revenues coming? If they do, save them because you will have to spend it all in lawyers and lawsuits and it will be your fault; you will lose! Sadly, the only way to avoid discrimination lawsuits is to discriminate by performing ONLY marriages of people within your Ministerial Oversight, or, the members of your congregation who agree to your definition of sin, marriage, sexuality, etc.

Christianity is a faith with no temple made by man’s hands; however this cannot be an excuse to consider a place of worship a “party hall” for the community and not even the “favorite wedding chapel” of the community. Without transforming church buildings in shrines, Churches must understand the difference between an exclusive worship place and the “community center”. This is old fashion but efficacious in swatting away lawsuit bugs. That can be achieved starting by ending the urge to generate revenues by providing a venue for non-member weddings.

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.