Volumes

Volume 2, No. 2: Summer 2006

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This issue includes the following articles plus book reviews and more:

Editor’s Introduction

By

Theology matters. But try telling that to most church small group members or many seminary students today, who find theology irrelevant or oppressive. Theology can be oppressive, but it is never irrelevant in that any theology orients us in particular ways toward action, whether we are cognizant of it or not. Thus, theology impacts our engagement of the whole of life, positively or negatively—from politics and economics to music, movies, and missions. As with talk of religion and politics over dinner, theology can be a risky business.

This issue of the journal begins with an essay that risks discussing theology’s bearing on politics. “Applying theology to concrete political judgments is a risky business, but nevertheless urgently needs to be done, and done well,” William Cavanaugh asserts. “Christians cannot countenance the idea that Christ’s coming should have no impact on the real world, the politics and economics of the mundane, as if God became incarnate in human history only to say, ‘Carry on as usual. Don’t mind me.’”

In the opening essay, Cavanaugh claims that Christians must bring their theology to bear on the presumed “empty shrine” (to borrow a phrase from Michael Novak), which implicitly validates America’s form of empire. Simply put, for Cavanaugh, America’s shrine is allegedly empty because America honors no particular god to which the government can appeal for sanction and which all citizens must worship. However, the emptiness at the heart of liberal capitalism tends to foster an ongoing expansionism characteristic of empire. America’s shrine is hardly empty, argues Cavanaugh. America’s political and economic ideals and military security capacities have fostered forms of transcendence that provide a functionally-divine validation schema for America’s political and economic foreign policy. “America claims to have unlocked the universal secret to freedom, prosperity, and peace,” writes Cavanaugh, “and feels obliged to share it with the world. But because we pursue a world without borders, potential enemies are everywhere, and so we fill the shrine again, with a national god who is capable of seeing all resistance to openness and raining down death upon it.”

Cavanaugh and his respondent, Stephen Webb, help our readership bring theology to bear on such matters as politics and economics, how the divine purposes in history are fulfilled, the role of the church, and what is deemed the secular sphere. Their exchange raises key questions for all who seek to follow Christ in the present day. For instance: Is America truly a reluctant superpower? Is capitalism benign, and when is a market free? Is the church a rival polity to the state, and is there a secular sphere? How do Christ, his cross, and his resurrection bear upon the church’s concrete engagement in every area of life? Such questions should give you plenty to talk about over coffee at your next church small group meeting or over lunch in your school’s cafe.

Well, if that were not enough, and you need some more conversation starters (or stoppers, as the case may be), read on and you will find treatments of Michael Moore and Martin Luther, Mozart, and Don Giovanni—not the most likely of bedfellows. Rodney Clapp chronicles the rising popularity of the documentary film, claiming that its success is due to a growing sense that all reality is perspectival and mediated. Unlike some who lament or deny outright mediation in the hypermediated age of Michael Moore, Clapp turns to Martin Luther and the Christian heritage’s profound regard for sacramental mediation at the center of faith and life. While acknowledging that not all documentaries seek to exploit the viewer, the sheer volume of documentaries available for a price leaves the consumer with the sense that the documentary exists for the viewer’s “whim” and “satisfaction.”

Sacramental mediation, by contrast, gives us proper faith perspective when life all around us is increasingly immersed in hypermediation. A sacramental perspective helps us see that at the center of life is not the consuming and commodified self, but the God who meets us through Israel and Jesus. Through partaking of the real though mediated divine presence in the Eucharist, we participate in the triune God’s communal presence in the community of faith in the world, and realize what is forever real.

Moving our attention from the mediation of the real through documentary film to mediation of Don Giovanni through Mozart’s music, Fred Sanders engages a long-standing puzzle about the ethical status of Mozart’s aesthetic genius. In his opera, Don Giovanni, Mozart presents the Don’s dreadful escapades within a ravishing musical score, creating a moral vagueness that has separated critics such as Beethoven and Kierkegaard. Fred Sanders weighs in on the debate, seeking to shed light on the discussion by drawing attention to Karl Barth’s perspective on absolutist humanism in the eighteenth century. From the standpoint of absolutism, human nature is “considered as something absolute, complete in itself, and thus free to be set in motion to develop its own potential, stamping all that is not yet human nature.” The Don embodies this self-assuredness and mastery in his exploits.

