The Betrayal of Fidelity

The final stretch!  Spring Break has ended, starting the fourth quad for this academic year.  Time for me to step things up multiple notches for increased productivity and increase my caffeine intake!

Last week, I finished reading The Fidelity of Betrayal.  When Peter Rollins signed my copy at Newton Centre, he told me that some critics have stated that this was his best work.  After having completed it myself, I can see why.  I mean, I’ve only read Insurrection so far.  And now I must write reviews for both books.

I also need to read through Uncle Karl’s new book, The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World.  Just recently published, I read the first review on Amazon from George P. Wood.

I always find it useful to read reviews of a book to help calibrate the one I’ll write later (also so I don’t miss a major insight and look totally foolish), but then I must critically examine myself to make sure I don’t jump on the bandwagon of thought.

Anyway, at one point of Wood’s review, he mentions Dr. Giberson’s background:

From 1984 to 2011, Giberson was professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College. In 2008, he became president of the BioLogos Foundation, ‘a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.’ He currently directs the Science & Religion Writing Workshop at Gordon College. (emphasis added)

That’s us!  I always feel a sense of privilege whenever I read that Uncle Karl directs Gordon’s writing workshop in some major publication or article.  I certainly can’t stop mentioning it on my own blog!

Speaking of Gordon, I started thinking about the piece I’ve started to flesh out, with the working title, “The Gospel for Academia.”  I want to contextualize it for The Tartan, the campus newsletter.  Does it seem too mundane to say that the euangelion of the New Testament should compel us to seek knowledge?  I hope not.

Today, I also read an essay by Derek Flood published in 2010 through Evangelical Quarterly, Substitutionary atonement and the Church Fathers: A reply to the authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions.  It resonated personally with my own experiences in my own wrestling with the Reformed view of penal substitution.

I perceive that many of those who still hold this traditional perspective of atonement have had no substantial method of supporting their interpretation outside of projecting their theological systems into not only Scripture, but as shown here, the Church Fathers.

As Flood states, while some Patristic teachings may hold concepts of penal substitution, that does not mean they thought it the way Calvin did.  In several examples, he argues that they did not see a God who dealt through retributive justice, but a restorative justice.  The Church Fathers did not think that Jesus died to appease the wrath of God.

I would go further as to say they did not espouse the Reformed doctrine of double imputation, either.  But I will save that for another post.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many Reformed critics, via print or Internet, as ultimately betraying their Reformed tradition whenever their initial instinct involves forensic rhetoric (i.e. defending a set of doctrines) instead of humbly considering alternative views on topics such as the atonement, justification, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.  I don’t see as many individuals willing to critically examine the Church, but men like Calvin and Luther did just that.  They challenged the institutions of their day which became oppressive, and argued, “Let’s see if our tradition should change with another look at Scripture.”

In fact, one might sum up The Fidelity of Betrayal as this: Ecclesia semper reformanda est, with the principle taken to its radical and logical fulfillment.  Rollins just happens to get there a different way through a post-structuralist framework in the 21st century with snappy controversial phrases intended to make traditionalists uncomfortable like, “What would Judas do?”

For Rollins to suggest that we should be willing to betray our traditions in order to honor them comes closer to the heart of the Reformation than the caricature of “free-floating Biblical revisionism” (26), as some critics paint him and other post-evangelicals.  In light of what he calls “fidelity” in the betrayal of tradition, I would say that some of his critics have betrayed this fidelity.  Hence, why I’ve twisted the phrase for the sake of having an interesting blog title.

This does not just fall on those of the Reformed side today, but also the other side of post-evangelicals.  We must always remain open to change, otherwise the new traditions we set up will one day become as oppressive as the institutions we seek to reform today.

Faithful for a Friday

Originally published through Tumblr on March 6, 2012.

While I most enjoyed the blog title, “Fun with the Uncle Karl,” I needed to change it to something more appropriate for a more specific audience beyond the writing workshop with Uncle Karl.  So for now, I stick with Reform-Asian.  In a way, it falls in lines with my convictions that I don’t see my theological perspectives as undermining the Reformation, but ultimately honoring and continuing it.  In another way, I just find it amusing and the best title I have for now until I can think of something more appropriate.  If you have any suggestions for titles that better suit the Tumblr description or what I write about, hook a brother up!

Anyways, I had probably the most intellectually stimulating Friday ever this past weekend! On March 2, I sat in front row in the A.J. Chapel to see Karl Willard Giberson talk on The Language of Science and Faith for the Annual Crum Lecture in the campus convocation.  Quite the misnomer, as it did not come off as crummy whatsoever!  Don’t worry; I know “Crum” doesn’t actually refer to something dirty or unpleasant.

Uncle Karl spoke with eloquence and humor in the “New Brunswickian accent” we have all come to know and love.  By “we,” I refer to the students in the writing workshop he instructs; he affectionately called us the “Dream Team” in front of the whole audience.  That’s right, everybody.  We’re the Dream Team, and our leader is Captain K.G.B.!

Against the backdrop of his beautiful and elaborate slide presentation, he challenged the dichotomy between faith and science so prevalently embedded into our culture, with some simple questions—What if we replaced the ancient science of Genesis but kept everything else?  What does it mean to say, “And God saw that [Creation] was very good”?

