This post strikes a good balance in responding to the controversy over a tweet Calvinist preacher John Piper posted immediately after the tornado in Oklahoma.
I enjoyed this podcast of some philosophers discussing Schleiermacher’s “On Religion.” Although they don’t seem to be very familiar with his more explicitly theological work–particularly The Christian Faith–which provides some important context in discussing his views and overall project.
The new pope seems to be taking the “preferential option for the poor” pretty seriously (via bls).
I’m in the middle of this biography of John Wesley. So far my takeaway is that Wesley was in many ways an extremely admirable person, if not necessarily a very likable one. (Of course, the same could be said of many great figures in church history.)
And here’s a new trailer for the upcoming Superman movie:
This NYT article interests me as someone who is about to join the United Methodist Church from an ostensibly more “progressive” denomination, at least with regard to the equality of LGBT persons.
Thomas Ogletree, a UMC minister, is facing disciplinary action after he presided at his son’s (same-sex) wedding. The UMC has continued to maintain that the “practice” of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” As with most mainline denominations, there have been efforts to change this, but, in the UMC’s case, they have met with limited success.
This is partly due to the fact that a significant number of the delegates to the church’s general conference–its supreme legislative body, which meets ever four years–come from outside the U.S.–particularly places where conservative views on homosexuality still prevail. At the conference’s most recent meeting, in 2012, even an “agree to disagree” resolution couldn’t pass. Though it’s unclear how much of an effect acts of “civil disobedience” such as those of Rev. Ogletree may have on the direction of the larger denomination, this seems to be a stance that more “progressives” feel compelled to take.
So as someone who does support full LGBT equality in church and society, why would I consider joining a denomination that seems to be a long way from affirming it?
The main answer is that my family and I have found a home in the local UMC congregation we’ve been attending for about the last two years, and we want to formalize our commitment to it. We left our previous church for a variety of mostly non-theological reasons and were attracted to this one by its growing number of young families, dynamic pastor, flourishing homeless ministry, and combination of theological substance and progressive social vision, among other reasons. I’ve also come to appreciate some of the distinctive emphases of Wesleyan theology–combining at its best a Protestant emphasis on sheer, unmerited grace with a Catholic emphasis on personal and social holiness that I find quite appealing.
Our congregation is a “reconciling” church and so aims to welcome LGBT folks at all levels of parish life, even though this contradicts the denomination’s official teaching. This makes them (us) the loyal opposition, a position that could grow increasingly uncomfortable if, as seems likely, the denomination continues to move at its current glacial pace on this matter.
I sympathize with the spirit of this post at Patheos by David Henson–it is weird and creepy to talk about the infant Jesus as having been “born to die”–suggesting perhaps that a child sacrifice would’ve done the job of saving the world just as well. More seriously, it’s just bad theology to separate Christ’s death from his life. This has been a recurring problem in popular Christian piety and even among theologians who should know better.
That said, Henson veers a bit too far in the other direction when he writes that “it wasn’t his death and crucifixion that set things right in the world. Rather it was his incarnated life that shows us what a world set right might look like.” I’d argue that the writers of the New Testament certainly thought that Jesus’ death (along with his resurrection) were acts by which God went about setting things right in the world. Without the cross and resurrection we seem stuck with the old liberal Jesus who’s primarily a good role model. (Or as Paul would say, if Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins!)
I haven’t blogged much about my switching from attending a Lutheran church to a Methodist one, but one of the things I’ve come to appreciate about Wesleyan theology is that it tries to maintain equal emphases on Jesus’ death and his life, and on our justification and sanctification. Wesley had a very “Lutheran” doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, but he insisted that the acceptance and forgiveness we receive through Jesus’ cross and resurrection laid the foundation for continuous growth in love of God and neighbor. According to Theodore Runyon, the keynote of Wesley’s theology is the restoration of the image of God in humanity, which allows us to reflect back to the world the love which God has shown us. From this perspective, to downplay the life and teachings of Jesus or his cross and resurrection would be to settle for half a gospel.
It appears that new scholarship is discovering some of the long-forgotten (or even suppressed) differences between Charles Wesley and his more famous brother. One interesting point that comes up in this piece is that C.W. leaned more heavily toward keeping Methodism as a movement within the Church of England.
I suppose it doesn’t mark me out as particularly interesting or original to note that I love Wesley’s hymns.