Showing posts from August, 2017

Jesus’ Big Ideas

 AUGUST 31, 2017 BY SCOT MCKNIGHT 0 COMMENTS 8 In Jonathan Pennington’s virtue-ethics-based approach to the Sermon on the Mount, the finest example I have seen of a virtue-ethics approach (see The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing), seven big ideas in the Sermon are sketched. (These in addition to “blessing” and “perfection.”) These amount to Seven Big Ideas of Jesus, especially if one approaches Jesus through the lens of the Synoptic Gospels (with an emphasis on Matthew!) This is a good discussion of the Sermon’s “lexicon” or “dictionary.” Righteousness In light of an overall reading of Matthew as well as the emphasis of the Sermon on human flourishing, it makes best sense to interpret dikaiosyne in Matthew not as imputed nor as something only God does, but in its natural ethical sense of what is expected of Jesus’s disciples. In short, it is “doing the will of God” (7:21, 24; 12:50; cf. 6:10; 7:12; 18:14; 26:39, 42), that which is required to enter the kingdom of heaven (5:19-20; …

Psalm 137: The Beautifully Dangerous Psalm

 AUGUST 21, 2017 BY LEAH D. SCHADE 14 COMMENTS 147 Psalm 137 is rarely ever used in worship. Why? Because it is a dangerous psalm.  But we need to read it, study it, and listen to the voice of anguished rage.  Because God is listening to those voices as well. I remember the first time I heard this music from Godspell.  What a beautiful, mournful song, I thought to myself.  And I know I’ve heard those words before . . . “On the willows there we hung up our lyres.”  Such beautiful, haunting words.  Where have I heard them before?  And then it hit me – Psalm 137.  But I noticed that the song’s lyrics stopped short of the last verses of the Psalm:  “Happy will be the one who does to you what you did to us, O Babylon.  Blessed will be the one who dashes your little ones, your babies against the rock.” What an awful image! It’s hard to believe a Psalm like this is in the Bible.  It is so violent!  It speaks of killing babies, of all things.  This is a far cry from Jesus’ words of forgiving your e…

Mark 1 (2): 1:3-8 Mark and The Lord of the Rings

Now that we have gotten a fix in the last post on what Mark thinks the “good news,” the gospel is: an account and announcement of how Jesus of Nazareth has brought God’s plans for Israel and humanity, his eternal purpose, to its culmination and successful climax. That’s the story he tells in all its peculiarity and grandeur.
Let me posit an analogy that can help us keep both the peculiarity and the grandeur of that story in mind. Remember the three parts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy? The Fellowship of the Ring (FR), The Two Towers (TT), and The Return of the King (RK).
-FR shows the formation of an implausible community tasked with an impossible deed.
-TT dramatizes the perils and the possibilities of the struggle to finish their task.
-RK pictures the “impossible possibility” of the task completed and the afterlife of the community.
I suggest these three categories map pretty well on to the way Mark composed his story of Jesus.
-chs.1-7: Jesus gathers an improbable group of followers…

Five Non-Negotiables for White Folks In Pursuing Reconciliation

8/18/17 in Missiology Conversations
“Racial reconciliation” is all the rage. Increasingly, younger white Christians are professing their desire for unity across ethnic lines. Christianity Today recently ran a piece noting the growing tendency of white evangelicals to recognize the systemic nature of racism and to desire to do something about it. However, for white folks, racial reconciliation is often treated as one more “add-on” to self-identity, a means to “presenting” a favorable public persona. Being “for” racial reconciliation becomes one more proverbial “feather in the cap.” White folks often don’t engage in the hard, humbling work required to pursue a just reconciliation, but instead we engage with others on our own terms, which is not reconciliation at all. When we recognize the need for the decentering of white identity, we grow uncomfortable and revert to familiar patterns that reinforce mechanisms of social control and white privilege.
Pursuing reconciliation requires the pe…

Mark 1 Where Would a Gospel Begin? (1:1)

