Posts Tagged ‘Theology’


Want to know why faith matters?

Because life and death aren’t fair.

Is it really that bold of a statement? No. We as a species have tried many caste systems under many different names to hide this fact. The cultural norms of us and them, or this and that or whataboutism, what is all comes down to though is not willing to accept that life is life, death is death, and there is no reason or logic behind.

What matters is what we do with the time we have. We can either be jerks or saints. That is focus on accumulating the meaningless, or living into the meaningful (Hebrews 11:1-4).

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

-Epistle of Hebrews 11:5-6 (New International Version)

Enoch’s deutero-canonical-apocryphal texts have created a basis for belief in Ancient Alien Theology. The concept of his ascension into the space ship to the Elohim. Enoch was a Jesus like figure who presided over 300 years of peace (Haze, 2018, p.143). Think of that? 300 years of peace in the history of humanity? How is that even possible? The writer of Hebrews points to faith, and that is understandable, for in faith you may not worry about retribution, but simply justice. You may look to only right and wrong, and be open to guidance from sources that are looking out for the best of us. Faith, also leads one as a ruler to understand that you cannot worry about fairness in life, or death, what matters is what you do with it.

The rest of the faithful written of in Hebrews 11:7-40 is a journey through the patriarchs and matriarchs of the old Covenant. The agreement of blessing, protection and growth and survival that brought the people into Egypt, then out of Egypt to the Promised Land that saw even more alien technology used to bring walls down, to protect the household of Rahab who hid the spies. It is an ancient style of writing seen in the Torah and other points of the Hebrew Bible to commemorate a new beginning whether it was in the Wilderness, The Promised Land, return from Exile in Babylon or Assyria (Ezra-Nehemiah, Deuteronomy) the story and covenant are retold to remind the people of the Elohim with them.

This is the practice the writer is reminding those in Jerusalem of. The new Covenant is a new beginning, it replaces the old. Let us honour the old, acknowledge what has been, what has been good, what has been hard, what will be lost.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

-Epistle of Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Version)

The new Covenant is scary. It changes everything. It shatters the earthly patriarchal order and rebuilds it on the Covenant of Love. It is a scary time, but do not lose faith in the journey. Remember Jesus who went for broke, and risked it all as he believed in the new Covenant. Will you do the same?

Are you willing to be like Enoch and reign in peace (Hebrews 12:4-17)?  Faith is like Enoch, who accepted guidance, discipleship and discipline from the Elohim . What happened? Flourishment of peace. Reflect on that, what needs to be stripped from your life in positive or negative ways so that you can rest in contented peace? Do not be like Esau, who was the first born and was to be the path through which the kingdom was built. He surrendered to bitterness, materialism, and short term gratification:

16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 

-Epistle of Hebrews 12:16 (New International Version)

Warning against succumbing to the old ways or for those in recovery, turning back to the addiction that is the symptom that masked the cause of the illness. Esau blamed his hunger on surrendering his birth right, but really what was at play was the thought of only the now. The moment of gratification, of pain to end and not to think longer term from that split second. For it comes down to deciding to embrace fear or joy?

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

-Epistle of Hebrews 12:18-28 (New International Version)

Change is scary. One can succumb to the fear of the unknown. The writer knew this, and was pointing out that even Moses was lost with fear in the presence of the Elohim. Yet, the Elohim, with the life of Jesus have shown that fear is a barrier we create for ourselves. We let fear lead us into destruction as we succumb to interior gremlins-saboteurs and demons. Unable to silence them then fear wins.

Joy can become the intoxicant of life, realizing that if the change is good, like the new Covenant laid out, it takes us out of the comfortable but into a new blessing.

Joy abounds when rooted in…

Love

(Hebrews 13)

Live Love in 2019

And

Joy will reign.

 

 

 


New covenants making the old obsolete. In a way one can say it is like starting a new job, you leave one set of rules and emerge into another one. Or when a government changes, yet both fall a bit flat. For you see each has a tie to the old. In Canada, there is a Just Society clause of social aid we expect that no ideology can supplant, in the workplace there is standards, laws and rules that apply to each. In some ways it is a situation as the writer brings us to here:

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the [a]sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

Limitations of the Earthly Service

Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committedin ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various [b]washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation

-Epistle of Hebrews 9:1-10 (New King James Version)

Rote rules, that even as roles, or titles changed there was still an expectation. In the Empire there was shifts of rulers due to civil war, but still an undercurrent of expectation. No, what was being crafted by the Elohim through the lived life and death of Jesus of Nazareth was something completely new. A baby with the bathwater scenario of change, for it was not symbolism but like with like. The creator and the created had become one (Hebrews 9:11-28). The walking through of the sacrifice of Jesus being shown to be the living embodiment of the symbolism of an entire system and that now, it was not symbolic caste separation, but true equity in communion with the Elohim (Hebrews 10:1-25).

