Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seven Things You May Think Are True About Christianity But Are NOT.

1.    Jesus is NOT your “personal Lord and Savior.”

He is Lord and Savior but he is not yours. You are his. His mission to reclaim and restore God’s wayward creatures and damaged creation is much bigger than any individual. Better to say that what Jesus is up to is not about us, but we have graciously been included in what he is doing.

2.    You will NOT spend eternity in heaven with God.

Heaven is a way station for whatever happens to us after death. Resurrection to a new body and life together with God on the new earth is our eternal destiny (“life after life after death” as N.T. Wright cleverly puts it”).

3.    You will NOT spend eternity as a quasi-angelic choir member strumming harps and singing praise to God.

Not that God isn’t worthy of praise but he seems more interested in us doing something else: reigning (Rev.22:5). Or in other words, we will spend eternity doing what humans were created to do – represent and reflect God’s character and will and nurturing creation to its full flourishing.

4.    Human beings are NOT billiard balls but molecules.

Though our culture teaches us to think of ourselves as self-contained, self-sufficient beings (billiard ball), Christian faith teaches us that we are like molecules, various elements related in particular ways that make us what we are. We might say that we are our relationships.

5.    Human beings are NOT first and foremost sinners, even forgiven sinners.

That is what we have become. What we are by God’s creation and grace divine image-bearers, which means we are royal priests in his temple-creation. The gospel primarily invites us to take up anew and for the first time this primal dignity and vocation for which the announcement of forgiveness prepares the way.

6.    God does NOT consider creation (physicality, materiality) less important or good than the inner, invisible, non-corporeal part of us we call “spirituality.”

This is Plato not Moses, Jesus, or Paul. And this belief that creation is somehow inferior or even a hindrance to spiritual growth, is extremely destructive. Creation is the “theater of God’s glory” on which humanity plays its role in God’s purpose. Redemption does not diminish or undo creation, rather creation is redeemed as the eternal habitation of God and his people. Creation care is as much about loving God and one another as any other aspect of discipleship. In fact, there is no genuine Christian spirituality that does not prize and draw close to creation.

7.    Evangelism, sharing the “good news” of the gospel, is NOT about how Jesus forgives your sins.

It is about announcing that Jesus has conquered the powers that have damaged, disordered, and derailed God’s creation and plan and restored creature and creation to their creational design. Evangelism is the call and invitation for each of us to embrace what God has done for us in Christ and enlist in his renewal movement today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Postmodern, Post-Christendom…Postcommuter?

Our culture has once again begun to realize the significance of the local, of place, of being rooted. In contrast,
Enlightenment thinkers subsumed particular “place” to universal “space.” At least this is the argument made by phenomenologists like Martin Heidegger, who believed that Truth could be revealed only by carefully attending to the things and people nearest to us. The philosophical recovery of particularity converged nicely with a late-modern cultural nostalgia for the local, a concept lost amid the big box stores and MacDonaldized franchises now homogenizing every square inch of the United States.[1]
There is increasing evidence in our communities of this “late-modern cultural nostalgia for the local” which I believe is much more than nostalgia, even as we wrestle with conflicting values and structures in its pursuit.[2] As one couple in our Neighbourhood Life missional community reflected, “We’ve learned the importance of proximity especially with our move. It’s really hard to keep up with former neighbours. We need a neighbourhood where you can go for coffee at your neighbours’ in your pajamas.” 

Read more at http://thev3movement.org/2015/07/postcommuter-neighbourhood-life/?utm_content=buffer44b58&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform


It's bad enough that the banks strangled the Dodd-Frank law. Even worse is the way they did it - with a big assist from Congress and the White House.

dodd frank
President Barack Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act alongside members of Congress in 2010. ROD LAMKEY JR/AFP/Getty Images
Two years ago, when he signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, President Barack Obama bragged that he'd dealt a crushing blow to the extravagant financial corruption that had caused the global economic crash in 2008. "These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history," the president told an adoring crowd in downtown D.C. on July 21st, 2010. "In history."

