Prayer Request: unemployed

Please keep us in prayer. I have been working for Union Pacific Railroad over these last couple of years. The last many months (since Thanksgiving) I’ve been barely hanging on (business is very slow and they over-hired prior to the slow down). I will be laid off (they call it furlough because they can call you back if business picks up) most likely tomorrow. And things don’t look promising, as far as business picking up anytime soon. I can get railroad unemployment, but it is only half of what state unemployment is; so it is not livable for a family of four. We can probably make it for about a month, and then we will be out of funds. If you know of any employment that would be viable to support a family of four in this economy (in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area) please drop me an email. And please just hold us up in prayer. We’ve been through this before in our past, but this situation is particularly daunting. 

Thank you! 

Without holiness I can’t see God. That just won’t work

“14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord …”[1]

This will just be a short reflection on the profundity of this verse; I need to reflect on this verse, and contemplate the depth dimension present in it. I think sometimes when we read this verse we might read it as a purely futuristic thing; indeed, it has that element. But Christian theology, properly understood, knows that things such as holiness, God’s holiness, is indeed something/one that bobbygrowgrowbobbycan only be fully realized in consummate form — but it is just this reality that implicates the present. I believe that the eschatological reality, some call this glorification, when holiness will be required to stand in the presence of God, much like Moses did, and was hidden in the cleft of the Rock, is required in the present. Eschatology shapes the present reality we inhabit; eschatology is God come in Christ in the first and second advents, and in every parousia in-between (which happens on a daily basis as God in Christ by the Holy Spirit breaks into our lives moment from moment, even if we fail to recognize that). So, I along with Augustine, believe that without present and ongoing holiness in our lives, without our active participation in koinonia of God’s life that’s mediated to us through the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ, we cannot see God.

I want to know God, I see no other meaningful reason for living. I have nothing on this earth but Him (and all that He has given me freely in the Son, including my family, friends, loved ones, etc.). The Psalmist, king David captures this well:

ג Gimel

17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law. 19 am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me. 20 My soul breaks with longing For Your judgments at all times. 21 You rebuke the proud—the cursed, Who stray from Your commandments. 22 Remove from me reproach and contempt, For I have kept Your testimonies. 23 Princes also sit and speak against me, But Your servant meditates on Your statutes. 24 Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors.[2]

‘I am a stranger in the earth,’ and I need the holiness of God to surround me; I desire to actively walk out of His holiness as I walk in the step with the Spirit (Gal 5), in the works He has already prepared for me to do in Jesus Christ on a daily basis (Eph. 2:10). But I so often fail, and miserably so. I quickly look at the stormy waters surrounding me, I see the dust cloud of Pharaoh’s army pursuing, all I can see is the Red Sea before me; and I turn inward, I start looking at my navel instead of Jesus’ pierced navel. And in the midst of this loss of focus I go to my high places, where the groves seem green and above it all; but what I quickly realize is that these luscious high places are only filled with idols that I’ve created, idols that can’t breathe, or talk, or provide solace and hope (Ps. 115). I’m like Israel of old, the Israel that Christ became, that I (we) might become Him (II Cor. 5.21). I realize that if I think I will live this life without sin I make God a liar and His truth is not in me (I Jn. 1.8, 10). So yes, I do things that are not holy, I sin, and I do what I don’t want to do (Rom. 7); but it is here where the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ breaks in (I Cor. 1.18-25), he sprinkles my conscience with His blood that I might worship and serve Him, the living God (Heb. 9.14). I know without His gracious intervention into my life I will not see Him; I can’t live life that way, I won’t!

There is hope, even when I fail, He wins; He overcomes (I Jn. 4.4)! Even in my failure, in my sin, in my idolatry He is ever present. I want His holiness to dominate my life, for without it I cannot see Him! I don’t want His holiness to dominate my life in abstraction, but in concretion; and so as I cry out to be released from this body of death I look to Jesus (Rom. 7). I look to His body, and I know that by His stripes I am healed (Is. 53; I Pet. 2.24); because I am one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6.17), and because of His poverty I’ve been made rich (II Cor. 8.9), and now I am seated with Him in the heavenly places far above all of the crap of this world (Eph. 1.19-23), I have great and abiding hope! I choose to stand in the power of His might, and battle on! (Eph. 6.10ff; II Cor. 10.5ff). amen. 

