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Scientific Explanation for Senior Moments

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 02:59
Alert reader Dr. Harold Black sent the following to me….. “The explanation. . . . . Brains of older people are slow because they know so much. People do not decline mentally with age. It just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains, scientists believe. Much like a [Read More...]

Blueberry pancakes and the future

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 14:25
I haven’t had blueberries, or almost any berries, really, in almost a year and a half. Except for strawberries, because thankfully there’s a season for strawberries in Dakar. And that...

Sauces Kids

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 13:29
As we’ve gotten more and more settled, we’ve been able to take on some ministry activities.  Viche and Narcisa have been doing EVERYTHING at the Sauces church for years.  Bit by bit I...

By the renewing of your mind

Simon Cozen's Blog - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 12:05
Language Undefined

The other day I was having a coffee and a chat with a local pastor friend. He’s recently taken over a congregation which has told him—in so many words—that they don’t agree with the idea of Christian growth. They don’t see the point of discipleship. It’s not something that they want. They come to church on Sunday; they pay their tithe; they’re doing their duty, and what more should the church expect of them? Should he not be focusing more on his duty of pastoral care and preparing sermons, rather than trying to get us interested in all this mission and personal discipleship stuff?

I was pretty shocked at the time to hear of these attitudes, but later I realised that it’s only shocking because it’s so baldly expressed. You’ll find precisely the same attitude in most Christians, although they’re more careful about how they express it.

Over the past fifty years or so, there’s been a lot of important work done in the area of how our culture shapes our Christianity. Theologians have come into contact with Christians from other parts of the world and have discovered that they don’t all think the same way. And that being the case, it raises interesting questions about what factors have shaped the inherited Christianity of the West. Whereas in the past, we saw our theology as normative and the theologies of Africa, Asia, South America and so on as novel and exotic, there’s now more of an understanding that all theology is contextual and that all expressions of Christianity are modulated by culture, even those of the West. When we talk about, for example, Jesus’s death as taking the punishment for sin, we now realise that we are talking out of a background of specific Western models of forensic legal process that may not relate to justice systems in other cultures. So this is progress.

But I think we’re missing a trick. We now understand very well that our cultural background is an integral part of our expression of faith, but I don’t see that anyone has pointed out how much our ideological background shapes our expression of Christianity.

What I mean is that you can take a politically liberal person and make him a Christian, and he will naturally gravitate towards the ways that the early church had all things in common, that the prophets spoke to structural and corporate injustices, and so on, and you will produce a politically liberal Christian. If you take a politically conservative person and make him a Christian, he will naturally gravitate to those passages in the Bible which condemn particular actions and speak about the moral responsibility and obligations of the individual, and you will produce a politically conservative Christian.

Each person has found theological justification for what they believed all along, and in neither of these examples has an encounter with the Bible fundamentally challenged the way that they see the world. For just as when we look at the Bible we see those parts which naturally resonate with our own cultural background, we also see those parts which resonate with our a priori ideologies.

To take the obvious examples of the day, if you already thought that that women and men were equal in status and gifting, then egalitarian theology would naturally be your cup of tea; and if you already thought women and men were different, then it would be utterly unsurprising if you were to be drawn to complementarian theology. It’s quite possible to be wholly sexist and wholly Christian, because you can always find ways of interpreting the Bible which provide a normalizing narrative for that sexism—just as it’s possible to find ways of interpreting the Bible which state that homosexuals do not deserve to be treated the same as heterosexuals.

I believe that an encounter with the Bible should change us. If it doesn’t, we’re just reading it in order to reinforce and find succour for our own prejudices, and I’m not sure that’s what the Bible is for. But for it to change us, we need to be both open and aware of the depth of our own preconceptions, and to honestly and earnestly desire the Bible to speak into the established patterns of our thinking.

And yet, based on the experiences of my friend above, I do wonder how much we really are ready for that to happen. Are we not all, to some degree, happier to find a justification for what we believed all along, rather than to think about the radical message of Jesus could actually interfere with our own core beliefs about how the world works?

Subject tags: theologyevangelicalism


Missionary Blogs - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 12:00
In 1910, a major world missions conference was held in Edinburgh. Those present held hope for evangelism among the followers of eastern religions. The well-developed philosophical positions of those...

Mission Work Peru

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 09:26
Here is a little summary of our mission work in Peru. .

The Home of Jesus?

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 02:32
Check out this story http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/a-new-look-at-where-jesus-grew-up-5900277093761024, and the one by Professor Dark in the last issue of BAR.

