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Showing posts with label Philosophy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philosophy. Show all posts

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Did you really mean that?

Christian Graphic: Words Scripture Papel de Parede Imagem
Gloria Estefan song, ‘Words Get in the Way,’ I think expresses what many of us feel at time when trying to express ourselves; but first the stanza I have in mind—
Won't even start to cry
And before we say goodbye
I tried to say "I love you"
But the words got in the way

This, of course, highlights a common experience that we all have, and that is: We just cannot seem to find the right words to express ourselves. 
Being the amateur philosopher that I am, however, I cannot help but observe that love and other emotions are not something that you can just abstract, refine and pour in a bottle from which you can just take a sip from time to time to get the feeling across. Words in and of themselves are elusive and multifaceted; and as such, of course, mean different things to different folks. 
As Pentecostals (a term I prefer to avoid being lumped in with all the kooks who claim to have the spiritual gifts and, in my opinion don’t—or at the very least fall into the category of those of whom Christ said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you.’” Matthew 7:21-23) … well, in any event, I do prefer to say, as Pentecostals we of all people struggle with trying to pin down an all-inclusive definition of what we sense when under the influence these gifts.  
At times, for instance, as in the gift of knowledge, we find it relatively easy to describe what God has shown us when compared to, say, the gift of tongues. With tongues we may feel good about it, but totally ignorant when it comes to understanding what has been said.  
Thus, we can readily see that words although necessary in understand may not, however, always be available when trying to communicate one’s feelings.
Words, however, are only part of the equation.  Words must be given flesh or if you prefer form, they must be in reference to a common experience or all we hear is “babble, babble, babble.”
So, words at their best are only as good as common experience allows them to be. You may not, for instance, have a notion of what a horse is, if you have never seen a horse, or better yet ridden one. Listen to words about a horse all day long if you wish, but only firsthand knowledge of a horse will bring you closer to what a horse actually is; and even then, certain aspects of the definition will still be lacking.
Therefore, we can reasonably say that words are never any more than approximates.
Let us, now, attempt to take one step beyond approximates. Can we do that? Well, yes and no. Yes, we can experience an iridescent semblance of the reality to which a word may point; however, the ever elusive reality it seems is in an ever elusive retreat mode. We cannot seemingly ever capture the moment, the object of consideration.
That being said, we as Christians are never left abandoned to the mercies of the ersatz. No, there is really something there, it is just beyond expression.
This observation is not without significance, however. I say that because Christ as the living word makes God possible not just as a word, but as an experience. Words are static, lifeless; whereas, the Word is active and full of life.
This to me is the most wonderful part of being Christian. We get to take part in not just understanding at best just a shadow of what The Word means, but we get to participate in the fullest extent of what The Word is and means. It’s not just head knowledge, words. It is actual and meaningful participation in a spiritual reality—that is, Christ the living word.
Is it any wonder then that Paul mused —
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13)”?
Why do I say that? Because God is love, and to understand God, there is no better way than to embrace that love.
Take care,

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

My God Thinks Outside the Box . . .

Thinking Outside the Box
A.W. Tozer once wrote that—

The answer to the question, “Where did I come from?” can never be better answered than by the Christian mother who tells her child, “God made you.” The great store of knowledge in today’s world cannot improve on that simple answer. The scientist can tell us the secrets of how matter operates, but the origin of matter lies in deep silence, refusing to give an answer to man’s question. It is important for Christian believers to be able to stand firmly and positively in this declaration: “Thus saith the Lord!” Our chief business is not to argue or to persuade our generation. With our positive declaration of God’s Word and revelation, we make God responsible for the outcome. No one can know enough to go beyond this. 

I must say that in all my years as a professor of Apologetics, I have never found a better answer, either. Reason can take us to a logical antecedent but beyond that it is mute. We all know, or at least should know that reason operates inside a box—in our case a box of time and space and reasonable imagination; however, that imagination can never take us beyond that box and remain reasonable, as it were. Reasoning outside the box is only possible with revelation. Inside the box a virgin birth remains illogical, a fantasy beyond imagination; outside the box, however, through the gift of faith we understand that God thinks outside the box.

Now, since He created the box and decides what and when something will be placed in the box, it is his privilege to do just that. Virgin birth? No, problem, if and when it serves His purpose. All supernatural miracles fall in that category—that is, the category of His purposeful intentions; and there is nothing illogical about that.

