Posted on: 03/09/10:

Progressive Bible Study

Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Progressive Bible Study
By Melissa Harris-Lacewell

History is replete with examples of how religion has been used to divide, abuse, and justify horror. Christian theologies have been distorted to fit ideologies of white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism and oppression. Today many Conservative spokespersons continue to selectively quote scripture, employ religious imagery and deploy twisted religious rhetoric to support policies of unprovoked international aggression and domestic oppression.

Many who resist marriage equality base their opposition in a biblical assertion that homosexuality is inherently evil and deserving of punishment. They often point to Leviticus 20:13, which reads "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

When Haiti was ravaged by a devastating earthquake, Pat Robertson argued that the nation was cursed. Robertson's insisted the island was reaping a harvest of death and destruction because they had entered into a pact with the devil during their 19th century liberation struggle.

Just last week, Virginia state delegate Bob Marshall said that children born with disabilities are divine punishment for those who terminate earlier pregnancies. To support his position Marshall cited Exodus 13:2, which reads "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine."

With this history, it is easy to understand the progressive desire to eliminate God talk from political life. Let's banish faith claims from public life and get on with addressing the empirical realities of inequality. I am sympathetic to this solution. Policymaking should be firmly rooted in secular decision making based in evidence, science, and non-religious assessments of the common good.

But if the left remains near exclusively secular in its approach to public life, it will continue to miss important opportunities for building broader and more durable coalitions. Ignoring, denigrating or hoping to eliminate biblically based faith claims from public discourse does not serve progressive political interests.

At least part of the political Left needs to engage biblical texts and arguments directly. This does not mean simply trying to reinterpret biblical stories so that their messages are liberal and libratory; it also means acknowledging that some texts are irredeemably oppressive.
To read the rest of the article, click here
Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderX
John Calvin: Reformed and Always Reforming
By Serene Jones

How do you celebrate the 500th birthday of anyone – much less someone as influential, controversial, beloved, and misunderstood as John Calvin? Part of the problem comes with figuring out who to invite to the birthday party: the sheer diversity of religious institutions and denominations held within the spectrum of traditions called “Reformed” is mind-boggling. On the one hand, you can look to someone like Rick Warren whose Purpose Driven Life is classic Calvinism 101: God has a purpose for you and it is to be made in the image of his Son and living in loving community and mission to serve others and spread God’s love. On the other hand, you can look to Sharon Watkins, the General Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who is on the other end of the political spectrum from Warren, but who preached a sermon in the National Cathedral the day after Obama’s inauguration, espousing classic Reformed principles, calling the President to be accountable to God as the true master of all and not to fall prey to the idolatries of power. Or you could turn to Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, who preaches powerfully about the need to call ourselves to collective accountability, recognizing the profound depths of our sinfulness and refusing to judge others or create new margins of exclusivity, but instead, opening ourselves up to the grand gifts of God. Or you could turn to Jeremiah Wright, who speaks from the liberation prophetic end of the Reformed spectrum of new social movements and God’s justice righting human wrongs, drawing on the traditions of Calvinism that have called the state to account for the treatment of the oppressed and marginalized.

Not only do we have this vast array of religious voices speaking some semblance of a common Reformed cadence, but if we’re making a birthday list, we can’t forget the secular humanists, who also have a legacy in Calvinism. The profound notions that govern the political center in this country – democracy and public accountability – come straight out of the humanism that was born of Calvinist roots: the originally theological claims against idolatry and totalitarianism as the product of human sin and pride fund the constraints of democracy that insist on checks and balances and common rule for our common flourishing.

So what does it mean that three of the most significant voices in our cacophonous republic – the religious right, the religious left, and the secular center – all drink from waters drawn from the same pool of reflection? With this much diversity, is there anything that unites all these traditions besides criss-crossed lines of origin in some now-murky intellectual history? I want to propose three core commitments that continue to mark a Reformed way of being in the world, and I want to suggest that these ways of being matter immensely precisely in a world that is not full of Calvinists alone.
To read the rest of the article, click here
Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Still the Way, the Truth, and the Life
By John Franke

A couple of years ago, I participated in a conference in which two prominent postmodern philosophers addressed a group of Christians on a range of theological, philosophical, and practical issues. Those attending were largely committed to addressing some of the postmodern challenges in North America.

