Friday, January 25, 2013

An Update on The Next Chapter and Other Theological Musings

It is Geek T-Shirt Friday in my office at JCCC today. I may or may not have worn the shirt to the right (showing the front and back)

And so I begin this update on "The Next Chapter" and other theological musings.

First, "The Next Chapter" - A personal goal to actually complete 20 books in one year.

I've already posted about my first two books: Abraham: The Tests of Faith by Dunning and Preaching the Story that Shapes Us by Boone. Since then I've completed two more books and am almost done with a third.

First, I finished Becoming a Man of Valor by Mark Laaser. It was a short book and a quick read - I finished it in one afternoon over Christmas break. I liked it. It was a real self-examining book. One the one hand I felt some real transformation and self-reflection occurring as I read the book. On the other hand, having read it so quickly, I don't remember the content of the book especially well. Perhaps I should review it and try to internalize the ideas more.

Second, I finished Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction by Montgomery, Oord, and Winslow. I really like using relational language to express good Wesleyan doctrine, I found some points of disagreement with some of the finer points of relational theology as a whole. Relational Theology, as a category, is quite the big umbrella and it holds a broad perspective of theology. I wrote a full review of the book here.

Now I am about fifty pages from completing The Theology of the Gospel of Luke by Joel B. Green. It was a required text book for one of my graduate courses at NTS that I never finished during the semester. It's a great book on the theology of the third gospel. One thing I appreciate about New Testament theology over against verse by verse commentaries and exegesis is that it demonstrates how particular theological themes are developed throughout the length of the Biblical book. Both are needed and (should be) done together though.

Although I am enjoying Green's book, I'm really excited about some other new books I got with some Christmas money (which I firmly declared I would not use all of on books and then subsequently used every last penny of it on books). I purchased three books from Amazon: A commentary from the "For Everyone" series on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; Mark Quanstrom's newest book on holiness - From Grace to Grace: The Transforming Power of Holiness; and Alister McGrath's Dawikins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life.

I also took advantage of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City's deal: Buy 3 Books Get 2 Free, which is good through January 31. From this list I purchased "The Church Ritual Handbook," "Relational Leadership," "Intentional Ministry in a Not-so-Mega Church," "Postmodern and Wesleyan?," and "God Reconsidered: The Promise and Peril of Process Theology." I'm excited about all of these, but am particularly antsy to read Al Truesdale's book on Process Theology!

In the last several weeks, I have also had some other theological and philosophical musings.

I have watched several hours of this conversation on "Moving Naturalism Forward." A group of philosophers, biologists, physicists, etc. came together to talk through different aspects of naturalism (the view that "what you see is what you get," the only things that exist are those that can be proven by science). Reality, morality, emergence theory, meaning, and other topics were discussed in these videos.

Now I am not a naturalist and often I found myself in over my head in complex ideas of biophysics and philosophy, but I found this conversation invigorating. It was interesting to me to sit in "with" some of the most well-known thinkers in the entire western world and listen to their conversations. I didn't watch all of the videos and much of the conversation on emergence was beyond my understanding (no physics background for me), but I did enjoy the conversation on reality and morality.

I am a firm believer in the fact that the laws of physics, the truths of science, and the history of creation have all been created and superintended by the Triune God. In this line, learning more about science and physics is really learning more about the complexity and creative nature of God himself. I have been greatly shaped by Al Truesdale's book Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren't Fundamentalists. I am also interested in learning more on the interrelatedness of science and theology (which is why I'm excited to read McGrath's book listed above). I'm excited about organizations like the BioLogos Foundation and the Theos Think Tank. I am interested in thinking theologically about science, economics, business practices, office leadership, etc.

On a different (but ironically the same) note, I still periodically visit the Reformed Nazarene Blog. While I am no longer engaging in those conversations, I still find it interesting to read the blog. As one of my friends once noted, it's kinda like watching a train wreck - you want to look away, but you just can't. While many of my views on the authority of scripture have been sharpened throughout the last year, I still stick to my earlier comments on the situation; my verdict and review are still accurate. Even so, I am constantly reminded of the words from C.S. Lewis from "Mere Christianity":

"In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son. Finally, I got the impression that far more, and more talented, authors were already engaged in such controversial matters than in the defence of what Baxter calls ‘mere’ Christianity. That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went."

These words are the ones that have kept me from continuing to insert myself into the conversation. Spending my time and energy arguing against the CNs and their theological perspectives for the Church of the Nazarene is a fruitless endeavor that distracts me from the real work of being a Christ-follower.

Finally, I am just days (well, a few weeks) away from becoming a dad to a little boy. Parker Keith Davenport is due on March 7. Life is about to change for both the crazier and the better. My wife has started blogging again and she has a way with words about the deepness of this experience for our family. I love reading her blog because it expresses the deep richness of being our family in ways that I could not otherwise express.

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