iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Tag Archives: Theology

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.

In the beginning is reality

In the beginning is reality. That is, reality precedes us. We discover reality. We don’t invent reality. “Wonder is the only beginning of philosophy.” (Socrates in Plato’s Theaetetus 155d) “For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.” (Aristotle, Met. 982b12).

We wonder about reality. That leads to questions, to queries. Wonder is not skepticism. Wonder does not doubt reality. Wonder affirms reality but wonders about it. What about this or that? The wonderful story of the Virgin Mary’s question to the angel of the annunciation illustrates this:

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Mary wondered rather than doubted. (cf. previous post here.) The angel was strange enough but this was stranger. Could further information be provided? Yes. We are encouraged to ask and seek: “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Jesus in Luke 11:9)

We begin but reality has already begun. So we begin again. That is, we begin in the middle. We begin with questions. Socrates has many questions. He shows us how to keep asking. He knows nothing before his questions are answered. “The theologian always begins in the middle” (Stanley Hauerwas) and the philosopher does, too.

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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Church and ethnos

Most Christian congregations have an ethnos, a term from cultural anthropology for people with a common national or cultural tradition. Congregations are usually part of a larger network, denomination, or hierarchy, which has at least one ethnos. (Eastern) Orthodox autocephalous churches are national churches, which include the ethnos of their nation. The (Roman) Catholic church incorporates multiple national churches, each with its own ethnos. In places such as the U.S., a Catholic parish reflects the ethnic background of the parishioners, usually Italian, Spanish, Irish, or Polish.

Protestant denominations reflect their national origins. Lutherans have a Germanic or Scandinavian ethnos. Presbyterians have a Dutch, Scottish or Swiss ethnos. Anglicans have a strong British ethnos, which includes the Queen. Many denominations adopt the ethnos of the country they reside in, so for example American Baptists have an American ethnos. The Messianic congregations springing up have a Jewish ethnos.

A church ethnos reflects the way that Christianity is a universal religion that does not replace the ethnos of its adherents. The original Christian church had a Jewish ethnos but as Gentile believers became dominant, Christianity acquired the ethnos of the nations. The apostolic decision that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised or keep the Jewish law affirmed Gentile national customs and laws.

Some worry that a church ethnos may be excessive or even idolatrous. While that is possible, church and ethnos have been together for centuries without significant harm. The excesses that have been pointed out, such as the Russian Orthodox under the Czars or some Lutherans in Nazi Germany, have come and gone. And the Lutheran Confessing Church was a witness against an excessive ethnos in the church.