Showing posts from September, 2014

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities   , Monday 29 September 2014 04.00 EDT 'We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited.' Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain idea…

T.F. Torrance and Union with Christ in Scottish Theology Myk Habets Without exploring the entire history of Scottish theology as read through the eyes of Torrance, we may note a few key influences on his thinking about union with Christ from this context. Torrance believes that ‘Union with Christ probably had a more important place in [Robert] Leighton’s theology than that given to it in the thought of any other Scottish theologian.’ Torrance gives Leighton (1611-1684) praise for not considering union with Christ simply as a ‘judicial union’ but as a ‘real union’ which occupies the centre of the whole redemptive activity mediated through Christ as saving grace. Utilised in this way union with Christ is fundamentally related to both election in Christ and the concept of saving exchange whereby Christ gives to humanity what is his – his righteousness and filial status - and takes to himself what is not his own – our sin and alienation. In James Frase…

Monday Morning Confessional: Buechner, Rohr, Volf, and Faithful Remembering

September 29, 2014 by Leave a Comment

“One way or another, we are always remembering… there is no escaping it even if we want to, or at least no escaping it for long, though God knows there are times when we try to, don’t want to remember. In one sense the past is dead and gone, never to be repeated, over and done with, but in another sense, it is of course not done with at all or at least not done with us…” Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember.

I confess that the past few days have led me to question one of the fundamental teachings of Richard Rohr. Rohr has often said that God is really only present in the naked now. To experience God, we must stop reprocessing the past and dreaming about the future and be here and now, in the presence of God. He calls this prayer. While I most certainly agree that this is prayer, I think it more accurate to say this is one kind of prayer, one way that God meets us. It is important, but is not the full picture of prayer, nor is it the…

Rambling through Romans (15): 3:9-20

9 So what are we saying? Are we better off? Not at all. We have already stated the charge: both Jews and Greeks are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written,
There is no righteous person, not even one.
11 There is no one who understands.
There is no one who looks for God.
12 They all turned away.
They have become worthless together.
There is no one who shows kindness.
There is not even one.
13 Their throat is a grave that has been opened.
They are deceitful with their tongues,
and the poison of vipers is under their lips.
14 Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
15 Their feet are quick to shed blood;
16 destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 and they don’t know the way of peace.
18 There is no fear of God in their view of the world.
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, in order to shut every mouth and make it so the whole world has to answer to God. 20 It follows that no human being will be treated as righteous in his presence by…

10 Historical Myths About World Christianity

Posted on 16 September 2014 by

In the first meeting of the postgraduate World Christianity course ‘Selected Themes in the Study of World Christianity’ held on 15 September 2014, Professor Brian Stanley presented what he perceives as the top ten historical myths about World Christianity.
1. Christianity is a western religion.It neither began in western Europe, nor has it ever been entirely confined to western Europe. The period in which it appeared to be indissolubly linked to western European identity was a relatively short one, lasting from the early sixteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. The Church in China, India, Ethiopia, and Iraq is older than the Church in much of northern Europe.

2. Christian missions operated hand-in-glove with the colonial powers.Sometimes they did, but frequently they didn’t. Missions were usually critical of the way in which empires operated, mainly because they conceived of empire as a divinely-bestowed trust. True, they didn’t oppose colon…

The Show-Off Society

September 25, 2014 Paul Krugman Liberals talk about circumstances; conservatives talk about character.

This intellectual divide is most obvious when the subject is the persistence of poverty in a wealthy nation. Liberals focus on the stagnation of real wages and the disappearance of jobs offering middle-class incomes, as well as the constant insecurity that comes with not having reliable jobs or assets. For conservatives, however, it’s all about not trying hard enough. The House speaker, John Boehner, says that people have gotten the idea that they “really don’t have to work.” Mitt Romney chides lower-income Americans as being unwilling to “take personal responsibility.” Even as he declares that he really does care about the poor, Representative Paul Ryan attributes persistent poverty to lack of “productive habits.”

Let us, however, be fair: some conservatives are willing to censure the rich, too. Running through much recent conservative writing is the theme that America’s elite has a…

Eucharist: a wedding table decorated with a cross instead of a cake

While theEucharist has always been a consoling mystery with an ecstatic, mystical language surrounding it (such as “Happy are those who are called to the wedding feast of the lamb,” Revelation 19:7-9), it has also been clothed in the language of suffering, blood, and death.

It makes clear the connection that the mystics always confirm: there is an inherent link between love and suffering.
I think the tradition is correct in saying that somehow this mystery of the Eucharist is both festive meal and the inevitability of suffering for what we love.
So this wedding table is not decorated with a cake but with a cross.

Read more:

Rambling through Romans (14): 3:1-8

3Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,

“So that you may be justified in your words,
and prevail in your judging.”
5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!
Paul here engages in a bit of back and forth with an imaginary listener.
“What advantage has the Jew?” or “the value of circum…

Following the Science

From contraception to climate change, the quest to master nature will always put autonomy first. By Patrick J. DeneenSeptember 25, 2014
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
In 2008, Sens. Obama and Clinton fell over each other with promises to “follow the science.” They were speaking particularly in criticism of President Bush’s ban on stem-cell research and Republican resistance to the widespread findings regarding anthropogenic climate change. By “following the science,” they promised, policy would no longer be the prisoner of “political” considerations—it would be decided based upon scientific findings.

