Monthly Archives: January 2011

Michael Horton on Barth

The Christianbook blog has an interview posted with Michael Horton, author of the newly released systematic theology, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the way. In part two of the interview, Horton talks about Barth and how those in the Reformed tradition react to, and engage with Barth’s theology.

Matthew: Do you think the cool reception of Barth by many in the Reformed camp is warranted?

Horton: Barth is his own best interpreter on this. In his Göttingen Dogmatics, he relates how blown away he was by actually reading Calvin and the post-Reformation Reformed theologians.

In many ways, he was inspired in his own program by this period. He had been taught by his liberal professors to dismiss all of this as child’s play, but he found it to be a room filled with treasures. On the other hand, he himself says later that he left hardly any Reformed doctrine standing in its confessional form.

From the doctrine of Scripture to eschatology, Barth used the same terms and categories, but radically revised nearly all of them. I think we’re entering a phase now of more light than heat. There are some terrific critiques of Barth by Reformed evangelicals today that are far more nuanced, informed, and engaging than many of yesteryear.

The reaction against Barth was understandable, especially as many evangelicals were embracing his views as a way of avoiding both fundamentalism and liberalism. However, I get the sense that these days there are more folks who are not fundamentalists, liberals, or Barthians. And that perhaps allows some space for more sympathetically critical analysis.

Matthew: Do you believe he is often misunderstood by more “traditional” Reformed Theologians?

Horton: It depends on which theologian and on what topic. One challenge on our side as conservatives is to assume that we know what someone believes without having to investigate the details. If one believes X, then logically that means he or she must believe Y, and so forth. However, that doesn’t always work and it isn’t really charitable, as we know when we’re accused of believing that human beings aren’t responsible because we believe that God is sovereign.

For example, Barth was not driven by liberalism; in fact, I believe that many of his mistakes were made out of an over-reaction against liberalism. Swinging from romantic-liberal emphasis on God’s immanence, Barth so stressed God’s transcendence that revelation could not be identified directly with any creaturely medium, including Scripture. This even affected his Christology.

If we’re going to critique conclusions, we need to know how they are derived and not just assume that inadequate views of Scripture, for example, are always liberal. Distortions can come from all sorts of different quarters and the “liberal-conservative” way of categorizing things often misses important nuances.

Random Blog Posts and Stuff

Grateful to the Dead has a post looking at words in the KJV that don’t mean what we think they mean. My favourite:

Conversation (1) way of life, 2 Cor 1:12; Gal 1:13; Eph 2:3; 4:22; Phil 1:27; 1 Tim 4:12; Heb 13:5, 7; Jas 3:13; 1 Pet 1:8; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16; 2 Pet 2:7; 3:11. (2) life, 1 Pet 1:15. (3) in the way, Ps 37:14; 50:23. (4) citizenship, Phil 3:20. This is another 17th-century word whose modern meaning has taken, in the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, a significant “left turn at Albuquerque.”

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News from the Whedonverse: Two Buffy writers, Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, have sold NBC on a new pilot: Grimm, based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Since it isn’t Fox, I’m assuming that this one will not be bounced around in different time-slots so no one can find it, canceled, and then go on to be a DVD phenomenon.

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Luke Johnson, has a great post up about today’s technology and Star Trek:

So, in a few communicative ways, we’ve caught up to the Star Trek universe. But one key ingredient remains: warp-drive! According to Star Trek lore, it’s the warp-drive signature left in space by the first warp-drive engine that attracts the attention of the Vulcans and prompts them to make first contact with the people of Earth, ushering our little planet into a bright future of intergalactic proportions. Much like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, I must confess that “I love technology,” and the innovations of people like Apple have raised my hopes that one day we’ll find people with pointy ears and bumpy foreheads, and Soong-made androids, and neutral zones, and delta quadrants.

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There has been an interesting discussion with several blog posts over at TGC based off an article that was at Christianity Today this past week about Anti-nomianism. Dane Ortlund responded, and now the author of the original article has posted a response back to Dane.

Being “Cautious” of Mere Christianity

Kevin DeYoung over at TGC has a post up about why we should be cautious of C.S. Lewis. The reason: Lewis wasn’t an evangelical (the shock! the horror!) The reason he wasn’t an evangelical: he didn’t hold to penal substitution as THE model for the atonement; and he might have been an inclusivist. The reason for the post is that several days ago, DeYoung collated a list of the most influential books for Reformed evangelicals (based on submissions from comments). Mere Christianity made the list, and he said that that was okay, but only with several “cautions”. So today’s post was the cautions.

A few observations:

1. No book is perfect. It is fine to offer cautions, concerns, dislikes and disagreements with a book. But to single out one and not have cautions for the others simply because they are part of the “acceptable” literature (i.e., reformed, evangelical, calvinist) is unfair. One of the books on his list was Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (It came in at number 2!). There are several (okay, more than several) cautions that could and should be offered for that book. But it gets a free pass.

2. Being evangelical does not mean holding penal substitution as THE only model for the atonement. Kevin DeYoung suggests that Lewis’ model of the atonement is more like the Christus Victor model, as if that is a bad thing. Evangelicals hold to a wide-ranging understanding of the atonement. To be evangelical does not mean having to embrace only one. (For the record: I tend to a more Kaleidoscope view of the atonement and if I had to choose a close second it would be a Christus Victor view).

