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 15th, 2013
I am approaching the world as a realist. (For a background of my epistemology please see: My Evidentialist Epistemology). What I mean by this is that the external reality is how it appears to be to an observer making an epistemic inquiry, the measurements from science accurately depicts reality. This is in contrast to instrumentalism, which suggests that our inquiry of the world, scientifically, do not accurately depict reality but as useful fictions. An instrumentalist is more concerned about data fitting theories and predictions than with an accurate depiction of reality.
For the realist-evidentialist, the ontology of the world determines one’s epistemology. They congruently correspond. It is important to note the order of entailment. Antecedently, reality determines our epistemology. It would be illicit to reverse the term order and as Roy Bhaskar notes, it would be the epistemic fallacy. I am not advocating a naïve realism where reality acts on the human mind without personal inquiry nor am I advocating postmodern anti-realism where one can construct whatever type of reality is desired. I am advocating a form of critical realism.
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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 13th, 2013
Thomas F. Torrance (1913 – 2007) – the developer of scientific theology
Thomas Torrance was a professor of Christian Dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He was heavily influenced by Karl Barth and contemporary science. He translated Barth’s Dogmatics from German to English. (Which is quite voluminous–thirteen volumes, six million words). He was also a recipient of the Templeton Prize for the advancement of religion.
In reality all entities are ontologically connected or interrelated in the field in which they are found. If this is true then the relation is the most significant thing to know regarding an object. Thus, to know entities as they actually are what they are in their relation “webs”. Thomas Torrance termed this as onto-relations, which points more to the entity or reality, as it is what it is as a result of its constitutive relations.
The methodology of the epistemological realist concerns propositions of which are a posteriori, or “thinking after,” the objective disclosure of reality. Thus, epistemology follows from ontology. False thinking or methodology (particularly in scientific knowledge) has brought about a failure to recognize the intelligibility actually present in nature and the kinship in the human knowing capacity to the objective rationality to be known.
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May 11th, 2013
The teaching of Scripture seems to assert that post-Genesis 3 humans possess libertarian free will, including freedom to choose between opposites on matters pertaining to salvation or any other spiritual good. This immediately raises questions surrounding the concept of original sin. Augustine first used the expression “original sin” in the wake of the Pelagian controversy. Upon arriving at Rome in A.D. 400, the British monk Pelagius was horrified to see the open immorality prevalent among so-called Christians. This was the direct result of Theodosius I nineteen years earlier (381) declaring Christianity to be the state religion so decreeing that anyone living within its borders to be Christian. This was a transformation of Christianity from a voluntary religion (one that people freely choose to join) to a natural religion (one into which people are born) spawned immense immorality in many people who bore the name of Christ without ever having personally committed their lives to Jesus. Pelagius exhorted the Romans to live worthy of their Christian calling with an argument logically summarized in two steps:
1. Humans possess libertarian free will.
2. Humans should use their libertarian freedom to be good enough people to earn their own salvation.
Unfortunately, as so often happens in the history of thought, one extreme position meets the response of an equally extreme opposing position, thus swinging the ideological pendulum from one side to the other. Very rarely is prudence taken in shifting the pendulum back to the center, where the truth is most likely to be found.
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