Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Huffington Post - Religion

The Huffington Post has a rather extensive religion section.  They have also started a gospel commentary section.  Here Dr.Emillie Townes shares her thoughts on Matthew 7:24-27, A House Built on the Rock of Righteousness.

Alternative Worship and Inculturation from Keith Watkins

Keith Watkins continues his series here on worship in progressive churches.  As a bonus in this post, he also provides a link to an article he authored on inculturation entitled:  "Each of Us in Our Native Language:  Connecting Classic Worship and Popular Culture."

Anyone interested in making worship relevant to contemporary life should take some time with this article.  In it Dr.Watkins explores the challenge of finding adequate cultural forms for worship.  One source of conflict, he suggests, is "the conflict between modes of worship in heritage churches and the aesthetics and patterns of popular culture."

Heritage churches are another way of saying mainline Protestant Churches.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dunn and Hurtado

This week I received my much awaited copy of James Dunn's just released work here in the U.S. entitled Did The First Christians Worship Jesus.  At about the same time Larry Hurtado posted a note about his review of Dunn's work now included among his essays.  As you may know, Dunn's work engages the views of Hurtado and that of Richard Bauckham.

It is extremely helpful in sorting out ones own view to see such distinguished scholars looking at the content of scripture, disagreeing on key points of the evidence, but doing so in irenic fashion.

The Faith Matrix - Pareto Goes to Church

Pareto's Law states that 80% of the results you achieve come from 20% of the activities, activities that can be described as "high leverage."  A four-box matrix is often used in analysis and problem solving to apply the law, for example Stephen Covey's Time Management Matrix.

Let's think for a minute about personal spirituality and the local church.  Consider two primary aspects of any faith community:  Critical Thinking (Theology) and Serving Others.  Given those two aspect of faith, what are the high leverage activities (the 20%) that individuals and churches need to engage in to be successful in growing in grace and knowledge?  And what are the more frequent activities with little leverage (the 80%) that limit or make less likely spiritual growth and truly helping others?

Make a list of some of the most frequent activities in your church and then ask:  Are these really high leverage?  And also consider how would you categorize the activities, as Thinking or Serving?

When finished, decide which quadrant you and your church are in.  If other than Quadrant 2, what needs to happen to get your there?

Study Resources - Recommendations From Marcus Borg

If you are interested in book recommendations from Marcus Borg, you are in luck.  A tab on his new website lists a number of study resources with a brief comment from Marcus about each book listed.  While you are there, you might take a look at his article on mysticism and his personal experience of God.

Friday, July 23, 2010

National Geographic - The Dead Sea Scrolls

National Geographic will air Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls on their cable channel this coming Tuesday, July 27.  It features Dr. Robert Cargill that you met here yesterday.  Get an overview, view photos, facts, and a video at the National Geographic site by clicking here.  The video is an interesting teaser; give it a watch.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More from Keith Watkins on Progressive Worship

Keith Watkins continues his posts on worship in progressive churches.  He considers five generalization on alternative worship from Lutheran theologian Thomas Schattauer.  They are:
  1. Recovery of historic practice toward a distinctive community witnessing to God’s purpose in the world
  2. Use of cultural materials toward a wider embrace of people (be it the unchurched or particular ethnic groups)
  3. Attention to the experience of the marginalized toward justice and inclusion of God’s reign
  4. Focus on relational community toward social belonging and wholeness
  5. Openness to the movement of God’s Spirit toward personal healing, holiness, and hope
Watkins provides a hint for the direction of his series when he says:  Schattauer’s list gives insufficient attention to another impulse that I encounter with increasing urgency in theological literature and in conversations with church people week after week: the need to restate central Christian doctrines in ways that can be affirmed by people who have dismissed older ways of stating Christian beliefs and who are searching for believable ways of describing their faith.

