Tag Archives: Whitworth

Is the Bible open to the perspective of the person reading it?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Karin,

This class has prompted me to question many things about my faith and the things I have been taught to believe about God and the Bible (all good things), so I would appreciate hearing your perspective on a certain topic.  

Is there a right or wrong way to understand God’s teachings in the Bible, or is it open to the perspective of the person reading it — not as a means to manipulate the word, but to help provide the answers we seek?

– Carla

Dear Carla,

Dr. Karin Heller

There are two major ways to read the Bible. The first is a prayerful reading alone, seeking for guidance, consolation, awe, and so forth — exactly what you describe. The second is a reading of the Bible in community, a church community, a family, a Bible study group or other association. The reading in community confronts us with different interpretations than ours. This kind of reading enriches our perspectives and corrects our interpretations. Reading in community makes us dive deeper into the various aspects of God’s word.

Both readings are excellent and should be fostered. We should never do one without the other. We can also read comments on certain biblical texts stemming from the great tradition of the church or contemporary people writing commentaries. The Word of God is never expressed by a single voice, but the single voice is still. God’s revelation occurs through an interaction between three factors — the text, the author of the text and the reader or the readers. The book alone is not enough for God’s revelation to occur! The text has to be read and a dialogue with the author of the text has to be engaged. When this is done correctly there is no manipulation of God’s word, only seeing God’s truth reveal itself in an increasing way throughout Church history. That’s what we call in the Catholic Church the “tradition of the church.” It’s an interpretation of Scripture throughout the centuries.

The biblical text is always open to new interpretations. There is not only one authoritative interpretation of the text. Through  Scripture God speaks anew to every generation!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Political commentator coming to Whitworth

By Tracy Simmons

Three weeks before Americans vote in the 2012 presidential election, Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist George F. Will will share his insights into the election and the country’s political landscape at Whitworth University‘s annual President’s Leadership Breakfast.


“George Will’s appearance will provide up-to-the-minute commentary on the upcoming general election, and I’m sure people will appreciate his thoughtful and experienced perspectives,” said Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor.

The signature Leadership Breakfast series brings  speakers who represent a broad range of voices, perspectives and ideas to Spokane. According to a press release, Whitworth faculty and staff are confident that Christian worldviews and the ideas of Christian thinkers are sharpened by rigorous and open intellectual inquiry and by engagement with the broadest spectrum of thought.

“This confidence motivates Whitworth to lead the way in inviting speakers to Spokane who can help our community engage in critical and careful thinking, civil discourse and effective action,” the release read.

Will is a widely read columnist, known mostly for his conservative commentary. His newspaper column has been syndicated by The Washington Post since 1974, and it appears twice weekly in roughly 400 newspapers in the U.S. and Europe.

The breakfast is sponsored by U.S. Bank and will be held at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 16 at the Spokane Convention Center. Tickets go on sale this spring. For information call at (509) 777-4250.

There’s more than one atonement theory?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller


During your talk in class last night I was very shocked to hear there were four major atonement theories: Ransom Theory, Perfect Satisfaction Theory, atonement as a manifestation of love which covers a multitude of sins, and atonement as a manifestation of God’s wisdom.

As a Christian growing up I was only aware of one, at least in the church I attended, the perfect satisfaction and sacrifice offered to the Father to repair human offense. I always remember hearing Jesus died on the cross to heal our sins because people sinned against God and Jesus died to save us from all of those sins so our relationship with God would be restored. Why is it that certain religions only teach their own theory of the atonement instead of all of the views so the members of the church can decide on their own which theory they believed?

During many sermons I have heard Hebrews 10, “He has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever at the right hand of God…through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary.” I also heard the other verses quoted from your lecture but never as a presentation of a different perspective to the atonement theory. As said in class, the true answer could be a mixture of a multitude of theories, it doesn’t just have to be one. I truly feel in society today we have been misguided and taught we have to believe what everyone else believes and we don’t allow, or give, ourselves enough credit to make a decision on our own. We have to look to someone else to make the decision.

Do you think as the religious barriers grow the teaching of the different theories will be more widespread or do you think the churches will continue to only teach their opinion on which atonement theory is correct and not allow the members of the church to make their own decision?

Thank you, 


Dear Amy,

Dr. Karin Heller

One has to study theology in order to dive into the various atonement theories.

