iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Category Archives: Theology

Theology and the Bible

Radical orthodoxy

Radical Orthodoxy is a movement (or ‘disposition’) among some theologians which attempts to articulate Christian orthodoxy in the context of post-modernist critiques of modernism, post-liberal critiques of liberalism, and post-secular critiques of secularism. They’re not creationists but they do make some similar points about creation, fall, and redemption contrary to naturalism.

According to its best-known exponent, John Milbank, theology should speak “directly out of the Biblical tradition, without any recourse to external supplementation,” and should be using “the resources of revelation alone.” And Paul Tyson in the online journal Radical Orthodoxy makes points that creationists could approve in Can Modern Science be Theologically Salvaged? (2014)

Here are some excerpts:

Entirely de-temporalizing the cosmological and teleological horizons of the biblical narrative does profound damage to the biblical narrative, for that narrative is inescapably temporally constructed. History is the texture of Judeo-Christian revelation, even if history is certainly not understood in modern historiographical terms. p.130

… the texture of history cannot be extracted from the Christian revelation, and that history has an Edenic age just as it has an eschatological age, and those alpha and omega ages are ages located within Christ, yes, but they are ages of a different yet real nature to the present and somehow less than fully real nature. p.132

Modern naturalism recognizes only one age, only one nature. Life is a strange and transitory visitor in such a picture of reality. Without some sort of true meaning to Eden, the radicality of goodness in creation, which persists but is marred by sin, death, scarcity, and disease, is lost, and the radical eschatological horizon of total redemptive hope for nature is also lost. p.133

For in the final analysis, there is a profound imaginative dissonance between a reality outlook embedded in a three age canonical narrative of salvation history and modern naturalism, particularly in relation to cosmogony. p.134

Looks like a movement worth watching.

November 2014

Links

Here are various links worth exploring.

Seeking Answers?

Religion and Public Life

Help the Persecuted

Defending Liberty

Review of Gillquist’s Becoming Orthodox

On Peter Gillquist’s Becoming Orthodox (Conciliar Press, 1992)

This book presents an engaging story and defense of the transition of a group of evangelicals into the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Parts One and Three tell the story and Part Two presents a defense of Orthodox positions on issues sensitive to many evangelicals. The key point in their journey he says was letting history judge them instead of the other way around. This meant giving priority to the faith and practice of the ancient, undivided church.

The group of leaders that Peter represents did careful historical research, were open to what they found, and were willing to change if necessary.  Their guiding desire was to find the one, true church if possible. They ended up starting their own Evangelical Orthodox Church that eventually merged with (if that’s the right term) the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

He addresses several issues that are hot buttons for some evangelicals: tradition, liturgy, calling priests “father”, the Virgin Mary, and the cross. Their background is apparently the anti-liturgical wing of evangelicals who are suspicious of all tradition and liturgy because they are associated with dead ritualism. But there are many evangelicals in Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist communions, for example, who don’t have such attitudes. Though admittedly the high church “smells and bells” type of liturgy he defends is the liturgy of only a few evangelicals.

Read more →

Three streams movement

The three streams concept was introduced in the book, “The Household of God” by Bishop Lesslie Newbigin of the Church of South India in the1940’s. The movement developed further from the “third wave” of the Spirit in the 1980’s. The basic idea is that the church has been needlessly divided because of differences that should flow together rather than apart. There is the Catholic stream, the Evangelical stream, and the Charismatic stream.

Catholic Stream

This is the catholic and orthodox stream which is the most traditional and liturgical.  It’s roots are in the church of the first millennium. There is formality and mysticism, devotion and communion, inwardness and community. It is a theology of the Father, a gospel of victory over evil. It is sacramental, focused on the Eucharist. It has a kingly, top-down authority structure.

Evangelical Stream

This is the biblical and evangelistic stream from the Reformation but with roots in earlier theologians such as St. Augustine. There is decision and consecration, dedication and sanctification, explication and education, outwardness and commonality. It is a theology of the Son, a gospel of sacrifice for sin. It is Bible-based, focused on the Word. It has a priestly, bottom-up authority structure.

