Blogs en-us Sat, 13 Aug 2022 09:08:43 GMT Thoughts on Change to an overwhelming week, I have not had time to write a blog as I normally would for the Quest News. I thought in place I would offer a few notes on current events in my life and what I am thinking about. I hope they are of interest if not inspirational. My uncle died recently, the husband of my mother’s sister. His death made me think of my father because my uncle and fSun, 24 Apr 2022 00:00:00 -0400The Serious Comedy of Palm Sunday have always been skeptical about whether what we call “Palm Sunday” was a historical event. The problem is that the story is recorded in the Gospel of Mark and copied in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story is also recorded in John, but John probably knew Mark or, at least, knew the story from Mark. This means that there Sun, 17 Apr 2022 00:00:00 -0400In Defense of Being Awake to Religion News Service , since 2006 the Southern Baptist Convention has lost over two million followers. And the trend continues downward. There are many sociological and cultural factors accounting for the trend, and among them is certainly racism within the SBC. To its credit, in 2019 the SBC passed Resolution 9 in which Critical Race Theory wSun, 10 Apr 2022 00:00:00 -0400Embracing the Mythic I developed friendships with Westar classical and biblical scholars, I was mostly a philosopher interested in the problem of history. As a philosopher, I learned about a distinction between res gestae and historia rerum gestarum. Later, with my Westar friends, I learned about the “res gestae” or great accomplishments of Augustus Caesar. However, I want to stick here mostly toSun, 13 Mar 2022 00:00:00 -0500Russia, Ukraine and Us Monday of this past week the Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, reminded the Security Council of his country's history with empire. The borders of his country, like the borders of other African countries, were not drawn by the people of Kenya today. Their borders were drawn up at the Berlin Conference in 1885 where no African representatives were present. Subsequent deciSun, 27 Feb 2022 00:00:00 -0500Is Jesus Becoming Post-Imperial? things happened to the historical Jesus between the time of his life around 30 CE and the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. These “things” were both philosophical and political in nature. The move away from the historic person to the council involved magnifying a post-Jesus and discarding a historical Jesus. Let’s look at a few big things that happened. The very Sun, 13 Feb 2022 00:00:00 -0500Convoys and Constitutions truck convoy, self-titled the freedom convoy, rolled across Canada and into Ottawa this weekend. It is hard to tell who the principal organizer of this event is. I have seen various representatives named in the media and online who speak for the convoy, and I understand several organizations support the convoy. The website where information can be found is called Canada Unity. There oneSun, 30 Jan 2022 00:00:00 -0500Religion and the Fourth Consciousness do not usually write about things related to or close to mysticism, and this writing is not directly about that subject. The comments to follow, however, are unusual for me. I will be general, but I do want to address consciousness in a theological way. I will start with classic psychology. Sigmund Freud has three levels of consciousness, though he did not put it thiSun, 16 Jan 2022 00:00:00 -0500When Fiction Speaks Truth fiction is a made-up story, and truth is something that really happens. That’s the way we normally think. No one who testifies in a court of law agrees to tell the fiction, the whole fiction, and nothing but the fiction. Yet, there are some noteworthy ways, even in a court of law, that fiction is used to support the truth. The Bible is a book of fiction, but it is used in law toSun, 05 Dec 2021 00:00:00 -0500Learning from the Middle Ages of my friends on Facebook posted a fake book meme directed at anti-vaxxers. The book is entitled, “Freedom: How You Can Reject Modern Medicine and Die Like a Medieval Peasant.” I stress that it is a fake book even though, these days, you might wonder. Aside from the jesting title, the fake book made me think about the Middle Ages and ask myself what can be learned from aSun, 28 Nov 2021 00:00:00 -0500Science, Religion and Denial when I do public talks, a question will start with someone saying, “I am not a scholar, but….” I think it is important to say that it is okay not to be a scholar. And, equally important, scholarship is only scholarship about something, not everything. I am not a scientist, and I have no specialty when it comes to technical questions in any number of important scientificSun, 14 Nov 2021 00:00:00 -0500Religion: Ideology and Utopia the 1970s, sociologists distinguished between ideological and utopian forms of religion. The distinction was based on two German words used for social analysis in the late nineteenth century, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. These two German words are often found in English dictionaries, but it remains a challenge to find the best way to trap their meaning in English equivalents. Sun, 24 Oct 2021 00:00:00 -0400Nietzsche- The Good and the Bad postmodern era very much rests on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Many have repeated, and many have been right, that Nietzsche is the event that turned modernity into postmodernity. Nietzsche himself said that he was no human being but dynamite. He was the deconstruction of modernity and the turn to a new age. Nietzsche can sound arrogant, and some of his most outrageous, if Sun, 10 Oct 2021 00:00:00 -0400Nietzsche and the Historical Jesus Nietzsche lived from 1844 to 1900, and the historical Jesus lived in the early first century. They probably did not have a lot in common. As most critically minded people know, determining what Jesus actually said is a question of probabilities narrowed down by methodology, whereas determining what Nietzsche said is a question of opening one of his books. Finding similarities beSun, 26 Sep 2021 00:00:00 -0400Friedrich Nietzsche and John Shelby Spong John