Believing you are worthy. It takes a step of faith:

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[g]says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days in which, after you were [h]illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on [i]me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your [j]goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves [k]in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37 “For yet a little while,
And He[l] who is coming will come and will not [m]tarry.
38 Now the[n] just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to [o]perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

-Epistle of Hebrews 10:26-39 (New King James Version)

Misery loves company. It is an old adage in life recovery. The concept being that the social connections you had in the darkness will pull you back when you enter into the light. The writer is reminding the gathering that ease appears by turning back (much like those in the Wilderness, wanted to return to Egypt). The easy choice though may stop the pain short term, but increases it long term for those that say you are your friends that want to drag you back are not.

It is a hard act of faith to not fall back into the trap. It is also a hard act of faith to release a survivor or dodge a bullet guilt. At different moments in my own journey I have been slammed with this. It is hard to process, from a young man in high school realizing a dating partner was actually a recruiter for sex trafficking and realizing that I had dodged it through a confidence not rooted in popularity. To addictions that claimed other friends, or succumbing to family pressures of perfection in academics-career, defining self by only one thing and when that are gone feeling the life slip away. Friends that were sucked into the drug trade or sex trade and couldn’t get out, to those that did. Family and friends that passed from illnesses that I easily could have contracted but didn’t. Bullets that literally missed, or threats to life I escaped. Watching time ravage others through their choices to dull pain.

Sitting, watching as the journey of ministry or helping destroyed the soul of others. Wonder as I sit now with my health if I had not escaped the same. Others surviving or succumbing to domestic violence. Victims of murder. Succeeding in suicides. Abused sexually as children.  Bitterness being the outcome for some, as short sojourns in fields they were not meant to be. Succumbing or chasing what “society deemed usual” in contexts, not being fully me, but watching as others crashed and burned as well.

I sit an type. Keeper of the stories. Holder of the pain. Releasing it once more. 613 can be too few or too many, but the journey of grief never changes. It is a path of faith in understanding that there is a light on the other side. A new chapter to start. Some days you stall.

Other days you can turn the page.

Chapter Next…

a step of faith…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Epistle of Hebrews is a bit of a mystery. The author is unknown; it has flecks of Pauline influence, but is not of Paul. Many have thought it comes from the school of Pauline Christianity, perhaps Priscilla or Aquila, Or Barnabas or Timothy or Luke or someone else. The challenge being that there is rabbit trails that lead to one thought, then norms of writing that disqualify. It is someone who was born into and raised in Judaism, but knows the classic Greek rhetorical styles.  Neither the Roman Catholic Church or John Calvin or Martin Luther could confirm an authorship. It is this enigma that sits as the cover letter to the General Epistles. If the Pauline Epistles were filling the void of the Major Prophets in the Christian Testament, then the General Epistles would be akin to the Minor Prophets.

What can be agreed upon, as the term Hebrews is used, and that the language is very much rooted in Judaic practice that it is a letter to Jewish converts to the way. As its writing falls into the latter half of the 1st Century it is possible it was written after the synagogue expulsion. Some suspect it was sent to Jerusalem, which puts it firmly in the teaching gatherings of James, younger brother of Jesus of Nazareth, and Bishop of Jerusalem.

Xaviant Haze (2018) in Ancient Aliens in the Bible uses the first chapter of Hebrews as a text to prove his theorem that Jesus was born of an alien-human mix. It comes out of the theory that angels in the Hebrew Bible, and Christian Testament, were ancient alien astronauts visiting our world:

After all, he was born king of the angels (Hebrews 1). An obvious link between Jesus and the Old Testament are the bright lights, metallic clouds, and fiery colours that raged in the skies on the day before he died. (p. 169).

As I have contemplated this journey through the Epistles of the Christian Testament it has been about my own thoughts and reflections, a bit of context, and pushing others to engage the texts in different ways. It is part of my recovery to give me something to care about, and to do. In my teaching I have always brought out different perspectives, how much different than to bring forth Hebrews through the lens of Ancient Alien Theology? I think it bears reflecting on, and thinking a bit outside the norm of events.

After putting forth that Jesus of Nazareth is the King of Angels in chapter 1, the writer continues into the concept of Salvation (2:1-11). The idea being that Jesus had to surrender his throne in the heavens, come down and live amongst humanity. Relying a bit on Ancient Alien theory as supposed by Haze (2018) it is about a humanity that was crafted through genetic experiments in the times of the Hebrew Bible. The Adams and Eves were genetic alterations to existing species on the planet, incurred gene splicing (almost like the augments in Star Trek, think Khan Noonien Singh). Then the women were so beautiful that many from the ships mated with them producing the Nephilim, which were giants, and a cover up was needed before the home planet discovered this awryness, hence the flood. The rainbow in the sky post flood was about salvation, the promise not to wreak havoc again of mass destruction on the world. As the hearers of the words of Hebrews would be reminded of their ancient stories as a source of encouragement:

