Oct 18 2008

Tolerating the intolerable

Category: theologyharmonicminer @ 11:04 pm

In George Will’s article on the travails of the Anglican communion, the shrinkage of the American Episcopalians and British Anglicans, accompanied by the growth of the African communions, is described as centering most obviously on the issue of ordaining gay clergy, but more fundamentally on the interpretation of scripture and adherence to tradition. Some key graphs:


It is not the secessionists such as Duncan who are, as critics charge, obsessed with homosexuality. The Episcopal Church’s leadership is latitudinarian — tolerant to the point of incoherence, Duncan and kindred spirits think — about clergy who deviate from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity of Christ, the authority of scripture and the path to salvation. But the national church insists on the ordination of openly gay clergy and on blessing same-sex unions.

In the 1960s, Bishop James Pike of California, who urged the church to jettison such “theological baggage” as the doctrines of Original Sin and the Trinity, was the last active bishop disciplined for theological reasons. Duncan doubts whether Pike would be disciplined today.

Continue reading “Tolerating the intolerable”

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Oct 10 2008

From Isaiah chapter 5

Category: politics,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:18 am

Things are looking tense around here.

15 So man will be brought low
and mankind humbled,
the eyes of the arrogant humbled.

16 But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice,
and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.

17 Then sheep will graze as in their own pasture;
lambs will feed [f] among the ruins of the rich.

18 Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit,
and wickedness as with cart ropes,

19 to those who say, “Let God hurry,
let him hasten his work
so we may see it.
Let it approach,
let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come,
so we may know it.”

Maybe we aren’t supposed to be trying to create the perfect society after all?

20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

That’s pretty clear. Isn’t it?

Continue reading “From Isaiah chapter 5″

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Oct 07 2008

Prayer, Suffering and the Nature of God: Bumped

Category: theologyharmonicminer @ 10:53 pm

Prayer, Suffering, and the Nature of God | Addison Road

You really, really should go read the link above. It’s about the life we all live. It’s by my friend, Mike Lee.

UPDATE:  lots of interesting conversation here since first post.  And given tonight’s presidential debate, I think we’re in for lots of suffering….


Oct 01 2008

The Emergent Church, or Emerging Conversation, or New Type of Christianity, or whatever you’d like to call it

Category: theologyharmonicminer @ 11:07 pm

An article on the emerging conversation calls it A New Type of Christianity, and describes its characteristics and distinctives.

Something new is coming, or perhaps is already here. It’s a new type of Christianity. It is still taking shape all around us, so it’s hard to describe. Labels won’t be any help. But one thing’s for sure. It Is The Future.

Everything changes, and everything has to be left wide open to new developments. Just because Christianity has a Bible and creeds doesn’t mean it’s impervious to taking on exciting new forms, even forms that make us re-think what Bible and creed even mean.

What will this New Type of Christianity look like? Again: too early to tell, no labels, still emerging just now. But here are three characteristics that we can already make out:

You really do want to read all of this… it’s ground breaking work, and very interesting.

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Aug 28 2008

My life verse

Category: humor,theologysardonicwhiner @ 9:00 am

It has become popular in Christian circles for people to talk about their “life verse”, as if anyone’s life can be reduced to any sentence or two, no matter how profound and spiritual. It’s probably a heresy to believe such a thing… I’ll figure out which one later.

So, just to get into the spirit of things:

My life verse is “what can go wrong may very well go wrong”, found in the apocryphal Gospel of Murphy, in the 13th chapter (which ain’t the love chapter, trust me). In fact, I believe it’s the 13th verse, reportedly revealed to Murphius Morphius (his Latin name) on a Good Friday the 13th, a divine gift to explain why Morphius’ scribe tripped and impaled himself on his reed pen, forcing Morphius to write it down himself, in blood, the scribe’s blood, left ventricular, I do believe.

I know, you’re thinking I got it wrong, and the verse is really, “What can go wrong WILL go wrong.” That’s because you’ve been reading inaccurate translations that collapse the rich meaning of the original Greek dialect (a rare, almost unknown mixture of classic northern Greek, southern Macedonian, and Turkish delight). This dialect employs the ablative case, in which extra meaning must be rhetorically “scraped off” before the nugget of true meaning is exposed. (This was necessary to keep British (Druid) tourists from knowing what the locals were saying about them.) So some translators err on the side of scraping off just a bit too MUCH meaning, and lose the central point.

