Theology

NT Wright and Mennonite Theologizing

InterVarsity Press
WTSbooks
Amazon

A high church Reformed Anglican bishop, NT Wright, has just written a book called Justification, which (as you can guess) is a summary of his thought on this much-debated issue within the Western Christian world.

His impetus for the book is a book published in 2007 by Dr. John Piper called The Future of Justification which probes the underpinnings of Wright’s understanding of Paul and if this is a helpful or harmful understanding.

Leaving aside the problems that Piper has elucidated (some of which Wright has not fully answered), Wright does proivde a vision of justification that – perhaps not surprisingly – is more in touch with the understanding of the 17th century Mennonite church than it is with Reformed theology. Perhaps it is a bridge between the two on this issue? Certainly, though, the doctrine of justification is not the strongest the Mennonite church has proclaimed, but it is nonetheless important and present in its confession. (more…)

Love and Smoke

So I am really in love for the first time in a while. He’s a radical activist. He’s Mennonite. He’s brilliant. He would probably read and write on this blog if he was from the USA. But there is a big problem, he smokes tobacco (a lot). Or is that not a problem? I need your help, my radical friends…to help me think through the issues of smoking and tobacco usage. I can only really take love advice seriously from people who are in the movement for positive social change…people who understand a deep commitment to values that call us to put our “personal” love lives in perspective with the greater struggle of promotion of love and justice all over the world. I listen to others who I feel are be people of integrity on all levels of life.

What follows is what I think about smoking/what I’m struggling with/the questions I have. Please, if you have any wisdom to share…SHARE IT. As a feminist I am willing to put this out in the public because I do believe the personal is political. And I know that the relationships that individuals have also effect the collective.

I realized again that I’m a “God-geek” when I wanted to know something marriage a few weeks ago and so I looked at C. Arnold Snyder’s chapter titled “Anabaptist Marriage” in Anabaptist History and Theology textbook. My point was to see how these young activists handled marriage in the context of an intense social movement. (more…)

Paul and Slavery: A View by NT Wright

Colossians and Philemon
N.T. Wright
Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series, Vol. 12
Released: Dec 30, 2008
ISBN:083084242X
Available at:
Amazon
Westminster Bookstore
Christianbook.com

Since N.T. Wright’s recently released book, Justification, is currently getting a lot of attention around the blogosphere, I thought a review of a less controversial volume of his writings would be a breath of fresh air.

An oft unread – or perhaps undiscussed – letter of the New Testament is Paul’s letter to Philemon, asking him (in subtle but not uncertain terms) that he should free Onesimus, the former’s runaway slave.

It is an interesting letter to consider for those probing the social implications of the gospel message. N.T. Wright’s highly engaging and astute commentary in Colossians and Philemon recently re-released by Intervarsity Press, offers a great starting point for those consideration. I think this is one of the most engaging biblical commentaries I’ve ever read. Wright is exceptionally clear in his writing and thinking. I want to get this out of the way before I say anything more: get a copy of this book. You can find it for less than $11 at Amazon, and it’s well worth the money to better understand the Word of God from an accomplished and respected scholar like Wright. It is a part of the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, a series of affordable and understandable (i.e., you don’t have to be in seminary) commentaries currently under the IVP imprint. (more…)

Proving God

Some of you may be familiar with philosophers’ attempts to prove God’s existence. The simplest is put forth by Descartes, who in doubting reality, realized the only thing he could be sure of was that he doubted. Here’s my paraphrase:

I doubt, therefore I think.
I think, therefore I exist.
I doubt, therefore I am imperfect.
I am imperfect, therefore imperfection exists.
Imperfection exists, therefore perfection exists.
God, by definition, is perfection, therefore God exists.
God is perfect, therefore God is good.
God is good, therefore God would not deceive us.
God would not deceive us, therefore the world and my experiences in it are real.

This proof actually shares the same fatal flaw as the other God proof I’ve heard:

Something can exist either in thought or in reality.
I can think of God, therefore God exists in thought.
It is more powerful to exist in reality than in thought.
God is, by definition, the most powerful, therefore God exists in reality.

The flaw, of course, is that we are asked to accept that because something is conceptualized, it must exist in accordance to its intrinsic characteristics. Yet if I believe that God is, by definition, a delicious jelly donut sitting on my desk, there is still no jelly donut on my desk. Those of us not well schooled in metaphysics may not be able to articulate exactly why we know these proofs are bogus, but we do know it.

(Note: I am not a philosopher, so if you’re outraged at how much I screwed up my summary of these ideas, I apologize.)

However, in some of my musings this year, I have come across my own conditional proof that God exists. Conditional in that it does not prove God, but makes God a necessary derivative of another belief. Here it is:

If we have free will, God exists.
(more…)

Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

Amish for Homeland Security

I haven’t read Shane Claiborne’s book Jesus for President yet, but I borrowed the title of this post from one of the chapters.  This post actually has little to do with the Amish or homeland security, but I wanted to point out two interesting items shared with me by a friend from church.

