1000 Wells

Written on January 02nd, 2007 by Shawn Anthony

A Couple of Beyond Strange Bedfellows: This conversation is becoming more ridiculous by the day. Now, it seems, so-called Liberal and/or Progressive “Christians,” are plugging the anti-religious and anti-Christian ideology and worldview of Dawkins and Harris. It seems Bishop John Shelby Spong, an Episcopalian fellow who has famously rejected every historical and orthodox aspect of Theism and Christianity (yet, for some strange reason, still refers to himself as a Christian) is now suggesting that fellows like Dawkins and Harris are helpful to him as he tries to vainly establish his own “Christian Church wherein everyone knows that God does not exist.” Wait. Are you confused? Well, you should be. Hey Spong … your Church is collapsing! You should really concern yourself with it, instead of unnecessarily incurring the wrath of secular atheists who you foolishly think will buy your religion while they join you in the brushing of us “infantile” believers in Jesus as Savior aside. What a pretentious bunch of hacks. Do any of you seriously think any of this will work in the everyday market place, where people actually work 50 hours a week for a living? Talk about the blind leading the blind.

24 Responses to “Spong Joins Dawkins and Harris”

  1. Hey Shawn, it looks like Spong is trying to redefine atheism, not necessarily build a Church of Atheism: he says, “Atheism, technically, does not mean a denial of the existence of God. It means literally a denial of the theistic definition of God. That is to say, theism is not what God is; it is what human beings have decided that God is. Human definitions of God can die without God dying.”

    Without agreeing with Spong’s doctrines, I would think that evangelical Christians could say “Amen” to the statement that “Human definitions of God can die without God dying.” What do you think (setting aside Spong and just taking up that one statement)?

    ck

  2. Spong is - and has been - trying to build a liberal Christian church wherein 1. God - in essence - does not even exist, or even relate to humanity, at least in any sort of knowledgeable and/or tangible way, and 2. Jesus is mere man, a good teacher or social worker at best. I’m not even sure why he tries to call himself Christian. I think he does it for the cool Bishop clothes. His church of liberalism is dying by the way. So …

    His attempt to redefine atheism, as you call it, is a completely unintentional by-product of his foolish attempt to convince Dawkins and the like that his God is super cool, and the God of millions of non-professional theologians (I hesitate to even credit to him the title of professional theologian), and hard working, everyday people is retarded and juvenile. Spong is funny, as would agree most serious Christian theologians (even the Anglican/Episcopalian ones!), and most honest secularists. Spong is smack dab in that fuzzy middle place reserved only for liberal religious folk who want to eat all kinds of cake. The secularists often find liberal religious folk more frustrating than Christian fundamentalists and/or orthodox Christians (see Brian Flemming)!

    As concerns your last question: Evangelicals consider God’s general and special revelation (as found in Holy Scripture and to a certain extent the physical universe) to be sufficient, dependable and authoritative, as far as our understanding and embrace of God’s character and will is concerned. Definitions floating around apart from God’s general and special revelation are not so important in the life and practice of the Evangelical Christian. These sorts of definitions, in other words, can never threaten - and never really have threatened - the basic reality of the God Who is There. Therefore, any conversation centered upon the pleasant but ultimately meaningless idea that “Human definitions of God can die without God dying,” as you say, is totally and utterly irrelevant to the Evangelical. Evangelicals never credited human definitions of God with any sort of authority in the first place. So, no, there would be no “Amen,” because there is nothing really there to agree with, from the Evangelical perspective. Again, the entire question seems bent toward the postmodern penchant for synthesis, over antithesis. Evangelicals prefer the later, for the most part. So, I see no need for a fake “amen” that would only serve those who want to try to crack open that crickety door. WD-40 will do …

    Shawn Anthony

  3. Thanks for the lengthy reply! I’m going to set aside the Spong discussion because I have nothing invested in him as a theologian, and it isn’t what I was really interested in with my question.

    Can you explain what you mean by “postmodern penchant for synthesis, over antithesis”? I know Hegel, but I’m not sure what you’re alluding to here. I could see such a desire in modernism & the Enlightenment, but “postmodernism” seems to love antithesis.

