Monthly Archives: September 2012

Theology Round-Up –September 2012

Christology, Atonement, and the Trinity:

Gavin Ortlund looks at the Atonement in Narnia in light of his reading of ‘The Nature of the Atonement’. A neglected theory of the atonement? Russell Moore looks at how to explain the Trinity to young children. Pastor Mack talks about preserving the mystery of the Trinity.

Reviews:

Nick Norelli reviews Delighting in the Trinity: Why Father, Son, and Spirit are Good News, for a second time. John Hoglund reviews Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World by Jens Zimmerman.

Books to Read:

Tony Jones offers his list of the top five books by Jurgen Moltmann. Paul Copan offers the top books on Arminianism and Molinism.  Michael Bird offers a list of books that should be read before someone starts seminary.

Conferences, Announcements, etc:

Michael Bird points us to first annual Los Angeles Theology Conference coming in January 2013. It has a great list of speakers. The theme: “Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Theology.”

Call for papers for the 7th annual Telos Conference. Theme: Religion and Politics in a Post-Secular World.

Life of an Academic; Life of a Student:

Brian LePort looks at factors to consider when choosing a seminary: doctrine, faculty and academic reputation, scheduling. Denver Seminary has a new MA in Apologetics and Christian Ethics. Stephen Bedard on the role of scholarship in Christianity. Carmen talks about writing the first chapter of her dissertation. Michael Horton offers advice to his students about Christian character, virtue and how to put together a good argument in a research paper. An interview with Kelly Kapic on advice for young theologians. Brian LePort asks if internet scholarship is too hasty?

Evangelicals:

Ken Schenck continues his trek through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Roger Olson asks “Who is an evangelical Theologian?”

Sin, Satan and Salvation:

Can Satan be saved? RJS on Adam as the original sinner rather than the origin of sin. Greg Boyd looks at the question, “if salvation depends on our free choice, how are we saved by grace?”

Anthropology:

Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed takes a look at Nancey Murphy and Joel Green’s non-reductive physicalism. Marc Cortez continues his reflections on the Image of God.

Theologians of Note:

Was Schleiermacher a liberal theologian? Travis McMaken spends some time looking at Theodore Beza’s Vita Calvini, in particular, what Calvin’s work week often looked like.   Richard Mouw on Abraham Kuyper. Was C.S. Lewis a Calvinist? Gerald McDermott offers his list of the greatest theologians. Speaking of theologians, have you seen the newest product from Zondervan? Theologian Trading Cards!

Gender, Sex and Women in Ministry:

Ashleigh Bailey’s on “Christian” Feminism, writes in response to Rachel Held Evan’s post on being an Accidental Feminist. Steven Holmes looks at the “slippery slope” charge that is leveled against egalitarianism. Amy Hughes offers some of her own thoughts on the topic. Jordan Barrett responds to Steve Holmes and his comments on egalitarianism. John Byron on the impact of sexual immorality on the community of the church. Jon Coutts looks at why TGC is complementarian. R.Scott Clark on why complementarianism can’t be a Gospel issue. Carl Trueman on the Gospel and complementarianism.

The theology of the family in the NT. Kent Schaeffer over at Church Relevance posted his updated top 200 list of blogs. He ended up having to post a follow-up addressing the concern of the lack of female representation. The best response came from Fred Clark over at Slacktivist who linked to a whole passel of blogs by Christian women. April DeConick asks, Is Jesus too holy for sex? Dorothy Lee considers some of the implications of the Sydney Diocese proposal for the marriage liturgy.

Miscellaneous:

Beth Pyne looks at the theology of humour. Four elements of missional theology. Restoring theology as the queen of the sciences. Is the creed “no creed but the Bible” unbiblical? John Byron offers his thoughts on a theology of work based on 1 Thessalonians 4.

 

See previous theology round-ups here and here.

