Archive for July, 2009
If you are looking for some good discussion on Trinitarianism, check out Mike Whitenton’s blog over at Ecce Homo: http://mwhitenton.wordpress.com/. The specific article with which you should begin is entitled, “1 Cor 3.23: Our Subordination to Christ; Christ’s to God (Monotheism in 1 Corinthians, 1).”
Well, singer song-writer Derek Webb has ruffled everyone’s feathers again with his new album Stockholm Syndrome, especially with what many have labeled as his controversial single “What Matters More.” You can check out the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC0j6FTg1xU.
As I peruse the blogosphere, I have been surprised by what several labeled as the song’s major controversy; that is, Webb curses twice in the song. He uses the word “damn” once, and he also uses the term “shit.” The former he uses to describe how reckless people, Christians in particular, can be with their words. The latter he uses to describe the community’s (including himself) sin by not caring enough about those who are weak, hurting, and dying (to quote Webb, while we argue till we’re blue in the face about things, “we don’t give a shit about 50,000 people who are dying today”). However, I don’t think that Webb’s employment of what has traditionally been known as “curse words” is the topic on which he intended us to focus our conversational energies. However, if you are “stuck” here, may I turn you toward an ongoing and fruitful dialogue over at Tolle Lege! and to a helpful article by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, “A Brief Word Study on: Skuvbalon.”
It seems that Webb would rather turn our attention to what he is saying about Christian interaction with the LGBT community. The song opens with the line,
“Say you always treat people like you like to be; I guess you love bein’ hated for your sexuality.”
Later in the second verse, he sings,
“If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes outta your mouth, then it sure looks to me like bein’ straight is all it’s about.”
Before I go any further, let me stress the importance of actually listening to the song so that you hear these lines in context. I write them here only for reference not to replace what they communicate in their original setting.
Webb is vocal about his desire to stretch Christian music so that it touches the “other 98%” of life and things to which the Bible speaks. In two interviews I watched on youtube, Webb accuses the Christian music industry of speaking only to those transcendent moments of worship and leaving out the rest of what the Bible speaks to in life.
A dear friend informed me about this song. This friend expressed such wisdom as he opened up me and some others to a dialogue about it. In short, my friend said that he wanted to thank Webb for writing it but he still wonders how to deal with it and needs to dialogue about Webb’s particular lyrics. So, let me offer some questions and comments that will hopefully give us some direction for dialoguing.
First, does Webb violate Christian orthodoxy (what has been believed by all Christians everywhere for all time) in his lyrics?
Second, let’s discuss the doctrine of total depravity. Total depravity teaches that humans have inherited a disgustingly sinful nature from our father, Adam. We are both born in sin, and as a result we do sin. Anytime a debate arises about whether a same-sex orientation is the result of a person’s choice or something with which a person is born, a discussion of total depravity rarely enters into the dialogue. So here’s the next question: If a person claims to be “born with a same-sex preference” is that a legitimate statement in light of total depravity? I admit I am asking this question with the Biblical assumption that a same-sex orientation is sinful. It is my belief that Scripture teaches that any deviation from a covenanted, heterosexual relationship is a departure from God’s original design and intention. However, this belief does not cause me to hate those who are with me in the struggle against depravity – even if they don’t recognize or acknowledge the struggle.
Third, many Christians are unaware of the responses that the LGBT community offers to Bible passages frequently brought up by Christians (e.g., Genesis 19; Romans 1; 1 Corinthians 6). Of course, this is because we avoid one another – something to which Webb is speaking. I remember a conversation with a friend who had friendships with a couple men who were not of the heterosexual orientation, but they had sought him out for counsel. My friend shared with me some of the responses these men had to Bible passages that I would have gone to directly. I was a little surprised, humbled and unsettled. For example, the Greek terms used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 are malakos and arsenokoiths. In the Study New Testament for Lesbians, Gays, Bi, and Transgender, Dr. Ann Nyland informs the reader that these terms carried several senses in Classical Greek Literature, and from this observation, she concludes that we should not be to quick to narrow down the possible senses when Paul could be referring to prostitution and rape. However, Dr. Nyland perhaps emphasizes too much the Classical senses of the terms rather than seeking after Paul’s intended sense. The NET Bible translation and study notes are helpful here. May we be humble and well-learned in our dialogue.
Lastly, let’s return to Derek Webb: “Say you always treat people like you like to be; I guess you love bein’ hated for your sexuality”; “If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes outta your mouth, then it sure looks to me like bein’ straight is all it’s about.” Webb is calling Christians out because we confess a gospel that is honest about sin and is entirely hopeful because of the accomplishments of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, but we hate others who are in the boat of depravity with us – stranded without the gospel.
Webb is challenging the Christian community because too often we are guilty of being void of kindness, love and grace toward others because of their sexual orientation. How many times is such a person the butt of some Christian’s joke? Does a gospel-centered life permit this? However, things get sticky when we get political and favorite party starts to dictate our attitude rather than our King. Is it “hate” if I vote against same-sex marriage? Is it violating Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy if I vote in favor of it or remain neutral? I would appreciate some clarification on what Webb means by “hate.” In what arena of life is he using the term? Furthermore, while I agree that “bein’ straight” is not what it is all about, God’s glory and his gospel is what it is all about, which means that at some point, we must submit to God in repentance and deal with our stuff – all of us. Some of you may be thinking that I am missing the point, but I would add and conclude that I think Webb should be more clear about what “it” is in the second quote. Does he mean life? politics? Christianity? etc.? What do you think?
