Monday, June 21, 2004

What was Going on When they Wrote "What's Going on Among the Lutherans?"

Consider the following text from a textbook used in some seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Christian Dogmatics, Braaten & Jenson, Vol. 1, p. 549ff.


Three days after his death Jesus appeared again to a small circle of friends. The crucified Jesus revealed himself as the living, risen, exalted Lord who had triumphed over death and the devil. The raising of Jesus was an act by which God put an end to his humiliation and exalted him above all the enemies of humankind, and without it our faith is in vain (1Cor 15:14). Mythological symbolism contributed to the interpretation of the event of the resurrection. The question has become acute in modern theology whether in the resurrection we are dealing only with a myth or with a truly historical event.

Some theologians dismiss the resurrection as of little importance. Consider.. 'Christian faith (as I understand it) is possible apart from belief in Jesus' resurrection in particular and life beyond bodily death in general, and because of widespread skepticism regarding these traditional beliefs, they should be presented as optional.' Other theologians are doubtful about the possibility of verifying the resurrection as a specific, historically definable event, but would still wish to speak about it as a way of interpreting the real significance of the cross... [Somebody] writes: 'There is no justification for affirming Jesus' resurrection as an event that really happened, if it is not to be affirmed as a historical event as such....'

All the modern scholarly differences on the historical problem of the resurrection should not overshadow the prevailing exegetical consensus that from the oint of view of the whole New Testament the resurrection of Jesus was an event that really happened in time and space, that eyewitnesses were prepared to vouch for it, and that the earliest Christians believed it to be a firmly established truth. ...

An historian's presuppositions may determine for him or her that the resurrection did not really happened because such a thing could not happen. But who knows beforehand the limits of what is historically possible? If what is 'humanly possible' is the measure of what is historically possible, the resurrection of Jesus must be regarded as impossible. In the biblical view, what is historically possible is always weighed within the horizon of a world that is ever open to the activity of the living God... In the face of a priori denials of the resurrection of Jesus, it is necessary for theology to become critical of criticism, to free the mind and prepare the way for an unprejudiced
hearing of the witnesses.

The report that a dead man has been raised... is sui generis-- to far the only event of its kind. There is therefore no conflict with natural science, as is often presumed. ...

We can call the resurrection an historical event because it happened in a particular place, in Palestine, and at a definite time, a few days after his death and prior to Pentecost. ...

Christianity is based on the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, becuase in this event God vindicated the claim of Jesus to be the prime representative of his coming kingdom. Christianity could not have had a beginning if the crucifixion had been the absolute end of Jesus. ...

In raising Jesus from the dead, God raised the cause for which he lived and died to the highest power in the history of salvation. ...


Christian art has depicted the ascension as a visible movement of Jesus' body through the clouds, with the disciples standing by, looking up, watching him disappear. In some realistic paintings all one can see is the feet, the rest of the body having been enveloped by clouds....
Not only Rudolf Bultmann but before him Martin Luther ridiculed the literalistic images of the ascension common in popular piety as childish ideas. If we ask, 'Where did Jesus go?' we can only answer, 'He went to the Father.' Even the scholastic theologians did not interpret the ascension in a purely spatial way. To be sure, they took the myth literally, visualizing Jesus going up to the coulds of heaven. But this was only an outer sign of the invisible ascension to the throne of God which is not located in a particular place but represents the omnipresent rule of God. ...

The ascension marked the beginning of something new in history. John quotes Jesus as saying, 'It is to your advantage that I go away" (john 16:7). The absence of Christ according to the flesh (kata sarka) opened the possibility of a new form of presence according to the Spirit (kata pneuma). .... [A]ctually the ascension was an advance, not a return to the status quo ante, to the previous place of the Son with the Father. It was an advance to a new epoch of history, to the sending of the Spirit and the mission of the church in world history.
[end of quote]

You may note two things about the above excerpts:

i) It seems pretty reasonable, don't you think? A pretty orthodox read, and it even sums up some of the wrong beliefs before making its own affirmation of an orthodox position.

ii) Some of the text is in red. It wasn't in red in the original book, but consider if you were only to hear the red material as evidence of what is being taught in ELCA seminaries. Wouldn't you get a very different opinion?

The book, What's Going on Among the Lutherans? A Comparison of Beliefs did just that. It was written by Patsy A Leppien and J. Kincaid Smith as a warning to Lutherans about the heretical and unLutheran beliefs supposedly ramapant in various Lutheran denominations, especially the ELCA. In a chapter on the resurrection, on pp. 114-5, it cites the red material above as evidence of heresy. When I saw such an egregiously unorthodox statement supposedly from an ELCA sem, I bought the textbook. If it were true, I'd probably have quit the ELCA that week. Since it's a misrepresentation, I quit reading the book and became even more disillusioned with fundamentalism within some of the more conservative factions of Lutheranism.