Clearly, if it was true that, “What can go wrong WILL go wrong,” this post would never have been created and successfully installed on this website. I suppose there may be other points of view on that.

I’m glad he didn’t compose music.

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Jul 30 2008

The next great awakening, part 2: the limitations of evidence in creating or challenging faith

Category: Intelligent Design,science,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:28 am

The first post in this series is here.

Thought experiment: imagine that over the next five years, paleontologists find dozens of new intermediate life forms between fish and amphibians. Also, they discover several intermediates between homo sapiens sapiens’ current presumed immediate ancestor (you pick it… the scientists don’t really agree on this) and us.

Would committed young Earth creationists, for whom the universe is no more than 6000-7000 years old, be persuaded that the case of evolution was proved?

Continue reading “The next great awakening, part 2: the limitations of evidence in creating or challenging faith”

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Jul 26 2008

The next great awakening? Part 1

Category: Intelligent Design,science,theologyharmonicminer @ 9:49 am

I’m planning to do a few posts on the convergence of science and theism. This is the first. I’m thinking out loud a bit here, and hoping to get some input from other folks as we go. This one is just about the general background. I’ll give more specifics about things I think are important in upcoming posts.

I have the sense that what is happening now in the sciences will have as much impact on future theological developments as the invention of writing had on accuracy of cultural transmission of revelation (the preservation of scripture, what made the redactors able to do their work), or the printing press (the dissemination of scripture, which basically fired the Reformation).

We tend to think of science as having arrived at some advanced point, with just a few details remaining to be filled in. (This same conceit was common in the late 19th century.) What if we are barely at the beginning, with just a glimmer of where it can lead us?

And especially, what if we learn more and more that points to a Creator, and Design, in very powerful ways, something more than just an anthropic principle (not knocking it), something that is so clear that no rational person can really deny it, and would be embarrassed to be seen trying to? If you cannot imagine any possible fact or set of facts that would lead in that direction, you need to get out more…

Continue reading “The next great awakening? Part 1″

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Jul 22 2008

Jesus and Obama, Robbin’ in da ‘Hood

Category: election 2008,McCain,Obama,politics,theologyharmonicminer @ 3:22 pm

A fine bit of satire at A Vote for Barack Obama is a Vote for Jesus : Jesus Manifesto. It’s all pretty funny; here’s a sample.

A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for Jesus…not that I agree with everything he stands for. I mean, I am an independent sort of thinker. I am firmly convinced that God is neither a republican or a democrat. But Barack Obama transcends such distinctions. He flies high over such petty concerns on shimmering gossamer wings. Golden light emanates from his perfect form. His smiling eyes looking down upon me with a look that pierces my soul! I get lost in his smile, and long for one of his chiseled arms to hold me close while the other smites a damning blow to poverty and oppression.
I encourage you to vote for Obama too. I’m not saying that voting for McCain would be a sin. Nor am I saying that it would be a horrible, disgusting sin for you to not vote at all. But I am saying that to vote for Obama is to vote for Jesus. And to NOT vote for Obama would mean that you don’t love Jesus, the poor, or your own mother. To NOT vote for Jesus would be to render Jesus’ life and message meaningless. That’s all I’m saying.

Jesus… and Robin Hood ethics. I like it. It reminds me of all those scriptures of Jesus and his posse holding up rich people on the road and taking their money at sword point and giving it to poor people. Robbin’ in da ‘hood, but all for a good cause. Of course, later on in, oh, the 32nd chapter of Matthew, we read about Jesus getting the ear of King Herod, and getting him to have the soldiers take the money from the rich and give it to the poor. All perfectly legal.  Same difference, and saves Jesus and his posse from having to do it themselves.

Personally, I’m encouraging all twenty and thirty somethings to vote for Obama, since that will selfishly be best for me… he’ll make sure they pay for my retirement and medical care, even though I’ll have more money than them at the time.

