May 21st, 2013
The Matthean account of Jesus pronouncing judgment on the cities of Choarzin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum may be found in Matthew 11.20-24. This passage of Scripture contains a historical context of six particular cities that were condemned for their depravity. The following contains a grammatico-historical examination of the text, which is an example of the doctrine of revelatory judgment applied, a verse often used to support the soteriological problem of evil, and is a problem passage for the doctrine of transworld damnation. The purpose of Jesus’ pronouncement of judgment on these cities was to convey the depravity of man.
Before any critical examination of the text can be made a conclusion on the genre must be established. The book of Matthew is a Gospel, which is a genre in and of itself. Many studies performed in modern scholarship of the Gospel literature link the Gospels with Hellenistic biography. Hellenistic biographers did not feel compelled to include all periods of an individual’s life or to narrate in chronological order. The selected events were carefully ordered to promote a particular ideology. In slight contrast to Hellenistic biographies, Robert Guelich proposes formal and particular genera for the Gospels:
Formally, a gospel is a narrative account concerning the public life and teaching of a significant person that is composed of discreet [sic] traditional units placed in the context of Scriptures… Materially, the genre consists of the message that God was at work in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection effecting His promises found in the Scriptures.
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May 19th, 2013
From the time that Constantine’s (AD 227-337) father died (306) until Constantine challenged Maxentius at Milvian bridge (312), he was consolidating his position of power in Gaul and Britain. Even at this early date he showed the same military and political acumen that he would later exhibit as emperor: He strengthened his defenses against the barbarians along the Rhine, winning the gratitude of his French subjects. He did not impose onerous taxes on the people, and entertained the bloodthirsty among them with frequent shows in the circuses He was deft in diplomacy and military strategy. Above all, he was a patient man, not playing his hand until the time was right.
At the Battle of Milan (312) Constantine prepared for his invasion of Italy by making sure that Licinius could not take advantage of it by seizing Maxentius’s territories to the East. To that end, he offered Licinius his half-sister Constance in marriage, and waited until Licinius was militarily engaged with Maximinus Daia before launching his own campaign. He committed only ¼ of his troops to the battle – the rest remaining in Gaul to ward off barbarian advances. Upon winning the battle and gaining control of the western half of the empire, Constantine moved to consolidate his power, entering into an alliance with Licinius in 313 (the “Edict of Milan”).
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May 18th, 2013
Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834)
Schleiermacher saw Christianity as “despised” because it was misunderstood in the following ways.
- Christianity is misunderstood as assent to orthodox dogma
- It is misunderstood as rationalism or natural theology
- i.e. Getting to God by pure reason alone
Schleiermacher‘s key concept of religion was “feeling of Absolute Dependence.” Examine those feelings. What do they tell you about God? “Oh, they tell me God is good and kind.” He’d say, “Good! Write that down.” Therefore, the nature of religion is not thinking. The scientific approach was eliminated by Immanuel Kant. Here Schleiermacher is attacking the historic Christian position that theology is a science. Also, the religious nature is not ethics either. Rather, it is feeling which works its way out in absolute dependence.
Schleiermacher believed the individual’s life consists of three primary parts. The first is the sense of perception. This includes Newtonian physics and scientific knowledge. The second is activity, which is the realm of ethics. Lastly, and perhaps the most important, there is feeling, which is the realm of religion, human feeling, and the affective domain. “God is the whence [source] of my absolute dependence, or God is the idea that clarifies my absolute dependence, and human absolute dependence on the infinite shows God.”
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May 18th, 2013
According to Rudolf Bultmann, God is the Totaliter Aliter (Wholly Other), there are no points of contact between us and him. God is, but we cannot know him objectively. God is hidden and thus neither God nor his actions are open to verification. This world is a closed system of cause and effect; we can never find God by empirical processes. There are no breaks in the links of causation; thus, there are no miracles. No event can ever be ascribed to God; all are natural causes. There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and the world, which makes it impossible for God to objectively act in the world. Paradoxically, the hidden God reaches down to finite humanity and reaches himself (via the kerygma). Miracles would be intrusions of God into the natural realm.
May 17th, 2013
This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil. If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step? Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven. It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.
Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself. Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs. It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs. Heaven is a result of our choices during this life. In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.
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May 14th, 2013
Adoption is God’s choosing of individuals to be adopted into the spiritual family to receive future riches and glory. What must be defined about the doctrine is what it means for a believer to be in the “spiritual family.” Thomas Schreiner places the value of adoption on those who are not slaves to the power of sin. Those who did not have the Spirit of Christ were subject to the slavery of sin; they were in subjection to the power of sin [cf. Gal. 4.7]. The Spirit that is given to believers is a Spirit that liberates from the power of sin, and thus a new obedience is generated in the heart of believers.
The passage from Romans 8.16 confirms that we are God’s children by bearing witness with our spirit. The critical issue for adoption is that there is cooperation with the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. “Our spirit” cannot be identified as the Holy Spirit. Verse 17 reinforces inheritance (κληρονομία, kleronomia) of future glory with God.
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May 1st, 2013
I recently had an online exchange with someone who was arguing against middle knowledge. He included statements like, “Supposedly Scripture teaches man has a free will” and, “That’s no where in Scripture.” You’ll be surprised how much doctrine we believe to be true is not explicitly stated in Scripture. Here are a few things that are not explicitly stated in Scripture that are commonly accepted doctrines:
- The Trinity: I believe God exists in a trinity of persons and I believe the Bible teaches the trinity but only implicitly. You’re not going to find “trinity” or “three persons in one being” anywhere in the Bible.
- The Hypostatic Union: There isn’t a clear articulation of the coherence of the hypostatic union in Scripture. The Bible merely teaches what it was and that it happened.
- Dispensationalism: Find the Greek word for that, I dare you. Hebrew will get you extra points, go. (For the record, I wouldn’t consider myself a dispensationalist).
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