I was happy to hear some commonly held misconceptions of postmodern thought—like texts can mean anything that readers would like them to say—decisively critiqued and corrected. At another point, presenters demonstrated how deconstruction can be an ally of vibrant Christian faith.

On the last day, the discussion focused on Christian engagement with other religions. I resonated with much of what was said: the need for respectful dialogue, the willingness to listen and learn, and the intent to promote peace and understanding. But I also experienced a growing sense of unease. As my concern crystallized, I asked our distinguished guests: As those who self-identified with the Christian tradition, how did they understand the uniqueness of Jesus Christ?

Their response was that of course Jesus is unique. But, they continued, so are the leaders of the other world religions. While it was certainly true that Jesus is unique and different from other religious leaders, they said, it is also true that they are unique in relation to him. The uniqueness of Jesus was no different from that of any other important religious figure. Only in this way, they suggested, is equality among religions established as a basis for interreligious dialogue.

This view is not held merely by those in the lofty climes of the academy. I was once with a group of Christian students who were happy to maintain that Jesus was unique, but also quick to affirm that so is every human being, since all are made in the image of God. This reminded me of a statement from George Burns, playing the title role in the 1977 movie Oh, God! When asked if Jesus was his son, he says, yes, Jesus was his son—and Buddha was his son, and Muhammad was his son, and in fact, all human beings are his sons and daughters since he created them all.

This is predictable Hollywood fare, but Christians have historically affirmed much more than this when we confess the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We believe that Jesus is nothing less than the incarnate Son of God in whom the fullness of the Deity dwells in human form; fully divine and fully human—and the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

However, recent evidence suggests that what Christians have historically affirmed is now up for grabs. According to a 2008 national survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 52 percent of all American Christians believe that non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Further, despite a recent countertrend, the number of evangelicals who believe this remains remarkably high. While many factors may account for these findings, it seems clear that a surprising number of Christians, including evangelicals, are not convinced of Jesus' unique nature.

Some Christians even argue that, in the midst of our pluralist and religiously diverse culture, it might be better to ease off the talk about Jesus as exclusively unique. Aren't such assertions "hegemonic" or "triumphalistic" in a multicultural society?

In fact, there is a great deal at stake in denying that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


Bearing Witness

As we try to witness to our relativistic world about the uniqueness of Christ, we have to abandon the idea that this is something we can demonstrate with definitive proof, particularly to those who are predisposed to deny this. It is beyond the scope of human ability to produce in others the faith to see Jesus as he is. But it is the church's calling to continue to bear witness to Jesus and demonstrate the significance of his person for the whole fabric of Christian faith.

The belief that Jesus Christ is none other than God come in the flesh shapes our understanding of every point of distinctive Christian teaching. I've argued in a recent book that the diversity of the church is not a problem to be solved but is, in fact, the blessing of God. Indeed, the proper expression of orthodox, biblical faith can only be characterized by plurality. But in the midst of our diversity, we must remain unified on this point—Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If we fail to stand fast here everything else will be in vain and the Christian church will lose its bearings. We will fail in our missional vocation to be the image of God and the body of Christ in the world.
To read the full article, click here
Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Dr. Stephen Ray, Neal F. and Ila A. Fisher Professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, speaks on Calvin, Calvinism and its relevance today.

Posted on: 12/11/08:

Calvinistic but NOT Reformed

Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Dr. Bradley, professor at Covenant Seminary, has placed finger on one of the perennial disagreements within the Reformed tradition. I wish I could say that I'm surprised, but for many there is an implicit problematic theological commitment -- the spirituality of the church -- that privileges the socio-economic and political capital of a certain group, thus prohibiting efforts towards justice/righteousness (both internal and external to a local church) beyond a Sunday morning sermon and sacraments. And this problem is further compounded within many Black Calvinistic and Reformed churches and literature.