 

Some Thoughts on Spiritual Formation

 Spiritual formation is more than just formation of the soul or spiriti; it is the formation of the whole person. It is not just about shaping what we believe, or how we think. While it most certainly includes these, spiritual formation shapes the actions, posture and whole being of a Christian so that her life and entire being become molded in the image of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, spiritual formation means that Christians are going to look and act differently than the world around them. In the words of St. Benedict, “Your way acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” After having taken a class on Spiritual Formation, I want to suggest four common themes that are foundational to a spirit-formed life.

Community:

While there is indeed a place and a need for individual reflection, spiritual formation is cultivated in and through the community of believers. It is in living this “life together”(Dietrich Bonhoeffer) that our attitudes and postures are shaped and conformed to the image of Christ. The community is built on the person and work of Christ. This means that true community is found only in and through Christ. In each culture and age, the community may take on specific traits and rules that guide the mission and structure of the community. Thus, Benedict’s monastic order had specific rules and expectations for its members, and while they may seem legalistic and harsh (e.g., at least two references to the use and benefit of corporal punishment) they are not designed to be punitive, but are instead meant to be tools to assist the community to conform and be transformed to Christ’s image. Indeed, whether it be St. Benedict’s monastic order, Bonhoeffer’s enclave of seminarians, or James K.A. Smith’s vision of Christian higher education, the role of community is one that embodies the Great Commandment: to love God and to love each other. This ethos that is shared and encouraged shapes not only the community but also each individual within the community. Community is where spiritual formation takes place.

Confession:

In the introduction to Augustine’s Confessions, translator Maria Boulding notes that confession has three levels: there is the confession of sin, which is most prominent, the confession of God’s glory, and the confession that it is God who enables us to make confession in the first place. Augustine’s entire life is a confession to God, and an act of testifying to the goodness and rightness of God’s justice and mercy, both in his sinful life before his conversion, and in his life after conversion. Augustine’s confession exposes the reality of his sinfulness: “To you, then, Lord, I lie exposed, exactly as I am…My confession to you is not made with words of tongue and voice, but with the words of my soul and the clamor of my thought.”

This practice of confession may have fallen out of favour with Protestants in light of Catholic misuse and abuse, but Bonhoeffer and his seminary students, who were Lutheran, adopted a form of confession as part of their spiritual formation. Bonhoeffer writes that the act of confessions leads to four breakthroughs: a breakthrough to community, a breakthrough to the cross, a breakthrough to new life, and a breakthrough to assurance. Confession of sin includes confession of both personal and corporate sins, and the act of confession is profoundly counter-cultural, particularly in the modern, secular world that encourages the deflection and/or minimization of guilt (see Smith, 177-181). James K.A. Smith highlights the role of confession in the liturgy of the Church, specifically pointing to the prayer of confession in the Anglican tradition, noting that in the act of confession, “we are honest with God about our transgressions and agree with God that they are violations of his law.” The act of confession is not just words, it is also a posture and a way of life.

Contemplation:

The act of meditating, praying through, and reflecting on Scripture is foundational to the life devoted to spiritual formation. As part of his confession, Augustine contemplates the mighty works of God in heaven and earth. Benedict devotes a significant portion of his rule to the structure and space for the study of the Word, as he outlines the practice of the daily office, and morning and evening prayer. Bonhoeffer emphasized the practice of meditation, which appears to have caused discomfort for several of the seminarians. N.T. Wright notes that reading and meditating on Scripture is habit-forming in that “the more you do it the more it will form the habits of mind and heart, of soul and body, which will slowly but surely form your character into the likeness of Jesus Christ.”

Included under the heading of contemplation is also the practice of worship, though in actuality, worship could and should properly be discussed under each element of spiritual formation, as it is done in the context of community (see Wright and Benedict), is at the heart of the act of confession (Augustine), is structured by the story of Scripture (Smith) and assists in the cultivation of virtue (Wright). An entire paper could just be written on the function of worship in spiritual formation, but suffice to say, worship is an embodied act that points to the fact that what we love is what we worship.

