Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Happy Reformation Day!

To the left, of course, is a picture of Martin Luther. Why? Because on All Hallows Eve (31 Oct.) of 1517, Martin Luther, then a Dominican Monk, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. This act is usually cited as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Sing several verses today of Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

But don’t stop at celebrating Luther’s legacy: Investigate and take time to appreciate the contributions of other Reformers–Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger, Melancthon, Karlstadt, and, yes, Calvin, who was a great expositor of Scripture and whom I like far more than I do most of his followers (Calvinists). (But, then, I pray every day that Jesus will not be evaluated by his followers!) And go further and celebrate the Radical Reformers: Conrad Grebel, Felix Mantz, Georg Blaurock, Balthasar Hubmaier, Michael Sattler, Menno Simons, Pilgram Marpeck, Hans Hut, Jakob Hutter, Pieter Riedemann and more.

Also, although the Protestant Reformation was necessary, it did break the unity of the Western Church and, thus, I must agree with the late Jaroslav Pelikan, Lutheran church historian, who called the Protestant Reformation a “tragic necessity.” While celebrating the Reformers’ legacy, take time to shed a tear for the fragmentation of the church universal.

And Catholics have also been graced by Reformers before the 16th C. (e.g., the monastic movements), during it (e.g., Erasmus, Savanarola, Ignatius Loyola), and later (especially Vatican II). All reform movements soon need their own reformations, too. Pray for further reform of the whole church. And read a Reformer today! Posted by Picasa

October 31, 2006 Posted by | Christian calendar, church history, Reformation | 3 Comments

Two More Friends

Again, I just like this picture. On the right with the pink backpack is my youngest daughter, Miriam. On the left with tongue sticking out is her friend, Sydney. I think this was taken at the last “Balloon Glow” in Louisville–part of the annual festivities leading up to our annual mania over a 2-minute horse race (the Kentucky Derby). Posted by Picasa

October 31, 2006 Posted by | family | Comments Off on Two More Friends


Soldiers in Iraq have been giving nicknames to their tanks. This one was blasphemously called “New Testament.” Calling darkness light is a huge sign of the apostasy of modern U.S. Christianity. Posted by Picasa

October 30, 2006 Posted by | love of enemies, nonviolence, pacifism, peace | 3 Comments

Two Friends

I just like this picture. The girl on the left is my oldest daughter, Molly. The girl on the right is her friend, Sarah Trabue, daughter of Dan and Donna Trabue. We all go to Jeff Street Baptist Community. I may publish more things like this from time to time, just to break the monotony of serious religious and social commentary. Posted by Picasa

October 30, 2006 Posted by | family | Comments Off on Two Friends

VERY Short Bible Commentaries

Darrell Pursifal, aka Dr. Platypus, became inspired to see if he and others could, Hemingway-like, write very, very short summaries of biblical books. The limit is 6 words to describe an entire biblical book. I have added a few and invite others to join in. It’s fun and works your brain to try to summarize that briefly. We haven’t yet gotten 66 entries, so feel free to try your hand. Also, Darrell has generously posted more than one commentary on a book. Enjoy.

October 29, 2006 Posted by | Bible, Biblical exegesis | 2 Comments

Violence in the Hebrew Bible: One Perspective

The Miner, a fairly new blogger I just discovered, has posted some very interesting perspectives on violence in the Old Testament. They are patterned after Kim Fabricius’ famous 10 propositions series over on Ben Myers’ Faith & Theology blog. Print them out and use them as discussion starters. If you disagree, tell the Miner on his blog. You could even propose alternatives.

October 29, 2006 Posted by | Bible, Biblical exegesis, Hebrew Bible/O.T., nonviolence, peace, violence | Comments Off on Violence in the Hebrew Bible: One Perspective

Moyers for President?

Ralph Nader has proposed that former journalist Bill Moyers run as a Democrat for the Presidency of the U.S. in ’08. This is certainly a far more helpful progressive suggestion than his own Green Candidacy was. Earlier this year, historian Howard Zinn proposed Marion Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund as a candidate. Both suggestions show creative thinking that gets beyond the usual cast of (incredibly compromised) characters. Yet both suggestions are of knowledgeable, informed people who are qualified both constitutionally and practically:

Moyers is

  • A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A person of faith who still believes in religious liberty for everyone and in church-state separation, Moyers understands the South, evangelicals and others who are often written off by progressive elites and simply exploited by conservative elites.
  • A former press secretary to President Lyndon Baines Johnson who understands the politics of the White House and the temptations and pitfalls of power. Supportive of LBJ’s civil rights and anti-poverty efforts, Moyers broke with the administration over Vietnam. Not a pacifist (which is good since, currently, a pacifist could not be elected U.S. president), Moyers still understands the limits of military force in politics.
  • A savvy realist who could raise the money to be a serious candidate in our flawed, money-run system, but whose numerous investigative pieces on the corruption of money to politics would lead him to check thoroughly for strings and not take tainted money–and work to rid the system of money once in office.
  • A brilliant speaker who could move people to support a progressive agenda.