    Schaeffer, who made some similar arguments about modernity, also argued for co-belligerance, which did not erase differences, but recognized that Christians and non-Christians would have places of agreement due to common grace.

    (And can you help me understand what that has to do with my question? Not sure why the amen would need to be “fake.”)

    ck

  4. Ck, Spong is better of set aside, trust me. I have yet to sit under a theologian who thinks highly of his work.

    Our discussion is interesting though …

    Postmodernism is strapped to relativity, philosophically speaking. You know that, I’m sure. So please forgive me for stating the obvious. A relative idea of truth is not at all conducive to the black and white, and/or right and wrong inherent to antithesis. The New Testament dedication to dualism is a good example of antithetical truth. There are clear rights and wrongs, and blacks and whites in the New Testament and the worldview underpinning it. Postmodernists are forced to hack it all up and blend this with that to have a religious product with which they can comfortably work. This is what postmodernism does. Liberal Christians too are postmodernistic in their ideas and practices. They also bend toward synthesis far more than they do antithesis, at least when they are not chatting about the superiority of their syncretistic product over and above orthodox Christianity. You would be hard pressed to find an orthodox Christian claiming postmodernism. The two are antithetical, as a direct a result of the Truth claim inherent in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I say this all just to point out that postmodernism does not play nice with antithesis, at all. I’m curious as to how you actually arrived at the idea that Postmodernism loves antithesis rather than synthesis. Nothing is true in Postmodernism, yet everything is true. This philosophical leap is bridged by relativity and synthesis. It fails miserably too, I might add.

    As far as Schaeffer … I never would try to advance the idea that there would exist no differences between people. In fact, my reliance upon antithesis and synthesis is built upon differences. It is a system which analyzes and makes sense of many differences and their ultimate value. Will there be brief moments of convergence between the people and groups involved? Sure, but these moments of convergence will most assuredly be proven to be quite unimportant to the formation of the larger worldviews that coincide with the Truth claims advanced by the different and divergent parties. So, any group adhering to any antithetical position - and there would be antithetical positions - would simply be misguided. The postmodernist would go a different direction right here and cite all positions as equally valid (thus ransacking antithesis). Schaeffer floated this boat right into the harbor of a pretty strict orthodox and evangelical Christianity. Sure, some convergence would occur, but in the end Christianity was/is the way. In the end “Common Grace” is … common. It is grace, but it is basically minimal and relative to very basic relations shared between an incurably social humanity. We have to live together, right.

    Now, what does this have to do with your question? Simply, I think you were coaxing me (in a proper philosophical sort of way! I love ck!) toward synthesis by adding my own Evangelical “Amen” to the choir of Spongites who can say “Human definitions of God can die without God dying.” I can not even say it, because I find it be utterly meaningless in light of my Evangelical presuppositions regarding General and Special Revelation. I, as an Evangelical, do not give credence to human definitions of God, so I find it a waste of time to engage in such chatter. The suggestion that I could find some convergence with Spong, on this particular issue, smacks of the postmodernist penchant for going after synthesis. I’m completely comfortable with just branding Spong as wrong. This is the idea that connects (I hope!) this conversation to your original question.

    Shawn Anthony

  5. Also, re: Hegel’s implementation of thesis, antithesis and his failed answer of synthesis. I am referring to antithetical thinking prior to Hegel’s intro of thesis and ultimately synthesis to replace pure antithesis. Hegel’s intro opened wide the door for relativism and ultimately postmodernism. This is the illness. The solution is in the purely antithetical approach (if A is true then B is not true, rather then A and B being true) which dates back to as far as humanity began its thinking … and ultimately to God.

    Shawn Anthony

  6. Hey Shawn, I want to get to a reply on this, as I think it is interesting. I have two ways to respond, one theologically, one philosophically–but life is overtaking me today. So it will probably be tomorrow. Hold those thoughts :)

    ck

  7. … holding, ck! :)

    Shawn Anthony

  8. Also worth noting: Spong is only one liberal theologian; his views do not represent the views of “liberal theology” or “liberal Christianity” as a whole.

