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Theology Crawl: Vocation & Exploitation

Theology Crawl: Vocation & Exploitation

Welcome to the Crawl

Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

This week, we are talking about how Christian theology has sometimes given credence to modern capitalism and the unjust valuation of different forms of human labor. We will then explore the Christian idea of vocation and what it might offer us as we seek to create more just economic systems.

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

HISTORY: MAX WEBERS’S THE PROTESTANT ETHIC & THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM

Max Weber is considered one of the founders of the field of sociology, and especially sociology of religion. Published in 1905, his groundbreaking work The Protestant Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism argued that Protestant piety and theology contributed to the growth of modern capitalism.The below video offers an overview of Weber’s argument.

An Introduction to Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic – A Macat Sociology Analysis

THE MAIN QUESTIONS

Historical / Theological Questions

  • What do you think of the overall shape of this argument? Do you think there is a link between Protestant ideas and capitalism?
  • Weber argued that Luther’s conception of a calling, or vocation, emphasized the value of working hard at the task God assigned to you. 
    • Do you agree with this definition? Why or why not?
    • Do you think this viewpoint is still active or important for today? Why or why not?
  • Weber argued that predestination created anxiety as one could not be assured of their salvation, and that the accumulation of wealth assuaged this anxiety as it was proof of hard work. 
    • Do you agree or disagree with this argument? Why or why not?
    • Do you think this viewpoint is still active or important for today? Why or why not?
  • Assuming Weber is not totally wrong, what might be some of the corollary beliefs to this argument? For example, how would the ascetic Protestant ethic explain things like: poverty, wage gaps, economic inequality?

Contemporary Questions

  • From a theological perspective, what is the purpose of work? Explain.
  • How do you think the current economic system attributes value to work? Is this morally acceptable? Why or why not?
  • What is a “vocation” and do all people have one? Explain.
  • Read the below section on Luther’s conception of vocation. How does Luther’s concept of vocation differ from modern conceptions of work or employment? 
  • Where might a healthy theology of vocation affirm/challenge modern economic employment practices? Explain.
  • What does it mean to be an “essential” worker. What philosophy/theology undergirds this designation?

THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: LUTHER’S CONCEPT OF VOCATION & THE THREE ESTATES*

According to Luther, humans have multiple callings, or vocations. Each of these relate to the three estates that God created for human life:

  • The Household. This refers to the family, including its economic labor by which it supports itself. Marriage, becoming a father or mother, being a son or daughter, are all vocations. In Luther’s late-medieval economy, most work—whether that of peasant farms, middle class crafts, or the nobility’s political rule—were all based in families and usually conducted at home. But our family relationships constitute our most important vocations.
  • The Church. All Christians are called by the Gospel. God also “calls” pastors. Also elders, other church workers, and all other members, each of whom has a part to play in the congregation.
  • The State. We find ourselves in a certain time and place, under certain political jurisdictions, part of a certain culture. This is part of our “assignment” in which we are to live our Christian lives. Our citizenship is a vocation. We are called to our local communities, our nation, our surrounding culture. Christians are free to participate in the political life of their countries, as well as to hold public offices. We thus have vocations even in the “secular” arena, which is where Christians interact with non-believers and function as salt and light in the world.

*Adapted from Gene Edward Veith, “The Doctrine of Vocation,” The Gospel Coalition.

IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

  • Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, // Ephesians 4:1
  • Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; // Hebrews 3:1
  • Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. // 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
  • Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, // Colossians 3:23

THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS

  • Every person, of every degree, state, sex, or condition without exception, must have some personal and particular calling to walk in. // William Perkins
  • All vocations are intended by God to manifest His love in the world. // Thomas Merton
    • I think we can measure the distance we have fallen from the idea that work is a vocation to which we are called, by the extent to which we have come to substitute the word “employment” for “work.” We say we must solve the “problem of unemployment” — we reckon up how many “hands” are “employed”; our social statistics are seldom based upon the work itself — whether the right people are doing it, or whether the work is worth doing. // Dorothy Sayers
    • Calvinist believers were psychologically isolated. Their distance from God could only be precariously bridged, and their inner tensions only partially relieved, by unstinting, purposeful labor. // Max Weber
    • If now we could have faith enough to believe that all human life can be with divine purpose; that God saves not only the soul, but the whole of human life; that anything which serves to make men healthy, intelligent, happy, and good is a service to the Father of men; that the kingdom of God is not bounded by the Church, but includes all human relations — then all professions would be hallowed and receive religious dignity. A man making a shoe or arguing a law case or planting potatoes or teaching school, could feel that this was itself a contribution to the welfare of mankind, and indeed his main contribution to it. // Walter Rauschenbusch
    • In fact, the summum bonum of his ethic, the earning of more and more money, combined with the strict avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life, is above all completely devoid of any eudaemonistic, not to say hedonistic, admixture. It is thought of so purely as an end in itself, that from the point of view of the happiness of, or utility to, the single individual, it appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational. Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition is no longer subordinated to man as the means for the satisfaction of his material needs. This reversal of what we should call the natural relationship, so irrational from a naive point of view, is evidently as definitely a leading principle of capitalism as it is foreign to all peoples not under capitalistic influence. // Max Weber

