Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Welcome to God for Us!

Welcome to God for Us!, a trinitarian blog. Mixing straight-faced seriousnesss with irreverent humor, this blog will use a variety of approaches, from stuffy academia to sheer nonsense, to help put the good news back into the Good News! In future posts, I intend to ask many questions regarding the doctrine of the Trinity as well as what it means to live in relationship with the God who is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I may even provide the odd answer now and then!

I am not a professional theologian (yet); but I am working on it. Most of my professional career was spent as a Marriage and Family Therapist. For many years, I worked as a professional counselor in a local megachurch (Man, was that an education!) and was also a graduate level adjunct professor in my field at a local college (although I didn't smoke a pipe). I have written two books and numerous magazine articles related to theology and Christian living. I also do occasional workshops on those subjects. You can learn more about all that at my website: http://www.mannabooks.org/.

I have a profound interest in trinitarian theology. After spending twenty years wrestling through the Calvinist-Arminian debate, I was exposed to trinitarian theology through my now good friend, Dr. Baxter Kruger. About half way through his book, The Great Dance, I began to feel as though scales were falling from my eyes. I got so excited about the Good News of the Triune God's love for all humanity that I ran into my front yard and started running around in circles! I immdediately pulled my cell phone from my pocket and called my brother-in-law, Ken, a businessman and pastor, and told him, huffing and puffing and still running in circles, "Hey man! You gotta read what I'm reading!" (I went immediately back inside, however, when I saw a police car slowly and quietly approaching.) Baxter's book brought me the sudden, stunning illumination that , for two decades, I had started my thinking about God in the wrong place, invariably ending up with a view of God that finally drove me to the serious study of Zen Buddhism (Tell me, Grasshopper. What is the sound of one hand clapping?). Given the picture that some theologians paint of God, Zen started looking pretty good to me.

Since reading Baxter’s work, I have moved on to Barth, Torrance, Gunton, LaCugna, Jenson, and many others, and have developed a profound hunger for more understanding of the Triune God’s unfathomable love for all humanity. I am now pursuing a doctorate in trinitarian theology (research degree) under the supervision of Greenwich School of Theology in England. I am in the early stages of this project and probably have nearly three years to go.

Part of what I want to do in this blog is share some of what I am learning with people around the world who are fed up with religion and its unending litany of rules, regulations, conditions and demands for entering the Kingdom. These are people who want to hear the Good News of God's unconditional love for his creation. (That's what I said: unconditional! After all, what other kind of love is there?) In addition, I know that a number of those who will read this blog are personal friends who are busy pastors and simply don't have two or three (sometimes more) hours a day to devote to research and study. These friends are themselves learning more and more about the Good News through their own study of Kruger, Capon, Jinkins, Torrance, Barth, and others, and, quite frankly, some of them need all the help they can get! (You know who you are.) I hope they can benefit as I share some of what I am learning. Perhaps they can even share some of it with their congregations. If so, my time devoted to this blog will be well worth the effort.

In addition, I want to help my pastor pals and other readers to increase their theological and philosophical vocabulary, so that when they read some of the more academic theological works, they will have an easier time of it. So I will throw in the occasional three-dollar word, chosen from among the four or five that I know, so that my readers won't be put off in their advanced reading if they don't happen to know the difference between God in se and God ad extra or God pro nobis . In addition, I may throw into the mix the occasional post on Greek philosophy (zzzzzz!). A basic understanding of Plato, Aristole, and Plotinus is needed to comprehend a whole bunch of theological writing. Ancient though it is, Greek (can you say, pagan!) philosophy is still with us today, underlying western classical theism. Finally, I reserve the right to wax "academic" from time to time. I am a teacher by nature, so I guess it's something I just have to do. So, tell me, Erasmuffin, what impact did neoplatonic emanationism have on the early Christian doctrine of God? And why has a substance ontology been privileged over relational ontology in the western doctrine of God, and what are the implications, Bro?