 

[1] Hebrews 12.14

[2] Psalm 119.17-24

Thomas F. Torrance on the Holy Spirit and the Nicene Faith

At the Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D. the Fathers spoke of the Holy Spirit only in the last single sentence: ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit’. Brief as this was, it brought into sharp focus the universal emphasis in the New Testament upon the personal and divine nature of the Holy Spirit who, with the Father and the Son, is both the subject and object of faith, he through trinity-iconwhom and in whom we believe in Jesus Christ and are saved. In him God himself is immediately present in our midst, miraculously and savingly at work, and through him God reveals himself as Lord, for God himself is the content of what he does for us and communicates to us. The Spirit is not just something divine or something akin to God emanating from him, not some sort of action at a distance or some kind of gift detachable from himself, for in the Holy Spirit God acts directly upon us himself, and in giving us his Holy Spirit God gives us nothing less than himself. Since God is Spirit, the Giver of the Spirit and the Gift of the Spirit are identical. Thus in the Nicene Creed belief in the Holy Spirit is bracketed together with belief in the Father and in the Son, as belief in one God and Lord. – T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, 191.

God is Salvation. The Idea of Two Classes of People Rather than One in Christ

I once wrote a post that touched upon what I will further elaborate on in this post; i.e. the idea that the classical/Augustinian concept of election has some very damaging consequences for thinking about humanity/people in general, and for thinking about salvation and a thus a doctrine of God in particular. Most people associate this kind of thinking—election for some to salvation and active (or even passive) reprobation for most to an eternal conscious tormented hell for the many—with John Calvin; but of course that would be too reductionistic. Yes, Calvin did hold to a double braziljesuspredestination, but he was only reflecting the dominate belief of his day inherited from the Augustinian/Latin heritage that shaped the whole of the Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) church. It is this type of thinking that remains pervasive today, particularly in and among ‘conservative’ evangelical theology (think of the type of theology promoted by the popular Gospel Coalition); which itself is funded by the classical Reformed and/or what is known as Post-Reformed orthodoxy, and its categories (given definitive expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith and its Longer/Shorter catechisms). For some reason it is this expression (conscious or not) that is considered the only orthodox way for rigorously understanding things salvific for evangelicals (at least for many; I obviously generalize here). For some reason there is something sacrosanct about thinking about Divinely determined classes of people; the elect and reprobate; the saved and the damned. And unfortunately, I would contend, when this perspective is adopted it can have a deleterious effect upon those who view the world this way. Even at an unconscious level, when this view is allowed to inform people’s daily lives as the reality, even at a sub-conscious level, we start looking at people, at the massa of humanity with harder tones rather than softer ones; divisive and class oriented even. We begin to use this lens, at an ethical level, to view the world as us and them; using this lens to explain why most of the world seems like it is living like hell because from our perspective (if we hold to this type of determinist perception of reality) most of this world is in fact the damned; that’s just who they are (in their very being without any hope otherwise), and thus that’s just what they do—i.e. live like hell.

But Jesus, and the Gospel operate from a different metaphysic, from a different doctrine of creation, from a different anthropology, from a different soteriology, from a different doctrine of God and election (I would contend). Tom Greggs (University of Aberdeen professor) agrees with me, and gets at this in a much more elegant and precise way than me; he writes (as he explains the motivation for his book, which I’m quoting from here):

The primary motivation for engaging in this research is to understand salvation better. In an age in which fundamentalism is being so loudly articulated, the divisive and binary nature of certain understandings of salvation is being clearly heard. The sense that being a member of a community of faith separates and divides is not only heard in sermons but also in the explosion of bombs directed at causing terror for those unbelievers who await the terrors of hell anyway. It is, after all, only a short step from stating that God wills eternal terror for those opposed to His will and uses that terror in the world among those understood to be against God’s will in order to influence their decision-making in the present. Salvation needs, therefore, to be expressed in a way which does not divide humanity into binary groupings, but which allows for a simultaneous discussion of the salvific plan of God for all humanity as well as those who profess faith. In an age of multiculturalism in which our neighbours are people of many faiths and none, this is of paramount importance.

