Posts Tagged ‘ theology ’

an interview with the late Stanley Grenz

Here is a link to a four part interview with theologian Stan Grenz. The interview took place in Seattle with Dick Staub (author of a number of books, most recently Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters) whose radio program, The Kindlings with a focus of theological and cultural intersection. The interview focuses on the nature […]



domestic violence, the church & theology

There is an important forum coming up in Seattle exploring domestic violence and the church’s role. The forum will bring together pastors, educators and activists from the greater Seattle area to address how the Christian church is preventing the issue of domestic violence from being named. Dr. Nancy Murphy, Adjunct Faculty with MHGS and Executive Director of NWFL will facilitate a conversation. This will also be a gathering for worship and remembrance. This event is open to the public. I will be serving on the panel.
When: Friday, October 20, 7-9pm
Where: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 15 Roy Street, Seattle, WA 98109
Registration: Register here !
If you haven’t seen the National Declaration by religious and spiritual leaders to address violence against women, visit this link and add your name.
peace, dwight


contextuals . . . beyond liberal & conservative labels

Few terms polarize a conversation between Christ-followers like the L-word and the C-word: Liberal & Conservative.

Both terms (liberal & conservative) have long and important histories in political and religious life; even if the terms have become one of the most effective ways to brand the other as “unclean” thus discounting that person’s perspective while raising doubt about that person’s character.

Like most followers of Christ – I suspect – I have felt the sting of both labels. At moments I’ve been branded “liberal,” at other moments “conservative” and sometimes both within the same conversation. My utopian hope would be that we could listen and engage the other without labeling; however, I have to be realistic that labels are important and necessary for any kind of mental indexing. The hope of interpersonal relations bid us to move beyond labels to listen to and receive the other; to hold all our mental indexing as subject to reform/transformation through encounter.

A couple of days ago I was in conversation exploring the artificial dichotomy between liberal & conservative, when I quipped, “If I’m going to be labeled, I’d prefer to be labeled as a Contextual.”

Until that moment I’d never thought of conextual in this way.  I’m still sitting with how effective, or how meaningful it might be to add contextual as a third alternative to liberal & conservative.

Contextual theology has been around for some time. Theologians like Colin Greene, Douglas Hall, Graham Ward (chair of contextual theology @ Manchester), and many others have been helping us to see the particular. And the particular seems to give more specific meaning to terms like liberal & conservative.

I’m forever in search of new and better language to help move beyond divisive labels. I’m not sure Contextuals is it, but that’s where I’m at today.

One of my on going prayers is that by God’s grace, I will see a person and honor her/his unique jounery, calling, place, time and community before any label, (I need God).

Peace, dwight



in the service of inquiry

The following was written by theologian LeRon Shults, and was sent out in today’s Emergent/C (the newsletter of emergent).

“The coordinators of Emergent have often been asked (usually by their critics) to proffer a doctrinal statement that lays out clearly what they believe. I am merely a participant in the conversation who delights in the ongoing reformation that occurs as we bring the Gospel into engagement with culture in ever new ways. But I have been asked to respond to this ongoing demand for clarity and closure. I believe there are several reasons why Emergent should not have a “statement of faith” to which its members are asked (or required) to subscribe. Such a move would be unnecessary, inappropriate and disastrous.

“Why is such a move unnecessary? Jesus did not have a “statement of faith.” He called others into faithful relation to God through life in the Spirit. As with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness. The writers of the New Testament were not obsessed with finding a final set of propositions the assent to which marks off true believers. Paul, Luke and John all talked much more about the mission to which we should commit ourselves than they did about the propositions to which we should assent. The very idea of a “statement of faith” is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties – and this brings us to the next point.

“Such a move would be inappropriate. Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context, but the early modern use of linguistic formulations as “statements” that allegedly capture the truth about God with certainty for all cultures and contexts is deeply problematic for at least two reasons. First, such an approach presupposes a (Platonic or Cartesian) representationalist view of language, which has been undermined in late modernity by a variety of disciplines across the social and physical sciences (e.g., sociolinguistics and paleo-biology). Why would Emergent want to force the new wine of the Spirit’s powerful transformation of communities into old modernist wineskins? Second, and more importantly from a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

