Monthly Archives: December 2012

Theology Round-Up December 2012

Reviews and Publishing News:

Nick Norelli reviews The Development of Christology during the First Hundred Years: and Other Essays on Early Christian Christology 

Ben Myers looks at the most important publishing events in 2012 in the field of theology.

Rod reviews Unfinished Business by Keri Day.

Jon Coutts reviews Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

TC reviews the edited book Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction.

Stephen reviews Cold Case Christianity.

Michael Bird points us to a bunch of reviews for the Zondervan e-book series on Women in Ministry.

The International Journal of Systematic Theology has announced that Matthew Levering has been added to the journal’s editorial board.

Christology:

Tim writes about how reflecting on the incarnation humbles him.

Gavin looks at Irenaeus’ doctrine of recapitulation and at Athanasius’ as well.

Brian LePort ponders the issue of overlap between Christian doctrine and pagan mythologies and how we should approach them.

Hermeneutics, Interpretation:

Brian offers three hermeneutical paradigms to use when studying the doctrine of the virgin birth.

Melanie Kampen argues that “that a preoccupation with historical accuracy in biblical interpretation is detrimental and stifling to a community of believers.”

Allan talks about the relationship between theology and history.

Life of a Professor; Life of a Grad Student:

Gavin offers his outline of how he would structure a course on Systematic Theology.

Kyle Roberts writes about how PhD programs need to start preparing its students to work outside the academy.

Mark Stevens on 10 things that seminary never taught you.

Ecclesiology, Life of the Church, Evangelism, Discipleship:

Why Wesleyans aren’t fundamentalists.

Brian wrestles with Ignatius of Antioch’s ecclesiology.

Leslie wrote about why just telling your “story’ is not necessarily the best way to share the gospel. Fred took her to task for her post, and Leslie wrote a followup post about what she learned from the criticism.

Conference Announcements, Other Announcements:

Stephen lets us know that the Apologetics Canada Conference is scheduled for March 1-2, 2013 in Abbotsford, B.C.

Knox Seminary has launched a D.Min in Theological Exegesis.

Miscellaneous:

Frederick Smith writes about the danger of a Build-A-Bear Theology.

Rod offers his thoughts on omnipotence, theodicy and postcolonialism.

What is the relationship between theology and biblical theology? Matt Emerson also looks at the intersection of biblical theology and systematic theology.

Mike Wittmer ponders the Trinity and the doctrine of Simplicity.

David Bish declares that the“Trinity is unavoidable if we want to know who Jesus is.”

A humorous post on 10 movie proofs that Calvinism is false.

Michael Patton on the Irrationality of Calvinism.

Roger Olson posts a letter he received from a student who read “Against Calvinism”.

Christian Brady asks what is repentance?

Collin Hansen offers his top theology stories of 2012.

The Danger of Theological Novelty by Michael Patton.

Timothy Dalrymple reflects on James Dobson’s theology.

Did Barth really sum up his entire theology by quoting the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me”?

Gerald Ens considers the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and why it matters.

 

 

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Crazy Ways People Found My Blog 2012

The blog software I use has a feature that let’s me know the search terms people used to find my blog. I have collected the strangest search terms for 2012. My conclusion: There are some very weird people out there.

Geek Related Search Terms:

  • Stars wars bible translation
  • is Star Trek ok for Christians?
  • Doctor who vs. angelus
  • Star Trek Christians
  • Superheroes con Jesus
  • Ninja ministries

Theology Related Search Terms:

  • I survived Briercrest
  • I didn’t survive Briercrest
  • numbwr of religios attendance in cnada
  • She’s wearing theology
  • Is the big dipper theology?
  • discuss how demonic oppression/possession can possibly impact christian character formation and christian education (I think someone was trying to answer a take-home exam question)

Cheese Related Search Terms:

  • what do pastors and cheese have in common?
  • Cheese with smile
  • Cheese academics
  • Cheese in the Old Testament
  • A project on cheese of 100 pages
  • doctor who cheese
  • correlation between cheese and a typewriter
  • humour cheese the food of gods

Random Search Terms:

  • is it possible for a trained fighter woman to kick a trained fighter man’s butt?
  • Ass violence
  • Hate you spray park
  • Subway brawl Narnia
  • in monster fight cage is used for what purpose
  • about the professor in term paper

 

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2012 — A Busy Year Both on the Blog and In Real Life

Hello my friends. I hope you all had a blessed Merry Christmas. We had a delightfully quiet Christmas with lots of food (and chocolate) and much-needed quality “just hanging out” time. It was a geeky Christmas in terms of presents.

