The Africa Society of Evangelical Theology (ASET) launches with lectures on What is African Christian Theology?

The Africa Society of Evangelical Theology (ASET) invites you to its first Annual Conference and General Meeting: 26 March 2011 9am – 4pm

At Africa International University (AIU)

(Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology – NEGST)

Keynote addresses:

“What is Evangelical Theology?Prof. Mark Shaw

“What is African Theology?Prof. Samuel Ngewa

The conference is free and open to all

A community of Evangelicals in Africa engaged in the full spectrum of theological scholarship for the benefit of the Church and society

ASET annual membership fees: Full, 1600 Ksh; Associate, 1200Ksh; Student 400Ksh

Come prepared to join

For more information, contact:

The Western Captivity of African Christianity (Black)

UPDATE: Onesimus Online no longer exists.

Yesterday I introduced Bill Black’s blog, Onesimus Online, but I thought his posts related to The Western Captivity of African Christianity deserved a little more attention (especially for those of you that are skimming titles; I see Eddie beat me to it ;-).

… however well-intentioned our motives, we Western missionaries in general, and Western theological educators in particular, are engaged in nothing less than the colonization of the African church on a massive scale.

When the British sent out their surveyors across the savannahs and forests of Africa to map out their newly claimed territories, their apologists sold it in part as a vast humanitarian project to bring the ‘Three Cs’ of Christianity, Civilization and Commerce, as David Livingstone put it, to the poor benighted negroes of Africa. Of course the unquestioned assumption was…The resulting mess has completely warped African reality at every level and in every direction and will likely never be undone.

We missionary types don’t seem to have learned very much from the past two centuries of experience, because we are insisting on doing the very same things in our own spheres of influence. Oh, but we have the best of motives (for the Lord and the advance of his kingdom!). And who could ever accuse us of racism? We are all about partnership, all about taking into consideration the [fill in the blank with Kenyan, Ethiopian, Nigerian, etc] context, all about project sustainability, all about reducing dependency, all about working ourselves out of a job, raising up African leaders, etc, etc. We are up on the latest trends in globalization, we go to all the international conferences on servant leadership (whatever that means)…

…. my job is to teach Africans what the Evangelical [and thus ‘right’] position is for whatever the Bible addresses. But in doing so, I’m forced to make my African students into proper North American Evangelicals [one could just as easily insert ‘Presbyterian’ or ‘Reformed Baptist’ or ‘Pentecostal’ or ‘Methodist’].

…Not only are we forcing Western Evangelical categories on African students as the measure of all that’s true in the world, but we have simply assumed that our model of theological education itself is the baseline for all subsequent thinking on the matter…

…We theological educators in Africa are doing a bang-up job of reproducing North American Evangelicals for Africa, replete with our ways of thinking about and practicing Christianity. But in doing so, I’m not at all certain that we are either being true to New Testament Christianity or engaging effectively with the people of this continent as they really are…

Read the whole post: The Western Captivity of African Christianity

And again, (The Erosion of Inerrancy?)

…the fights (theological and hermeneutical) that have set the boundaries assumed sacrosanct by our best North American Evangelicals (or even British, though there is a huge difference even here) seem increasingly irrelevant over here.

…with the explosion of Christianity in Africa, Latin America and Asia, these presuppositions are increasingly exposed for what they are – presuppositions that unnaturally and unnecessarily limit what is understood as appropriate, to what is understood as appropriate if you have grown up in the West and been trained at one of its leading theological institutions. For that reason, systematic theology, for example, is difficult to teach in my present context as anything more than what certain Evangelicals understood at a particular time given their particular intellectual and religious contexts. To attempt to dress up Kenyan Christians in Evangelical clothes is attempt what the British did by insisting that Kenyans must adopt trousers, shirt and tie in order to appear civilized (never mind that…

…Africans can certainly wear western-style clothes, but we got to this point as a result of a certain amount of cultural imperialism that did violence to already existing cultures and perspectives. Anyway, the idea that the traditional Evangelical doctrine is eroding amongst Evangelicals may be true in the West, or at least a more or less valid observation. Our needs and concerns on this side of the world make such word play seem like yet another Western game. Playing ‘your’ game is a luxury ‘we’ can no longer afford. Anyone interested in playing our game?

