It’s hard to make a film. Period. It’s damn hard to make a good film. If you’ve never made a film before, it’s really, bloody, damn hard to make a good one. But first-time filmmaker Phil Harrison has done just that. Not only is his first feature, The Good Man, beautifully written and shot and brilliantly acted (in Ireland and South Africa, no less), the narrative is loaded with implications ripe for theological, ethical, political, and economic discussions in our tightly-connected global community. To paraphrase the old saying, if a man is killed in Ireland, does it make a sound in South Africa?
You don’t have to be an adherent of these approaches to hear the critique that they raise and allow those questions to interrogate the given order of things.
In the forward to their famous book Process Theology: an introductory exposition, Cobb and Griffin outline a number of conceptions of God that Process does not affirm. The fourth example they provide introduces the problem:
God as Sanctioner of the Status Quo. This connotation characterizes a strong tendency in all religions. It is supported by the three previous notions. The notion of God as Cosmic Moralist has suggested that God is primarily interested in order. The notion of God as Unchangeable Absolute has suggested God’s establishment of an unchangeable order for the world. And the notion of God as Controlling Power has suggested that the present order exists be cause God wills its existence. In that case, to be obedient to God is to preserve the status quo. Process theology denies the existence of this God.
It is going to be important to hear the questions this raises: is God primarily concerned with order? Is God the source of that order? Or is God providing something else that challenges those established structures which limit and take away people’s ability to live fully and prosper?
They introduce the Process notion of God:
And, far from sanctioning the status quo, recognition of essential relatedness to this God implies a continual creative transformation of that which is received from the past, in the light of the divinely received call forward, to actualize novel possibilities. Although this divine power is persuasive rather than controlling, it is nevertheless finally the most effective power in reality. In Whitehead’s words: “The pure conservative is fighting against the essence of the universe.” (Adventures in Ideas 354.)
To classic virtues (properties of being) like truth, beauty and goodness, Process adds adventure and zest precisely because of who God is! The addition of adventure and zest speak to movement (change), progression and novelty. Process, if nothing else, fully recognizes the validity of time and change.
Hence, no type of social order is to be maintained if it no longer tends to maximize the enjoyment of the members of the society. Also, it is impossible for any form of social order to continue indefinitely to be instrumentally good. God, far from being the Sanctioner of the Status Quo, is the source of some of the chaos in the world. “If there is to be progress beyond limited ideals, the course of history by way of escape must venture along the borders of chaos in its substitution of higher for lower types of order.” (Process and Reality 169.) (God is said to be the source of only some of the chaos, since only some of it can in principle lead to a higher type of order and thereby a richer form of enjoyment.)
God, in a Process perspective, provides – indeed is the source of – some of the chaos that calls into question the status quo and challenges the established order that limits the prospering of creatures.
If you think that God likes the way things are and wants to keep them the same … you may not be worshiping the God of the Bible.
This was brought to my memory when I encoutered an interesting nugget at the back of another book that had nothing to do with Process thought. Terry Eagleton in After Theory illuminates an interesting Biblical concept.
In a revolutionary reversal, true power springs from powerlessness. As St Paul writes in Corinthians: `God chose what is weakest in the world to shame the strong … even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.’ The whole of Judaeo-Christian thought is cast in this ironic, paradoxical, up-ending mould.
The wretched of the earth are known to the Old Testament as the anawim, those whose desperate plight embodies the failure of the political order. The only valid image of the future is the failure of the present. The anawim, who are the favoured children of Yahweh, have no stake in the current set-up, and so are an image of the future in their very destitution. The dispossessed are a living sign of the truth that the only enduring power is one anchored in an acknowledgement of failure. Any power which fails to recognize this fact will be enfeebled in a different sense, fearfully defending itself against the victims of its own arrogance. Here, as often, paranoia has much to recommend it. The exercise of power is child’s play compared to the confession of weakness.