This was supposed to be the big one. At 2,300 pages, the new law ostensibly rewrote the rules for Wall Street. It was going to put an end to predatory lending in the mortgage markets, crack down on hidden fees and penalties in credit contracts, and create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to safeguard ordinary consumers. Big banks would be banned from gambling with taxpayer money, and a new set of rules would limit speculators from making the kind of crazy-ass bets that cause wild spikes in the price of food and energy. There would be no more AIGs, and the world would never again face a financial apocalypse when a bank like Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

Most importantly, even if any of that fiendish crap ever did happen again, Dodd-Frank guaranteed we wouldn't be expected to pay for it. "The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama promised. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."

Two years later, Dodd-Frank is groaning on its deathbed. The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway's Old Man – no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore. In a furious below-the-radar effort at gutting the law – roundly despised by Washington's Wall Street paymasters – a troop of water-carrying Eric Cantor Republicans are speeding nine separate bills through the House, all designed to roll back the few genuinely toothy portions left in Dodd-Frank. With the Quislingian covert assistance of Democrats, both in Congress and in the White House, those bills could pass through the House and the Senate with little or no debate, with simple floor votes – by a process usually reserved for things like the renaming of post offices or a nonbinding resolution celebrating Amelia Earhart's birthday.

Read more at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-wall-street-killed-financial-reform-20120510
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-wall-street-killed-financial-reform-20120510#ixzz3g799b7uT
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Rethinking the Rethinking of Transcendence


In his recent article “Rethinking Transcendence,” Greg Boyd invites us to reconsider our understanding of divinity in light of God’s self-revelation in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:
Consider, would it ever occur to anyone to think that God is “above” experiencing things sequentially, or that God is “above” experiencing any kind of change, if they anchored all their reflections about God in the Word who became flesh (Jn 1:14) and who then offered himself up on our behalf? And would it ever occur to anyone to imagine that God is “above” being affected by others and “above” experiencing passionate emotions or suffering if their thinking about God was consistently oriented around the one who suffered humiliation and death at the hands of wicked humans and fallen powers? I, for one, do not see how. The revelation of God on the cross runs directly counter to the divine attributes of the classical philosophical conception of God.
I used to preach along similar lines not too many years ago. I drank deeply at the theological wells of Robert W. Jenson, J├╝rgen Moltmann, and Wolfhart Pannenberg. I learned from them that an irresolvable conflict exists between the God of the Bible and the omnipotent, impassible, immutable deity of hellenistic philosophy. I learned from them that the Church Fathers, the very Fathers who taught us the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, allowed their philosophical apprehension of divinity to corrupt the clear teaching of the Scriptures. And I learned from them that the right preaching of the Crucified demands that we allow the biblical narrative to inform and radically transform our inherited notions of divinity. We must return to the purity of the gospel. I found it all quite compelling.

But over the past decade I have begun to critically reassess the de-hellenization project. Robert Sokolowski, Herbert McCabe, and David B. Hart have been particularly influential here, as well as my rediscovery of the early books of Eric L. Mascall. And then, of course, there has been my reading of the Church Fathers themselves. In their writings one sees brilliant theologians and preachers struggling to articulate a faithful understanding of the God made known in Jesus Christ. The more I read the Fathers, the less compelling I find the hellenization thesis of Jenson, Moltmann, and Pannenberg. The reality is more complex.

Read more at https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/rethinking-the-rethinking-of-transcendence/

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Four Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Inequality

Robert Reich
Monday, May 5, 2014                

Even though French economist Thomas Piketty has made an air-tight case that we’re heading toward levels of inequality not seen since the days of the nineteenth-century robber barons, right-wing conservatives haven’t stopped lying about what’s happening and what to do about it.
Herewith, the four biggest right-wing lies about inequality, followed by the truth.

