Tag Archives: tradition

Blog Posts of Note: Week of Feb 27th-March 5th 2011


I have appreciated very much so the kind words that have been given about the post
Katie’s Cannon(ization): Inerrancy as White Evangelical Folklore.

In the spirit of that, I would like to make you aware of two other posts.

First Erin of UNDONE responds to “Katie’s Cannon(ization)” and add some thoughts of her own, including her impression of my view of plenary inspiration as a disembodied concept: “Inerrancy & Biopolitics: Our Bodies Are The Texts.” Erin’s blog is fascinating, by the way; she writes on race, biopolitics, Foucault, and theology. Glad to have found it.

Secondly, admittedly although I had read this second article earlier this week, Erin made the connection between my post aforementioned and Katie from Women In Theology, and the problematic creation theology of Pope Benedict XVI‘s Deus Caritas Est: “It’s Adam and Eve AND Adam and Steve”. I think the article offers a critique to theologies of creation that prioritize Genesis 2 over Genesis 1 in general as well (meaning: not limited to the Pope’s encyclical).

April DeConick argues for a trans-tradition criticism in the area of biblical studies. which will be “a pragmatic and embodied view of human beings as personal and social agents who actively and constantly (re)shape the t/Traditions to align with their experiences of themselves and their world. They are participants in personal and social conversations that support, create, modify and destroy t/Traditions” : “Transtradition Criticism”

Cynthia R. Nielsen continues her series on Fanon, Foucault, humanism and interhuman solidarity: “Part III: Fanon and Foucault on humanism and rejecting the Enlightenment.

Suzanne McCarthy continues her conversation with two other blogging scholars, one a complementarian and the other an egalitarian who defends the complementarian hermeneutic of Scripture; I know what it is like to not have my questions addressed, and that’s only a sign of one thing (I’ll let you guess): Invitation to Mike Heiser and John Hobbins.

Julie Clawson problematizes the traditional Christian reading of Joshua (as we all should): Conquest, Empire, and Irony in the biblical text

James Bradford Pate should be commended for being one of the best bloggers out there. He has challenged himself to read literature written by people who do not look like him, in particular, by African-Americans and women.  During black history month, James reviewed (chapter by chapter, mind you all while being a PhD student), Booker T. Washington‘s Up From Slavery & W.E.B DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folks.  This March, for Women’s History Month, James is beginning a series on Jacquelyn Grant’s White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus.

Amanda Mac of Political Jesus and Cheese-wearing theology provides us with a list of women theo-bloggers/bibliobloggers that she reads: Blogs I Read: A Shout Out To Women.


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Sexual Ethics and Logos Christology: Neither Natural Law or Nihilism

UPDATE: ** After conversing with Chad via text message, I have concluded that this post affirms most of what Chad argued. There was just confusion with my reading of his conclusion.  But other than that, this is the approach I take. **

Below Chad posted on how Jesus as a rabbi loosed/bound some laws as weightier than others.  While we may disagree on the issue of marriage, I think it is suffice to say that neither Chad or I believe in Natural Law or Nihilism.  Natural law or the idea that there are ordinances that govern the material universe was appealed to by proponents of the recently overturned Proposition 8.  I believe personally that natural law ethics are problematic because of the refusal to deal with particularity; as one professor of mine puts it so succinctly: “Nothing is natural.”  I think that philosophically speaking, cultural conservatives are encapsulated by the logic of natural law, speaking in universals, and discussing what the “rights of man” are.  On the other hand, there is on the other side a proclivity towards what I consider a form of nihilism, that idea that “nothing has any meaning” because all is, in the end, socially constructed and it is the human right to continue to construct and re-construct a world for herself.  I think that purpose is a gift, and that humanity needs help in making the world a better place; in fact, humanity needs a word who continues to speak in a tradition that transcends human particularity but at the same time, invites humanity in its differences to participate in the life of the Creator.

I think distinctively for Christians, this word is the Logos, Christ Jesus, the Word of YHWH who embraced embodiment.  I make no apologies when I say this but Marcion remains wrong because Jesus IS the precedent in the “Old” Testament; Jesus’s story is the story first from the Hebrew people to everyone second.  So, whenever one says that Jesus did this or that as a rabbi, I would like to say, no, we do not know that really since we are unsure which Judaism Jesus practice.  What we do know is this: Christ Jesus is the Logos of the God of Israel, and therefore as special revelation Jesus interprets himself; Jesus of Nazareth in other words, is special revelation that is self-interpreting , the Word interpreting Scripture.  Therefore, he alone has the right to correctly reveal and continue to disclose the multiple meanings of the biblical text. The Logos is the end of the Scripture, and the Logos is the end of all of creation (Colossians 1).  Paul is unable to write Romans 1 (under the auspices of natural law language) without first knowing the revealed law, in this case Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen logos. This is where the theologies of the apostle Paul and Clement of Alexandria meet: Christ is the Logos Incarnate,  is at once, the Law (in the Hebrew Bible), the Law-Giving/Covenant making God Yahweh, as well as the covenant-bearing Son of  Humanity (for more on this from Clement, read his Stromata [I translate it as Carpets] Book 1, specifically his views on Moses receiving the Logos.

I find it difficult to agree with the thinking of natural law arguments or nihilism.  We are either trapped by the subjective whims of a free humanity without limits or bound by what an elite few consider to be “natural.”  Logos Christology frees us from the hopeless binary of either of the first two approaches.  Christ, as the Wisdom of God, corrects human foolish behavior by teaching us the right way.  In the context of the Hebrew Bible and human sexuality, I think that Chad’s analysis falls short. First of all, because something happens with God’s permission does not mean that God honors it, like polygamy.  Of course, I know, that is part of Reformed theology in some circles, but biblically, polygamy fails.  Polygamy happens AFTER the fall (whether it is the fall to violence with Cain and Abel or the fall to empire with Nimrod). David epically fails on his own because he breaks the Law given to Moses, you know, the parts about the king not having multiple wives or building large armies or having slaves; check Deuteronomy 17:14-20. The Deuteronomist is notorious for making a mockery of the monarchy; there is no endorsement. Only warning, disobedience, and tragedy.  The one true king who governs Israel is the Logos itself, or indirectly guiding the Israelites like Wisdom led them out of Egypt according to the Apocrypha.  God never honors or endorses polygamy, concubine, sex slaves, or anything like that; God however does work within those human bodies who practiced these acts because God governs in meekness, through us weak and ignorant human beings.

Outside the mystery of the Incarnation, humanity remains too stupid to know what right or wrong is.  Of course, there is God sends us hints (some call it common grace, others prevenient grace) of what is good and right (the logos with a small l that is carried by the Spirit of God throughout the world).  Jesus had to teach his followers how to pray. He had to teach them about marriage. Whenever I see the added subtitle “Jesus’s teaching on Divorce,” I want to split my hairs and scream! Jesus is disclosing knowledge on marriage and the nature of it; this is what Matthew 19 is about.  Our narrow focus on the two or three verses on divorce does the entire chapter a disservice.  Not everyone can accept Jesus’ words (revelation) precisely because it was NOT natural for humans to understand what marriage is all about.  Marriage does have a purpose, a purpose given to it by the Logos, for man and woman to become 1: 1+1=s 1.  A mystery and revelation simultaneously, much like the idea of the Trinity.

Both natural law social conservatives and nihilist social progressives rely on the idol of marriage, the notion that everyone needs to marry, and family is natural and so is being with another person is as natural as being human, but this notion of relationships is faulty because we never take into consideration Jesus’s words at the end of Matthew 19, about those who leave their households (families, relationships) inheriting the Kingdom of God. This is quite disturbing, the family values of Jesus, that is.

What does this all mean, in conclusion? Should Christians go around creating a theocracy by force? Of course not, but neither should secularists.  However, it is the free gift of God that the church teach what is the purpose of marriage, through living example as well as preaching of the Word.  One cannot conclude just because something appears in Scripture without commentary from God, does not mean God gave it approval.  Instead, we must first check to see how the Word interprets itself (Jesus understands the canon) and work our way out.  We must be taught by the Educator (another Clement reference, I know, I know) before we can teach the world what we have learned.

