Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Scandal of the Liberal Mind Anti-intellectualism: it ain't just for the Evangelicals

Posted September 22nd, 2016 by Alex Wilgus & filed under Religion.

American Christians, especially Evangelicals have long been taken to task for rejecting the life of the mind. Mark Noll’s 1995 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and most recently Alan Jacobs’s much discussed piece for Harper’s “The Watchmen: What Became of the Christian Intellectuals?” tell a story of withdrawal from academia and intellectual pursuits. The long and short of it seems to be that yesterday’s fundamentalists and today’s evangelicals make up the religious wing of Richard Hofstadter’s famous assertion of American “anti-intellectualism” and the national preference for sloganeering over sophistication. The evangelicals, like their fundamentalist forbears, shrunk from the intellectual calling because of some animus toward smartypants types.

But there is a different way to tell the story. By the first quarter of the twentieth century, the world was in a scientific mood. New industry and technology had dramatically reshaped the experience of everyday life. New products, cheap and available electric lighting, cars, huge sea vessels, all bolstered by efficient manufacturing made it seem that science had actually delivered the signs and wonders that religion and myth had only promised. In the colleges, and even churches, every kind of knowledge needed to comport with data-driven methods and scientific ways of knowing. This wasn’t a gradual development. Sociology departments were hastily set up in universities and divinity schools alike. Foundations were set up in cities, not for simple charity, but with explicit scientific purposes, like Graham Taylor’s Chicago Commons Social Settlement House in Chicago. Understanding human beings could no longer be the province of religion or even philosophy. Somehow, the forces that had transformed the industry and the market had to be brought to bear on the human condition if any moral progress was to be made. Science could master anything. Why not the human being?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Which of These is “the Gospel”?

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” – Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws

“I’m a bastard, you’re a bastard but God loves us anyway” – Will Campbell, rouge Baptist preacher

“Here’s the Gospel: You’re more sinful than you ever dared believe; you’re more loved than you ever dared hope” – Tim Keller, PCA pastor

“You are accepted – Paul Tillich, liberal theologian

These four statements reflect in their own ways and parlance the default American version of “the Gospel” across the theological spectrum.

“The Gospel is not a religious message to inform mankind of their divinity or to tell them how they may become divine. The Gospel proclaims a God utterly distinct from men” – Karl Barth

Barth contests this default version of “the Gospel.” Rather, it is something about God in distinction from us.

“The time is fulfilled and the reign of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” -  Jesus (Mk. 1:14-15)

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” – Romans 1:1-6

Jesus identifies “the Gospel” with the advent of the “reign of God.”

Paul identifies “the Gospel” with Jesus, his victory over death in the resurrection by the Spirit to serve his larger ends of bringing the Gentiles to “the obedience of faith.”

If we accept that Paul’s and Jesus’ understanding of the Gospel should be our guide, how do we account for the pervasive “default version” the first four quotes illustrate?

Five (reinforced) fundamentals for an evangelical future

In an article on the Christianity Today website Ed Stetzer dismisses the doom-sayers and gloom-mongers who say that the church is in terminal decline and puts forward five fundamentals for an evangelical future. I am of a naturally cheerful disposition, but I think his analysis and proposals are superficial and na├»ve. Jeremiah warned Israel against the complacency of the false prophets who said that the people would never go into exile, or if they did, that it wouldn’t be for long, a couple of years at the most (Jer. 7:1-15; 28:10-16). Sometimes the pessimists are right.

Stetzer is confident that the sky is not falling for evangelicals: we just need to “face some truths and change some behaviors to reach the world with the message of the gospel”. He is looking five to ten years down the road, but I think that is short-sighted. That sort of outlook just keeps us trying to do the same things only slightly better.

Historically speaking, Christianity in the West is where classical paganism was in the fourth and fifth centuries. It’s on the way out. It’s had its day. It’s a thing of the past.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A peacemaking God?
9.6. 2016 Posted By: Drew Hart 2 Times read
Drew G.I. Hart is Professor of Theology at Messiah College, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Drew is the author of  Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views RacismHe blogs for The Mennonite. 

While humanity frequently experiences God’s goodness, including good creation, we also experience waves of devastating violence and brutal oppression. And when we consider the complicated ways that our own lives are directly and indirectly intertwined and implicated in systemic violence, it is hard for me to understand what it means to call oneself a pacifist.

Of course, people have defined pacifism in a range of ways, many which are much more complicated than my own definition. In doing so, there are ways of considering pacifism without it being purist and doctrinaire. Yet still, the term has never been helpful for me, especially given its common usage.

Even more challenging than considering my own participation in a violent world is to consider our frameworks for understanding God’s character, presence and activity among us.