Shelby Spong died on Sunday, September 12, at home with his family. Spong was one of those people who had a great influence far and wide. He was an appealing, even remarkable, public speaker. He came out of an evangelical background but turned into an icon of progressive Christianity. He was able to talk to people on the left and the right. He helped thousands move from an authoritaSun, 19 Sep 2021 00:00:00 -0400This is Our House!"This is Our House"One individual inside the United States Capitol Building on Wednesday screamed in anger at ITV reporter Robert Moore, “This is our house!” I think “our house” has become a type of slogan of the Christian Right to excuse or rationalize an intolerant and totalitarian attitude. I want to look at this a bit further. “Our house” isSun, 10 Jan 2021 00:00:00 -0500Christmas According to John According to JohnWhen it comes to Christmas and the birth of Jesus, my favourite gospel is Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew has four interesting women in the genealogy of Jesus, and Matthew knows that Jesus has an unknown father. These two elements make the birth of Jesus in Matthew fascinating. Sometimes I like Luke with the joke about the Shepherds in a barren field receiving unSun, 20 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0500Authentic and Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theories I don’t know very much about pseudo-science, which is the basis of conspiracy theories, but I do know how to define these words. Pseudo is a Greek word that means to lie. Science is a Latin word that means knowledge. Conspiracy comes from Latin and means to breathe together . A conspiracy theory is a shared belieSun, 06 Dec 2020 00:00:00 -0500Humanism, Posthumanism, and Transhumanism: Issues for the Human Future rising questions in theology involve humanism, posthumanism, and transhumanism. I will try to define each of these words and highlight how theology may think about issues of the human future. Humanism, in its modern sense, arose in the seventeenth century and consists of placing value on autonomy, reason, and science. Humanism is not anti-religion, but it is portrayedSun, 22 Nov 2020 00:00:00 -0500The Political Jesus Political JesusI confess I am reluctant to mix politics with religion because the result can be divisive. Nevertheless, I promised thoughts on the topic of the political Jesus. It is important first to say that there is a difference between the political Jesus and the politics of Jesus. We do not know the politics of Jesus because that involves recovering the personal thoughtsSun, 25 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0400Church History and False Dilemmas History and False DilemmasAs the United States' election draws near, it is hard not to speak about politics. I will refrain from doing so, at least directly, but perhaps next week I will venture straight into the question of Jesus and politics. This week I want to touch on a philosophical problem that affects our understanding of history. That topic may not seem as excitingSun, 18 Oct 2020 00:00:00 -0400Ancient Thinking Compared to Modern Thinking Compared to Modern One of the key insights of modern history, from about the eighteenth century onward, is that ancient people had a different worldview compared to the modern worldview. The advent of technical history in the modern period, in which historians rely on evidence and facts, is distinct from the ancient historian’s commitment to tropes, themes, heroic tSun, 27 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0400Saving Araius-A heretic for our Times Arius: A Heretic for Our TimesArius was a presbyter, a leader of a church, somewhere in Libya. He was born sometime before the year 280 and died sometime after the year 333. Not much is known about his life, but that does not matter. Even with scant knowledge about his life and thought, Arius became, in Christian history, the archetype of heresy. Arius is the arch-heretSun, 13 Sep 2020 00:00:00 -0400Learnings of a White Theologian from Black Theology seminal book that introduced black theology to me was James H. Cone’s A Black Theology of Liberation . When I first learned of Cone , I was either too young or too neo-orthodox to appreciate how this writing called me beyond whiteness to a black God. It can be difficult for a white person, even a white progressive, to say thaSun, 21 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0400Theology and Fascism and Fascism In a recent blog I wrote for Westar, I referred to White nationalism as a form of theological fascism. I find it hard to use the word “fascism” because it invokes Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini. Our time is a troubled one, and it does involve both overt and structural racism, but I know it’s still not Nazi Germany. NSun, 07 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0400Tradition: Our Whence or Our Whither Tradition: Our Whence and Our WhitherWhen studying questions in history and philosophy, tradition is a term that often comes into play. The very word “tradition” carries a certain weight. It can seem daunting, limiting, authoritarian, and sometimes punitive. The often-heard phrase in churches or other community associations is that “we’ve never done it this way Sun, 24 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400Five Top Things Early Christians Teach Us Thoughts: Top Five Things Early Christians Teach UsThere are two caveats to acknowledge before listing the top five things early Christians teach us. The first is that early Christians did not call themselves Christians. The word Christian came into common use later in the third and fourth centuries. Conscious of this problem, I will use “early Christian” and Sun, 12 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400Christian Fundamentalism: Trouble with the Bible and Beyond Fundamentalism: Trouble with the Bible and Beyond The political and social trend in North America over the last decade or more has been toward libertarianism. I’m sure that’s not news to anybody. Libertarianism emphasizes minimal government presence in the free market and minimal government assistance of