Recently the Episcopal Diocese of Washington passed a resolution about gendered language and God, and the internet, predictably, went crazy.
This issue touches on a number of issues Biblically, Theologically, Ethically, and Aesthetically. None of these issues are particularly complex in and of themselves, but taken together it creates an issue where people absolutely lose their minds. Before commenting, let's read what the resolution actually says: They urge the Episcopal Church to "utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God." That's it. That's all of the language of the resolution. There is no attempt to prohibit male images, titles, and pronouns for God, but to balance them with images, titles, and pronouns drawn from Scripture and Tradition which reflect other aspects of God as well.
This Sunday I was fascinated by the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl, and how it becomes the final sacrament at one of the High Holy Days of American Civil Religion. As a scholar of religion, it was a particularly vivid example of how American Values can be concretized into a set of rituals and even in a central sacramental object. As a Christian pastor, it also kinda horrified me as an act of explicit idol worship. As many have pointed out, sports have become a functional form of religion in our culture, even if they may lack an explicit religious hierarchy or creed.
The above video is a brief description of how to make a (nearly) indestructible Prayer Rope out of nylon paracord. A Prayer Rope is a version of Prayer Beads or a Rosary, and is used for repetitive, meditative prayers. Since I made mine, lots of people have asked me how to make it in person, over email, and by text. So, I decided to share how to make it with everyone. If it helps you on your spiritual journey, feel free to use it.
The following is a chart I developed for teaching the three basic hypotheses that Christians have held for what happens in the "intermediate state" between Earthly life and final resurrection. Please note that the distinctly Christian Hope is NOT that we live in Heaven forever after we die. The distinctively Christian Hope is that in the End we are raised to share in embodied eternal life with Jesus Christ, whose resurrection is the Pattern for our final destiny. As the Apostle John says: "Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (1John 3.2-3)
In this short essay, I would like to fill out a few aspects of what it means to have an inclusivist vision of religions in relation to Jesus Christ, rather than an exclusivist or pluralist vision of religions. If these terms are new to you, or you wonder how I mean these terms, I have a helpful chart here. As our starting point to dive in, I want to begin with one of the unique and central images of Christian Faith: The idea that Christians make up "The Body of Christ".
I have written bits and pieces about this in other places, speculating about how aliens could be tied into Christian Theology and World Religions (if aliens exist at all). I have speculated about how alien life could tie into an overall framework to understand why God made the world, as well as how alien life might be part of the evidence for God's existence. But I have never written a full description of why I think aliens probably exist, and how we might understand their possible visitation to our planet. That is what I would like to do here.
|Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights. A standard picture of hell and judgement for many.|
I frequently write and speak about the hope of universal restoration through the work of Jesus Christ. I often teach about how what God did in Christ is for every person who ever lived, and that Christ will not give up until Christ has reached every person who has ever lived. And yet, I also teach about the reality of Divine Judgment on our sin of denying God's Love and destroying God's children in big and small ways. I believe that hell is real, and we experience the judgment of hell in the sufferings and addictions of this life, and if we persist in selfish sin, we will experience it in the next life as well.
Today I was honored to pray at another Eagle Scout ceremony. In 18 years of full time Church ministry, I have had at least one Eagle Scout per year from my Church or School (and sometimes as many as a half dozen per year). It is a phenomenal program to form young persons as servant leaders who embody the character of Christ. If it helps you, here is an invocation I use for Eagle Scout ceremonies which includes the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Feel free to use or adapt it if you are asked to pray at a Scouting ceremony.
Many times each year, both in the classroom and online, I get into discussions about how interpret and apply Biblical laws, especially those that are found in the Hebrew Torah (the first five books of the "Old Testament": Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). I do not have the time or space here to get into a complete theology of how to interpret the Old Testament from a Christian point of view. I have written elsewhere that Scriptural difficulties are worked out when we see Scripture as a process of Developmental Revelation, which is on a trajectory that is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. In this understanding, to use words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr.: The Moral Arc of History (and Scripture) is long, but it trends toward Justice. This view has been shaped by voices as diverse as CS Lewis (in terms of overall narrative development of History), Walter Brueggemann (in terms of looking at the Hebrew Bible through the lens of the Prophets), NT Wright (in terms of looking at the Old Testament from the perspective of the New Testament), Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (in his work on confronting violence in the Torah), and Roy Heller (my Hebrew Bible prof in Seminary).
Recently I was in a discussion about the Resurrection of Christ in which someone posted that "classical theism allows for the possibility of such contravention of the ordinary laws of physics". This raises the most commonly voiced objection I hear to the Resurrection, which was popularized by philosopher David Hume: The resurrection cannot occur because it is a miracle, and miracles are violations of natural laws, and since natural laws are universal, then we know a priori that miracles cannot violate them. For Hume, physical laws govern causality and what can, and cannot, happen to matter and energy within spacetime. This is further complicated by Hume's insistence that we can never "prove" causality, we can only note a correlation between two events. So for Hume, physical laws govern causality, while at the same time causality is a mental inference and not objectively part of the universe.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were listening to an 80's station, when they played an awful song from the 80's that I had never heard before. Except, it was not "turn-the-station" awful, but rather "a-trainwreck-you-can't-not-look-at" awful. That song is the immortal "I've never been to me" by the singer Charlene.
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.