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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Work of the Spirit According to N.T. Wright

I am currently wrapping up my reading of N.T. Wright’s work titled Paul in Fresh Perspective. While this book is not actually another stab at the “New Perspective” issues on the part of Wright, rather, it is a type of condensed culmination of Wright’s work up to this point. Toward the end of the book, in chapter seven (7), Reimagining God’s Future, Wright details Paul’s eschatology. Within this eschatological context, Wright comes forth and describes the work of the Spirit in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus (who Wright claims is raised by the Father through the power of the Spirit), and in light of Paul’s epistles.

In other words, Wright declares that Paul is communicating to his audiences that the Spirit is part of a major eschatological task of being the arrabōn, the “down payment of what is to come.” (p. 146). The Spirit is a gift from God for His future and His people’s future. In fact, the Spirit is the guarantee of the future. Wright draws from 1 Corinthians, as well as Romans and Ephesians to bring forth these points. However, in Galatians, Wright details how Paul describes that in chapter 5 the Spirit and the flesh is by no means an attempt to reduce the passage to a set of rules for Christians to observe. This is not what is meant by Christian ethics. However, walking by the Spirit one is already a part of God’s new age and part of God’s renewed people; as Wright puts it, “part of that inaugurated-eschatological family who have been delivered from the present evil age — and, as such, you are ‘not under the Torah.’”

In essence, the Torah as nothing more to do with the one who walks by the Spirit; rather Paul describes all sorts of character traits which the Spirit will produce in the individual (i.e. fruits of the Spirit). The work of the gospel in an individual is the work of the Spirit to put wrongs to rights. This is applied to the overall work of God in eschatological terms in that God has put the whole world from wrong to right through the death and resurrection of His Son. So, as Wright declares, “that initial putting to rights by the power of the gospel is simultaneously, and necessarily, a vocation to each person thus ‘justified’ to enlist in the ongoing work, by the Spirit, of making God’s saving, restorative justice as much of a reality as possible in the present age, in advance of the final putting-to-rights of the whole creation. This is the point at which ‘justification by faith’ can be firmly located on the map of Paul’s Reimagining of Jewish eschatology in light of Jesus and the Spirit.”

This is very theologically rich and rewarding. Unfortunately, this little post summarizing this part of Wright’s work does meager justice to the overall thrust of what Wright is communicating in this chapter.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"Reel Wisdom"

"Stock your mind. It's your house of treasure, and no one in the world can interfere with it. Fill your mind with rubbish and it will rot your head. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind . . . your mind is a palace."

- Angela's Ashes

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Quote of the Week

"The accomplishment of our justification is completely dependent upon Jesus Christ. Our justification would be inconceivable without His death, without His resurrection. Justificastion hinges on the fact that God in His Son has become man. We must therefore begin with Jesus Christ if we want to gain a closer understanding of justification."

- Hans Küng

Monday, April 24, 2006

Good News/Bad News

The good news is . . . I started my new job today with Verizon Communications ("Can You Hear Me Now?"). The bad news is this cuts very deep into my blogging time. I want to avoid having to give up my blog altogether (albeit nobody would probably miss it much), so I will have to slow down on posting a bit.

In other words, I will not be able to post every day like I have done in the past. However, I will try and post as regularly as I can. For those of you who were praying for my job situation let me say thank you very much. God has blessed me with a wonderful position at Verizon.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Essence of Christianity

As a type of follow-up to my Essentials: Identifying Beliefs series I wanted to clarify a few things about these identifying beliefs in this post. Having already declared that I am leery about formulating any essentials (or fundamentals) because it tends to end in a type of structured legalism; I should add that when asserting essentials (or fundamentals) one can also be left with a mere set of doctrinal propositions.

While I see importance in the essentials I have listed, they are more than merely doctrinal propositions. In other words, what ought to stem from these doctrines are, in fact, practices. What I mean by this is granting these doctrines as essential, we should, as Christians, now ask ourselves how these are applicable to our lives. This is I believe the essence of Christianity.

