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theology
Nov
30
2014

Open Theism and the Millennial in the Pew: Evangelical Theology and Marketing in the Age of the World Wide Web

I’ve entitled my response “Open Theism and the Millennial in the Pew: Evangelical Theology and Marketing in the Age of the World Wide Web”. However, if you’ve paid any attention to religion blogs in the last two or three years, you might want to ask if there are in fact any evangelical Millennials left in the proverbial pew. Well, I assure you: ‘the rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.’ It may be true that Millennials aren’t the most enthusiastic generation when it comes to local church membership. But, due to the ubiquity of the Internet (and our vigorous use of it), it’s quite possible that evangelical Millennials are more theologically astute and active than any previous generation. I should say, too, that I do not intend to speak for all evangelical Millennials across the globe. I’m sure there are sociological considerations in South America, Africa, and Asia of which I’m unaware. So, consider my remarks indicative of a Western perspective in so far as Western evangelicalism differs from evangelicalism globally.

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Aug
10
2014

Black Jesus (Aaron McGruder's): Some Initial Thoughts

Heaven and the Bible are all the rage at the movies right now—as if Hollywood producers are just now realizing that there is money to be made in religion. I've already written about the string of comedies about the "biblical" end times that came out last summer, and a Left Behind remake is due out in October [sigh]. I walked past a local Red Box machine the other day and 4 of the top 10 featured rentals were about religion or the Bible: 'Noah,' 'Heaven is for Real,' 'Son of God,' and 'God's Not Dead.' Not to mention Ridley Scott's 'Exodus' is due to premiere this December, and some movie I can't stomach the trailer for called 'Christian Mingle' (don't Google it, you'll thank me later).

So it's no surprise Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks (one of my all-time favorite shows!), has gotten in on the action with a new show on Adult Swim called Black Jesus. As many others have already pointed out, McGruder isn't the first in pop culture to depict Jesus as black, and he isn't even the first to depict Jesus as a pot-smoker. However, there may be more to McGruder's comedy than critics have recognized. Sure, reviews have been predictably mixed, ranging from the now obligatory "conservatives are up in arms" reports to the "calm down people, it's a comedy" reviews. But I predict, not unlike The Boondocks, McGruder's 'Black Jesus' will be packed with astute social commentary.

I'd just like to offer a few initial thoughts on Black Jesus through my hip hop hermeneutical lens, with an eye in particular toward racism.

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May
14
2014

THEO GRAFF PODCAST

The THEO GRAFF PODCAST is a show about faith, theology and how they intersect the various cultures in our world. In particular, Theo Graff is an outflow of the life and ministry of T. C. Moore, an urban minister deeply influenced by hip hop culture. For more about T. C., check out his personal website.

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Apr
23
2014

Justo González and the Politics of Impassibility, Part 1

Doing Theology in Spanish

Theology has everyday implications for life. Christian faith is more than just the abstract ideas one holds in one’s head; faith is the lived reality one embodies in the world. In fact, in parts of the world today, theology remains a matter of life and death, the difference between privilege and oppression. 


Few are better than Justo González at connecting the dots between what a person thinks about God and Christ, and how a person lives as a result. In his book Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective, González starts by confronting the myth of objectivity. He knows that every human being who explores the mystery of God, and every person who reads the Bible, has a context and a culture that impact their perspective. He himself is no exception.

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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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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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Dec
31
2013

10 Transformational Books: A Pilgrimage in Christian Thought

I don’t often participate in Facebook status memes, but I’m a sucker for a walk down book-reading memory lane. So I recently re-posted the 10-books-that-affected-you status. Since these books have had a profound effect on me, here I thought I’d make some brief comments on each one.

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Aug
12
2013

Jesus, Zombies, and Love: A Theological Reflection on Warm Bodies (Part 3)

***SPOILERS***

This is part 3 of a three-part theological reflection on Warm Bodies. In part 1, I explored what Christian theology and the movie have to say about being "fully alive." In part 2, I discussed what the movie and Christian theology have to say about being "fully human." In this post, I'll comment on what both Christian theology and Warm Bodies have to say about relating to the "other."

