Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Thesis Proposal

For those interested in what I am going to be studying for the next year, here is my now approved Thesis proposal

A Theological Exploration of Forgiveness, Judgement and the Wrath of God
Nathan McCorkindale

We live in a world that likes the idea of peace and love, but is unwilling to seriously look at the issues that cause people to be alienated from each other.  Perhaps one of the greatest causes of alienation in our society today is a lack of forgiveness.  This lack of forgiveness is just as evident within the church as it is in the broader society.  Forgiveness is a necessary action if any community or society is to live together.  For people both in and out of the church, there is a growing assumption that to forgive someone is to let them go, free of consequences, and to forget the wrong that was done.  These ideas are what drive the popular saying, “Forgive and forget.”  However, is this really what forgiveness is?  How can we “forgive and forget” when something truly terrible has happened to us?  And is this what God has actually done with our wrongdoings?  If so, how can God be a God of justice? 
    On the opposite side of this spectrum is the idea that, before I can forgive, you must pay for your wrongdoing.  Popular culture shows us this picture in sitcoms where the wife will not talk to her husband until proper penance has been paid.  In this case, forgiveness has a retributive cost.  The husband is forced to discover the right action or word that will release him from the hold of his wife.  While on television, this is played up for laughs, but when this actually happens in marriages the results are anything but funny.  Rather than forgiveness and reconciliation between the married couple, bitterness and resentment grow.  Sadly, this sort of thinking about forgiveness has seeped its way into our theology of the cross.  In a current popular sermon, a preacher has God saying to sinners,
    "Do you know what your forgiveness cost me? Don’t you know God the Father beat me     to pieces? He obliterated me beyond recognition, He took the cup of wrath that had your     name on it and splashed it onto my perfectly sinless and bleeding face and what it is     worse is that God did this to me with a smile.   It pleased Him to crush me for you, that is     what your forgiveness cost me."

Does God’s forgiveness really mean that God’s wrath must violently be poured out on Christ this way?  If God is all-powerful, why does God not choose to simply forgive?  How do we understand God’s wrath in relation to God’s forgiveness? 
    Growing up as a child in the church, I was often confronted with a dual vision of God.  The first was of Jesus dressed in white holding a lamb.  The other was of the terrifying God of the Old Testament who brought wrath and judgment on sinners.  However, the trouble with these images is that it pits two gods against each other, rather than being sufficiently Trinitarian.  The Biblical story of God’s forgiveness is not one of simply letting sinners off the hook for their wrongdoing.  The Biblical story of forgiveness is a powerful one because our forgiveness was not cheap.  The trouble is that, for many in Christian circles, the cost of forgiveness has become associated with retribution or punitive justice.  This understanding of punitive justice is one that stands in contradiction to the worldview in which the Bible was written.  The Biblical authors wrote of God’s forgiveness, justice, and wrath from a Hebraic judicial model.
    Recently, in one of my seminary classes, there was another student who would often make comments about how we need to take God’s wrath, or anger, or judgment seriously.  I often wondered what he meant by this.  Later in the semester, I began to read Miroslav Volf and his understanding of forgiveness.  I have also read bits and pieces of L. Gregory Jones and Chris Marshall.  All of these men have been influencing my thinking about forgiveness and justice.  I am interested in bringing these men into conversation with what the Scriptures teach us about forgiveness, wrath and justice of God.       
    It is my thesis that embracing a relational Hebraic sense of justice and a biblical understanding of forgiveness will challenge common punitive notions of wrath and justice with the resulting discovery that God’s wrath is restorative and not punitive.

Methodology    The majority of my research will be library research.  I will read widely on issues of forgiveness, atonement, and wrath.  I will also be taking a class on the Theological Understandings of Jesus.
    This paper will start with a definition of what Hebraic relational justice is and how it is different from our current Western judicial lens.  I will then look at both the Old and the New Testaments in places where our understanding of God’s forgiveness, justice and wrath may have been misinterpreted because of the lenses we were using.  Finally, I will try and formulate a better understanding of God’s forgiveness, justice, and wrath.

Expected Conclusions    I expect to find our previous notions of God’s wrath to be challenged by a theological understanding of forgiveness.  We will find that forgiveness does not soften the challenge of God’s wrath, but will help us see that God’s restorative initiative is to bring forgiveness to the world.  I also expect to find that, as we think about God’s forgiveness and wrath, we may find that the restorative justice movement in our society today can help us better understand God’s forgiveness and justice.

