“The Bankruptcy of Justice and the Ethics of Life”

“The Bankruptcy of Justice and the Ethics of Life”

Money can’t never replace somebody’s life. Our conception of justice in this country is morally bankrupt and dehumanizing. We have created an ethical vision of life that is substantially cheap and terrifying.

True justice begins with this greatest existential question: what must we do as a community, people, and a nation to humanize and value life itself, for example, the life of the poor and the marginalized, and to ensure that all lives really matter (existential philosophy, theological ethics, sociology)?

True justice should compel us to ask another pivotal question: do I have the right of existence and the right to live in my community as a constituent member of an ethnic/racial/gender/religious group (ethics, gender studies, religion)?

True justice promotes human life at all cost by creating a non-threatening and peaceful atmosphere for the vulnerable and ensures that all members of society, especially the racialized and minoritized individuals and groups, would flourish and explore their full potential as citizens of this country (nationalism) and members of the human family (cosmopolitanism), concurrently.

True justice deals with the structures and systems in society that dehumanize life itself and undermine the worth of people as bearers of the image of God (theological anthropology, politics, government).

True justice is established on the premise that my happiness and freedom are as important as those of my neighbor, and that my future possibilities and potentials are as vital as those who live in a different community or those who belong to a different social class or racial group (political theory, economics, philosophy of race).

Justice as monetary reparation is not fully adequate and holistic. We need a better justice system in this country that is integral in all areas, aspects, and departments of human life and society. Our passion for justice is too weak. We are too easily satisfied with cheap acts of justice, which we believe to be true justice.

***I wrote this piece as a reaction to the new settlement associating with Breonna Taylor’s life and death. Click on the link to learn about it: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/us/breonna-taylor-settlement-louisville.html

“The Joseph Family Through Books” (Part 2): Books for the People in the Church (Non-Academic Works)

“The Joseph Family Through Books” (Part 2): Books for the People in the Church (Non-Academic Works)

Since I am a church guy, I published eight non-academic books to be used in ecclesiastical communities, such as in small groups and Bible study settings toward spiritual formation and piety, both on the individual and collective level. Since I love Jesus, I write these books for people who love Jesus and also those who may not like Him; so you have no excuse not to read my books 🙂

The books below are written in three languages: English, Haitian Creole, and French.

  1. American Christianity and the Culture of Death: Conversations and Poems on Racial Trauma, Social Justice, and Hope (2020)
  2. Le catéchisme de la vie nouvelle pour les enfants: 100 questions et réponses pour nous apprendre à vivre paisiblement et relationnellement dans le monde (French Edition) (2019)
  3. The New Life Catechism for Children / Le catéchisme de la vie nouvelle pour les enfants: 100 questions et réponses pour nous apprendre à vivre paisiblement … dans le monde (Bilingual Edition: English and French) ( 2019)
  4. The New Life Catechism for Children/Katechis pou yon Nouvo Vi Pou Ti Moun Yo: 100 Kesyon ak Repons pou anseye nou kijan pou nou viv nan lapè ak bon relasyon nan mond lan (Bilingual Edition: English and Creole) (2019)
  5. Katechis pou yon Nouvo Vi Pou Ti Moun Yo: 100 Kesyon ak Repons pou anseye nou kijan pou nou viv nan lapè ak bon relasyon nan monn lan (Creole Edition) (2019)
  6. The New Life Catechism for Children: 100 Questions & Answers to teach us how to live peacefully and relationally in the world (English Edition) (2019)
  7. God our Maker and Caregiver: Creation, Fall, and His Precepts:: Book (2019)
  8. . God loves Haiti (2015)

“The Joseph Family Through Books” (Part 1): Academic Works

“The Joseph Family Through Books” (Part 1): Academic Works

Here are all the academic (9) titles I’ve published over the course of eight years. I gave birth to four twin babies, that is, four books I’ve co-edited with friends, and authored five personal books. As you can tell, I’m a mother who is always pregnant; I give birth regularly to non-human babies 🙂

  1. Theologizing in Black: On Africana Theological Ethics and Anthropology (Pickwick Publications, 2020)
  2. Revolutionary Change and Democratic Religion: Christianity, Vodou, and Secularism (Pickwick Publications, 2020)
  3. Thinking in Public: Faith, Secular Humanism, and Development in Jacques Roumain (Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers 2017)
  4. Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (Black Diasporic Worlds: Origins and Evolutions from New World Slaving) (Lexington Books, 2018)
  5. Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity (University Press of America, 2016)
  6. Vodou in the Haitian Experience: A Black Atlantic Perspective (Lexington Books, 2016)
  7. Vodou in Haitian Memory: The Idea and Representation of Vodou in Haitian Imagination (Lexington Books, 2016)
  8. Haitian Modernity and Liberative Interruptions: Discourse on Race, Religion, and Freedom (University Press of America, 2013)
  9. Approaches to Teaching the Works of Edwidge Danticat (Routledge, 2019)

