A Feminist Introduction to Paul

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting upon Women and Gender in Early Christianity.

Feminist Introduction to Paul (Polaski)In her A Feminist Introduction to Paul (St. Louis: Chalice, 2005. 159 pp.), Sandra Hack Polaski outlines some of the major feminist concerns with the Apostle Paul and his writings. Methodologically, Polaski advocates a “transformative” reading of Paul which builds upon the insights of conformist, rejectionist, and resistant readings of Paul, imaginatively asks new questions of those sources, and creatively seeks to offer new interpretations of his texts.After outlining her approach and contextualizing Paul’s world, Polaski examines several problematic passages from the Corinthian correspondences. Continue reading

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Converts, Clones, and Disciples

Little White ChurchIn “Converts, Clones and Disciples”, Bill Leonard outlines and describes the basic history of Christian conversion in the American evangelical context. Tracing the history of the conversion experience from its American origins in New England Puritans through the Great Awakenings and Nineteenth Century transformation, Leonard outlines five modern approaches to conversion that are employed in the evangelical context: plan conversion, Lordship conversion, marketing conversion, positive thinking conversion, and propositionalism. Continue reading

Ephrem’s Symbolic Transformation

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syriac Christianity.

TransformationIn his dissertation on Ephrem, Jeff Wickes argues that Ephrem’s symbolic universe constructs a symbolic self through the scriptural world of his hymns (Wickes, 3). In light of an earlier chapter, this is clarified to mean that Ephrem co-identified the scriptural and symbolic selves (Ibid., 3). Overall, Wickes’s presentation of how Ephrem assimilated biblical terminology in order to create a scriptural self for his audience is convincing, especially when read with the perspectives of Alford and Krueger. Yet there seems to be something missing from this presentation of the scriptural self, namely, the concrete manner in which the transformation of the believer through identification with Ephrem’s symbolic universe was to occur. This essay reflects upon the question of whether or not Ephrem’s scriptural universe required concrete expression, or remained a primarily abstract symbolic universe. Continue reading

C. S. Lewis on Myth (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining C. S. Lewis’s view of “myth.”

Lewis on MiraclesIn Miracles, Lewis reflects on the importance of myth in regards to the Old Testament and Israel. Lewis writes that “The Hebrews, like other people, had mythology: but as they were the chosen people so their mythology was the chosen mythology –the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truths, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical” (Miracles, 218). For Lewis, myth is historically important in creating the context of beliefs for the truly factual, the person and work of Jesus Christ. He writes that “Just as God is none the less God by being Man, so the Myth remains Myth even when it becomes Fact. The story of Christ demands us, and repays, not only a religious and historical but also an imaginative response” (Ibid., 218) Continue reading

Book Review: The Duck Commander Bible (Robertson)

The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible (Robertson)Chances are that amidst your Black Friday shopping (or today’s Cyber Monday spending spree) you somewhere caught sight of camouflage. T-shirts, DVD collections, hats, beards, coats—you name it, there’s a probably a Duck Dynasty version of it somewhere. The Robertson family and their hit show on A&E have taken the country by storm the past several years, first with their classic country humor and traditional family values, and more recently with a number of interviews and new products. I was exposed to a few episodes of Duck Dynasty while at my in-laws last Christmas and have subsequently been following them in the news. A few weeks ago I learned of their latest item: The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2014). Continue reading

The Divine Milieu

Teilhard De Chardin

Teilhard De Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stands apart, along with Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac, and Hans Urs von Bathlasar, as one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century. Teilhard’s overall theological program sought to reconcile the central features of traditional Catholic faith with the insights of such pursuits as reason and biology. Here we examine Teilhard’s insights from The Divine Milieu, his reflections on the centrality of the interior life of faith. While The Divine Milieu is not his best known work, that being The Phenomenon of Man in which he discusses the relationship between evolutionary biology and Catholic faith, this work nevertheless offers numerous insights into Teilhard’s emphasis on the universality and interior nature of Christian faith. Written specifically for Christians wavering in their faith as a result of such non-theological advances as evolutionary, Teilhard demonstrates what he understands to be the central defining feature of Christian faith, namely that traditional Christianity can be translated into the modern context of the Catholic Church (11). Continue reading

Book Review: Varieties of Religious Experience (James)

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William JamesIn The Varieties of Religious Experience, a work based on his delivery of the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, William James sought to examine from the perspective of psychology the subject of religious experiences, seeking to understand man and his consciousness concerning religion.[1] Varieties has become a classic work in a number of fields, but especially so in the study of religious experiences and psychology of religion, a fact to which The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church attests.[2] In this work, James examines an enormous amount of data concerning religious experiences and concludes that religious experience constitutes a positive saving experience that appears to be literal and objective insofar as he can determine.[3] In this paper, we will review and examine James’ book, paying particular attention to facets that may need rethinking or revision in the current 21st Century religious and academic contexts. It should be noted that James provides in this work an astounding amount of evidence and that the scope and depth of his work remains such that we cannot consider every nuance of his presentation. Thus only major points, both for James and for our current consideration, will be examined. Upon reviewing this work, we will find that James has a great deal of insight and evidence to offer concerning religious experiences, but that his perspective needs revision and expansion before it can be considered normative for argumentation today. Continue reading