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The Blog of Bo Sanders

10 Minutes on Jesus

Jesus was unique in human history. Here are 4 splits that help us frame that conversation:Jesus icon

  • Christ/Jesus
  • Divine/Human
  • Eternal/Time
  • Type/Degree

The video below is my 10 minute take on Christology.

I am in the final week of my study break – so let me know your thoughts, concerns or questions and we can tackle them next week!

10 Min on Jesus from Bo Sanders on Vimeo.

Jesus was unique in human history. Here are 4 splits that help frame our understanding: Christ/ Jesus, Divine/ Human, Eternal/ Time, Type/ Degree

10 Minutes on God

The Bible post from last week was a hit – so here is a 10 minute summary of our ‘Faith Basic’ class on God.

10 Min on God from Bo Sanders on Vimeo.

My 5 categories – in descending order of intensity:

  1. Supernatural Agent
  2. Cosmic/Eternal Being
  3. Ground of Being
  4. The Go(o)d
  5. Hopes & Dreams – Event

If you want to read more on Perichoresis check out last Summer’s post from the ABC’s of TheologyP-Perichoresis

Later  I’ll post some good ‘God Books’ and then I will be back next week with 10 minutes on Jesus.

10 Minutes on the Bible

I am deep in study these days as I prepare for my exams this September. I have also taken a break from blogging since I left HBC at the end of May.

I’m going to experiment in July with making some short videos for discussion. Below is a 10 min video I made for a class I am teaching at church. We are doing a 6 week study on ‘faith basics’ and some folks missed week 2 on the Bible but heard it was interesting and asked me for a recap.

My basic concept here is that a 4-fold approach to the Bible would be really helpful in the 21st century. The 4 elements are:

  1. The Event
  2. Background Material – cultural/textual
  3. (re) Prestentation
  4. Interpretation/Application

I’m talking quickly because I needed to erase the whiteboard in prep for week 3 (about God) that was about to start.

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

Bible Stuff 10 Min from Bo Sanders on Vimeo.  Here is a link https://vimeo.com/133009864

Liberal & Conservative Christians Must Be Born Again

I was in the pulpit this last Sunday at Westwood UMC and I chose to preach on John 3. It was the first time I have ever engaged that text outside of an evangelical environment.

You can take a listen here [link]. It works to stream it, download it, or get it on Itunes.

I began by addressing an awkward pairing:
– On the one hand, the phrase ‘born again’ has fallen into disrepute and disuse among many believers.
– On the other hand, Jesus is pretty clear that we ‘must be born again’.

Two other aspects that I attempt to overcome with this approach are:

A) We too often read both John 3:3 and 3:16 through a lens of individualism.
B) We have been taught to think of ‘eternal life’ as life after you die.

In order to correct these severely limited and limiting readings, I look at 5 key words/concepts.

  • Kingdom
  • Flesh
  • Eternal Life
  • Salvation
  • Repent

I hope you will listen to the sermon. For those of you who are not initiated into this (in)novative approach … here is a quick overview.

Jesus never talked about the “Kingdom” of God [I’ve written on this before]. That is an English translation and as such is up for debate. I think that there are at least 4 better translations for ‘Basileia tou Theou’ (Strong’s #932).

  1. Kin-dom of God. We are in the family, Abba adoption, etc.
  2. Reign/Rule of God. Still governmental but with the Caesar baggage.
  3. Commonwealth of God. Also governmental imagery but not so top-down and coercive.
  4. The way things should be/the best that they can be. At minimum, this is what we are after.

You will hear all of these explained in the sermon. I do the same for ‘flesh’ (Sarx in Greek), Eternal Life (life of the ages/God’s best life), and salvation/repent.

In the end, what you end up with is this invitation:

We will not see the Basileia that we long for and expect
Until we turn from the way we have been doing things (repent)
Realizing that God loves the world and gave us live through his son
So that we are now children of God
As we participate in God’s plan (the way things should be/the best they can be)
We live the life of the ages and welcome in the reign of God for the common-wealth

This gives us a confidence that things can be different from the way they are now and don’t have to be this way!

