.@UTSDoc’s “Scripture and the Life of God” (video)

And you can get the book HERE.

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Dr David Watson on “the whole canon of Scripture”

What are your thoughts?

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Quote of the Day: Abraham and Watson – “Creedal Faith”

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...
English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this month’s Circuit Rider (the print magazine of Ministry Matters), Drs. William Abraham. They conclude,

Wesley knew what so many of us have forgotten today: the set of claims that we make about God will shape the ways in which we view the world around us and will come to bear significantly upon the way we live. We all have a way of looking at the world, but not all ways of looking at the world are equally virtuous or healthy. Not all ways of looking at the world are equally true. The witness of the Church through the centuries is that the most virtuous and truest way of looking at the world is through the lens of our creedal faith. For United Methodists these are given in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith of the United Evangelical Brethren. The Holy Trinity brought all things into being, created humankind, mourned our rebellion, became incarnate in Jesus Christ, taught us how to live, bore the sins of the world on the cross, rose bodily from the dead, and will come again in glory. That narrative—if you internalize it—will shape the way you view everything. And so, as we say at the beginning of the book, “Belief matters.” It matters a great deal.

They make a few interesting points in this article:

  • Wesley didn’t provide a creed because he was operating within a people for which the Creed was knowledge and accepted.
  • Orthodoxy is what leads us Christians into a fuller life with God. It is not a litmus test, but something like fertilizer.

I am so very thankful I was given the room to grow into orthodoxy, battling it and questioning it along the way. Indeed, there is a difference between orthodoxy and fundamentalism — as much difference as there is between letter and spirit.

The challenge for me is to continue to “think,” “to think and let think,” and yet grow in orthodoxy. (Not to say orthodoxy is not thinking, but like any system, if can become based on the letter). Therefore, I believe we look towards the great mysteries of the faith. Like Clement of Alexandria and others among the Church Fathers, we have to recognize that Christians are on different journeys. Unlike some of them, I don’t think we should judge, coerce, or otherwise those “not up to us” (as in fact, we may be the immature ones if we do this!).

If you get a chance, read their article and their book, ]].

i still disagree with Watson about Mark’s Messianic secret… 

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is the unity of the #UMC a lie?

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Watson asks,

Is our unity, then, confined to matters of polity? Are we only held together by the trust clause and our pensions? I really, really don’t want the UMC to split. I would consider that a great tragedy. Yet what are our main reasons for staying together?

via Church Coffee: In What Lies Our Unity?.

I’m going to do something different. I’m going to turn off the comments for this post to direct you over there.

But, my answer is this… if one schism is bad, then maybe all schisms should be reexamined.

Further, where in Scripture is the Church allowed to split? Yes, we can “put people out” or even leave but to split and each go their own way?

The UMC should remain together due to doctrine and a commitment to Wesleyan theology. Yes, there are issues about personal holiness, but I do not believe these issues outweigh the great union caused by Wesleyanism. There are groups acting within the UMC to seek division. These groups should be called out for the damage they are doing to the work of the Church and the universal Body of Christ. But, if we can unite truly on doctrine, then we must find common ground there.

Anyway, go answer there.

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Quote of the Day: David Watson

…God is essentially a construct. God doesn’t do anything except give credence and authority to the ethical claims that we want to endorse.

via Church Coffee: Does God Actually Do Anything?.

Of course I would suggest reading the entire post. I may have taken it out of context.

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Why I am #UMC

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like this would be a great campaign slogan…

Dr. Watson has written about “what’s so great about the UMC.”

There are certain structures and theological stances within the #UMC with which I am dissatisfied. I strongly disagree about their ordination process. “This Holy Mystery” is a start, but we need a better affirmation of the real presence. And why do we use grape juice!!! Further, we need a deeper look at our Arminian and Pietist heritage as well as what it means to be Wesleyan. 

We need to get rid of the enthusiasm running rampant in our churches and institutions of higher learning.

Even with those things, and these are the items I’ve discussed openly, there is something about the UMC.