And yesterday, What is your Game?

…Salvation too often means getting Africans to accept that our problems are their problems and that our solutions must be their solutions. For example, most Western missionaries assume that Christ has come to save us from our legal problem before a holy God; namely…

…while Western missionary Christianity misses the mark in terms of addressing African realities, the New Testament itself, along with the earliest expressions of Christianity as it spread throughout the Roman world, engages the pre-modern world view with dramatic and life-changing answers.

Eddie Arthur, Wycliffe Bible Translators, has a nice 14 minute video on the topic of missions, culture, contextualization, and African theologies (see also this post for more links).

Eddie Arthur of Wycliffe Bible translators talks about the importance and implications of contextualising the Gospel.

Onesimus Online: a blog to stir your thinking (Bill Black)

UPDATE: Onesimus Online no longer exists.

Ask any of Bill Black’s students here about him, and they will probably say: “he provokes; he really challenges us to think.”   Thankfully, for the rest of us, Bill blogs at Onesimus Online: history, theology, culture, the church, and other dangerous stuff. If you are at all interested in theology, theological education in Africa, global Christianity, missions, evangelicalism, American cultural Christianity, and other related topics, you might enjoy his blog–and having your thinking provoked and deepened. I know Bill appreciates the broader dialog.  Bill and his wife are both pastors, graduates of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, PhDs from Cambridge, and teachers here at NEGST.  Previously, they taught in Ethiopia. Plus, they are a lot of fun to talk to;  I’ve learned a lot from them.

Here are a few “sound bytes” from some of Bill’s posts to whet your appetite:

The passing of evangelicalism

…We Western Evangelicals thought we were the center of the Christian universe, only to discover that the glory seems to have departed and moved south to Africa, Latin America and Asia. Those tongues-speaking, hallelujah-shouting, other-side-of-the-tracks-dwelling so-called Pentecostals, even more derisively labeled as ‘holy rollers’ by the upstanding Christians in my home church who, of course, knew better, have become the most explosive force in the global expansion of Christianity ever. There is not a single individual person in my systematic theology class who would not identify themselves as either Pentecostal or Charismatic. On the ‘mission field’ at least, the old paradigms of missionary Christianity are in the process of being leap-frogged entirely. ..
…Anyway, the point of all of this is that things have changed. Radically. Decisively. The old verities and polarities don’t work anymore (if they ever did). The systems and structures which we created to manage the world as we knew it are being pressed into service beyond their capacity to cope. This is not a call to somehow change Evangelicalism. It’s actually too late for that. Its day has passed and cannot be recovered. Instead, …

A Plea for Civility, Sanity and Integrity in Theological/Political Debate (3 personal examples)

Theology is not safe:

…there is another reason why I am undertaking this blog. Theology is a dangerous thing. Theology that attempts to reduce God to what I can understand about God is an attempt to tame God. But the God revealed in the Christian Scriptures is untamable. Our Western theological traditions, both Catholic and Protestant, are attempts to mount God onto a specimen board, attempts to dissect and label God’s constituent parts, attempts to deduce divine physiology from divine structure. But efforts to catalogue the parts fails to apprehend the whole. Our orthodoxies miss the point…

…This blog then is becoming increasingly like my own incident at the fords of the Jabbok, my own wrestling with the one who refuses to be named and categorized…

The Western Captivity of African Christianity

…Not only are we forcing Western Evangelical categories on African students as the measure of all that’s true in the world, but we have simply assumed that our model of theological education itself is the baseline for all subsequent thinking on the matter…

