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Mar
23
2014

Muslim Open Theists, Politics, T. F. Torrance, and Why the God-Man Matters

Muslim Open Theists?

People arrive at the conclusion that the future is at least partly 'open,' and that God knows it as such, 1 from multiple starting places. Since the 1994 publishing of The Openness of God 2 by five evangelical authors, many have arrived at these conclusions from within the evangelical subculture. This subculture is obviously Protestant, and overwhelmingly Trinitarian. 3 Others arrive at these conclusions through philosophical reflection on the nature of the future and on human agency. Not uncontroversially, others still arrive at these conclusions from contexts wholly removed from evangelical Christianity. (Whether or not the label "Open theists" should be ascribed to these non-Christian theists is still an active debate among evangelical Open theists.) 4

Nevertheless, Michael Lodahl, professor of Theology and World Religions at Point Loma Nazarene University, contributed a chapter to the book Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science titled "The (Brief) Openness Debate in Islamic Theology." 5 In this chapter, Lodahl reports that, according to accounts in Islamic history and philosophy, there arose a group of Muslims which rejected the traditional theological determinism/fatalism of Islam for a form of free will theism that included the epistemic 'openness' of the future.

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Mar
20
2014

Truth is the Justice League, Not Superman: On Factions in Open Theism



'Closed' Theism?

When I surrendered my life to Jesus at 17, I soon began to wrestle with the age-old philosophical dilemma of free will vs. determinism. I read as much as I could on the subject, but remained largely unsatisfied with many of the conclusions that were offered by traditional Christian systemic theology. I began to develop my own way of making sense of the biblical texts—which seemed to affirm both God's providential reign over human affairs and human free agency. I concluded that God has complete knowledge of all things knowable, but that the choices humans have yet to actualize aren't known as settled facts until they have been rendered by free human agents. I thought my view was simply a modified version of Arminianism (which was the default position of the tradition through which I became a Christian).

Then I happened to read Clark Pinnock's essay titled "From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology," 1 and discovered that there was a burgeoning movement in academic theology toward the very same conclusions at which I'd been arriving independently. I instantly became an "Open theist." It felt good to have a term for the strange belief I thought I alone believed. It felt good to know there were others out there that shared that strange belief. And since that time, I've considered myself an Open theist. I even attended the first "Open Theology and Science" conference in Quincy, MA, where I met Clark Pinnock and all the other authors of the 1994 book The Openness of God. After that, I became even more active online promoting Open theism, administrating Facebook groups, and starting a fan page for Greg Boyd (a well-known Open theist).

Fast forward to 2013, when I and three others co-directed the first Open theology conference geared toward non-academics. This conference was supposed to gather all those who have embraced Open theism and are trying to live it out in their everyday contexts. Right away, it became clear we hadn't fully anticipated just how different were all the other views Open theists hold. There were folks from widely divergent points of view—not just moderate evangelicals, like we expected. Some who attended were dyed-in-the-wool Fundamentalists. They balked at the suggestion that theistic evolution should be accepted by Open theists, and they insisted that the Bible be considered "inerrant." Open theism had it's first faction.

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Mar
15
2014

Cosmos, Episode One: A Religious Approach to Science and an Unscientific Approach to History

As I've publicly stated in the past, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of my favorite people on the planet 1. He has a compelling personality; he's a brilliant thinker; and he has an inspiring story. When he has appeared on The Daily Show (btw, Jon Stewart is another one of my favorite people on the planet), I've watched with a generous portion of fanboy enthusiasm. I love it when he corrects the inaccurate science of movies and TV shows without apology or subtlety 2. I'm like that when it comes to theology. If I come on your show and you've got Jesus hanging on the wall depicted as a European, better believe I'm going to tell you about yourself!

For all these reasons and more, I was very excited when I find out Tyson had been chosen to host a reboot of the classic TV show: Cosmos. And I watched the first episode with 'nerdy glee'. 3

While the episode's visual effects were stunning (including a very cool, updated version of the "Cosmic Calendar" from the original show), and while I will continue to watch the series to see what develops, I have to unfortunately report that I was very disappointed with what I can only call the episode's religious approach to science and its unscientific approach to history.

