Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

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Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:00 pm

We didn't get to cover most of your questions in class, so I wanted to respond to them here.

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How do we justify putting differing theologies in the “evangelical camp”? (e.g. Calvin vs Arminian)

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:03 pm

How do we justify putting differing theologies in the “evangelical camp”? (e.g. Calvin vs Arminian)

Like we discussed in the learning party, “evangelicalism” is a large umbrella category that includes many different sub-groups. To be evangelical, one must generally believe in (1) the authority of scripture over our lives, (2) the necessity of new birth and individual conversion, (3) the efficacy of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, and (4) the exclusivity of Jesus – that he is the only way to salvation.

Many groups share these four beliefs, yet differ on smaller questions. The groups you cite – Calvinists and Arminians, differ on their understanding of free will and God’s sovereignty. But they actually share far more in common. Both groups would fall underneath the umbrella of evangelical.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:05 pm

Michael Bird said, “The saving message of the gospel cannot be reduced to the call for economic justice and liberation from poverty.” If that is true, how can we relate the gospel effectively to the social climate of our culture, on our campus and in the workplace?

The gospel cannot be reduced to those issues, but the gospel certainly addresses them. Bird meant that the gospel cannot be summed up as: Do good to your neighbor. The gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. As our lord, he does command us to love our neighbor, so part of our response to the gospel is to love our neighbor.

It’s a matter of keeping the main thing the main thing. Jesus and his kingdom must be central. Without Jesus as savior, we can’t change our bent toward injustice. Without Jesus as teacher, how do we know we are really doing good to our neighbor? What is good? To tolerate someone and leave them in their sin, or to lovingly call them to repentance? Who is our neighbor? Merely the people who are like us, or does it even include our enemies? One person’s idea of “do good to your neighbor” can look very different from another’s.

As Christian’s, we have much to offer when it comes to the topics of economic justice and social liberation. Some of those things include Jesus’ insights into where evil and injustice comes from. And his call to radical generosity. And his view on the wealth and true human need. And his announcement of kingdom blessing on the poor. In these, and dozens more, the gospel can speak to social issues on campus.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:06 pm

Is it worth it/valuable reading the books that didn’t make the New Testament?

Definitely! For a couple reasons. Some books didn’t make the New Testament, but they are still really spiritually beneficial. Some of these were written by the guys that were trained by the apostles themselves. It’s good stuff! Plus, there is no copyright, so you can read them for free online. One great place to start is with a collection of the Apostolic Fathers. This includes books like Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and others. I mean, who would you rather read – the latest bestseller from a pastor 2,000 after Jesus, or a guy like Polycarp who sat at the feet of the Apostle John and learned the gospel straight from him? (My favorite edition of the Apostolic Fathers is the Holmes edition, which you can get for cheap on Amazon.)

What about the other books, the weird ones? The ones that were rejected because they were from heretical offshoots of Christianity? It can be beneficial to read those, too, if only so that you are aware of what they are and can answer student’s questions. A few years ago the Da Vinci Code came out, which had a bunch of inaccurate statements about the origin of Christianity. It can be helpful to know the truth so that you can put peoples’ doubts to rest. One of the most common books in this category is the so-called Gospel of Thomas which you can read via a quick google search.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:07 pm

How do we read things from tradition to bolster our faith? How do we filter then through the Bible?

I addressed some of this in the previous post. Most books from 200+ years ago are available for free online, so it’s super easy to access them. However, there is so much material it can be tough to know where to start. Here are a couple suggestions:

Get a dictionary of Historical Theology. This summarizes what significant voices from church history have said about different topics and traces the development of theology.

Read some of the big names – if you are interested in early church authors, there is a group of eight people known as the “Doctors of the Church”, so called because of their contribution in writing major works of theology and devotion. Those guys include:
Athanasius (my favorite)
Gregory Nazienzen
Basil
John Chrysostom
Ambrose
Augustine (the most influential theologian in history outside of the Bible)
Jerome
Gregory the Great

How do you filter them through the Bible? Read the Bible a lot. Get familiar with it. If you haven’t read the Bible all the way through, do that before reading any church father. Then follow the hermeneutical spiral. Read the church fathers – let them challenge you and send you back to scripture. Check out what they said. Then come back and read the fathers again. Then the Bible. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:24 pm

How did many in the church arrive at the understanding that the “bishops” would be held at such an exalted/infallible state?

