Friday, September 24, 2010

David Opderbeck on God's Justice

Good article. Here's an excerpt:

The Girl in the Cage, the Lion, and the Lamb

Somewhere in America right now, there is a little girl locked in a dog cage. A man will bind her with duct tape. The man will sexually abuse her while another takes pictures and videos. The men will distribute these materials over a vast network of child pornography file sharing servers. Tens of thousands of other men will look at the pictures and videos, discuss them in chat rooms, use them as masturbatory tools, and demand more. And they will get more, much more.

I know this is true because I’m teaching a course this semester on “Cybersecurity Law.” Most of the course focuses on commercial and public espionage – hacking, data theft, and so on. This week, however, the topic has been online safety – cyberstalking, harassment, obscenity and child pornography. Our guest speaker yesterday was the Brian Sinclair, Chief of the Computer Crime Prosecution Unit in Bergen County, New Jersey. While he mercifully didn’t show us any of the volumes of child porn his unit has seized over the years (it is technically a felony to display such materials even in an educational setting), he described in general terms the sorts of things that commonly appear, including what he noted as “disturbing recent trend” towards the literal caging of victims.

What is justice? When is justice? Where is justice?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eugene Peterson on the Busy Pastor

I just started reading The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. Wow! There are so many gems even in the first chapter. This is the one I like the best, on pastors being busy:

The one piece of mail certain to go unread into my wastebasket is the letter addressed to the 'busy pastor.' Not that the phrase doesn't describe me at times, but I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me.

I'm not arguing the accuracy of the adjective; I am, though, contesting the way it is used to flatter and express sympathy.

'The poor man,' we say. 'He's so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly.' But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.
So you know where he is going with this, he writes later:

But if I vainly crowd my day with conspicuous activity or let others fill my day with imperious demands, I don't have time to do my proper work, the work to which I have been called. How can I lead people into the quiet place beside still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Does It Mean to Love God?

Christians talk a lot about loving God (which is good, since Jesus said that the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that the second is like it--to love your neighbor as yourself). But, how often do we ask ourselves what this looks like? What does it mean to love God?

The Greeks had three words that we translate, love--agape, phileo, and eros. Phileo refers more to a "friendship" love, eros to an erotic love, and agape to a sacrificial, unconditional love.

When we talk of loving God, often we mistakenly think of our love for God in terms of phileo love (or worse yet, eros love). We have nice feelings for God. We like Him. But, agape love is the love with which God loves us, and it is the love with which we have been called to love God and others.

What does it look like to love God with agape love? First John 4:7–12 (NET) says:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Wolfhart Pannenberg asks some provocative questions about Christian love for God:

If Christian love is essentially a participation in God's love for the world, then we have to ask whether we can distinguish at all between love of God and love of neighbor. Does not true love consist of sharing in God's love for the world? And in the depth of turning to the cohuman Thou, do we not also love God? (Systematic Theology, vol. 3, 187.)
Pannenberg argues that, while love for God and love for neighbor are inseparable, they do not collapse into one another. Jesus seemed to prioritize love for God over love for others, implying at least a subtle distinction. Pannenberg describes love for God:
We love God by letting him be God to us as Jesus let the Father be God to him, by letting him be our God, our Father, and thus by putting our trust and confidence in him. (Systematic Theology, vol. 3, 193.)
Love for God is expressed in faith.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Is Egalitarianism/Complementarianism a Gospel Issue?

Scot McKnight links to an article by Dan Stringer, asking the neo-calvinists whether complementarianism is essential to the gospel. Can egalitarians be gospel-centered?

(Complementarianism and egalitarianism relate to the roles of men and women in the church, home, and society. Egalitarians say that there should be no distinctions between men and women. Complementarians say that while men and women are equal, God has assigned them diferent roles. Most complementarian churches would reserve the role of elder or pastor to a man; some would go farther than that.)

At issue is the neo-calvinists' strong stance on complementarianism. Stringer asks whether the neo-calvinists have allowed a secondary issue to muddle the gospel.

The discussion was on interest to me because I think some, like my hero James Dunn, may have gone to the opposite extreme and made egalitarianism a part of the gospel.

Wolfhart Pannenberg on Christian Hope

From Systematic Theology, vol 3. I love the last sentence (emphasis mine).

Faith lifts us above our entanglement in the vicious circle of sin and death by uniting us to Jesus and giving us a share in his Spirit. Hence believers in Christ, to whom they are united in the ecstatic 'outside the self' of faith, acquire a hope beyond death. In the process, too, a basis is established for overcoming the egotistical structure of human hopes. Christians do not hope just for themselves, which would mean only too often that the hope of one would be at the cost of the hopes of others. In Christ they share in a universal hope for humanity. Individual wants may certainly be taken up and met, but this takes place within the larger context of the saving reality of God's kingdom that transcends individual particularism. By faith Christians are snatched out of bondage to their egotistical striving for happiness and find the fulfillment of their personal life precisely in the fellowship of the body of Christ and in the work for the future of humanity in the kingdom of God.