Theology

St. Jerome on Hatred and Murder

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jeromeThe apostle and evangelist John rightly says, in his first epistle, that “whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.”  For, since murder often springs from hate, the hater, even though he has not yet slain his victim, is at heart a murderer.

Why, you ask, do I begin in this style? Simply that you and I may both lay aside past ill feeling and cleanse our hearts to be a habitation for God. “Be ye angry,” David says, “and sin not,” or, as the apostle more fully expresses it, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

What then shall we do in the day of judgment, upon whose wrath the sun has gone down not one day but many years? The Lord says in the Gospel: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Woe to me, wretch that I am; woe, I had almost said, to you also. This long time past we have either offered no gift at the altar or have offered it whilst cherishing anger “without a cause.” How have we been able in our daily prayers to say “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” whilst our feelings have been at variance with our words, and our petition inconsistent with our conduct?

Therefore I renew the prayer which I made a year ago in a previous letter, that the Lord’s legacy of peace may be indeed ours, and that my desires and your feelings may find favor in His sight.

Soon we shall stand before His judgment seat to receive the reward of harmony restored or to pay the penalty for harmony broken. In case you shall prove unwilling—I hope that it may not be so—to accept my advances, I for my part shall be free. For this letter, when it is read, will insure my acquittal.  – Jerome, Letters.

Why do I mention this?  Because all the violence in the world today and throughout human history has its roots in hatred.  Hatred brings forth murder and murder brings forth war.  And yet most are too foolish to notice the connection.  The cure for war is the abolition of hatred.

Handbook of Pentecostal and Charismatic Theology

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978-3-647-52201-2From the good folk at V&R- a new volume that the pentecostals and charismatics and those interested in their ‘theology’ will want to examine.

Die Annäherung zwischen der pfingstlichen und der etablierten akademischen Theologie ist inzwischen in beide Richtungen zu beobachten: pfingstliche Ansätze werden in klassischen Debatten rezipiert und pfingstliche Theologen rezipieren den Theorie- und Methodenkanon der etablierten historisch-kritischen Theologie.

In der deutschen Theologie hat eine fundierte Auseinandersetzung mit der weltweit äußerst einflussreichen Pfingstbewegung jedoch bislang kaum stattgefunden, nicht zuletzt, da die meist englischsprachigen Beiträge akademisch etablierter Pfingstler und Charismatiker hierzulande kaum wahrgenommen werden.

Dieser Band bietet einen Überblick über pfingstliche Theologien anhand einer systematischen Einführung und der Übersetzung ausgewählter Beiträge zu zentralen theologischen Anliegen. Die so vermittelte Orientierung ermöglicht eine differenzierte Auseinandersetzung mit pfingstlicher und charismatischer Theologie.

Evil is Evil: An Observation

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Evil is evil whether it’s the doing of a Palestinian radical hiding behind a black facemask or an Israeli Prime Minister hiding behind a claim to land.  Evil is evil whether it’s a Russian separatist who shoots down a passenger jet or a Russian President who provides the separatist with it.  Evil is evil whether it is the mother who slaughters her infant child or the father who turns a blind eye to his wife’s declining state.

Evil is evil- and inexcusable. And only evil makes excuses for it.

Quote of the Day

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“Exegesis is the only science in which everyone considers himself competent…to judge without special studies and to dispute every point without consulting those who spend their lives at this hard task.”  ~Marie-Joseph Lagrange

(Via Cliff Kvidahl)

Non-Denominational Churches: An Observation

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Non-denominational churches appeal to people who

1- don’t wish to be fettered by doctrinal standards
2- believe the Church exists to meet their needs rather than that they exist to meet the needs of others.

But what’s the problem?

1- Doctrine, or ‘teaching’, helps believers understand and interpret the meaning and implications of the Christian life, from worship and scripture interpretation to discipleship and ministry and evangelism. Lacking doctrinal undergirding, none of these enterprises will ‘make sense’ because they will remain without a grounding in understanding. And people don’t do what they don’t understand. They cannot.

And

2- The misunderstanding of the essence, nature, purpose, and meaning of the Church is so widespread among ‘non-denominational’ believers that the formlessness and vacuity of their practice is stunning. ‘Anything goes’ and ‘whatever works is what we do’ may sound helpful and good- but after having endured several generations of the non-denominational cancer, modern Christianity finds itself further adrift from its roots than it has ever been since the Dark Ages.

An Extremely Important Essay From a Leading Theologian Concerning the Situation in Palestine/ Gaza

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Via Ekkehard’s facebook page-

Ein beim Weltkirchenrat entworfenes antisemitisch-antiisraelisches Papier, das unter dem Propaganda-Namen „Kairos Palästina“ seit 2009 verbreitet wurde, wird nun von kirchlichen Funktionären wieder aufgelegt. „1000“ wünschen offenbar, dass Schweizer reformierte Kirchen dem Propagandatext geradezu einen Bekenntnischarakter verleihen. Die Initiatoren haben – wohl auch mit unserem Steuergeld – eine Kampagne gestartet auf Hochglanzpapier. Sie appellieren, „den Ruf der palästinensischen Christen und Christinnen aufzunehmen“. Diese Christen und Christinnen hatten in Wahrheit noch nie eine Chance, ihren eigenen Ruf auszudrücken. Denn für sie sprechen immer nur die Funktionäre beim Weltkirchenrat in Genf und ihre Marionetten in Bethlehem, die für sich dabei auch Fundraising betreiben. Deshalb muss Jesus für sie auch ein arabischer Palästinenser sein. Jude darf er auf keinen Fall gewesen sein. Das erinnert uns an die Arisierung Jesu durch Nazi-Theologen.