 What are those purposeful intentions? Well, God is very clear about that, Scripture says that we are all “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).” In other words, it is His “purposeful intention” that we be conformed to the image of Christ. That’s our destiny in a summary. 

Now, the beautiful thing about this intention is that God will literally move Heaven and Hell to accomplish His purposes. John the Revelator tells us that He does just that, too. Read it for yourself, it’s there, Revelation 20:14 tells us Hell will be thrown into the Lake of Everlasting Fire (which is the second death), and in chapter 21, verse 2, John informs us that he saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and brought down to earth, so that God himself could dwell with us. Pretty awesome thoughts!

So, in essence we know that nothing, absolutely nothing—not even Hell can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).”

Does that make me a Universalists? No, it just makes me a stickler for God’s word. And, God’s word assures me that the fear of Hell is no longer an option for me because God has greater plans for me. God can and will handle Hell and all the rascals that go there. So, I will simply leave the problem of Hell and what that verse means up to them—that’s their problem, not mine.  

Thus we can walk with the assurance, not of worldly wisdom, but with a reasonable faith that is made possible by a God who thinks outside the box.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why? What about, "Because?"

According to George Dvorsky there are 8 great philosophical questions that we'll never solve. His opinion is that there's a spat brewing between some theoretical physicists and philosophers of science. He writes—

"Philosophy goes where hard science can't, or won't. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension."

Here the 8 hard questions he asks for you to look at and ask yourself if you have ever asked them—
1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
2. Is our universe real?
3. Do we have free will?
4. Does God exist?
5. Is there life after death?
6. Can you really experience anything objectively?
7. What is the best moral system?
8. What are numbers?

Chances are, you have asked yourself the first 7 questions, but not the last (unless, of course, you’re a nerd. No offence intended). How you answer them is, of course, another matter altogether. Personally, I like what one student of philosophy wrote on her final exam when the final, and only question was: “Why?”

It took her less time to answer that than it took me to write this sentence; her answer was: “Because!” And, guess what? She was right. I must say that she was a whole lot sharper than most of my students.

Hers was a simple answer, and as usual, the simple answer is generally the best.
May I say in regards to these 8 questions that after teaching apologetics to prepare students to answer these major concerns that I have, that I have given the simply answer up front. We start with “BECAUSE” and work out from there.

My reasoning is this. There is no “WHY?” unless there is a “BECAUSE.” God never expected us to start with the “WHYS of life.” So, we need to get busy and figure out the “BECAUSES.”

To put it another way. Faith is a given, not something we need to muster up. Pray tell me, where in all the pages of Scripture do we find God trying to convince us of His very existence, including His creation (numbers included!)? Where in the pages of Scripture do we find the Bible asking us if we have free will? As a matter of fact, where do we find any of these basic questions asked? The Book of Job comes about as close to addressing these questions systematically; however, the question is never an independent “WHY?” The question always rest on a “BECAUSE” this happens, then “WHY?”

Then why trust the Bible on these issues? Well, primarily because the Bible starts and ends with the “BECAUSES” of reality, not the “WHYS.” And, I trust it because it best answers the “WHYS” of life.

Complicated? No, not really. Think of it this way. What satisfies you most, the “WHYS” of God, or His “BECAUSES?” Think of the greatest “BECAUSE” of all,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son.” (John 3:16)

Need we ask, “Why?” His “BECAUSE” already tell us why. God loves us, that why. As, a matter of fact, proof of that love is anchored in His very nature, since He loved us first, then he washed us. (Rev. 1:5) Normally, we want to clean someone up first, then love them, not the other way around. No so with God. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) And, the proof of that love?

Well, perhaps that old song by Minnie Steele says it best—

I remember when my burdens rolled away;I had carried them for years, night and day.When I sought the blessèd Lord,And I took Him at His word,Then at once all my burdens rolled away.
Rolled away, rolled away,I am happy since my burdens rolled away.Rolled away, rolled away,I am happy since my burdens rolled away.I remember when my burdens rolled away;That I feared would never leave, night or day.Jesus showed to me the loss,So I left them at the cross;I was glad when my burdens rolled away.
I remember when my burdens rolled away,That had hindered me for years, night and day.As I sought the throne of grace,Just a glimpse of Jesus’ face,And I knew that my burdens could not stay.
I am singing since my burdens rolled away;There’s a song within my heart night and day.I am living for my king,And with joy I shout and sing:Hallelujah, all my burdens rolled away!
Now, I ask you, once we have experience that, must we ask “Why?” We already know “Why?” His ‘BECAUSE” tells us why. He loves us. 

