Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How the Conservatives See the Arts

Michel had this posted on his blog, worth watching. Not with the kids around though - it is a very frank video.

Worst Preacher is Crowned

Scott knows a thing or two about competition sports. Yesterday he wrapped up the Worst Preacher Ever contest and crowned the winner: Benny Hinn! Yup, the guy who convinced me that faith healers should focus on healing and just shut their mouths has emerged victorious. Not without stiff competition either. Benny faced the horrid and heretical preaching styles of Joel Osteen, Jack van Impe, Pat Robertson and even Todd Bentley. Yet, none of these could stand up the the sheer magnitude of aweful preaching that is Benny's legacy.

Congrats Benny! Wear your crown with pride.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baum on Doctrinal Development

Baum insists that in every generation evil changes (p.188). How the church responds in each moment is both a testimony to the creativity of the gospel and our resistance to upsetting the status quo. In any event Baum provides some real food for thought.

What I am proposing here is, in traditional theological terms, a theory of doctrinal development. It is of great theological importance to insist that such a development is never simply an adaptation to a new cultural consciousness or to new social conditions of life, but is or ought to be, at the same time, a creative response to the sinful world. Theologians dealing with the development of doctrine often neglect this second aspect. For this reason, they either restrict doctrinal development to logical or psychological deductions from previously held doctrinal formulations, or understand it simply as a translation of the Christian message into a new cultural consciousness. Gregory Baum, Religion and Alienation, p.189.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Baum on Idolatry

For if idolatry be understood as the absolutizing of the finite and the elevating of a part to be the ultimate measure of the whole, then the Church's unmitigated claim to absolute truth and ultimate authority becomes problematic. From the biblical point of view, the Church itself could become an idol. Church doctrine and ecclesiastical authority promote idolatrous trends in religion whenever these institutions no longer present themselves as serving the divine Word and as mediating a divine mystery that transcends them; the Church becomes an idol whenever it identifies itself with the kingdom of God. The Church is tempted by idolatry when it wants to multiply the absolutes and regard its teaching and its hierarchy as the ultimate norms for judging all forms of Christian life and faith.
---Gregory Baum, Religion and Alienation, 64.

I have been thinking a lot about the need to gain critical distance from our religion in order to understand who we stand with/for. BTW this is a very fine book by Baum.

How Paradigms of Theology Function

I have been reviewing an undergrad course I took on Liberation Theology and came across this nifty little chart. I'm pretty sure these come from someone, but I didn't note who. There are some good insights into methodological biases here, but I'm also cautious as to the potential to caricature theological paradigms - theology is rarely this neat. However, there are good starting points here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Congress 2009 - Carleton University

I took on the role of local arrangements coordinator (LAC) for the Canadian Theological Society (CTS) at the upcoming Congress 2009. Congress 2009 is the Canadian Congress for Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be held at Carleton University late May. Today I gathered with Carlton staff, LACs and Programme Coordinators (PCs) from the various societies meeting at the coming Congress. We were treated to a very nice buffet, a foretaste of the catering to be sure. And it seems like a fairly well organized event. Of course I was one of the few not in at least dress casual, when will I learn. But no one seemed to mind. And my buddy Peter (also doing a PhD at Saint Paul) is LAC for the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association (CETA).

I know, you are wondering why I didn't go rep for that one. Well, I only became aware of it after accepting the responsibility for the CTS. I'm definitely going to check out the CETA, in fact I might submit a paper for consideration - not sure if I can do both the LAC duties and get a chance to present, but I'll find out soon enough. My good friend Kat (also a PhD student at Saint Paul) was supposed to do my job, but wasn't sure about her springtime plans, so it fell to me. I'm happy to do this, it will be really helpful on my academic resume, but it looks like a lot more work than she first told me.

I almost didn't make it. Yesteday Chelsea power-puked (she is the fruit of my loins) all over the backseat of our Vue. Yuck. So I had a sick girl and Sharon was working. But Sharon found someone to work the second half of her shift so I could attend the planning meeting. But in the meantime I've gotten zero work done for my course. But I did help a dear friend with his dad's stamp collection and had a great chat with the primate for the Independent Old Catholic Church of America, who happens to also be a local stamp auction guy. He's a lot of fun, and was terribly interested in Freedom's Eucharistic journey. I got the sense he would be more comfortable if I were ordained in some way akin to the orthodox tradition, but whatever. My ordination doesn't come from or through man, but through the call of God on my life and the recognition of the body I serve. As we pray in the Eucharist, it is at Christ's command we celebrate. But George is a lot of fun to chat with, he definitely loves Jesus.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Emerging Church?

