Blogs en-us Mon, 24 Apr 2017 01:23:19 GMT Spirit, 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