Random Links #331 on Public Theology

Pentecostal Corruption: Prosperity Gospel is a Scam

I still have fond memories of the hyper-pentecostal phase of my own journey.  Prosperity Gospel did spoil it for me.

When a major tenet of your theology is that people who invest in your church will experience wealth, while the facts show that your congregants are among the poorest and most desperate in the country, you have just been exposed. Further, when the national economy is in shambles, it should be criminal to continue to avoid taxes as a charity, yet earn immense amounts of capital on the promise of a better future. In the business world we call it a scam.

So why are we silent while this happens in every neighborhood in America?

Primarily a Pastor: The Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch

This name reemerges … interesting because for some social gospel is a taboo term!

More than any other person Walter Rauschenbusch captured the spirit of the Social Gospel Movement, alerting his contemporaries to a perceived social crisis unfolding in America during the opening decades of the twentieth century and exhorting them to seize a unique opportunity for social progress. He railed against the brutal social conditions that were the product of rapid industrialization, and, yet, ironically, kept company with some of the wealthiest capitalists in America.

“In reality, he was primarily a pastor whose goal was nothing short of preaching for the conversion of America” (Evans, 2004, xxv). The disquiet he expressed at America going to war against Germany, the land of his parents’ birth and many of the people he served in his pastoral ministry, ultimately resulted in Rauschenbusch falling out of public favor in America as the First World War progressed. He produced the definitive statement of the theology of the Social Gospel, A Theology for the Social Gospel (1917) shortly before his death. Rauschenbusch did not live to see Germany defeated in 1918.

Congregations as Communities of Interpretation

I wonder whether this converges with Newbigin’s idea of the Church as the hermeneutic of the Gospel. Apparently the article is not finished yet.

Critics like to accuse Chrisian faith as being intellectually incoherent because of these different accounts of Jesus. But they are using a false theory of history in making this accusation. In fact this false theory of history is widely and popularly used to misunderstand any history. It is never ever possible to write one and only one view of any historical event or figure or document. The popular idea that a news reporter standing on some objectively neutral perch is able to watch history occurring in pristine perfection and write it down is naive and ridiculous. There are only contesting interpretations of history in any history writing of any period of history or any particular event or person. So the old idea of a mechanical history, one cause and effect after another, cannot be used against Jesus and the bible anymore than it can be used against any other figure of history such as George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln or Frankin D. Roosevelt. All history is contested history and all figures of history are re-interpreted by each new generation looking at the past from their new perspective of the present. To believe that history is a mechanical process of cause and effect is to apply 18th century views of science inappropriately to the the incredibly complex process of historical unfolding.

So the four accounts of Jesus in the gospels simply demonstrates how historical knowledge itself comes into being, it comes from the act of interpretation, an act that is quite different from so-called empirical methods leading to generalized theories, or "science" as understood today. The act of interpretation occurs by speaking and writing, it occurs through words and addresses the consciousness of those to whom the speaking or writing is being done, the particular material communities existing in real time and space. The speaking and writing of one person is not just one person, it creates a community of persons conscious of themselves as members of a community, a community conscious of itself as existing in relation to previous communities which were engaged in the act of interpretation of this figure called Jesus.

This is an actual, living awareness, consciousness, of what has gone before in minds and hearts today, placing the community in the midst of the on-goingness of history, presenting a certain attitude, or orientation to the forces of the present pushing or pulling toward the future, creating identity in relation to these forces. So the act of interpretation has everything to do with internal consciousness of time and the meaning of one’s place in both the present community and what has come before and what will be for both the community and all who are or that which is outside of itself. At least that is the way the bible is always talking, so to be faithful to the bible that is what communities would be doing which take the bible seriously. And in the history of the church it is Protestants who have, indeed, taken the bible seriously.

Liberation Theology in the Wesleyan and Holiness Tradition

I wonder what my Methodist friends would think of relating this to Malaysia.

I have become increasingly convinced that one of the most important themes of contemporary theology is the growing claim that God’s mercy contains an ele­ment of "divine partiality," and that this element of "divine partiality" is an inte­gral dimension of the Biblical witness which must find expression in the life of the church. To speak specifically, this claim is that God’s impartiality and univer­sal grace are qualified by a "preferential option for the poor."

It is "liberation theology" that has most forcibly brought this theme to our attention in the last couple of decades. And it was the 1979 Latin American Bish­ops’ Conference (CELAM) in Puebla (Mexico) that issued its most controversial document under the title "A Preferential Option for the Poor." But such concerns have also been advocated in more "evangelical" circles by, for example, Ronald J. Sider of the Brethren in Christ in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Bibli­cal Study under the rubric of the "Biblical bias of God toward the poor." Such themes also play an important part in one of the most influential recent interpreta­tions of Biblical ethics: The Politics of Jesus by Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder.

The Biblical basis of this claim is perhaps seen most clearly in the Gospel of Luke. In recent years Luke 4:18-19 has come to play the clichéd role that John 3:16 plays in some circles as a summary of the gospel.

Towards a Postmodern Theology of the Hem

I saw the other day a church describe it self as in the heart of a particular area.  I prefer to see our church and it’s true anyway on the edge. 🙂 (not off the edge yet!)

Doing and living theology in the hem is an extraordinary reality check. There are no structures, guidelines, training courses available. It is an amorphous and chaotic world. One enters it only with faith, a strong spirit and the desire to not treat the wounds of the hem people lightly. It would be very easy, and a lot safer, to slip into simple social service secularism or ‘one size fits all’ evangelism. But it is to the church, with all its flaws and hang-ups, that these people have come for help. Many of them have already exhausted the help available to them through social, psychological and medical services. As the church is in the world, but not of it, so many hem people are of the church, but not really in it.

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
This entry was posted in Church, Random Links, Religion, Theology, World. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *