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Church

This tag is associated with 9 posts

Book Review: “Healing our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World” by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill

Healing our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World is a practical look at how to bring about change through a commitment to action in the community of Christ. The authors have created a practical work that lets readers immediately make applications to their lives, particularly if they are able to do so with a small group of other committed individuals.

The authors begin with a brief look at the brokenness of humanity. This brokenness shows that we have created false barriers between each other that are often put into structures that keep us apart. The authors propose 9 practices that are designed to heal broken humanity, and these are the subjects of the next nine chapters. These practices are: reimagine church; renew lament; repent together; relinquish power; restore justice; reactivate hospitality; reinforce agency; reconcile relationships; and recover life together.

The individual chapters on each of these practices do three primary things: 1) elucidate the meaning of the practice; 2) show how this practice can engage the “other” to restore humanity and relationships; and 3) demonstrate how to engage in the practice in a group setting. For example, the chapter on “repent together” goes over, briefly, why we need to repent, including choosing nationalism over others; worshiping freedom and choice, and the like. Then, it expands on the things we need to repent of. Finally, it gives an outline for how to practice repentance in small groups, including praying for God to convict us of our sin, going into the community to speak with those who are marginalized or to whom we ought to repent; practicing lament from the previous chapter; make personal commitments to repentance; and more.

If there is a downside to the book, it is that it almost demands being done in a small group setting. As an individual reading it, I came away with a desire to do so again with a group. This is, of course, one of the goals, but it means that its applicability is largely geared towards group settings.

Churches that truly wish to commit to making real, lasting change in their communities and healing through reconciliation ought to consider Healing our Broken Humanity necessary reading. I recommend it, particularly for use in a group setting.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Sunday Quote: Bonhoeffer – Why is the Church Afraid?

dietrich_bonhoefferWhy is the Church Afraid?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, addressing the World Alliance, an ecumenical group, on the situation of the world in 1932, the cusp of the rise of Nazi Germany (a rise which would lead to his own execution) asked “Why is the… Church of Christ, as it appears in the World Alliance, afraid?” In response, he uttered these powerful words to the whole Christian church:

Because it [the church] knows there is a commandment to peace, and yet with the clear vision that is given to the church, sees the reality that is full of hate, enmity, violence. It is as if all the powers on earth had conspired together against peace, as if money, the economy, the drive to power, even the love of one’s fatherland have been dragged into the service of hate…

How could it be anything but blasphemous mindlessness, if we were to declare ‘No more war!’ and think with that, and a new organization–even a Christian one–we could exorcise the devil? Such organizations are nothing, no more than a house of cards that the whirlwind blows away… Even our well-meaning good will amounts to nothing…

Christ must be present among us in preaching and sacrament, the Crucified One who made peace between God and humankind. The Crucified One is our peace. (DBW 11, 354-355, cited in Schlingensiepen, cited below)

Let us not be motivated by fear, money, the economy, drive to power, or patriotism. Let us not utter the blasphemy that if we humans could just do it all, we would be saved. Be not afraid, church of Christ. The Crucified One is present among us.

Source

Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance (New York: Continuum, 2010).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

 

Really Recommended Posts 5/8/15- Sola Scriptura, National Day of Prayer, and more!

postI’m pretty excited to offer you, dear readers, another round of Really Recommended Posts this week. These should give you some nice diverse topics to explore! As usual, be sure to let me know your thoughts on the links, and let the authors of the posts know themselves!

A Short Defense of Sola Scriptura– Here is some insight into the defense of the doctrine of sola scriptura against those who would allege that there needs to be some authenticating authority for the books that make up Scripture. What do you think of this argument?

“I can’t help you” – What Should Never Be Heard at Church– The way we invite (or don’t) others into the life of the church matters. What ways might we best provide an environment that welcomes others into our community? Here’s an example of how not to do it.

Beware of Prayer–New Apostles and Prophets on the National Day of Prayer– Some insight into the documents that are being passed around by leadership for the National Day of Prayer. I think this is pretty unfortunate. However, I don’t think this needs to interrupt your own participation in said day. For some insight into spiritual warfare (including the view of “warfare prayer” and the like), see my review of Understanding Spiritual Warfare: 4 Views (and the book itself, of course!).