Church leaders very often keep it “simple” for the congregation. They don’t want people to get confused. Leadership can also fear disagreements and disputes that may arise in the congregation. Which one is right, which one is wrong?

Protestants also strongly emphasize the perfect satisfaction theory, because they use it in opposition to what they perceive as a Catholic heresy, i.e. the doctrine of Catholic Mass as a “sacrifice.” This stand led Protestants to falsely believe that at each Catholic Mass Jesus is re-crucified and so to say “sacrificed” every day for our sins. The controversy about the understanding of the Eucharist led Protestants to become kind of prisoners of the perfect satisfaction theory. It was their weapon against Catholic teaching.

Given the polemical context, Protestants narrowed down their understanding of scripture. No other atonement theory was valid, because the perfect satisfaction theory seemed to them evident in the letter to the Hebrews. They neglected other biblical texts, which allow a different approach to atonement. If Protestants open up to Catholic teachings they would probably discover that Catholics read the biblical texts in a way that allows God to express himself through various understandings of his world, not just one understanding.

The Catholic Church allows its members to integrate all of these understandings in their spiritual life. The Catholic Church never condemned any of these theories.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Whitworth class explores post-apartheid South Africa

By Tracy Simmons

Whitworth Photo

Last year, 23 Whitworth students spent four weeks in South Africa learning about the multi-ethnic people there as they continue to build a post-apartheid society. The class, “Contemporary South Africa,” examines the historical, social, political, and religious contexts of South Africa, according to a press release.

The class focused mainly on learning about the history of apartheid and how, even 18 years after its disbanding, it still affects the country today. Students looked at current issues in the country and the historical context behind those events.

“The South Africa study program has proven influential to the lives of many students,” says Ron Pyle, chair of the communication studies department at Whitworth and one of the trip’s leaders. “Living with and learning from South Africans can provide new perspectives on life, and being in situations that are sometimes uncomfortable – such as encountering poverty and injustice – can prompt us to consider many issues including justice, equality, reconciliation, privilege, and responsibility.”

The course is offered during Jan Term every other year.

Students began their journey on the country’s southwestern tip in the city of Cape Town before moving northeast through the cities of Oudtshoorn, Grahamstown, Umtata, and Durban. They wrapped up the trip with a visit to the inland city of Johannesburg.

The class met retired Methodist Rev. Peter Storey, Nelson Mandela’s former chaplain who opposed apartheid and took part in many protests. Storey came to Whitworth in April 2009 to present that year’s Simpson-Duvall lecture, “The Role of the Church in Peacemaking and Reconciliation in South Africa.”

Students also visited some of the most historically important sites in South African history, such as Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned, and the city of Soweto, where student protests helped bring worldwide attention to the injustices of apartheid. The class also worshipped with South Africans and spent some time sightseeing, including Cape Town’s Table Mountain and the beaches of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, according to a press release.

In the evenings students stayed with host families of various backgrounds, including black South Africans, white Afrikaners, Muslim Indians, and white South Africans. Senior Emily McBroom said she had a wonderful experience with her Muslim host family.

“My family was very hospitable and couldn’t wait to tell us all about their culture and lives,” said McBroom, a theology major. “They also really loved hearing about our lives, too. It made me see so many similarities between our lives.”

“This trip changed my life,” she said. “I am still attempting to figure out how exactly, but I know that I am different and I feel blessed to have learned so much about myself and the world in one month.”

Finding similarities between Calvinism and feminism

By Tracy Simmons

On the heels of theologian John Calvin’s 500th birthday, Whitworth University political science professor Julia Stronks will present her first Lindaman Chair lecture, “If a Calvinist had Coffee with a Feminist,” at 7 p.m. on March 28, according to a press release.

Time Magazine has called “new Calvinism” one of the 10 most influential areas of thought affecting the world currently. During her lecture, Stronks will demonstrate common ground between feminism and Calvinism by focusing on public policy issues that are important to both of them. She says that Calvinist theology provides an intellectual way to think about the role of government and other institutions in society, while feminism highlights injustices of which many Christians are unaware.

“I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, which means that for me the teachings of scripture were framed through the lens of John Calvin’s perspective,” Stronks said. “But, I am also a woman who has benefited from the work of feminists and I am indebted to them for making room for me to engage in my own calling as a scholar.”