Terry Eagleton. After Theory (Kindle Locations 1882-1892). Kindle Edition.
What do we do with those aspects of the established order which don’t fit – or even shame – the established order? Do we want to sweep the anawim off the streets and hide them from view in order conceal the fact that the current system does not work for everyone?
Do we put down the dissenters? Do we turn a blind eye to ‘the poor’ so as to not acknowledge that the bell-curve is inverted and seems to be more of a trough?
Before doing so, we may want to consider this:
The authors of the New Testament see Jesus as a type of the anawim. He is dangerous because he has no stake in the present set-up. Those who speak up for justice will be done away with by the state. Society will wreak its terrible vengeance on the vulnerable. (Kindle Locations 1893-1894).
This idea cast a strange light on the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ when it talks about God’s will being done on earth and forgiving debts …
Eagleton uses the Book of Isaiah to make his big point about the failures of the system:
The Book of Isaiah is strong stuff for these post-revolutionary days. It is only left in hotel rooms because nobody bothers to read it. If those who deposit it there had any idea what it contained, they would be well advised to treat it like pornography and burn it on the spot.
As far as revolution goes, the human species divides between those who see the world as containing pockets of misery in an ocean of increasing well-being, and those who see it as containing pockets of well-being in an ocean of increasing misery. It also divides between those who agree with Schopenhauer that it would probably have been better for a great many people in history if they had never been born, and those who regard this as lurid leftist hyperbole. This, in the end, is perhaps the only political division which really counts.
(Kindle Locations 1916-1920).
In response, I would ask:
- What if ‘the poor’ are not an exception to a good system but are actually an indictment of it exposing the flawed gears in the machine?
- Is God interested in turning over the established order or in preserving it?
- Is God there for those who are wounded and needy or is God ashamed of them?
- Is our current system mostly good with some bad exceptions that we just need to work on and tweak? Or is the system itself flawed and in deep need of re-formation and renovation?
- Is God interested in change or simply stasis? And if so, what does God provide for that work?
These are questions that both Process and Liberation theologies ask that need to be evaluated even if one does not subscribe to those schools of thought.
The answers will impact both how one views God and how one participates in the world.
Facebook & Ferguson
Tripp and Bo intro the episode then Micky Jones (starting at 7:50) and Bo chat for a half-hour.
The second half is the Theology Nerds fielding phone calls about different types of Christianity.
The 2nd half of this episode will come out in 2 days.
Want to join a live stream with Philip Clayton, Peter Rollins & I as we discuss Wolfhart Pannenberg’s christology? Well this coming thursday, September 18th, at 6pm pst. (9pm est.) everyone on the Homebrewed Christianity mailing list will get the secret online location for the excitement. If you want to hop online, enjoy a brew, and nerd out about Pannenberg with us then make sure you are on the mailing list below.
The live stream is the 3rd session of Pete & I’s 6 week High Gravity class on Christology. You are of course more than welcome to sign up for the entire thing, download all the readings and the content from the first two sessions on Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Then you can join us live for the final four sessions.
See you then!
Here is my ‘Top 10 Books that have stuck with me’ list and I would love to see yours.
– Books that Changed the World (earlier edition) by Robert Downs
– The Argument Culture by Deborah Tannen
– The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garraeu
– Jihad vs. McWorld by Benjamin Barber
– The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
– She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson
– Native and Christian by James Treat
- The Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges
– What Would Jesus Deconstruct? by John Caputo
- Process Theology by Cobb and Griffin
Best Books I have read this year:
The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
The President just finished his news conference about the plan to combat ISIS (ISIL).
I am somewhere between confused and infuriated – baffled and livid.
The beheadings are horrific. The threat is undeniable. But … is this really the American response?
My concern is that the US has created a Frankenstein.
America is combatting a hydra of its own creation!
You cut off one head and another pops up.
The revival of ‘jihad’ in the 80’s to combat the Russian threat … the subsequent ‘war on terror’ after the events of 9/11 2001 … have lead to this newest manifestation … how does it possibly resolve?
