A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

Why is Arianism bad?

For an intellectual exercise with a purpose, here is a question for my fellow Nicene Creeders. Why is Arianism such a horrible heresy? Why is it worse than, for instance being wrong on the topic of free will? To take the question a bit deeper, how does Arianism run counter to whole of the Biblical message (minus the passages that speak about Jesus’ divinity)? And when I mean Biblical message, I do not mean atonement theory and other metaphysical ideas that are not ever mentioned within the Bible. So no reference to Anselm’s substitution or things like that.

I have my own answer, but I await to see what other ideas there might be to this one.

February 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

The Jesus of History and Faith

In God and History, Laurence Wood traces the relationship between the theological enterprise with history, tracing it through Kahler, Barth, Bultmann, and finishing with Ebeling. Bultmann created a divorce between the Jesus of history with the Jesus of faith. Bultmann in the end echoes the philosophy of Heidegger, in which there is no objective meaning but only the future possibilities that we then strive for. Bultmann adopts this type of thinking, but makes Jesus that future possibility that we follow after, even if there is no objective history about him that corresponds with the Jesus of faith. But that is kind of like making a story of a man who makes wax wings and flies by moving his arms up and down the the example to follow.

If human possibilities are limitless, then perhaps a divorce of faith and history is suitable. But if we recognize the very limitation of human living, then a story that is not grounded in history may in fact be beyond our limitations. Why should I follow the example of Jesus and not Daedelus? Or I could make up a story of a man who morphs himself into other creatures?  Why not follow that?

In the end, we recognize the limitations of our own ability. And this goes so far as even psychology, in which without outside aid, people can not do many things. A person with a phobia of spiders can not hold a tarantula, unless there is a support system to help desensitize them. And there are many things that are not possible without the judgment that they are mental ill.

And in the, that is how many skeptics view Christians who believe in resurrection. Denying the premise that Jesus rose from the dead (or anyone else), a person who dies expected to be raised is seen as mentally ill. And indeed, they may perhaps be if they don’t believe anyone has been resurrected before but that they will be the first.

And the life of purity without giving in to temptation? Unless we view ourselves as purely autonomous beings who have free will at every point in their lives (which can not readily correspond with a causal system), what hope do we have of overcome all our self-concerns to do what is best for all? If Jesus didn’t do it, why should we believe that we might be capable?

The historical aspect of Jesus is the very foundation for the Christian life and hope. If we haven’t seen it done before, why should we be so arrogant to believe that we can do it? A Jesus of faith but not history is no better than a myth. It doesn’t show human potential, but only the cognitive ability to put together a story.

The Jesus of faith must be what we believe to be the Jesus of history, or we create a hypothetical religion or a religion that relies upon hidden and supernatural forces, which can serve as a “tabula rasa” to justify any believe. But why should we believe in that proclaimed spiritual working over other forms of spirituality if there is no earthly, historical basis to even begin to make it feasible?

And where the Jesus of history goes, so our faith.

October 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Dichotomy between doctrine and morals

One of the more pronounced differences between “liberal” and “conservative” Protestantism is the dichotomy that has been seemingly had been morality and doctrine. While both groups properly have some doctrinal beliefs and some call to morality, conservative theology can be seen as the appropriation of doctrine above morality, whereas liberal theology does the opposite.

In classic Protestantism and the doctrine of justification by faith alone, doctrinal acceptance becomes the basis for acceptance. What one believes has its value in that correct belief is the necessary and sufficient condition for forgiveness and eternal life. What one does, morality, is not the means to forgiveness and eternal life.

Although to be fair, Luther, Calvin, and others did say that the one who believes and has eternal life will do what is good. However, the link between belief and goodness was not direct. It instead had a third variable, regeneration of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit performs a supernatural work to change the heart and mind of the person. This was consequent on belief, and so morality came as a result of belief, but it was not tied directly with it. But this result could only be had if one continued to maintain that all the save would be upright. If one either rejected the necessity of regeneration to created morally upright creatures, or saw faith enabling the forgiveness that allows for a simultaneous acceptance and yet evil state, then there resulted a divorce between doctrine and morality.