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Doctrine of Re-creation or Resurrection in Christ as the Foundation for Everything in the Theologies of Barth and Torrance

Leave a commentPosted by Bobby Grow on September 5, 2016
I thought I would quickly share this from Dawson as well; on Barth’s doctrine of resurrection. For some reason I love this concept, it’s probably because it is so distinct from the usual ways I have thought of resurrection. As an evangelical resurrection has always been a touchstone related to apologetics and/or historiography in the field of higher critical Jesus Studies. It is more than refreshing to come across a theologian like Barth who simply approaches resurrection as a non-analogous novum; something for which all else in the created order hinges. It is refreshing to come across resurrection as a doctrine of re-creation, as if we must, as Christians, start all of our thinking about God and created reality (including ourselves) from there. This has to be one of the most ground breaking earth shattering things Barth has bequeathed to Christian theology; i.e. his doctrine of re-creation, or resurrection.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bonhoeffer on Prayer

Why should you pray?
Because I can take nothing for myself and must instead ask everything of God; because I want to thank God for all his gifts.

Why are you permitted to pray?
Because my Lord Jesus Christ has commanded me to do so and wants to be my intercessor.

For what should you pray?
For all things necessary for the body and soul, which the child asks of its father.
From a catechism he developed at Finkenwalde.
Which prayers are pleasing to God?
I should call on God alone in my prayer. For everything I ask, I should do so for Christ’s sake. I should believe with assurance that God hears me. I should pray with my heart rather than only with my mouth (Matt. 6: 5– 8). I should pray several times each day (in the morning, at midday, and in the evening). (1 Thess. 5: 17; Rom. 12: 12.) [—] John 15: 7; 16: 23– 24; Ps. 119.

How does God answer prayers?
By relieving us of and bearing all our care, trouble, and sin. All our prayers have been answered in the cross of Jesus Christ.

What does Christ instruct you to pray?
The Lord’s Prayer.

What gift does God give you in prayer?
God gives me the assurance that through Jesus Christ I am and will remain God’s own. [—] Rom. 8: 15– 16.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jacques Ellul's 8 Characteristics of Propaganda

From Ellul's 1965 (!) book Propaganda.
1) It Prevents Dialogue.

“To be effective, propaganda cannot be concerned with detail... Propaganda ceases where simple dialogue begins… it does not tolerate discussion; by its very nature, it excludes contradiction and discussion.” 

2) It Focuses on the Mass

“For propaganda to address itself to the individual, in his isolation, apart from the crowd, is impossible. The individual is of no interest to the propagandist; as an isolated unit he presents too much resistance to external action… The most favorable moment to seize a man and influence him is when he is alone in the mass: it is at this point that propaganda can be most effective.”

3) It is “Total”

“Propaganda must be total. The propagandist must utilize all of the technical means at his disposal – the press, radio, TV, movies, posters, meetings, door-to-door canvassing. Modern propaganda must utilize all of these media. There is no propaganda as long as one makes use, in sporadic fashion and at random, of a newspaper article here, a poster or a radio program there, organizes a few meetings and lectures, writes a few slogans on walls; that is not propaganda.” 

4) It Takes Over Education

“Education and training are inevitably taken over, as the Napoleonic Empire demonstrated for the first time. No contrast can be tolerated between teaching and propaganda, between the critical spirit formed by higher education and the exclusion of independent thought. One must utilize the education of the young to condition them to what comes later.”

 5) It Takes Over Literature and History

“Propaganda will take over literature (present and past) and history, which must be rewritten according to propaganda’s needs.” 

6) It Must be Subtle at First

“Direct propaganda, aimed at modifying opinions and attitudes, must be preceded by propaganda that is sociological in character, slow, general, seeking to create a climate, an atmosphere of favorable preliminary attitudes… The ground must be sociologically prepared before one can proceed to direct prompting.” 
7) It Must be Nonstop

“[Propaganda] must fill the citizen’s whole day and all his days… Propaganda tends to make the individual live in a separate world; he must not have outside points of reference… successful propaganda will occupy every moment of the individual’s life: through posters and loudspeakers when he is out walking, through radio and newspapers at home, through meetings and movies in the evening. The individual must not be allowed to recover, to collect himself, to remain untouched by propaganda during any relatively long period… It is based on slow, constant impregnation.” 

8) It Aims at Irrational Action

“The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action. It is no longer to change adherence to a doctrine, but to make the individual cling irrationally to a process of action. It is no longer to lead to a choice, but to loosen the reflexes. It is no longer to transform an opinion, but to arouse an active and mythical belief.”