Tag Archives: Wesleyan Theological Society

Otto Maduro 1945-2013

Picture from Drew University’s website

I was blessed to meet and be in the presence of Otto Maduro at the American Academy of Religion a few years ago as well as at the 2008 joint meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society and Society for Pentecostal Studies.  I write with sadness that Maduro has passed away.  For me, seeing Otto Maduro at work, doing theology at the grassroots level, presenting before his peers, I felt inspired and encouraged. Maduro was an example to all Christian scholars who desire to do theology at the intersection of the church and the academy.

Thoughts from around the web:

It is with sadness that we share the news that Professor Otto Maduro passed away at 8:45 p.m. last night. In a note to the Theological School community this morning, Jeffrey Kuan wrote: “He was surrounded by his wife Nancy, son Mateo and family members when he died. I went with Professor Laurel Kearns and Dr. Tanya Bennett to be with Nancy and the family. Professor Maduro looked very peaceful. When I have information about memorial service I will let all of you know. We have lost a great theologian and a great friend.”

Share your comments on Prof Maduro below or on his retirement page. http://www.drew.edu/otto/

Drew University’s Facebook Page

” Although I did not have him as a professor at Drew University, I did meet him and sat in some of his lectures and he worked with me as a mentor when I was selected as the speaker at my commencement. I particulay have had a deep resepct for the way he connected his scholarly work to the world of lived faith. He was very active in the AAR and his work with hispanic seminarians and pastors has , and will continue to have, a major impact on their church communities.”

Chris Rodkey

“Let us remember Otto for his pioneering work in sociology. Let us not forget his commitment to multiple communities, and his gentleness that surpassed our own.”– Robyn Henderson Espinoza

“Otto Maduro gave me joy. He restored my faith in men, in scholars, in humans. I like to think I gave him a love for bluegrass and Hank Williams.”

Kristen Chapman Gibbons

American Academy of Religion

American Academy of Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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To @UnitedSeminary : John Wesley Would Oppose Kenneth Copeland’s Prosperity Gospel

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism

I am speaking out of my capacity as someone with Methodist and Wesleyan friends, as well as someone who agrees for the most part with Wesleyan theology. John Wesley would not approve of the prosperity anti-gospel, and the Word of BANK  Faith movement. I have already made my opposition known to Tither-Driven Churches; I would now like to use John Wesley himself as an example, especially in light of lame-line seminaries aligning themselves with heresy in order to make a cheap buck. It’s pretty unbelieveable that this same school United Seminary has a member on its board who would rather go on an anti-Catholic rant (he’s a Methodist pastor) rather than confronting heretics. Apostacy wins. Tradition loses.

There is a difference between Catholics and the Word of Bank Faith movement. Catholic priests preach the Gospel, the Good News God ordained for the poor, for the broken hearted, for the unborn, and for the elderly. The prosperity anti-gospel does the exact opposite; we cannot compare the two. Catholic clergy and laity affirm the content of the Gospel while the prosperity anti-gospel movement, they CHANGE the content of the gospel to its very antithesis.

This leads me to reflect on John Wesley’s sermon on 1st Timothy 6:9; now, 1st and 2nd Timothy are not just friendly pastoral letters telling us how we should run our “CHUCH”; no indeed, historically, Paul is confronting rich women who were trying to take over the life of the church by their wealth and power. Theologically reconsidered, Paul’s message to Timothy and his church matches Jesus’ priestly ministry, that God just does not have a heart for the poor, but that they are His very heart, His existence, and, as the song goes, He is the Defender of the Weak, a Comfort to those in need. Our love and solidarity for the poor do not take a backseat to ecclesiology or pastoral authority; rather it is the reverse.

John Wesley preached on thedangers of riches, and greed ruled his day like it does our: “How many thousands do we find at this day, in whom the ruling principle is, the desire to enlarge the pleasure of tasting! Perhaps they do not gratify this desire in a gross manner, so as to incur the imputation of intemperance; much less so as to violate health or impair their understanding by gluttony or drunkenness. But they live in a genteel, regular sensuality; in an elegant epicurism, which does not hurt the body, but only destroys the soul, keeping it at a distance from all true religion.” Of course when you believe in either a hedonistic god like John Piper who only works for His own good please, well, I guess it’s okay to affirm a capitalism where each works for his own good.

Philosophically, John Wesley was a contemporary, and a vocal opponent of the pagan philosopher economist Adam Smith. United Methodist theologian Joerg Rieger notes in his book, NO Rising Tide that it was faithful Christians like John Wesley who first confronted Smith and his unbiblical theories, not any “godless Marxists.” Justice must include covenant, and the New Covenant, just as the First Covenant, gives first priority to the widows, the orphans, the elderly,the exiled, and the unborn over those concerned with the here and now, the middle-class, and those who see themselves in “stable-homes.” This goes against the logic of “satan likes to see a poor preacher’; that’s just bad anti-gospel theology, and misses the whole point about Scripture’s message (and John Wesley’s view) about stewardship.

Are modern-day Protestant clergy here in Amerika superior to the apostles and disciples, that we don’t have to go through persecution, or fellowship with the disabled, or suffer through poverty, chosen or unchosen? I guess according to UTS and Copeland, they are. Maybe Protestants need to start learning from Catholics and start taking Vows of Poverty.