Not only did The Doctor visit and bring the dvd set of first season of Doctor Who with David Tennant, AND the 50th anniversary Dr. Who Monopoly, but we also got the Settlers of Catan expansion Cities and Knights. Chuck and I have been trying it out, and it’s going to make our Tuesday Settlers date nights very very interesting.

I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. It was a very busy year. On the seminary front, I took 8 classes between January and December (Greek, Theology of Forgiveness, Reformation Era, Patristics, Christology, Spiritual Formation, Research Methods, and Pauline Epistles). I have now completed all of the classes for my degree and am gearing up to start my thesis in February, as well as do my internship by helping out in a college-level class for the semester.

Things were also quite busy on the blog. The blog has reached the magical 100,000 hits in a little over 2 years which was awesome. Thank you so much to my readers, and to those who shared posts through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and other blogs. And, in September the blog moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org format. (A big shout-out to Nick who helped me get it all set up).

I think this year had some of my favourite blog posts.

I did a series on Women in the Reformation, looking specifically at Invectives and Insults that leading Protestant women faced for their attempts to proclaim the Gospel:

In light of this new egalitarian theology, women from a variety of backgrounds found a voice and entered into the action of proclaiming the Gospel and wrestling with the new theology of justification by faith. As Daniel Frankforter notes, at the advent of the Reformation, “many women comprehended immediately what it was about, embraced its faith, preached its message and encouraged its leaders.” Unfortunately, the response from the leaders of the Reformation to these women actively participating in preaching and teaching was not entirely positive. More often than not, the women who chose to write, preach and teach were met with invectives, attempts to expunge their writings, and silence.

I did a tongue-in-cheek exhortation on why Christians should never read the Patristic Fathers:

10. They’re boring. They don’t talk about anything interesting. Ever. And they are polite and never ever disagree with each other.

9. People were baptized naked. Yup. Naked. Oh my victorian/evangelical sensibilities!

8. What do you mean there were women in leadership in the early church? Church Mothers? Desert Mothers? Everyone knows that the only biblical model for women is to be at home in high heels and have supper in the oven…

Speaking of tongue-in-cheek humourous posts, I also did a very loose interpretation and reimagining of Proverbs 31, In Praise of the Geeky Wife:

A wife of geeky character who can find? She is worth far more than gold-pressed latinum.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks no season of Doctor Who.

She brings him buffs, not de-buffs, all the days of her life.

She grinds mats and rep and works with eager hands.

She is like Cyrano Jones, bringing her tribbles from afar…

I wrote about how Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Merida from Brave are illustrations of young evangelicals:

I guess what it comes down to is this: I wish there was a little more humility; a little more listening. I get the disenfranchisement of the young people in the church today, I really do. I am of that generation. I think the difference is that I didn’t grow up in the Church, so I didn’t have my rebel moment. I came into the Church at the age of 16 with my eyes somewhat open to what I was choosing. It was (through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit) my choice to respond to the gracious gift of Jesus; it wasn’t forced on me (“you have to be a Christian because that is what this family does”). Add to that, I have spent a lot of time reading Church history, listening to the elders who have gone before, and sitting under their wisdom. It has changed me. It has softened me. It has made me (somewhat) more patient with the foibles and frustrations of a Church that is made up of imperfect humans.