    Philocrites

  9. Absolutely, Philocrites. They all are, however, humanists - secularists even - who have a penchant for Christian language that lacks an authentic context. Some do use the vocab better than others … but in the end, it is without context. I could have missed one somewhere, though I doubt it.

    Shawn Anthony

  10. OK, Shawn, I’ve got some time. I will try to keep it succinct. Keep in mind that when I said “setting aside Spong and just taking up that one statement”, I really meant it. I’m not a fan of Spong and have no hidden motive to trap you into agreeing with him. Three parts follow: theology, philosophy and a conclusion to my original question.

    1. Theologically: “Human definitions of God can die without God dying.” One way of looking at the biblical narrative, in terms of god’s self-revelation, is that it is a series of speech-acts in which he says “I am like this and not like this.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments, preconceived notions of god die. Humans say, “our god is like this” and god refuses to be tied to this definition. One key moment (assuming Jesus as god, of course) is found in the New Testament, when Jesus refuses to be the avenging god, but instead acts as sacrifice. So I’d say that while “the Evangelical” doesn’t put stock in human definitions, she does put stock in the biblical narrative… which can in part be understood as “human definitions of god can die without god dying.”

    2. Philosophically. I have trouble with using “postmodernism” as an umbrella term. Better to say postmodernisms (Derrida? poststructuralism? Deleuze? etc), but I’ll use it since you did. You are right that it is a rejection of modernism, but I think incorrect to characterize it as “relativity.” In terms of textual interpretation, postmodernists argue that there is no closed meaning, that texts are capable of indefinite “play.” But it isn’t just that you import your own meanings into a text, rather that the text itself bears multiple meanings which contradict the apparent intent.

    In terms of your claim that the postmodern understands all claims as “equally valid”, you’re slipping into a modernist framework. Postmodernism eschews “meta-narratives” like validity, or scientific ‘truth’, etc. Rather, there is fragmentation. Between the language games of science, religion, ethics (or Christianity, Buddhism, etc) there can be no comparison or objective determination of what is valid. This isn’t a problem for postmodernism, but is typically celebrated or simply admitted as the way things are. Whether this admission is self-referentially paradoxical or not is the subject of debate in critiques of postmodernism.

    3. So back to my original question. I’m not a postmodernist, despite some flirtation with it in seminary. I wasn’t trying to coax you into a “synthesis” (Hegelian or otherwise). Rather, as a modernist, one who agrees in part with your statement that “convergence will most assuredly be proven to be quite unimportant to the formation of the larger worldviews”, I was just looking for a single patch of convergence within the larger divergence of our worldviews.

    As well, I wasn’t seeking to place value upon that convergence (whether it was ultimately Important or Miniscule) but simply investigate it. What I find interesting is your impulse to turn everything into thesis-antithesis. With a core difference already settled, and our worldviews being incommensurable, why the need to continually underscore this? I assure you, my desire wasn’t to spring a philosophical or theological “trap” and say “Gotcha, you closeted-Spongite!” but just to converse (not convert).

    Thoughts?

    For more on postmodernism, I recommend the always valuable Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and also the Postmodern Bible in which you might find patches of convergence despite a wider disagreement.

    ck

  11. Cool. Thanks ck. I’m going to respond line by line, for clarity’s sake. Your quotes ate numbered and in italics, chronologically.

    1. “OK, Shawn, I’ve got some time. I will try to keep it succinct. Keep in mind that when I said “setting aside Spong and just taking up that one statement”, I really meant it. I’m not a fan of Spong and have no hidden motive to trap you into agreeing with him. Three parts follow: theology, philosophy and a conclusion to my original question.>

    First of all, I never said or thought that your were trying to trap me “into agreeing with him (Spong)”. My point was that you seemed to be drawing me toward synthesis, which was my larger point. You said, “Look Shawn! Don’t you see a moment of convergence between Evangelicals and Spong in this expressed thought!” I said, “No!” Also, notice in my comment I did write “Simply, I think you were coaxing me (in a proper philosophical sort of way! I love ck!)”. Please note the parenthetical material and do try not to reduce my attempt to point out a postmodernistic penchant for synthesis over antithesis to some sort of paranoid (your motive is hidden) character trait (”trap me into agreeing with him”). I said it was a proper philosophical inquiry, most likely based in your own worldview. So, please keep it real. This a philosophical, theological discussion. I am capable.

