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The past few summers, we’ve beat back the season’s doldrums by discussing and debating topics ranging from evolution to the emerging church. This time around, we’re planning to engage Christina Gschwandtner’s Post-modern Apologetics?: Arguments for God in Contemporary Philosophy. In doing so, we aim to familiarize ourselves with the ideas of influential contemporary thinkers and the implications of these views for religious belief and practice, especially for the Adventist community.
As the author readily acknowledges, the title of her work juxtaposes two loaded terms that seem diametrically opposed to each other—“If ‘apologetics’ stands for blind and dogmatic faith and ‘postmodern’ for the complete rejection and even suppression of faith, how could the two possibly meet?”[i] Gschwandtner argues, however, that neither apologetics nor post-modernism, properly understood, should be characterized this way.
Apologetics is simply the attempt to articulate “the coherence and value of religious experience and belief in God” (xvii). This is something Christians have endeavored to do in every age. The very first Christians had to “explain what and in whom they believed in a way that was rational within the context of the time and culture that made sense to their various audiences” (2).
The advent of modernism, and its demise, however, has brought about some formidable intellectual challenges to this task. Society has transitioned from a context where belief in God was a given assumption shared by most people to one where it is questionable and implausible for many people. This shift has been coupled with an alteration in the way reason itself is conceived. The general optimism about the universally shared capacities of human reasoning has faded in light of the jaded recognition that human reason is invariably conditioned, or contaminated, by factors like interests, drives, language, conceptual paradigms, and history. “Perhaps for the first time in history, society no longer subscribes to one common and coherent belief system,” Gschwandnter notes. “Hence, a defense of God cannot proceed from a shared starting point or even assume agreement about basic beliefs or presuppositions” (12).
Yet, Gschwandtner aims to show us that “the death of God”, to use Neitzsche’s evocative phrase, and, we could add Reason, has not brought about a demise in rigorous philosophical discourse about God, religious texts, experience, or practice.
The book is divided into three sections and thirteen chapters. Our bloggers, including past contributors, as well as some new friends, will guide our discussion in a series of twelve posts. The schedule we’ll be following is as follows:
Part I: Preparations
1. Martin Heidegger and Onto-theo-logy (6/14): Aleksandar S. Santrac
2. Emmanuel Lévinas and the Infinite (6/21): Ryan Bell
3. Jacques Derrida and “Religion Without Religion” (6/28): Abigail Doukhan
Part II: Expositions
4. Paul Ricoeur: A God of Poetry and Superabundance (7/5): Darin McGinnis
5. Jean-Luc Marion: A God of Gift and Charity (7/12): Zane Yi
6. Michel Henry: A God of Truth and Life (7/19): Lisa Clark-Diller
7. Jean-Louis Chrétien: A God of Speech and Beauty (7/26): Trisha Famisaran
8. Jean-Yves Lacoste: A God of Liturgy and Parousia (8/2): Kurtley Knight
9. Emmanuel Falque: A God of Suffering and Resurrection (8/9): Todd Leonard
10. Postmodern Apologetics? (8/9): Todd Leonard
Part III: Appropriations
11. Merold Westphal: Postmodern Faith (8/16): Ryan Bell
12. John Caputo: Postmodern Hope (8/23): Brenton Reading
13. Richard Kearney Postmodern Charity (8/30): Ron Osborn
Minimally, this tour de force offers us a golden opportunity to better understand a frequently used but ill-understood term, i.e. “post-modernism.” Beyond this, however, the hope is that sustained reflection on the limits and possibilities of speaking and thinking of God, the true, the good, and the beautiful in our place and age, will help us more effectively converse with each other, as well as those who do not share our perspective(s). You are invited to join us and share your comments, questions, and insights.
So we hope you’ll grab a copy of the book, peruse the Introduction, and join us next week for a discussion of Chapter One: "Martin Heidegger and Onto-theo-logy."
[i] Christina M. Gschwandtner. Post-Modern Apologetics: Arguments for God in Contemporary Philosophy (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), xvii.
