Monday, 29 April 2013

A Response To My Friend James Wilt

Dear James,

When I read your article A Fall From Grace I deeply resonated with the frustration and pain the Christian religion has caused you. I too have had a two year relationship ended because of Christian misperceptions of sexuality and marriage. I have also had close Christian friends attack me for dating outside of my faith. On a deeper level, this is a misunderstanding of the most fundamental Christian principle: Grace.

And James I think you are closer to this then I have ever seen you. Your realization of Christianity’s corrupted “anthropocentric belief system” is a profound one. You see Christianity is never meant to be centrally about us, but about God and what he does for us. The mantra of mature evolutionists that we stop seeing ourselves as “special” but should work towards cooperative and communal adaptation with nature is a strong one. It is also not as far away from the Christian tradition as you might think. The central tenet of Christianity is not meant to be about us fulfilling a "divine mission" but is most centrally about a shepherd who would sacrifice his life for one lost sheep. It is most centrally about a God who chooses an obstinate and ever failing nation and refuses to abandon them, in spite of their ignorance and betrayal. This is a God who suffers for us and therefore understands our suffering; all of us; humans, lions, and lambs.

The central goal of the human ideal is not our human fulfillment of it, but how it exposes our need for God, and his promise of loving reunion for all creation. Redemption is not a slow evolutionary process. It is and it isn't. We are all paradoxically found and lost. At home yet homeless. I am glad your new direction has humbled you, and I pray that if you feel the need for Christ’s unconditional grace in your life, you will see he never left you. I realize this may sound arrogant, but hopefully it is also comforting. In my own attempt to run away from Christ, this has always brought be back.

Your Friend,


Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Problem of Forgiveness, Righteousness, and Self-Loathing

We all fall short of God's ideal completely and absolutely. This reality has sometimes caused us to think that
if we let God know how bad we think we are, he will like us more. We forget that forgiveness is not conditioned by anything we do.  If it were conditional no one would make it. Our pride makes us loathe this reality. It is a great and humiliating gift. We so desperately want to contribute something to God's unconditional gift that we will even try to offer the pain of our self-accusation and self-rejection. The prodigal son was not saved because of his humiliation, but because of his Father's unconditional love. We want God to see how unworthy we feel, and the anxiety of our despair and guilt. We perform emotional works of self-punishment because we think this is what God is asking us to contribute. But God's grace is independent of anything we do, even our self-accusation and self-punishment. Forgiveness creates repentance, not the other way around. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Problem with Christian and Muslim "Fundamentalists"

Fundamentalists like Muslim Egyptian Sayyid Qutb and American Christians like John Hagee and Dyson Hague are trying to compete with modern rationalism’s search for objective reality by declaring their interpretation of scripture to be their own supposed objective realities of pure revelation.  

While the Quran and the Bible have always been seen as God’s Word and therefore true, by Muslims and Christianity respectively, understanding the interpretation of scripture as a complex weaving of lenses and methodologies has almost always existed to some degree. This traditional reality is often ignored by these fundamentalist. This is not to say that all methods of interpretation should or have been accepted as legitimate, but even within an Orthodox perspective both Islam and Christianity have made room for a variety of interpretations within the central tenets of their faith.

The categorical definition of “fundamentalist” being referred to in Christianity has specific roots in early 20th century Protestant movement which sought to hold onto to the supposed “fundamentals” of the Christian faith against supposed liberal theology and secular reason based criticism support The categorical definition for Fundamentalist in Islam refers to the early 20th century subsets of Islam which sought to emphasize Islamic law as something which should be forced onto a society, and exists outside of an interpretative framework. For these specific sects, it often means that God is revealing the truth of scripture to them in such a specific way that they refuse to allow any other theologians to reason with them, and usually damage the society along with the religion in which they dwell...  


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Injustice In The Quran And The Bible

God allows humanity the freedom to sin or make mistakes even as he is patiently pushing us toward his ideal. God meets us where we are at. We will always be free to sin, and God will always try and work with the mistakes that we make. In 1 Samuel 8 God’s people demand that he give them a monarchy even as he warns them of the corruption and violence it will create. Even in the most obscene instances of our injustice God tries to make the world a little more just. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29 God commands that if a man rapes a woman, he must marry her. From our perspective today this is seen as a horrific injustice. Yet in the historical context of the ancient scripture a woman’s virginity was her central possession, and it would be more of an injustice for her to lose it without the promise and protection of marriage.Despite how unjust we may make society, God is always looking for a way to bring justice, however limited that justice may be in order to allow us our freedom to sin.
Muslim theologian Amina Wadud is in agreement with many Christian theologians today that men and women were originally created equal based on her reading of the creation story in the Quran. Sura 4:1 declares men and woman to be created from the same divine substance and they are equal in the eyes of God. Yet just one verse later in Sura 4:2 the Quran states that man can marry up to “two, three or four” women who have no homes to protect them. The central condition of this is that the man must treat all of them fairly and justly, and if they cannot do so then they are called to marry “only one, to prevent you from doing injustice.” For Wadud God’s ideal marriage is about harmony “which is mutually built with love and mercy.” However, God is also patient with society’s “cruel heart” and “inability to submit to truth and justice.” The Quran is doing something similar to Deuteronomy 22:28-29 in this instance. In the patriarchal context of a woman being primarily an economic resource, those who have no protection through marriage should be provided protection by the grace of God. The ideal is that men and women are equal, however God will once again allow us to operate out of our sinful context, even it means there will be some measure of injustice for the time being. From this perspective, Wadud declares that: 

 Evolution in society which is indicated in the Qur'an that explains why many Muslim countries have instituted further legal and social reforms with regard to women. These reforms operate outside the literal content of some Qur'anic passages and make modifications on the basis of greater Qur'anic intent with                       respect to such issues as repudiation, polygamy, inheritance, and the rules for witnessing, etc.[5]  
            For Wadud it only makes sense that countries trying to be faithful to the ideal of the Quran would continue to push toward a greater sense of gender equality. Most of what the Quran and the Bible depict is not the ideal, but it is alluding to a greater telos in God’s story of redemption. Slavery and the oppression of women are a reality throughout the Bible, yet we can see signs of God pointing toward a larger story of justice and love throughout the Biblical narrative in both the Old and New Testament. Yet both Scriptures point toward a creational beginning where there is peace, justice, and a proper social order. 

 William J. Webb, Slaves, women & homosexuals : exploring the hermeneutics of cultural analysis (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 2001) 14
 Phyllis Trible, God and the rhetoric of sexuality, (Fortress Press, Chicago, 1978) 15-22; Amina Wadud, Quran and woman: Rereading the sacred text from a woman's perspective. (New York, Oxford University Press.) 19-21; N.T. Wright Women’s service in the church: The Biblical Basis. (September 4 2004)
 Sura 30:21; Sura 4:128
 (Wadud 1999) 82
 (Wadud 1999) 82