Another thing I want to do is help put the good news back into the Good News! This is large for me. Somewhere along the line (and we’ll take a look at where) the Good News of God’s love for all humankind got lost in the deck in the unholy shuffle of Greek philosophy and biblical thought. To illustrate the consequences of this ungodly cocktail of biblical and pagan thought, I had a teacher in a theology class say that when he was exposed to the “gospel,” or at least the version presented to him at seminary, he wanted to burn down the entire campus because he had been told that God had, from eternity past, reprobated many to hell (Who wouldn't want to bring out the flamethrowers hearing that garbage?). Since that time, of course, he has learned to accommodate his “aberrant” thinking to the sovereignty of God. But let me ask you this: Should hearing the Gospel make us want to burn down the campus, or should it make us want to shout from the roof tops how great the news really is?!

Not long after reading some of Baxter's stuff, I was walking, pockets empty, through the voluminous lobby of a coastal casino crowded with people from Tokyo to Tuscaloosa. Filled with compassion for all these disparate people (Thank you, Holy Spirit!), I had the sudden urge to yell out, "You are all included!" But because of the significant number of security guards present, I held my peace. Maybe next time I'll wax evangelical and let out a hoop and a holler for the Good News! After all, the Gospel is supposed to be good news, but too often it’s presented as the story of a vengeful, wrathful God who can’t wait to send as many of us as possible to hell, particularly those who don't go to my church. That’s not what I call good news. So I want to do my bit to put the good news back into the Good News.

Finally, since I am a professional therapist (mostly retired), I can't help but post the occasional thought or two on relationships. After all, why are relationships so difficult? Why won't my spouse do right? Or, better yet, what do my difficulties in relationships (with spouse, friends, coworkers) have to say about me? There's a scary thought. Ugh!

So let’s get started and together share our interests, questions, and perhaps an occasional answer regarding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who, in their unfailing love, are God for Us!

To get things moving, I'll share with you some questions that I ponder from time to time:

Does the doctrine of the Trinity matter? What difference does it make if God is one person or three? Does triunity matter in regard to the nature and character of God? Might God be other than what Scripture describes him if he were one person rather than three?

Is God’s triunity related to his plan for human salvation? Is the scope of God’s plan of salvation reflected in the triune heart of God? Does God love some but not others? Does an understanding of his triune nature help us to answer these questions?

Regarding human beings created in the image of God: Does it matter whether God is one person or three? Does God’s triunity have anything to do with our relationships with family, friends, and coworkers? Or is God so remote that his inner nature has little to do with us?

Is God simple, immutable, and impassible? Where does this kind of language come from? Is it biblical? Is God affected in any way by our prayers, or is God an unmoved mover, like a cosmic fence post (or a Greek column) whose relation to us is a function of our movement, never his (its)? (Aristotle thought so and apparently some Christian theologians, including Thomas Aquinas, are happy to agree).

How do we understand the nature of God? Where do we start? Do we look for trinitarian patterns (vestiges trinitatis) in the human mind or soul in order to understand God’s triune nature? Augustine thought so. Do we look to the tree, or perhaps, the ocean or mountain to tell us what the nature of God is like? In other words, does our thinking about God begin with creation? Aquinas thought so and he followed Aristotle in formulating his cosmological proofs for the existence of God. Or does all our speech about God begin somewhere else? Irenaeus and Athanasius certainly thought it did. These kinds of questions are epistemological (How do we know?) and methodological (Where do we start?). And they are extremely important because how and where we start our thinking about God has a profound effect on where we end up—and some, starting in the wrong place, have ended up in some very ungodly places.

These are just a few of many questions that have been asked, and continue to be asked, in the field of trinitarian theology. I don’t have the answers to many of these questions. I don’t know if anyone can answer them all. Yet these are the kinds of questions that must be addressed if modern Christianity is to escape its captivity to Greek thought and return to the joyous trinitarian vision of the early Church. Maybe together, we can work out some answers here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

A.S. Radcliff: The Claim of Humanity in Christ (in the Torrance tradition), Post 20

Reference Radcliff, A.S. 2016. The Claim of Humanity in Christ: Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T.F. and J.B. Torrance . ...