God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God's power and was attested as God's promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things. (John 1:1-3, 14; Col. 1:15-19; John 10:30; 14:9; Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-19; John 5:22; Luke 1:35; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 2:9-18; 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; Heb. 8:1, 2; John 14:1-3.)
There are some good turns of phrase in this belief—"forever truly God, He became also truly man"—but where is the call to be like Jesus? Noting the language above, it reads as though His miracles primarily proved His divinity while there is no mention of how any of his actions, beyond death and resurrection, helped humanity. Oddly, we have coming up in number nine another entire fundamental belief on the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ just in case anyone didn't catch it in this one. But, spoiler alert, despite the first part of the title, it also glosses right over the actual life of Jesus, merely noting that he was obedient to God.
As documents of their times, it is interesting to see how these fundamental beliefs emphasize what was important to the Adventist Church leaders in the late 70s and early 80s. But where's the Jesus who inspired followers to resist Roman militarism, create hospitals, fight to end slavery or raise the status of women around the world? Where is the God in the gap between being born, dying and the sanctuary in heaven?
Missing is the entire tradition of Christology and ethics—imitatio Christi. While Phil. 2:5-11 is cited, the central point of it is not actually included in this fundamental belief: "in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." Classic works like Thomas à Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, Ellen White's The Desire of Ages or Charles M. Sheldon's In His Steps have helped Christians understand Jesus as more than a symbol on the cross. His calls to "Follow me" and his Sermon on the Mount show that the Son of Man preached and practiced a radical spirituality and social ethic that continues to inspire disciples.
This mimicking of Christ is developed by Paul in 1 Cor. 11; 1 Thess. 1:6; Eph 4:32. In the latter, followers are called to be imitators—mimēntai—of God in forgiving others "as God in Christ has forgiven you." In the "Imitation of Jesus" entry in the Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, F. Scott Spencer writes:
The imitation of Jesus in tradition and Scripture stresses a thoroughgoing, wholehearted response of discipleship to Jesus as sovereign Lord and suffering servant more than adherence to a set of characteristics or rules of conduct. Guidance and strength for following the Lord Jesus in today's world come from the foundational portraits of Jesus in the NT and the abiding Spirit of Jesus within individual believers and the community of faith.
In addition to this mimetic, moral example, the Son is also the Word of God and thus reconciles our hermeneutical difficulties between the OT and NT. As Charles Scriven as written for Spectrum and published in books like The Promise of Peace, as the incarnate Word of God, following the example of Jesus helps us interpret scripture. He writes: So here was Someone like you and me—who, by the Father’s grace was so fully responsive to divine leading that He was the human form of who God is. In Him you could see the identity of God” (106). In Matthew 5, the Son reveals this principled divine identity that subtly fulfills, and reconciles with, the actions and commands of God recorded in previous cultures. "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." This is godliness according to the Son of God. It is through the incarnation of the human and divine identified in Jesus that all imitators elevate their understanding of our relationship to God—in acting like Jesus, we see everyone's relationship to the divine.
Image: Rene Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964.
Today, Ted Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, will begin preaching an evangelistic series called "Revelation of Hope" in New York City. This is the model event—NY13—for of a new "Mission to the Cities" focus by General Conference leadership. Initiated by a sermon in 2011 and connected to Elder Wilson's Revival and Reformation agenda, this three week-long event draws upon Wilson's experience working as a pastor in New York in the 1980s and working on a dissertation on Ellen White's blueprint for urban ministry. According to an Adventist News Network story evangelist Mark Finely stated: "This will be looked on as one of the most significant turning points within the modern-day Seventh-day Adventist Church. . . ."
Much of the intellectual force for this evangelism focus on NYC appears rooted in Norman Clair Ted Wilson's dissertation, "A Study of Ellen White's Theory of Urban Religious Work As It Relates to Seventh-day Adventist Work in New York City" which he submitted in partial fulfillment of his doctoral work at New York University in 1981. Summarizing his argument, Wilson writes, "As leadership, expertise, and programs are developed in New York City, then the city could become the "symbol" which White referred to and become the urban religious model for use in other cities around the world."