As Paul clearly points out in the 13th chapter of his first epistle to the Church at Corinth, what good is it if we have all knowledge, or the gift of prophecy, or all faith so as to remove mountains, but we do not have love? One could also ask what good is it if we have essential doctrines but we do not have love. Better yet, what we should be learning as we progress in our Christian lives and thought is that these essentials should actually cause us to love. How could one not have love for another in need granting and knowing that Christ, the divine Son of God, gave His life for us all and demonstrated the ultimate act of love within His death and His resurrection?

In the epistle of James the author emphasizes that we are to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. The essentials I listed in my posts should spur us to act as Christians, to love one another, to look after widows, orphans, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. This is the essence of Christianity; not a mere set of propositions which, if one embraces and believes, that one could be called a Christian. There is so much more here than simply these essentials. They have life and meaning beyond being a set of doctrines (or propositions).

Therefore, understanding and embracing these essentials is one thing, while living them out in our daily lives is another. However, the two go hand in hand, and with that we know, embrace, and practice the essence of what it means to be a Christian.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Predisposition and Propensity: Kant’s Radical Evil in Human Nature

The Human Predisposition According to Kant

As a good enlightened thinker, Kant believes that the underlying nature of humans is good. In fact, he begins Religion with a discussion of human nature in light of the obvious evil which Kant claims is empirically evident throughout history. However, in order for man to be considered ‘evil’ is, in effect, not a mere action of evil on the part of man, but rather the action of evil committed would need to be adopted as a maxim. This is not to say that a single act could not be considered evil, or good for that matter, rather Kant is discussing here (in the beginning few pages of Religion) the ‘nature of man,’ and in discussing the nature of man, evil is a maxim that is adopted, not a mere single act per se.

It is important to emphasize that the evil maxim is not something that is merely habitual. Even though repeated acts based on an evil maxim may make it easier to perform subsequent acts (e.g. those who have committed many murders have often said that the second, third, fourth, etc. are easier to perform than the initial one) there are acts (such as murder) that manifest in a single instance that the person has adopted an evil maxim.

Kant affirms this by declaring, "In order, then, to call a man evil, it would have to be possible a priori to infer from several evil acts done with consciousness of their evil, or from one such act, an underlying evil maxim." [Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, translated with notes by Theodore M. Green and Hoyt H. Hudson (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1960), 16.]

Maxims are, by Kantian definition, principles or guidelines by which an individual’s conduct is guided. For instance if a person has good maxims that person will be good. However, if a person has evil maxims then that person will be evil. Someone might ask, how do we know which maxims are good and which maxims are bad? This, of course, is known through what Kant calls the Categorical Imperative (CI). The CI, as Kant puts it, states, "Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." [Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, translated by H. J. Paton (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 88. There is actually multiple versions of the CI, but the one quoted here is the most appropriate version for this work.In describing the CI John L. Treloar explains, "When people act in accord with this law, they manifest total rationality and personhood by acknowledging obligation and accountability. Consequently, for one to follow this law is the height of morality and freedom." [John L. Treloar, "The Crooked Wood of Humanity: Kant’s Struggle with Radical Evil," Philosophy and Theology (Summer 1989), 344-45.]

Animality, as Kant describes is subsumed under the notion of "physical and purely mechanical self-love." This is considered mechanical in that no reason is needed, it is merely something that is in the human predisposition. Kant says that animality consists of three facets—self-preservation, propagation of the species through sexual impulses (and the care of offspring), and community with other men, or the social impulse—but that these three also have their vices which do not stem from the predisposition itself. Rather these vices—gluttony, lust, and wild lawlessness—are of what Kant calls the coarseness (rohigkeit) of nature. Simply put, these vices are not inherent in the human predisposition. Rather these vices are deviations from natural purposes.

Humanity, as Kant describes is subsumed under the notion of a "self-love which is physical and which compares." Reason is required in this division. While comparison itself is not necessarily bad, it can be a vice. About this Kant declares, "we judge ourselves happy or unhappy only by making comparisons with others." Kant goes on to explain, "This is originally a desire merely for equality, to allow no one superiority above oneself, bound up with a constant care lest others strive to attain such superiority." Thus, the vices which can stem from this division are jealousy and rivalry. This predisposition is based on practical reason which is subservient to other incentives.