12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-Hebrews 2:12-18 (English Standard Version)

 

The angels (aliens) constantly came to aid the descendants of Abraham, through the matriarchal lines of Sarah and Hagar. Ensuring a journey, worship, survival, growth and discovery for their children. Many postulate the images of the Hebrew Bible ala Jacob’s ladder is describing entering and exiting a UFO. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah a use of a nuclear device upon the earth as the description is of the havoc wrecked by such a bomb going off, including Lot’s wife turning to salt, where an alternative translation of the word would be dissolving.  These are a few points; it comes from a place of ponderment on why angels would need to eat? Sleep? Essentially engage in human like activities. The theory growing that is because they are simply travellers from the stars that the ancients used language they could grasp to explain. It also explains a bit of the violence seen by Angels (the wall coming down in Joshua for one).

One has to wonder if the mystery that surrounds Hebrews authorship is due to it being of this kind of text. Yes it is written to a certain population, in time and space, but is it also written to preserve a separate understanding of events. A breadcrumb of a trail to a deeper creation mystery? Does it disqualify God as parent/creator if aliens were involved in the process? Could the concept of life long slavery from a devil be a different allegory of an ongoing cosmic-interstellar conflict? Or is it the allegory of the struggle for those that have used technologies and blessings for nefarious gain within Imperial culture?

The epistle (letter) of Hebrews is assumed to be to Jewish converts to the gatherings in Jerusalem under the guidance of Jesus’ brother James. It is a treatise, not a letter in the traditional sense that begins to outline how Jesus brings together many pieces of the Hebrew Bible story. Angels to Moses to Priestly castes to salvation to a deeper cosmology that I have decided to take a contrary non-orthodox exploration of. It is through the lens of Ancient Alien Theology that we will continue the journey over the remaining chapters, and engage a conversation to see what pops up.

As the question comes forward, have we just fallen silent to being able to connect with our alien brethren?


With each new passing or announcement of retirement from the progressive theological movements I share with my wife, we ask, who will take up the torch?  And no, Rob Bell is not the answer or the Emergent Church movement. Yes, they are doing good things in pushing boundaries in their traditions, but compared to where Labour Church, Social Gospel, Creation Spirituality, Progressive Christianity, Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, Queer Theology, Truth and Reconciliation resonances, Human Rights, Social Justice, New Thought, Metaphysics, Jesus Seminar, Philosophy, history, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, science and ecumenical dialogues (to name but a few) have brought us, they are reinventing the foundation stones, instead of adding new floors to the towers already standing tall and strong.

I have been trying lately due to some health challenges of the holistic being to reclaim the towers, and not have to reinvent the foundation stones (I am stubborn that way). After the first night of decent rest in months it hit me, that part of continuing to build the towers is to go to your own spiritual roots.  Within myself, and my family those roots are the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament. I will be the first to admit, the Hebrew Bible can at first blush appear to contain stories of hate, genocide, blood lust and horror. They are foundation myths and legends of their time speaking to the people then and what they had gone through. The challenge for us is not to take a 21st century lens back to the historical story, but rather bring the story into a 21st century lens.

Huh?

A 21st century lens pushes these stories to obscurity, or that which should not be spoken about.

Yet bringing the story into a 21st century lens allows us to see what we have missed and continued to repeat due to our literal, fundamentalist or non-reading of the text.

This is one of the things that struck me as I sipped on my fourth cup of morning coffee. It pertains to the horrid collection of laws found in the Third book of the Torah (or Pentateuch for those Greek types), Leviticus.

Really these are laws about how to keep yourself alive, don’t spark wars with your neighbours and by bringing the story into the 21st century lens that abuse shall not happen without consequence (as seen with the hard passages around abuse of women in Leviticus 19:29:

c“Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.

(English Standard Version)

            For me speaks directly to the abolishment of the Sex Trade. All of us are either children of someone’s daughter, or have a daughter, and forcing anyone to do what they choose not to do, or to make profit from the dehumanization of another is reprehensible evil.

This method also brings a different reading into those infamous few of Leviticus 18:22-23:

22 hYou shall notlie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 i And you shall not lie with anyanimal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to ananimal to lie with it: it is jperversion.

(English Standard Version)

 

These texts have nothing today with the LGBTTQ2+ community. They are a direct redaction into what is legendarily believed to be the writings of Moses post exile from Babylon. In Babylon, the free and slave were forced into sexual predatory worship within the temple. It was led by the Clerics and to show worship after providing the usual animals and money forced participation for absolution was found in sexual penetration through varied orifices of animals, and/or human beings by the worshipper or with the Cleric (yes historical anthropological context can be disturbing).

But wait…removing the literal sentiment, what type of warning does this sound like for the people?