Cultivation of the Virtues:

As N.T. Wright notes, the Christian life does not stop once we have prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer”, given our life to Jesus, been baptized or any other rite of initiation into the life of Christianity. The over-emphasis on conversion means that Christianity can (and has) been reduced to act of intellectual consent, with little thought to the embodied reality not only of human existence, but also of the life of Christian discipleship. The cultivation of the virtues is the practical outworking of the doctrine of sanctification. It is a life-long process in which the Christian actively participates in the ongoing work of God in their life, the life of the Church, and in the world. The cultivation of the virtues is the formation of habits, so that the practice of a specific virtue becomes “second nature”, wherein the Christian does not have to consciously think about how and why he has to act, but does it automatically.[Footnote] While the list of Christian virtues may vary by theologian or tradition, the three core virtues that form the Christian life are faith, hope, and love.

 

Canadian Christianity — Bishop Michael Ingham

On Monday night, Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s invited guest was Michael Ingham, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Ingham was introduced as one of the 25 most influential Anglicans in the world, and given the issues and events that have happened in the diocese of New Westminster in the last decade, this is not surprising. I have spent the last two years reading and trying to figure out the Anglican Communion, and I have read about Bishop Ingham, as well as reading some of his own writings. Attending the lecture gave me a chance to see the man himself, and I hope that it will help me to better evaluate his influence and his theology without relying on some of the opinions that are coloured by pain and anger. Saying that, Bishop Ingham presented himself as a quiet, smart, and well-composed. And while there are still theologies and actions that I still strongly disagree with, and believe that have caused damage to the Anglican Church in Canada and worldwide, Bishop Ingham is not the devil incarnate, or the “bogeyman.”

To introduce his lecture, he talked about the recent controversy about whether or not the liberal, mainline churches are dying, as discussed in mainstream media articles like Ross Douthat, Margaret Wente and Diana Butler-Bass.

This leads to a need to talk about what “success” looks like or mean in Christian discourse. Is a church successful if it’s growing? Is it successful if it doesn’t? What does success look like in light of the fact that we follow a Saviour who suffered and died?

Ingham’s lecture was on the impact of the shift from modernity to postmodernity on the Christian Church. For the most part, what he said was not really controversial, as he gave a basic overview of both modernity and postmodernity. His argument was that the labels “evangelical” “catholic” and “liberal” are fundamentally modern in orientation and are thus meaningless and obsolete in a post-modern context. These labels have become political labels that represent ideologies rather than theologies, and they belong to an older generation of Christians, and have no place in the new Christianity of the 21st century. Thus, younger Christians are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves. They are post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-conservative, etc.

Ingham then looked at the evolution that has occurred within the three traditions of Christianity: liberalism, evangelicalism, and Catholicism. So for example, out of liberal Christianity has arisen post-liberalism and radical orthodoxy. From evangelicalism has arisen the emerging church movement, and from Catholicism has arisen communities like Taize.

He argued that part of the problem today is that in spending so much time about the decline of the church, we are missing the fact that new and exciting things are happening. Indeed, he emphasized that the church is not dying; but it is changing. And while changed can feel like death because it is painful, Christianity is in the process of evolving.

It was interesting to observe his confidence that he is right in his decisions and actions in his role of Bishop. His lecture demonstrated that he believes that the issue of SSM has been settled in the Anglican church, that he has won, and that it is just a matter of time before the rest of the Anglican church capitulates to his position. This was evidenced in his emphasis that the new generation of Christians doesn’t want to fight about issues or doctrine. The way he set it up, it was clear that the older generation just needs to get on board with the younger generation; that the reason the young generation doesn’t want or need to fight is because it is right on the issues.