Israel in exile heard these words through the prophet Isaiah:
“How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The “good news” Isaiah announced as promise Mark proclaims as fulfilled. Fulfilled in Jesus Messiah, Son of God. In fact, he apparently created the genre of “gospel” as an account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfilment of God’s story with Israel and the world.
The word “gospel” refers to an announcement of an event that changes things in the wider public world. That’s what it meant when the Romans used this word to announce a great military victory, the accession of a new emperor, or the birth of an heir to the sitting emperor. Mark believes that the world has been changed by who and what happened through this Jesus.
In this statement, the title to his gospel, Mark tells his readers the “time” they live in. Greek had two words for time. “Chronos” (chrono…

Evangelizing Metaphysics

by Peter J. Leithart8 . 25 . 17

For much of the past century, theologians have busied themselves reconceiving the doctrine of the Trinity. Taking cues from Adolf von Harnack, some complain that the lively God of the Bible was domesticated by the fateful triumph of “classical theism,” which imprisoned the Triune God in the static, ahistorical, impersonal categories of Greek philosophy. Heidegger captured the mood: No one, he famously said, would want to pray, sacrifice, sing, or dance before Aristotle’s unmoved Mover.

Classical theists have been making a comeback of late, insisting that the tradition is better than detractors claim and that the supposed innovations have been unhelpful at best, heterodox at worst.
Both sides are half-wrong, or, more charitably, half-right. The classical theists are right about the tradition: Trinitarian theology isn’t an Athenian captivity of the Church. The innovators are right that the concepts and formulations of Trinitarian theology have been and can b…

Harry Potter and the Mission of the Church

(I have shamelessly stolen this approach and some of its main ideas for this piece from Chris Crass,” Expecto Patronum: Lessons From Harry Potter for Social Justice Organizing,” Sunday, December 15, 2013, Truthout)

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is far more than a work of young adult fiction. Like Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles and Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, her Potter stories encode a way of being she promotes. It’s not the Christian vision underwriting the Lewis and Tolkien tales. But neither is it antithetical to it. Rowling’s vision seems to reflect the kind of secularized Christianism that used to order life in the West. I say
“used to” because of late He Who Must Not be Named and his Dementor and Death Eater minions are shaking the already rickety foundations of that secularized Christianism.
They are the antagonists that threaten Rowling’s similar world in the Potter stories. And that attack is focused on Hogwarts, the wizarding academy whose magic powers are…

What Moderates Believe

David Brooks AUG. 22, 2017
Donald Trump is not the answer to this nation’s problems, so the great questions of the moment are: If not Trump, what? What does the reaction to Trump look like?
For some people, the warriors of the populist right must be replaced by warriors of the populist left. For these people, Trump has revealed an ugly authoritarian tendency in American society that has to be fought with relentless fervor and moral clarity.
For others, it’s Trump’s warrior mentality itself that must be replaced. Warriors on one side inevitably call forth warriors on the other, and that just means more culture war, more barbarism, more dishonesty and more dysfunction.
The people in this camp we will call moderates. Like most of you, I dislike the word moderate. It is too milquetoast. But I’ve been inspired by Aurelian Craiutu’s great book “Faces of Moderation” to stick with this word, at least until a better one comes along.
Moderates do not see politics as warfare. . . Read more at https:/…

Jesus' Temptations and Competitors and the Church

The Church’s Temptations
The devil tested Jesus by offering him three (false) ways of being Messiah and, thus, three ways of being God’s people. Ways that would offer no challenge to satanic rule over the world. Ironically, each of these three entangle God’s people in colluding with devilish designs in substantial ways.
We begin here because this bad news or our collusion with the enemy sets a necessary negative foil for our reflections in this presentation.
Jesus was tempted to provide bread for the masses. He rejected this temptation by pointing to the primacy and sufficiency of God’s Word. Rebuffed by Jesus, that old snake continued to ply God’s people with the same temptation. “Give the people what they want! Meet their felt needs! Feed them! Clothe them! Satisfy their needs and wants. Even in church, present God as the great vendor of religious services who will service their every spiritual need! Make consumers of them! They’ll love you and flock to you. And bring the…

