on John Calvin and gratitude.

Some one posted the following on the Pentecostal Theology Worldwide Facebook page:

Calvin’s greatest gifts were as a logician, not a theologian. Oh, that he had been an equally skilled exegete!

a follow up comment was given:

His commentaries were pretty groundbreaking. You can’t limit him to predestination.

Then once again my friend Monte shared.  I know some might think this a biti weird but Monte does good work and I want to share it before it gets lost on Facebook somewhere.  Consider the following:

I also believe that Calvin is another greater Reformation theologian terribly miss-understood and miss-represented by the later Reformed scholastic enterpise. I do not believe that Calvinist doctrines of predestination really define the centre of Calvin’s theology; maybe the centre of later Calvinism, but not Calvin! 

But I am not a “Calvin” expert; I depend on secondary sources! But I feel blessed with a good interpreter of Calvin: the Reformed philosophizer Nicholas Wolterstorff. Wolterstorff consistently argues that the “centre” of Calvin’s theology is “gratitude.” God is king of creation, which he gives to us as “gift.” Our proper response is “gratitude.” Gratitude however, issues in “suffering,” because out of gratitude we partner with God in the reforming of creation back to its original purpose according to God’s decrees. 

I like the way Wolterstorff explains this: 
“Though there are strands in the Reformed tradition for which sovereignty is God’s principal attribute, I don’t think I ever thought of God much in terms of sovereignty [referring to his growing up in the Reformed tradition]. God was majesty for me, indescribable majesty. And graciousness, goodness; God is the one who blesses, blessing calling for gratitude. To be human is to be that point in the cosmos where God’s goodness, is meant to find its answer in gratitude: John Calvin told me that.

Recalling the time when his son tragically died in a mountaineering accident, Wolterstorff then shares: “Now everything was different. Who is this God, looming over me? Majesty? . . . What I saw then was tears, a weeping God, suffering over my suffering. . . . Life eternal doesn’t depend on getting all the questions answered; God is often as much behind the questions as behind the answers. . . 

It moved me deeply to discover one day that John Calvin alone among the classical theologians had written of the suffering of God. . . To wreak injustice on one of one’s fellow human beings, said Calvin, is to wound and injure God; he said that the cry of those who suffer injustice is the cry of God.

There is a grace that has shaped my life. It came to me in the form of being inducted into a tradition of the Christian Church. . . But was it grace I experienced when I heard God saying to me, in the voice of the Palestinians and the South African blacks, you must speak up for these people? . . . And was it grace I experienced when my son was killed?

God is more mysterious than I had thought— the world too. . . . And there’s more to being human than being that point in the cosmos where God’s goodness is meant to find its answer in gratitude. To be human is this: to be that point in the cosmos where the yield of God’s love is suffering.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, “The Grace that Shaped My Life,” in Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World (Eerdmans, 2011), 15-16.

on Pentecostal Eschatology pt 1

There are going to be a few posts on this topic.  so heads up.  😉

there has been some quite extended conversation on the Pentecostal Theology Worldwide facebook page regarding eschatology and some good stuff is being talked about and I want share it here on my blog before it gets lost in the morass known what I call the FB abyss (after a point posts on FB just disappear or get archived somewhere but are no longer accessible).   This means you have to put your thinking caps back on.  Pentecostal Theology is still a good 100 years young and much theologizing has been going on as of late, it is moving along quite quickly and much of it is not always in various monographs, but in journal articles, it can take a lot to keep up with it.  Well, I can’t really but I appreciate those who can.

My friend Monte has shared the following reflection regarding some directions in Pentecostal eschatology.   He wrote the following on Friday Nov 30 on FB.

yongI shall now draw reference to a very helpful resource for ongoing reformation of Pentecostal eschatology, namely, Amos Yong’s work, In the Days of Caesar: Pentecostalism and Political Theology (Sacra Doctrina: Christian Theology for a Postmodern Age), (Eerdmans 2010).