Of course, this antinomian tendency was thoroughly denounced because the Bible and the New Testament in particular was not antinomian. But the correlation between doctrine and morality was only had because they were both contained within the same source of knowledge, not because morality was consequent upon doctrine. So both would have been proclaimed by the majority of Bible believers, but there would be a seemingly divergence between the morality Jesus seemingly proclaimed and the attitude of Protestantism as it was in which doctrine was the foundation of the Christian faith. Because faith and works were not contingent upon one another, one could reject the content of faith while still maintaining the works proclaimed as morally upright.

This leads us to modern thinking, best exhibited in Kantian philosophy. For Kant, he could have a skepticism about what exists beyond the realm of our five senses, and yet making moral necessity the basis for belief in God (although never allowing us to be absolutely sure of the existence of the world we can not see). Whereas doctrine was placed above morality in classic Protestantism, now morality was placed above doctrine. However, there is a subtle distinction as Kant saw morality as allowing for certain beliefs in the existence of God (a “categorical imperative”), whereas Protestantism didn’t make a well developed direct connection between doctrine and morality.

But combine deism’s and the Enlightenment’s skepticism of miracles and things that defy a natural understanding as derived from reason, not only was the content of faith made in part contingent upon morality, it rejected all articles that were not contingent upon morality. If belief’s were not practical, whether it be from morality or from reason, then there were to be viewed with skepticism, if not rejection.

This leads to one of two logical conclusions. If one rejects the argument that morality is a sufficient reason for belief in God, atheism becomes a tenable conclusion. The other conclusion (if one accepts or rejects that morality is a sufficient for belief in God) is that of liberal theology in which there is the tendency to deny the more miraculous and supernatural things, and in which the individual feeling reigns as authoritative (for instance, with Schleiermacher), not the doctrine that comes from tradition. But both groups (atheists and liberal believers), coming from the Enlightenment and being part of a somewhat Christianized culture, would still maintain the importance of morality.

However, the question comes down to where the source of morality would come from? With the rejection of the supernatural and the Bible proclaiming miraculous events, the Bible was no longer to be trusted as a whole. And that opents the doorway to the eventual skepticism of Biblical morals. Where does the source of morality come from? From one’s own experience (rooted in Schleiemacher) and reasoning (rooted in the Enlightenment). But in the end, both of these are largely the result of one’s own cultural upbringing, which for liberal theology was still largely influenced from the past traditional Christian values maintain in the culture. But morality itself went under the scalpel and much of it was rejected (for instance, in regards to sexuality). So on one hand, there is some similarity in ethics and morals from conservative and liberal parts of the Christianity (for instance, helping the poor), but yet there is a wide divergence on others (such as exclusivism/inclusivism, sexuality, etc.).

In the end, you have a conservative sector that sees liberals as immoral and heterodox, whereas the liberal sector sees conservatives as superstitious and unethical (in part due to the divergence of ethics, but in part because of the lack of a direct connection of beliefs being the actual basis for ethical actions). Conservatives are right to critique liberal theology because for them, the acquisition of truth is purely the result of our own rationale and experience. On the other hand, liberals are right to critique conservative theology because of its seeming divorce between doctrine and morality (only maintained together because they both come from the Bible).

I would contend that doctrine rooted in revelation is grounds we work from in theology, not human experience and reason. Furthermore, the doctrine as revealed in history, such as the resurrection, serves both as the logical basis and psychological basis for morality. For instance, the resurrection guides us to be willing to lay down our lives for the good of others, but also it enables us to lay down our lives because our trust that we will be raised just as Jesus was. There is a direct relationship between belief in doctrine and morality (both logically and behaviorally) that does not require a third variable of a supernatural regeneration by the Holy Spirit (although by no means denying any role for the Spirit in the realm of doctrine and morality). This maintains a critical posture regarding supernatural explanations (by which anything can be justified) while still allowing for the sensible belief in the miraculous, and also accepting morality as critical and equal with the contents of faith. It is both pragmatic and humble regards human knowledge. It requires God to reveal first, but it doesn’t see God’s revelation as distant, abstract propositions to be merely believed, but at it’s core about the human experience and action (both revealing what should be done and psychologically allowing for a person to do what should be done). In which case, faith’s importance is not that doctrinal acceptance is the way to be accepted, but faith molds us through giving proper moral knowledge and moral freedom to do what is good and righteous. Faith is the instrument we play to create the music of righteousness, but faith itself is not the goal nor bare faith the means of acceptance.

