Monday, September 08, 2008
If I had time to blog...
If every waking second wasn't filled with 1) school, 2) studying, 3) unpacking, or 4) managing the kids, I might actually blog about some of the really interesting stuff I'm learning in seminary. For instance, I might mention the fascinating convocation address given by the Seminary's Comparative Religions prof comparing the Christian story of Judas with the Muslim story of Iblees and raising the question of whether we can sometimes be faithful to God by actually disobeying his commands (e.g. when God's own commands appear to be contradictory, or when obeying one requires disobeying another), and whether we can remain faithful to God when we seem to experience rejection and unlove from God because of such disobediance.

But I really don't have time to get into that.

Or I might mention all of my skepticism about the Source Critical Method in Old Testament studies and how I feel caught in a weird in-between place of being totally comfortable accepting the scholarly critical approaches to scripture, but also affirming the underlying historicity of many of the Hebrew narratives (e.g. the Exodus) as well. It seems like in the debate between liberal and conservative Christians both sides have tended to one extreme or another: either the text is entirely, literally, historically true or it's entirely a fictional, mythic narrative with no basis whatsoever in actual history.

But that would take too long to discuss.

I could also give a review of an emerging church here in Austin that Julie and I have visited a few times now that totally reminds us of what we think Via Christus would have been like if we had actually grown. It's relaxed and conversational and friendly and social justice-oriented and not too concerned about having all the answers. We're still going to try out some of the other emerging communities here in Austin too (imagine having half-a-dozen emerging churches all in the same town!) but it's nice to have already found one that feels comfortable (and is large enough to provide child-care during its services!)

Anyhow, I'm too busy to write about that too.

I've also wanted to post a rant about how the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP pick was a shameless and fundamentally sexist attempt to appeal to Hillary supporters based solely on gynecological similarity, and how as a result I've pretty much lost whatever residual respect I once had for McCain.

But I definitely don't have time to get into arguments about that. Nor do I have time to defend why it really is possible for an emerging Christian to have specific political opinions about specific candidates without thereby being "partisan".

Sorry. :)


posted by Mike Clawson at 3:52 PM | Permalink |


At 9/09/2008 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

Palin's addition to the GOP ticket does a lot more than provide a woman for disenchanted Hillary voters to latch on to. Even more than that, I think her addition was a coup for McCain with religious conservatives who weren't sold on McCain's conservative credentials and were concerned that he might appoint a pro-choice, big business moderate republican. Shoring up the conservative base while at the same time offering (1) a female candidate to attract some female voters who would have voted for Hillary solely b/c of her gender, and (2) a physically attractive, young, energetic and charismatic candidate for the "JFK effect" to pull in fence sitting members of the opposite sex - it was a calculated gamble that looks like it has the potential to pay off for McCain on multiple fronts. Much more multilayered than just "Obama didn't choose Hillary so let's choose a woman."

Your reaction to source critical studies thus far reminds me of the discussions we've had about my experiences in the Episcopal Church. That's a good observation re. the polarization between liberal and conservative. Spend enough time around dogmatic theological liberalism couched in skeptical scholarship and accompanied by a sophisticated condescending attitude toward anyone naive enough to believe in the historicity of the OT narrative (or even of much of the gospel narrative), and you may find it frustrates you just as much as unthinking theological conservatism did. That was my experience anyway.


At 9/10/2008 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I didn't say I thought that was the only reason McCain picked her. But that's the one that pissed me off.

Re: source criticism - I'm not encountering much liberal dogmatism from the actual people here at Austin Seminary (faculty or students), it's more just the some of the texts they have us reading. However, they've also done a good job of balancing the source critical texts with an alternative "canonical" approach as well, which I like much better.


At 9/10/2008 01:48:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

That strikes me as odd. So if Hillary had been chosen by Obama in part because her gender might appeal to swing female voters, would that have been an illegitimate reason, among many, to weigh when choosing her? If some democrats see Obama's race as a plus b/c of the added boost it will give the democratic ticket among minority voters, is that an illegitimate reason (among many) to weigh when nominating him as the democratic candidate (if he was an Irish Catholic named Barry O'Bama with the same views and rhetoric he might have still won the democratic nomination over Hillary but maybe not)?

Most of the priests and the bishop I interacted with had pretty much swallowed the source criticism stuff whole so interacting with them was like interacting with one of those texts. Like C.S. Lewis wrote decades ago describing the Church of England: "Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the vicar; now he tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more."

Austin seminary sounds like a more eclectic place, with the various viewpoints presented fairly and given a place at the table. It sounds like a good place for you.


At 9/10/2008 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I think weighing the gender or race of a candidate as a (or the) primary factor in your support of them is a bad idea for either side. I would have been equally pissed off if Obama had chosen Hillary for that reason as well and I'm glad he didn't choose her (though not for that reason).