That your worth as you are created matters.

Do not let one in authority force you to that which you do not want to do.

When one in power forces you under the auspices of atonement, absolution, because God said, because you will make first line, I will ensure you get an A, you will get the role only if you….

Hidden in a text we have argued over a literal understanding of, we have missed a millenniums long warning of metaphor and allegory going:

Children,

You were abused in captivity, and were not allowed to flourish healthily into the true you. Do not repeat this pattern of abuse. Be the ones that shatter the cycle, know that you are loved, equal, and belong together in loving communities, loving relationships with whomever you choose.

BUT (and this one is important) you must choose the path of new and love, not the path of known hurt and abuse.

I implore you as you lick the wounds of leaving slavery and abuse, PLEASE, speak the truth, then CHOOSE to move forward as a healthy community by throwing off the monsters and casting them out.

Choose L-I-F-E.

Choose L-O-V-E.

Amazing what happens when you contemplate deeply into the Holy Mystery and attempt to answer the WTF as to why this passage exists.

So as community in the Christianities, are we going to answer the Levitical warning and:

           Choose L-I-F-E?

           Choose L-O-V-E?


English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introduction

Strong’s (1903) Systematic Theology: A compendium designed for the use of theological students within its three volumes more than lives up to the turn of phrase compendium. This writer not being a strong proponent of systematic, but rather a more holistic interdisciplinary methodology finds Strong’s exhaustive meta-narrative/analysis. He is a thorough compiler that presents an almost three thousand page tomb on the Western understanding of theology and how this discipline was grown. One step at a time, unfortunately it is not truly an exhaustive focus as it does have the Western Church bias, ignoring half the world of theology, which would fit the Orthodox/Coptic style of theology which is more mystic than systematic.

Strong as with most of his contemporaries in systematic at the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century attempt to bring the modern scientific movement into the fold of Christianity and more importantly into what they try and sell as the “hard” science of theology. What Strong produced was a pre-1903 encyclopedia of biased and slanted understanding of the sciences, social sciences and liberal arts that propped up his own understanding of the faith.

109 years on is this compendium still relevant in light of the move towards more integral, missional, intentional, emergent and wisdom systems of theology that tend to take a holistic perspective not only of the person, but the community and the story of the church? As one reads through Strong’s 1903 compendium the answer to the previous question more and more becomes no, as Strong shows his out datedness for the contemporary context of the Body of Christ.

Summary

Strong has built a meta-journey for the systematic theologian in the Western world. Page 2 illuminates that the only revealer of God is Christ Jesus. He then goes on to point out that both philosophy and science are good servants of Christ unless they rule out the Son of God (Strong, 4).  This is the baseline established as the compendium launches forward.

Revival is crucial for the life of churches as without it they will become secularized, missions will die out, and in a Revelations reference the candlestick will be removed (Strong, 5). This is the driving force that opens up the three volumes before the reader. It is within the homiletical nature of the book that Strong hopes to communicate the passion of systematic (p.6) for the truth that will move believers that the Trinity is an antidote to the false doctrine which has and presently threatens the church (Strong, 5).

Strong holds to the belief throughout that theology is science (27) and that its aim is to discover (28).  Theology holds a threefold purpose (29-30):

  1. Existence of God who has relations to the universe.
  2. In the capacity of the human mind for knowing God and certain of these relations.
  3. Provision of means by which God is brought into actual contact with the mind, or in other words, in the provision of revelation.

This science of discovery with its threefold purpose is the underpinning of the journey through systematic history to prove that each and every “orthodox” doctrine is true, while those that do not fit Strong’s systematic pattern are cast aside as heresy.

The question though is does this systematic process hold water today?

Interpretation

By equating theology to science, in the historical context it is obvious Strong is attempting to discredit evolution unless it allows for the incarnate Word. Yet what is really happening is that by equating theology to science Strong is hamstringing the art that is theology by confining it to a didactic method that is incomprehensible for the purpose.

The purpose of theology should be to understand the heart of God more for the believer, as noted in Canate’s (2012) Interdisciplinary Method in Christian Theology? In search of a working proposal opens up the third millennium context where this narrow of a focus does not hold sway. Correction, should not hold sway, unfortunately there is still a strong drive to not allow for Godly advancement in theology due to the unwavering belief that our understanding of God does not change.

This is the trap that systematic done encyclopedic has upon the Body of Christ. It lends itself to the once proven, never need to think about again dogma or the old chestnut of “the Bible says it, that’s it” usually applied to some belief that may never have been found in the Bible, or that has never been thought about since some thinker of the Fourth century CE came up with the theory that has then been indoctrinated in believers since.

This is the fallacy of theology as a science, for it lends itself to a method that must be reproducible. Regardless of time and space a believer should come to a doctrine, and be able to reproduce the systematic to come to the exact same conclusion just as one working out the solution of a physics formula. Unfortunately our God does not exist within a systematic box as the history of the Christianities proves by how often there is a reformation or restoration to the Heart of Christ.