Edelman is

  • A veteran of the nonviolent civil rights movement, both as a student at Spelman and then as a lawyer who helped to create Head Start.
  • A former worker with Bobby Kennedy’s campaign.
  • Daughter of an African-American Baptist minister whose personal faith is well-known and whose marriage to a practicing Jew (Peter Edelman, law professor at Georgetown University) gives her insight into our pluralistic society.
  • A near-top-of -class graduate of Yale Law School and, as the head of Children’s Defense Fund, someone who has years of experience getting progressive legislation through Congress in a bi-partisan matter.
  • Someone whose domestic agenda would put children first; a welcome change from politics driven by corporate or military ideologies.

Are there other such non-traditional candidates that could truly lead in a different direction? What kinds of characteristics should we look for in a presidential candidate? (I will blog my ideas on that last question in a later post.) While I don’t think all our candidates should be Harvard and Yale grads (although a huge number of presidents have come from those schools) or all career lawyers and/or career politicians, I do think experience and knowledge count. People from outside the system should be bright enough to learn the system–or they will be puppets for others. I’m interested in ideas from both Democrats and Republicans for non-traditional candidates: non-Congress, non-Senate–and why they would be good candidates. Non-U.S. citizens should feel free to join in since an outside perspective could be helpful.

Constitutional requirements: The candidate must be a native-born U.S. citizen (only office off-limits to naturalized citizens), 35 years of age or more. Looking forward to your replies. If you don’t have a blogger account and want to reply, get one. You don’t need an actual blog.

October 28, 2006 Posted by | U.S. politics | 3 Comments

Confession That Formed Basis for Iraq Invasion: False & Obtained by Torture

As reported here, the al-Qaeda suspect who testified that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, a key pre-invasion justification by the Bush admin., confessed to this false story only after being tortured. Torture gave false information which led to a quagmire of a war. But, meanwhile, VP Cheney is back justifying torture again. Cheney’s attempts to explain away his remarks have been really lame.

Meanwhile the atrocious Military Commissions Act which spit upon our Constitution, dirtied any sense of U.S. justice, thumbed its nose at human rights, has already drawn fire from the United Nations which rightly points out that the law violates several international treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory.

We used to condemn rogue nations. Now we are the biggest example of one.

October 28, 2006 Posted by | Iraq, torture | 1 Comment

Olbermann on GOP Terrorism

Thanks to Gil Gulick for the heads up on yet another great comment by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, one of the few journalistic commentators to have the guts to call this administration’s evils for what they are. Watch; share; remember come the 7th!

October 27, 2006 Posted by | terrorism prevention | 4 Comments

Mentors #4: E. Glenn Hinson

One of my teachers whom I have not mentioned frequently on this blog is E. Glenn Hinson, church historian, contemplative & advocate of strong, disciplined practices of spiritual formation, ecumenist, peacemaker, and advocate of the liberal strand of Baptist theology. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Hinson grew up on a farm in the Missouri Ozarks near Sullivan. A poor Baptist farmboy growing up in the Great Depression and WWII, his path to success began with a scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis where he earned a B. A. in history mathematics (correction from Sallie Lanier). As with many of us, university tested Hinson’s faith and he credits a wise counselor at the Baptist Student Union (BSU) on campus for showing him that if “all truth is God’s truth,” and if Christian faith was a relationship with the living God, then one could fearlessly investigate anything, test everything, and trust God through it all. That orientation led Hinson forevermore to see fundamentalism as a kind of fear or even a “works righteousness” that desires to earn God’s favor through holding “right beliefs” and being intolerant of all, even other Christians, who see things differently.

Hinson took this new orientation and a call to ministry to the mother seminary of his denomination (Southern Baptist Convention), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. There he finished his B.D. near the top of his class (earning several awards) and took a Th.D. in New Testament, writing a dissertation in which he concluded that the Apostle Paul did not write the pastoral epistles–a daring conclusion for a Southern Baptist in the 1950s.

