All we are saying is “give peace a chance”

Just finished watching the #BEDPEACE video which Yoko Ono has made available for this weekend via a free stream. It is a portrait of John and Yoko’s Bed-In in Montreal from 1969. Yoko writes “John and I were so naïve to think that doing the Bed-In would help change the world.” My response would be “yes” and “no”. I’d like to elaborate on a few points, if I may.

The Beatles Bed In for Peace and the whole counter-culture movement of the sixties is indirectly part of my youth and something that always strikes a chord within me. I was to young to experience the movement firsthand. I was only seven years old when the Bed-In took place. But later in the seventies when I began to get interested in music, I was always drawn to the music and culture that took place at that time instead of the contemporary music of the day. I had often secretly wished that I would have been born ten years earlier so that I could have experienced all these things firsthand. Maybe I was drawn to it because then events of that period had already achieved a kind of mythical status by the mid seventies. I’m sure there are many factors. But maybe it was better that I wasn’t born earlier. Perhaps my reaction would have been different.

Anyway, in 1980 I became a Christian of the evangelical variety and as was the case with many like me, I was drawn into the realm of conservative political thought, This in turn brought me into an inner conflict about many of the views of the sixties and in particular John and Yoko’s pacifism. I had accepted as true  and necsessary many of the things which they were campaigning against. I have since become more flexible in my thinking, which is in a constant process of reevaluation. Especially the fact that I’ve lived outside the USA for over twenty years now, has given me the opportunity to reflect on things from afar and from other perspectives.

Watching the video struck me and I was impressed by several things. John Lennon was very intelligent and had an excellent grasp of human nature and the problems of the world. Quite remarkable, since at the time he was not yet thirty years old. He was not advocating a kind of class warfare. He realized that the problem lie in the heart of all mankind. He realized that a revolution by force would not solve things but simply replace the existing regime with a new one that would end up repeating the same mistakes. His hope was to do something different, to change the hearts of people and bring change from within. This is where I would disagree with Yoko. They were not naïve in thier analysis of the problem but right on.

Where I would agree with Yoko is in another area, their solution to the problem. The change that is required in the heart of mankind is not something that can be achieved by a simple refelction and change of the will. It requires Jesus Christ. The nature of mankind must be radically altered and this can only be achieved by God. But for this to occur we need as individualy to recognize this and ask for his forgiveness and life changing power. A conversion must take place which takes usfrom the kingdom of darkeness into the kingdom of light. As admirable as their efforts were I think they were naïve as to the solution.

I think many valuable lessons can still be gained from their approach: we require change,  the system is not the problem but our human nature, it is our responsibility to take action the solution won’t come from othersin the sense of a system or structure. In my opinion the action that is needed is for us to get on our knees and come before God. Yes, “power to the people,” but the power comes from God.

Sola Scriptura and Protestant Denominations

Recently I’ve been doing some research on the doctrine of sola scriptura. Among the many sources I’ve been reading is the Book “Exploring Protestant Traditions” from W. David Buschart. I’ve created the following table to compare how the protestant traditions employ sola scriptura. Although this table may be helpful for an initial overview, please refer to the book itself[1] or other literature to get a more informed opinion. There is a high degree of variability within all of these denominations and a tabular description such as this cannot convey many of the nuances that are involved. Nonetheless it can be useful for a quick-glance overview.

Sources for Theology:

Scripture Tradition Reason Experience
Lutheran S + confessional heritage - -
Anabaptist S - early church creeds rejected,
+ implied confessional heritage
Reformed S - chruch tradition,
+ confessional heritage
+ subordinate to scripture and Holy Spirit + subordinate to scripture and Holy Spirit
Anglican S + ancient traditions accepted + interprets traditions and scripture + liturgy plays an important role
Baptist S - staunchly anti-creedal
Wesleyan S – some set scripture on an equal plane with the other sources + + +
Dispensational S - + in the form of theology and hermeneutical method -
Pentecostal S - - + from the Holy Spirit

Theological Sources Key:

S Supreme + Some Influence - No Influence

Other Aspects:

Interpreter Holy Spirit
Lutheran Community guides, enables
Anabaptist Community hindered by empasis on reason,
illumines understanding
Reformed The theolgian witnesses to the scripture
Anglican Community guidance
Baptist Individual Illumines the mind of the reader
Pentecostal experiential role
  1. [1] The book is nicely subdivided so that one can quickly focus on the interpretive aspects of each denominational community.

Bin Laden’s death – a historical demarcation point

The public memory of historical epochs is marked by major historical events.There are many examples which mark historical shifts: Luther’s posting of the 95 theses, the peace of Westphalia, the declaration of independence, the stock market crash of 1929, the death of Hitler, the appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, Niel Armstrong setting foot on the moon and of course the 9-11 attack on the World trade center.

These historical demarcations are often one event amidst a series of changes. These events did not singularly cause the changes they have come to represent. They do coincide with the epochs they demarcate but they are often only one of a series of shifts. Over time the provide us a means for categorization and closure allowing the public mood to move into a new epoch.

I believe the death of Osama Bin Laden is one of these demarcations. It will become a point where we can say terrorist threat that began on 9-11 (although this also is only a demarcation point, the threat had already been present) has now entered a new era. The public mood has shifted considerably over the past 10 years. However, it had no prominent marking point close the chapter. With the death of Bin Laden the public psyche now has an official demarcation point to allow itself to move on.