And don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to the idea of source criticism in principle. I have no problem accepting that the OT was cobbeled together from many different sources and edited together sometimes many centuries after the events. I'm just skeptical of some of the specific source theories that seem based on a small handful of verses and a lot of speculation about what "actually" happened. I also don't share some of the critics assumptions that these sources aren't based on real historical events. I don't have to believe that the events were exactly like what we have recorded in the OT, but on the other hand, where there is smoke there is usually a fire, and it seems odd to me to think that the ancient Jews would have fabricated their entire history without any basis in some actual events.


At 9/11/2008 08:49:00 AM, Blogger David

Boy, Mike! I can't wait for you to have time to post about all of those thought-provoking subjects :o)

Here in East Texas, most people identify themselves as conservative Republican. Most everyone I have spoken with regarding Palin just love her--just as it was when G. W. ran the first time, the whole "the candidate seems just like us!" line carries a lot of weight. When I press people for a more substantial reason to support that ticket, they usually reply that you can't be a Christian and support Obama (really!?) because of his stance on abortion. They use Palin's religious views and her anti-abortion stance to justify putting her in a position that could easily lead her to the Presidency! I try to point out that we have had an anti-abortion conservative President, who is "just like us," for 8 years, yet abortion is still legal.... Could this whole issue be nothing more than a red herring?

Again, welcome to Texas! Any time you want to experience true culture shock, we have a spare room well outside the comfy bubble of Austin!

Still, if you believe Donald Miller, maybe there is not such a difference between us all (red or blue) after all:


At 9/11/2008 09:57:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

I'm not against nor afraid of source criticism per se either.

But the Jesus Seminar approach that suggests 21st century scholars can somehow tell which events recorded in the OT or the NT "really" happened and which "must have been" fabricated by Israel or the early church for their own purposes - and the unacknowledged, largely unexamined assumptions that are brought to bear in that analysis, are pretty hard to swallow.

In some circles buying wholesale into that approach and its latest "findings" can become just as much of an unquestioned test of one's orthodoxy, as any evangelical litmus test. It's assumed that you do, and when it comes out that you don't you are viewed as a backward fundamentalist no matter how principled, thoughtful or nuanced your position - especially if your disagreement is revealed as a result of some other disagreement you have with "the powers that be" on a pet issue of theirs. Thankfully, it doesn't sound like you are in such a place.

I agree about the wrongness of choosing a candidate based primarily on gender or race. But we'd be naive to think it doesn't happen at times on both sides of the aisle. I'm sure there are powerful people in the democratic party who advanced Obama's career because of his race, by going to lengths for him that they wouldn't have gone for a similarly situated WASP democrat - because of what he could do for the african american vote for the democrats. That doesn't, by itself, prove anything about his fitness as a candidate though.


At 9/11/2008 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I suppose that sort of liberal orthodoxy does still exist, though according to my Princeton and Yale educated OT prof, source critical theory has become much less influential in the academy in recent decades, mostly because the speculative theories simply got way out of hand. He says most scholars these days pretty much only focus on the final two redactions (i.e. Priestly and Deuteronomic), which has much more in common with the canonical approach (which is not the same as a conservative "historical" approach).


At 9/11/2008 04:08:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

You're certainly in a better position than I am to speak to what's currently being taught in seminaries.

Most of my experience was with ECUSA priests and bishops several decades out of seminary who wielded the terms "literalist" and "fundamentalist" like weapons whenever prevailing liberal orthodoxy was challenged. I don't think any of them had ever met a real fundamentalist, at least not in ECUSA. Very similar in feel to what you (and we) experienced when questioning the prevailing orthodoxy in a conservative congregation, although maybe less confrontational at the start. More of the "iron fist in a velvet glove" approach.

After hearing the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar cited positively from the pulpit in the same sermon series where we were told the bodily resuurection of Jesus was a silly myth and that anyone concerned with whether it (the resurrection) actually happened or not was asking an irrelevant question, we decided that evangelicalism wasn't the only branch of Christianity that had its problematic aspects.

I'm glad for you that Austin Seminary isn't like that.


At 9/12/2008 03:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Why don't you really tell us how you feel about McCain/Palin. WOW! So why did Obama pick Biden? Because he gives the ticket its only foreign policy experience other than meeting a couple world leaders, perhaps? Or was he apealing to the left since everyone seems to (wrongly) think Obama is moderate? Maybe he needed a white guy or an old guy--what do you think?


At 9/12/2008 09:39:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I don't think I've ever made my political opinions a secret here minnow. If I don't like someone's politics I'm going to say so. Sorry if that bothers you.


At 9/12/2008 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Karl, sounds like your experiences were similar to those of my new friend Bob Carlton who attended the Episcopal seminary in San Francisco.


At 9/13/2008 12:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Mike--I have no problem with you expressing yourself on your blog in any manner you so choose. I happen to disagree that McCain's pick of Palin was fundamentally sexist. I'm sorry my earlier comment offended you.


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