Does Mozart’s music make him complicit in the Don’s seductions, playing the role of the pied piper, seducing the audience in turn? Or does his music represent something entirely different, namely the long-suffering nature of God? Sanders argues that it is the latter. Long-suffering does not signify weakness in the face of absolute man, but rather God’s relentless and victorious will, which graciously offers foolish humans every opportunity to repent. Following Barth, Sanders contends that Mozart’s powerful and moving music reflects God’s absolute providential power to endure our sins, providing us the space and time to repent.

While Barth’s God may leave us time to repent, Barth leaves no room for worldview. According to Clifford Anderson, tensions between Neo-Calvinists and Dialectical Theologians are primarily about the relation of faith and worldview, not particular points of doctrine. Whereas Abraham Kuyper—the principal leader of Neo-Calvinism—maintains that the concept of worldview is socially progressive and theologically sound, Barth—the paradigmatic figure for Dialectial Theology—dismisses this concept as socially regressive and theologically unsound. While both figures desire nothing more than that Christ be seen as Lord in every area of life, they differ radically on how Christ manifests his lordship.

This debate is manifest in the area of faith’s relation to politics. Whereas Kuyper and his followers champion the creation of Christian political parties, Barth repudiates the idea. For Barth, there can be no fixed party platform because there can be no fixed perspective on how God speaks forth his Word. “There can be no definitive Christian worldview because God continues to speak the same Word to us today in different forms.” In contrast to Kuyper, Barth is inclined to partner with secular parties to promote political and economic justice. Kuyper maintains that differences in worldview “go to the root of our existence.” So too, differences over the relation of faith to worldview go to the heart of spiritual life. Anderson claims that such differences also have implications for how North American Christians in the twenty-first century engage “in the political, educational, and cultural spheres.”

One does not need to tell First Nations leader, Richard Twiss, that differences over worldview and the relation of faith to worldview matter greatly. Twiss is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux Tribe—a people who have experienced firsthand what difference Euro-American worldview perspectives make. As the title of his essay indicates, certain Western “worldview assumptions . . . brought social, economic, and spiritual devastation to Native American peoples.” Equally devastating has been the failure of many Christians, including Evangelicals, to realize that the way in which they communicate the Gospel is not free of cultural biases.

Twiss draws attention to several traditional native worldview values that must be “recognized and appreciated as a first step toward undoing both the cultural hegemony and the missiological ethnocentricity that has made Christianity seem merely to be the ‘white man’s religion’—one more tool of cultural assimilation.” For example, native worldviews include the perspective that religion is a way of life. This view stands in stark contrast to conceiving religion simply as a set of doctrines or special days, as is oftentimes the case for those from a Western vantage point. No doubt, such Western perceptual limits in the past impaired the Christian critique, blinding people to problems such as those entailed in the expansionist ideology of Manifest Destiny. While the North American church has made great advances in righting many wrongs and calling into question the “hegemonic tendencies” of its heritage, only time will tell if the indigenous Christian Gospel movement that Twiss envisions will be realized, spreading healing to wounded First Nations people across the land.

The awkward blindness in the Western church to the plight of many non-Western peoples has given rise to an awkward silence for one Palestinian–Costa-Rican–North-American–Evangelical Christian on the Israeli–Palestinian question. One of the aims of Cultural Encounters is to create space for those so often silenced in the church to speak in order to heal the dominant Christian culture of its blindness. The author of the “Cultural Reflections” piece, “Palcoria Jesusequitur,” claims that so many followers of Jesus remain silent about issues concerning the Jewish and Palestinian peoples because they know so little about theology and God’s ways with the world. The result is that “our unchallenged, awkward silence leaves our Middle Eastern brethren in their pain and Middle Eastern Muslims confused about Christians’ commitment to justice,” even for these Christians’ Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ, “who live under a relentless state of oppression, humiliation, and terror, amid the very ruins” that Christian tourists “trek to see.” “Palcoria Jesusequitur” is “not advocating an end to U.S. support for Israel,” a “rebuff” of “our Israeli friends,” or a blind acceptance of all Palestinian “demands and expectations.” Rather, the author calls for “the first steps of reconciliation”—for all concerned. The Jewish–Palestinian question concerns us all, and followers of Jesus should be concerned for all.