    2. Theologically: “Human definitions of God can die without God dying.” One way of looking at the biblical narrative, in terms of god’s self-revelation, is that it is a series of speech-acts in which he says “I am like this and not like this.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments, preconceived notions of god die. Humans say, “our god is like this” and god refuses to be tied to this definition. One key moment (assuming Jesus as god, of course) is found in the New Testament, when Jesus refuses to be the avenging god, but instead acts as sacrifice. So I’d say that while “the Evangelical” doesn’t put stock in human definitions, she does put stock in the biblical narrative… which can in part be understood as “human definitions of god can die without god dying.”

    First of all, your “One way of looking at the biblical narrative” statement smacks of the very synthesis and postmodernism I am trying to point out as contextual detriment (context being Christianity discussion). So, note it. We began this conversation in terms of Evangelicalism, correct? If so, I’m not terribly interested in “other ways” to read the Bible, as an Evangelical. That’s not say I don’t know them, or have not tried them. I do attend a liberal seminary and have superimposed every known ideological read that you can think of over the Bible in numerous classes. They all fail as a result of their inherent celebration of antithetical ideology. God’s self-revelation throughout the Christian Testaments is consistent. Biblical narrative therefore “does not die,” and thus can not be authentically used to substantiate the idea that God lives on in spite of narrative death … or, in this case, its non-death. The scriptures are not human definitions of God. God’s self-revelation is not a human definition of God. So, no, this doesn’t really work. It’s some pretty bad theology, to be honest.

    3. Philosophically. I have trouble with using “postmodernism” as an umbrella term. Better to say postmodernisms (Derrida? poststructuralism? Deleuze? etc), but I’ll use it since you did. You are right that it is a rejection of modernism, but I think incorrect to characterize it as “relativity.” In terms of textual interpretation, postmodernists argue that there is no closed meaning, that texts are capable of indefinite “play.” But it isn’t just that you import your own meanings into a text, rather that the text itself bears multiple meanings which contradict the apparent intent.

    LOL! “Postmodernisms” is a natural conclusion to “Postmodernism.” So, yes, it is an umbrella term … which covers nothing and everything. How in the world can you say that one the one hand “Postmodernism” should give way to “Postmodernisms”, and yet, on the other hand, say it is “incorrect to characterize it as relativity.” Interesting. As regards your second point: Postmodernism and objectivity do not play together, at all. So, do tell how in God’s green earth does a postmodernist find the “multiple meanings which contradict the apparent intent?” Better yet, how exactly does a Postmodernist identify the “apparent intent?” Also, if you really believe what you just wrote here, then what you just said in your “Theological Part” is totally suspect. Postmodernism is relativity, no matter how you spin it.

    4. In terms of your claim that the postmodern understands all claims as “equally valid”, you’re slipping into a modernist framework. Postmodernism eschews “meta-narratives” like validity, or scientific ‘truth’, etc. Rather, there is fragmentation. Between the language games of science, religion, ethics (or Christianity, Buddhism, etc) there can be no comparison or objective determination of what is valid. This isn’t a problem for postmodernism, but is typically celebrated or simply admitted as the way things are. Whether this admission is self-referentially paradoxical or not is the subject of debate in critiques of postmodernism.

