Sunday, August 29, 2010

a correctiong, of sorts

A few posts back, I gave a quote from the book "The Heretic's Guide to Eternity" which was itself a quote attributed to one Carter Heyward. In that post, I referred to Heyward at least one time as "Mr. Heyward".

Silly me.

Carter Heyward

Isabel Carter Heyward (b. 1945 in North Carolina) is a lesbian[1] feminist theologian, teacher and priest in the Episcopalian Church - the province of the worldwide Anglican Communion in the United States.

Well, this was...enlightening.

Theology - the Nature of God
Author of a number of books and numerous articles, Carter Heyward's most distinctive theological idea is that it is open to each of us to incarnate God (that is, to embody God's power), and that we do so most fully when we seek to relate genuinely to others in what she calls relationality. When we do this, we are said to be 'godding', a verb Heyward herself coined.[4] God is defined in her work as 'our power in mutual relation'.[5] Alluding to mainstream Christian views of God, Heyward has stated 'I am not much of a theist'.[6] For her, 'the shape of God is justice',[7] so human activity can, as theologian Lucy Tatman has observed, be divine activity whenever it is just and loving. In her book Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right, Heyward asserts that 'the love we make... is God's own love'.[8] In Heyward’s work, God is therefore not a personal figure, but instead the ground of being, seen for example in compassionate action, which is 'the movement of God in and through the heights and depths of all that is'.[9]

[edit] Theology - Jesus in Carter Heyward's thought
Again in contrast to the more traditional Christian focus (on Jesus Christ as God incarnated as a redeemer), Heyward believes that 'God was indeed in Jesus just as God is in us - as our Sacred, Sensual Power, deeply infusing our flesh, root of our embodied yearning to reach out to one another'.[10] This power works to change despair, fear and apathy to hope, courage and what Heyward terms 'justice-love'.[10] But God's Spirit is not contained 'solely in one human life or religion or historical event or moment'.[11] God was Jesus' relational power for 'forging right (mutual) relation, in which Jesus himself and those around him were empowered to be more fully who they were called to be'.[12] Insisting on the God-incarnating power of all, Heyward observes that 'the human act of love, befriending, making justice is our act of making God incarnate in the world'.[13] Interestingly, in her recent work she suggests that even the non-human creation may incarnate God, commenting that 'there are more faces of Jesus on earth, throughout history and all of nature, than we can begin even to imagine'.[14]. Not unrelated to this perception, Heyward founded the Free Rein Center for Therapeutic Horseback Riding and Education at Brevard, North Carolina, where she is an instructor[15]

Well, no wonder the Oozers quote her so favorably. And no wonder she wants people to belief it's ok to read the Bible in such different ways than those people long ago. She certainly does.

don't tell me what i don't wanna hear!!

Spirituality begins its discussion of the sacred from the desire for an integrated life. Religions often operate on a sin-redemption paradigm, which has little resonance in today's society.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p. 60

"...little resonance in today's society". Well, maybe. So?

When has man wanted to know that he is a sinner in need of redemption? Yes, it doesn't resonate in society--any society. The Pharisees in Jesus' day seemed to not mind calling other's sinners, but were not so happy when Jesus did it to them. As the Heretic's Guide writers write a few pages later...

Although the link between grace and sin has driven Christianity for centuries, it just doesn't resonate in our culture anymore. It repulses rather than attracts. People are becoming much less inclined to acknowledge themselves as "sinners in need of a Savior." It's not that people view themselves as perfect; it that the language they use to describe themselves has changed. "Broken", "fragmented", and "lacking wholeness"--these are some of the new ways people describe their spiritual need.
p 64

So, because people don't want to think of themselves as sinners, we should do away with sin? If a person has a serious illness, are doctors not allowed to deal with that illness or call it by name if it "just doesn't resonate in our culture anymore"? If a patient has cancer, is the doctor not allowed to use the word 'cancer' because "it repulses rather than attracts"?

As the Scriptures say, Christ died for our sin. If Christ died for our sin, then our sin is a serious issue, and should not be shunted aside because it "just doesn't resonate in our culture anymore", or it "repulses rather than attracts"; indeed, it could be said that we should stress it even more strongly when among people to whom it doesn't resonate and for whom it repulses rather than attracts.

