Thursday, September 29, 2022

Both and

Most thoughtful Christians, reflecting on the biblical story, would say that God’s purpose for creation is both to display his glory and to display his love. However, inquiring minds tend to move in one direction or the other—as the controlling or main purpose. Those in the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition tend to read Scripture as emphasizing God’s glory and power and the world as the place for displaying them. The result can be an interpretation of everything in the world, even evil, as purposed by God for his glory. Those in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition (and also going back to the Greek church fathers before Augustine!) tend to read Scripture as emphasizing God’s love and desire for relationship and the world as the place for experiencing them. The result can be a softening of God’s lordship and a sentimentalizing of God as needing the world for his own fulfillment. The solution, of course, is to hold the two purposes of God in creation together in tension.The Essentials of Christian Thought, 192 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I tend (who am I kidding—I do!) read scripture through the Wesleyan-Arminian lens. But, I don't soften God's lordship! God created the world because he wanted to, not because of any need on his part!

And, the fact that prior to Augustine's arguments w/Pelagius, no church father (or mother) read it through a predestinarian lens just confirms in my mind that it is the correct one. But that's just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Stop it!

And God intends to liberate the world from this “bondage to decay,” which is evidence of God’s continuing care for creation. In the meantime, humans live out their likeness to God by having dominion over the world, which means nurturing it, not dominating and exploiting it. The ecological crisis, insofar as it is humankind’s doing, which science indicates it is, is a violation of the ethical implications of the biblical narrative even if caused partly by Christians. Christianity itself, understood as what the Bible reveals about God and the world, forbids rape of the environment.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 189

Monday, September 26, 2022

But don't worship it!

Ethically, then, the point of the creation story of Genesis and the entire Bible’s witness is the call to care for God is good creation while avoiding worshiping it. Idolatry is a major theme of the biblical narrative; it is the very root of sin and evil—setting creation or some part of creation up as God and worshiping it is wrong because God alone is Lord and creation belongs to him. At the same time, denigrating nature or any part of it as evil and/or exploiting it is wrong because it belongs to God and caring for it is part of what it means to be human.—The Essentials of Christian Thought 188 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
And this is the flipside of Friday's post. We don't exploit, but we don't worship creation either. We are stewards, called to care for it.
</idle musing>

Friday, September 23, 2022

Stop the exploitation!

God’s assignment of the human to have dominion never hints at permission to exploit, let alone ruin, nature; it remains part of the “image and likeness of God” and there is a call to care for creation and be God’s created cocreator in restoring it to its original intention.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 188

<idle musing>
Indeed. I have never understood the mindset that thinks that because it is all going to go up in smoke anyway, let's assist in the destruction. From the time I was young, I was taught to conserve nature, to treat it with respect, to leave things better than I found them.
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 22, 2022

And the greatest of these is…

All of this presupposes something that sets biblical-Christian metaphysics radically apart from other belief systems about ultimate reality. Tresmontant stated it most concisely: “Christianity is a metaphysic of love." This is something speculative reason alone cannot know about ultimate reality—that its very being is love. And this is the reason behind and Within God’s self-limitations, self-determinations, and self—actualizations: God’s being as being-for-others. Does that mean, then, that God must create to have “others” to love? Not at all. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, itself rooted in biblical narrative, even necessitated by it, means that God’s creative activity, including his self-limitations in relation to creatures, is a free expression of the fullness of the love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity. If God were not triune, however, then creation would be necessary for God insofar as God is conceived as love.—The Essentials of Christian Thought 169 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

So, can God really change his mind?

Classical Christian theism, born in the cauldron of philosophized Christianity in the second and third centuries in the Roman Empire, reached its zenith in Anselm and Aquinas. Aquinas agreed that God, being absolute and ultimate in terms of reality, cannot change in any way and therefore cannot suffer—including feeling emotions such as compassion and sympathy. But classical Christian theism is not limited to early or medieval Christian thought; it still has its defenders in the twenty—first century in spite of being embattled. Very few Christian theologians except out-and-out liberal Protestants (e.g., process theologians) reject classical Christian theism entirely. Rather, following Dorner—a pioneer in attempting to return the Christian doctrine of God to biblical thought, separating it from Greek metaphysics that conflicts with that——many simply want to adjust Christian metaphysics “back to the Bible.” Most, this writer included, gladly affirm broad areas of agreement between the best of Greek philosophical theology and biblical revelation of God. At the same time, however, together with Dorner, Brunner, Cherbonnier, and other Christian critics of classical theism, I believe it important to base Christian metaphysics on the biblical narrative and not allow Greek or any other metaphysical thought to draw it away into extrabiblical speculation.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 132

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

What do you believe?

The biblical narrative holds within itself an original, organic, synoptic worldview that answers life’s ultimate questions differently than numerous alternatives—most of which are still swimming around in our pluralistic culture and too often being soaked in by Christians and inappropriately mixed and mingled eclectically with their own native, biblical—Christian worldview.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 82

<idle musing>
This is the foundational thesis of the book: There is a biblical metaphysic, and it is discernable. And that biblical metaphysic does not align with most secular metaphysics. Despite the fact that most Christians seem to think they can adopt whatever metaphysic they want, that is not a true Christian metaphysic.