5 Changes Elementary Sunday Schools Need to Make ASAP– How might we better equip our children to engage with the challenges they will face against Christianity? Here are 5 important points for changing Sunday School to set children up for success.

LOL Interwebz: Putin the Memes Away– Here’s a challenging post on the use of memes, what they do for us (and to us) and the relation of free speech and Christianity.

Book Review: “Total Church” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

total-churchTim Chester and Steve Timmis aim to present a gospel-centered vision of the local church as a fellowship community oriented towards missions in  Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community

The notion that the church must be community- and gospel- oriented is absolutely central to the whole book. Time and again examples are put forward towards how the house church can make a huge impact on individuals. The authors rightly emphasize the notion that sometimes measuring success by pure numbers is misleading and, yes, misguided. Throughout the book, a commendable call is issued to seek using the gospel of Christ and making missions a priority in church.

Many stories are provided throughout the book to help make these insights into a practical application. They are appreciated because it gives readers some hands-on ways to deal with situations. I also enjoyed much of the discussion on youth groups and “children’s church.” Basically, it was argued that we cannot simply make the kids a separate unit from the rest of the church. Youth groups cannot just be a game night, because once the youths get past that, “real, adult” church is so vastly different. We need to emphasize the truths of Christianity throughout our children’s lives from the very earliest stages.

The book, however, has some deeply problematic elements. First, the view put forward of counseling and psychology was, frankly, disturbing. There’s a lot going on in this chapter, but it really seems to come down to the authors saying that “secular” psychological treatment doesn’t help, only the gospel can. We just need to embrace the truths of the gospel and all will be well. One representative quote: “The Bible addresses the entire range of problems we experience in living in this world… It addresses all the basic and essential issues of what it means to be human, both in our sin and in our salvation” (Kindle location 1802; all references are to Kindle locations hereafter). Later, this is made into an application that if we just focus on Christ, our sufferings won’t seem significant. At the end of all of this, there is a vague reference to how some kind of counseling outside of church might also be needed, but it is too little, too late, too vaguely stated.

I think this is a deeply misguided attempt to describe a “Christian” view of counseling which simply is–ironically–not outlined in the Bible. Choosing a couple quotes about how our present suffering can be alleviated or overcome by God does not mean that going to “secular” [whatever that means–and in exclusion of the reality of Christian] psychologists and therapists is a poor decision. Yes, we should try to deal with and help with these issues in the context of a community of faith. But God forbid that we approach someone who self-harms [one example they used] and just tell them that their problem is reducible to a spiritual problem, as the authors do: “The term ‘spiritual’ is not simply another category alongside biological, physical, environmental, upbringing, or relationships. Each of those forms of suffering, passive or active, is always and at some point a spiritual and theological issue” (1881). This seems clearly reductionistic and potentially damaging. I felt this whole section was quite disturbing.

Second, there is a very dim view of academic theology put forward. The authors complain that academic theology is often just for academics and compare the probably legendary story of medieval debates over the number of angels on the head of a pin to modern evangelical theological journals as “no less obscure” (2159)! This is another huge difficulty in the book because it ignores the wide implications of “obscure” theology being done in academia for the church at large. By reducing theology to the task merely of the local church (2148), it seems there is something of a denial of the Holy Spirit’s work in guiding the church at large, and, yes, a danger of local churches simply deciding that soul-destroying heresy is sound theology without any support from those “obscure” academics. A blithe dismissal of this enterprise relegates authors like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and more into the scrap heap of obscurity.

Third, the book largely dismisses the enterprise of apologetics as dealing with issues of the mind and instead argues that “The problem is not that we cannot know God. The problem is that we will not know God. It is a problem of the heart rather than the head” (2344). Later, this leads the authors to the claim that the goal of apologetics must be to “demonstrate that unbelief is a problem of the heart rather than a problem with the head” (2419). Apologetics is envisioned as not being intellectually engage but rather engaged with trying to show people the relational problems they have with God (2467). Not only does this reduce apologetics quite a bit in scope, but it also performs some serious psychoanalysis of those who do not believe by saying that the ultimate problem with every non-Christian is that they somehow have some passionate anger against God.