**** Three of those books have received academic awards.

God and Justice

Justice is an essential attribute of God just like divine characteristics such as love, compassion, foreknowledge, holiness, omnipotence, eternality, aseity, sovereignty. These are not inseparable divine virtues. They’re intertwined and reflect both the content of the Being of God and his actions in the world.

Hence, I’m not sure if it is possible to preach the Gospel authentically and champion the ethics of Jesus in the public sphere without moving by compassion and empathy toward those suffering because of the social injustices of our political system, structural sins, and cultural ideologies.

Followers of Jesus must live and practice the Gospel (“Good news”) they believe in. They must demonstrate its power in the lives of individuals and families. The power of the Gospel is not only transformative power to salvation; the message of the Gospel is also about alleviating human suffering, caring for the needy and brokenhearted, and responding urgently to the pressing needs in our community and city.

“On Kindness, Privileges, and Change”

“On Kindness, Privileges, and Change”

It’s really not a good idea to use your privileges (i.e. financial, gender, ethnic, racial, sex, class, education, nationality) or fame to make life in this world an uneasy journey for those with less privileges or no privileges at all.

The individuals who have changed the world and human dynamics in society used their privileges (i.e. power, influence, reputation) to uplift the weak and empower the disadvantaged to dream again and hope for another world that is more promising and fulfilling.

They share a common characteristic: self-denial. They became small so others can become big. They put the needs of others above theirs. They always find creative ways to love people, and to show kindness and acts of compassion to those who are hungry and thirst for justice, peace, and righteousness. They love gently and daringly, treat others caringly, and give themselves unselfishly. These individuals, both men and women, live life in this world with an unwavering commitment and passion to make it a better place for all, especially the poor.

These individuals also use their power and privileges not to oppress, exploit, or shame the poor, the unfortunate, and those living in the margins; rather, they hold truth to the principle of human brotherhood and “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Friends: if you are a privileged individual in society or have power to effect change in your city or wherever you’re exercising these abilities, please use them for the good and welfare of the least among you and us. Trust me you won’t become a less privileged and powerful individual when you exploit your resources for the sake of making someone’s else’s life or living condition better and toward the common good, a better society, and human flourishing.

“The Early African Framers of the Christian Faith: Selected Important Works of Early African Christian Literature in the First 600 Years of Christianity”

“The Early African Framers of the Christian Faith: Selected Important Works of Early African Christian Literature in the First 600 Years of Christianity”

The Christian religion was born in the Roman Empire and consequently spread under the influence and with the support of the Roman Empire. In its inception, Christianity had multiple beginnings and moved rapidly from Palestine, Asia, Africa, and then Europe, in that sequential order. In fact, some historians talk about Christianity’s concurrent beginnings: Palestine, Asia, and Africa. In particular, what is known today as the Continent of Africa was a significant geographical location that marked the genesis of Christianity. Africa is one of the cradles of the Christian faith. In the first 600 years of Christianity, the three most important places in which Christian history left an enduring mark on human history and where the core theological beliefs and Christian dogmas were developed, nourished, and refined were in Africa; these historic places included North Africa (i.e. Carthage, Cyrenaica, Cyrene [or the Maghrib of Libya]), Egypt (i.e. Alexandria), Ethiopia (i.e. Aksum) ancient Nubia (i.e. Faras [capital city associated with the kingdom of Noba]; Old Dongola [capital city associated with the kingdom of Makurra]; and Soba [capital city associated with the kingdom of Alwa]), and modern Sudan.

In this overview on early African Christian literature, I focus on seven major African Church fathers who were among the framers of the Christian faith, history, and theology. I divide their contributions based on the geography or region and the languages in which they wrote or theologized. The first group includes African Christian leaders in the Latin World or the early African Christian thinkers who wrote in the Latin language; this reference lists the writings of three of them: Tertullian of Carthage, Cyprian of Carthage, and Augustine of Hippo. The first group of individuals were North Africans and whose names are associated with the city or the location (i.e. Carthage, Hippo) they ministered to people. Let me provide a sentence or two about each writer.