“Why would it be disastrous? Emergent aims to facilitate a conversation among persons committed to living out faithfully the call to participate in the reconciling mission of the biblical God. Whether it appears in the by-laws of a congregation or in the catalog of an educational institution, a “statement of faith” tends to stop conversation. Such statements can also easily become tools for manipulating or excluding people from the community. Too often they create an environment in which real conversation is avoided out of fear that critical reflection on one or more of the sacred propositions will lead to excommunication from the community. Emergent seeks to provide a milieu in which others are welcomed to join in the pursuit of life “in” the One who is true (1 John 5:20). Giving into the pressure to petrify the conversation in a “statement” would make Emergent easier to control; its critics could dissect it and then place it in a theological museum alongside other dead conceptual specimens the curators find opprobrious. But living, moving things do not belong in museums. Whatever else Emergent may be, it is a movement committed to encouraging the lively pursuit of God and to inviting others into a delightfully terrifying conversation along the way.

“This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down. Emergent is dynamic rather than static, which means that its ongoing intentionality is (and may it ever be) shaped less by an anxiety about finalizing state-ments than it is by an eager attention to the dynamism of the Spirit’s disturbing and comforting presence, which is always reforming us by calling us into an ever-intensifying participation in the Son’s welcoming of others into the faithful embrace of God.”

Peace, dwight



serving the process of inquiry

The following was written by theologian LeRon Shults, and was sent out in today’s Emergent/C (the newsletter of emergent).

“The coordinators of Emergent have often been asked (usually by their critics) to proffer a doctrinal statement that lays out clearly what they believe. I am merely a participant in the conversation who delights in the ongoing reformation that occurs as we bring the Gospel into engagement with culture in ever new ways. But I have been asked to respond to this ongoing demand for clarity and closure. I believe there are several reasons why Emergent should not have a “statement of faith” to which its members are asked (or required) to subscribe. Such a move would be unnecessary, inappropriate and disastrous.

“Why is such a move unnecessary? Jesus did not have a “statement of faith.” He called others into faithful relation to God through life in the Spirit. As with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness. The writers of the New Testament were not obsessed with finding a final set of propositions the assent to which marks off true believers. Paul, Luke and John all talked much more about the mission to which we should commit ourselves than they did about the propositions to which we should assent. The very idea of a “statement of faith” is mired in modernist assumptions and driven by modernist anxieties – and this brings us to the next point.

“Such a move would be inappropriate. Various communities throughout church history have often developed new creeds and confessions in order to express the Gospel in their cultural context, but the early modern use of linguistic formulations as “statements” that allegedly capture the truth about God with certainty for all cultures and contexts is deeply problematic for at least two reasons. First, such an approach presupposes a (Platonic or Cartesian) representationalist view of language, which has been undermined in late modernity by a variety of disciplines across the social and physical sciences (e.g., sociolinguistics and paleo-biology). Why would Emergent want to force the new wine of the Spirit’s powerful transformation of communities into old modernist wineskins? Second, and more importantly from a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

“Why would it be disastrous? Emergent aims to facilitate a conversation among persons committed to living out faithfully the call to participate in the reconciling mission of the biblical God. Whether it appears in the by-laws of a congregation or in the catalog of an educational institution, a “statement of faith” tends to stop conversation. Such statements can also easily become tools for manipulating or excluding people from the community. Too often they create an environment in which real conversation is avoided out of fear that critical reflection on one or more of the sacred propositions will lead to excommunication from the community. Emergent seeks to provide a milieu in which others are welcomed to join in the pursuit of life “in” the One who is true (1 John 5:20). Giving into the pressure to petrify the conversation in a “statement” would make Emergent easier to control; its critics could dissect it and then place it in a theological museum alongside other dead conceptual specimens the curators find opprobrious. But living, moving things do not belong in museums. Whatever else Emergent may be, it is a movement committed to encouraging the lively pursuit of God and to inviting others into a delightfully terrifying conversation along the way.

“This does not mean, as some critics will assume, that Emergent does not care about belief or that there is no role at all for propositions. Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down. Emergent is dynamic rather than static, which means that its ongoing intentionality is (and may it ever be) shaped less by an anxiety about finalizing state-ments than it is by an eager attention to the dynamism of the Spirit’s disturbing and comforting presence, which is always reforming us by calling us into an ever-intensifying participation in the Son’s welcoming of others into the faithful embrace of God.”

Peace, dwight



holy saturday

This morning the thought struck me afresh that Holy Saturday is the Sabbath; Christ’s day in the tomb was the day of rest.

