CT Article: The Leavers

There's an article on the Christianity Today's website that pinpoints an awful trend that I've been seeing in the church over the last five years.  Here's a snippet:


My Movie Quadrant

I have found that few Christians share my stance on the subject of entertainment.  I think most Christians view entertainment from the wrong perspective, and therefore have been unable to converse meaningfully about it.  Christians think that it is always what they take in that affects them, but I think it is how they take it in that really affects them.


My Rant: Offensive Christianity

I was cruising the blogosphere (on a semi-related note, my computer recognizes 'blogosphere' as a real word, weird) reading articles about how youth need to strive for personal holiness and how being a Christian is 'uncool' because Christianity is about the cross and the cross is offensive.  Until now I didn't really think twice about it because I read it all the time from Paul (1 Cor 1:23).  But can the saying (the cross is offensive) just be copy and pasted from the Bible into our present context with no thought at all?

Can we really take the comments made by Paul nearly 2000 years ago and transport them into our culture as if nothing has changed?  Through out all ages, both that have passed and are to come, has the gospel and will the gospel always be an offense?

I think that 'the gospel is an offense' statement has been made some kind of timeless truth that the gospel would be offensive for all generations to come with often no clear reason other than, "Paul said it".  My issue here is that Paul has a context and reason why he wrote those verses that doesn't apply to us today.  I don't think Paul's message here is that Christianity will always be offensive, so just get used to it, but that God can work beyond the understanding of man - which in this case, is offensive.

It's not necessarily wrong to say that the cross is offensive - but the reasons for that today are not the reasons when Paul first wrote about it - so providing insight on why 1 Corinthians 1:23 could apply today would probably be a good idea ... instead of just assuming.

Trading One Hoax For Another

I find this quote from The Authenticity Hoax to be an accurate description of the current cultural trends: 
This is everyone’s problem. Eventually, each of us has to look in the mirror and ask, “What is worth doing?” or “What is meaningful?” or “What is sacred?” These are all versions of the same question, and what they amount to is, “Who am I?” Islam, like all religions or ideologies, gives a ready-made answer to that question. But modernity sweeps away all previous answers, undermines any notion of the sacred. And so the liberal answer to these questions is, “Nothing” — or, slightly better, “It’s up to you.” This can be terrifying, and while we can — indeed must — condemn those who turn their backs on modernity and seek refuge in nostalgia and violence, we must also recognize that our own solution, the confused and self-defeating search for something called authenticity, is itself nothing more than a hoax.
The purpose of the book was to detail how people, because of a lost sense of meaning, have attempted to embrace authenticity as a source of meaning and something to live for but, Potter argues, authenticity is all smoke and mirrors, in the end there is nothing to hold on to.


Marriage Redefined, Again?

B.C.'s legal system is somewhere between a rock and a hard place.  The trial concerning whether the constitution allows for polygamy (particularly that of a fundamentalist Mormon group) has begun.  The problem is (as I see it, anyways) that the definition of 'marriage' by Canada has already been redefined recently to allow for gay marriage.  I think the slippery slope argument is almost always a bad one, but one of the questions circling gay marriage was, "where do you stop the re-definition once the process has began?"  It's all just becomes opinion.  After redefining the genders related to marriage why not redefine the numbers?

Outside of Christianity and into the world of 'political correctness' the only answer has to be one of 'acceptance' and 'tolerance', where marriage will continually be redefined until it is only a shadow of what it used to be ... or maybe it'll just die off.

Any thoughts?

News link

A Narrative Reading of John

One of the things that gets in the way of my understanding of the Bible is how I read it.  I get caught up in thinking that I'm reading in search for proposition truths.  Most of the Bible is not proposition truths however, but stories, and the Bible uses narrative and literary devices to point show us how God works.  For an example of this I would like to use two sections from the Gospel of John that, in my opinion, are related to each other:  John 18:15-26 and John 21:7-19.


Bias, Gender Roles and what 1 Tim 5:8 really says.

Mark Driscoll is known for saying controversial things.  In a question and answer period he was asked whether it is right for the wife to support the family and the man to stay at home.  The answer to the question (given by his wife) was that if a man does not provide for his family he is worse than an unbeliever and a reference to this scripture verse is given as 'proof':

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

If you noticed a complete lack of 'husband' or 'man' then you're on your way to discovering why this verse cannot mean what Mark (or his wife) wants it to mean.  But beyond the verse is where the real problems lie.