Two things are clear to me:

i) There are folks whose views are heretical within the ELCA. I suspect that there are more than a handful that do not believe in the Apostle's Creed.

ii) Upon finding a single gross misquote, I set this book aside. I wonder how much hardship and disunity has been caused by this book among those who take it hook, line, and sinker.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Is the Church finished?

Francis Schaeffer writes, in The Christian Church at the End of the 20th Century,

One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity today is not conservative, but revolutionary. To be conservative today is to miss the whole point, for conservativism means standing in the flow of the status quo, and the status quo no longer belongs to us. Today we are an absolute minority. If we want to be fair, we must teach young people to be revolutionaries, revolutionaries against the status quo.

Do you wonder why kids leave home? Youngsters come to L'Abri from the richest families in the world, from the greatest luxury. They come in their bare feet. They come in blue jeans. Why? Because they are sick of their parents making gods of affluence and thinking that one adds enough meaning to life merely by adding one more automobile to an already overcrowded garage. These young people are not wrong in this. They may have the wrong solution, but they are right in their diagnosis. Their parents, in the majority of what in 1970 is called the Silent Majority, may sound like Christians, but they have no base. They may say what we have heard in the past and they may say what Christians might say, but it is not the same. They are merely repeating from memory what is comfortable for the moment.

Here we are then, the historic, Bible-believing Christian minority. What are the possibilities for the future? As the New Left and the anarchists come forward, more chaos will result. And as more chaos comes, the majority of the Silent Majority will increasingly tend to strike back. To do so, they will increasingly accept the Establishment elite.

What about the church in this situation? Certainly, at least in first, the Establishment elite will be less harsh on the church than the Left Wing elite if they should come into power. But that is a danger. The church will seem better at first, but not in the end. If the church is identified with the Establishment in the minds of young people, in the minds of those who will be coming forth to be the men and the women in the next 10 years and the next 20 years, I believe the church is finished.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Judd Winnick, comic books and Abu Ghraib

I first became a fan of Judd Winnick upon seeing him on MTV's Real World. He was a struggling comic book artist then, and recently he's become a writer for such titles as Green Lantern and Green Arrow.

I just bought the series of #36-#39 of Green Arrow. In issue #37, G.A. "has" to get some information out of The Riddler in order to save the town while the Riddler is in prison. The Riddler balks at disclosing the information without some conditions so G.A. keeps physically harassing him until eventually he breaks some bones. G.A. goes on to save the town, naturally.

In a previous set of writings in Green Lantern, the administrative assistant of G.L.'s secret identity is a gay man who nearly dies of a beating by homophobes. G.L., full of righteous anger, enters a prison to harass someone associated with the crime. G.L. enages in physical abuse and threatens much worse of this prisoner until he discloses the identities of the gang who beat up his friend. Naturally, G.L. goes on to apprehend (and physically abuse) those involved in the beating.

Perhaps I shouldn't pick on Judd. I remember seeing in reprints of the original Superman newspaper strips from ca. 1938, Superman does some of the same things-- carrying a criminal to a dizzying height and threatening to drop him unless he fesses up with informaiton needed to save the day. But it does seem a surprise that someone so inovlved in other causes related to human dignity would be advocate such brutality.

I think the roots of Abu Ghraib go deep in American culture.

If I have time, I'll write on how conservatives are to blame, too. ;-)

Thursday, June 17, 2004

And then I came up with one with four arms. I thought this was pretty slick that I was able to get the code to do this.... Posted by Hello

And then this was the 150 pixel version of my CG portrait Posted by Hello

Well.... This was an attempt at making a female character. Right now it looks very "grannyish"-- in one forum, folks used the word "mutant". The goal was a love interest or a superheroine. One of the earlier drafts looked very much like a gorilla in profile, so I suppose looking grannyish is an improvement! Posted by Hello

And here is a walk cycle test for my povray include file, "MIME Man". I was trying to make the textures on the arms and chest line up. It's not perfect, because the "volume" of the biceps actually comes from a contribution from the sphere components in the chest. Posted by Hello

One of the latest improvements I've made to my povray include files for my character is to give the eyes a focal point Posted by Hello

A Mandelbrot fractal made with povray 3.5 Posted by Hello

This is supposed to be my blog photo Posted by Hello

portrait Posted by Hello

Yo this was the first test post

And there it was. See!