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Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary at Multnomah University.
Posted 12/9/13 at 10:49 AM | Paul Louis Metzger |
I doubt there was snow on the ground that first Christmas, so I don’t think Christ’s advent in the cavernous mangers of our hearts this Christmas is dependent on snowfall either. Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, Christmas will likely be very green, as it often is. Whether it is green where you live or not, my Christian faith entails that greenery and all things natural are dependent on that first Christmas.
Recently, I told my theology class students that the incarnation is the ultimate affirmation and demonstration of the creation’s goodness. Matter matters to God, for God became material: the Word became flesh (John 1:14). Christian theologian John of Damascus claimed: “I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works for my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God.” FULL POST
Posted 12/6/13 at 10:29 AM | Paul Louis Metzger |
Nelson Mandela brought peace to South Africa by making trouble. One cannot always make peace without conflict. Those who would shy away from conflict involving injustices are not about peace, but the status quo, for peace always entails advancing justice. Having been an advocate in his early years for non-violent resistance and then for armed struggle, Mandela became known in his later years for cultivating a culture of love rather than hate that entailed justice.
I received the news of Mandela's death upon returning from participating in a Christian conference titled Convicted Civility: Candid Conversations in a Conflictual Culture, with keynote speaker Richard J. Mouw. Mouw's powerful reflections included the claim that we cannot always be civil; when oppression exists, Christian leaders will be called upon to confront the oppressors in forceful terms. What that looks like will vary from one situation to another. Moreover, when one confronts depends on a variety of factors, including one's motives and what's at stake if there is no confrontation and how confrontation can lead to redemptive ends. FULL POST
Posted 12/3/13 at 11:46 AM | Paul Louis Metzger
In a recent article on Dave Ramsey on the subject of poverty, Rachel Held Evans quotes Ramsey as saying, “There is a direct correlation…between your habits, choices and character in Christ and your propensity to build wealth.” She then goes on to claim that this teaching flirts with the prosperity gospel, which can be construed as God blesses those with wealth who bless God. Among other things, Evans also writes of how Ramsey’s view does not account for the structures that make and keep people poor in America.
Here’s what Pastor Kenneth Edward Copeland had to say about Evans’ article:
In my opinion, Rachel Held Evans rightly points to, but does not explicitly call out, an insidious and debilitating flaw in American evangelicalism: an overemphasis on individual salvation to the neglect of how the Gospel impacts systematic, structural, and corporate evil/injustice. The so-called prosperity gospel and its evangelical cousin (the trickle-down social ethic that says society's ills would be solved if everyone were "saved") share the fallacy that personal responsibility and wise choices alone are what separate the rich from the poor. In other words, the poor are poor because they don't have enough faith (standard prosperity gospel) or they aren't employing biblical principles/making wise choices (evangelical prosperity gospel). FULL POST
Posted 11/29/13 at 10:30 AM | Paul Louis Metzger |
I have come across a few answers as to why people call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday.” One answer is that “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department based on the overwhelming and chaotic influx of traffic and pedestrian activity associated with Christmas shopping on the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving. "Black Friday" is also associated with the economic upturn involving the shopping cycle leading to Christmas where retailers turn from being in the red to going in the black and making profits.
I must confess that when I came across the first explanation, my mind went back to the "Malcolm X" movie where Detroid Red (later Malcolm X) is told in prison that “black” is always associated with negative factors and forces in the English language and white is associated with positive factors and forces. I am not claiming that the Philadelphia Police Department had such connotations in mind, but only that the term "black" has often been used for negative depictions. Given the negative connotations associated with the term, it is important to problematize the terms “white and black” and other colors in the economy, in Sunday School literature (where "black" is often associated with sin and evil and "white" with holiness and righteousness), and in our treatments of Christmas. As much as I like the movie “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, a remake of the movie would be best in living color—in other words, not so white and positively inclusive of black. Moreover, it would be a whole lot more positive and wholesome than the 1974 movie “Black Christmas," which was about the terrorizing of a sorority house during Christmas break (the same goes for the 2006 version). FULL POST
Posted 11/25/13 at 4:27 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
What is the standard of value in this or that ethical system? Is it some transcendent immaterial ideal? A personal God? The community at large? One’s self? According to Ayn Rand, “The objectivist ethics” which she promotes “holds man’s life as the standard of value—and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man” (The Virtue of Selfishness, Signet, 1964, p. 27). Rand goes on to unpack what she means by standard and purpose and value. For our purposes, it is sufficient to focus consideration simply on her human individual-centered ethical system. Later, Rand goes on to write:
The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every human living being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 30). FULL POST
Posted 11/25/13 at 1:05 PM | Paul Louis Metzger
Thanksgiving is upon us. This year, I find myself reflecting upon God’s generosity in Christ for which I am most thankful. I wish to take this opportunity to reflect upon how God’s generosity in Christ shapes the Christian life.
