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Albert Outler

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  • hamgears
    Hi, everyone. Hope you are all well. I ve been reading some very interesting stuff lately relating to Wesleyan theology and to Christianity generally. William
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 8 10:31 AM
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      Hi, everyone. Hope you are all well. I've been reading some very interesting
      stuff lately relating to Wesleyan theology and to Christianity generally. William
      Abraham, Albert Outler, a magazine called Zion's Herald and that incredibly
      badly written book "The Da Vinci Code."
      I won't go into it all now, but I will mention I'm reading "Theology in the
      Wesleyan Spirit" by Outler. A small book, very well written, and excellent for a
      theological novice like myself. He goes into justification by faith, imputed and
      imparted righteousness and so on.
      One particularly intersting comment by Outler: he writes that Tillich had a
      memory of "a conventional morality of repression and discipline" but that he
      was really part of a kind of amorality represented by the German intelligentsia
      of which he was a part.
      Well, I will go on a bit further here. In Zion's Herald I read an interview with
      Marcus Borg, in which MB talks about the old and new paradigms of
      Chrstianity. He doesn't discuss morality directly but says the older paradigm is
      "absolutist in its understanding of the ethical teaching of the Bible."
      Clearly, he's saying this is one of the big divisions in the church today.
      Do you think he is right?
      Personally, I feel a morality of repression (I'd rather call it restraint) and
      discipline is essential. I wonder to what degree the new paradigm folks are
      eliminating this idea and what their idea of morality involves.
      And this brings up the Da Vinci Code. Borg refers to the book indirectly,
      when he says that of several best sellers dealing with Christianity, all but one
      represent the new paradigm. I haven't quite finished the book, but it seems to
      set up an opposition between the "false" Chrstianity that has been promoted
      by the Catholic Church and organized Christianity generally (which involves
      pain and repression of the self) and the "true" Christianity, which involves the
      "sacred feminine" and, apparently, a return to pagan sexual rituals (I'm not
      totally sure how this figures in the book's thesis since I haven't finished it, but it
      sure seems to be the message).

      Larry
    • Rev. Andrew B. Glos
      ... I can speak to the issue of Tillich. I have only read a few things by Borg and do not feel right commenting on him yet. There is stuff about him I like,
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 12 1:43 PM
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        --- hamgears <lmitchell@...> wrote:
        > Do you think he is right?
        > Personally, I feel a morality of repression (I'd
        > rather call it restraint) and
        > discipline is essential. I wonder to what degree the
        > new paradigm folks are
        > eliminating this idea and what their idea of
        > morality involves.

        I can speak to the issue of Tillich. I have only
        read a few things by Borg and do not feel right
        commenting on him yet. There is stuff about him I
        like, and stuff I really do not care for.

        As for Tilich: He gets a bad rap by conservatives
        who think he wa sthe poster child for liberalism and
        cultural appeasement. Truthfully, Tillich fits pretty
        squarely within the 20th century neo-orthodoxy and
        dialectical theology movement (although in very much
        his own way).
        Tillich's little book "Beyond Morality" is a
        wonderful expression of his beliefs regarding
        morality, ethics, proper restraints, etc. Tillich
        believed that in Jesus Christ God has revealed to us
        our true humanity. In fact, we would not know anything
        about the right way to live if God did not reveal to
        us how we should live in the world. If we are grasped
        by the power and grace of Jesus Christ, we will live
        within the power of the new being Christ inparts unto
        us.
        Tillich believed - however - that special laws and
        codifications of morals are wrong headed because they
        fail to take into account that serving God in one era
        or one place may call upon us to act differently than
        serving God in another time and place. For example,
        "love" may require us to be stern with one child and
        lenient with another. Tillich felt hard and fast rules
        failed to take into account the complexity of a real
        and messy life.
        But note that Tillich stands firmly in the tradition
        of believing there are real absolutes which required
        our obedience and that these absolutes were from God
        alone. Bu he urged creative appropriation of those
        absolutes in each new situation.

        Anyway, hope this helps regarding Tillich, whom I
        have always admired, even though I have not been able
        to follow him. For a Lutheran, he was very much a
        Wesleyan at heart.

        Andrew G.

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      • hamgears
        Thanks for your thoughtful response, Andrew. That book by Tillich sounds good. I ll try to get it. (BTW -- what was the name again of the book on
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 15 10:01 AM
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          Thanks for your thoughtful response, Andrew. That book by Tillich sounds
          good. I'll try to get it. (BTW -- what was the name again of the book on
          connectionalism you recommended? It seems related to what Abraham is
          writing about -- a worry that UM churches will just go whatever way the local
          congregations desire, which he says they do now).
          Regarding neo-orthodoxy and dialectical theology. The former I associate
          with Barth. Could you briefly summarize it? If Tillich is part of it, are Bultmann
          and Niebhur and Thieliecke, also? Is dialectical theology the idea that
          theology must correlate with the culture. Tillich often mentions this. But what
          does that mean: correlate with the culture? Does it mean during the hippie era
          we have a "wear flowers in your hair theology" and during the 50s we have a
          theology of sexism and machismo? Probably not. But what does it mean?
          In the little book I read, Outler disparages Tillich for his romances with
          students. And he quotes what he calls the well-known passage from Tillich's
          most-famous sermon, "You Are Accepted." The sermon talks about how
          maybe in the middle of a long struggle, or after having hurt someone and
          feeling guilty, you hear (figuratively) the voice of God saying, "You are
          accepted." Tillich in the famous passage says something like, Don't ask what
          this means. Don't think about what you will do next. The answers to those
          questions will come in time. For now just cherish this golden moment of
          acceptance, integration, feeling of wholeness." Outler is critical, I think,
          because this moment doesn't seem to involve a call to repent or change or do
          better.
          I wonder if there isn't a key distinction here, where Tillich, as a Lutheran,
          emphasizes God's love for us, and Outler, as a Wesleyan (or holiness guy)
          wants emphasis on doing better.
          But also, one of the big issues in Abraham and the renewal movements
          generally seems to be where is the limit of Methodism's big umbrella. Tillich
          may be seeming to suggest that there are no boundaries (and the Bible does
          say nothing can separate us from the love of God).
          I was talking to a conservative Episcopalian minister yesterday who said
          every group has boundaries and outcasts. He said he would not allow a neo-
          Nazi, for example, to hold a leadership position in his church and maybe he
          wouldn't let him take communion (I don't remember if he said that as well).
          Should Tillich, as a womanizer (allegedly) be prohibited from preaching? Or
          should we consider that maybe there were reasons for his behavior stemming
          from his real, messy life?