- There are those who buy into the ‘Class of Civilizations’ myth.
- There are those who point to the ‘End Times‘ idea.
- There are those who hold to the ‘American Exceptionalism’ party line.
One thing I know is that our Homebrewed listeners are more intelligent and insightful than I am.
Does anyone have some insight on this? Some thoughts to point a way forward?
I would really love to hear some alternative perspectives.
Tony Jones posted Philip Clayton’s obituary of Wolfhart Pannenberg. Pannenberg was my first nerd crush in undergrad. At Campbell University my religion professor Dr. Martin was disturbed by my ‘loosely Christian Jesus Seminar styled Tillichianism’ and insisted I read a real theology text – Jesus: God & Man. I stayed up two nights in a row to finish it. I half understood it but was completely mesmerized by how thorough Pannenberg attended to the same historical Jesus conversation that was defaulting my Christology. After that I knew I wanted to be a theologian. Three years later at Wake Forest University it was Pannenberg’s first American student, Frank Tupper who gave me an intense Pannenberg summer seminar in Pannenberg. He said “I will make you work more in 2 months than your first two years of graduate school. In the end you will know Pannenberg & you will know if you are really called to be a theologian. It was intense. We read all 3 volumes of his Systematic Theology meeting each week to discuss 150 pages and my 15 page paper on each section. At the end of the class I had two week to write a 50+ single space page final paper. In the process of reading, writing, and avoiding sleep I came to love Pannenberg’s intellectual tenacity. At Claremont School of Theology I got teach Pannenberg in my first Systematic Theology class w/ Philip Clayton. He asked me to give the 45 minute intro to Pannenberg’s project and I was intimidated. Afterward Philip gave me a few comments and then said ‘it was very clear you love Pannenberg for the best reasons. Too many evangelicals love him for his conclusions and fail to appreciate his true brilliance in the argument itself.’ Later I wrote an article on the conversation between Pannenberg and John Cobb. After Cobb read it was had lunch to discuss it but all Cobb talked about was Pannenberg’s hospitality in Germany and his commitment to their friendship. Then I Cobb showed me the Christmas card he received from Pannenberg.
Pannenberg has always been a part of my academic life and the story of my faith. I always wished I would have had the chance to tell Pannenberg thank you.
Below is Philip’s words.
Wolfhart Pannenberg—In Memoriam
by Philip Clayton
Wolfhart Pannenberg has often been called the greatest theologian of the second half of the 20th century. With his death Friday, the world has lost a brilliant interpreter of Christianity, and I have lost the mentor who molded me as a scholar, theologian, and person.
In the 1950s, when Pannenberg was a doctoral student in Heidelberg, Karl Barth dominated the theological stage. In order to counteract Barth’s overemphasis on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte), Pannenberg redefined revelation as “universal history” (Universalgeschichte). A few years later he published a major Christology (Jesus—God and Man) that established him as the world’s leading defender of “theology from below.”
Over the next 30 years, Pannenberg extended this program to philosophy, the religion/science debate, the dialogue across the world religions, and to every corner of theology. He had the most encyclopedic mind I have ever encountered. You need only to read around a bit in his multi-volume Basic Questions in Theology to be stunned by the range and depth of his scholarship. John Cobb once quipped, “I saw that Pannenberg was able to encompass the entire range of knowledge within his own mind. Realizing that I could never match this achievement, I decided it would take a lifetime of working with my doctoral students to cover as many topics.”
Pannenberg’s staunch defense of the historicity of the resurrection made him a champion among American evangelicals. His extensive involvement in the ecumenical movement and his unsurpassed knowledge of the history of theology were crucial to the most important ecumenical breakthroughs in the World Council of Churches. Taken together, Pannenberg’s extensive writings, including his three-volume systematic theology, offer a theological program unrivaled its comprehensiveness, depth, and rigor.
