Archive for March, 2011

Evangelicalism and the Natural Law

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

As with others, I have recently been tracking a healthy conversation about the relationship between natural law and evangelicalism in the blogosphere. I say healthy because it strikes me as the correct way to dialog about such philosophical and theological divergences, especially in the face of the Rob Bell “storm.”

Evidently, Matthew Lee Anderson touched off the conversation with an article in Christianity Today. Jordan Ballor weighed in on the conversation by pointing out Protestantism’s focus on voluntarism, which I find helpful. This prompted some reflection at the First Things’ site by Joe Carter and Joseph Knippenberg. I like, in particular, Knippenberg’s comment about a division among evangelicals between those who are “together” with Catholics and those who talk incessantly about world views. Finally, I would note Vince Bacote’s weighing in on the matter by pointing out some possible connections with Abraham Kuyper.

Since this is largely a conversation among Reformed evangelicals and Catholics (with a sprinkling of Lutheran perspective here and there to add just the right flavor), let me offer the perspective of a Classical Pentecostal.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rebuilding Japan!

Monday, March 21st, 2011 by Wolfgang Vondey

There was a time when Japan was fashionable. During the 1980s, when I completed a degree in Japanese Studies, everything Japanese was all the rage. Japan was the business giant. “Made in Japan” became synonymous with quality and affordability. The Japanese way of life was admired and emulated (even if it was often romanticized). Japan was “in”; it was “cool” (in the language of the 80s). Japanese writings could be found on t-shirts, dishes, movies, and framed on the walls (even though the characters were often upside down). Japanese food became increasingly popular. And the demand for relations with the country and its people increased the demand for opportunities to study the language, the culture, and everything that made the country “different.” Japanese art was en vogue. And none more so than the traditional Japanese wood-block prints. In the early 19th century, the artist Hokusai (1760-1849) created “Mt. Fuji off Kanagawa,” popularly known in the West as “The Wave.” This is one of the best-known Japanese prints that with others of this period inspired the entire French Impressionist school. (I had it on a T-shirt while living in Tokyo.) Little did the artist imagine that this image would one day become the symbol of utter destruction. The wave of the tsunami that devastated the Japanese shoreline destroyed lives, buildings, and infrastructures. Japan has entered the greatest crisis of its history. The once fashionable country has become unfashionable. The world is fleeing Japan.

In the minds of the world, two images characterize recent Japanese history: the cloud of Hiroshima and the wave of the tsunami. This year, both images have come to overwhelm the country and spread fear across the world. No doubt, the image of Japan will have to be rebuilt. The two titles for Hokusai’s print in circulation reveal the options. Whereas the West has seen the wave as the centerpiece of the print, Hokusai was commissioned to create a series of views of Mt. Fuji. The mountain is the center of the image, not the wave. The real Japan is fashioned neither by iodide pills nor gas masks, neither by the cloud of radioactive material nor the devastating wave of the sea. The image of Japan is fashioned in the minds of the people. When the wave subsides and the cloud dissipates, the mountain will remain! But it is a different mountain this time. Mt. Fuji might as well represent the image of a new age. The world should become aware of what the crisis in Japan represents. 日本は現代世界のイメージ. Japan is the image of today’s world. The rebuilding of Japan begins in the minds of the world. Rebuilding Japan is a start to rebuilding the image of the world.

Let’s rebuild it together!

Rob Bell, Discipleship, and the Matrix

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The book is out, and I read it; or, rather, I skimmed it at Books-a-Million tonight in about 20 minutes. I would not pay retail, or even half of retail through Amazon, for a book that requires so little to digest. Although I have nothing to confirm this hunch, the book feels like it was a series delivered orally and then transcribed into a manuscript, which is to say, this is not really a book. It is, however, Rob Bell at what he seems to do best: communicate with rhetorical flair to get folks pondering issues and contemplating questions.

Is it theology? Not really. If theology is akin to meat and potatoes, then this book is more like a light salad, a mix of greens with a dash of spice and a little vinaigrette for flavor. I feel somewhat confident with the thought that Harper must have pulled out all the punches to get the final product at over 200 pages. The font is larger and there is a space between each paragraph. If you reduced the book to a typed manuscript, my hunch—again, only a hunch—is that it would be no more than 40 pages, or the equivalent of two 20-page papers. So, all in all, light reading that requires only that the reader skim to get the main points that fall here and there, like slivers of carrots laced throughout the greens. The greens themselves are the steady diet of questions that Bells throws out. In short, theology, it’s not.

