Shame you disagree with him...
The mystery part...
No, I quite agree with him.
Lest we end up with an "Oh no you don't" and an "Oh yes I do," just show me.
When have you ever blogged saying "We don't know this about God..."? Usually, the form of your posts is "This person says this about God and we know that he is wrong and thus he is heretical..." That doesn't sound like you think that mystery is the life-blood of dogmatics? Maybe I'm wrong?
Ah, I see what you mean.Because of a particular interest (heresies) I have taken a risk in having a blog that easily gives a distorted representation of my thinking and ministry. Perhaps I should do something more obvious to off-set that. The fact is that there is clear blue water between this particular interest and the tone and content of my week in week out preaching.Tomorrow I'm giving the first lecture in a five part series on the doctrine of God at the North West Partnership Training Course. I will be majoring on God's incomprehensibility, the creature-Creator distinction, accommodation, analogical knowledge, anthropomorphic language and all that jazz.
Well I'll let you off then!But still... life-blood suggests it should be fairly pervasive!
Thanks ;-)It is pervasive.Isn't the problem of heresy and error bound up with a flight from mystery where it actually exists (the hypostatic union, the Trinity) and a desire to insist on indefiniteness and vagueness (under the name of "Mystery") where God has spoken?
Mystery is the context for the radical claim "God has spoken to us in a Son".This is the tension - between saying too much or saying too little... And this is the beauty of the notion of justification by faith - it is a life lived out of the phrase shouted by Luther "I am yours! Save me!"Where I start getting worried is where we evangelicals start building huge theological edifices on top of justification and that is where the cry of heresy becomes the converse of a desire to control the God-world relation.
You need to spell that out a bit more so I can get at what you are on about. What are these "huge theological edificies" and how do they contribute to "a desire to control the God-world order"?
Well - as NT Wright has said - before the crucifixion, Jesus didn't leave us with a theory of the atonement but with a meal. Evangelicals, however, are very careful to tell people about the human conditions for salvation (believe this doctrine, that doctrine, etc) when the message of the cross is that Jesus Christ has done it all already. That's what I mean by building huge theological edifices - stating that justification is by faith alone and then going on to tell humanity of the conditions which it then needs to reach to be justified. It seems nonsensical?Now obviously I'm not saying we don't need to think about the atonement carefully as theologians - I just think we care more about our theories of atonement (for example, penal substitution) than we do care for the actual atonement. That is like caring more about Grey's Anatomy (the anatomical text-book not the programme!) than, say, your wife and kids.Your rejoinder will be something along the lines of "If my wife and kids were sick then I would like to have a copy of Grey's Anatomy to help me understand how they 'worked'" Then my question becomes what is the nature of the atonement? Is it a mechanism whereby we are saved? Or is it an event in world history whereby we are saved? If it is an event then to a certain sense we need to retain the mystery. Our 'theories' of atonement are then simply human attempts to conceive of what goes on in that event rather than indicative of the mechanism behind that event. In this light, justification by faith is an umbrella term for the event in which we are brought back into relationship with God. Therefore, faith has to be viewed as a living outside of the strictures of human conditions for salvation (i.e. what we WANT salvation to look like). Justification by faith means, to some extent, living through life certain of our salvation, without really knowing the mechanism behind this salvation. All we know is that Jesus Christ died for us (and to remove sin and death and hell) and we believe that this life, death (and resurrection), will be our salvation when we come 'coram deo' in judgement.So my issue is this - that evangelicals have taken a far too modern view of 'belief' in terms of epistemological assent. What the biblical accounts of 'belief' means is that one lives life in a certain way. Yes this will involve the mind in some sense, but faith is having the courage to live outside theological edifices and put one's trust in the God who promised to save us in Jesus Christ. How does this happen? Well we tentatively suggest theories of atonement - but we are not hamstrung by them to the point where we do not live by 'faith' but instead live out of our own understanding or our own view of reality.Sorry for being long.
Jon,I don't have the time right now to give your comment the proper time that it deserves, but I will. For now let me just roll out one of your comments, "I just think we care more about our theories of atonement (for example, penal substitution) than we do care for the actual atonement."Can we describe the actual atonement apart from a inscripturated explanation of it? Personally I don't buy the idea that there are "theories" of the atonement. There are Scriptural explanations and man-made theories. Best for me to be up front about that, otherwise it would skew the discussion. I am obligated to accept all the biblical categories about the atonement, including penal substitution.
Martin,I personally would prefer to talk about 'models' of atonement. However, I would affirm the penal substitution model (with careful caveats) as integral. Perhaps even the language of 'models' is too convoluting - I agree that the scriptures offer different facets onto the notion of the atonement.I look forwards to your response
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