Tertullian was born in Carthage around the year 160 (ca.). He is known as the creator of Latin Christian theological language. Cyprian was born in Carthage around the year 200 (ca.) and died in the year 258. He was an influential rhetorician and his writings focus particularly on the unity of the church and ecclesiastical order and orthodoxy. Finally, Augustine is probably the most influential theologian and philosopher in the history of Christianity. He is probably the most prolific Christian writer in Christian history, at least in his era to the Middle Ages.He was born in the small town of Tagaste, Numidia in 354 in North Africa (Libya).

The second group of African Christian leaders constitutes the African framers in the Greek World or the African Christian thinkers who wrote in the Greek language; this guide lists the writings of four of them: Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Cyril of Alexandria. The second group of writers were from the country of Egypt and whose names are associated with the places (i.e. Alexandria) they served as Christian leaders and theologians. In the same line of thought, let me provide a sentence or two about each thinker.

Clement was born near the middle of the second century, probably in Athens. He was an influential Alexandrian theologian and in his writings, he explored the rapport between Christian ideas and Greek philosophy. Origen was born in Alexandria the year 185 and died in Alexandria the year 373. A prolific writer, he is known as one of the greatest interpreters of the Bible and a creative theologian. Athanasius is widely known as the “Defender” of the Council of Nicaea (the Nicene Creed, ca. 328), especially orthodox Christology, and the “Father” of Christian Orthodoxy. Finally, Cyril was a significant Alexandrian writer and best known for his controversy over the Christological perspectives of Nestorius, which he rebuked in his writings. He brilliantly defended the two natures of Christ (or the dual identity of Christ) and energetically contended that Christ was both fully divine and fully human, concurrently.

Unfortunately, in this reference guide, I do list early African literature or writers who wrote in the Coptic language (spoken Egypt and Sudan, to some degree) or the Ge’ez language (i.e. Eritrea, Ethiopia). While the former is associated with the Coptic Christianity in Egypt, Nubia, and Sudan; the latter is associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church or/and Eritrean Orthodox. I do not list all the dates associated with the writings below simply because we do not know all of them; nonetheless, I list each work under its author’s name. Also, I do not reference all the works connected to the writers above or below, but only the most essential writings to enhance our understanding of early African Christian history and Africa’s enormous and sustaining contributions to global Christianity, especially its enduring mark on Western Christianity and theology.

I. Early African Christian Literature: The Latin Church Fathers

A. Tertullian of Carthage (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) (ca.160-ca.225)

· Apologeticum (Apology against the Gentiles in Defense of Christians)
· To the Heathens
· On the Prescription of Heretics or On the Rule of the Heretics (De praescriptione haereticorum)
· Against Marcion (Adversus Marcionem)
· Against Praxeas
· Against Hermogenes
· Against the Valentinians
· The Demurer Against the Heretics (De Praescriptione haereticorum)
· Prescription against the Heretics (ca.220)
· Against the Scorpion or Scorpiace
· On Prayer
· On Patience
· On Penance
· On the Crown
· On Chastity
· On Baptism
· On Modesty
· On the Pallium
· To the Martyrs
· On Spectacles
· On Monogamy
· To His Wife
· To the Nations, or To the Gentiles
· The Testimony of the Soul
· On the Flesh of Christ
· On the Resurrection of the Flesh
· On Veiling of Virgins
· On Flight in Times of Persecution

B. Cyprian of Carthage (Thascius Cacecilius Cyprianus) (ca. 200-ca. 258)

· The Idols Are Not Gods
· Testimonies to Quirinus
· To Fortunatus
· To Donatus
· To Demetrianus
· On The Unity of the Catholic Church: Against the Novationists(De Unitate Ecclesiae Catholicae)
· On the Lapsed, or On the Fallen
· On the Dress of Virgins
· The Lord’s Prayer
· On the Advantage of Patience
· On Works and Alms

