June 30, 2019
|Reading 1||Reading 2||Reading 3||Reading 4||Reading 1 Alt||Reading 2 Alt|
|2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14||Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20||Galatians 5:1, 13-25||Luke 9:51-62||1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21||Psalm 16|
by Paul E. Capetz
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
This passage contains the famous story of Elijah’s ascent into heaven. He is one of only two personages in the Bible who are said to have been taken up directly to heaven without dying, the other being Enoch: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him” (Gen. 5:24). “[B]ehold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire…[a]nd Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (v. 11, RSV). Most of us are familiar with the great spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” based on this story about Elijah. Later in the Old Testament, Elijah was expected to return before the day of God’s judgment (Mal. 4:5-6), so that in the New Testament, John the Baptist is asked if he is Elijah (Jn. 1:21) and, though he denies this, elsewhere Jesus identifies John with Elijah (Matt. 11:14, 17:10-13). Some people even identify Jesus himself with Elijah (Mk. 8:28). At the scene of the Transfiguration, Jesus is portrayed conversing with both Moses and Elijah (Mk. 9:4). To this day, during the celebration of Passover, Jews unlock the door and keep a place at the table for Elijah in case he arrives to announce the coming of the messiah.
This particular story, however, is really about the transfer of prophetic leadership from Elijah to his disciple Elisha who carried forward the agenda of his teacher. Indeed, Elijah’s prophetic mantle had fallen upon his shoulders. It was said of Elisha that “[t]he Word of the LORD (Yahweh) is with him” (2 Kings 3:12). Von Rad admits that it is not altogether clear just what Elisha means by his request to inherit a double share of Elijah’s spirit (v. 9), but he suggests that this is connected with the double portion of the inheritance that is due to the first born according to Mosaic law (Deut. 21:17). But does it mean that Elisha wants twice as much prophetic power as Elijah has? Elijah himself admits that Elisha has “asked a hard thing” (v. 10). Still, just as Elijah performed the miracle of parting the water with this mantle (v. 8), so too Elisha performs the same miracle once Elijah is gone (vv. 13-14). Von Rad points out that miracles play a large role in the stories about Elisha: “What was Elisha’s office? To what tasks was he called as a prophet? The sources are in no doubt about the answer: he was a worker of miracles…. Elisha’s possession of a charisma which gives him the power to perform miracles is the real subject of the stories.”
Von Rad also points out that the stories portray Elisha as being associated with a segment of people described as “the company of prophets” (vv. 5, 7) or, more accurately, “the sons of the prophets” (see the textual variant in the NRSV). These constituted, “from a sociological point of view, a highly interesting separate group within the framework of Israelite society.” He goes on: “We are probably right in thinking that these bands of prophets were almost the last representatives of pure, uncontaminated Jahwism and its divine law, and they were therefore of extreme importance for its survival, and especially for the particular character which it was to have from this time on. In the long run, these men were the parents of that stupendous radicalisation of Jahwism and its law which we find in the later prophets. They laid the foundations of that mysterious social and economic detachment and that disregard for the considerations of state policies which were the unquestioned preconditions for the rise of the later prophetic movement. These outcasts accumulated the capital on which the latter lived, for it was they who set the stamp on the idea of what it meant to be a nabi’ [Hebrew: “prophet”] and what it meant to speak to Israel in the name of Jahweh. Amos and Isaiah after them had only to adopt these ideas as their own.”
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
The psalm opens with a cry to God on the part of an individual who is in great distress: “my soul refuses to be comforted” (v. 2c). Here it appears, however, that in this instance the individual is representative of the people as a whole in a situation of unspecified suffering: “Psalm 77 does not reflect an isolated person…but speaks for all Israel at a time of sorrow.”
In the second part of the psalm (vv. 11-15), the psalmist recollects God’s acts of salvation on behalf of Israel (Heilsgeschichte): “With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph” (v. 15).
In the third part of the psalm (vv. 16-19), the topic seems to be Yahweh’s triumph over the waters of chaos at the creation of the world, but then the last verse returns once again to the theme of the saving history (Heilsgeschichte): “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (v. 20). Is this a reference to the parting of the sea at the exodus?