I wrote one post on the Biblical Womanhood hoopla that arose in the blogosphere after Rachel Held Evans’ newest book came out:

For 17 years I have struggled through the minefield of messages and advice, trying to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. And yet, I have also learned that much of the “advice” that is given out by well-meaning lay leaders in the church is loaded with spiritual guilt and peer pressure. Not only is there a desire to be a faithful servant, but there is a social need to fit in. And when those pressures are combined with “biblical” wisdom, it becomes a power cocktail of stress and anxiety, one that leads to a salvation by works rather than a salvation by faith, as women try their best to live up to the expectations.

I introduced y’all to some of my favourite female theologians, and Chuck talked about how to be a smart consumer of the academic literature that focuses on the complementarian-egalitarian gender debate:

First, there is a difference between “gender differences” and “inherent gender differences.” Gender differences (and that includes personality differences) are often substantial, but are the product of both biological and social factors. So finding larger differences than previous studies found does not lock us into the interpretation that these differences are all about God’s design. Also, the CBMW author rails against secular academics who are trying to prove that gender differences are “negligible, circumstantial and not a part of design,” but ignores the fact that the study (which I’m guessing he didn’t read) is about a conflict between academics who expect gender differences to be small and other academics (mostly evolutionary psychologists) who expect them to be large…Pointing to a poorly written study in a poor-quality journal and using it to “prove” an organization’s position actually serves to undercut the credibility of said organization.

On the sci-fi front, I wrote about the theme of apocalypse and the nature of humanity as portrayed in the Whedon-verse and Doctor Who and compared it to a Christian theological understanding:

Indeed, and here is the biggest difference, the Christian apocalypse is primarily redemptive. The Christian apocalypse is not about utter and total destruction. The earth and humanity will not be left in ruin, where the survivors are left alone to somehow bravely rebuild their lives. True there will be judgment (and violence). But even that judgment is redemptive.

So once again I want to say thank you to all of you out there. Some people think that blogging is an impersonal and isolating endeavour, but I have made new friends and even met some of you in real life as a result of the community that has been formed through the blogosphere.

May you all have a restful Christmas holiday. And I look forward to all the conversations that will happen in the blogosphere in 2013.

~Amanda

 

 

 

A Meditation on John 1:14 by Karl Barth

I think I like Karl Barth best not when he’s a theologian, but when he’s a preacher. There is something about his writings aimed at a general rather than academic audience that draws me in and wants me to become a good charismatic shouting “amen” in response to his witness to Jesus Christ.

From 1926 to 1933 Barth wrote a series of Christmas devotions/meditations/homilies for German newspapers. My favourite is the one from 1926, a reflection on John 1:14 entitled, “The Word Made Flesh.” And as Christmas fast approaches, I wanted to share a few excerpts from it:

The Word:

            It is an event which happened and which is still happening; to the evangelist it is as certain as his own existence, and as self-evident as the truth of an axiom. God has spoken and still speaks. All abstract thought and metaphysics, everything one might know and say of God as Thought, Power, and Deed is summed up and completed by the fact that God has spoken and still speaks.  Yes, God! In the verses which precede our text, the evangelist has made it clear what he means by God’s speech: This is a Word which is thought and spoken in the eternal “beginning” of all things, God Himself being present, a Word which unreservedly possesses God’s own attributes, nature and being and which is – really, not parabolically – His Word.

Became:

            This must be immediately interpreted as: “He came to be flesh then and there,” which excludes any wrong conception the word “became” might suggest. John means not a transformation but an incomprehensible coexistence. Without ceasing to be the eternal divine subject the Word is there in time, concretely, contingently and objectively, recognisable as man’s vis-à-vis, for only man can really confront man. The reality of revelation is according to the general meaning of our text just this: The Word of God to which the Gospel witnesses, is a man. To put it the other way round: the man of whom the Gospel speaks, is neither the “symbol” nor the “appearance” of God’s Word to man, nor the highest expression of the Word in a relative sense, but the Word of God Himself, His one and only, His first and His last Word. This “is” the Christmas Gospel.

