Other Postings

Sorry posting has been a little light this week.  It’s my final week of school and I was heavy into paper writing.  It slows down massively after this Wed. (thank the heavens).  So blogging should pick up.

In the meantime, I have written a few posts over at The Credo Blog at Culture11, for those interested.

This one on the question of “turn the other cheek”

This one on a renewed paganism in Christmas (and is that all a bad thing and is it really pagan after all?)

This one on the need for a constructive renewal of the meaning of the word consumption/consumer

Published in: on December 6, 2008 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Skypecast: Same-Sex Marriage (Audio Content)


Scott and I had what I think (and hope you think) was a nuanced multi-dimensional conversation on the topic of same-sex marriage.  Click the link above for the audio.

My view on Prop 8: here, here, and here.
Scott’s many takes on the subject, accessible from here (searched under Gay Marriage at his site)

Some people have told me they have trouble getting the audio off my site.  I’ve fooled with it a bunch of times, and I hope I’ve fixed the problem.  If not, the audio is also up here at Scott’s blog.

Published in: on December 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Sermon Christ the King (Audio Content)


Click the link above to listen to a sermon I delivered today at Canadian Memorial Church on the Feast of Christ the King.  [The wiki on the Feast here.]

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 8:35 pm  Comments (1)  

ruminations towards some thoughts towards some (an) integrating biblical theology

I’m working on some thoughts towards an application of integral theory in the realm of hermeneutics to Biblical Studies/Biblical Theology. Next term I have a much lighter course load and it will be the last real span of time before I head more full time into ministry (I graduate in April), so I’m hoping to spend from December on throughout the new year on essentially a book-length treatment of this subject.

I’m spending most of my time reading legal theory.  Theories in constitutional law and so forth.  While that might seem a little orthogonal to what I’m after, remember that theology and law grow out of the same medieval garden:  think canon law.  Gadamer makes this point forcefully in Method and Truth.  Namely that legal and exegetical/biblical hermeneutics are both forms of understanding/reading that overcome the modern era mistake of assuming there is some way to get to the real meaning of the text either through divination of the author’s original intention (UL in Quadrants), the original public meaning of a text (LL) or through syntactical-grammatical readings (UR and LR).

Gadamer understood that in these disciplines particularly (law and theology) interpretation was a “putting out”, a kind of punting of the boat aimed to a direction.

Where his view and the view of postmodern theory generally breaks down is there is no clear way to validate and/or assess these various puntings.  Particularly how to maintain the integrity of texts from the corrosive personalizing or culturalizing & politicizing tendencies seen too often in pomo thought.  Where the text begins to mean whatever my personal or cultural ego says it means.

The pomo turn overcomes the holdovers of the neo-positivism (“I can actually get to the what the text really means for all times and places separate from myself”/observer mode of consciousness) but as I said then creates this other problem.

So I’m toying with some ideas, but am not quite there yet.

Orthodox Orthopraxis

Story today from the NyTimes on the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church acting as mediators, as the only channel of communication between the two countries, over the recent war.  Both churches have played a constructive peace-seeking role in the conflict:

During the fighting in August, both Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church called for an end to bloodshed between Russians and Georgians, who share a common Orthodox Christian faith.

And doing what churches ought to do they stand in conflict even with the governments of their own countries on certain points:

The Russian Orthodox Church has been seen as taking a position at rare odds with the Kremlin in rejecting appeals by South Ossetians who would like to join the Moscow Patriarchate. The issue has not been resolved — Orthodox churches in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia recognized by the Kremlin, are still in jurisdictional limbo — but church officials in Moscow have said that canonical territory cannot be dictated by political lines.

There have been strains as well in the relationship between Patriarch Ilia and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia.

God be with them in their workings.  They need our prayers.

Update I: As a political update to this conflict, it is worth noting that the evidence is now much clearer that Georgia did initiate the aggression which as Yglesias notes does not give a green light to Russia’s increased counter-aggression, but if nothing else it is further proof that McCain was an awful choice for president because he was so in the tank for Georgia.  It also suggests that NATO entrance should not be in the offing for Georgia.  It ought also to cause a re-think of the Obama-Biden plan of mass aid to Georgia so that it does not end up propping up and encouraging President Saak because he appears more than ever a bit off his rocker.

On the other hand, looking at the war, Russia’s army is not the big scary monster to be feared.  It was pretty old and creaky and beat up a small-time opponent who had dumbly bought into a “big army” for a small army model of dealing with this problem.  Instead of practicing or at least threatening if needs be a kind of Global Guerrilla tactic as a way to defend their territory.

