Terror, Rage, Hope & Christmas Lights


Flickr-Advent-Candles-rabasz

This Advent, we’re meditating on the idea of Hope by looking at quotes from Christians and talking about what they might say about our Advent Hope.

“It is precisely because the Christian hopes for the ultimate and definitive, that she also hopes for the temporal and provisional. Precisely because she hopes with joy for the dawn of the great light, that she hopes with provisional joy for the little lights, which may come and go, but which will not come and go in vain.

These little lights act as temporary illuminations that can help the Christian to look and move more properly towards that which they can only point to, but which in their proper time and place can in fact actually represent to us!

Because the Christian hopes for the Last Day, for the eternal year, he hopes for the next day and the new year, from which, whatever they may bring, he can always expect at least new indications of the coming of Jesus Christ.”

–Karl Barth, Church DogmaticsIV.3.2, p.938 (edited for clarity)

Read those words again. Slowly. We need these words, especially this year. As predators of consumerism, terrorism, pseudo-fascism, jingoism, escapism, and liberal idealism lie in wait to consume our souls, we need a light in the darkness. We need something to hold on to.

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The Grieving & Comforting Holy Spirit // #MaleFeminism


Anselm Kiefer-Landscape with a Wing

This is part of our series on Male Feminist Theology.

I’ve been arguing, at the outset of this journey into forming a Male Feminist Theology, that the way we think about God shapes and forms how we then live our lives. Further, God’s nature and character is so multifaceted that as theological musings enter new cultures, times, and situations, we must use particular language for where we are today. Just this weekend, I was reading Andrew Walls’ remarkable essay, “The Ephesian Moment”, where he talks about how this worked in the early church.

The transposition of a message about the Messiah to a message about the “Lord Jesus” must have seemed an impoverishment, perhaps a downright distortion. [But] Christian theology moved on to a new plane when Greek questions were asked about Christ and received Greek answers, using the Greek scriptures. It was a risky, often agonizing business, but it led the church to rich discoveries about Christ that could never have been made using only Jewish categories such as Messiah…. Crossing a cultural frontier led to a creative movement in theology by which we discovered Christ was the eternally begotten Son; but it did not require the old theology to be thrown away, for the eternally begotten Son was also the Messiah of Israel.

I see a similar thing today. Many issues of global injustice, the failure of 20th-century Enlightenment idealism, and (for our purposes) the abuse and marginalization of women gives a new prism through which to ask questions about God. We are not leaving old creeds and confessions behind; we are turning the Divine diamond of God’s nature and character to see through additional facets.

To this end, I have found it greatly helpful to focus on this idea that God’s very nature is one of Suffering-Unto-Life, or Suffering-Unto-Shalom. We’ve used these past few posts to talk about how we see this in each member of the Trinity, and today we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit. I’ve written about this before in general, but today we try to think of this in light of our sisters and their experience.
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Jung, Whitman, & Aquinas Walk into a Bar – Thoughts on Divine Suffering [GUEST POST]


Hans-Hartung-CompositionT-50-5

As I’ve been outlining a Male Feminist Theology, I have said there is an aspect of Suffering-Unto Life in the very nature of God. This started some conversation on Facebook. Today, along this vein, we have a guest post by one of my dearest friends (and blog contributor), Austin Ricketts.  Years ago, he wrote in favor of God’s Suffering. Years later, he took it back in a little debate we had. Today, he offers a sophisticated sort of “middle way”. It’s more dense than most things I post here, so I’ve linked to relevant articles elsewhere to help you follow along.

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If I were to set my doctrine of God down as a scene from a play, you would see the Cappadocian fathers meeting Thomas Aquinas at table, somewhere in Tuscany, while Charles Hartshorne comes in out of the Spring air from some bird watching. Thomas eats a large chicken, all by himself, while the fathers drink wine; their arms around him. Hartshorne is taken aback by the size and quiddity of the meal—how could he eat a bird, after all—so he orders a salad and sparkling water. Soon after, the fair Charles is assaulted by a paper airplane from the end of the table, and he looks up to see Augustine, who had up to that point been cloaked and hooded. After all this, the set goes dim, stage props move to reveal a completely different mise-en-scene.

The lights brighten to reveal one, Carl Jung, waking from a dream, saying “Hmm. How bout that?”

