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New Kindle Book: “Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values)”

Values and the Future (Revaluation of Values) is now available at the Kindle Store

Nietzsche said revaluation of values is the supreme task of the philosopher. Nietzsche called philosophers lawgivers. And yet the world continues to operate as though values were not something we are called to revise, develop, enunciate. The position of these recent reflections is allied with Nietzsche. The values suggested are vastly different from the usual, traditional pantheon.

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theology

A Pox on All (Authority) Houses

Well we have Dr. Borg fighting literalism but not flagging creedal messianism,

And we have Chris Rosebrough’s spirited attack (response):

If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is the One True God in human lfesh and that he rose bodily from the grave three days after he was crucified for your sins then you are not a Christian even if you attend a church that prays to Jesus, heeds the poor and recycles vigorously in order to save the planet.


SOURCE

What we need is something that takes us beyond this impasse to Jesus’ iconoclastic rejection of religion itself and his as-yet largely ignored suggestion that God is at hand and available to those who repent and believe.

The overlaying of this simple iteration of good news with the creedal notions that mark orthodox faith has been the problem from the beginning. Creating a mawkish notion of repentance and an exclusivist notion of salvation.

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Is Jesus Lord & Savior?

I care about the issues the following statement raises.

Every Christian …. is already a theologian. The question is, are you a good theologian or a bad one? We’re good theologians if what we say and think about God lines up with what Scripture says and affirms. We’re bad theologians if our view of God is vague, or if we think God doesn’t really mind sin, or is we see Jesus as a good example and not a Savior, or if we our god is too small to overcome evil or too big to care about us. SOURCE

1. The widespread use of the term “God” seems to me to neglect the suggestion in the Old Testament that G-d is who G-d is and that we should be careful about the use of the name.

2. Our view of G-d should necessarily be vague, partly because Jesus contradicts the notion of G-d as it emerges in the Old Testament and even in the New. Jesus is a you have heard it said, but teacher, continually opting for the prophetic criticism of the priestly codes. Rather than commit the heresy of totally rejecting the OT, the best strategy is to be modest in one’s claim to know much about the deity. We should instead consider Jesus as the teacher of a Way.

3. Or if we think God doesn’t really mind sin. This reduces the deity to an anthropomorphic parent figure, somewhat akin to Freud’s superego. One would assume that the deity, whoever that might be, is well aware of the human condition and there is prophetic testimony to the deity’s hatred of such things as feasts, solemn assemblies, abuse and violence. In other words we might assume the deity is be aligned with the better angels of our nature and not aligned with the things we do that demean ourselves and others. We hardly need the deity to tell us what scumbags we can be.

4. Jesus as example rather than Savior. This is code for what passes for Christian faith. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Now this creedal statement does have some roots in the New Testament, but there is an equally persuasive way of reading things that suggests that Jesus was indeed a leader and exemplar, that the deity he summoned forth in prayer is in fact within us, within everyone, that the spirit evoked by the New Testament is a universal spark ignited when one is exposed to way of living championed by Jesus, etc. I grant you it is easier to have a creed and have done with it. But this has not been instrumental in creating a sea change in the world that would make it more “as in heaven”. And this is what we are told to pray for daily.

5. Finally, as I read things, the trick is not for the deity to overcome evil, but for us to do so, in ourselves and in the world. This is what I think Bonhoeffer was moving toward in his thinking, which vacillates between the creedal and the modest but more radical notion that Jesus is the person for others.

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Jesus: World Teacher or Supernatural Messiah?

In the New Testament there appear to be two persons bearing name Jesus. One is a World Teacher who proposes a way of life we ought to consider and perhaps follow. This way is rewarding in itself. The other is a Jesus who favors one disciple over another, who proposes his death and resurrection and who is the center of a creedal religion. The way of this Jesus is “eternal life”.“Beyond Creed” seeks to hammer out a preamble to a theology for the Third Millennium.

13. New Testament Dualism

Dualism, division, the opposition of sides — these emerge in the Gospels themselves when we consider these two Jesus figures.

Jesus is presented as the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God but by him. His name has almost magical properties.

Jesus emerges as the teacher by the Galilean lake, as the iconoclast who says it’s more important to heal someone than go to church.

And it seems one must choose. But can we?