Monday, April 26, 2010

More on Heresy

Here is a little quote from Donald Miller's blog. I thought it was pretty interesting and relates a bit to some of the other things I have said recently here.  Just some more food for thought.
"We commonly believe that the Evil One wants us to teach bad theology, and I suppose he does. But what he wants to do more is to have us teach right theology in a way that devalues human beings, insults and belittles them, and so sets them against the loving message of God.
So if we teach right theology in a way that is condescending, we are just as guilty as being heretics. That’s why the Bible spends as much or more time talking about love as it does about doctrine. My guess is we love doctrine because it makes us feel superior, but neglect love because it calls for personal sacrifice and vulnerability." - Donald Miller  (read the rest here)


Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Rewards of Simplicity - Book Review

Can you give a book zero stars?  No? Ok then it gets just one.  I think I can sum up my dislike for this book like this: There is a difference between Simplicity and just being Simple.  The book is written poorly with meaningless rabbit trails and stories about their family that don't add to the book.  There is a constant equation of this happened and then we found this that is just too formulaic to be any help.  I just found the whole book frustrating.  There are a few nuggets in chapters 3 and 4 but not enough to be worth picking up the book for.  We need good books about simplicity!  I appreciate that the Pierece's were trying to write a book that looks at the spiritual side of this important topic, but my feeling was that they didn't succeed.  In summary: I feel that the book is poorly written with a serious lack of content.  Please go and find a different book on simplicity to read.

I was given a free copy of this book by Bethany Publishing House for reviewing purposes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Perhaps a Model?

In the 1600s there was a man named Georg Calixtus.  He was a man who believed that Luther's interpretation of scripture was the best.  This was his theological stream.  But he was also uncomfortable with the rigid dogmatism and rigidity that was surrounding the Lutheran scholastic world at the time.  Here is a little bit of what he thought.

"Everything that is in Scripture has been revealed by God, and ought to be believed; but not all is of equal importance.  Only that which relates to salvation is fundamental and absolutely necessary.  The rest is equally true, and is also important, for otherwise God would not have revealed it.  But it is not essential for being a Christian.  There is a difference between heresy and error. The former is the denial of something that is essential for salvation.  The latter is a denial of another element of revelation.  Both heresy and error are evil, and should be avoided.  But only heresy is of such gravity as to keep Chrsitian from communion with each other... (There is more about how to tell what is essential for salvation and an example of Justification by Faith as something which is Biblical but not essential for salvation)  Therefore, although it is important (Justification by Faith), it is not to be required by all, as if any who reject it were heretics.  Luther was right in affirming this doctrine, and Lutherans are also right in insisting on its truth.  But this does not mean that Catholics are heretics.  And the same can be said regarding the differences between Lutherans and Calvinists on the manner of the presence of Christ in communion.  Although Calvinists are in error, they are not heretics."
(Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol 2.  NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985) p. 177-178

I like this idea.  Though it does need to be said that originally Calixtus accused of being a syncretist (which doesn't really makes sense since that wasn't what he was doing but....)  All of this is to say after my last post, I think that we need more people who are like Calixtus.  Who are willing to have strong theological convictions, who believe that they are right, but also very concerned that Christians stay in communion with each other.  Even Christians who really really disagree with each other (Like Luther and the Catholics)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Plea

I've been thinking about theology, heresy, and orthodoxy.  Look, the reality is that we don't agree.  I don't even agree with my wife about everything theological.  Maybe it's just me but it seems that things are just getting crazier.  I don't know.  I just watched a video in which Driscoll talks about the emerging church.  It kind of bothered me.  Mostly his tone, he has a bit of a sarcastic ring when he talks about those who disagree with him (to be fair it's a pretty typical tone for us younger people).  Then I was just reading some stuff on John Piper's blog. Apparently he has invited Rick Warren to speak at his conference and people are going off the handle saying all sorts of crazy stuff about both Piper and Warren's beliefs.  I have been in a History of Christianity class, and there was this whole period of time when the church was so consumed with theological controversies that they forgot about the poor around them.  People became marginalized and exploited.  Then in one of the far off corners of the world where there was this mix of Judaism, Christianity, and tribal religions, this man had a vision and Islam rose to great prominence.  In my reading of History I have become convinced that one of the great attractions of Islam was that it didn't have the theological baggage of Christianity.  I am a little concerned that Christianity as a whole is losing a lot of credibility with the incredible divisiveness and tone of our current theological debates.  It seems that our current point in history is very similar to this point of Church history.  I am all for theological debate.  I totally think that we need to have strong theological beliefs.  I realize that perhaps at the moment Brian McLaren is not the best person to use to make my point (Especially since his newest book has come out), but I encourage people to pick up Generous Orthodoxy and read the first chapter.  The reality is that the church is incredibly diverse.  Reformed theological beliefs are absolute miles away from my Anabaptist beliefs but I will never say that John Piper is not a Christian, or even a false teacher.  What I am trying to say is this: Have your theological convictions, hold on to them, but lets watch the tone we use, and be very slow to cast any final judgments.  As a side note.  If I can be like anyone in the current theological debates it is like Dan Kimball.  I don't know a lot about him, but I love reading his blog, but most of all I love the tone that he has.  He is one of the best voices for loving dialogue and careful theological thinking currently out there.         