The curtains quickly close, all goes quiet, and a voice—preferably that of James Earl Jones—says, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Then, this Quaker Poet with a long gray beard and large hat comes streaking—that is to say naked, except for the hat—across the stage shouting, “I sing the Body electric. Eidolons! Eidolons everywhere!”

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Male Feminist Theology: The Dying & Rising Christ



Adel-Abdesemmed-razor-blade-crucifix-jesus-2
This post is part of a series on Male Feminist Theology.

Just as the Godhead itself is Suffering-Unto-Life, so are each of its members. Today we look at the second person of the Trinity: Jesus, the Begotten of God.

It’s my contention that we need a concept of a God who both knows suffering within his essence as well as fights against it. This is the only conception of God that can actually move us forward in fighting against the marginalization and abuse of women.

More traditional views of God (often having their historical source in Greek thought rather than Hebrew) make God into a Transcendent Male, Kingly, Lording figure whose primary relation to us is as one to whom we are meant to submit. This is so common, many (most?) people that just read that sentence may have not disagreed with any of it.
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The Suffering & Reconciling Feminist God


Rothko-untitled-2We are now, finally, after a long time, starting our series on Male Feminist Theology. This is the first of many posts to come.

God is infinitely complex and beyond our articulations. It’s impossible to hold in our minds at any one time all the different paradoxical truths about who God is. (As I’ve described before) depending on the particular context, concerns, or questions at hand, there are different truths about God we should dwell on and emphasize a little more for that moment.

In our day and place, I think one of the biggest issues facing the church is our treatment of women, so this post will focus on what truths about God that we (especially men) should emphasize and hold in our minds when moving forward on this issue.
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In a sense, God CAN’T favor the righteous| Job 9.1-4


Then Job answered:

“Indeed I know that this is so;
but how can a mortal be just before God?
If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—
Job 9.1-4

It seems here that Job is no longer clinging to his earlier idea that he is indeed righteous and pure. Instead, he is admitting that his friend is correct: he is sinful and has done wrong things. But, he also points out that God is not a God that would insist that every single little sin and wrong-doing be brought to mind and confessed before relating favorably towards someone.

Job is saying that people are too sinful for God to structure the world in such a way that the righteous are related to in one way and the wicked in another, because everyone belongs fully in that latter camp. There can only be two sets of rules if there are two teams playing the game.

He is in effect saying what Paul says in Romans 3, that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, therefore there is no distinction among people. Ironically, then, Job’s defense here is not necessarily the he is righteous, but rather that he is far too messed up for his friends’ version of reality to be right.

Also of note, the rest of this chapter is more or less Job proclaiming the very things that God uses to rebuke him at the end of the book. Job really does seem to know this stuff.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Job’s Friends are Right! Job’s Friends are Wrong.| Job 8.5-7,20-22


If you will seek God
and make supplication to the Almighty,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore to you your rightful place.
Though your beginning was small,
your latter days will be very great.
Job 8:5-7

We mock Job’s friends, but what this guy says here is exactly what happens at the end of the book! Its practical, prophetic, and foreshadowing the end. We need to cut these guys a break.

“See, God will not reject a blameless person,
nor take the hand of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouts of joy.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will be no more.”
Job 8.20-22

Okay, though I defended this guy earlier, this here is BS.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God, Social Justice, & Social Welfare | Job 5.15-16


But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth,
from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.

Job 5:15–16

I want to take this to all of my conservative friends. They are right that much of the life circumstances of the poor are often from the “sword” coming from their own mouth. But we also see here that their lot is not only attributed to “the sword of their mouth”, but also “the hand of the mighty”. And either way, regardless of the cause of their situation (and its persistence), the people of God are called to follow God’s lead in a commitment to pursue their freedom from these types of bondage–both within them and without. The good news is that this not only gives them hope, but it also shuts the mouth of injustice itself.

And this doesn’t seem to just be in individual ways, but even in systemic ones. Does it not follow, then, that Christian can (should?) in good conscience see their role as political beings as a means by which to accomplish these systemic ends? Perhaps it’s not just for individual Christians and Churches to “serve the poor”, but Christians utilizing political capital to mobilize government resources to follow God’s lead? Just asking.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Fragments from a speech by Job| Selections of Job 6 & 7


For the arrows of the Almighty are in me;
my spirit drinks their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Job 6.4

What a beautiful, yet tragic series of lines.