Why do so many Christians remain silent then, failing to call for and live out reconciliation between various peoples? One key reason the author notes is that many in the Evangelical church are fascinated with Israel’s “role in the end times.” Eschatology matters. So, too, do one’s presuppositions and cultural biases. My own reading of the book of Revelation tells me that God is concerned for all of us—including the Jewish, Palestinian, First Nations, and Euro-American peoples. God’s Son, who was a Jewish man, died and rose for us all in Jerusalem so as to reconcile us to God and one another. In the New Jerusalem, the nations will walk by the light of God and the Lamb, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory there (Rev. 21:23-26). We must seek after reconciliation now in light of the shalom that will one day be realized through the ultimate mediator—Jesus.

All this talk is risky business, especially when we try to put it into action. Regardless of our silence or speech on the issues before us, there will be no silencing of the Lamb. Jesus did not become incarnate in human history only to say, “Carry on as usual. Don’t mind me.” Jesus gives himself to us today in Word and sacrament, and calls on his church to participate in his ongoing life of long-suffering for reconciliation in the world. As Clapp reminds us, “Sacramental mediation does not leave us detached and voyeuristic, but enlists our participation. The Word is proclaimed and with the proclamation makes its claim on all we are. In the Eucharist we partake of and participate in the body and blood—the life and the suffering—of Christ. Here we are awakened to and trained to alleviate and co-bear the distress of our needy fellow disciples, our neighbors, and the enemy in our path.” Theology matters. The issues before us also matter. They are matters of life and death. Scripture exhorts us to take every thought—and worldview—captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We cannot carry on as usual. We must live God’s Word anew today.

Paul Louis Metzger, Editor

The Empire of the Empty Shrine: American Imperialism and the Church

By
University of St. Thomas

This essay explores how the kind of emptiness or openness that lies at the heart of liberal capitalism has an unfortunate tendency to lend itself to the kind of constant expansion characteristic of empire. This emptiness and openness furthermore has a way of creating new forms of idolatry. The essay draws on the work of Andrew Bacevich to give an historical analysis of how the strategy of openness has lent itself to American imperial ambitions since the late 19th century. There follows a theological critique of empire based on a reading of Exodus 19-20. The essay concludes with some suggestions for how Christians should think about their primary political allegiance.

Click HERE to view the full article, response and rejoinder.

Response to William T. Cavanaugh

By
Wabash College

This article is a response to “The Empire of the Empty Shrine: American Imperialism and the Church” by William T. Cavanaugh. Webb argues that theologians need to be careful about intervening in economic analysis without a sufficient understanding of how capitalism creates wealth. Moreover, he argues that globalization, understood as a process of opening markets and expanding opportunities for freedom, can be interpreted providentially as a means for Christian evangelization. One can believe that the United States is playing a significant role in that plan today without believing that the United States is “the bringer of salvation to the world.” Finally, the essay seeks to illuminate the understanding that the church should, unlike Cavanaugh writes, pressure the political to conform to basic Christian truths, if and when that is possible. The church should use the political to advance Christian virtues, if the process of doing so does not damage those virtues.

Michael Moore Meets Martin Luther: Sacramental Meditation and the Age of the Documentary

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Don Giovanni: The Absolute Man and the Patience of God

By
Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University

Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni uses ravishing musical effects to make its listeners take delight in dreadful events. The moral ambiguity of this move has divided critics from Beethoven to Kierkegaard. This essay employs the theology of Karl Barth to achieve a fuller understanding of the opera, especially drawing on Barth’s essay on the absolutist humanism of the eighteenth century in his book Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century. The role which Mozart’s music plays in the opera is analogous to the patience with which God permits his rebellious human creation to have its day, a patience which itself can appear weak and indulgent even though it is the form of God’s almighty providence.

