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Category Archives: Theology

Theology and the Bible

Word of faith, part 4

In this final post on the Word of faith movement, I specifically want to address the claims of D. R. McConnell in his book, A Different Gospel (updated edition 1995). He concludes on p.185:

There are many peculiar ideas and practices in the Faith theology, but what merits it the label of heresy are the following: (1) its deistic view of God, who must dance to men’s attempts to manipulate the spiritual laws of the universe; (2) its demonic view of Christ, who is filled with “the satanic nature” and must be “born-again” in hell; (3) its gnostic view of revelation, which demands denial of the physical senses and classifies Christians by their willingness to do so; (4) its metaphysical view of salvation, which deifies man and spiritualizes the atonement, locating it in hell rather than on the cross, thereby subverting the crucial Christian belief that it is Christ’s physical death and shed blood which alone atone for sin.”

I have addressed in part 2 here the idea that a particular theory of the atonement is part of Christian orthodoxy; it is not. Each theory has its advantages and disadvantages. The ransom theory has the particular disadvantage of making the atonement seem to be paying off Satan, but the other theories have their disadvantages, too. McConnell’s objections (2) and (4) thus reflect his sectarianism.

Objection (1) is a common objection to the Word of faith teachings, but it is a misunderstanding. The God of the Bible is a God of laws. Does that mean God is bound by His own laws? That is an old theological conundrum. Are there spiritual laws? See Bill Bright’s famous Four Spiritual Laws here. Where are the books claiming heresy for these spiritual laws? There is no more problem with spiritual laws then with physical laws. The idea that we could get spiritual laws working for us should be no more problematic than getting physical laws working for us.

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Word of Faith, part 3

One of the main teachings of the Word of Faith movement concerns one’s “confession.” This teaching goes back to E. W. Kenyon, but before looking at what he wrote, let’s consider what a leader of the movement, Kenneth E. Hagin, wrote about it in his exposition of Mark 5:25-34 in his book “Exceedingly Growing Faith,” Chapter VI.

The story concerns a woman with “an issue of blood” who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment while he was in a crowd. Hagin points out the steps she took: (1) She said it: “For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” (Mark 5:28) (2) She did it: she got close enough to Jesus to do it. Because she was unclean she was supposed to stay away from others, so by this action she was taking a risk. (3) She received it: she received the healing from Jesus. (4) She told it: Jesus asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30) She again took a risk by telling her story publicly.

Hagin also references the story of David and Goliath as an example of the importance of saying what one believes: (I Samuel 17):

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Word of Faith, part 2

E. W. Kenyon is widely considered the originator of what is now called the Word of Faith. A previous series of posts showed that Kenyon’s teachings about divine healing were in line with the 19th century faith-cure movement (see here). Theological issues that arise concerning E. W. Kenyon’s writings include his theory of the atonement.

Although theories of the atonement are often considered a part of the orthodox core of Christianity, they are not. Through the centuries Christians have disagreed about the particular reasons for the death of Christ, what its significance is, and what it accomplished. For example, several theories of the atonement are given here.

E. W. Kenyon has his own variation, which combines the Ransom and Substitutionary theories of the atonement, as described in his book “What Happened from the Cross to the Throne” (Seventh Edition, 1969). Here are some excerpts (combining his one sentence paragraphs):

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Word of Faith, part 1

This post begins a series on the Word of Faith movement (also known as word-faith, faith, or by its critics the prosperity gospel or health and wealth gospel). The purpose of this series is to clarify the biblical teachings of this movement. Because many of its expositors lack formal theological education, it is not uncommon for their words to raise theological red flags. But many reject the Word of Faith teachings with little understanding of them, or by taking passages out of context.

While there certainly have been excesses, this series of posts will provide reasons why core Word of Faith teachings are within the broad range of orthodox Christianity. That said, this series of posts does not justify lavish lifestyles, deceptive practices, or false claims. The focus is on the core teachings of the Word of Faith and their biblical justification.

It is important to know from the outset that there are three independent 19th century movements that have some similarities but are radically different: (1) the nature cure, (2) the mind cure, and (3) the faith cure. All sought healing apart from the allopathic medicine that was considered mainstream.

(1) “Nature cure, or natural care refer to methods of self-healing, often using fasting, dieting, rest, or hydrotherapy.” Also included are orthopathy and naturopathy. (Wikipedia)

(2) Mind cure is a “healing system according to which feelings or thoughts are the most important factor in human health. Negative thinking is believed to cause disease, whereas good health results from positive thoughts.” (Free Dictionary) “William James used the term ‘New Thought’ as synonymous with the ‘Mind cure movement.'” (Wikipedia)

(3) Faith cure is “a method or practice of treating diseases by prayer and exercise of faith in God.” (Merriam-Webster)

The teachings of the Word of Faith movement grew out of the faith cure (3) movement, not the others.

Bibliography

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God the Creator and Designer

The Christian doctrine of creation declares that the reason there is something and not nothing is because God created something ex nihilo, out of nothing, and that is what it means to say that God is the Creator. This is the primary creation, since the secondary creation such as the birth of new organisms occurs ex aliquo, out of something.

Did God create a mere something, that is, an entity with no identity, a whatever, a primordial blob? Or did God create and design a particular something, an entity with identity? Read the first verses of Genesis again:

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Creation ex nihilo gets us to verse 3, with its deep, formless void and nonspecific light. After that, God is the Designer, separating and naming.

Some theologians consider design to be beneath God, as if the Divinity were merely a Platonic demiurge. But God created a particular something, which is described in terms of creating and designing rather than a single create-and-design action. We should accept the distinction between Creator and Designer, whether we separate them or not.

