Jon Merrit on Being Blocked by the Gospel

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Not a definitive takedown, but worth reading. 

The Gospel Coalition and how (not) to engage culture

Richard Rohr’s Seven Themes

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These are the seven themes around which Richard Rohr’s teaching revolves.  I’m posting them here, and interacting with them on a subsequent post.

Do I need to post a disclaimer saying that the fact that I’m posting them here, or the fact that I’m a severe Rohr fanboy, does NOT mean I agree with everything he says below?  If so, consider the disclaimer posted.

The links (if they work) should lead to .mp3’s of Rohr’s teaching on the topic, so you can hear him unpack each point.

You may also want to hear Rob Bell’s “robcast” with Rohr, a nearly 90 minute conversation about these themes.

1. Scripture as validated by experience, and experience as validated by Tradition, are good scales for one’s spiritual world view (METHODOLOGY).

2. If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side (FOUNDATION).

3. For those who see deeply there is only One Reality. By reason of the Incarnation, there is no truthful distinction between sacred and profane (FRAME).

4. Everything belongs. No one needs to be punished, scapegoated, or excluded. We cannot directly fight or separate ourselves from evil or untruth. Darkness becomes apparent when exposed to the Light (ECUMENICAL).

5. The “separate self” is the major problem, not the shadow self which only takes deeper forms of disguise (TRANSFORMATION).

6. The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines (PROCESS).

7. Reality is paradoxical and complementary. Non dual thinking is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion (GOAL).

Against Cottrell’s Rebuttal of Wright

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This past week, former Cincinnati Christian Seminary theology professor Jack Cottrell, the dean of conservative Christian Church theologians, posted a brief “takedown” of the New Perspective on Paul, specifically N.T. Wright.  You can find Cottrell’s post here.

This afternoon, I posted the following response.

Respectfully, I see several methodological problems with your response.

1. Although you summarize the New Perspective, you don’t seem to be tracking all the conversations that Wright is part of here. The Davies > Sanders > Wright “school” is ‘re-judaizing” Paul in response to German NT scholarship of the 19th and early 20th century, which de-judaized Paul. Bultmann is the towering example, but aside from a few exceptions (e.g., Schlatter, perhaps Schweitzer but I don’t remember him as well), German NT scholars grossly minimized the Jewish background of all the NT, including Jesus, which facilitated the rise of Nazism and anti-semitism.

In other words: if Davies > Sanders > Wright swing the pendulum too far in one direction (“Judeocentrism”), it’s because it swung drastically and disastrously in the other direction for a very long time.

2. You seem offended by the idea that the New Perspective thinks it has corrected something that theologians have been getting wrong since nearly New Testament times. That’s the kind of claim that the reformers made against Catholicism. It’s also the kind of claim that restorationists frequently make. It is hardly unprecedented.

3. You seem offended by Wright’s attempt to redefine classical theological terms, away from the understanding given them during the Reformation: e.g., the words related to DIKAIOS. This is the entirety of your point C, and it is anachronism run amok. (E.g., your complaint about relying on literature outside of the New Testament.)

The center of Wright’s attempt to redefine the meaning of these terms, which you do NOT summarize and certainly do not refute, is careful exegetical work and literary-historical work that shows that the world of Paul did not use these terms (e.g. the DIKAIOS word group) to mean what later theological formulations say that they meant. For example, Wright claims that a careful literary-historical survey shows that “justification” in Paul’s world was never used to refer to imputed righteousness.

(Similarly, Wright and others have noted that the post-enlightenment West is much more individualistic than Paul or Paul’s readers; this is a given in modern New Testament scholarship. This is at the heart of the New Perspective’s critique of much of reformed theology as nothing more than individual soteriology, something you note near the beginning of your post but do not refute nor [apparently] appreciate.)

If the biblical witness is the basis of and standard for our theology, and if literary-historical work shows that a concept we are using cannot (or even likely did not) mean to the biblical writers what we say that it means in our theology, then we are wrong and need to correct our formulations, no matter how inconvenient or universal our error.

