Archive for February, 2009



16
Feb
09

The Baby in the Bath Water

In colonial America, as in other places where water was fetched and heated only with great effort, ablutions were a family process. One by one, beginning with the father, then the mother and continuing through the youngest child, all would bath in the same tub of water. Both parents, as well all the oldest kids, worked the fields and tended the livestock. Of course, children also played outside. Saturday, in order to be clean for Sunday church service, was the proverbial bath night.  The old German proverb, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” had a very real meaning for early American settlers. Admittedly, even though the water was so tepid and dirty by the time the youngest of perhaps a dozen or more children were finished bathing that it would have been easy, it would have been ridiculously rare, if it ever happened at all, to loose a child in the muck. Rather than literal, the saying came to represent a frontier dweller’s value for resources similar to that expressed in the adage, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Continue reading ‘The Baby in the Bath Water’

13
Feb
09

The Myth or Reality of American Civil Religion

The term “civil religion” was first used by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an eighteenth century philosopher and writer, and refers to “the religious dimension of the polity“, or the intertwining of religious presuppositions with the political and social aspects of life. It is easy to understand why Rousseau would be critical of religion, since in 1717 he was born and subsequently raised in Geneva, at that time a still flourishing theocracy – in other words, a civil society under the rulership of God and scripture. His cynicism gave Rousseau a keen perception of the role of the power of suggestion in social life, which is illustrated in this famous quote, “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said, “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.”  Continue reading ‘The Myth or Reality of American Civil Religion’

13
Feb
09

Salvation Through “Faith In” or “Faith of” Christ

      

RIGHTEOUSNESS EVEN OF GOD THROUGH FAITH[FULNESS] OF JESUS CHRIST TOWARDS ALL AND UPON ALL THOSE THAT BELIEVE FOR THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE…                                                       Romans 3:22 (Interlinear Greek NT – edited to separate Greek and literal English)

 

the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,…                                      Romans 3:22 (NRSV)

 

The word, pisteos, or different forms of it, is found throughout Paul’s writings in the Greek, but is translated in various ways in the different versions of the Bible. The Interlinear Greek version, for example, translates the same word as faith, of faith and faith of, while the NRSV uses faith, faith in or faith of. Adding to the discussion is the inclusion of another translation of the word as meaning faithfulness of. Now, as a student of Greek, I can certainly argue that pisteos, the word that occurs more often than pisteo in ancient manuscripts, is a genitive noun meaning “faith of”. I am resigned to interpret Paul’s theology of salvation by comparing this passage with other tracts from the epistles, however, because the old manuscripts do not agree and it is impossible to know with certainty those that are correct. Do I argue that Paul had a theology based purely on salvation through our own faith in Christ or, as a Presbyterian, do I take the loyal Calvinist stance that Paul believed in salvation solely through God’s election and initiative? Continue reading ‘Salvation Through “Faith In” or “Faith of” Christ’

13
Feb
09

Wisdom Distilled from the Daily – a study guide

Benedictine  Spirituality

Small Group Study Based on

Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

By Joan Chittister, OSB

Statement of Purpose:  

This small group is to help those curious about Christian spirituality come to a more personal understanding of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and how God works in our everyday lives. We will use the Rule of St. Benedict, a guide to spirituality used since the sixth century, to find ways to “fill up the emptiness and heal the brokenness in which most of us live in ways that are sensible, humane, whole, and accessible to an overworked, overstimulated, overscheduled human race”.[1] Continue reading ‘Wisdom Distilled from the Daily – a study guide’

12
Feb
09

Poor & Helpless – Two Different Things

 There is sometimes a perception that low-income people are victims or helpless, as well as another that they are deserving of their economic status because they lack certain skills, ambition or values. A study performed by the Gallup organization reported that 54% of the U.S. population believe that “low self-esteem” was a significant factor in homelessness, and alcoholism a causal factor in 52% of cases, although 94% believed the homeless could lead productive and self-sufficient lives if given the opportunity.(i)  Both views tend to understand the low-income population as powerless to get what they need. While this is certainly true of some, for many these judgments may simply be the perceptions of economically or socially privileged people that ignores the ingenuity and creativity expended by low-income people in pursuit of basic survival, especially since more people are fighting for economic survival than in the past. Continue reading ‘Poor & Helpless – Two Different Things’

12
Feb
09

Oooh! You’re Bipolar?