Even if scholarship finds ways of editing out the messianic elements in the New Testament, it is we who must go with the statement attributed to Jesus that a house divided cannot stand.

This statement precludes messianism unless it is radically interpreted to remove from itself all of its deleterious elements.

Even then, such formidable problems are left that the choice presented below becomes only way to arrive at a hermeneutic capable of dealing with the New Testament’s contradictory testimony.

Here it is necessary only to underline what the choice is:

The choice is between

1. A holistic (integral) understanding that is universal in every respect and thus affirming of all individual selves and

2. A messianic understanding which requires the displacement of self and obeisance to a messiah figure.

In the most simple terms, it is the choice between believing the apocalypse of Jesus, which is based on responsibility for serving the least of humankind (Matthew 25), and accepting the institutional-messianic declension of reality:

If you are not “in Christ Jesus”. you shall not be “saved”, here or in the world to come.

Or:

Jesus came walking from the mountain and said that his father Abba is near and if we repent and believe, it is very good news for us and our world.

Two statements, one an ethical summons, the other a creedal declaration, may be said to define the tension within the various remnants of Christendom today.

The ‘Jesus saves’ emphasis may be said to dominate the evangelical wings of the various churches.

The ethical call to care for the “least of these” has at least some hearing within all churches as well.

At no point in this essay should it be assumed that a wholesale judgment is being made regarding the degree to which messianism holds sway from one precinct to another.

The point is that when it does it diverts and deludes with resulting harm to the basic thrust of the gospel, which Jesus preached and embodied.

Greg Koukl – Was Jesus just a great teacher?

This is a succinct refutation of much of what I’ve written. To which my response is: The creedal elements in the New Testament were (or may have been) overlays — creating the basis for a messianic religion which evolved into the church which became the official religion of the Roman Empire. In other words Biblical literalism and even inerrancy is the precondition for creedal messianism.


Hear Excerpts from Beyond Creed and Other Podcasts

The ground-breaking book Beyond Creed: From Religion to Spirituality can be bought from any major online bookseller and also from iUniverse in paperback and ebook formats. Also, I will gladly send it to anyone who asks as a Word document.

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creedal messianism

Union Theological Seminary Trains Sights on the Roman Empire

When the folk at Union Theological Seminary train sights on the Roman Empire, (see the announcement below), I hope they will do a better job than they did on reparations. When the Seminary held a similar gathering on reparations a while back, no prominence was given to the fact that Jim Forman and others challenged the American Church on reparations in the late-1960s and that Union students and alumni were prominent in that fight. And that the churches’ response was abysmal.

In the case of the Roman Empire, I hope that Union Theoplogical Seminary gives a prominent place to the phenomenon of creedal messianism, the process by which the early church reprocessed the gospel Jesus proclaimed into a form of Christ-olatry and created an institution at odds with Jesus’s messages regarding peace and violence. [See Bonhoeffer’s Ghost]

Here is the current schedule of presentations for New Testament and Roman Empire
Resistance and Reimagination Consultation
:

New Testament and Roman Empire
Resistance and Reimagination Consultation

Friday, April 4 & Saturday, April 5, 2008

A consultation of roundtable discussions and plenaries convened by the New Testament Department at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The Roman Empire as social, political, and religious context for the study of the New Testament has gained much traction in recent years. This consultation seeks to move beyond simply noticing the resonance between New Testament texts and Roman imperial contexts, reflecting the most current innovations in this field of research and teaching. Three working group areas (The Arts of Resistance; Justification by Faith and the Law of Empire; Power, Gender, and Sexuality) seek to reimagine what a methodological realignment means for interpretation and meaningmaking in a variety of contexts, both ancient and contemporary.

# The Arts of Resistance
Hal Taussig, Convener, Visiting Professor of New Testament, Union Theological Seminary
# Power, Gender, and Sexuality
Davina C. Lopez, ’99 MA, ’06 Ph.D., Convener, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Eckerd College
# Justification by Faith and the Law of Empire
Brigitte Kahl, Convener, Professor of New Testament, Union Theological Seminary

It would not appear from the above that the topic of creedal messianism, the most explosive insight to arise from a genuine encounter with Biblical texts in our time, will be a prominent feature of these proceedings.