Now, I am yours for the journey,

P.S. The response to my latest book has been encouraging. If you haven't already, check it out. And, don't forget to pray for our ministry in the meantime.

+ Words & Music: Minnie A. Steele, 1908 (  ).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Love as Primal Knowledge

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8 NIV)

Primarily, we understand that primal knowledge is first of all revealed or intuitive, a priori knowledge, though not contrary to reason, faith is nonetheless superior to reason. Reason apprehends faith, not the other way around. God makes no apologies as to who he is; but simply states, “I am that I am.”—thereby affirming, his self-sustaining existence. However, because of His generous grace and love toward us, he by revelation makes himself known unto us. This act of grace, though unmerited, is nonetheless a necessary grace in as much as it is an expression of His divine nature. God is love, and in him is no shadow of darkness within him. Thus, we can count on the transparency of his love to clearly reveal his inwardness by his outwardness. So, we therefore understand that his inwardness and outwardness are one and the same, but not in that order.

Love is foundational to his outwardness. Faith, therefore, is based on the outwardness of his inwardness to assure us of the perfection of his inwardness. We who depend on his outwardness to understand his inwardness clearly understand that now abide these three: faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity. Each of these, however, do not stand alone, as they are but the natural consequences of the foundational principle of love. Without love there is no hope—for all may end in naught, and, therefore, confidence is lost. Also, we may easily understand that without love there is no charity—for there is no reason for charity. Furthermore, it can also be safely said that “perfect love castes out fear, for there is no fear in love [1 John 4:18].”

 We, therefore, are securely anchored in love by hope with full confidence in His promises to us through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior [Hebrews 6:17-20].

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Truth is where you find it . . .

You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it. — G. K. Chesterton 

This week, I have pondered on Paul’s statement that: 

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21)

Strange words, aren't they? Why in the name of commonsense would anyone in their right mind ever spout off a mouth full of foolishness to convince anyone of anything? Yet, we find this obviously well-educated man perfectly pleased with admitting that he was willing—not just willing, but eager, you might say—to become a fool for Christ’s sake.” (1 Cor. 4:10) 

What would ever possess a man to do that?

The true is, however, that Christianity has always run counter culture to conventional wisdom, particular on social and moral issues. Furthermore, Christianity and academia more often clashes than not; perhaps more than ever before—at least when it comes to creationism and evolution. Politically almost any imaginable sin can fly under the banner of freedom; except, of course, any act that may be construed to be politically incorrect, no matter how trivial.

Need I give examples? Ask Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball franchise, if he ever intends to use the word 'hoodie' again. Such are the trivialities of our political correctness. Want another one? Ask the former Pope Benedict XVI why he felt he had to apologize for a statement he made about Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany in his lecture 12 September 2006. Ask both of them, and if they are absolutely candid about it they will tell you that it was not the politically correct thing to do.

Things like freedom of choice are part of our belief system that runs counter to the conventional wisdom? ? What about that?

May I suggest that, that all depends on what your choices are?

Then what about freedom to love as you please?

Well, I would have to answer that, that all depends on your definition of love and what you are in love with. For some love is expressed in a one night stand, or something far more appalling—like for instance I once read of a pedophile defending himself on the basis of love. He said that he simply loved children.

This whole scenario reminds me of what G. K. Chesterton once said—and that is,
“All that an insane man has left is his reason.”
So, logic and reason, particularly in the arena of morals and faith, must have a solid foundation on which to base conclusions. Otherwise, rightness and wrongness get all muddled up.

Let me give you a couple of historic examples. Prior to Christianity in the Hawaiian Islands it was perfectly acceptable for a brother to marry his sister to carry on the royal line. Another example of allowing society to pick and choose their morals at will is found in Polynesia on the Pitcairn Islands which was settled in 1790 by a group of British mutineers of the HMS Bounty and Tahitians. There up and until just recently young girls as early as 11 and 12 years old were forced to marry sometimes men in their 30’s and 40’s. Appalling, isn't it?
Yet, all of this made good sense to the royals of Hawaii and the bachelors in the Pitcairn Islands. Sure it was incest, and, yes, it was pedophilia, but it made sense to those folks.

Now, mind you, that is just in the area of morals. Let’s also take a close look at science and faith.
Who are we to believe here? Nothing, then the big bang? Or something, then creation? Jesus, then death? Or Jesus, then death followed by a resurrection?

The point being—although, the world at large doesn't get the picture yet—is that you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.

For me, and you, of course, that something is faith; but not just blind faith, it must be faith based on something. And, that something is God and His Word, as in Jesus the Word of God and Holy Scripture as God’s written word. Leave that out of you syllogism and you are indeed a fool; but albeit, not for Christ’s sake.

This is why, Paul could say previously,
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:4-9)
 For as Martin Luther discovered so many years ago,
For by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8)

Now, the million dollar question is, “Do we really get it? Do we understand that our faith is God given, and that by grace? That we don’t deserve it? That, as a matter of fact, we don’t even understand it without Him telling us so.”

Such is the amazing grace of God—that we who were once alien and estranged from God and without the wisdom to understand why, are now made part of the Family of God. (1 Peter 2:11)

 Now, friends, that is true wisdom.

As usual, I am yours for the journey,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Musings on the Trinity

Ontologically, God is and in essence the single and only primal consciousness of imaginative and willfull potentialities. In His imaginative and realized potentialities by inference He communicates Himself as self sustaining love. Since only Godly intentionality is capable of sustaining and communicating such primal love it is rightfully assumed that His expressed purposes are of such nature. Now, let us consider these assertions. 

Firstly, as the primal essence God is what He is and He is understood only when declared as such. Fortunately, as an act of sustaining love God graciously discloses Himself to us through His Word which He announces and was proclaimed in the kerygma and from which we derive doctrine.

Accordingly, the kerygma is distinct from didache, which refers to teaching, instruction, or doctrine. Thus the kerygma refers to the initial introduction to the claims of the Gospel with an implied or otherwise stated appeal for conversion, whereas; on the other hand, the didache (catechesis) concerns the fuller and more extensive doctrinal and moral teaching and instruction in the Faith that a person receives once he has accepted the kerygma and has been baptized* and which more fully assist our understanding of the content of this persuasive grace. God as such--that is in His divine essence--has lovingly and thereby graciously initiated both the disclosure and the creaturely capacity for understanding the act and nature of this message. 

This we believe necessarily, that then:
". . . faith [comes] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." [Romans 10:17]
In other words, conceptionally faith is activated in content as a word from God--the word, however, is not faith but only the self-disclosing content on which faith acts.

Thus by faith and a priori intuition we understand that God is and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. [Hebrews 11:6 NIV] Ethereal concepts are however just that: concepts, unless actualized in the praxis of life. Two plus two may in ethereal reality equal four; however, the concept is understood first in concrete reality--thus, Godwardly we understand the necessity of the incarnation for a fuller understanding of who He is.

Thus the axiom that if one wishes to understand a jelly fish then one must have access to a jelly fish is true in this case even more so because for God to remain ethereally aloof in His aseity may not discount His existence but it would most certainly influence our understanding of Him and at best He could only be understood apophatically.

This, Tillich understood but failed to articulate how he came to this conclusion other than through ignorance. Apophatic ignorance is hallow without reference or substance so therefore is incapable of understanding.

It is said that Buddha was once asked what God is and he pointed to a variety of things and said, "God is not this; God is not that!" Naturally, he could have gone on infinitely since the primal essence of God is beyond our grasp unless we are granted through and by His self-disclosure to glimpse His inwardness through the analogy of His outwardness in the praxis of our understanding. 

This God has done, we believe, in and through the incarnation of His primal essence in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth, His Son and the son of Mary, a virgin girl married to Joseph the carpenter as recorded in Holy Writ the Christian canon of scriptures.   

That having been said, however, gives humanity at best only a glimpse of His Godly glory which may spark a certain curiosity but can only be adequately understood when appropriated in faith.

Faith without action is dead, so we thereby understand that a casual or intellectual curiosity is not sufficient. Commitment is required and by His grace we come to sense cognitively that we are indeed His child as our spirit bears witness with His Spirit that we are His offspring. [Acts 17:28] 

And, again we read in Romans 8:15-19 that,
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. [NIV]

Further, the Scriptures informs us that,
6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” [Galatians 4:6 NIV]

This certain dawning, as it were, is the eureka moment--that, aha! moment at which our human experience suddenly realizes that God is there and we then realize that ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ [Acts 17:28 NIV]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why The Caged Birds Sings

singing birds
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom
The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

 ~ Maya Angelou ~

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Leadership In A Nutshell

The Daily Dozen For Leaders
1. Leaders get out in front and stay there by raising the standards by which they judge themselves ---- and by which they are willing to be judged.
2. To embark successfully on a career involving leadership demands courage.  Once a person has decided the part he wishes to play in life, and is assured he is doing the work for which he is best endowed, and is satisfied that he is filling a vital need, then he needs the courage to tackle the problems he must solve.
3. Leaders need to submit themselves to a stricter discipline than is expected of others.  Those who are first in place must be first in merit.
4. No sluggard need aspire to leadership.  There are passive persons who are content to go through life, getting lifts from people and wait until action is forced upon them.  They are not of leadership material.
5. Leaders are not impetuous.  They keep a balance between emotional drive and sound thinking.  Enthusiasm stimulates their energy.
6. The leader must take counsel from his people, but he will act on what his mind tells him is right.  He has trained himself out of the fear of making mistakes.
7. Leaders must steer a careful course between keeping their fingers in every pie, dictating in detail what is to be done by whom, and on the other hand slackening the reins so that assistants learn only by experience and make costly mistakes.
8. Leadership is getting people to work for you when they are not obligated to do so.
9. Vision, policies, and plans are more or less useless unless they are known to all who may be concerned with them.
10. To tackle problems in a masterly way, the leader must see things whole as well as in separate parts.
11. The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on our gains.  Any fool can do that.  The important thing is to profit from our losses.
12. In every significant event, there has been a bold leader, an object or purpose, and an adversary.
This week think about: 1) Which of the twelve hits me today? 2) Who first saw me as a leader? 3) How am I identifying and encouraging other leaders?
Words of Wisdom: “Those who are first in place must be first in merit.”
Wisdom from the Word: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he had said.Moses chose capable men from all Israel, and he made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus 18:24,25 NET Bible)
From Breakfast with Fred Fred Smith, Sr. 1915-2007

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Ontological Trinity

Trinity vs. Oneness
Bishop Kenneth Cragg, whom I met years ago when I was a young missionary in Egypt has said that God in Islam is distinguished by his absolute and indivisible unity. For instance, Cragg points out that “In sura 112, Muhammad defines God in these words:
“Say: He is God, The One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten; And there is none Like unto Him.” This sura is held to be worth a third of the whole Qur’an. The seven heavens and the seven earths are founded upon it. Islamic tradition affirms that to confess this verse sheds one’s sins as a man might strip a tree in autumn of its leaves” (Cragg 39).

Mulling over this just recently has got me to thinking. Muslims are not the only ones that have problems with understanding the Sonship of Jesus. Which, in many ways is a puzzle to me.

For example, the Psalmist David seem to have a clear understanding of the relationship that Jesus had with the Father, for David writes,

I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (KJV)

He declared His eternal relationship with the Son, not on the basis of the begottenness of His Son as a man, but on the fact that His Sonship preceded His begottenness.

And the author of the book of Hebrews reaffirms this with,
“For to which of the angels did [God] ever say, You are My Son, today I have begotten You. And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He will be to Me a Son? (Hebrews 1:5)

However, when the Qur’an declares that He [God] begetteth not, then there is much with which to disagree, primarily because it denies the incarnation of His Son.

Now, I want to be careful to distinguish between my position that Jesus was God before He was begotten with that of the Gnostic Sabellianist David K. Bernard who embraces the adoptionists position that Jesus was not a son before he was begotten. As, of course, with all heresy Mr. Bernard has many nuances in his position, but none that grasps the significance of the fact that God declared Jesus a Son prior to His incarnation.

Personally, I think both the Muslims and the Sabellianist would profit from considering an ontology of God that allows an essence of a trinity of persons , or as some have called it, an Ontological Trinity.

Karl Rahner has said that Christians in their practical lives are all “almost mere
monotheists”—suggesting that if the doctrine of the Trinity were proven false tomorrow the majority of religious literature could “well remained virtually unchanged.”[1] I agree. Largely, because I believe that orthodox Christians are indeed monotheists doctrinally. 

Much can be said of the uniqueness of the Trinity but nothing is more distinctive than His all sufficiency. He is lacking in nothing. The essence of the Godhead is testimony to that. Let’s consider the personhood of Jesus for a moment.

I begin with a question: “Would God have been sufficient if he would have had to create or even father an earthly son in order to reconcile us through a human Jesus, whom he later adopted into the Godhead?” I think not. If so, why adopt him into the Godhead? Was the adoption some kind of congratulatory afterthought? The price that Jesus paid for our redemption as a mere man; albeit, a good and perfect man, seems rather trivial compared to God the Son, sacrificing Himself for us. To think less, cheapens the atonement.

If God the Son had not been present in Godly essence, then He could have ever fulfilled His Divine mission. Why? The Scriptures clearly state,
“[T]hat God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

So, when did Jesus become God? When did the adoption take place. When did God enter Jesus in His fullness? The Scripture is certainly silent on that, if one insists that Jesus was elevated into the Godhead, somewhere or time during His life here on earth.

His baptism for sure is not a confirmation of that position. For the voice from Heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:17] Again, illustrating that He was already a Son.

And, we also know of that time Peter says,
For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 3.2 Peter 1:17

But, once again, God the Father declares first of all that “This is my beloved Son” [past tense] in whom I am well pleased [present tense]. And, it is from that declaration that Peter asserts that Jesus received honor and glory.

So, what we have here, in my opinion, is a Divine strategy played out in a human environment.

Once again, I refer you to the Scripture mention above,
“[T]hat God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself not imputing their trespasses unto them and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Now, I fully realize that prepositions in any language can be easily misinterpreted; but I believe that from the context and other verses we can truthful deduct that this “in” contains the essence of God in His fullness. How else then do we explain the verse that declares that in Him, that is Jesus Christ, “dwells the fullness of the Godhead [Deity] bodily”? (Colossians 2:9)

How much more plain can you get?

We know that this was pleasing to the Father, for in verse 19 and 20 of the first chapter of this same epistle, the Apostle  declares,
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

[1] Rahner, Karl, The Trinity, trans. Joseph Donceel (New York: Herder and Herder, 1970), 10-11.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Post Modernity, an oxymoron or what?

Well, that title is an oxymoron if I have ever seen one, or is it?

First of all, let’s take a look at what the proponents of this new way of looking at our times are saying. In essence, their argument is that the old categories of understanding “our times” are obsolete.

For example, the digital world has broken down the barriers of information accessibility. The average Joe can, and often does, access volumes formerly accessible only to scholars. This, of course, can and does have repercussions for the good as well as the bad. Those with good intent can become a better informed citizen; those with evil intent can find out how to make a bomb or disseminate poisonous propaganda and even cut someone’s head off for all to see over the internet, and thereby strike fear in the heart of the infidel.

Secondly, culture has shifted from an “us” to an all inclusive “we.”

Now, particularly, is the above true in the culture of economics. The aftershocks of this new adjustment is never more evident than in the recent financial meltdown resulting in the current recession. Whether, we like it or not, Keynesian economics is now global and the common working man and woman will continue to be manipulated to adjust to this new reality. To put it bluntly, Big Brother is not only looking after you, but will dictate his terms to you—including, your options on how you think and express yourself. For Big Brother money is always the catalysis—abortion is in, because it liberates women to maintain a preferred lifestyle; science is manipulated to build an economic platform to launch a global initiative to save our planet; religious convictions are compromised to establish an atmosphere of political correctness (after all, it is argued, sectarian strife hampers commerce).

Need I say more? I think not. It is pretty obvious, as far as I am concerned, that the love of money is the root cause of all this evil.

Thirdly, absolutes are obsolete. This is more than Fletcherism, too—because in the end, situation ethics did strive for moral conclusions. No, those that have bought into this new way of looking at things are simply saying, absolutes are not important. Religious absolutes only bred strife, and therefore thwart economic progress. Scientific absolutes are only important as long as they serve a political purpose. A fine line is drawn between men and animals, and then is quickly parlayed into a raison d'être for all kinds of dangerous biological experimentations—cloning, gender choice, DNA replacement therapy, surrogate motherhood, stem cell research (after all it is only the by product of a non-viable fetus),  and so-forth. In short, man is willing to play God to advance his agenda.

May, I also point out that theology is not immune, either. Modern seminaries and Bible colleges have abandoned the old paradigms for ministerial training and substituted the systematics with courses in leadership, and growing a user-friendly church, among other non-essentials. Greek and Hebrew for the most part are reserved for the nerds, and a class is formed only when there are enough nerds around to fill it. Otherwise, a fancy course in persuasion will do just fine. Why? Because the bottom-line in post modernity is quantitative results that can be graphed in numbers and economic charts. Resulting, of course, in just more of the same—but, in this case, the same is bigger.

I fail to see how mega churches, or mega anything, can result in a mega Christians. That is not to say that something good cannot come out of something big; it is only to say that, that something good was not produced by that something big. Converts are made and discipled in one to one encounters—that is in I-Thou relationships, not I-other events. Yet, the post modern thinks in those terms, politically, religiously, economically, and otherwise. The masses are not always right; as a matter of fact, seldom right. (Yes, you read me right. Masses are seldom right. Think about it, and I am sure you will agree.) So, unless our mega friends find out a way to personalize discipleship we are destined for a spiritually anemic Christian—a placid automaton, mass produced for a sign of ministry success.

Check the statistics, and I am sure the stats will confirm that. Percentile averages weigh heavily on the side of smallness, rather than bigness.

Yet, in the spirit of the world, we insist on relevance at the expense of reality. The truth is, narrow is the way. Small is the gate. Few there are that will enter in. Does that mean that I am championing smallness? No, on the contrary. I long for the masses; however, on the other hand, we can not—indeed, we should not—widen the user friendly gate so wide that the gospel becomes little more than a friendly pep talk to get you through the week.

Now, I realize that smallness in clumps of numbers can be mass produced under a big tent, but let us be careful not to compromise sound principles just for the sake of the status of success.

Shall, I give you the bottom-line? The bottom-line is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Why? Because God does not change. Therefore, we Christians should not be blown about by every strange wind that whips across the stage of life whether modern, post modern, or not.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

God: An epistemological certainty

Knowing and doing are two different things altogether. Yet, we all know that with God, there is no division between the two. Thomas A. Kempis, a monk who wrote during the Middle Ages, once asked, "What doth it profit thee to dispute deeply abut the Trinity, if thou be wanting in humility, and so be displeasing to the Trinity?"

Then with wisdom, he went on to say, "I would rather feel compunction [remorse] than know how to define it."

Sometimes, as an aspiring theologian (which at this point in my life I must say that a heavy emphasis should be placed on the word, aspiring) I find it much easier to wax eloquent on a holy concept than to live a life of holiness.

May God grant us the desire to become doers of the word, and not hearers only. Sometimes I think we hear, or think we hear the word of the Lord, but do not really understand because our perception of what God is saying and what God is really saying are altogether different. So, we expound on nuances and trivialities, and many times just outright falsities.

Paul cautions us to,
"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 (NASB ©1995)

Personally, I think we need to take a very close look at that verse. Philosophy, all philosophy, is deceptive. Why do I say that? Well, primarily because it is!

Now, allow me to explain.

Philosophy originates on the grid of human intellect. It is the expressed thoughts of man as he gazes inward, outward and upward through a filter of inadequate language patterns, paradigms, illusions, and experiences. Therefore, it is faulty. We cannot trust it for ontological certainty.

So, my policy when reading theology is square it up with Scripture. This in my opinion, eliminates dialectical theology—pitting God over against nature and reason, and searching for understanding in that. "Not at all!" as Paul says, "Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge." Romans 3:4 (NIV ©1984)

In light of this, I feel that a good hermeneutical for us to follow is to allow God to speak for Himself. We do not define God. God defines himself. Or in the words of Martin Luther, we must "let God be God." Really, we have no other choice.

This would also rule out the silly illogical theology of evolution as espoused by men like Michael Dowd; or Christological monism (which sounds good, but in fact is just monism with a theological twist); or liberalism; or conservatism, and so-forth. Why? Because God does not fit into any of these boxes. God is God, period. Describing him does not make him better, or different, or changed in any way. God is what He is. I AM, He said. Nothing more; nothing less.

Therefore, in my opinion we do not discover who He is, or describe Him. He tells us. Naturally, that involves words; but primarily The Word, His Word, His Son, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all things created.

May God grant us the clarity of vision to see Him as He is; and ears to clearly hear His voice at all times and in all of His purposes..

 Jim R

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Soul

Comments by Matt Anderson
I’m generally sympathetic to Robert Gundry’s helpful explication of the role of the body in Biblical theology. His careful exegetical work foreshadowed John Cooper’s conclusions in Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: the anthropology of Scripture points toward something like a substance-dualism, even if it’s not the strong dualism of Plato.

But along the way, Gundry offers this odd argument in defense of dualism:

What in the constitution of man requires God to be there with man? But in that man exists as a unity of two substances, spirit and body, he requires the cohesive force of God for true and full being. Kasemann has seen that there is no way to bind a substantival body and a substantial soul together except by mythological speculation. For mythological speculation, we might prefer God. But the point is the same. A dichotomous distinction within man requires a cohesive force from the outside. And pace Kasemann, that is good, for it fuses anthropology and theology. Insofar as theology and anthropology dovetail in this manner, then, our view of man receives confirmation.

But within the framework of Christian theology, the continuing existence of any creature requires the subterranean affirmation by God of their being. The internal unity of the angelic form could be undone at any moment, as its being is as contingent as the being of humans. Positing God as the only explanation for a particular feature of human existence is no more interesting or illuminating than positing God as the only explanation for existence at all.

What’s more, Gundry’s position actually cuts against the efforts to identify ways in which the soul and body might interact, a problematic feature of all such “God of the gaps” arguments. On such an account, the difficulty of explanation of the relationship turns (magically!) from a virtue into a vice.

In his defense, Gundry is affirming Ernst Kasemann’s argument, and Kasemann is specifically concerned with undoing Rudolph Bultmann’s overly anthropological interpretation of Paul, a reading that problematically minimized God’s involvement with humans. But solving one error with another is never a good strategy, as Kasemann does here.

I think Gundry’s explication of the role and meaning of the body in Scripture is generally correct, but this argument is hardly his finest moment.
Response by Jim Roane
Matt, I appreciate your response to my comments. Yes, I must admit that at times I misread Robert Gundry, perhaps with a jaded view considering his hermeneutical methodology. He is certainly a very capable person—much more than I am, I am sure. The meaning of words comes from a complicated process, that’s for sure. I personally, however—using Ludwig Wittgenstein’s beetle in the box analogy— am not sure I see Gundry’s beetle as clearly as I would like. At times, I get the feeling that Gundry gets carried away with the description to the extent that what is being said becomes the essence of the object of consideration, rather than the other way around.

Once we remove the intuitive from our process of understanding, and revert to a descriptive process our journey becomes more difficult, that’s for sure. Intuition, to be expressed, however, must be described. And, therein, lies the problem. Perhaps, it is the circuitous route that Gundry takes that bores me. Sorry, but that is the best I can come up with at this moment.

Intuitively, I know that I think. To extrapolate beyond that, I rely on experience to process that intuition. To express my discoveries I rely on language, grounded in the intuitive knowledge of cause and effect. Paul, and other Biblical authors are no different. For me, Paul and the other Biblical authors, particularly those within the context of the New Testament, wrote from an intuitive impulse to express their experience within the context of a defined religious community, or at most to those aspiring to become part of that community or to those whom they wished to evangelize and disciple.

Now, it is at this point that Gundry loses me. Paul, for instance, gave definition to the Agnostos Theos at Athens to express an intuitive encounter based on the intuitive knowledge of experience, rather than letting the Athenians provide the meaning of God. Perhaps, I am selfish, or uncompromisingly ignorant, but for me, only God can give definition to God or the essence of His creation.

Again, I must say that the word contains the Word, the essence of all that is, and it is to that to whom we address our inquires, rather than partially define these essences through the process of a depraved language—heathen literature and so-forth. So, in my opinion, Gundry does a poor job in following God’s thoughts after Him.

Now, I realize that this leave a broad target to shoot at; however, I learned a long time ago that I learn very little unless I am willing to become vulnerable. And, admittedly, I may be reading too much into Gundry’s approach; however, I have a feeling that I will enjoy the fire of the responses, if there are any.