OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

Without a Supernatural God, Is Anything Possible?

Rod Dreher over at the Crunchy Con makes the well worn argument that without God anything is possible. As he puts it,

Who can say what is ultimately right, and what is ultimately wrong, without reference to God? Torture is always wrong, you say, to which the interrogator responds, “Says who?”

The relevance to us of the Acts church...

Andrew, I have sympathy with your view not least because the subordination of historical reality to abstract concept is something I am often concerned over. However, I am not sure that limiting the meaning of actions to their particular historical context solves the dilemma either. Your suggestion tends to compensate for the Platonic subordination issue by creating an arguably (not that I would argue it because as I said I sympathise with your view) equally problematic subordination of present to past. The result ethically is that we have less purpose now than the first believers did.

Should we still be making disciples?

I have argued a couple of times recently that Jesus’ post-resurrection instruction to his followers to make disciples of all nations, which we call the Great Commission, is actually more restricted in its scope than we have traditionally understood it to be. There was some discussion of this point under What is a missional church? And why I think Mark Driscoll is wrong; but you could also have a look at Matt. 28:16-20 - The not so Great Commission.

Two Faces of Pluralism; or, What does faith look like under conditions of irreducible pluralism?

3 May 2009 has been called Pluralism Sunday, when “Progressive Christians thank God for religious diversity!” What we have here is a particular face of pluralism. It is a more limited face that claims that there is one God and many paths to that one God. Or as they put it on the website: “Celebrating the many paths to God.” In another OST post awhile back, I referred to this as a kind of reducible pluralism, where the visible plurality of religions around the world are ultimately reduced to one final destination—all the paths lead to the top of the same mountain, so to speak.

Does the future lie with the global church or with the emerging church?

There was an interesting article in the UK Times yesterday about the global success of ‘US-style muscular Christianity’ - that is, evangelicalism. The article is by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge and is based on their book God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World.

The basic thesis is familiar enough. There is some evidence for decline in church attendance in North America (they cite Jon Meacham’s Newsweek article on ‘The Decline and Fall of Christian America’). But in South America, Africa and Asia the evangelical church is flourishing. Adherents of the much ridiculed faith of Ned Flanders (they think of this very much as an American export success) can be found ‘in churches the size of football stadiums across Latin America, in 4,850ha (12,000-acre) “redemption camps” in Nigeria, in storefront churches in the slums of Rio and Guatemala City, in brick-and-mud tabernacles with metal roofs and dirt floors in rural South Africa’.

Wright and the Gentiles who keep the Law

Peter’s review of Wright’s Justification has sparked some interesting discussion of Romans 2:13-16 and the question of Gentiles keeping the Law. Wright suggests that when Paul says that Gentiles may fulfil the Law, he means that Christian Gentiles because they have the Law written on their hearts by the Spirit. It’s an intriguing argument, but I’m not convinced. For clarity I have posted these comments as a new thread, but the conversation appended to Peter’s review should be kept in view.

What is a missional church? And why I think Mark Driscoll is wrong

I forget quite how I got there - by what tortuous cyber-trail - but I came across a post on Mark Driscoll’s Resurgence blog promoting his new book Vintage Church, in which he touches on the question of what ‘missional church’ is. Driscoll is not naïve. Even from this brief statement the polemical agenda is clear: he is attempting to wrest control of the terminology from various progressive or emerging movements that have made things far too complicated and attach it to a neo-Reformed programme (see also Literal this that and the other, and for a different aspect of the debate Peter Wilkinson’s review of Tom Wright’s response to John Piper on justification). My comments here have to do not so much with the nature of missional church as with the underlying theological model that shapes our understanding of mission. According to one paradigm Driscoll is absolutely right, but I think that the paradigm is wrong - or at least seriously misleading.

Justification - Tom Wright / A book review

I’ve just finished reading Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, Tom Wright’s latest book, which is a response to John Piper’s The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T.Wright. Piper was criticising Wright, and the various exponents of the ”New Perspective” generally, for abandoning or watering-down the great Reformation truths, of which he sets out to be the advocate-general. Wright produces, to my mind, a superb response, with an edge sharpened in the context of debate, which criticises the Reformers (and Luther) where he thinks they have gone wrong, but affirms the truths they sought to highlight in what he believes is their more biblical context, namely: the covenant God established with Abraham, which was the driving motor of His dealings with Israel, which found its climax in Jesus, and by means of whom Abraham’s descendants would bring blessing to the entire earth.

Wikiklesia Volume Two: Taking Flight

I wrote a chapter about Open Source Theology for the first Wikiklesia Project publication, Voices of the Virtual World: Participative Technology and the Ecclesial Revolution, published in 2007. A second volume has just been announced: Taking Flight: Reclaiming the Female Half of God’s Image. A Journey of Freedom and Reconciliation. It aims to explore the ‘rapidly changing perception of women in faith leadership and how their participation will shape the future church’. An open invitation has been issued to published and unpublished writers to submit proposals by May 15th. Worth thinking about, I’d say.

Open Source Theology on Grace-Centred Forums again

A couple of years ago I drew attention to a discussion on Grace-Centred Forums about the manifest demerits (‘Makes Leonard Sweet look like Splenda!’, ‘open sores theology’, ‘They think Jesus is the Penguin, not the Lamb, Who was slain from the foundations of the world’) and rare merits (thank you, ellisadam) of Open Source Theology and about the tendency for it to be confused with Open Theism. The thread was recently revived: ‘two years have gone by and I still have no idea 1) what Open Source Theology is 2) what the “emergent church” means 3) if is on the increase or decrease now?’ So I thought I would take the risk of addressing the matter directly on the forum, and since there is an ever-present need to clarify the nature and purpose of the whole ‘emerging church’ phenomenon, I have attached my posts below. I would be interested to hear how others see things.

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