Supporters of candidates Obama and Clinton knew exactly what was implied by that phrase—”following the science”—thus short-circuiting any real discussion of what, precisely, that phrase meant, and whether there was in fact any such thing as “following the science.” Obama and Clinton’s supporters knew exactly what p…

Some thoughts on the Atonement - James Alison

A transcript of a talk given in Brisbane, Australia, in August 2004.

I'm going to try to defend a thesis with you: that Christianity is a priestly religion which understands that it is God's overcoming of our violence by substituting himself for the victim of our typical sacrifices that opens up our being able to enjoy the fullness of creation as if death were not.
The first thing that I ought to do, therefore, is to give you a brief account of what is traditionally called the substitutionary theory of atonement; of what we are up against; of what a certain crystallization of texts has thrown up that has kept us captive; and how we are going to try and move from a two-dimensional account to a three-dimensional account and see that actually all the creative lines in that story flow in an entirely different direction. So, here's the standard story, which I'm sure you've all heard before: read more at:

G-O-D: the Default Deity of Many Americans

If the God you worship, and I mean the real God you respond and relate to in your gut, if that God bears any or all of the following characteristics, you have the wrong God!And I invite you to consider the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as we see him in action in the Jesus of Nazareth we meet in the pages of the gospels of the New Testament.
It is the great achievement of Philip Pullman to have skewered and put to death this G-O-D in his Dark Materials trilogy.It is this G-O-D who oversaw the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis in World War II.It is this G-O-D whose death Nietzsche announced in the 19th century.It was this G-O-D who required the murder of Jesus on the cross in the first century.
Take another look in the gospels at Jesus and behold the true and living God!

Two Books on the Demise of the Western Liberal Tradition

Inventing the Individual: the Origins of Western Liberalism  Larry Siedentop
Allen Lane, 448pp, £20
Liberalism: the Life of an Idea 
Edmund Fawcett
Princeton University Press, 488pp, £24.95

All over the Atlantic world, political liberalism has fallen on evil days. In the US, the creed of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D Roosevelt and John F Kennedy has become a sin that dare not speak its name. In last year’s German election, the Free Democratic Party – the embodiment of the country’s liberal tradition and the second party in coalition governments for most of the postwar period – won less than 5 per cent of the popular vote and is no longer represented in the federal parliament. In the 2011 Canadian election, the Liberal Party – for decades a dominant force – suffered a catastrophic defeat. The Radical Party of the Left, today the closest approximation to a liberal party in France, is little more than a pimple on the body politic. In Britain, the Liberal Democrats, heirs of the Liberal Party …

Great Prayer from Leonard Cohen

“Not Knowing Where to Go” (Book of Mercy)
reformatted into a leader/response litany by Brian Walsh:

Not knowing where to go,
I go to you.
Not knowing where to turn,
I turn to you.
Not knowing what to hold,
I bind myself to you.
Having lost my way,
I make my way to you.
Having soiled my heart,
I lift my heart to you.
Having wasted my days,
I bring the heap to you.
Blocked by every thought,
I fly on the wisp of remembrance.
Defeated by silence,
here is a place where the silence is more subtle.
And here is the opening in defeat.
And here is the clasp of the will.
And here is the fear of you.
And here is the fastening of mercy.
Blessed are you,in this man’s moment.
Blessed are you,whose presence illuminates outrageous evil.
Blessed are you,who brings chains out of darkness.
Blessed are you,who waits in the world.
Blessed are you,whose name is in the world.

What's Happening with the "Spiritual But Not Religious" Folks?

Scot McKnight relates Linda Mercandante's findings in her new book "Belief without Borders":

Instead of the traditional view of God, they transpose God into the sacred or divine self.
Instead of a sovereignty or freedom of God, they move into “readily accessible, even impersonal, divine energy” (232).
Instead of the traditional 3d person of the Trinity, the Spirit becomes “self-generating personal intuition” (232).
Instead of a savior figure or a prophet as in the major faiths, there are multiple gurus that help in self-healing.
Instead of trusting God, one trusts one’s inner voice.
Instead of praying to a God who listens, we have “self-generated positive thinking” (232).
Instead of the providential God, there is an “impersonal law of karma” (233).
Instead of guidance through God or tradition, there is self-guidance outside the tradition or intervention of God.
Instead of sin against God, it is about violating the authentic self.
Instead of justification as ge…

“The Top Ten Reasons This Will Never Work”: On Leading Change in the Church

Posted on September 16, 2014 by David FitchNo Comments ↓

Several times, after presenting to a group of pastors on re-shaping the practice of the church for Mission, I lead a closing session where I ask pastors to share their top reasons for why “this will never work.” Last Spring I was in Nebraska leading a pastor’s workshop for the American Baptist Pastors, and during this session one of the pastors gave me his top ten reasons in written form. I think they are great. My apologies to the pastor who wrote this list because I do not have his name. The list is instructive as to what blocks congregations from change. Here’s the list in bold, along with my quick responses in italics. What other hurdles do you face in leading change in your church body? What responses might you have to this list?