After reading his twisted version of the Creation story, with each day divided into “epochs of Creation” (no doubt demonically devised in the deepest dungeons of Hell), the lecture ended with him asking everyone to rise and sing the Doxology.  I rather enjoyed it all.

I believe we need more speakers out there in public to share a similar healthy attitude, those willing to argue for a responsible synthesis of Story (of the Bible) and Science.  We don’t have to see them as mutually exclusive.  Of course, I have my biases in favor of him as his student. (:

I had the privilege to join him and others at a crowded table in the Lane Student Center, enjoying free food and discussing various topics like the ancient use of genealogies in relation to Adam, and the relationship between humans and other organisms in light of evolutionary theory.  For the most part, Uncle Karl simply couldn’t stop saying “My new book” whenever he opened his mouth.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the glorious atmosphere of the private luncheon—somewhat awkwardly, I might add—for another lunch appointment with Steve, my favorite local Johannine scholar (also the only local Johannine scholar; also my professor), and my theologically and philosophically-minded brother Tom, right outside the Lion’s Den.  I find myself privileged to spend meal times with such intellectual individuals, talking about Scripture, science, and philosophy.  For me, the best part of the learning experience at Gordon involves more than simply reading books and articles, but discussing it with cherished friends and even established scholars.

For the evening, Steve, his imaginary son Nathaniel, Tom, Tom’s imaginary girlfriend Rebecca, and another couple figments of our collectively sanctified imagination drove to the Union Street Restaurant in Newton Centre, not a half hour away from Boston.  We went to the bar on the second floor, not to acquire copious amounts of alcohol, but for “The Idolatry of God: An Evening with Peter Rollins.”

Yup.  I got to see the author of InsurrectionHow (Not) to Speak of God, The Orthodox Heretic speak on deeply controversial issues in the middle of a pub.  This emergent church thinker has a reputation of touring around the States in bars, advocating what he calls “pyro-theology.”  He actually argues for people to give up their belief in God for the sake of living out a more material faith.  With his distinct Irish-accented humor and absurd Lacanian psychoanalytical arguments (whatever that means), he had the attention of the crowded pub.

After his talk ended, we all got to meet Dr. Rollins, even Steve’s imaginary son Nathaniel and Tom’s imaginary girlfriend, Rebecca!  We told him about how we came from Gordon, and how dope it would be if he came to speak at our school someday.  I shook his hand; he signed my copy of Insurrection and The Fidelity of Betrayal—he mentioned that some have stated this is his best work, which excited me.  I got to ask him several questions, at the expense of other members of the audience who had to wait for me, heheheh.  How does the abolishment of the psychological structures which hinder Christians from living the way they should not establish a structure of its own?What do you really believe?, and What does worship look like in a community that embraces doubt?

His answers intrigued me, and out of respect for him I won’t disclose what he really believes.  But I’ll give you a hint: It’s not what you think it isn’t, but it is what you think it isn’t.  I hope that helps.

Anyways, later that night, I finished reading Peter Rollins’ Insurrection.  Not only did it blow my mind and my socks away, it almost blew my faith away, and I still find myself reeling from it.  Yes, I just shared something quite personal here.  But I think that shows more that I’ve come to a point where I have a stronger, healthier attitude toward my doubt, as uncomforting as it may seem.  In some ways, I find it a blessing.  Thinking back to lunch time, Steve quoted Voltaire, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

Of course, I can doubt the system that puts certainty in doubting certainty, and come to believe something else.  Who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll convert to Zoroastrianism next month.  No offense intended to any of you Zoroastrians who might stumble upon this post.

After classes end tomorrow, Spring Break starts for me.  I hope to get a ton of research done, make much progress on the Patristic perspectives on Adam, read more on the conversation with the emergent church, start fleshing out a document for the Good News for Academia, and just read, read, read!  I look forward to Fridays like this for the future of my faith.

Not Even One

Late one afternoon, God turns on the TV, and sees militant fundamentalists on the screen, giving their latest polemic against scientific inquiry, free thought, and progress.

Evolution is a lie from the pits of Hell!

Thousands of different movements have interpreted the Bible differently—don’t worry, we got it right this time!

Don’t know what to do with serious issues that cause doubt?  When in doubt, go to Hell!

After hearing the thunderous diatribes against science and open intellectual challenges to their faith, God says,

Okay, enough of that.  What else is on?

Click.

On the next channel, God sees militant atheists on the screen giving their latest polemic against the supernatural, the sacred—

Religion poisons everything!

Who needs faith when you have science?

Philosophy is dead!

Science has an answer to every question!

After hearing the thunderous diatribes against religion and philosophical inquiry of the Universe, God turns off the TV.

With a sigh that shakes the Heavens, God says,

Everyone has too much to lose in the search for Truth.  If anybody begins to start challenging what they believe, they risk estrangement from their communities, they risk being purged from their prestigious positions and their institutions inoculated from considering the possibility that they might be wrong.

By their arrogance they suppress the Truth.  For what can be known about Truth is plain to them, because It has shown Itself to them.  Although they could have find Truth, they did not honor it with an eagerness and humility to seek it out, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of Truth for their limited worldviews.  Therefore, they were given to the lust of their selfish ways, only looking for evidence to support what they already believed.

All have fallen short of the glory of Truth.

There is no one worthy;

there is no one who understands.

All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who seeks Truth,

not even one.

God decides to go to bed early with the hope that tomorrow’s TV schedule will feature better programming.