3. We need to be careful with throwing around a charge of inclusivism. The term Inclusivism is like the term semi-Pelagianism: people like to use the term as a weapon, but most of the time they don’t understand the term, and they don’t fully understand the argument that the supposed “inclusivist” is making. That being said, evangelicals affirm two Scripture verses that would seem to point to an inclusivist theology: John 3:16 — Jesus died for the WHOLE world; and Roman 14:11 (see also Philippians 2:10) — one day EVERY knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus as Lord. What that looks like and how that will play out is beyond our understanding (and should be).

Anyway, check out the post. Add your voice to the conversation going on over there.

Origen on Birthdays

I’m reading sections of Origen’s Homilies on Leviticus for a paper that should be finished tomorrow. In Homily 8, Origen makes an interesting argument that doesn’t fit with my paper, but I keep coming back to it in my reading.
Origen explains why the saints don’t celebrate birthdays, and his argument is that only “sinners rejoice over this kind of birthday.”

He points to two examples of bad birthday celebrations: Pharaoh in Genesis 40, and Herod in Mark 6. In both cases these rulers celebrated their birthday by having someone killed. Pharaoh had the chief baker hanged, and Herod had John the Baptist beheaded.

On the other hand, Origen argues, the righteous in the Bible curse the day they were born. He quotes Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!” May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?”(Jeremiah 20:14–18);
Job: “After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’”(Job 3:1–3);
and David: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”(Psalms 51:5)

Origen says that these men uttered these thing “by the divine and prophetic Spirit,” (pg. 157) and then argues that at its core, baptism (of infants) is obviously necessary to wash away the stain and sin of birth for otherwise baptism is meaningless (pg. 158).

It got me thinking, are there examples of rejoicing about birthdays? Hannah who was barren and cried out to the Lord, rejoiced in God’s provision after the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and each year celebrated his birthday by making him a robe (v. 19). Sarah laughed (granted in disbelief) at the birth of Isaac, and on the day that Isaac was weaned Abraham threw a huge party (Genesis 21:6-8). The angel tells Zechariah that he and Elizabeth will rejoice over the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:14), and when he was born all Elizabeth’s relatives “shared her joy” (Luke 1:58).

So my question is this, if Job and Jeremiah are lamenting their births, does this mean that every birthday, every year is bad, or could it mean that they are simply saying that their life sucks? Is their pity party, woe-is-me, I-wish-I-were-dead attitude a reflection of their everyday thinking or a temporary EMO moment?

A Year of Rest

We moved from Ontario to Saskatchewan last January. During the first year in Saskatchewan, I have NOT done any of the following:

- Preached a sermon
- Led worship
- Participated on a worship team
- Led a Bible study
- Read Scripture from the pulpit
- Sat on a church board
- Created or consulted on the formation of a new church ministry
- Pastorally counseled someone

The first couple of months I didn’t even notice. I was so busy getting us settled and learning how to survive in the middle-of-nowhere Saskatchewan (have I mentioned that there is not a single Swiss Chalet anywhere in this province? What kind of backward place is this?!), that to even try to add ministry stuff on top would have been too much.

By the summer, I was enjoying the rest from ministry. I took several classes at the seminary and found myself filled and renewed as I learned about the Former Prophets, studied through the Gospel of John, and refreshed my slightly-atrophied Greek.

By the fall, I was itchy. I struggled to just sit in the pew and be a passive participant Sunday morning. After having spent ten years in active ministry, 6 months of rest had begun to take its toll. We began attending an Anglican church which helped since the services are designed for congregational participation (responsive readings, recitation of the Apostle’s Creed, celebrating communion every week).

But now it has been a full year of rest and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m just going to have to adapt to a new posture of worship. Am I entering a season of being a “pew person”? Should I be content to focus my energy on my schooling? Is a seminary degree effective if it isn’t grounded in the practical, and lived out in the life of the Church? Do we (Chuck and I) even know if we’re in the local church that God wants us to be? Am I looking to be firmly planted when God is actually saying be okay with being temporarily planted? Do I miss preaching and teaching and leading worship for the right reasons? Are teaching and preaching and leading worship my God-given gifts or are they talents borne from my desires? (Would I even be asking that last question if I was not a female who is regularly confronted with the “biblical” argument that only men are called to the pastorate?)

Geek Rant

It’s been an interesting week for movie news.

First, a “leaked” promotional photo for X-Men: First Class was put up on MSN and then promptly pulled after the director saw it and freaked out. I’m not hyped up about this movie. I think the X-men franchise needs to disappear. (I know, I know, this coming from a Marvel fan). But, really, they messed up X-3, and then destroyed Wolverine (and massacred Deadpool in the process). I’m not hitching my wagon to the X-men movie, I’ll gear up for the Avengers instead.

Then, Chris Nolan announced that he has cast his villains for the next installment of Batman: Bane and Catwoman. All I can say is that they better do Bane better than they did in Batman and Robin.

And then today, I got the horrible, horrible, awful, devastating, want-to-rip-my-hair-out news that Hollywood has hired a writer to re-boot the Lethal Weapon series. No. No. No. Very bad. No touching the Lethal Weapon series!

/ so ends my rant.