…We theological educators in Africa are doing a bang-up job of reproducing North American Evangelicals for Africa, replete with our ways of thinking about and practicing Christianity. But in doing so, I’m not at all certain that we are either being true to New Testament Christianity or engaging effectively with the people of this continent as they really are…

Brain tumors, theological education and the church

The human brain is an unimaginably complex piece of work…Though my extended parable may be like the tumor it describes – a malignant profusion of words that obliterates the intended purpose – the purpose itself remains. The concern of this post is with theological education as it is actually practiced, especially at the higher levels, and its relationship with the church it’s intended to serve. My concerns come from my own experience as one who has benefitted from theological education and who has gone on to serve several churches in a professional ministerial capacity, and from my observations of theological education in actual practice…

…I think there are likely a number of reasons contributing to this fundamental dysfunction in our churches. First,…

….The breathtaking irony of all this is, having created such an institutionalized system for training our leaders (the theological education industry), a system that has succeeded in taking us further and further afield from that which Christ is calling us to be, we heedlessly presume our institutional model to be the most effective way to train Nigerians or Indians or Chinese or Ethiopians for the ministry…

Africa, Spiral Logic, Systematic Theology, and the Perils of Theological Education

The Indefensible Evangelical Habit of Shooting Our Wounded

Last week there was a gun battle outside our gate. Four gangsters had hijacked cars and shot drivers and the authorities finally caught up with them just over the fence from my house. In the ensuing firefight, two of the carjackers were killed outright, one escaped over the fence (and through my garden!), and the fourth lay wounded on the road…

Believers Baptism vs. Infant Baptism, Must it Matter?

Evangelicalism Inc.

…Not only are the Western Prosperity gods raking it in, but developing-world prosperity-god-wannabees are trying desperately to get in on the cash…Dare I even mention the Evangelical publishing industry, which seems to have taken on the role of God in conservative academic and popular religion circles, raising up this one and ignoring that one, and on the grounds of whether or not it is ‘marketable’. I can’t imagine Jeremiah being able to secure a publishing contract from this crowd…

…Then there are the incredibly large and wealthy Christian aid organizations poised globally to respond immediately to the latest front page disaster and who must raise gazillions of dollars not only to feed the starving, but to buy the planes and Toyota land cruisers and computers and iPhones and Blackberries and pay the travel fees for all the conferences and meetings and consultations that must happen in the background for the hungry to be fed…

Does this bother anybody else?

…I do not deny the good intentions of most (I hope) of my fellow Christians involved in these so-called ‘ministries’. But I can’t help but thinking that we Evangelicals have become like addicts hooked on methamphetamine. We’ve got to have more, more, more. We’ve got to be successful, or at least appear successful, because if we are or appear so, more people will be drawn to our ‘ministry’ which will make us all the more successful. But like the meth addict, this stuff is destroying us…We dare not take a genuinely prophetic stance on anything, because if we do, someone will be offended and we will lose support. We’ve become like Ahab’s court prophets, cunningly discerning which way the wind is blowing before committing ourselves on any issue, and viciously smacking down anyone who does not toe the party line.

We Evangelicals are seriously compromised. And seriously compromised people are like salt that’s lost its savor…

And much, much MORE.

My Book

The New Testament is a short book; know its context (Keener)

…the NT is a short book, as far as scholarly disciplines go, and NT scholars ought to know its context better [Hengel]…It is simply naive to take a document written to a particular ancient setting, written in Greek, using figures of speech and cultural allusions that were shared assumptions by the ancient author and the author’s intended audience, and assume that we can read it without taking any of that into account.  I’m not saying that we can’t get many correct ideas from a translation without additional background, but you will also miss a lot.

Craig Keener, interview on Romans with Nijay Gupta. (Read the whole interview here.)

Do 46% of evangelical scholars support creation by evolution?

Bruce Waltke recently conducted an interesting survey “each president of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents (FESP)” and wrote a 13 page white paper detailing his results: Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process (PDF).