Whether it was the “official” historical Reformation of the 1500’s, or the Great Renewals, the Great Schism; the Avalon Captivity (of the Papacy); the rise of the Franciscans, Jesuits, and Dominicans, the Social Gospel, or Liberation Theology each one shares in kind a move beyond simple systematic to a practical and pragmatic theology lived out from the heart of the Gospel story.

Which is the soul that is missing from Strong’s threefold possibility of theology (29-30):

  1. Existence of God who has relations to the universe.
  2. In the capacity of the human mind for knowing God and certain of these relations.
  3. Provision of means by which God is brought into actual contact with the mind, or in other words, in the provision of revelation.

How do these threefold possibilities hold up 109 years later? Let’s take them apart point by point:

 

  1. Existence of God who has relations to the universe.

Yes God has relations to the universe, but it is more than simply relations. From a wisdom theological perspective it is a mutual existence within one another. One where God rests inside Her creation and the creation rests within Him. A perspective that infuses all with the sacred, and rises up the ideal of coexisting as the caretaker of creation, both male and female created and bearing God’s image, infused with the life of breath, not just a “relation”.

  1. The capacity of the human mind for knowing God and certain of these relations.

At first read this second fold appears to be stating that humans can know relations of God, the unfortunate piece is that it does not hold to a holistic viewpoint of the human experience with God. Not a mind/soul/emotion/body of knowing God, but rather a platonic dualism where the mind can know but it is disconnected from that which is deemed “evil” thank to St. Augustine in the body and the transmission of original sin.

  1. Provision of means by which God is brought into actual contact with the mind, or in other words, in the provision of revelation.

Again, the final fold reveals an unwillingness to see that revelation from God is more than just a mind activity. It is a whole person contact that moves one into the revelation of God for them, but then takes it one step further as Revelations shows with sharing with the seven churches, or Acts 15 with the Jerusalem council. The revelation is holistic for the person, which is then taken into the community and shared, verified and lived out. Practical theology.

A strong example of this is found in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 10, more specifically here:

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching                                    the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and                                   wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a                               trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet                                coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were                            all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then                               he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By                     no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or                                       unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time,                                                         “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”16 This happened                         three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

                                17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision                           that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They                                     were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.

(Acts 10:9-17, New Revised Standard Version).

The key points this revelation from God shows is that it is not only a “mind” thing, but rather God opens up Peter’s life and experience, the revelation of the gospel to the gentiles is centered on a bodily need of hunger, and then moves to a challenging emotional situation as Peter begins to argue with God about what is clean and unclean, the reason though takes hold in the mind that he is essentially arguing with the creator of everything, but it finally rests in verses 15-16 where God uses the holy three repetitions to point out that he needs to get up, kill and eat for what God has made clean no one can call profane (unclean).

The three repetitions also reminds the hearer/reader of another time Peter had to experience statements three times, and this was the three fold questioning by the resurrected Christ to become the minister of the flock. Christ, the ultimate holistic revelation of God’s Word, as the Word became flesh. A revelation that was truly more than just to the mind of the world. Christ is the revelation that is still living and breathing, and for God to be truly revealed it must not only sink into one’s mind but make the eighteen inch move to their heart. This is where systematic, and this compendium fall short because it reduces the knowing of God into nothing more than an academic exercise to prove God and disprove everything else.

How does Strong contradict himself up to this point? Simple, he holds to the idea of revelation to the mind, yet points out that scripture (Word of God) is the chief Christian revelation (70). The hang up though is that the scripture in our Bibles’ is but one form of the Word of God, the true Word of God is the Cosmic Christ, and that removes the revelation to simply the mind as noted above.

While Strong holds that theology is a rational necessity (52) it is more than that. Theology is the seeking of God by any believer as they move from being simply a believer to being a disciple and eventually within community to discerning their vocational call. This call is where the theology and even religion move from the theoretical, to as Strong stipulates, to the useful it becomes practical for the believer (Strong, 65).

There are some highlights within the compendium that one should be aware of. Due to its exhaustive nature it does eventually show a balanced relation to the systematic understanding of faith. Strong does place theologians and philosophers as complimentary in the exercise of understanding the science that is theology.

Strong does step out of the early 20th century mindset in volume two of this work as he walks through the doctrine of angels to prove that it is through a systematic understanding of this doctrine that one realizes this universe is simply a piece of reality (Strong, 133). The challenge however is that this statement points to a broader understanding/experience of the Holy Mystery, but one that is not to be grasped outside the box of only knowing God mentally.