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Mar
10
2014

How Not to Worship a Black Hole: A Review of Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer

Author: Austin Fischer
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Cascade/Wipf & Stock (2014)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781625641519

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Over the last 15 years, I’ve engaged in far more discussions, “debates,” and arguments over the subjects of election, predestination, free will, determinism, foreknowledge and the like, than I’d actually be comfortable admitting. Some Christians care very little for these subjects, not simply because they are anti-intellectual or want to avoid conflict, but because they don’t understand what they have to do with their picture of God’s character. For me, however, these subjects have been critical. I’ve heard it said regarding theology that for many people—but perhaps particularly for certain personalities—one’s head and one’s heart have to agree, in order for that person to genuinely worship God. When it comes to these subjects, that has always been my desire: to worship God with my whole self. That is why I have never been able to either stomach emotionally nor substantiate intellectually the God constructed by Calvinism. I both cannot find it taught in Scripture, nor can I love and worship the portrait of God it paints.

That is not to say that I don’t recognize that many millions of Christians can and do. In the process of honing my own views, I have learned a great deal about Calvinism from Calvinists themselves. I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy many long-term relationships with Calvinists, including mentoring and professorial relationships. The vast majority of the Calvinists I’ve interacted with in person have been thoughtful, godly people. (Some unfortunately have not been). Online, however, I cannot say the same. The vast majority of the Calvinists I’ve interacted with through the medium of the internet have come across as arrogant, militant, and intellectually dishonest. That is perhaps why I continue to read books on this subject. A part of me is still deeply puzzled by the phenomenon of New Calvinism 1. In fact, it surprised me that I was not aware of this book sooner. While I’m normally one of the first to hear of books rebutting Calvinism, I didn’t know this book existed until a Facebook friend named Taylor Scott Brown began posting quotes from it as he was reading it. A few weeks later, my friend Erik Merksamer (aka "Mixmaster Merks") read the book and lent it to me. So now that I’ve read it myself, I’d simply like to outline the book for anyone who might read this review before making a decision about reading it, add some of my own thoughts here and there, and give it my hearty recommendation.

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Feb
28
2014

Precious Paleo-Confederates, the Laser Klan, and "Big God" Theology: Yeah, That Happened...

Precious Paleo-Confederates?

I had a bit of an odd interaction on Twitter with black hip hop artist Propaganda recently. You may remember that Prop once spoke out about the offense of his favorite Calvinist pastors and authors venerating their slave-holding forebears without regard for the suffering of his African ancestors. Well, I guess he got over it. Because, he was excited to read Joy at the End of the Tether by the infamous paleo-confederate Calvinist Douglas Wilson. When I asked him if Wilson was his "precious Paleo-Confederate", he responded:

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Feb
26
2014

ECC Perspectives on Salvation: Shalom, Justification, and Breathing Kingdom Air

For Covenanters, any study of salvation must begin with the Scriptures. We ask, “What does the Bible say?” (which is a version of the Covenant axiom “Where is it written?” that discourages proof-texting). This means that regardless of tradition, informed and skillful interpretation of Scripture will be the final arbiter of our soteriology. Covenanters also engage with the best scholarly thinking available to us, both past and present. Therefore, Covenanters gladly stand within the Reformation tradition of ‘justification by grace through faith,’ while also making space for contemporary perspectives on justification. We want to be Reformed, and always reforming! The Covenant’s perspective on salvation is colored not only by its historical roots in the Reformation, but also in the Pietist renewal movement which sought to further reform Protestantism and also to recover the living faith of the Early Church. So in the Covenant’s own history there is precedent for an on-going process of reformation toward greater and greater spiritual renewal.

The Scriptural Story: Salvation as Shalom-establishing

Beginning with Scripture, we find that salvation is rescue. In this sense, it implies the overcoming of danger, a conflict, or an enemy. But it is also the state of being free, whole, and safe from harm. For humanity, this state can only be achieved when we are joined with our Creator. Therefore, salvation is both being saved from something and saved to Someone. Scripture’s witness to salvation is displayed in the progressively-unfolding story of God’s action in the world in relationship to God’s creation, and to humanity in particular. The story which Scripture tells again and again is: 1) God forms a people; 2) God provides that people with a home; 3) God gives that people a purpose and/or mission. Then danger, conflict, an enemy emerge and threaten the people, the home, and the purpose God has created. In love, God rescues God’s people by repeating the process: forming again, providing again, purposing again. In a very real sense, biblical salvation is New Creation!