THE INTRICACIES OF “COMING OUT” TO A CHURCH

Thomas Covenant walks down the street feeling the stares and witnessing mothers grabbing their children before he passes by. Is he a child abuser? A criminal of another sort? Perhaps, evil incarnate? Thomas is the lead character in Stephen R. Donaldson’s series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and he is a twentieth century leper. When I read the series many years ago I remember thinking, “People don’t react that way anymore. The world is not that archaic.” But, perhaps it is. Have we learned nothing from the Bible lessons about lepers?

The reaction to all kinds of emotional disorders and mental disesases can be interesting, especially in my line of work. While you would think that church folk would investigate before coming to conclusions, that is really a quite rare occurance – church folk are no less prone to believing myths than any other groups. I have found this out firsthand recently. I announced to my Committee on Ministry and my church that I had been diagnosed with Bipolar II disease and, after twenty years of misdiagnoses, I am now on a much lower regimen of pills than I previously took for depression. The reaction has been – well, shall we say, interesting. Continue reading ‘Oooh! You’re Bipolar?’

11
Feb
09

Testing the Waters on a Virtual Church

In another post, I described my ongoing interest in a virtual church – not simply a digital reporduction of a physical church or a place to pick and choose prayers and sermons, but a real and actual church meeting at predetermined (oops, there’s that Presbyterian word) time.

I envision a church gathering in cyberspace for communal worship and praise, as well as having a physical presence in each of the towns, cities and countries in which the “members” live. A church that enlivens mission, both individually and collectively, and promotes the notion of the “priesthood of all believers” actively engaged in the physical world as well as the cyber-sphere. It would be a church which has the same range of theological perspectives as any “real-world” church, but would have a space in which, unlike most churches today, those differences can be discussed respectfully and reverently. Continue reading ‘Testing the Waters on a Virtual Church’

11
Feb
09

Growing Beyond Numbers – a continuing project

This is a project I was involved with several years ago, while in seminary. I have threatened numerous times to revisit this and continue to work at the basic premise. It was good, just not complete. If you feel inclined to help, I would appreciate any suggestions. I will no doubt make sure that the revisions can be seen apart from the original, which is owned collectively by all the authors. Each gave their permission years ago to work with this, as long as attribution was given.

Be prepared: This is a small book. It is, at least I think, interesting and challenging – especially for churches in flux and those trying to redefine their identity – but it is not a quick read.  

Continue reading ‘Growing Beyond Numbers – a continuing project’

11
Feb
09

DOING THEOLOGY – A Series on Practical Theology

A 7-part series about praxis – the way we treat theology as an active word, rather than just something we think about if we have to.

Excerpts:

“Theology is a word that seems to bring terror to some people’s hearts, cause others to roll their eyes back in their head and, at the very least, make some folks think of a deranged, reclusive, scholarly pastor sitting amid a room full of books reading under candlelight. … Theology as something we think can be important, but theology as something we do – well, now, that’s just plain powerful. ” 

“What I hoped to show is that developing theology is based on a process – a continuous process, at that – in which we actually have to contend with what we believe, and consider how the consequences play out in our reality (”our” meaning human reality, as opposed to God’s reality). Un unexamined theology risks becoming an idolatry, with that which is idolized being our own rigid dogma.”

Continue reading ‘DOING THEOLOGY – A Series on Practical Theology’

09
Feb
09

Matthew’s Talents vs. Luke’s Minas

Why the Matthean Parable of the Talents and Lukan Parable of the Pounds/Minas Differ.

Despite a strikingly similar core story, Matthew’s parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) and Luke’s parables of the minas or pounds (Luke 19:11-27) are not considered by most scholars to be parallel. Besides notable differences in the storylines of each parable, the issues of location within the narratives, expected audiences and the general theologies and/or slants of the respective evangelists enter into the equation. This post seeks to ascertain the similarities and distinctions of the two parables before summarizing the theories expressed by scholars about the underlying reasons for the differences that exist.

Continue reading ‘Matthew’s Talents vs. Luke’s Minas’

09
Feb
09

Matt Alber – who knew he was terrific?

A voice that anyone can appreciate. Romantic song. Not for the homophobe. Continue reading ‘Matt Alber – who knew he was terrific?’

09
Feb
09

Can the Church Reconcile with its Own Victims? (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2

From this point forward, this paper follows a fairly radical ethical line – one based on Mat 16:25-26,

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (NRSV)

The church has based much of its behavior, since becoming an institution, on maintaining its status, solvency, relevance and political clout in the world. That behavior, as stated above, has included the historical marginalization or oppression of significant groups, many of who are still found within its doors. When this conduct is measured against what is perhaps the most significant Christian ethic, the “greatest commandment” of Mat 22:37-39[1], it fails miserably. The antidote for this ethos is none other than to embrace the message of the greatest commandment even if it leads to the church’s own material demise. The life of the church is founded on the concept of being the light of Christ to the world and, however divine the calling may be, is a temporal and, therefore, quite possibly a temporary presence in society. To maintain its existence at the expense of any of its neighbors, which includes any part of God’s creation inside or outside its walls, is to seek life over its mission. Continue reading ‘Can the Church Reconcile with its Own Victims? (Part 3)’

08
Feb
09

Can the Church Reconcile with it’s Own Victims? (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Reform movements have been associated with the church since its earliest days, generally when it was considered too focused on earthly or material matters. John Chrysostom, in the late fourth century, wrote of the political intrigue, power struggles and scandalous excesses being enjoyed by priests and laity of the church.  He restructured the finances of the church in Constantinople, selling many of the acquired luxuries of the clergy to feed and cloth the poor,[1] thereby enraging many of the priests. One thousand years later, the Brethren of the Common Life, an order started by Gerard Groote, railed against many of the same problems, including the secularization of the church.[2]  Between these two examples and their respective timeframes, history tells of myriad other reform movements that sought to correct very similar patterns of behavior, resulting in a list of dissidents within which almost all Protestant denominations can find their roots – Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Wesley to name but a few. Continue reading ‘Can the Church Reconcile with it’s Own Victims? (Part 2)’

07
Feb
09

Power Flower – a Tool Against Tyranny

I am posting this on both my blogs, because it is important (I think). It sets a stage for meaningful discussion about power and privilege. These are excerpts from the full article at my other blog.

Privilege is one of those very strange things. Those who lack it generally recognize it as either something to envy or something to despise. Those who know they have it and are inclined to have more, manipulate it to their own advantage. Then there is the great, largely clueless majority who, if asked, will tell you they don’t have privilege – they are just as downtrodden as women, people of color, GLBT or whatever other group they may name. Sometimes I think that the invisible unflective privilege is the most heinous and insidious.

It is important to keep in mind that, just because a constitutional amendment is passed by popular vote, the amendment is not necessarily constitutional. Determining consistency with the overriding provisions of the constitution falls on the backs of the courts, which makes it a highly contentious and potentially unpopular part of the US system of justice. You might say that, when the courts get the most heat from the public, they may have come the closest to doing what they were created to do.

05
Feb
09

Presbyterians to Study Civil Unions and Christian Marriage

As a friend of mine pointed out, this “study” may already be frought with bias.  Since it will study the “relationship between civil union and Christian marriage” can we assume that they will not study the far longer traditions of Christian unions and civil marriages. The study seems to suggest some fairly overt, albeit unreflective, bias to begin with.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sharon K. Youngs, Communications Coor. February 4, 2009 (888) 728-7228, ext. 5750; sharon.youngs@pcusa.org

GA Moderator announces names for special committee to study civil union and Christian marriage

Committee of 13 will begin work in March

LOUISVILLE-The Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has selected members for the General Assembly Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage. Continue reading ‘Presbyterians to Study Civil Unions and Christian Marriage’




... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

Readers since Jan 2009

  • 129,936 posts read

Archives