          Larry










          Andrew wrote:

          I can speak to the issue of Tillich. I have only
          read a few things by Borg and do not feel right
          commenting on him yet. There is stuff about him I
          like, and stuff I really do not care for.

          As for Tilich: He gets a bad rap by conservatives
          who think he wa sthe poster child for liberalism and
          cultural appeasement. Truthfully, Tillich fits pretty
          squarely within the 20th century neo-orthodoxy and
          dialectical theology movement (although in very much
          his own way).
          Tillich's little book "Beyond Morality" is a
          wonderful expression of his beliefs regarding
          morality, ethics, proper restraints, etc. Tillich
          believed that in Jesus Christ God has revealed to us
          our true humanity. In fact, we would not know anything
          about the right way to live if God did not reveal to
          us how we should live in the world. If we are grasped
          by the power and grace of Jesus Christ, we will live
          within the power of the new being Christ inparts unto
          us.
          Tillich believed - however - that special laws and
          codifications of morals are wrong headed because they
          fail to take into account that serving God in one era
          or one place may call upon us to act differently than
          serving God in another time and place. For example,
          "love" may require us to be stern with one child and
          lenient with another. Tillich felt hard and fast rules
          failed to take into account the complexity of a real
          and messy life.
          But note that Tillich stands firmly in the tradition
          of believing there are real absolutes which required
          our obedience and that these absolutes were from God
          alone. Bu he urged creative appropriation of those
          absolutes in each new situation.

          Anyway, hope this helps regarding Tillich, whom I
          have always admired, even though I have not been able
          to follow him. For a Lutheran, he was very much a
          Wesleyan at heart.

          Andrew G.
        • Craig L. Adams
          ... ISTM that Abraham is directing his criticism almost entirely at recent *United Methodist* expressions of Wesleyan Theology under the influence of Albert
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 16 7:45 AM
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            on 4/15/04 1:01 PM, hamgears at lmitchell@... wrote:

            > But also, one of the big issues in Abraham and the renewal movements
            > generally seems to be where is the limit of Methodism's big umbrella.

            ISTM that Abraham is directing his criticism almost entirely at recent
            *United Methodist* expressions of "Wesleyan Theology" under the influence of
            Albert Outler.

            There was a feeling at one time that appeal to Wesley would somehow bring
            coherence and unity to the UM Church - we would all look to a common hero
            and a common source and a common theological method. But, this has not
            worked. Various sorts of appeals to Wesley are being made in support of
            diverse perspectives and goals. So, in that sense (this type of) Wesleyan
            Theology has failed.

            But, in the circumstances how could have "worked"? What would "work" now?
            Outler's efforts allowed UMs the illusion that we were committed to a common
            tradition & theological method, even if we did not see eye to eye on all its
            implications. But, a theological method which can be utilized in so many
            different ways cannot be considered a common theological method.

            But, the Wesleyan Theology characteristic of the original 18th --> 19th
            century Wesleyan revival movements is quite a bit different than the Outler
            form of Wesleyan Theology. And always was.

            Just to mention one thing: in the original Methodist movement Wesley alone
            was not the sole theological authority. He was recognized (to use Abraham's
            terminology) as the midwife of the Methodist movement, but there was a great
            wealth of Biblical & theological material that Methodist preachers also had
            and used: Fletcher, Benson, Clarke, Coke, Watson, etc. Yes, Wesley was
            honored and respected, but his voice was not the sole defining voice of the
            Methodist perspective. So, in some ways at least, the perspective that
            Abraham is taking with regard to Wesley was more characteristic of
            Methodists in the early days of the movement than it is of United Methodists
            today.

            Wesley initiated the Wesleyan movement. But it has always been bigger than
            Wesley. He was never the movement's primary theologian or Bible scholar. He
            pointed in a direction that others followed.

            I do not personally believe that the theological & moral diversity in the UM
            Church can be accommodated w/o dismantling the connectional system. If the
            limits of the umbrella get defined, then some people will have to go
            elsewhere. If we define our stance than we define what "heresy' or "false
            teaching" are. And, then the false teachers have to go! (And, BTW, that's
            okay with me.) But, if we don't have the will to do that, we will have to
            allow all clergy persons and local churches to follow their own best lights,
            and go their own way. No more connectionalism. Such an organizational
            structure assumes that more is held in common than is currently the case.

            --
            Craig L. Adams
            Weidman United Methodist Church
            http://www.gbgm-umc.org/weidman/
            Some Old Books from My Library
            http://homepage.mac.com/craigadams1/
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