The relation between Israel’s faith centered around God’s saving history of Israel (Heilsgeschichte) and its belief in God as creator of the world has been a matter of intensive theological discussion in biblical scholarship. The issue is how Israel came to affirm that its God, Yahweh, who had been active in Israel’s history as its savior, was now also affirmed as creator of the world. What, exactly, is the theological relationship between these two affirmations? Christians and Jews, who are heirs to Israel’s scriptural legacy, take the connection between these two affirmations so much for granted that we have to be made aware that their relationship was anything but self-evident to thoughtful theological minds in ancient Israel. Gerhard von Rad clarifies the issue: “It has long been recognised that more comprehensive statements about the creation of the world by Jahweh are only found in texts of a later time….It is of course very doubtful whether this really striking state of affairs admits of the simple explanation that before the seventh and the sixth centuries Israel never at all venerated Jahweh as the creator of the world. In actual fact, it is hard to imagine that, in the environment of Canaan, whose religious atmosphere was saturated with creation myths, it would not have occurred to Israel to connect creation—that is, heaven, earth, the stars, the sea, plants, and animals—with Jahweh. Probably the sole reason for the lateness of the emergence of the doctrine of creation was that it took Israel a fairly long time to bring the older beliefs which she actually already possessed about it [i.e., about Yahweh as creator] into proper theological relationship with the tradition which was her own, that is, with what she believed about the saving acts done by Jahweh in history [Heilsgeschichte]….Israel only discovered the correct theological relationship of the two when she learned to see creation too as connected theologically with the saving history. This was, of course, no light task, and she needed some time to accomplish it. Unlike the Canaanites, Israel had no divine sustenance, blessing, and protection from an environment that was conceived in terms of myth: what had been opened up for her through Jahweh’s revelation was the realm of history, and it was in the light of this as starting-point that the term creation had first to be defined.” “It is true that, because of special historical experiences, Jahwism in ancient Israel regarded itself exclusively as a religion of salvation—this can be deduced right away from Israel’s oldest confessional formulae. But the question of the way in which she connected her beliefs about creation with her historically-based religion is certainly more important than the historical problem of the origin of those beliefs.”
To sum up the main point made by von Rad in this lengthy quote: Israel’s distinctive religion was based on the recognition of history as the sphere of Yahweh’s activity. That is what is meant when he calls Israel’s religion “a religion of salvation,” i.e., the salvation is mediated through historical events (e.g., the exodus, the conquest, etc.). Canaanite religion, by contrast, was a nature-based religion that was expressed mythically, i.e., in terms of the regular patterns of nature that were depicted in mythical narratives about the gods and goddesses and enacted ritually in its cultic activity. Hence, on account of this sharp differentiation between history and nature, Israel—according to von Rad—was faced with a difficult theological challenge when it tried to affirm that Yahweh is not only the God of history but also the God of nature.
In a discussion of Deutero-Isaiah, who “obviously sees a saving event in the creation itself,” von Rad notes how these two motifs of Yahweh as savior (history) and creator (nature) are brought together: “Jahweh created the world. But he created Israel too.” He points to Is. 51:9-10 to illustrate how, in the prophet’s mind, “the two creative works are almost made to coincide.”
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD (Yahweh)!
Awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago!
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon?
Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep;
who made the great depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to cross over?
Von Rad comments: “The prophet apostrophizes the creation of the world, but at the same time he speaks of Israel’s redemption from Egypt. For hardly has he spoken about the driving back of the waters, in the language of the mythical struggle with the dragon of Chaos, than he jumps to the miracle at the Red Sea where Jahweh again held the waters back ‘for the redeemed to pass through.’ Here creation and redemption almost coincide, and can almost be looked on as one act of dramatic divine saving action in the picture of the struggle with the dragon of Chaos.”
Finally, von Rad draws attention to the fact that our passage from scripture, Ps. 77, fits the same description he has just given us of Deutero-Isaiah.
In the ancient church, proto-orthodox Christians had to struggle against other Christians whose views were eventually deemed “heretical” on account of their inability or refusal to identify the God of creation with the God of salvation. Gnostic and Marcionite Christians taught that the God of salvation (or redemption) who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ is a different God than the God of creation revealed to the Jews. This was one reason why some Christians, such as Marcionites, believed it was wrong for Christians to retain the Jewish Bible as their own scripture (which was eventually called the Old Testament). Retention of the Old Testament, therefore, represented far more than a mere editorial decision; rather, it reflected a momentous re-affirmation of the identity of the creator God and the redeemer/savior God: accordingly, we are saved or redeemed by none other than the God who first created us.
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
There are four points I want to make about this passage: 1) the relation between the indicative of salvation and the ethical imperative of Christian existence, 2) the nature of Christian freedom, 3) love as the fulfilling of the law, 4) the distinction between spirit and flesh.
1) Chapter Five of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians introduces a section of ethical exhortation. Paul begins this chapter with a bold declaration: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (v. 1). This statement is in the indicative mood. It states what Paul takes to be a fact: Christ has “set us free from the present evil age” (1:4). But this indicative statement is immediately followed up by another statement in the imperative mood: “Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (v. 1). This is an exhortation. What is the relation between the indicative of salvation and the imperative of Christian ethics?
