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Filtering by Tag: Interfaith

Jews Severing Ties with the Vatican

Thomas Whitley

A USA Today article (found here) speaks of Israel’s chief rabbinate severing its ties with the Vatican.

Israel’s chief rabbinate severed ties with the Vatican on Wednesday to protest a papal decision to reinstate a bishop who publicly denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

The Jewish state’s highest religious authority sent a letter to the Holy See expressing “sorrow and pain” at the papal decision. “It will be very difficult for the chief rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before,” the letter said. Chief rabbis of both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews were parties to the letter.

This is quite saddening, as their relationship had been quite good since 2000 when the relationship was formally made by Pope John Paul II’s visit to Jerusalem. I cannot say, thought, that I find fault in the move of these Jews. The Church needs to realize that there are consequences to their actions.

B16 “expressed his ‘full and indisputable solidarity’ with Jews.” These words seem to be too little, too late. The old adage proves once again to be true: actions speak louder than words. The Pope’s action of reinstating Bishop Williamson has been heard around the world, while his verbal solidarity with Jews is but a whisper.

NB: Thanks to my mom for sharing the article with me.

Not-So-Progressive Revelation

Thomas Whitley

As usual during my Ethics class we talked about something completely unrelated to Ethics. Tonight it was “progressive revelation.” Honestly, I was pretty zoned out for much of his soliloquy. I did regain consciousness long enough to see what was written on the board though:

“Progressive Revelation - Its culmination is Jesus”

In actuality, the “is” was not italicized, but rather was underlined three times. My question is one of simple logic: how is it progressive if it has a culmination? Answer: it’s not. Progressive revelation starts from what it desires to be the end and says that everything that went before was only partially true or pure or contained only some partial understanding while that which I uphold contains all truth and is the fullest understanding possible. It would be much more honest of proponents of progressive revelation if they would simply say that anything that is not what they consider to be the truest and fullest revelation is simply untrue. I say this because if progressive revelation were taken to the fullest of its implications, then its proponents would have to understand Islam as superseding Christianity, Mormonism superseding Christianity and Islam, etc., but they are wholly unwilling to support this view.

My other point of contention with Christian Progressive Revelation is that it firmly upholds supersessionism, insofar as it relates to Christianity superseding Judaism and Gentile Christians superseding Jews as God’s chosen people. This is a view that I vehemently oppose.

So, adhere to progressive revelation if you want to, but if you do chose to adhere to it, do it logically and rationally. Do not say that you believe in progressive revelation if by that you really mean, “I think I have the absolute hold on truth and everything that came before was merely precursor to what I have and everything that follows is heresy.”

On another note, that is still somewhat related, please stop reading the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) into the Hebrew Bible (commonly referred to as the Old Testament). As much as many people hate to hear it, Isaiah had no idea who Jesus the Nazarene was when he was writing (his “suffering servant” model that so many apply to Jesus was actually most likely in reference to Cyrus) and the Abraham and Isaac story was not a foreshadowing of Jesus and his act of being a sacrifice. The Hebrew Bible is very important, for me at least, and is very influential in my own faith, but let it stand on its own without reading it christocentrically.

Not a Good Move

Thomas Whitley

The Pope (B16 as I like to call him) has just made a bad move. He reinstated Bishop Richard Williamson, who is:

“…a member of the ultra-conservative Society of Saint Pius X who rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and recently said ‘there were no gas chambers’ during the Holocaust.”

Williamson was excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

In comments to Swedish television broadcast on Wednesday and widely available on the internet, Mr Williamson said: ‘I believe there were no gas chambers and only up to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, instead of 6 million.’

‘I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler,’ he said.

‘There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies!’

What is B16 thinking? Can anyone help me out here? Better yet, can someone please help B16 realize how ridiculous this is? Not only is he infuriating Jews worldwide, he is setting a negative precedent for how he may interact with other religions.

What I "Learned" Tonight

Thomas Whitley

Tonight I “learned” two things. One was from a discussion board for my worship class and the other was from my Ethics professor. I say that I “learned” these two things for two reasons. The first is that I was already aware of these views/positions. The second is that I vehemently disagree with both of them and typically when someone truly learns something, they respond by subscribing to it.

Lesson 1
The comment on my Worship class’ discussion board was in the context of responding to reading the first chapter of Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative. One of my class members responded to another class member with the following comment:

Worship could never be possible without reading Jesus back into the OT narratives and texts. Although not specifically named in many, if not most OT references, Jesus is present from Genesis to Revelation, therefore He was included in OT worship forms.

This is a very common view that I have major problems with. I will not expound on all of them now, but I will mention a few. This view is typically called, in academic circles, supersessionism. Supersessionism is the belief that Christians superseded the Jews as God’s chosen people and as such receive God’s blessing and Jews now receive God’s damnation.

Besides the fact that this view is rather poor theology (it is likely very good christology if by good christology one really means high christology, but it is not good theology), and is not, in my understanding, good and appropriate work with the biblical text, this view is also very demeaning and does great harm and a great disservice to Judaism.