  1. The creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2, when interpreted by the grammatico-historical method [hereafter assumed], cannot be harmonized with creation by the process of evolution. (44%)
  2. The genealogies of Genesis do not harmonize with evolution (23%)
  3. Evolution does not harmonize with the doctrine that Adam brought death and decay into the world (34%)
  4. Evolution calls into question Adam as the father of original sin and of Christ as the Redeemer from the effects of sin (28%)
  5. Evolution is bad science in part because it presumes an old earth (19%)
  6. Evolution is bad science, even though the Big Bang occurred 13.73 billion years (8%)
  7. ID explains the origins of species better than evolution (36%)
  8. “Scientists only have the present—they do not have the past,” ruling out the possibility of science to theorize the history of origins (17%).
  9. The apparent age of the universe can be explained by reckoning that God created the universe with apparent age (18%).
  10. The gap theory explains the fossil record (6%)
  11. The framework hypothesis does not harmonize with evolution (7%)
  12. None of the above. I can accept the theory of theistic evolution (46%)

659 Evangelical professors visited Waltke’s (Zoomerang “radio button”) survey site, but only 264 completed it. (I wonder why the other 60% chose not to participate.) You might find Waltke’s  survey details and conclusions interesting; he notes some definitional problems.

I’d be interested to see more surveys of this kind distinguish the opinions of different types of evangelical scholars. For example, I’m guessing that there might be a significant difference of opinion between Old Testament scholars and systematic theologians. Environment–the  kinds of people they generally interact with–likely makes a big difference too.

Some of you might also be interested in this paper from the BioLogos foundation:

  • “Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism” by Karl Giberson
    Download full PDF
    Many evangelicals believe that young-earth creationism is the only authentic and Biblical way for Christians to understand origins, and that until the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution, young-earth creationism was the only view held by Christians. However, in this excerpt from his book, Saving Darwin, Karl Giberson explains that young-earth creationism is a relatively new phenomenon that stemmed from the 20th century fundamentalist movement.

HT: Thanks to Karyn Traphagen via Twitter. Karyn’s Boulders 2 Bits blog has had a lot of fun posts lately including Shewa fight (for you Hebrew scholars) and 21 Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn (for the rest of us).

Evangelical polarization between social action and evangelism—some historical perspective (Ralph Winter)

I was downloading an article for a contextualization of Acts class I will be teaching Friday, when I came across this gem by Ralph Winter: Understanding the Polarization Between Fundamentalist and Modernist Mission. In this article, Winter gives some historical perspective on the tension between social action and evangelism-only thinking among evangelicals. His most interesting insight may be that Evangelical emphasis on evangelism over social action may have been more the result of massive conversions among uneducated working-class—who were powerless to change society—than any theological reason. [All emphasis added.]

They weren’t up for social action or social change. They didn’t have the potential for doing that. And neither did the working-class masses of Evangelicals in the 1920s. As a result they sub-consciously or deliberately chose a theology originating mainly from J. N. Darby, which described the world as getting worse and worse until Christ would return. Darby’s thinking was no recipe for challenging worldly problems in the name of mission. But it fit in with their limited capabilities as workingclass people.

Thus, you can see the cause and effect between social status and choice of theology. Very often philosophers and theologians boast that their thinking changed history, when actually, much more often, turns of history changed their thinking.

Back to the beginning of the article.

We often hear about the “Great Reversal.” The phrase refers to the early 20th century reduction of 19th century broad evangelism (including good deeds in this world) to narrow personal evangelism. In this regard we have talked about the tension between social action and evangelism. [Several more excerpts below.]

Continue reading

Systemic challenges facing African theologians

Following are some of my own observations about some of the systemic challenges my colleagues face in trying to do genuine African theology—dialogue between African cultures and the world of the Bible. (My experience has been largely with evangelical institutions, but many of the principles might apply more broadly.) Please feel free to add some of your own observations.