citizens. Ideally, all of us are individuals who shouldSun, 22 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0400Christian Fundamentalism: Trouble with the Bible and Beyond’m sure that anyone who has been in or around Christian fundamentalism knows the question very well. “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal saviour?” Once I was asked this question at a Baptist Church, and when I inquired about what my interlocutor meant by “saviour,” the response was that true Christians did not argue over such questions.Sun, 08 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0500Christian Fundamentalism: Dependence on Rationality o Fundamentalism: Dependance on RationalityWhen I indicated, in the last e-News, that I would issue a series of three blogs on Christian fundamentalism, there was wide interest. When I stated that this second of three blogs would address the fundamentalist dependence on rationality, several people thought this was an oxymoron. If anything, it seems like Christian fundamentalism reSun, 23 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0500Christian Fundamentalism: Trust and Fear Fundamentalism: Trust and FearOver the next three issues of the Quest E-News, my aim is to share my impressions and worries about fundamentalism. I will address the questions of 1) trust and fear, 2) dependence on rationality, and 3) the Bible. As a qualification, I will say that we can and should be open to learning from others; every person has a different life experieSun, 09 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0500After the Jargon the JargonWhen I started graduate studies at McGill University years ago, I recall how much academic jargon my peers and professors commonly used. I knew pretty quickly that if I did not pick up on the jargon and learn how to use it, I would likely not succeed. I decided I needed a trick to survive. The trick was nothing brilliant; I just learned how to break down complex expressionSun, 26 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0500Cult as Community or Isolation as Community or IsolationWhen I was a chaplain at McGill University, over two decades ago, I had an encounter with a cult. Several students had gotten involved in this religious group that claimed its founder was a messiah, and from there various forms of brainwashing techniques were used to isolate students from their friends and families. Following successful conversion, of course,Sun, 12 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0500Cult as Community or Isolation as Community or IsolationWhen I was a chaplain at McGill University, over two decades ago, I had an encounter with a cult. Several students had gotten involved in this religious group that claimed its founder was a messiah, and from there various forms of brainwashing techniques were used to isolate students from their friends and families. Following successful conversion, of course,Sun, 12 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0500Redeeming Paganism in Christianity Thoughts: Redeeming Paganism in ChristianityWhen Christianity rose as a Roman imperial religion, pagan began to take on the derogatory meaning of individuals who were backward, ignorant, and immoral. Paganism is related to the French word “payee,” which means country. The originating Latin word, pagus, was a marker used to set boundaries. Pagan is behind the English wordSun, 22 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0500Church and Gospel Christmas Thoughts: Church and Gospel Christmas In the Christian tradition, this time of year is Advent. Blue and purple are colours often associated with Advent, with blue becoming more popular today. Blue represents the coldness of winter and anticipation of the dawning of the light in Christ. I am not going to write about Christian liturgical colours, but I start here becauseSun, 15 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0500Which God Do I Hear? Thoughts: Which God Do I Hear? Certain passages in the Bible can make us shake our heads asking, “What kind of God would….” Second Kings 2:23–24 is one such passage. Here, a group of young boys jeers the prophet Elijah, calling him a baldhead. Elijah turns around and curses the boys in the name of God; then, two female bears appear and tear forty-two oSun, 17 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0500What's Old is New Again Thoughts: What is Old is New Again Certain issues, questions, and concerns never go away; they may change their form or context, but they seem to hang around forever. One such issue is the relationship between reason and faith. In the twelfth century, Rupert of Deutz , complained about and even mocked new forms of knowledge that had arisen late in hisSun, 10 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0500Render Unto Caesar Thoughts: Render Unto Caesar The headline on the Twitter feed read, “'Prominent Christian activist' says that Evangelicals have a 'moral obligation' to vote for Trump." Christian activists used to be people like Tommy Douglas or Martin Luther King, Jr., and their activism concerned social justice. The “activist” in the Tweet is Ralph Reed, someone who I don&rSun, 13 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0400Why the Historical Jesus Question Matters Thoughts: Why the Historical Jesus Question Matters I have a friend in the United States who says he is an atheist and has been for years. Nevertheless, he loves the historical Jesus question and says that he dreams of writing a book called "Jesus for Atheists." I tell him that I love the title and that he better get going on his dream because I'm tempted to write the book mysSun, 22 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400The Bias Criticism Thoughts: The Bias Criticism I have been writing Quest Learning Centre blogs in this newsletter format for about five years. It is probably not a surprise to know that readers criticize Quest blogs. Some of the criticism is constructive and appreciated, like corrections or fine-tuning to my ancient Greek translations and commentary expanding on some things I have relayed in ovSun, 15 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400The