The final division is personality. Kant describes personality as "the capacity for respect for the moral law as in itself a sufficient incentive of the will." This division of the predisposition is only good, it can never be evil. Thus, it does not have any vices. In this division the moral law becomes an incentive to the power of choice. Kant affirms this by declaring, "We cannot rightly call the idea of the moral law, with respect which is inseparable from it, a predisposition to personality; it is personality itself (the idea of humanity considered quite intellectually." This predisposition is rooted in reason which is practical itself. Simply put, it is "reason which dictates laws unconditionally."

Regarding these predispositions Kant claims, first, that they do not contradict the moral law and, second, they are also predispositions toward good in that they enjoy observance of the law. Philip Quinn, in assessing these predispositions declares, "Of course no one is morally good simply in virtue of possessing them, for no one is accountable for having them. But since they predispose us toward moral good, whence comes moral evil?"[ Philip Quinn, "Original Sin, Radical Evil and Moral Identity," Faith and Philosophy, (April 1984), 192.] To add to this crucial question one might also ask "why does respect for the moral law sometimes fail to serve as a sufficient incentive for the will?" Of course Kant’s answer to these questions lies in the following section of Religion aptly titled Concerning the Principle to Evil in Human Nature.

[The above is from a paper I wrote for a class at Marquette University called Kant's Philosophy of Religion taught by Father John Treloar - Father Treloar, a wonderful teacher, instilled in me a tremendous passion for Kant's philosophy.]

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Essentials: Identifying Beliefs (Conclusion)

When I began this series, in the first post, I quoted this from Ben Myers, “there’s no question of trying to impose certain beliefs on others or of turning certain doctrines into laws that must be obeyed, but only of describing those beliefs that distinctively mark out Christian communities and traditions from other communities and traditions. So what are the “identifying beliefs” of Christian faith? It seems to me that there are two related ones: Christian faith is identified both by its christological character and by its trinitarian character. And at the core of both of these identifying characteristics is a single, central belief: a belief in the unity between Jesus Christ and God.”

I agree with Ben in the quote above and have tried to formulate a list of identifying beliefs around his premise of the two related characteristics and the unity between Jesus Christ and God. The results are these identifying beliefs:

  • The gospel proclamation
  • The deity - or better yet - divinity of Christ
  • The resurrection
  • The Trinity

There are, I think several issues or doctrines (or practices) which stem from these essentials above (e.g. worship, love, community/church, scriptures, etc.), but based on the starting premise, I think these are the essential identifying beliefs of the Christian faith.

Obviously there are several doctrines which many might think belong on a list of essentials but are not on mine. For instance, unlike the actual list of Fundamentals (from the late 19th, early 20th century) I did not include the inerrancy of the Bible. Without going into too much detail, this idea, the idea of inerrancy, is simply wrought with problems, and is, in all reality not identifiable to Christianity only (Islam believes and teaches that the Qur’an is inerrant). I will save my views on inerrancy for another post. However, I do think the scripture are authoritative and I do hold to a high view of inspiration. Where the essential doctrines listed above are delineated in the scriptures (especially where the apostolic deposit of the gospel is given) the Bible is critically important, but we, as Christians and the Christian community, would still have these doctrines if they were never written down. Thus, I see scripture as very important in so far as its contents direct us to these essentials.

Lastly, the virgin birth (which is also on the original list of Fundamentals) is not on my list. This is so for several reasons. First, I am actually “fence sitting” at this time in my thinking on this doctrine. The issue, I think, is very crucial in so far as it relates to the person Jesus (His divinity/nature/and original sin). However, as one of my professors (who disagreed with the Fundamentalist on this issue) at seminary asked us in class – are you saved by that doctrine? While I see the point of this professor, it still seems to play a pretty important role in the overall thought of not only Jesus but our thinking about Mary as well (which is especially true for Catholics). Second, until my thinking is more fully developed on the issue I leave it off (although this might change in my theology later). I would certainly like to hear any of your thoughts on the virgin birth within the framework which I am working. Also, Chris Tilling as a thought provoking post which started some good discussion on this very issue and you can read it here.

