Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ousting the Moderator of the General Assembly Middle East Committee: an ideological power play

It cannot be stated with any more forceful terms than Presbyterians For Middle East Peace have stated it. Until now the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has not been known for its ideological purges, but when the Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons, and the Moderator of the General Assembly ousted Rev. Al Butzer from his week old position as Moderator of the 221 General Assembly committee on the Middle East, because of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, denominational leadership slipped into a new and dangerous arena.

Much of the Jewish community and many Presbyterians have questioned the bias of the leadership of the PC (U.S.A.) when it comes to Israel and the Jewish people, they can be certain now that, yes, many in leadership are prejudiced.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace have put out a press release today titled “After Pressure from BDS leaders, GA Middle East Committee Moderator Is Removed.” Go there to read about the inane reasons for ousting Butzer from his position.

One of the disgusting contrasts in this issue is that just a few months ago the PC (U.S.A,) leadership during a controversy over a horrific publication, Zionism Unsettled, by the Presbyterian Israel/Palestine Mission Network, refused to speak against the booklet because, they wrote, the denomination is a diverse denomination with many different views. But apparently not diverse enough to allow a well respected Presbyterian pastor the right to moderate a GA committee because he manages to have friendships with both Jews and Palestinians. Horrors, what if he doesn't agree with the BDS movement or the Presbyterian leadership!

And will this rebuild trust within those Presbyterians who have begun to believe they simply can’t trust their own denomination? Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the midst of a church struggle wrote, “Trust will always be one of the greatest, rarest and happiest blessings of our life in community, though it can emerge only on the dark background of a necessary mistrust. We have learned never to trust a scoundrel an inch, but to give ourselves to the trustworthy without reserve.”

In the midst of some dark times I believe we have some lessons to learn—at this point I no longer believe we can trust Presbyterian polity on any issue—power has become too important to too many in leadership. But at the same time we know the strength and trustworthiness of God and the trustworthiness of friends. A friend once wrote to me, “We had a first light snow last night, spring is coming.” And so it is.

The 2014-2015 Horizon's Bible Study "Reconciling Paul" - a continuing review # 5

A man slowly becoming a wolf, in Charles Williams, 'The Place of the Lion', seeks his prey. He snarls, “Slowly, Lord, slowly! I’ll make sacrifice—the blood of the sacrifice,” and at that a sudden impatient anger caught [another] young man.

“Fool,” he cried out, “There’s only one sacrifice, and the God of gods makes it, not you.”

I was reminded of this scene as I studied the fifth lesson in the Presbyterian Women’ Bible Study, “Reconciling Paul.”

Starting with the Shaker song, “Simple-Gifts,” lesson five of the Presbyterian Women’s Horizon Bible study barely begins with Scripture before skipping much of the text. The author, Hinson-Hasty, uses some of the text to supposedly prove that humanity is called to strive to bring about the new creation; not through proclamation of the good news of redemption but by less consumption and a sense of interdependence with nature.  

She simply skips over the important meat of the text to write about what she refers to as “ecocide.” Jesus Christ and his redemptive work are only explained as they fit within ecological problems. This is how Hinson-Hasty puts it as she writes about 2 Corinthians 5:20:

God and human beings are understood here as working together, co-groaning, co-travailing, in the process of giving birth to a new creation. “New creation is being birthed not only within individuals, but within the whole cosmos. In this lesson, you will explore in greater depth Paul’s understanding of new creation, consider the whole creation as an interdependent reality, and begin to think about the work of reconciliation as a partnership between people and planet earth.

The lesson, “Reconciliation and the Whole Creation,” covers 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:10, which includes rich promises.  God reconciles us to himself through Christ Jesus. We are made new and promised a place in God’s new creation. The apostolic witness is the call to proclaim God’s reconciling act in Christ.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

Hinson-Hasty correctly insists that the new creation in Paul’s writing includes more than the individual, and many scholars agree with her that ‘new creature’ may be translated ‘new creation.’ Still by simply ignoring the redemptive parts of these particular verses, ‘not counting their trespasses,’ and “He made him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him,” Hinson-Hasty, has turned the meaning away from its Christological center.

