Sunday, December 31, 2006
A few new years resolutions should help me pick up the pace a bit on my blogging. I'm aiming to finish at least 1 solid book a month this year. By solid, I intend several things: 1) Over 200 pages in length 2) Not written by Tom Clancy or in a genre he might inspire 3) Not written by Mark Driscoll nor containing any of the language so common to his vernacular (this might also rule out Luther's Stein and Thomas Colloquims). Also I want to get back up to at least 3-4 regular posts a week. An additional resolution here is for les typos fore Logan to profreed this yaer :-) Here's to a new year of substantive blogging!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Anyway, this rant is sourced in the ridiculously slanted piece of so called journalism in the aforementioned latest edition of USNWR. While this periodical is typically fairly conservative politically (at least relatively speaking), they apparently could use a new religion editor. The article is punctuated with slanted phrases like "In that struggle -- arguably the most improtant waged by self-styled correct believers againt the so-called-heretics," "soldiers of orthodoxy," "the prominent second century hersy hunter, Bishop Irenaeus" and a picture of NT Wright in full clerical garb and an somber expression that makes him look a morbid misanthrope (or perhaps the 20th century heir to Irenaeus, the heresy hunter).
To be fair, I still need to finish the article, though I've already skimmed the remainder of it. However, the opening few pages had me so heated, I thought I'd vent a few words online. These issues have been on my front burner in recent days as I've been reading through Jesus and the Victory of God and am anticipating dipping into Bauckham's most recent treatise soon. Furthermore, due to a recent rebuke from reading Euangelion, I've been wading my way through some of the apocryphal and gnostic literature (Tobit, 1 Maccabeas and the Gospel of Thomas in the last few days). Anyway, all of this has put me in the frame of mind to want to gag while reading this sort of yellow journalism parading itself in the name of objective reporting. Instead, the article is guilty of the very sort of ideological imperalism that it accuses early orthodox christianity of. Nevertheless, it affirms the necessity of familiarizing oneself with the extra-canonical (if you'll excuse such a subversive, repressive term) literature. These issues are becoming more and more common in mainstream media and it is only fitting that believers have an informed answer.
**Postscript - I finished the article and it ends with more substance than it begins. There are some good quotes from Wright and Luke Timothy Johnson. However, the conclusion does not salvage the first half in such a way to make me retract anything I've said above.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I thougth it may be easier and more helpful to respond to you via email. I hope all is going well, and look forward to seeing you in a week or two!
Regarding the "election" of the unsaved:
This is a VERY touchy area theologically. My view is different from most at CBTS, but I'll describe both. The question is essentially "Does God elect people to damnation in the same way that He elects people to salvation." I say "yes" but be advised I'm in a SMALL minority. Most, even the most Calvinists say "no."
Those who say no, even the calvinists typically describe this topic (commonly referred to as reprobation) in terms of God "passing over" those He hasn't elected. In other words, some He chooses to salvation and this is CLEAR from Scripture (remember Ephesians 1?). The rest, He simply doesn't choose...that is, He leaves them to go their own way, in there depravity. Without His intervention, they naturally don't choose Him (Rom 1:18, 3:11) and thus spend an eternity under His condemnation. Since scripture does NOT explicitly say that He elects them to damnation, this option supposedly provides what theologians refer to as a theodicy, that is a justification or vindication of God. I infer (perhaps they imply) that it would be morally wrong, or evil of God to elect people to damnation; entirely capricious. Since it is all of grace that He chooses ANY to salvation, He is not compelled to choose all; hence those He doesn't choose, will never choose Him.
The problem I have here is that I'm not convinced this "vindicates" God (as if we had to). [Editorial note - My wife's somewhat less theologically nuanced, though equally satisfying response to this argument was: "That's stupid! It doens't solve anything."] If He COULD have done something and He DIDN'T, I don't see how this makes Him anymore benevolent or less capricious. Furthermore, I think there are at least two scripture passages that have direct bearing here:
Romans 9:17-23 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.....22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory...
1 Peter 2:6-8 For this is contained in Scripture: "Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed." 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone," 8 and, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
These verses are pivotal for me. I emboldened the most significant phrases, but in the larger context, they are even that much more persuasive. To be sure, others don't ignore these texts and would offer up alternate interpretations or ways of getting around them. Bottome line: you must wrestle with the texts and correlate them into your understanding of the doctrine of God. The reason why it's such a touchy issue is because of what some people infer (which is different from imply) from this doctrine. Many think to come to the conclusion that I do is to impune God with with evil actions or motives. However, it comes back to your understanding of sovereignty (which is a worldview shaping doctrine). Here's a quote from Karl Barth that I recently posted on my blog (be forewarned though, quoting Barth at [his college] won't do much but get you in more trouble :-)
"From the act of atonement that has taken place in Jesus Christ, it is clear that in evil we do not have to do with a reality and power which have escaped the will and work of God, let alone with something that is sovereign and superior in relation to it. Whatever evil is, God is it's Lord."
That last statement in bold is fantastic and thoroughly biblical. I grant you this is a short and perhaps slanted response, but that's the nature of email. Let me know if you have more questions or if there are other texts in particular that you're wrestling with. Of course none of this rules out moral responsibility. Yes we do make genuine choices that have eternal consequences, but NONE of this is outside of the sovereign control of God. "Whosoever will may come?" Yes. But be sure to balance it with "No one comes unless the Father draws them" (John 6:44). There is a tension to be sure, but who ever said theology was easy? :-)
PS, I think I'm going to post a copy of this on my blog, if you don't mind. You've raised an excellent question that I think is worth wrestling with in a public context.