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Women in Ministry Position Statement

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Diane Chandler

In my last few blogs, I have focused on women in ministry leadership. In order to clearly state the position of the Regent University School of Divinity, our dean suggested that a position statement be drafted and presented to the divinity faculty. I had the privilege of drafting the statement along with two colleagues, Dr. Mara Crabtree and Dr. Lyle Story. The statement was then approved by the divinity faculty on October 8, 2010. I provide this statement below and invite your comments.

 

Introduction

The School of Divinity is committed to the education, formation, and training of students for all contexts of vocational ministry without preference to gender. We encourage all seminarians to develop and use their God-given gifts for the benefit of the Kingdom of God in the family, seminary, church, and society. In accepting women into the School of Divinity, we affirm their personhood, giftedness, and calling for full participation in all spheres of ministry.

Foundations for Inclusiveness

We believe that women and men are created in the “image of God” as co-heirs and equal partners to enjoy respect, mutuality, and honor, without competition or domination by one gender. The gospels are replete with stories of how Jesus interacted with women by respecting them as persons; honoring their value, purpose, and call; and commissioning them in his extensive ministry, including his post-resurrection encounters with them. The finished work of Christ opened the door of redemption for all people without regard to gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, or socio-economic status. As a result, people are set free from former bonds. At Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit empowered both men and women for the privilege and joy of ministry. The subsequent ministry of Paul and others indicates the comprehensive nature of the freedom available to all believers: freedom from prejudice and control, leading to an abundance of life and a call to full participation in all aspects of the “life of the Spirit.” Both the Old and New Testaments affirm God’s impartiality and uphold the value of unity in the Holy Spirit among God’s people. Church history likewise reveals the stories of countless women who have been proactive and effective in every context of Christian ministry and mission (e.g., leadership and renewal of the Church and academy, missionary service, evangelism, and social reform). Our “lived-theology” within the Church and seminary confirms that an inclusive atmosphere leads to mutuality, joy, respect, and honor.

Implications for the School of Divinity

While recognizing that the role of women in ministry leadership positions is a controversial issue in many churches, denominations, and parachurch organizations, we commit to working for social justice and to fostering responsible dialogue with those who hold alternate views, while encouraging discussion within our seminary context. At the same time, we will not use the authority or the context of the classroom to challenge the giftedness and calling of any student on the basis of gender. We expect that all who teach in the School of Divinity will honor our commitment to women’s full participation in ministry leadership and to promoting this vision in our classrooms, teaching, and scholarship. Since we are committed to holistic formation and ministry preparation, we will seek to foster an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, as demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit. We envision a future in which all believers will be encouraged to exercise their God-given gifts for God’s glory, missional purpose, and the joy of serving God and others, with the full support of the entire Christian community.

We hope that this statement will foster mutual respect and authentic gender equality, while upholding the dignity of both women and men as co-laborers for the glory of God.

Renewing the Society for Pentecostal Studies

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Wolfgang Vondey

Chances are you have not heard of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. For some, the idea of Pentecostals engaged in scholarship may even seem contradictory. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, much of the creative theological thinking today is taking place among Pentecostals. The Society, founded in 1970, has moved far along since its early days and hosts an annual conference with hundreds of scholars. This week, March 10-13, 2011, the conference meets in Memphis, Tennessee, with the theme “Receiving the Future: An Anointed Heritage.” Check out the Society’s website!

Moving towards the half-a-century hallmark, the Society is subject to to the powers of change. One of the most visible changes is the age and diversity of scholars at the meetings. This transition offers an opportunity to revisit the self-understanding of the Society. I have attended the annual meetings for the past 15 years, and it seems to me that there are two kinds of attitudes dominant among scholars. We can characterize them by a different construction of the title of the Society. When asked what “SPS” stands for, you will readily get two different answers: Society FOR Pentecostal Studies or Society OF Pentecostal Studies. Considering that  single iota has proven significant in the history of Christian doctrine, it seems to me that the difference of an entire preposition should not be overlooked. So which is it, friends and colleagues? It is time to settle the question! Read the rest of this entry »

For What?: A Sermon on Isaiah 61:1-3

Monday, March 7th, 2011 by Antipas Harris

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Isaiah 61:1-3

Often we think of the Spirit and the anointing of God in privatized categories with little concern for the everyday experience of the collective human family. We like to soak in prayer like Theresa of Avila. We like to come together to sing. We feel good when we do these things because we have come to believe that this is what a good Spirit-filled Christian is suppose to do. Although these are essential practices for the Christian. But there is much more!

Popular ministers often teach that giving money and service to a ministry merits miracles and material blessings. Church as usual is more concerned with building buildings and ministry empires than leading people in social action, advocating for social justice and community transformation. This is a problem!
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