The way I see it, I win either way. McCain gets elected, in which case things are better for my children, and their children… or Obama gets elected, and things are better for me. Who knows: maybe I”ll decide to pass along some of the largesse from you and your kiddies to MY kiddies, if I’m feeling extra generous at the time.

Can’t beat that.

hat tip: Aly at Addison Road

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Jul 11 2008

Why I’m rereading CS Lewis this summer

Category: freedom,liberty,theologyharmonicminer @ 6:49 pm

CS Lewis in Screwtape Letters: Demons speaking

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side), we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state. Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a toolshed in his own garden.

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Jun 04 2008

Future Undetermined… Partly

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 10:10 pm

Greg Boyd is the author of God of the Possible, a book that introduces the “open view of God”, or “open theism”, or the “open view of the future”. Of these three expressions, I like the last one the most, although aspects of the others also make some sense.

In many ways, this entire approach is an attempt to be as literally faithful to scripture as it is possible and prudent to be. There are places where scripture is clearly metaphorical, poetic, and the like, but when there is no obvious reason to interpret scripture in those ways, then a “literal” approach is at least worth considering, i.e., maybe it means more or less what the words say in a simple understanding of the text.

So, to the meat of it, Boyd’s idea is that:

1) God knows all possible futures, but not every single detail of which of an infinite number of paths will actually occur. This is not a limitation on God’s knowledge in the sense of His ability to know what can be known, but is rather an observation about the nature of the universe which God created. God created the future to be largely unknowable, because that was the way He chose to make it possible for His creatures to make real choices that actually changed things.

2) God has predecided what certain features and events will be in the future that eventually happens (prophecy of specific events, “election” of certain people, “predestination”, etc.), but has not decided exactly how He will bring about those features and events, because he doesn’t yet know what humans will decide to do, which will affect how He will need to respond in order to bring about His intentions.

3) God actually responds to us. That is, God is not completely unchanging, but actually can be surprised, change His mind, actually feel emotion, etc. All those scriptures that seem to say exactly these things are not to be taken metaphorically, or interpreted as anthropomorphized texts, but rather mean what they say. God DOES have expectations about what humans will do, and is sometimes surprised when they do something else.

4) When a prophecy is made, the complete path from the time of the prophecy to its fulfillment is not usually specified, and is not part of the prophecy unless it IS so specified. So, most prophecies should be interpreted as God stating what He intends to bring about as an outcome, in the understanding that God, Who knows everything that can possibly happen, has already planned in advance for what He will do in response to each individual possibility, so that His decisions will come about. For example: Jesus’ betrayal was a necessary part of the prophesied plan for salvation, but the fact that Judas would do it was not. God, knowing humanity, knew that regardless of all human decisions up to the point of the betrayal, there would be someone around who was willing to do it. He knew this not in a mere probabilistic manner (i.e., humans are flawed, so someone will betray) but very specifically he knew WHICH human would do the betrayal in all possible future timelines, possibly including humans that never in fact existed, because the events required for them to be born never happened. And, he knew exactly what He would do to be sure that the betrayal (“committed to” by the person in whichever timeline actually happened) would be done in the necessary circumstances for His purposes to be served.

And so on. I find the entire idea very interesting, and while I haven’t really decided just what I think of it, it makes some very persuasive points, and does a reasonable job of resolving conflicts that are hard to resolve any other way without essentially interpreting some scriptures out of existence. I am waiting to see what others whom I respect might have to say about it, so that I can weigh their points pro and con.

A frequent criticism is that this view of God “limits” God by limiting His knowledge. However, the open view requires a God with an infinite number of possible futures all in mind, and with the power to bring about His purposes in any one of them, and therefore not dependent on simple decree, but with the power and knowledge to work His will in ANY of them, so that we can trust His promises, even though the exact path by which they will be carried out is not pre-determined. It is hardly credible to assert that the open view of God makes Him smaller or less powerful and knowing than earlier views expressed in Christian history.

This entire approach seems to do a better job of reconciling God’s knowledge with human freedom than any other I’ve seen, though I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, if someone has the goods.

The book is a short read, and there are other books on the topic: just do a google or amazon search for “open theism” or “open view of God”. Wikipedia also has some introductory material on “Open Theism“, including information about its critics.

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