Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Photo credit: My beloved friend, Jillian Snyder
Sunday, December 5, 2010
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
Why lies He in such mean estate
- On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
- Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
- While shepherds watch are keeping?
- This, this is Christ the King,
- Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
- Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
- The babe, the son of Mary!
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
- Where ox and ass are feeding?
- Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
- The silent Word is pleading.
- Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
- The Cross be borne for me, for you;
- Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
- The babe, the son of Mary!
- Come, peasant, king, to own Him!
- The King of Kings salvation brings;
- Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
- Raise, raise the song on high!
- The virgin sings her lullaby.
- Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
- The babe, the son of Mary!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I must confess that ever since taking the Calvin seminar my second year at Gordon-Conwell, I remain unconvinced that the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis and the ontological change within the human subject championed therein does not compromise the distinction between Creator and creature (CCD hereafter since I'm tired).
My professor, during discussion today, asked me why I would find it hard to believe that deification would not compromise CCD if I accept the Incarnation. If I believe that the CCD was not compromised by the eternal Son uniting Himself with human flesh, why would it be a problem for me to accept that God would be able to make deification possible without compromise as well?
Whether or not the Eastern tradition believes that the human subject participates in the essence or the energies of God (my professor said some support the belief that the human subject participates in the essence - gasp!), I keep coming back to Barth's famous thesis (?) in the second preface to the Epistle to the Romans:
My reply is that, if I have a system, it is limited to a recognition of what Kierkegaard called the 'infinite qualitative distinction' between time and eternity,and to my regarding this as possessing negative as well as positive significance: 'God is in heaven, and thou art on earth.' The relation between such a God and such a man, and the relation between such a man and such a God, is for me the theme of the Bible and the essence of philosophy (pg. 10)
Like I said, I'm really tired. It probably wasn't wise to post these thoughts since I'm simply putting forth statements and opinions without defending them. However, I felt the need to record my continued dissatisfaction with the doctrine of theosis. And for the record, I can't help but think that many in the Protestant church are leaving their churches for the East because they long so desperately for a robust account of sanctification. This makes me incredibly disappointed, because Calvin is clear that even though justification is never contingent upon sanctification, the two are never separated in the life of the Christian.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
ScarfaceLawrence of ArabiaStar Wars (I know, please don't condemn me.)The GraduateTaxi DriverOut of AfricaUnforgivenThe MissionRaging BullMr. Smith Goes to WashingtonAnnie HallThe Deer HunterPulp Fiction (Again, I know. Apply the personal testimony of the first viewing of the Godfather part I above to this film as well.)
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Things are gonna change,
Gonna drink less beer
And start all over again
Gonna read more books
Gonna keep up with the news
Gonna learn how to cook
And spend less money on shoes
Pay my bills on time
File my mail away, everyday
Only drink the finest wine
And call my Gran every Sunday
Well Baby they come and go
Will I do any of these things?
The answers probably no
But if there's one thing, I must do,
Despite my greatest fears
I'm gonna say to you
How I've felt all of these years
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Despite my love for all things that came out of 1969 (Woodstock) to the late 70's, I find that my real love surfaces in Mo-town, Soul, and Jazz. Blame it on my Dad, but nothing brings more joy than hearing "Mercy, Mercy Me" playing or Nina Simone's "Love Me or Leave Me" ... And I don't care how overplayed it might be, Aretha Franklin's "Respect" gives you chills every time. Even some of my favorite artists today like John Legend and the Roots say that they draw constant inspiration from towering figures such as Gaye, Simone, Wonder, Franklin, and the like.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
"It is said that H. F. Kohlbrugge once answered the question: When was he converted? by the laconic reply: On Golgotha. This answer, with all its fundamental implications, was not the witty retort of an embarrassed and unconverted man, but the only possible and straightforward answer of a truly converted Christian. The events of faith in our own life can, in fact, be none other than the birth, passion, death, ascension and resurrection of Jesus, the faith of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, its journey through the desert, its entrance into the land of Canaan, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost and the mission of the apostles to the heathen. Every verse in the Bible is virtually a concrete faith-event in my own life. Whether this is actually the case, whether with my own life I have been present at this or that event here testified to me, this and this alone is what I am asked by the Word of God which bears witness to me of God's revelation in and through all this, and in