Now, unless we are to assume that all of these people are lying to us, plenty of atheists throughout history have grounded their rejection quite clearly in intellectual issues. Numerous modern studies have shown that the people leaving the church often do so because of perceived anti-intellectualism or a failure to engage the mind. The task of apologetics can not, and dare not do this, be reduced to vague exploration of the heart rather than the mind. We must engage with the intellectual attacks on Christianity and put forward our position in a winsome manner.

Fourth, the Chester and Timmis often say they are not saying their position is the only way to do something, but then continually pound the notion that their way is the only biblical or gospel-oriented way so often that one wonders whether they do believe other approaches might work. The discussion of the biblical warrant for house churches is but one example, where, after asserting that there is nothing inherently wrong with larger churches, the authors compares them to pagan temples founded due to Constantine’s making Christianity the civil religion of the Roman Empire [a historical reality that should be questioned, as it was not the official or exclusive religion until Theodosius I, though this is a complex topic not worth getting deeply into here] (1255). If one approach is “biblical” and other other is merely capitulation to replicate paganism, which one is acceptable? Speaking inclusive approaches but following up with things like this makes me wonder whether there is much generosity happening towards those with whom the authors disagree.

The kindle edition of the book also has some typos, such as replacing “initially” with “Initial” (yes, capitalized in the middle of sentences) at several places in the text. Another one is this portion: “I have used the Initial person, but not to trumpet my experience… I have used the Initial person to show that what I am describing is not impossible rhetoric or unrealistic idealism… At Initial they expressed concern that we did not have an accountability structure over and outside us…” (2782). Looking at the print edition on Amazon, I find that it says “first” in all these places. I don’t know if this is the same with all Kindle editions or just the one I received for review.

The Good

+Several good insights into how we might build communities in church
+Emphasis on holistic approach to youths and children

The Bad

-Extremely problematic discussion of counseling
-Often paints an inclusive picture, but then contradicts it with exclusion
-Some questionable exegesis
-Largely dismisses academic theology
-Largely undermines the majority of Christian apologetics

Conclusion

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community was, unfortunately, not what I had hoped for. Will readers get insights into founding house churches and making communities therefrom? Yes. But unfortunately there is an awful lot of baggage to go along with those insights, including, but not limited to, rejection of massive amounts of Christian academic theology, undercutting Christian apologetics, distorting a Christian view of therapy and psychological treatment, sometimes questionable exegesis, and more.

Crossway provided me with a copy of the book for review purposes. I was not obligated by the publisher to write any kind of review whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 3/6/15- Graphic Novels, going to church, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneHello, dear readers! I hope you’ll enjoy the lineup I have for you from the frozen North. I realized the other day I must truly have acclimated because I walked outside in 5 degree (Fahrenheit, AKA -15 Celsius) weather and had to remove my hat because I was warm. Wow. Anyway, some diverse reading for you, which includes posts on a graphic novel reviewed from a Christian perspective, some analysis of Flood Geology, reasons to go to church, an upcoming book I’m super excited for, and how to be a Christian on Facebook.

A Sneak Peek at What’s Inside My New Book– Natasha Crain at “Christian Mom Thoughts” is one of my favorite bloggers. She constantly has great advice for Christian parents and how to integrate apologetics into young lives. This is something extremely valuable. She’s also writing a book! I cannot wait for it. Check out this sneak peek at the book and be sure to follow her site.

Review: Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang– I love graphic novels but it is hard to find those which I’m willing to invest time into. After reading this review and commentary on worldview, I think I may have to pick these two up from Gene Luen Yang.

To Church (COMIC)- Why even bother going to church? Here’s a pretty interesting look at some reasons why it is a good thing for Christians to go!To Church (COMIC)- Why even bother going to church? Here’s a pretty interesting look at some reasons why it is a good thing for Christians to go!

Jesus Christ and Mr. Spock– Was Jesus a myth, like Spock? Some mythicists have been running with  this absurdity since the death of Leonard Nimoy. Check out this post which acts as a piece of tribute to Spock while also refuting the ludicrous claims of Jesus mythers.

How to be a Christian Presence on Facebook– Some good advice on interacting on Facebook.