Which then contradicts what happens within the third volume where Strong exegetes church structure from the writings of the New (Christian) Testament. The conclusion being that the Law of the church should simply be the will of Christ (Strong, 225). Unfortunately Christ is a whole person/community experience, not just of the mind so using this as the benchmark for the governance of the church it tears apart the earlier systematic established in his threefold possibilities.

This contradiction of the threefold possibilities of theology takes us back to the first volume where Strong reflects on the ancient Creeds of the church that these are not declarations of faith, but rather responses to ongoing heresies of their time (Strong, 57). Historically it may or may not be accurate (as the victors or survivors write history) to state that these Creeds were denials of ongoing heresy. Since most emerged from Ecumenical Councils (Nicene) or allegedly written by Bishops (Athanasius) it can lend credence to this viewpoint. However, the functionality of these documents since their writing has been more catechumenal than heretical battling. What does that mean? These creeds (and ones written later by other denominations to be used alongside or in place of) are now used as teaching tools to open up the dialogue with new believers during the discipleship process. They are used in response to the Great Commission to go forth and make disciples; they are used to form the personal and communal promises during the rites of passage sacraments. The Creeds (ancient and modern) are made highly practical tools to aid the discipling of the Body of Christ as they enter into the lived revelation of God.

Conclusion

It is rare that a compendium so thorough of the western systematic theology throughout time could be viewed so harshly. The view does not come from whether or not this compendium may prove a useful tool, or to whether or not systematic theology in its proper time and place had not been a useful tool. The unfortunate part is even though our world is growing, changing, and adapting. Even though our understanding of how to come to scripture is changing there is still this belief in equipping the next wave of “professionals” within the church that a solid understanding of systematic is the way to produce a vital ministry.

Systematic theology while useful, is not still useful in the context of the shrinking world into a global village, the information explosion, and the deeper understanding of what it means to be human. For it is within the revelation of the image of God/Christ, that we truly experience God. Within the wisdom theology that has been long suppressed, that it becomes evident that all is sacred and we need to become open in this process to living the sacred.

 

Reference

Canate, F. (2012) Interdisciplinary Method in Christian Theology? In search of a working             proposal retrieved from            https://ntsmoodle.com/mod/resource/view.php?inpopup=true&id=281 24   November 2012.

Strong, A.H. (1903). Systematic Theology: A Compendium designed for the use of           theological students retrieved from        https://ntsmoodle.com/mod/resource/view.php?inpopup=true&id=108 27             November 2012.

 


Introduction

            What is systematic theology? It is the study of the nature of God, yet we have to keep it in proper context. The early church (pre-Empire involvement) was a beautiful mosaic of many understandings of the Cosmic Christ, and his life here on earth. There is a renaissance of this type of diversity thanking to the independent/free church movements; emergent; missional; progressive; and fundamentalist that appear to be crossing denominational lines and bringing together diverse bodies under theological instead of geographical auspices. Historically this diversity was co-existing mostly due to distance from one another, but as a more refined church emerged that became bonded together over time (a hybrid of Paul/James’ church) that became known as the Apostolic Church needed to craft an understanding of the basics of the faith. The earliest form that is known of this collective is the Apostle’s Creed, yet overtime and as many of the older or divergent forms of the faith attempted to take a foothold there needed to be an ability to respond.

This response became a way to build logical arguments/apologetics around belief that followed a rather Greek philosophical system. It is interesting that as an introductory to this method Stanford E. Murrell, Th.D. chose to partner his written journey with a smaller denominations confession/statement of faith. Regardless of how progressive or conservative a church body is the simple fact they acknowledge certain beliefs/truths shows evidence of a system of theology in place.

Murrell’s A Foundation of Faith: an introductory study of systematic theology with references to the Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 (1998) is a journey that outlines four types of methodology, kinds of theology (both pro/anti-Christianities) and how the social sciences interplay throughout a building of a rudimentary understanding of the Holy Mystery. This short paper will touch upon a summary of Murrell’s work, followed by the writer’s own interpretation, with a summation of the usefulness of the work for a theologian.

Summary

            Murrell opens up with two distinct statements for the reader: (a) scriptures are authoritative, and (b) the fundamental question for a disciple of Christ is “what has God said?” (p.19). This is what leads into a journey of a textbook to not only outline how systematic theology works, but the practical application through partnering it with a confession of faith to show how it works out within a certain Body of Christ.

The journey continues by the outlining of four methodologies:

  1. Speculative Method – everything most conform to what is already known (Murrell p. 21).
  2. Mystical Method – Individual or corporate bodies that subscribe to special revelations from God that supersede the scriptures (Murrell p. 21).
  3. Inductive Method – the gathering of information for examination and with all the pieces gathered the attempt to make a harmonious whole (Murrell p. 22).
  4. Deductive Method – one has a starting inference and gathers information to support the theory (Murrell p.22).