The division of humanity into saved or damned, elect or reject, awaiting heaven or hell is not only dangerous in its implications for the way in which humanity is seen, but it is also dangerous in terms of its doctrine of God: it presents a doctrine of God in which the will of God is separated from His love, or else is flouted by the sinful choices of humans, or else is cajoled into conditional love (which is no love at all) by the faith of humans. This can lead to an almost modalist approach to the doctrine of God: the second and third persons of the Trinity can seem to come to exist to save humanity from its failings. Moreover, such a view of salvation imprisons God in human constructs of justice and love, creating in God the failings all too evident in humanity (to love only when first we are loved, wrath etc.) instead of allowing the doctrine of God to define these points. God is salvation: it is not simply an action He performs; this action is an act in which one can understand His being. Thus, the contrary is also true: if one fails to understand salvation, one will fail to understand God.[1]

It is true that the Bible itself speaks of ‘those being saved’ and ‘those being destroyed’ (as active realities, see I Corinthians 1.18 etc.), but it does not do so in static or absolute ways; nor does it do so in metaphysical ways. In other words, the conditions for dynamism and change relative to one’s personal orientation to the Gospel remain open for all ‘who will’ (to use the Bible’s language cf. Jn 3.16).

Theologically the Bible’s disclosure is focused upon Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 5.39) in rather intense, and dare I say ‘principial’ ways. If we think from the logic of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, if we think from the hypostatic union and the Chalcedonian pattern of God and humanity unified fully in the eternal Son, Jesus Christ (unio personalis); we will have to re-think the binaries spoken of above, we will have to rethink the Augustinian division of an elect status of people over against an reprobate people. If we allow Jesus Christ, and the reality of his life as Theanthropos (the ‘God-man’) to impose itself upon our thought patterns we will have to think God’s election/reprobation from there; in particular from Christ’s vicarious humanity in-the-stead of and representative of all humanity. If we do this we will not look out at humanity as a great abstract mass, some of whom God has chosen to redeem, and others he has arbitrarily chosen to damn to eternal hell. Instead we will look out on the mass of humanity from the concrete humanity of God in Jesus Christ; we will think universally and globally about humanity from the particularity of God’s humanity given for us in the eternal Son’s choice to be for us and with us as one of us, instead of against us. We will think of all of humanity, not in principle, but in concrete fact from God’s love (cf. Rom 5.8); as if the mass of humanity is God’s humanity (cf. Acts 20.28) taken up in the Son (Phil. 2.5-8; II Cor 5.21)—the Son who the Father said ‘is dearly beloved.’

Theology, like any ideas, has a creeping effect in our lives. It is given expression in manifest, and often unconscious or un-intentional ways. There are examples of how thinking about humanity in two different classes gets expressed; one example can be as extreme as apartheid in South Africa (which was in many ways funded by the importation of Dutch Reformed theology into its civil and governmental life and policies). But more typically it can be expressed more subtly in our daily lives by having less compassion for people than we ought; this ‘less compassion’ though can lead to sinister things like nationalism so on and so forth.

Ultimately the problem with viewing humanity this way, though, is that it is not coordinate with the Gospel or God’s life revealed in Christ. God is for humanity in all-inclusive ways, even if his way remains exclusive, but only because that is limited to his life in the Son; thus he remains the only way, but he remains the only way for all not some. Ultimately if we think from the Gospel, from Jesus, we will understand that what it means to be human is ontologically grounded in Jesus Christ’s humanity; that his humanity grounds all of humanity. And that because he has united that humanity to his divine life in the Triune life, all of humanity is represented before the Father; which leads to the reality that all of humanity has the opening and invitation to participate in the life that God has given for them in his own life in the Son’s humanity. Our job, as Christians then, is to bear witness as ambassadors to the world of what true humanity looks like (i.e. their humanity too) as it actively participates in and from the Son’s real life humanity for them, for us.