Forams and Diatoms: Testing Young Earth Flood Geology Hypotheses– Does Flood Geology–the Young Earth Creationist’s scientific answer to most questions–succeed when tested? Check out this post for just one test it fails.

Visiting Churches: Non-Denominational? Or not?

Copyright Thomas Kinkade; this image just made me think of going to church this past Sunday--cold and snowy.

Copyright Thomas Kinkade; this image just made me think of going to church this past Sunday–cold and snowy.

Over the course of this year, my wife and I, along with some friends, have been visiting a number of different churches in our area (there are many). The reasons for this are manifold, but primarily because we want to use it as a learning experience to see how other church families function, what works, what doesn’t, etc. I have lots of pastor friends/studying to be pastor friends so this is the kind of thing we do for fun! I’ve decided to offer up little reviews of the experience. I’ll not be naming the churches unless it would be made obvious by a comment (we’re planning, for example, to visit the St. Paul Cathedral).

On November 16th, my wife and I ventured out on our own for the experience and visited a local non-denominal (maybe–more on that bit later) congregation that I’d been interested in for some time. Their site also hosts a Japanese service and I thought it would be interesting to see what the church was all about. The web site made it seem possibly Reformed/Calvinist as it used the word “sovereign” for God a lot. I love that word for God (as a Lutheran), but I know that Reformed/Calvinist traditions tend to focus on it as a primary descriptor for God (not saying this is bad, just an observation).

Welcome

Anyway, the members were extremely welcoming. More than any other church I think I’ve been to for the first time. We were greeted at the door, as we hung our coats a member came to introduce herself and ask about our family and whether it was our first time there and to tell us about the church, another family introduced themselves and seemed quite genuinely pleased to have us there, and throughout the time after the service many others came to say hello and greet us. That was a major positive takeaway: we are not greeting well enough! I think it is vitally important to have the assembly be a place in which newcomers are immediately made welcome into Christ’s body.

Worship Format

The service consisted of several songs at the beginning interlaced with very brief prayers. The music was contemporary and lyrically fairly robust. Then there was an offering following a video on the current giving program and the children were dismissed for “Children’s Church” and the sermon/message began. This message was about 1/2 hour long and was on Ephesians 1:1-6. It was followed by two songs and a dismissal.

Commentary

The offering song seemed a bit manipulative, to be honest, as the lyrics–written from the perspective of Christ–were basically “I came down from heaven; what did you do for me?/I bled and died for you; what have you done for me?” etc. Ouch!

The sermon shattered my notion that the church might be Reformed/Calvinist as it was about how Ephesians 1:1-6 teaches that God doesn’t choose those who are condemned but that we choose to be chosen. A quote from D.L. Moody was proffered: “The elect are the whosoever wills; the non-elect, the whosoever won’t.” Yep, not Calvinist. I appreciated, however, the clear attempt to adhere to Scriptural teaching and to make it the norm for faith and life, despite my disagreeing with the interpretation happening (largely decision/choice theology).

They had “Children’s Church” in which all the children under 12 or so years old went to a different room to have some kind of Sunday School (I only observed in passing on way to nursery with Luke, my son). What are thoughts on children leaving for something like this? I admit I’m not a huge fan because it felt like we’re saying children aren’t a part of the body of Christ until a certain age or that if they’re noisy or something they’re distracting. I think that having children as part of the Divine Service is a blessing for both us and them. But I don’t want to over this without other voices. Do you have experience or thoughts related to a practice like this? I’d love to read them.

Overall it was an interesting experience. I haven’t really experienced much non-liturgical styled worship and this made it feel as if I had missed something. The welcoming was wonderful and really set the pace for the rest of the experience.

Also, the church never clearly made it seem like they were part of a denomination, but apparently they are part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a denomination founded in 1887 (according to Wiki). I know effectively nothing about this denomination, but there it is.

Have you visited churches recently? What was your experience? Do you have thoughts on “Children’s Church”? What are they?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

On the Feminization of Christianity

worship-in-churchChristianity is being feminized–men just don’t go to church anymore!

Worship is so feminine now, with all of its appeals to emotions.

Christianity has a “masculine” feel to it.

