Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kingdom bits from Moore

Scattered notes from the article: Russell D. Moore “Leftward to Scofield: The Eclipse of the Kingdom in Post-Conservative Evangelical TheologyJETS 47/3 (Sept. 2004), 423-40.


"[Dispensationalism] aroused strong resistance among American Protestants by denying what most evangelicals and all liberals firmly believed--that the Kingdom of God would come as part of the historical process. They could not accept the dispensationalist claim that all Christian history was a kind of meaningless 'parenthesis' between the setting aside of the Jews and the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom. Dispensationalism failed to see how the whole scope of the divine purposes were related to the identity and mission of Jesus.

Cosmic View of Kingdom

"Salvation is related to the overthrow of Satanic rule, that it is cosmic in its scope, that it is to be seen as the restoration of the created order (including human viceregency over the earth), and that it is to be placed within the context of the inbreaking of the eschatological Kingdom in the person and work of Jesus as both the incarnate God and as the head of a new humanity. . . . the emphasis [of redemptive history is placed] where Scripture does--on the telos of the program of redemption--not on God's glory in the abstract, or on the justification of the individual sinner, but in the glory of God in the exaltation of Jesus as the triumphant Final Adam and the meditorial Warrior-King. . . . [Indeed,] a significant advance in the evangelical theology of the Kingdom is possible if the rest of the movement thinks through the warfare implications of an inaugurated Kingdom eschatology."

Note, however, that "without a clear understanding of the nature of the kingdom, kingdom theology is inadequate to the task of indicating what the world is like when it is transformed by the divine rule. the goal of creation and redemption is an eschatological community under the rule of the triune God. The image "Kingdom" is intrinsically corporate or communal, implying a community of people living as subjects of a King."

Evangelical Kingdom theology in the late twentieth century sought to recover the biblical emphasis that the sovereignty of God is not revealed as an atemporal, self-directed attribute, but is instead revealed in the context of the dynamic relation between God and His creation as he sovereignly directs it toward its appointed end--the summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10) to see to it that Christ "will come to have first place in everything" (Col. 1:18).

When inclusivist evangelicals argue that the salvation of the unevangelized can come about in the same manner as that of the OT believers, they ignore the Kingdom orientation of biblical soteriology. In a Kingdom-oriented theology of redemptive history, the soteriological role of the Spirit means that he does not, in fact, have a "mission of his own."

  • Theologies seek root metaphors to help express their vision of God.

  • Evangelical ecclesiology invariably is dependent upon a robust evangelical epistemology

  • Pinnock rejects the filioque language of the Nicene Creed because it promotes Christomonism

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A plague of bored locus

Our Locus Acumbens, that part of the brain which registers pleasure, is over stimulated. Pleasure begets pleasure. What feels good guides action, and so the stress and variety, the emphasis on dynamic and novel experience, the accelerated pace of life, evokes a high with the overproduction of “flight” chemicals in the parasympathetic system (the same adregynic chemicals that correspond to violence and panic.) The door swings open to addiction (where addiction is the result of dis-regulation of the pleasure centers of the brain), and for the craving for the new and the novel. One example of this can be seen in the practice of Christian worship over the last few decades. The way we shape our worship services contributes to this ultra-excitation. That isn’t God. It is finally achieving a threshold of stimulation which actually stimulates one’s already stunned Locus Acumbens.

Indeed, with time the Locus Acumbens gets calloused. The resulting depression, not in mood but in affect--boredom, melancholia, carelessness, being numb--is called anhedonia. It is the new depression. Not sadness but listlessness, melancholia, boredom. People cease to feel anything. The “real pleasures of living” the green of grass, the smell of flowers, the simple enjoyment of friends, they fade. What’s worse, according to some neuropsychologists, this condition is so native to the Western lifestyle that everyone may as well assume they suffer from this to some degree. What can be done? How do we Westerners come clean from our Acumbens-addiction and reshape our appetites toward better, more meaningful foods?