It is not our job to rethink, redesign, reimagine, rewhatever the message God has given us, especially if the message is not well-received. Trust me, if all we have to deal with are people saying it "just doesn't resonate", well, that's rather mild compared with the tortures and persecutions and martyrdoms Christians have suffered and still suffer. Some people have given the "It's not relevant and it's repulsive" in rather definite, strong, and (for the Christians) painful ways.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

what are you doing in another universe now?

Spirituality operates on a new cosmology that sees a "multiverse" rather than the universe. It attempts to redefine the practice and experienc of faith in a post-Newtonisn world. As Marshall McLuhan said, "The phrase 'God is dead' applies aptly, correctly, validly to the Newtonian universe which is dead. The ground rule of that universe, upon which so much of our Western world is built, has dissolved." Religion operates on premodern views of the owrld. Ever since man took pictures of the earth from the moon, our understanding about cosmology and the nature of being has evolved into a postmetaphysical understanding of life.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p. 60

If you read that, and are thinking "What does any of that mean?", join the club.

A few months ago, some big progressive type had a shindig about "Theology After Googles". I think I wrote a bit about some things he wrote about it. Pretty much, we are to think that, after the advent of the internet search engine Google (sorry, MSN and Yahoo and all you other search engines), we have to redefine and rethink and redo and rethis and rethat all things theology.

This is hardly new. Some took the true horrors and evil of the Nazi death camps and extermination chambers to tried to formulate a theology after Auschwitz, and some of them concluded that God is dead, though without consulting God, I would suppose. Burke and Taylor are trying to say that the lunar landing or the first photos from orbit somehow necessitates a need to rethink and all that in theology.

Sometimes, it seems like every new invention or big event has some people saying we need to rethink God because of it. Why? What does Google have that trumpts God? Why does even an ugly event like the killings in the Nazi camps mean we have to rethink God? Is this all not just ways so shifting blame and responsibility?

It strikes me that the ancients were made of much heartier stuff. Jeremiah walks among that ruins of Jerusalem, and cries out to God. Daniel gets carried off to a foreign country, and sticks true to his God and the true beliefs in Him. Nehemiah actually believes those old words of God concerning the return of His people from exile and so acts on them. Jesus actually tells the disciples that Jerusalem will be destroyed and the Temple torn down, and they don't try to redefine Him and rethink His words and try to explain away what He told them.

There are true contradictions that should be avoided. But there are also seemingly contradictions that are not really contradiction, but rather, like colors, enhance the overall picture. Gideon can say "The Lord is peace" and believe that that same God can tell him to raise an army and kill the people who have conquered them, and he can see no contradiction in those things. And there isn't a contradiction.

Emergents and progressives seem unable to comprehend that. McLaren posits that God in the Old Testament is at times "unchristlike", a blasphemy if I've read one. His god is a small, weak thing, a creature made in McLaren's own image, not the great, grand, at times frightening God we see throughout the Bible.

Man can make whatever technological advances they want. They still haven't surprised or surpassed God. If anything, man's tech advances have only made us worse. The person who could at one time have only killed a few people with bare hands or knives can now kill scores with guns, or even thousands with something as seemingly innocent as airplanes, not to mention nuclear weapons. Lies which would have not even been heard about in another country a few hundred years ago can reach the other side of the world in seconds now.

pomo reading shenanigans

Every generation, on the basis of its own social and cultural history, tradition, education, and experiences, reads the Bible in ways that our ancestors would not recognize. This is because we always read the text of our own lives in relation to the biblical texts," Carter Heyward observes.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p 108.

Every generation reads the Bible in ways people before us would not recognize? Oh, really? And what proof can this Mr. Heyward offer for that claim?

Perhaps he bases it on things in the writings of the early church fathers? Irenaeus? Justin Martyr? Or is his way of reading them, let alone the Bible, so different that he can't even read them correctly?

And why just the Bible? Do people read Plato and Aristotle that same way? Or other Greek writers, poets and playwrites and philosophers? Can we not even understand Homer in any correct way?

Now, I've read a small bit of a few of the early church fathers. Not much, I admit, but a bit. I know, for example, that Justin Martyr had an eschatology that was rather a lot like what he today call Futurism, meaning that there would be a time when an Antichrist would rise and rule before the physical return of Christ. Though, as well, he thought that the church had taken the place of Israel, which I have a few problems with, but as with other Christian writers like Chesterton and Lewis whom I have found informative, I reserve the right to disagree as well as agree.