I had a conversation recently in which several men were bemoaning the “feminization of Christianity,” particularly worship. I asked them what they meant by this and one man illustrated it with a story: he was at a church one time and this guy was up front singing this lovey-dovey song he had written about how Jesus loved him and wanted to hold him or something and he–the one telling the story–thought it was ridiculous. This, he said, was an example of the feminization of worship. It makes men leave the church.

I pointed out that his example was about a man singing a song written by a man–himself–leading worship in a church in which (the man had told me) the only leaders were men. He nodded and reiterated his point. …This, it seems, is the result of feminizing the church.

I thought that was rather odd, to be frank, but the conversation has stuck with me for its message. I’ve had many like it over the past year or two. I’ve seen fellow bloggers post on this apparently insidious trend of the “feminization of Christianity.” A prominent apologist recently issued a similar complaint, noting that worship has gotten more “emotional” and therefore more “feminine.” Some theologians and books I’ve read have had similar concerns about this “feminine” aspect being brought into churches. Apparently, from my reading of these sources and the conversations I’ve had, the message is that this is A Bad Thing.

Do you really think that Christianity is masculine? What does that even mean?

What does it mean to say worship is “feminine” or “masculine”? Does that mean that if I, a man, worship, then my praise is somehow “manly,” while my wife’s praise is “womanly”?

I want to focus on this notion that “feminization of Christianity” is A Bad Thing. What does this say about men and women?

It seems to me that if feminizing Christianity inherently makes it somehow deficient, then that means females are also deficient. If “feminized” worship is bad, or at least not as good as “masculine” worship–whatever either one of those things means–then that means that what are identified as male patterns of worship have higher value. But can such patterns really even be identified? If “feminization of the Church” is to be avoided, while making it more “masculine” is to be lauded, then what does that say about our position, male and female, as the image of God? On the one hand, humanity, male and female, were each created in God’s likeness, in the image of God. On the other, we are told that “feminine” themes within Christianity are to be avoided and downplayed, while “masculine” themes are to be pursued and emphasized.

The most common answer I’ve gotten to questions about the nature of masculine or feminine worship is that that which is feminine is emotional or passive, while masculine is rational or active. I would like to ask: how is this reflected in God’s Word? Recall that God gets angry (Psalm 7:11) or grieved by sin (Genesis 6:6), takes pleasure in obedience (Psalm 147:111), delights (Zephaniah 3:17), etc. God is a God with emotions and whether we set this aside as anthropomorphism or not, it seems clear that Scripture understands God not rejecting emotions but rather, in some sense, taking part in them. But if God’s Word does not denigrate emotions and even attributes them to God, why should we not worship in emotional ways? And why are emotions treated as something to be avoided, as necessarily feminine and somehow not good, or at least not as good as that which is identified as masculine?

I’m not trying to advocate for one side or the other in the so-called “worship wars.” Instead, my point is that the narrative of complaints about the “feminization of Christianity” is misguided and far from the truth. Being female is not bad, nor is it somehow less perfect than being male. Similarly, having a “feminine” Christianity is not an imperfection. To be honest, I’d like to call my Christian brothers and sisters to a more complete understanding of God and God’s word.

There is hope for us that applies to us all as people:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

These are words of hope, words of reconciliation. But they are also words which cut against the notion that in our church there is masculine worship vs. feminine worship; masculine music vs. feminine music; masculine sermons vs. feminine ones. “Nor is there male and female… you are all one in Christ Jesus.” My heart leaps at these words. These words tell me I need have no fear, for our God–a great God–has reconciled us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Check out my posts on egalitarianism – the belief that men and women are equally qualified and called in the church and home (scroll down for more).

I found the image on Bing searching for images of worshipers in church and I claim no rights to it and saw no claims to rights upon it.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 1/17/14- Gospels, Abolish Human Abortion, the Kalam, and more!

postHere we have another round of really recommended posts. This one features a couple posts directed inwards at fellow Christians or people with whom we agree alongside a range of interesting topics. It is important to maintain a high standard, so sometimes it is necessary to give criticism where it is due. Drop a comment, let me know what you thought.

A Fundamental Flaw Behind Abolish Human Abortion– A group which I came out strongly in support of some time ago has really started to take a few turns with which I cannot agree. The group is known as Abolish Human Abortion. I think a lot of what they were doing is quite excellent, but I cannot abide by a few of their primary beliefs. Check out this great analysis of one of the major issues with the group.