Recent Culture11 Posts

Another world in view (on the Kingdom)
Exegesis of Psalm 34

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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All Hallow’s Eve

The veil it is said in the ancient traditions tonight, the veil between this world and the dead is thin.  It is at this time that it is an act of reverence and love to our ancestors to remember their lives.  Their joys, their sufferings, their loves, their hopes.  I believe they are with us still and look upon us with love and care.  And they deserve our recognition in return.

For Christians we especially remember today those of saintly disposition, those who have protected and defended and taught and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ and made it to be that it has survived to our day, we their descendents give them the honor due their name and sacrifice.

It is a night of Hallowed-ness.  Sacrality and depth.

Credo Update

My inaugural (non-bio) post at Credo (here), the Culture11 Group Faith blog trying to apply John Robb’s concept of resilient community to church organization has generated some serious followup.  A Mormon response here, Orthodox here, and Roman Catholic here.

Joshua’s response (the Orthodox one) I found the most interesting.  He had some pushback on the concept and the possibility for it to become a exclusionary force in society/withdrawing from society.  I think that possibility is real, but I also think there are ways around it (I commented on his post to that end).

I haven’t exactly figured out how I’m going to work the distinction between these two blogs.  i.e. Are all of my “Christianity” posts just going over there?  Which would leave this blog almost entirely philosophical and political?  I don’t know.  I know I’m not going to cross-post anything I write there here (or vice versa for that matter).  I might just do periodic links here that string to say a number of recent posts there.  Maybe not.  Anyway, there is a link added on the sidebar to the Credo Blog.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Follow up on Westminster Confession

[The text of The Westminster Confession is available online via Reformed.org (great site–I use their site to read The Institutes for my Calvin class).]

I may have been a little hard on The Westminster Confession in the previous post. For all you theological nerds out there, if interested, here is a paper I wrote on the Confession (basically on the understanding of Scripture) in my first year of seminary. Link here: Westminster.

The Doctrine of the Spirit within is a profound, I think the profoundest aspect of Calvin’s theology. But it interacts strangely I find with the Scripture is interpreted by Scripture position.  I feel like what is going on here is that one can approach Scripture thusly and it will achieve the kind of results (??), as it were, claimed by the Evangelical tradition (sincerely and with validity).  But the initial choice itself to approach in said manner to me is already a choice of ours.  Not the choice.  And this is where I’m not an evangelical in that regard.  But I did the paper because I grew up in the Catholic Church, so I know the Anglo-Catholic wing, and my theological training in the Jesuits was very much in the so-called Liberal tradition.  But the evangelical wing I felt I could not understand or always love.

So while I typically write about politics here on the blog, this is something of what I’m doing in my day to day life. The initial part of the paper shows a continued thread of my anti-natural theological pov.  In that sense, I’m much more in line with something like a Neo-Orthodoxy of Barth (speaking of Calvinists).  But the difference being I put emphasis on our choice in taking the humbled stance before the Scriptures.  The pure Calvinist doctrine–which again I am not a representative of–is that such a movement is willed by God.  It is then the only choice before the Holy God.

George Will on Episcopal Church

Will writes:

It is not the secessionists such as Duncan who are, as critics charge, obsessed with homosexuality. The Episcopal Church’s leadership is latitudinarian — tolerant to the point of incoherence, Duncan and kindred spirits think — about clergy who deviate from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity of Christ, the authority of scripture and the path to salvation. But the national church insists on the ordination of openly gay clergy and on blessing same-sex unions.

First of latitudinarian does not mean tolerant to the point of incoherence.  It means giving “latitude”–giving too much latitude to the point of incoherence is in fact no latitude at all but going plunging over the edge.  Now it can be argued whether or not such an event took place by ordaining Gene Robinson, but if one holds that it was in fact a heretical act, than latitude was not the issue.

Sidenote:  This deletrious mixing is what generally happens when you have somebody not well versed in a Church’s positions writing on the subject.  Latitudinarianism is in fact one of the three so-called stools of the Anglican leg:  tradition, reason, and Scripture–represented by the three flavors of Anglicanism, Anglo-Catholic, Liberal (Broad/Latitudinarian), and Evangelical respectively.  Liberal here means liberal in the classical Enlightenment sense–pushing for freedom, use of rationality, etc.  Will’s gloss on Robert Duncan’s comment is confusing Liberal in the modern/classical liberal sense with liberal in the post 60s sense.  Obviously the latter is something Will is not a huge fan of to put it mildly.  But it’s unfortunately bringing in US culture war categories to this debate, which is very unhelpful to the discussion.

