Where do we draw the line?

“The rediscovery of boundaries in theology will be the preoccupation of the twenty-first century of Christian theology,” says Thomas Oden, United Methodist theologian and Emeritus Professor of Theology at The Theological School, Drew University. This agenda for the next century of theological study comes in his book Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements (Abingdon 1995). The book is Oden’s critical evaluation of the state of mainline Protestant theological education, a world in which he has lived most of his adult life. The above quote comes as Oden is describing his deep concern that nothing is off-limits in the mainline seminaries. He is distraught by the reality that there is no longer any thing as heresy. From pluralism to paganism, everything is seen as the proper subject of theological inquiry and is adorned with allegedly Christian paraphernalia to justify the inquiry and resulting assertions.
Oden opens his discussion by telling of how he attended a chapel service at his own institution of theological higher education which venerated the goddess Sophia, a deity discernibly distinct from the triune God revealed in Christian scripture, though she was sometimes said to use Jesus as her own agent. If this event is indeed representative of what’s going on in the larger world of the mainline seminaries, then Oden is certainly right that the boundaries have not only been crossed, they have been obliterated.
Oden interestingly points out that these sorts of things come under the auspices of ecumenism. Against such a claim, he argues that ecumenism is not merely a matter of the present but of the whole history of Christian thought. And anything that casts off the claims of what he calls historic orthodox Christian consensus can neither seriously nor authentically be called ecumenism. So, according to Oden, the project for the next generation of Christian theologians is to recover the consensus of orthodox Christianity and identify the boundaries for what may properly be called Christian theology.
My question at this point is this: how do we accomplish that task? I suspect that, as I continue to read the book, I will discover that Oden has some ideas for how this project should be successfully carried out. He promises as much in the opening pages. But he’s got me thinking, and I want to open the discussion up to my readers. I’ve got a thought or two that I’ll likely post later. For now, I want to hear from you.
What do you think? What are the boundaries of Christian theology? How do we discern those boundaries? What is the role of scripture in discerning and defining meaningful boundaries? What is the role of historic Christian consensus in discerning and defining meaningful boundaries? What is the role of the seminary? Theologians? The local church? Pastors? The laity?

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Image: Paul via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

God is love. But is that all? And other questions…

So, with the release of Rob Bell’s controversial new book earlier this week, along with his Livestream interview with Lisa Miller and various appearances on cable news shows, the hoopla continues. Early in the aforementioned interview, Bell claimed that he was primarily interested in helping people understand the truth of 1 John 4:8, 16 that God is love. And that’s good! I want people to understand and experience that truth as well. But this whole thing has raised some other questions for me. So, at the risk of trespassing on Rob’s favorite literary form, I’ve got a few questions of my own:
So, God is love. I’m with you. But what else does God say about himself? Doesn’t the Bible say that God is holy (Lev 19)? And what does that mean? And how does it relate to “God is love”? Does one take priority over the other? If so, which one? And how do we know? How does anyone know? Is God holy love? Or lovingly holy? Or both? Is there a difference? What interpretive principle ensures we pick the right emphasis? And what would people rather hear about? Holiness? Or love? Do popular preferences affect what books get written? Published? Purchased? Read? Doesn’t the Bible also say that God is just (Deut 32:4)? What is the relationship between love and justice? Justice and holiness? All three? What if someone wrote a book called Holiness Wins? Or Justice Wins? Would a book like that get published? Purchased? Read? And how do our presuppositions shape the way we raise and phrase our questions? And the way we read the Bible? Are questions neutral?
But hey, I’m just asking questions.

Or am I?

Theology Pop Quiz: Trinity & Incarnation

Here’s a question I’ve been thinking on for quite some time that could provoke some interesting discussion: Is Jesus of Nazareth the incarnation of the Triune God or of the Second Person of the Trinity?  I’ve got my own ideas on this one, but I want to hear from all of you out there in the blogosphere.  So, if you get this through email or a feed reader, click through and weigh in.  What do you think?  
*For the sake of a good Christian blogging ethic, please remember to put your real name on your comments.

Reading and Reading Goals?

Here’s a quick post with a few questions for all of you out there in the blogosphere.  This is the first year I’ve ever set a personal reading goal.  So, I’ve started keeping up with titles and pages read this year.  Before I comment about my own goals, I have a few questions: How many of you set an annual reading goal?  What is it?  Do you usually make it?  Also, what are you reading right now?  Leave a comment with answers to any or all of the questions.  For work, I’m presently working through Michael Lawrence’s Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry.  For doctoral preparation, I’m presently reading Simon Gathercole’s Where is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1-5 and J. R. Daniel Kirk’s Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God.  What about you?  I want to hear from you.