Unthinkable Theological Thoughts: pp. 3-21
Dan R. Stiver
Abilene, TX 79698
This article, an adaptation of Stiver's 2010 NABPR presidential address, focuses on "unthinkable theological thoughts," that is, not thoughts that are possible but wrong, but rather thoughts that are unthinkable, virtually impossible, incoherent thoughts. They do not fit and, if expressed, fall quickly into the category of heresy. Stiver reflects on what was once an unthinkable thought that has become a new orthodoxy-the suffering of God; he reflects on another idea that is still somewhat unthinkable but gaining-divine vulnerability; and he reflects on an idea that is still almost unthinkable in terms of theism-divine temporality. In the background of these examples is the dynamic involved in these kinds of thoughts, expressed particularly in the twelfth-century plight of Heloise in her anguished love for the famous theologian Abelard.
The Gilgamesh traditions provide early evidence of the merging of the tradition of semi-divine heroes with the tradition of the culture hero, indicating that instruction was an original element of the semi-divine hero tradition upon which Gen 6:1-4 is based. The absence of the instruction motif from Gen 6:1-4 is a part of a larger shift away from divine mediation of civilization in the Priestly redaction of Gen 1-11, reflecting the northern worldview which became normative for the exilic community, whereas the preservation of the instruction motif in 1 Enoch is attributed to the southern mythological/apocalyptic worldview which persisted among the non-exiled Judahite population.
Although "catholic" as a mark of the church has often been understood quantitatively with reference to the universality of the church, in early Christian usage it also qualitatively described the pattern of faith and practice that distinguished early catholic Christianity from heresies and schisms. This understanding of catholicity is almost as old as the later New Testament documents, as the letters of Ignatius of Antioch demonstrate, and indeed may be found in the New Testament itself. This article addresses some historical and hermeneutical fallacies of the restorationist impulse at the heart of Baptist biblicism, contending that to restore New Testament Christianity is to restore at least some dimensions of the patristic coming of age of Christian faith and practice.
This study attempts to answer the question: Was Jonathan Edwards a mystic? After a brief review of the controversy, on the basis of W. T. Stace's characteristics of mysticism it is determined that at least in the time and events surrounding his conversion Edwards experienced a mysticism of the extrovertive type. In addition, it is also determined that nothing in Edwards' systematic treatment of religious experience in Religious Affections rules against the characteristics of extrovertive mysticism and that a number of passages fit this type of mysticism well. And, moreover, it is concluded that there is no conflict between Edwards' extrovertuive mysticism and precise doctrine.
This essay proposes the "soteriological paradigm shift" necessary for the kind of catholicity suggested by Steve Harmon to be imaginable among Baptists. Baptists tend to construe salvation exclusively as the rectification of the individual's relationship with God. In this article, a biblical argument is articulated on behalf of a constructive theological account of salvation as union with and participation in: (a) the life of the Triune God; (b) the body of Christ, and; (c) the reign of God. Salvation, as participation in the new social order inaugurated by Christ, is inherently social and ecclesial in character.
In this paper, I argue that, from a Biblical and Trinitarian perspective, knowledge of God is acquired through assimilation to and participation in the Trinitarian economy of salvation. The first section substantiates this claim through a brief survey of Old and New Testament texts, while the second and third sections offer a historical survey of theological pedagogy in light of the aforementioned epistemology. I conclude with several observations about the potential future of theological education if it is reconceived in light of an assimilative and participatory epistemology.
Editorial Forward: Edwin Scott Gaustad: Historian, Scholar, Teacher, Baptist: pp. 131-35
Bill J. Leonard
Wake Forest University Divinity School
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
Introduction: Jefferson, Madison and Guastad: A Passion for Religious Liberty: pp. 137-39
James M. Dunn
Wake Forest University Divinity School
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
Early English Baptists: Individual Conscience and Eschatological Ecclesiology: pp. 141-58
C. Douglas Weaver
Waco, TX 76798
The essay explores the understudied relationship between Baptist ecclesiology (Believers' Church) and Baptist eschatology (the individual before Christ at the Last Judgment) in early English Baptist literature of the seventeenth century. Baptist churches allowed believers to voice the dissent of conscience but then the congregation as a whole-not a church hierarchy or the state-judged whether the dissent was acceptable (i.e., biblically sound). Conscience was not stifled because Christian identity was ultimately eschatological – "God alone is Lord of the conscience." The "New Testament Church," believed the earliest Baptists, must preserve individual and communal freedom for authentic eschatological Christian identity.
