Blog Archives

Flotsam and jetsam (12/29)

Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?

How much has the evangelical movement changed in the past 100 years? A quick review of The Fundamentals suggests that evangelicals 1) have shed some unfortunate biases of those bygone days, 2) continue to struggle with similar intellectual issues, most notably evolution, and 3) retain a common message of grace through Christ.

  • In a Wired editorial, “Wake Up Geek Culture. Time to Die,” Patton Oswalt argues that the internet makes it to easy to be a geek and that is detrimental for creativity and culture.

I’m not a nerd. I used to be one, back 30 years ago when nerd meant something.

forgiveness is neither just a therapeutic technique nor simply self-regarding in its motivation; it is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.

Flotsam and jetsam (11/10)

As ironic as it might seem to anyone who would dare read his 14 volume Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth’s entire theology stood as a testament to his time as a parson. Barth was first and foremost a preacher and felt all theology should be done from the viewpoint of the preacher.

For my part, I tend to think of Original Sin socially and systemically. Basically, you can’t ever get clean. Systemically clean. The human condition is to be complicit, to have blood on your hands

To me, these are symptoms of a beginning fundamentalist posture towards culture: We have the answers, we distrust everything about everything that is not us.

  • There’s an interesting discussion on how to translate pistis Christou going on over at BibleGateway’s Perspectives on Translation forum. Tom Schreiner and Mike Bird have both weighed in with helpful comments (along with a very brief one from Darrell Bock). I particularly liked this comment from Bird:

The problem is that I am familiar enough with Greek grammar and syntax to know that a genitive modifier restricts the head term but does not fill it with radically sophisticated theological content.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/25)

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Some interesting links from over the weekend:

Psychologically, I think Halloween performs two important functions. First, Halloween allows us to collectively process our eventual death and mortality….Second, Halloween allows us to work through our fears of the uncanny, the things that go bump in the night.

  • Similarly, Patheos is hosting an interesting series addressing the question, Are demons real?

In this season of haunted houses and horror movies, we couldn’t imagine a better time to grapple with the subject of demons. In the Christian traditions, demons take center stage in numerous biblical stories and continue to chill us today as central characters in popular and religious culture. But do they really exist outside of our imaginations and nightmares? Are demons real, today?

  • Bryan Lilly argues in favor of a more profound materialism, offering four reasons that Christians should value the human body: (1) creation; (2) incarnation; (3) the sacraments; and (4) the resurrection.

Evangelicalism has teetered between a compete disregard for the body…, and a gnostic-inspired view that sees the material world, including our bodies, as something we would be better off without.

As Carnell wrote: “Fundamentalism is a lonely position. It has cut itself off from the general stream of culture, philosophy and ecclesiastical tradition. This accounts, in part, for its robust pride. Since it is no longer in union with the wisdom of the ages, it has no standard by which to judge its own religious pretense.”

Humanness is not an opponent in the story of attaining to God’s purposes for us, humanness is the goal of the story, and Jesus is the helper sent to take us there.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/12)

After being distracted by family and work responsibilities for a few days, I had to declare Google Reader bankruptcy. It feels to to click “mark all as read” and then just move on with your life. But, before I gave up and hit the big red button, I came across some links worth checking out.

The Literal Grammatical Historical Hermeneutic and Modernity’s Voice

A guest post by Jerome Wernow.

I wonder if the literal-grammatical-cultural-historical hermeneutic used in current Evangelical exegesis is but a modernist construct arising from the fundamentalist-theological liberalism debates of the late 19th century like that of Charles Hodge’s common sense realism and Baconian inductivism. It seems to have gained traction and solidified in the early 20 century by particularly as advocated by J. Gresham Machen in the Princeton Theological Seminary debates. Here the philosophy wherein the method is structured is predicated upon a logical positivism similar to the early Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ordinary language philosophy. It is taken up by Bernard Ramm and later by Carl Henry’s propositional revelation notions.

My notion has been better clarified by my good friend R.T. Michener where he suggests that “fundamentalism and theological modernism are simply different sides of the same radical modernist coin. Both embrace the paradigms of Enlightenment empiricism and rationalism too seriously. The way I see it ( Hauerwas affirms this and I agree) is that theological liberalism tries to keep the faith by cutting out all the things that don’t fit into the empirical and/or rational modes, whereas fundamentalism tries to defend them using the tools of empiricism and rationalism to the nth degree. Both end up embracing rationalism and empiricism as the first order bases or “metaphysic” as such, upon which to build a worldview. This is what led the fundamentalist strain in evangelicalism, according to Hauerwas, to make “Sola Scriptura” equal to “Sola Text.” After pondering his clarification, I find myself in accord with his musings.

Further, I suggest mining the philosophical constructs of those who wrote grammar and hermeneutical textbooks used in Evangelical seminaries using ‘the method,’ as well as, the content of the books themselves. My counter to those who appeal to antiquity to demonstrate a golden braid free from modernity’s web is this. Could it be that the principles of the ‘the method’ found in antiquity are mere voicings of a Greco-philosophical rationalists’ strand of modernity that is critiqued by Heidegger and more properly Westphal, voicings that ‘became’ the univocity of modernity?

Now, one should not take my concord with the voices of Heidegger, Westphal, and R.T. ( he does not demean) as ultimately demeaning the method. For me, it is “one way of saying being” amidst many ways (William Desmond-Philosophy and Its Others). The method is useful and ready-in-hand as a tool to unlock one of the bolts in order to enter the ‘Doors of the Sacred ’ (to mine Moriah in Tolkien speak). It is not the only voicing needed to open that door, however. Exegesis emerges from a dynamic plurivocity where the Triune God conducts the voices from the middle (the metaxu to use William Desmond speak). He as Conductor leads to conscious emergence of exegetical significance and meaning.

Picture the plurivocity of voices in the narrative of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8:25-39). Whatever hermeneutic was involved in the Eunuch’s ordinary language understanding would be but univocal in had he sat in his chariot alone with his text-in-hand. Other voices that are ‘saying being’ co-participated in exegetical emergence when he sought dis-closure-of-truth-in-text. It included the current community narrative of Philip, the Eunuch’s emotional emergence of spiritual consciousness in community worship, the salvation history of church universal in process, spiritual illumination by the Holy Spirit’s voicing, the voice of the angel, and perhaps others as well i.e. Candace.

Well enough, I must return to my exegetical tasks of the day – constructing the sermon…take a look and uncover my hypocrisy http://www.gracepointfellowship.org/
;-)

Flotsam and jetsam (8/27)

Roger Olson vs. the “neo-fundamentalists”

According to Roger Olson, the reaction of many conservative evangelicals to open theism “was fueled by misinformation, misrepresentation and down right demagoguery.” He’s particularly irked that these critics routinely associated open theism with process theology and accused them doing things of limiting God, diminishing God’s glory, and undermining the atonement. He contends that open theism does none of these things, and that these conservative evangelical critics should have known better. And, this response demonstrates that “many conservative evangelicals are not really evangelicals in the post-fundamentalist, post-WW2 sense but really fundamentalists (which might be unfair to many fundamentalists!).”

Instead, Olson suggests that open theism should be viewed as “a legitimate evangelical option,” and states that he’s willing to stand alongside his open theist friends “over against the neo-fundamentalists who seem to be largely controlling the evangelical establishment today.”

On the one hand, I think Olson’s right. I thought at the time that many of the criticisms being leveled against open theism were not entirely fair. The argument that open theism is basically process theology in disguise was particularly pernicious – tarring open theism with a whole raft of positions that they all explicitly denied. (I don’t think they helped their case, though, by spending as much time as they did discussing process theology. Of course, their point was to demonstrate that they were not process theologians. But, the unintended consequence was to demonstrate to everyone that they were quite familiar with process theology. It was a short step from there to the implication that they were in fact influenced by process theology.)

On the other hand, though, we should recognize that the rhetoric flew strongly in both directions. As with many arguments, the intense heat of the debate led proponents of both positions to be less than fair to the opposite side. I well remember the frustration of reading and listening to the open theists’ blatant caricatures of classical theism, neglecting the best that this tradition has to offer, and focusing instead on its weakest aspects. (Note well, when critiquing another position, do not pit your strongest arguments against their weakest ones. If that’s the only way you can win, give up now.) So, focusing only on the missteps of the evangelical “establishment” is not entirely fair either.

I’d also be curious to hear more from Olson on what he thinks qualifies as real “evangelicalism” vs. “neo-fundamentalism.” Presumably he wouldn’t object to someone engaging in heated theological discourse (he does it all the time). And, I don’t think rhetorical “fairness” is really the issue, despite his focus on that problem in this essay, since we see those problems on both sides. I think it actually has more to do with drawing “boundaries.” At the end of his essay, he states that he sees both open theists and 5-point Calvinists as both being “within the evangelical movement” (despite the fact that he really does not like 5-point Calvinism). His real problem with these conservative evangelical critics, then, is their attempt to exclude, to draw the boundaries of evangelicalism such that open theists are declared nonevangelical. And, I think this boundary-drawing is Olson’s real concern; that’s what harkens back to the separatism of the fundamentalists.

But, of course, if we’re not supposed to be drawing boundaries, how does Olson explain his claim that these critics are “not really evangelicals”? That sounds a lot like a boundary to me. Maybe Olson has some fundamentalist leanings of his own.

Flotsam and jetsam (7/29)

Flotsam and jetsam (7/10)

Just a couple of quick links today: