Canadian Christianity — C&MA Ordain First Female Pastor

On Sunday, cialis the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada ordained their first female pastor, unhealthy Eunice Smith. Last year, malady the denomination voted to change the bylaws regarding ordination to allow for women to be ordained. From the news release:

Eunice has served the C&MA for more than sixty years. She has served in the Canadian Midwest District, the Caribbean Sun Region and the Canadian Pacific District. Eunice was ordained in Richmond Alliance Church, in Richmond, B.C., the church that she currently serves and calls home.

Rev. Jon Coutts, lead pastor of Richmond Alliance Church, deemed Eunice’s ordination “a celebration of God’s faithfulness to and through her over the years, as well as a meaningful, formal affirmation of her gifts and calling for ministry in the church.”

Eunice’s son, Rev. Dr. Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University College, declared that Eunice’s ordination affirms the seeds planted through her teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Eshet Chayil! A woman of valour!

 

The Role of the Church in Postliberal Thought — The Problem of Antirealism

Welcome to the second post in the series on postliberal ecclesiology. The first post can be found here.

 

One of the main charges leveled against postliberalism is that, viagra at a philosophical level, buy cialis it is inherently antirealist.  That is, it has been suggested that the cultural-linguistic approach needs no external referent.  Part of this is because Lindbeck is reacting against the cognitive-propositionalist approach that “stresses the ways in which church doctrines function as informative propositions or truth claims about objective realities.”[1]  Lindbeck does not deny that cognitive aspects of doctrine can be important, but he argues that they are not the primary purpose of doctrine.[2]  The criticism is that, in making doctrine to be rules rather than first-order propositional truth claims, postliberalism is antirealist.[3]

Alister McGrath, for example, argues that Lindbeck “seems to suggest that conceiving theology as the grammar of the Christian language entails the abandonment of any talk about God as an independent reality…”[4]  Jeffrey Hensley, on the other hand, argues that Lindbeck is “metaphysically neutral” and therefore it is possible for postliberals to be realists.  He suggests that Lindbeck makes a distinction between meaning and existence, and that it is meaning that is “conceptually relative.”[5]  Thus, what Lindbeck is doing is not necessarily offering an antirealist metaphysic, but is instead “simply pointing out that the frameworks through which we view the world deeply influences the way in which we understand its nature and existence.”[6]  Stanley Hauerwas, in interacting with the works of Hans Frei, likewise argues that postliberalism is not antirealist because it is impossible to isolate the biblical narratives from reality, just as it impossible to consider statements of “truth and falsity [apart] from the context of their utterance.”[7]

This becomes important in the discussion of the role of the Church, because it too does not have an external referent.  It is antirealist in that it does not need a propositional reality, and the community ultimately fails to “be accountable to something beyond itself.”[8]  In other words, if the community determines doctrine, what determines the community?  For evangelicals, cognitive-propositionalists and postconservatives, that external referent is Scripture.  The problem, as identified by critics of postliberalism, is that by making the community the final authority, doctrine becomes relativized or dependant on the whims of the community.  Vanhoozer suggests that this postliberal emphasis of the community being the final authority has been picked up in evangelical churches, resulting in churches that have adopted cultural practices “that owe more to managerial, therapeutic, consumerist, and entertainment cultures…”[9]  Ultimately, by making the community the centre, it increases the likelihood of deformed practices and corrupted traditions.[10]  In this way, the cultural-linguistic approach is closer to the experiential-expressive approach.  Where the classic liberal position of the experiential-expressive grounds truth in the ‘common human experience’, the postliberal approach grounds truth in the ‘common community experience.’

Next up: Definition of Church


 

[1] Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, 2.

[2] Ibid., 21.

[3] Donald Bloesch, Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 211–212; Jeffrey Hensley, “Are Postliberals Necessarily Antirealists? Reexamining the Metaphysics of Lindbeck’s Postliberal Theology” in Phillips and Okholm, Nature of Confession, 73–74.

[4] Alister McGrath, The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundations of Doctrinal Criticisms (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 29.

[5] Jeffrey Hensley, “Are Postliberals Necessarily Antirealists? Reexamining the Metaphysics of Lindbeck’s Postliberal Theology” in Phillips and Okholm, Nature of Confession, 76.

[6] Ibid, 76.

[7] Stanley Hauerwas, “The Church As God’s New Language,” in Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church, World, and Living in Between (Durham: The Labyrinth Press, 1988), 59.

[8] Fackre, 129.

[9] Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, 26.

[10] Ibid., 22.

The Role of the Church in Postliberal Thought — Introduction

Welcome to the first post in a series on postliberalism and Ecclesiology.

What is Postliberalism?

            Postliberalism is a twentieth-century theology founded on the narrative theology of Hans Frei, cialis and George Lindbeck’s theory of doctrine.  It attempts to offer a corrective to the relativistic bent of liberalism by affirming the importance of Scripture in the life of Christianity, recipe bringing liberal theology in closer relationship to more conservative strands of Protestantism (such as evangelicalism).  Meaning and truth are “determined by the intratextual subject matter of Scripture.”[1]  Becoming an adherent of a religion is a process similar to learning a language or learning to adopt a new culture.

In postliberalism, shop the authority resides in the community, and in how the community uses and interprets Scripture to formulate doctrine.  While there is much to be appreciated in adopting a postliberal ecclesiology, the placement of authority within the Church, rather than in Scripture, can become a stumbling block for conservative Protestants.  I would suggest that the benefits of postliberal ecclesiology can be adopted by evangelicals, so long as the authority remains with Scripture rather than the community.

Limitations

            In approaching this topic, a few limitations need to be addressed.  First, while George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine was foundational for postliberalism, Lindbeck was not a systematic theologian.  Added to this, while there is much commonality between his work and the work of fellow Yale professor, Hans Frei, Frei died shortly after the publication of Lindbeck’s book, which means that, while scholars pair the two together as the founders of postliberalism, there was in actuality “a lack of substantive methodological followup.”[2]

Second, there seems to be disagreement about who is actually a postliberal scholar.  Postliberalism is also known as “Yale Theology” but this does not necessarily mean that students of Frei and Lindbeck are necessarily postliberals.   As George Hunsinger has noted, there seems to be a randomness to who is considered postliberal and who is not.  Indeed, scholars like Stanley Hauerwas are considered postliberal even though he did not belong to the Yale tradition.[3]  As well, the “Yale Theology” is significantly less “Yale-y” given that the major scholars associated with current postliberal thought are working at schools other than Yale.  As William Placher notes, “Yale itself is no longer clearly a centre of postliberal theology.”[4]  Also, there is a question as to how postliberal Lindbeck actually was, with Hunsinger suggesting instead that Frei was postliberal, while Lindbeck was more precisely ‘neoliberal.’[5]

Recognizing that there is debate about what constitutes postliberal theology, I am assuming a standard broad understanding of postliberalism and its major contributors as found in most dictionaries on 20th century theology.[6]  For the purpose of this series, the focus will be primarily on two of Lindbeck’s writings: The Nature of Doctrine,[7] and his essay “The Church,”[8] as well as the various interactions and critiques that have been offered by scholars.

 

Cultural-Linguistic Approach

            Lindbeck proposes an alternative to what he sees as the two dominant ways of understanding doctrine.  In contrast to the cognitive-propositional approach, and the experiential-expressive approach, Lindbeck offers the cultural-linguistic approach.  This approach is influenced by modern cultural anthropology, as well as the theory of language as presented by Ludwig Wittengenstein.

In a cognitive-propositional approach, the truth of a doctrine is found in concrete propositions grounded in reality, while in the experiential-expressive model the truth is found in a common human experience or feeling.  In the cultural-linguistic model, truth resides in the community.  To become a Christian is to learn and adopt the language and practices of the Christian community.  It is not enough to know the ‘facts’ about Christianity, for there are many non-Christians who know what Christianity is.  Instead, it is about learning the language and grammar of the Christian faith.  More specifically, “to become a Christian involves learning the story of Israel and of Jesus well enough to interpret and experience oneself and one’s world in its terms.”[9]

Scripture plays a key role here, as it is the framework within which Christians experience and affirm the faith.[10]  And while the surrounding culture will influence the life of a Christian, ultimately “what is important is that Christians allow their cultural conditions and highly diverse affections to be molded by the set of biblical stories that stretches from creation to the eschaton and culminates in Jesus’ passion and resurrection.”[11]  In the cultural-linguistic model, Scripture “absorbs the universe” and provides the interpretative framework by which Christians understand all reality.[12]