    Nah, I’m not slipping into a “modernist framework,” as you say. I’m slipping into a framework wherein I can say “A is true”, thus “B is false”. This framework extends much, much further into our human history then does modernism, obviously. Uh, so if postmodernism “eschews meta-narratives,” 1. how is it not an umbrella (you said it was not an umbrella earlier), 2. If “validity” is a “meta-narrative”, which postmodernism eschews, then how is my charge that everything is equally valid proved wrong? Or is it just a matter of your saying, “Eh, that’s just talk from a modernist framework (which it is not, but even if it was, you just stepped into the “meta-narrative framework” of which you just argued against!). As regards the “language games” thing … analytical philosophy is an utter waste of time. I don’t do language games. It sounds to me as if you are saying that postmodernism is a philosophical system which doesn’t play well with critical examination turned inward.

    5. So back to my original question. I’m not a postmodernist, despite some flirtation with it in seminary. I wasn’t trying to coax you into a “synthesis” (Hegelian or otherwise). Rather, as a modernist, one who agrees in part with your statement that “convergence will most assuredly be proven to be quite unimportant to the formation of the larger worldviews”, I was just looking for a single patch of convergence within the larger divergence of our worldviews.

    I think you are more of a postmodernist than you think. You write, “I was just looking for a single patch of convergence within the larger divergence of our worldviews.” So, why would you do such a thing? Why must I have a point of agreement with you? I think we can totally disagree - and do!

    6. As well, I wasn’t seeking to place value upon that convergence (whether it was ultimately Important or Miniscule) but simply investigate it. What I find interesting is your impulse to turn everything into thesis-antithesis. With a core difference already settled, and our worldviews being incommensurable, why the need to continually underscore this? I assure you, my desire wasn’t to spring a philosophical or theological “trap” and say “Gotcha, you closeted-Spongite!” but just to converse (not convert).

    My point has more to do with the sufficiency of orthodox Christian belief and practice. It’s all about worldview. It’s all about clear rights and clear wrongs, good and evil. I’m doing apologetics in a postmodern world. So, obviously, thesis-antithesis is key.

    7. For more on postmodernism, I recommend the always valuable Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and also the Postmodern Bible in which you might find patches of convergence despite a wider disagreement.

    I think I have plenty info on postmodernism already, thank you. How nice of you to try and help me out though! :)

    Shawn Anthony

  12. Actually, the “one way” I was talking about was taken from my Evangelical Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary (PCA–that bastion of liberalism), and the course I took with Michael Williams, “God and Man.” It isn’t postmodern to see that different themes can be taken from the same narrative, even assuming that narrative as infallible. The “human definitions” I note are those that the characters in the biblical story seek to superimpose upon god. So your accusation of my hermeneutic here being postmodern is false. God names himself in the biblical story, god defines himself–and doesn’t let humans do that for him. That’s a pretty darn Evangelical viewpoint…

    I’ll respond more later, but I don’t think that we *must* have any points of convergence, just that I thought I saw one, from an Evangelical point of view. I do understand that you appreciated my philosophical thrust and weren’t maliciously accusing me of trying to trap you… but I’m trying to set aside the whole discussion of Spong and just take one statement and examine it. That’s what I was emphasizing.

    And, as for my offers of “help”, they were partially to show you where I am getting my understanding from and partially for the audience reading this public exchange. I’m sure you are an expert on postmodernism.

    ck

  13. Right on. Sure, there may be different themes inherent to Biblical Narrative, but I would challenge you to find any Evangelical theologian who will point to a narrative in all of Scripture wherein a theme is built upon the idea of “Scripture is mere human language, and a definition of God, and as a result of its overall inconsistencies, proves that God lives on in spite of the death of human language/definitions regarding him.” That’s quite a theological leap.

    The specific attempt to do this may be rooted in proper theological methodology, but has gone far off that course, especially if the PCA is cited in the process. The act of looking for themes in Biblical Narrative is not postmodern, but the turn you took, or at least the larger methodology driving the turn, is.

    Shawn Anthony

  14. You’re still not understanding my point. Isn’t the point of an infallible revelation that god reveals who he is and that preconceived human notions get thrown out the window?

    Take the idol worship that went on while Moses was getting the decalogue. The people at the foot of the mountain had a “human definition” of the god they wanted. Well, it got tossed out the window by what god said to them instead.

    Human definitions of god can die without god dying.

    I did not say that you must understand the scripture as merely human language to get this point. Rather, you can take the Bible as entirely, 100% infallible and from it, through its stories (historical under this interpretation) get the point that god defines himself, not us.

    I made no mention of “inconsistencies in the text”–that might be a postmodern interpretation, but as I stated, it was not the one I was putting forward as an Evangelical understanding. I don’t see a postmodern turn there. (Part 2 was my explanation of postmodernism, Part 1 was setting forward an Evangelical reading of the Bible that is compatible with the statement in question).

    Does that clarify things? Don’t try to push me into a postmodern box. I won’t go there, because I don’t fit. I think it is self-referentially absurd, and makes mountains out of molehills. That’s a discussion for another day.

    (And last I heard, the PCA upheld the Westminster Standards…fanatically. They’re on the conservative end of evangelicalism, for certain.)

    ck

  15. You wrote, “Isn’t the point of an infallible revelation that god reveals who he is and that preconceived human notions get thrown out the window?”

    No, not when Progressive Revelation is properly understood. The apostle Paul, for example, said “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12), but this fact and others like it do not devalue past and/or present revelation what-so-ever, let alone enough to actually declare the death of a human definition of God, and the consequent “living on” of God in spite of it. Which is what we’ve been chatting about here.

    You also wrote, “Does that clarify things? Don’t try to push me into a postmodern box. I won’t go there, because I don’t fit. I think it is self-referentially absurd, and makes mountains out of molehills. That’s a discussion for another day.”

    Well we agree on that much …

    The PCA crowd is staunchly conservative and Evangelical. They are good people. Two of my former profs. and great friends and incredible academics are members of the PCA. They both have articles in The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery and she wrote huge chunks of OT commentary for the Woman’s Study Bible. They are conservative, sure.

    Shawn Anthony

  16. Um, the understanding of god that the people of Israel had when the worshipped an idol was, by biblical standards, false. Are you saying that their concept of god, which was a human definition, shouldn’t die and be replaced with revelation? I’m not sure where you’re going with progressive revelation.

    ck

  17. I have no idea what that statement even means. I’ll play though …

    An idol? Well, if they worshiped an idol … it was an idol, not God, right? So, if any definition(s) inherent to the idol itself died … so what? It was a false idea to begin with, right? What does it have to do with God and Biblical revelation? How would the death of an idol definition prove that God lives on in spite of expired definitions inherent to His revelation. Their (Israel) repentance and turning away from an idol to worship the real God does not at all have anything to do with what we have been discussing. Why? Well, God’s revelation was not invested or inherent to an idol, save warnings not to actually worship idols. So, killing human definition investment in idols does not somehow prove that the God Who is There lives on anyway … in spite of the death of human definitions. Eh …

    This is way off track. You are leaping around here. You just tried to tie the effects of a so-called revelation attributed to idols (which the Bible declares to be false) with the revelation given by God … in an attempt to advance the original point of this discussion, which was: “Scripture is mere human language, and a definition of God, and as a result of its overall inconsistencies or changes, proves that God lives on in spite of the death of human language/definitions regarding him.” Citing the change in revelation attributed to idols, or even the turning away form idols towards God, does not prove a death, change or even the evolution of the revelation given by God, nor does it prove that humanity has made an authentic change in revelation concerning God. It simply shows humans are silly and worship idols and attribute to inanimate objects revelation. What has this to do with God and God’s revelation? Nothing.

    So, I must ask: How is this idol chatter at all relevant to the point that launched this thread?

    Shawn Anthony

  18. Shawn, I am going to stop since you’re missing what I’m trying to make as a simple point. Maybe I’ll come back to it in a few days and see where I was unclear.

    But one thing…
    “Scripture is mere human language, and a definition of God, and as a result of its overall inconsistencies or changes, proves that God lives on in spite of the death of human language/definitions regarding him.”