1. “We’ve never done it that way before!”And that’s possibly why we need to do this? Change requires doing something different than what has gone on before.

2. Unbelief in God’s power and presence.I…

But what about revolution? more notes on Christianity and society

Saturday, 13 September 2014
1. Injustice is bad. Anarchy is worse.

2. Revolution may be divided into two main types. Fast Revolution refers to the overthrow of political authority by a popular movement. Slow Revolution refers to the deep transformation of social institutions from within. The first type of revolution can occur overnight while the second occurs over several generations.

3. It is not advisable for any social theory to stipulate the precise conditions under which Fast Revolution would be justified. When dealing with exceptions to the rule, it is best not to try to regulate them within the bounds of a theory. However, a Christian theory of society ought to have a presumptive preference for Slow Revolution over Fast Revolution, and for stability over disorder, even while allowing that Fast Revolution might be legitimate in certain exceptional circumstances.

4. Fast Revolution may further be …

How Apple is Invading Our Bodies

With the unveiling of the Apple Watch Tuesday in Cupertino, California, Apple is attempting to put technology somewhere where it’s never been particularly welcome. Like a pushy date, the Apple Watch wants to get intimate with us in a way we’re not entirely used to or prepared for. This isn’t just a new product, this is technology attempting to colonize our bodies. The Apple Watch is very personal—“personal” and “intimate” were words that Apple CEO Tim Cook and his colleagues used over and over again when presenting it to the public for the first time. That’s where the watch is likely to change things, because it does something computers aren’t generally supposed to: it lives on your body. It perches on your wrist, like one of Cinderella’s helpful bluebirds. It gets closer than we’re used technology getting. It gets inside your personal bubble. We’re used to technology being safely Other, but the Apple Watch wants to snuggle up and become part of your Self. read more at…

πίστις χριστοῦ, ‘Faith in Christ’ or ‘Faith of Christ': More on the Vicarious Humanity of Christ

Posted onMarch 6, 2012by
I have written, in the past, on the vicarious faith of Christ for us; and also had a guest post, here, by Myk Habets on the same topic. I want to further highlight this reality as it is presented for us in the Epistle of Galatians.

This continues to represent a hot topic in biblical and exegetical studies, and through this post, once again you will understand what I think about this. The issue has to do with what in the Greek is pistis Christou πίστις χριστοῦ –‘the faithfulness or faith of Christ’. So the issue of contention is whether this phrase should be translated ‘faith in Christ’ (the objective genetive in the Greek), or ‘the faithfulness or faith of Christ’ (the subjective genetive in the Greek); I opt for the latter translation (the subjective genetive)—here is a post wherein I deal head on with this issue Galatains 2.20, Vicarious Humanity and Faith, and Interpretive Tradition in Evangelical Calvinist ExegesisJ. Louis Martyn is an exegete…

Living in a World of “Little Boys With Their Porno”

by December 5, 2013

Earlier this year, Arcade Fire released their highly anticipated double album Reflektor to considerable fanfare. While much of the subsequent attention has been focused on songs like the title track, ”Here Comes The Night Time,” and “Afterlife” — and understandably so — there’s one song on Reflektor that has stuck with me since my earliest listening sessions, but that seems to have flown under most critics’ radars: the bluntly titled “Porno.”

“Porno” begins with slinky synths and disco-lite beats over which Win Butler intones “You take the makeup off your eyes/I’ve got to see you, hear your sacred sighs” to his lover. Given the song’s title, we listeners brace ourselves for a sordid tale of lust and debauchery. However, when the chorus arrives, the band performs a bit of musical sleight-of-hand, turning “Porno” into something approaching a lament.
You can cry, I won’t go
You can scream, I won’t go
Every man that you know
Would have run a…

Karl Barth and N.T. Wright Side by Side on Philippians 2:5-11 and the ‘Emptying’

Posted onJuly 31, 2013by
Here is the pericope under consideration by both Karl Barth and N.T. Wright, respectively:
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~Philippians 2:5-11

Here is how Barth comments on the reality of this passage:
Positively his self-emptying refers to the fact that, without detracting from his being in the fo…

Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What came first, the thug or the theology?

by · September 5, 2014
“Chicken or the Egg?” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward This drawing is inspired by the Ouroboros snake.

What came first? The chicken or the egg?

What came first? The thug or the theology?

I read Tony Jones’ thoughts on Mark Driscoll. Jones has always admired Driscoll, maybe envies him a little, wants the best for him, believes he can be redeemed, and suggests that things can be restored.
What I found most interesting though is that Jones believes the problem with Driscoll is theological.
He titles his post is “Thoughts about Mark Driscoll”He talks about the “heady” days of publishing and speaking.He dismisses his disturbing personality traits by his use of the word “sure”.He says it isn’t a moral issue (evil) but that he is passionate.He says more than once that Driscoll is “extremely smart” or “brilliant”.He suggests that he will “see” (as in “think”?) his way out of this.He writes that Driscoll has just embraced a toxic version of theology.He…