Here’s a satirical look at what, in many cases, churches “think” they want in a ‘youth pastor’, but after all realize they don’t:
Here’s a satirical look at what, in many cases, churches “think” they want in a ‘youth pastor’, but after all realize they don’t:
Here’s a gripe I want to register. Evangelical Higher Theological Education is way too expensive, and the pay off is not proportionate to the cost. Here’s what I mean. I have grown up in ‘Evangelical’ circles; growing up, going to Dallas Theological Seminary (or somwhere like that) was considered the pinnacle by those in the circles I ran. Well, I went to Multnomah (the mini-Dallas), ended up with an MA degree (I’m afraid it may be my “terminal” degree), and now I am desirous of going on to pursue PhD studies. Unfortunately, going to an Evangelical seminary is way too expensive (they generally are not funded); and in fact for the profession I desire (professor) is not really the most prudent way to go — they aren’t marketable (not even with a lot of smallerish Evangelical schools). At least this is the trend I’ve noticed. It seems that Dallas PhD’s, for example, have been played out amongst many of the Evangelical seminaries (they represent too narrow of a doctrinal foci for attracting students to an inter-denominational school); what is desireable, it seems, are PhD’s primarily from Europe, or even 1st tier PhD programs (like Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, Duke, etc.) — even for many Evangelical schools (who in the past would have gladly, and did, taken profs with even MA degrees 😉 from their own schools). In other words, the game has changed; it is way more competitive, it appears, than it ever used to be (a Masters degree is a dime a dozen — even PhD’s are).
Anyway, it kind of bothers me that I have to get a PhD somehow (which probably includes going into major debt, for a teaching post [hopefully] that will not, by way of salary, meet the debt incured in order to obtain said ‘post’), just to even crack the door at even small Bible Colleges. Here come the gripe . . . it seems that gifting, experience, and insight and knowledge (and character, btw) aren’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dissing guys/gals who have spent the time and made the sacrifice to earn PhD’s; all I’m frustrated with, at the moment, is that getting a PhD seems impossible (for purely financial reasons) — and I’m ticked because I have a strong desire to teach (and I ain’t getting any younger any time soon 😉 ).
In the end, though, I’m just glad that I’m still alive so that I can lodge this gripe 😉 . . . and, I realize that the Lord is completely in control, so when He wants it to happen (if) it will . . .
My friend Travis (WTM) is hosting his fourth annual Karl Barth Blog Conference, with the first installment set to start tomorrow. Be sure to make your way over there, soak in some of the insights, and be ready to offer a thoughtful response by way of comment or question. The exciting thing about this conference is that Wipf & Stock Publishers is going to turn the offerings into a book, as Travis says:
Thanks to the forward thinking of Wipf & Stock Publishers, a revised and expanded form of the 2010 KBBC proceedings will be published as a book! The interest generated in comments by the various KBBC contributions will play a part in determining which portions of the conference make it into the book, so be sure to get in there and participate in the conversation if you see something that interests you. In any case, I’d like to give a special thanks to our friends over at W&S for being willing to take a shot on this sort of a project.
I think that’s great! Make sure I see you over there, it looks to be a good one — and an extended one!