[no particular order; numbered to facilitate comments]

  1. Almost all formal theological training is done in the West or by Western-trained African theologians who have been indoctrinated to Western priorities and methodologies. (All of us are shaped by our mentors, and our mentors are shaped by their environments.)
  2. Many theological schools in Africa tend to depend on resources being doled out by Western institutions with Western interests.
  3. African thinkers are forced to write for Western audiences in order to gain academic credibility and get published.
  4. Whereas Western theologians have the luxury of being able to be essentially mono-cultural, successful African theologians (who wish to be published) have to have a sophisticated mastery both Western and African thought patterns and ways of communicating.
  5. Many of the best and brightest African academic pioneers have been snatched up by western institutions where they are forced to spend most of their time catering to white American audiences and explaining Africa to them (e.g. Sanneh, Tienou, Katongole).
  6. In any theological institution there are already strong, established feelings about “how theology should be done.”
  7. Evangelicals, especially, are very nervous about any new ways of doing theology.
  8. Specific denominational dogmas are so sacrosanct that all we can do is regurgitate acceptable “truth” (from the teaching vessel to the recipient student and hope it doesn’t experience any corruption in the process.)
  9. Seminary and Bible school programs and curriculums in Africa are almost exactly the same as their Western counterparts. (Accreditation is a factor, but not the only factor.)
  10. Africa is often perceived by and portrayed to outsiders as a dark, poverty-stricken, crisis-ridden continent. (What could it possibly have to offer?)
  11. The fear of syncretism—Christo-paganism. (While this might be a genuine concern in a few, rare cases, the fear of this extreme should not prevail.)
  12. Many of the most successful African academics are not in touch with their own traditional cultural heritage; they may not even speak their own mother tongues, which could help shape their theological thinking.
  13. Creative African theology is not given very much institutional priority in terms of grants and infrastructure support that frees African thinkers with the resources, freedom, and focused time to pursue research and writing African theology.
  14. The sheer number and diversity of different African cultures can be overwhelming.
  15. Genuine African theology requires cross-disciplinary expertise. In addition to the biblical studies expertise needed to understand the Bible in its original cultural context, ethnographic research along with anthropological and sociological analysis are needed to help immerse the theologian in different African cultural worldviews. (Doubles and triples the fields of academic expertise required.)
  16. We don’t have access to that many models of how African theology can be done. In some ways we keep going back to the same few pioneers who laid the groundwork; new creative efforts need to be encouraged.
  17. The younger, brilliant African theologians I know here are too busy addressing pressing community needs—pastoring churches, running NGOs, doing administration, working to change political leadership, etc. The ones that do teach in academic institutions tend to be teaching course overloads and are buried in administration—in addition to all the normal community pressures.

I recognize that this portrait risks severe caricature, but perhaps it will stir some of your ideas. Catholics seem to have done a far better job of supporting African scholarship (most of the books on my shelf related to African theology—written by both Protestants and Catholics—are published by Catholic presses), but in practice, they seem to have institutional and hierarchical challenges that many Protestant churches wouldn’t.

Cf. bibliography for African Christianity or (by date) or the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (e.g. Musa Dube, Nyambura Njoroge, Mercy Ouyoye, Isabel Phiri, etc.) for more African theologizing.

Evangelicals and conspiracy theories

Daniel Wallace—The Conspiracy behind the New Bible Translations:

. . . [C]onspiracy theories are increasing among evangelicals nowadays [see comments], and this is a troubling sign. By their nature, conspiracy theories ask the reader to be completely skeptical toward one view while adopting the other, without an examination of the evidence. (One recent book that pushes a conspiracy theory actually has thousands of factual errors and misrepresentations in it, all of which go unchallenged by those sucked in by its aura.) I am reminded of the many popular books I have seen sold in Christian book stores that have a jacket blurb on the back cover: “The Devil doesn’t want you to read this!” More often than not, this line is used by an author who has nothing of substance to say and simply wants to get his book sold. Further, it is a haughty claim. The devil doesn’t want us to read the Bible; but to elevate any merely human production to Satan’s hit list of forbidden books is both disingenuous and pompous.

