Posts for Dec, 2007.

12/11/2007 5:51:00 AM

Courageous Nonviolence

Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Military Issues   Comments: None
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The latest issue of CT (Dec 2007) includes an interesting article by Ron Sider on one way to "do" nonviolence. He begins the article by discussing the massive bloodshed in the past 100 hundred years, but then also telling about the various nonviolent movements that have seen success (Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Solidarity in Poland, peaceful overthrow of dictator of Philippines). He advocates the sending out of Christian Peacemaker Teams, who go into war torn areas and help to restore peace. These kind of teams have been going out for at least a decade, and one team member was killed in Iraq in 2005 after he was kidnapped by insurgants. This is an interesting idea, and perhaps it will actually work. But one discontinuity that came to mind seems to be a serious one. The nonviolent movements which have worked (assuming they actually did work in the manner he describes them, of course) were from the inside. These teams are people from the outside. Now this might not make a difference, but it seems that the key to the nonviolent movements is that they were on the inside and were able to lead others into their own worldview. Can an outsider change the way people think about these issues? Possible, but considerably less likely, it seems to me. I don't have any constructive advice to offer in Sider's place, but I'm just skeptical about his idea.
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12/9/2007 1:24:00 PM

Help with the ice and snow

Posted Sunday, December 09, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Church   Comments: None
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We had terrible ice here this morning in Chicago, and when we got to church (Crossroads Community Church) someone came out to meet us at our car, warned us about how slick it was, and then gave his arm to Mariah to help her to the door while I carried Eily. They were doing this with everyone and even having some people get out right next to the door and then parking their cars for them. I thought that this was a great way to show love to the people as well as to visitors. I remember reading about a church in the NW that had their junior high kids escort people into the building with giant golf umbrellas whenever it rained: not only did people not get wet, but it gave the JH kids a way to get to know people. I just thought that we should highlight some of the great things churches do.  

We visited a church while we were still looking for a church in which the pastor made a side comment about how the regular members need to park in the back of the parking lot and sit in the front so that it makes a statement that we love visitors. Another good idea!

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12/6/2007 4:23:00 PM

Does the Bible Justify Violence?

Posted Thursday, December 06, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Military Issues   Comments: None
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This short book is a modified version of the SBL Presidential address in 2002 and presents some interesting thoughts on violence and the OT. While it cannot go into much detail (only thirty pages long), he does a good job surveying the evidence, showing briefly how other views are deficient and then presenting his own view.

His view is that we need to sideline the violent parts of the OT. Not all of the Bible is an ethical model for us today, and so we should follow the texts on love for neighbor rather than warfare. Of course, it is somewhat difficult to follow this line of thinking if one believes in inspiration. But even if we ignore inspiration, there are still problems. The main issue is why we should highlight the love commands and ignore the war commands. Why not the other way around? The source of authority is no longer the text, but what we think should be emphasized.

Here is his final conclusion:

"The Bible has contributed to violence in the world precisely because it has been taken to confer a degree of certitude that transcends human discussion and argumentation. Perhaps the most constructive thing a biblical critic can do toward lessening the contribution of the Bible to violence in the world is to show that such certitude is an illusion." (32-33)
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12/4/2007 8:53:00 PM

Engaging Scripture

Posted Tuesday, December 04, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Hermeneutics   Comments: None
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For anyone interested in the theological interpretatin of Scripture or just in thinking about how we read Scripture, Stephen Fowl's Engaging Scripture is a helpful place to begin (although sadly, it is not a cheap book). While I do not agree with much of what he writes, he does raise some good questions along the way that we need to interact with. Here are some of the points that I think are interesting and that are important to the book.

1. Is our interpretation determined, undetermined, or underdetermined? The first choice is what is familiar in conservative circles and evangelicalism, while the middle choice is where postmodern lands. The last choice is Fowl's attempt to moderate the two: while there is more than simply one meaning, there can be wrong meanings as well. The text leads the interpreter to a variety of meanings.

2. Fowl recognizes that we can easily use the Bible to support our sin, as has often happened throughout history. I think that this trait is especially present in the theo interp idea (although not towards sin, but towards are preconceived ideas), because theological presuppositions are to be embraced before interpretation, not ignored.  Fowl's guard against this is for the reader to always assume they are being sinful and to seek to be vigilant in their reading, looking for holes. The community is to play a large role in this process.

3. The Spirit is an important part of interpretation. He gives a controversial example by going to Acts 10-15 and examining how the Spirit works there. The Spirit works in the lives of various Gentiles, which shows that God has now accepted Gentiles. But they would not have known that unless someone (Peter at first) had actually come to interact with them. Fowl applies this to homosexuals today: since the church has so little contact with homosexuals, there is no way to see if the Spirit is working in their lives.

4. He is intrigued with the mention of stealing in the midst of a series of thoughts about talking. His idea is that the members of the church still shared their goods with each other to some degree, so that the stealing was a "minor" stealing but was from each other. This signals a breakdown in communication among the community, as they would not talk to each other about what was happening with the stolen goods. He gives the example of a shared refrigerator, where the line between borrowing and stealing is very fine and where disagreements can ruin friendships. One of the points of the chapter is that the church needs to be more open with each other on a broader variety of topics. Appealing to Bonhoffer, he says that there are some things that should be kept to oneself, but that we need to think more about being in community to a greater degree.
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