Dr. Carl Ellis - Emancipating Our Theology from Western Culture

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TheInquirer

Puritan Board Freshman
That was a concern when Frame made that statement but Ames' essentially says the same thing in Marrow of Theology - "Theology is the doctrine or teaching [doctrina] of living to God." (first statement of the book) Ames' purpose (and I think Frame's) is that all theology is relevant and essential for all of life. After all, theology is about God but it is for the purpose of man to believe in him, love him, and live for His glory. God tells us about Himself for a purpose - to affect some kind of change in man. The problem is when you take a statement like this and use it to start projecting subjective interpretations onto Scripture which is the direction I am afraid Ellis is leaning.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
That was a concern when Frame made that statement but Ames' essentially says the same thing in Marrow of Theology - "Theology is the doctrine or teaching [doctrina] of living to God." (first statement of the book) Ames' purpose (and I think Frame's) is that all theology is relevant and essential for all of life. After all, theology is about God but it is for the purpose of man to believe in him, love him, and live for His glory. God tells us about Himself for a purpose - to affect some kind of change in man. The problem is when you take a statement like this and use it to start projecting subjective interpretations onto Scripture which is the direction I am afraid Ellis is leaning.
Indeed. Today the alleged application for 'justice' or 'racism' is built on, at the very least, faulty premises.
 
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Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
This concerns me the most:

"Most would define it [theology] as 'the study of God.' While this is true, Dr. John Frame’s definition fits the bill better, 'The application of God’s Word by persons in every area of life.”

This shifts the focus of theology from God to man. After that, you can fill in the blanks anyway you please.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Frame’s definition. I think it’s actually quite refreshing. Application is in very fact integral to theology (as our brother shows that Ames says). And while it is to a degree focused on man, I think it is because of that actually well balanced and biblical, since theology is a human pursuit. After all, even the WSC begins not with God, but with man: “What is man’s chief end? Man’s chief end...”

Now, can we abuse Frame’s definition? Of course, but that’s a strike against the erroneous (or malicious) interpreter, not Frame. The abuse of a good thing does not make the good thing bad.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I think the problem I have with the article is that he divides the head (side A) from the heart and hands (side B) and then tries to argue that Western Christianity is primarily a head religion.
It's not. Calvin and the Puritans were head, heart, hands in their theology.
It doesn't do to have a theology of the mind that doesn't enflame the affections that lead to our practice. This is captured in the WLC as it moves from what Christ has accomplished to how it is applied to how it affects our conduct under the Law of God.

I know, from personal experience in other cultures, that the head, heart, hands "exposition" in the Westminster Standards can be applied to any culture.

Saying that doesn't mean that because a person is from the West that they always apply it properly in their own lives.

That said, however, it is deficient to say that a culture that sort of "felt and acted upon" the Scriptures but didn't give it a very full expression of the mind have something to necessarily teach.

In part this is sort of what Dr. Ellis is saying:
- White people use their minds primarily.
- Black people use their hearts and think about ethics primarily.

But then he goes on to describe that white people need to *think* more properly about a theology that, by his own admission, have a way of expressing what they are feeling and acting upon.

If it truly is a "mostly mindless" religion then how do you communicate it?

I even heard a recent interaction on a podcast between a Neil Shinvi and an African-American pastor on CRT. Neil was trying to define the terms of why we shouldn't think in that fashion as a Christian and the Pastor ended up arguing that White Christians like to talk about epistemology while Black people want to talk about justice. He was quoting Ellis.

This is cute but it doesn't get us anywhere. It ends up being a sort of gnostic "Side B" - you just "feel and act" because you are approaching things from a Side B perspective. When the white person wants to understand the other person he's accused of just caring about epistemology. There is no real standard because the white man will never get the gnosis.

I just don't buy it. Dr. Ellis wants us to think about a kind of theology (Side B) but there is no way to actually think about it. Is it even possible to write down or evaluate it by any kind of standard by which two men can agree or is it just a contextual thing that goes nowhere except for the white man to acknowledge that the Side B person possesses a gnosis he lacks?

As others have pointed out, Western theology was not developed in the West but in the Middle East and Africa first and traveled to the West. The Western mind is infected with this ante-Nicene and creedal thinking and it shapes everything that follows.

This is not to reject the fact that we need to understand cultures that we are bringing the Word of God to. It matters and cultures often expose our cultural assumptions but the solution is not to split up "theologies" into Side A and B but to insist that all need to fully integrate and be answerable to the Head, the Heart and the Hands of true theology. Severing one of them is not a true theology at all.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
So then the objective is more a tearing down of sound theology and replacing it with something pelagian. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/04/pelagius-the-progressive
“Augustine is the big, bad wolf of “authoritarianism,” while Pelagius is the great patron of authenticity, diversity, and other postmodern gods. The resurrection of Pelagius is, at bottom, a renunciation of Augustine’s vision of God and man, which is to say, the justification of our modern selves.”
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm glad you posted this because I have been studying the Middle Ages and the Reformation/Renaissance. Hermeneutics plays a huge part in this discussion now and one would have to prove that their hermeneutical method is closest to sola scriptura. Yet, Rome and Eastern Orthodox churches would disagree. I am not sure how they prove this outside of scripture and tradition.