If you do take the time to listen to sermon (and I hope you will), I would love to hear your thoughts-concerns-question.

I am glad that I attempted an engagement with John 3 in a different way than I ever had before. It was also significant (as you will hear) that events of South Carolina this week were heavy on everyone’s hearts.

Headed To Seminary This Fall?

I’ve been having some good Twitter exchanges with people in transitions. One of them is with a person headed to seminary this Fall. Here is a quick list of resources I would suggest as you get ready:

1a) The Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Tiny little book. Do 1 letter per day. 26 days you are set!

1b) The Global Dictionary of Theology. Massive work (996 pages) Read it and you will be unstoppable.

2) Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley. American contextual theology connecting Jewish Biblical notions.

3) She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson. The nature and importance of religious language and God-talk.

4) To Each Its Own Meaning: Biblical Criticisms and Their Application by McKenzie and Hays. Genre is everything.

5) Postcolonial Criticism and Biblical Interpretation by R. S. Sugirtharajah. You will never see the Bible the same. Available on audible as well.

6) Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism by Nancy Murphy. The #1 book I wish I had read before seminary.

7) Post-Christendom by Stuart Murray. Gotta know your context. Mind-blowing analysis.

8) Modern Christian Thought: Twentieth Century edited by Livingston and Fiorenza. Epic tome (554 pages) covers everything you will need to get started. SO good!

9) Theology at the End of Modernity edited by Sheila Greeve Davaney. 15 authors who light up the subject! Powerful.

That is my Top 10 list. I love this stuff so much and am grateful to have been asked this question.

I would love to hear your thoughts or additions!

Resurrection-al

On last week’s TNT podcast I got to present my 3-fold take on the life of the church (minute 55).

Let me try to articulate my perspective as quickly and clearly as possible so that there are no misunderstandings – even if you disagree with me.

My 3-fold thought is pretty straight forward.

The gospel and thus the church are:
A) Incarnational
B) Resurrectional
C) Pentecostal

Incarnation means embodied and enacted. It is not abstract ideas, universal concepts or timeless truths … it is local, particular and timely.

Resurrection means the church is a new-life people with perpetual hope. Death is not the last word and we serve a God who vindicates the victim and unmasks the powers that be.

Pentecost means that God’s Spirit is at work in the world (ahead of us) in-filling us with power for a transformed life resulting in sanctification-holiness (within us) and opening us to the possibilities and opportunities for ministry (all around us).empty tomb

 

So let’s zoom in on the Resurrectional aspect more specifically.

An argument that I hear over and over is that the resurrection must have been real because
A) the disciples lives were transformed by what they experienced
B) they were so convinced that they were willing to risk –and ultimately give – their lives for it.

I don’t disagree with either one of those lines of reasoning.

 

My contention comes from Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).

Follow my concern:

1) Whatever kind of body that Jesus had after Easter Sunday BUT before the Ascension was the kind of body that allowed him to both walk through walls (John 21:19) and make breakfast for his friends on the shore (John 21:12). He looked enough like himself that Thomas could touch the wounds (John 20:26) but different enough to be mistaken for gardeners (John 20:15) and strangers (John 21:4).

Jesus has a kind of body that we can expect to have when we are resurrected (Romans 6:5) – it will have some relation to our present earthly existence but be glorified/improved as to constitute a new existence.

2) When Saul meets the Lord on the road and was blinded by the light … his life was transformed and he was willing to sacrifice and eventually offer his life because of what he had experienced.

 

But is anyone suggesting that the Jesus Spirit that Saul met on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5-6) is the same bodied-one the disciples met after Easter/ pre-Ascension?

NO!

So apparently you don’t need a resuscitated corps or molecular/cellular consistency to result
A) a changed life
B) the willingness to give ones life for what they experienced.

Therefore, I am not interested in getting into arguments based on the certainty of THE resurrection – however one understands that.

THE resurrection is whatever it is/was. Understanding/articulating it is not my primary concern!
I want to know in what way the people of god are a resurrectional community that celebrates new life and offers perpetual hope because of what we have experienced … the presence of Christ.

