I read with interest the various reactions to China’s possible attempt to have its own theology. Of course, from the Western side of the faith, people are alarmed. I mean, how in the world can a Christian faith/theology be formed to support an oppressive government? Really, even words like “Constatinianism” comes up. Scot McKnight’s label in his blog surely brands the Chinese the apostates. Of course, it’s so easy to demonize “red” China. After all, aren’t they the bad guys who put Christians in jail and demolish churches, but is persecution the issue or is Constatinianism the issue?
This is where the West once again runs into its own blind spot, especially for evangelicals. The doctrines formulated and hardened by Western evangelicalism have long been just its own version of “Western” theology, from the rise of the Moral Majority to the Gospel Coalition. Furthermore, as I pointed out to my friend, the Religious Right (and sometimes the Left) has already repeated its attempt to occupy and influence the US government. Of course, no one from the Western side is willing to admit that their version of orthodox faith, especially the “biblical version”, is really the Western indigenized faith, but as Suey Park, Emily Rice, and Mihee Kim-Kort points out, the Western version is quite dominated by white supremacy. The only reason why they can consider it orthodox and feel outraged at OTHER kinds of theology being heterodox is because they have long occupied a powerful position in the faith, so powerful that one prominent Western church leader has pronounced recently that he has found the solution to the Middle East problem via Rwanda! Before you laugh, my readers, I’m not joking. The Western evangelical church seems to have ALL the solutions in God’s multicultural, multiracial and multinational kingdom for all the world’s problems. Is Chinese theology any guiltier of Constantinianism than that of the Religious Right? Let’s go further to ask the question that if no one got imprisoned and persecuted, is the version from Western conservatives still the norm and everything else the deviance? Is Constantinianism the sole privilege of the West that the Religious Right is exempt from its own analysis of other kinds of Christianity? Does the Western Religious Right also make the Bible serve their own political agenda?
I will do a series of blogs in the next few weeks to examine one particular influential Religious Right theologian (whose name will be withheld) in how he uses the Bible to support his political agenda. In so doing, I hope to expose the political raping of the biblical text for political agenda that is already rampant and influential in the evangelical church.
In conclusion, I say this to evangelical critics. Physicians, heal thyself.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I will write a review soon in Chinese and eventually post the English one here.
Originally posted on Larry Hurtado's Blog:
As I indicated in my previous posting here, the “story” about the “Jesus’ Wife” fragment (and the other items in the small cache of papyri placed with Prof. Karen King) seems now increasingly clearly one of fakery and deception. To their credit, the news media that so eagerly took up the Harvard Divinity School’s press releases and pronounced the fragment one of the most important discoveries about early Christianity of all time, have now begun to pick up on the evidence of fakery.
I’ve previously cited a few recent stories, and there is now another recent one, a 05 May story in the Washington Post here. For more links, see Mark Goodacre’s “roundup” of developments here, which includes a link to the PBS interview with Michael Peppard here.
Update: Although cited in a recent New York Times article as still entertaining the authenticity of the “Jesus’ Wife”…
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Excellent discussion summarizing Larry Hurtado’s innovative work on Jesus veneration. His work has influenced the way I look at how the Pauline tradition has derived its Christology.
Originally posted on Larry Hurtado's Blog:
Over the years I’ve been pleased to see that historical questions about the emergence and nature of “Jesus-devotion” have continued to be prominent in scholarly studies of Christian origins. My own involvement began in earnest in the late 1970s and has continued across some thirty-five years now. A number of PhD theses and monographs, as well as articles in journals and multi-author volumes have also addressed these matters in this period (and, I suspect, this will continue). In a number of these, my own work has been engaged, sometimes as the centre of attention, and a few times the object of particular critique. It’s obviously gratifying to have one’s work treated seriously by others, whether they agree or disagree. But in some cases, it’s also frustrating, particularly when one’s views seem to be either inadequately understood or (worse still) misrepresented (I must presume inadvertently). So, in what follows, I offer…
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My book is now in Kindle form. Many have been asking for the Kindle version. Here’s the link.
I now blog on chapter four of my book. This is not a popular section of the Bible. In fact, its lack of popularity shows how it is popularly avoided even though surrounding contexts are taught routinely in Sunday Schools. Rightly so, this story would scare the living daylight out of little kids. After all, who wants their kids to hear about heads rolling?
