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, August 27, 2014

Randy Maddox on John Wesley on the Old Testament

Among the significant features embedded in Wesley's pastoral practice is a firm rejection of the tendency for Christians (tracing back to at least Marcion in the early church) to ignore or even excise the Old Testament. Most specifically, Wesley refused any suggestion that the emphasis on grace and forgiveness in the New Testament should be posed against the emphasis on living by God's law in the Old Testament. Rather, as Wesley liked to put it, every moral command in both Testaments should be read as a "covered promise"-- a promise that both the basic intent of the law is our well-being and that God will graciously enable our obedience. This conviction allowed him to read the Old Testament as an authoritative unfolding of Christian truth, while affirming the New Testament as the final standard of Christian faith and practice.

In short, for Wesley an adequate understanding of any particular passage of Scripture should include comparative reading with other relevant texts throughout the Protestant canon.
from Randy Maddox, "John Wesley-- a Man of One Book," in Wesley, Wesleyans, and Reading Bible as Scripture, pp. 9-10.

Thomas Jefferson and the Clergy

Thomas Jefferson did not have a very high view of the clergy as a profession. Throughout his life he referred to all clergy, including Protestant pastors, as "priests." The term, in his context, was not a compliment. Jefferson believed that priests, like kings, were enemies of individual freedom, and that such doctrines as the Trinity were simply used by the clergy to retain their manipulative power over the people. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson wrote, "It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one.... But this constitutes the craft, power, and the profit of the priests" (Mapp, The Faiths of Our Fathers, p.11). Jefferson believed that the power the clergy exercised historically in Europe and the colonies was enough of an argument to exclude them from holding public office. It must be said, however, that while Jefferson was distrustful of the clergy as an institution (especially Catholic priests-- Jefferson had little good to say about Catholicism), he did speak well of individual "priests" who did much charitable good in the community, and he was good friends with a liberal minister and scientist, Joseph Priestly. (The irony of Priestly's last name should not be missed.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What $100 Is Worth in Your State

from the Huffington Post:
Click on the image to enlarge.
value 100

Evangelical Atheists Don't Take God Seriously

from Michael Robbins at Slate:
Science and religion ask different questions about different things. Where religion addresses ontology, science is concerned with ontic description. Indeed, it is what Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart calls their "austere abdication of metaphysical pretensions" that enables the sciences to do their work. So when, for instance, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne and pop-cosmologist Lawrence Krauss dismiss the (metaphysical) problem of how something could emerge from nothing by pointing to the Big Bang or quantum fluctuation, it is difficult to be kind: Quantum fluctuations, the uncertainty principle, the laws of quantum physics themselves-- these are something. Nothing is not quantum anything. It is nothing. Nonbeing. This, not empty space, is what "nothing" signifies for Plato and Aquinas and Heidegger, no matter what Krauss believes. No particles, no fluctuation, no laws, no principles, no potentialities, no states, no space, no time. No thing at all.

Letting God Off the Hook: Adam Hamilton on Violence in the Old Testament

Pastor Adam Hamilton has recently posted a three part series on his blog dealing with the question of violence in the Old Testament. I very much appreciate Adam's willingness to delve into controversial issues. Many pastors avoid such issues because they are afraid of offending someone in their congregation, and let's also say that more than a few parishioners want their pastor to stay away from the controversial, preferring to reflect only upon a gospel that is nothing more than sweet and sentimental platitudes. But we do need pastoral voices to weigh in on the difficult issues of Christian faith and the violence in the Old Testament is one of those concerns.

Having said that, I must also say that as I read Adam's posts, I found his possible solutions less than satisfying when it comes to John Wesley's counsel to take the "whole tenor of Scripture" into account. I have asked my friend and colleague, Dr. Dan Hawk to offer a response to Pastor Adam's reflections. Dan is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Ashland Theological Seminary. He has his Ph.D. from Emory University. Dan is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church (East Ohio Conference) and has researched and written extensively on the Book of Joshua. His books include a commentary on Joshua in the Berit Olam series, Joshua in 3-D: A Commentary on Biblical Conquest and Manifest Destiny, and Every Promise Fulfilled: Contesting Plots in Joshua.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dancing on a Person's "Grave" Is Not a Christian Response

Jonathan Merritt is spot on reference to how we should respond to the downfall of megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll.
So, yes, part of me wants to pop bottles and strike up the band. I want to rejoice like one person in my twitterfeed who responded to the announcement, "Good riddance, Mark Driscoll". But as I've given it more thought, I cannot celebrate the demise of Mark Driscoll, and I don’t think Christians should either.

This may seem like a precarious opinion in light of such a long history of ministerial malfeasance. But I recall Solomon’s words in Proverbs 24:17: "Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble." As the son of a warlord-king, Solomon had witnessed more fallen foes than he could count on his fingers and toes. Each defeat meant more wealth for his country, more security for his people. Even still, Solomon says that wise people resist the urge to celebrate in such moments.


What's Your Obsession? A Lectionary Reflection on Matthew 16:21-28

Matthew 16:21-28

Ob-ses-sion: the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

What's your obsession? We all have one. We are told that obsessions are bad; that we need to be well-rounded people, that is, we need to live life in a balanced way. (Actually I always wanted to be one of those pointy conehead people on SNL, but that's another post for another time.) Now I am all for balance in life depending on how it is defined, but when I read the New Testament, I have trouble finding balance being commended in its pages. Instead I read statements like:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Methodist Blogs Weekly Links of Note

This week's noteworthy posts from the Methoblogosphere:

Betty Newman: "The 3 D’s of Bible Study"

Betzy Elifrits Warren: "My Most Difficult Funeral...So Far..."

Kevin Watson: "Wesley Didn’t Say It: “Be present at our table, Lord…”

Andrew Conard: "12 Key Leadership Traits of Effective United Methodist Pastors"

Keith McIlwain: "Good Science, Bad History"

Sky McCracken: "A Pastor By Any Other Name - Revisited"

Henry Neufeld: "Is Killing Every One of Them Really Our Only Option?"

David F. Watson, "The 'Logic' of Richard Dawkins’ Atheism and the Logic of the Cross"

Scriptures and Prayer for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Old Testament: Exodus 1:8-2:10

Epistle: Romans 12:1-8

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20
God of Miriam and Moses, you are our help from age to age. Accept our worship, our living sacrifice, and transform us by your Spirit, that, being many members of one true body, we may dare to pray together in the name of Christ the Lord. Amen.