This is the ground work to begin looking at what can be called “orthodox” or “creedal” belief. From these methods he moves into the five types of theology:

  1. Natural – the search for understanding God is found in the works of God (Murrell p. 23).
  2. Revealed (Biblical) – the search for knowing God is exclusively within the scriptures (Murrell p. 24).
  3. Dogmatic – the search for God is in the doctrines of the church over the centuries (Murrell p. 24).
  4. Practical – the outworking of divine truth within the everyday lives of believers (Murrell p. 24).
  5. Theology Proper – which is focused on the person of God to find truth (Murrell p. 24).

Out of these types of theology couple with methodologies Murrell takes the reader through a short history of where key doctrines came from in response to what are classically known as early and later church heresies, but also in response to anti-Christian theories: (a) atheism, (b) polytheism, (c) materialism, (d) pantheism, (e) deism, (f) rationalism, (g) pessimism, and (h) doctrine of a finite God (Murrell p. 32-37). While walking through these Murrell relies on a revealed theology to do a point counterpoint debate which can almost be a written catechism for a young Baptist.

Murrell touches on evolution (which he is not a fan of, p.57); and states declaratively that no Christian can abide liberal theology (p. 71).  While exploring the social science of bibliology (p.65) stipulates an argument against Anthropology. Murrell rounds out his text with basics around Original Sin (p.115-116), soteriology (p.157), regeneration (p.188-191), justification (p. 193), and sanctification (p.200).

This summary shows at first blush quite a few useful answers to indoctrinate, yet the study of systematic theology is simply not just memorization. For the practice is part of a lifestyle of always learning, growing and changing as one experience the living Christ within their lives and communities. The next step is interpreting this download of information.

Interpretation

            It would be simple to say that this is a fine introductory text. The reader is given the building blocks for the thesis of the work on systematic. The methodologies presented illuminates whether an individual is open to where the evidence leads (inductive) or simply holds to the evidence that supports their own theory (deductive). This faulty deductive methodology at its worse is seen in Richard Dawkins` atheistic works where he builds circular straw man arguments centered on the impossibility of proving God`s existence. The other two aspects of methodologies are equally twinned with speculative and mystical. Speculative would be the idea that ancient Israel bore in regards to the concept of Christ`s teachings in general. For Jesus did not fit the conventional norms. While mystical methodology is the personal revelation, akin to St. Francis of Assisi within San Damiano and hearing Christ speak from the crucifix to rebuild the church.

None of the four methods are invalid, and one who is truly disciple will be able to see points in time within their faith journey when they adhered to one or another methodology. This type of understanding of the personal can be applied to the five types of theology that Murrell postulates as well.

Each type of theology taken on its own is quite valid and dependent on where someone is in their journey with God. What needs to be noted though is at any time an individual can be operating in piecing together a theology that encapsulates one or more of these stated theologies, or even those theologies and theories that Murrell poses as invalid with the Christian walk that he writes in three statements.

There are three statements that ring false to this reader’s ear. The three involve: evolution, anthropology, and liberal theology. The first reflection is found in regards to evolution being incompatible with the Christian understanding of creation (Murrell p. 57). The challenge with this declarative of a statement is that it brings a superficial reading to the scriptures. A reading that even Murrell says one cannot take all writings within scripture verbatim as the word of God, as they are a collection of human records and personal observations (p. 66). Yet he stands by this idea that evolution and Christianity need to be at odds, this is an exercise in missing the point. There are many things that come together for the understanding of God, as Murrell noted with his typologies of theology and his methodologies. Yet he holds firm that evolution is not compatible with scripture, but what if the point of scripture is not to explain how things are created, but rather why God created (John 3:16-17 or any ending of a day of 1-6 of Genesis where God calls creation good?).

The other weaknesses are in regards to his written attack on the social science of anthropology (pp.89-95). This walk through a social science that originated on the mission field is an attempt to stipulate that anthropology is invalid because it has missing pieces within its theory. That is that it is hard to prove or disprove, the hinge for Murrell rests on the idea of the soul. What is missing is a true understanding of the history of anthropology that began as an inductive method worked out through natural theology to grasp a deeper understanding of God’s world. Does this mean one should accept all that anthropologists have discovered without critical thought? No, what it means is that through fossils, studying of the origins of creation and society we can begin to discern a deeper understanding of the Holy Mystery and our interdependent relationship with Him and one another.

Evolution and anthropology are tied together in Murrell’s estimation as invalid. Yet he reserves his strongest statement for liberal theology: “No Christian can accept liberal Theology” (Murrell p. 71).  Now, first liberal theology like any of the five theologies Murrell lists needs to be taken with a grain of salt. That is the believer (better a body of believers) need to work to discern the divine truth within together. Just because it is uncomfortable does not make it wrong, for Jesus stated many things that were uncomfortable to those in power and it is his life that we are to explore theology through.