Deaths of God Thoughts: The Deaths of God Last year at Brock University, my students and I hosted a bi-monthly discussion club on various topics in religion. Topics included women in religion, climate change, and immigration. I was surprised that by far the most popular and most discussed issue was the death of God. I thought God died decades ago. I was surprised the topic was such a hot-buSun, 30 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0400Another Look at Heresy Thoughts: Another Look at Heresy If there was a standard list of ancient Christian heresies, it would probably boil down to a top three: Adoptionism, Gnosticism, and Modalism. These three are not real names involving real people. They are "types" of theology characteristic of various ancient theologians and communities. That's the problem with naming heresies. The heresies do Sun, 09 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0400Intersexed Jesus Thoughts: Intersexed Jesus When we think of a typical image of Jesus, likely most of us, most of the time, think of a male, somewhat muscular, probably suffering on a cross, with a beard. It is less likely that we would think of a soft-featured, curly-haired, boy who occasionally passes as a girl. We probably would never or rarely imagine a man-woman or woman-man intersexed fiSun, 26 May 2019 00:00:00 -0400What Makes a Theologian Thoughts: What Makes a Theologian? As a student, I followed theology very closely. Like in sports, I had my idols, and I would measure new theologians and their ideas against my tried and true idols. Although I am not as much a fan of Paul Tillich's as I used to be, I remember first encountering theologian and critical theorist Graham Ward's work and wonderinSun, 12 May 2019 00:00:00 -0400Is Religion the Problem Revised Common Lectionary reading for the second Sunday of Easter includes a reading from Acts with the line, "We must obey God rather than any human being" . The book of Acts is a Christian novel that holds similarities to Homer's Odyssey. Like other ancient novel forms, it is a travel narrative filled with the adventures of its main characters linked togeSun, 28 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0400The Parable and Me Thoughts: The Parable and Me I am reading Bob Funk on parables, and one of the good comments he relays is that we do not interpret parables. Parables interpret us. Funk takes this comment from what was called the "new hermeneutic" or new interpretation. This method sought to understand the cultural conditions out of which a text, like a parable, aroSun, 14 Apr 2019 00:00:00 -0400Decoloniality Thoughts: Decoloniality Comments on theology and philosophy often involve strange, creative words that are not immediately known. Sometimes the word seems familiar but is used in a unique way. The philosopher Martin Heidegger, for example, had a way of using the word "fallenness," which indicates the way we lose the sense of ourselves by falling into the cares of the everyday Sun, 31 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0400The Nature of Religion Thoughts: The Nature of Religion Emile Durkheim is often considered the modern founder of sociology because of his contributions to the analysis of society and the evolution of social structures. He was also one of the first, it is pointed out, to use statistics. His thoughts about religion remain interesting and cause one to think. Durkheim claimed, in TheSun, 10 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0500A Original Creed Thoughts: An Original Creed? In Protestant Christianity, since the time of the Reformation, a dominant idea has been that getting back to the Bible and to original Christianity is the proper act of faith. Martin Luther critiqued the church of his time with dynamic and theatrical contrasts between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross . BacSun, 24 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0500Falsifiability and Religion Thoughts: Falsifiability and ReligionThe definition of falsifiability is the capacity of a proposition, statement, or theory to be proven wrong. Falsifiability is an extremely important but very ironic idea in science. Ironically, true statements must be capable of being proven false. As a child, I often feared there was a goblin of some kind living under my bed. No matter hSun, 17 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0500Hegel and Fascism and Fascism I have a great love for nineteenth-century thinkers. Schleiermacher, Feuerbach, Strauss, Nietzsche, and Marx are among my favourites. I used to love Kierkegaard when I was younger, but I did grow tired of his theism. Then there is G.W.F. Hegel, who I used to dislike when I was younger but have come to appreciate his struggles now that I'm older. Hegel is problematiSun, 27 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500McJesus A provocative work of art inspires thoughts on Jesus' death A piece of art in Israel has sparked outrage among the Israeli Arab Christian minority. The art work in question is entitled “McJesus” and displays a crucified Ronald McDonald. It is on exhibition in the Haifa Museum of Art. Nissim Tal is the Director of the museum and made it clear in Sun, 20 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500Yellow Vests and Maximum Wage Thoughts: Yellow Vests and Maximum Wage The "yellow vest" protest in France has attracted a lot of attention. To my understanding, since 2008 it has been mandatory in France to have a yellow vest in your vehicle. In case of an emergency, it is worn on the roadside both as a reflector and a sign of needed assistance. It is as a sign of needed assistance that the vest has caughtSun, 09 Dec 2018 00:00:00 -0500Jesus as Comedian Thoughts: Jesus as Comedian When I attended the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature a week ago, I heard an excellent lecture on the historical Jesus. It was a lecture about how some scholars conclude Jesus was a wisdom teacher and others conclude he was an apocalyptic prophet. This question never goes away, and I never lose interest in it. The lecturer made thSun, 25 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500Christianity and War Thoughts: Christianity and War If Christianity were truly based on the teaching of Jesus, it would be a religion of non-violence. Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, and walk a second mile - teachings of non-violent resistance - are hallmarks of the voice of Jesus. In its history, though, Christianity has thought Jesus unrealistic, and the church has often been the first Sun, 11 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500Jesus Did Not Die for Our Sins Thoughts: There was much buzz this week at the Westar Institute when it was learned that Greg Gutfeld compared the Brett Kavanaugh hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee to the crucifixion of Jesus. Gutfeld is a Fox News host, so perhaps this is no surprise, but it still remains sad. Gutfeld relayed the typical Christian line apparently taught to him during hiSun, 07 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0400Computers and Theology Thoughts: Computers and Theology I am no expert when it comes to computers. I wish I knew a lot more about programming than I do. I can build a computer, and I have built several computers myself. This might sound impressive except that building a computer is like putting Lego pieces together. It’s really very easy. One thing I have learned on the technical side Sun, 09 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0400Symbol-Making and Deception beings are symbol makers, and as we grow up the first challenge in life is to learn how to use our most basic symbol system, which is language. Other animals and even plants use symbols in certain ways. Some plants, for example, can mimic insect eggs on their leaves to prevent insects from laying real eggs on their leaves. In this case, the plant uses an "egg symbol" for self-defensSun, 03 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0400The Turn from Neo-Orthodoxy Theology Neo-orthodox theology is a fancy term for traditionalism. It identifies a theology that begins with the absolute sovereignty of God and, from there, moves to the apologetic defense of traditional Christian doctrines. The Christian Trinity, for example, is a doctrine that is revered in neo-orthodox theology as an unquestionable revelation. The supreme expression of neo-orthoSun, 13 May 2018 00:00:00 -0400An Avoided Challenge from the 19th Century Thoughts: An Avoided Challenge from the 19th Century I attended a seminary for a mainline Protestant denomination. Though I have since matured in thought, the thing I remember most was having five forms of biblical criticism drilled into my head: form criticism, redaction criticism, textual criticism, source criticism, and literary criticism. Form criticism goes back into the Sun, 06 May 2018 00:00:00 -0400Theology and History on Easter announces that Jesus has risen from the dead. It also announces chocolate, bunnies, and a statutory holiday. In many cases, the latter elements exceed the former in importance. That's understandable. Earliest Christianity tied the resurrection of Christ to the Jewish Passover, and since Passover is a Spring Equinox celebration turned religious, Christians were happy to follow suit.Sun, 01 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400Rome, America and Honesty The parallels between modern America and ancient Rome are curious and sometimes even astounding. There is the Republican definition of government in both ancient Rome and modern America. There are the limited terms for the President and the ancient Consuls. There is the Senate that supposedly represents the people but usually represents the interests of wealth. There is the ebb andSun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400Interpretation and Experience and Experience Biblical scholars make a distinction between scriptural influences and personal influences when examining the resurrection stories about Jesus. This distinction can be described in different ways, but I like to name it as a distinction between interpretation and participation. Interpretation refers to how the first Christians searched the PsalmsSun, 04 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0500Who was Jesus Thoughts: Jesus as a Post-Durkheimian Figure. In the past, I have tried different ways to approach Jesus as a unique historical figure by talking about a "secular" Jesus, a non-apocalyptic Jesus, and a cynic Jesus. In all of these expressions, I have wanted to indicate how the Jesus of history never talked directly about "God" but only indirectly about an empire of GoSun, 18 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500Things are not as they seem. Thoughts: Things are Not as They SeemBy David Galston"How does Jesus compare to other wisdom teachers?" is a question I am frequently asked. I am always hesitant to answer because all ancient teachers, from Socrates to Gautama the Buddha to Lao Tzu, lie deep in the mist of history. For all, it is hard to determine what they really said; for all, it is impossible to know what tSun, 28 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500Christmas and Religious Change and Religious ChangeBy David Galston When we change our diets, two things often happen. One is that our bodies take some time to adjust. When new foods become staples and old foods are no longer eaten, the body notices, reacts, and can take time to accept the new normal. The other thing that happens is that family members, friends, and colleagues also have to adjust to theSun, 17 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500The Inside Joke Quest Thoughts: The Inside Joke I did not get the joke. Musicians laughed at a cartoon about how composers modulate, change from an old to a new key. The joke involved Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Schubert. Bach, for example, used a "circle of fifths." The punchline involved Schubert crossing out the word "old" and writing in the word "new." I'm sure that's funny orSun, 10 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500Good Remembering Remembering One of the major insights arising from early 20th-century biblical scholarship was form criticism. Forms critics noted literary