Where are the protests?

Is it just me or are other people missing something? Why are there no mass protests about the wests military action against Libya? if you remember a few years back there was a man named George W. Bush and a situation in a country called Iraq. As far as I can tell the situation is not that much different. One could even argue that Saddam Hussein was much worse than Gadaffi.

Yes, it’s still early days. And maybe things are different. But somehow I have the sneaking suspicion that all the anti-war protesters who vehemently opposed the Iraqi invasion are asleep at the wheel. Back then reasons were given for opposing the war, that should be just as applicable to the situation now. But the moralists and pacifists don’t seem to have the Libyan situation on their radar.

A few explanations come to mind. Maybe the situation is different. Maybe there are vital U.S. interests at stake. But what? Maybe things are moving to quickly and the protesters need time to organize. Maybe the mood of the country has shifted. Or perhaps Obama has been more clever. Bush tried to get the public behind him before committing to military action. Obama just went ahead and did it without asking anyone. Perhaps he couldn’t be bothered it might take away from his time watching a Basketball tournament.

tell me people what is the difference between the situation then and now and tell me why Bush’s handling of Iraq was so bad and why Obama’s handling of this is OK. I’d really like to know.

Theological Mapping and Contradiction Free Systems – Don’t Be Afraid!

Part 1

Many theologically minded people dream of a theological system which is free of contradictions. In fact much effort in systematic theology and apologetics is made in explaining, resolving and circumventing contradictory theological statements. If one could only achieve a system that had no contradiction one would have the truth.

For many years, this too was my hope. My continuing theological studies in the area of theological hermeneutics have caused me to rethink this position. I’ve not relegated this aspect of theological interpretation to meaninglessness but for me it has to a degree been reduced in importance. Two reasons come to mind, which have shaped my opinion. Both are related to modernistic thinking and propositionalism[1].

  • In my understanding propositionalism reduces theology to a set of assertions. A true theology is one which contains only true statements. In recent years I have come to appreciate the view that theology and Christian living encompasses more than a simple reiteration of truthful propositions. There are other aspects to our existence and especially our relationship to God, which go beyond the proposition: Prayer, aesthetics, love and mystery just to name a few.[2] Surely we understand the biblical message that a truly Godly person is not one who knows things about God but one who has integrated faith in God into his/her life. Obedience, selflessness, thought life and wisdom are a few keywords indicating that there is more the Christianity than a set of propositions. Yet even this example shows my position. Propositions are not unnecessary. We need need them. How else would we understand the teaching I just mentioned in part “be doers and not hearers of the Word”[3], if not via propositions. Yet at the same time the very propositions that inform us also point to a realm of existence which goes beyond the proposition. Thus, I believe that the realm of the proposition is only a part of the theological enterprise not its entirety.

  • As can be seen in other posts on this blog[4], I hold that theological systems can be viewed as being comprised of two categories of statements. Those which which say something about theological reality in general and those which guide us in the interpretation of these statements. In my view the principle of non-contradiction belongs to the latter category. It is not necessarily a indisputable theological truth but a principle of interpretation. Thus, it should be open to question. Think for a moment about the doctrines of free will vs. the sovereignty of God and the trinity. From our human perspective both of these doctrines hint at contradiction. Yet, many theologies hold these seemingly contradictory statements to be true. How can this be if non-contradiction is to be a hermeneutical key guiding us toward the truth. I’m not advocating a eastern type of thinking, which in my understanding has little problem with contradiction, rather I suggest that some aspects of God’s revelation to us goes beyond the categories from which we are able to rationally grasp things. Some of these contradictions must simply be allowed to exist. Someday we may become enlightened and understand them more clearly but perhaps not. Thus, non-contradiction can play a role but we should be aware that this is an interpretive principle that we employ and not an absolute truth.

Part 2

So, how does this relate to the Orthotomeo Project? I anticipate that many theologians, who like myself practice a theology beyond propositionalism and rigid non-contradictionalsim, may shudder at the concept behind the Orthotomeo Project. They may fear that it is simply an attempt at creating a contradiction free system of propositions, which violates some of their primary theological convictions. If you share these concerns, I can say to you DO NOT FEAR! This is not the goal of the Orthotomeo Project.
In fact I would suggest that the Orthotomeo Project is neutral in this regard.[5] The premise behind the Orthotomeo Project is that theological systems are reasoned systems. That is, there are reasons for interpreting statements one way or another. If one chooses to employ the interpretive principle of non-contradiction, one is free to do so. The Orthotomeo Project will be an excellent tool for determining the feasibility of such an attempt. However, if one does not rigidly hold to this principle, one is also free to document their interpretations this way. All that is required is that one give a reason for an interpretation. Once submitted to the public domain these interpretations are then open to debate and questions of plausibility. And this is what we desire is it not, a public dialog about theological interpretation?

  1. [1] see Propositions and Statements
  2. [2] For example, what is happening in Romans 8:26? In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words
  3. [3] James 1:22
  4. [4] Among others: The Black Box, Propositions and Statements, Terminology and Structural Guidelines for Nodal Relations
  5. [5] I realize that nothing is truly neutral. One of my ongoing efforts concerning the structure of the Orthotomeo DB will be at reducing assumptions which favor particular theologies. This goal will probably never be achieved but I do think that it can become a useful tool for practitioners of a wide variety of theological perspectives.