January 30, 2008

The Qur'an, Jesus, and Pluralism

I've never read the Qur'an (Koran), but I definitely would like to post-seminary. But while reading When Religion Becomes Evil by Kimball for class (a book about how all religions can turn toward violence and sin), I came across some interesting quotes from the Islamic Holy Book:

Here's some references to Jesus and the Trinity:

O People of the Book, do not exceed the bounds in your religion or say things about God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only a messenger of God, and his word that he conveyed to Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and his messengers and say not "Three." Stop. It is better for you. God is only one God. It is far removed from His majesty that He should have a son. (Qur'an 4:171)

O people of the Book, let us come to a common word between us and you, that we worship non but God, and that we associate nothing with Him, and that none of us take others for lords apart from God. (Qur'an 3:64)
These verses certainly make us think about our monotheistic claims.

What I really found interesting are these verses that seem to open interpretation for a radical inclusivism in Islam:
"If God has so willed, He would have created you one community, but [He has not so] that He may test you in what He has given you; so compete wiht one another in good works. To God you shall all return and He will tell you the truth aobut that which you have been disputing." (Qur'an 5:48)

January 28, 2008

Interlude, Truth Interrupted

Why so much time devoted to truth?
"I recently heard someone say that the motto of Christianity nowadays is “And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is truth.”
via thecorner
And here's the problem when "truth" reigns over faith, hope, and love:

EDIT: The previous video was taken down, but now it's back up, so enjoy!

January 26, 2008

The Intimate Truth on Objective Truth, Pt. 3

If you've kept up so far with this series on truth: Pt. 1, Pt. 2; then you may be asking the seemingly perennial question? Than isn't truth simply relative? How can I know anything when everything is subjective? We have this need to know the truth, in our our limitedness, finiteness; we desire perfect, infinite knowledge.

I will deal more with relativity/subjectivity in Part 4, but for now let's deal simply with this need for objective truth: where does that come from?

With the birth of the scientific age and the modern period, thinkers like
Descartes, "I think therefore, I am" and later Kant who said religion must fit within the bounds of reason really influenced the way we think. Basically, they believed that if an object was placed under scientific scrutiny than it could be known objectively, because objectivity rids us of all our traditions, contexts, biases, and presuppositions. Thus, we can know the truth objectively because it exists "out there" beyond our sitz im leben.

I'm not arguing that the world does not exist "out there" beyond our human facilities, but I am saying that the only way to perceive the "out there" is with what is "in here:" our language, perceptions, and biases.
I'll get to pastoral reasons for my arguments later, but right now I'll just say the problem with accepting objectivity is "intellectual pride" that claims to know truth beyond our finite capabilities thus ending conflicts over truth.

Yet, this age of reason yielded us not one but two World Wars, the Holocaust was based on principles of reason, as well were the nightmares of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Where modernity tried to erase the fallible with the near infallible scientific approach to reality, the Christian stance on truth according to Scripture must be one of epistemological humility. We can only know this world from out limited perspective.

But does this simply lead to relativity? What do you think? Does this make you feel uncomfortable?

January 23, 2008

Organic? Smorganic.

Along with "perfect storm," "waterboarding," "wordsmithing," and other such overused words, "organic" made an appearance on Lake Superior University's "2008 List of Banished Words."
Look I agree that being "green" and buying "organic" are good things, but come on, you can get organic t-shirts and shoes! Not that I don't think we should be taking steps toward making our lives more sustainable and healthier in the USA, heck Jesus' parents were green :)

Here's the problem I think. Being green, environmental, and even organic are ways in which we can hide behind the real problem, all the while assuaging our guilt. So what's the real problem? Consumerism: You want it? Buy it. Oh, but buy it green or organic, but still buy it.

That's why, along with my friend Adam, I'm excited about this:

You can watch a trailer and the heart of Rev. Billy on youtube.

Not that I don't struggle with stuff, technolust, and such, but until we are willing to honestly deal with the greater issue of consumerism then being organic and green are secondary issues that we'll use to make ourselves feel better.

If you've made it to the end, then maybe you'd be up for a challenge. Click and play "Consumer Consequences" and see if the life you are living would be sustainable if everyone lived the way you do. The results may shock, anger, or embarrass you, but hopefully engender sustainable change in your life.

January 20, 2008

The Intimate Truth on Objective Truth, Pt. 2

In continuing to reveal the intimate truth on objective truth, we continue our discussion on all things truth, objective, and relational today. Don't miss part 1, before continuing into this series.

Thomas Kuhn in
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions argues that no scientific, objective truth exists apart from value assessments and a person's perspective. All truth is colored by a person's commitments, experiences, and enculturation. You don't have to listen carefully to hear the tides of relativity washing onto the shore of objectivity. Even classicist professor Allan Bloom's famous "objective" statement on relativity is a relative statement:
“There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of, almost every student entering into the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”
This statement is made relative by his biases, culture, and commitments. As a white male who had a bad experience teaching the classics in the '60's at Cornell, Bloom chose to ignore gender inclusive language by referring to speak generally of his students as "he" thus completely ignoring the feminist movement of the 60's. Also, with the rise of multiculturalism and new literature the classics fell on hard times, or at least lost the prestige Bloom felt they deserved.

