A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why I Love the Onion

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good News

I was talking to the librarian at my church and he had a small pile of books he was planning to dump, one of them was the Good News for Modern Man Bible. Thankfully I was able to rescue a copy.

This version reads ok, but what was key is the nostalgia. Growing up, our church had these as the pew bibles. I think the most memorable aspect of these bibles was the drawings. Some of the most potent representation of biblical stories can be found in these drawings.

I don't have the background to evaluate translations but the NRSV is the most common in academic contexts. The language which has the most majesty and poetry for me (bad academic criteria) remains the New English Bible, the ecumenical bible of the UK.

In other news, Bill O Reilly went after Daily Kos for calling the primate of Italy, Pope Benedict, a primate. I'm not shocked that the great defender of religion would not know that primate is a title, but one would think that someone at Fox would have caught it.

And the Disciples of Christ is having their general assembly in Fort Worth Texas July 21st through the 25th. Jim Wallis I know will be speaking at that gathering. You can check out the proceedings and videos of events by checking out the GA website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Theological Confessions

This is an old blog meme but I am behind on my postings for this site. In it, people list their theological confessions or proclamations. In any case here's a short list from me.

1. I confess that I don't believe in the supernatural but I do believe in God. God is to be found in this world of ours.

2. I confess that inter-religious work is rewarding but that spirituality apart from a tradition is thin and leaves me cold.

3. I confess that it was Mordechai Kaplan, who gave me ways of speaking of God again, something I had lost in my 20s.

4. I confess that it's been campus ministry work where the reality of God continues to confront me again and again.

5. I confess that Reinhold Niebuhr, Shailer Matthews, and H. Richard Niebuhr have challenged me to dig deeper into the rich resources of the Christian tradition in looking at the human situation.

6. I confess that Josiah Royce and HN Wieman have helped me to make sense of how God was in Christ reconciling the world.

7. I confess that the best way of making sense of "no one comes to the father but through me" was given to me by a student in our campus ministry.

8. I confess that I've been introduced to a number of thinkers that I never pick up until years later. B.A Gerrish and Wayne Meeks are two such examples.

9. I confess that I take gay and lesbian inclusion as a given. That the church has a heterosexual issue, not a gay issue.

10. I confess that mainline protestantism has ways of engaging Christian faith that can save Christianity.

11. I confess that I don't know if many people in the mainline believe my 10th confession. They should.

12. I believe that the end vision of Christian faith is enacted every time one is at the communion table.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Emerson quote

Here's an insight by Ralph Waldo Emerson on practices and ritual that seem relevant for religious liberals today. It's from his address to the Harvard Divinity students.
The evils of the church that now is are manifest. The question returns, What shall we do? I confess, all attempts to project and establish a cultus with new rites and forms, seem to me vain.

Faith makes us and not we it, and faith makes its own forms. All attempts to contrive a system are as cold as the new worship introduced by the French to the goddess of reason.

Rather let the breath of new life be breathed by you through the forms already existing. For if once you are alive, you shall find they shall become plastic and new.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hillary's Faith

Cal Thomas recently attacked Hillary Clinton's faith as not authentic, perhaps not even Christian. But the areas he went after don't pan out.

Hillary has said that salvation is social, not just individual. This is not "works righteousness" as Cal asserts. It's from the Bible. Salvation has meant many things from the deliverance of Israel from Egypt to the end vision of Isaiah where the lion and lamb lay together.

And yes it's reflected in Hillary's Methodist upbringing. It's not a new "poll tested" idea, but goes back through much of their church history including the founding of the Methodist Federation for Social Action over 100 years ago.

If good comes into the world it's because of God's actions. While we have an obligation to the poor, etc. It's not us, but God working in us that makes this happen. But this is not an indication of any favor or merit on our part. God uses the flawed to bring about the better.

Cal claims the "central tenet" of Christianity is it's the only saving religion and Hillary is hesitant on this point. Well, epistemic humility is biblical (as Paul notes, we see in part). And I am the Way is not the same thing as join my religious group.

Hillary has a sense that "we can't possibly understand every way God is communicating with us. I've always felt that people who try to shoehorn in their cultural and social understandings of the time into the Bible might be actually missing the larger point"

This makes me respect her thinking on religion more than before. If it wasn't for Cal Thomas, I wouldn't have realized that she was as thoughtful on this subject as she is and more so than many politicians. Thanks Cal for opening me up to that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Church

The pope made news declaring the Catholic Church was the one true church and that other churches are either defective or not churches. As a protestant I found out that I am part of an ecclesial community, not a church.

The reasoning had to do with the apostolic succession of priests and bishops in other churches. The latter I understand given that my own tradition (Disciples of Christ) has no such things. But I wonder how the Anglican communion, which does, sees this issue?

This statement "goes against the spirit of our calling towards oneness in Christ, It makes us question the seriousness with which the Catholic Church takes its dialogs with other families of the church." said the Rev. Nyomi of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

Indeed. Since doctrinal claims internal to the church were used to buttress this recent statement I thought it fitting to quote from the Commission on Theology's statement to the Disciples of Christ on the nature of the church.

"We affirm that God has called the Church into being but this calling does not guarantee evidence of any merit on our part, assurance of a privileged position in God's realm, special access to God's grace or any exemption from God's judgment.

"We affirm that the mission of the Church is to witness to God in the world..to be a community of God's love to the world" A big job, that we often fail at. But if you find it, you may just have found the true church, which is bigger than one religious body.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wieman Quote

I found this interesting quote from Henry Nelson Wieman, in a collection of essays in the second volume of the Library of Living Theologians.
It is claimed that God is free to make himself known to whom he will and in the way he chooses without regard to the limitations of the human mind in those who receive this gift of knowledge direct from God.

Theologians who understand God's freedom in this manner claim to have received knowledge of God in this way: namely, in a way beyond the power of the human mind to know. But notice what this means.

It means that people who claim to have this kind of knowledge of God are not so much claiming the freedom of God; they are claiming for themselves the freedom to know beyond the power of the human mind.

It is not God they are exalting so much as themselves. An individual or fellowship claiming to be the recipient of God's grace in such wise as to know what human methods of inquiry cannot know, is claiming to be as God.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Off to Seminary

I was just in Indianapolis to look for an apartment and a job. I was recently accepted at Christian Theological Seminary. The end result I hope is ordination in the Disciples of Christ.

The opportunity to do this is exciting and yet tinged with remorse as I leave many friends that have been central to my life for the last number of years. We'll always be connected and friendships can last a lifetime but being physically distant weighs on me.

But the school has excellent faculty, courses, and opportunities in helping people engage in a lifetime of religious work in and outside the church. And living in a city will provide ways of engaging life and the church that look different from a small college town.

As I noted before, I'll be moving this month so my postings will be more sporadic until I get settled in. But I have some great friends and readers of this site who have offered to fill in now and again with thoughtful postings. I'm looking forward reading their insights.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rorty's Religious Vision

I was discussing with a friend on whether Richard Rorty had a religious vision. And then I came across this quote from Rorty that seems to suggest yes.

"My sense of the holy, insofar as I have one, is bound up with the hope that someday, any millennium now, my remote descendants will live in a global civilization in which love is pretty much the only law.

In such a society, communication would be domination-free, class and caste would be unknown, hierarchy would be a matter of temporary pragmatic convenience, and power would be entirely at the disposal of the free agreement of a literate and well-educated electorate..

[I have] no idea of how such a society could come about. It is, one might say, a mystery. This mystery, like that of the Incarnation, concerns the coming into existence of a love that is kind, patient, and endures all things."