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over “neoliberalism”: they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism. In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.
Neoliberalism is an old term, dating back to the 1930s, but it has been revived as a way of describing our current politics – or more precisely, the range of thought…

From an essay I'm writing on "Harry Potter and the Mission of the Church"

Opposing the church in our world is a foe of great power with its own design on world domination. Whether we personify this power in a devil figure or see it as an impersonal power or force is less important than recognizing the existence of malignant intent in the universe and its strategic plans to usurp God’s place in the world. I like to picture this power as an unholy trinity – Mars, Mammon, and Me. The undoing of our Hogwarts, the church, has its focal point in the primacy of the self, the power of “stuff”, and the efficacy of violence.

How to Make Fun of Nazis

August 17, 2017
For decades, Wunsiedel, a German town near the Czech border, has struggled with a parade of unwanted visitors. It is the birthplace of one of Adolf Hitler’s deputies, a man named Rudolf Hess. And every year, to residents’ chagrin, neo-Nazis marched to his grave site there. The town had staged counterdemonstrations to dissuade these pilgrims. In 2011 it had exhumed Hess’s body and even removed his grave stone. But undeterred, the neo-Nazis returned. So in 2014, the town tried a different tactic: humorous subversion.
The campaign, called Rechts Gegen Rechts — the Right Against the Right — turned the march into Germany’s “most involuntary walkathon.” For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros (then equivalent to about $12.50) to a program that helps people leave right-wing extremist groups, called EXIT Deutschland.
They turned the march into a mock sporting event. Someone stenciled onto the stree…

We Need a New Republic

By Daron AcemogluDaron Acemoglu is a co-author with James A. Robinson of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. , Simon JohnsonSimon Johnson is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C.
August 15, 2017
Most Americans tend to believe that they’ve lived under the same form of government, more or less, since the country was founded in late 1700s. They’re mistaken.
It’s true that there have been important continuities. The American conception of what government should and should not do is deeply rooted in clear thinking at the start of the republic; the country has long preferred limited government and effective constraints on capricious executive action. But this persistence of core ideas (and the consistent use of the same buildings in Washington, D.C.) obscures the dramatic changes that have taken place within the governi…
Why slippery slope arguments should not stop us from removing Confederate monuments
The inside track on Washington politics.
August 15 at 10:28 PM

Following the violence in Charlottesville, Va. that was sparked by plans to remove the Robert E. Lee statue, cities across the country are stepping up efforts to pull Confederate monuments from public spaces. Cities across the country are stepping up efforts to pull Confederate monuments from public spaces. (Reuters)
Following the violence in Charlottesville, Va. that was sparked by plans to remove the Robert E. Lee statue, cities across the country are stepping up efforts to pull Confederate monuments from public spaces. (Reuters)
This past weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia arose from a gathering of racists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists, whose ostensible purpose was to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Over the last several years, efforts to remove Confederate monuments from public…

Trump Is Not the Problem

His election is the consequence of a crisis that’s been brewing for a long time.
By Andrew J. Bacevich
August 8, 2017

Like it or not, the president of the United States embodies America itself. The individual inhabiting the White House has become the preeminent symbol of who we are and what we represent as a nation and a people. In a fundamental sense, he is us. It was not always so. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president (1850–1853), presided over but did not personify the American republic. He was merely the federal chief executive. Contemporary observers did not refer to his term in office as the Age of Fillmore. With occasional exceptions, Abraham Lincoln in particular, much the same could be said of Fillmore’s successors. They brought to office low expectations, which they rarely exceeded. So when Chester A. Arthur (1881–1885) or William Howard Taft (1909–1913) left the White House, there was no rush to immortalize them by erecting gaudy shrines—now known as “presidential libraries”—…