It serves as no coincidence then that the two Christian traditions that are the most powerful worldwide are those who never entertained a divorce between doctrine and morals. Catholicism (which I am including the Anglican church in to some degree) never made the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone as central (with Roman Catholicism never accepting it), so it still worked to maintain a tension between faith and works (although not always having a healthy tension). Also, the denominations that are rooted in the Wesleyan holiness movement (such as Methodism, Pentecostalism, etc.) are very influential. Wesley himself saw the importance of practicality in faith, saw works as themselves critical, and even formed some correlation between faith and the psychology of individuals (such as the relationship between faith and the freedom from the fear of death). Both of these two traditions have been very powerful within South America and Africa, the primary mission field for Christianity.

And while both have some conservatizing and liberalizing tendencies within them (the United Methodist denomination I am in the US has very liberal tendencies right now), these two traditions have already formed the nucleus by which it can allow for a group that maintains the proper tension, balance, and correlation of faith and works, and of the natural and supernatural.

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Omnipotence and atonement

Apologies for the abstract nature of this. Hopefully it is understandable.

If we affirm that God is all powerful, we must explore the nature of His power. What is the cause of God’s power? If the cause is anything other than God’s own desire, then one has painted God’s actions as dependent on something else. Therefore, God is not omnipotent. Only if God’s own desire is the only necessary and sufficient cause is God omnipotent.

If that is the case, what God wishes to do must not be necessitated upon any previous cause, even another action of God. If a previous action of God is necessary to perform another action, then part of the power is not placed in the desire of God, but the action itself. Omnipotence doesn’t exist in that case, but God requires more than Himself to perform an action. Now this does not mean that God can not desire to work in such a manner that also uses another cause than His own desire, but He can not be bound to any specific method of doing something.

Applying this to atonement, satisfacation theories begin to fall short. If God wants to forgive, he doesn’t have to have another cause (Jesus’ death) in order to appease His wrath other than His own desire to forgive and save. Is God powerful enough to forgive without sacrifice? If so, His desire is sufficient, and sacrifice does not appease God.

Atonement can not be theologically-centered then (theology proper, that is). It must become anthropologically-centered. Sacrifice isn’t about what it does to God, but what it does to us.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

The sacrifices and Jesus’ atonement

One of the things thoroughly lacking within the New Testament is a specific manner in which Christ’s death plays a role in providing atonement, except through it leading to the resurrection, the victory over death. And yet, the cross plays such a critical role both in the New Testament and theology. Because the New Testament explicitly places an important role on Jesus’ death, and yet there is a lack of New Testament atonement theology, the Torah’s sacrificial system serves as a foundation from which to work from for many people.

It is often times assumed that the sacrifices not only foreshadowing Jesus’ sacrificial death, but also explicitly affirm a theology of appeasement, in which the sacrifice somehow appeases God’s wrath so that He deal with us as His people. I would contend, though, that Jesus’ death doesn’t appease God and that the Torah’s sacrificial system is a foreshadowing of Jesus, not a source for a theological explanation of the saving work exclusive to Jesus’ death.

First off, the problem comes in how we take the Torah’s words about sacrifice. It specifically states that those who fulfill the sacrificial system will be forgiven. If the sacrifices were sufficient for forgiveness, then Jesus’ sacrifice was not necessary for appeasement. If Jesus’ death was necessary for appeasement, then the Torah in fact says something that isn’t true, or one must make an awkward and biblically lacking distinction between different types of forgiveness. If we assume continuity between the Old Covenant and the New, then Jesus’ death being an appeasement of God’s wrath is not theologically workable.