Bradley says:
Over the past month, I had a "aha movement" in several conversations across the country. There are lots of Anglican, Presbyterian and "Reformed" types (both mainline and conservative) who do not have a Reformed worldview--the kind you read about in Al Wolter's book Creation Regained, William Edgar's book Truth in All It's Glory, and Henry Van Til's book The Calvinist Concept of Culture.

There are many folks with Calvinist views of sin and salvation (T.U.L.I.P--God-sin-Christ-faith) but are void of a Reformed view of creation and culture (creation-fall-redemption-consumation)--Keller article. It was a huge "aha moment" that explains a lot. The confessional, doctrinalist, and highly pietist old southern denominational tradition with its emphasis on the church as an alternative community and an escape from culture (Dabney, Thornwell, Turretin) may explain why missionally minded Reformed folks do not find a reference point in those circles. So Edgar, Wolters, and Van Til don't even mention these guys. I wonder why that is? You're just not going to get creation-fall-redemption-restoration from Thornwell, Danbey, Edwards, and the other pietists some are beginning to argue. Does this sound right?

Maybe this explains the absence of an emphasis on the Kingdom or the conflating of the Kingdom with the church?

NOTE: I'm NOT saying that faith and repentance should not be a major emphasis. It should (Eph 2:8-9). But conversion is not an end as we see in Eph 2:10. I dunno...just thinking out loud.

Why fight against slavery, racism, etc. when what really matters, at the end of the day, are your reflections on your own piety. HIV/AIDS, who cares? Keep your kids away from non-Christians at all times.

The slave owning Puritans, like Jonathan Edwards, and the many Puritan slave ship chaplains weren't really burdened by redeeming creation either, I guess. Calvinistic pietism but far from Bavinck or Kuyper. You get piety from Edwards but not redeeming the whole creation, cultural mandate, etc. Right?

Why are some mainline and conservative denominations Calvinistic and not Reformed. I dunno? You can fully embrace T.U.L.I.P and reduce Christianity to individualistic personal piety, withdrawal from culture with a false sacred/secular distinction, confuse the Kingdom with the church, be void of a doctrine of creation, etc. Wow.

This may explain, in part, why so many of my Calvinistic friends read Herman Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, Henry Van Til, Al Wolters, and others and reject it.

Maybe this explains why many Calvinists have no interest in justice issues, being incarnational in culture, seeing that all of life is spiritual, etc. Somebody oughta do a book on this!!
Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderMM
The sinful actions at Fort Hill high school in Cumberland, Md. evidence the influence of the Devil on the hearts of some and the need of the redemption of people. Racism and acts of prejudice are not 'social sins' but are theological sins for they are the purest representation of the failures of some to see others as created in the image of God and created by God. These theological sins evidence a lack of understanding regarding the sovereignity of God for such racial and prejudicial terroristic acts spit on the desires of God and the wisdom and power of God which lead to the creation of such an amazing people.

Sins and ungodly actions against humanity, unholiness as such is displayed here at this high school in the 21st century, must no longer be marginalized with the language games of bifurcating constructs such as social sin. These actions are at their root as theologically unholy as they are impenetrably pervasive. Our theological constructs must not prejudice how we consider and capture the concept of sin; the particular and prevasive sins so very present must shape and prejudice our theological constructs. Theological constructs such as social sin should not define reality; reality should define theological constructs. After all, God is real and not a theological construct.

Read the story here

History of Dunbar High School
Originally named Preparatory High School for Colored Youth later known as M Street High School, the name was changed in honor of poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was the first high school for black children. It was known for its excellent academics, enough so that many black parents would move to Washington specifically so their children could attend it. Its faculty was paid well by the standards of the time, earning parity pay to Washington's white school teachers. It also boasted a remarkably high number of graduates who went on to higher education, and a generally successful student body. It is similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland and Fort Worth, Texas, as all three schools have a majority African American student body and are of a major importance to the local African American community. All three schools are also highly regarded for their athletic programs within their respective school district in the sports of Football, Basketball, and Track. There is also a Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky.