If I had had the chance, (or the courage), I would have asked the Bishop one of  two questions:

First, what will this age of redundant and obsolete labels mean for the selection and task of the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Second, his very concluding observation was that we shouldn’t focus on the people who are leaving the church but rather on the people who are coming, made me want to ask him if he is working at all to reconcile with the conservative congregations that left his diocese for the Anglican Network.

This was my first Luther Lecture, and I think I would go again. In the 40 years of the Luther Lecture, Luther College has hosted a diverse company of scholars and thinkers, including Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Kung, Margaret Somerville, James Cone, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Next year, the Luther Lecture will feature Martin Marty.

Women Bloggers

I originally posted a list of Christian female bloggers last year. Since there is chatter, once again, about the top 200 Church blogs and the lack of female voices, I thought I would repost the list for anyone looking for some awesome blogs to add to their google reader. (and don’t forget to add mine if you haven’t already!)

* Carmen over at Seminary Mom, who has just started in Wheaton’s PhD program. She did her masters degree while raising three young kids.

* Elizabeth Scalia over at the Anchoress. I followed her when she made the move from First Things to Patheos. She writes from a Catholic perspective.

* Sarah at Emerging Mummy.

* The team of ladies over at Novel Matters. As well, Bonnie Grove at Fiction Matters.

* Suzanne McCarthy at Suzanne’s Bookshelf.

* Shepherdess at Shepherdess Writes. She is a Lutheran pastor in North Carolina.

* Rachel Held Evans. This is a great place for those with questions.

* Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping. I will admit that I usually find myself in disagreement with Julie, but I have learned a lot from her.

Her.meneutics over at Christianity Today.

Laura Ziesel.

Diana over at Just Wondering. Diana is a retired pastor.

April DeConick at The Forbidden Gospels. April is a professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University.

The ladies over at Women in Theology. This blog looks at issues from a Catholic/Feminist perspective.

Melissa at Sign on the Window.

Carolyn McCulley at Radical Womanhood.

View From the Rafters by Jennifer Harris Dault.

Rachael at Growing Up With God.

April Yamasaki‘s blog. April is the lead pastor at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford B.C.

An Update To The Blog

To my blog readers:

As of today, my blog Cheese-Wearing Theology is now self-hosted. What does this mean? The web address hasn’t changed, but if you subscribed to my blog while it was hosted on WordPress.com you will have to resubscribe. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. I hope that you will re-subscribe and be a part of the cheese-wearing community. If you would like to subscribe via email, please see the link on the right side of the homepage.

It’s been a busy week as I have worked to move everything over, so my blogging has been a bit irregular. That should change this week. There are lots of exciting things to come on the blog, so I hope that you will join me for that.

Again, I just want to thank all of my readers, and I hope that the community that is being built here continues to grow.

And a big shout-out goes to Nick, who helped me get the blog all set up on its new server.

-Amanda

The Big Bang Theory and the Culture of Geek

I’m blogging over at Political Jesus today. Come join in the conversation!

The Big Bang Theory and the Culture of Geek.

Is TBBT saying that being a geek is something to be mocked? I don’t think so. Is TBBT “a pantsing and a punch in the face” instead of “a warm hug of acceptance”? No. TBBT is a microcosm of the human experience. And let’s face it, if we can’t laugh at ourselves and at the human experience, we would become uncreative, boring people who take themselves way too seriously.

Read the rest here.

High School is Hell: Parallels to Life in the Church

I’ve been away on a silent retreat (aka: an introvert’s dream). So these last couple of days I’ve been posting some re-worked posts on Christianity and the Buffyverse. Enjoy!

***

One of my favourite themes in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that high school is hell. From the cheerleaders who spontaneously combust, to the swim team that is made up of creatures from the black lagoon, to the fact that the high school was literally sitting over a hell-mouth, Whedon explores the common high school experiences through a supernatural lens. Not only does his comment on the high school experience, he also captures the irony of Hollywood and our culture exalting high school as the “golden years” of our lives. Sunnydale High looked like an idyllic California school, but those who attended knew the truth of the darkness and problems that existed in its hallowed walls.