It should probably be pointed out that I am very leery of formulating any essentials (or fundamentals) at all. The reason is when one begins to formulate essentials (i.e. fundamentals) then one usually ends with a type of structured legalism; as is the case with the actual fundamentalist groups which have their roots in the Fundamentals of the late 19th early 20th centuries. That is certainly not the intent here. However, I do think there are several identifying beliefs which are essential to the Christian faith and those I have tried to delineate in this series.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Resurrection in Paul's Thought According to N.T. Wright

"[R]esurrection is more than defeat of an enemy. It is the inauguration of God's new world, the new creation which has already begun to take over the present creation with the unstoppable power of the creator God. The resurrection of the crucified Messiah thus functions in Paul's thought both as history, as theology, and (not least) as symbol, the symbol of a power which upstages anything military power can do."

- N.T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective, p. 70.

The Essentials: Identifying Beliefs (Part Four)

Already my list of essential identifying doctrines of Christianity includes the gospel proclamation, the deity of Christ, and the resurrection. These doctrines certainly distinctively identify Christians from other faiths. Moreover, each of these doctrines is Christological and Trinitarian in character. That being said, I must include one more identifying doctrine to the list: The Trinity. This is the God of Christianity, the God we worship, the God through whom the covenant with Abraham was made so long ago and was fulfilled in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. To remove the Trinity from Christianity is to remove the Christian God.

While I will not delineate the doctrine here, I would like to mention that we as Christians find support for the doctrine of the Trinity from the scriptures to a certain degree and from tradition to a larger degree. The scriptures make mention of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in certain contexts along with their roles (for examples see Matt. 28:19; John 8:15-19; 20:21-22; etc.). However, the actual detailed development of this doctrine comes from the creeds and councils of the Church (for examples see The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, Epistle of St. Dionysius, Council of Rome, etc.).

Therefore, along with the other doctrines mentioned above, naturally the Trinity should be included since that doctrine is the delineation of the Christian God.

[More to come]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI on the Resurrection

"The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one another's hands, and we become one single subject, not just one thing. I, but no longer I: This is the formula of Christian life rooted in baptism, the formula of the Resurrection within time. I, but no longer I: If we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a program opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and possession."

- From a homily delivered by Pope Benedict XVI at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Peter's Basilica

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New Books

I was in the north Dallas, Texas area yesterday, and whenever I'm in the north Dallas area I love to go to the largest used bookstore in this part of the country. It is the flagship store for the family owned chain of bookstores called Half-Price Books. The store is 30,000 square feet of used books - it is huge.

Well, in their religion section (more specifically the theology section within the religion section), I found some jewels. I found The Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann (while I have already read this book, I actually did not own a copy, so it was nice to find one second hand), I also found The Understanding of Faith by Edward Schillebeeckx (thanks go out to Ben Myers for introducing me to Schillebeeckx). Finally, I found a very interesting book titled Contemporary Continental Theologians by S. Paul Schilling. This last book is actually a secondary text detailing the thoughts of major theologians such as Karl Barth, Herman Diem, Rudolph Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, Yves Congar, Karl Rahnar and others. I was surprised to find these at this location since often times the theology section can be picked over pretty well at this store. However, I was very pleased to have been able to purchased them at less than half their retail price.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Feature on This Blog

I'm a big fan of films/movies. In fact, I actually majored in theatre in my undergrad work, so my love for film/movies is simply, or at least I think anyway, a natural extension of my love for theatre and acting. Anyway, enough of that.

For about the last five (5) years I have collected quotes/lines from various films/movies. These quotes are not long monolgues (though some are a little lengthy), they are, rather, short quips, pithy or meaningful sayings or lines. I have actually collected them in a journal which I titled "Reel Wisdom" (of course, pun intended). Soooo . . . what I would like to do is add this as a feature of my blog and call it Reel Wisdom; sort of like the quote of the week, but these quotes are from movies.