C. Aurelius Augustin (ca.354- ca. 430)

· Against the Academicians
· Against Adiamantus
· Against a Letter of Mani
· Against the Skeptics (Contra Academicos) (ca. 387)
· Against Two Epistles of the Pelagians
· Against Julian the Defender of the Pelagian Heresy
· Incomplete Work against Justin
· On the Immortality of the Soul (De immortalitate anima (ca. 387)
· On Free Will (De libero arbitrio) (ca. 388)
· On Rebuke and Grace
· On True Religion (De vera religione)
· Confessions (Confessiones) (ca.397-401)
· On Christian Discipline (De disciplina Christiana) (ca. 396)
· On Christian Doctrine (de doctrina Christiana) (ca. 397)
· On the Unity of the Church
· City of God (De civitate Dei) (ca.412-426)
· On the Happy Life
· Soliloquies
· Expositions on the Psalms
· Tractates on the Gospel of John
· Questions of the Gospels
· On Baptism (ca. 400)
· On Nature and Grace (De natura et gratia)
· On The Trinity (De Trinatate) (ca. 415-420)
· On the Grace of Jesus Christ and Original Sin (ca. 418)
· On the Nature of God
· The Predestination of the Saints (ca. 428)
· The Gift of Perseverance (ca. 429)
· On the Customs of the Catholic Church and of the Manichees
· On Genesis against the Manichees
· Questions on the Heptateuch
· On the Sermon on the Mount
· Commentary on Romans
· The Mirror of Scripture
· On the Faith and the Creed
· Enchiridion
· On Faith, Hope, and Charity
· Two Books to Simplician on Various Questions
· On Punishment and the Forgiveness of Sins
· On Nature and Grace
· On Grace and Free Will

II. Early African Christian Literature: The Greek Church Fathers

A. Titus Flavius Clemens (“Clement of Alexandria”) (ca.150-ca.215)

· Exhortation to the Greeks
· Stromateis (Stromata or Miscellanies)
· The Paedaogus (The Instructor)
· Hypotyposeis
· Who Is the Richer [Person] to be Saved?

B. Origen (ca. 185-ca. 254)

· Hexapla (ca. 230)
· On First Principles (De principiis) (ca.)
· Philocalia
· Commentaries on Genesis (ca.232)
· Exhortation to Martyrdom (ca.235)
· Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) (ca. 250)
· Homilies on Genesis

C. Athanasius of Alexandria (ca.296-ca.373)

· Against the Heathen
· Speech against the Pagans and Speech on the Incarnation of the Word (ca.318)
· Treatise on the Incarnation of the World of God (De Incarnatione) (ca. 318)
· Orations against the Arians
· Apology against the Arians
· History against the Arians
· Three Speeches against the Arians (ca. 335) or Discourses Against the Arians
· Letter to Virgins (ca. 337?)
· Life of St. Antony (ca.357)
· To the Bishops of Africa (ca. 373)
· Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter (ca.367)
· Against the Manichees
· Sayings of the Fathers or the Apophthegmata of the Fathers

D. Cyril of Alexandria

· Christ the Educator
· On the Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth
· Excerpts from Theodotu
· Consubstantial Trinity
· Against Julian
· Against the Blasphemies of Nestorius
· Commentary on John/Commentary on St. John
· Commentary on Matthew
· Glaphyra (“beautiful things)
· Commentary on the Twelve Prophets
· Explanation of the Twelve Chapters
· Christ Is One

***I hope this reference guide will help the reader to have a better understanding of the enormous contributions of Africa in the birth and growth of global Christianity, especially Western Christianity, in its first 600 years. I also trust that this piece will help correct some misunderstandings about the relationship between Africa and early Christian history.

Big Progress on Book Project: “Theological Education and Christian Scholarship for Human Flourishing”

I began the initial research for this book five years ago. Hence, I’ve been actively working on this manuscript in the past five years. I’m pleased to announce that I am currently finalizing the last two chapters. As an educator who believes our participatory democracy must be strengthened through an inclusive and multicultural education, this book is very dear to my heart and my philosophy of theological education, civic engagement, and human flourishing.

I’ve been struggling to find an answer to some of the pressing issues I discussed in this book since my early days in seminary (It has been exactly 18 years now; my first year of seminary was in August (fall semester), 2002).

Oh the great and merciful God, grant me enough grace and clarity of thought to finalize Chapters 6 and 7.

“Why I love the Church and the location where the Church lives”

“Why I love the Church and the location where the Church lives”

I love the Church. It’s not perfect, but is a work in progress, an ongoing creation of God. I’m fortunate to be a participant of God’s redemptive narrative, through the Spirit of reluctant power, grace, and love, in the hearts and minds of little boys and little girls, men and women, the poor and the vulnerable.

I love the ghetto because the church lives there.

I love the city because it is the location of the Church and God’s chosen people.

I love the countryside and the farmland because they’re the place where the church was born and first learned how to crawl.

I love the Church of little boys and little girls for no one will see and enjoy God if she does not have the attitude of such innocent creatures.

I love the Church of the poor and the vulnerable, and of the weak and the disfranchised, because of God’s special attention to them.

I love the Church because it reminds me of the calvary of darkness, pain, and suffering, and the worth and dignity of the substitutionary and sacrificial death of my Lord and Savior: Jesus, the God-Man, who died for the safety, godliness, and beauty of the Church.