The answer is in taking Sabbath. The answer is fasting. The answer are the liberal arts--yes, the liberal arts as a program for achieving a good and healthy life. The arts as real pleasure; fasting for the sake of real food; being God’s creatures in his good creation. Creation was designed for worship, to stimulate our proper system, the sympathetic system. Spiritual practice as eudemonic praxis, achieved as a reregulation of our pleasure centers, and using our minds instead of simply our Locus Acumbens.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Decoding the Out-of-Sync Girl

Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD), a sub-set of the larger category Sensory Processing Disorder (which was called Sensory Integration Disorder), is at the top of the learning curve today given recent conversations with Kara's kingergarten teachers. Both of them describe a child unable to focus her mind or body, a condition that used to only be challenging for the teacher but increasingly results in alienation from her peers.

Research into SMD builds on two foundations. First are the core writings of Dr. A. Jean Ayres. Beginning with Tactile Fuctions (1964) and Sensory Integration and the Child (1972) and most recently in her 1989 "Sensory Integration and Praxis Test," Ayre's description of sensory integration provided the field's inceptive principles. The second foundation is neuroscience. The concepts supporting sensory modulation have evolved in accordance with new insights into the brain. The last 30 years have seen many new insights which must be incorporated into any theory of brain-behavior relationships. Most prominent: the notion of a hierarchically organized brain has been replaced by a heterarchical, parallel, distributed processing model of brain structure and function. Theoretical models derived from less complex brain system representations do not offer a current conceptualization of what has been discovered about brain functioning. This coupled with the brains’ amazing ability to develop based on experience, whether that be initial development, or reorganization following damage, provides increasing interest in OT theory and intervention. These changes in neuroscience require an updating of our theories to incorporate the new findings in order to facilitate acceptance of our unique perspective on central nervous system functioning as it relates to human occupation. Taken together, SMD has emerged as a hot-topic in the psychological sub-set of Occupational Therapy (OT). The 1998 AOTA Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD, devoted an entire day to it. Definitions are still being written and clarified; debate is still being carried on around treatment and its location on various therapeutic continuii.

So what is "sensory modulation"? Parham and Mailloux (1996) define sensory modulation as "a tendency to generate responses that are appropriately graded in relation to incoming sensory stimuli rather than under reacting or overreacting to them." They support the views expressed by Cermak (1988) and Royeen (1989) that modulation disorders (though the reference is more to disruption than disorder) are represented by a continuum from registration problems to sensory defensiveness. They describe dysfunction as either fluctuations or a tendency to function at one extreme or the other. They further describe sensory registration problems as a failure to attend to or register relevant environmental stimuli. They describe a situation where lack of registration creates a lack of inner drive to engage in typical childhood occupations and is detrimental to long term development. Tracy Stackhouse of the University of Denver offers another definition of sensory modulation. "Sensory modulation is the intake of sensation via typical sensory processing mechanisms such that the degree, intensity and quality of response is graded to match environmental demand and so that a range of optimal performance/adaptation is maintained." As an addition, it is worth recalling that "fun" is the child's word for sensory integration. If there are integratory issues, we would expect them to appear most obviously in the experience and expression of play, social or otherwise.

The big three behavioral signs for SMD are all there: avoidance, distractibility and increased activity level. Occupational therapists Koomer and Bundy (1991) state, ""when an individual overresponds, underresponds or fluctuates in response to sensory input in a manner disproportional to that input, we say that the individual has a sensory modulation disorder" (p. 268, 1991). They also describe a complex condition, which paradoxical to a continuum model, allows for an individual to have problems with both discrimination and modulation of sensation. Kimball agrees, describing sensory modulation problems in terms of the arousal state created due to the influences of sensation. "Persons who have sensory system modulation problems have more changeable arousal or reaction levels than normal. This results in problems with adaptive responses because there systems lack stability" (p 96-97). Kimball related these behavioral phenomenon to the classic inverted U shaped curve (Hebb, 1949), highlighting an important concept that "sensory system modulation fluctuates within a range of normal,"(p. 98). In this conceptualization, performance and adaptive capacity are poor at both low and high level of arousal. In the middle ranges of arousal, performance and adaptation are optimal. Additionally, Kimball reiterated the notion that a single sensory system may not be isolable, "sensory systems do not function independently. Arousal in several systems can combine" (p. 97, 1993). Or simply consider this sentence from the Wikipedia article on Sensory Integration Dysfunction: "An example of a child with hyposensitivity is one who constantly gets up and down in a classroom and is constantly seeking sensory stimulation."

