Apr 23, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy!: the Death of Christianity?

Beginning in the 1960's, religious scholars note many so called experts who proclaimed the "death of god," or at least the deconstruction of the Enlightenment construction of the divinity as we knew him. Today, a new group of experts are cheering on the death of the evangelical wing of the American church.

Al Mohler

Michael Spencer

Jon Meacham

(btw: does death have to be the prevailing metaphor when it comes to the reform of religious institution? does that mean that Americans suffer from a narcissism grounded in a fear of death, the unknown, non-being?) It is funny that we used to see the church/synagogue/mosque/religious institution as the lone moral authority to direct public policy and social norms. Now, we have gossip columnists telling us how we should debate states' rights and how we should practice religious and civil rites.

If we could perhaps try to escape this metaphor of "reform/revolution as death" and think in particularly Christian terms of resurrection and new life. In a sermon I gave for Brite's Black and Womanist Theologies course a couple of years ago, I said that "Human tradition may die with humanity,but the Resurrected Messiah and his tradition are forever." What exactly did I mean by this? It means that our human construction of what religious institutions may look like or function in society may be subject to change at any given moment in history, but that Jesus of Nazareth, the Firstborn of the New Creation (Colossians 1), remains Master of the Universe in every instant, both now and in eternity.

The apostle Paul encountered our LORD on the road to Damascus. And as he confesses to the assembly in Galatia (Gal 1:11-16), he loved his religious tradition more than people, or even the God who created them. We all have seen the type. Those religious people, like I once was, who closed themselves off to those who think differently than they do. Yet, Paul was transformed by seeing the Resurrected Messiah with his own two eyes; this encounter was life-changing. Paul had seen the new life God was making available for all people groups. No longer is there an us versus them, but a royal WE (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11)! We should rejoice and celebrate that Christianity may be changing because the Empire of God is invading our human space once more that we may experience the life-giving power of the Triune God.

For further reading on why we should not mourn but rejoice, see my friend T.C. Moore's post on Gregory Boyd's assessment of the current "crisis."

Apr 21, 2009

Only God is Good: A Response to Mrllgoode

The second half of Mrllgoode’s comments in response to my post on Clement of Alexandria appear as follows:

“ The Most Hon. Elijah Muhammad teaches that partial and half truths are worst outright lies, tell the truth Jesus was a jew. I was born and raised a christian but in essence it is the cult of chirst. Please tell me where in the bible that the great man Jesus told the people to pray to him or worship him, do he not say "that their is none good but the father". “

Mrllgoode, you asked me to tell you, “where in the bible that the great man Jesus told the people to pray to him or worship, do he not say “that there is non good but the father” I will answer your question, Mrllgoode,but Jesus never said, “there none good but the father.” That is a false assumption where we are reading our patriarchal western preference for referring to god as a him when in the original greek text of the two gospels you are quoting, the word “father” (patros in the greek) does not appear.
Come, let us reason together: here are the quotes that you are referring to:

Mark 10:18 (NIV)- "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone
Luke 18:19 (NIV)- "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.

In neither of these passages, nor in the chapters that these verses are found in, do we even find the noun “father” in the context to referring to the divine. So, from the beginning of your arguments, your misquotation of the New Testament reveals a weakness.

Now, why would Jesus say, “No one is good—except God alone.” In both contexts of these passages, Jesus is talking to the a rich man, who asks Jesus “How can I enter eternal life?” (Luke 18:18 & Mark 10:17 respectively). We cannot draw any conclusions about what Jesus is saying about himself simply by quoting him whenever we feel like he is saying something that may or may not agree with our religious beliefs. That is called proof-texting and it does real damage to the author, the story, and the person who is at the center of the narrative; in this case I am referring to Jesus the Messiah. What one could do in this situation, since these are not a simple passages to understand, is to examine these passages in light of their place in the respected chapters they are found in (Luke 18 and Mark 10). Now, was Jesus talking about himself as he is answering this rich man’s question? No, he is only, in the context of his conversation with the rich man (Mark 10:17-22 & Luke 18:18-25) teaching the rich man, the audience, and then his disciples, how to enter into the kingdom of God (what I call the empire of God, in the greek, basileus tou theou can mean empire, commonwealth, reign of god/the divine).