***The Church is not the city, but lives in the city. The Church is not the ghetto, but the ghetto is the location of the church, the people of God. The farmland or the countryside is not identical to the church or with the redeemed people of God; it is the milieu wherein the Spirit moves, creates, and establishes the Church. The Church is who you are in Christ and what you are becoming in God.

The church is in fact a unique location, a very special place in which the Spirit-God moves, works, and indwells. This location of God’s rest is you.

#Ilovethechurch

#thechurchiswhoyouareinChrist

#thechurchisnotaplacethechurchisyou

Rev. Dr. Celucien L. Joseph, PhD

Rereading Saint Augustine’s “The City of God”: On the Stoics and Divine Foreknowledge and the Freedom of the Will (Day 1)

Rereading Saint Augustine’s “The City of God”: On the Stoics and Divine Foreknowledge and the Freedom of the Will (Day 1)

Aurelius Augustinus (a.k.a. Saint Augustine), the Bishop of Hippo, wrote “The City of God” between ca.413–ca.426. During the month of September, I will reread “The City of God” (for some of you, it will be a new read; for me, it is the process of rereading the text with a new lens or fresh perspective) and write a daily reflection on a selected passage from “The City of God.”

Each daily commentary will have a title associated with the passage to be analyzed. In our first post (September 1), I would like to share a few statements with you from this epoch-making text in which Augustine argues energetically and brilliantly for God’s comprehensive foreknowledge and the freedom of the will, concurrently. In the passage below, he  is also contending  against Cicero and the Stoic philosophers who denied divine foreknowledge, but championed the possibility of fate to explain the nature of things in the world and how we as volitional agents relate to the future (that is through the events that yet to take place in the time to come).

In his analysis, Augustine establishes an intimacy between divine omnipresence, divine foreknowledge, and the prayers of God’s people, as well as the choices and actions they voluntarily make, although known by God, without any divine necessity. Augustine refuses to disconnect God’s foreknowledge and the freedom of volitional agents, such as human beings. Augustine argues that the eternality of God is intrinsic to his own Being as God and the foreknowledge of God is ontologically a divine attribute. God’s power over death best explains the reality of God as Life itself and God as the Giver of life is a gift to human beings. Finally, God’s ability to foresee future sins committed by human beings does not necessitate that individuals will actually sin; rather, people will sin in the future lies in their freedom of the will to choose to sin or not to sin. Yet because of God’s comprehensive foreknowledge of the future, he can predict who will sin at a certain point in the future; nonetheless, this divine prediction does not condition future sins of volitional events. In other words, God freely foresees future events and that God and human beings freely choose the outcome of the future, concurrently.

“It follows that we need to not be afraid of that necessity which frightened the Stoics into distinguishing various kinds of causes. They sought to free certain causes from necessity while others were subject to it. Among the causes which they wanted free from necessity they reckoned our wills. Obviously, wills could not be free if subject to necessity…

We do not put the life of God and the foreknowledge of God under any necessity when we say that God must live an eternal life and must know all things. Neither do we lessen His power when we say He cannot die or be deceived. This is the kind of inability which, if removed, would make God less powerful than He is. God is rightly called omnipotent, even though He is unable to die and be deceived. We call Him omnipotent because he does whatever He wills to do and suffers nothing that He does not will to suffer. He would not, of course, be omnipotent, if He had to suffer anything against His will. It is precisely because He is omnipotent that for Him some things are impossible.

The conclusion is that we are by no means under compulsion to abandon free choice in favor of divine knowledge, nor need we deny—God forbid!—that God knows the future, as a condition for holding free choice. We accept both. As Christians and philosophers, we profess both—foreknowledge, as a pat of our faith; free choice, as a condition of responsible living. It is hard to live right if one’s faith in God is wrong.

Far be it from us, then, to deny, in the interest of four freedom, the foreknowledge of God by whose power we are—or are to be—free. It follows, too, that laws are not in vain, nor scoldings and encouragements, nor praise and blame. He foresaw that such things should be. Such things have as much value as He foresaw they would have. So, too, prayers are useful in obtaining these favors which He foresaw He would bestow on those who should pray for them. There was justice in instituting rewards and punishments for good and wicked deeds. For, no one sins because God foreknew that he would sin. In fact, the very reason why a man is undoubtedly responsible for his own sin, when he sins, is because He whose foreknowledge cannot be deceived foresaw, not the man’s fate or fortune or whatnot, but that the man himself would be responsible for his own sin. No man sins unless it is his choice; and his choice not to sin, too, God foresaw.”