Hans Dieter Betz, in his commentary on Galatians, explains the relation: “Theologically, Paul states that there can be no existence in freedom unless man is first given the opportunity of freedom, but that the opportunity of freedom is given only as the task for freedom. This task is then defined as the preservation of freedom.” Christian ethics is based on the recognition of the indicative of salvation: we have been saved. Yet salvation brings with it a responsibility, or an obligation: the obligation to live responsibly so as to preserve our freedom for which we have been saved by Christ. Another way to put this relation of indicative and imperative is to speak of the “gift and demand” of God’s (or Christ’s) love: “the life I now live in the flesh [ethics] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me [salvation]” (Gal. 2:20).
We see two more illustrations of this relation between the indicative of salvation and the imperative of Christian ethics later in the same chapter. First, Paul says: “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence” (v. 13). Second, he also says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (v. 25). In both verses, Paul is calling attention to the idea that “works” follow from the fact of salvation and do not lead to it. In other words, good works are not the condition of salvation but the consequence of it. That’s why the imperative always follows the indicative! Rudolf Bultmann explains the paradox involved in this statement: “[T]he imperative, ‘walk according to the Spirit,’ not only does not contradict the indicative…but results from it….The way the believer becomes what he already is consists therefore in the constant appropriation of grace by faith, which also means, in the concrete, ‘obedience,’ which is henceforth possible in his ‘walking’….Likewise, the imperative ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:16ff) concludes with the paradoxical statement, ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit’ (v. 25)—a sentence open to misunderstanding so far as it seems to imply that there could be a ‘living by the Spirit’ without a ‘walking by the Spirit.’ But the purpose of this formulation is to avoid the opposite misunderstanding that there must first be a ‘walking by the Spirit’ which would then establish this ‘living by the Spirit.’ The meaning is clear: the faith-bestowed possibility of ‘living by the Spirit’ must be explicitly laid hold of by ‘walking by the Spirit.’ The indicative is the foundation for the imperative.”
In the context of this letter, Paul is warning the Galatians against their proposed course of action of adopting Judaism and living according to the Torah of Moses. From his perspective, this step would be tantamount to a reversion to their condition of “slavery” under the false gods of paganism: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God…how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again?” (4:8-9). In an earlier section of the letter, Paul had already likened the situation of Jews under the Torah prior to the coming of Christ to that of children under the custody of a slave whose duty it was to protect them (3:23-25). Paul is thus equating the pre-Christian situation of both Jews and pagans with slavery. Since Christ has set both Jew and Gentile free from slavery, the ethical imperative of Christian life consists in preserving freedom (5:1).
2) What it means to be “saved” by Christ is interpreted in this context by means of the concept “freedom.” For Paul, freedom is “the central theological concept which sums up the Christian’s situation before God as well as in this world. It is the basic concept underlying Paul’s argument throughout the letter.”
Martin Luther (1483-1546) made “the freedom of the Christian” a central theme in his theology, which was based largely on Paul’s Letters to the Galatians and the Romans. He formulated the distinctive nature of Christian freedom in this initially puzzling statement:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
Luther admits that these statements appear to contradict one another. But he thinks they accurately reflect the paradoxical, not contradictory, character of the freedom Paul celebrates as the central message of the gospel of justification by faith (Rom. 3:28, Gal. 2:15-16). He points to Paul’s statements, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all” (1 Cor. 9:19) and, “Owe no one anything except to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). In the course of his exposition, Luther clarifies the relation of these two statements.
Luther starts by stating that we human beings have both a spiritual nature and a physical nature which correspond to our “inner” person and our “outer” person. In the life of a Christian, the inner person stands in a relationship to God (coram Deo) characterized by faith whereas the outer person stands in a relationship with other human beings (coram hominibus) characterized by love. In the relation to God the Christian is purely passive or receptive. Faith is the trust that accepts the gospel as God’s promise to forgive sinners through Christ. In relation to our fellow human beings, however, the Christian is active. Faith in God’s grace (mercy) issues necessarily in love that meets the needs of our neighbor. This is how Luther interprets Paul’s statement in Gal. 5:6 that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” Hence, from Luther’s standpoint, faith is inherently active in seeking the neighbor’s good, in response to the goodness of God shown to us in Christ. Consequently, for Luther, Christian freedom is freedom from preoccupation with anxiety about one’s own salvation and freedom for the welfare of our neighbor. To be free from preoccupation with one’s self is, indeed, the necessary condition of being free for others in love. Similarly, Paul warns the Galatians not to misuse their freedom and exhorts them “through love [to] become slaves of one another” (5:13c). Indeed, a misuse of freedom for any other purpose than to serve the neighbor is to misunderstand the very purpose of Christian freedom and thus to squander it.