constructs that survived in oral tradition and came to be written down, particularly word plays, poetic repetition, and irony. The book of Ecclesiastes is full of irony, and a Jesus saying like, "how happy are the poor" is also ironic. Sat, 11 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500God is Dead is DeadThe short, famous, phrase of Friedrich Nietzsche, God is dead, is an aphorism and not a statement of belief. Nietzsche did not originate the phrase, but he used it most notably in a parable about a madman. Using the form of a parable uniquely sets the phrase in poignant and poetic expression. If Nietzsche was only saying, God does not exist, that would be diffeSun, 05 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0400A Secular Jesus Secular JesusMy first experiment with the historical Jesus in church occurred in Hamilton, Ontario. I was appointed to lead a community set up to explore new forms of Christianity. I wanted to see if it was possible to take the historical Jesus to church. The answer turned out to be yes, but the church won’t like it. I was not initially prepared for the second half of that answer.Sun, 29 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400Of Time and Dates Charles Darwin's theory of evolution first gained popularity, one criticism was that the natural process he described took time, lots of time. In the 1700's Georges-Louis Leclerc estimated the earth was 75,000 years old. This was not enough time for evolution to produce all the life forms on our planet. Darwin believed the earth had to be about 400 million years old. This was still too shoSun, 15 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400Biblical Criticism Biblical Studies, there are two basic movements of criticism. The backward movement is the study of early units of developing tradition, and the forward movement is the study of later combinations of units into a larger, complex story. These two movements have names. The backward movement is called Form Criticism, and the forward movement is called Redaction Criticism. Sometimes, today,Sun, 24 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400Religion Change Deniers are climate change deniers. Though I do not know, likely most readers of the Quest E-News will say, "Tell me something I don't know." What about religion change deniers? Is there such a thing as religion change denial? According to the Pew Research Center, the American religious landscape is undergoing tremendous change. When we think of loud religious expression in America (and wSun, 10 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400Father's Day Thoughts on Paul Father's Day, it is hard to find positive images of fathers, whether of God or human fathers, in the Bible. The world of the Bible was one in which the typical arrangement was women inside the domestic home and men outside of it. This created familiar images now often associated with sexism: men as protectors, men as authority figures, men as breadwinners, men as knowers (lawmakers and judgeSun, 18 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400The Pearl of Great Price parable is a simple one, yet so very deceiving. It goes like this. "There was a merchant in search of fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of great value, he sold all that he had and bought that pearl" . The standard interpretation of this parable, according to Wikipedia, is that with the pearl the parable represents the great value of the kingdom of God. The celebrSun, 11 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400Fake News and Standards of Knowledge Quest E-news has a wide distribution. Often, readers send questions and comments to the Quest Centre. From an American reader, the following question was asked, to which I'd like to make a response. Q: When I read what you say about religion as a form of critical thinking, how can religion be used to address the present situation in the United States where the vocal alt-right communSun, 04 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400The Philosophy of Religion the Philosophy of Religion, the definition of religion is "a system of rituals and beliefs that make a claim about reality." For example, a Christian might claim that reality is the creation of God, and in relation to this claim might celebrate the ritual of the Eucharist to express the re-creating power of God. The claim and ritual are two sides of the same coin. The important questSun, 14 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400Defending Science to David Friedrich Strauss , angels are mythical beings who serve two purposes. One is to reflect our hope that there is intelligence beyond the human experience, and the other is to portray God as a King with a court of admirers. The second purpose is consistent with the way ancient people portrayed their gods as empirical figures. The first purpose is debatable, but it doMon, 08 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400Spirit, Soul and Mind ancient Greeks had three words to describe human psychology: the spirit, the soul, and the mind. When I first engaged in the academic study of philosophy, I could never tell the difference between them. The spirit and the soul often seemed to be the same thing, but the Greeks had two words to distinguish them. The mind was clearly about knowing, but how did that relate to the spirit and theSun, 16 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400Reconsidering Reinhold Niebuhr is hard to avoid thinking about political issues these days. And politics as it is, it is also hard to avoid thinking about truth and falsity. When a political regime as powerful as the United States Government freely offers truth and facts like choices in a candy store, there is cause to worry. With such contemplation, I turned my attention this week to a theologian of a previous geSun, 02 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400What is a Tyrant? philosopher Aristotle wrote in Book V of his Politics, "People are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious." Aristotle agreed with Plato, his teacher, that such rulers were tyrants and that their actions create