I propose however that this is more than a story about beheading that needs to be told at least on the pulpit. Mark 6.14 says, “King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had been well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’” The story then goes on to talk about John losing his head (literally).
Let me give you some hints to read this story properly within context. The way the story is introduced shows that this is a story about Jesus and not about John. Moreover, the section previous, Mark 6.7-13, talks more about what the disciples did than Jesus. In order to understand the beheading story properly, we need to read it first in terms of the Jesus story and then the disciples’ story. I don’t deny that the text itself is quite violent, but it isn’t violent in the way we imagine.
As I always say, the texts are not at fault. The interpreter is!
I held off a little on this blog simply because the case was too raw but I think the New Year is a good time to discuss how we can respond to terrible suffering. In my previous post about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, I urged calm on all sides. After the situation heals up a bit, this is the time to talk about how people react realistically on Facebook and in the press. There are various reactions. From my previous post, I noted that people blame two targets. First, people could blame “them.” The “them” could be the gunman and all those who wrongly used weapons to commit atrocity. Surely, they ARE guilty. The “them” could be those who did not control the gun laws too well. Perhaps … The “them” could be those who controlled the gun laws too tight. Perhaps … The “them” could be the gunman’s background. Second, people could turn the blame on themselves. “We” are such an evil nation. “We” do such horrible things. Certainly, violent crimes committed by individuals (as opposed to crimes like mass genocide) seem to be out of control in the US. I’m going to take a more international perspective to the whole situation.
For my international friends who are completely uninvolved in this tragedy, here are some guidelines. First, don’t philosophize suffering. At the first stage of something like this happening, the last thing people need is to “turn to Scripture” and analyze to death what God would’ve, could’ve and should’ve done. None of us is God. It’s useless speculating. I can tell you what Scripture really says. As soon as Job’s three friends start quoting their truisms and clichés, they started going down a bad path that helped nothing. The problem of theodicy can’t be solved by ANY religion. A lot have tried. The worst time to solve that problem is when people are just fresh from the tragedy.
Second, for observers, any suggestion at the immediate aftermath will not help. Some have suggested that more guns would’ve saved the children. Others suggested the opposite sides start taking it out on one another. The worst is when our international friends chime in to suggest how we should run our country. As much as I appreciate my international friends, they aren’t Americans. They can’t solve American’s problems. America needs to solve America’s own problem. For ages, Americans have discussed guns for ages. In fact, Americans probably know more about guns than citizens of any other country. In such dire straits, the last thing anyone needs is advice, even if the advice is well-intended and accurate. The corporate sense of victimization was still strong. Any advisor should delay his wisdom until later.
Third, for some observers, don’t make false parallels, even if parallels are true. I’ve heard some parallels which are in fact true but undermine the problem of suffering. Some have pointed out that China has had so many similar incidents with machete or bludgeon. Others have pointed out that there is even worse violence in the Middle East with the aftermath of Arab Spring or the Iraqi war. These are certainly corrects statements. Sure, violence does infiltrate every culture. Sure, the media probably should’ve covered suffering that is worse elsewhere. Knowing other cases of worse violence does nothing to eliminate the horror of any senseless violence. We should grieve even for one murdered child.
For my fellow Americans, here may be some steps we should take. First, we should realize that we are all in this together. We’re not enemies. I hope cool heads prevail in the discussion about guns and other related issues. There has been entirely too much reaction on both sides. For the side that is radically anti-gun control, those who are for gun law reform are un-American tree huggers. The gun law reform advocates seem to want to take away guns from the pro-gun people. This is untrue. I know many who are gun owners who are also for gun law reform. For those who are totally against gun ownership, the gun owners seem like right-wing rednecks. I know many gun owners who are not backwoods militias. They just want a more nuanced discussion about the gun situation.
Second, while I appreciate my international friends to refrain from immediate opinion, I also appreciate the perspectives they bring sometimes. As Americans, we could listen to some of their concerns about how security is done in other countries. Perhaps there is a lesson to learn, and perhaps there isn’t, but it does not hurt to listen.
Third, we should realize that we are all trying to achieve the same goal. We want a safer country for our children. Are there other issues that could cause these strange gun incidents? Are there problems we need to solve also besides the gun issue? When we have our common goal in mind, we can begin to come up with different solutions. Many solutions are better than no solution.
Overall, I think our best plan should be “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12.15) and work together towards a win-win solution until we eliminate such incidents from repeating.