every single verse of Scripture. In comparison with this, what can be the value of the various more or less reliable insights which, apart form these testimonies, I may have on myself? Is there a miracle story that I can relate from my own life, which, especially if it is genuine, will not be totally dissolved in this divine miracle story, and which therefore will hardly be worth relating in abstracto? Have I anything to testify about myself which I cannot testify infinitely better if I make my own the simplest ingredient of the Old Testament or New Testament witness? Have I experienced anything more important, incisive, serious, contemporary than this, that I have been personally present and have shared in the crossing of Israel through the Red Sea but also in the adoration of the golden calf, in the baptism of JEsus but also the denial of Peter and the treachery of Judas, that all this has happened to me here and now? If I believe, then this must be the right point of view. If this is the right point of view, what other faith-events in my life should I and could I wish to seek? What, then, becomes of the bold assertion with which I claim first this and then that crisis and turning-point, and then gradually my whole life, as a sacred history? And what becomes of the defiant and shrinking doubt and despair about all exalted and exalting moments, and finally about my whole life? However high may rise or however deep may fall the waves of life's events, as they are perceptible to us form within and below, the real movement of my life, the real events in which it is clear to me that in the whole dimension of my existence I belong to God, both at the flood and ebb, are secured from the other side, by the Word of God Himself."- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II.2, 709-710.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Twentieth-Century Theologians: A New Introduction to Modern Christian Thought, Philip Kennedy, I. B. Tauris 2010 (ISBN 978-1-84511-956-0), xvi + 368 pp., pb £17.99 and hb £54.50
Twentieth-Century Theologians: A New Introduction to Modern Christian Thought by Philip Kennedy offers a rare and accessible overview of the most influential theologians within a century that witnessed an unprecedented amount of both human suffering and progress. With clear and concise prose, this book includes helpful summaries of the lives and theologies of select twentieth-century theologians. The list includes the prominent and classic figures such as Harnack, Barth, Tillich, Rahner, and Moltmann. In an impressive manner, the text also covers less frequently discussed thinkers such as D. Day and M. Daly. Even more importantly, Kennedy takes great care to offer a global theological perspective throughout the last century by discussing the theology of the Rainbow Spirit Elders of the Aboriginal people, Mercy Amba Oduyoye of Ghana, and Tissa Balasuriya of Sri Lanka. This book serves as a useful resource for the classroom as well as the everyday reader who wishes to gain a greater understanding of theology throughout the past century. With an inclusion of Roman Catholic, Jesuit, Anglo-Catholic, and Protestant thinkers, this book does not emphasize any specific Christian tradition. Those who possess little to no theological education will appreciate Kennedy’s indispensable definitions of the most common theological terms weaved throughout the chapters as well as the short glossary at the end.
Kennedy’s main project is to set these theologians within the context of the war, famine, disease, and brutal hardship that was all too familiar to the twentieth century. The harsh realities in which they lived deeply impacted their theology. This influence, Kennedy believes, reveals a trend throughout all the works of the theologians discussed. His thesis is clearly stated: ‘the greatest theologians of the twentieth century were the most negative’ (p. 11). This negativity surfaced in two ways. First, the theologians of the twentieth century were apophatic in that they believed God could only be described using negative propositions. God can only be understood by what He is not rather than what He is. Second, theologians of this time period were ‘acutely aware of the bleak and harrowing negativity of human (and animal) suffering’ (p. 11). Theologians who found the most reception were those most concerned about the suffering of their time period while simultaneously offering a modest account of one’s ability to speak about God. Keeping these two directions in mind, Kennedy evaluates each theologian in the proceeding chapters through this specific lens of negativity in relation to statements about God and humanity.
While much ink has been spilled concerning the theologians of the twentieth century, few books emphasize the particular events within their lives. Kennedy notes that his book intentionally offers ‘an impression of the kinds of people who articulated theologies in the twentieth century, and the historical circumstances that determined the ways they spoke … texts are always tinctured by their contexts’ (p. 306). This book is not only theological but also biographical. In every chapter, Kennedy offers helpful insights into the lives of each theologian before accessing their theology and key works. As such, this book properly understands that the events and actions of each individual theologian are directly and explicitly connected to their beliefs. This holistic account helps readers to gain a fuller grasp of each theologian discussed. On a minor note, while each chapter contains such an all-encompassing picture of various theologians, they are not altogether random and disjointed. Upon a cursory glance, most might assume that Twentieth Century Theologians is an assortment of separated essays. However, Kennedy subtly inserts crucial transitions and informed remarks that aid the reader in piecing together a narrative of twentieth-century theology.