Stronks’ research focuses on faith, law and public policy. During her four-year tenure as Lindaman Chair, she will be working on several projects related to immigration; sex trafficking; high school curriculum that emphasizes citizenship and life-long learning; employment rights of faith-based institutions; and what it means to be a Christian lawyer. A number of students are working with Stronks on these projects.

The lecture will be held at Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth. Admission is free. For information call (509) 777-4937.

Whitworth Theatre to stage “All My Sons”

By Tracy Simmons

Whitworth Theatre will present its spring production, Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” beginning Friday.

“All My Sons” is a powerful condemnation of greed and its associated lack of moral responsibility. The play takes place in post World War II middle-America and tells the story of Joe Keller, a successful, self-made family man who has done a terrible and tragic thing.

Written by famed playwright Arthur Miller, “All My Sons” debuted in 1947 on Broadway at New York City’s Coronet Theatre, where it ran for 328 performances. The same year, the show won Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Author (later to be called Best Play). The play has since been adapted into two films, in 1948 and 1987, as well as into adaptations for radio and television. Broadway revived the show in 2008, and more Broadway performances of the play have been produced nearly every year since. Miller’s other popular plays include “Death of a Salesman” (1949), “The Crucible” (1953), and “An Enemy of the People” (1950), based on Henrik Ibsen’s play of the same name.

“‘All My Sons’ has as much to say now as it did back in 1947, when it first premiered,” said Susan Hardie, the play’s guest director. “While America still grapples with issues of war and economic depression, the play’s themes of morality and conscience resonate in this age of unchecked greed and lack of accountability. Miller’s rich and complex characters are both challenging and rewarding for young actors, and I am thoroughly enjoying my work with this talented cast and crew.”

This is Hardie’s directorial debut at Whitworth. The recent retirement of theatre department chair Rick Hornor opened up space to invite occasional guest directors into its directing rotation, said Diana Trotter, professor of theatre and the department’s current chair.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for students to work with directors outside the department so they are exposed to different styles,” she said.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, and at 8 p.m. March 9 and 10 in Cowles Memorial Auditorium on Whitworth’s campus. General admission is $8; $6 for students, children and senior citizens age 62 and over. Tickets may be purchased at the door, in advance by calling the theatre box office at (509) 777-3707, or online at www.whitworth.edu/theatretickets.

Is homosexuality OK in Jesus’ eyes?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller, 

I have a question about something that was brought up at Judy Shepard’s recent presentation on her son Matthew’s death. Her son was gay and was killed by two other young men out of hate for homosexuals. Judy is a Christian, and with a son whose sexual orientation is by the Bible’s definition a sin, this woman is caught between love for her son and the truth of the Bible. At one point in her presentation a question was voiced over how she felt about this contradiction. Her answer confused me. She said, “the New Testament gives us permission to move away from the teachings of the Old Testament.” She believes that Jesus’ call to love our neighbor regardless of their sins makes homosexuality OK. What are your thoughts on this? I’m a bit confused on how to feel about homosexuality and how to love these people without accepting their way of life as one approved by God. 

Thanks for any insight on this issue, 


Dear Travis,

Dr. Karin Heller

Your message raises a question on the way we very often come to a conclusion on biblical texts. Is it my personal experience that determines how we should interpret texts? Or does a right interpretation of a biblical text depend on interaction between the author of the text, its reader and the larger Christian community? Martin Luther went with the first option. Only personal experience counts. This choice led to the Reformation and a splitting up of Christians in thousands of different denominations.  The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches continue to stick to principles of biblical interpretation represented by the second option.

It’s not my goal to displease the lady whose son died in such horrible circumstances. But the harshest words on homosexuality can be found in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27). Yes, according to God’s law and Jesus’ new commandment (John 15:12), we are called to love one another as Jesus loved us. Now, what does “to love” mean? It does not mean to disregard sin, any sins, including homosexual acts. Homosexuality is a human condition just as heterosexuality is. Both, homosexuals and heterosexuals, have a sinful nature; both can sin. To love people is not to accept whatever they do or hold. To love as Jesus loved is to show homosexuals and heterosexuals a path to life where all are offered healing from sin, including homosexual acts and sexual sins related to heterosexuality.  This lady just wants homosexuality to be OK! Does she want she and for her son to be totally healed from whatever sin? That’s the ultimate question.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.