Extracurricular Activities 5.23.15 — NT Hymns, The Nones, & Locating Heaven
As illustrated in the recent articles I’ve reported on in earlier postings, scholars continue to approach the question of “hymns/odes” in the NT in what I regard as a curious fashion. They often first turn to “pagan” examples of hymns and formulate characteristics of Greek “pagan” hymns and poetry as a basis then for assessing putative hymnic material in the NT. This I find open to questions for a few reasons, and I’d think a more inductive approach more sensible.
I spent the first half of last week at a seminar at an Ivy League divinity school, where a friend and I gave a presentation on ministry and media. I had resolved before speaking that I would refer early on in my presentation to the fact that I belong to a denomination which does not ordain women. My discussion of ministry would be incomplete if I didn’t mention this subject, though I knew my comment would draw fire at a seminar with ordained women present.
Sure enough, one of the women ministers present challenged me with some vigor on my position. For a few minutes we exchanged trenchant but civil remarks on the subject.We each spoke our minds, neither persuaded the other, and then we moved on to the larger matter in hand: The use of modern media in the church. The matter of my opposition to women’s ordination never came up again in the remaining two days of the seminar.
Later that evening, a young research student commented to me that it was amazing to see such a trenchant but respectful disagreement on an issue that typically arouses visceral passions. He added that he and those of his generation had “no idea” (his phrase, if I recall) how such things should be done…If we no longer have a university system which models ways of civil engagement on such matters, then the kind of civic virtues upon which a healthy democracy depends are truly a thing of the past.
According to a recent Pew-funded study of American religion, the percentage of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is growing. Many people are disturbed by this. Here I’d like to muse a bit about that.
First, who are the “we” in the title of this blog post? “We” are American Christians, especially American Christians who take the Christian faith seriously and believe it. To be more specific, “we” are evangelical Christians in the broadest sense of “evangelical”—God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians of whatever denomination (or none).
Second, who are the “nones?” That seems a bit unclear.
There is something proper about being astounded and in awe of a mystery, but there is something dangerous about being embarrassed by it. Sometimes it seems like we drift too close to the second option with the mystery of the Ascension. In addition to the nagging “why” questions, wondering if things wouldn’t have been better off if Christ had just stuck around, there are the dumbfounded “where” questions that wonder where Christ went when he left the apostles’ sight and where he actually is right now. These are not new questions, of course, and the tradition of the Church offers a great deal of reflection to guide us, reflection which seems quite apt at answering the “why” questions, but which can seem inadequate to answer the “where” question.
Duane Litfin writes that the slogan “All truth is God’s truth” became popular because it “encapsulated a set of convictions that are vital for the Christian’s intellectual task. These ideas lie embedded in the sloan as entailments, necessary implications. To embrace the slogan was to embrace these implications. My purpose here is to surface these entailments so that, even if we may allow an overworked catchphrase to rest in peace, we will not lose the truths it was designed to express.”
Here is his outline:
(Image: NASA, Galaxies Collide in the Antennae Galaxies)
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