So then the relation between the sacrificial system and Jesus’ atonement is typal and not as much theological, with perhaps God using an already existing practice and giving it value within His Jewish Covenant. Perhaps this can explain why forgiveness was obtained. If the sacrifices played a critical role within the covenant, then it stands to be that the sacrificies implied involvement to the covenant and all that it entailed. Numbers 15:30-31 seems to imply that willful sin lead to a loss in being part of God’s covenant people (“That person must be cut off from among his people”), and with that also, the lack of forgiveness from the sacrifices, given its immediate proximity to Numbers 15:28-29. So, this can serve to explain why Jesus’ sacrifice is for the forgiveness of sins also. It is part of a new covenant, which the participation in brings God’s forgiveness.

However, that still doesn’t serve to explain the saving nature of Jesus’ death. But the only recourse we have left is its association with resurrection. I would contend speaking of Jesus’ death automatically conveyed resurrection. For instance, Hebrews 2:14-15 speaks of how Jesus’ death frees others from the fear of death. But how can death free from the fear of death, unless there is resurrection associated with Jesus’ death?

I also think Hebrews 2:14-15, along with verses 16-17, give the nature of the atonement. Often times, atonement is viewed as substitutionary, Jesus enduring God’s wrath so we won’t have to face it. But instead, the author of Hebrews places priority in Jesus’ participation in the human experience, including death. If we unite death with resurrection, the atonement follows this logic: If Jesus participates in the experience of death that is common to all people, then Jesus’ victory over death in resurrection allows all people to experience victory over death themselves. In the end then, Jesus’ atonement is based upon following the path all humanity goes, but yet with total, ceaseless devotion to God, and then trailing a new path forward beyond death to new life.

Furthermore, Jesus’ own learning of obedience while going up to death also has a soteriological role, and by implication, atonement. Herbrews 5:7-8 says that Jesus made cries for salvation from death and he was heard because of his unwavering devotion to God, but yet he had to actually suffer to the point of death first (incidentially, I tend to think Hebrews 5:8b is hymnic). But it is through that he then is a source of everlasting salvation to all who obey him (5:9). What the author is saying is that Jesus learned full devotion in death, and that his why his trust in the God to raise him from the dead was validated and Jesus vindicated. Thus Jesus, while trusting to not be overcome by death, was able to remain firmly obedient in the face of human temptation and was vindicated, so too can those who obey him in overcoming temptation, even to the point of death (cf. Hebrews 12:4). They trust that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so will they also. So they can obey and overcome temptation, and thus be vindicated/justified themselves.

So, atonement can not be attributed to death alone, but it is had in Jesus participation in human life and death and then victory over death in resurrection. Salvation is had in being united to Jesus example (Romans 6:1-14). The sacrificial systems serve as only a basic typal relationship then and does not provide a theological or anthropological basis for salvation.

Atonement is best described as the combination of Christus Victor and Irenaeus’ recapitulation. It doesn’t make the focal point of salvation freedom from the devil itself as Christus Victory does (though it certaintly plays a role, as in Hebrews 2:14-15), but rather psychological in that freedom from fear of death allows obedience and freedom from sin (I would contend Romans 5 should be understood as the problem of death, after entering the world, being the cause of sin, instead of the reverse). But it also appropriates an important role to Jesus’ involvement in the human life, but not so much to sanctify life, but to provide the sanctified way of life. Incarnation becomes essential in that Jesus is the revelation of God’s own righteous nature, that we ourselves to live by. But then these two parts are pieced together, with the righteous life as lived by Jesus to be followed by others to the point of death because they trust they will share in Jesus’ resurrection.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Canonical Theism and ministry

For one of my classes (the same class for which I am reading God and History), I am reading a book called Canonical Theism, which is a collection of essays edited by Willaim J. Abraham, Jason E. Vickers, and Natalie B. Van Kirk. The basic premise of the book is that the church has often times excluded certain sources for theology, most primarily the Protestant church which has the tendency to elevate Scripture as the normative and sole basis for theology and worship. The book starts off with thirty Theses about Canonical Theism (Theses on Canonical Theism), the address a variety of issues such as the different forms of theism (classical, open, pantheism etc.), concerns for sources of theology, and epistemological concerns.

