When the word theology is mentioned people either have no idea what you are talking about or they think you’re talking about something religious. This week I listened to the new album by A Perfect Circle and their songs TalkTalk and The Doomed spoke to me. Theologically! This band illustrates some aspects of what I mean by public theology.
Actually, I don’t believe in predestination. We are not robots! I hate predestination and consider it one of the great heretical ideas that have crept into Christian theology, first by the philosophically inclined medieval theologians, but then, in a horribly amplified version of the doctrine, by way of the Calvinists and their double predestination (some are destined for salvation and some for damnation). Through their ardent labor, millions have lived in agony about their whereabouts in the afterlife and have seen, in the misery of their earthly conditions, a sure sign of the divine determination to ransack and haunt them all the way from a hellish earth to a fiery hell.
A Devotional on the Cross
Imagine a cross. The cross has a vertical pole and a crossbar. It is not hard to imagine the vertical pole representing the dynamic between below and above. Christ was nailed to that cross. He hung suspended between heaven and earth, deserted by the dwellers of both. In Christ reconciled with God, Christians the world over are participants in that vertical dimension. The connection with God has been established. The vertical pole represents the relationship with God. They also have a responsibility in the horizontal.
A few years ago, I saw a post on Facebook that asserted that what makes Christianity stand out from other religions is that Christian have a personal relationship with God. It irked me and I was ready to fire off a response but I stopped with my fingers hovering over the keyboard. There was no point in getting broiled in yet another fruitless Facebook dispute.
This article was published a few years ago as two shorter articles at Relevant.com.
Waking Up to A Non-Christian World
We live in weird times. Almost every day we are shell-shocked with news about terrorist attacks and the international export of islamic terrorism through ISIS’ worldwide network. While we ask ourselves where all this is going, some politicians tell us we can no longer trust our muslim neighbor. They also tell us we should build walls to protect us from villains crossing our southern border. And as we wonder what to make of such calls, we are surprised to find evangelical leaders rallying in support of those that make these claims, all in name of the culture war we’re engaged in as Christians.
Today I will tell a little more about what I want with this blog. It is my hope to initiate an impietist tradition. As you can perhaps guess, impietism is something like the opposite of pietism, the well-known movement of personal devotion and sincerity of faith within 18th century Lutheranism. In truth, the difference is actually more subtle, since the Pietists got a couple things right. My impietism is intended for the degenerate, for those who feel like they are un-born-again. So let’s have a little impietist talk.
The Apostle John tells us that before Jesus was arrested he prayed the following words, part of a longer prayer: “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. (…) so that they may be brought to complete unity.” What has come of Jesus’ prayer?
The unity Jesus prays for is connected to both the unity that he and the Father have and to the task that is set before the believers (“Then the world will know that you sent me”). In theological parlance this means that unity is connected with the Trinitarian nature of God (that is, God as a trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit) as well as the mission of God, the so-called missio Dei in the world.
I know this sounds outrageous, but these were the words that popped-up in my head when I heard that my sister has breast cancer: my sister is doing chemo while God is busy numbering her hairs. That’s what Jesus promises in the Gospels, isn’t it (See Lk 12:7). I wondered what God would do next when my sister would grow bald as a result of the devastating effect of a medicine that is almost worse than the disease itself. Is God just going to stand by as the mayhem evolves?
The death of Jesus Christ has been an occasion for theologians and philosophers to speculate about the end of God. With Jesus’ death on the cross, God died and this is the end of God’s story. Jesus is the end of God. But then there is Easter. It is part of the narrative of Jesus Christ and as such cannot be ignored. Resurrection belongs to this narrative. Death of God theologians have trouble integrating this into their theologies.
However, even on the basis of the resurrection we ought to conclude that Jesus signals and acts out God’s end. Here is how this works. In this short piece, I will first side with the theologians and philosophers who have concluded that religion has ran its course and that after its demise, can only signal God’s end. Then, I will argue, that when we abandon self-constructed God-talk we open ourselves to understand the true meaning of God’s end. In Jesus, we find the true meaning of this end.
“He is risen!” read the headline of a newsletter of a Christian ministry I received yesterday. I was taken aback. No! I thought. He hasn’t even died yet. Heck, he hasn’t even been crucified, what’s the rush?
My issue is not so much that not all people follow the liturgical calendar. I am notoriously bad in remembering the important days of Christianity (except Christmas). No, it’s just that too many Christians want to skip Friday. They don’t want to be reminded of it. They desire to relegate the shame of the cross to a historical event in the past. It’s over now, they say, he’s risen! Which is code language for: we live in victory. Read More