Once the cry of conspiracy is raised, a cloud of suspicion is cast over one side of the issue. It never examines the flimsy basis of its own position, but throws acidic one-liners and ad hominem arguments at the opposition. Often, in this particular issue, those who hold the opposing viewpoint are simply labeled as “servants of Satan,” and their translations are called “bastard bibles”!

Mark Noll has recently written a masterful book entitled, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. In it he speaks about how American evangelicals have decided to chuck their brains for the sake of the party line, or for experience, or for emotionalism, etc. But the history of Christianity up through last century was of a different ilk. The Church felt that at least some of its number should be scholars–men and women who dedicated their minds to God, who cultivated the life of the mind. The fact that conspiracy theories about Bible translations are getting readily accepted in several circles indicts evangelicalism. To be blunt, this trend is symptomatic of the dumbing down of Christians in this country. Evangelicals are increasingly holding down the anti-intellectual fort, without engaging in serious debate with others. . . Keep reading.

HT: David Ker

Interpretive assumptions – ancient and evangelical (Bailey)

Scott Bailey:

. . . In his book How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture Then and Now James Kugel offers four assumptions of ancient interpreters:

  1. They assumed the Bible was fundamentally a cryptic text
  2. They assumed the Bible was a book of lessons directed to readers in their own day
  3. They assumed the Bible contained no contradictions or mistakes
  4. They believed the entire Bible was essentially a divinely given text

. . . . these assumptions have come down from antiquity to many modern Christians except for one: assuming that the Bible is a fundamentally cryptic text. Instead, for modern Christians the belief that the Bible is simple dominates, so a “plain” reading of Scripture is favored in a lot of circles. Therefore, I would posit that the four interpretive assumptions of many modern evangelical Christians look something like this:

  1. They assume the Bible is fundamentally a simple text easy to understand by the Holy Spirit
  2. They assume the Bible is a book of lessons directed to them
  3. They assume the Bible contains no contradictions or mistakes
  4. They believe the entire Bible is essentially a divinely given text in its canonical form

NeoReformed, the new fundamendalists (McKnight)

Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed writes – Who are the NeoReformed?:

. . . The evangelical tent is big enough to welcome to the table Calvinists and Arminians, anabaptists and charismatics, and I love it when Catholics and the Orthodox join us. This is not a personal battle for me with Calvinists; it’s a particular kind of divisive Calvinist that I have in view. . .
[The Problem:]
. . . The NeoReformed, for a variety of reasons, some of them good, don’t recognize that evangelicalism as a village green. Instead, they want to build a gate at the gate-less village green and require Reformed confessions and credentials to enter onto the village green. Put differently, they think the only legitimate and the only faithful evangelicals are Reformed. Really Reformed. In other words, they are “confessing” evangelicals. The only true evangelical is a Reformed evangelical. They are more than happy to call into question the legitimacy and fidelity of any evangelical who doesn’t believe in classic Reformed doctrines, like double predestination. The palpable observation here is that many of us think the NeoReformed are as attached to Tradition (read Westminster etc) as they are to sola scriptura.

In effect, the NeoReformed are a new form of Fundamentalism, so one might describe them accurately as the NeoFundamentalists. Which means they seem to need a trend or an opponent upon whom they can vent their frustrations (see Rene Girard). This results in two clear traits: the exaltation of some peripheral doctrine to central status and the demonization of a person. The goal in such cases seems to be to win at all costs.

. . . I recently wrote to a friend of mine, a Reformed theologian, and described what is the essence of this post and this is what he wrote back:

The problem, as I see it is these, whom you are calling neoreformed, are to me simply the old fundamentalists in nicer clothes with better vocabularies. They are just as mean-spirited, just as graceless, and just as exclusive. I believe that the fundamentalism of my youth was harmful to the gospel. I believe that anyone who refuses to come out of his “room” (confessional church) and into the hall of “mere Christianity”, to use Lewis’s term, is doomed to a narrow and problematic exegesis of the text. Who is going to tell us that we are wrong if we only stay in our room and speak to people who agree with us all the time?