Second and more importantly, notice the shift from the question about ordaining an openly gay man to “clergy who deviate from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity of Christ, the authority of scripture and the path to salvation”. As if the two were somehow synonymous or at least of the same piece.  As if supporting blessings for same sex unions or ordaining openly gay (in committed relationship) bishops automatically meant one denies the Divinity of Christ.  I tire of this charge blithely thrown about by people who do not know about what they are talking (either inside or outside the Anglican Communion).  I can tell you Gene Robinson is as orthodox a believer in the Divinty of Christ as you will find.

It would also help immensely if one were to elaborate/definte exactly what is meant by “authority of Scripture.”

On that note it is important to point out that the Lambeth Quadrilateral a document meant to provide the basics of Anglicanism, the non-negotiables in ecumenical dialog, states the following:

1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.

2. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.

The US Church as a National Body holds the Quadrilateral.  And you will search in vain in the Nicene Creed for discussion of gays and lesbians. The Anglican tradition holds that always the three stools are together–Scripture as interpreted through tradition and reason.

Professing the OT and NT are the revealed Word of God says quite a lot and actually very little.  Until of course one hashes out what “revealed” means and whether one has to hold not just to the article of belief in a confessional mode (I believe the Scriptures to be revealed by God–almost poetically, mythically) or whether one has to hold not just that but also a specific theory as to how the Scriptures are Revealed.

The latter point is representative of the Evangelical-Puritan movement, growing out of Calvin’s thought.  e.g. Namely that as the Westminster Confession an Evangelical document states (my emphasis):

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:[15] yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.[16]

And again:

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.[23]

That has not been the historic teaching of the Anglican faith.  This is both the genius and the inevitable frustration that is being an Anglican.  It is built around common liturgical praxis and common creeds, not common enforced understanding of how Creeds are to be understood.  And yet not everything goes. This is at the root of the worldwide Anglican struggles since there is (rightly) no body that can enforce top-down like say the Vatican conformity on these matters.  They are always to be discussed, debated–the hermeneutic circle is in fact a circle, it never begins or ends.  We simply find ourselves in relationship and have to live with its joys and sorrows.

The Evangelical position I would argue begs the hermeneutical question because it leaves unanswered what are the exegetical criteria for deciding which other passages in Scripture are used to interpret otherwise unclear passagse in Scripture.  Also it begins with an assumption that the meaning of Scripture is one and then always finds such oneness in the text–and if the text is unclear or perhaps contradictory, the oneness is read through the offending text.

And what I would see in people like Duncan as Neo-Puritan in that sense.  In charity I can understand the desire for clarity and if you really believed that everyone else has gone heretical, the leadership itself, then of course you have to leave and stick to what you believe to be true.  But that side needs to own up to the fact that it is in fact the innovators in this scenario–on the Church polity front–whatever ther charges about the liberals having invented some new gospel/doctrine.

Will again:

Every 10 years there is a Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury. This year only 650 of the nearly 900 bishops attended — 150 of them representing only the tiny U.S communion. The bishops from three of the Anglican communion’s five largest provinces — Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya — boycotted.

As a matter of fact, some bishops from Kenya did go to the conference.  One of whom had to leave early because his family’s life was threatened for his attendance at the Conference.  Not to mention that there were bishops from Nigeria and Uganda who word is wanted to attend but were threatened with deposition (i.e. having their position as bishop stripped from them) for attending.  i.e. The authoritarian imposition of oneness “conformity” in the negative sense upon them by another.  Which is a break with the traditional Anglican and nay the entire Protestant heritage:  the freedom of the individual before God.  That is why I’m calling it a Neo-Puritanism.

Also from every bishop I’ve heard describe the gathering who attended (so far I’ve heard personal reflections from 3, read a few others), they all described it as a time of great grace and fellowship–in the midst of continued disagreement obviously over the current struggles in the Church.  But they focused first on their common beliefs (like faith in Jesus Christ), common struggles in pastoral leadership, as well as heard and tried to see the world from the eyes of one on a different side of these questions.

See what it is like to hear that positions about gay inclusion cause churches to be burned in places around the world.  Or have Bishop’s lives threatened.  And for them to hear what it is to live in a situation where civil gay marriage is already law (as here in Canada) and people come to your church already married.  Is the Church going to be in the business of breaking up marriages?  That wouldn’t exactly be pro-family now would it?   Scripture, reason, and tradition, all three always take place within a certain space and time.  A context.  Jesus was Incarnated in the 1st century Palestine as a Jewish man.  That matters. So does where and when and how we find ourselves today called to work in the Lord’s vineyard.