Showing posts from April, 2015

Ten propositions on Karl Barth: theologian

Posted by Ben Myers by Kim Fabricius

1. Karl Barth was a Reformed theologian. Sounds like a no-brainer. And, yes, fundamental motifs of Barth’s theology have a definite Reformed pedigree – e.g., the glory, majesty, and grace of God; the primacy of the Word in Holy Scripture; the polemic against idolatry; the doctrine of election; the relationship between gospel and law; sanctification. But for Barth, the Reformed tradition was not so much a body of doctrine as a habit of mind. Observe that Barth got himself up to speed with Reformed dogmatics only after he had become famous for his two editions of Romans and taken up a lectureship at Göttingen. His was a theologia reformata only as it was also a theologia semper reformanda. His conversations with his Reformed forefathers, while deferential, were always critical. And the doctrines he inherited he always re-worked with daring and imagination.

2. Karl Barth was an ecumenical theologian. While recognising that theology is always confession…

Where Can You Find Serious Theological Reflection?

By: David FitchPosted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 5:49 am
Section:'s Latest Articles
Social media and blogs are fine, but it's in serious local communities where ideas are sorted out and tested in the spirit via a biblical tradition, Fitch observes. (Photo: Nicolás Pérez/Wikimedia Commons) More than 3.5 million books are published in the world every year while around 500,000 people complete a marathon.
This means it's seven times easier for somebody to publish a book than to run a marathon. It's even easier to start a blog.
If you're skillful in using Twitter, it's not hard to gain a large following. If you can write, you can publish books, influence thousands and make money for publishers.
In the religious realm, the resultant pop theology that emerges forms hundreds of thousands of the younger generations.
This is not entirely negative, as social media opens up exchanges of all kinds for theological banter. Yet I wonder where is the place…

David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show'

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract

• David Simon, creator of The Wire, near his office in Baltimore. Photograph: Stephen Voss/Redux / eyevine America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It's astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There's no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the Americ…

Suffering and the Wildness of God

[A version of the following piece was published in The Living Church after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. It's still my best attempt at making some sense of such things.]
The earthquake in Nepal raises with fresh urgency the perennial question of belief in God in the shadow of suffering. The magnitude tragedy and its seeming randomness is awe-inspiring and dumbfounding. What can one say to make sense of such a catastrophes? Where is God in all of this and what kind of God would allow such things?
Christians should be wary of nice and tidy answers to such questions. But, it is also unsatisfactory to allow ourselves to slip into a speechless agnosticism. What, with due caution and humility, can we say?
Among other things, it is good to remember that removing God from the equation does not resolve the mystery of suffering. The flipside of the question, “How can there be a good God when there is so much suffering in the world?” are the questions, “If there is no God and no meaning, w…

Knowing the Things That Make For Peace

Posted on 4.27.2015
Last week I wrote about preterism and the work of N.T. Wright.

Specifically, we discussed how when Jesus speaks about a coming judgment, especially in his Olivet Discourse (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21), he wasn't talking about an otherworldly hell but about the destruction of Jerusalem. As N.T. Wright has observed, "in those famous passages in the Gospels, Jesus is talking not about the end of the world but about the fall of Jerusalem."

In a comment to that post a reader asked the following question:

"If Jesus was simply telling people not to rebel against Rome, how is that relevant to us today? Or should we not try to find personal relevance in the words of Jesus?"

That's a great question, one I wrote about last year:

Again, as scholars like N.T. Wright have pointed out Jesus seemed acutely aware that his people were on a lethal collision course with Rome. If Israel did not repent, if Israel did not listen, she was going to…

Did Temple Prostitution Exist?

April 27, 2015J. R. Daniel Kirk

What was the sexual climate of the first century Mediterranean, and how does that help us to understand what the New Testament is talking about?

That’s a question that runs right through the middle of many conversations about sexuality in the church, and about homosexuality in the church in particular.

One line of argument is represented in Ken Wilson’s book, A Letter to My Congregation, which I’m reading alongside other people at church. His summary represents an important cluster of arguments that we find across both academic and popular discussions.

His version of it is this: the kind of sexual activity that Paul was concerned about when he talked about male same-sex coupling was activity that was exploitative, and that any of us would oppose as well. Specifically, he lists pederasty, temple prostitution, and sex with slaves.

A week or two ago I raised a question about pederasty. Romans were disdainful of this practice which was celebrated by Greeks. So…

What Are Human Beings? Perspectives from Science and Scripture

Joel Green

What does it mean to be human? This is not the sort of question that occupies much of our thinking—at least not at an explicit, conscious level. Coffee shop conversations rarely turn to such speculative questions. Nevertheless, we carry out much of our lives with implicit answers to this question. Budget discussions—whether in Washington, D.C., or in our families—often parade different views of what it means to be human. “Feed the Soul or Feed the Hungry?”—this was the headline for a report on budget negotiations in a city council,1 but could just as easily summarize a congregation’s struggle to allocate its mission dollars. Either way, it divulges certain assumptions about humanity. Slogans sometimes capture deeply held views: “I think, therefore I am.” “She’s only human.” Some toss around the language of “unalienable rights” and “equality,” demonstrating that they have strong (even if not fully developed) views about human beings. The criteria by which we measure success o…

Once Again, the Problem of War in the Old Testament: Some Wisdom from the Late Peter Craigie (Part 3)

Once again, I belatedly return to my series on the late Peter Craigie on the problem of war in the Old Testament. The first part was an introduction to Cragie's work on this subject from his book, The Problem of War in the Old Testament. The second part of my series dealt with the first of three problems to be addressed-- the problem of God's character in these narratives.