 

 

On Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and I wanted to share 2 things: a quote and links to the HomeGrown series of podcasts. HomegrownLogo_green_rev1

Reading ‘Theology At The End Of Modernity’ – our text for the upcoming Summer School High Gravity class – chapter 1 Sallie McFague says:

We have the powers of destruction no other species has ever had, as our deteriorating ecosystem clearly illustrates. The ongoing history of our planet will necessarily involve our partnership and our participation for its well-being. This does not mean assuming an attitude of control toward the planet, hoping we come up with a quick technological fix. Responsible partnership means adjusting to the rules and rhythms of the earth, adapting to its reality …

Our loyalty must move beyond family, nation, and even our own species to identify, in the broadest possible horizon, with all life: we are citizens of planet Earth.

Last year we did a series called HomeGrown Christianity and got 4 parts into a planned 8. This Summer we will publish the next 4 in preparation for the Pando Pupulus conference ‘An Alternative Vision’.

Here are the 4 episodes for your listening pleasure:

1 – Leah Kostomo – on being planted

2- Matthew Sleeth – on the Gospel according to the Earth

3- Jen Butler – about On Earth As In Heaven

4 – Randy Woodley – on Shalom and the Community of Creation

April Update

My PhD Qualifying Exams have been postponed until September. I have siphoned off some time from studying to put out some stuff on HomeBrewed that I wanted to share with you:

An interview with Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Joseph Cheah on the cultural implications of a media sensation: Gangnam Style. This is theological look at the internet phenomenon and the Asian-American experience.

For The Bible Tells Me So with Peter Enns. This Biblical scholar addresses everything from genocide, to Paul’s view of his own Jewishness, to Biblical innerancy.

Today we are releasing an interview with Bonnie Miller-McLemore on Practical Theology.

I returned to the TNT show for a Call-In Special where Tripp and I respond to listener messages.

Freestyle Christianity had me on as a guest to chat about my passion for theology lived out in community.

I will also be leading a Summer School High Gravity class called ‘Living Options in Christian Theology’.
Here is a plug for the class: We are interested in a vibrant approach to a contemporary theological framework that doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your already existing faith.

  • Is Process too big of a leap?
  • Does Radical Theology provide too little substance?
  • Is Practical Theology just too darn practical?

Looking for a robust, thoroughly-Christian theological framework for the 21st century?

Then we have a conversation for you!

As I have taken some time off these past several months, I have noticed a couple of trends:

  1. Process is just too big of a conversion for some. They like the ideas and enjoy that Tripp is so jazzed about it … but it is a major commitment to learn that vocabulary and overhaul nearly every aspect of what they have been taught was Christianity.
  2. Radical Theology is interesting and challenging … but at the end of the day just doesn’t provide very much to go on. It is deconstructive in helpful ways but doesn’t leave you with much for constructing a faith worth even having.
  3. Practical Theology asks some helpful questions and people get why I am into it … but it is a second order discourse and people want to ask some ‘first order’ questions about some primary issues.

This June and July we want to engage is a conversation about science, technology, other religions and the limits of language – while constructing a fully up-to-date version of Christian belief! Don’t worry about Heidegger, Hegel or Kant – plenty has already been said about them – this is an intelligent conversation about the here-and-now of Christian thought. The plan: Living Options in Christian Theology June 12 – Intro: Theology for a Nuclear Age June 18 – Week 1: Theology, Science & Nature June 25 – Week 2: Theology and Public Discourse July 4 – Half-Time Break July 9 – Week 3: Theology, Historicity and Solidarity July 16 – Week 4: Theology and Corporate/Corporeal Identity July 23 – Week 5: Theology and the Prospects for God-Talk Our main text will be Theology at the End of Modernity: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Kaufman – Sheila Greeve Davaney (Editor) Each of the 5 sections of the book has 3 essays. Each week we will focus on 2 of those essays with Tripp taking one to explore and Bo concentrating on another. We will also supply supplemental material each week on the course website. Sign up – order your book – and get ready for the goodness! PDFs of course material will begin going out May.  Thank you for all the prayers and notes of support. I have really needed them.

God Is Not In Control – the end of history

God is not in control and that is why, for many, the world feels so out of control. Some have adjusted to say that God was never in control – our ancestors just believed that was the case. Others think that God used to be in control but that something has fundamentally shifted in God’s relating to the world.Bomb

The past century brought about profound challenges to the way that we conceptualize God’s work in history. The horrific developments of warfare seen in the First World War began the shift. WWII brought not just incremental but exponential leaps in the technological capacity for human and environmental devastation.

This escalation has changed the way that humanity conceives of God and God’s work.

In Theology for a Nuclear Age, Gordon Kaufman says it this way:

In the religious eschatology of the West the end of history is pictured quiet differently than we today must face it. For it is undergirded by faith in an active creator and governor of history, one who from the beginning was working out purposes which were certain to realized as history moved to its consummation. The end of history, therefore – whether viewed as ultimate catastrophe or ultimate salvation – was to be God’s climactic act … the moment when God’s final triumph over all evil powers was accomplished.

For the entirety of Christian history, God was thought to be ultimately be in control. When the bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki we entered into a nuclear age and the very way that we conceive of and conceptualize God had to adjust.

The end of history which we in the late twentieth century must contemplate – an end brought about by nuclear holocaust – must be conceived primarily not as God’s doing but as ours.

We now have the capability of stopping future generations from even coming into existence. We could end human existence on this planet. The “possibility that we will obliterate all future human life is so novel and strange that it is difficult for us to grasp what we are up against”.

Henry Nelson Wieman wrote:

 “The bomb that fell on Hiroshima cut history in two like a knife. Before and after are two different worlds. That cut is more abrupt, decisive, and revolutionary than the cut made by the star over Bethlehem… it is more swiftly transformative of human existence than anything else that has ever happened. The economic and political oder fitted to the age before that parachute fell becomes suicidal in the age coming after. The same breach extends into education and religion.”

This is one of the reasons that we have created a High Gravity Summer School session – to deal with those who are responding to theology for a nuclear age.

My assertion is that every major theological development in the past 70 years – especially in Protestant circles – is in some way a reaction to the fracturing that has resulted since we split the atom.

The postLiberals, the Radical Orthodoxy, the Religious Right of Evangelicalism, Death of God and Radical theologies, Process and Liberation camps – even the small trend of Protestants converting to Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy … all are responses to or are adjustments resulting from this cataclysmic shift in the 20th century.

We might put them in 4 basic camps:

  • “God is not controlling things so we better take over” (Religious Right)
  • “The nature of God’s power is not what we had been told it was” (Process)
  • “Whatever we had thought God was and did is clearly not the case” (Radical)
  • “Clearly something is different and not working … we are going to pull back inside this insulated protected compartment so we get to keep doing what the church has always done” (Radical Orthodox and postLiberal)

The world changed in 1945. This August 6th will be 70 years since the bomb was dropped. Between Auschwitz and Hiroshima the world’s eyes were open to a new level of devastation and, through technology, an elevated capacity for human and environmental catastrophe.

I sometimes get accused of disparaging the past. I certainly don’t mean to as often as I do. So I am going to take a new approach. I wrote last time that attempts to revisit-reclaim-return-restore notions and concepts from a romanticized past are not just futile (we can’t go back) but dangerous because they do not deal with the inherent problems of the cultures and times in which they were embedded.

It is not that I am opposed to Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. It’s just that their projects were specific and particular to their time and place – even if they or their followers are under the impression that it was universal and timeless.

We live in a different world than they did and our god-talk needs to adjust-adapt-evolve accordingly.

I am excited about the conversation that we are going to have this June and July.

_______________

This is the final post in a 4 part series.

1 – The Problem With The Future Is Its Past

2- Christianity Isn’t Conservative

3 – The Problem With ‘Re-‘ Words

The Danger of ‘Re-‘ Words

We have some work to do and I am not sure ‘Re-‘ words are sufficient to get us there.R-Revelation

Omar Reyes is the fourth call on this week’s HomeBrewed TNT episode. His question relates to  the new interest in Paul by philosophers.

One reason that Paul is attracting so much attention recently has to do with his view of universal implications from the particularity of the Christ event.

