The Divine Quest, East and West (Part II)

This post continues a series of reflections on Jay Ford’s The Divine Quest, East and West.

As part of The Divine Quest, East and West’s turn toward the East in Acts 4 and 5, this reflection deals with the Classical and Colonial periods of Hindu theology. In reviewing the schools of classical Hindu theology, Ford usefully highlights the central theme found in each major school: the attempt to reconcile the one with the many, demonstrating the importance that conceptions of the ultimate Brahman played in the development of the Hindu traditions (125). Effectively, only two major options existed: the Brahman was either impersonal and absolute or personal and theistic (128). The perspectives of Shankara (hierarchical monism) and Ramanuja (quasi-dualistic theism) mirror our earlier interaction with Taylor, again underscoring the similar ways in which even vastly different traditions conceive of the ultimate. I do not wish to argue that the Hindu traditions (or all other major religious perspectives) remains trapped within the dichotomy of monism and dualism, only to note that classical Hinduism appears to revisit some of the same concerns with which the monotheistic traditions have wrestled. Continue reading

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Book Review: Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)

Understanding the Times (Myers and Noebel)Every so often a book comes along and truly rewrites the paradigms of a field. Some twenty-five years ago, David Noebel penned such a book, titled Understanding the Times. In this 900-page tome Noebel outlined the clash between competing worldviews – ways of viewing and interpreting the world – which were occurring throughout in the late 20th century. The original edition of UTT was one of the most popular and influential books ever on culture and worldviews from a Christian perspective, transforming how many people understand the battle of ideas taking place in our times. But the contours of major worldviews have changed since 1991 and the world has changed along with them. To address this new worldviews context, Jeff Myers, in conjunction with David Noebel, undertook a substantial revision of Noebel’s classic work, now called Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews (Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Ministries and Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2015. 510pp.). Continue reading

MHT: Principle of Order

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

OxfordThe third methodological foundation for historical theology incorporates aspects of an ordered approach to the study of the past. This is the great legacy of the Modern era on the study of history: a scientific approach to history should be consistently, broadly, and objectively (as possible) applied. History is not apologetics, though it may be employed for apologetic purposes. One should not fail to subject one’s own religious beliefs or practices to the consequences of historical methodology,[43] although, as Schaff notes, this is not quite the same thing as assuming that all viewpoints are equally problematized by historical study.[44] Especially important is nomenclature, which must be appropriately descriptive, adequately precise, and sufficiently flexible to address that which is being studied. Marc Bloch found that history often received its vocabulary from its object of study and that this phenomenon must be critically evaluated as another form of historical evidence to be weighed.[45] He points to the term “Middle Ages” as a prime example of this: the term clearly implies a form of judgment on the period between the wisdom of the ancients and the return to learning in Renaissance. Metanarrative tools should also be used in the study of history, not as universally informing worldviews, but as tools for observing and understanding history. Continue reading

Book Review: 40 Questions about the Historical Jesus (Pate)

40 Questions about the Historical Jesus (Pate)Whatever you may think about him or his followers, Jesus of Nazareth continues to capture the attention of billions across the planet. From church-going Christians and New Atheists to the media and academics, Jesus remains a pretty popular guy, at least in terms of the time spent discussing this first century Palestinian Jew and his various views on contemporary issues. Amidst these ongoing conversations about what Jesus would think or say about the latest news cycle there are those who have proposed a quest (or, more accurately, quests) for the real Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of history who stands behind the Jesus of Christian faith. These voices—which are by no means new—have long influenced the popular understanding of the Nazarene and continue to shape how many people interpret the message of Jesus. However, many practicing Christians remain generally unaware of the divergent claims regarding the “Jesus of Faith” and the “Jesus of History” and are (understandably) concerned when they first encounter such statements. Continue reading

Book Review: Did God Really Command Genocide? (Copan and Flannagan)

Did God Really Command GenocideAny contemporary reader who picks up the Bible will be struck by the seeming divide between the God of Jesus Christ and the God who commands the destruction of whole nations and the obliteration of Canaanites during Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. And while many Christians simply don’t think about the possible difficulties of a loving God commanding genocide, that has not stopped critics of Christianity—especially the New Atheists—from using portions of Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges as ammunition for their assaults on Christian faith. Truth be told, this seeming contradiction between a God of Love and God of Wrath is not something new, for as early as the mid-second century a follower of Jesus names Marcion argued that the god’s of the Old and New Testaments were different entities. Clearly, there is much at stake in the answer to the question: did God really command genocide in the Old Testament? Continue reading

Rethinking Christianity?