There is only one criticism necessary to mention. Kennedy’s ‘working hypothesis’ of this book is to boldly argue that the greatest problem for theology is human suffering (p. xi). In the third sentence of the preamble, Kennedy ironically writes that ‘a theologian is someone who tries to talk about God – always without success’ (p. vii). Rather than highlighting the inability of theology to adequately speak about its object and content – the Triune God – Kennedy prefers to maintain that the essential problem for theology is to give an answer for the abused, neglected, and suffering people within the world. Despite this position, Kennedy fails to argue how this is a particular problem for Christian theology in particular rather than all religion in general. Kennedy goes further to warn that in order for theology to be relevant, it must attend to the issues of suffering and injustice that plague humanity. If any theology is ‘indifferent to the poor’ then it will be ‘irrelevant to God as well’ (p. 315). Kennedy is right to emphasize the importance of suffering and injustice to the Christian God as witnessed in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures. However, these concerns are a consequence of theology rather than a condition for its existence. Otherwise, there would be nothing particular about the Christian religion. If the essential concern of theology is human suffering, it cannot rightly be called theology but rather ‘theodicy’, ‘apologetics’, or ‘anthropology’. When the primary task of a discipline is to speak about human beings, it cannot claim to be theology. If theology is to remain true to its definition, it must always stay concerned with tending to what God has said about Himself. Even though one might disagree with Kennedy’s basic presuppositions regarding the nature of theology, every reader will find both challenge and benefit from his unwavering concern for the suffering of humanity.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
"It has become a truism of the comparative intellectual history of the Middle Ages to observe that Byzantium never had an Augustine and that this constituted a fundamental difference between East and West. Whether that represents a disadvantage or an advantage for the East is a matter of considerable dispute in both East and West. Although no one figure among later Greek Christian thinkers occupied the same heights that Augustine of Hippo did among the later Latins, the truism needs qualification in important ways. For if it means that there has never been in the Christian East a theological-philosophical genius worthy of being placed alongside Augustine for sheer creativity and power as an individual intellectual virtuoso (whether heretical or orthodox), it is mistaken, because Origen of Alexandria, who was born circa 185 and died circa 254, does deserve to be counted as his peer. But if the chief emphasis lies, as it probably should, on Augustine's position in the century after the "peace of the church" under Constantine and after the codification, at the Council of Nicaea in 325, of the faith that Augustine transmitted to the Latin Middle Ages with his own special stamp upon it then his place in Western Christian history has its counterpart in the joint achievement of three Eastern Christian thinkers belonging to the generation immediately following that of Nicaea and preceding that of Augustine: Basil of Caesrea, who died in 379; his brother Gregory of Nyssa ("Nyssen"), who died circa 395; and Gregory of Nazianzus ("Nazianzen"), who died in 389 - often grouped as the Three Cappadocians. Together the Cappadocians did occupy a place in what Endre von Ivanka has called "early Byzantine intellectual life" - after Constantine, Nicaea, and Athanasius but before Justinian, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and the Iconoclastic controversy - that suggests intriguing analogues to the place of Augustine in the Western Middle Ages."- Pelikan, Christianity and Classical Culture, 5-6.Photo Credit: here
Thursday, October 28, 2010
"...Just as God is love does not mean love is God, God's kingdom may be the basis for a Christian identification of socialism with it without that implying that socialism on its own merits is to be identified with the kingdom.
This irreversibility is no more than assertion, however, unless one can materially show the way the gospel message suggests of itself something like socialism, unless one can demonstrate that the gospel contains within it definite direction of some sort or other for Christian political decision in particular circumstances. One has to turn one's attention to dogmatics, in short, as the starting point for distinctively Christian political judgments, if the claim of irreversibility is to hold water. And this would seem to be at least one intent of the whole project of the Church Dogmatics after its aborted start:
I am firmly convinced that, especially in the broad field of politics, we cannot reach the clarifications which are necessary to-day, and on which theology might have a word to say, as indeed it ought to have, without first reaching the comprehensive clarifications in and about theology which are our present concern. I believe that it is expected of the Church and its theology - a world within the world no less than chemistry or the theatre - that it should keep precisely to the rhythm of its own relevant concerns, and thus consider well what are the real needs of the day by which its own programme should be directed [CD I/I, p. xvi.].