Paul Gravrilyk outlines eight different canonical sources for theology (coming from pages 27-28):

1) Canons of faith – Confessional statements and creeds

2) Canons of Scripture – Lists of scared writings

3) Canons of liturgy – Guidelines for conducting worship service

4) Canons of bishops – Approved lists of episcopal authority

5) Canons of saints – Lists of the saints venerated locally or universally

6) Canons of fathers and doctors – List of authoritative theologians

7) Canons of councils – Disciplinary and doctrinal guidelines imposed by the councils

8) Canons of iconography and architecture – General rules regulating the depiction of God and saints; rules of church architecture

These eight canonical sources are not necessarily taken as a closed canon for Canonical Theism, nor are they required for everything tradition. Rather, the same Holy Spirit speaks and heals through all these different resources, as well as speaks through other resources not mentioned.

So far, a third of the way in, it has been refreshing to see other potential sources of theology that may have been neglected. For instance, the role of liturgy to the formation of theology. The sad reality is that in our churches, while there may be the basic portions of other forms of theological teaching (such as the traditiona United Methodist worship service recites the Apostle’s Creed), Protestant churches rely upon either Scripture or experience as the primarily theological teaching tool. Perhaps the Church could better communicate its core theology to the average church member, thus erradicating folk theology, if we made better use of the different canons for theology.

As Jason Vickers writes:

In our judgment, the tendency, where prevalent, to over-emphasize the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in particular ecclesial canons or gifts has led to the spiritual impoverishment of the church by divesting it of the fullness of the generosity and creativity that characterizes the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. For example, in traditions that ignore or even reject the power of images, visually oriented persons are robbed of any deep awareness of or sensitivity to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in and through images. Similarly, in traditions that ignore or reject the canon of saints, persons who learn best from observing examples set by other persons are robbed of any deep awareness of or sensitivity to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in and through the saints. Further, in “anti-liturgical” or “low-church” traditions, persons who are oriented naturally to symbolism are left uninformed of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in images, in hymns, and in the sacraments. (p. 14)

At its core then, it is not merely trying be ecumenical (as if merely trying to endorse Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy), but rather it is more focused upon the ability to teach to those who are more geared in another fashion in learning. There is a bit of overlap between the different sources, in order to make sure a church with all the sources is geared towards communicating to the widest possible group.

But, as Gavrilyuk warns about liturgy and applies to the usage of the Church’s use of canonical sources, “The third and final way to disrupt the harmony of the liturgy is by orchestrating liturgical revolutions in the name of returning to the ancient sources. Repetition is at the very core of liturgical action. It is healthier for liturgical life to develop by gradual evolution, not revolution.” Likewise, in our usages of the canons in churches, it would be advisable not to force it upon a church, but to encourage it and get rid of the road blocks, and let the congregations move towards that direction through the realization of the canonical sources value. And in the end, congregations can see God speaking even today, for instance through modern day saints or through modern formulation of liturgies or through recent theologians.

The one shock to the system of many churches though is that Scripture loses its normative role, inerrancy becomes secondary, and that theology requires the progressive discernment and working together of the canonical sources. Certainly not a task easily fittable in the immediate gratification. But the unintentional byproduct of canonical theism may be that patience becomes a virtue in a church society that, like the rest of society, tends to demands answers now. Or the necessity of patience may in fact push away canonical theism.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

God and History – Chapter 1

God and History by Laurence W. Wood

God and History by Laurence W. Wood

Chapter 1 – The Emergence of Historical Consciousness and Critical Thinking

Summary:

Wood’s first chapter starts off talking about the development of a distinction that many of us take for granted today, the subject-object distinction. Wood describes the world without this split as “Natural phenomena were imagined to be an extension of human experience, and human experience was considered to be cosmic in proportion because the distinction between physical nature and the human spirit was not explicit.” This is also known as monism, where everything is inseparable. These cultures also gave rise to the ancient mythology, much of which we are familiar with.