The reconciling is to God through the work of Christ. The work the Christian is to do in this case is to call sinners to the gift of Christ that they might be reconciled to God. Does this preclude being concerned about the health of the earth? Absolutely not, but the author is reading more into the text then is there. And not only is she adding her own political views to the text, she is taking away the importance of the good news of Jesus’ redemptive work.
Hinson-Hasty also uses some of the text of Romans 8:19-23 to explain Paul’s meaning of 2 Corinthians. She writes:

In Romans 8:19-23 the whole creation is groaning and travailing together in pain like a woman in labor. In a sense, the whole creation gets caught up in a larger process of bringing something new into being, co-groaning and co-travailing, in the ongoing acts of creativity and redemption.

But, this isn't the meaning of the Roman’s text; the groaning of creation is not bringing something new into being, but creation and the redeemed are waiting for the new in the midst of pain. The acts of creativity and redemption belong to God alone. The pains are like childbirth, but the action is God’s final act of resurrecting the bodies of his adopted sons and daughters. Then creation will be free.

F.F. Bruce writing of this chapter in Romans notes the glory of the whole event which includes not only the redeemed but also fallen creation:

When the day of glory dawns, the glory will be manifested on a universal scale in the people of God, the glorified community of Christ. Something of the glory is already visible: Paul elsewhere sees a special splendor in the church as the fellowship of the reconciled, and thinks of it as being displayed even at this present time to celestial beings as God’s masterpiece of reconciliation: ‘that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places’ (Eph. 3:10).  But what is now seen in limited and distorted fashion will be seen in perfection when the people of God at last attain the goal which he has ever had in view for them—complete conformity to his glorified Son.

Bruce goes on to speak of a transformed universe which occurs when the redeemed are completely transformed. But this is God’s work; creation, including redeemed humanity waits. And speaking of the groaning, and waiting, Archibald Thomas Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, writes, “This mystical sympathy of physical nature with the work of grace is beyond the comprehension of most of us. But who can disprove it?”
Robertson goes on in several places to show that both the children of God and nature are waiting for the coming of Christ.

The Horizon’s lesson begins with a song, Simple Gifts, written by Shaker founder, Ann Lee, who believed she was the second coming of Christ, yet the lesson fails to lift up the hope of the Christian, the true second coming of Christ and the bodily resurrection of those who belong to Christ. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jesus is risen!

Christ is risen and death is swallowed up in his victory.  Its sting is gone, united in his death we are destined for resurrection. He was raised bodily. Touch and see where I was wounded he said to Thomas. Jesus took the time to go through all of the Hebrew Scriptures explaining the promises of his coming, life, death and resurrection.

"Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24: 2526)

In another appearance Jesus turned his disciples eyes back to the holy word:

Now he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled."

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and he said to them: "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  (Luke 24:44-48)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday & Holy Saturday and guilt: it is about me

I sat here for an hour listening to videos and thinking what I should write for Good Friday and Holy Saturday, instead I kept turning to my own particular sinfulness. It isn’t those pushy progressives messing everything up; it’s my own disobedience to Christ. It’s my own desire to disengage from the battle at hand and go pick peas and roses and sit in the sun and read novels. It’s me wanting to take a lazy train to somewhere, but not a plane to Detroit. It’s me wanting to sit outside at a café with some coffee or a good dark stout and think about something besides … well God knows. But I am not alone in this, there is the Church.

And in the Church, that group of individuals, who name Christ as Lord, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, is that place where we see our guilt and confess our guilt.  He writes, “The Church is precisely that community of human beings which has been led by the grace of Christ to the recognition of guilt towards Christ.”

And guilt towards Christ is apostasy. And here Bonhoeffer speaks words that themselves open my eyes to my guilt:

It is a sign of the living presence of Christ that there are men in whom the knowledge of the apostasy from Jesus Christ is awake not merely in the sense that this apostasy is observed in others but in the sense that these men themselves confess themselves guilty of this apostasy. They confess their guilt without any sidelong glance at their fellow offenders.

Going further Bonhoeffer writes “With this confession the entire guilt of the world falls upon the Church, upon the Christians, and since this guilt is not denied here, but is confessed, there arises the possibility of forgiveness.”

This is from Bonhoeffer’s Ethics, and there is much more including the church’s confession as spoken by the individual for the church. It begins with words that remind the reader of the Decalogue:

The Church confesses that she has not proclaimed often and clearly enough her message of the one God who has revealed Himself for all times in Jesus Christ and who suffers no other gods beside Himself. …

Picture by Ethan McHenery

Monday, April 14, 2014

The 2014-2015 Horizon's Bible Study "Reconciling Paul" - a continuing review # 4

This is Holy Week and I am attempting to write my review of lesson 4 of the Presbyterian Women’ Bible study, Reconciling Paul with the week’s somberness and final celebration as my focus.  