It is well known that the Islamic Conquests separated Eastern Orthodox Christians from the Western Christians roughly in 600 AD. During the protestant reformation Melanchthon reached out to the Eastern Orthodox Christians with the hopes of gaining a new ally in opposition to Rome. He was rejected as they viewed his perspective on the Lord's Supper as being heretical (they aligned to transubstantiation). The beliefs between Rome and Eastern Orthodox seem to be very similar and they both borrow heavily from Aristotelian Philosophy. With that said, the Western Reformed churches leaned more towards Augustine who was influenced by Plato. I am not saying that Protestants are borrowing from Plato but there is some overlap.

I guess my question in this scenario is how does one biblical support their hermeneutical method over and against other methods from other cultures?
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
So get this. Yin Yang.

Father = Yin
Son = Yang
Spirit = Line between the two.

Emancipated theology for the win. (Slam dunks)
I'd laugh but there are probably folks out there "discovering" this "truth" and presenting it seriously. :barfy:
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
I think the problem I have with the article is that he divides the head (side A) from the heart and hands (side B) and then tries to argue that Western Christianity is primarily a head religion.
It's not. Calvin and the Puritans were head, heart, hands in their theology.
It doesn't do to have a theology of the mind that doesn't enflame the affections that lead to our practice. This is captured in the WLC as it moves from what Christ has accomplished to how it is applied to how it affects our conduct under the Law of God.

I know, from personal experience in other cultures, that the head, heart, hands "exposition" in the Westminster Standards can be applied to any culture.

Saying that doesn't mean that because a person is from the West that they always apply it properly in their own lives.

That said, however, it is deficient to say that a culture that sort of "felt and acted upon" the Scriptures but didn't give it a very full expression of the mind have something to necessarily teach.

In part this is sort of what Dr. Ellis is saying:
- White people use their minds primarily.
- Black people use their hearts and think about ethics primarily.

But then he goes on to describe that white people need to *think* more properly about a theology that, by his own admission, have a way of expressing what they are feeling and acting upon.

If it truly is a "mostly mindless" religion then how do you communicate it?

I even heard a recent interaction on a podcast between a Neil Shinvi and an African-American pastor on CRT. Neil was trying to define the terms of why we shouldn't think in that fashion as a Christian and the Pastor ended up arguing that White Christians like to talk about epistemology while Black people want to talk about justice. He was quoting Ellis.

This is cute but it doesn't get us anywhere. It ends up being a sort of gnostic "Side B" - you just "feel and act" because you are approaching things from a Side B perspective. When the white person wants to understand the other person he's accused of just caring about epistemology. There is no real standard because the white man will never get the gnosis.

I just don't buy it. Dr. Ellis wants us to think about a kind of theology (Side B0 but there is no way to actually think about it. Is it even possible to write down or evaluate it by any kind of standard by which two men can agree or is it just a contextual thing that goes nowhere except for the white man to acknowledge that the Side B person possesses a gnosis he lacks?

As others have pointed out, Western theology was not developed in the West but in the Middle East and Africa first and traveled to the West. The Western mind is infected with this ante-Nicene and creedal thinking and it shapes everything that follows.

This is not to reject the fact that we need to understand cultures that we are bringing the Word of God to. It matters and cultures often expose our cultural assumptions but the solution is not to split up "theologies" into Side A and B but to insist that all need to fully integrate and be answerable to the Head, the Heart and the Hands of true theology. Severing one of them is not a true theology at all.
Very well said, Rich. I am constantly annoyed at the way people like Dr. Ellis divide people up into groups that at best are overly simplistic and at worst, just plain false.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I don’t mean to pin point a specific individual or seemingly put them n a box, but I wonder of this gentlemen’s background. Is it common for somebody of Asian decent to push the racism-social justice card so hard and specifically target Reformed Christianity for reform?
241BB8E2-6C8C-42F2-9ED3-1C1459FD27F3.jpeg
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I don’t mean to pin point a specific individual or seemingly put them n a box, but I wonder of this gentlemen’s background. Is it common for somebody of Asian decent to push racism-social justice so hard and specifically target Reformed Christianity for reform?
View attachment 7797
Right. Here we go again, most nauseatingly. Can Cho be clear about what he is saying? Who says what he says are "acts of oppression" and are wrong to begin with? Does he have anything other than a wet finger blown by the winds of cultural cachet and fashion for his oh so courageous line of certainties? Does it make me some kind of -ist to say all wokists look and sound alike?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I just keep going back to brother Paul, Ron that is (remember racism takes many forms)...

“Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called 'diversity' actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups. Conservatives and libertarians should fight back and challenge the myth that collectivist liberals care more about racism. Modern liberalism, however, well-intentioned, is a byproduct of the same collectivist thinking that characterizes racism. The continued insistence on group thinking only inflames racial tensions. The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity. In a free market, businesses that discriminate lose customers, goodwill, and valuable employees- while rational businesses flourish by choosing the most qualified employees and selling to all willing buyers. More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct what is essentially a sin of the heart, we should understand that reducing racism requires a shift from group thinking to an emphasis on individualism.”
What Really Divides Us (23 December 2002).
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I just keep going back to brother Paul, Ron that is.....

“Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called 'diversity' actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups. Conservatives and libertarians should fight back and challenge the myth that collectivist liberals care more about racism. Modern liberalism, however, well-intentioned, is a byproduct of the same collectivist thinking that characterizes racism. The continued insistence on group thinking only inflames racial tensions. The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity. In a free market, businesses that discriminate lose customers, goodwill, and valuable employees- while rational businesses flourish by choosing the most qualified employees and selling to all willing buyers. More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct what is essentially a sin of the heart, we should understand that reducing racism requires a shift from group thinking to an emphasis on individualism.”
What Really Divides Us (23 December 2002).
He said "sin of the heart." How dare he!

Beautiful quote by the way. Thank you.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Right. Here we go again, most nauseatingly. Can Cho be clear about what he is saying? Who says what he says are "acts of oppression" and are wrong to begin with? Does he have anything other than a wet finger blown by the winds of cultural cachet and fashion for his oh so courageous line of certainties? Does it make me some kind of -ist to say all wokists look and sound alike?
Wokism can only produce division and ultimately tyranny. It’s either an accident of unbridled passion or by design. Maybe the design ignites the passion, but it goes away from sound theology, sound theory and free society. It’s graceless cause it doesn’t allow for biblical correction and faith-based redemption.
 
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Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don’t mean to pin point a specific individual or seemingly put them n a box, but I wonder of this gentlemen’s background. Is it common for somebody of Asian decent to push the racism-social justice card so hard and specifically target Reformed Christianity for reform?
View attachment 7797
Let me give this a "classist" interpretation, which I think fits the data best:

From my observations, it's common for "upwardly mobile" Asians who are trying to break into the Western society elite.

Asians from more, well, Asian backgrounds with no such pretensions tend to think it's garbage.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Let me give this a "classist" interpretation, which I think fits the data best:

From my observations, it's common for "upwardly mobile" Asians who are trying to break into the Western society elite.

Asians from more, well, Asian backgrounds with no such pretensions tend to think it's garbage.
That’s what I thought.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Strangely enough, the book defends the Filioque and actually does a decent job at it. On the other hand, it talks about chi patterns in the body, so there's that.
The qi concept (气) is a pretty near parallel to pneuma and ruah; it can also mean "spirit," "breath," or "wind."

"气" as a life-force just gets applied in weird ways in traditional Chinese science and medicine.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
I'm glad you posted this because I have been studying the Middle Ages and the Reformation/Renaissance. Hermeneutics plays a huge part in this discussion now and one would have to prove that their hermeneutical method is closest to sola scriptura. Yet, Rome and Eastern Orthodox churches would disagree. I am not sure how they prove this outside of scripture and tradition.

It is well known that the Islamic Conquests separated Eastern Orthodox Christians from the Western Christians roughly in 600 AD. During the protestant reformation Melanchthon reached out to the Eastern Orthodox Christians with the hopes of gaining a new ally in opposition to Rome. He was rejected as they viewed his perspective on the Lord's Supper as being heretical (they aligned to transubstantiation). The beliefs between Rome and Eastern Orthodox seem to be very similar and they both borrow heavily from Aristotelian Philosophy. With that said, the Western Reformed churches leaned more towards Augustine who was influenced by Plato. I am not saying that Protestants are borrowing from Plato but there is some overlap.

I guess my question in this scenario is how does one biblical support their hermeneutical method over and against other methods from other cultures?
Have you read Augustine on Pelagius? I’m not saying Augustine didn’t have other philosophical influences that at least subconsciously informed his thought. But he was never as scriptural as when he dove deep into the doctrines of grace to combat Pelagius. It was these writings that helped me shut the door on Roman Catholicism once and for all and yet Augustine remained a Catholic of his time.