Charismatic Stream

This is the Pentecostal and Charismatic stream from the twentieth century but with roots in the primitive church. There is anointing and envisioning, infilling and enthusiasm, fervor and power, informality and spontaneity. It is a theology of the Spirit, a gospel of overcoming the curse of the law. It is Spirit-filled, focused on Praise. It has a prophetic, egalitarian authority structure.

Three Streams

These three streams have grown apart for the most part. The evangelical stream and the liturgical stream parted after the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. The charismatic stream was rejected by the other streams in the Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, combinations of the streams have joined together somewhat. Some protestant churches such as Lutherans and Anglicans retain a strong sacramental element. The Vatican II reforms opened the Catholic Church to more evangelical and charismatic elements. The charismatic movement in the latter half of the twentieth century flowed through most denominations.

The three streams movement seeks to unite these streams as much a possible. It honors every stream rather than exalting one over the other. It accepts the strengths of each stream. It allows each stream to complement and correct the others. It seeks to unite the church with multiplicity-in-unity.

The movement is most active in some Anglican or Anglican-like churches but is relevant to all churches.

January 2008

The Eucharistic presence

I

The Medium, the Message, and the Meaning of God is God. One cannot communicate with God apart from the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

The ultimate meaning of God is not outside of God. There is no-one and nothing beyond God that God points to. The meaning of God is God.

God is im-mediate, ever here and now. God has no mediator or medium (small m). The mediator of God is God the Mediator, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The medium of God is God the Medium, the Holy Spirit.

The Way to God is God, the Truth of God is God, and the Life of God is God. One cannot find God or know God or live in God apart from God the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The Gospel is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ. It is not merely the way He described but the Way He lived and lives. It is not merely the truth He taught but the Truth that He lived and lives. It is not merely the story of His life, or the fact of His life, but His Life itself.

II

God is omni-present though obscured to the five sense faculties. By the spiritual faculty of faith we can perceive the omni-presence of God. But the Scriptures speak of special manifestations of God’s presence that are perceived by sense faculties and by faith.

Consider the Burning Bush of Moses, for example. God was present in the Burning Bush to Moses’ senses and his spirit. Moses saw a bush that was burning and revelation showed it to be a manifestation of God. The ground of the Burning Bush was holy ground.

The Burning Bush was a token of God. A token of God is not God but presents God, makes God present. God was present in the Burning Bush in a sense beyond His omni-presence in all bushes. This meaning of God’s presence is called the Real Presence of God.

God in Christ has established tokens of remembrance in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharistic Feast. God is present in the Eucharistic Bread and Wine in a sense beyond His omni-presence in all bread and wine. God reveals Himself in the Bread and Wine.

We partake of the Flesh and Blood of God in the Eucharistic Feast. As the sense faculties perceive the Eucharistic Bread and Wine, the spiritual faculty perceives the Flesh and Blood of God. The ground of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine is holy ground. In the Eucharistic Feast is the Real Presence of God.

2008

Faith and works

“Faith” is usually contrasted to “works” as if there were an antithesis, which is said to come from the second chapter of the Epistle of James.  Someone works for something they don’t have but hope to gain.  To work for something one cannot gain would be foolish.  It would also be foolish to work for something one already has.  So works relate to something that someone (w1) does not yet have and (w2) has reason to believe they will gain by works.

Faith is analogous because it relates to something that someone (f1) does not fully appear to have but (f2) has reason to believe they do have and will fully appear to have in the future.  The difference is that in faith there is an apparent divergence between circumstances at two different times whereas for works there is a real divergence between the circumstances at two different times.  What changes over time for faith is the appearance but not the underlying reality.

Faith also lacks the idea of gain which is a key element of works.  For works the change is effected by something one does to gain the desired object.  For faith there is no underlying change.  Whatever gain there may be is in the past for faith but in the future for works.

One may say in faith, “I have this now and even though it does not fully appear that way, it will be obvious to all sometime in the future.”  For example, when a Presidential election takes place in the USA, the person elected does not take office immediately but is inaugurated a few months later.  Between the election and the inauguration the President-elect does not yet appear to be the President.  But they can and do begin to take on aspects of that office such as increased security guards, press entourage, and new significance of their words and actions.  The President-elect may speak and act in faith about their administration as if it were a reality.