In lesson 4, "Carrying in Our Bodies Jesus' Acts of Healing, Reconciliation, and Love," the text, 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10 carries the events of Holy Week, the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ, into the lives of individual believers as well as the whole church. While Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, the author of the lesson, focuses on that part of the text which speaks of Christ’s suffering and death there is no mention of resurrection.  One is left with advocacy for the oppressed which is good but not the final blessed outcome of the gospel.

As Hinson-Hasty shows Paul speaks of carrying about in his body the death of Jesus.  However, in order to do justice to that statement the text surrounding it is needed. This isn't just about death; it is about resurrection, not an abstract idea of eternality but real bodily resurrection.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. (4:7-18)

Jesus’ life given to the believer is real life based on the fact that a bodily resurrected Jesus sees and guides the Christian through the Holy Spirit and makes himself known in the midst of trials. And as Colin Kruse points out in his Tyndale commentary on 2 Corinthians the being delivered over to death and carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus is not “a mystical” statement, but a reality of the suffering of Paul and his companions.  Nor is the life of the resurrected Jesus mystical, but is truly “manifested in his body.” Kruse writes:

Thus the one who proclaims the crucified and risen Lord finds that what is proclaimed in his message is also exemplified in his life. On one hand he is daily subject to forces which lead to death, but on the other hand he is continually upheld, caused to triumph, and made to be more than a conqueror by the experience of the risen life of Jesus in his mortal body (cf. Rom. 8:35-39; 2 Cor. 1:8-10; 2:14; Phil. 3:10; 4:1213).

Hinson-Hasty focuses the idea of God’s power in bodies to marginalized bodies and how God’s power overcame the marginalization.  She writes:

Understanding the body in this context [the way some bodies were marginalized in ancient Rome and its many conquered lands] punctuates the radicalness of Paul’s use of the metaphor “treasures in clay jars.” When Paul claims that God is made manifest in a weak, earthenware vessel, he directly challenges the dominant hierarchical scale upon which people in his culture judged and valued different bodies.

So her focus is on such groups as women and slaves but this misses the point.  Paul isn’t here pointing to only the oppressed; he is referring to all bodies. Human bodies (which include the soul) are like earthen vessels. We are all prone to crack and break; we are all sinners, rich and powerful, poor and marginalized. And it is those who have Christ who have the treasure of God found in Jesus Christ. His glory shines through the broken vessels spreading to others with the life that belongs to God.

And this is not possible without the resurrection a Christian reality that Hinson-Hasty never addresses in this study. There are hints but one is reminded of a sixties song that speaks of Jesus but never quite passes by his death.
Hinson-Hasty writes:

For Paul, God’s power is best exemplified in the crucified body of the Jewish Jesus. The broken Jesus still remained a treasure and overcame defeat, even in the death dealt to him by the most powerful empire of his time. By using the metaphor of “treasure in clay jars” to describe the body of the community, Paul associates the power of the community of faith in acts that make the strong weak and the weak strong.

Speaking of Gnosticism, Hinson-Hasty wants to emphasis that Paul is not “saying that we can or even should try to escape from our bodies.” This is true but it misses the promise of God of our own bodily resurrection when we shall be like our Lord.  But here the author attempts to clarify the future and make way for better things—and yet she leaves the reader without hope:

Paul says that the realization of God’s redemptive future will be embodied, realized in fragile bodies, even if in an imperfect way.

The community of believers gathered at Corinth had realized and embodied some of Jesus’ teachings and yet there were more to be realized. Both Paul and the Corinthian church were living within the boundaries established by Greco-Roman culture, but they were growing beyond the limitations that their culture imposed on them.

Hinson-Hasty’s view of the Christian’s future is entirely materialistic and progressive. While it contains the promise of good deeds which she will later connect to those Christians who rightly stood for equality in South Africa, it nevertheless leaves death and sin unconquered.
Jesus Christ, lived, died and rose again. The Christian carries that death in his body too often suffering as Christ suffered. But the Christian also carries the life of Christ infusing God’s world with the love of Jesus.
Picture by Stephen Larson

Friday, April 11, 2014

The 2014-2015 Horizon's Bible Study "Reconciling Paul" - a continuing review # 3

The third lesson in the Presbyterian Women’s Bible Study is “Covenants and God’s faithfulness.” The biblical text is 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6. This lesson, written by Hinson-Hasty, covers a wide range of theological issues.  Yet, the most important issue in this lesson is the author’s denial of the biblical teaching that “God’s full and final revelation is only in Christ.”