[1] Tom Greggs, Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation: Restoring Particularity (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 2-3.

It was once the Companion Controversy, now it is the Barth Wars; but what is it?

Maybe like me you have grown weary of what was originally called the Companion Controversy, but because of a recent First Things article by Phillip Cary has been relabeled bartharmyuniformas the Barth Wars. This controversy first started (in print anyway) when Bruce McCormack, of Princeton Theological Seminary, published an essay in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth entitled: Grace and Being: The role of God’s gracious election in Karl Barth’s theological ontology. In this essay he lays out what he believes Barth intended or should have intended by way of his reformulation of Calvin’s doctrine of election, and how that reformulation implicates Barth’s doctrine of God. At base McCormack believes that Barth in Church Dogmatics IV reverses the usual order of things in regard to a doctrine of God. In other words, McCormack believes that election precedes Trinity, which is inverted from classical metaphysical understanding.

But since I want to communicate McCormack’s thesis as clearly as possible in this post (and thus the point of this post), and since I am currently reading Paul Molnar’s book Faith, Freedom and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology, I thought I would quote someone that Molnar is engaging with in his book. Yes, Molnar does engage with McCormack, but more notably he is responding to (and quite militantly) Ben Myers’ critique of Molnar’s reading of Barth (from Molnar’s earlier book). Myers is in company with McCormack, and as such offers a very clear presentation of the points that distinguish McCormack, himself and others from folks like George Hunsinger, Paul Molnar, D. Stephen Long et al (the other side of the Barth coin who read Barth as if he is more of a “classical” or “metaphysical” theologian). So I thought it would be helpful to share how Myers frames this, and as a result we will have a better understanding about what drives the so called ‘Barth Wars’. Here’s Myers (cited by Molnar):

(1) “The second person of the Trinity is a human being—or rather, the divine-human history enacted in Jesus”; (2) The “logos asarkos … represents … ‘some image of God which we have made for ourselves’”; (3) “from all eternity, there is really no ‘second person of the Trinity’, but only the divine-human history of Jesus of Nazareth”; and finally, (4) “God’s deity is constituted—through God’s own eternal decision—by the way God relates to this particular human being.”[1]

This is the conclusion that Myers derives from the McCormack thesis that Barth in CD IV reverses Trinity and election in a doctrine of God; i.e. that God elects his own being (inner life) as Trinity, and that this election is ontologically defined by God’s choice to not be God without us (i.e. humanity), but with us. As such there is no other being of God other than what is revealed in the history and event of God’s life in Jesus Christ; and history itself (as a result of God’s election) becomes ontologically determinative for who God is in an exhaustive manner—the resurrection being a capstone of this determination. Paul Molnar further summarizes this as it relates to Myers’ position; Molnar’s summary comes just after he has described what he believes to be Barth’s view of divine freedom and how that relates to what he thinks Myers, McCormack, et al. are attempting to do in what he believes (along with Hunsinger) is a revisionist reading of Barth’s theology. Here is Molnar on Myers (and company):

The above-cited very traditional statements about the freedom of God’s love in himself and in the incarnation have been questioned recently. For example, relying on Rowan Williams and Bruce McCormack, Benjamin Myers claims that Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity offers not just one doctrine of the Trinity but two. And from this he concludes that “God’s being as God is constituted by God’s self-determined relation to the human Jesus” and ultimately that “Jesus is not merely epistemologically significant [which is Molnar’s position], as the one who makes God known; he is ontologically significant, as the one who (so to speak) makes God God.” All of this follows, he claims, from the fact that Barth’s doctrine of God was radically changed with his doctrine of election in II/2, and that the doctrine of the Trinity that he presented in I/1 was formally based on revelation while the new doctrine presented in IV/1 was based on Jesus Christ as, in his mind, making God to be God! Now, from within any reasonable reading of Barth’s Church Dogmatics, it should be quite obvious that these claims not only obviate God’s freedom for us, but they destroy God’s freedom as eternal Father, Son and Spirit precisely by making God’s essence dependent on the historical existence of the man Jesus.[2]

If it isn’t clear yet, Molnar believes ultimately that Myers, McCormack, et al. collapse God into his creation by making God’s inner-life (in se) contingent upon (in a constituent way) his outer life (ad extra) in the humanity of Christ; furthermore, Molnar believes that christologically this leads to Arian or Adoptionistic heresies.