    RESOURCES

    FROM LAST WEEK: PATRIARCHY AND WHITE SUPREMACY

    Note from the Crawlfather: During last week’s discussion of protest, there was a short discussion about whether or not the Church, specifically the Church in the United States, is rooted in patriarchy and white supremacy. Theology Crawl has always been about the exchange and debate of ideas about important and even controversial subjects. Sadly, we did not have time to discuss this more. Thankfully, Lauren Renfro has provided a bit of context to the discussion and some resources that can be used to help familiarize oneself with the ideas. In true Crawl tradition, the list she provided has not been redacted (though I did add a few more) and the perspectives of the author’s are entirely their own. Some resources might challenge you, some you might disagree with, and some might even change your mind (egads!). Thank you, Lauren for sending this list and providing your unique voice. May God’s Spirit lead all of us into truth.

    A Response and Some Context for the Resources, by Lauren Renfro

    Saying that the Church is rooted in patriarchy and white supremacy is not doing the Church a disservice. Though Christianity is diverse around the world, the existence of segregated churches in places like the United States illustrate that white supremacy has had a long lasting impact. 

    In trying to deny this history, we employ, what I call, a “not all churches” approach. This understandable gut reaction says, “Well, my church is good,” or “There’s lots of others that do good work.” These responses, however, avoid dealing with the underlying problems and may even shut down discussions about important issues. Again, this reaction is understandable, especially when the language is new or unfamiliar. Moreover, when one benefits from the system in power, it’s difficult to recognize the insidious ways in which oppressive systems manifest themselves. For example, a church may have a woman preaching. This is wonderful, but this fact doesn’t mean that sexism, rooted in patriarchy, does not exist in that church or that it does not need to be addressed further.

    A “not all churches”  approach fails to recognize the systemic and institutional nature of the capital-C Church. Through an institutional perspective, we can explore the ways the American Church experience diverges from the ideal church that fights for the downtrodden, uplifts the poor, and liberates the oppressed. The examples that such an approach can highlight are legion:

    • The history of the translation of the Bible brings up important questions, like: Who translated it? and How does the masculine normative language impact the way women-identified people interact with the text? 
    • The history of evangelical outreach is littered with white saviorism, which develops out of white supremacist and patriarchal ideals.
    • The history of Christians’ engagement with secular governments shows that legislation often privileges normative Christian morality over science and equality.
    • Prevailing Church norms continue to deny women/minorities/queer people access to the abundance of God.

    Many people often fail to see these effects because they benefit from the systems of power and occupy positions of authority in the status quo. This gives them a vested interest in maintaining those systems, and so they are often less likely to call out these divergences and do the reconciliatory work necessary.

    The real disservice to the Church is in failing to call out the intersectional systems of oppression that corrupt it.

    Resources

    Theology Crawl: Vocation & Exploitation

    Theology Crawl: Prophecy & Protest

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

    This week, we are talking about how Christian theology has been used to squelch resistance to abuses by governing authorities, and how the prophetic tradition might help us new ways to resist and protest injustice. Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

    HISTORY: MARTIN LUTHER’S AGAINST THE ROBBING AND MURDERING HORDES OF PEASANTS

    Beginning in 1524, the Peasant War was the result of radical social upheaval and new spiritual ideas which combined to combat the abuses of the feudal system. Over the next two years, protests, riots, and battles covered the Germanic regions of the Holy Roman Empire, as peasants joined forces to declare “that we are and that we want to be free.” While Luther’s radical ideas helped fuel the fire, by May 1925 he had enough and wrote Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants. In this document, Luther rebuked the peasants and laid out a quick theology that explained why radical opposition to governing authorities was a “terrible sin.”  

    The peasants have taken on themselves the burden of three terrible sins against God and man, by which they have abundantly merited death in body and soul.

    In the first place they have sworn to be true and faithful, submissive and obedient, to their rulers, as Christ commands, when he says, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,’ and in Romans 13, ‘Let everyone be subject unto the higher powers.’ Because they are breaking this obedience, and are setting themselves against the higher powers, willfully and with violence, they have forfeited body and soul, as faithless, perjured, lying, disobedient knaves and scoundrels are wont to do. St. Paul passed this judgement on them in Romans 13 when he said, that they who resist the power will bring a judgement upon themselves. This saying will smite the peasants sooner or later, for it is God’s will that faith be kept and duty done.