Three theological issues drive this study: (1) Hinson-Hasty’s misunderstanding of evangelical eschatology and its connection to covenant theology; (2) God’s covenant/s; (3) the denial of the uniqueness of Jesus.

I have added the first issue, eschatology, the return of Christ, to an already loaded posting because of a quote by Hinson-Hasty. Under the subtitle, “Paul’s Jewishness and the Consistency of God’s Covenant,” when writing of the new covenant, she states:

For example, premillennial evangelicals promoting what is known as “new covenant theology” look upon such passages as these in Paul’s letters to support their belief that clear distinctions are made throughout the biblical text  that prove that the “new covenant”  supersedes the “old covenant.”  In other words from the perspective of “new covenant theology,” God’s full and final revelation is only in Christ.”  Judaism is an unfulfilled religious faith and represents only a partial fulfillment of God’s covenant.

First notice the words ‘premillennial evangelicals.” There are the dispensational premillennial evangelicals who uphold a teaching called the rapture, a fairly recent teaching. They believe in two second comings of Christ, once to gather believers out of the world and then again to set up his kingdom. But the other branch is classic to many of the early church fathers and mothers. That is the teaching that Christ will return and set up a thousand year kingdom.

There is one other teaching that is classic and that is amillennialism. That is the teaching that the thousand year kingdom refers to the whole church age. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), among evangelicals and orthodox, the latter two definitions are probably well represented.  Dr. David Torrance, a brother to Thomas and James Torrance is undoubtedly, from his writings, a premillennialist, and he sees the Jewish people, whether in rebellion or in obedience, as the elect of God. But he also believes that to experience salvation they must experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Earlier Hinson-Hasty insists that those who claim that “God exclusively reveals the path to salvation in the person of Jesus Christ,” have used the claim to “marginalize people of other faiths,” and later infers that because of the Holocaust the church must rethink her position on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. For Hinson-Hasty, this all revolves around the idea of God’s covenant. The question is has God annulled the covenant with the Jews in order set out a new covenant?

Hinson-Hasty writing of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12 & 15) calls it a perpetual covenant and divides it from a conditional covenant giving the text of Deuteronomy 12-1 as an example of the latter.  She sees the abrahamic covenant as different because it rests solely upon God’s faithfulness and the consistency of God’s care.  And it does rest on those two attributes of God.

However, Hinson-Hasty in attempting to make an allowance for salvation outside of Jesus Christ empties the covenant God made with Abraham. The promises in each instance of God’s covenant making are all there in the covenant to Abraham, not only land, a small thing compared to the promise of being God’s people and blessing the nations, but also all the promises of the Messiah are in God’s covenant. It is the Messiah who will bless, redeem and sit on the throne of King David ruling the nations. The ‘new’ covenant does not change the Old Testament covenant it fulfills it. It is one covenant.

The Jewish people have not ceased to be the chosen, in obedience and disobedience they are still the Lord’s. God, to fulfill the promise, sent them into exile in Babylon, away from the land, that they might return minus the idols they so loved. This was God’s consistent care and faithfulness to all of us, Jew and Gentile.  God in consistent care and love fulfilled the myriad promises to Israel that a redeemer and king would be sent and this was for all of us. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ.

Hinson-Hasty is making the case that both the covenant to Abraham and the ‘new’ covenant that Paul writes of which is tied to Jeremiah 31:31-33 rests on God’s faithfulness and that “the new covenant should not be seen as contrary to the first.” I think she is right but she is missing the messianic part of the whole covenant.  Hinson-Hasty quotes Romans 3:1-4 which is:

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true ….

While I concur with that verse, Paul doesn't leave the matter there. He goes on to speak of how God is faithful. It is the fulfillment of rich promises to the Jew first and then to the Gentile:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. (Romans 3:21-25 a.)

Although, as I have stated,  Hinson-Hasty appeals to the Holocaust as a reason for Christians to change their views about the superiority of Jesus, the truth is it was those Christians who held to the superiority of Jesus Christ and his Lordship who refused to be fettered by Hitler’s bigotry. In answer to the German Christians who were insisting on the Aryan clause in the church’s constitution which would exclude Jewish Christians from the church, Karl Barth wrote:

The fellowship of those belonging to the Church is not determined by blood, therefore, not by race, but by the Holy Spirit and Baptism. If the German Evangelical Church excludes Jewish-Christians, or treats them as a lower grade, she ceases to be a Christian Church.