Now, the authors of Mark and Luke, are trying to create a picture of Jesus and the 10th chapter of Mark’s Gospel as well as the 18th chapter of Luke’s Gospel are definitely portraying Jesus as divine. How do I come to this conclusion, you may ask?

Well, I will provide on example from Mark’s gospel, which can just as readily be applied to Luke’s gospel as well. The author of Mark in Chapter 10 does something really interesting, where he contrasts a rich man mid-way through the chapter who is exposed as an unbeliever (Mark 10:22) in opposition to a poor blind man Bartimaeus who believes in Jesus and receives salvation (Mark 10:52) [The same story can be found in Luke 18, refer to Luke 18:23 versus Luke 18:42-43].

Now, there is a huge difference in the way that the rich man addresses Jesus and the way that the blind beggar approaches the LORD. The rich man calls Jesus “good teacher,” in the greek the noun for teacher is didaskale. The rich man see Jesus as just one teacher among many of those who hung out in the Jerusalem temple. There is nothing special about a teacher who sits around and debates without a divine mission. Even Nichodemus in John 3 recognized that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. Now, if we fast forward to Mark 10:51, we will see that the blind beggar refers to Jesus as Rabbi, which means either Great One or Teacher. At first, there would seem to be nothing messianic about this title. But we must realize, like you said that Jesus was a Jew, and not only that, but a participant in Second Temple Judaism. Second Temple Judaism had a lot of diverse views when it came to the Messiah. The Messiah was seen as a Davidic King, the pre-existent Son of Man found in Daniel 7, but the most neglected of these images is the Aaronic view of the Messiah. The Aaronic view of the Messiah saw the Messiah as a priestly-figure who would teach Jews how to worship God and, according to the tradition found in the last seven chapters of the book of Ezekiel, the priest serves as a high priest (or prince, but not a king) who makes sacrifices in the new temple. I have argued that Rabbi is a messianic title, and not just a religious title for a Jewish leader The Priestly View of the Messiah. So, the blind man, at the end of Mark 10 confesses Jesus as the priestly Messiah coming to teach us how to worship and live. Therefore, both Mark 10 and Luke 18, with their strong emphasis on the Son of Man traditions (Mark 10:33, 37, 45 and Luke 18:8, 31) as well as the royal title of Son of David (Luke 18:38-39, Mark 10:47-48) along with the messianic title of Rabbi [as opposed to being called didaskle in the greek] (Mark 10:51), we can be confident that Jesus’ divinity, as well as his divine mission as the Chosen One, the Messiah and Savior of the world is affirmed in these two passages.

Apr 18, 2009

Working Postcolonial Theology Bibliography

My friend Joseph Duggan wrote a working bibliography for works on post-colonial theology for the Postcolonial Theology Network on facebook. I may create my own annotated bibligraphy to share in the near future. I will keep you updated.

Working Post-colonial Theology Bibliography

For those in biblical studies, and interested in Ancient Near Eastern works, my friend Mike over at Fox's Wanderings made quite an impressive bibliography on ANE studies, the Hebrew Bible, and the idea of covenant. The link is posted below.

ANE Covenant bibliography

Apr 17, 2009

Leaving the Left Behind Series Behind

Michael Gorman has written the general and legitimate criticism against the Left Behind Series (and dispensationalism).

I basically agree with him, and that was before I learned how to read the biblical Greek in the Unveiling of God to John of Patmos (the book of Revelation).

Gorman's post

Apr 11, 2009

Co-Authored article on Easter

My third published selection from the African-American Lectionary for Easter Sunday, co-authored with Dr. Juan Floyd-Thomas, Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Easter Sunday

The two other cultural resource aids for the AAL:

Communion Sunday

Palm Sunday

Apr 10, 2009

Free Will Theology after the Reformation


I know that the past few weeks I have been posting on Calvinism and hip hop, or the points of dissent I have with Reformed Theology, so here is an article Steven M. Studebaker of McMaster Divinity School wrote on the Reformation, Arminianism and the Free Will theology movements in Christian theology.


P.S., the picture at the top of this post was created by my friend T.C. Moore, aptly describing the debate between theological determinists and free will theologians.

He didn't even say a mumblin' word?

There is an old slave spiritual that goes, "He never said a mumblin' word My LORD, He never said a mumblin' word My LORD" "Not a word, not a word, not a word."