 

Flesh:

Flesh in the New Testament is not human nature generally and ideally, but concretely this human nature in which I find myself, the nature of “Adam,” the nature man possesses under the sign of the Fall, in the realm of darkness and in his principal opposition to God and to his own self. It does not say: the Word became a super-man or a personage…He does not appear in the form of an angel nor of an ideal man (how can anyone who is not as real as we are, address us?) but as Paul writes, in “the form of a servant” (Phil II.7), so that we who ourselves exist in this form, are able to hear Him. He encounters the riddle of our “darkness” on its own ground.

And Dwelt Among Us:

Inasmuch as the Incarnation fulfils the time, it is also limited by time. Inasmuch as it is epoch-making, it is also an episode which points beyond itself to the Holy Ghost who proclaims the Incarnate Word in other ages as well, and to the Resurrection of the body which includes all ages.

(You can read the whole meditation in Karl Barth, Christmas. translated by Bernhard Citron. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1959).

 

 

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The Best Reflection on the Newtown Tragedy I’ve Found So Far

I haven’t said much on the blog about what happened on Friday in Connecticut. Part of it was because I didn’t have words. Part of it was because I was waiting for the dust to settle a bit, which turned out to be a good move given how much misinformation was reported by the media in the first 24-48 hours after the incident. And part of it was because I didn’t want to jump on the “must say something profound” bandwagon.

And so, I’m still not going to say much, but instead point y’all to the best reflection on the tragedy I have found so far. Tim Perry is a Canadian Christian Blogger, and an Anglican. His post, “Where Was God?” and Other Wrong Questions is theologically profound, biblically solid, and thoroughly pastoral.

…The murder of 27 people, 20 of them children under 10 is evil. Beyond that it was an event of horrific evil, I have nothing really to say about it. And in my silence, I hope I am emulating the one thing that Job’s friends did well–stayed quiet. They got in trouble when they opened their mouths.

 

So, with and for the victims, I will stay silent.

 

I do want to offer some thoughts on what I think are some of the wrong questions now being asked.

 

The first wrong question is the religious question: “Where was God?” Were the question left hanging, followed only by the same silence that followed our Lord’s last cry on Good Friday, it would be a fine question. But far too often, it’s not. The question is a mere preamble to the answer. Thus far, I have read only two. In short, one says, God was absent. Having scrubbed God from the public life of America, or North America, or the West (take your pick), we are now left to live with the consequences of our “cleanliness.” God has indeed left and we are left to live with godlessness. I confess to holding this answer in some regard even if it is stupidly and insensitively presented by many. It does conform to the message of many of the Old Testament prophets, not to mention Jesus and St. Paul. A message that boils down to, “the consequence of sin is more sin.” But it is the wrong question and wrong answer for this time.

 

A second wrong answer to this wrong question affirms just the opposite conclusion as the first: God was present through it all–weeping, perhaps consoling, hastening a departure for heaven. This answer is often given as a response to the more unkind versions of the first answer. And while it does tug at my emotions, I find it wanting, not least because of the emotional response it evokes in me. After the initial pull of sentimentality subsides, I have anger. Were I ever to be in a similar situation, and I pray I never am, I would hope that I have the same courage as the principal and other teachers who died intervening to stop the gunman and to save children. To stand by and cry while observing such a massacre is the definition of cowardice. Not divine love.

 

Further, it seems to me both answers are wrong because, at the end of the day, they are not actually about God and God’s need to be justified in the face of evil.  (Did God ever say he needed us to defend him in this way?) They are wrong because their principal function is to help us reconstruct, at whatever cost to the parents and grandparents of the dead, our own sense of safety. “God is off in his corner. I’m with God and you’re not.” That’s the underbelly of the first answer. “I’m with God. I’ll cry from the sidelines and do nothing, too.” That’s the underbelly of the second. Either way, the answers serve to comfort us by reminding us that we are not the ones who are suffering. That we are somehow different. That we will (hopefully) remain safe from such events happening to us…

 

So, is there a right question to be asking? It seems to me that there is. It is the question that drives Psalm 80–the Psalm for this Sunday’s lectionary: “How long, Lord God Almighty,will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?” To sit with those who are grieving does indeed involve silence. But not simply silence. There are questions to be asked. But not questions about God, or guns, or mental illness. Rather, the question is to be directed to God. The Psalmist is not afraid to ask–How long O Lord? He goes on to say that his people have eaten enough bread soaked with tears. He tells God it’s time for him to turn his face again to his people and deliver them. He is not afraid to talk to God…

I’ve quoted just a couple of excerpts, so go and read the whole thing here.