And yet, Barth is the one who wrote most of the Theological Declaration of Barmen which among other things states:

1. I am the way and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. … I am the door: if any one enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)

Jesus Christ as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events, and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation. (8.10-8.12)

Truthfully, Hinson-Hasty is simply pushing for Christians to deny that salvation is only in Jesus alone.  She, like most pluralists, denies the uniqueness of Jesus. She writes:

There is a wonderful diversity of faith traditions beyond Judaism and Christianity that make up the religious landscape of the world—Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, and many more. Amid this colorful diversity, Christians need not insist on their own superiority to explain or claim the efficacy of their own faith. Learning about the faith traditions of other peoples, entering into authentic relationship with others, and seeking to understand the mysterious God who inspires us all bears the greater promise for us to deepen our understanding of God’s unconditional love and begin to embody that love ourselves.

Certainly, we should not claim our own superiority, we like everyone else are sinners, but we should winsomely, kindly, joyfully proclaim the superiority of Jesus Christ.  But what is that superiority? It is that God took on our flesh, lived among us, suffered and died for us and rose again. It is, that in our faith, given by the Holy Spirit, we are united to the resurrected Jesus and are given in grace, eternal life, his righteousness, and forgiveness.  

Picture by Ethan McHenry

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 2014-2015 Horizon's Bible Study "Reconciling Paul" - a continuing review # 2

“Paul in the Context of Ancient Corinth” lesson # 2

One of the great disservices to the Christian community is the use of speculative theology; such theology should not be trusted. It is the attempt to make theological statements when there is no biblical textual information to back up the statement. Years ago I worked with an apologetics group and it often fell my lot to read some rather strange books coming from the far fringe side of the charismatic movement. Speculative theology was generally the problem and too many times it led to heresy.
2 Corinthians, chosen by Presbyterian Women for the 2014-2015 Bible study, lends itself to the same problem. There is uncertainty about how many letters Paul wrote to the Corinth church and whether any of the extras might be found within the second letter. There are also questions about the kinds of problems Paul and the Corinthian church were experiencing. But the problems have answers arrived at by proper scholarship and with the understanding that they will undoubtedly never know all the answers with certainty.

Rosemary Radford Ruether:

Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, author of Reconciling Paul, the PW’s Bible study, in the first as well as the second lesson, uses a radical feminist author, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and speculates wildly about events and people in the text. Given Ruether’s theology the reader should expect speculation when encountering her writing. This section of my review will cover information about Ruether since Hinson-Hasty not only uses her in the first two lessons but also in her first footnote includes pages 75-82 of Ruether’s book, Sexism and God-talk: Toward a Feminist Theology
In Ruether’s book Sexism and God-talk, which Hinson-Hasty uses in her first lesson (p. 11), Ruether states, “Christ, as redemptive person and Word of God, is not to be encapsulated ‘once-for-all’ in the historical Jesus.” In other words, Jesus and Christ are not the same and the living word of God will appear in other incarnations.

In the same book Ruether writes of God as the Primal Matrix and refers back to a primordial matrix writing, “the liberating encounter with God/ess is always an encounter with our authentic selves resurrected from underneath the alienated self.”[1]
Ruether’s view of deity is either a panentheistic or a pantheistic view. The former means that creation is a part of God but God is more than creation, the latter means that God is everything and/or everything is God.[2] Panentheists generally view God as dynamic and changing. Hinson-Hasty’s views about God and humanity seem to fit neatly into the first view, panentheism.

In the pages listed in Hinson-Hasty’s footnote of Ruether’s book one finds a continuing supposed history of patriarchy’s horrific treatment of women. This is after Ruether has attempted, much earlier in her book to prove that the first religions were goddess centered. The last statement in the section highlighted by Hinson-Hasty is a historical myth created by an early 19th century feminist, Matilda Joslyn Gage and carried forward by Mary Daly in her book, Beyond God the Father
The myth presented by Ruether is that in the 14th to 17th century up to a million (Gage and Daly raised the number to 9 million), witches were burned at the stake by church leaders (men). The truth is that must accusations were by other women who were concerned about domestic protections of small children and animals, and the one million is itself inflated.[3]

Looking at lesson two:
The second lesson in the PW Bible study, is meant to cover 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4. Hinson-Hasty writes about the many letters to the Corinthians and she writes about the city and its culture. She also writes about the problems Paul faces within the Corinthian church. But this is where her speculation begins.