The theological significance of Design has been underappreciated. But it makes a difference whether the creation is made into distinct entities and kinds or is only a mass differentiated by degrees. The differences between plant and animal food and sacrifices, for example, only make sense if plant and animal are different kinds of organisms – or vegetative and animal souls are different kinds (species) in Aristotle’s terms. Above all, the difference between humans and other creatures is essential to the significance of the fall and redemption of mankind (and Aristotle’s distinction of the rational soul).

Classical creationism underestimated the extent of within-kind variation. Modern evolutionism makes the opposite error and vastly overestimates the extent of variation. Some scientists are developing a middle position, despite much opposition, that combines natural kinds with substantial variation and adaptation. Such a moderate view is quite consistent with the biblical Creator and Designer.

Note: God alone can make extrinsic design into an intrinsic nature through divine creative power. Perhaps the design was intrinsic all along but it could have been extrinsic at one point, at least insofar as it is in a logical sequence of steps, if not a chronological sequence.

Intellectual hierarchies

Societies have an intellectual hierarchy reflected in their academic hierarchy that exhibit their scale of concepts and values. There are basically three groups of intellectual disciplines: the study of divinity (theology), the humanities, and the sciences. There are six possible ways of ordering these three, which shows the intellectual state of a society.

(1) Theology, humanities, sciences: This is the medieval and Renaissance order.

(2) Theology, sciences, humanities: This is the early modern order, which is deistic with scientific realism.

(3) Humanities, theology, sciences: This is the conservative Catholic order, which is humanistic and traditionalist.

(4) Humanities, sciences, theology: This is the liberal Catholic order, which is humanistic with scientific realism.

(5) Sciences, theology, humanities: This is the conservative Protestant order, which is scientistic with theological realism.

(6) Sciences, humanities, theology: This is the late modern order, which is scientistic and humanistic.

Order number (1) is the proper one because it places the highest truth (God) first, then humanity second, then the world after these are properly understood.

Disciples and relatives of Jesus

There are many disciples of Jesus in the Bible, but there are twelve that are particularly the disciples, or simply, the twelve. Some of these are related to each other. In the small town region of Galilee where Jesus lived that would not be surprising.

What follows is a summary of the disciples and relatives of Jesus, given that we don’t have as much detail about them as we would like. First, the twelve disciples, which are listed four times in the New Testament (Mt 10:1–4, Mk 3:13–19, Lk 6:12–16, and Acts 1:13):

Simon Peter and Andrew, brothers who worked with Zebedee’s family fishing business. Jesus gave Simon the nickname Peter.

James and John, sons of Zebedee and Salome, whom Jesus nicknamed Boanerges, “sons of thunder”.

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Basic Gospel

Basic Gospel Message

Vic Scaravilli is a Catholic who put the following on his website here. I’m reposting it (with permission) and note that Evangelicals would agree that this is the gospel, with some nuances about baptism.

The Basic Gospel Message

By Vic Scaravilli

God loves each one of us. He loves me and He loves you with an unconditional love. You are precious in His eyes.

There is something that has kept us separated from God, something that has kept us from experiencing His love in our lives. That something is called sin. The result of sin is spiritual death. We have all sinned and never can be perfect.

Does that mean we can never know and experience God’s love? No, because God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for each one of us. Jesus is the only bridge that takes us from our sin to the love of God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for everyone.

This is called salvation. It is the free gift of eternal life that is completely given to us by God’s grace. Salvation is the life in Jesus that begins now and will be for all eternity.

The free gift of salvation must be accepted in order for it to be our own. We must experience an internal conversion experience that changes our hearts. Once we accept Jesus into our hearts and allow Him to come into our lives, we begin to experience His love.

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Evangelical attributes

I have written before about evangelicals (and others) here, here, here, and here.

An evangelical Christian is basically one for whom the Bible is the final authority for faith and life. This contrasts with Christians for whom the Bishop of Rome is the final authority, or Tradition. Some who claim to be Christians make religious feeling the final authority, such as those known as theological liberals, but surely that stretches the term Christian too far (see Christianity and Liberalism by Gresham Machen).

Evangelical Christians, or Evangelicals for short, receive the Bible as the Word of God, the final authority for faith and life. A corollary to this is that Evangelicals can only approach the text of the Bible with reverence and wonder, and not critically, that is with skepticism or doubt. Critical biblical scholarship is thus not for Evangelicals. Another corollary is that for Evangelicals all subjects must align with the text of the Bible. Hence Evangelicals approach the world with awe and wonder, as realists rather than anti-realists.

Evangelicals are not united on all matters. There are some significant divergences, notably: (1) baptism of infants and adults or only adults, (2) Eucharist/communion as the Body and Blood of Christ or only symbols, (3) some church hierarchy or only congregations, (4) continuationism or cessationism with regard to miracles and the gifts of the Spirit, and (5) emphasis on believers receiving Christ or deciding for Christ.

Unity, duality, trinity

Postulates of Motion

Postulate of three: There are three dimensions of the extent of motion.

Postulate of two: There are two measures of the extent of motion, length and duration.

Postulate of one: There is one exchange of space and time.

From the postulate of three comes a non-quantitative three-dimensional geometry of motion.

From the additional postulate of two comes two three-dimensional quantitative geometries of motion.

From the additional postulate of one comes one six-dimensional quantitative geometry of motion.

Being is a unity. Existence is a duality. Reality is a trinity.

There is a unity of being, a duality of existence, and a trinity of reality.

Existence is a distinction within universal being. Reality is an indistinction within universal existence.

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