Lie number one: The rich and CEOs are America’s job creators. So we dare not tax them.

The truth is the middle class and poor are the job-creators through their purchases of goods and services. If they don’t have enough purchasing power because they’re not paid enough, companies won’t create more jobs and economy won’t grow.

We’ve endured the most anemic recovery on record because most Americans don’t have enough money to get the economy out of first gear. The economy is barely growing and real wages continue to drop.

We keep having false dawns. An average of 200,000 jobs were created in the United States over the last three months, but huge numbers of Americans continue to drop out of the labor force.

Read more at http://robertreich.org/post/84828387105

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A More Christlike God - A Review

          Bradley Jersak’s A More Christlike God is a sort of summation or primer on the last 15 years or so of rethinking God, especially around atonement issues. For many years now I’ve loved my tradition’s (the PCUSA) emphasis that, as I put it, the distinctive claim Christians make is not about how godlike Jesus is, but rather how Jesus-like God is! As you can tell from his title, Jersak agrees. And reclaiming this understanding of God is the big take away from the discussion I mentioned above.

          Not that we ever should have lost this heartbeat of Christian faith, but tragically, we did. We too easily accepted damnable surrogates from the culture around us and as we tried to put Christian faith to illicit uses (behavior and social control). Jersak mentions four common false surrogates: God the doting grandfather, God the deadbeat dad, God the punitive judge, and God the Santa Claus blend. I like to reduce them to two: the God with a Scowl and the Nice God of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

          Jersak makes short shrift of these deviations and moves on to tackle more substantive yet still pervasive issues around the identity of God. Is God pure will (or freedom) or pure love (or goodness). A view of God of pure will or freedom produces followers (for we become what we worship, as Augustine argues) focused on “my” rights, “my” security, and “my” freedom. You can call this the quintessential American deity. Jersak quotes David Foster Wallace in critique:

”That you are the most important and what you want is the most important. And that your job in life is to gratify your own desires. … This does not work as well when it comes to educating children or helping us help each other know how to live … and to be happy— if that word means anything. Clearly it means something different from ‘whatever I want to do’—‘I want to take this cup right now and throw it! I have every right to! I should!’ We see it with children: that’s not happiness. That feeling of having to obey every impulse and gratify every desire seems to me to be a strange kind of slavery.”

          A God of pure love or goodness makes followers whose first and fundamental interest is the well-being of others. Even when they are not nice to us or a threat to us. “Christlike love is willing, not willful. Consensual, not coercive. Faithful, not forceful. It serves and defers for the sake of a higher good than one’s own way. In using terms like self-giving, sacrificial and forgiving, I am making Christ’s passion journey from Gethsemane to Golgotha my central and abiding referent for extreme love.”

Throughout the rest of the book Jersak ransacks the Bible, church history, and the theologians to make the case that a God of pure love or goodness is the biblical God. Karl Barth brought both freedom and love together in his remarkable description that God is the one who is “free to love.” Such a similar freedom to love ought also to mark us as followers of this God.

I judge Jersak has made his case. In spades. If you are not yet convinced of the Jesus-likeness of God, you would do well to pick up A More Christlike God and read!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Greece, Debt and Democracy: A Theological Reflection

Luke Bretherton ABC Religion and Ethics 7 Jul 2015

Regimes of indebtedness do not simply create objective conditions of oppression; they also forge subjective conditions of domination by inducing feelings of shame, guilt and inferiority.
Regimes of indebtedness do not simply create objective conditions of oppression; they also forge subjective conditions of domination by inducing feelings of shame, guilt and inferiority. Credit: AFP

Writing some two hundred years after the reforms that laid the foundations of democracy in Athens, Aristotle sees the demand for an amnesty of debts and an ending of debt-slavery as central to the origins of democracy.

For Aristotle, politics was a means through which the common institutions of self-government preserved the sense of community necessary to subordinate the power of money to the pursuit of the common good.

In the light of the recent referendum, it seems the people of Greece share Aristotle's view of things.
Aristotle reflected the view in ancient Athens - a view echoed in contemporary Athens - that lending and borrowing should be situated within relations of koinonia, or fellowship, that reflect the obligations of citizenship.

For Aristotle, lending money at interest - or usury - led to the fracturing of the proper relationship between citizens. Aristotle condemns the usurer: like the pimp, he takes more than he ought, from the wrong sources and for reasons of sordid gain. He discusses the usurer under the category of "meanness," defined as deficiency in giving and excess in taking - which is to say, the usurer is someone who lacks the virtues required to be a good citizen.

In the midst of serried banking scandals, the seemingly endemic corruption in the financial services industry and the intransience of Germany in relation to debt relief for Greece, it is difficult not to see the continuing salience of Aristotle's insight.

Read more at http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/07/07/4269414.htm

The Death Of Expertise



Tom Nichols
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I am (or at least think I am) an expert. Not on everything, but in a particular area of human knowledge, specifically social science and public policy. When I say something on those subjects, I expect that my opinion holds more weight than that of most other people.

I never thought those were particularly controversial statements. As it turns out, they’re plenty controversial. Today, any assertion of expertise produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public, who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious “appeals to authority,” sure signs of dreadful “elitism,” and an obvious effort to use credentials to stifle the dialogue required by a “real” democracy.
But democracy, as I wrote in an essay about C.S. Lewis and the Snowden affair, denotes a system of government, not an actual state of equality. It means that we enjoy equal rights versus the government, and in relation to each other. Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge.  It assuredly does not mean that “everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.” And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.

What’s going on here?

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.
What has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.

Worse, it’s dangerous. The death of expertise is a rejection not only of knowledge, but of the ways in which we gain knowledge and learn about things. Fundamentally, it’s a rejection of science and rationality, which are the foundations of Western civilization itself. Yes, I said “Western civilization”: that paternalistic, racist, ethnocentric approach to knowledge that created the nuclear bomb, the Edsel, and New Coke, but which also keeps diabetics alive, lands mammoth airliners in the dark, and writes documents like the Charter of the United Nations.

This isn’t just about politics, which would be bad enough. No, it’s worse than that: the perverse effect of the death of expertise is that without real experts, everyone is an expert on everything. To take but one horrifying example, we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine. (Yes, I mean people like Jenny McCarthy.

In politics, too, the problem has reached ridiculous proportions. People in political debates no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from the phrase “you’re stupid.” To disagree is to insult. To correct another is to be a hater. And to refuse to acknowledge alternative views, no matter how fantastic or inane, is to be closed-minded.

Read more at http://thefederalist.com/2014/01/17/the-death-of-expertise/

Should Evangelicals Embrace the “Benedict Option”?

July 7, 2015 by 7 Comments

Rod Dreher has been blogging about the need for traditional Christians to embrace the “Benedict Option” of retreat from and engagement with post-Christian society. In a recent post, he commented that

It is retreat in the sense that it requires a) an honest and sober recognition of the condition of our post-Christian culture, and the relationship of the church to it; b) a realistic understanding of how radically Christianity opposes the mainstream post-Christian culture; c) a clear grasp of how radically Christians have to live, in community, to “push back against the world as hard as it pushes against you” (Flannery O’Connor), and d) implementing these new, and renewed, ways of living, in part to build resilience for the trials to come, and to guard against assimilation.

It is about engagement in that the church has a mission to serve the world, through evangelism and works of charity. The church can only fulfill its mission if it knows who, and what, it is. The early Benedictines lived in community, behind monastery walls, so they could pray as they were called to pray. But they also served the people outside the monastery walls. The former had everything to do with how effectively they did the latter.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2015/07/should-evangelicals-embrace-the-benedict-option/

Monday, July 6, 2015

5 Ways to Preach/Teach Genesis 1-2 None of Which Involve Creationism/Intelligent Design or Evolution!

                The vexed matter of how to interpret Genesis 1-2 seems inextricably tethered to debates about science and origins. Sadly, this misplaced focus robs these texts of much of their richness and either unjustifiably inflates the explanatory power of science on the one side, or unjustifiably jaundices our view of it one the other. Many voices, of course, have been raised from many directions contesting this focus on these texts but they seemed to have made little headway. I don’t expect that my contribution will make much headway either. My justification for it is my conviction that the most effective way to contest another perspective is to show the fruitfulness of other perspectives in treating the same issues. It would be a fine thing if all who preached and taught these texts broadened their viewpoints enough to include some or all of the 5 other perspectives on Genesis 1-2 that I will suggest in this piece.

                   All the peoples and cultures surrounding Israel in the Ancient Near East of the 2nd and 1st millennia B.C. had cosmogonies (creation stories). None of them are told in a manner that approximates what we would consider today “scientific” (primarily because those ways of thinking about origins did not and could not exist at that time and place). Israel’s creation stories in Genesis 1-2 strive to be intelligible to its own people and in conversation with these other stories (often called “myths” – which is not necessarily a bad word!). To do so required Israel to “speak the language” of the times, the language and concepts others were using to make clear what it intended by its own stories and how those stories differed from those told by other peoples. Let’s all this the missionary and apologetic aims of Genesis 1-2 which serve and extend its primary theological purposes.

                Creation stories in the Ancient Near East serve varied purposes.

1.       Some describe the world in such a way that human beings can locate and understand themselves in the world’s order. Genesis 1-2 can be read from this angle as a description of “home” for human creatures, a place where they belong and have a role and purpose. Genesis 1 structures its story in terms of a place (first three days) and a placing in this place of vegetation, land, air, and water creatures, and humanity. The effect of this unfolding of creation in all its orderly abundance suggests this is a good “home” for all God has created. Of course, God himself pronounces just this verdict over his handiwork. Humanity’s creation in God’s “image” and his royal representatives and care-takers of his creation reinforce this sense of creation’s goodness and our role in the “home economics” of this creation.


2.       Other descriptions focus the nature of creation as “habitat.” That is, what kind of place is this, especially for the human beings who have to make and sustain life here. Is it a “friendly” habitat for humanity? Or will they experience and perceive it as a threat and challenge to wrest life from it? Or some combination of these? Are its processes stable and regular enough to establish routines and practices of food gathering and production? Are the resources sufficient to sustain life? What does it mean that human beings are to “till and keep” (Genesis 2:15) the garden as habitat? Preaching/teaching from this angle has a clear message that God has inscribed this creation with the stability, regularity, and abundance necessary for a flourishing life for human beings who can learn to work and care for this habitat in a way that benefits all. An ecological or environmental mandate jumps off the pages of the Bible seen from this point of view. Neither a domineering use of creational resources for human whim and want nor a “tree-hugging” reverence for the creation that allows little or nothing done to it are appropriate to the Bible’s picture of this habitat. Rather, it seems clear that a responsible use of this creation to meet all humanity’s needs within an overall care for its integrity and flourishing is the Bible’s portrayal.


It is worth noting at this point that the unfolding description of this habitat in Genesis with God creating and assigning a place and role to the various elements offers a critique, a demythologizing, if you will, of aspects of creation considered to be deities in control of certain aspects of life. These deities needed to be worshiped and placated for them to offer their gifts to humanity. Often arbitrary and sometimes vicious, these gods and goddesses often worked at cross purposes and treated humanity as slaves to do the “grunt” work of maintaining creation they were tired of doing. Sun and Moon, for instance, were major deities in many of the religions of the region. In Genesis 1, however, they are only creations, astral bodies placed in the skies for purposes assigned them by God.


