August 30, 2008
This isn’t a political blog, but Art’s 8-19-08 post got us thinking about how Christians might work through their faith in deciding how to vote. Yesterday, the choice before us suddenly got more interesting.
I surely didn’t see Gov. Sarah Palin coming, although my high school aged son, who has been intently interested in the VP selection process for months, had her as one of his top three picks for McCain. He had put her on my radar screen, but all that accomplished was to leave me impressed with the depth of his research. Who knew?
Gov. Palin’s CV is packed with broad experience - chief executive; business person; whistle-blower; energy expert; tax cutter; mother of soldier, daughters, and special needs baby; outdoorsman; former union member and wife of union member; total commitment to life . . . the number of competing constituencies to whom she might appeal is staggering.
I found her speaking style to be both bold and warm. Although she is low key about her faith, Gov. Palin used the phrase “servant’s heart” in her Dayton speech, and it felt authentic.
Not everyone is thrilled with Gov. Palin, of course. She’s perceived as too unknown and too light to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Her experience has been ridiculed as having played out in too small an arena. The pro-choicers are unhappy. The patriarchal men are unhappy. Some die-hard Clinton supporters are outraged that McCain seems to think that any woman will do to attract their vote.
I don’t automatically cast my vote for Christians, and I won’t automatically cast my vote for a woman. But I have to say that I have experienced the kind of reaction that so many African Americans have shared since Obama became the Democratic candidate. There is something viscerally right about finally seeing someone who’s, as I said to a friend in the grocery store yesterday, “one of us,” in the last leg of the race.
Over to you. How do you receive McCain’s selection? Do her credentials bring elements of social justice to the Republican ticket? Does the Vice Presidential candidate make a difference?
August 29, 2008
I greatly enjoy studying how we understand things—whether texts, another person in conversation, etc. I thought I would share some thoughts about such understanding-theory (hermeneutics, if you will), specifically focused on texts and meaning. Does a text control its own interpretation? (more…)
August 27, 2008
I want to call everyone’s attention to a fascinating and helpful Parable, of sorts, Art Boulet posted on his blog the other day: dark caves and differing perspectives. (more…)
August 26, 2008
Daniel Kirk, Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, has posted some thoughts on whether or not Paul was a misogynist. I commend his reflections to all, even those who may disagree with him. I especially appreciate him framing his comments by questions of what the Bible is, what we should expect from it, and how we live out its authority. What does everyone think? (more…)
August 25, 2008
Over the past year, as I have been posting, lurking, and chiming in here at Conn-versation, and reading and occasionally commenting on Art Boulet’s personal blog, I have continually found myself brought back to the question of what Christian faith really is.
The Bible has a good bit to say on the subject, but it’s really a New Testament concept. The OT explicitly addresses faithfulness, but it’s usually in the context of a quality of Yahweh and the desired quality of his people. The aspect of belief and trust that we typically mean when we talk about faith makes its first appearance in the gospels. Jesus observes faith in the people he encounters, and tends to evaluate it on a quantitative scale: little or great. He seems to be addressing their specific willingness to trust in him personally to accomplish in-real-time salvific acts, manifest most often in healing and life-restoration miracles, which then serve as object lessons pointing to his greater purpose. For the most part, it’s not until the epistles that we get a fuller-blown explication of faith as belief and trust in the person and work of Christ for salvation and eternal life.
In light of this, what does it then mean when we talk about hanging on to faith or losing faith as we ask questions of the Bible? It has occurred to me that conservative reformed Christians have worked hard to ensure that faith is so underpinned by certainties that – well – it doesn’t require all that much faith. To be one of the people of Yahweh requires faith in Jesus, which requires faith in the Bible, which believers can trust completely because the church has doctrinally declared to be inerrant, wholly trustworthy, and perfect down to its very words. Start asking too many untidy questions of the Conn-versation sort, and the whole system, it would seem, is at risk of collapsing, bringing the faith of the faithful along with it.
This is where I’ve had difficulty. Does my faith in the Jesus of the gospels really hinge on Genesis 5 being literally true, as opposed to an Israelite retooling and repurposing of the Sumerian kings list? On insisting as true that Samson was a historic figure and his deeds were accomplished as recorded or that David wrote the Psalms bearing his name? On intentionally burying my understanding of the very different looks of Jeremiah in the MT and the LXX in favor of one Jeremiah only? If these things are equivocal, must it follow that Jesus is equivocal?
Faith requires an element of trust in the absence of concrete proof. It is, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “the conviction of things not seen.” Given that, to what extent does the church’s admittedly well-intended insistence on the perfection of Scripture as a bedrock of faith begin to work at cross-purposes with trusting in things not seen? It strikes me as requiring a greater measure of faith to go with the kind of Bible we’ve actually got than the kind of Bible we may have at one time thought we had, or the kind that arch-conservatives continue to insist we must have. Is there room for the Holy Spirit to infuse the believer’s soul with the truth of the gospel resulting in faith even when Genesis 1-11 is understood to be literature rather than history?
I think it’s time for some reflections on exactly what we as Christian believers mean when we say we have faith. Is the Bible we have, the one that God in some mysterious way caused to be written, assembled, translated, and passed down by generation after generation of Christians, robust enough to withstand detailed secular and academic scrutiny and still contribute to the creation and growth of faithful believers in the person and work of Jesus to salvation? If it’s not, what are we really saying? Is it, as the conservatives would argue, that God is less than fully God? Or, is it, as I have begun to think, that our faith is less than the faith that Jesus himself commended? Or, is it something else? What do you think?
August 19, 2008
Any comments on the Obama/McCain appearance at Saddleback over the weekend?
In case you missed it, Kevin has put together a post with all of Obama and McCain’s answers put side by side. You can find that here.
My question keeps coming down to this: how do we, as followers of Jesus and partners in the mission of God to this broken world, choose a candidate? What issues do we focus on? What characteristics or viewpoints in each candidate do we value as a result of our faith commitments?
I’d love to jump on the whole Purple politics bandwagon or put forth the idea (more…)
August 19, 2008
In keeping with my past post to the Ehrman v. Craig debate, I offer another link. This one is to a Prof. Christine Haye’s (Yale) undergraduate lectures for her course Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. These really are an excellent, lucid presentation of the major issues facing contemporary readers of the HB (Hayes is a brilliant communicator). But more pertinent to my previous post, these are the kind of lectures undergraduates at most universities receive, and which the vast majority of Christians have yet to seriously face or engage. What’s more, unlike some lecturers, Hayes doesn’t antagonize or degrade her believing students; rather, she by and large just states what she thinks and why.
One additional note. I think like Ehrman’s presentations, Hayes’ offers a helpful entry point for considering possible directions forward. The fact is that for the most part there are 2 kinds of responses to these issues: total abandonment of the faith in light of the arguments, or total repudiation of the arguments in favor of a preconceived doctrine. In my opinion, for the same reason the first isn’t necessary and the second is irresponsible: the doctrine needs to be able to fit the data. Granted, we shouldn’t adopt everything in the academy whole hog, but there’s a lot we should. Moreover, the incarnational analogy is a helpful posture for approaching such issues, but it needs to be emphasized that the analogy doesn’t actually solve any problems. It tells us not to be surprised when we find challenges, but cannot actually tell us what to do once we find them. Ps. 18 describes Yahweh as a fire-breathing being being dwelling in a temple who opens the ceiling of earth to descend upon a cherub with arrows ablaze, and its not the only place in the HB–or in other ancient Near Eastern literature–where we meet such strange descriptions that don’t fit neatly into our creeds. We may be prepared to see this as God permitting the ancients to describe him in their own ancient ideas, but that kind of concession raises at least as many questions as answers, probably more. We have much more to do.
At any rate, enjoy!
August 19, 2008
Yesterday I posted on The Epistle to Diognetus and the striking passage within it articulating the significance of what God did in/as Christ—especially in terms of the “…sweet exchange…that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous man, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners!”
Today I thought I would post part of the following passage from the same writing, one discussing what it means to be an imitator of God.
…By loving him you will be an imitator of his goodness. And do not be surprised that a person can become an imitator of God; he can, if God is willing. For happiness is not a matter of lording it over one’s neighbors, or desiring to have more than weaker man, or possessing wealth and using force against one’s inferiors. No one is able to imitate God in these matters; on the contrary, these things are alien to his greatness. But whoever takes upon himself his neighbor’s burden, whoever wishes to benefit another who is worse off in something in which he himself is better off, whoever provides to those in need things that he has received from God, and thus becomes a god to those who receive them, this one is an imitator of God. Then you will see that though your lot is on earth, God lives in heaven, then you will begin to declare the mysteries of God, then you will both love and admire those who are punished because they refuse to deny God, then you will condemn the deceit and the error of the world, when you realize what the true life in heaven is… (Epistle to Diognetus 10.4-7a) (more…)
August 18, 2008
I read through the Epistle to Diognetus again today and thought I would post a passage from it. This is an early Christian writing in a collection known as the Apostolic Fathers. Most of these writings stem from possibly the mid 1st century CE into the 2nd century (and beyond?). This particular writing is more of a tract, claiming to be written as an apologetic writing to one Diognetus. Whether it was actually written to an outsider originally or was written with the purpose of addressing a group of Christians through the form of a letter ostensibly written to an outsider, it gives us a glimpse at how some Christians of the 2nd century articulated (forged) their identity in their sector of the Greco-Roman world.
Toward the middle of the writing the author is, it seems, addressing why God waited so long to bring about true religion and worship of him (Christianity) and how. At this point we encounter a striking passage… (more…)
August 16, 2008
Before going to bed I wanted to share this with everyone. Try not to laugh too hard…
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