Furthermore, to say that it is impossible to have an Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (henceforth HB) worship without reading Jesus back into the narratives and texts of the HB says that for the thousands of years of recorded human history before Jesus the Nazarene came on to the scene no one really knew God and they were not capable of worshiping God. I, for one, will not say that Israelites and Judeans did not know God or that they were incapable of worshiping God because Jesus was not yet alive. That is quite a ridiculous view.

Moreover, my classmate’s response fails to realize that in actuality Jesus is never explicitly named in the HB. As difficult as it is for many to realize, the prophets that were writing in HB and during that time period had no clue who Jesus was (perhaps “would be” is more appropriate) and they were not predicting the future. Prophecy in the HB, as a trade and class, was about recounting history and speaking about present events and situations in the world view (ethos) of religion. Though the HB prophets are typically read as predicting the future, a solid exegesis that is informed by good historical studies will show that they were not.

That is all that I will say on this topic, for now.

Lesson 2
The second thing that I “learned” tonight was espoused by my Ethics professor. He said that you cannot read the New Testament (henceforth NT) and not be Trinitarian. Trinitarianism is the belief that God is only one being, yet three persons, manifested as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Many of you may well hold this belief and that is perfectly fine, but my question to you is this, how many of the NT authors were Trinitarian? Answer: none. Does the Bible speak of the Trinity? Answer: no.

The doctrine of the Trinity has as its origin the Council of Nicea in 325, when the debate came to a head about whether Jesus and God the Father were “of the same substance” or not. Before then many people believed that Jesus was fully divine, just as many others believed that Jesus was fully human. Proclaiming that Jesus was fully human and fully divine and “of the same substance” as God was not a prerequisite up to that point of being a Christian.

Trinitarianism is an acceptable view to hold, but it is not biblical. I am perfectly fine with people holding to beliefs and convictions that are not biblical, so long as they recognize it as such and do not attempt to beat down those who do not hold to those same views and treat them (or tell them) that they are not Christian because of it. Many of you reading this post probably already have doubts about my Christianity. Regarding that, I really do not care. I do not say that to be callous, but my relationship with God is just that, my relationship with God. It is not yours and it certainly is not yours to make judgments about. But, if you do insist on making judgments, which we all do from time to time, please make sure that your judgments and arguments are sound.

I am not a Trinitarian for two main reasons. The first is not so much that it is not biblical, which has been established, but that there is no evidence that Jesus himself or his earliest followers believed anything of the sort. It is simply a doctrine of the church, not a core, foundational belief. The second reason is that I am a monotheist (I believe there is only one God) and I have the same questions/problems that Jews and Muslims have of most Christians. How can I call myself a monotheist and yet say that there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. My faith, for me personally, must follow logic as far as possible and in this case my ethos simply will not allow me to subscribe to both views, monotheism and Trinitarianism. They are mutually exclusive.

What do you think?

A Chronic Struggle

Thomas Whitley

I have a chronic struggle.

This struggle of mine is one that I’m sure most everyone deals with at least on occasion. The struggle is simply how much do we share and how much do we keep to ourselves. My version of this struggle is specifically related to religious belief.

I know that never will there be a time when everyone agrees - I, in fact, think this is wonderful, for without diversity of belief growth and change for the better would never be possible - and I am someone who enjoys and respects differences of belief and opinion, as long as they are sincere and reasonable. Thus, given someone else’s sincere and reasonable belief/opinion I typically do not share my own views unless asked to. I personally dislike people sharing their unsolicited opinions with me, so I try very hard not to share mine in that manner.

The question, then, is “does there come a time when I should share my beliefs/opinions even when they’re not asked for?”

What do I do when I know that other people find person X’s views very meaningful and important, but I find person X’s views to be wrong and detrimental? Part of me feels that I have a moral obligation to that person and everyone who admires this person to share with them what I believe to be truth. However, there is another, larger part of me that questions my motives. Am I just trying to get other people to think and believe like me?

Everything I believe, I believe seriously and I think my beliefs and true and right (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t subscribe to them…duh), but does that give me the right to create conflict and begin a process of dream-crushing and belief-crushing just because there is a chance that I may be right?

So, what am I really saying? What am I asking for?

Really, I don’t know that I’m asking for anything, though I will gladly accept comments on how you deal with this struggle. I guess really what I’m saying is that our thoughts and beliefs are important to us and to others and I take this very seriously.

It is not right for me to think that it is acceptable for me to share my unsolicited views/beliefs if I don’t want others to do the same. I work very hard to not employ double standards in my life and frankly wish that others would too. Most Christians, I have found, believe that it is completely acceptable for them to evangelize and share their beliefs with others, but get terribly offended when people of others religious faiths/traditions attempt to share their beliefs. This goes against equality and fairness, two things I highly value, and, in my opinion, shows immaturity.

Am I just too passive in this realm?

Should I be more forthright and less respectful of others’ beliefs/views?

I have a chronic struggle.

Is Interfaith Dialogue Possible?

Thomas Whitley

Today Pope Benedict XVI (or B16 as I like to call him) wrote a letter that seems to question interfaith dialogue.

The pope’s letter said that “an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” It went on to say that “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.” (See the NY Times article here)

Now, I ask you. Do you think that inter-religious or interfatih dialogue is possible without “putting one’s faith in parentheses”?

Should we even attempt interfatih dialogue?

I certainly think so, but what you think? Why?