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Thomas Jay Oord's The Nature of Love: A Theology

Disclaimer: This is a review of Thomas Jay Oord’s The Nature of Love: A Theology. Full disclosure– I personally know and have met Professor Oord on a couple of occassions at the annual Wesleyan Theological Society. Also, as a part of a mutual agreement via Facebook whereby I received this work at no cost, I am reviewing this book as a Christian Open/Relational Theist. Hence, my review reflects my theological preference as such.

Part 1: Oord Addresses A Major Blindspot in Theoloogy:

Love is viewed as an afterthought for systematic theologians, Oord argues (page 1). Usually when professional theologians discuss love, its about issues relating to marriage and sexuality. Oord believes that love is THE central message of the Bible and his goal is to portray God as lovingly relational (i.e., not impersonal) against thinkers like Paul Tillich, as well as the necessity of love (contra Karl Barth) (pages 6-7). Oord defines love as “To act intentionally in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others to promote overall well being” (17). I especially appreciated the potential of “promoting overall well being” as well as Oord explanation of that portion as linking love to justice. “Justice and love are not enemies” (20). Part of being loving is working for the common good–a notion that could potentially be compatible with liberation theologies, especially ones that begin with reflectons on love (see Gustavo Gutierrez’ A Theology of Liberation). The empathy/sympathy portion of the definition means that in a loving relationship, the relational bond partly determines the existence of each party (22). Oord finishes his introductory chapter arguing that God calls all complex creatures to love according to the light given to them, and that God’s love is solely not self-sacrifice, ala feminist theology (26-28).

Part 2: Oord Problematizes Past Theologies of Love

Oord goes on to criticize Anders Nygren’s theology of love, for stressing agape love, one that makes human beings passive recipients of God’s love in Christ. Nygren avoids the Hebrew Bible in his arguments, and prefers the language of master and slave. Oord finds Saint Augustines view of love as primarily acquisitive desire, enjoyment for short. Oord says, “God is not entirely egoistic” (81). Lastly, Clark Pinnock, while Oord uses the Open Theology framework that Pinnock and others proposed a few decades ago, Oord says that any idea that we have to believe in Creation Ex Nihilo, that God created everything starting from nothing. Not only is this an unbiblical idea according to Oord, it is advancing a god who coerces contrary to the nature of love.

Part 3: Oord Makes A New Proposal for a Theology of Love

Oord argues that God must be Essentially Kenotic, that is necessarily self-limiting. This commitment is involuntary (125-127) since a voluntary kenotic God can still be blamed for the existence and prevalence of evil in the word (124). Oord proposes a new Open doctrine of love for Creation: creation ex creatione a natura, something he states is better than creation ex nihilo or creation ex deo. An essentially kenotic God is not “weak, uninvolved, or inactive” but at the same time, there is no guarantee of victory since there is no possibility of coercion (156). He concludes the text, “I think good theology must be be lived. Just as practice informs theology, good theology must be live in practice.”

Part 4: My Criticism from a Liberationist & Postcolonial Perspective

Oord states that his constructive proposal for a Creation Ex Creatione a Natura has “nothing about the view logically problematic.” For starters, while I enjoy works in constructive theology, there is such thing as having a text filled with too many neologisms. In my view, in light of the purpose of the text, which was to construct a theology centered on love, Oord hides behind obfuscation, creating a neogolistic word cloud, concealing clarity of thought. I think it was over the top, for example, when Oord randomly renames his brand of panentheism, “theocosmocentrism”(147). It was really quite unnecessary and there is not really an explanation for the preference, or any background. Oord’s Creation Ex Creatione a Natura reads more like Creation Continua, a combination of process thought in biblicist garb. There is a problem with the logic of Creation Continua, that it promotes politically essentialism and permanence. As Willie Jennings in The Christian Social Imagination noted, Creation Ex Nihilo affirms the fundamental instability of all things. “When view through this hermeneutical horizon, peoples exist without necessary permanence either of place or identity. This kind of anti-essentialist vision facilitates a different way of viewing human communities” (28).

My second problem with Oord is his excessive biblicism; the text itself is a rather odd blend of philosophical theology and citation of scripture with very little background or exegesis given (a lot like one of my favorite theologians, Jurgen Moltmann). Oord believes that the Bible’s metanarrative is centered on love, and that it is the Bible that is “the supreme love witness” (119). Does this not make the Scriptures more of a revelation of the divine over Jesus? Christ, creation, and the church are all put on equal pairing in terms of ethics, but the Bible is at the top of the hierarchy according to Oord’s logic. If you are going to do a book on philosophical theology, stay with philosophical theology. I guess I could say the same of most evangelical theology, which, outside of those like Stanley Grenz, theology becomes nothing more than the Bible Wars being played out all over again.

Lastly, I felt the tone of the book made it read like Oord did not want to disagree with anyone, and therefore caught in a controversy of some sort. It is an utter contradiction to argue on one page that God’s kenosis (self-emptying) is involuntary, and then a couple of pages later, claim that God is self-limiting. This is theological-double speak. You are either advancing process theology or you are not. Don’t try to appeal to divine voluntarism, but then criticize God following through on God’s promises as assurance God will be loving (page 145). Oord would neatly fit the description of a process theist (but alas, what person fits neatly into any category?) if it was not for his (correct) orthodox view of God as personal. This is where Oord could have aided his own argument, using Christian tradition to support his views. Yet, Tradition is the part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral that Oord neglects (he gives us a healthy dose of Christian Experience, the Bible, and Christian Reason).

I hope my criticisms are helpful in Oord’s future texts, and that Oord’s view of relational theology reaches a wider audience and changes theological determinist hearts in U.S. American Evangelicalism.