Ich bin vor einigen Jahren mit einer jüdisch-christlichen Delegation in Bethlehem gewesen. Damals war der Christ Elias Frej s. A. noch Bürgermeister der christlichen Stadt. Er erstaunte uns, als er sagte, weil Arafat und seine Leute von der PLO nun an die Macht gekommen sind, wäre für Bethlehem als christliche Stadt eine Zukunft nur möglich, wenn sie nach Jerusalem eingemeindet würde und so in den Schutzbereich Israels kommen könnte, wo Christen und Christinnen Menschen- und Bürgerrechte haben. Das war weise, ist aber leider nicht möglich gewesen. Damals gab es noch etwa 80% ChristInnen. Hamas und Fatah haben inzwischen die meisten Christen und Christinnen aus Bethlehem vertrieben.

Manche Funktionäre in der reformierten Kirche der Schweiz wollen schlechterdings von der wahren Situation von Christen und Christinnen in Nahost nichts wissen. Sie verweigern die Wahrnehmung von Verfolgung, Vertreibung und Diskriminierung. Sie haben keinen Mut, für ihre Glaubensgeschwister einzutreten, die in extremer Situation ihren Glauben gegen massive Bedrängung behaupten müssen, gar unter Gefahr der Ermordung. Sie hängen der bekannten Ideologie an, dass Juden vor allem und an allem Schuld sind. Dafür bekommen sie Unterstützung von HEKS und OeME. Sie klagen das einzige Land in Nahost an, das Christen und Christinnen Menschen- und Bürgerrechte zugesteht und in dem Kirchen blühen: Israel! Diese Funktionäre sündigen gegen ein grundlegendes christliches Prinzip, das auf der ersten Tagung des Weltrats der Kirchen von 1948 formuliert wurde: „Antisemitismus ist Sünde wider Gott und die Menschen“! Und sie brauchen dazu noch unsere Steuergelder. Gibt es dazu eigentlich eine demokratische Legitimation? Haben sich diese Funktionäre jemals geäussert zur Ermordung und Verfolgung von Christen und Christinnen in Nahost?

Das griechische Wort „Kairos“ wird in der christlichen Bibel in dem Sinn gebraucht: Es gibt eine kritische Zeit, eine Endzeit. Paul Celan, den ich in der Überschrift zitiert habe, hat das gewusst. „Es wird Zeit, dass es Zeit wird“. Die reformierte Schweizer Kirche – es ist Zeit – muss sich trennen von antisemitischem Antizionismus in ihren Reihen. Sie muss aufhören, antisemitische Propaganda zu finanzieren, die unsere kirchliche Identität beschädigt. Sie muss den antisemitischen Antizionismus der „Kairos Palästina“- Fanatiker in die Schranken weisen. Es ist Zeit.

Ekkehard Stegemann

Two Theological Tomes

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9781451483420bFirst up-  Reading Theologically:

Reading is one of the basic skills a student needs. But reading is not just an activity of the eyes and the brain. Reading Theologically, edited by Eric D. Barreto, brings together eight seminary educators from a variety of backgrounds to explore what it means to be a reader in a seminary context—to read theologically.

Reading theologically involves a specific mindset and posture towards texts and ideas, people and communities alike. Reading theologically is not just about academic skill building but about the formation of a ministerial leader who can engage scholarship critically, interpret Scripture and tradition faithfully, welcome different perspectives, and help lead others to do the same.

9781451464719bAnd then, A Theology of the Third Article: Karl Barth and the Spirit of the Word:

Toward the end of his career, Karl Barth made the provocative statement that perhaps what Schleiermacher was up to was a “theology of the third article” and that he anticipated in the future that a true third-article theology would appear. Many interpreters, of course, took that to indicate not only a change in Barth’s perception of Schleiermacher but also as a self-referential critique. The author investigates this claim, contesting the standard interpretations, and argues for a Barthian pneumatology—a doctrine of the Holy Spirit grounded in the scriptural witness and connected to the vital Christological and dialectical theology found in Barth’s project.

 

The first volume, Reading Theologically, edited by Eric D. Barreto, is a collection of essays by various thinkers which urges young students (or perhaps better, beginning students in the field of theological studies) to learn to read with a theological mindset.  Each chapter contains the word ‘Reading’ followed by an adverb such as ‘meaningfully’ and ‘digitally’ and ‘generously’ and ‘spiritually’ and more.   This is a handbook of sorts, then, which strives to help students learn how best to absorb theological tomes.  It reminded me, for a number of reasons, of Helmut Thielicke’s ‘A Littler Exercise for young Theologians’ inasmuch as that book too was an attempt to get students to think theologically (and read the same way).  Like Thielicke’s little book, this little book is bigger (and more important) than its slim dimensions might first imply.  Big thoughts do come in small packages and valuable ideas can be communicated in three pages oftentimes better than they can be in 400.