SBTS wanted to recruit the brilliant student from Missouri, but needed church historians more than Neutestamentlers. Hinson switched gears and pursued a second doctorate, a DPhil. at Oxford University in early church history. (He studied, of course, at Regent’s Park College, the Baptist theological college at Oxford.)  His background in New Testament has allowed him over the years to make many careful connections between the Apostolic era and the Patristic writings.

Becoming friends with Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer whose abbey (Gethsemani) was near Louisville, Hinson became deeply involved in the ecumenical movement of spiritual renewal–connecting the revivalist spirituality of most Southern Baptists to ancient and medieval spiritual practices. His ecumenical efforts included participation in the Faith & Order Commission of the World Council of Churches at a time when his branch of the Baptist movement was not a member of the WCC. He has lectured in Catholic, Orthodox, and many different Protestant institutions.

For 30 years, Hinson taught Church History at Southern Seminary, becoming one of the most published faculty members. He has written major works in early Church history (e.g., The Evangelization of the Roman Empire; The Church Triumphant; The Early Church: Origins to the Dawn of the Middle Ages) , biography (e.g., Seekers After Mature Faith; Love at the Heart of Things: A Biography of Douglas V. Steere); religious liberty(e.g., Soul Liberty; Religious Liberty: The Christian Roots of Our Fundamental Freedoms); spiritual formation (e.g., A Serious Call to a Contemplative Lifestyle; Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership), over 30 books and contributions to books in all.

Hinson has even used his NT scholarship and written Jesus Christ for the “Faith of Our Fathers” series in the early 1960s. This work was later to be the cause of some controversy, although the series died and few noticed Hinson’s volume at the time. The assignment by the publishers was for Hinson to write a “biography” of Jesus that included only what historians could prove or be reasonably sure of as historians. So, Hinson summarized the major conclusions of “historical Jesus” research at the time. He noted that the tools of historiography did not allow him as a historian to affirm Jesus’ resurrection, although as a believer Hinson could and did affirm Jesus’ resurrection.

Years later, in the 1980s, when Hinson was a major critic of fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist Convention, Hinson’s enemies used that book to claim that Hinson did not believe in the resurrection–which is false. One can debate whether or not Hinson is right about the limits of historiography, but that is an argument about what historians can reasonably assert, NOT an argument over the resurrection itself. Trustees at SBTS repeatedly cleared Hinson of any charges of heresy, but one of the injustices of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention was that there was no such thing as protection against double jeopardy: Hinson and other professors could be cleared one semester only to face another individual or group putting forward the SAME CHARGES with NO NEW EVIDENCE the next semester.

When Pres. Roy Honeycutt retired from SBTS, Hinson retired rather than attempt to teach under a fundamentalist administration. From 1994-2000, Hinson was Professor of Church History and Christian Spirituality at The Baptist Seminary in Richmond (BTSR) and an Adjunct Professor at Union Theological Seminary of Virginia/Presbyterian School of Christian Education. He has also held many visiting professorships. Currently, he is Visiting Professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Senior Professor of Church History and Christian Spiritual Formation at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky (a non-fundamentalist alternative to the now fundamentalist-controlled SBTS), and Visiting Professor at Lexington Theological Seminary (Disciples of Christ). During this post-SBTS period, Hinson has affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

As with anyone, I haven’t always agreed with my beloved professor: Hinson denies the Anabaptist roots of Baptists, for instance, seeing English Puritanism as the sole root of the Baptist movement–a view I contest. I find less value than he does in the works of Teilhard de Chardin, whereas Hinson finds Teilhard’s work to provide a philosophy of history. But I have learned from him to appreciate the history of the entire church as MY history and learned steep myself in the “classics of Christian devotion” as guidance in spiritual formation and discipline. We share a deep commitment to Christian nonviolence (Hinson’s is more Quaker-influenced while mine is more Anabaptist in shape) and the work of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Hinson was the original editor of The Baptist Peacemaker.

His personal faith has also long been a source of personal inspiration: Hinson suffered a stroke and loss of some hearing in the late 1960s, but has persevered in service to Christ and the church despite this and much other adversity. I am glad to have been taught so much by this great mentor and friend.

Note: The Fall 2004 issue of the Review and Expositor (the oldest faculty journal of theology founded by Baptists in North America) is devoted as a Festschrift to Hinson.  The Spiritual Formation Network, dedicated to helping all Christians become spiritually mature, has created (in 2007) the E. Glenn Hinson Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation Scholarship.

October 27, 2006 Posted by | Baptists, heroes, mentors, theology | 20 Comments