While some of these quotes are very thought provoking and meaningful, it should probably be pointed out that they would certainly have more weight or impact if viewed in their original setting - film. Many of these quotes certainly have a greater impact on the hearer and viewer (as the case is) when they are heard and seen acted out in the movies themselves. So, I'll include links to Amazon with the quotes, in case anyone has an interest in getting the movie.

That being said, I hope you enjoy this new feature, and I hope many of these quotes will stir your thinking and spur your interest in perhaps watching the film/movie.

To inaugurate this new feature, below is the first quote I ever wrote down from a movie. This quote is actually the quote that gave me this idea five years ago (for whatever strange reason it just jumped out at me and made me think I should write quotes down from films).

"Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions."
- Jurassic Park 3

Quote of the Week

“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you'll be a mile away and have his shoes.”

- Steve Martin

Sunday, April 16, 2006

He is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Essentials: Identifying Beliefs (Part Three)

From the gospel message comes several more essentials which identify us distinctively as Christians. These are the deity of Christ and the resurrection. Every other community of faith (i.e. Muslims, Jewish, etc.) which recognizes Jesus in any sense rejects His deity outright. For Christians, this doctrine is essential in that what Christ accomplished is intrinsically tied to who He is.

Therefore, to reject who Christ is (God incarnate) is to reject what He accomplished. Moreover, what Christ accomplished is, ultimately, resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is in fact the crux of Christianity. Without resurrection, there is no gospel, there is no deity of Christ, and thus there is no Christianity. As a matter of fact, a mere man could not accomplish the resurrection; it is an impossible act, a miracle of the highest order. This is why I believe these two doctrines are so closely connected, take one away and they both become meaningless. But more importantly, take the resurrection away and the entire Christian faith is useless and meaningless.

In one of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul declares that his gospel is that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, He was buried and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and then Paul goes on to give evidence via eyewitnesses of this resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-8). This is one of the earliest creeds of the Church and it is demonstrated in one of the earliest documents of the apostolic deposit.

To take the doctrine of the resurrection and declare that it has metaphorical significance or is strongly symbolic for something and leave it at that misses, I think, entirely the weight and significance of the doctrine altogether. Jesus’ resurrection is more than some metaphorical device to teach us a moral lesson. It is more than a symbol for grammatical use to indicate to us that we too can achieve something similar, as I have heard it declared, the resurrection demonstrates that we can overcoming the strife or conflict in our lives.

No, the resurrection is an historical event whereby Jesus accomplished all that was needed to usher in His Kingdom and establish His rule, and set straight the wrong or evil of the sin of mankind. His resurrection is the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham. Thus, the resurrection, along with the deity of Christ and the gospel are all essential to the Christian faith.

[More to come]

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Cross of Jesus
(by John Stainer)

Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow, where the blood of Christ was shed.
Perfect man on thee was tortured, perfect man on thee was bled.
From the "Holy, Holy, Holy, we adore thee, O most high."
Down to earth's blaspeming voices and the shout of "Crucify."

The Essentials: Identifying Beliefs (Part Two)

What I want to avoid (in this series) in determining the essentials that identify us as Christians is to reduce Christianity to a set of minimal beliefs. Christianity is far greater than a few essentials. However, at the same time, certain core or essential doctrines of Christianity do exist, I think, and they are essential in that they do identify us as Christians as apposed to say Buddhists, or Muslims, etc.

The question that has really caused me much contemplation is—must these essentials necessarily be believed in order for one to actually be (or become) a Christian. My initial response is ‘no’ apart from the actual gospel message, that essential, it seems, one must believe in order to become (or be) Christian. Take that away and you would have no Christians and no Christianity. Perhaps I am equivocating on the terms “saved” and “being a Christian,” I am not sure here. Perhaps those of you reading this can help me out in my thinking here. Nonetheless, the first of my “list” of essentials is the gospel. I think the gospel message is the one essential that is absolutely needed to be believed in order for one to actually be (become) a Christian; the introductory essential, so to speak.