A theology of God’s gracious love fosters an ethic of gratitude. I preached on Philemon this past Sunday at Ascension Presbyterian Church and believe this passage in Scripture reveals this orientation. Now some may see in Paul’s letter to Philemon a subtle form of manipulation whereby Philemon is forced to free his slave Onesimus. I beg to differ. I believe Paul truly appeals to him in love as a result of God’s grace at work in Paul’s, Philemon’s and Onesimus’s lives in relation to one another and the whole church (koinonia). FULL POST
Posted 11/22/13 at 11:45 AM | Paul Louis Metzger
In a recent blog post discussion, I spoke of the need to humanize religion. On Facebook on 11/20, I wrote: “If we don't humanize religion, we may very well end up demonizing adherents of other paths. We need to put faces to the various faith traditions.”
My particular emphasis on humanization does not discount orthodox Christian faith with its claim that Christ is fully God as well as fully human. To the contrary, it is because God is personal and has three “faces” as the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit that I can speak of the need to put faces to various faith traditions through engagement of human persons with faces. According to historic Christian faith, humans are created in the image of God who is triune. If the Trinity were only a metaphor or social construct, or if the “faces” as persons were only modes or masks that deity wears at various times, I could not take seriously my own claim that we need to put faces to the various faith traditions. FULL POST
Posted 11/22/13 at 11:38 AM | Paul Louis Metzger
LifeWay's recent apology issued at the Mosaix 2013 conference is a sign of hope that the Evangelical church I love is moving forward toward greater multi-ethnic inclusivity. Having spoken at the conference, I was present to hear the recorded LifeWay apology for the decade-old offense for caricaturing Asian people and culture in its Rickshaw Rally VBS curriculum. Fellow Mosaix 2013 conference presenter and dear friend Soong-Chan Rah had this to say about the apology:
I'm really moved that LifeWay would go to these lengths to do this. It's not something they had to do since many people will see it as something that happened so long ago. There's prophetic wisdom and courage in apologizing. Once confession, repentance and forgiveness occurs, we're able to have a conversation on a deeper level. FULL POST
Posted 11/22/13 at 11:16 AM | Paul Louis Metzger
Pagan leader Jason Pitzl-Waters spoke in my world religions class yesterday. Jason is perhaps best known for his blog, The Wild Hunt: A Modern Pagan Perspective. Jason travels from Eugene to Portland (not a short ride) to put a human face on Paganism for my students. One of the things he asks himself is: "If I don't come and speak, who will the Christian seminary professor bring in as a guest speaker?" He shared his internal musings with my class and put the matter in context so that we could appreciate the question. If Christianity were a minority faith tradition that is often maligned, would we Christians feel comfortable if the media pulled anyone off the street who acknowledged they were Christian and interview them as an expert on Christianity? In his effort to humanize Paganism, Jason asked my class to see Pagans as one of those groups of spiritual people we Evangelical Christians want to convert, not as a bunch of Satan worshipers. He added, “The better you understand us the better your outreach. Caricatures will never lead to connection with Pagans. Having actual human moments with people of other faiths leads to empathy.” In my estimation, if we don't humanize religion, we may very well end up demonizing the adherents of other paths. FULL POST
Posted 11/22/13 at 11:09 AM | Paul Louis Metzger
Interfaith or multi-faith discourse can easily fall prey to agreeing to agree on everything, even where there are significant differences. Such agreement and affirmation may come across as disingenuous at worst, naïve and exaggerated at best. As I have had to tell various people of non-Christian faith communities over the years when engaged in such discourse, we are not saying the same thing.
A more straightforward and plausible approach is that taken by the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy with which I am associated (including the Evangelical Chapter). Our movement calls for approaching adherents of the respective faith traditions as “trustworthy rivals” rather than as perfect, homogeneous matches made in heaven.
“Trustworthy rivals” also win out over mean-spirited religious enemies. While the various faith traditions set forth competing truth claims at key points, such competing claims do not lead adherents of the diverse traditions necessarily to discount and demean one another. In fact, I have found that sometimes those closest to one’s tradition in the family faith line often come across as the harshest critics (not those from afar), as with many nuclear family scenarios involving siblings. FULL POST