Jesus and the ‘Christian Worldview’: A Comparative Analysis of Abraham Kuyper and Karl Barth

By
Princeton Theological Seminary

The twentieth-century struggle between Neo-Calvinists and Dialectical Theologians had less to do with disagreement about specific points of doctrine than with conflicting perspectives on the relation between faith and worldview. Whereas Abraham Kuyper, the most significant leader of the Neo-Calvinist movement, adopted the concept of worldview to promote the ecclesial, social, and political emancipation of working class Calvinists, Karl Barth, the innovator of Dialectical Theology, opposed the concept as socially regressive and theologically defective. The debate between Neo-Calvinists and Dialectical Theologians over the right relation between faith and worldview raises still unsettled questions about the way of public theology in the twenty-first century.

The questions raised by this conflict remain still today: Is the Christian worldview involved in life-or-death struggles with other worldviews—the “modern worldview” (or perhaps the “Islamic worldview”)? Or does faith in Jesus Christ cut across such ideological disagreements between human beings? The past illumines the need to carefully study its content so we might not repeat past mistakes thereby losing out in our engagement of culture.

Clashing Worldview Assumptions That Brought Social, Economic, and Spiritual Devastation to Native American Peoples

By
Wiconi International

This article illustrates how the misconception that “gospel communication” is free from the bias of ones cultural underpinnings can be a dangerous and often destructive assumption. Twiss defines what the underlying and clashing worldview assumptions are and how the ethnocentric impulse distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ; the result is a hegemonic and truncated gospel among the First Nations People of the United States.

This essay gives an overview of how American Federal policy and missionary enterprise led to the devastating negative conditions faced by Native North American people today. Great strides are being taken to correct the neo-colonial, ethnocentric, and hegemonic tendencies in the American church. We will do well to heed George Hunter’s exhortation for a return to an earlier period where there was indeed an indigenous movement.

The Awkward Silence in the Church

By Palcoria Jesusequitur

Volume 2, No. 1: Winter 2005

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This issue includes the following articles plus book reviews and more:

Editor’s Introduction

By

In Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, Randall Balmer claims that the American Evangelical subculture is “rather unwieldy,” one that is “rich in theological insights and mired in contradictions.” Such rich insights together with the contradictions result in part from the inherent diversity in the movement based on its lack of “hierarchical structures” and “liturgical rubrics.” In their place, a commitment to “a set of doctrines, however variously they might be defined,” and an “unambiguous morality,” help hold the movement together. The following essays bear witness to Evangelicalism’s theological richness, inherent tensions (contradictions to some), and growing pains, as the movement interfaces with secularism, religious pluralism, ancient and postmodern thought forms, environmentalism, and alternative moralities.

Martin Medhurst’s essay is based on his plenary address at a conference held at Calvin College in the summer of 2005. Commandeering Tertullian’s age-old question on the Greek academy and the church, Medhurst asks, “What difference, if any, does Christian faith make to the way we as Christian educators perform our primary roles as teachers, advisors, role models, researchers, and writers?” Medhurst takes to task Christian educators—Evangelical and non-Evangelical alike—who think that teaching a supposedly secular subject at a Christian college or university is virtually the same as teaching it at a secular institution. “There is no such thing as a wholly secular vocation for a Christian,” when viewed from Christianity’s “beginning premises,” since for
Christian faith “all vocations are callings directed by the Spirit and under the tutelage of Jesus Christ, the Truth of God.”

No doubt, many Evangelical educators at American Christian colleges and universities today are reacting to the otherworldly orientation of some of their more fundamentalist-oriented predecessors for whom it seemed the only truth (or the only truth that counted) was found in the Bible. But one extreme does not justify its opposite. “We do Christ and His Church no honor either by abandoning the academy to the secularists or by privatizing our Christianity in the name of some mistaken notion of objectivity or misplaced sense of professionalism.” At its core, “to think Christianly is to think Christ’s thoughts after Him, to model Christ’s actions, to adopt Christ’s priorities, to accept the revelation of God in and through His only begotten Son.” The transformation “of our hearts and then our minds” causes us to see everything differently, including the way we view our work as educators. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer claimed, “There is no inner discord between private person and official capacity. In both we are disciples of Christ, or we are not Christians at all.” This conviction shapes Medhurst’s work as a professor of communication and causes him to reflect upon the intimate relationship of eloquence to wisdom and the whole of life, not reducing communication to skill, performance, and technique, nor limiting it to the academy. How can it be otherwise when the Christian communicator, including the communication professor, is to be driven by the fundamental claim that the Word, who was full of grace and truth, became flesh and made his dwelling in our midst?