Let me clarify what I mean by the gospel since I firmly believe that in our 21st century culture we have taken this one essential and made it far more complicated than it actually is. The gospel is the simple proclamation of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ, His life, death, and resurrection. That is it. Certainly the gospel has theological underpinnings, but too often, I think, these theological underpinnings get confused with the gospel itself. The gospel is not sola fide, the gospel is not the issue of imputation or infusion (whatever the theological case may be), etc. These things are not the gospel as so many popular authors, as well as lay people within certain denominations have confused and claim them to be. The gospel is a simple proclamation, and it asks the hearer to respond. How that works itself out in and through the believer once they embrace the proclamation of the gospel is the theological underpinnings of the gospel, but these underpinnings are not the gospel.

Thus, the gospel is, in my estimation, the first essential of Christianity that anyone hears or reads and then embraces and believes in order to call themselves a Christian. The gospel message is Christological and Trinitarian in character, and it sets Christians apart from other communities and traditions. It is an essential of Christianity.

[More to come]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Essentials (Part One)

Without trying to sound like a “fundamentalist” (in the historic sense of the word) the question of what are the fundamentals, or better yet, what are the essentials of the Christian faith is a question that I continue to ask myself. In other words, I often wonder and research what is necessary for me to adhere to, believe, and embrace in order to call myself a Christian. Is the virgin birth a necessary doctrine? How about the inerrancy of the Bible? Better yet, if these, and other doctrines, where removed in every sense of the word removed (historically, factually, etc.) would that negate (or annul) my Christian faith?

I tend to agree with what Ben Myers posted on his blog, responding to Chris Tilling, about a month ago regarding the essentials or fundamentals of the Christian faith. Ben declared, “. . . there’s no question of trying to impose certain beliefs on others or of turning certain doctrines into laws that must be obeyed, but only of describing those beliefs that distinctively mark out Christian communities and traditions from other communities and traditions. So what are the “identifying beliefs” of Christian faith? It seems to me that there are two related ones: Christian faith is identified both by its christological character and by its trinitarian character. And at the core of both of these identifying characteristics is a single, central belief: a belief in the unity between Jesus Christ and God.” I think Ben makes a good point, but one could still ask, so what are those “identifying beliefs” that are identified by their Christological and Trinitarian character?

Why are certain doctrines essential and others not? What is essential and what is not? I still think these questions remain good questions, but is there really a need to ask such questions? These are a few of the questions that sometimes keep me up at night. While I have come to terms with a few doctrines which I believe are not essential, and others which are definitely essential, there are a few that have really made me re-think their overall importance in terms of their essentialness. So what do you think? What are the essential doctrines which mark us distinctively as Christians?

[More to come]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Will Be Posting Again Soon!

As you all know these last months I have been preoccupied with trying to find a job. Well, I was actually offered a position at a company called Ameritrade (financial investment company) last week and I took the offer. However, I have a major interview today (at 11:00 a.m.) with Verizon (I took this job interview just in case they offered me a better deal). So, my attention has been on job hunting.

After today, I should be able to get back to posting. Chris Tilling's latest post has sparked an idea for a new series (and I'll continue on my current Jenson's ecclesiology series).

Monday, April 10, 2006

Inerrancy Discussions Continue

My friend, David Piske, has posted an article on the issues Chris Tilling has raised recently in his series on inerrancy. David's article is titled After 'verbal inerrancy' what? The article is worth a read so go check it out when you have a chance.

Quote of the Week

"To abandon all, to strip one's self of all, in order to seek and follow Jesus Christ naked to Bethlehem where He was born, naked to the hall where He was scourged, and naked to Calvary where He died on the cross, is so great a mystery that neither the thing nor the knowledge of it, is given to any but through faith in the Son of God."

- John Wesley

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Holy Week

This is Holy Week which is the final week of Lent, and includes Palm Sunday (today), Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.

On the sixth Sunday of Lent we commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many services use palm leaves to commemorate this glorious event when people ushered Jesus into Jerusalem crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Traditionally the Gloria Laus (All Glory Laud and Honor...), written by Theodulf of Orleans, is sung in churches. This week let us remember the final week of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah who comes to save His people from their sins.