  1. It allows that it is not the only legitimate Christian expression. Coming from the fundamentalist church where it was indoctrinated to the point of cult-like status that we were the only ones, having the ecumenical spirit envelop us is refreshing.
  2. It provides a structure geared to accountability. We have boards and trustees, elders and bishops. We even have a court system of sorts. We can provide accountability without shaming, shunning, or exile. We can extend our hand of fellowship to non-Christian groups as easily as to Christian groups.
  3. It remains, at least via the Book of Discipline, committed to the orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith while not restricting us to a certain “group-think.” It is prima scriptura, rather than sola or, God help us, solo. It recognizes the value of the Creeds and other canons of the Church.
  4. The social structure of the connection is amazing. It allows conservatives, moderates, liberals and others to join together in a vibrant community and, in many quarters, celebrates this rainbow of thought. It ordains women. It allows for change, albeit slow. It is a global Church. It has a history of supporting justice movements in the United States.
  5. We aren’t Calvinist. We aren’t pentecostal, either (although it seems that this particular vein, one contrary to explicit statements by Wesley, is trying to grab a foothold via Branhamites). The UMC has three simple rules: Do no harm; Do good; Stay in love with God.
  6. It values science and Ken Ham doesn’t like us.

In short, we aren’t fundamentalist or evangelical, but we remain focused on the Gospel, social and otherwise.

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Sometimes labels are a good thing, I guess

Westboro Baptist Church Anti-Jewish Picketing
Westboro Baptist Church Anti-Jewish Picketing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We need labels. I consider myself an orthodox Christianity, at least in practice. I would like to know, however, if I am heading to a Charismatic Christian service or other non-liturgical Christian services. But, the other labels – conservative and liberal – are those often tossed around against others rather than claimed for ourselves. And they are mostly subjective, especially when used against someone.

For instance, how many of us would say we are liberal when compared to Westboro Baptist Church? Yet, their doctrine is often orthodox (Trinity, Calvinist). Or more conservative than the Emergent Church (and depending upon the day of the week, they may old orthodox doctrines too!)? You get the point, right? And of course, there is the entire thing of Ken Ham and Young Earth Creationists actually being the liberal and theistic evolutionary types the conservative.

Dr. David Watson (students shouldn’t call their prof, who is an academic dean, by their first name. Since I learned under Dr. Watson in two classes, I will continue to use ‘Dr.’) has written a very interesting piece on liberal Christianity. As you can see, he has two specific examples on the use of the word ‘liberal.’ I will always fall into the first category.

I generally find no, nor take any, issue with his post. I do not believe, however, he allows Bultmann the necessary room (post-Hitler Germany) to be Bultmann. But, his take on process theology and his take on those who focus exclusively on social justice at the lapse of sound theological teaching is dead on, in my opinion.

I am a United Methodist almost exclusively based on their (or at least my local church’s)  commitment to social justice. As I have detailed before, however, I grow stronger in my commitment to a deeper theology, something the larger UMC does not tend to support. One side is bent towards to social justice while the other side is bent to a legalist morality that, in my opinion, is more about the “individual experience authorized theological claims.” Like Young Earth Creationists, those who read Scripture in the so-called “plain sense” are basing their theology on the individual experience — what Scripture says to them. 

I would self-identify as a progressive Christian, but only to the extent of re-examining Scripture through Scholarship (Reason) to follow the leading of the Spirit (also, Reason) in accordance with John 16. I believe we are to progress. For instance, on women leaders. We have progressed. On doctrine we have progressed. On moral issues we have progressed. I still, however, maintain the authority of the entirety of the Canon (Scripture, Creeds, Tradition). I do not believe we can ever progress away from the Divinity of Christ and the unity of the Holy Trinity.

I have to wonder if the issue of these labels isn’t really one of authority?

But, anyway, this is a solid post. The one I linked too. Have a go at it.

Also, I am a panentheist who believes God does not intervene in history. God controls history. There is no free will either and I affirm that as a Wesleyan.

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The Role of Theological Education – Hearing Voices

Detail - Glory of the New Born Christ in prese...
Detail – Glory of the New Born Christ in presence of God Father and the Holy Spirit (Annakirche, Vienna) Adam and Eva are represented bellow Jesus-Christ Ceiling painting made by Daniel Gran (1694-1757). Post-processing: perspective and fade correction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

]] writes,

If we are utterly dependent upon the power and presence of God for our life in the Church, what should we be training our ministers to do in seminaries? It follows that the primary task of a seminary should be to teach ministers about the various means handed on to us by the Church of knowing God…Theology courses should be intellectual and prayerful engagement with God’s self-revelation as disclosed in Christ, Scripture, and tradition.