Monday, April 12, 2010

Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully (another book review)

Different Eyes by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann is an awesome must read for anyone who is interested in Christian ethics.  Rather than write a book which argues a position on an ethical topic and tries to convince the reader that this is what they should believe, Chalke and Mann write in a way that should inspire the reader to try and live differently in the world, or as they say live beautifully.  There are no answers on what is right in this book.  There are however, many suggestions on how the Christian life is to be lived, which should help you make the "big" ethical decisions.

The book is made up of four parts.  The first two sections work on explaining what it means to live beautifully in the world and laying out the foundation for us in what God has done and how God has worked in the world.  At the end of each part there are two letters written by people on opposing sides of an ethical issue with some discussion questions at the end.  Chalke and Mann never come out and take a clear position on any issue (although I think that for most of them you can guess what they think).  This may be frustrating for some readers, but I found it refreshing.  This would be a great book for discussing in small groups, Sunday school, or with some friends in a coffee shop.

Part way through reading the book I had to stop and find our what theological stream these guys were writing from, I honestly thought that they might be Anabaptists, *sigh* this is not the case, but there are certainly some similarities to be found.

If you are looking for a scholarly work on Christian ethics, this is not the book for you.  However, if you are looking for something that is short, easy to read, and a great way to start thinking about ethics than this book is a must read.

If you are interested just click HERE for a sample chapter.

(A free copy was given to me by Zondervan for the purpose of reviewing.  I was under no obligation to write a positive review... The book just kicked butt)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Kicks

It was time for new shoes.  I have had my last pair for a long time now.  They were old, and getting pretty disgusting, and they were starting to fall apart.  So last night Niki and I were walking around Riverpark and I found myself a sweet new pair of kicks.  Best of all they were 50% off so I only paid 20 bucks for them.  Here are some before and after shots.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Dreams... not the good kind

I don't dream.  Or at least I never remember my dreams.  There are those who are much wiser than me that tell me that you always dream when you are asleep, but I can honestly say that I never remember what I dreamed about in the morning.  That is, until I learned about Baby McC.  In the last week I have had two dreams about babies that I remember vividly the next morning.  The first was one where I was very excited about having a baby, I would touch the growing belly of my wife, I would talk to the baby, I would tell it all the things we were going to do together... the problem was.... Niki wasn't the mother!  In fact there was this really awkward tension between us.  It was so awkward to try and talk into the belly when you didn't really know the person, and weren't at all sure how you felt about them.  Which sort of makes me wonder why people touch random pregnant ladies bellies... HELLO! That is just weird (unless you know the person well and ask permission).  Anyway, I just felt weird when I woke up after that one.  And then the other night I had this dream where Niki and I were camping somewhere, and this raccoon climbed into our babies graco crib and started to eat our baby, picking the flesh off it and stuff.... Terrifying! I actually woke up, told Niki about it, and swore that I would never take my child camping!  I also decided that I wouldn't watch Bones before bed anymore.    All of this is to say.  How do you parents do it?  My child hasn't even been born yet, and I am having these crazy dreams.  Yikes!  Niki may have the changing body, but these dreams are starting to make me feel like I'm crazy.  Ok, enough sharing, back to my Bib Inter paper.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Gonna Be A Daddy

Nope this isn't April Fools, though the day of announcement is intentional because it makes me laugh :)
But I am going to be a dad! For the whole story check it out on Niki's Blog HERE