social factions that eventually bring a political order to ruin. Leaders whom the Hebrew Bible regarded as illegal or rutSun, 12 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500Cain and Abel someone first learns to study the Bible critically, the moment is often described as a great awakening that begins with a shock. I still remember the first time my childhood belief in the creation narratives of Genesis fell apart. I would have several more "falling apart" events to come, but the first was learning about evolution in grade six. I had to admit even at a young age that evolutSun, 05 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0500Heroism have been many descriptions of the U.S. government's attempt to block travel to and from seven mostly Muslim countries. Presently, the Executive Order is judged unconstitutional and blocked in the U.S. court system. The singularly most critical description of the order is probably "daft." The President and his team signed the order basically without telling anyone, without understanding tSun, 12 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500Facts, Theorems and Theories"Facts alone are what is wanted in life" is one of the opening sentences of Charles Dickens' Hard Times. Thomas Gradgind is the first character we know in that novel who is the teacher who wants the facts. Ironically, this seeker of facts is a fictional character. Perhaps this was Dickens' subtly way of indicating that facts alone are often not what's really going on. Like many people ISun, 05 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500What is Greatness? is greatness? The writers of the Bible, just like us, struggled to determine the greatness of human beings and nations. Sometimes the images and metaphors used were inspiring, and sometimes they were terrifying. The difference depended on the writer's worldview. On an academic level, theology is the study of religious doctrines, but on a popular level theology is a worldvieSun, 22 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500Learning from Karl Marx friends of mine have often said that the problem with Karl Marx's economic theories is that they require an education to understand. This isn't a put-down of anyone . It's an admission that in an age of ease, Marx is a hard sell. Still, Karl Marx is good to know about. His criticisms of capitalism are worth hearing. And as we face a new year and a Sun, 08 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500Radical Aspects of the Christmas Story in the Gospel of Luke the past several months I have participated in "Jesus Seminar on the Road" events . At these events, the effort is to share the results of the academic study of religion with the general public. There are times when people get upset with the academic study of the Bible. To question if a story in the Bible is historical or mythical seems blasphemous to many. Occasionally, someone is asSun, 18 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500What Went Wrong? significant 20th Century subject in Philosophy is called "phenomenology." Both the word and the subject are hard to define, but fortunately examples are easy. When we get used to seeing something everyday, we stop noticing it. When we are accustomed to our mother or father or relative or partner always saying something, we stop listening. When we go through routines every morning, we stop thiSun, 11 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500Humanism and Science is full of things that never happened. Let me make a short list. The exodus of hundreds of thousands from Egypt in approximately 1250 B.C.E. never happened. The physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his ascension to heaven in approximately 35 C.E. never happened. The Buddha born walking and talking with seven lotus flowers blooming at each footstep in approximately 600 B.C.ESun, 04 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500Post-Modern Theology past week I was privileged to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion . Approximately 10,000 scholars from mostly North America and Europe meet each year in the context of the AAR. The meeting is highly stimulating, but it struck me how it is also very "postmodern"; I thought a word on what postmodernity is and why it matters might be in order. We ,of couSun, 27 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500Theology and Poetry past Monday at the age of 82, Leonard Cohen, an iconic Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet, and a member of the Order of Canada, peacefully died at his home in Los Angeles. The Magazine RollingStone stated that "only Bob Dylan exerted a more profound influence on his generation, and perhaps only Paul Simon and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell equaled him as a song poet." On his 1992 album eSun, 13 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0500Halloween is one of those festivals that divides historians. On the one side, Halloween is seen as a Christianization of a Pagan harvest festival that marked the end of Autumn and the beginning of Winter. On the other side, there is doubt cast on the extent to which this festival - marking the remembrance of all the saints and departed faithful - truly emerged from previous Pagan rites. This miSun, 30 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400The Value of Theology is an academic subject that includes history and philosophy. Unlike history and philosophy, however, theology must address contemporary issues and understand why human beings think the way they do. Theology is often about changing our opinion on things or about convincing us there is a better attitude to hold or a better way to live. Philosophy deals with thinking, and history deals wiSun, 16 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400Thanksgiving Origins in the United States and Canada occurs at different times. It's the fourth Thursday of November in the U.S. and the second Monday of October in Canada. When I was a boy I was always told that the harvest time was earlier in Canada, hence the earlier date for the same holiday. As I grew up, I learned that this