4. You are fundamentally misreading Wright on the relationship between the roles of Israel and Jesus.

You say: “If Israel was God’s original agent for saving the world, and if Christ came only to do what Israel failed to do, the clear implication is that, theoretically, the Jews as such COULD HAVE SAVED THE WORLD if only they had been true to their covenant. There would have been no need for Jesus.”

You do not produce a quote to support this, only a “clear implication.” I believe your “clear” inference is a misreading of Wright, which you fall into because he is doing narrative theology (describing God’s plan in narrative sequence) and you are reading it as systematic theology.

“First Israel, then Jesus” is the order of events. Even if Israel had been faithful, Messiah would have come, but his coming would have looked very different, as would his road to the cross.

But that’s like asking if Jesus failed because Israel rejected him as Messiah, leading to Gentiles and Jews together in the church. God’s purpose is not frustrated.

Regarding Labels

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What do you call Christians who listen to / read Rob Bell, The Liturgists, Richard Rohr, Tripp Fuller, etc.?

I hate the label “progressive evangelical,” in part because it applies affinity with progressive politics.  I’m not politically progressive; good grief, I supported Ted Cruz (although I preferred Marco Rubio.)

But I have a real affinity for the socially conscious, tradition-questioning Christians who are serious about biblical authority (even as they challenge the way the established church interprets and applies it.)

Is there a better term than “progressive evangelical”?  Something to do with Sojourners?  Or Red-Letter Christians?

 

“Perry Hath Murdered Sleep”

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I’m not good at resting.

I’ve just finished a school year where I was up every night until after 11, read from my iPad every night until midnight-ish, and woke up five days a week at 5.30.

I was teaching 8 am classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the traffic on I-35 is hellish, so I wanted to leave the apartment before 6.15; I was going to Starbucks and working from there until traffic cleared up on the days that I wasn’t teaching; etc.

These are all horrible habits.  Staying up too late, being glued to my screen (with its sleep-disrupting blue light frequencies) until I passed out, getting less than 5 hours of quality sleep most nights, crashing on weekends.  I was planning my life around being sleep-deprived.

I found that I could be active on 5 hours of sleep a night, but I couldn’t be creative.  I could be productive, but not in any quality way.  To be productive and maintain quality, I really need to be creative.  I really need to be plugged in to tasks and conversations, and to have more of my mind engaged with what’s at hand.

(It’s also impossible for me to write consistently when I’m sleep-deprived.)

I just went through an entire school year where I saw and responded to everything through a fog, a low-level sleep hangover, because my brain wasn’t getting the time to recover that it needed.

It was like living and working with my brain wrapped in gauze.

With sleep, I can be consistently closer to full capacity.  And I think that, if I can be closer to full capacity (80%?) for seven or nine hours per day, I’ll get more accomplished, and do it better, than if I’m at 50% for ten or eleven hours per day.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Gen 2.2)

I need sabbath, and I need rest.  I can’t do the things I think God has given me to do when I’m hungover from a lack of sleep.

So:

  • I’m turning off the TV earlier.  (Late night stuff is all Trump and Clinton, which in and of itself is enough to “murder sleep.”)
  • I’m stopping work earlier.  I’m a chronic “I’ve got my laptop I’ll write lectures and emails late into the evening” person.  Working into the evening makes it harder to wind down.
    • (Just last night, I stayed up until 11 working on an email; it was harder to get to sleep, and I woke up at 5 and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I NEED routine.)
  • I’m putting away the iPhone and iPad, and not reading from them in bed.
    • (Yes, I appreciate the new “Night Shift” feature, that filters the blue frequencies out of the displays at set times.  But having a smartphone or tablet in bed disrupts sleep in other ways, due to impulsive use: check your email! see if X responded to your witty comment on Facebook! etc.)
  • I’m reading real books–paper and ink!–every night, and only using the iPhone for listening to relaxing music while winding down to sleep.  (Use the timer to shut off the music after 30 – 45 minutes.)
  • I’m going to bed at the same time (10 pm) every night.
  • I’m not teaching any 8 am classes next year, so I won’t be setting the alarm before 7 am very often.