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
"A further temptation for theologians of retrieval is to subscribe to the myth of the fall of theology from Christian genuineness at some point in its past (fourteenth-century nominalism, the sixteenth-century Reformation, seventeenth-century Cartesianism, or whatever 'modernity' is considered to have first presented itself). The oversimplifications which attend epochal interpretations of history are well known. But there is a deeper point here. However necessary 'anti-modern' protest may be on certain occasions, however much it may empower the re-engagement of neglected constructive tasks, it should not betray theology into the illusion that all that is required for successful dogmatics in the present is the identification and repudiation of an error in the past. Such a stance can indicate the same illusion of superiority as that sometimes claimed by critical reason. Moreover, it can fail to grasp that the problem is not modern theology but simply theology. All talk of God is hazardous. Modern constraints bring particular challenges which can be partially defeated by attending to a broad and wiser history, but there is no pure Christian past whose retrieval can ensure theological fidelity.
This does not in any way call the project of retrieval into question or minimize its impact. The recovery of the present ecclesial vocation of systematic theology, as well as the renewal of its public functions, surely require persuation of the weightiness of the past. But however basic a task, retrieval cannot constitute the entirety of theological work. 'In ... obedience to the church's past it is always possible to be a very free theologian. But it must be borne in mind that, as a member of the church, as belonging to the congregatio fidelium, one must not speak without having heard ' [Barth 1962:181]."
- Webster, The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 596-597.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
"A second example of the same process is theological talk of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In a fashion similar to what took place in the doctrine of revelation, the resurrection shifts from being an object of belief to being a ground of belief. That is to say, the resurrection comes to perform a function in an apologetic strategy as part of the endeavor of fundamental theology to defend the possibility of revelation and special divine action. And as its role changes, so also does its content. Extracted from its proper Christological home, it is no longer considered part of the Credo. Instead it is handled evidentially, as furnishing extrinsic grounds for subsequent attachment to the Credo. As a result, the more obviously evidential aspects of the resurrection - notably, of course, the empty tomb - come to occupy centre stage, precisely because they can most easily be assigned a job in the search for transcendental foundations for Christian doctrine.
Neither of these moves could have taken place without a certain forgetfulness of the inner structure and dynamic of Christian doctrine, and without the adoption of intellectual procedures which are themselves seriously underdetermined by doctrinal considerations. The effects of this reach deep into theology's self-understanding and practices, and can be seen both in the literary forms of modern theology as well as in the ways in which it has construed itself."
- John Webster, Confessing God, 20.
Friday, October 22, 2010
- Dr. John Webster, Confessing God, pg. 18.
In short, the above quote is spot-on. As a philosophy major during my time as an undergraduate, I have seen firsthand the fruits of Christianity seeking to justify its existence via Christian philosophy and apologetics. Still, I wonder if there is any way to agree with the critique Dr. Webster has given without falling into certain (negative) reactionary aspects of postliberal theology.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
“It would be difficult to find a Church father who so admirably expresses the full round of Eastern Orthodox teaching: its clear Trinitarianism, its mysticism, its asceticism, its realistic sacramentalism, its ideal of man’s deification, and its blending of Platonic and Aristotelian forms of thought. In Gregory, too, is to be seen the weakness sometimes apparent in Eastern theology: its failure to grasp the meaning of history and its difficulty in freeing itself fully from Hellenic elements in its approach to creation, sexuality, and death” (p. 250).
Among other reasons, I wonder if this is partly why Barth never found Eastern Orthodoxy fully convincing? Just a small observation.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
In Early Christian Thought class today, we discussed the primary text of St. Basil's which we are currently reading entitled On the Human Condition. Our professor distributes an outline of the lecture before every class. During this class period, we specifically reflected upon Basil's "Homily Explaining that God is Not the Cause of Evil." Due to the title and the content of this homily, my professor outlined the nature and history of theodicy. My professor's outline states that theodicy is a Greek word, created by the German philosopher Leibniz, meaning "the justice/justification of God." The outline goes on to say that such justification is sought in light of the reality of evil. Human beings throughout the centuries have tried to reconcile the "existence" of evil with the following three propositions:
1. There is one God, creator of all
2. That God is good
3. That God is all-powerful
My professor writes that "a commitment to the previous three tenets is often said to lead to a 'normative ontology' whereby whatever exists must be good (since the one, good, omnipotent God created it such)."