Scot McKnight has some great thoughts on the state of what is often called the emerging church. Kenny point this out over on the Resonate forum. I love Scot's acknowledgment that he doesn't need the term emerging to describe what is happening in the church today. Really that is what emerging is trying to label - something is happening, like it or not, and it is easier to deal with a label, to which we can attach definition(s), than just to say "there is something happening."

I know all too well how hard it is to speak with precision about the things that are emerging at the edges of the evangelical church. To make matters worse, other folks like Bruce Sanguin, are also using this same term to name what is happening in other parts of the Body of Christ. When I did my work I had to settle, that is land, somewhere that I was comfortable with and I knew would capture the folks I was concerned with investigating. If I didn't do that I could only go broad and never really go deep into what is making the folks I investigated tick.

I also hear the complaint that evangelism is not the highest priority of the emerging or missional groups. I think this is both true and not true. First off, in this disperate group there are some who are very committed to, even traditional, forms of evangelism. I know that is true of our congregation, although we tend to stay away from confrontational modes, favouring deliberate relational paradigms of evangelism. But when you read broadly from the emerging churches that actually contribute to emerging church literature (I'm convinced some of the best efforts are not even on the map, they are too busy doing the stuff to write about it or self-promote!) there seem to be bigger fish to fry. That makes sense, if this is really a movement to bring at least a part of the church into the post-modern present. I think that these are also very worthwhile contributions to the whole church, especially the challenges to the so-called sacred-secular split. But if you want to hear my arguments on that you have to wait for my paper.

I've become more and more comfortable with the term emerging. In fact I like that it puts off some people. I don't want them comfortably resolving my comments into something that fits their tight little categories. I want a sense of tension. The funny thing is I don't get that outside of the evangelicals. In fact my more mainline friends are quite interested in what it going on at the edges - and I think eager to have a dialogue partner that has the energy of the evangelical church without the head-up-assedness of the evangelical church that sees everyone else as an enemy of the faith.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Politics and Theology

Rudolf Siebert movingly recounts the death of his wife Margie in From Critical Theory to Critical Political Theology. There is a temptation to skim through this painful recounting, but in taking Siebert's earlier advice that this is foundational to his discussion of theodicy, I endured the discomfort. I am reminded of the discomfort many of the hearers of Jesus' words would have felt, something alien to us who want to reconcile and make things like Jesus' proposal of a "good shepherd" nice. Not wanting to face the outrage of such a suggestion, especially towards those who actually were good shepherds. It is with that discomfort that Siebert's funeral sermon hits home. In describing their theological contribution he has this to say:

In our critical, political theology, we never neutralized the prophetic or the Messianic element in Judaism or in Christianity. We did not privatize religion. Our faith did not only consist in the task of saving our individual souls. Our faith was and is eschatological, Messianic, and apocalyptic. Most of all, our faith was, and is, witnessing and confessing communicative action: and this also poitical praxis, whenever and whereever that is possible. We had learned from Max Horkheimer and Theodor, W. Adorno: Politics wihtout theology is mere business! (p.102)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Little Gutiérrez to Ponder

Man is saved if he opens himself to God and to others, even if he is not clearly aware that he is doing so. This is valid for Christians and non-Christians alike - for all people.... Human existence, in the last instance, is nothing but a yes or no to the Lord: 'Men already partly accept communion with God, although they do not explicitely confess Christ as their Lord, insofar as they are moved by grace, sometimes secretly, to renounce their selfishness.... They reject union with God insofar as they turn away from the building up of this world, do not open themselves to others, and culpably withdraw into themselves.'
quoted in Margaret Campbell's Critical Theory and Liberation Theology, p.63.