The thought took me back to the late Alan Lewis’ wonderful book, Between Cross & Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday.  I pulled it off my shelf and flipped through it again . . . some books are just made to be revisited, and this is such a book.

As the title suggests, this book seeks to unpack the relevance of time “between cross and resurrection” for Christian theology and life. The book is narrative theology at its best, situating trinitarian thought in a narrative context of the three acts of the divine-human drama: crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

Our lives are lived in the luminality or Holy Saturday: on the “boundary between yesterday and tomorrow.”

What (if any) might the theological and practical import be for of Jesus being in the tomb on the day of rest?

Peace, dwight



marvel comics

Ronna Miller led a small group of us (Molly the wise, Jen the passionate and Paul the great), at MHGS in Advent reflection this morning.  Ronna guided our hearts and minds around the theme of “marveling.”  It was a thoughtful and surprising time which stirred within me a reflection on the Christian life as a marveling comedy. 

God seems to inevitably surprise us with Godself.  Just when we think we’ve got God figured out, with our theological systems in place and our interpretative frameworks constructed (somewhat like the Tower of Babel) we find our speech becomes confused, we find ourselves repenting of what we once confessed and searching for a God who is even bigger than we had thought.  I find myself humbling myself at the doors of the artists, story tellers, dancers, poets, and music makers hungry and thirsty for fresh images to widen the apertures of my vision of life, God’s reign, creation, and God in Godself. 

It should be of no surprise (yet it is) that we, as beings created imago Dei, surprise ourselves.  Genuine difference and otherness carries the gift of marveling and wonderment.  Yet, all too often in the face of this gift-of-otherness we work to minimize surprise, reduce difference and control outcomes. 

Please, if you are a poem, if you are a dance, if you are art, if you are story help expand my vision.  I stand in need of fresh images and metaphors of a God engendering marvel.  I want to see and I want to hear . . . but find that all too often I settle for fear.  Without you I am blind and dead, without you my God is small. 

I fear we may we often choose to think of the Christian story as a tragedy – in the Greek sense.  And although there is great tragedy in our world the Christian story creation is a comedy.  Tragedy does not have the final word.  Surprise, marvel, wonder, paradox, astonishment, shock, and longing all signal a desire for a comedic resolution – this is Advent – a resolution where tragedy does not have own the final scene but redemption does. 

It feels important to stress that the “final scene” is unlike any final scene that we can conceive of for it is a dénouement in the fullest sense of the word – an ending which truly is a beginning.

Here are a few of the texts that my friend Ronna brought this morning . . . rarely what we expect.

“If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.” Ec 5:8

 

“And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” Mr 5:20

 

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” Joh 3:7

 

“For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” Joh 5:20

 

“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,” Joh 5:28

 

“Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.” Joh 7:21

 

“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye people of , why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” Ac 3:12

 

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” 2Co 11:14

 

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:” Ga 1:6

 

“Marvel not, my friends, if the world hate you.” 1Jo 3:13

 

“And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.” Re 17:7

Peace, dwight



obedience: an insidious temptation?

I have always enjoyed reading Ray Anderson (Fuller).  Recently I was rereading, The Shape of Practical Theology and his one of his phrases in chapter eight gripped me and I have been sitting with it ever since.

Obedience by itself is the most insidious of all temptations.  It is the ontological source and motive behind obedience that gives it its character.  Thus obedience is not the central motive in the life of Jesus as sheer ethical demand.  Rather, it is the inner life of sonship that comes to expression through his obedience that characterizes Jesus.  And it is in this sonship that we find the motif of self-emptying carried out through his identity with both the sinner as the object of divine love as well as with the Father as the source of love. Indeed, it may be said that in this sonship there is displayed not only the love of the Father for the world but the love of the Son for the Father who loves the world” (Anderson 2001, 115).

That is sooooo good.  Thank you Ray.

Peace, dwight



raising a heretic?

The other day my son (four years old) made a disturbing confession.  He boldly declared, (and I paraphrase), “I have two Gods.  One tells me to do good, and one tells me to do bad.”

Apparently some Marcionite has been sneaking into our home and reading Gnostic tales to shape his young consciousness.