This essay analyzes the institutionalization of the Puritan mythology of chosen people as a primary strategy of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Southern and Protestant American missionary-sending agency. Expressed in the form of Anglo-Saxon supremacy, this strategy resulted, by the mid-1920s, in an approach to global mission engagement that was inherently racist at its core and that insisted upon the conversion of the white races of the world first since only the white races were capable of disseminating the gospel of Jesus Christ across the world.
This article explores some threats to the equal right of American Muslims to exercise their faith, including anti-mosque protests that have taken place across the nation, arguments that Islam is not a faith for First Amendment purposes, and claims that there is an effort to replace civil law with "Sharia law." It argues that traditional religious liberty tests provide an appropriately high level of protection for the free exercise of every faith, including Islam, but not at the expense of compelling interests like public safety and national security. It also contends that the government should not single out one faith for disfavored or preferred treatment, and that First Amendment principles are quite adequate to ensure that the government does not replace civil law with religious doctrine. More broadly, this article defends a seamless system of religious liberty, one in which the same standards govern cases involving all religious beliefs, practices, and institutions, including Muslim beliefs, practices, and institutions.
Both the Jewish and African American communities have endured horrific experiences of genocide. The Shoah during World War II resulted in the massacre of millions of Jews. The Maafa of trans-Atlantic slavery during the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries resulted in the massacre of millions of Africans. In each instance, the genocidal violence from the past possesses contemporary ethical implications and raises a pertinent question: How do we achieve reconciliation in the wake of unspeakable violence and massive destruction? Through a culturally sensitive interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, this essay insists that reconciliation can occur when the "veil" of colonialism and fundamentalism is lifted.
Thomas Merton remains an anomaly in American Catholic life. On one hand he is perhaps America's best known representative of monastic vocation, an immensely popular spiritual guide, grounded in Catholic theology and Trappist identity. On the other hand, many view him as the harbinger of a new spiritual pluralism, freely exploring complementary and contradictory traditions, offering a hopeful progressivism in a Church now plagued by scandal, decline and ecclesiastical retrenchment. This essay revisits Merton's thought as evident in his monastic vocation, his dialogues with non-Catholics, and his response to his times. It suggests that Merton both initiated and anticipated a spirituality that continues to offer options for exploring interfaith dialogue and religious identity in an increasingly pluralistic religious environment.
The "New Atheism" of Sam Harris and company has gained massive media exposure and intellectual cachet over the last decade-a phenomenon that in many ways is the polemical outcropping of the growing number of religious "Nones" in American culture over the last twenty years. This current ferment can be productively framed in historical terms, and this essay dwells on one notable harbinger, the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, founded in New York City in late 1925 and headed by the savvy provocateur Charles Lee Smith. Smith and his compatriots distilled a particularly pointed form of secularism.Bibliography of Edwin S. Gaustad: pp. 227-34
An Early English Baptist Response to the Baptist Manifesto: pp. 237-48
Scott E. Bryant
East Texas Baptist University
Marshall, TX 75670
The authors of the Baptist Manifesto contend that Baptist theology has been negatively impacted by the Enlightenment's emphasis on the individual. The Manifesto was issued, in part, to correct what the authors perceived as an overemphasis on the rights of the individual. This paper seeks to challenge the authors' assertion that the language of the individual in Baptist theology was a direct result of the Enlightenment. A historical evaluation of the treatises and biographical witnesses of the earliest English Baptists reveals that an appeal to the spiritual rights and liberties of the individual pre-dates the Enlightenment and is present at the beginnings of the English Baptist movement.
In 1909, Baptist women in Birmingham, Alabama, established a Good Will Center to minister to impoverished Italian immigrants. This study offers new insight into Southern Baptist women's use of Progressive settlement methods, detailing Baptist work among Birmingham's Italians to a greater extent than any previous research. It demonstrates that as Birmingham's Good Will Center expanded, male associational leaders and missionaries gradually assumed a growing role in its administration, finances, and ministries. Shaped by Southern Baptist gender constructs, Birmingham Baptist women apparently believed that male support would give their work strength and pastoral authority, not to mention additional financing.