Conclusion

This is the crux of what drives the Barth Wars; whether God elects for himself to be Triune in the incarnation, or whether because God is Triune and gracious in his antecedent and eternal life he elects, as coordinate with that kind of life, to not be God without us; with the understanding that God could have remained who he was as Triune without electing humanity for Godself in Christ.

Hopefully, if you have been wondering about the Barth Wars, that this makes things a little more clear (maybe I have muddied it further, I hope not). I mentioned in the beginning of this post how this was originally termed as the Companion Controversy, but I think it has legitimately expanded into what has now been called the Barth Wars; primarily because it isn’t just McCormack and Hunsinger anymore (which was where the original rift was here in North American English speaking Barth studies), but with lines drawn and castles being built, folks have started to take sides (and I do think this is primarily a North American English speaking battle – as I recall Barth scholar Darren Sumner noted somewhere that this battle is not present in German Barth studies [they simply take the McCormack view as the only possible read], but is just here in the States for the most part).

[1] Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology (Downer Groves, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2015), 141-42.

[2] Ibid., 134-35 [brackets mine].

Being Needy and Finding Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

Earlier today I posted this on my Facebook wall: “Reading the Gospel of Mark: Jesus is surrounded by needy people, not people who are not needy. I’m glad I’m a needy
grunewaldperson.” I want to expand on that statement in this blog post.

It is interesting, I have spent years studying hermeneutics; and have even taught a biblical interpretation class to underclassman at my alma mater in years past. But when it comes right down to it, as I continue to read through the Bible, year in, year out, quite often the way I end up reading the Bible is through a lens of travail; through a lens of suffering and tribulation. This doesn’t mean that I have forgotten the christocentric lens of biblical interpretation, or chucked the literary tools I have learned to study Scripture; but what it does mean is that as I read Holy Scripture I encounter Jesus Christ in living breath on its pages (which is the christocentric lens). And in particular moments like I am facing now (I was just laid off of my job at the railroad a few days ago, and don’t know what to do at the moment), when I approach Scripture, I tend to read it with an eye towards being encouraged and comforted by who God in Jesus Christ is for me (pro me). And so this morning I decided to read through the Gospel of Mark (along with my ongoing Bible read through which I’ve been doing since 1995, 35x through), and given the circumstances we are facing as a family (with me unemployed once again) I noticed this time through that the sorts of people hanging around Jesus in the Gospel of Mark look a lot like me.

Take the first chapter for example. John the Baptist was as needy as they come. He lived out in the wilderness on a diet of honey and wild locust; a homeless peripatetic prophet with nowhere to lay his head. And yet his whole existence was consumed by pointing people to Jesus. He didn’t worry about his clothes, or his personal well being; he was concerned with pointing his finger to Jesus. He was seeking God’s kingdom first, and God in Christ was making sure that everything else was being added unto him (like food, clothing, etc. — all of his needs were being met).

The next characters we meet, still in chapter one are: Simon, Andrew, James, and John (vss. 16-20). From a material standpoint they became immediately needy (which would be indicative of their spiritual need as well); they walked away from their livelihood as fisherman to follow Jesus. They no longer had a steady or stable financial situation, and yet like John the Baptizer they were willing to seek Jesus first and be consumed by Him; they were willing to let Him worry about their physical needs (and spiritual). So more needy guys.