    In the second place, they are starting a rebellion, and violently robbing and plundering monasteries and castles which are not theirs, by which they have a second time deserved death in body and soul, if only as highwaymen and murderers. Besides, any man against whom it can be proved that he is a maker of sedition is outside the law of God and Empire, so that the first who can slay him is doing right and well. For if a man is an open rebel every man is his judge and executioner, just as when a fire starts, the first to put it out is the best man. …

    In the third place, they cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the Gospel, call themselves ‘Christian brethren’, receive oaths and homage, and compel people to hold with them to these abominations. Thus they become the greatest of all blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy Name, serving the devil, under the outward appearance of the Gospel, thus earning death in body and soul ten times over. I have never heard of a more hideous sin. … 

    THE MAIN QUESTIONS

    Historical / Theological Questions

    • Do you agree with Luther’s first claim that revolting peasants are bringing judgement upon themselves by opposing the governing authorities? Do you agree with his use of Scripture? Why or why not?

    • Do you agree with Luther’s second claim that anyone who incites violent rebellion against a governing authority “is outside the law of God and Empire” and thus worthy of death? Why or why not?

    • Do you agree with Luther’s third claim that by “cloaking” violent resistance with Gospel language that the peasants were committing a grievous sin? Why or why not?

    Contemporary Questions

    • Do you see any of the ideas Luther espouses at work in contemporary responses to civil unrest, protests, or riots? If yes, how so? If no, describe what you see.

    • How would you describe the role of a prophet?

    • Read the section below (“Theological Concept”). What do you think of Heschel’s description of the prophet? How does it differ/relate to your definition of a prophet?

    • How do you think Heschel would respond to Luther’s argument in the above section?

    • Have you seen Heschel’s sort of prophetic burden at work in the church? If so, where? If not, why do you think that is?
      From a prophetic standpoint, is violence ever justifiable in responding to egregious abuses of governing authorities? Do you agree or disagree with this view?

    THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: HeSCHEL ON THE PROPHETS

    Abraham Heschel was a leading Jewish philosopher, theologian, and civil rights activist in the latter half of the twentieth century. His expanded dissertation on the Hebrew prophets remains required reading for the study of prophetic theology. Taken from this work, Heschel describes the burden of the prophet.

     We and the prophet have no language in common. To us the moral state of society, for all its stains and spots, seems fair and trim; to the prophet it is dreadful. So many deeds of charity are done, so much decency radiates day and night; yet to the prophet satiety of the conscience is prudery and flight from responsibility. Our standards are modest; our sense of injustice tolerable, timid; our moral indignation impermanent; yet human violence is interminable, unbearable, permanent. To us life is often serene, in the prophet’s eye the world reels in confusion. The prophet makes no concession to man’s capacity. Exhibiting little understanding for human weakness, he seems unable to extenuate the culpability of man. Who could bear living in a state of disgust day and night? The conscience builds its confines, is subject to fatigue, longs for comfort, lulling, soothing. Vet those who are hurt, and He Who inhabits eternity, neither slumber nor sleep.

    IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

    • Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. // Romans 13:1-4
    • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. // Matthew 5:9
    • Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. // 1 Peter 3:9
    • Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. // Mark 12:17
    • For the kingdom is the Lord’s / And He rules over the nations // Psalm 22:28
    • Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. // 1 Peter 2:13-15

    THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS

    • The gospel of Jesus is not a rational concept to be explained in a theory of salvation, but a story about God’s presence in Jesus’ solidarity with the oppressed, which led to his death on the cross. What is redemptive is the faith that God snatches victory out of defeat, life out of death, and hope out of despair. // James Cone
    • The denunciation of injustice implies the rejection of the use of Christianity to legitimize the established order. // Gustavo Gutiérrez
    • But [Christians] never render to any authority under God absolute allegiance. We never give unlimited, unconditional obedience. We never say, “I submit to you because you are my final authority.” We always do it for Christ’s sake, which turns our obedience to human authorities into worship to God. // John Piper
    • The shift to a general attitude of ‘toughness’ toward problems associated with communities of color began in the 1960s, when the gains and goals of the Civil Rights movement began to require real sacrifices on the part of white Americans, and conservative politicians found they could mobilize white racial resentment by vowing to crack down on crime. // Michelle Alexander
    • We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. // Elie Wiesel
    • The government has interpreted the peacefulness of the movement as a weakness: the people’s non-violent policies have been taken as a green light for government violence. Refusal to resort to force has been interpreted by the government as an invitation. // Nelson Mandela
    • Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. // Martin Luther King Jr.

