Posts Tagged ‘theology’

I guess it is appropriate that I write down why I think like I do about religion on a Sunday. No, religion didn’t come up first in my list, but since it influences how I think on the others, then I should put it first.

Before we begin, I need to make a disclaimer and a warning. The way I look at my faith and religion is my own journey. It may not look like yours and it probably shouldn’t. It probably doesn’t match with many of my family or my peers. It probably doesn’t match with any denomination in particular (more on that part in a minute). I’m sharing something that is deeply personal. I don’t like to do so because many will judge. Yes, they will. You might not, but many will. Therefore, be warned and be careful. I will probably make the most enemies or bother the most people with this discussion.

There are those that say religion is made by man and (insert opposite comparison here). I have trouble ending that statement because it makes no sense.

So, I generally reject that notion, and I don’t reject it. Religion, or theology, is how humans see their relationship to the divine. How we see that relationship is also influenced by people. Even a good reading of the Bible shows that while those that followed God tried to do so honestly, some did it in a dishonest manner. When humans get something in religion wrong to the point of injuring other humans, please don’t blame that on God. Blame that on humans because all of humanity is fallen and able to miss the mark (sin) even in following God.

I will start by saying that I follow Christ as the only way to redemption and inclusion in God’s kingdom. That being said, I respect other religions and their right to exist. It goes along with my citizenship in the United States that also holds the Constitution in high regard. While I might compare my path and journey in following God with another religion, I don’t belittle or demean another religion. That would be unfair. I will, though, hold out my reservations on the motivation or values of another religion based on what I do know and understand of said religion.

However, today, I am not here to discuss how I think about all other religions. That would take more bits and bytes (and hours of typing) than I care to spend. Primarily, I’m going to look at how I think about my theology of following Christ.

There are many methods to examine how one thinks about their walk with God. I think that is part of why we have so many denominations in Christianity. By observation, I do think that denominations (Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, Restorationist, Reformed, etc.) are the product of humans. But, and this is a big ‘but’, I don’t think that is a bad thing. If one examines the development of the early church from Jesus, through the Acts of the Apostles and the apostolic writings, Christians aren’t given a great deal of commandments in how to organize and become community. In some respects, I think that is a good thing. Yet, declaring that my stream of Christianity (denomination) is superior to yours would be wrong. So, I am going to use a concept I learned in systematic theology to allow you to see how I think about my walk and you can compare it with yours.

Before I begin, please allow me to state one thing about my faith that is highly important. There is one centrality to being a Christ-follower: through faith, we believe in the life, teachings, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as our Savior. Everything else is what Paul called ‘disputable matters’. I won’t be debating or comparing what I think to any one denomination.

In systematic theology, we try to look at several different theologies and then we can have a ‘system’ that facilitates comparison to other religions, denominations, or just to other people’s faith walk (but only if they are willing). This system is not to be construed as the only way or even the right way. It’s just a tool to use and I think it helps reduce things to something understandable (logic).

These different theologies are:

  • Anthropology – What is man’s place in relation to God and other men (substitute humans if you wish).
  • Biblical theology – What is the Bible’s place in our belief in God? What is it’s role or function?
  • Hamartiology – What is sin? What are its consequences?
  • Cristology – Who is Jesus? What makes Him important in our life and world view?
  • Ecclesiology – What is the role and place of the church? What constitutes church?
  • Soteriology – What is the manner of salvation or redemption? How are we made acceptable to God.
  • Pneumatology – What is the role and place of the Holy Spirit?
  • Eschatology – What will the future be like? What will happen?

Now, if I can do so simply and without rattling on, I will fill in these areas with my own thinking.