Whereas Medhurst determines to think Christianly about Christian higher education in the face of secularism’s onslaught on the Christian (including Evangelical) educator’s mind in America today, Harold Netland wants Evangelicals to think theologically about religious diversity in view of the growing presence of non-Christian religions in the West today. Building on Lesslie Newbigin’s claim that the West is a mission field, the American Evangelical church must abandon “the myth of America as a Christian nation” and set forth “an intentional missiological engagement with Western cultural and religious patterns along the lines that we expect of missionaries in other non-Western cultures.”

Netland distinguishes his approach to the theology of religions from that of his doctoral mentor, John Hick, who basically sees the theology of religions as an “extension” of “comparative religions or the phenomenology of religions.” A key question Netland raises for the adherents of Hick’s position is, “If the particular views of any single tradition cannot be accepted just as they are, why should we assume that adopting reinterpretations of various views from many different traditions will be any more accurate? What assurance do we have” that Hick’s reliance on “religious experiences in general” for the development of his system “is at all reliable in depicting the religious ultimate?” For Netland, an Evangelical theology of religions is founded on the firm conviction of Jesus Christ’s singularity and supremacy as well as the authoritative witness of inspired Scripture, and involves consideration of creation, general revelation, and sin. Netland’s contention that humanity simultaneously seeks after God and flees from God is a critical element of his Evangelical theology of religions. Arguing that human culture is the “product of God’s creation and common grace as well as human sin, resulting in the mixed verdict on any given cultural system,” Netland urges Evangelical missiologists to extend this approach to culture in developing an Evangelical theology of religions.

Building on his understanding of our shared humanity, Netland approaches adherents from other religions primarily as those created in the image of the triune God, and secondarily as adherents of their respective religious traditions. Such a framework builds trust and creates an environment in which the Good News of Jesus Christ can be shared. Evangelical Christians must go beyond efforts to protect rights for Christians against “the agenda of secularists” to promote rights for those of other faith traditions, while also seeking to persuade them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Netland acknowledges that this is no easy task. The task is especially difficult given the history of religious wars and current hostilities and tensions worldwide pertaining to religious fundamentalism of various stripes.

Not only is Evangelicalism experiencing tensions and growing pains in its interface with religious pluralism, but also it is experiencing conflict and growth through its encounter with postmodernism and subsequent reflection on atonement theology. All too often, conservative Evangelical Christians have viewed Christ’s atoning work exclusively through the lens of penal substitution. According to Brad Harper, Christus Victor, a model of Christ’s atoning work with roots in the ancient church, connects well with at least five features of the postmodern sensibilities of many today. While treating “potential dangers” bound up with exclusive allegiance to Christus Victor, Harper believes Christus Victor can and “should be integrated into an evangelical theology of the atonement.”

Significant for the purposes of this editorial is Harper’s claim that Christus Victor chronicles in story form the cosmic struggle and victory of God in Christ over Satan and his forces, which bears upon the redemption of the whole of creation. This feature resonates well with postmodern frames of reference, which are story-shaped and keenly conscious of the cosmic dimensions of reality. Moreover, Harper notes that Christus Victor “addresses more directly the suffering/healing ethos of postmodern culture” than penal substitution given Christus Victor’s “broader motif of healing for all of creation and of victory over the powers from which the creation needs to be healed.”

Harper’s article calls attention to the fact that theology is never done in a cultural vacuum. While Evangelicals have often been quick to warn of the dangers of catering to cultural trends in doing theology, Evangelicals have not been as sensitive to the cultural forces that have shaped their own theology such as “some historic escapist and cultural-rejection tendencies typical of American evangelicalism in the twentieth century.” “An historic and valid criticism of American evangelicalism is that it has little or no concept of the power of the gospel to redeem social structures, at least in the present age.”