    RESOURCES

    Theology Crawl: Vocation & Exploitation

    Theology Crawl: State Violence & the Church

    Welcome to the Crawl

    Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

    This week, we are talking about how Christianity has variously supported and opposed the State’s monopoly on violence, and how we should view this in light of recent discussions about police brutality. Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

    HISTORY: HOBBES’ LEVIATHAN AND THE MONOPOLY ON STATE VIOLENCE

    Thomas Hobbes wrote his Leviathan in 1651 as a response to the religious wars which followed the Protestant Reformation. This treatise was a philosophical and theological document that laid out an early version of social contract theory (the idea that society existed as a contract between the rulers and the ruled). Arguing against ecclesiastical overreach and against monarchs who claimed they had a “divine right” to rule, Hobbes took a secular route and argued that the State gained absolute power only when people ceded their natural rights to the sovereign. In his view, humans had a right to enact violence as a form of justice, but that in becoming part of a society, humans cede this right to the State. Thus, through the military, the police, or specially authorized people, the State sanctions particular acts of violence for the greater public good. 

    • On the State’s Monopoly of Force. A Common-wealth by Acquisition, is that, where the Sovereign Power is acquired by Force; And it is acquired by force, when men singly, or many together by plurality of voices, for fear of death, or bonds, do authorize all the actions of that Man, or Assembly, that hath their lives and liberty in his Power.
      On How Authority is Granted to the State. That men who choose their Sovereign, do it for fear of one another, and not of him whom they Institute: But in this case, they subject themselves to him they are afraid of. In both cases they do it for fear: which is to be noted by them, that hold all such Covenants, as proceed from fear of Obedience death, or violence, void: which if it were true, no man, in any kind of Common-wealth, could be obliged to .
      On the Right of the Sovereign to Punish. Before I infer anything from this definition, there is a question to be answered, of much importance; which is, by what door the Right, or Authority of Punishing in any case, came in. For by that which has been said before, no man is supposed bound by Covenant, not to resist violence; and consequently it cannot be intended, that he gave any right to another to lay violent hands upon his person. In the making of a Common-wealth, every man gives away the right of defending another; but not of defending himself. Also he obliges himself, to assist him that hath the Sovereignty, in the Punishing of another; but of himself not. But to covenant to assist the Sovereign, in doing hurt to another, unless he that so covenants have a right to do it himself, is not to give him a Right to Punish. It is manifest therefore that the Right which the Common-wealth (that is, he, or they that represent it) hath to Punish, is not grounded on any concession, or gift of the Subjects. But I have also shewed formerly, that before the Institution of Common-wealth, every man had a right to everything, and to do whatsoever he thought necessary to his own preservation; subduing, hurting, or killing any man in order thereunto. And this is the foundation of that right of Punishing, which is exercised in every Common-wealth. For the Subjects did not give the Sovereign that right; but only in laying down theirs, strengthened him to use his own, as he should think fit, for the preservation of them all: so that it was not given, but left to him, and to him only; and (excepting the limits set him by natural Law) as entire, as in the condition of mere Nature, and of war of every one against his neighbor.

    THE MAIN QUESTIONS

    Historical / Theological Questions

    • Read through the “History” section. Do you think the State’s monopoly on force is a good thing? Why or why not?

    • According to Hobbes, there are very few instances where it would be unjust for the State to use violence if that violence benefited society as a whole. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

    • In the Leviathan, Hobbes’ approach was “secular” in the sense that it saw the State as a product of human activity, not divine mandate. At the same time, Hobbes spent a great deal of time in the treatise justifying his viewpoint theologically. Should Christian theology be used to define/limit the role of the State? Why or why not?

    • Look at the below section labelled, “Theological Concept.” Which model do you see at work in Hobbes’ Leviathan? Which model do you typically use?
    • What Biblical passages do you see as important for discussing the legitimacy of the State and/or its use of force by the State (Hint: See the “Important Scriptures” section below)? What about these passages is significant?

    Contemporary Questions

    • In your experience, how do Christians usually talk about the use of State-sanctioned force (e.g. Capital Punishment, Police Shootings, Armed Foreign Conflicts, etc.)? Do they question it, justify it, rebuke it, or something else? Why do you think they respond this way?

    • Do you think that State sanctioned violence is justly administered in the United States? If so, what are the causes of injustice? If not, how so?

    • What do you think the limits on the use of deadly force should be in America? Are there any theological reasons for holding this belief?
    • What biblical ideas or theological concepts would help the Church as it speaks out against the unjust use of violence by the State?

    Bonus Question: Can/should a Christian participate in the State’s use of violence (i.e. be a police officer, prison guard, soldier)?

    THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: FOUR MODELS OF CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS*

    • State Controls Church: The State has supremacy over the Church and all legislation related to the Church must have State approval. Society is benefited through the State’s ability to control and limit the power of the Church. Historical Example: Church of England.
    • Church Controls State: The Church has supremacy over the State and all legislation related to the State must have ecclesial approval. Society is benefited through the State’s moral oversight and guidance of the levers of State power. Historical Example: Papal States, High Middle Age Europe.
    • Separation of Church and State: The Church should have no involvement with the State, and vice versa. Ideally, Christians should not even be involved in matters of state. The society led by the State is corrupt, and the heavenly society of the Church should represent a stark difference. Historical Examples: Early Anabaptists, Mennonites.
    • Church and State in Relationship: There is a mutual recognition and responsibility between the Church and State. Society benefits as each operates in its separate, but related spheres of jurisdiction. Historical Example: Constantinian Church.