Zombie movies rarely challenge us to think about how we treat those who are different from us. Instead, there is never a question of who are the "good guys" and who are the undead "bad guys." The bad guys look hideous. The bad guys attack without provocation. The bad guys are mindless killing machines. At least, that's how they're typically portrayed. But not in Warm Bodies!

Instead of painting all zombies with one brush, Warm Bodies introduces a progression in the zombification process. Zombies deteriorate into a less and less human state until there is no humanity left. The other zombies call these completely zombified zombies "Boneys" because they have torn off their own flesh and only their blackened skeleton remains. When the main zombie character "R" introduces them, he says, "[The boneys] eat anything with a heart beat. I mean, so will I, but at least I'm conflicted about it." The implication is that the final state of zombification entails the complete loss of empathy, feeling, humanity.

So, if zombies can progressively become more zombie-like, can they become less zombie-like too? That is the question this new information raises. And if the characteristic feature of complete zombification is being utterly devoid of feeling, what then would be the characteristic feature of a zombie who is becoming more human?

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Aug
10
2013

Jesus, Zombies, and Love: A Theological Reflection on Warm Bodies (Part 2)

***Spoilers***

If you're just tuning in, this is part 2 of a few theological reflections on Warm Bodies, a zombie romance movie. In part 1, I explored how Warm Bodies illustrates what Christian theology has to say about what it means to be fully alive. In part 3, I'll discuss how Warm Bodies helps us think about how Jesus-disciples are called to relate with the 'other.' But in this post, part 2, I'll be commenting on what Warm Bodies exposes about what it means to be fully human:

What Does it Mean to be Fully Human?

In Warm Bodies, something is awakened in the zombie main character ("R") when he encounters the non-zombie main character: "Julie" (And before you ask: Yes, these two names are designed to cause viewers to recall Romeo and Juliet). Rather than attack her without thinking and devour her brains, he is struck by her and desires to know her. So he rescues her from the other zombies who would surely kill her and brings her home to his airplane apartment where he can keep her safe. She is naturally confused, terrified, and distrustful of this zombie who is treating her very un-zombie-like. She's been taught that zombies are nothing but "corpses"—unfeeling, unthinking, non-human. But every time R saves her life, provides her with food, plays music for her, she can't help but begin to rethink what she's been taught. Several times, directly after R has done something selfless for her, she asks, "What are you?" (not "Who are you?"). She's asking, "Are you actually human?"

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Aug
09
2013

Jesus, Zombies, and Love: A Theological Reflection on Warm Bodies (Part 1)

***SPOILERS***

Warm Bodies is an exploration of what it means to be fully human and fully alive. Zombies are a perennial favorite for talking about these subjects. Are the "undead" alive? Are they "human"? But zombie movies are also a way of talking about the "other" and how we are to relate with them. I found Warm Bodies particular good in both of these areas, while also being light-hearted (even funny at times) and not overly cheesy on the romance.

Looking at Warm Bodies theologically, these questions and considerations take on a different hue. What do zombies have to do with Jesus? What does it means to be "fully alive" from a theological point of view? What does it mean to be "fully human"? And how are Jesus-disciples called to relate with the 'other'?

Zombies and Jesus?

Jesus and zombies are actually old friends. The first appearance of "Zombie Jesus" in popular culture is attributed to an episode of Matt Groening's cartoon Futurama back in 1999, but the meme has progressively gained popularity in the years since—particular when Easter time comes around. While some find this meme offensive, even an "attack on Christianity," I don't think we should. I think the comparison can offer the Church an opportunity and common ground to make some important and hopefully helpful reflections.

For example, I found many of the themes captured in Warm Bodies to be very compelling illustrations of Christian theology. For the sake of brevity, I'll constrain my thoughts to just three: What Christian theology has to say about life and death (Part 1); What Christian theology has to say about being human (Part 2); and What Christian theology has to say about relating to the 'other' (Part 3).

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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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