Quotes from Craigie's book will be presented in italics. My own comments are in parentheses in standard block type.

Today's post highlights the second difficulty-- the problem of revelation (pp. 97-100).. Craigie begins the discussion:

A part of the problem of revelation has already been examined... God revealed himself to his chosen people through warfare.. But a further problem remains; granted that much of ancient history is characterized by warfare, why is it that so much of the literature of war has been included in the canonical books of the Old Testament as a revealedbook, the contents of which a…

Ken Wilson on Christian Community (part 2)

April 21, 2015J. R. Daniel Kirk
On Sunday Ken Wilson gave a sermon at City Church San Francisco called “The Unique Tenacity of Christian Community.” A friend of mine called it, “Best sermon ever on LGBT inclusion without mentioning LGBT once.” You can listen and judge for yourself.
Yesterday I interacted with one part of the sermon that resonated deeply with a theme that I have been developing here for a couple of years: knowing what we think about an issue (and the LGBTQ issue in particular) does not automatically provide us with an immediate knowledge of what we should do about it.
Today’s there’s another, related thread I want to trace.
This one is closer to what I blogged about on Sunday: our “believe thats” can get in the way of the dangerous business of entrusting ourselves to the God we profess to “believe in.”
To put it differently, knowing we are right about something can give us a kind of confidence that impels us to greatness in spite of ourselves. Or, it can make us into a …
What Will Pass for Mercy
April 21, 2015 by Guest Contributor0 Comments
By Brian Volck
“Do not say God is just. Justice has not been evident in God’s dealings with you.”
—Isaac of Syria
Among the habits I’ve lately tried living without are reading online comment boxes (Good Letters being an exception) and making predictions. I bypass comments because I encounter enough wrath, ridicule, and unreason without wallowing in still more online. As for prophecy, my ability to predict the future isn’t what it used to be.
Parents routinely ask me, a pediatrician, what’s in store for their children. I offer probabilities and guesses. Harder still to predict “the fate of the nation.” I don’t know where the United States, with an armada of oncoming problems and a conspicuous dearth of creative proposals in response, is heading.
Maybe it’s just a passing foul mood, a temporary crisis of confidence, but decline—perhaps precipitous—in America’s global economic and political influence seems likely. Who knows…

Sacrifice and the Death of Christ – John Goldingay

When Christians think about sacrifice, they commonly make two assumptions. One is that sacrifice is essentially a way of dealing with the problem of sin. The other is that it deals with sin by causing God to stop being angry with us. Neither Old Testament nor New Testament supports these two assumptions. Sacrifice does sometimes have something to do with sin, but dealing with sin is not its main object. God does get angry, but sacrifice does not relate to God’s anger.
The Meaning of SacrificeThe New Testament speaks of sacrifice in a number of connections apart from seeing Jesus’ death as a sacrifice that deals with sin. For instance, when we give ourselves to God in response to God’s giving himself to us, it is an act of sacrifice (Romans 12). Paul talks about being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of the Philippians’ faith and of the Philippians’ gifts to him as an offering to God (Phil 2:17; 4:18). When we testify to what God has done, it is a sacrifice o…

The Shunning of Ryan T. Anderson: When Support for Gay Marriage Gets Ugly

DamonLinker (Illustration by Lauren Hansen | Images courtesy iStock) April 21, 2015 When a school learns that one of its alums has achieved great things, the institution will usually seek to promote those accomplishments. But there are exceptions. If it's discovered, for example, that the former student also happens to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, or a neo-Nazi, or a convicted felon, then the school will naturally seek to downplay the connection — and to sever any explicit ties between them.
To this list of offenses — normally reserved only for bigots and criminals — we can now apparently add opposing same-sex marriage.

Consider the recent experience of Ryan T. Anderson.

A graduate of the Quaker Friends School of Baltimore, Anderson has achieved far more than most 33-year-olds. He completed his undergraduate education at Princeton and earned a Ph.D. from Notre Dame. He has been cited by a Supreme Court justice (Samuel A. Alito, Jr., in his dissent from the majority opinion in…

The Machines Are Coming

April 18, 2015 Zeynep Tufekci CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — THE machine hums along, quietly scanning the slides, generating Pap smear diagnostics, just the way a college-educated, well-compensated lab technician might. A robot with emotion-detection software interviews visitors to the United States at the border. In field tests, this eerily named “embodied avatar kiosk” does much better than humans in catching those with invalid documentation. Emotional-processing software has gotten so good that ad companies are looking into “mood-targeted” advertising, and the government of Dubai wants to use it to scan all its closed-circuit TV feeds. Yes, the machines are getting smarter, and they’re coming for more and more jobs. Not just low-wage jobs, either. Today, machines can process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read their expressions. They can classify personality types, and have started being able to carry out conversations with appropriate emotional tenor…