Maybe this relative statement reveals that in our exploration for truth we just have to be "more" objective by submitting "more" to the primacy of reason. The answer to relativity is pure, objective reason right? We believe that all our commitments will be eclipsed in the light of reason. Reason trumps all other commitments. No!

In the Scripture when a person places their complete unadulterated trust or commitment in anything else than God for truth, life, worship, anything, its called idolatry. Yet, what we've failed to recognize is that reason has flown under the radar for too long as an idol. We don't recognize that the commitment to reason is just that, a commitment with no more a rational base than any other commitment whether to tradition, culture, or God.

Certainly humans can be committed to other things besides God such as environmentalism, but to place that thing over commitment to Christ is sin. In searching for truth, our first commitment must be to Christ, not rationality.
Truth is not found in objectivity, but relational fidelity. Thus when we allow final, authoritative hegemony of one tradition- the tradition of rationality- all other traditions we are in relation to are diminished or blurred.

Truth is much more holistic than objectivity and reason alone allows. Truth is best known when we are faithful to our relative perspectives while seeking intimate relation to this world, to God, to others, to whatever we are seeking to know.

The Greatness of Men

Some men are great, others we call great to massage the false facades of our culture so that our dreams and interests don't seem as vain as they truly are. Some might call Tom Brady of the NE Patriots legendary, a success story, a man of greatness. Why? Maybe because he has 3 SuperBowl Rings, along with many cultural accolades (Esquire- Best Dressed Celeb; People- "Top 50 Most Beautiful"), while dating supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Yet, as the video below, in a moment of transparency in an interview with "60 Minutes" Brady admits that he's not fulfilled. "There's gotta be something more to life.

Of course today, we celebrate the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize: Martin Luther King Jr. In celebrating the birth of Dr. King, we in turn are celebrating the cause for his dreams, the catalyst for change in a world filled with segregated hate: the crucified and resurrected Christ. It was this hope that gave MLK Jr. the imagination and audacity to proclaim these words in his Nobel Peace Prize,
"I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
These are the words of a truly great man, inspired by a truly great God.

January 18, 2008

Dawkins, not too different from the pew goer?

Richard Dawkins is one the most brilliant scholars of our time, but that's not what makes him similar to many people who gather together on Sundays claiming themselves "Christian."

For those who may not know Dawkins, the title of this post should shock (okay, maybe not shock) you a little because he is one of the strongest voices in contemporary atheism. His The God Delusion has sold over 1.5 million copies, not bad for a book published in 2006.

So what makes your average pew goer similar to Dawkins? Folk religion. This BBC news story reveals that Dawkins not only does not want to purge Christianity from the UK, but he enjoys singing Christmas carols. Dawkins is quoted saying, "If there's any threat these sort of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists."

Although overstated, I do think there are people who file in the door on Sunday morning because they "enjoy singing carols" in a sense, but not much else. Furthermore, we too often blame others, especially other religions for the weaknesses of the church or for the attacks on Christianity. Why take responsibility and try to... I don't know, repent and change, when you can blame others?

As time progresses in this country and the West, Christianity will more and more become a folk religion (which it already has for some) providing meaning, rituals, and holidays for our lives; but no real transformation or witness. To that I say our churches are full of atheists.

January 17, 2008

The Intimate Truth on Objective Truth, Pt. 1

Truth, how do we know it? In a recent discussion in class about history, I stated that all histories are subjective renderings of an author's perspective on a time, place, situation, personality(s), etc. Often, when I state such claims, that objective truth is not possible, I'm confronted with numerable remarks. The strongest argument I hear I think is that we must not lose out quest for objectivity in spite of subjectivity as if there is a middle way.

But I believe that a holistic view of truth must abandon objective truth claims. Before diving deep into more particularities of my argument, let me make some general statements about truth. The objective project seeks truth as distant, abstract, and universal (or absolute).

But is this the presentation of truth in the Scripture? In proverbs lady truth stands in the streets hollering for people's attention. Overall, the picture in the Bible of truth is one of a decidedly personal, relational, and social construct.

As a matter of fact, what most modern Bible translation render as "faithful," the hebrew word "emeth" in the KJV was translated as "truth."

To know truth is a matter of covenant fidelity. Psalm 85 claims that when God comes to Israel (vs. 9) then love and truth will meet, and truth will spring up from the ground . For the prophet Hosea, the lack of truth meant not error, but bloodshed.

Think about a marriage with no truth or very little. The end result is a broken relationship, divorce. So, the biblical ideals of truth as covenant faithfulness and relationality render the abstract and distant ideas of truth as meaningless. Truth then is fleshed out in sociocultural, political, and economic relations much the same way faith fleshes itself in practice.

January 15, 2008

Spring Semester Starts

The spring semester has started. I know, I know, I haven't been on this thing for months, well basically since last semester. I'm hoping to get back into writing on here more about life, ministry, faith, and theology.

Above are basically the books I'll be using for this semester minus a few. I'm really look forward to this semester and the oncoming summer in which I'll be going to India for 4 weeks. Once I return I'll be finishing my semester with my mentorship at a local ministry.

My class schedule looks to be challenging but really good. I'm taking "The Missional Church" where we're studying the missional nature of the church. Each person in class is reading one person or movement and bringing that perspective to class on the nature, structure, and theology of the church. As you can see from the above pic, I'm Jurgen Moltmann.

I'm also taking "Religion & Worldviews," "Social Justice," and "The Story of Christian Mission."