Part 3 of 3: What Nominalism Did and Why You Should Care

The concept that universals were just conceptualizations in our heads, and therefore at some level real was a seismic shift in thinking, but that way of thinking was soon to be replaced, and once again shifted the way people thought about the world, this was nominalism, and it's still the predominant worldview today.

The shift is a slight one, but has drastic consequences!  The argument is that the conceptualizations and categories we make in our head are not real, but rather, they are just words that we use to group similar things together.  Therefore there truly are no Universals and our conception of things like 'chairness', 'redness' and humanity (or 'humanness') are based purely on similarity - nothing transcendent connects any of them.

Nominalism is not necessarily the denial of the transcendental, but it is the denial that there is a direct connection between us and the transcendental, if you think that this seemingly small shifts is insignificant to everyday action and though, you're wrong.  This has had far reaching consequences.

For instance, individualism becomes a key aspect of life because there is no overarching humanity, only individual people who are loosely connected only because of similarity.  In fact, the very image of God gets washed away in this thinking, for how can humans bear the image of God in a world that has cut its ties to the divine?! This ultimately has lead to a loss of meaning.  Nihilism (which gained traction in the late 19th century) is directly related to a denial of universals as there is nothing connecting life together, everything is seen as random encounters.

This also affects the church, if a nominalist view is going to be taken for granted then Christ's salvation to humanity has to be re-evaluated because Christ could no longer die for 'humanity', he could no longer take on common human nature (according to nominalism there can be no such thing) and could not reverse what Adam had set in motion - if Adam had set anything in motion to begin with (how is original sin going to be dealt with?).

Lastly, there can be no concept of the Universal Church, only individual churches connected by their similarity - Christ - which, remember, is only a word with no association with anything transcendental.


Part 2 of 3: Okham's Razor and Conceptualism

The description of worldly relations to the divine has been the predominant Christian worldview for longer than it hasn't been.  The reason for the small yet seismic shift is due to a Christian named William of Ockham.  Ockham developed a well known theory which philosophically upset the world of the Universals, this theory is called Ockham's Razor.  Ockham believed that a true theory did not need to contain unnecessary pieces and all unnecessary pieces within a theory could be thrown out because they are useless.  One may say that the theory simplistically stated would be something like: The simplest explanation is most likely to be the correct explanation.  Universals, according to Ockham were unnecessary and thus did not need to exist and therefore did not exist.

This theory had consequences however.  Because Universals are no longer have objective existence with in the Mind of God the link between God and man was effectively cut.  Where Realism would say that beauty is a universal quality that has a separate existence, Conceptualism is one step closer to the phrase, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  Ockham didn't do away with universals completely however, he considered that we as humans conceptualize universals, and those conceptualizations are true.  Therefore, truth, beauty, goodness, and 'chairness' only exist in our minds.

Ockham referred to this (that Universals exist but only as concepts in our mind) as Conceptualism.  It was a slippery slope because our concepts of universals (in our minds) can be argued to not be real.  Conceptualism quickly gave in to Nominalism.

Next: What Nominalism Did and Why You Should Care


    N.T. Wright in Langley (On Identity)

    This is going to be quick, but I want to get it out before it's gone.

    N.T. Wright gave a wonderful lecture today and I'm quickly going to pick up on one of his points because I thought that it was a particularly interesting one in light of what I have blogged about today and what is coming up in the next two blogs.

    His talk was about what it means to be human today.  In the being human section he went through what it means to have the image of God, and what it means to be priests and kings.

    It was in Wright's talk about modernism and post-modernism that something really stuck out.  Post-modernism has typically been portrayed as having irredeemable qualities about it.  However, he didn't feel that this assessment was fair.  Post-modernity, he contended, serves as a reminder of the Fall and people's lose of recognition that they bear the image of God, as we now have people asking questions that have never been asked before such as, "who am I?"  It's only through Christ that we can gain back a true sense of the Imago Dei - and thus serves as a starting point in answering such questions.

    Post-modernity and this question of (personal) identity are tied inextricably close to what I've already started talking about in regards to Universals and nominalism.  These questions are really searching for meaning in a world that has cut itself away from it's only source of it.

    Part 1 of 3: You should care about Universals.

    I've been taking a History of Theology class this semester and it's an interesting course, I like seeing where Christianity has come from and the course it took to get where it is right now.  One of the major ideas that is nearly completely lost today is the ideas of Universals, which was fundamental to Christianity up until the time of the Reformation.

    Universals answer the question of how one can look at an object and identify it with out being told what it is?  For instance, chairs come is all shapes, sizes, materials, and colors and yet when I see a chair, I know it's a chair.  How is that possible when the variations can be staggering?  According to Plato, I must already have a vague idea of what makes a chair a chair.  This is Plato's theory of the Forms (Google: Allegory of the cave, to read about Plato's concept).


    Is Price Everything?

    I got a letter from Vanguard College informing me that there were incentives to being an alumni, such as 7% off from the Christian bookstore site, Blessings.com.

    It's no secret that Christian bookstores have been feeling the pressure from sites like Amazon offering every book under the sun and the price difference isn't unsubstantial either.  Upon receiving the news I took a quick look at my Amazon 'wish list' and compared prices with Blessings.  Most of the time Blessings' prices were more than double that of Amazon!!

    Here are the examples from what Blessings had (there were even a number they don't carry):


    Mark 12: An Alternative Exegesis

    The other day I heard a striking exegesis of a well known passage in Mark 12.  I have heard numerous sermons preached on these verses, yet, I've never heard this interpretation of it.  So, I'm going to give the brief overview of the exegesis, but first here is Mark 12:38-44.


    Red, White and Blue

    Michelle saw the background to my blog and remarked, "Why does your blog look so ... American?"

    Then she remembered that Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Faroe Islands, France, Iceland, North Korea, Laos, Luxembourg, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand and United Kingdom all have red, white and blue flags.


    Martin Luther's Biblical Justification to Name Calling

    Lately I've been on this juvenile agenda about old theologians (Pre-16th century) getting in heated arguments and calling their opponents names.  Unfortunately, it seems that this is a lost art in modern Biblical theology and I'd love to see the art form make a re-appearance!

    The Shack: A Case for Story

    Truth be told, I've never read The Shack.

    I know two things about the book though:
    1. It's a narrative (story)
    2. It's about God
    And really that's all I need to know to write this.  So don't get all upset, this applies to any work that satisfy those two criteria - and even works that don't, in my opinion.


    Today's Project: Origen - Introduction

    One of the most consistent accusations made against Origen is that he espoused a subordinate view of Jesus.  No one denies that Origen taught the subordination of Jesus to the Father, and it’s obvious within his works.  However, most fail to state explicitly how Christ is subordinate to the Father.  There are a few exceptions, however:  Bloesch, implies that Origen believed that Christ is ontologically subordinate to the Father by stating that the outcome of his theology is either Arianism or polytheism (indeed, the Arian controversy may be partly blamed on Origen, or at least his followers).  Trigg, dubiously uses a quote from Plotinus (a pagan contemporary of Origen) and references Origen in order to conclude that Origen believed that Jesus was ontologically subordinate.  Barnard on the other hand recognizes that Origen’s followers diverged from his teachings.  He does not deny that Origen taught subordination, but understands that there are different kinds of subordination and thus discusses the specific nature of Jesus subordination:  “Although he teaches a subordination of the Son it is not of essence but only of person and office, which is quite another thing.”  Barnard’s distinction is the key to understanding Origen’s view on Christ as it can be shown that Origen steps into neither Arianism nor polytheism.  To Origen, Christ’s subordination is not of essence.

    edit: updated


    Why there is (a lot of) bad Christian Fiction

    Ever since there have been such things as novels, the world has been flooded with bad fiction for which the religious impulse has been responsible. The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality. He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns, getting himself as little dirty in the process as possible. His feeling about this may have been made more definite by one of those Manichean-type theologies which sees the natural world as unworthy of penetration. But the real novelist, the one with an instinct for what he is about, knows that he cannot approach the infinite directly, that he must penetrate the natural human world as it is.

    - Flannery O’Connor - Mystery and Manners


    Cool Whip Church: Conclusion

    People and churches wouldn't be advocating internet church if they didn't think it could somehow be reconciled.  David Pullinger argues (in Information Technology and Cyberspace: Extra-connected Living?) that online communities can be as meaningful as non-online communities.  However, his only example is a forum for a rock band, whose members regularly meet - outside the internet - in order to attend concerts.  For that reason the example holds no water, now if the band held it's concerts over the internet that would be different.  


    Cool Whip Church: Part 4

    It'll be obvious that community itself can not be church.  1 Thessalonians 1:1, points this out for us, the church "in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Separating it from normal gatherings, from religious gathering and from Jewish gatherings.  This is Christian. This is not just a gathering of people, but a gathering of people with a purpose.

    I am borrowing from two sources to get a minimalist idea of church, Calvin and Yoder.  Calvin’s Institutes sets out 2 marks of the church:


    Cool Whip ekklesia: Part 3

    What does the Bible say about church or ekklesia?  Below is a very brief (believe it or not) look at pre-New Testament and Paul's usage of ekklesia.  Think about how the church should look while reading it, particularly in Paul.


    Cool Whip Church: Part 2

    While researching for this paper I found myself on a particular Church’s internet campus just minutes before an ‘experience’ (as they call it) was about to start.  To let go of this opportunity would mean writing about something that I had never experienced myself which, considering I am writing a paper on the topic, would be at least poorly researched, and at most, dishonest.  Besides, perhaps participating in internet church would make me a believer.
    I entered the website as the service was starting and typed in a username into the chat.  Over the next 45 minutes a number of things became evident: 


    Cool Whip Church: Part 1

    I’ve been reading up on ecclesiology and ‘cyber-church’ over the past couple weeks because of a paper I’m working on for college and an illustration from Albert Borgmann’s Power Failure really helped me put ‘cyber-church’ into perspective.

    We have this technology that allows use to do incredible things and often without thinking about it.  For instance, we eat things sometimes assuming they are one kind of food when they are in fact quite a different kind.  Whipped cream is a prime example, we go to the grocery store and buy Cool Whip and treat it just like whipped cream, but it’s not at all.  It’s so much not whipped cream that Cool Whip is not allowed to even refer to it as whipped cream.  Yet, everything about it tells us that it is whipped cream: it’s taste, look and consistency.

    This is the same for ‘cyber-church’: technology has allowed us to duplicate ‘church’ in our living rooms and office chairs, and at first glance it looks and feels like church, but when it comes right down to it, many of the things that make church church are simply missing and cannot be reproduced with technology, and any attempt is woefully inadequate.  What we’re left with is an imitation church that should really never have been called church to begin with.


    Christianity and Society

    What then should be the path of the church in our time? ... The basic theological issue is not between right and left ... not between the sacramental and the prophetic emphasis ... but between those for whom the church is a reality and those for whom it is the institutional reaction of the good and bad conscience ... of the religion of society.  - John Yoder


    The Scriptures according to Karl Barth

    There's no better topic to start off this blog with than the Bible, and no better person than Karl Barth, an extremely influential, evangelical, early 20th century theologian.  This is my very condensed (he goes for over 100 pages) version of what he says about the Bible in Church Dogmatics.

    The Bible uses human words and therefore is each book contains the point of view of the author.  This has to be the case because that is all human words are able to express.  This seems to be what Barth means by 'fallible human words' (see my very last point in this blog).  The Bible, according to Barth, is not written from God's perspective, it is not all telling, it is written from a very human perspective.  That human perspective is recalling history.

    The Flannelboard

    I want to try something new with my blogging.  The inspiration came from a Systematic Theology class.  Theology is meant to be for the church (i.e. not just theologians) and yet theologians really only write to themselves or at least, write in such a way that only they would be the ones interested in reading it.

    So my attempt in this blog will be to write about theology, simply.  No matter how complicated the theologians describe it, I want to explain it here in a straight-forward, simple manner that is not dumbing-down what is really being said.

    I have two motivations for this exercise:  First, I also believe that theology is meant for the church but I also think the barrier to most is how theologians present it.  Secondly, it'll be a good exercise to do to get a lot what I have been learning straight in my head.

    I hope to blog about other things as well because Breaking Bad and the final season of Lost are starting soon.  But we'll get there when we get there.