I would say that most US Christians, of whatever variety, are default natualists in their metaphysic. They might say that they believe in God and Christ—they may even pray—but their default way of life betrays them. They don't really expect God to "show up." And when he does, they are surprised.

If you pray and don't expect to see an answer, what does that say about your faith? Or, worse yet, you don't bother because you think it's too trivial for God's attention, what does that say about your faith?

Ponder that as we continue through the book…
</idle musing>

Monday, September 19, 2022

About that unmoved mover of yours…

A most interesting narrative in Isaiah is about God’s responsiveness to a king’s plea to extend his life (chapter 38). God sends the prophet to inform King Hezekiah of his impending death. The king begs God for more years of life and God listens and relents, changing what he decreed would happen, giving Hezekiah fifteen more years to live (38:5). Again, this is often chalked up to anthropomorphic speech by philosophically minded interpreters who bring to the text baggage borrowed from extrabiblical philosophies. According to most extrabiblical metaphysical schemes, ultimate reality cannot be affected by finite beings. Plato’s “Form of the Good,” Aristot1e’s “Unmoved Mover” and “Thought thinking itself,” Hegel’s “Absolute Spirit”—a1l are incapable of changing his (or its) mind in response to events in time, space, and history. But God, the ultimate being, the absolute person of biblical revelation, is intensely personal, self-limiting, and self-determining, and can voluntarily change his mind in response to his covenant partners’ pleas.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 60

<idle musing>
The key here is "self-limiting." God is omnipotent and omniscient (and the other omni-s!), but he willingly self-limits himself to allow his creatures genuine self-determination. Truly amazing!
</idle musing>

Friday, September 16, 2022

It's personal!

The Bible presents a different picture of ultimate reality than extrabiblical, rational, speculative metaphysics. It elevates personhood (as described earlier) to ultimacy: the source of all finite reality, of nature and all it contains, is revealed as irreducibly personal and not just an impersonal (or even suprapersonal) force, power, or principle. Can reason alone establish this? Perhaps not. But one deleterious effect of depicting ultimate reality as impersonal is the demeaning of personal reality, of relationship and community, and a tendency to elevate as “like the ultimate” the isolated, static, unchangeable individual.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 56

Thursday, September 15, 2022

How do you describe ultimate reality?

I've been reading through Roger Olson's The Essentials of Christian Thought recently. As I said to a friend, it's a good book, but at times a bit redundant, as he wants to make sure his reader understands what he is trying to say. It would make a good introductory text paired with something like The Universe Next Door, a book he references. He also, to his credit, frequently cites Emil Brunner, probably the best twentieth century theologian (as you know if you have been reading this blog for very long, I prefer Brunner and Bonhoeffer to Barth).

I'll be excerpting from the book for the next two to three weeks. Here's the first one:

Nothing could be clearer to the unbiased Bible reader than that it depicts ultimate reality as not a thing or object or mere force or power but as someone who thinks, deliberates, acts, enters into relationships with others, and has freedom to determine himself. And it depicts ultimate reality—that which is beyond appearance, upon which all else depends, the source of all that is—as more than nature, not part of nature, even the author of nature who is free to intervene in it. What words are better suited to describe such an ultimate reality than personal and supernatural—even if they are inadequate and problematic?—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 54 (emphasis original)

Friday, September 09, 2022

Thought for today

This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy. (Ezek 16:49 CEB)

Let those who have ears to hear, hear!

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Understatement of the year

Blurb on the back of a massive commentary (700+ pages!) on the Aeneid, book 6:
This is Horsfall's fifth large-scale commentary on the Aeneid, and as his earlier commentaries on books 7, 11, 3, and 2, this is not a commentary aimed at undergraduates.
Yep. I would say that it gives grad students a good run for their money, too!

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Canoe ride!

Four weeks ago, Ryan (our son) and I took my 90-year-old dad for a canoe ride down the Red Cedar River again. Unlike last year, when the water was so low we had to do a few lift-overs, this year the only thing that happened is that Ryan missed seeing a rock and we ended up being turned around and going backward for a bit. Fortunately, it was an isolated rock, not part of a rough water section (which is probably why he missed seeing it!), so no danger.

Here are a couple of pictures.

Ready to go

On the water

Mission accomplished!

That river has many good memories for both my dad and me. We have canoed it countless times over the years, both as a family and as a scout. It's been fun the last two years to canoe it again with him. Besides, it's not every son who can say that he and his 90-year-old dad went for a canoe trip together!

Thought for the day

Your prophets gave you worthless and empty visions.
They didn’t reveal your sin so as to prevent your captivity.
Instead, they showed you worthless and incorrect prophecies. (Lamentation 2:14 CEB)

Let those who have ears to hear…

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Thought for the day

4b “The Lord proclaims: I’m breaking down everything I have built up. I’m digging up that which I have planted—the entire land. 5 You seek great things for yourself, but don’t bother. I’m bringing disaster on all humanity, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” (Jer 45:4b–5 CEB)