Spiritual gifts claimed by Americans (Barna)

According to the latest Barna Report:

. . . The most commonly claimed gifts were teaching (9%), service (8%) and faith (7%). Those were followed by encouragement (4%), healing (4%), knowledge (4%), and tongues (3%). The gift of leadership was mentioned by just 2%.

There were significant differences in the answers provided by evangelicals, non-evangelical born agains and notional Christians. Evangelicals were more likely than people from the other faith segments to say that they had gifts of teaching (28%), service (12%), encouragement (10%), and administration (7%). The non-evangelical born again segment was the group most likely to claim the gifts of faith (10%) and hospitality (3%). Notional Christians were most notable for having the largest percentage who said they had no gift at all (37%, compared to 16% of evangelicals and 24% of non-evangelical born agains).

Examining the data for all born again Christians (i.e., evangelical and non-evangelical combined) over the past 13 years shows several change patterns:

  1. The percentage that claims to have the gift of encouragement has grown steadily from 2% in 1995 to 6% today.
  2. Since 1995, the proportion of born again adults claiming the gift of evangelism dropped from 4% to 1%.
  3. Those who do not know what their gift is rose from 8% in 2000 to 13% today.

False Gifts

The survey also found that many people who say they have heard of spiritual gifts were not necessarily describing the same gifts outlined in the Bible. Among the gifts claimed that are not among those deemed to be spiritual gifts in the passages of scripture that teach about gifts (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7-13, 1 Peter 4:10-11) were a sense of humor, singing, health, life, happiness, patience, a job, a house, compromise, premonition, creativity, and clairvoyance.

In total, one-fifth of all the gifts cited by respondents (21%) were attributes that do not fit the biblical lists of gifts given by God . . .

Of course, I’d love to see how these compare with the rest of the world.

Read the whole Barna report on the Survey of Spiritual gifts.

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Post-Fundamentalist Stress Disorder and evangelical hermeneutics – OT/NT (Schenk)

Ken Schenk, Indiana Wesleyan University, writes.

. . . Post-Fundamentalist Stress Disorder PFSD occurs when, after fighting to the death in the fundamentalist infantry, you find out that you’re not actually fighting for God but for a peculiar twentieth century cultural phenomenon. Like Paul, you realize you were a “zealot without knowledge.” You feel betrayed. You feel stupid. You feel angry. . .

The way that the New Testament interprets the OT provides one of the greatest bits of “naughty data,” if not the greatest, in the Copernican Revolution that is currently underfoot in evangelical hermeneutics. Evangelical hermeneutics, as an extension of Protestant hermeneutics, has insisted that the Bible alone is the authority over the Christian. As hermeneutical developments proceeded to understand original meaning more clearly, it became the “original meaning alone” is authoritative over a Christian.

But what if we were to find that, as it turns out, the New Testament itself does not interpret the OT in terms of its original meaning. Does this fact not deconstruct the entire hermeneutic? Does it not imply a controlling factor in interpretation beyond the text itself?

The Ptolemaic scientists of evangelicalism have not missed the potential threat to “normal science,” to their paradigm. They have launched a coping strategy, called Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old. The goal is to find as many connections as possible between the New Testament use of the Old Testament and anything that might smack of attention to original context. . .


Read Schenk’s whole post: Monday Enns – New Testament Interpretation of the Old

American evangelicals and race 2: today

It is easy for people like us today to think we are progressive and play no part in racism. The brief history of evangelicals and racial injustice (see earlier post)demonstrates that while the contexts and forms may be different, white evangelical thinking about racial problems today shares many similarities with the past. Most evangelicals – if they even see a problem – still tend to focus on the need to improve interpersonal relationships.  Again, we turn to Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000),

emerson-divided-by-faithCommon terms used to describe the race problem were prejudice, bigotry, anger, ignorance, lack of respect, fear of each other, poor communications, individuals hating or being angry at each other, and lacking Christ-like love for one another (75).