Prayer of Confession:

"Forgive us, God, when we forget the cost of your love. Forgive us, God, when we act as those who do not know you. Forgive us, God, when we fail to stand with you in your service. Give us a new heart and a right spirit, that we might live for you, to your glory." Amen.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Karl Barth for the Lent Season

God on the Cross

“Because He was God Himself, He could subject Himself to the severity of God. And because He was God Himself He did not have to succumb to the severity of God. God has to be severe to be true to Himself in His encounter with man, and this to be true also to man. God’s wrath had to be revealed against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. But only God could carry through this necessary revelation of His righteousness without involving an end of all things. Only God Himself could bear the wrath of God. Only God’s mercy was capable of bearing the pain to which the creature existing in opposition to Him is subject. Only God’s mercy could so feel this pain as to take it into the very heart of His being. And only God’s mercy was strong enough not to be annihilated by this pain. And this that could happen only by the divine mercy is just what did happen on the cross of Golgotha: that double proof of omnipotence in which God did not abate the demands of His righteousness but showed Himself equal to His own wrath; on the one hand by submitting to it and on the other by not being consumed by it. In virtue of this omnipotence God’s mercy could be at one and the same time the deepest and sincerest pity and inflexible and impassible divine strength. He could yield His own inexorable righteousness and by this very surrender maintain Himself as God. He could reveal Himself at once as the One who as the servant of all bore the punishment of death which we had deserved, and the One who as Lord of all took from death its power and for ever vanquished and destroyed it. In this twofold sense God’s righteousness triumphed in the death of Jesus Christ.”

Karl Barth from Church Dogmatics II 1:330

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The 'Judas Gospel'

A new discovery of an ancient Coptic text has been "revealed". This is sure to stir up some theological and historical controversy. You can read about it here.

What's In a Name?

My family found out yesterday that in my home town they are building a new Middle School. The city is taking votes from those involved in education for the name of the new school and my step-father’s name is in the top three candidates. You can see the article here.

He taught grade school for 47 years, was voted teacher of the year two times, and the Mayor declared a specific day (back in 1980) to be called “Russell McClure” day. He married my mother in 1975 when I was ten years old, and he had a tremendous influence on my own education (especially reading and writing). He died two years ago. We are honored to find out that his name is a candidate for the name of the new school.

Thomas Oden on the Resurrection

"While reading Cyril of Jerusalem's catechetical lecture on evidences for the resurrection, I became persuaded that Pannenberg had provided a more accurate account than Bultmann of that event."

- The Rebirth of Orthodoxy (HarperSanFrancisco; 2003); 89.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spritual Discrimination?

The most bizarre thing just happened to me earlier today. I went to a certain Christian Academy (I’ll refrain from giving its name) to apply for a teaching position. As I am filling out the application, the headmaster, or at least the person who is in charge of hiring walks up to me and introduces herself. After the introductions, she asks me if I am a member of their church. Well, I was not a member of their church and told her so, upon which I could see on her face a sense of despair about what to say.

After a brief pause she asked me about my teaching background. I explained that I had taught at the grade school level for about 2 years in my home town, and taught ethics at the university level (upon hearing this she raised her eyebrows and said, “Wow,” I guess being impressed). Then the most bizarre thing happened. She said, “We usually require that our teachers be members of our church.” Then she paused and asked, “Are you Spirit Filled?” Now I must admit I was ill prepared for this question and all at once a million things rushed into my head. I knew exactly what she meant by the question and all of its Charismatic/Pentecostal nuances and theological attachments and implications. However, two things immediately came to mind. I thought I might answer by saying “No, but I watch American Idol occasionally.” An answer that would have been as irrelevant as the question; but instead I answered, “I am Presbyterian.” Upon which she used her first “way out” and restated that I had to be a member of their church.

Now, what comes to my mind is this thought, “Is my being ‘Spirit-Filled’ (according to her meaning of the term) a good indication of whether I am a good teacher?” Well, obviously not, but apparently for her it was a requirement and based upon my answer I was certainly not qualified to teach at her school. Thus, I was, in so many words and expressions, shown the door.

Robert Jenson on “The Triune God’s Act to Institute the Church.”