3.       Often creation stories in Israel’s world were told as the construction of a cosmic temple, a “Hekal” in Hebrew. It’s become very clear in recent research that this is precisely what we have in Genesis 1 and 2. (Check out the article in Kerux from 2002 entitled “Garden Temple” by Gregory Beale at http://www.kerux.com/documents/keruxV18N2A1.htm or his “Eden, the temple and the church’s mission in the new creation.”  http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-aPDFs/48/48-1/48-1-pp005-031_JETS.pdf  JETS. March 2005 48(1): pp 5-31 for details.) This creation is to be the dwelling place of God and site of the eternal fellowship (communication, communion, and community) between God and humanity forever. And where does a God dwell? In a temple. Further, the words used for the roles God assigned to humanity (male and female, Genesis 1:27!) in the Garden (Genesis 2:15 again) are used together most often for the service of priests in the temple! This suggests that as divine image-bearers humanity is God’s family of royal (because God is the Great King) priests representing and expanding the boundaries of the Garden temple until they are coextensive with the world itself along with mediating God’s presence in this expanding temple by “protecting and serving” it (another way of translating the terms for “till and work” in Genesis 2:15). This is corroborated at the end of the biblical story with the vision of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, coextensive with God’s new creation and in the cubic shape of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple (the only other cubic-shaped structure in the Bible (1 Kings 6:20). Creation as a temple, a Hekal, a dwelling for God and humanity highlights God’s deepest intention for creation. We live in this world with God, for God, as his royal-priests serving in the expansion throughout the world of the temple it is destined to become.


4.       The creation story has also be preached as a story of hope. Many ancient creation stories served to buttress the idea that the way things were was the way the gods wanted them to be. To try and change the way the world worked, then, was to act against the gods and court the divine punishment the authorized powers that be would swiftly and brutally deliver. Israel’s story, though, moves in the opposite direction. As we say in #3 the creation is not yet what it will be. The originating point, far from setting the way things are at that point in stone, set creature and creation on a journey to each’s full flourishing.  In this maturing journey, even apart from sin, we will have to learn and discover how best to implement God’s order as we make our through life and across the creation. We are responsible for this due to our creation as God’s image-bearers and response-able to do it as those who live in constant communication, communion, and community with God. Sin tragically disrupts this journey and makes it infinitely more difficult, but still necessary. Jesus Christ, in whose image we are created and will be remade (Colossians 1:15; Romans 8:29), who would have come to be God with us and one of us (thus fulfilling God’s deepest desire to draw near his people) even apart from sin, takes on the task of reclaiming and restoring us to God’s divine intention through his life, death, and resurrection as well. Thus we have hope that the world of interdependent harmony, cooperation, generosity, and beauty prefigured in Genesis 1-2 will finally and fully become reality as pictured in Revelation 21-22. How things are, often quite unjust and oppressive for the many, is not how things have to be or are supposed to be. And the God of the Bible is indisputably and unreservedly on the side of changing things to more closely approximate the world he desires and will one day have. Hope, yes, the creation stories in Genesis are hope-full stories for those held down, put upon, and mistreated at present.


5.       Another way of preaching/teaching the Genesis creation stories is to consider the date of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, Genesis – Deuteronomy. A consensus exists at present that these books did not take their final form, the form in which we have them, until after the exile to Babylon (6th century B. C.). And it was put together in this form as a response to the catastrophe of exile. Everything for Israel was put in question when Nebuchadnezzar and his armies destroyed Jerusalem, razed the temple, and hauled the best and the brightest of the land off to Babylon – God, their future, what their lives meant – everything. How might the struggling, dispirited faithful respond? For what might they hope now? The answer Genesis 1 provides is the people may hope for Help. It gives us a lexicon of salvation. When the “tohu wabohu” (‘formless void, Genesis 1:2) descends upon us – and exile was “tohu wabohu” to the nth degree – we are reminded here that such chaos is not beyond God’s interest or redemption. He will again utter his recreative “Let there be” and new order will take shape out of the chaos. And this recreative utterance will be matched by its fulfilment (“and it was so,” 1:7). Genesis 1 is a story of Help. The help that the God who creates and redeems alone can and will offer. The help that we can hope for when hope itself fails us!