Most white evangelicals, directed by their cultural tools, fail to recognize the institutionalization of racialization – in economic, political, educational, social, and religious systems. They therefore think and act as if these problems do not exist (171).

Only a few actually seem willing to challenge the economic and cultural systems that preserve segregation and inequity. There continues to be a strong desire for separateness, if not explicitly stated, at least betrayed by actions. Even where intentions seem more pure, many of the solution to race problems proposed today are not that different from those proposed in the past. In essence, white evangelicals continue to be blind to what people of color experience, and as a result, their attempts as solving the “racial problem” reflect this ignorance. “With regards to reconciliation, whites often approach it with the expectation that black people will assimilate and essentially ‘become white’” (Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. More than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel. Rev ed. InterVarsity, 2000, 76.)

Even so-called progressive whites tend to dominate leadership structures in multi-cultural settings. Without giving it a second thought, they just assume that they have the gifts and skills for leadership. On the whole, whites tend to be fairly ignorant about – and definitely uncomfortable in – black cultural settings, and so blacks and whites rarely have close, confiding friendships (Perkins and Rice, 77). Given this data, the possibilities for racial justice look quite bleak. Although, Emerson and Smith do not propose any grandiose solutions, they do warn against culturally shaped one-dimensional assessments and solutions. Instead they challenge us to think more seriously about the multi-dimensional problems of racialization and dialogue with others educated on the subject (Emerson and Smith, 171).

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The Future of Evangelicalism

For those of you like me who are interested in this topic, the latest issue of Modern Reformation is focused on the future of evangelicalism – Evangelicalism’s Winter? – Modern Reformation. Obviously, from the title of the magazine, many of the articles will have a decidedly reformed bent. [I haven’t had time to read them yet, but I figured I could point others to them until I have time to read them for myself.]

Nov./Dec. 2008
Volume: 17 Issue: 6

In This Issue: Where Have All the Flowers Gone? By Eric Landry
Setting Up the Sheep for Heresy: How the Sufficiency of Scripture Is Undermined by Learned Preaching By Matthew W. Kingsbury
To Be or Not To Be: The Uneasy Relationship between Reformed Christianity and American Evangelicalism By Michael S. Horton
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Evangelicalism By Timothy George
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: On Evangelicalism By W. Robert Godfrey
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: The Future of Evangelicalism By John A. Huffman, Jr.
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Reflections By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Who Leads the Evangelical Tango? By David Neff
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: A Personal History By Roger R. Nicole
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Have I Any Future As An Evangelical? By Robert M. Norris
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Evangelicalism Now By J. I. Packer
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Adrift in a Sea of Individual Faiths – American Evangelicalism in the Early Twenty-first Century By Lawrence R. Rast, Jr.
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: Time to Clean House, Time to Dream Dreams By David F. Wells
What is the Future of Evangelicalism?: The Future of Evangelicalism By Paul F. M. Zahl
The Evangelical Narrative: Getting Rid of the Church By D. G. Hart
Is Evangelical Anglicanism Dead? (Sidebar) By Donald P. Richmond
The American “Gospel”: Think, Pray, Speak, and Grow Rich By Roger Olson
The Codependency of the Media and Evangelicals By Mollie Ziegler Hemingway
The Post-Evangelical Option: An Interview with Michael Spencer
Keep Rooted in Truth: “The Courage to Be Protestant” by David Wells (Book Review) By Rick Ritchie
“He Gave Us a Valley” by Helen Roseveare (Book Review) By Susan Disston
“Reveal: Where Are You?” and “Follow Me: What’s Next for You?” by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson (Book Review) By Shannon Geiger
“Job: EP Study Commentary” by Hywel R. Jones (Book Review) By Chuck Tedrick
Point of Contact: “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration” by Joseph Ratizinger/Pope Benedict XVI (Book Review) By Joel Garver

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