In his two volume texts titled Systematic Theology Jenson begins the section on ecclesiology (in volume two) with a chapter devoted to how the Triune God established or instituted the church. Jenson rightly asks the question what is the overarching reason for the church? In other words why does it exist? Most might automatically assume that Jenson will answer the question with “to usher in the Kingdom of God.” In one sense this is correct, but Jenson answers the question in a way that, was for me anyway, quite surprising.

Jenson declares that “God institutes the church by not letting Jesus’ Resurrection be itself the End, by appointing ‘the delay of the Parousia.’” As we know, Jesus did in fact tell His listeners “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Moreover, Jesus did in fact announce The Kingdom of God, but, as Jenson details, what came was not the Kingdom but the church. Therefore, the question Jenson focuses on is ‘why?

The anticipation of the Kingdom of God was one that had survived in the Jewish mind for many centuries prior to Jesus’ birth. A much anticipated Kingdom with a much anticipated Messiah was the actual mindset of first century Judaism. Moreover, after Jesus’ death and resurrection the disciples asked Jesus if it was now the time that Jesus would usher in His kingdom (see Acts 1:6). Instead of answering the question, Jesus does something quite surprising. He promises the disciples the gift of the Spirit; but, why? The answer Jenson gives is so that the disciples might have the power to be effective missionaries to Jews and Gentiles. But what does this have to do with the church? Jenson’s answer to that question will be the focus of my next post.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


If you are at all familiar with the "Successories" that have sold by the droves all over the world, and you have a 'warped' sense of humor, you will love the "Demotivators." I found out about them from David Piske's blog and have gotten a big laugh from many of them. Here is an example:

(click on image to enlarge)

A Podcast from Chris

Chris Tilling's series on inerrancy has come to an end. His final post is actually a podcast which you can listen to here. This series has sparked some lively discussions (in the comments sections of each post), and Chris, I think anyway, has brought forth some important questions and objections within the issue itself. If you have been keeping track of the posts then you may already know about the podcast; however, if you are unaware, then click on the link above and go have a listen.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Classic Christianity never asserts either scripture against tradition or tradition against scripture. Rather, it understands itself as the right remembering of the earliest testimony of scripture to God's self-disclosure in history."

- Thomas C. Oden

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Robert W. Jenson's Ecclesiology (Coming Soon)

Recently I have been reading Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology Volume 2: The Works of God. More specifically Jenson's views on Ecclesiology from this work. I have been overwhelmingly impressed with Jenson's views, thus in the future, as I promised before, I will be posting my thoughts, or rather delineating (more or less), on what Jenson is communicating in this text.

Jenson's views are very refreshing, eyeopening, and sometimes quite difficult to grasp but well worth the effort. For instance, Jenson has this to say regarding "the church's triune institution according to each identity's role within." -

"Given the Incarnation, so that the human person Jesus is in fact the Son who lives with the Father in the Spirit, the distinction between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity holds only in the same way as does the distinction between two natures in Christ. Therefore the Father's role as unoriginated Originator of deity is concretely not other than his role as the One who sends the Son and the Spirit on their ecclesial missions; the Son's role as the one in whom the Father finds himself is concretely not other than the role as the head of the church that in him finds the Father; the Spirit's role as the one who frees the Father and the Son is concretely his role as the one who frees the Christian community." (p. 173)

Please be patient as I progressively (and probably slowly) post on Jenson's ecclesiology.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Prayer of St. John Chrysostom

Below is a prayer of St. John Chrysostom which is often prayed during the season of Lent:

"Oh my all-merciful God and Lord, Jesus Christ, full of pity: Through Your great love You came downand became incarnate in order to save everyone. Oh Savior, I ask You to save me by Your grace! If You save anyone because of their works, that would not be grace but only reward of duty, but You are compassionate and full of mercy! You said, Oh my Christ, "Whoever believes in Me shall live and never die." If then, faith in You saves the lost, then save me, Oh my God and Creator, for I believe. Let faith and not my unworthy works be counted to me, Oh my God, for You will find no works which could account me righteous. Oh Lord, from now on let me love You as intensely as I have loved sin, and work for You as hard as I once worked for the evil one. I promise that I will work to do Your will, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life and forever more."