Random Thoughts on Christmas Carols, The Radio, Church and Advent

I made it all the way to December 14th.

It’s a new record.

I managed to avoid “The Christmas Shoes” on the radio for 14 whole days.

It’s one of those songs that tugs at your heart strings, and I inevitably cry every time I hear it. And Friday, I couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t get to the radio quick enough to turn it off. So I listened to it.

But what made it worse was the song the radio played right after was the same type of song, only this time it told the story of a little boy with a terminal disease who probably wouldn’t live long enough to see Christmas, but does and then dies. Put “The Christmas Shoes” and that new song together on a day when little children were murdered in Connecticut, and needless to say I was a big sobbing mess.

By Saturday I was mad. Those two songs don’t tug at heart strings, they manipulate emotions. Now don’t get me wrong there is definitely a place and a time for songs of sadness, lament and raw emotion. But in this case, these songs do it for the wrong reason. And maybe that’s not the fault of the songwriters, but it is definitely the fault of the radio stations who play them over and over and over again. (How many covers of “The Christmas Shoes” are there now? 20? 30? 100?)

On Sunday we sang advent songs about joy. No Christmas carols yet. And I get the theological reasoning for it, I really do. But it seems really strange that I can hear Christmas carols, hymns about the birth of Jesus, on the radio for an entire month, and yet in church we’ll only sing Christmas carols on two occasions, Christmas Eve, and the Sunday after Christmas as part of the 12 days of Christmas. (edited to add: there might be a few Christmas carols at church this Sunday because it is the children’s pageant). Note: I’m not saying “down with Advent.” I think Advent is vitally important to the life and worship of the Christian community and it’s one of my favourite times of year. I just can’t help but spend a few minutes thinking about the oddity of the secular having more airtime for Christmas carols than the church. (Now of course I get that in the grand scheme of the Church year Easter has been and should be a bigger deal than Christmas and that Christmas being the high point of the church year is a relatively new phenomenon).

Speaking of Christmas carols, a friend of mine posted what has to be the strangest, creepiest, incongruous music video ever. It’s Twisted Sister’s rendering of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Now I don’t have a problem with the musical score, it’s the video itself. It represents a complete disconnect from the lyrics. Do they even know what they are singing? And then add to the fact that in the middle of the bridge they throw in a few bars of “We’re Not Going to Take It” and it has to be the weirdest Christmas music video ever.

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What is Your Rule of Life?

We all have one. Even if we don’t call it a “rule” we all have an ethos and a pattern that shapes our day. Now of course there are formal “rules” like Benedict’s rule for his monastic order, which had specific rules and expectations for its members, and while these rules 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.

It’s our pattern or structure to how we live life. It is our boundaries for what we do and don’t do, and sometimes even includes measures for if we fail to do what we should. It can include practical things like, when do you read Scripture or do devotions? Do you do it in the morning or in the evening? Do you follow a specific “how to read the Bible in a year” program? Do you follow the Daily Office? When and how do you pray? Do you pray in the morning before you start your day? Do you go somewhere specific to pray or do you pray as you go about doing the dishes? What activities do you do in the life of the church? Do you attend a bible study or a small group? Do you gather with others to intercede for the people in your church? Do you regularly go to church? How do you participate in the corporate worship? How do you participate in the Great Commission of Christ? Do you engage in evangelism, support missionaries or go on mission trips? Do you regularly tithe? Do you practice fasting and how often?

The purpose in specifically thinking about our rule of life is to not only identify gaps but also to consider how what we do (or don’t do) shapes what our beliefs, our character and our identity as disciples of Jesus. It’s not about being legalistic, as if doing these works will save us or justify us before God. Instead, doing these patterns or rhythms are a way to respond to the saving work of Christ, to participate in the work and task He has called us to, and to testify to the power of the Holy Spirit who works in and through our lives.