And yet, despite the heavy emphasis on the role of Scripture in formulating doctrine and shaping the community, one of the main critiques of the cultural-linguistic model, and postliberalism in general, is that ultimately, it is the community that has the final authority without being answerable to anything else.  Salvation is found in the community.  The community teaches the language that characterizes the Christian faith, and the community interprets the Scriptures to define the doctrines of the community.  Thus, within postliberalism the answer to the question, “how is Scripture authoritative?” is “according to socialization in the community’s conventions, which are subject to revision with continuing community engagement.”[13]

Next up: The problem of anti-realism.


 

[1] George Hunsinger, “Postliberal Theology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, ed. Kevin Vanhoozer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 44.

[2] Paul DeHart, The Trial of Witnesses: The Rise and Decline of Postliberal Theology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2006), xiii.

[3] Hunsinger, “Postliberal Theology,” 42.

[4] William Placher, “Postliberal Theology,” in The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology in the 20th Century, ed. David Ford (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 354.

[5] Hunsinger, “Postliberal Theology,” 44.

[6] e.g., Alister McGrath, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995); Placher, “Postliberal Theology.”

[7] George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

[8] George Lindbeck, “The Church,” in Keeping the Faith: Essays to Mark the Centenary of Lex Mundi, ed. Geoffrey Wainwright (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

[9] Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, 20.

[10] Ibid., 66.

[11] Ibid., 70.

[12] Ibid., 103. For an in-depth philosophical analysis of Lindbeck’s use of “absorb the universe,” see Bruce Marshall, “Absorbing the World: Christianity and The Universe of Truths,” in Theology and Dialogue: Essays in Conversation with George Lindbeck (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), 69-102.

[13] Gabriel Fackre, “Narrative: Evangelical, Postliberal, Ecumenical” in Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm, eds., Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 129.

The “Unsuccessful” Church

By all modern measures, pills the little church would be considered a failure. It never grew past 50 in attendance. Its demographic was always heavy on the seniors, ambulance with only a handful of people under the age of 25. For twenty years the church gathered in a rented facility, a youth centre, and all of the church’s belongings, from the pulpit, to the collapsible communion table, to the hymnals and coffee supplies, fit snugly into a tiny closet. (People used to joke that the little church would be ahead of the game if Christians became a persecuted minority in Canada because it could be packed up in less than fifteen minutes) In the last decade, the church began to die, literally. Every year at least one member went to be with Jesus. With the majority of the members being retired and on fixed incomes, the church operated on a lean budget. As the congregation shrank, the pastor offered to drop down to part-time status to help on expenses. More than one person asked the pastor why he kept ministering there; it wasn’t like he was making a ton of money as a full-time pastor, and now as a part-time pastor he was making bread-crumbs. His response, every time, was so long as people kept showing up, he would continue to pastor. This was a pastor that took joy in ministering to seniors, and in the ever-increasing race for “families and young people” more and more churches were neglecting their elders. This pastor wouldn’t do that to them. Seniors needed pastoral care just as much as young families.

The church was eventually dissolved. 20 years of ministry and it died. It was merged with another tiny congregation.

“Unsuccessful.” Or was it?

It was the church that I was discipled in. While I was saved through a large Pentecostal youth ministry, it was this tiny, dying church that took me under its wing and helped me grow in the faith. The pastor’s wife picked me up from home every Sunday morning, and drove me to church. I learned about being a Christian, and a woman, and a servant during those car rides. I didn’t say much, but I just listened as the pastor’s wife ministered to me through the stories of her life experiences. I learned about serving by helping to set up the rows of chairs every morning, by placing a hymnal and bible on each chair, by helping to put everything away at the end of the service. I learned about suffering and struggle as I prayed with members who were suffering from cancer, dementia, or the loss of a spouse. I learned about joy as I shared in the celebrations of 50th wedding anniversaries, birth announcements of grandbabies and great-grandbabies. It was in this church that I was baptized. It was in this church that I got to cut my teeth on leading worship and preaching. It was by this pastor that I was married, and that my first child was dedicated to Jesus.

The church may be gone, and church growth experts would say that it was an “unsuccessful” church, but they would be wrong. It’s not about numbers.

It’s about proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrected.

It’s about faithfulness.

It’s about service.

It’s about obedience.

It’s about caring for one another and discipling each other.

It’s about changing lives.

And that’s what this church did. It changed the lives of seniors who would have otherwise been forgotten by larger churches. And it changed my life. I learned about the long road of the life of faith, a life that is marked not by successive mountaintop experiences, but by the slow and steady walk of decades of faithful discipleship.

 

Christians and Game of Thrones

How should Christians interact, order respond to, pharm or embrace pop culture? It’s a question that I wrestle with regularly, given that my interests include not only theology but also science-fiction.

And let’s face it, there are good ways and bad ways to interact with pop culture. Take Game of Thrones for example. The Song of Ice and Fire series is fantastic (even if I do have squabbles with the quality of A Dance with Dragons), and HBO has translated the novels into a highly successful television series. How do Christians, who appreciate the novels, respond to the television series especially given HBO’s propensity to “sex it up”? Not all of us are comfortable with the graphic sexual content of the show, and yet we still understand that there is something powerful to the narrative of the television series that cannot be ignored.

There are a plethora of examples of Christians responding to Game of Thrones (be it the novels or the television series) well, with thought, reflection and respect for the world that Martin has created. Here are just a few:

A Morally-Complex Game of Thrones

Ben Witherington’s review of Season One

My posts can be found here, here and here.

But then, every once and a while you come across an example of how not to interact with Game of Thrones. Take the article at Christianity Today. Jonathan Ryan attempts to contrast Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings. Which is fine, so long as it is recognized that they are two very different worlds and worldviews. The problem comes when Ryan tries to compare Tyrion Lannister to Gollum:

Martin paints this grimness in the portrait of Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is a small and deformed figure born to a powerful and noble family in Westeros. Years of poor treatment and outright abuse leads Tyrion to drink more and more deeply from the corruption around him.If you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you can’t help but compare Tyrion to Smeagol, the hobbit who becomes Gollum after becoming corrupted by Sauron’s ring The difference comes in Frodo’s attempt to redeem Gollum. That attempt has no parallel in Martin’s world, nor is there anything like Gandalf’s admonition to treat Gollum with kindness. Tyrion has no Frodo, and he never will. No one reaches out to him; no one tries to save or redeem him.

Ryan fundamentally misunderstands and misconstrues the character of Tyrion. In fact, I would argue that Tyrion is in fact one of the most honourable characters in Westeros, with the understanding that the rules of morality in A Song of Ice and Fire are very, very distinct from the rules of morality in something like The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, it is this honour-in- spite-of-all-he’s-been-through that makes Tyrion one of the more beloved characters to readers (and viewers). The same endearment cannot be said of Gollum.

In trying to compare Tyrion to Gollum, the author overlooks all the good things that Tyrion has done. (There is now a note at the bottom of the article that the article removed an important plot point from the article because it would be a “spoiler” to those who are new to the series, but even eliminating discussion of the plot point does not mean that at this point in the TV series Tyrion fits well with Gollum).

CS 65 Friday 22nd October 2010First, a few comparisons. Gollum was consumed by lust for the ring. And it was this lust that transformed him into a hideous monster. Tyrion was broken and starved for affection because he was born deformed. His brokenness did not transform his appearance, but instead, his appearance and neglect actually gave him space to better see the complex politics of the world for what they were. Tyrion’s deformity meant that people left him alone, and underestimated him, and he used that to his advantage to study and to learn and to influence events in the kingdom (even if it was often only behind the scenes). For Tyrion, it’s not about gaining power, which is the drive of the rest of his family. Indeed, Tywin’s and Cersei’s quests for power are so single-minded that they don’t actually understand the bigger picture beyond their own ambitions. Gollum’s solitude, on the other hand, led to a devolution and little understanding of the world around him.

So what are some of the “noble” things that Tyrion does? (while I will try to remain vague, it should be noted that for some people, what follows might constitute spoilers).

Tyrion befriends Jon Snow. He rescues Sansa from a fate worse than death if she were to stay in King’s Landing. He protects the kingdom from Joffrey, by reining him in as best he can.

Does Tyrion do awful things? Yes. But while they are not inexcusable, they are understandable. Yes he kills two people close to him. But his action does not come from some kind of bloodlust, but rather from the raw emotion of being deeply betrayed and emotionally abused.

And as for Ryan’s suggestion that Tyrion has no Frodo, I would suggest that Tyrion does in fact have a Frodo, she just hasn’t been introduced in the television show yet (and I worry that she’ll be one of the characters that HBO drops in their attempt to streamline the novel). By the last novel, Tyrion is definitely on a redemption arc, as much as there can be a redemption arc in Martin’s universe.

If anything, Tyrion is the most human of all the characters in Martin’s universe, and I would suggest that the character of Tyrion could be a reflection and a jumping off point for discussing Christian understandings of the human condition, both in its brokenness and its value despite its brokenness.

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Review: Did The First Christians Worship Jesus?

Did The First Christians Worship Jesus? is a continuation of an ongoing academic discussion on the nature of early Christian worship, rx between Larry Hurtado, physician Richard Bauckham and James Dunn. In this work, written at a level suitable for the general readership, Dunn notes that he does agree in principle with the writings of Hurtado and Bauckham, but that in this volume he wants to wrestle with those passages that seem to contradict the idea that the early Christians worshipped Jesus. If in fact the early Christians were hesitant to worship Jesus, Dunn believes that it is important to stop and ask why this is.

Dunn explores this by asking five primary questions: 1) What is worship, and does worship define God? 2) What did worship involve? 3) How was God’s self-revelation understood in biblical Judaism? 4) Was Jesus a monotheist? 5) What did Jesus’s exaltation to the right hand of the Father mean to the early Christians?[2] Dunn’s thesis is that, in the early Church, the worship of Jesus was not an alternative to the worship of God, it was a way of worshipping God. More precisely, the worship of Jesus was (and should be) wholly Trinitarian; that is, “Worship of Jesus that is not worship of God through Jesus, or, more completely, worship of God through Jesus and in the Spirit, is not Christian worship.”[3]

Dunn argues that the original question, “Did the first Christians worship Jesus?” is too narrow, and when taken at face value it should be answered in the negative. Better questions to ask, Dunn suggests, are “was the earliest Christian worship possible without and apart from Jesus?”[4] and, “did the first Christians include Jesus within this restricted worship, or did they somehow loosen the restrictions?”[5] Dunn is attempting to guard against the possibility of Christomonism, or in his words “Jesus-olatry”, wherein the worship of Jesus replaces the worship of God.

This book, while written at an easily-accessible level and marketed to the general Christian public, makes the reader feel like they have walked into the middle of a conversation without any prior context of the conversation. As well, because Dunn states that he is in agreement with Hurtado and Bauckham, the subtle arguments that he is making in relation to their broader conversation will probably be lost on those who have not fully followed the conversation. As such, Larry Hurtado’s review[6] helps to guide readers in understanding the broader conversation, as well as pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of Dunn’s argument.

From a theological perspective, Dunn’s book is useful because he affirms and wants to ensure that all discussion of Christian worship is Trinitarian in nature. At the same time, the question needs to be asked if Dunn’s fear of “Jesus-olatry” is overblown. An examination of the Patristic development of Christology, even though it is extends beyond the first century data that Dunn is analyzing, would be useful to explore, particularly some of the early writings of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, to see if the worship of Jesus actually displaces the worship of God the Father. (Though space does not permit, I would argue that the development of the doctrine of the Trinity prevents this from occurring). That being said, Dunn’s worry about “Jesus-olatry” does not warrant criticisms that Dunn is undermining the foundations of Christian orthodoxy with his scholarly examination of the biblical texts.[7]



[1] James Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus: The New Testament Evidence (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

[2] Ibid., 6.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 58.

[5] Ibid., 60.

[6] Larry Hurtado, review of Did the First Christians Worship, by James Dunn, Journal of Theological Studies 61 (2010): 736-40.

[7] See for example, Paul Owen, review of Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? The New Testament Evidence, by James Dunn, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54 (2011): 645-47.

