Theological Vignettes

Here’s a few links and thoughts for today:

  • First, an intriguing article from a United Methodist pastor on the “Two Christianities” of Les Miserables.  A good read.
  • Next, an interesting site on Buddhism with some Taoist content.  Worth at least a brief skim.
  • A moving quote I heard recently: “I am challenging the notion that just because Susan Atkins showed no mercy to her victims, we therefore are duty-bound to follow her inhumanity and show no mercy to her.”  This was the response of Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Atkins, Charles Manson and 3 others for the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders, when Atkins was dying of a brain tumor and had filed a compassionate release request.  The request was ultimately denied and Atkins died in prison in the summer of 2009.  Incidentally I own Atkins’s Child of Satan, Child of God but have never read.  Of further interest is that Bugliosi (whose writing seems have become progressively more and more over the top) wrote a book on religion, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question.  I’ve only skimmed the book, but I can say its not particularly impressive (put another way, Helter Skelter it ain’t).
  •   I recently read Keith Ward’s The Big Questions in Science and Religion, and God: A Guide for the Perplexed.  Both were quite good-in the former Ward notes the irony that the Enlightenment owes a great debt to Christianity-its emphasis on concrete history can be traced to the historical emphasis on the life of Jesus; the grown of science to the core belief in the ultimate rationality of the universe; the move toward human rights on basic Biblical affirmations of humanity.  In the latter he raises what I think is a very intriguing point-that there might not, in fact, be very many real pantheists, since many of those we insist are pantheist (Spinoza for instance) still acknowledge some measure of transcendence.  I’ve had a similar thought for some time.
  • An intriguing link: Yeshau-Do, Christian Martial Arts.  Normally I would give this a second glance, except that the site makes a point of connecting Christ as Logos with the Tao, a connection I’ve always found of great interest.
  • Glory to God for All Things has an intriguing post on suffering and the Gospel.  It is noted “I believe that the question of innocent suffering and the existence of God may be the most significant and essential question of our time. The explosion of knowledge in our world has made an awareness of innocent suffering more apparent than at any time in history. At the same time, people seem not to be crippled by this knowledge. Most live with the contradiction posed by their own happiness and the suffering of others quite comfortably. We change the channel, or wait for the news cycle to shift. The war and suffering that were daily front page stories three months ago, are now no more than a column inch on page four. The suffering has not changed – but our attention has shifted.”  Fascinating, accurate and quite sobering.
  • Just a vent-I’m a huge fan of Fr. Robbert Barron, but his recent videos on the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II seem to have treated the divide between the Council Fathers a bit too simplistically (and I find his criticism of Rahner, Kung and Schillebeex a bit unfair to boot).  Again, just a vent.
  • Still working on Oden’s Classical Christianity.  Its a long book and candidly it varies between a myriad of “Aha!” moments regarding classical creedal Christianity and at other times seems to drag a bit.  Oden discusses the gender of the Holy Spirit, but unless I missed something doesn’t actually conclude whether or not it permissible to call Her She.  His commentary on the Scriptures are very much from an evangelical perspective but are nonetheless much better than what I’ve found in standard apologetics.  I will note his discussion of Pentecost and xenoglossolia was very impressive.  My only other beef is he consistently refers to Paul Tillich in a negative manner-and I’m not sure Oden quite understood where Tillich was coming from.
  • I’ve been reading various essays by David Bentley Hart today (yes, I read voraciously-its a condition).  I must say I greatly enjoy reading Hart’s books-he is very erudite (perhaps a bit overly so at times), very well read and thorough in his research, has a sense of humor I quite appreciate, and doesn’t back down from his convictions.  He is a cultural conservative, but his conservatism is of an intellectual fiber that is almost impossible to find today and quite worthy of admiration.  He does take a below-the-belt swing at Bishop Gene Robinson, calling him an “adulterous and actively practicing homosexual”-though I found this unnecessarily pejorative it is *technically* in fact correct so I can’t accuse him of lying.  Hart’s discussion of the state of religious affairs in Europe and the United States is well worth the time it takes to fully digest (this essay was one of the more erudite ones).  He does omit any discussion of the growth of atheism and the SBNR crowd in the US, which is a bit problematic, but his predictions about where the Church is headed (a tilt toward the Global South, the collapse of the mainlines, continued growth in charismatic movements, etc) seems on the money.  I also liked his observation that for all the faults of American Protestantism (and he rattles off quite a few) these movements have instilled some wonderful and deep values in their adherents, especially in the southern US.  Having spent some time in the south I know exactly what he means, and I get what he means.
  • Finally, in his essays on the tsunami that wreaked terrible havoc in 2004, Hart reiterates the line that an “ancient alienation from God wounded creation to its uttermost depths.”  I never know quite what to make of this-this same matter nagged me when reading Rev. Rutledge’s sermons.  I am not denying original sin, but I accept the conclusions of science and say with confidence that the world did not fall from a point of primordial perfection due to any action by man-death, chaos, decay have been here since the Big Bang.  Like it or not, nature is not benign, whether it be the explosions of supernovas or viruses here on earth, and we can’t explain that by pointing to the Garden of Eden (at least as a historical event on earth).  It is a never ending point of frustration to me that so many traditionalists are unwilling to embrace what we know of reality in the interest of defending the tradition (whether or not it scores points with non-Christians is irrelevant; its just plain wrong to avoid accepting Truth wherever it may be, not to mention it undermines the whole objectivist spirit of traditionalism), while liberals tend to embrace reality (i.e the new discoveries made by the modern sciences, both physical and social) eagerly but too often at the expense of the tradition (Ward and Polkinghorne are the best in this arena).  This is a delicate balancing act to be sure, but to take seriously the notion of objective Truth both approaches must be embraced together.  “Religion”, after all, is a means to an end-the end being Truth, or as we Christians say, God.