Are there parallels between the “high school is hell” motif in Buffy, and the reality of living as a Christian in the North American evangelical Church?

Like Sunnydale high, there seems to be more focus on the drama of relationships and interpersonal conflict than on the purpose of the institution. For Sunnydale high, the purpose was education; for the community of faith it is worship.

Like Sunnydale high, from the outside the community of faith tries to look like a sunshiney-bright place. In reality, what resides within it is infighting, outgroups, bullying and ostracizing.

Like Sunnydale high, the community of faith is a place that has jocks, beautiful girls, geeks, losers, punks and brainiacs. There are the hyena people who bully and prey on the weak. There are those who are ignored and are basically invisible. There are the jock and popular girls who are the “in-crowd” and who define what is popular and cool.

What both Sunnydale high and the Church in North America have is a slayer who protects and fights against the dark powers of the hellmouth.

At Sunnydale High that slayer is Buffy. In the church, that slayer is grace.

Grace fights against the legalism.
Grace comforts the outcasts.
Grace unites the different cliques and reshapes them as they journey through they come together to worship.
Grace takes on the darkness and wins.

Buffy, Bella and Mark Driscoll

I’m on my way to a silent retreat (aka: an introvert’s dream). So the next couple of days I’m posting some re-worked posts on Christianity and the Buffyverse. Enjoy!

***

There’s a clip of a sermon by Mark Driscoll making the rounds on the internet. (Both Tim Challies and Marc Cortez have picked it up). Basically, he laments the “top picks for pre-teen girls” at Amazon. They almost all have to do with vampires, werewolves, magic and death.

In many ways he’s right. The majority of the books out there for young girls are spin-offs of Twilight. And he’s right, there is some pretty questionable stuff in Twilight.

But I think here he misses the point. Yes, Twilight is awful on so many levels. First, the writing is dreadful. Second, Bella is a non-character with no personality.

And my biggest pet peeve is that people are pitching the series as an example of chastity and abstinence. This is a load of hock-patooey. In a nutshell, Bella pines and longs for Edward. Edward has the “moral” courage to resist her advances, saying that they need to be married first. What is the message here? Girls, if you long and pine and desire to be with a guy, it’s okay because the (teen-aged, hormone fueled) guy will be strong enough to rebuff your advances! Um. I don’t think so.

Where Driscoll goes wrong is in suggesting that the current vampire trend is indicative of the vampire/werwolf/zombie genre in general. I think when done correctly, vampires et al become a tool to examine humanity, to explore desires and motivations and to present the struggle between good and evil.

Now, I have to be upfront and admit that I am a huge Joss Whedon fan, so I may be a bit biased. But Whedon got it so right in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the first three seasons at least).

The premise of the first three seasons is High School is Hell.

The swim team jocks are actually mutant monsters after being injected with steroids.

The girl who is ignored by the cool kids eventually becomes invisible and goes all “Carrie” on her classmates.

Frat boys are servants of their giant snake monster, and want nothing more than to feed you to it in their basement.

A gang of bullies are possessed by a hyena-spirit and will pick on the weak and outcast in the school, not to mention they will also eat the principal.

And the big one: If you sleep with your boyfriend, he will lose his soul and become a monster! This of course then gets repeated in Season 4, when Buffy goes off to college and ends up with a human (normal) guy who ends up being a jerk as well.

High school is hell. And Whedon uses vampires, werewolves, snake monsters, Frankenstein and more to explore this theme. It works. It is brilliant. And then, he continues using the genre to explore the theme of redemption with the spinoff “Angel.”

My point: We need discernment. Which Driscoll does talk about. But that discernment also means not just throwing something away because it has vampires and werewolves or young wizards and witches. What do these fictional and fantastical creatures say about humanity? If they don’t say anything, then we need the discernment to see that they are nothing more than fluff marketing by publishers and movie studios to make a quick buck.