Theology Round-Up

Theology Round-up will return at the end of April. I’ve taken a fast from blogging, viagra not for spiritual reasons, sale but for “life has been way too busy” reasons. Between my internship, medical starting my first chapter of my thesis, and the death of our car, this month has been crazy to say the least. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.

In the mean time, enjoy this clip of Karl Barth talking about the Confessing Church.

Does Uriah Know?

Last week, viagra sale I was giving a lecture on Desire (Covetousness and Lust) as part of my internship. We were talking about the story of David and Bathsheba as the worst (best?) example of the danger of lust. I was suggesting that the tenth commandment, “do not covet,” is strategically placed as the last commandment because it encompasses so many of the other sins listed in the 10 commandments, and it is the opposite of the first commandment:the first commandment tells us about properly ordered desire, while the last tells us about disordered desire. I had the class list all the other sins that flowed from David’s coveting of Bathsheba, and we concluded that he broke practically all of the commandments. Somehow I ended up down a rabbit trail (which is really easy to do when I’m in 1 or 2 Samuel) and asked this question of the class: Does Uriah Know? That is, does Uriah know what David has done and does it make David’s sin(s) all the more heinous given that he’s not fooling anyone?

In this post, I am going to attempt to unrabbit trail my thoughts.

English: Uriah the Hittite
English: Uriah the Hittite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the narrator does not specifically tell us one way or the other, there are several hints that suggest that Uriah does in fact know what David has done. Though the king as ordered Uriah to go home and have relations with his wife, Uriah does not, and instead sleeps in the courtyard. To disobey the king is to invite death. But Uriah does not fear David. This could be because he is in a position of power knowing exactly what David has done. David would not dare murder Uriah for disobedience, for people would know that David had murdered him to cover something up.

Uriah, in responding to David’s inquiry about why he has not obeyed, says that he cannot go home and enjoy the pleasures of a homecoming when his comrades are in the battlefield, unable to also enjoy rest. He swears a double oath, on both the life and soul of David, he will not do “this thing.” Of course “this thing” is ambiguous, but I would suggest that if Uriah knows, then he is saying that he will not participate in the David’s cover-up, and ultimately in David’s sin.

If it is read in this way, then Uriah is the foil for David. Uriah, the convert to Judaism (the narrative repeatedly refers to Uriah as “Uriah the Hittite”), cares more for theology than David. This is especially ironic if we read David as a hologram of Israel. An outsider understands the honour of being chosen (a man or nation after God’s own heart) then Israel (David), who forgets.

If Uriah does know, then what David is about to do next is even more perplexing. David is so concerned with himself and with his image that he is willing to have an innocent man put to death; a man who knows David’s sin, and chooses to allow David to kill him. The honour and nobility of this soldier and friend stands in stark contrast to the self-righteous king who does not even go out to battle when it is the season for kings to go out. When Uriah disobeys the king, David must realize that Uriah has the upper hand. That he orders Joab to have Uriah murdered in such a public and obvious way shows that David is so self-centred and so desperate that it is Joab who has to rewrite the orders to protect David’s position as king.

Though not stated in the text, one has to wonder if there may not have been a prior relationship (or flirting) between David and Bathsheba, of which Uriah may have been aware. Uriah, being one of David’s top men, and being the grandson-in-law of David’s top minister, would have had many opportunities to socialize with the king. It may have been that David had previously “scoped out” Bathsheba, and Uriah should be aware of the many wives and concubines that David acquires in his role as king. Uriah, then, may not surprised that David, being a ladies’ man and being home alone while the troops are at war, would find a way to enjoy the presence of Bathsheba.

 

 

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Seminary as a Cemetery

One of the nicknames college students have for the seminary is “cemetery.”

“It’s always so quiet in the seminary wing.”