       

      * Adapted from A.T.B. McGowan, “Church and State: The Contribution of Church History to Evangelical Models of Public Theology,” European Journal of Theology 14, no. 1 (2005), 5-16.

    IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

    • Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. // Romans 13:1-4
    • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. // Matthew 5:9
    • Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. // 1 Peter 3:9
    • Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. // Mark 12:17
    • For the kingdom is the Lord’s / And He rules over the nations // Psalm 22:28
    • Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. // 1 Peter 2:13-15

    THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS

    • A state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. // Max Weber
    • It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible. // George Washington
    • Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace // Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • The moral law of God is the only law of individuals and of nations, and nothing can be rightful government but such as is established and administered with a view to its support. // Charles Finney
    • I wish that Christian men would insist more and more on the unrighteousness of war, believing that Christianity means no sword, no cannon, no bloodshed, and that, if a nation is driven to fight in its own defense, Christianity stands by to weep and to intervene as soon as possible, and not to join in the cruel shouts which celebrate an enemy’s slaughter. // Charles Spurgeon
    • To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenseless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. // Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    • Would we send our daughters off to have sex if it would benefit our country? Yet, we send our sons off to kill when we think it would benefit our country! // Leonard Ravenhill

    RESOURCES

     

     

     

     

     

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Theology Crawl: Vocation & Exploitation

      Theology Crawl: Imago Dei & Racism

      Welcome to the Crawl

      Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

      This week, we are talking about how Christian answers to the question, “What is a human?” have contributed to racism, and how better theological anthropology can help us fight racism. Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

      HISTORY: POLYGENESIS & RACIAL THEORIES IN THE 18th & 19th CENTURIES

      The gradual racialization of slavery during the Age of Discover (15th -16th c.) dramatically altered the perception of the human person for the Western world. The discovery of other humans in the Americas and increased exposure to Africans gradually led to the creation of racial theories and oppressive racialized social hierarchies. By the time of the Enlightenment (17th – 19th c.), these ideas began seeking justification in the new sciences of human anthropology and ethnology. Biblical thinkers were often involved in this process and began to develop theological theories to explain the different sources of the human race.

      • Theory 1: Sub-humanism. This theory posited that certain groups, most notably indigenous peoples of the Americas and Africans, were not fully human. Early missionaries pushed back against this view, though even they often portrayed certain peoples as intellectually infantile or physically bestial.
      • Theory 2:Pre-Adamism. Pre-Adamism claimed there were already races of humans living before the creation of Adam. It traces back to Isaac La Peyrère in the 17th century. This view was typically seen as heretical.
      • Theory 3: Co-Adamism. Co-Adamism claimed that there was more than one Adam – small groups of humans were created at the same time in different places across the Earth – and therefore that the different races were separately created. The idea of co-Adamism has been traced back as far as Paracelsus in 1520 and was more popular in that it levied somewhat successful critiques of the Table of Nations in Genesis 10.
      • Theory 4: Hamism. The story of Noah and his three sons in Genesis 9 was used as an explanation for the origins of different racial groups. Noah’s third son, Ham, is deemed to be the descendant of African peoples. His first son, Japeth, was deemed the ancestor of Caucasian peoples.  In the story, Noah pronounces a curse on his son Ham’s child, Canaan. Racial theorists argued that Ham was exiled to Africa and thus Black people were his descendents. As a result of the curse, black people were naturally more servile and sinful.
      • Theory 5: Shemism. The story of Noah and his three sons in Genesis 9 was used as an explanation for the origins of different racial groups. Noah’s second son, Shem, was deemed the ancestor of Native Americans and Semitic peoples. His third son, Japeth, was deemed the ancestor of Caucasian peoples. Noah’s curse included the line  “may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth” which was used to justify white people’s expansion and exploitation of “cursed,” and thus inferior, people and their lands.

      THE MAIN QUESTIONS

      • For each of the theories answer the following questions:
        • What do you think it means to be fully human in this theory?
        • What do you think the Christian responsibility of full humans to inferior/sub-humans would be in this theory? (e.g. do they need to be evangelized? treated humanely?)
        • What was the effect of this theory on non-Christian and non-Western people?
        • Do you see ideas related to this theory alive in our culture or theology today? If so, where?
      • Is it theologically significant to hold that all humans have the same biological origin? If yes, why? If no, why not?
      • Theological anthropology is the branch of Christian theology which seeks to answer the question: What is a human? How do you answer this question?
      • Genesis 1:27 says, “God created humanity in his own image.” This phrase is only used in reference to humanity and no other aspect of the created world. As such, the latin term, imago Dei (God’s image), has been used in theology to refer to the factor which renders human unique among creation. Read the section titled “Theological Concept: Four Models of the Imago Dei,” and answer the following questions:
        • Which model looks most like your definition of what it means to be human?
        • Which model seems most strange to you? Which is most appealing to you?
        • Which model(s) were being utilized in the historical theories?
      • Are humans all bearers of the imago Dei in an equal way? If yes, how so? If no, why not?
        How does a recognition of the imago Dei alter or add to our responses to the following:
        • Personal and systemic racism
        • Endemic poverty
        • The violation of human rights
      • Beyond the concept of the imago Dei, what other doctrines or theological ideas do you think are helpful for exploring the similarities and differences among human people?

      THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: FOUR MODELS OF THE IMAGO DEI*

      • Ontological View. The ontological view roots the imago Dei in the nature of a person. It states that the imago Dei involves an attribute which is fundamental to the nature of human beings. It is an approach which was adopted throughout Christian history, from patristic theologians to contemporary theologians. The most common articulation of this approach has been to identify the ‘imago’ as humanity’s capacity for rational thought, reflecting the image of a rational God. 
      • Functional View. The functional view roots the imago Dei in the function humans fulfill. It states that just as God has dominion over all creation, so God has appointed humanity to be vice-regents on the earth. Humanity is created like this God, with the special and unique role of reflecting God’s rule in the world.
      • Relational View. The functional view roots the imago Dei in the related nature of human existence. The relational view proposes that the imago Dei is best understood in terms of relationships:  human persons are essentially relational beings (in relationship with God, creation, and other human beings), and it is this relationality that reflects the image of the relational Creator himself.
      • Multi-faceted View. The functional view refuses to root the imago Dei in any one factor.The approach argues that the image of God cannot be restricted to a set of capacities, relationships, or functions.  While appealing in its various forms, this theory does not explain how the ontological, relational, functional concepts are related to one another.

      * Adapted from “The Imago Dei: A Survey of Four Models” by Michael Shaw

      IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

      • Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth. // Genesis 1:26
      • You made them a little less than the heavenly beings. You crowned mankind with honor and majesty. You appoint them to rule over your creation; you have placed everything under their authority, // Psalm 8:5-6
      • Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. // 1 Thessalonians 5:23
      • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. // Mark 12:30
      • And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven. // 1 Corinthians 15:49
      • He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. // Colossians 1:15

      THOUGHTS FROM OTHERS

      • Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated. // Alveda King
      • Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself – be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. // Viktor E. Frankl
        • How far the gentlemen of dark complexion will get with their independence, now that they have declared it, I don’t know. There are serious difficulties in their way. The vast majority of people of their race are but two or three inches removed from gorillas: it will be a sheer impossibility, for a long, long while, to interest them in anything above pork-chops and bootleg gin. // H.L. Mencken
        • We can make ourselves whole only by accepting our partiality, by living within our limits, by being humans not by trying to be gods. // Wendell Berry
        • The passion to explore is at the heart of being human. // Carl Sagan
        • This splendid territory [the Balkans] has the misfortune to be inhabited by a conglomerate of different races and nationalities, of which it is hard to say which is the least fit for progress and civilization. // Karl Marx
        • Being human means asking the questions of one’s own being and living under the impact of the answers given to this question. And, conversely, being human means receiving answers to the questions of one’s own being and asking questions under the impact of the answers. // Paul Tillich
        • Merely being human is morally significant. // Alice Crary
        • If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you. // Lyndon B. Johnson

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          Theology Crawl: Vocation & Exploitation

          Theology Crawl: Salvation & Slavery

          Welcome to the Crawl

          Welcome to Theology Crawl! This year, we are meeting online to really try and unpack one big question…”How the heck did we get here?” 2020 has been a year of reckoning on a lot of fronts, and we want to take time to discuss how God-talk has often contributed to the many problems we are facing, and how better theology might help us navigate our way out. 

          This week, we are diving right in and talking about how theologies of salvation (soteriology) have contributed to systemic racial oppression and how better theologies might help us in the fight for justice. Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.

          HISTORY: COTTON MATHER “SAVES” THE SLAVES

          This section will look at a few excerpts from Cotton Mather’s sermon, The Negro Christianized. Cotton was the leading theologian of the early Americans, and this sermon, written in 1706, was an attempt to convince slave owners to convert their slaves. Mather was addressing slave owners concerns over the long-standing tradition in English law that Christians could not be enslaved. Read the two quotes below, then move to the discussion.

