Tag Archives: WTS

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,


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 Two

An Open Conversation with John B Cobb Jr. Posted with permission by Dr. Cobb.

A special thanks to Thomas Jay Oord for inviting me to ask a question and putting this discussion together.

Q: What do you think of Natural law? How do you conceive it? (in an Ethical context).

A: Not made se of natural law.  Quite possible. The word law, not happy use it.  Against absolutizing any human formulation. Can’t get past limits of human knowledge.

Q: Have political views/experiences changed your theology?

A:  Can’t give an exact answer.  Parents missionaries in Japan.  Attitudes about race changed.  Very conscious of race.  Well aware of social issues (general liberal political background).  Wanted originally to be a government agent in an international capacity.  Does not know how it shaped his theology.

Q: Follow up; What lead you to your embrace of process theology?

A: Growing up Wesleyan.  Learning the primacy of love over power.  Accidental.  Army experience was first experience with intellectuals.  In the process of studying Japanese, mostly New Yorkers, hurried to study Japanese to go another route than just the “bang bang” group.  Mostly Catholic and Jewish.  Went to Chicago to test his faith against what he called the modern world.  Hartsock helped Cobb, had reasons to go beyond modern questions about God.

Q: How do you think of eschatology?

A: Diverse Meanings and different patterns.  No guarantee that our decline will be reversed.  Cannot make use of apocalypse; a prophetic eschatology.

Q: How do you understand God initiating creation? Out of nothing?

A: Ex Nihilo and Power go hand in hand.  God does not unilaterally determine things.  Redefining nothing; not biblical.  Understandable, but stick with the biblical understanding.  God is always calling creatures to do what is best for them (Love). Daniel Day Williams! Wesleyan features of Whitehead.

Q: Doctrine of the trinity. Relativize it?  Does the Trinity help us?

A: Process theology emphasizes relations.

Q: What are the different ways process folks talk about Trinity?

A: The trinity should not be a litmus test.  Can be destructive to good theology.  Does not want to pass the litmus.  Threeness is the worship of mathematics.

(Scientists are badly socialized into materialism, etc.)

Neo-Darwinism has done great damage. Value of mechanic model falls short.

Q: What is your view of telos?

A: Biologists who do not believe in a telos are just disinterested in telos.  We behave purposefully.

MY Question: 2 parts— In patristic theology, God is transcendent and unknown in the work of persons such as Clement of Alexandria; what is your process view of transcendence? What is the good, common good, good action in process theology?

His Answer: I transcend him, he transcends me, in a finite sense even though we both participate mutually in the lives of each other.  The good: loving God in the neighbor, not a radical separation.   Both human and non-human.