ThinkingA while back I posed a question to my Facebook friends: “Do we need to rethink Christianity?” I asked this question in response to an article concerning the need for part of the Christian Church (specifically, the Roman Catholic Church) to rethink its stance on numerous doctrinal points. Now whether you think the Roman Catholic Church (and/or other more conservative portions of the Christian family) should reconsider the appropriate theology and practice concerning the role of women in the church and definition of marriage, I think that pondering the potential implications of “rethinking Christianity” is important. Continue reading

Book Review: As One Devil to Another (Platt)

978-1-4143-7166-5Many readers of C. S. Lewis have enjoyed reading his Screwtape Letters, a series of correspondences between two demons, the instructor Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, as they attempt to secure the damnation of their human “patient.” As delightfully diabolical and insightful as Lewis’ work is, however, few writers have adopted his style of “apologetics-by-dialogue” from the beyond. That has all changed with Richard Platt’s As One Devil to Another. Continue reading

Maurice Wiles and the Definition of Theology

OxfordThere are many questions in life with the potential for multidisciplinary and eternal significance. Among these are such questions as “Is there a god?”, “Do right and wrong exist?”, and “What happens when we die?” [1] Theologian Maurice Wiles adds to this list yet another question in his book titled What is Theology? To begin this work, Reverend Wiles defines theology as “reasoned discourse about God.”[2] If the term theology is broken down into its semantic parts, “theos” means “God” and “logos” means “word” or “reason.”[3] Therefore the definition of the Oxford English Dictionary is fitting: “the study and nature of God; religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed.” Continue reading

Book Review: The Case for the Real Jesus (Strobel)

The Case for the Real JesusIn some respects, The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition stands as but one Christian apologetics book among a market full of many. The back cover isn’t full of important Christian ‘celebrities’ and theologians saying how great this book is. There was no flashy marketing campaign when this book hit the shelves. It’s not a hardback tome proclaiming itself to include the answers to every question which might confront the Christian faith. In some ways, this relatively short book (at just fewer than two hundred pages) is pretty easy to overlook. But to ignore the contents of this book would be a major mistake.

In The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition, journalist Lee Strobel and Jane Vogel engage six of the most common challenges to Christian claims about the Historical Jesus and offer serious historical information on these claims for readers to consider. Through interviews with six scholars, Strobel tackles questions about the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, the reliability of New Testament texts, counters to the resurrection, the influence of pagan religions upon stories about Jesus, Jesus’ fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, and what Christians should believe about the historical Jesus in today’s context. By looking at each of these topics seriously, Strobel provides a valuable tool for those seeking to understand and defend their Christian faith. Continue reading

Book Review: The Case for Christ: Student Edition (Strobel)

The Case for Christ - Student Edition (Lee Strobel)Lee Strobel may be the most well-known Christian apologist of our time; he is certainly one of the most proficient, having written and co-written nearly thirty books on apologetics, in addition to working on numerous audio and curriculum series. Having read several of Strobel’s books over the years, I was delighted when The Case for Christ: Student Edition arrived in the mail last week.

Beginning with his own life story and incorporating numerous stories from his time at the Chicago Tribune, Strobel engages the three major questions he investigated before becoming a Christian. These include “Who Is This Jesus?”, “How Reliable Is the Information about Christ?”, and “Can a Dead Man Come Back to Life?” In answering each question Strobel traces his own learning progression, sharing important questions he asked, answers he found, and person experiences and lessons he had along the way. Additionally, there are several periscopes into cultural topics which supplement Strobel’s general trajectory of a historical defense of Christ as the resurrected Son of God. As a student edition, this work is short, easy to read, and contains enough graphics and sidebars to keep easily distracted readers interested. One thing I especially appreciated was that this book could be read start to finish or topically, as each section was essentially self-contained. Continue reading