Tag Archives: conference

Notes from WTS 2010: Conclusion

Overall, I think it was an edifying experiences for me to hear the presentations and ideas of others.  I felt glee as persons seemed interested in the direction of my theological studies.

Seeing William Abraham of SMU Perkins square off with Richard Hays of Duke on the challenges of narrative interpretations of Scripture was thought provoking.  It made me re-think readings of the Gospel of Luke and the stories of Elijah the prophet, and the inter-textual relationship between the two.

I also decided to make it a habit that whenever I go to an academic conference for religious studies (who knows, maybe someday I’ll be invited to a conference outside of religious studies someday), to attempt to attend the sessions on Philosophical Theology since that is where my interests are.

I also learned never to take Los Angeles International Airport if my destination is in Pomona, California. Yeah, L.A. has three airports for a good reason. Learned that one the hard way.

Truth and Peace,

Rod

Notes from WTS 2010: Part Three

Notes from my presentation at the Ethnic Studies session.

Ezekiel and Empire Studies: Imperialism, Idolatry, and the Imago Dei from a Black Postcolonial Perspective

1. Currently in biblical and theological studies, there is a tendency for scholars to study the New Testament in light of the authors’ context within the Roman Empire.[1] However, the role of empire and imperialism, as viewed through empire studies and postcolonial interpretation, has been largely ignored in the Hebrew Bible.

2. The story of Ezekiel informed enslaved Africans not only could they have hope because the divine Spirit resided with them, but also because God could keep promises even in the worst of times. In Ezekiel chapter 1, verse 26 and 27, Katheryn Pfisterer Darr interprets the “likeness of humanity” or demut kemarah adam and hasmal (or glowing amber) as a person who is made in the image of God, reminiscent of the texts found in Genesis 1:26-27 and 9:12-17.[2] The concept of human beings made in the image of God means that every human life is infinitely valuable to God; the enthroned figure in Ezekiel’s visions reminds us of the sacredness of human life and dignity.  In addition, the radiance “in a cloud on a rainy day,” as Darr understands verse 28, is much like the rainbow God shows to Noah in God’s promise to never again destroy the world by flood again.  If God can remember God’s promise to Noah, and God’s promise to God’s covenant people, the Israelites, then God can also remember the enslaved African Christians suffering from brutality when they cry out to God.  God’s presence and God’s faithfulness serve as the foundation of hope for the oppressed.

3.  Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was said to have carried a copy of Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited on his many journeys[3] His work, first published in 1946, it has been considered a vital resource for liberating spirituality especially in Black church circles.  Thurman preferred the religion of Jesus over Christianity; the religion of Jesus was for those who were not considered to be full citizens in society.  Jesus provided a vision where there would “be room for all, and no man would be a threat to his brother.”[4]

In Thurman’s chapter “Deception,” Ezekiel’s story makes an appearance. Thurman remarks,

“When the children of Israel were in captivity in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel could not give the words of comfort and guidance by direct and overt statement.  If he had, he would not have lasted very long, and the result would have been a great loss to his people He would have been executed as a revolutionary in short order and all religious freedom would have been curtailed.  What did the prophet do? He resorted to a form of deception.  He put words in the mouth of an old king of Tyre that did not come from him at all, but Nebuchadnezzar.  It was Nebuchadnezzar who had said, ‘I am God.’ “[5]

Thurman goes on to argue that lying destroys the soul; if the disinherited continue to tell falsehoods, they will eventually become false themselves.[6]

Howard Thurman’s account of Ezekiel’s oracle against the king of Tyre is found lacking if we agree with Frantz Fanon’s rendering of the truth.  Fanon says, “In answer to the lie of the colonial situation, the colonized subject responds with a lie. […] Truth is what hastens the dislocation of the colonial regime, what fosters the emergence of the nation. […] In the colonial context there is no truthful behavior.”[7] Howard Thurman would require the colonized to tell the truth at all times and at all places in the name of sincerity and absolute truth, but in colonial situations, truth is never absolute because colonies are built upon dishonesty.  Thurman does not even address the lies told by imperialists; their falsehoods remain one of his oversights in his usage of Ezekiel.

[1] For example, see: Dube Shomanah, Musa W. Postcolonial Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. St. Louis, Mo: Chalice Press, 2000; Moore, Stephen D. Empire and Apocalypse: Postcolonialism and the New Testament. Bible in the modern world, 12. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006; Segovia, Fernando F. Interpreting Beyond Borders. The Bible and postcolonialism, 3. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

[2] Katheryn Pfisterer Darr. “The Book of Ezekiel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.” Pages 1116-1117 in The New Interpreter’s Bible. Volume VI.  Editted by David L. Petersen.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.

[3] Thurman. See Foreword.

[4] Thurman, 35.

[5] Ibid, 60.

[6] Ibid, 65.

[7] Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, 14.

Notes from WTS 2010: Part One

Paul and Twentieth Century Philosophy in the Philosophical Theology Session

I listened to three fascinating presentations on the apostle Paul from a continental philosophical perspective, especially Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, and Slavoj Zizek.  I partly blame these three presenters for my current interest in Derrida and Zizek.

Some food for thought from the presentations:

  1. Paul’s thought on salvation: not individualistic.    Justice achieved without the law.  From the book
  2. Reading Derrida, Thinking Paul: On Justice

Justice, not righteousness should be the translation of the Greek word often translated as such. (as an added point, I would like to say the same for the German term for righteousness as justice as well.

Wickedness, then,  should be injustice.

Justice as law is different from Deconstruction is justice.

Derrida says that justice is infinite, rebellious, heterotopic.  Law as stability, calculable.  Justice is the experience.  Law is inherently violent.  Behind the law, there is the death penalty.

The Messiah is the Justice of God.

Both the Law of Rome and Jews is what Paul is protesting.

Paul thinks that the law can make one aware of injustice.

There is a difference between Justice of the Spirit vs. Justice of the flesh

Jesus is the Great Criminal according to Derrida.

  1. Paul and Badiou

Simply:  Badiou badly misinterprets Paul.  Death (crucifixion) all negated by the Resurrection, an ahistorical kernel.

What about hegemony?

  1. Giorgio Agamben: division of division in Paul.  Multiplicity of groups, like the remnant.  Alternative Messianic community.