The kalam cosmological argument defended in a peer-reviewed science journal–  The title says it all, though the post does have some nice quotes and bits of information. The kalam cosmological argument is an extremely powerful argument for the existence of God. I have a few posts on it myself.

Dear Parents with Young Children– The importance of bringing your children to church is inestimable. Moreover, choosing a church where Law and Gospel are clearly proclaimed, and a basis for belief is preached is essential. Thank you to those parents who bring their children to church! Check out this great post about the topic.

The Case for the Eyewitness Status of the Gospel Authors– Are there any reasons to think those who wrote the Gospels knew what they were talking about? Here, J. Warner Wallace–who, as a homicide detective, has some experience with eyewitness accounts–argues that the Gospels show good evidence for thinking they are eyewitness accounts.

A Review of 5 Views of Biblical Inerrancy– I do not agree with everything Norman Geisler has to say, but I think portions of this review are of critical importance. I haven’t quite finished the whole article, and I’ve only just started reading the book, but I thought this post was worth passing along for others who find the topic of interest.

Book Review: “Revelation” by Richard Swinburne

Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy” by Richard Swinburne is one of those rare books which forces one to think about and analyze every argument it contains, whether one agrees or disagrees with the conclusions. It addresses claims of revelation. Can it be true that a religion’s books or creeds contain truth?

The book starts off with a section on “Meaning” which analyzes terminology, presupposition, analogy and metaphor, and genre in turn. This section is fantastic reading for the philosopher of religion as it takes some higher notions found in philosophy of language and applies them to religious studies. The chapter on presupposition was the first part I found particularly striking. It is here that Swinburne first begins to lay the groundwork for his overarching argument about the Christian Revelation and Scripture. He argues that presuppositions are not contained in the message conveyed in spoken or written word. He writes, “In order to separate statement from presupposition, we must ask, whatever the speaker’s actual beliefs, are there any common beliefs of the clture presupposed in the utterance which can be siphoned off, leaving what the culture would naturally suppose to be its message intact?” (30). This “siphoning” of meaning is necessary because “[a]lthough speakers may use declarative sentences for many different purposes… the paradigm job of such sentences is to convey information, to ad to the hearer’s stock of beliefs” (29). Swinburne offers the following example to demonstrate his argument. Suppose a Roman historian wrote that “The divine Augustus traveled to Brindisi.” This sentence is not intended to convey the information that Augustus is divine. That Augustus is divine is presupposed by the author of the sentence. Rather, the sentence is intended to tell the reader that Augustus traveled to Brindisi (29). Swinburne also outlines and describes various genres and how they can relate to a religious revelation.

The next part of the book argues for four possible tests to determine whether a divine revelation has occurred. These tests are 1) whether the content is the “kind of thing which God would have chosen to reveal to humans” 2) “whether the method of expression is one to be expected of God,  3) whether “the church has developed the original revelation in a way which plausibly brings out what was involved in it …”, and 4) “whether the interpretations provide the sort of teaching which God would have chosen to give to humans” (107-108). He argues convincingly for each of these tests applying to the Christian Revelation.

The third part of “Revelation” examines the Christian Revelation specifically. Swinburne argues that Jesus and His message were the “original revelation” provided to believers (145ff). It is in his discussion of the Church and the Bible, however, wherein he forwards his most controversial claims.