The subtitle of the series of which this book is the first is ‘Foundations for Learning’.  Potential readers will wish to keep that in mind.  This book is meant for beginners.  It is festooned with elementary facts, the nuts and bolts, the basics, of reading with comprehension.  Seasoned readers with years of experience in digesting theological volumes will find themselves saying things like ‘well, yes, of course’ and ‘but who doesn’t know that’?  In short, they will not be ‘blown away’ and since the book is not, by rights, written for them, they shouldn’t expect to be.

On the other hand, the book’s intended audience will be blown away and even astonished at the vistas opened for them if they will take to heart what the contributors to this volume suggest as reading strategy.  They will find themselves saying ‘aha’ and ‘wow’ and ‘I hadn’t thought of that’ and then when they next turn to reading the Bible or reading a Systematic Theology or reading Barth’s essays or Brunner’s superior volumes they will ‘get it’.

Undergrads ought to be required to read this book and if not then Seminary students and Graduate students at University should most certainly be required to read it thoroughly.

The second volume is, unlike the first, not at all intended for theological beginners.  Aaron’s T. Smith’s A Theology of the Third Article, is a complex and in depth exposition of Karl Barth’s lectures on the Gospel of John and selections of the Church Dogmatics.  What Smith does with those sources is offer readers a profoundly impressive explanation of Barth’s teachings concerning the Holy Spirit.

In a nutshell, as he expresses it in the opening pages,

tta

It is no mis-statement to suggest that the remainder of the book is an unpacking of this paragraph.

As magnificent as that unpacking is (down to the very bones of Barth’s pneumatology) and as brilliant as the choice of Barth’s lectures on John’s Gospel (chapter 1, to be exact), there is a problem with the book and it needs to be stated: the decision to utilize transliteration for Greek texts rather than simply using a Greek font.

tta2Every time I review a book which utilizes Hebrew or Greek transliteration rather than actual Hebrew and Greek fonts I complain about this and I suppose I must always.  Here’s why:  If someone reads Greek or Hebrew they won’t and don’t need such transliterations; and if they don’t read Greek or Hebrew, such transliterations are completely meaningless.  Furthermore, whilst in times past the inclusion of a foreign font was a publishing challenge today no challenge exists because fonts can easily be manipulated due to computerized processes.

I am not complaining for no reason.  Such transliterations are totally unnecessary and publishers publishing biblical and theological materials should simply use proper fonts.  Here, then, I mean that we all should take the Reformers call to return Ad Fontes thoroughly literally.

Aside, then, from that issue, this is one magnificent book.  It is not ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ reading and those who engage it will need to bring to bear their full intellect.  If distracted by the annoyance of transliteration, soldier on, and make your way to the goal of the high calling of comprehending far more fully the theology of Barth than you possessed before you began the work.

Both these books- occupying, as they do- opposite ends of the ‘scholarly’ continuum are exceptionally important for very different reasons.  The first is important for beginners and the second is important for the experts.   They do both, though, share one key attribute: they teach.  Nothing more can be asked of any book and many books don’t manage even that.  That Fortress manages to publish so many which do is a work of the Holy Spirit…

Robert Jenson Reviews Ken Oakes

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And it’s a gem of a review.  A pure gem. ‪#‎oakesbarth

Why Parody Evans? The Explanation

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Is here.  And it’s both sensible and well written.

Protestant Perfectionism

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There’s a good essay over at First Things on what the author calls the ‘rise of protestant perfectionism’.

Today we are witnessing the re-emergence of a Protestant perfectionist vision of the Christian life. This vision has at least two forms, an Anabaptist understanding of the church as embodying a set of practices that realize the Kingdom of God and a Wesleyan optimism of grace in which the people of God must progress to deeper levels of union with God that in turn fuels love for neighbor in the world. The story of the emergence of this Protestant perfectionism has yet to be told in full, but I do not think one can fully understand Protestantism since 1970 without it.

When Reinhold Niebuhr described Billy Graham’s New York crusade as another variety of Christian perfectionism in 1956, he was playing into a particular typology that he had utilized at least since Moral Man and Immoral Society. In that 1932 work, Niebuhr attacked the optimistic view of humanity he found residing behind liberal Protestantism, lumping it with a host of moralists who like John Dewey assumed that the progressive development of humanity, either through scientific progress or a social gospel, could bring about a “peaceable kingdom.” In many ways, Niebuhr’s thought embodied the ongoing tension between various forms of Protestant perfectionism and Magisterial Protestant ideas that one still finds at work in evangelicalism.

Read it all.  It’s interesting. I’ll simply opine that anyone who thinks we make the world a better place or we can become sinless in this life is delusional.  God can make things better, but we don’t.  And any form or fantasy of perfectionism is shown to be false by the continuing presence of sin in all our lives.