Creation as Home, Habitat, Hekal (Temple), Hope, and Help. I hope my sketchy comments trying to begin to flesh out some directions a preacher/teacher might go with them. Even more, I hope all such folks will catch a vision of the fullness that lies within these texts and can and ought to be put to use regardless of how one treats the “scientific” issues. I suspect that over time a repeated exposition of the creation stories in this manner will reveal the poverty and irrelevance of the “scientific” issues we continue to struggle over today. And it may just lose its hold and drop aside in favor of the rich possibilities of reading these stories from other angles.

                [Now I do believe there is an issue that must be contested in the “scientific” struggle over origins. But it is not whether to read Genesis 1 “literally” or not. It is evolutionism or scientism. When advocates of science or evolution rule out a theistic creation (even an evolutionary theistic one) because science tells us all we can or need to know about human and cosmic origins, then Christians, at least, must cry “foul.” Science, properly conceived and invaluable for its proper purpose, can only tell us what is and some parts of the story of how what is came to be. It cannot tell us whether or what kind of deity may stand behind the creative process. It’s when science becomes such an ideology (scientism, evolutionism), a philosophy that we must say “no.” But we don’t resist it by turning theology into science! Rather, we let Genesis 1 and 2 answer the “who,” “why,” and “where” questions – who is God? Who are we as God’s creatures, Why are we here? Where is creation going? -  and let them frame and interpret whatever account of origins the best science of our time affords us. Bad science (science as ideology or philosophy) and bad theology (theology as science) have created the huge distraction of creationism/intelligent design vs. science that continues to haunt our approach to Genesis 1 and 2. It’s time to let that go, isn’t it, and turn to riches we so easily ignore in these wonderful texts?]    

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Is Your Eschatology Shaped by the Empire (USA)?

So, is your eschatology shaped by the empire? How you respond to the following will provide the answer:

 If you are you giddily gleeful that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage, your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 If you are exceedingly depressed that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage, your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 If you are greatly anticipating the day when Barack Obama exits the White House, your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 If you are really depressed at the thought of Barack Obama leaving the White House, your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 If you believe that the next President of the United States must be a Republican so we can "take back our country," your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 If you believe that the next President of the United States cannot be a Republican since they will "take our country backward," your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 If you are more interested in reading political blog posts than posts commenting on Scripture, your eschatology is probably empire-shaped.

 When you hear the word "politics" and the first thing that comes to your mind is nation and not church, your eschatology is definitely empire-shaped.

Read more at http://www.allanbevere.com/2015/07/a-question-to-all-christians-in-america.html

Friday, July 3, 2015

On Same-Sex Marriage: Beyond the Courtroom and Closet to the Table



A gay friend shared with me today how delighted he is in the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage; he spoke of how the ruling brought validation to same-sex couples he knows who have waited for years for equal rights. Yesterday a friend on the other side of the issue shared her consternation. Many people with social conservative convictions fear that they and their views will be consigned to the closet, just like gays and lesbians in the past (See this article and video). I would assume many of you have friends whose emotions and convictions range across the spectrum on this issue. But how often do you and I sit down together with all of them to listen and share? We need to take the conversation from the court room and the closet to the table.

My friend and colleague Dr. Brad Harper is writing a book with his son, Drew. Like me, Brad holds to a traditional view of marriage based on our reading of Christian Scripture. His son Drew is a self-professed gay man, who recently penned an article titled “I Infiltrated an ‘Ex-Gay’ Group in New York City—And This Is What It Did to Me.” Father and son are writing a book together. Drew writes the following of his relationship with Brad, their book, and the “other”:
In the coming months, my father and I are releasing a book, Space At The Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son. He and I don’t believe the same things. But we’ve found a way to maintain a loving relationship amid that. This is the kind of story I wish America heard more often. Recognizing the humanity of an “other” is something this discourse still lacks profoundly — from both sides.
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uncommongodcommongood/2015/07/on-same-sex-marriage-beyond-the-courtroom-and-closet-to-the-table/

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Sermon on the Mount according to Congressional Jesus


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For they can get a job at minimum wage.