The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill

Another blog to bookmark is that of Robert R. Cargill.  Here is a link to his blog bio.  One of Cargill's responsibilities is that of Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project, a real-time reconstruction of the site of Qumran.  Dr. Cargill's course at UCLA can be found at U-Tunes University.  And here is a sample of his writing from Bible and Interpretation.  The piece's title is:  Forget About Noah's ark; There Was No Worldwide Flood.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ethnotheological Models - Practical Application

Before leaving the subject of Charles Kraft's ethnotheological models, let me share a couple of observations based on teaching the Bible in a church setting. Let me pick a recent subject: the food laws in Leviticus. Here's what I've found:
  1. Conservative Christians tend to see these laws as God's will and given to protect Israel from diseases by banning unhealthy eating practices, for example the danger of trichinosis is overcome by banning the eating of pork. But of course Jesus abolished these laws for his disciples, and they have no meaning for Christians other than providing some interesting historical information about God's care of his people.
  2. Progressive Christians tend to see these laws as a product of ancient Israel. The laws are based on a misunderstanding of God and are little more than a collection of primitive taboos. As with Conservative Christians, the laws have no application for modern Christians.
But now comes the studies of structural anthropologists such as Mary Douglas and the study of Leviticus by brilliant scholars such Jacob Milgrom and the food laws are seen in a new light. New questions arise. What do these laws tell us about the meaning of food in the culture of ancient Israel. And how did those meanings shape their concepts of purity and holiness.

Now transition to our culture and begin to think ethnotheologically about food. Consider:
  • What role does food play in your family? Your church? Your community?
  • How do your values shape your food choices?
  • In what ways might obesity be considered a theological issue as well as a health issue in America?
  • Are there foods you would not eat on ethical grounds? Why?
  • What choices did Jesus make about food?
  • Should his choices inform the choices of modern-day disciples? Explain why or why not.
Maybe, just maybe, there is something still to learn from those ancient laws that goes beyond form and cultural specifics? Could it even inform contemporary faith communities What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ethnotheological Hermeneutics - Model #2

The second of Kraft's models deals with interpreting scripture, what he calls ethnotheological hermeneutics. This model has four aspects to consider:
  1. Human perception of God's truth may be adequate, though never absolute
  2. Study of scripture must include awareness of the insights of contemporary anthropology and linguistics in addition to using the perspective of history and philology.
  3. Attempting to understand supracultural meaning involves the necessity to discern differing levels of abstraction. Three levels are postulated: a) cultural specific level; 2) general principle level; 3) basic-ideal level.
  4. The total process of biblical interpretation involves attention both to the original biblical cultural contexts and to the cultural context within which the interpreter lives.
Example focusing on aspect #3:

Basic Ideal Level:
Everything must be done in a proper and orderly way (1 Cor 14:40)

General Principle Level:
Christians should live according to the rules of the culture (as long as they don't conflict with Christian principles

Specific Cultural Form/Symbol Level:
a. Women should learn in silence in Greek culture (1 Tim. 2:11)
b. Women may speak up in mixed groups in the USA

How would you evaluate Kraft's models? Strengths. Weaknesses.

How might you use his models in teaching and communicating about the Bible?

Monday, July 19, 2010

God, Humanity, and Culture - Ethnotheological Model #1

As mentioned in the previous post, Charles F. Kraft in his book, Christianity in Culture, articulates two ethnotheological models to aid in theologizing cross-culturally. I find this model helpful in dialog about scripture with two vary diverse cultures found within my (many) churches: 1) conservative and 2) progressive Christians.

Kraft calls this model God, Humanity, and Culture and uses it to demonstrate the relationship between God, human beings, and the culture within which they interact. The model has five aspects:
  1. God stand apart from culture but works through culture to accomplish his purposes.
  2. Theology is a culture-bound enterprise even though the meaning of Scripture (truth) originates outside culture with God.
  3. The primacy of such supra-cultural meaning over their cultural forms must be recognized.
  4. Human beings are culture bound; there is no God-endorsed culture (whether Hebrew, Greek, or Western-American).
  5. God's interaction with humans are relative to their culture; God does not seek to impose their forms of one culture upon another.
Example: Churches have argued (split) over church structure. Consider the difference perspective on church government in the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Church of Christ. Each group would suggest their form of of church structure is God ordained. The key word is that their doctrinal stance focuses on "form." With Kraft's model, the ground shifts from cultural form to supra cultural meaning: "Churches should be governed."

Here is how the model would look (slightly modified for clarity):

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Charles Kraft - Christianity in Culture

Let me recommend a book that was first published in 1979: Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective by Charles F. Kraft. Kraft published the book from his missionary experiences and for use in in his classes in Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission.