As far as Augustine and Paul/(Plato) see Phillip Cary..... (Remember, many early philosophers were not adverse to religious/spiritual realities the way the modern philosopher is). Some early philosophers were probably more Christian in their approach and overall thought than the modern religious-neoliberal Christian humanist of today.



“In his first works Augustine epitomizes his own philosophical program with the phrase “to know God and the soul” (Soliloquia 1.7; De ordine 2.47) and promises to pursue it with the means provided by Platonic philosophy as long as these are not in conflict with the authority of biblical revelation (Contra Academicos 3.43). He thereby restates the old philosophical questions about the true nature of the human being and about the first principle of reality, and he adumbrates the key Neoplatonic idea that knowledge of our true self entails knowledge of our divine origin and will enable us to return to it (cf. Plotinus, Enneads VI.9.7.33–34). While these remain the basic characteristics of Augustine’s philosophy throughout his career, they are considerably differentiated and modified as his engagement with biblical thought intensifies and the notions of creation, sin and grace acquire greater significance. Augustine is entirely unaware of the medieval and modern distinction of “philosophy” and “theology”; both are inextricably intertwined in his thought, and it is unadvisable to try to disentangle them by focusing exclusively on elements that are deemed “philosophical” from a modern point of view.....”
 
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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Have you read Augustine on Pelagius? I’m not saying Augustine didn’t have other philosophical influences that at least subconsciously informed his thought. But he was never as scriptural as when he dove deep into the doctrines of grace to combat Pelagius. It was these writings that helped me shut the door on Roman Catholicism once and for all and yet Augustine remained a Catholic of his time.

As far as Augustine and Paul/Plato see Phillip Cary.....

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00501_14.x

Thanks for your reply. I haven't gotten around to reading this yet but will check it out soon. In the interim, one person of interest would be Thomas Aquinas who seemed to blend Plato and Aristotle. One author seemed to place him on the middle ground between the two views. I know we wouldn't agree with everything he wrote (eg. Original Sin) but much of what he said aligns. Have you ever read some of his works and how he intermingled the two philosophies?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Right. Here we go again, most nauseatingly. Can Cho be clear about what he is saying? Who says what he says are "acts of oppression" and are wrong to begin with? Does he have anything other than a wet finger blown by the winds of cultural cachet and fashion for his oh so courageous line of certainties? Does it make me some kind of -ist to say all wokists look and sound alike?
Well, he’s now promoting female pastors, so I guess he’s wholly outside the camp..... although he links to WhiteHorseInn??? I thought they were orthodox....
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for your reply. I haven't gotten around to reading this yet but will check it out soon. In the interim, one person of interest would be Thomas Aquinas who seemed to blend Plato and Aristotle. One author seemed to place him on the middle ground between the two views. I know we wouldn't agree with everything he wrote (eg. Original Sin) but much of what he said aligns. Have you ever read some of his works and how he intermingled the two philosophies?
I haven’t. He’s a pretty advanced thinker...
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
There is a fascinating, if terrible, essay by postmodern theologian John Caputo on how white western man emphasizes logic and doesn't value other modes of being. I can't find the article, though. That's probably a good thing. But that's a good example of emancipating our confessions. Downplay logic.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
There is a fascinating, if terrible, essay by postmodern theologian John Caputo on how white western man emphasizes logic and doesn't value other modes of being. I can't find the article, though. That's probably a good thing. But that's a good example of emancipating our confessions. Downplay logic.

I should say, though, as it might seem from some of my other posts that I am too logical (and that is sometimes a temptation for me), I actually stand in the "anti-intellectual intellectual" tradition of Swift, Johnson, and Orwell (at his better moments). Logic is good, but it is just a tool. The French Enlightenment, by contrast, made it God and pursued it to many ghastly ends.

Postmodernism was correct to react against that. They made the mistake--as Big Eva probably will today--of allying a healthy skepticism with a Marxist-Freudian emphasis on power struggle. It's not simply that there are other modes of being besides rationality. There are and they are quite legitimate. The skeptic today, though, believes that Western rationality is simply a power construct that is used to oppress Eskimos or something.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Well, he’s now promoting female pastors, so I guess he’s wholly outside the camp..... although he links to WhiteHorseInn??? I thought they were orthodox....
As Cho's Twitter bio notes, he is a graduate of WSCAL and has written for White Horse Inn. I haven't paid attention to MR and WHI in at least 10 years, so I don't know how recently he has been associated with it. But I have noticed that some have alleged that Dr. Horton has gone "woke." At the very least, some things he's written about social justice seem to be a departure from the previous Escondido 2k stance that they church shouldn't have anything to do with politics. A related ministry, Core Christianity, has had some "woke" material posted there. In light, at least some of what he says isn't quite as incongruous as it would have been 10-20 years ago coming from someone with those associations.
 
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