Blessed are those who mourn,
For they made their bad decisions and must suffer the consequences.

Blessed are the meek,
For we can take advantage of them.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For we can promise them free food to get them to vote for us.

Blessed are the merciful,
For we will remove them from their positions for not being “tough on crime.”
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they are the most gullible.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they know how to make peace through war.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake,
For they will turn over secrets about their terrorist activities.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for this proves that you are standing up for the right things in the right way.

Read more at http://redeeminggod.com/sermon-on-the-mount-congressional-jesus/?utm_content=bufferf7991&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Desiring the End(s) of Salvation

J. Todd Billings

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. –C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

In my theology classes, I often assign works from 4th- and 5th-century theologians debating about Christ and the trinity. These theologians stand in awe before the reality of the Triune God – they stutter with words of poetry and praise as they worship Christ the Lord. They meditate on the astonishing scriptural truth that we have been made adopted sons and daughters of the Almighty King, through the power of the Spirit.
Reformed theologians do not hesitate in speaking about the uniting communion that we experience now – and will experience in fullness – in Christ.
In reading these sources, students are often surprised – even scandalized – to read statements such as “God became human so that we might become God.” Isn’t that … blasphemy? Don’t Christians believe that it is sinful to ascend to the place of God? I love it when they ask these questions. I point back to the text, the way in which the patristic authors clarify and unpack the phrase: that “becoming God” doesn’t mean becoming absorbed into the Godhead, like a drip of water into the ocean. In Christian teaching, it is not an attempt to usurp the place of the Creator by creatures. Rather, in a hyperbolic turn of phrase, the patristic writers point to the incredible way in which the ends of salvation are shaped not so much by the first Adam as by the second: God became human in Jesus Christ – the Son of God – so that we might become sons and daughters of the Most High. Salvation does not just “fix” sin and the fall. It is higher, bigger, more breathtaking than that: through our union with Christ, the Son, we come to share in his royal identity and inheritance, as adopted children of the King through the Spirit. We are “deified” insofar as we are able to be fully conformed to the glorified Christ, in blessed communion with the Triune God.

Read more at http://perspectivesjournal.org/blog/2015/07/01/desiring-ends-salvation/

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On Being On The Wrong Side of History



(Caveat: The argument I am about to make has nothing to do with promoting the agenda for or against the Christian support of Same Sex Marriage. It is solely about this argument that is often used to urge church support for it)

When someone tells me “we need to be on the right side of history” I look quizzical and ask whose history? Which history are you talking about? Has anyone been reading literature these past forty years (the beginning of postmodernity)? There is no one interpretation of history. There are multiple histories. To claim one history is right over another is an imperialist move of first order magnitude. Have we just reverted back to Enlightenment fascism? There’s only one history and we own it?
Usually by the time someone says something like this, the right side of history has already been determined. And, using this argument, I am being asked to make a decision between being on the right side and wrong side. The discussion is over. The whole discussion on being on the right side of history is a discussion ender. Who the hell wants to be on the wrong side of history? It’s another instance of Godwin’s law, that law that says when you bring up Hitler, all discussion ends. By the way, if there ever was a good example of the claim to be on the right side of history, it was the Third Reich and all the German churchmen that joined in with that believing this was God at work in history.

Most often people use the argument like this: The church was behind on the abolition of slavery. We were late on being on the right side of history. The church was behind on equal rights of women and women’s suffrage. We again were late on being on the right side of history. Let’s not make the same mistake now regarding Gay/Lesbian Marriage.
Huh? This is not the way I read this history.

Read more at http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/blog/obbyhhf81rb5vp5zworzec6akdggk9