This article seeks to call attention to the tenth anniversary of the death of Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon, Jr., and to underline the prominence and influence of this theologian by revealing his impact upon a group of contemporary Baptist scholars referred to herein as the "new Baptist Sacramentalists." The article ultimately argues that McClendon's theology is not a "sacramental" one, but that it does push Baptists to reach beyond a "purely symbolic" understanding of the Lord's Supper, or eucharist. A few contemporary Baptists would later employ some of McClendon's claims as the building blocks of their own, sacramental, theologies.
Reasoning from the uniformity of human experience, David Hume argued against the credibility of miracle claims. Part of his case involved the unreliability of testimony from nonwestern cultures. Because most today recognize this argument as ethnocentric, it is helpful to survey afresh what Majority World perspectives can contribute to the discussion about miracles. Research reveals that hundreds of millions of people around the world claim to have experienced or witnessed what they believe are miracles; in some regions a large proportion of those converting to Christianity do so because they believe they have experienced or witnessed miracles. How we interpret these experiences remains an open question, but a simple appeal to the uniformity of human experience cannot be sustained.
A recent Pew Research poll revealed that a person's perception of Islam is directly related to his or her familiarity with Islam. Only 39% of the white evangelicals polled could correctly provide the name that Muslims use for God and the title of Islam's holy book. Furthermore, of the Christian groups polled, white evangelicals were most likely to believe that Islam encourages violence (53% of them). In light of North American evangelicals' dearth of knowledge with reference to the basics of Islam-despite its status as the second largest religion in the world-and in light of their association between Islam and violence, this study analyzes the representation of Islam in the six months following 9/11 in the most widely read monthly periodical of North American evangelicals: Christianity Today. It explores the topics related to Islam in those issues, the types of stories CT covered related to Islam, the tone of those articles, the depth of those articles, and the overall characterization of Islam.
Hermeneutical Challenges for Baptist Scholars: Descriptive and Normative Engagement with Biblical Meaning: pp. 351-61
Dalen C. Jackson
Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
Georgetown, KY 40324
This adaptation of the 2011 NABPR presidential address calls for hermeneutical engagement by biblical scholars. Biblical scholarship persists in the application of methods which locate authority for determining meaning unreflectively in historical reconstructions and literary analyses of texts. However, readers in popular culture and in faith communities often find meaning in biblical texts through interpretive traditions with little or no regard for scholarly opinions. Scholars need to be more intentional in thinking about the meaning(s) of texts, both through a descriptive hermeneutic that analyzes the popular meanings ascribed to texts and through careful reflection on what kinds of interpretation are appropriate within faith communities.
The paper employs the mystical concept of purgation and the accompanying metaphors of attachment and detachment, complemented by insights from psychology and the sociology of knowledge, as a heuristic lens through which to read the Emmaus narrative. The paper argues that attachment to a specific understanding of Israel's scriptural myth of redemption-an "image"-inhibited the travelers from experiencing the divine presence of the Resurrected One. Purgation of and detachment from this particular myth of Israel's redemption and openness to new ways of reading the scriptural tradition paved the way to recognize the Resurrected Jesus. The paper concludes that openness to the divine presence must continue not to be hindered by attachments to any images, including ways of reading that later emerged within the Christian tradition.
Drawing on interviews with 159 current and former Southern Baptist women, this article examines how conservative women negotiate the discourse of male headship and female submission in ways that maintain their agency and autonomy. Of particular relevance is the competing discourse of the distinctive Baptist notion of the priesthood of believers that allows these women, paradoxically, to espouse submission while at the same time recognizing it as voluntary, tentative, and dependent on their understandings of their unmediated encounters with God and scripture.
Baptists almost proverbially wrestle with position papers concerning power and authority of ecclesial offices, above all the ministerial office. This article catches up with the present debate about the so-called ‘turn to sacramentalism', and gives some evaluation. The heart of the ceremony of ministerial ordination is somehow phenomenologically approached, and subsequently highlighted by historical-confessional discussion. The ministerial office turns out to be more than a ‘role' or a functional job agreement between two parties. A new perspective is being offered.
This essay argues that key arguments for religious liberty in John Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration appear almost verbatim initially as radical propositions issued by Baptists in the early years of the century. Second, I will suggest that despite the striking similarities in the arguments, it is where Locke diverges from the Baptists that prove most telling. Particularly, this second argument seeks to raise important considerations for contemporary Baptists who too often unwittingly read the historical Baptist commitment to religious liberty, and concomitantly their understanding of the church, through a lens that reflects a Lockean, rather than Baptist, hermeneutic.