The Church, argues Swinburne, is responsible for more than simply establishing the canon of Scripture. He argues that the Church has a central place alongside Scripture in the Christian Revelation, for without the church, interpretation could not happen. The creedal statements central to Christian faith may not have been derived had it not been for the Church (see page 189ff). Further, the Church acts as a method for assessing “rival interpretations” of various Scriptural truths (200). It is undeniable that Swinburne advocates the Church as a high authority–perhaps even on a higher level than Scripture, for he argues that many conflicting interpretations of Scripture can receive almost equal footing on Scripture alone, so the Church is required to determine which of these should be approved (again see p. 200 for an example of this). Swinburne’s view of the Church is one of the most important things in this book, in my opinion, for the Christian to read and digest, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees. For one’s view of the authority of a church body is vastly important with regards to how one views other doctrines. As Swinburne writes, “Which doctrines are to count as central Christian doctrines… depend[s] very much on which ecclesial bodies we judge to be part of the Church. The wider our Church, the fewer such doctrines there will be” (214). This is undoubtedly true, for if one takes only the Roman Catholic Church, for example, as a valid ecclesial body, then one’s net of central Christian doctrines can include everything sanctioned by the Roman Catholics. But let us say that one takes both the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic church to be authoritative, or perhaps they take the Orthodox, Roman, and Reformed churches as authoritative. Well then it seems that only those doctrines which all these bodies agree on can be regarded as central, or essential to, true faith. For if one church contains a doctrine which the others do not, it cannot be regarded as absolutely essential if the other churches are still legitimate. If it were essential and the other bodies disagreed, then those other bodies would not be legitimate, by the criterion of not agreeing on an essential Christian doctrine.

This then provides a valuable springboard for thought about central Christian teaching and what doctrines and ecclesial bodies one regards as valid or central. Swinburne’s discussion on this topic cannot be downplayed. He goes into various criteria which can be used to determine whether a Church body is legitimate. These arguments are incredibly in-depth and interesting. His arguments force the reader to consider his ideas.

The Bible is the final major topic Swinburne addresses in “Revelation.” Here we see all the groundwork laid in Part 1 come into play. What do genre, presuppositions, etc. tell us about the meaning and interpretation of Scripture? This section is another which the Christian would do well to ponder. Swinburne argues that we must take Scripture as being entirely true, but he qualifies this claim by arguing we must also realize what Scripture is–a collection of books written with divine approval but by human hands. Thus, he argues, we should take great care to realize the difference between presupposition and message, history and allegory, etc. While I do not agree with Swinburne on every point, I find his insights particularly interesting. He notes that “[t]he falsity of the presuppositions does not, therefore… affect the truth-value of a sentence which uses them” (244). This kind of argument can be of direct worth to the apologist, for example. He utilizes Genesis 8:2(“The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained” ESV) as an example: “The sky has no windows out of which the rain comes, but the quoted sentence is just the author’s way of saying, within the presuppositions of his culture, that the rain ceased” (244-245). This is a different approach apologetically than the one I would tend to favor, which would argue that the word “window” is used here in a metaphorical or analogous way.

Swinburne’s high view of the church is necessary alongside his view of Scripture. Swinburne writes that “The slogan of Protestant confessions , ‘the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself’, is quite hopeless” (255). For it is the Church which determines acceptable interpretations of Scripture.  He writes that “Scripture belongs to the Church” (256). Reading and interpreting Scripture requires a guide. This guide “…is the Church’s theological definitions and other central teaching, its tradition of the proper way to interpret the Bible, and its tradition of how particular passages should be interpreted” (256).

Swinburne’s final chapter seeks to discuss and interpret moral teaching found in Scripture.

Swinburne’s central argument is strong. God has given us a Revelation and has given us the tools to discover what it means. This Revelation is found in Scripture and historically in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is the nuances of Swinburne’s argument which make the book so wonderfully useful. I found myself at times nodding, agreeing with everything Swinburne wrote. At other times I shook my head, jotting rebuttals alongside his text. But the vast majority of the book found me engaged on a new level with topics I thought I had addressed and laid to rest. While I disagree with details of Swinburne’s argument (i.e. he accepts the JEDP view of Scripture, denies the historicity of the person of Jonah, etc.), I found his core arguments compelling. We do need to remember the genre(s) we read as we read Scripture. We need to realize that the ultimate author of Scripture is God, but that Scripture was written within a set of presuppositions distinct from our own.

Swinburne’s analysis of the authority of the church was equally compelling. While he holds a higher view of church authority than I do, his view intertwines the Church with Scripture in compelling ways which absolutely must be considered.

It has been over a month since I finished this work by Swinburne, yet I have found myself consistently turning back to it, and even while writing this review, I found myself contemplating his arguments and drawing truths from him while still disagreeing with him on other areas. I reiterate that I find this work absolutely essential reading for the Christian philosopher. It will challenge and reward the reader in ways that may be entirely unexpected.

Source:

Swinburne, Richard. Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy. 2nd Edition. Oxford. 2007.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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