Despite the non-inclusive langauge I really liked this quote. I tried to find it in my copy of A Theology of Liberation, but I think the one she used is much older. Perhaps I'm just too tired. Her book is definitely a thesis, so it is well laid out and actually quite well written. It gave me a taste of Critical Theory and now I'm reading Rudolf Siebert's (a student of Peukert) From Critical Theory to Critical Political Theology. I'll probably follow that up with an article or two from the Blackwell Companion to Political Theology (I'm really enjoying that one) and then move onto Charles Davis. It is very stimulating reading.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Critical Theory - the preliminaries

In my directed reading course we divided the texts into four groupings: Ideological criticism, Christological, Biblical, and Eschatological (Kingdom). These groups represent attempts to develop a theology of praxis from various starting points. My initial observation is that many evangelicals want to start with the Bible to do develop their theology. There is a problem with the Bible as the starting point, namely "who's reading of the Bible are you going to use?" However, as an evangelical I also feel that there needs to be a committement to the Bible in the process of building a theology of praxis. I'm going to start with the notion that it is not the reading that is primary, but the context in which that reading is being done. This is James Cochrane's proposition in Circles of Dignity (an excellent read BTW). The thing is we do this anyway. We read in a context. We look, especially those of us from a preaching tradition, for application of the texts we read. This is the process of developing what Schreiter calls a 'local theology' (Cochrane calls it an incipient theology). By taking this process of local theology construction seroiusly, we can begin to develop context appropriate ways of reading the Bible to construct a theology of praxis. At least that is my initial intuition, I'll probably adjust it as I look back at my own assumptions, especially concerning the context in which I read the Bible.

If the Bible is the definitive authority for faith and life, as many of us evangelicals claim it is, then the onus is on us to pay close attention to how we read and employ the Bible in seeking to understand our faith committment to this world.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Almost Final List

I've been working hard on that list and this is what I am proposing to my director tomorrow. This has been a fun exercise, but I could use a few more days. Deadlines are good too though. I wanted to keep it to 20 books as some of these are monsters and I'm probably reading them all at least twice! This is from my worldcat list (pomorev is my handle there):
  • Baum, Gregory. Religion and Alienation: A Theological Reading of Sociology. New York: Paulist Press, 1975.

  • Bevans, Stephen B. Models of Contextual Theology. Faith and cultures series. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2002.

  • Campbell, Margaret M. Critical Theory and Liberation Theology: A Comparison of the Initial Work of Jürgen Habermas and Gustavo Gutierrez. New York: P. Lang, 1999.

  • Cobb, John B. Christ in a Pluralistic Age. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999.

  • Grenz, Stanley J. Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2006.

  • Guder, Darrell L., and Lois Barrett. Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America. The Gospel and our culture series. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1998.

  • Hall, Douglas John. The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

  • Herzog, William R. Parables As Subversive Speech: Jesus As Pedagogue of the Oppressed. Louisville, Ky: Wstminster/John Knox Press, 1994.

  • Johnston, Robert K. The Use of the Bible in Theology/Evangelical Options. Eugene, Or: Wipf and Stock, 1997.

  • Metz, Johannes Baptist, and James Matthew Ashley. Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology. New York: Crossroad Pub. Co, 2007.

  • Moltmann, Jürgen. Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

  • Moore, Russell. The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004.

  • Nolan, Albert. Jesus Before Christianity. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2001.

  • Schweitzer, Don, and Derek Simon. Intersecting Voices: Critical Theologies in a Land of Diversity. Ottawa: Novalis, 2004.

  • Scott, Peter, and William T. Cavanaugh. The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology. Blackwell companions to religion. Malden, Mass: Blackwell, 2007.

  • Siebert, Rudolf J., and Rudolf J. Siebert. From Critical Theory to Critical Political Theology: Personal Autonomy and Universal Solidarity. American university studies, v. 52. New York: P. Lang, 1994.

  • Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

  • Volf, Miroslav, and William H. Katerberg. The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition Amid Modernity and Postmodernity. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2004.

  • Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1994.

I'll let you know how I fare.

Friday, September 05, 2008

And It Begins

Met with Dr. Heather Eaton today to start setting up my directed reading course. It pretty much went as I expected. We set some goals including a paper which we plan on up to 10 revisions (basically something I can turn around and submit for publication). I need to determine about four academic journals that I want to get articles in, preferably either read by or vetted by evangelical academics. Part of the trouble with studying at a historically Roman Catholic institution is that I don't know what journals would be good to look at. But this side of the course can wait until Oct., the job I have first of all is developing my reading list.