This problem is unmistakable in the area of environmentalism. Sara Koetje begins her essay on Evangelicals and the environment with a quotation from Bruce Barcott: “Lions may one day lie down with the lambs, but can the beef-eating, pro-life, Jesus-is-Lord soul savers lie down with the tofu-frying, pro-choice, proudly pagan flower children long enough to save the earth?” Koetje takes up the challenge posed by Barcott, mindful of Lynn White Jr.’s 1967 “watershed” essay in environmental thinking, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” There White claimed that Christian theology bears a significant share of the blame for the environment’s plight given Christianity’s historically less-than-affirming view of the non-human creation. According to White, “Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny—that is, by religion,” to which Koetje responds, “A religious problem requires a religious solution.”

Koetje offers a biblical and theological reexamination of humanity’s relationship to the rest of creation and of the nature and scope of Christ’s atoning work. Like Harper, Koetje contends that Christ’s death and resurrection redeem the whole of creation, not simply humanity. Moreover, Christ’s life and death provide Christians a model of service that should make them model caretakers of the environment. Humans are to be “earth-keepers” in view of the fact that the creation has inherent value, for it comes from God and will be redeemed fully by God in the eschatological future.

The Christian community is called to bear witness to this hope in the here and now in word and in deed. “As a community called to witness to reconciliation through Christ, we cannot separate ourselves from culture, or from the environmentalist subcultures, but [must] witness to it of reconciliation by reaching out to it.” The refusal to engage results in a theological vacuum that alternative spiritualities and secular worldviews cannot fill in their attempt to address the crisis. The secularist approach fails to account sufficiently for human depravity. Nor does it address adequately the nature and scope of the required redemption. How then will the Evangelical Christian community respond?

Bruce Barcott claims that part of the suspicion many Evangelicals have of environmentalism is that it embodies “loose-moral liberalism” and leads down a slippery slope: “tree-hugging today,” “gay marriage tomorrow.” While the one does not lead to the other, the Evangelical Christian community must respond biblically and compassionately to the homosexual neighbor. All too often, Evangelicals build walls of confrontation rather than bridges of communication. The last essay by New Testament scholar Linda Belleville and the “Cultural Reflections” piece by “Tony the Beat Poet” Kriz of Blue Like Jazz fame serve as a collective attempt on the part of the journal at a biblical and compassionate response.

While Belleville’s essay seeks to “debunk” “socio-biblical myths of the religious gay community,” she also calls for developing healthy same-sex friendships in the Evangelical Christian community, saying that “ministry to those struggling with sexual identity is long overdue and the need is a desperate one.” Many Evangelicals feel desperate because of pro-gay activism’s gains in the broader sphere, a point Belleville highlights. In view of such gains, they fear that claiming that change is possible or that same sex unions are wrong will eventually wear the label of “hate crimes.” Some gay activists even claim to be Evangelical, such as those associated with Evangelicals Concerned, and, according to Belleville, argue that the Bible says nothing against homosexuality; it speaks only of God’s grace and love. Belleville exhorts Evangelicals to “equip themselves with the facts regarding homosexuality” sociologically and biblically, contending that change is possible, that the Bible does speak against homosexual behavior, and that Evangelicals must respond to the person struggling with homosexuality in grace and love.

While Koetje claims that religious problems require religious answers, Belleville and Kriz each in their own way maintain that relational problems require relational answers. In “Living in the Space Between,” Kriz acknowledges that “the evangelical/homosexual divide” is an expanse. While he does not offer formulas for how to engage one’s homosexual neighbor and friend, he believes that key to breaking through the divide are “humility, compassion, confession, pain revealed, authentic story.” Kriz’s story of his conversation with his lesbian friend illustrates the fact that what is required today is a twofold hermeneutic: one that engages the text of people’s lives in addition to the biblical text in honest and holistic terms. Only then can Evangelicals navigate their movement through the contemporary cultural currents of alternative moralities and ethical issues with an expansive set of orthodox doctrines that bear authentic witness to Scripture’s authority and Christ’s centrality as Savior and Lord.