How does this work out? Take one example of the extreme liberalism, Gretta Vosper, a United Church Minister who in her work With or Without God (2008) illuminated the challenge to be a true transformative community (good), yet falls short of even progressive orthodoxy by stipulating that God and/or Jesus are not personal. That is God is limited (Murrell p. 37) which in itself does not bear witness to the God of the scriptures found within the diversity of the Abrahamic faiths.

So, like with all theologies, there is good and bad that needs to be approached with a discerning mind. Why as a true disciple of the living Christ we cannot throw out any theology completely? Because each believer is a theologian, we are each individually and collectively attempting to understand the Holy Mystery that breathed life into us. By throwing away any form of theology as completely invalid we are throwing away voices of the Body of Christ.

These arrays of voices hold nuggets that can shine a new light into our understanding, a challenging thought that we may never agree with or feel is divine truth but by opening up to exploring it The Holy Spirit reveals something else about our journey. Do we truly have a firm grasp of understanding God as active within our diverse world if we cannot access the wealth that is evangelical, protestant, Calvinist, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Liberation, Social Gospel, Fundamentalist, Monastic, Progressive, Emergent, Missional, Feminine, Queer, Black, Mah Jong, Vietnamese, South African, Anglican, and the list goes on for as many believers as exist within the world (2 billion at last count) there is a diversity of theologies that all aid in informing a piece of the puzzle that is God.

Murrell`s voice is part of this puzzle, it is a piece in the corner that allows a reader to have a quick reference to key points of the basics of systematic theology. Through broad strokes he outlines methodologies, theologies, and challenges to the Christianities. Critically using these aspects provided a much needed baseline for the believer, but preferentially to the preacher or teacher within a local Body of Christ to have a quick reference at their fingertips.

Conclusion

            Systematic Theology can be a complicated process for some to understand. It was birthed out of the need for a rule of order within the Body of Christ. Murrell`s work was well laid out with good information to the reader. The information was tied well into the confession he chose to use as a running example throughout the text. For introductory texts upon the topic the use of the confession of faith as a breathing example throughout aided the reader`s understanding in how arguments of doctrine were built and created. The partnering of methodologies and styles of theologies in the beginning are reflected throughout for the astute reader and critical student.

Where the weakness appears within Murrell`s text is when he attempts to step outside the logical, systematic thought process of the understanding of God to then use systematic as a form of apologetics. Yes both disciplines share rudimentary underpinnings, but one is intended for the non-believer and the other for the believer as a form of discourse and spiritual growth.

Which brings us to the point of this paper, is this a valid text book for the study of systematic theology? Murrell is quite adept at titling his work a foundation, for that is what it provides for the student. If one is able to critically assess the times Murrell goes off the rails of academia and into personal bias it becomes easier to read the book which is twinned with the 1689 Confession of Faith of the Baptist Church.

The foundation is aptly provided through Murrell`s systematic method of laying out the building blocks that moves towards understanding. It is in understanding of where one`s opinions and beliefs come from, then one can move from just theology as our personal study of God to theology as a discourse in the broader community of believers. Finally, this discourse can move into the realm of apologetics to allow for a broader discourse among the believer and his neighbours in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

Murrell, Stanford E. A Foundation of Faith: An Introductory Study of Systematic     Theology with references to the Baptist Confession of Faith 1869 retrieved from      http://ntsmoodle.com 26 September 2012.

 


GreystonesChurch

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Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washingto...

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English: Faith Presbyterian Community

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Haugerud
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For those who have followed my meanderings online, in life or through my books, I have been travelling through many of the world faith traditions, and many Christian denominations in my ministry.  Yet what has probably floored most of my friends and family, is that currently my family is calling an Associated Gospel Church as our new faith home.

As the recent reflections have shown, my contemplations have been around what is wrong with the church, but also what is right with the church and what theologically brings new people to Christ? And to be honest, I  am a liberal theologian, Same-sex marriage–no problem, pragmatically pro-choice (as until a world where every child that is conceived is wanted, it is a necessary choice), social gospel/liberation theology orientated; marriage is more a bond under Godthan any provincial piece of paper, women ordination (or anyone called for that matter), I do not read the bible as literal, but rather as an amazing collection of wisdom in all its literary incarnations of timeless truths

John Calvin

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to guide a traveller with God, baptism (is an outward sign, but not a necessity)…etc etc etc…essentially one that probably fits better theologically in the mold of mainline churches, yet here my family is settling into an evangelical (conservative if you will) tradition, and why you ask?

Simple, Crossroads Community Church, it is a community of faith living into truly what they speak around family and community trying to make their community better…a place of welcome.

Do we agree upon all theological points? No.

Is it a place to plant roots? So far yes.

A place where one can grow? Ask questions? So far yes.

Is it a place where theology is hospitality? Yes.

So why did the liberal enter the Conservative Church?

They accepted. And that truly is the future of church, a community of openness, welcome and transformation.

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