Check out http://www.scofield.org/index.php/Sermon-Audio.html for my sermon on Ephesians 2:11-22, Embrace the Body-building Blueprint in the Gospel. The sermon was preached at Scofield Memorial Church in Dallas, TX on Sunday, July 19, 2009.
What walls need to be overcome in the Church by the reconciling power of the gospel so that the construction of God’s dwelling place on the earth may continue?
Thanks for stopping by Eutheiai Triboi! Currently, my in-laws are in town from the great state of O-H-I-O. I will return to the blog-o-sphere next week with part two of my post Where Many Paths Are Crossing. Have a great weekend!
Where Many Paths Are Crossing: A Reflection on “An Elephant in the Room: Historical-Critical and Postmodern Interpretations of the Bible” by George Aichele, Peter Miscall, and Richard Walsh in JBL, vol. 128, no. 2
Two journal articles have “got me thinking” this summer. The first will be discussed in this post and the second in the next couple of weeks. I greatly anticipate some of the dialogue this post may create so that the discussion may advance and so that I may grow more in my understanding and my ability to articulate both sides of the debate.
I believe that the authors in the aforementioned article have identified a road that biblical scholars as well as pastors may soon be (or already are!) crossing. The authors offer an invitation to their readers – an invitation to a dialogue between historical critics and postmodern critics. The article begins with a call to reason together in order to set forth a mood for the dialogue. Nietzche’s quote is appropriate to mention here as well, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”
The articles is presented with five subdivisions: 1) Embattled Camps, 2) Making Myths, 3) Historical-Critical Mythology, 4) Postmodern Mythology, and lastly, a call for a 5) Postmoderm Historical Criticism. The authors quickly call out “the elephant in the room” of current biblical scholarship. Historical Criticism has been the dominant paradigm in biblical scholarship for quite some time; however, one of its children, the postmodern approach, is ushering in not only a new way of looking at the text but also an altogether different set of values and assumptions. The goal of the article is clear: let’s bring both sides to the table and wrestle with some of these differences.
Next, the authors seek to compare and contrast the two approaches by illustrating their respective relation to myth-making. Myth is qualified by the authors as that which,
“is not merely a community’s charter; it is the community’s taken-for-granted common sense and the hermeneutic through which the community defines life, truth, rationality , and justice. Myth is the metanarrative (and attendant perspective) that establishes and defends the communal status quo” (388, JBL, vol. 128, no. 2).
Thus, the myth of the community becomes the standard by which it includes something as true or excludes something as false or as the “mythic contrast.” Historical critics are presented as Romantic in their mythology as they seek the “originals”: the original text, the historical Jesus, and an orthodox Christianity. Postmodern critics, arising out of an “unsettled” and “disturbed” modernism, are presented as suspicious in their mythology, and instead of supporting some grand metanarrative to guide the community, “little narratives” of a plurality of communities are preferred. A great summary of the Postmodern approach to myth is given by Crossan in the 1970’s,
“postmodernism seeks parable rather than myth. According to Crossan, myth is a story that supports the cultural status quo (the dominant) while parable is a story that challenges the finality of that status quo without supporting another stand-alone story or counter-myth” (398).
Thus, parable lives along the boundaries of myth, challenges it without suggesting something to replace it, and causes a person to “hesitate mythically.”
Lastly, the authors call for a dialogue and for considering the possibility of a “Postmodern Historical Criticism.” The difficulty of such a creation is acknowledged by the authors, because where historical critics romantically seek originals and ultimates, the postmodern critics expects neither and focuses on the things found in between. However, I do agree that such a conversation between the two camps could be healthy in that they may help give clarity to one anothers’ blind spots. The authors offer five areas of discussion in which the two camps may benefit from one another: 1) Physical Aspects of the Text, 2) Intertextuality, 3) Ideology and Translation, 4) the Author and Her or His Intentions, and 5) the Semiotics (Signs) of Canon. In my next blog or two, I would like to dialogue about the five areas as well as discuss another article that I believe is related to this invitation, particularly to textual criticism in recent historical and postmodern discussion. I pray that I have represented this JBL article fairly, and I look forward to any insights that you all have to share as we think about historical and postmodern minds sitting at the table together.
“For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NET).
Following the sermon one Sunday, I was able to have a helpful conversation with a brother in Christ. It involved a topic that we had discussed on a previous occasion concerning the millennium. Our conversation was a response to the thought that when Christ returns, he will deal with the brokenness, evil, and suffering in our world. My friend asked, “Is saying ‘he will’ good enough?” Honest premillennialists wrestle with this question. It seems that we have been indoctrinated to wait. We believe that Christ will return, and we also believe that at that time he will establish a kingdom upon the earth in which all things will become new. But should “wait” and “he will” be our answers as we seek to be springs of hope in the lives of others?
I think the passage above from 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 sheds some light on what our lives should look like as we wait. The Thessalonians had developed a reputation not only as a people who waited for the renewal that would accompany Christ’s return, but also they were a people who advanced the new life they had in Christ having turned away from idols toward God to serve him. They became a people who waited with hope and served with undivided allegiance to King Jesus; a people who waited for the kingdom and served with the King’s interests in mind.
So, is “he will” or “wait” enough of an answer to the brokenness in our world? No. I would add, “and he is through his redeemed servants – the church.” The premillennialist must not have an unbalanced eschatology that calls only for waiting. While we wait for the kingdom, we must be a people who serves the King by actively advancing his hope today.