The first is a blog entry by Greg Boyd (who is mentioned in a previous YAR post) entitled, A Word to My Mennonite Friends: “Cherish Your Treasure!”. Just let’s not let it go to our heads.

The second is a segment from American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith (R) called Evangelical Politics: 3 Generations which features Charles Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this segment and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Christmas Day in Palestine

Crossposted from SammerTime

12.25.2008

I awoke to the sound of light rain on the tin roof. Quite pleased after checking my watch and realizing I slept in much longer than usual, I stepped outside to find an unusual morning. Light rain was falling and fog had enveloped the valley in which At-Tuwani lies. The Palestinian town to the north was obscured by the fog, as were Ma’on and Havat Ma’on, an Israeli settlement and illegal Israeli outpost, respectively. The South Hebron Hills, the name that denotes the greater area of which At-Tuwani is a part, is usually marked by clear skies and clear visibility for miles. This Christmas morning, the scene was different as Ma’on and Havat Ma’on were seemingly disconnected from At-Tuwani due to the fog.

The residents of Ma’on and Havat Ma’on are significant perpetrators of the system of oppression that makes life difficult for Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills. Ideologically-driven Israeli settlers inhabit these areas and often carry out acts of violence and terror against Palestinian farmers, shepherds, and schoolchildren. (more…)

The morning after: politics beyond an election

Now what? I woke up the morning after Election Day politically disoriented. The empty feeling in my stomach didn’t go away after eating my usual yogurt and granola. What would I do in a world without politics? Do I have to wait another four years to fill that gnawing political void?

Not according to Romand Coles and Stanley Hauerwas in their new book: Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary (Cascade, 2008). Politics is not restricted to something that happens when we vote, they argue. Instead, politics involves all the ways we tend to “common goods” which exceed “settled institutional forms” (3). In other words, politics happens outside the voting booth as well. Politics happens in our neighborhoods, not just in Washington, D.C. Democracy involves “a multitude of peoples enacting myriad forms of the politics of the radical ordinary in ways,” they write (8). For Coles and Hauerwas, democracy is everyday politics that turns us to the importance of “concrete practices of tending to one another” (8).

Coles describes the Civil Rights movement as a story of everyday democracy. He does not focus on the familiar story of Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead Coles turns our gaze from powerful pulpits to the ordinary African-American churchwomen who gave Dr. King something to talk about. (more…)

The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (more…)

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

Being Consumed – A Review

(x-posted at IndieFaith)
Here is a review I wrote of what I think is a very significant book for the church. If you decide to read the whole thing keep in mind your own theology and practice of communion.

William T. Cavanaugh’s Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire is an excellent example of why the church needs theologians, good theologians. While Christian authors are turning increasingly to social and economic issues few are able to blend accessible language with substantial theological content. Many of the current authors addressing these issues articulate the demands of the Gospel in functional terms. Writers (and readers) look for practical ways to ‘apply’ the Gospel to our context. Most of us though with even a passing interest know what we should be doing to help our situation. We should buy fair trade products, support local economies and agriculture, plant a garden, compost, bike, buy twirlly bulbs, etc. And so much of the work of these authors is lost because their argument led entirely to doing and once we get there we realized we already knew that and so begin to feel frustrated or guilty.
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“We Must Look at the Context”

I want to start by saying that I understand that a number of you have an extensive Christian education. By this I mean you have some background in Christian philosophy and theology. I, however, do not. I am mostly self-educated on these matters, bringing my experience and my studies to bear on the issues I’m about to discuss.

So, if this is something you have heard before or there is some technical term for what I am describing, then just bear with me.

(more…)

Envision 08: Toward Christian Unity in the Public Square

Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.

The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.

After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question

In follow up to my earlier post, the following is what I presented this past weekend at the Believers Church Conference (Believers Church includes Baptists, Penticostals, Mennonites, Brethren, etc…adult baptizers). I was the the young adult representative on a panel discussing mission and evangelism in light of denominationalism and congregationalism in the Believers church in our time. My answer is based on a personal theology of mission and recent reading as well as conversations I have had with young adults in the Mennonite church.
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Question: “How do young adults desire to engage in the church’s ministry of mission and evangelism? Where do you see possibilities and problems in the church’s approach to mission in our day? Provide illustrations.

The question asked assumes that mission and evangelism exist as departments or branches owned by the church. We know that ultimately mission and evangelism belong to God and so every Christian should naturally engage the world with mission and evangelism through the way they live. The church then is a group of Christians who gather together for mutual encouragement and building up and worship of God. Therefore mission is at the heart of this group of Christians called the church. The church does not design, select, and control mission and evangelism unless the church is purely viewed as a structural organization. If the church is viewed as a body of believers living in the way of Christ, then Christians of all ages, young adult, middle-aged adult, baby adult and old adult, are part of this body and together they engage the world with mission and evangelism because it is integral to who they are as individuals and as a larger body that God has called, is calling and will continue to call. (more…)