Christo-dramatic re-traditionalization explained

Rodney Clapp, in his “Practicing the Politics of Jesus,” discusses the narrative logic of Christian political practices. Christian mission begins with the memory of a story; like Jesus, who knows his mission by knowing the story of Israel and Israel’s God, YHWH (Clapp, 26). Jesus of Nazareth embodies the story of Israel, with climaxes with his resurrection, which means the reconstitution of the nation of Israel and its temple (27). Thus, the church, must remember the story of Jesus, which is firmly grounded in the narrative of Israel, which in turns aids us in creating rules of grammar and practices (doctrine and sacraments) for remembering Christ’s story (29). Some of the problems with the narrative turn in theology was exposed in Kevin Van Hoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine: A canonical linguistic approach to Christian theology. One of these problems include the way in which the narrative functions within the Christian community; the story, as true with Clapp’s essay, becomes more important than the performances (actions) taken by the community. Doctrine, therefore is given primacy, as it has traditionally had, over and against praxis. This should not be the case; doctrine and praxis go hand in hand. The doctrine of the Trinity and its development has very concrete implications for how Christians are to live in community with one another as well as within the world.
The narrative turn in biblical studies is represented by Walter Brueggeman, and for my purposes, in particularly his essay, “Always in the Shadow of the Empire.” Over and over again, Brueggeman emphasizes that the history of Israel, and therefore the recorded history in the Hebrew Bible, was constituted by a struggle for the Israelites to maintain their particularly theologically constructed national identities against the imperial religions and oppressive forces of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and Persians. Brueggeman, like Clapp, prioritizes the story over practices; for example, he excuses Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s stances against interracial marriage as an example of their dedication to the YHWH-ist formed identity of the Jews (54). The other problem with narrative theology is that persons are very selective in which part of the story they will tell. Moses was married to someone of another ethnicity; it seems unreasonable for Brueggeman to remain silent on that issue when he claims that the Exodus story remains the formative story for Israel.

Proponents of Christian particularity find notions such as syncretism and intercultural exchange to be problematic. This is founded upon the fear that the religious assembly will fall into unfaithfulness and disobedience. It is a valid fear, no doubt, but one cannot say that practicioners of world Judaisms and Christianities have been left in isolated boxes, down to this day, without being influenced by other cultures, religions, and philosophies. Christian beliefs and practices have been shown to have cross-cultural and cross-generational connections; things such as the care for the widows, the orphans, and destitute can be found across religious lines. According to Ogbu U. Kalu, during an era where Japan was trying to modernize its industry, there was something called “traditionalization,” or patterning Japanese industrial practices consistently with traditional Japanese mores (Kalu, 9). In agreement with Stanley Hauerwas (in his “The Nonviolent Terrorist: In Defense of Christian Fanaticism”) and thus Alasdair MacIntyre, I believe that traditions are contextually formed and informed by local truths and praxis (Hauerwas, 96). Traditions within world Christianity do not remain the same. The story may not change, but the story-tellers do, as well as the situations in which they must enact and perform the story of Christ.

Dramas on Broadway as well as the silver screen require the actors to perform a story, to act out a particular narrative to both general and specific audiences. The story is just as important as the performance; there is no division between the actor, the actions s/he takes within the narrative, and the story that may or may not be original. The great thing about movies is that they can have sequels, prequels, or even remakes. Therefore, the term I have come up with to express the Universal Church’s need to dramatize the story of Christ throughout the centuries and within differing contexts is Christo-dramatic re-traditionalization. To Christo-dramatically re-traditionalize the Christian faith is to simultaneously recognize the differences between Christianity and other religions as well as the changing nature of Christian tradition from generation to generation as well as from culture to culture. For example, Nathaniel Turner’s Christian rebellion against his enslavers would probably not fit into Stanley Hauerwas’s model of nonviolent terrorists, but one could perhaps analyze Turner’s revolt in light of Christian violent activity such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s failed assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler. Christo-dramatic re-traditionalization, therefore, rejects the notion that every Christian ought to be converted into the image of Stanley Hauerwas who wants everyone to be a pacifist, but rather that every Christian actor performs the drama that Christ has called her/him to act out in their particular stage of the world and in history (Hauerwas, 90).