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Feb
25
2014

"Son of God" Movie: Part Brilliant, Part Failure

If you're not aware, the new "Son of God" movie opening in theaters on Friday is directly from the miniseries called "The Bible" which debuted on the History Channel back in March of last year. I watched the entire miniseries and was a vocal critic of many of the producers' choices—especially regarding ethnicity and racial stereotypes.

But their New Testament episodes weren't nearly as terrible as their Old Testament episodes. In fact, there was quite a bit worthy of celebration. So, here I'd like to re-post both the: 1) Brilliant Aspects as well as the; 2) Missed Opportunities

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Feb
05
2014

Take the Bible More Seriously Than Ken Ham: Interpretation Matters

Since I'm a member of the Christian blogosphere (albeit begrudgingly), this is my nearly obligatory two cents on the Ham v. Nye debate. However, I'm not going to rehearse the debate in any real detail nor attempt to persuade you of my view on the relationship between faith and science. If you care what my view is, suffice to say you can count me among the BioLogos tribe. And I would encourage you to read their take on the debate. You can also read my review of John Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One to find out more.

In this brief note, I only want to make a simple point: 'Taking the Bible seriously' (as Fundamentalist Christians are prone to call their pseudo-scientific literalism) isn't and doesn't. In other words, the imposing of an anachronistic interpretative grid upon the text of Scripture is incompatible with the claim to take the Bible "seriously." The only way to take the Bible "seriously" is to the take the Bible on the Bible's terms, not our own.

Every person who reads the Bible, interprets the Bible.

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Jan
23
2014

That Time When Wright Was Wrong: On Christians in the Military

Anyone who knows my theological steeze knows that I dig me some N. T. Wrizzle. I've lost track of how many books I've read by him—both his tomes and his popular-level work. And when he was in town (at Harvard), I got the perfunctory theogeek/fanboy selfie with the Bishop himself:

 

See how happy I look!

So, naturally, on 99% of theological issues, I'm going to see eye-to-eye with Dr. Wright. But, it's important to realize that even the theologians you admire most aren't perfect. Everyone has their blind spots—even the Bishop!

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Jan
13
2014

Fiercely Moderate Theology: Reflections on Covenant Affirmations by Donald C. Frisk

Author: Donald C. Frisk
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Covenant Publications (2003)
Language: English
Pages: 175
ISBN: N/A

Covenant Bookstore

The Evangelical Covenant Church (hereafter simply the Covenant or ECC) is passionate about unity, fiercely moderate, and insistent on irenic theological dialogue. While carefully articulating a robust, orthodox, and systematic Christian theology, these values shine through most in Donald C. Frisk’s Covenant Affirmations: This We Believe. Throughout the book, Frisk surveys a range of perspectives on each doctrine, drawing from a number of diverse sources and traditions, highlighting the strengths and potential blind spots of each, then invariably manages to carve out a balanced way forward. What results is a theological proposal that is truly catholic and Christian. “Recognizing the possibility of divergent interpretations [of Scripture], the Covenant encourages discussion of the issues within a context of trust and love.” (p.153) I find refreshing this entire approach, and the creative doctrinal formulations it produces. It is positioned to have broad appeal, since it is grounded in sound theological method, respects the Covenant’s Pietist roots, and yet remains open to insights from other branches of the Christian family tree. However, there was at least one section that I found confusing. Uncharacteristic of the book as a whole, Frisk’s delineation of divine revelation, the “word of God,” and The Word of God (Jesus), struck this reader as a bit convoluted at one point. Nevertheless, I could find little to nothing in Covenant Affirmations seriously objectionable. I would only want to suggest a constructive and complementary layer of future theological exploration. These three areas of reflection will frame what follows.

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Welcome to TheologicalGraffiti.com

T. C. and Tyson Moore

Theological Graffiti is a blog written by T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban minister, sometimes designer, writer, preacher, and theology geek. For more about me, visit my Personal Website or my Online Profile. Otherwise, enjoy the graffiti.

Shalom,
T. C.

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