Yet Pannenberg’s influence extended far beyond the evangelical and ecumenical worlds. His early statement that “in a restricted but important sense, God does not yet exist”caught the attention of process theologians and involved him in a multi-year dialogue with John Cobb (who studied with Pannenberg in Mainz in 1963), Lewis Ford, and others. He met regularly with scientists, stressing contingency and natural law as openings for constructive engagement between science and theology. Pannenberg traveled widely around the world, was guest professor at Harvard and Claremont, and hosted many professors and doctoral students from the United States and elsewhere during his decades of teaching at the University of Munich.
I was one of those students. While still at Fuller Seminary, I met Pannenberg (at Claremont, ironically) and asked him for his permission to begin my doctorate work under his guidance. A two-year scholarship from DAAD funded the stay in Munich, and I wrote the first 200 pages of the dissertation under his direction. Although I completed my doctoral studies at Yale, I always considered Pannenberg the true mentor of the dissertation. From him I learned the importance of Gründlichkeit, rigorousness — a virtue that I have sought to impart to my classes and doctoral students throughout my career.
Thanks to Fulbright and Humboldt professorships, I returned for two further years of study under him; our relationship, and his influence on me, deepened in those years. I remember, for example, a birthday celebration at our small apartment that lasted (in good old-German fashion) for five hours of eating and conversation. As all who knew him will attest, Pannenberg’s success had much to do with his indomitable wife, who guided his days and decisions better than any executive coach you’ve ever met. I have watched her disperse a group of intensely debating professors as if they were bowling pins: “Excuse me, you must all go home now. My husband needs some rest; he has a busy day tomorrow.”
Pannenberg set unimaginable standards for himself and others. Each workday he would write from 5-10 am. On Tuesdays and Fridays he would catch the commuter train to the University of Munich and present the new material in that day’s lecture. If you asked him a question on virtually any theological topic, you would be treated to an extemporaneous five-minute answer, running from biblical texts to biblical theology to Patristics, Scholastics, Reformation thinkers, and modern theology, with detailed treatments of what secular philosophers, historians, and scientists had written on the subject. Once, when he was writing his anthropology, I asked him why he looked so tired. “Herr Clayton,” he said, “the literature on this topic is uferlos, unbounded. I have been reading 500 pages-a-day, now I have switched to reading 1000 pages-a-day in order to master all of it.”
What many people don’t realize is that Pannenberg modified his “theology from below” stance early in his career. By the time of the “Afterword” to Jesus—God and Man (1970), he had already developed a method that combined theology from below and theology from above. The brilliant debates on the nature of the Trinity in the 1970s—especially the back-and-forths with Jürgen Moltmann—show this method in action. Miroslav Volf and I were both studying in Germany in the 1980s, he under Moltmann in Tübingen and I under Pannenberg in München. We and our wives would meet multiple times each year, taking long walks in the forest and debating the merits of our respective Doktorväter until late into the night. (It is no coincidence that in the German system your dissertation advisor is your “doctor-father”; the relationship is close, life-long, and affects every fiber of your being.)
Pannenberg’s conservativism on political and social issues—for example, on feminism and gay rights—set him at odds with many theologians. He wrote a demanding and uncompromising form of theology in the very years when pastors and the public began to prefer more informal, journalistic, and experience-based theologies. Pannenberg was no popularist.
Yet without question he has had a profound influence on some of the greatest theological minds of our generation: John Cobb and Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson in the early years, the famous fiery debates with Moltmann and Jüngel, the religion-and-science discussions with John Polkinghorne and Arthur Peacocke and others, and my fellow students in Munich, such as Stan Grenz and Roger Olson and E. Frank Tupper and Ted Peters. In the dozens and dozens of lectures in the United States over some 40 years, Pannenberg engaged in intense exchanges with virtually every great intellectual personality of our age. In this fiery furnace— or in direct opposition to it!—many of the greatest theological breakthroughs of the last decades were forged.