As you made know, Marcion is often considered the first heretic of the Christian church.  He was born in c.85 at Sinope (modern Sinop on the Black Sea) in Pontus the son of a bishop and became a prosperous ship owner and merchant.  Epiphanius alleges that his father expelled him from his home church for seducing a consecrated virgin,but this generally held to be a libel among modern scholars.  While doing life with a church in Rome he developed his theology, possibly incorporating the ideas of the Gnostic teacher Cerdo with whom he became acquainted.

For Marcion Christ was docetic (he only appeared to be a man, because Marcion considered matter to be evil – the creation of the Demiurge), it is also difficult to see a distinction between his representation of the Father and the Son, leading to the conclusion that he was also a modalist.

“How,” Marcion reasoned, “could an evil tree bring forth good fruit?” So he concluded that there must be two Gods: the Creator God of the OT, who was characteristically a God of Law, who involved himself in contradictory courses of action, who was fickle, ignorant, despotic and cruel; and the Supreme God.  This Supreme God, Marcion held, was wholly a God of Love who had remained completely hidden until he was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

And so it appears my son may be a budding heretic – or at least he is a person trying come to grips with his own being – and hoping to find a way to point the finger at someone else.  I have great hope for heretics; heretics are a gift to the people of God.  How we choose to engage heretics reveals more of our gospel then we are even aware.

Peace, dwight



batman no more

Lynette and I just watched Batman Begins and while I watched the film I couldn’t help but think of the protestant reformation.  Was I watching Bruce Wayne or Martin Luther and John Calvin – frankly they seem so similar. 

The storyline is of course very appealing: terrible abuses of power which have evil personified in a very clear enemy.  In the face of such evil, stands the reformer of marbled intent. This marbled intent seems to combine the desire for justice with a theology which places evil at the center of its system, and so we see the reformers wrestle within themselves and yet ultimately they stand against the evil – and so we cheer them on.  The reformers always self-define in opposition to the evil-doers.

Centering a theology or an ethic on ridding oneself, ridding Gotham, or ridding the church of evil is a theology that will ultimately fail to offer life in its full.  In this kind of system, life is consumed by the fight against evil.  In this system to live to is to see evil end – did not God create us for more?

While Batman Begins may be one of the better pieces of Protestant Propaganda I have seen in a while, I long for a more robust vision of life.  I believe that God’s dream for humanity is greater than ending evil.  Calvin and Luther (like
Wayne) used the latest and greatest technologies (reason and the printing press) in combating evil which has proven to simple escalate the development or more technologies.  Every time we negatively define ourselves, as in opposition to another we engender relational erosion. 

So what am I proposing?  After all there can be little doubt about the existence of evil.  Am I advocating the poisoning Gotham’s water supply, or the Vatican’s historic abuses of indulgences, or the abuse of children, or those dark places that lurk in me?

Fighting evil with evil leads to evil.  Evil wins when we meet it on its own terms.  It seems to me that the best to beat evil to is to work toward evil’s fulfillment.  To fulfill of evil is to live (note the English reversal evil/live).  “Full life” was Christ’s announcement of Reign of God.  The Kingdom of God is life in its full; and life in its full seems best understood as living interpersonally connected with God, one another and creation.  Death is swallowed up in this kind of God-life.  Death is swallowed up in victory when evil meets love. 

I believe that this is what Scripture means when it says that “what they meant for evil God meant for good.”  If evil can not be fully redeemed then salvation is impossible, and God would be a very poor story teller, however, if the ugliest junk of our world can be redeemed than we have hope, because the story is going to get better we have dreamed possible.  If God can take can take the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ and make it beautiful, than you and I can hope in the evil we experience and the evil we perpetrate.

Evil is not an enemy to defeat, rather evil is an opportunity to demonstrate Divine love.  The mission of those who have tasted Divine Love is not to destroy but to share what we have tasted.  By sharing what we have tasted we participate with God in the creative act of bringing beauty out of chaos as an act of love.

By God’s grace, and by an act of the will, I choose not allow evil to set the rules of engagement – as tempting as it appears for the short term victories are most rewarding – rather, I will to love into my story by faith, in the hope that God will redeem all that was meant for evil. 

As best as I am able, and in concert with the Holy Spirit and the faith-community around me, given this time and this place and knowing that I/we will fall short, I choose to let my bat-cape fall to the ground.  I choose to love evil into its fullness in Christ Jesus.  I choose to let Divine love set the rules of engagement.

peace, dwight

BTW – its a very entertaining movie. 

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perspectives