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Friday, November 30, 2007

More from Olson

My theological identity crisis continues, and the more I read Olson, the more I find myself saying, "Amen!" I'm getting close to finishing his book, Reformed and Always Reforming, and I intend to write more about it. But I could not resist writing about some nuggets from Olson on pages 197-198.

Olson states that postconservative evangelical theology regards true orthodoxy as generous. "Postconservative evangelicals worry that orthodoxy is often used as a cudgel to attack and batter dissident and marginal voices even among the faithful. Orthodoxy should not be a weapon in the hands of heresy-hunters but a beacon to guide sojourners away from rocks and toward the shore of truth. It should be relatively simple and straightforward, attractive and welcoming, flexible and adjustible--not on demand but in response to new situations and contexts and especially in response to fresh and faithful biblical interpretation." (p. 197)

On page 198, Olson sates that postconservative evangelicals fear that conservative evangelicals have packed too much detail into orthodoxy "so that the evangelical faith as taught in many seminaries is suffering from hardening of the categories and being used to drive God-fearing, Jesus loving, Bible0believing people away." Some systematic theologies are esteemed by some conservatives as timeless standards of evangelical orthodoxy and are being used to define and defend boundaries that exclude people of faith. Alister McGrath recognizes this tendency and argues,

An evangelical theologian should not be challenged concerning his evangelical credentials merely because he fails to agree completely with Jonathan Edwards, or B.B. Warfield, or John Stott...We must acknowledge the provisionality of our interpretations of Scripture--which is, of course what all good theology ultimately is--and be prepared to have them challenged and corrected by others as part of the corporate evangelical quest for biblical authenticity.

Olson notes Alister E. McGrath, "Engaging the Great Tradition: Evangelical Theology and the Role of Tradition, " in Stackhouse, ed., Evangelical Futures, 150.
Olson continues by stating that postconservatives draw upon tradition, but more especially on Scripture to construct an orthodoxy that is basic and essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but not elaborate, detailed, and exclusive of everyone and everything that disagrees with some detail. He then states the maxim, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

There is something to think about.

Democrats Court Evangelicals

Saddleback Church hosted a Global Summit on AIDS and the Church, hosted by Rick and Kay Warren. According to the article, Warren "invited all the presidential candidates in both parties to address his congregation on the HIV pandemic. With just five weeks until voting begins in the presidential nominating contest, only Clinton came in person; Republicans Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mitt Romney and Democrats Obama and John Edwards addressed the congregation through videos."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blog Reading Level

OK...I am sure this is way off. If it isn't wrong, then I am in big trouble because I won't be able to understand my own blog. Anyway, here is the blog reading level.

cash advance

Friday, November 23, 2007

On This Day --Pascal's Night of Fire

On this day, November 23, in 1654 Blaise Pascal had a dramatic encounter with God. He wrote of his experience, and sewed it into the liner of his coat. It wasn't until after his death that people learned of this and realized everywhere he went Pascal carried this experience with him. This encounter has become known as "Pascal's Night of Fire."

Here is "The Memorial":

The year of grace 1654
Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr, and of others in the Martyrology.
Eve of Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr and others.
From about half past ten in the evening until half past midnight.

'God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,' not of philosophers and scholars.
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Thy God shall be my God.'
The world forgotten, and everything except God.
He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels.
Greatness of the human soul.
'O righteous Father, the world had not known thee, but I have known thee.'
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have cut myself off from him.
They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.
'My God wilt thou forsake me?'
Let me not be cut off from him for ever!
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.'
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I have cut myself off from him, shunned him, denied him, crucified him.
Let me never be cut off from him!
He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Sweet and total renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
Everlasting joy in return for one day's effort on earth.
I will not forget thy word. Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another Confession

If I haven't said this before, I'll say it here: I am going through a theological mid-life crisis. I'm not doubting any of the significant concepts of Christianity, but I am reassessing much of what I was taught and unlearning a lot more. I am at one of those places where I feel like an idiot...I don't know anything.

In these times of perplexity I am reminded of the lyrics of a song by that great philosopher, Billy Joel (yes, I am dating myself).