But Wood goes on the speaks of two groups of people that began to form the subject-object distinction: the Hebrews and the Greeks. The Hebrews made this distinction as early as Abraham. Because of this distinction, the Hebrews came to see a distinction between the created world and God the Creator, which lead to the understanding of God’s transcendence. They were the only group in that time to not hold to some form of monism, and they never adopted it because they were not prone to assimilation. The Hebrews became a group who had “the emancipation of thought from myth” and as a result they did not understand God in mythical terms. History then became important for making meaning of the world.

The Greeks also made the subject-object distinction, but a little bit later and with some subtle distinctions. Beginnings with Thales and continuing with Democritus, then on to Socrates, monism slowly disappeared. Socrates was critical of other philosophers who failed to make a distinction between the material and spiritual world. He began to form the distinction of “the world of Forms (or Ideas” and the fleeting world of sense-perception”, in which the former were real while the latter was less real. Understanding of the Forms was then obtained through rational reflection.

In addition, Socrates’ student Plato became the first writer to make an explicit distinction between the material and immaterial world, and the first writer to think of the existence of the soul after death. This idea affected Judaism to some degree. However, with the doctrine of the resurrection gradually developed in Jewish thought, the existence of the soul after death served to be an explanation of what happened to people in between death and the resurrection. Hebrew thought thus avoided the body/soul dualism, but still embraced some of the Platonic aspects. Platonic thought also played a role in the writings of Christian thinkers such as Justin Marty in his language about the Logos.

Another one of Socrates’ students, Aristotle viewed God as the unmoved Mover and as a self-knowing mind. This doesn’t make God the transcendent God of the Hebrews, but rather one who exists on “top of things,” is self-sufficient, and so God isn’t aware of anything “below” because that would cease to make him self-sufficient. Thus God is simply self-aware. Aristotle also was distinguished from Plato in that he thought the body and the soul were so interconnected, that without the body there is no soul. Also, Plato allowed the existences of the gods without trying to rationally connect them, whereas Aristotle attempted to develop some metaphysical principles, ending any personality of the gods. The result was the Greeks had “indisputable rational theology, but the had lost their religion.”

Hebrew and Christian religion then are distinguished from Greek thought because God is personal and not merely some rational principle. Also, the Greek mindset did not really conceived of God being the creator of the world. They instead spoke of a Demiurge that created the world. Creation ex nihilo formed the main Hebrew religious tenet then.

Reaction:

Overall, I find the relationship between the subject-object distinction, the existence of the soul, God, mythology and the world order all very interesting and logical. But something that begs questioning is whether the Hebrews really developed the subject-object distinction as early as Abraham? But this goes right back to origins of the Old Testament, and whether it has a genuine earlier authorship (or at least sources) or whether it was a later addition. But, one can look at the progression within Genesis and see the materially getting progressively less and less mythological, which favors the sources coming from an earlier time, but reflecting the slow transition from mythological favoring monism to a historical based understanding of the world.

But if the Hebrews were indeed the first group of people to develop this new world view, and it was accomplished through revelation, this might reflect one of God’s redeeming actions in the world by using Israel to be the basis to transmit the knowledge of the transcendent God, creator of the world.

Also, if we look at religious thinking today, it is definitely shifted more towards Greek thinking than Hebrew thinking, where the immortality of the soul is emphasized and the resurrection is demphasized. But if the Hebrews represent the basic revelation that developed the notion of the resurrection, but not the immortality of the soul, then it might be imperative for the Church to move back to this Hebrew roots in this instance, and excise some of the superfluous Greek influence.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Which heresy would you rather…

be heavily present in the Church, if you had to pick one: Arianism or Docetism? Why?