Now saying all of that, I need to be honest. I wish I could say that I currently have a rule of life. But this semester is one in which I am operating in survival-mode only. My only rule at the moment is to survive until Christmas and to go to church every Sunday. But I know that this semester is only a season. In fact, up until this year I had a rule of life (even though it wasn’t called that), or a structure and rhythm to my spiritual growth. It will need to be tweaked as I enter the new year and a new season. It will not be survival-mode, because I know that I need and thrive under structure rather than chaos.

As I try to articulate my rule of life for the new year, the question that needs to be answered is, “how will I balance family, school, life, my family’s walk with God, and my own personal walk with God?”

Currently, at the dinner table, we adapt the BAS Evening Prayer to create a time of family devotion. The rhythm of that mirrors the rhythm of Sunday worship, and it has helped my three-year old to understand what happens at church. Every evening as we sing the Lord’s Prayer, the three-year old announces, “I sing that song at ‘talk to Jesus!” Come the new year, I would like to begin to incorporate the BAS morning prayer into my routine as a way to start my day. It will probably only be on days that I’m working in the library, and I hope to make it the first thing I do before I turn on my laptop and begin answering emails or working on schoolwork. One of the things that I am missing and need to find a way to better incorporate into a rule of life, is finding a way to carve out space to listen to and to sing worship music. Before moving to Saskatchewan I used to sit at the piano and play through worship songs for about half an hour every day (part of this was because I had been serving as a worship pastor). Since moving here I haven’t touched my piano except to dust it (and even that doesn’t happen as often as it should). That emotional-expressive component of my spiritual life has taken a back seat to the more cognitive, word/study based component of my spiritual life.

As for church life, I am and hope to continue to be active in the ministry role of “crucifer/server.” As well, I will continue to be on the list of “readers” who read the appointed Scripture passages as assigned. At the moment, those two activities keep me busy enough in the life of St. Aidan. One of the things that is profoundly shaping my spiritual development is the fact that we take communion weekly at St. Aidan. I still haven’t been able to find the words to articulate how exactly it is shaping me, but the rhythm of gathering with my family at the front and taking communion together has become important. So much so, that in the brief times when communion is not served (e.g., when we celebrate Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist), my soul feels hungry and even a little bit restless.

In my time at seminary, there have been three components that have been vital to my spiritual development. First, taking classes in a modular format is a great way for me to devote significant time in a focused way to learning about Jesus. There is something powerful about sitting in a classroom with others who are just as eager to learn. The bonds that develop in the intensity of a week-long class help to profoundly shape not only my “cognitive” knowledge of Christ, but also my “experiential” knowledge of Christ. Second, one of the first opportunities I had to plug into life in Caronport was joining the Karl Barth reading group. This group of students, pastors and laypeople meets Friday mornings to discuss short passages of Barth’s Church Dogmatics. It is also a time for prayer and a brief reflection on Scripture. While I have had to step away from this group this semester, my plan is to resume participation in January when my schedule becomes a little more flexible. Third, the St. Aidan cohort at Briercrest has been an amazing blessing. The mini-community of Anglicans at Briercrest is in some ways almost a small group or cell group. The ability to meet for coffee with one or more St. Aidanite, or even just to encourage one another in passing has been a source of grace.

While not directly related to spiritual growth, one of the things that I have been working on this semester, and hopefully will continue through the year is carving out specific time for my husband and I to have “us” time. This may mean going on a date, or just hanging out, but it is regular, weekly time for us to spend time together without the distractions of the kids or work or school. Thankfully, college students are able to fulfill their service learning requirements by doing free babysitting, and we have begun to take advantage of that by having regular Tuesday night dates. It is a time not only for us to rest, but also for us to edify and encourage each other in our vocational calls, and to even sometimes dream together about our future hopes and plans. (Or, to not do any of that but instead to just focus on how to slaughter the other person in a cut-throat game of Settlers of Catan!)