Shades of Grey

River Of Dreams Released: 1993

Some things were perfectly clear, seen with the vision of youth
No doubts and nothing to fear, I claimed the corner on truth
These days it's harder to say I know what I'm fighting for
My faith is falling away
I'm not that sure anymore

Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Black and white is how it should be
But shades of grey are the colors I see

Once there were trenches and walls and one point of every view
Fight 'til the other man falls - kill him before he kills you
These days the edges are blurred, I'm old and tired of war
I hear the other man's words
I'm not that sure anymore

Shades of grey are all that I find
When I look to the enemy line
Black and white was so easy for me
But shades of grey are the colors I see

Now with the wisdom of years, I try to reason things out
And the only people I fear are those who never have doubts
Save us all from arrogant men, and all the causes they're for
I won't be righteous again
I'm not that sure anymore

Shades of grey are all that I find
When I look to the enemy line
Ain't no rainbows shining on me
Shades of grey are the colors I see

Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Ain't no rainbows shining on me
Shades of grey are the colors I see

(Taken from:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Humility in Theology

Growth often requires humility. Humility to acknowledge where we have failed, that we don't know it all, and we may have gotten something wrong. My generalization may not be accurate, but I usually don't think of theologians as people of great humility. That's what made this statement from Roger Olson so priceless:

This style of doctrine does not eschew correct doctrine or propositions or the Great Tradition of Christian belief but subjects all to the greater authority of divine revelation in Jesus Christ and Scripture, which may at any time break forth in new light that correct what has always been believed and taught by Christians. That style demands humility, generosity, and openness of spirit in conducting the work of theology and handling the cognitive content of the faith (p. 65 from Reformed and Always Reforming).

It is with true humility that we should approach theology. Knowing that we do not know it all, and acknowledging that there are others who can guide us in growth and knowledge, always asking God to speak to us and help us grow in transformation.

Postconservative Evangelical #1

I am becoming increasingly convinced that I am a postconservative Evangelical. I don't really care much about titles, but it is nice to know I might fit somewhere theologically. And if I don't, I suppose the Island of Misfit Toys can use some more company.

Here are a couple of "nuggets of joy" from Olson's Introduction to Reformed and Always Reforming:

p. 25 "To be sure, insofar as fundamentalism signals anti-intellectualism, an aversion to critical thinking, and separation from secular society and from Christians affected by secularism and liberalism, most conservative evangelical theologians are not fundamentalists. However, many conservatives share with fundamentalists a tendency toward harsh, polemical rhetoric and angry denunciations or ad hominem arguments when writing about fellow evangelicals with whom they disagree. The words 'heresy' and 'heterodoxy' and charges of departures from the true faith are all too frequent in some of their writings."

p. 45 "On the one hand, conservative evangelicals admit sola scriptura--that Scripture alone stands as the final source and norm of theology so that every doctrinal formulation, however ancient and accepted, is subject to correction by Scripture. On the other hand, they label as less than fully or authentically evangelical any theologians or theological proposals that diverge from man-made orthodoxy. How then can an evangelical theologian subject ancient and accepted doctrines to critical scrutiny and propose revisions in the light of faithful and fresh biblical understanding without automatically being condemned as nonevangelical?"

p. 53 "First, postconservatives, like conservatives, presupppse revelation, but they consider its main purpose to be transformation more than information."

There are a few snippets, but there is much more, and I have much more to read in the book.

But I do think I might be a postconservative evangelical. So far anyway.

Political Candidates

I'm not much into telling people how to vote because such and such a candidate is the most socially conservative. The red and the blue both have a lot to offer, and they both have a lot of problems. What I care about is making thoughtful choices.

I've never prayed for a political candidate...until now. A friend's son is running for office, and I pray for him. But since I've never done this, I didn't know for what to pray. Here is what I have come up with. If you have any ideas, please share them. You can also use this as a guide to pray for any candidate you are supporting. God knows anyone aspiring to serve in public office needs the support of prayer.

My Problem with Evangelicalism

Here is my confession. I have been frustrated with Evangelical Christianity. Check. That's conservative Evangelical Christianity. I have found myself drawn to those who would be considered liberals...Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, etc.

So, why? What are the roots of the frustrations?

I think there are three main reasons:

1. Arrogance. Especially in the Reformed community there is a sense that "we have it right; you must agree with us." The emphasis on being Calvinist to be orthodox is scary.

2. Fear. There is the constant cry of the slippery slope. "We can't have women in ministry, because suddenly we'll be tolerating homosexuality." "If we accept some of the valid aspects of Open Theism, then the sovereignty of God is thrown out the window."

3. Modernity. There seems to be a marriage to the methods of modernity within conservative Evangelicalism theology, even though they would deny it.

So...I'm frustrated. Some friends of mine gave me a great book that is addressing these concerns by Roger Olson called Reformed and Always Reforming. I think I'm a post-conservative Evangelical. More on that to come.

It's Time

I've had this blog for a long time and done nothing with it. It is time to start getting some of these thoughts out.

This space will be dedicated to wrestling...wrestling with faith, philosophy, theology, and most these things are lived. So welcome to my ramblings.