common assumption neither holds water nor talks turkey, so to speak. Sun, 09 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400Christian Atheism Desmond Tutu once stated that if the White South Africans wanted to keep the Black South Africans down, "they never should have given us the Bible." Though the situation is neither the same nor as severe, the outline seems familiar: if churches do not want their leaders to be skeptical theologians, then they should stop teaching biblical criticism. All Roman Catholic, Greek OSun, 02 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy Jesus Fulfill Prophecy is the title of a book by my friend, Robert Miller. It's a great book that I am pleased to recommend. It makes a very important point that affects not only the study of religion but also something about human life in general. Miller indicates the way the writers of the Christian gospels draw on the prophets of the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate how Jesus fulfSun, 25 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400The Protestant Principle Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. I recall wrestling, on the Sunday following that event, with the question of religion and violence and with the historical Jesus saying, "Love your enemies." One of my friends in ministry asked me what happens when your enemies take advantage of the openings your love offers?" Questions about religion and violence and abSun, 11 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400Q and the Historical Jesus quest for the historical Jesus begins with accepting this basic directive of Hermann Samuel Reimarus , “We are justified in drawing an absolute distinction between the teaching of the Apostles in their writings and what Jesus Himself in His own lifetime proclaimed and taught.” Note that Reimarus says there is an “absolute distinction” between what Sat, 28 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0500The Theology of Mark whole theology of the Gospel of Mark is evident in the outline of the Gospel. Introduction: Words and Deeds Central Section: Identity of Jesus Jesus and Authorities: Controversies Temple Vision: Apocalypticism Death of Jesus: the Passion The introduction, chapters 1 to 8, shows the power of Jesus Sat, 21 Feb 2015 00:00:00 -0500Jesus, History, Church: Some Thoughts assumptions of a person who approaches the Bible historically and with best contemporary knowledge available are threefold: 1) the ancient world and the modern world are different places with different understandings of science, religion, and psychology; 2) Jesus and the gospel writers had different understandings of both Jesus and God, that is, they had different theologies; 3) Jesus was aSat, 20 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0500Christ Myth and the Voice of Jesus “Christ myth” is the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth, as a historical figure from the first century, never existed. However, the proposition that Jesus never existed is really a minor point. Many Christ myth proponents say that Jesus may well have existed, but the point is the myth and not Jesus. So, really, the question is what is the important “myth” in the ChriSun, 07 Dec 2014 00:00:00 -0500Why Care About the Historical Jesus Galston The question about the historical Jesus boils down to this: who was the ancient human being named Jesus of Nazareth? The question does not ask about what Christians or other religious folk think about Jesus. The question does not consider any title for Jesus, like Prophet or Priest or King or Saviour. The question is simply aboutSat, 29 Mar 2014 00:00:00 -0400Jesus the Poet: Politics and Poetic Imagination© David Galston, 2014 It is not easy to talk about the historical Jesus and politics because it is really not clear what sort of political ideology Jesus may or may not have held. What happens is that scholars need first to picture the Jesus of history and then, having calmed these rough waters, figure out how the line starting with Jesus ends at the crucifixion.Sat, 22 Feb 2014 00:00:00 -0500Jesus the Poet: What Did he Mean©David Gaslton, 2014 It is important in our day to make a distinction between science and poetry. Science is technical knowledge and deals with what we call “facts”: things that we can measure and explain through physical evidence. We cannot, and simple do not, call something a fact for which thereSat, 01 Feb 2014 00:00:00 -0500Jesus the Poet: What did he Really Say? David Galston, 2014 When it comes to the problem of the historical Jesus, there is no satisfactory place to start. To talk about the historical Jesus is to talk about a person named Jesus who lived and died in first century Roman Palestine. We can only get to this person by breaking through the Christian confessions, beliefs, and dogmas that hide him from vSat, 25 Jan 2014 00:00:00 -0500Troubling Quests David Galston   To be on a quest is to be willing to explore questions without, if possible, predetermined answers. Depending on what the quest is about, this simple definition can cause a lot of trouble. If we take as an example the three main quests for the historical Jesus, usually called the First Quest, the New Quest, and theSat, 31 Aug 2013 00:00:00 -0400The Prodigal Son of the dilemmas for the writers of the Christian Gospels was the question, Why did Jesus speak in parables? In the Gospel of Mark the answer is that only the inner circle of disciples know the secret of the Kingdom of God but to outsiders the secret is like a riddle. According to Mark, a parable is like a riddle that needs to be decoded. Sun, 31 Mar 2013 00:00:00 -0400Mytheme and Parable Gospel of Thomas 97 David Galston Can’t Jesus just be a normal person, sometimes? Being normal means being a participant in a cultural mytheme . The Greek root here is mimos and it meSun, 27 Jan 2013 00:00:00 -0500Matthew's Birth of Jesus THE BIRTH OF JESUS ACCORDING TO MATTHEW ©David Galston The Gospel of Matthew does not have a virgin birth story, though it is often read that way. When a closer look is taken, Matthew is not concerned with the details of his story. He is concerSat, 17 Dec 2011 00:00:00 -0500