          What Law is it, that Sets the Baptised Slave at Liberty ? Not the Law of Christianity: that allows of Slavery; Only it wonderfully Dulcifies, and Mollifies, and Moderates the Circumstances of it. Christianity directs a Slave, upon his embracing the Law of the Redeemer, to satisfy himself, That he is the Lords Free-man, tho’ he continues a Slave. // Cotton Mather, The Negro Christianized

          Having told them, Who Made them, and Why He made them, and that they have Souls, which will be Wretched or Happy forever, according as they mind Religion; then tell them ; That by their sin against God, they are fallen into a dreadful condition. Show them, That the Almighty God is Angry with them, and that, if they Die under the Anger of God, they will after Death, be cast among Devils; and that all the Stripes, and all the Wants, and all the sad things they ever suffered in this World, are nothing, to the many Sorrows, which they shall suffer among the Damned, in the Dungeon of Hell. Show them, That JESUS CHRIST, who is both God and Man in One Person, came, and Kept the Law of God, and then Offer’d up His Life to God, on the Cross, to make amends for our Sin; and that JESUS CHRIST invites Them as well as others, to Look to Him, and Hope in Him, for Everlasting Life ; and that if they come to JESUS CHRIST, they shall be as Welcome to Him, as any People ; Tho’ He be the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, yet He will cast a Kind Look upon Sorry Slaves and Blacks that Believe on Him, and will prepare a Mansion in Heaven for them. // Cotton Mather, The Negro Christianized

          THE MAIN QUESTIONS

          • What do you think of Mather’s assertion that the “law of Christianity” allows slaves (first quote)? 
            • How do you reconcile that most historical Christian communities condoned slavery? Is slavery supported by Christian theology or a historical blindspot of Christians? (See Important Scriptures section below)
            • Racialized chattel slavery (i.e. the idea the certain humans can be considered as property and are bought and sold as such) was a relatively new concept at the time of America’s founding. Older versions of slavery usually depended on the traditions of war captives and debt slavery. Is any form of slavery condoneable by Christianity? Why or why not?
          • What do you think of Mather’s model of salvation (second quote)? Do you think it is adequate? Why or why not?

          • Christianity has never fully agreed on an answer to the question, “How does God save us?” Look at the below section on six models of salvation. And answer the following questions:
            • What model do you see at work in Mather’s thought? 

            • What do you think Mather’s model leaves out, if anything?

            • What model of salvation do you usually find yourself relying on? 

            • What model seems the most foreign to you? Why?

          • Should spiritual freedom and salvation in Christ imply any of the following:
            • Legal Freedom and Salvation. If so, what would this look like? If not, why?
            • Economic Freedom and Salvation.  If so, what would this look like? If not, why?
            • Social Freedom and Salvation. If so, what would this look like? If not, why?
          • What model(s) of salvation could be helpful as we think about salvation in non-metaphysical terms?
          • What is the responsibility of the Church, if any, in helping to effect the salvation of Christ in our world?

          THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: SIX MODELS OF SALVATION*

          Model

          Human Predicament

          God’s Action

          Human Action

          Teacher

          Ignorance

          Teach the Way

          Follow the Way

          Moral Example

          Ignorance

          Teach God’s Love

          Copy Jesus

          Champion/Liberator

          Bondage to Evil

          Liberation from Bondage

          Accept God’s Grace

          Satisfaction

          Sin and Loss of Blessedness

          Satisfaction of Cosmic Justice

          Accept God’s Grace

          Happy Exchange

          Sin and Loss of Blessedness

          Exchange of Attributes

          Exchange of Attributes

          Final Scapegoat

          Self-Justification & Scapegoating

          Revelation of Human Self-Justification & Scapegoating

          Recognition of Human Self-Justification & Scapegoating

          •  Jesus as Teacher of True Knowledge: The human predicament consists of ignorance. We in the human race live in darkness, unable on our own to find the path to salvation. What Jesus does to affect our salvation is to show us the way, to provide us with divine knowledge and wisdom. According to the model, Jesus embodied the logos, the rational principle which holds together everything in the cosmos (John 1:1-14).
          • Jesus as Moral Example: The human predicament consists of ignorance. Our ignorance involves lack of awareness of just how to love one another. Jesus teaches us to love the other as other, to love outsiders and even enemies. By willingly accepting death on the cross, Jesus models for us the life of unselfish love. Our task as Christians is to copy Jesus.
          • Jesus as Champion and Liberator: The human predicament consists of bondage to death, the devil, and sin. Metaphorically, Jesus gives his life as a “ransom” (Mark 10:45) to purchase our freedom. In this model, Jesus’ resurrection is an anticipation of our resurrection in the new creation. Moreover, through the Holy Spirit, the power that raised Christ from the dead is alive in us and can help us experience the liberation of Christ in our own lives.
          • Jesus as Our Satisfaction: The human predicament consists of our own disobedience to God and our inability to atone for this trespass. Human beings have upset the cosmic balance of justice, and justice needs to be satisfied to restore God’s shalom. An offering to satisfy justice must be made from the human side; but only God has the capacity for making such satisfaction. Because only God is able to make the offering that we ought to make, it must be made by a combination of the divine and the human. Jesus’ voluntary death is what triggers atonement.
          • Jesus as Happy Exchange: The human predicament consists of our own disobedience to God and inability to change. In becoming the divine-man Jesus enables the exchange of attributes between God and humanity. In Jesus, God experiences what it means to be human; and the human Jesus expresses the eternal life of God. By faith, Christ’s experience is made available to us; he takes the negative qualities of our lives and in exchange shares with us the forgiveness of sins and the power of resurrection unto eternal life. 
          • Jesus as Final Scapegoat: The human predicament consists of our tendency to sacrifice others in our attempts at self-preservation and self-justification (i.e. scapegoating). Jesus himself becomes a voluntary scapegoat, yet Jesus’ death reveals the lie we tell ourselves; and it renders the scapegoat mechanism lame and unusable. Humanity is freed to reject self-preservation and self-justification and to accept a life of self-sacrificial love.