Hinson-Hasty attempts to make the man, Apollos, one of Paul’s problems. She quotes Ruether writing:

Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether points out in her book Women and Redemption: A Theological History that for those attracted to Apollos’s [sic] teachings, new life in Christ begun in baptism, overcame the old world of sin and brought the believer into a present experience of resurrected life.”
Hinson-Hasty continues Ruether’s thoughts:

This new life overcame gender differences, equalized social relationships, and was often expressed in assemblies where the spirit fell upon and inspired both women and men to pray and testify about their beliefs.
Hinson-Hasty then writes that Ruether “suggests that Paul felt threatened by these practices and confronts them in his letters to the community in Corinth.” The author then mentions that Apollos met friends of Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, who in their concern “took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. (Acts18:26)” Hinson-Hasty with Ruether is wildly speculating as well as shredding several biblical texts.

Several items from Ruether’s book, Women and Redemption, will add clarity to the statements because reading the quotes is confusing; it would seem that Paul and Apollos should be in agreement. But if one reads further in Ruether’s book they will find that she believes that Apollos held the theological position of a ‘realized eschatology.’ That is she implies that Apollos taught that the kingdom of God had already fully arrived and there was no need for the return of Jesus.  The actual biblical teaching has to do with ‘already not yet;’ the kingdom has come because of the work of Christ, but not in its fullness. It will come in fullness with the return of the lord.

And there is no textual reason to believe that Apollos was a problem. In 1 Corinthians Paul admonishes the Corinthians because they in arrogance were divided over different leaders who had baptized them. And Apollos is one of the leaders, but only one of them. Ruether in her book insists that Paul’s naming of the other leaders was just a ruse to hide the fact that he was angry with only Apollos.
This is all unfounded speculation meant to open the door to a variety of views about God and inclusiveness in the very early biblical church. But this is a poor methodology. Paul’s words to the Corinthian church must be taken in their whole and common sense meaning. To suggest that Paul was lying to the church to cover his own emotions is simply untenable. It belies the wholeness of the word of God. 
Hinson-Hasty writes that the book of Acts and the letters to the Corinthians contradict each other. That acts shows that the Corinthian church was mostly Jews while 1 Corinthians portrays them as Gentiles. She gives Acts 18:4-11 as her proof. But Hinson-Hasty fails to read further into chapter 18 where Paul as usual leaves the Synagogue and turns to the Gentiles.

Next Hinson-Hasty turns to the opinions of “post-colonial” theorist and after looking at the wide range of “socio-economic groups” in the Corinthian church decides that one of the problems occurring was Paul’s refusal to accept patronage from the wealthier members of the church.  And yet Paul instead makes a case for the right of those who lead and work for the church to be cared for by the church. Paul did not asked for pay so that he might not cause a “hindrance to the gospel of Christ.” Paul is so concerned that the gospel of Christ be preached without attachments that he writes: 

I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it (1 Corinthians 9:23).
Hinson-Hasty closes the second lesson giving suggestions about what Paul might have taught the Corinthian church while there.  And wonderfully, she is right Paul did focus on Christ crucified. Still, Hinson-Hasty opines that we may never know the Corinthians answer to Paul, and prepares the reader for the next lesson with the words:

Some biblical scholars suggest that perhaps the message that Paul left went to their heads, or better their egos, because after he left the church Paul began to hear news about divisions and factions that had developed. In Paul’s interpretation of the situation, some were claiming ‘spiritual superiority.’  That they had the power of God.
The reader is being prepared for the next lesson. It is about pluralism, and the view that to find Jesus superior, above all other lords or gods, is to dabble in spiritual superiority.  

[1] Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, reprint, (Boston: Beacon press 1993), 48, 71. See also, Viola Larson, An Exploration: Feminist Ethics and the Principles of Orthodox Christianity, Masters History thesis “Rosemary Radford Ruether” 49-57.
[2] For more information on Ruether’s God views see: John w. Cooper, Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2006) 291-294.
[3] For more information on this subject see, “The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #3” at http://naminghisgrace.blogspot.com/2011/09/rise-of-radical-feminism-in-mainline_23.html.

Picture Saint Paul Writing His Epistles Probably Valentin de Boulogne (1591 - 1632) (French) Wikipedia