In Paul’s day as in Luther’s, Christian freedom was exercised within the constraints of pre-existing cultural, social, and political norms that were assumed to be either decreed by God or given with the order of nature itself. After the Enlightenment, we now realize that culture and society as well as political institutions and structures are collective creations of human beings that are neither ordained by God nor given with the design of nature. As such, they are subject to modification by human intervention and we must, accordingly, assume responsibility for them. In light of this insight, the scope of Christian freedom has been greatly extended by theologians and ethicists. We now realize that to love and serve the neighbor in love requires us to work toward justice in our social and political structures. First, the “Social Gospel” and then, more recently, “liberation theology” have been emphasizing this lesson. Nevertheless, the task is the same: to love the neighbor and to meet her or his needs as a necessary outcome of our faith in God.
3) Previously (in my comments from last week about Gal. 3:23-29) I addressed Paul’s notion that loving the neighbor as oneself (Gal. 5:14; Lev. 19:18) is truly what it means to fulfill the intent of the Torah (even if many of its specific precepts such as circumcision and food laws are not actually observed) and that this way of conceiving the matter (which he calls “the law of Christ” in Gal. 6:2) was an alternative to the interpretation of what it means to observe the Torah he had held and defended as a Pharisee (Gal. 5:3). Paul can thus dissuade his Galatian converts from converting to Judaism and still hold before them the prospect of fulfilling the law, albeit in a non-Pharisaic form.
4) The Pauline antithesis of living “according to the Spirit” (kata pneuma) versus living “according to the flesh” (kata sarka) has often been misunderstood on account of its confusion with the Platonic dualism of body and soul (or intellect). “Flesh” in this context does not mean “body.” It means somatic existence under the domination of sin. By contrast, life according to the Spirit means life in the body as determined by faith. Consequently, the distinction is that between two possibilities of human existence: life apart from faith and life in faith.
To sum up: Paul’s understanding of Christian existence involves affirmation of the indicative of salvation through Christ, which he explicates in terms of freedom, and acceptance of the imperative of preserving that freedom, which is how he understands the task of Christian ethics. Christian freedom is freedom from the law, flesh, sin, and death. But it necessarily issues in freedom for meeting the needs of the neighbor in love. As both gift and demand, life in the Spirit is oriented to God in faith. As such, it is “a new creation” (6:15; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).
This passage includes two discrete units that have no intrinsic connection with one another.
The first unit (vv. 52-56) is about Jesus’ rejection by the Samaritans (v. 51 indicates Jesus’ decision to go to Jerusalem and has parallels in Mk. 10:1 and Matt. 19:1-2). The story is unique to Luke. Jesus sends messengers ahead of him to prepare for his arrival in a village of Samaria, but the Samaritans refuse to receive him “because his face was set toward Jerusalem” (v. 53). His disciples, James and John, ask Jesus if he wants them to petition heaven (God) to bring fire down upon them to destroy them (v. 54). But Jesus rebuked them for making this suggestion. (v. 55). It is striking how different this rejection of Jesus by the Samaritans is from that related in Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts (8:5-25), where the early Christian mission among the Samaritans is successful. Also, Luke is the only gospel that narrates the story of “the Good Samaritan” (10:30-37).
The second unit (vv. 57-62) contains three sayings in response to those who would be followers of Jesus. Two of the sayings have parallels in Matthew 8:18-22 and thus are derived from Q (the “Sayings Source” that Matthew and Luke have in common). A third saying (v. 62) is either composed by Luke or derived from his “special source” (L). In all three sayings, “the cost of discipleship” (Bonhoeffer) requires that following Jesus be prioritized over “primary personal and family obligations.”
* * * * * *
 Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 vols., trans. D. M. G. Stalker (New York: Harper & Row, 1962, 1965), 2:26, n. 40. Unless otherwise noted, all citations from the Bible are taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2:27.
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2:26.
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2:26-27.
 Carroll Stuhlmueller, “Psalms,” Harper’s Bible Commentary, ed. James L. Mays with the Society of Biblical Literature (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 469.
 The German word Heilsgeschichte (“history of salvation”) is a collective term in biblical scholarship to refer to those historical events through which Yahweh acted to save Israel (e.g., the calling of Abraham, the exodus, the conquest, the return from exile, etc.). It highlights the distinctive importance Israel assigned to “history” vs. “nature” in its theological understanding.