“Teach me, and I will be silent;
make me understand how I have gone wrong.
How forceful are honest words!
But your reproof, what does it reprove?
Job 6.24-25

It must not be easy to spend this time of sadness and pain, and also ask for teaching. Yes, he is asking for answers to the wrong questions. But it seems he’s still willing and wanting to listen.

“Remember that my life is a breath;
my eye will never again see good.
The eye that beholds me will see me no more;
while your eyes are upon me, I shall be gone.
As the cloud fades and vanishes,
so those who go down to Sheol do not come up;
they return no more to their houses,
nor do their places know them any more.
Job 7.7-10

Oh, if only he could know about Jesus. On another note, I wonder how this connects to his “my redeemer lives” section later on.

What are human beings, that you make so much of them,
that you set your mind on them,
visit them every morning,
test them every moment?
Job 7.7-17-18

Well that’s interesting. Almost the same lines appear in Psalm 8, except there they are words of praise and worship of God. but here, they seem more like words of accusation, complaint and lament against God.

Why do you not pardon my transgression
and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
you will seek me, but I shall not be.”
Job 7.7-17-18

But resurrection!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Job, God, & Satan (Can I get some help from the scholar’s out there?)| Job 1.6-7


One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Job 1:6-7

Anyone out there know how the ancient Israelites would have received these words? I see no other parallel in the OT to something similar to this (maybe the Psalms about God’s combat with the other gods?). I find it so confusing.

The one thing I am confident of, though, is that the conflating that Christians often do with this stuff is out of line. The way that (especially Evangelicals) use these verses to set up a systematic theology of “Satan” is absurd and does damage to the texts. Also, there is no indication that this is the same entity that is the serpent in the garden, nor the “Morning Light”, nor the NT Beelzebul, nor the beast of Revelation. Heck, there’s no clear connection between this particular “Satan” and the NT “Satan”.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God & Job | Job 2.11-13


Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Job 2.11-13

We speak so harshly and sarcastically about these friends. But they really are amazing. And though their view is flawed, they represent the views on suffering that are still most common today. And they are sincerely felt and sincerely held. They are genuinely offering Job what they genuinely feel is the issue. They are being human. But right here, this is amazing. Who of us would do the same thing? As I’ve continued through the book, I’m seeing that we’ve greatly oversimplified and wrongly characterized the “advice” they give Job. Hopefully, in the days to come, we can explore this more through #Marginalia.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

God & Job | Job 1.8


The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.”

Job 1.8

We so often forget that this whole thing was God’s idea, and he initiated it. He is the first one to drop Job’s name and suggest this scheme to Satan.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Worship of Job; the Blame of God | Job 1.20-22


Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and theLord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.

Job 1.20-22

I mentioned this verse earlier in my post on a theology of angels. It’s one of the most concentrated, powerful, packed lines of Scripture in the Bible. Job suffers and he worships. He ascribes to God the actions of Satan and the text explicitly says he does not sin in doing so. He fully inhabits his mourning and it is sincere and it is real. And yet, just as sincere as is his mourning, his worship is as well.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

That elusive Rest of all rests…


oldrich-kulhanek-untitled2At my job, I have this client (nowadays they’re called “participants”) who’s unlike any other I’ve known. He’s got some sort of complicated cocktail of mental health issues going on. Whatever they are, they’ve come together to create the most agitated, anxious, hyper, manic, rapid-thinking individual I’ve ever seen.

He’s the kind of guy whose own thoughts race a million miles an hour in addition to the other voices in his head doing so as well. He craves attention and simply has to be the center of it at all times; the more people around, the more dramatic and performative he becomes. He acts out like a child in any way to get the attention he craves, all while his inside hums and buzzes with a constant anxiety.

He can easily talk non-stop for hours with random things setting off new associations and new lines of thought and one topic flowing into another topic that seems unrelated, save for a color, a location, or even a word in common with the prior one. The first time I met him, his thoughts became so fast and so loud, he started screaming and clawing at his head just to get them to quiet down.

He evokes little sympathy from those around him, including myself. He seems to thrive on the fact that he can so affect people–even if it’s in a negative, irritating way.

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