What is relevant here is Yong’s concluding chapter titled “Pentecostal Hope: A Political Theology of History and the Eschaton.” Yong begins by also arguing that the borrowed Darbyian dispensational framework has proved damaging to a healthy Pentecostal eschatology, and needs to be thoroughly reformed via “pneumatological terms,” towards a “performative eschatological politics of hope.” (316) 

Yong next assesses how the wrong-head dispensational apocalyptic has resulting in inadequate trajectories towards understanding the relation between the Church and the modern nation of Israel, including Zionist ideologies, the Middle East context, and of course, dispensational readings of apocalyptic biblical genre. Yong writes, “given the dualistic cosmology of most pentecostals, Israel’s enemies are uncritically understood also to be God’s enemies, and this means that Palestinians, Arabs, and others allied with Palestinian and Arab interest are at best absent from consideration and at worst framed in negative theological light.” (321) Therefore, “few pentecostals have been capable of developing empathy for the plight of Palestinians throughout this conflict, while most have tended to support international agendas in general and Middle Eastern policies in particular according to the criterion of whether such were pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian/Arab.” (322)

Yong then moves on to the issues of the “rapture” and “Great Tribulation, stating that “the dispensationalism’s identification of a future secret rapture of the church prior to the Great Tribulation. invites an escapist mentiality.” (324) He then raises several responses. “First, dispensational futurism does not do justice to the embodied character of pentecostal spirituality,” which should accentuate God’s concern for our entire “embodied” existence in relation to creation. “Second, dispensationalism’s sharp wedge between Israel and the church needs to be critically assessed,” in manners that will and must result in a greater empathic posture towards the plight of the Palestinians as well as Israelis. (326) “Finally, while the biblical literalism of dispensationalism was originally embraced by pentecostals against the liberal-modernist threat,” this literalism now shows itself “misguided when applied to apocalyptic texts.” (326-327) 

This wrong-headed direction has “induced an otherworldliness that is not only inconsistent with its [Pentecostal spirituality but is also potentially perilous for the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the world,” leading to “the neglect of environmental issues in view of the transient nature of the present cosmos.” More pointedly, Yong charges, “In the popular pentecostal mentality, the final destruction of the world demands concentrated efforts to save what can be saved (human souls) rather than misguided attempts to salvage either our bodies or our natural environments. What emerges is an implicit anthropocentrism that subordinates other animal species as well as the wider ecological habitat to human spiritual needs and concerns.” 

In response to this malaise, Yong suggests: “But such an apocalyptic orientation is itself at odds with the deepest intuitions of the pentecostal imagination: its understanding of healing, theology of embodiment, and holistic soteriology. What I mean is that the apocalyptic insistence on the obliteration of the world in the end is not only incompatible with a theology of a new heavens and a new earth . . . but that it also undermines central pentecostal convictions about the theological value of the body, the materiality of the human condition, and the social dimensions of salvation.” Therefore, Yong proposes that: “pentecostal spirituality can and should be redirected away from an apocalyptic eschatology to a political theology of the environment” (329).

Yong concludes his chapter by delineating a reformed, “pentecostal apoclaypticism.” This means one that is informed by Pentecostal nuances on the Holy Spirit, which projects an eschatology that upholds the integral role of discipling human beings through evangelism and church planting, while also appropriating our eschatological sensibilities towards the total social life of humans, through seeking justice and peace, and promoting environmental care of the earth and creation altogether. Yong thus writes, “Such a pentecostal and pneumatological apocalypticism emphasizes not only the already-not-yet and ‘in between’ character but also the geographical and topographical redemptability of the human condition. It also rejects the escapism and otherworldliness of a futurist dispensationalism in favour of an incarnational and pneumatological spirituality.” (331)

“What I am proposing . . . is a pneumatological eschatology that emphasizes the apocalyptic revelation of the Spirit rather than demolition of the world. The outpouring of the Spirit in these last days is thus at least in part a response to the groanings of creation and its creatures.” (347)

Therefore, “the church’s sanctified and pneumatological imaginations empower a vocational mission to the world, prophetically resisting its fallen tendencies and boldly witnessing to the redemptive possibilities available to human culture and civic and social life. Finally, the church’s charismatic imagination seeks to participate in the gracious hospitality of God so that the many gifs of the Spirit can unleash an economy of shalom and that yearns and works for the reconciliation of all, seeks a just, common, and environmentally sustainable way of life, and anticipates the renewal of the ends of the earth, all of creation, perhaps even the cosmos itself.” (354)