Since its inception, the school has graduated many of the well-known figures of the 20th century, including Sterling Brown, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Charles R. Drew, Charles Hamilton Houston, Robert H. Terrell, and Robert C. Weaver. Its illustrious faculty included Anna Julia Cooper, Kelly Miller, Mary Church Terrell, and Carter G. Woodson. Among its principals were Anna J. Cooper, Richard Greener, Mary Jane Patterson, and Robert H. Terrell. An unusual number of teachers and principals held Ph.D. degrees Including Carter G. Woodson, father of Black history Month and the second African american to earn a Phd. from harvard (after W.E.B. Dubois). This was the result of the entrenched white supremacy and patriarchy that pervaded the nation's professions and served to exclude the majority of African American women and men from faculty positions at predominantly white institutions of higher learning. As a consequence, however, Dunbar High School was considered the nation's best high school for African Americans during the first half of the 20th century. It helped make Washington, DC, an educational and cultural capital.

Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Dr. Jeremiah Wright gives a defense of Black religious experiences, the Black church and a Black theology of liberation. Decide for yourself!

Category: Theology
Posted by: RBAFounderMM

Humans have found many ways to gain an understanding of that which is meaningful to them. By taking a look at humanity’s attempts to understand meaningful things, we can better comprehend how our God has equipped and provided insight to humans as relational images of Him. One of the most important ways we gain a better understanding of God, our world and ourselves is by developing numerous perspectives on a particular theme. Within the bounds of our own human attempts today, it is granted that some attempts will be erroneous; but some perspectives provide wonderful insight and meaning for our Christian lives. By approaching a subject or object from different angles, we are able to gain greater understanding about that which is being observed.

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Category: Theology
Posted by: KrisRyan
Ten Commandments

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”
Exodus 20:1

Everyone appreciates freedom.[1] In fact, America prides itself on being the home of the free. Throughout the history of our country, American soldiers have fought to secure these freedoms for its citizens. Nowhere is this love of freedom more evident than when the rights of a group or individual are threatened or totally disregarded. We treasure moments in our history when these groups have been granted or have attained, sometimes after difficult struggle, their full rights. For many Americans, these rights are summed up in the words of Thomas Jefferson as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In this Declaration, a young America boldly asserts that these rights stem from our freedom as creations of God and that they, the rights themselves, are self-evident. However, because of the pluralistic, and increasingly secular nature of American society, the connection between our self-evident rights and our being created by an all-wise creator has been blurred or even lost. The problem that this creates is that when we do not acknowledge this Creator-creation relationship, we lose any objective grounds for our freedom that we cherish so dearly. In fact it is difficult to find any other basis for the self-evident nature of these rights. And, as C.S. Lewis writes, “If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved.”[2] In addition, it is taken for granted by most that with this great freedom comes much responsibility. We somehow understand that we are truly free only when others respect our personal freedom. In this we see that all freedom must be limited in some way. In other words, we are not free to do whatever it is that we want to do. This leads to two important questions: What are the limits to our freedom and who is entitled to set them? These questions can only be answered properly in the context of an objective standard, a standard held forward in the law of the Creator God.

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Posted on: 06/01/07:

The Problem of Evil

Category: Theology
Posted by: minruth

The problem of evil can be defined as the difficulty a theist has with a non-theist advance on the basic justice of God in the face of evil. The standard Christian response is an inefficient explanation, either that one can not know these things (even Boettner backs off of his previously strong language concerning God’s sovereignty, admitting “it is not ours to explain how God in His secret counsel rules and overrules the sinful acts of men…”), or that the evil somehow doesn’t really exist ontologically, or that its existence is necessary for the existence of good in all its complexity or finally, that God, while good, is impotent. Various Christian theodicy’s have been put forth to vindicate God’s basic goodness in the face of evil. Not only do these arguments not answer the problem of natural evil, but applied to the Judeo-Christian tradition they ignore the Biblical assertions about God’s sovereignty. I intend to argue however, that there is an epistemological problem with the classical query into the so-called problem of evil; second, I intend to argue that the free will arguments are not sufficient to answer the query--ultimately showing that God can be both all-good and all-powerful in a world in which evil exists--being fully aware that such an assertion is a source of perplexity.

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