          * Adapted from Ted Peter’s “Six Ways of Salvation: How Does Jesus Save?” Dialog 45, no. 3 (Fall 2006), 223-235.

          IMPORTANT SCRIPTURE

            • Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. // 1 Peter 2:18
            • All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. // 1 Timothy 6:1
            • Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. // Colossians 3:22
            • If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. // Deuteronomy 23:15
            • If someone is caught kidnapping a fellow Israelite and treating or selling them as a slave, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you. // Deuteronomy 24:7
            • There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. // Galatians 3:28
            • It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. // Galatians 5:1

          RESOURCES

             

            Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Apocalypse

            Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Apocalypse

            Welcome to the Crawl

            Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

            The Big Question: Does the Bible really tell us how the universe will end?

            The Main Questions

            • Do you think the world will end? What about the universe? Why do you think that?
            • How do you think the Bible discusses the end of the world? What books/passages talk about the end? What are some common themes?
            • What challenges have you faced as you’ve tried to think through the Bible’s approach to the end of the world
            • Look in the section below at the definition for the biblical genre of Apocalypse. What do you think of this definition? How does it differ from how you typically think about apocalyptic literature?
            • Take time to read the “Four Christian Views on the End of the World.” Then answer the following questions:
              • Does each view differ in how it reads the Bible (i.e. is one view more literal, one more historical, etc.?)
              • What features do all of these views have in common? What do these commonalities tell us about the Bible’s vision of the end?
              • Which view more closely aligns with your own? Why do you hold this view?
            • Does having a conception of the “end of the world” matter for Christian theology? Why/why not?
            • How should the Bible’s vision of “the end” affect how we live in the here and now?

            Key Definitions

            • Apocalypse (Biblical Genre) // a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated  by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is (1) both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and (2) spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world. It is intended to intended to interpret the present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence both the understanding and the behavior of the audience by means of divine authority. // Adapted from J. Felix’s Compiled Definition
            • Four Christian Views on the End of the World*
              • Dispensationalist Premillennialism // holds that Christ will suddenly arrive and take His church into heaven (i.e. the rapture). After seven years of tribulation, Christ will return to rule from a holy city for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous.
              • Historical Premillennialism // places the return of Christ just before the millennial reign of Christ and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation. After the millennium, Satan will be loosed and rise against the kingdom of God; this will be immediately followed by the final judgment.
              • Postmillennialism // believes that the millennium is an era (not a literal thousand years) during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from a literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives. After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked.
              • Inaugurated Millennialism (or amillennialism) // believes that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection at which point he gained victory over both Satan and the Curse. Christ is now reigning at the right hand of the Father over His Church. After this present age has ended, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked.

            * Adapted from Blue Letter Bible

            Important Scripture

            • “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. // Matthew 24:36
            • But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. // 2 Peter 3:10
            • When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. // Revelation 6:12-13
            • Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. // 1 John 2:18
            • Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. // Matthew 13:40
            • “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ // Acts 2:17-21

            Thoughts from Others

            • This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. // T. S. Eliot
            • In 5-billion years the Sun will expand & engulf our orbit as the charred ember that was once Earth vaporizes. Have a nice day.” // Neil Degrasse Tyson
            • It happened that a fire broke out backstage in a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning. They shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid the general applause from all the wits who believe that it is a joke. // Søren Kierkegaard
            • Have you ever thought what a God would be like who actually ordained and executed the cruelty that is in [the biblical Book of Revelation]? A holocaust of mankind. Yet so many of these Bible-men accept the idea without a second thought. // C.J. Sansom
            • The truly apocalyptic view of the world is that things do not repeat themselves. It isn’t absurd, e.g., to believe that the age of science and technology is the beginning of the end for humanity; that the idea of great progress is delusion, along with the idea that the truth will ultimately be known; that there is nothing good or desirable about scientific knowledge and that mankind, in seeking it, is falling into a trap. It is by no means obvious that this is not how things are. // Ludwig Wittgenstein

            Resources

             

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