  • Anthropology – As described in Genesis, all of humanity is fallen. Our predilection is towards evil and violence, taking advantage of others. As the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes, “The sum duty of man is to serve God.” Yes, simplistic, but my logic will always move towards fewer words than more to describe something. Humans are created by God, though there are elements of the historical and archaeological record that say we don’t know exactly how it all took place in detail.
  • Biblical theology – The 66 books that make up our Bible are the revelation of God to humans in order that they can know of Him and Jesus, how to be in relation to God and other humans, and how God works through humans to accomplish His ministry. We learn from scripture that God is sovereign and the only way to salvation and eternal life. The bibles we have are all translations of original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. God inspired the original writers (and at least a few editors) to write in their language and culture to their audiences. We must use the same Holy Spirit to interpret what the writers meant in their day to their audience and draw forward principles that can cross the time and cultural gap. We should also pay attention to the genres we read. Poetry doesn’t often command us to do something. Read commands as commands, history as history, and figurative language as figurative.
  • Hamartiology – Sin means to “miss the mark”. The mark is the standard of righteous living in order to be acceptable to God. The Israelites couldn’t do it (read Judges for a start). The first century Jewish nation couldn’t do it (Jesus told them their following of the law would have to surpass even the Pharisees). We can’t do it. Sin’s consequence is eternity separated from God, and often earthly consequences as well.
  • Cristology – Jesus is the Son of the Living God, present since the beginning, and the Word through which all things were made (John 1). Jesus was born of a virgin in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah). His goal was to sacrifice himself in fulfillment of the Law (the Scapegoat) and He accomplished this by dying on the Roman cross. Death could not hold Him and He rose on the third day and later ascended into heaven to return again.
  • Ecclesiology – The church is the community of God. It includes (on the local level) all those that make the attempt to follow Christ (some have accepted Christ, some may not have, yet), and on the world level, all the redeemed of Christ in community wherever they are. Very long sentence, yes. Sorry. The church’s function is to spread the gospel (message) of Jesus and His wish to save all humanity. The church is also to be ‘salt and light’ in the world. Salt and light means to be a beacon for compassion, inclusion, advocacy, and helping others regardless of belief. While the church is in the world and often part of a given nation or culture, it is called by the Master, Jesus to not conform to the culture or nation if that conflicts with following God. We are not supposed to look or act like the locals. We are not to confuse obligations to the state with service to God, yet, we are at all times called to be good citizens.
  • Soteriology – My salvation is through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and accepting His forgiveness of my sins. I show this through consenting to baptism, regularly reading and studying the Bible, prayer, doing my best to live as He wills, and being in communion with Him and other believers as part of a local church. Yet, none of these practices are acts of salvation, only faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is salvation.
  • Pneumatology – Jesus told His followers that a Counselor would be sent after He went back to the Father. I believe this. Jesus said the Spirit would reside in us and affirm His salvation. I believe this. Jesus said His followers would do much more than He did. Through the actions of the Holy Spirit, I believe this. The Spirit guides me, prays for me, speaks to me (often through scripture and other believers).
  • Eschatology – Parts of the gospels, some of Daniel, a little of Paul’s epistles (letters), and much of John’s revelation speak to us of what will happen in the future and at the end of time. There are several ways to look at this material, each one has its pros and cons. My thinking after reading this material is that the “last days” began when Jesus ascended, continues through today and until He returns. When Jesus returns, evil will be destroyed, the saved in Christ will be transformed (the living) or raised from death to live with Him for eternity. At that time, the new Jerusalem will be brought into being as the centrality of Christ’s eternal reign.

This may have gone a little long, sorry. It is not the total sum of what I think about religion and theology. But, it lays out a way of looking at what I think in a rational manner. Try it yourself and wrestle with each item as to what do you really believe. If I made you think, good. If you’re mad at me now, you’ll probably get over it. These are many of the things I think about my walk with Jesus. For the record, I don’t get it right a lot of the time either. I’m still a work in progress. Until later, blessings.

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Yes, I know.  I am weird.  While other people have dreams of many different things, I haven’t heard of many that dream sermons.  I do.  On occasion.

This week I had a dream about something that I should have known for a long time, but yet it seems to not make the top 10 of things on my mind.  But, as a believer, it should.

Jesus had a family.

Yep. Gotcha there.  We all know Jesus had a family on earth.  Mary was his mom.  Joseph his dad.  James was a brother (or technically half brother).  And, on and on.  Nothing new here.  Move along.

Nope.  That’s not what I meant.  Jesus had a family.  He had a mom and a dad.  Specifically, what came to mind was this passage that I will quote:

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
I used the King James Version because that’s how it was in the dream and the original English words most of us know are important here; “she wrapped him in swaddling clothes”.  Mary swaddled Jesus to comfort him and protect him.  He was her son and regardless of his lineage or divinity, he was a baby and needed his mother’s protection and love.
Swaddling is an ancient practice still used by some parents.  It generally only works with newborns and for a little while after.  The baby is wrapped snugly in blankets, arms, legs and all.  Motion is limited but the child is still and feels protected.
We forget these things about Jesus way too often.  Some of the gnostics just a few centuries after Jesus’ walk on the earth thought that his divinity would not allow him to touch this dirty, sinful earth and  he traveled all his life floating just above the earth.  In this view, he would be aloof, uncaring, and not connected to humanity at all.  Sadly, I think many of us tend to look at Jesus that way today, whether we are believers or not.
It is very easy to see Jesus in this light.  We want to distance our sinful natures from the purity of his divinity.  We want to look only at his god nature and not at his humanity.  We prefer to see the existence of the wrath he would bestow upon us because of the things we’ve done.  But, in reality, I think that is farthest from his nature towards us.  When Jesus took up the incarnation, he took it up fully, just as we have to do.  Jesus’ humanity was not separate from his divinity; both natures were fully integrated into each other.
Because Jesus had a loving and protecting mother and a caring father, he knew and lived his life inside a family.  I think that is a bit of why he loved all of us, because we are also his family.  I have no doubt that we are able to disappoint Jesus at times, but he does forgive us, his family and wants to love and protect us always.  Jesus really is our brother and God is really our Father.  We as humans and children of God would do so much better if we could lay hold of this truth and travel through life with it in our heads and our hearts.
On this, the last day of 2016, when so many are in turmoil around our world, I will hold to the truth taught by the man and God that once was swaddled in a manger by his mother.

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This week, I finished reading Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins.  I admit that without the hoopla, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.  However, since I respect Rob Bell as a preacher and prefer not to disparage any book without first reading it, I knew I would have to do so.  Thanks to Pam for loaning me the book so I could read what it’s all about.  The following is my assessment of whether or not the book’s detractors are correct or not.  In my opinion, though there is much in Bell’s book that Christians and others should be thinking about, his conclusions raise as many questions as it provides answers.  In addition, I’ll make this caveat before going forward: I am doing this from memory.  I gave the book back to its owner, so if I don’t state things correctly, don’t shoot me for it. (more…)

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