    Is not what I’m trying to demonstrate, or assumed in my original point #1 above (please re-read it), nor has it been throughout. Not sure why you’re putting that into my mouth. I cited the po-mo’s in #2, but that was about correcting your understanding of postmodernism as relativity. They were two different points.

    Have a good afternoon!

    ck

  19. Please correct me if I am mistaken, but this seems to me to be an outline of our conversation thus far, chronologically speaking (from start to present conclusion):

    1. This statement, let’s call it “\0/” from now on, for time’s sake, began this thread: “Human definitions of God can die without God dying …” Note: You can remove Spong from the conversation, but not the context in which this statement was spoken.

    2. \0/ gave birth to the question: Can Evangelicals, Spong and/or whoever else feels led to do so state the above and share convergence, even if brief?

    3. I said no and I also cited the constant attempt to look for such convergence to be a product of a liberal penchant for synthesis (postmodernism).

    4. You then turned towards Bible narrative, quite statically, in an attempt to not only illustrate your belief in \0/ (by citing scripture’s presumed inconsistencies), but also that Evangelicals place stock in \0/ as a result of their dedication to Biblical narrative, and therefore believe \0/ too! Whether they know it or not, apparently! So, is that a congruent intersection with Spong and those who think in that sort of way?

    5. I said no, that’s not how revelation works, at least in the Evangelical understanding. I also said the Bible is more than consistent, thus challenging your view that Narrative inconsistencies somehow put Evangelicals into congruence with those who buy \0/. I then concluded by saying none of your argument thus far is convincing me of any congruence - possible or otherwise - I may share with the one who believes \0/.

    6. You then went off into the idol thing … which is totally not relevant to a discussion specifically concerning \0/. Why? Simply idols are not God. Whatever change occurs in idol definitions has nothing to do with God and His revelation what-so-ever. I can’t make that connection. Are you simply trying to say that erroneous ideas about God can and fall by the wayside and not affect God at all? If so, sure. I see it all day long. However, if you are trying to say that ALL ideas and definitions re: God will suffer the same fate, I would disagree.

    So, it seems to me that we have been on the right track from start to present as far as \0/ is concerned.

    If none of this was your original point, then please let me know what your point is when you come back to this conversation in a few days. I wish you would stay though … this is how conversations like this go. We simply agree to bang on with good will and much love. :)

    Shawn Anthony

  20. I think it is at point 4 where you and I are seeing things differently. I wasn’t trying to prove \o/ with “scripture’s inconsistencies.” I said, “Throughout the Old and New Testaments, preconceived notions of god die. Humans say, “our god is like this” and god refuses to be tied to this definition.”

    Let’s put it this way–anything I am stating in theological or biblical narrative terms, I am presuming to use a roughly evangelical hermeneutic for interpretation. So above, you could insert “sinful humans say” to help out.

    What I’m getting at is that throughout the Bible, god reveals how his self-definition overwhelms the presumption of human beings to define him. And yes, he does so through progressive revelation.

    Examples could include Israelite tendencies towards idolatry, Job’s friends trying to explain how god acts, the Pharisaical rejection of Jesus because he didn’t fit their understanding of god, etc. Note these are all negative examples–where the narrative itself shows that these human definitions fall short.

    All of these, within the infallible progressive revelation of god, are presented as object lessons to humans about how their understanding of god is limited and requires his revelation for correction.

    [End of evangelical bracket.]

    That’s what I was getting at, presuming that all of the above in the bracket are statements that evangelicals (my seminary profs included) would agree with. So statement \o/ understood in this way would be compatible with evangelical Christian beliefs.

    I’ll close by entering the “evangelical bracket” once more, citing the words of my seminary prof, Michael Williams. My point is just to show that by stepping into the shoes of an evangelical and looking at the scriptures from that perspective, \o/ can be understood as a richly evangelical statment (again, setting aside the context Spong wants to use it in):

    “Biblically, however, we must say that mere theism is not a virtue. Yahweh says, worship me, not god in the abstract. Israel was always charged to choose between Yahweh and the Baals. They were forbidden from worshipping Moloch or Ashtoreth. The impersonal deity of Aristotle cannot place us under moral obligation, and it most certainly cannot save.”