Still in chapter one in verses 21-28 we encounter, with Jesus, a guy who is demon-possessed, in the temple of all places; another needy guy. What does Jesus do for him? He casts the unclean spirit out, and brings healing to this spiritually destitute man. Jesus was there, not having any place to call home, to minister the power of God to this man, even as Jesus Himself had his own material and physical needs. In the following pericope in verses 29-31 we meet, with Jesus, Peter’s mother-in-law; she had a fever, a physical ailment. Jesus touched her, healed her, and she served Him; as if nothing could stand in the way of Jesus being magnified. It was out of her need that Jesus healed her, met her need, which allowed her to serve Jesus.

And as something like a summary of what has already happened previously in verses 32-34 the whole city gathered at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house and Jesus healed the multitudes of various physical and spiritual ailments. Jesus was surrounded by the needy. Now wouldn’t you know it, here I am, with my beautiful family, not sure what we’re going to do with my job loss, standing as it were at Peter’s mother-in-law’s front door and seeking the healing and ministering touch of this great and mysterious man named, Jesus of Nazareth.

In many ways because of His ministry in the past, in similar situations where I’ve been unemployed, or in even more extreme circumstances, had an incurable/terminal cancer, it is as if I can see Him stretching His healing hand out and moving it in my direction. I can see myself in His story, like the one narrated in the Gospel of Mark, and know that Jesus, my Lord, is the same Jesus who spent time with and ministered to all of these other needy people we just took note of. I find confidence, and hope from all of this; but still wonder just how the Lord will touch my neediness this time. It seems like His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts not my thoughts; and even though I can’t quite see how He’s going to work it out and meet the need this time, I am confident that He will indeed meet it. He has never left or forsaken me or my family yet, and I am positive He’s not going to this time either!

I am needy.

Natural Theology is Untheology, And my Confession

erichprzywara
Erich Przywara – natural theologian par excellence

To inhabit an evangelical world that lives and breathes from evidentiary and analytical modes for knowing God, and developing theological methodology, it is rather hard to function as a theologian who believes that the faith of Christ ought to serve as the basis from whence God is cognized and understood. This is often my experience, and maybe yours, as you sit at the feet of Karl Barth and Thomas Torrance, and learn so many rich things only to be summarily dismissed by evangelicals and Reformed types who, yes, work from very foundationalist and apologetic modes of thinking about God; i.e. from natural theology as special theology’s ground floor as it were. They might look at you as if you are from outer-space speaking another language, when you simply remind them that in fact you are really speaking from confessional Christian norms that actually have precedent from the Chalcedonian past; a past, ironically that many evangelicals and Reformed types have abandoned for more ‘modern’ modes of knowing God. This is the irony, isn’t it? That Barth and Torrance are doing genuine Christian Confessional theology whilst evangelicals and Reformed types engage in a methodology of theologizing that starts with an abstract conception of God (i.e. from natural theology and the general revelation that ostensibly funds it), and only later works its way “progressively” or “linearly” to Christ.

Paul Molnar sketches for us the role that the Holy Spirit plays in knowledge of God within the theologies of Barth and Torrance. This is the correction that so many evangelical and Reformed types need to hear, and then once heard they need to repent of their errant theological ways and come to the light. This is what Molnar writes in summary of Barth’s and Torrance’s view of the Holy Spirit and knowledge of God:

What I hope can be seen from this presentation of the function of the Spirit in knowledge of the triune God in the thought of Barth and Torrance is that all genuine knowledge of the Christian God always begins in acknowledgement in the sense that it can only begin in faith in Christ and not at all in itself. And this beginning is not under anyone’s power because it is itself a miracle enabled by the present action of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ and thus to the Father. It involves the very power of the resurrection. When knowledge of God is understood in this way, natural theology is simply marginalized as a way to understand God in truth. And as long as theologians recognize and maintain the importance of the Holy Spirit in knowing God, they will to that extent never attempt to know God outside faith in his Word and Spirit, and so their knowledge will never be grounded in reason or experience but only in grace as it meets us and heals our reason and enables our experience. What I have tried to illustrate here is that any apologetic attempt, outside of faith, to explain who God is, who Christ is or even who the Holy Spirit is must inevitably mean that such an attempt is untheological. Such an approach is self-grounded and does not think from a center in the risen and ascended Lord, as it must if it intends to speak about the truth of the triune God acting and enabling the church to be what it is in its union with Christ through his Spirit. Our focus thus must always be n the God experienced and known in faith and not in our experience and knowledge per se.[1]