An example of this would be the famous unfolding-progressing inclusion of more and more people by dissolving established categories of separation-exclusion: male/female, slave/free, Jew/gentile.

This trajectory continues in the ongoing work of God’s spirit for reconciliation and restoration in more contemporary categories: gay/straight, black/white, rich/poor, citizen/foreigner, etc.

Now reconciliation and restoration are two good (and biblical) words that start with ‘Re-’. Two more powerful words that would complete that constellation would be :

  • Repentance
  • Reparations

In fact, I would suggest that these last two words need to come before the previous two:

  • Reconciliation
  • Restoration

Unfortunately, these four ‘Re-’ words are not the ones that I see/hear the most in many Christian circles. ‘Revelation’ and ‘Religion’ may be the big ones but they are not the only ones. Many seem to be fond of words like:

  • Revisit
  • Reclaim
  • Restore
  • Return
  • Renew
  • Renovate
  • Re-imagine
  • Revive
  • Retreat

I am not sure the above group of ‘Re-’ words is sufficient for the challenge that we are up against. As I argued last week in The Problem With The Future Is Its Past and Christianity Isn’t Conservative, the nature of Christianity is incarnational – so the past is not the determining factor for our present or future expression.

The problem with the past is that it is too easy to romanticize some notion or concept in isolation without addressing the larger structures of injustice and exclusion that it was embedded in.

That is why we can’t just reach back and reclaim-recycle-repurpose old words and concepts.

Here is an example: there is a popular desire in certain circles – from Radical Orthodoxy to my field of Practical Theology – to reclaim some Aristotelian notions like polis, habitus and phronesis (enacted wisdom).

This desire comes from a good place! There is a recognition (admittedly an ‘Re’ word) that the modernity project has dried out and withered the Christian soul and left it without vibrant connection-in-community and stripped of nearly all its practices/praxis.

I agree with that diagnosis.

The solution, however, is not simply to reclaim/recycle/repurpose ancient, antiquated or Aristotelian concepts from the pre-modern world. I have written about this a while ago in After MacIntyre and have since found the work of Susan Hekman very illuminating.

 MacIntyre’s approach exemplifies a disturbing characteristic of much of the communitarian literature: the romanticization of premodern societies that ignores the oppression and hierarchy that was endemic to those societies. Even Sandel (1984, 17), despite his modernist leanings, sometimes falls prey to the tendency to glorify traditional communities. The narrative selfhood that MacIntyre lauds can only be obtained at a high price: the ascription of traditional roles. 

She explains: 

When it comes to the highly charged issue of the sexism and racism of the traditions he praises so highly, MacIntyre seems to abandon his interrelationship thesis. With regard to the Aristotelian tradition, he tries to deny the claim that sexism and racism are an integral part of this system of virtues.

… throughout his writings MacIntyre unambiguously asserts it is this traditional community we must foster if we are to return to any semblance of a moral life:

“What matters at this stage are the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us (1984,263).”

 

This is a significant difference! To those like MacIntyre and Hauerwas, we are descending further into an age of darkness. Their answer is to reclaim-return to some former understanding or manifestation.

Hekman is right though – we cannot even attempt to do so without acknowledging and addressing the inherent racism, sexism, and disparity built into every level of the structures from which those romantic notions come.

This concern in the root of my unease with the popularity of ‘Re-’ words among groups including evangelicals, missio-alliance, radical orthodox, and post-liberals.

3 things in closing:

1) This is part 3 of a 4 part series. Tomorrow I will address the fiction of the End of History. Part 1 and part 2 can be found here.

2) Please sign up for Living Options in Christian Theology if you are interested in ideas like this. It is a High Gravity study group this June and July. Here is an introduction.

3) The words that we use indicate what impulse is behind them. This is why the critics can’t just say ‘semantics’ and dismiss the charge. I would love to hear the words that you would put forward to further this conversation.

My tri-part configurations of suggestions would be:

  •  Examine – Imagine – Adapt
  •  Explore – Address – Evolve
  •  Investigate – Interrogate – Innovate

I would love to hear your suggestions! 

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