Research into SMD is going on constantly. The work of Grace Baranek suggests sensory defensiveness as a unifying construct, with smaller sub-sets of modality specific disruptions, such as auditory sensitivity. Winnie Dunn and her colleagues have been developing a normed parent questionnaire, the Sensory Profile (Dunn & Westman, 1997). An analysis of the responses made by parents of typical children on the 125 items revealed nine factors related to sensory integration some of which reflect sensory modulation and reactiveness (Dunn & Brown, 1997). These factors include sensory seeking, emotional reactivity, low endurance/tone, oral sensitivity, inattention/distractibility, poor registration, sensory sensitivity, sedentary, and fine motor/perceptual. Dunn further has suggested that sensory modulation needs to be considered on the multiple dimension of a person’s threshold for sensory events and responsiveness to sensation (Dunn, 1997).

And finally, having said all of that, one should be aware of a significant behavioral overlap between SMD, behavioral problems, physiological problems (the kid can't hear well), or anxiety. To quote the wikipedia article, "while this diagnosis is accepted widely among occupational therapists and also educators, these professionals have been criticized for overextending an already-poorly-supported model that attempts to explain emotional and behavioral problems that are better (and more simply) explained in other ways."

Some Relevant Websites

Occupational Therapy Innovations Sensorimotor Page
The SPD Network
Signs, Symptoms and Background Information on Sensory Integration
Asynchronous development and sensory integration intervention in the gifted and talented population Some very good and practical information.
Quirky Kids
Sensory Integration International


Cermak, S. (1988). the relationship between attention and sensory Integration Disfunction (Part 1), Sens Integration Special Interest Section Newsletter, 11, 1-4. (Published by AOTA, Bethesda, MD)

Dunn, W., & Westman, K. (1997). The Sensory Profile: The Performance of a National Sample of Children without Disabilities. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51(l), 25-34.

Dunn, W., & Brown, C, (1997). Factor analysis on the Sensory Profile from a national sample of children without disabilities. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 490-495.

Dunn, W. (1997). The impact of sensory processing abilities on the daily lives of young children and their families: A conceptual model. Infants and Young Children, 9 (4), 23-35.

Dunn, W., & Fisher, A. (1983). Sensory registration, autism and tactile defensiveness. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Newsletter, 6 (2), 3-4. (Published by AOTA, Bethesda, MD)

Parham, L. D., & Maillous, Z. (1996). Sensory Integration and Children with Learning Disabilities. In P. N. P. Allen eds. Occupational Therapy in Children (pp. 307-355). St. Louis: Mosby.

Royeen, C. (1989). Commentary of "Tactile functions in learning disabled and normal children: Reliability and validity considerations". Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 9, 16-23.

One should note that this post copies egregious sections of the article: Julia Wilbarger and Tracy Murnan Stackhouse "Sensory Modulation: A Review of the Literature" [Accessed April 11, 2006.].

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Better the devil you know

Dr. William Larkin of Columbia Biblical Seminary and School of Missions presented a paper at ETS Southeastern conference a few weeks ago entitled Engaging the Critical Consensus: An Agenda for Evangelical New Testament Scholars to 2050. His thesis is quite telling.

Sounding the alarm, Dr. Larkin points to the slow decay of assent to biblical authority which results in even a believing use of the historical-critical method. The authority of traditional beliefs resting on the truth claims of an inspired and inerrant text are usurped by the historical-critical method. The "affirmation of truth telling Scripture" is slowly replaced by the foundationless creep of the critical consensus. Indeed, "'critical judgment' makes human reason the assessor of any historical document, including Biblical revelation. In the historical-critical method, reason exercises an authority over the Biblical text by engaging in a "preliminary critical treatment" of it to ascertain whether its content is historically accurate and authentic. In doing so, and because it can only make critical judgments in probabilities, it renders the text's content uncertain. In fact, it relativizes the Biblical text, treating it in the same way it treats all other historical documents." (Ernst Troelstch, "Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology" (1898))