But I don't think the read the Bible in some kind of way that was so different from my own that it would not by recognizable to each other. Granting areas of disagreement, if the problems of language could be bridged, I think we could mostly understand each other.

On the other hand, I've recently had some encounters with those who could be said to read the Bible in ways that a Justin or an Irenaeus would likely not have understood, though maybe Irenaeus, in his studies of the Gnostics, would have been familiar with similar things.

The encounter began when I responded on an internet board to someone writing the he or she didn't believe that Christ died for our sins. I responded by posting several New Testament scriptures showing that Christ did indeed die for our sins. I was then told that this wasn't good enough because they weren't from the Gospels, that I was quoting Paul and John and not Jesus. And when I responded that I was quoting the Word of God, I was then told that if I was going to quote the Word of God I should quote Jesus, because of John calling Him the Word in that Gospel, that Paul and the other epistles-writers were struggling to understand Jesus' death and resurrection and what it meant to them (putting into question the concept of divine inspiration in the epistles), and that we can't even say that Bible is really the Scriptures.

And, to go to another though rather related source, even the words and teachings of Jesus are not enough. "...I could live with the idea that Paul condemned what we today have constituted as 'homosexuality' and that if anyone ever asked Jesus about it (and if they did we have no record of it) he would have said the same thing as Paul...In my view, even if there is a dominant view against homosexuality in the Scriptures and tradition...I would argue that on this point the Greeks were right and the dominant tradition among the Jews and Christian is wrong...Indeed, by invoking the spirit of a certain Jesus, I would argue for a counterfactual conditional: were Jesus alive to day and familiar with the pros cna cons of the contemporary argument, his centeredness on love would have brought him down onthe side of the rights of what we today call the 'homosexual' difference..." (Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, pp 108-109). In other words, Jesus' own acceptance of and agreement with the laws against homosexuality is not enough if one can spin (I mean, deconstruct) things to the benefit of one's agenda. Even granting that the Bible never condones homosexuality means that we today must do so, in the minds of those who would call good what is evil. And apparently showing what the Scriptures say about the blood of Christ is not an "intelligent argument", whatever that means.

And there are others, too. I would wonder if Irenaeus would feel forgotten, because after he put a 1000 year kabash on Gnosticism through his works, it's back and people want to make such Gnostic gospels as authoritative as the biblical Gospels (or maybe take the authority of the biblical Gospels down to the level of the heretical Gnostics).

So, maybe Heyward has a point. Though if his point, and that of the Heretic's Guide authors, is that one way of reading the Bible (or, more accurately, interpreting it) is as good as the other, well, even they don't think that's true. If anything, Burke and Taylor and other emergents and progressives use themselves as the starting point for reading the Bible--they are the ones that judge and even condemn the Bible, not the Bible that judges us and both condemns us and tell us of God has provided us salvation. They even have the gall of judge and condemn God, as McLaren does in "A New Kind of Christianity" when he says that there are times in the Old Testament when God is "Unchristlike".

I really can't imagine a Justin or an Irenaeus thinking the God in the Hebrew scriptures was unlike Christ. When that happens, I think McLaren's views of God and of Christ are seriously, even fatally, skewed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

motes and beams

Spirituality focuses on authenticity and honesty. Religion tends to emphasize perfection and holiness. In fact, so great is the pressure to be progressing that people often lie to each other and even themselves about their religious experience and where they really are in their lives.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p 60

This is one criticism they have that has a bit of validity. What I question is how much "authenticity and honesty" is in their spirituality.

For one thing, we have to question what is meant by "authenticity and honesty". Perhaps it involves many things, but one sure thing it seems to involve is that one can admit to practicing what was once considered bad and sinful behavior (homosexuality, worshiping other gods, wanting other people's property through 'social justice', breaking the laws for rather lame reasons) is not only something they can now admit to, but also things that these people will support them in doing.

Now, on the other hand, if you disagree with these people who practice "authenticity and honesty", well, you may find that your own "authenticity and honesty" is somewhat less welcomed.

Perhaps there is pressure in churches to appear more spiritual than one really is, I'll not deny that. But I don't think that the church is alone in that fault, but that emergents are as prone to it as any other. The truth is, the 'emergent conversation' is not so welcoming of dissenting voices as they would like to pretend. One need only ask Mark Driscoll how welcoming they were of him when he started questioning them.