The power of bishops grew gradually, over time. Originally, most churches were governed by a group of elders who were known by many titles (elders, presbyters, pastors, bishops, overseers, priests). As churches grew and the apostles died off, most churches developed an additional layer of government – a bishop, who was technically still an elder, but who served as a figurehead over each church. So each city of significant size would have a single bishop, with many priests/pastors/elders serving a variety of individual congregations within that city and the surrounding countryside.

As the church continued to grow, the role of bishop became more prestigious and powerful. Bishops of the largest cities (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople) held special leadership over other bishops. Some of those bishops were known affectionately as “Papa”, or Pope. As time went on, only the pope at Rome was still called the pope. But for most of church history, no bishop, not even the pope of Rome, was considered in any wall infallible.

Much later, in 1870, partly in response to the Reformation, the Pope was declared to have the power to make certain pronouncements about the faith that are considered infallible. Note that the Catholic Church does not say the Pope is always infallible; only when making official pronouncements on certain issues. They base this on God’s promise to lead his church into truth, so therefore God must lead the leader of the church into truth.

Long story short: it was a long process, with no single moment. The power and prestige accumulated over time. And since tradition plays such a significant role in the Catholic church, there is not much of a way to backtrack once a particular course is laid.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:40 pm

What are some concrete examples from today of the different types of relationships of the church and culture (from page 74-75 of Bird)?

Some of these options have fallen out of fashion in recent centuries, so they don’t have equal representation today. But I will do my best to give examples of each.

Niebuhr’s categories fall under three main headings:

(1) Christ Against Culture – Jesus and culture are opposed, and the church should be separate from the world. The Amish are a great example, as well as Apostolic Pentecostals (the one where ladies wear jean skirts and no makeup).

(2) Christ of Culture – Opposite of #1; Jesus and culture are so intertwined that distinctions are blurred. Most modern liberal/progressive churches tend to lean this way. Groups that will take Jesus instructions to the church and see those as applying to the larger culture as a whole.

(3) Jesus Above Culture – probably the most common option in evangelical circles

(3a) In Synthesis– God is working in all cultures and there is much to affirm, but his church stands above culture as the fulfillment. Tim Keller might fit best in here.

(3b) In Paradox – Christians wear two hats, being members of both the kingdom of God and their particular nation. The two roles don’t really influence each other, but Jesus is most important. Martin Luther is a great example of this, where he could have a personal ethic of non-violence but still wholehearted endorse the brutally violent suppression of peasant rebellion for the good of the nation. Many American Christians have this mindset in valuing the gospel for their daily lives, but looking to the founding fathers for their political vision.

(3c) In Transformation – Jesus calls his church to influence and transform culture. A strong form of this would be the Religious Right, seeking to influence politics to advance a Christian agenda and laws; a weaker form of this is more general view that Christians are to work for God wherever they find themselves in culture, more emphasizing being salt and light. Most evangelicals end up in this category.

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Re: Responding to Theology Questions from Sep 13

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:51 pm

I want to know more about the political relationship between Israel and the surrounding countries up to 70AD. How does is accumulate and culminate?

The best written source for this is Josephus, a famous Jewish historian who lives through the events. His book, the Jewish War, is phenomenal reading. Highly recommended.

Very short summary: After the Jews went into exile in Babylon, many were able to return and rebuild under the reign of Cyrus (and told in Ezra and Nehemiah). They still remained part of the Babylonian empire. Then, several successive empires took over the land of Israel, just as prophesied in Daniel 2. The Medes and Persians conquered the land of Israel, then Alexander the Great, then one of his generals established the Seleucid Empire. During the Seleucid empire, around 150 BC, the Jews revolted under the Maccabees and became an independent nation again. That lasted for about a hundred years. But there was incessant infighting and squabbling. Eventually, the rising empire of Rome came in about 64 BC and took over the land of Israel. For the next 100 years, Israel a Roman territory. During this time, Jesus was born and crucified. The Jews hated being ruled by foreign powers, and regularly revolted against their masters, always unsuccessfully. Finally, in 66AD, the Jewish War began, resulting in the destruction of the temple. Later, around 130 AD, they revolted again, and Rome basically committed genocide and drove out most Jews from Palestine.

This youtube video covers some of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVnzUzahqoY

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