Believing scholarship has adjusted for this. The believing critic, even while employing its historiography to establish critical datum, actively filters out its anti-supernaturalist presuppositions (just as I was taught to do at my alma mater.) But Larkin doesn't think this simple adjustment is enough. The received historical-critical method carries "an assumption of an inaccurate and inauthentic element in the Gospel tradition." It is pagan from the ground up. Therefore, "the approach of the 'believing critic' in his use of the historical-critical method leaves him, in the end, not only defenseless against the challenges of the critical consensus, but actually can lead him to abandon a high view of Scripture, as he reshapes his definition of the nature of sacred Scripture to bring it into line with his critical findings." Quoting Mark Noll: "Individuals [believing scholars] holding [the historical-critical] position affirm that historical, textual, literary, and other forms of research (if they are not predicated on the denial of the supernatural) may legitimately produce conclusions that overturn traditional evangelical beliefs about the bible."

Egad! Do you follow the admission made in the above paragraph? I'm almost blown away by its frankness. The reason for the slow and inevitable erosion of a high view of Scripture, even among believing scholars is that evangelical scholars have no real methodological basis for legitimately laying aside the conclusions they themselves derive from (pagan) historiography, even where such conclusions undermine their own confession! Such scholarship holds on to belief by mere assertion, being but a highly nuanced fideism.

And it isn't enough simply to argue case-by-case against anti-supernaturalist conclusions. Larkin points to Nigel de S. Cameron's observation that nineteenth century believing critics who tried this eventually found themselves "marooned" on a playing field dictated by the presuppositions of anti-supernaturalist scholarship. Larkin believes we are seeing the same thing today, where believing scholarship slowly finds itself appealing "to dogmatic considerations" which have "no longer any avail in the world of (Biblical) scholarship." God help us! What can be done?

Let's see what Larkin recommends.

Evangelical scholarship must, says Larkin, "find a healthy via media in New Testament Studies--one which practices a methodology appropriate to the nature of the text as fully human, but without error, and as fully divine, speaking God's truth." Indeed, the call to an appropriate methodology is a central part of what is to come; "a methodology appropriate to the nature of the text ... as fully human ... and fully divine." The call is for a new methodology: the historical-theological method. We are on a new quest, a quest after this historical-theological method; a method which will "from the stance of faith, with inerrancy as a functioning non-negotiable, and a hermeneutics of good will, . . . assess the historical data of Scripture and, with integrity, always come to the conclusion that Scripture is historically authentic and historically accurate." The remainder of Larkin's address lays out the program in a "four part "push back" agenda for NT evangelical scholarship to 2050."

"First, we must address the Foundations of the Historical-Critical Method and complete its critique in the area of the foundational principle, "critical judgment." Second, we must address Methodology, particularly in the area of formation of the Gospel tradition and Synoptic Gospels composition. Third, we must work in the area of Evidence, building strong cases from the content of NT books for the correctness of their explicit claims to authorship. Fourth, in relation to Theology/Overall Methodology, we must rehabilitate the unique nature of Scripture as a warrant for a modified, indeed, transformed historical-critical method--an historical-theological method."(italics mine)

Now understand, conservative biblical scholars--believing scholarship--has been addressing historical-critical methodology on a daily basis in a hundred different forums both specialized and non since the sixteenth century. Yet, we are still at Spinoza; still at Schleiermacher! Larkin's isn't a call for something new, but is a cry to regroup on a battlefield lost wholly to the Enlightenment. Even the rhetoric of victory is gone. There is no lift in the voice, only the gravelly soldier's paean to duty--do you hear it? The fatalism. And, mixed with the chortled ignorance and dismissive attitude flung at the anti-foundationalists, I don't see any possibility of change.

Larkin is right, the criticism must go to the very presupposition of things, but one cannot expect to find something approaching what the Enlightenment means by "a methodology!" I'm sent scratching my head to my own drafting table. I'm sent to puzzle out Radical Orthodoxy, to steer my bark into a hermeneutical turn and to scratch out fides quaerens intellectum with the Ebenezer-stones of narrative and tradition. In short, I have to trust theology again, and look to the horizon for the dawning brightness of the eschaton.
William J. Larkin, "Engaging the Critical Consensus: An Agenda for Evangelical New Testament Scholars to 2050" paper presented at the Southeast Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Columbia, SC, March 2006.

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