Not acting may also have consequences. President-elect Abraham Lincoln received many requests to speak or comment on the unprecedented crisis of Secession, but refused and remained publicly silent for several months until he gave speeches while enroute to Washington, DC, for the inaugural ceremonies. Some historians argue that his seeming passivity while president-elect helped precipitate the Civil War.

When James asks someone to show him their faith (James 2.18), he is asking for something behind and beyond the appearances to come out.  How can one demonstrate faith?  By doing things that others would expect to see in order that the appearance and reality are not divergent (or at least less so).  If you say you have faith, then show it by your actions.

James goes on to assert that if someone does not show some of what others would expect to see if they were saved, then the appearance must accurately reflect the reality that they are not saved.  On the other hand, if someone does show some of what others would expect to see if they were saved, then the appearance must accurately reflect the reality that they are saved.  So a complete divergence between appearance and reality is not possible.  James concludes in verse 2.24, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

Thus a Christian asserts by faith in Jesus Christ that they are saved and, while acknowledging that the appearance and reality are not fully synchronized, asserts that the appearance will match the reality sometime in the future.

January 2008

Creedal ecumenism

Creeds began as a way for the Church to exclude heretics. A council of Bishops would meet and come to agreement on a creed. A creed affirmed propositions that a heretic would not affirm. A creed might also deny propositions that a heretic would affirm. But a creed was not a theology. It did not systematize or explain theological matters.

Creeds began as a way for the Church to exclude heretics. A council of Bishops would meet and come to agreement on a creed. A creed affirmed propositions that a heretic would not affirm. A creed might also deny propositions that a heretic would affirm. But a creed was not a theology. It did not systematize or explain theological matters.

As long as the Church was undivided, creeds were a way for the Church to separate out the heretics from the true teachers. The other way was through an ordination process that connected the ordinand to the apostles. When the Church divided into East and West, and then into Catholic and Protestant, a common ordination process ended. The ancient creeds remained, at least the three ecumenical creeds which are accepted by nearly all Christians.

Three creeds–the Apostles, the Nicene (Niceno-Constantinopolitan), and the Athanasian creed–form the basic tenets for Christian orthodoxy, apart from the Filioque controversy. The Filioque clause was added to the Nicene creed in the West but not the East.

Other theological issues have arisen and creeds could have been a way to steer the Church through them but divisions in the Church have prevented that. The East asserts that without an undivided Church, there can be no valid council and hence no new creeds. Catholics have added creeds that others do not accept. Protestants have moved away from creeds to confessions or statements of faith or denials of creeds, as in the anti-creed, “no creed but the Bible.”

Non-creedal Christians have implicit creeds, just as non-liturgical churches have implicit liturgies. A statement of faith usually gives some highlights and leaves many questions unanswered but it is a kind of creed. The avoidance of creeds may come from a fear of limiting the faith too much but it is also deficient to say too little. Those who say, “No creed but the Bible,” are asserting a very long creed that leaves open many questions of interpretation.

Creeds are a way for Christians to agree on the key propositions of Christianity. Theologies are revised over time but creeds remain. Short of the age to come, Christians are not likely to agree on a theology but may agree on creeds. As long as we don’t expect too much from creeds, they are a useful ecumenical instrument.

2008

Approaches to apologetics

First, for those who want an introduction to apologetics, I suggest this video by Dr. R.C. Sproul on Defending Your Faith, lecture 1: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/defending-your-faith/introduction-2/.  Note in the second part he addresses Greek philosophy.

One way to compare different approaches is to look at what they consider believers and unbelievers have in common and how to build on that.

(1) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity.

With this approach one does not address questions about the existence of God, different worldviews, how scientific evidence relates to the Bible, etc., there is no recourse but to preach the Gospel again or go on to the next audience.

(2) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity and also live in a common world.

With this approach one can address questions about science by showing them how scientific evidence may be understood to support the Bible.  But questions about the existence of God or different worldviews cannot be addressed because the ability to reason is not sufficiently held in common.