P.S. Here’s the link to Travis’ blog: Der Evangelische Theologe
Here are some thoughts on the : Literal, Grammatical, Historical approach:
I think our epistemological approach shouldn’t be rooted, necessarily, within a “rationalist” framework . . . which is where the LGH was shaped. That is, the LGH developed out of the “History of Religions” school of thought, at the turn of the 20th cent., and from other “rationalistic” streams of thought concurrent with this time period. Fundamentalists revolted against the “higher criticism” inherent to these schools, and combined with “Scottish Sense Realism” developed an Evangelically charged hermeneutic that (and I’m oversimplifying a bit here) was still consonant with their “liberal” brethren . . . albeit Evangelically charged! So instead of allowing arbitrary readings of history to primarily serve as the “epistemology” of scripture; I think it serves us better to approach it with Christ-centered spectacles which assumes a “positive” Christian hermeneutic provided in the scriptures. So that, the “history of Jesus” is indeed the history of scripture; and not various socio/cultural reconstructions. Furthermore, instead of doing biblical intepretation, or approaching scripture with socio-analysis as the primary methodological apparatus (which is where the LGH comes from); Karl Barth gives us the best way forward for approaching scripture (even though his points have to do with “theology”). His way forward is to start with the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, as determinative of theology and its method. Here is T. F. Torrance on Barth:
Because Jesus Christ is the Way, as well as the Truth and the Life, theological thought is limited and bounded and directed by this historical reality in whom we meet the Truth of God. That prohibits theological thought from wandering at will across open country, from straying over history in general or from occupying itself with some other history, rather than this concrete history in the centre of all history. Thus theological thought is distinguished from every empty conceptual thought, from every science of pure possibility, and from every kind of merely formal thinking, by being mastered and determined by the special history of Jesus Christ. (Thomas F. Torrance, “Karl Barth: An Introduction to His Early Theology 1910-1931,” 196)
Going this route, epistemologically, makes Jesus, and the life of God, the predicator of history; instead of history predicating or determining who God (and thus Jesus) is. This also has implications for Westminster Calvinism as well (but I will refrain from that, for now ;-). I don’t think the LGH is the best way forward, then . . . it inherently delimits the life of God, and Christ, to ITS analysis; instead of vice versa.**
To be quite honest I am finding it hard to believe that I am saying this! I am trained in the ways of the LGH, I have been weened and reared on such thinking. It might sound like I am saying that I don’t believe that being “Literal” or “Grammatical” or “Historical” is a sound approach to Scripture; but really that is not what I am saying. Instead what I am challenging is the supposition that scripture, or indeed the Word, and its witness bearing to Jesus should be subjected to socio-cultural-historico analysis before it can be considered the Word of God. What I am opposing is the idea that our approach to interpretation should be the result of establishing the veracity of scripture, and answering apologetic questions about the text before we ever get to scripture as scripture. And I believe, in fact I know (not to be too arrogant) that this is where the LGH comes to us from.
Instead scripture should be allowed to set its own “agenda.” It should be able to present us with its own set of questions, so that it indeed can provide the right answers. The goal of scripture’s proclamation, cover to cover, is to bear witness to Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 5:39). Thus, if this is the emphasis that Jesus set for scripture, then I think we should follow a model that indeed starts at this point.
Do I think literary, grammatical, and historical analysis is good and needed? Of course, but it should be framed within a Christoformed hermeneutic; hence not setting out to provide an apologetic as the basis for its interpretation.
Here is John Calvin commenting on Colossians 1:15:
Two eloquent statements, by Calvin, on (a.) Positive Theology, so that “knowledge of God” is limited to Christ alone — and not searching around for other “[sophist]icated” ways to talk about God (all you conceptually oriented scholastics out there). And (b.) on the relationship between the ontological/immanent nature of God, and the ‘evangelical’/economic nature of God. Calvin believed that the ‘works and miracles’ (“his glory”) are the external and univocal expression of His eternal being perichoretically united to the Father and the Holy Spirit. In other words, Calvin didn’t think that there was “a God behind the back of Jesus;” but that who Christ revealed Himself to be, was the ‘exact representation’ and externalization of the coinhering glory (Jn. 17) that He has always shared with the Father by the communion of the Holy Spirit. So as John the Evangelist records Jesus saying:
This is all Calvin is getting at. When we do theology, when we work in the realm of “Christian epistemology,” we are strictly limited to doing Christology. If we want to know what the Father is like, if we want to talk about what God is like; then we are limited to looking at Jesus for all the proper boundaries and emphases that He wants us to know. Calvin would probably be appalled to see how his name has been applied to an theological methodology that has gone astray from this narrow framing provided by Calvin in his commentaries.
**Cross posted at the ‘Evangelical Calvinist’
Here’s a definition provided by George Marsden on what he thinks it means to be an “Evangelical”:
. . . “Evangelical” is a word with a more elusive meaning than “Reformed.” Basically it refers to anyone who promotes proclamation of the gospel of salvation through the atoning work of Christ and has a traditional high view of Scripture alone as authority. Evangelicalism is thus much larger than just the Reformed tradition. Within American evangelicalism, however, there is an important subgroup that might be called “card-carrying” evangelicals. These are persons who think of themselves primarily as “evangelicals” and who, as such, identify at least as much with evangelicalism as a movement as with their own formal denominations. Billy Graham, Christianity Today, Eternity, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Wheaton College and its imitators, and seminaries such as Trinity, Fuller, and Gordon-Conwell have been prototypes of this influential interdenominational evangelicalism. (George M. Marsden, ed. David F. Wells, “Reformed Theology In America,” 2-3)
What do you think about this definition? Is it accurate? And where would you place yourself on this continuum? Are you more of a denotative “Evangelical” (the first part of his definition), or more of a “card-carrying” type?
I grew up as a “card-carrying” Evangelical. I attended a Bible College and Seminary steeply rooted in this tradition of Christianity. And to some extent still have sensibilites that would probably land me in and around the “card-carrying” variety; although not without some qualification and some “self-criticism.” I have found that many of my generation, who have grown up as I have, find it embarassing, almost, to admit that they are “Evangelical;” to the extent that they are ready to denounce it with any force and any theological paradigm that places distance between them and their self-understanding (with all of its stigma) of what it means, or meant, to be an “Evangelical.” Evangelicalism carries with it a certain ethos that is very unpopular amongst the “younger generation;” and I think, for many reasons, rightly so, it in many ways is dead.
There are a million posts in the blogosphere that have already beat the dead horse of Evangelicalism to death; that’s not what I’m intending to do here. I’m just curious to hear what you think.
Ben Myers gives a helpful summary in describing T. F. Torrance’s stratification of knowledge, he says:
Thomas F. Torrance’s model of the stratification of knowledge is one of his most striking and original contributions to theological method. Torrance’s model offers an account of the way formal theological knowledge emerges from our intutive and pre-conceptual grasp of God’s reality as it is manifest in Jesus Christ. It presents a vision of theological progression, in which our knowledge moves towards an ever more refined and more unified conceptualisation of the reality of God, while remaining closely coordinated with the concrete level of personal and experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ. According to this model, our thought rises to higher levels of theological conceptualisation only as we penetrate more deeply into the reality of Jesus Christ. From the ground level of personal experience to the highest level of theological reflection, Jesus Christ thus remains central. Through a sustained concentration on him and on his homoousial union with God, we are able to achieve a formal account of the underlying trinitarian relations immanent in God’s own eternal being, which constitute the ultimate grammar of all theological discourse. (Benjamin Myers, “The Stratification of knowledge in the thought of T. F. Torrance,” SJT 61 (1): 1-15 (2008) Printed in the United Kingdom © 2008 Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd doi: 10.1017/S003693060700381X)
Ben obviously offers further development through the course of his essay, but I think his opening paragraph serves as a nice introduction into what TFT was after in his theological method. Torrance’s offering seeks to be ‘Christ conditioned’ and christocentric, through and through; this all naturally flows from Torrance’s broader project of providing a theological science.
Anyway, I thought some might find this intriguing, and maybe provocative for further research into the methodology and thought life of T.F. Torrance.
For quite some time I have claimed I Corinthians 2.2 as a favorite passage of mine, For I have determined to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. . . . Then I was diagnosed with that rare cancer that nobody wants (desmoplastic small round cell tumor — sarcoma) — you can read more about that HERE — and this verse took on a whole new perspective (one, in the moment, I really didn’t want); which is what I want to talk about in this brief post.
Martin Luther articulated what he called The Theology of the Cross (in contrast to The Theology of Glory a la the “scholastics”), in short, what Luther was after was the idea that knowing God, whose life is cruciform in shape, happens best when we are suffering; when we are in complete dependence upon him (or we’ll perish). This is who God is, the God who is shaped by being other shaped, and dependent upon the other (within the God-head) as the place where His being finds shape and definition. The cross is the ultimate externalization of such a life; a life which does not think equality with God somthing to be grasped. I knew all of this before I was diagnosed with cancer (I had previously gone through a few years of deep depression and some other “spiritual battles” . . . so I knew something of suffering), but like I said, this “theology” took on (and still is) a whole new life for me.
Here’s what I want to highlight in this post: When I was going through all the chemo, the terrible side effects, the surgery, the recovery, more chemo, and the terrible side effects (which I still have some remnents of [neuropathy in my feet]), in the “moment” of all of that knowing the Lord in His ‘inner-being’ through suffering didn’t seem like a reality. Just physically I was so beat, thinking about anything but feeling better was really the first thing on my mind. Mentally and emotionally I didn’t have the wherewithal to begin understanding or even to contemplate who God is in the midst of that. It started seeming like much of what I thought before, about suffering, was just a theoretical or theological platitude. At points it seemed like there could be nothing worse than what I was going through (even the cross); in other words, when we’re suffering, or at least when I was suffering, I was so consumed with not wanting to suffer anymore that it was hard to see the Lord (of course I’m saying all this with the realization in place that all I was doing through that season was really resting and trusting in Him, crying out to Him, constantly — and just hoping for a miracle). It seems like when we suffer, at points, in the midst of it, that all we really desire is to not be suffering (and I don’t think this is a bad desire); when we’re suffering, all we can do is look away from ourselves, and if we know Jesus, look to Him in desperation; since we know that He alone has overcome our current situations as He Himself penetrated the depths of human suffering (as a human) and overcame all of this “nothingness” and “non-being” with His resurrection life! That’s really all I could do in the deepest parts of those most desperate moments; it’s not an intellectual gaze that we have in those moments, it’s one of desperate need of the Other. This is the place we know Christ and Him crucified, in those moments of pure desperation and utter need for something or someOne outside ourselves!
I thought the following, posted by a guy named “Adam B.”, was interesting. He is musing upon his readings of (or about) Friedrich Schleiermacher, commonly known as the Father of Theological Liberalism; the author of this post is dealing with the fall out of being confronted with the idea that in fact philosophy may actually be more involved with Biblical Interpretation, and thus theologizing, than heretofore, he had ever hoped for. He seems rather surprised by this development, which is interesting, because this author is a ThM student in theology (which is why he’s doing this reading) — I’m wondering why he hasn’t been exposed to this before (a prerequisite for a ThM degree is typically holding at least an MA in theology or usually an MDiv); nevertheless, let’s hear what he has to say, in brief:
After reading the principles of interpretation as described by Schleiermacher I was stunned… they seemed so similar to my own. And yet, his work was considered ground breaking for its time (even if he was only one of many at that time breaking ground). Could it be that my beloved historical-critical method was not lifted directly from the pages of Scripture but was actually birthed and laid at theology’s doorstep by that whore, philosophy? If so, it is already too late. I cannot disown her now; I love her too dearly. If I were to leave her on this account, who would take her place?
Whoa is me! What is the pure theologian to do? (for full text go here)
He mentions the “historical-critical” method, which is the method which most “Evangelicals” use to interpret Scripture; I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise — the fact that we have historically used what is also called the LGH (Literal, Grammatical, Historical) — since our history, as Evangelicals, is steeply rooted within the history of Christian Fundamentalism, which was a movement who sought, by-in-large, to counter-propose the proposals of ‘Liberal-Theology’ by meeting “Liberals” on their own ground, using “their” tools, methods, and even concepts (metaphysically). This student attends a seminary, like the one I attended, which is thoroughly grounded in the “Evangelical tradition;” thus it follows that he has inherited this historical-critical method to interpret.
To answer his question, his last clause, we should identify the impact that certain philosophies have upon our interpretive work; and then engage in the work of discerning whether “said” philosophy serves or undercuts the articulation of the Gospel. This might seem a simple anecdote, and it is, but it is true. Philosophy is inevitable (it’s just a human endeavor), nevertheless, Christian theology should never be coopted by philosophy; the history of the church provides trajectories wherein philosophy has indeed coopted the Gospel, but then we also have fruitful lines of inquiry and engagement wherein philosophy has been coopted by the Christian gospel, using its “grammar” but reifying (or restating) these philosophical categories in such way that in fact it can be said that philosophy can actually serve.
Just a quick one. I am reconsidering my ecclesiology. I grew up as an “Evangelical,” my dad is an ordained CBA (Conservative Baptist Assocation) pastor; this denomination, as most “Evangelical churches” prides itself upon the autonomy of the local church. Well, I’m up against a scenario wherein this outlook is being seriously challenged; just from a pragmatic/pastoral standpoint. The congregational model of the church (one that emphasizes autonomy) has some problems relative to leadership accountable. Without sharing the details of the “scenario” I’m referring to, it is clear that this model has some deep rooted problems; it is like a Peter without a Paul (see Gal. 2). If the leadership in this church government model is inept or immature, and faced with a scenario where maturity is called for, and then they act out of their immaturity the laity or congregant can find themselves in a seriously compromised situation. This is what’s going on with a friend of mine. He’s got a problem, the church doesn’t want to hear his side of the problem, instead they have sided with the “other side’s” perspective without even giving an honest hearing to my friend’s side — they are sorely mistaken and unwise in their response and actions.
My point. If the leadership had some accountability, like they would in an Episcopelian church model or Presbyterian, he could appeal; and ask for a third-party objective hearing. But nope, instead my friend has been excommunicated (it’s a “Bible church” non-denominational). This is a problem.