Addicted to health food stores, I came across quinoa about 18 years ago, packaged in tiny boxes with an alarming price tag and the promise of exceptional nourishment. My favorite health food store had a sales advisor who sold me on its health benefits, but he had little to say about how exactly to prepare and use quinoa.
At home with my new treasure, I read the instructions: “Rinse well before cooking.” Have you seen dry quinoa grains? They’re practically microscopic; most of the pricey grains caught the flowing water and rode on to provide nourishment to whatever creatures inhabit the pipes and sewer system under our house. The little quinoa that remained, I cooked, and the outcome was a pasty, gummy mess not suitable for human consumption, so it too, nourished the landfill.
I didn’t try quinoa again for many years. During those years, the price of quinoa came down a bit, the boxes got bigger and the Internet changed the culinary world forever. Now, if you want to learn how to effectively use quinoa, Google, Wiki and Bing, among many others, are there to help. The hundreds of videos on YouTube about rinsing quinoa completely validate my original struggle.
But I have learned something important: You don’t actually need to rinse quinoa. Put quinoa and water in a rice cooker, then turn it on. This single solution has revolutionized how I prepare quinoa and has thus helped me and my family to ingest it and personally, physically, benefit from its outstanding provision of nutrition. I’ve grown to love this little powerhouse grain.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet my son’s girlfriend and her family for the first time, and we agreed to have a Sabbath picnic after church. Since we don’t live in the area, my resources were limited to whatever kitchen items my son had scavenged from our house for his collegiate apartment. On Friday, we scoured through his bachelor’s cupboards, then made a quick trip to the little store on the corner and managed to put together a delicious Mexican quinoa salad for the next day’s outing.
Everyone loved it and wanted the recipe—and that’s really the birthplace for this article. When giving out a quinoa recipe, I struggle with any form of precision or measuring, or formulation. And I certainly can’t discuss it without addressing the rinsing step that seems to foil people in their own efforts to use it. The key for using quinoa is to cook it in advance in your rice cooker and fluff it while it cools down. Refrigerate it, and then it is ready to become whatever you want it to become; it makes a wonderful replacement for rice, pasta, potatoes and other starchy higher glycemic foods.
I have used quinoa in stir fries, soups, casseroles, veggie burgers and veggie nut loafs, all with excellent outcomes. It's a blank canvas on which you can create a lovely, beautiful, nourishing occasion that brings out the best in the people you care for and love.
Kathryn Stiles is married and has a son attending Southern Adventist University and a daughter attending La Sierra University. She currently works at the new Loma Linda University Medical Center - Murrieta as the executive director of marketing and communications.
Photo credit: Kathryn M. Stiles
This week’s recipe for Mexican Quinoa Salad comes from Kathryn M. Stiles in Murrieta, Calif. Stiles notes that salad ingredients for this recipe are only suggestions; the recipe can be easily adopted to your preferences.
Mexican Quinoa Salad
Total time: 40 min.
2 cups dry quinoa
4 cups cold water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Honey or agave to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Dash of hot sauce
Dash of fresh lime juice
Salad Ingredients (Suggestions)
One or two red and green bell peppers, diced
1 can (about 2 cups) black beans, drained
1 small can black olives, drained and chopped
¼ red onion, chopped fine
2 ears of fresh, or 1 small bag of frozen, corn kernels
¼cup jalapeno peppers, fresh and diced without the seed, or pickled and diced, to taste
1 small package cherry tomatoes
1 handful cilantro, diced
1 handful pepitas (pumpkin seeds), raw or toasted
2 handfuls raw spinach leaves
1 head chopped romaine lettuce
2 small avocados, diced
1. Place quinoa in rice cooker and cook according to its usual setting. When your rice cooker clicks off, remove the quinoa immediately and let it cool in a large container. Fluff it lightly with a fork. Place the quinoa in a covered container, to cool.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together the ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Prepare the salad by combining your choice of suggested options, except for the avocadoes, which should be added just before serving. Add half the dressing to the salad, then mix well.