This impassions me! This impassions me because it is correct. I continue to see young theologians (and old) dismissively rush right past this reality; as if they ignore it it will go away, and won’t be true. I continue to see evangelical and Reformed types repudiate the idea, that Molnar so eloquently articulates, that if we don’t methodologically start with Christ and from his faith for us, that our knowledge of God will end up being just that: our knowledge of God. The error of natural theology is that it abstracts the person of Christ from the works of Christ; it abstracts the person of Christ from the person of the Father by not seeing Christ as alpha and omega, the first and the last over creation. Natural theology places ‘nature’ before Christ, objectifies creation apart from Christ thus annexing Christ as an ‘aspect’ of nature, as a moment of ‘creation’ (as he entered it in the incarnation); resulting in a diminution of Christ, a marginalization of Jesus as the center of all things creational and historical.

But of course this is a serious problem, since just the opposite is true! As Colossians 1 so elegantly communicates, Jesus is the ‘firstborn of creation,’ he is numero uno, prime over all of creational reality. As such if we are going to have true knowledge of God, and ourselves (as Calvin even understands, just not as radically as Barth and Torrance) we can only think from a center in God, in Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and the end, the very origin of God’s creation (Revelation 4); he is Lord over visible and invisible reality. Natural theology can only come to this conclusion after it has reasoned God from nature rather than from Christ, but this is backwards.

I was just at the Church and Science conference at Multnomah Seminary (my alma mater). One of the issues that someone brought up that hindered discussion between scientists and Christians was the issue of origins. I wanted to pike up and say: ‘that’s because someone is either for Christ, or against him.’ There is no way to find common ground between unbelief and belief, between the faith of Christ and the rebellion of the Serpent. We can talk, we can be humble towards each other, but the only bridge between rebellious humanity and God is the faith of Christ. It is here where the origins of all things can start to be known in truth. And I would submit this is the better way. But I digress.

A Personal Note

I want to give some warning. I have somewhat muzzled myself because of others; this is a confession. I am quite the passionate guy, but over the last few years I have started to worry too much about what others think of me; as a result I have toned down my passion for things. But that’s just not me. Either I am going to be for Christ, or I am not; either I am going to fear God, or fear man. If I am going to be a follower of Christ I am going to be all out, and this will implicate how I communicate, among other things. The Lord grabbed my heart in a deep and trying way back in 1995 (even though I was a Christian for years before that … I had grown lukewarm), and at that point (through much hardship i.e. depression, heavy doubt, anxiety, etc.) I decided I was all in. Well, I have sensed a softening in that resolve; I have lost the vision that I battle ‘not against flesh and blood,’ which has caused me to let me guard down (and this has affected my con-versation among other things). I am just letting you all know that I plan on toning things back up, and that you might see that reflected in my posts and the way I communicate things forthcoming. My heart though is not to be arbitrarily militant, or passionate, but to genuinely be a hard charger after and from Christ. I have recently lost “friends” who I’ve had for years because they think my style is “reactionary” in some ways (although I came to find out they really just don’t like my politics, or their perception of whatever that is; I’m not even sure what my “politics” are). That somewhat hurt my feelings (to be honest), but I realized that has become the problem; i.e. caring too much about what others think (particularly caring about what guys and gals in the academy and guilds think of me, or my perception of that). Indeed, I am pretty sure I have lost quite a few “friends” because of my “passion” in the past. But I have decided that I can’t live a toned down life for Christ. That means hopefully lots of passion, humility, and love demonstrated in what I do. So I’m just warning you. The problem with living from a spot of wanting to be “accepted” is that it keeps me from saying things that I think need to be said, and it unnecessarily de-boldens things where boldness and confidence in Christ needs to be the hallmark. I won’t live like that anymore (not here on the blog, or in real life). pax

PS. I get that Barth’s and Torrance’s (and my) gripe against natural theology is radical, but so is Jesus:-) !

[1] Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2015), 127-28.