Kraft sees the aim of his book as helping us to communicate more effectively the Christian message in a multicultural world. His work grows out his frustration as a missionary because "much of the theology taught to us n our home churches, Bible schools, and Christian colleges, a and seminaries turn out to be extremely difficult to use in cross-cultural context in the form in which we learned it."

So Kraft's initial audience is cross-cultural witnesses for Christ, but he also sees as a second audience those whose primary interest is in theological methodology.

Kraft's work addresses such question as:
  • What is the relationship between biblical content and the linguistic symbols in terms of which it is presented?
  • How clearly can we see revealed truth?
  • What is the core of Christian truth that we mus communicate to all peoples and what is peripheral?
  • What is relative and what is absolute in Christianity?
In a subsequent post, we'll visit Kraft's two ethnotheological models and how they can be employed in faith communities.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Keith Watkins - Worship in Progressive Churches

Disciples of Christ religious historian Keith Watkins begins a series of posts on worship in progressive churches. Follow Keith's comments, starting with his thoughts here on an alternative way of worship in progressive churches.

Atlases for Touring Israel

Philip Long at his Reading Acts blog recommends for those considering a trip to Holy Land the best atlases for touring Israel. For Part 1, go here and for Part 2, here.

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins

The Centre for the Study of Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh has started a blog for faculty members. This should be a rich source of information from top flight scholars so make to bookmark their site. To read about the school and faculty, click here. For their initial blog, this one from Helen Bond, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Religion in the News

CNN and ABC News now have a significant web presence for reporting on religion and ethic.

A friend from many years ago, Richard Hughes, comments on the CNN belief blog on why Christian politicians should start acting Christian. Richard previously taught at Southwest Missouri State and Pepperdine University and is now Distinguished Professor of Religion at Messiah College.

Here also is the link to ABC News' Religion and Ethics site. Today's featured article has Sarah Coakley rethinking the sex crises in Catholicism and Anglicanism.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Where can you find a variety of "youngish" Disciples of Christ blogging on a variety of spiritual matters? Why [D]mergent of course. See there statement of purpose below and then visit the site here.

[D]mergent was formed out of our experience with the emerging tribes of Generation X & the Millennial Generation. As we sought to minister in this emerging context we became aware of the need to step out of the box and witness the Spirit moving in nontraditional spaces. When Disciples World ceased we thought that we might be able to gather together and reach out to the saints in an equally nontraditional manner. . . We hope to be a space where we as a collective, as a people may gather and equip each other as we vision together and don our prophetic imagination to be a people of God that unites beyond human division and works as one people to love those that are difficult to love, restore the radical and transformative nature of the gospel message, and offer a place for yesterdays legacy to nurture the reframing of what “church” is in these emerging generations.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

I'm a bit behind with this news, having just finished a week of vacation, but New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado has just started blogging. To have another first-class New Testament scholar beginning to blog regularly is cause for celebration. See his new site here.

Also take note of the essays tab and for fun take a look at Dr. Hurtado's publication list.

A Biblical Scholar's First Impressions of Israel

Mark Goodacre, Duke Professor and first-time visitor, begins a series on his impressions of Israel. His initial post finds Mark in Tel Aviv. Follow along on his journey starting here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Revelation at Bibledex

The folks at Bibledex now have video introductions to all the books of the New Testament. Here are their insights on the Book of Revelation. If you're interested in this problematic text, spend a few minutes with our British friends. But be warned. You'll meet the "beast" and learn the meaning of "666."

Black & White Night

One of my all-time favorite CDs is from 1987, Roy Orbison's Black & White Night.

This CD is just plain FUN! Roy's band includes Tom Waits on piano and a few guitar players like Bruce Springsteen Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, and T Bone Burnett. His back up girl singers number k. d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, and Jennifer Warnes.

Check it out, Dream Baby, and make my dreams come true.

James McGrath - Exploring Our Matrix

One of the most popular biblioblogs, and for good reason, is James McGrath's Exploring Our Matrix. James is Associate Professor of Religion and Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana.

James consistently offers up thoughtful posts on a variety of subjects related to our understanding or the New Testament. As a sampler, here is his review of John Dominic Crossan's chapter in The Historical Jesus: Five Views. Bookmark Exploring Our Matrix and check in with James on a regular basis