We worked on that a bit, 20-25 books. I'm looking primarily at political theology in this paper. So I need to get a sense of how this is working out in the evangelical theological world. On my to investigate list I have:
  • Moltmann - Religion, Revolution and the Future; Theology of Hope; On Human Dignity
  • *Volf/Katerburg - The Future of Hope
  • Yoder - The Politics of Jesus
  • Muller-Fahrenholz - The Kingdom and the Power
  • Grenz - Renewing the Center
  • Stackhouse - Evangelical Landscape
  • *Bevans - Models of Contextual Theology
  • *Schweitzer/Simon - Intersecting Voices
  • Scott - Blackwell Companion to Political Theology
  • Lakeland - Theology and Critical Theory
  • Johnston - The Use of the Bible in Theology
  • Metz - Faith in History and Society
  • *Campbell - Critical Theory and Liberation Theology
  • Siebert - From Critical Theory to Critical Political Theology; The Critical Theory of Religion, the Frankfurt School
  • Baum - Religion and Alienation
  • Rush - Cambridge Companion to Political Theory
  • *Moore - The Kingdom of Christ
  • Nolan - Jesus Before Christianity

That gives me a place to start. I need texts about evangelical theological methodology, serious works that aren't afraid to question the faith stances within the evangelical world. I'm going to spend some time looking at articles tomorrow, but I need to nail the reading list soon. Many of the above books are just out of simple searches, so except the ones with stars (those I anticipate keeping on the list) they can all go. I expect at least something from Moltmann and Metz on the list as I need to cover European Political Theology; Intersecting Voices is a good coverage of the North American version called Critical Theology; and if Campbell is not good I have a lot of decent texts on Liberation Theology (the Latin American version). Moore excited me because the synopsis sounds like a historical version of my PhD topic!

What will be cool is that I'm going to work with different hermeneutics of reading, I'll read the texts one way then Prof. Eaton will give me a different hermeneutic to re-read the texts with. Should be fun, but a lot of thinking. I started doing this with my masters research when doing revision work. But at this level it is all about method and thinking.

Next Friday the PhD seminar starts up. I'm actually looking forward to it, even though I've not heard good reviews of it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


What an incredibly frustrating day. Mostly because my house is a complete disaster! Despite best intentions and efforts, the mess that is getting kids ready for school while avoiding unpacking from vacation continues to overwhelm. Topping that off my wireless mouse finally died! Really sucks. I am going to buy a new one today (I have a half dozen decent wired mice, but none are USB???) What to do with a dead mouse anyway? What about the keyboard Sharon fried with a water spill? (And she wonders why I don't let her use my laptop!) Or the dozen CPUs I have stacked up in our crawlspace (including my original 286!) Peripherals, oh I got me a heap o-peripherals too. It really makes me sad.

I have a friend who makes wonderful greeting cards from old CDs. I have a pile of them to give her tonight. But other than that, I have so much stuff to get rid of that it isn't funny. So why not curb it? Well that is a good question.

If I curb it then it goes to landfill, not so good. I'm sure the inheritors of this planet will not be too impressed even if I have all the instructions to make my old BBS run again! (No ECHOZONE will not live another day on my watch, well I shouldn't say never - but you get the idea) Landfill is my least favourite option. But what other options are there.

I know there are computer recyclers. I should box up all these darn things and take them there. But then the second problem hits me - memories. Maybe it is the last bit of a dying self. Before theology I had a decent IT Security career. At one point I had a large network of computers (PC, Sun, and Mac) so that I could simulate client environments. But what gave out was my heart. In IT you constantly re-invent yourself. I went from college teacher to programmer to multimedia consultant to web developer to database developer to security expert to policy analyst to corporate trainer/PKI and permissions based computing expert to I don't care about computers anymore! Sure it took me many years, but here I am with a dead mouse remembering how much I dislike techy stuff now. To think I was considering trying to fix this darned thing. No my heart gave up on computers long before I did.

So that leaves me frustrated.

I should be excited. I'm in the last leg of my studies. It has been a real fight. But really good. Friday I start a reading course with Dr. Heather Eaton (my director), a research orientation at Ottawa U and I'm hoping to catch up with the rest of Heather's PhD students (there are four of us) for dinner. That means I'm off and running. Messy house and all.

Well I just need to pick a spot and start cleaning. Perhaps the bathrooms.