I found this very interesting. Since God is the author of creation, the previous quote assumes that there is some sort of necessary identity between an omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God and said creation. In short, creation should have the same attributes of the creator, including goodness and an absence of evil. Since the world obviously includes evil and suffering, many philosophers have concluded that the one who has created the universe (aka God) must either not be all-good, or He doesn't exist.
It seems to me that the same sort of assumption (at least loosely) is present in the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. In the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy, Articles VI-VIII affirm the divine inspiration of every book and word within the canon. It then states in Article IX, "we affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write." It seems that the authors of this statement are making the argument that since the Bible is inspired by God (though they also rightly affirm that human authors were definitely active in the process), it must necessarily reflect the identity of God in guaranteeing truth and trustworthiness in "all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write."
Unless I'm entirely misunderstanding the classic objections to Christianity based on the problem of evil (most notably set forth by David Hume) and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, I'd say that these two camps share one major thing in common - if God is the author of something - either creation or the Bible - those creations must reflect his character of goodness, truth, and perfection. Otherwise, the conclusions are that either God didn't inspire the Bible and it can't be trusted (the inerrantists), or God is either not all-good or He doesn't exist (those stating that the existence of evil is incompatible with God's being).
While I'm not quite prepared to formally and publicly deny biblical inerrancy, might there be some sort of expectation here that is unwarranted? Why do Christians say that the creation of God does not necessarily need to reflect His character in order for it to serve as revelation but the Bible does?
Some biblical inerrantists might reply that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is not merely an abstraction but rather based upon what the Bible says about itself (though I find this a bit interesting considering the statement only cites two small biblical phrases, 1 Peter 1:21 and 2 Tim. 3:15, both of which are NOT within the articles themselves nor are any other biblical passages present). The passage most often quoted in support of biblical inerrancy is 2 Tim. 3:16 which affirms that "all Scripture is God-breathed." But I often wonder if that truth, the doctrine of divine inspiration, necessarily entails biblical inerrancy. Furthermore, I question if such an assumption is the same that is made by men like David Hume who were skeptical about the existence of God in light of the existence of evil.
I'm completely open to being corrected. I'd appreciate any thoughts you might offer, dear reader!
Monday, October 4, 2010
Then I ask myself what is wrong with me? Did God seriously mess me up? I see all these happy women who are stay-at-home moms on-campus, or in the grocery store, or at Starbucks. I love kids. I am the first to gawk at the cuteness of little Johnny that screams and yells and runs through Starbucks as everyone else thinks "where the heck are that creatures's parents?" But I'm not ready to go there yet.
To make me feel even more abnormal, I read all these cheesy Christian books which try to tell me that all i want is for someone to come rescue me, and lead me, and provide for me and my role is to support them in everything they do. I should happily do the laundry, be the homemaker while they go and do the manly work! And I think to myself, "Wait, what? Do women really feel like this?! Did I miss something? Why do I feel guilty that I am even disagreeing?!"
The three women that are my heroes are all, surprisingly for my readers, stay-at-home Moms. Two of them blog and I love their stories. I admire their courage, patience, wisdom, grace, not to mention their humor. Oh my word, sometimes I choke after laughing so hard at their inner-dialogue posts that are finally typed for the world to read. They are geniuses. They represent every character trait that I can only hope to embody someday. But I'm just not ready.
A lot of my friends, if not most of them, are either engaged or married. I'd be telling a bold faced lie if I said that I want to be single forever. But honestly, I still feel like I'm a high-school graduate. I can't believe I'm already 26. I still feel 18.
The desire to pursue a PhD makes the above struggle even more difficult. There are few men in my field. I found out there are ZERO women in the doctoral program I want to go to in Scotland. All of the men in the program, from what I can tell, are married. And when people find out you are a 26 year-old Christian female wanting to get a doctorate, they make assumptions about you. Is she a feminist? Can she just not find a husband? Will she ever find her true calling and have kids? But the truth is, I'm just a human being that loves theology and has become deeply fascinated with Karl Barth. It is that simple. Why must I have an agenda? Why must I be married? Why must I get the hidden looks of suspicion? Why must I even think about this?
So as I write my applications for doctoral programs and read my Barth books, I'll be happily babysitting every Friday or Saturday night just thankful I'm still only 26 and single.