Container Conundrum Part XX: Visas

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 18:13
Yes, it is back. The container conundrum. Having our things here has been nothing short of wonderful! There are so many times I’ve thought about how thankful I am for our things! But,...

Giving Life to Life-Giving Work

Jamie The Very Worst Missionary - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 17:35

Friends, I try to share things with you here that I believe are life-giving in some way.

I post links to funny things and creative things and spiritual things, things that remind us we're connected to each other, things that make us feel like we're not crazy, things that bring freedom and grace and wholeness, things that are inspiring, redemptive, healing.
This is one of those things...
Brian Chandler is my people. 
He is honest and raw and genuine and real and all the stuff we love around here. He just... gets it. He gets what it is to be broken and battered and abandoned, but he also gets Grace. And on top of all that? The guy makes music that makes me cry. He writes the kind of songs that find me where I'm lost and wandering, take me by the hand, and lead me home. 
I have no doubt Night Sea will be life-giving for many. 
But first we have to give it life.
Will you help me help Brian make music that makes us cry and takes us home?
I really don't ask for much. Only that, together as a community, we end modern day slavery, fight human trafficking, consume with a conscience, eat local, love well, and lean on each other. And this. I'm asking for this...
As of this posting, we are only 7 days and a little more than $3200 away from funding a project that I believe will speak Grace and Peace to the hopeless, the hurting, the lost, and the lonely among us. It would be so cool if you were part of it. Fund it, share it, pray for it - whatever - just participate somehow, if you can. 
Click here to give life to live-giving work: https://www.kickstarter.com/pro…/nightsea/night-sea-debut-ep

***If anyone was inclined to go over there right now and simply cover the remaining $3000-ish of this project, then I would be inclined to meet that person at the Night Sea releaseparty with a bottle of home-brew, a homemade Picaken, a custom Knives t-shirt, and a rare show of affection in the form of a two-armed, full-frontal HUG. I swear, THAT is how bad I want this record to happen.***

Back to January…Clowning Around!

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 13:25
Here we are April and STILL trying to catch up on blogs….Guess it means there hasn’t been a whole lot of free time because we’ve gotten right into life here. That’s a good...

LifePark Youth Team March 2015

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 08:56
Last week we hosted a group of high school students along with their leaders from LifePark Church in Mount Pleasant, SC.  Having served seven years in full time student ministry prior to coming...

Simply Good News– a Late Word from Tom

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 02:05
Some of Tom Wright’s books are rather like sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, realizing that a lot of good eating is before you, and it’s going to take a long time to digest. Fortunately, even Tom’s big books don’t have the same effect as a large dose of turkey does— call it the tryptophan effect. [Read More...]

April 2015 Update from Mexico

Missionary Blogs - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 21:23
Church Increase in Guadalajara This month I had the privilege of baptizing 8 believers in Guadalajara. Another, in addition to that, was added to the church. So in total, we had 9 believers added to...

Once More with Feeling— Did the James Ossuary come out of the Talpiot Tomb?

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 02:42
Craig Evans and I were having a chat about the James Ossuary. He was about to give a lecture at Liberty University about Jesus and the Remains of his Day. We were discussing the fact that the James ossuary, unlike any of the other ones I’ve seen from the period appears very pitted and worn [Read More...]

The Prayer of Sir Francis Drake

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 02:40
(This apparently was written in preparation for Drake’s sailing to the west coast of South America) Disturb us, Lord, when We are too pleased with ourselves, When our dreams have come true Because we dreamed too little, When we arrived safely Because we sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when With the [Read More...]

Finding Jesus—- the Final Episode

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 22:42
The final episode of Finding Jesus focuses on Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus. Of course, ever since the Da Vinci Code there has been no end of speculation about the nature of this relationship. There are of course mysteries along the way as we study Mary’s story. Why exactly does she just disappear [Read More...]

5 things we wish Japan had, maybe

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 16:22
Our living area heater. It does get pretty cold and we heat only heat the rooms that we use, but in our old house, the insulation is pretty non-existent, so the heat tends to disappear at an alarming...

A Saturday Reflection

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 13:20
We went to the edge of San Juan on Saturday to have lunch in a field under a tree with a family from our house church, Lupe and Rocío (you know them if you’ve followed the blog for very long). ...

Easter 2015

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 10:26
Life has been busy around here the last couple of weeks.  We said goodbye to our team on Friday and came home to crash.  I felt like I had reached a new level of tiredness.  Then,...

Take it all in #121

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 10:21
We have two months and one week left in Senegal. ohmygoodness. In some ways time is FLYING and in other ways (like when a big dust storm sets in and your world has literally been turned brown, ahem,...
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