Two hundred years from now, historians of theology will describe the work of Karl Barth and Wolfhart Pannenberg as the two theological giants of the mid-20thcentury. But I want to make sure that the record also includes Pannenberg’s warmth as a person—his quick smile, the way his eyes sparkled when he told a joke, his enduring friendships, and his deep commitment to mentoring and supporting his students.
Pannenberg has been called a rationalist. Before you accept this epitaph, you should read his theological autobiography in the American Festschrift that Carl Braaten and I co-edited,The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg: Twelve American Critiques. In fact, his theology grew out of a dramatic conversion experience and a continual sense of the real presence of God’s Spirit.
For all his wrestling with philosophy and science, Pannenberg was in the end a man of deep, abiding faith. He believed that the richness and immensity of God call for the most profound study and reflection that our minds are capable of
…that theology should meet and exceed the highest standards that philosophers set for themselves
…and that we never need to compromise as we wrestle to understand as much of the divine nature as we can grasp through every source available to us.
Philip Clayton studied under Wolfhart Pannenberg for four years and continued to work with him for most of his career. Clayton is Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology. He has held visiting professorships at Harvard, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich, and has written or edited 25 books and some 250 articles in theology, philosophy, religion-and-science, and comparative religious thought.
First off, we want to thank our sponsors, The Work of the People. By sponsoring Homebrewed Christianity they let us keep getting you great theological goodness and we get to tell you about a great organization that is doing some very cool work around the creation of liturgy. Check ‘em out at The Work of The People. We also want to thank Sara Ciotti who donated via PayPal on the site. Thanks!
This week on the show we have the first of a series of crossovers with Syndicate Theology. Syndicate is “a new forum for scholars to collaborate and comment on their research.” It is sweet. A crew of writers write essay length pieces on a given book and then the book’s author replies to the pieces in writing. And then the essayists get to respond too. All online. In front of your eyes! Why does it matter to you Deacons? Because we’re going to be teaming up with Syndicate and interviewing a number of their books authors, releasing the interviews the same time the essays are going up.
In the interview she covers the link between aesthetics and ethics, discusses the theological role of wonder, and asks what the opposite of Beauty is, suggesting that the answer is important for contemporary theology. Connect with her on her Facebook page and make sure to read some in-depth engagements with the book that she is talking in this interview about over at Syndicate.
Also of Note:
On the Homebrewed Barrel Aged podcasts we pull out some of the best interviews from the first 5 years of the podcast. These gems get an audio facelift and then released from your enjoyment.
Barrel Aged in iTunes (drop a 5 star review if you want to be awesome)
“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.”- Raymond Chandler
If you are in the Los Angeles Area on September 26th, join Patrick on a cigar cruise in Marina Del Rey. You get the cruise, 17 cigars, food and drinks for 1/2 off in August – Just $50. Go to: http://www.calimegaherf.com/index.html
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This week’s episode is all Everyday Sunday, all the time. We hung out with Trey and Carter from the uber-popstar band both at Wild Goose (yes, there’s more you haven’t heard yet) and in the garage at Amy and Christian’s place while they were in Oregon for a couple of shows.
First up is a new segment affectionately known as Ten in the Den, where guests are submitted to ten completely subjective questions in Christian’s newly constructed Slacker’s Den (aka, where homebrewers go to die happy), and then scored on their answers based on a system Christian makes up as he feels like it. We learn much about the band in the process though, such as their proclivity for soccer moms, their soft spot for transgender family members and their desire to rename their band the “Rollins Stones.”
Then we just east to Hot Springs North Carolina where Christian reads a post-breakup letter Trey supposedly wrote (you be the judge) to CCM (the Contemporary Christian Music industry) from which he parted about a year ago) to try and patch things up and get back in their good graces. What’s with these commie liberals who love the planet more than penal substitutionary atonement???
Hehe, we said “penal.”