“Seminary is where passion and fire for Jesus get extinguished.”

cemetery

I’ve come to realize that these college students are right: seminary is a cemetery, cialis just not in the way they think it is.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is a place where pride goes to die and be buried. Attitudes of “I’m going to change the church single-handily” quickly disappear as the student learns that pastoral ministry is hard work that very often has little earthly payoff. The reality is that the pastor-celebrity who has podcasts, drugstore books, patient and 10,000 followers is the exception and not the norm.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is where we learn to die to ourselves. This calling, this mission, this following-Jesus is hard work. It requires sacrifice of time and money and desire. Even just being in seminary for two or three years often means taking a pay-cut and living lean while attending school. For some it means moving hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from family and friends.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is a place of stillness and quiet. Away from the traffic and business of “regular life”, of “ministry obligations”, of “the rat race”, pastors come and whether it’s only for a week-long mod, a semester or a couple of years, they find rest and quiet and stillness.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is marked with the gravestones and memorials of those who have gone before. It is where we sit and listen to those now long dead and gone. We read deeply of the heroes and martyrs, of saints and sinners. Their lives are testimonies to the awesome power of the risen Saviour. Their books, their letters and their lives are the grave markers, row upon row, that stretch upon the horizon. Some of the tombstones are shiny and new. Some are so old that they are crumbling and the inscriptions can barely be read. Some are in English. Most are in other languages. And some have no markings other than a crudely etched cross or fish.

Seminary is a cemetery because it is a place that points to the future. Death is not the end. Those who are laid to rest will not stay in the ground. One day there will be resurrection. One day Christians who are living and those who have died will be gathered together before the great throne of the Lamb. Everything we do at seminary, whether it’s writing papers, labouring through Greek Exegesis, doing a counseling practicum, or learning about pastoral care, points to and contains glimpses of the future, perfect, white-robed reality of the New Jerusalem.

Theology Round-Up February

Barth, cialis Barth and more Barth:

Travis McMaken reflects on his experience of teaching Karl Barth to undergrads.

Rick Wadholm looks at Barth’s take on pistis Christou.

The schedule for the 2013 Karl Barth Conference has been announced. The theme is Karl Barth in Dialogue: Encounters with Major Figures. Presenters include: Cherith Fee Nordling, George Hunsinger, Paul Molnar, and more!

 

Announcements:

Check out the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise which will be awarded to 10 young theologians from around the world.

Marc Cortez has announced that he is leaving Western Seminary and accepting a position at Wheaton College.

Women in Theology is looking for a few more contributors.

The Sententias journal has an open call for papers for topics related to theology, philosophy and science.

The Christian Theology and the Bible section at SBL is looking for a few more proposals.

 

Reviews:

Nijay Gupta looks at Constantine Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study.

Travis McMacken lists all the books he read in 2012.

Brian LePort reviews David Wenham’s Did St Paul Get Jesus Right? and Stephen Holmes’ The Quest for the Trinity.

Stephanie Lowery looks at the Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters.

 

Gender, Sex, and Women in Ministry:

Ken Schenck takes a look at 1 Cor 14:34 and the issue of women in ministry.

The end of the month saw controversy over gender roles when Owen Strachan suggested that boys should not be told that it is ok to play with dolls. Check out a few responses to the original post, including — Hermeneutics , Matt Emerson, and Jason Morehead.

 

Church History:

Phillip Jenkins looks at the parallels between today and the “Dark Ages” in relation to church growth.

Rod ponders John Millbank’s use of Patristic theology.

Aidan Kimel looks at Gregory’s Oration on the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Thomas Kidd looks at the influence of George Whitefield on Protestantism (and evangelicalism).

 

Scripture, Hermeneutics, Methodology:

Eleanor Pettus looks at Protestant reactions to the NAB (a Catholic translation of Scripture).

Michael Bird explores what is wrong with Queer Theology.

Mike Wittmer talks about Divine Mystery as Theological Method.

Kevin Vanhoozer on the Inerrancy of Scripture.

 

Life of a Student; Life of an Academic:

John Mark Reynolds’ offers advice on what Christians should look for in a college.

Should students and pre-tenure profs blog?

 

Miscellaneous:

Brian LePort tells us about Candida Moss’ lecture on Resurrection.

Monica Coleman answers questions over at RHE’s Ask a Liberation Theologian.

Collin Hansen looks at the issue of infant baptism.

Suzanne McCarthy considers a theology of disability.

What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies?

There’s a new online collection of some of the great Christian theologians of the 20th century.

Peter Enns offers 5 reasons from the OT to reconsider the doctrine of original sin.

We are all theologians whether we like it or not.

Ben Myers gave a lecture on theology in the public square.

 

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