A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ahh, Vikings... We Hardly Knew Ye

Just how bad were the Vikings?

[Anders] Winroth is among the scholars who believe the Vikings were no more bloodthirsty than other warriors of the period. But they suffered from bad public relations-- in part because they attacked a society more literate than their own, and therefore most accounts of them come from their victims. Moreover, because the Vikings were pagan, they played into a Christian story line that cast them as a devilish, malign, outside force.

"There is this general idea of the Vikings as being exciting and other, as something that we can't understand from our point of view-- which is simply continuing the story line of the victims in their own time," Winroth says. "One starts to think of them in storybook terms, which is deeply unfair."

In reality, he proposes, "the Vikings were sort of free-market entrepreneurs."
The entire article from National Geographic can be read here.

The Character of God and the Nature of Scripture: Reading the Bible Incarnationally #4-- Progressives Protecting the Integrity of God's Character

So far in this series I have raised questions about the doctrine of biblical inerrancy suggesting that it not only is not a helpful approach to interpreting biblical texts, but it can indeed distort the biblical narrative itself. In this post, I turn my attention to more progressive readings of the Bible, which in the final analysis are just as problematic as readings designed to protect inerrancy. My friend, Lee Wyatt outlines the apparent options before us:
It's always dangerous to try and simplify complex debates, but I'm going to do it anyway. It seems to me that in regard to God and Warfare in the Old Testament we have three basic options.
First, to accept the accounts at face value either to damn the OT deity or to valorize him for his pursuit of justice in Israel's wars.
Second, to explain away God's involvement in the commands and practice of warfare as described in the Old Testament, either to damn the Old Testament as primitive and irrelevant to Christian moral reflection or to accept it, suitably interpreted, as not saying what it appears to say and therefore not damning to Christian moral reflection.
And third, to accept God's involvement in some proto-incarnational sense in the nitty-gritty reality of national Israel's needs, getting his "hands dirty" in defending its boundaries and leading it into the Promised Land. This view recognizes that much of harsh rhetoric is likely stock ANE military vocabulary that takes a bit of the sting out of them . Nevertheless God's involvement is real but bound to that brief bit of Israel's history and the rest of the OT leads us on the way to recognizing that Jesus' call to nonviolence is God's last and best word to his people.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Don't Delay... There Is Still Time...

WEsley Leadership Conference

... to register for the Wesleyan Leadership Conference. It is definitely worth your time.

Check it out here.

Trinity Tuesday: Christian Theism Is Not Trinitarianism

Theologian Nicholas Lash's discussion of the Trinity* takes place against the backdrop of modern theism. He believes that the paramount influence of modern theism has caused the doctrine of the Trinity to cease to function as the Christian frame of reference for talking about God.

Lash notes that the term "theism" originated with Voltaire and denoted one who believed in a Supreme Being as the source of finite existence. It also referred to one who rejected revelation and the supernatural doctrines of Christianity. To put it simply, "theism" and "deism" were synonymous. It was not until years later that the terms became separated and theism lost its pejorative connotations in Christian doctrine. Originally, however, "the 'God' of modern theism was born of a deliberate decision to break with the Jewish and Christian traditions of authorized usage."

There are several things about theism that Lash views as problematic:

Monday, September 29, 2014

It's International Coffee Day!

I have no time to write this morning. I'm going to enjoy a couple of cups of the nectar of the gods. I'll tip one back for you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scriptures and Prayer for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Old Testament: Exodus 17:1-7

Epistle: Philippians 2:1-13

Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32
God of our salvation, we falter before the demands of your word and turn away from your call to life. Pour out your mercy on us as you showed mercy to your people of old, that we may turn from our sinfulness and walk the path of self-emptying love make known in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

To Close or Not To Close the General Conference-- A Third Way That Won't Happen

David F. Watson has written a post suggesting that the 2016 UMC General Conference be closed to everyone but delegates for the purpose of accomplishing something constructive, which did not happen at the 2012 GC. Drew McIntyre and Joel Watts have agreed. Jeremy Smith has written a dissent (to which Joel has responded).

I know that no one is waiting on the edge of their seat to read what I think, but I side with Jeremy on this. I do not believe we should close the floor of the General Conference, though I won't appeal to Jeremy's tired, worn out, "straight white male" shibboleth. Identity politics has become all too predictable and all too uninteresting and is always used to close down argument-- the irony of this in reference to the closing of the General Conference should not be missed.

A Book Banning: More Stupidity from the Highly Educated

It seems that for some, the more education they get, the more stupid they become.
A California charter school has decided to pull Corrie ten Boom's Holocaust memoir, The Hiding Place, from its library because the content was deemed too religious. Where to begin? It's impossible to separate remembrance of the Holocaust from matters of faith; only a modern educator would try.

According to the report of a parent at the school, library staff were told to "remove Christian books, books by Christian authors, and books from Christian publishers."

When the Pacific Justice Institute, a Christian legal defense group, sent a cease-and-desist notice, the school superintendent responded, "We . . . do not allow sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves."

Three matters I will only state briefly: First, where does the school superintendent stand morally that he gets to label Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, as sectarian? Second, this book banning is one more demonstration that secularism is not neutral toward religion, it is by default biased against it. Third, God forbid our children should be exposed to the exploits of a heroic family who risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust because of their Christian convictions. Our children can't know that one's faith can really make a difference in the world and in the lives of others-- after all, it must be kept completely private and to oneself. I wonder if the ten Boom family risked their lives to save Palestinians if the book would be removed from the shelves? Oh, wait, I forgot.... only conservatives can be racist... silly me.

By the way, if they want to remove Christian books from their shelves, so be it; it's just comical to read the nonsensical illogic in doing so. To quote Mark Twain, "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

Even education can't fix stupid.
Joel Miller's entire post can be read here.