In general, I find that Union Theological Seminary, which I attended from 1958-1961, has cottoned to whatever happened to be the cultural notion of relevance, following the debacles of the 1960s, and been unwilling to face the radical renewal agenda that addresses the very structures and creedal basis for the church.

One no longer even sighs.

Petra | Jordan | T. S, Eliot | The Waste Land” | Music by Simon Shahin

Petra became part of the Roman Empire in the Second Century CE.


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Stephen C. Rose Home Most Popular Pages

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ISO Gary Dorrien — Reinhold Niebuhr Professor at Union Theological Seminary

It’s funny. I am sure Gary Dorrien has never heard of me. And I never heard of him until he showed up as the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Christian Ethics at my alma mater, Union Theological Seminary recently.

My friend George Todd alerted me to this fact.

So I emailed Gary but, as with all emails and other communications I have wafted toward Union Seminary since I have become totally unknown, beginning in the 1970s when my last books on social issues appeared, there was no response.

(Actually, there was an eventual response, a two line email indicating that Gary had not received the first email and a query regarding a reference I had made to John Lewis.)

When I do make contact I tend to elicit a perfunctory brush off. I experienced this at Union during the late 1970s when I tried to suggest I might have discovered in singing songs based on canonical texts a way of doing theology.

I remain lost in the mists of the generation of the 1960s, a decade I pronounced over when John Lewis was made to modify his remarks prepared for the now-nostalgicized March on Washington.

I remember going up to Heath, Massachusetts, where another friend, the late Bob Brown, used to live in summers, to search out a prominent New Testament scholar whose specialty was Mark.

To share my sung Gospel of Mark.

I should have known better.

The point I wish to make however is that I believe Gary Dorrien, interviewed recently in the New York Times, is passing wrong in his analysis of streams of thought in the realm of Christian social ethics.

He notes three such areas:

Social Gospel;

Niebuhrian Realism
; and

Liberation Theology
.

There is a fourth area
.

It has no name but it resonates to H. R. Niebuhr’s (the more percipicacious of the famed generation of Christian observers) informal statement I heard at UTS in 1961 — that both neo-orthodoxy and liberalism are dead.

That cut away a lot of confusion in subsequent years and opened the door to move beyond Reinhold Niebuhrian stasis.

The fourth way is the way of people like me and Will Campbell and Jacques Ellul and in some respects Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who refuse to forswear action in the name of the various cautions erected by Reinhold N.

And who refuse at the same time to indulge in the ideological idolatries of liberation theology or the naivete and Straussian Jesus reductionism that one sometimes finds in the liberal realms of New Testament scholarship.

We are people who have fought in the trenches and understood things most academics do not even encounter or think about.

Here is one such thing.

Which of the schools cited by G. Dorrien has given a tinker’s damn (not worth any consideration) to the realities of grass roots ecumenism, the institutional church, polity, the functioning of the actual ecclesiastical enterprise?

I watched Reinhold Niebuhr essentially trash Joe Haroutounian for suggesting a central place for love back at that supposedly classic-time at UTS. Sectarianism was for RN a dirty word.

I remember writing a now lost article in the student paper I edited at Union explaining why things were not so great at the seminary. President H. Pitney Van Dusen invited me to his spacious dwelling to explain myself in the presence of my classmate Geoff Rowthorne, presumably there to offer HPVD a bit of moral support for a more temperate view.

What I suspect G. Dorrien will find in time is that he has been a captive of a world. That is what I found when I essentially lost that world and moved beyond it to where people have no interest in it or recognition of it.

(I have since looked at many worlds including those of the Vineyard, Willow Creek, Jonestown, Las Vegas and Nietzsche. And above all the Web.)

Ah well, I am saying too much, as rem might say.

I am sorry. I am only a few miles south of G. Dorrien and he can reply to my e-mail or leave a comment or otherwise contact me in innumerable ways.

I have thoughts about these matters.

The fourth way is Abba’s Way. It is the CAP way. It is a form of universalism that addresses the prevalence of creedal messianism that still hobbles Christian thought.

It believes fervently in forms of institutional renewal that would require reforms of thinking even to imagine and execute.

Safer to ignore the presence of a fourth way. It always has been. From the very beginning.


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