Church Coffee: Church Decline, the Holy Spirit, and Theological Education.

This post is more about theological education. I don’t disagree with Watson but I am going to use this post as a jumping off point for something that has been in the back of my mind for a bit.

Often times I read of the West’s descent into a secular society. I don’t see that. Perhaps I am more optimistic than most, but I see rather a pluralistic society where we will begin to see people opening yearning for something more divine in their lives. In the end of Christendom, I see the beginning of Christianity. To that end, I would like to see seminaries teach ministers, and sometimes reteach ministers, to speak to the theology latent in the ongoing tradition — our culture.

As a Christian, I believe the Holy Spirit charts our course. As a Wesleyan, I believe the Spirit is latent in society, leading us all towards God and to a greater truth in God (John 16). This is why atheism doesn’t worry me — not nearly as much as fundamentalism. Because this, I think, is our course correction, especially in the West. To this, I add that our culture is not as secular, because of the guiding of the Spirit, we’d like to believe (especially when bad things happen). I believe our society is seeking their own conversation with God and about God.

This is why we see the rise of “pop culture and theology” books (Dr. Who and Theology, etc…). Because theology and philosophy is in the culture. Cultural theology is the language our society uses to seek God. The same was true in Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus’s day when they began to reach out to the society they were a part of to draft again the narrative of Christ. They used the language, and places of worship, of the pagans and others to teach Rome about Jesus. This is, speaking as a Christian, why we have John 1.1– 18. The Logos, as Justin Martyr puts it, was present long before the Incarnation and is what draws all truth seekers to God. Knowing our society and culture, our times and seasons, is a way Christians since the very beginning have come to know God and invited others along the way to experience the divine they partially knew in the fulness of Christ. God is not just found in Scripture and Tradition, but so too the natural world.

I have found more theology in pop songs than most contemporary Christian songs. For instance, the group fun. displays a wonderful concept of God:

I’ve tried to nail down the exact lyrics of Some Nights but cannot. Some read it as “But I still wake up, I still see your ghost/Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for” while others read it as “But I still wake up, I still see your gospel/Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for.”

But, then there is this one:

I happen to stumble upon a chapel last night.
And I can’t help but back up when I think of what happens inside.
I got friends locked in boxes (That’s no way to live).
What you’re callin’ a sin isn’t up to them.
After all (after all), I thought we were all your children.

You and I both know what that particular “sin” is and we also know what the boxes refer to. Those boxes are for both of us, by the way. There are more songs. In The Script’s Hall of Fame being a “preacher” is recommended. We seem to stumble over such a recommendation in the Church.

Science Fiction, of all places, is riddled with the hope of something beyond us. Perhaps this is just our social myths and the way they are used to attract viewers. In that attraction, however, I believe there is a message of hope, that religion is not dead, that faith is not absurd, that God is very much a force wrestling still yet with our society and our times wrestling with God.

I agree with Watson when he writes, “Theology courses should be intellectual and prayerful engagement with God’s self-revelation as disclosed in Christ, Scripture, and tradition.” However, I think theological education should make practical use of philosophy as well. The Logos, after all, is a heady philosophical concept. When we understand not just what we the Church has said in the past, but learn to hear the longing in our society today, through their language — and we learn to hear that language without condemnation — then we may see the Church once more serve society. This does not require us to change our foundation, only to rediscover again how our ancient forebearers theologized. They didn’t simply do it with the voices of the past, but so too the voices they heard around them.

Finally, from my friend St. Augustine,

For as he is better off who knows how to possess a tree, and return thanks to Thee for the use thereof, although he know not how many cubits high it is, or how wide it spreads, than he that can measure it, and count all its boughs, and neither owns it, nor knows or loves its Creator.

With better theological education, and a better understanding of the theology in our society and culture, we can help others grow their trees.

Make sure you’ve subscribed to Church Coffee and leave some comments.

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