(3) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity and also a common ability to reason.

With this approach one can address questions about the existence of God by showing them how reasonable it is to believe that God exists.  One can also address a worldview which excludes God by showing them the inadequacy of such a worldview.  But questions about how science supports the Bible cannot be addressed because the world of science is not sufficiently common.

(4) Believers and unbelievers have a common humanity, a common ability to reason, and live in a common world.

With this approach one can address the most questions – questions about the existence of God, a worldview which excludes God, questions about science, etc.  One has the most resources in common with which to remove impediments to the Gospel.

I support approach (4) because I think Christians do have that much in common with unbelievers and because it gives the apologist the most tools to address the most questions.  The other approaches lack tools to address some questions and so impediments to the Gospel may remain.

July 2014

The church and the world

At least from the time of Constantine to the Middle Ages, the Church was involved in the world – i.e., public affairs and endeavors such as philosophy.  The Reformation was partly a reaction against this, refocusing the church on spiritual matters and leaving worldly matters to others, that is, to Christians outside the church’s official structure.  The highest authority for the church was the Bible but outside the church the prince or king ruled.  This was reflected for example in rejecting marriage as a sacrament – Protestant churches did not even perform weddings for several centuries.

Protestants were content to let natural philosophers (scientists) do their thing though the Catholic church remained sensitive to the philosophical and theological implications of natural philosophy – that’s what got Galileo in trouble.  The Bible was the authority concerning spiritual matters but science became the authority for knowledge of the natural world, as the state was the authority for political matters.  Gradually, Christian countries departed from Christianity because the church left the world to others.

Protestants inspired social movements such as the abolition of slavery but it was a matter of Christians influencing society rather than the church directly involved in social matters.  Then in the early 20th century the social gospel refocused liberal/modernist Protestants on society, while conservative/fundamentalist Protestants reaffirmed the spiritual focus of the church.  In the later 20th century conservatives started to get interested in what was happening in the world since it was affecting them, too – Darwinism, abortion, etc.

Where does that leave us today?  Creationists are surprised that Christians won’t let the Bible be the final authority for science.  But the separation of the Bible from matters of the social or natural world has a long history.  Evangelical churches are focused on spiritual matters and leave social and natural matters to others, who are often non-Christians.  Catholics are still smarting from the Galileo affair and have been reluctant to criticize scientists.

I conclude that creationism will make slow headway in and outside the church until there is a spiritual/philosophical movement that relates spiritual matters to natural matters.  To make a military analogy, para-church organizations such as creationists have are like special forces that help with fighting but it is the army that takes over territory, as only the church can re-take society and science for Christ.

May 2014

 

The theological issue

I agree with those theological critics who say that the age of the earth or universe is not by itself a major issue for theology.  It’s only when the age of the earth or universe are wedded to other ideas that major issues arise.  Two minor issues can make a major issue.

Before the rist of modern science, a constancy paradigm reigned that held there was a large, unchanging supralunary world and a small, sublunary world that varied within limits.  The age of the universe or earth made little difference for the constancy paradigm.  Hence Christians could accept the view that the universe had no beginning, as long as God was understood as responsible for its existence.

Modern science changed all this, first in astronomy and gradually in all the sciences. When the evolution paradigm arose, Christians were told it was a lawful process guided by God’s providence.  Theistic evolutionists still have this idea even though evolutionists have made it clear that evolution is completely unguided.  Now if evolution has less that 10 thousand years to work, it cannot do much and so age becomes a major issue for them.  Hence they defend hypertemporality (deep time) strongly.

At this point the age of the earth is an enabling issue for evolutionary common ancestry.  Now common ancestry should be a theological issue because it says that the difference between all organisms is a matter of degree, not kind.  So theistic evolutionists have to posit undetectable spiritual kinds or become progressive creationists and posit unrecorded miracles.  Either way they have retreated from the Bible.

The main theological issue is the reality of multiple kinds of organisms, which are discontinuous with each other, with a particular discontinuity between humans and non-humans.  Without this, the Bible makes no sense.  Because of this, I’m a multiple kind creationist (MKC).

December 2013