4. Add the cooled quinoa at the very end, tossing it lightly into the other ingredients. Save the other half of the dressing until just before serving, then lightly drizzle it over the top.
"Don't miss Ted Wilson's Revelation of Hope"—that's a direct quote from the infomercial-style video for his evangelistic series starting on June 7. This kicks off Ted Wilson's evangelistic focus on major world cities. Despite growing concern that this prooftexts and scary beasts method makes little sense in one of the most sophisticated urban centers, the series website assures everyone that Ted Wilson knows what he is doing after all he "is a New Yorker at heart."
"You will thrill at his practical, down-to-earth style combined with his profound knowledge of culture, world affairs and the ancient scriptures."
1. Seventh-day Adventists join with 100,000 Christians in Indonesia on May 17 and 18 in a Celebration of Unity with the World Council of Churches.
2. According to a study of Adventists that has been picked up by dozens of news organizations around the world: Vegetarians Live Longer Than Meat-Eaters.
3. British International Development Secretary Visits ADRA-UK & Praises Grass Roots Work.
God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father. (Gen. 1:1; Rev. 4:11; 1 Cor. 15:28; John 3:16; 1 John 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:17; Ex. 34:6, 7; John 14:9.)
I see that I stirred up a little discussion about the metaphors for the Trinity. Now we actually get to the Father: our infinite ruling progenitor. Or that’s what I get by trying to summarize the first sentence. One can see, perhaps, why questions of women’s ordination or origins are so hot in Adventism. As a creating father with ultimate power, our official definition of God defines us too.
It is interesting that the second sentence also defines God, but in lowercase. First, He is Potent, and second, God is good. I know that this overly simplifies things, but the first reads like a favorites list for conservatives while the second seems more liberal. Again, there are exceptions, for instance I like the inclusion of Source and while it is a textual reference, I’m not sure what “slow to anger” helps us understand. Is God simmering?
Since the question of the monarchical metaphors got a few folks riled up, let’s lean in to that. God is defined as Sovereign. The reader might notice the Sovereign frontispiece from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan at the top of this post. In Richard Rice’s contribution to The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, he does a helpful job comparing the sovereign view of God with the dynamic open view of God. He defines the later as “love is the most important quality that we attribute to God, and love is more than care and commitment; it involved being sensitive and responsive as well” (15). In this fundamental belief God is not Love, even though 1 John 4:8 is included. While steadfast love gets at the idea, defining God as Love, as the Bible does carries much more impact. As Rice states: “Love is what it means to be God.”
But I’m fine with "sovereign" metaphors if we actually act like we believe it. It seems that the current theological questions that vex us so much are ultimately God’s domain to sort out. I find that most young Adventists are more resonate with language that involves Openness understandings of God. But it seems that those who prefer Sovereign or cosmic monarch metaphors would show they trust in this overarching divine control by not being as worried about sorting out sheep and goats in God’s realm.
As recorded in Acts 8, the Sanhedrin was debating what to do with a few with new thinking—Saint Peter and other apostles. They were teaching heterodoxy in their community. Some wanted to expel them. Others called for their death. The widely respected Rabbi Gamaliel is recorded as saying: "if it be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God." That seems to be the logical approach for those who believe in the Sovereign view of God. This is particularly true given the other attributes assigned to God in this belief. As Creator, it is really God’s business to sort out the questions that exist in nature and scripture regarding the story of origins on earth.
In his 1990 book The God Who Commands: A Study in Divine Command Ethics, Richard Mouw, president of Fulller Theological Seminary, asks a very essential question. “When you think about obeying God, which member of the Trinity do you view yourself relating to primarily?” One could also ask the following, when you think of love, which member of the Trinity do you find yourself relating to primarily?