This song would give the impression that Jesus died passively, dying as only as a silenced victim, and therefore, all who follow him, it could be derived from this interpretation of his death, must die as quiet, passive victims, never speaking out on and/or against things that offend God. But it is not quite that simple; Jesus never complained against God his Father. The slaves were saying that like Jesus, they would never blame God for their plight; it was the wickedness of humanity that put Jesus on the cross and the Africans into chattel slavery. Asking God why, and pointing the finger at God for intentional sins that humanity does is unbiblical and very bad theodicy. As Jesus is dying, he quotes Psalm 22:1, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" but the whole context of Psalm 22 is a psalm of trusting in God alone for deliverance. Psalm 22:19 reads, "But you, Oh LORD, Be not far off; o my strength, come quickly to help me." In his very last breathe, even when superficially for those who do not have faith it seems as if the divine has abandoned Jesus the Messiah, Jesus is still proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News that God is still here. That is what Good Friday is all about: God is in our midst.

Apr 8, 2009

Brown University Makes the Right Decision--No More Columbus Day

I have been reading Liberating Jonah by Miguel De La Torre. For people like he and I who are Christian, anti-racist, and post-colonial, we find the celebration of Columbus Day problematic. For 2/3rds of the campus at Brown University, they supported ousting old Chris Columbus for Fall Weekend.

Fall Weekend

I pray that other universities follow suit.

Apr 2, 2009

The 2009 Schieffer School of Journalism Symposium: The Newspapers’ Last Stand

Bob Schieffer is a TCU alum and former moderator of CBS’s Sunday morning show Face the Nation. While he excelled at rarely revealing his biases, April 1st,2009 will remain the exception. TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism hosted a Symposium entitled, “Obama and the Press: Is the media doing its job?” The subject matter originally was what drew me into wanting to go to this symposium; I had very little interest in the guests panelists, especially PBS’s Gwen Iffil and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, two journalists who are openly biased and show no qualms about it. If I have not expressed my thoughts on the media’s adoration of Barack Obama; let me pull no punches. I always thought that the worst brand of hypocrisy came from churches here in the United States; that is, until, journalism, news, and media outlets, which are trained in academia to be unbiased and fair, took the historic opportunities before them in the 2008 election, as well their liberal political preferences to bash the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain at every turn they could. Perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence came every time the cable news networks would show a McCain supporter or a member of PUMA interview in one segment, and then in the very next, go on to show an entire Obama speech live. McCain speeches, while not as inspiring or exciting or as articulate as Obama’s, did not get even half the coverage Obama’s speeches and townhalls received.
Andrea Mitchell was not able to make it to the Schieffer Symposium because MSNBC assigned her to London to cover the G20 summit. CNBC’s Trish Regan replaced Mitchell. At the symposium, the case was made by all five panelists, over and over again, that blogs were evil, and that newspapers were necessary to filter out the truth. I would like to ask, “Whose truth are you referring to?” The truth where only a select group of facts are chosen to give to the masses for liberal, mainstream propaganda? Is this the same truth that consistently puts racial minorities (besides BHO) on the front page as criminals despite only making up one-quarter of the population and even a smaller percentage of its drug-related crimes? Is it this very same truth that perpetuates the stereotype that Christians are uneducated and Republican? Tell me, Schieffer Symposium panelists, were you all making the case for a bailout of the newspaper industry in front of our eyes? If you all were, it was pretty pathetic.
Newspaper corporations, in comparison, are like John McCain to Barack Obama, in Barack Obama’s mind, who said in the DNC nomination acceptance speech, that John McCain just did not understand (economics, that is), and neither do the pushers of newspapers. The newspaper industry will go the way of General Motors, AIG, and the horse-drawn carriage: extinction, relics in the new economy in the 21st century. There is nothing new under the sun, as the writer of Preacher in the book of Koheleth wrote. There is a time for everything, a time for to build and a time to tear down. No institution that is made with human hands is eternal; all is temporal and everything has a beginning and an end, an Alpha and an Omega.

My Published cultural commentary for Palm Sunday

As I promised last month, the African American Lectionary published my cultural resource for Palm Sunday (Psalm 20). I reflect on Psalm 20 in light of the life of Jesus and Zechariah 9, reading Matthew 21 as what Dominc Crossan calls an Anti-Triumphal Entry scene.

Here is the link below:

Palm Sunday

First post to first published cultural commentary:

Communion Sunday