Paul Louis Metzger, Editor

Between Athens and Jerusalem: On Putting the ‘Christian’ Back into Christian

By
Baylor University Graduate School

This article advances an argument for an explicitly Christian approach to higher education in general, and to the teaching of Communication in particular. The author argues that the relationship between secular learning and Christian vocation, hammered out over long centuries by the early Fathers of the Church, has been transposed in the early 21st century by Christians who fail to grasp the intellectual and spiritual necessity of integrating all learning within a framework of Christian truth. Ideas for integrating Christian faith with the subject of Communication, especially in the teaching of public speaking, are offered.

Thinking Theologically About Religious Diversity in the West

By
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Societies in the West are increasingly religiously diverse, and awareness of this diversity prompts some fresh questions for Christian faith and practice. This essay argues that the Church in the West must become intentionally missiological in its approach to surrounding cultures, and that doing so involves developing an appropriate theology of religions that enables Christians to understand religious diversity properly in light of Christian themes and to respond to religious others appropriately as followers of Jesus. Some distinctives of a Christian theology of religions are explored, with brief attention given to some Biblical themes that help to explain religious phenomena; the relation between religion and culture; the place of apologetics in a Christian response to religious diversity; and some issues related to Christian presence in the public sector.

Click HERE to download the full article.

Christus Victor, Postmodernism, and the Shaping of Atonement Theology

By
Multnomah Bible College

Integrated into every theological investigation ought to be a culture question like, “What characteristics of my culture may be shaping my perspective on this particular theological issue?” Moreover, theologians ought always to be posing this question most circumspectly when working on a theological issue considered an essential of historic Christian orthodoxy. Of particular note should be any time when an essential area of theology experiences attempts at significant revision. All too often, conservative Evangelical Christians have viewed Christ’s atoning work exclusively through the lens of penal substitution. The thesis of this article is that postmodern culture has created an environment amenable to the reconsideration of the Christus Victor model; a model which has its roots in the ancient church and connects well with the postmodern sensibilities of many today. Wary of the tenuousness of making historical causal connections, the point is not to prove that postmodernism has resurrected Christus Victor but simply to demonstrate how some of the key categories of postmodern culture make it an attractive option. Finally, this article argues that evangelicals can embrace the long-discarded theology of Christus Victor without capsizing the boat of evangelical orthodoxy.

Green Christianity: A Response to ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’

By

The environmental movement and world of evangelical Christianity often seem to be at odds. The article attempts to respond to some of the complaints against Christianity by the environmental movement by presenting a theological framework based on the Triune God and the Biblical story. The starting point is exploring the argument put forth by Lynn White Jr., in his article, “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis,” through which he traces historic Christian thought and how it led to the ways of thinking and behaving that have contributed to the current ecological crisis. Then, in response to White’s critique, the rest of the paper develops a theology that seeks to place God, man, and the creation in their proper relationships. When taken seriously, this theology of creation requires that Christians care for the earth as part of their testimony and witness to the world. It is argued that ultimately, the only proper response to the ecological crisis is found within the context of Christian theology and the Biblical story because these are the places of true hope and redemption.

Facts & Fictions About Homosexuality: Debunking the Socio-Biblical Myths

By
Transformed By Grace

Of all the challenges that we face as evangelicals in today’s society, the same-sex challenge is surely one of the most daunting. In part, this is because the gay community has been meticulously implementing a 35 year-old agenda largely unknown both to the average academic and the person in the pew. Gay rights groups have their highly trained lobbyists, frequent gay awareness celebrations, widely circulating educational materials, and nationwide reconciling facilitators. Of all the myths that need debunking today, the one that poses the most urgent challenge for evangelicals is the myth that homosexuality is genetic and that change is impossible. What makes the task particularly difficult is the legitimizing presence of evangelical associations such as Evangelicals Concerned, Other Sheep and the Metropolitan Community Churches and prominent speakers such as Mel White, Ralph Blair, David Frenchak and Bill Wylie-Kellermann. The intent of this essay is provide a socio-political update, to respond to the biblical fictions that are most commonly put forward by the religious gay community and to propose effective academic and pastoral strategies and resources for tackling the same-sex challenge today.

Living in the Space Between

By
Imago Dei Community