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:136 (with emphasis added).
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:137 (with emphasis added).
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:137.
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:137.
 “Rahab” is the dragon or sea monster symbolizing the watery chaos out of which the world was created (cf. Job 26:12 and Ps. 89:9-10). Notice the personification of water as the principle of chaos in our passage: Ps. 77:16a-b (“When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid.”) Note also the reference to the waters of chaos in Gen. 1:2c, 6-7.
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:137-38.
 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1:138.
 Some Christians today, on account of their sensitivities to traditional Christian anti-Judaism, have rejected the inherited designation of the Jewish Bible as “Old Testament” on the grounds that it represents a denigration of this literature. I think, however, that this viewpoint rests on an inadequate historical understanding of what the words “old” and “new” signified and connoted to the early Christians. In the ancient Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, truth was viewed as what was old whereas error was identified as what was new. The problem that Christians faced was that they seemed to come out of nowhere and were representing “a new religion” (Latin: nova religio) that could make no claim to antiquity (unlike the Jews who had no trouble defending the antiquity of their religion). Hence, to call the Jewish scripture “old” and to claim it on behalf of the Christian cause was not to disparage this literature but to defend the claim that Christianity is in fact an ancient religion. The Christian problem lay in defending its apparent novelty to a world that valued what was old and venerable. But in today’s America, “old” means “obsolete” and we are obsessed with “novelty,” ever seeking out what is new.
 Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), p. 256.
 The language of “the gift and demand of God’s love” is taken, with gratitude, from Schubert M. Ogden who speaks of Christian theology’s “witness to a God whose gift and demand are radical freedom.” Faith and Freedom: Toward a Theology of Liberation, revised and enlarged ed. (Eugene, OR.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1989), p. 124.
 Another translation renders the second part of the verse as, “only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (RSV).
 The RSV renders the second part of the verse as, “let us also walk by the Spirit.”
 Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, 1955), 1:332-33.
 The phrase “weak and beggarly elemental spirits” refers to demonic forces that control “this evil age” (Gal. 1:4; cf. Col. 2:8, 20; 2 Pet. 3:10-12).
 Betz, Galatians, p. 255.
 Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” in Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, ed. with an Introduction by John Dillenberger (New York: Anchor Books, 1962), p. 53.
 Here, obviously, “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision” is a parallel to Gal: 3:28 (“In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,” RSV). Another translation of “faith working through love” is “faith made effective through love” (see the note in the NRSV).
 This is the main point of Ogden’s book Faith and Freedom mentioned earlier. He explains: “with the emergence of historical consciousness came the ever-clearer realization that to be fully human is to be an active subject of historical change, not merely its passive object….Because the scope of human power and responsibility includes, in principle, the whole social and cultural order, the love for our neighbors as ourselves entailed by faith in the gospel lays upon every Christian responsibility for fundamental change in society and culture themselves.” Faith and Freedom, pp. 21-22.
 For Paul, all human existence is somatic existence, even post mortem. He rejects the Platonic notion of an immortal soul that survives the death of the body. His own view is that the life after death is life in a “spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44), which is, admittedly, a difficult concept to grasp clearly. Even the Corinthians had a hard time grasping it (1 Cor. 15:35).
 Does this mean that they rejected him because he was a Jew or simply because he was traveling to Jerusalem?
 Some ancient texts add, “as Elijah did” (see 2 Kings 1:9-16).
 Some ancient texts add, “and said, ‘You do not know what spirit you are of, for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them.” Rudolf Bultmann explains: “[T]here is no distinctive saying of Jesus forming the point of the story. The deficiency was recognized in the history of the text and such a saying was added to v. 55.” History of the Synoptic Tradition, rev. ed., trans. John Marsh (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pp. 25-26.
 Vv. 61-62 contain an allusion to 1 Kings 19:20.
 Fred B. Craddock, “Luke,” Harper’s Bible Commentary, p. 1028.
Paul E. Capetz is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and taught Historical Theology for 27 years at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Claremont School of Theology. His research interests and teaching focus on understanding the history of Christian theology with special attention to the Protestant Reformation and its aftermath in modern Protestant theology. He is especially interested in understanding the implications for theology and ethics of a fully historical approach to the study of human religion. In our religiously pluralistic culture he seeks to articulate a non-dogmatic, non-authoritarian model of theology that conceives its task as an open-ended, yet rigorous conversation with other religious traditions about what it means to be human and to be so authentically. He believes that today all the religions should be committed to working together in order to create a pluralistic, just, and sustainable global community. Beginning in July 2019 he will be serving as minister of Christ by the Sea United Methodist Church in Newport Beach, California.