Knowledge of God: Avoiding Heresy for the Pew Sitters

Remember that game chutes and ladders, you played as a kid, or maybe still do with your own kids (or  not). For some reason this game popped into my head when I was thinking about what it means to have a Christ conditioned churchpewsunderstanding of how we have knowledge of God. The rest of this post is simply going to be me thinking and conversating out loud.

I think the issue of dualism has got to be put to bed, and Thomas Torrance, as well as Karl Barth hammer this point home. The reality is, is that you as a human being and God as God are not in competition. There is no ladder high enough, no tower of Babel grand enough to reach the heavens. You aren’t trying to climb your way up to God, not in salvation, and not in knowledge of God. And yet, most people, most pew-sitters have been fed this non-stop for years and years; and so this way of thinking about God has become intuitive, to the point that to suggest something different might sound alien or even like sin. Surely, the pew-sitter and most of her pastors would never say such things; they would never say that they believe that they can climb their way up to God (this would be to deny faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone) in salvation. But, their informing theology demands this. If we don’t believe that our humanity—is grounded in Christ’s humanity—then necessarily we now are functioning with a dualist conception of how humanity relates to God, and we must now endeavor to build a bridge to God out of our own resources, even if we qualify our resources by saying they have been given to us by grace. We have now, at this point, functionally denied what is implicit to the ecumenical Church Council of Chalcedon, which in a nutshell is this:

(iv) The Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, which affirmed that in Jesus Christ there are two distinct natures in one person, and that in the one person of Christ they were hypostatically united ‘unconfusedly, incontrovertibly, indivisibly, inseparably’, or ‘without confusion, change, division or separation’. This was affirmed against the Eutychians and Monophysites. [Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation.]

And so we are operating in heresy, and we don’t even know it.

This is a rather hard topic to broach in a kind of accessible way, but I hope this is making some sort of sense for all of you pew-sitters out there. I am sure that you do not want to operate as a functional heretic, but you are if you don’t start thinking from what happened in the Incarnation of Christ (which is different than thinking about it or affirming it). This also gets into issues that orbit around theories of the atonement, but I will save that for another time.

This post is only simply intended to provoke more questions, than provide answers.

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5 Responses to Knowledge of God: Avoiding Heresy for the Pew Sitters

  1. Jerome says:

    We need to be reminded of this – often! Do we “live and move and have our being” in Jesus or not?


  2. caseybedell says:

    Thanks, Bobby. The pennies have recently dropped for me, so to speak, regarding the vicarious humanity of Christ and its implications for the Christian life.

    Perhaps you could do a post reflecting on the relationship between archetypal knowledge (God’s self knowledge) and ectypal knowledge (our knowledge) and the incarnation.


  3. Bobby Grow says:

    Amen, Jerome.

    @Casey, my chapter for our EC book is that, although I don’t use the language of ectypal, but I think I use archetypal. But maybe a post on that soon.

    Glad to hear the pennies dropped. A good book on the vicarious humanity is Christian Kettler’s:


  4. Steve Scott says:

    No bigger pew-sitter than me, Bobby. I even blog from the pew. 🙂 What is scary is that we learn to deny what we actually believe and that we use Christianese to do so. I think this is a re-wording of one of your thoughts. I have realized that much of my religiosity was that bridge-building you mention, believing all the while it was of grace.


  5. Bobby Grow says:


    I know, and this is a terrible thing. “Believing all the while it was of grace.” Yes, you have a corner on the Pew thing (your blog title 😉 ).


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