Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Reinterpretation, Ideology, and Theology


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John,

Nice Post. We have dealt with world and national problems the Presbyterian way. You know the Presbyterian way to solve social problems don’t you? We write a report about it!

Seriously, we clearly agree on ecology, global warming, the sinful use of resources while ignoring the needs of the poor and teen pregnancy. We also agree on our reaction to politicians saying what great Christians they are. I do want policies that agree with Biblical ideals but think such policies can come from a principled non-Christian. Wasn’t it Luther who said that he would rather have a just Turk as a ruler rather than an unjust Christian?

If I understand what you say about theology, ideology and reinterpretation I think we disagree. I’m all for changing theology so that it matches the Bible. If Calvin got something wrong I am willing to say so. And yes, I do look at the whole Bible through the lens, (thank you for the word flycandler), of Jesus. Thank means that I have to say that holy way is not a proper understanding of the purpose of YHWH.

I do agree that the idea that the nation’s rulers set the religion for the state is a non-Biblical concept. Yes, that means I don’t want to try to form a Christian America. Nether do I believe in ultimate destiny, the white man’s burden or America as a model for the world. I think we have seen what happens when we try to create democracy by violence in Iraq.

Can you give me some examples of ideology hiding as theology? I can see it in the desire of Israel to have a king so as to be like other nations. And just how do you make distinctions between theology and ideology? Maybe you could define the terms.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a progressive but I am a traditional Evangelical theologian. I don’t trust governments because those in power, no matter what their religion or ethics, are still sinners. On top of that the ones who claim their Christianity governs their policies scare me. They are too self assured and they can’t seem to make a distinction between their political ideologies and what they think Jesus would do. Let’s see . . . Jesus wants us to bomb the hell out of innocent civilians. Not the Jesus that I know!

I really need you to define what you mean by reinterpretation. If it means deciding what parts of the Bible fit with your ideology, we have a problem. If it means seeing the trajectory of progressive revelation in the Bible and deciding what God intends in the long run, we may disagree about God’s intentions but I think we all make such decisions.

So can you define your terms? How do you distinguish between theology and ideology in the Bible? And what exactly do you mean by reinterpretation?

Maybe we can return to my example of substitutionary atonement. Is this ideology or acceptable theology and if so or if not, what is the difference?

Oh, a comment on Crossan. I like his use of the sociological studies of Mediterranean villagers to examine the gospels. Personally I think Ken Bailey does a better job because he studied villages in rural Lebanon rather than in Italy. And frankly I think Crossan, like many in the various attempts to find the historical Jesus found more of himself than Jesus. I think that is the greatest danger we all face when we come to study of Jesus. We humans have this need for a Jesus like us. I believe Jesus is fully human and fully divine while I believe this has critical theological significance, (and is also Biblical); I also think it is a necessary check on interpreting Jesus. Jesus can’t be like me. Besides, I’m not a 1st Century Jew. I’m not. I’m a 21st Century Christian who lives in America. I have to deal with problems Jesus never mentioned directly. Jesus dealt with wealth but didn’t deal with specific problems like the sins multinational corporations.

Grace and Peace

Bob

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