Tag Archives: Jonathan Edwards

tw: perhaps all theologians should come with trigger warnings

a serious proposal

This blog post is two months in the making.  When I first got wind of the story of the MennoMedia’s decision to include a statement in Yoder’s published works, I wanted to post my thoughts, and I still plan on doing so in a “Your Fave Theologian Is Problematic” series that will include guest posts too.  The statement simply reads:

“John Howard Yoder (1927–1997) was perhaps the most well-known Mennonite theologian in the twentieth century. While his work on Christian ethics helped define Anabaptism to an audience far outside the Mennonite Church, he is also remembered for his long-term sexual harassment and abuse of women.

“At Herald Press we recognize the complex tensions involved in presenting work by someone who called Christians to reconciliation and yet used his position of power to abuse others. We believe that Yoder and those who write about his work deserve to be heard; we also believe readers should know that Yoder engaged in abusive behavior.

“This book is published with the hope that those studying Yoder’s writings will not dismiss the complexity of these issues and will instead wrestle with, evaluate, and learn from Yoder’s work in the full context of his personal, scholarly, and churchly legacy.”

When it comes to studying the impact of theologians, I believe complexity is something that we should shoot for. Unfortunately, the field of theology as I see it now, has a problem of making theologians into unassailable figures with squeaky-clean, whitewashed histories. Just as the biblical figure Jacob wrestled with God, so are Christians called to wrestle with the histories and theologies of persons who have chosen to study words about the divine. The usefulness of trigger warnings on blogposts is to place the experience of victims in society first. It is very much consistent with Liberation Theology’s preferential option for the poor. Lord knows that on my own posts in the past I should have used trigger warnings or content notes.

Last year, Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes suggested that television shows should have trigger warnings after public outcry for one of the show’s episodes. If there are Christians who are claim to be concerned with the well-being of the oppressed, I believe that one of the best possible practices could be to extend trigger warnings to all forms of media. To take a non-theological example, I believe the Hunger Games trilogy would have benefited from trigger warnings related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so that parents or teachers could have been better prepare to explain to elementary school children what was going on in one of the novels. Trigger warnings or even just merely content notes can help readers in theology not read texts in a vacuum. For example, a long time ago, one Joel Watts (before he went Super-Wesleyan) was singing the praises of Jonathan Edwards and I chastised him because Edwards endorsed the enslavement of Africans in his personal letters.

Do I believe we should just dismiss Jonathan Edwards and his whole body of work? No! But what I was saying was that we need to look at his (and other theologians’ truth claims) and examine the concrete practices they themselves preferred. With a topic as abstract and theoretical and highly philosophical as theology can get, it (theology) has to take on flesh in the end. Part of doing theology that resists and emancipates is to theologize with those on the underside of history. What would peace theologies look like if they started with the stories of the 80 women that John Howard Yoder sexually harassed?

So, what do you think? Should theology books have trigger warnings or content notes? Why or Why not?

A Brilliant Post on Jonathan Edwards

Is there any way I can become part of the Roger Olson fan club? Is it too late?

Why is Jonathan Edwards Considered So Great?- Roger Olson

I was just stunned by Olson’s praise and then critique of Edwards. A balanced and principled post.  I want to know more about Jonathan Edwards’ relationship/writings about Native Americans now. Any book suggestions where to start? Thank you Roger Olson!

Theologian Jonathan Edwards

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Against Trinitarian Dogma/For Trinitarian Ethics?

cuadro que representa a la Trinidad (santuario...

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Recently, T.C. Robinson commented on Roger Olson’s assessment of the Trinity as a non-essential. That is, Olson believes that Christians do not have to affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as traditionally understood. Joel “Olsteen” Watts calls the Trinity IDLE SPECULATION. Brian LePort is wrestling with just how different is the Muslim and Christian God, given Miroslav Volf’s views of the TRINITY. Each blogger has given me quite a lot to think about, and I have been working out my position for a while. How do I, a confessing (high) Trinitarian, still remain open to fellowship with non-trinitarian or Low-Trinitarian thinkers?

When I first was looking for alternatives to Piper Calvinism in late 2006, the first book I read was The Trinitarian Ethics of Jonathan Edwards. This work pointed me in the right direction (I believe) in that I started to say Trinity, Triune, God of community every chance I could. I have no regrets about this. I recall after a recitation of bible verse during chapel, instead of simply saying “this is the word of God for the people of God,” I said, “This is the Word of the Triune God for the people of the Triune God.” Yeah, people gave me quizzical looks but I didn’t care, and still don’t. So, I am all for Trinitarian theology, Father/Mother Son/Child Holy spirit/Bond of Love, three equal persons sharing one nature, living in community, I affirm perichoresis (all three living mutually in one anothers, etc., etc.).

However, what I did not understand from the book aforementioned is how could Jonathan Edwards be so “Trinitarian” and affirm human enslavement? Then, after that book, I read Jurgen Moltmann‘s The Trinity and the Kingdom, and he completely turned my theology upside down and then right side up. The equality within the Triune Godhead, the freedom that Christ exercised, as well as the indwelling of the Holy spirit in us to transform us into holiness cannot be separated from human responses. Both Jonathan Edwards and his contemporary secular thinker, Thomas Jefferson both affirmed human bondage as a way of life (sin as a affront against the Creator); Edwards was orthodox and trinitarian, Jefferson out right rejects the Trinity as well as the divinity of Jesus. So the question is, what does is matter in our lives, if we do or do not accept ousia or homoouisios terminology for God’s relationship within Godself and with humanity? What about the Christians who do not have or do not want to embrace a worldview that depends on Greek terminology that is NOT found in Scripture? I think this is a valid question. How can a Christian keep talking abstractly about homousios or hypostasis when there are women kidnapped around the world by men who use them for the sex slave trade?

An O or OO or OU is incapable of saving us. What matters more than Trinitarian doctrine and tradition is Trinitarian Ethics. What does Trinitarian Ethics look like? I would say it looks similar to Wesleyan views of Holiness or the Eastern Church’s proposal for theosis, where humanity is able to participate in the divine nature, to be holy as YHWH is holy. Key word is BEING. No, this does not mean that Christians are literally “perfect” or morally inerrant, but by sharing in God’s mission and becoming, believers witness to Christ’s victory in the world, a victory accomplished through suffering love. For example, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rejected traditional dogma, among others, the Trinity. I would say, however that he practiced a Trinitarian Ethics, of non-violence, embodying the way of the cross. The crucifixion of Christ was a prominent symbol in King, Jr.’s theology. Having a Cross-Eyed vision is what Trinitarian Ethics, the partaking in God’s life is all about: affirming God’s lordship of service for the sake of human beings being liberated to serve and commune together. Any Christian who supports barriers to this fellowship and freedom cannot appropriately call themselves Christian, let alone Trinitarian.

TRINITY! LIBERTY! EQUALITY!

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