    So, make of that point of convergence what you will–semantic only, superficial, minimal, what have you. My point is that \o/ could be taken up as an evangelical statement.

    ck

  21. Oh, and I’m entering the evangelical bracket (a sort of reverse epoche, in Husserlian terms?) not because that is what I espouse, but because in trying to find points of convergence, it makes sense only if one can “fit on” another’s point of view. I think it is because you know my normal hermeneutic that things got confused–I was suspending it in order to make the point.

    Hope that helps. Again, thoughts are welcome.

    ck

  22. I don’t think you are anywhere close to an Evangelical hermeneutic, honestly. I said it before: while there are instances of human beings going off track in the Bible, God’s revelation of Himself is and has always been there (what else identified the cited instances of idolatry as idolatry otherwise!). His authentic revelation is always present and always accessible. It is a full revelation too. It (God’s authentic revelation) is a definition that never changed or changes. So, I’m really not sure how you can connect humanity’s tendency towards idolatry (mistaken ideas about God) with revelation in a way that somehow substantiates the idea that when these bad ideas die and God still remains it somehow proves God lives on in spite of human definitions passed. You are talking about two different things (i.e., idolatry and God’s true revelation). One can not prove the other. Now, if you can show me where God’s true revelation has died or changed, while God Himself lived on, then you would be onto something. You, however, are trying to prove the point by looking at a different issue completely (idolatry).

    Also, I would say that you can not merely “step into the shoes of an Evangelical,” as you say you are trying to do. There is so much more to being an Evangelical then the mere stepping into shoes can authentically relate. The biggest of these things is a relationship with God which is characterized by devotion, obedience and joy.

    That aside, I have no idea what your quote above even means: “Biblically, however, we must say that mere theism is not a virtue. Yahweh says, worship me, not god in the abstract. Israel was always charged to choose between Yahweh and the Baals. They were forbidden from worshipping [sic] Moloch or Ashtoreth. The impersonal deity of Aristotle cannot place us under moral obligation, and it most certainly cannot save.”

    First of all, I do not know of anyone who considers Theism a “virtue”. I’m not even sure what that means! Secondly, how exactly is Theism the worship of God in the abstract? That make no sense either, given the alternatives, or lack thereof. Also, I would say that your seminary prof., has little context for what he says about Yahweh (unless I am misreading his context, which is not available in the quote you pasted). Why? The worship and relations offered and shared between Yahweh and Israel is obviously and thoroughly Theistic in nature. It would be senseless to argue otherwise, unless one has a new Bible. That said, I think you would have a hard time finding Evangelicals who prioritize Theism over that which Theism ushers in … namely a tangible relationship with God. So, I’m not sure what any of that quote means.

    So, in conclusion, I think you have failed to prove that Biblical narrative is synonymous with human definitions of God and therefore symptomatic of the idea that human definitions of God do die and change without God dying or changing. So, as an Evangelical, I would still say “no” to the idea that human definitions of God can die without God dying, unless we are talking about idolatry, which does change and die but has no bearing at all on the true revelation of God Himself and can not therefore be cited as proof of the statement’s truth. I think it is a totally meaningless statement (human definitions of God can die without God dying), so I would not agree with it at all. There is no point of congruence at all between the statement and Evangelicals.

    Also, Postmodernism is thoroughly relativistic and thus inherently bent toward synthesis … just to tie that thread up too. :)

    Thanks for the conversation ck. I think we have exhausted it at this point.

    Shawn Anthony

  23. I have nothing to add. (In terms of antithesis, I think I am correct and you are not, especially in terms of your characterization of po-mo, but we’ll just have to leave that be, since we’re getting nowhere. I wish I could explain to you the entire context and get you to see where I’m coming from, but that would take far too long.)

    By the way, this is difficult to read in IE because of the block quotes pushing the margins left. In Firefox, it is legible, but not IE. Just something technical for you.

    Have a good weekend, Shawn.

    ck

  24. You too, ck.

    Shawn Anthony

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