(There is a seriousness behind the question)

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Why I dislike Trinitarian language

The title makes me sound blasphemous, but do not get me wrong, I maintain the basic meaning of the Trinity. I will even use the Trinitarian language at times because it can at times be used in a good sense. But I think today, Trinitarian language does more harm than good in the end. In the modern understanding of it, it portrays the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as being same exact type of being/person. And the word God in the New Testament is essentially a reference to the Trinity. In the end, it now leads to a skewed concept of the portrayal of the three persons in the Bible.

Only once anywhere in the New Testament is Jesus referred to explicitly as God, John 1:1 (I’ll leave the discussion of the supposed references in the Pauline pastorals for another day). And in that instance, it is not ho theos (the Greek article and the Greek word for God) that was the frequent pattern used throughout the New Testament to refer to the God of Israel, but simply as theos. This isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness argument saying that it should be understood as “a god.” Rather, it is saying that Jesus wasn’t being identified as some person of a trinity, but rather that he is the God in essence, or in nature. A better way of putting it is that he proceeded from God, hence the usage of logos which had philosophic undertones along with a reference to the words attributed to God in Genesis 1 (see 1:3).

The importance of this for New Testament theology isn’t so much in Jesus ontological position, but rather what Jesus reveals. In 1:5 the word is spoken of as light. In Hebrews 1:3 it says the Son is the exact representation of God’s nature. Romans speaks of Jesus as the revelation of God’s righteous nature and the mercy seat (the place of atonement where also the cloud of God’s presence existed). And then, as NT Wright argues in Jesus and the Victory of God, Jesus takes upon the roles that were attributed to YHWH throughout the Old Testament. My point is, with the exception of the last point, that Trinitarian language does a rather poor job of communicating that point, the point that is emphasized throughout the New Testament. To speak like this implies a sense of subordination, that Jesus is not revealing himself so much as the God YHWH. Such notions are not readily included in Trinitarian language, nor Trinitarian logic that necessities that Jesus is equal in all ways to the Father.

In addition, Trinitarian language also tends towards docetism. If Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and is one with the Father, he must take upon all the characteristics of the Father. So we tend to see the exclusion of his humanity. Trouble is attributed to sayings like that not even the Son of Man himself doesn’t know when he will come. And if we take away Jesus’ humanity, we get some “revelation” that is of little value for us people. He doesn’t really reveal to us God’s righteous nature that we are ourselves to emulate, because he is an unachievable ideal. He is God, we are merely human. We can not be anything like him.

It also struggles to make sense of some of the Gospel narrative, for instance when Jesus says “Why do you say I am good? None is good by God.” If we make the automatic equation of Jesus with God at the cost of his humanity, instead of a human that also happens to be the divine Word, we struggle to let Jesus himself be struggling for his own vocation. So questions like that either are interpreted awkwardly or are taken as express denials as Jesus’ own divinity. We can not see it as Jesus not sure of his exact nature of the time.

References to the Spirit as the third person of the Trinity have similar problems, but my main issue is how it portrays Jesus in this modern culture.

At one time Trinitarian langauge had value, in a struggle to maintain that Jesus as the fitting object of worship. It has value as a logical paradigm that allows us to maintain Jesus’ divinity in the face of Jewish monotheism. But when it is made as the source of Christian theology, instead of a logical conclusion to make it justified, it leads to problems with the Biblical claims of Jesus. And while one might argue that properly understood, the Trinity doesn’t lead to these problems, we have to ask is it really worth it to try to resurrect proper Trinitarian understanding? Would we claim the langauge itself is holy, or rather that the object(s) of the langauge?

(Later edit: You have to forgive me as I sometimes can be an idiot at times. John 20:28 is also another place where Jesus is explicitly referred to as God, and actually as ho theos, which serves as the final concluding proof for the statement in John 1:1.)

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 23 Comments

The reason for God’s wrath

God’s wrath is not for himself. It is not because he is simply like man in wanting to seek vengeance for one’s own sake. God’s wrath is in fact rooted in His love, in His love for His people, in order to protect them and remove the sources of pain and disobedience from His people. The final judgment then is about creating a community of those who love and are loved, and the removal of all who would act to destroy that balance in the new creation.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment