Sunday, February 10, 2013

Thoughts on Theology and Doctrine

[This collection of thoughts on theology and doctrine first appeared in a series of random thoughts on Facebook. They are collected here and will be edited and expanded throughout 2013.]

1. "He who knew no sin became sin for my sake. He then purified Himself from my sin that I might be pure in Him. To abide in Him is to live a holy life. To not live a holy live is to not abide in Him."

2. "Just as faith without works is dead- so grace without truth is dead. JDJ"

3. Creation is the signature of God’s love. He does not love me because I am; I am because He loves me. JDJ

4. Theology that is not practical, flowing out of a heart of worship and forged in a desire for ministry is nothing more than vain and speculative philosophy; the world has no need for disengaged propositions about truth that flow out of depraved imaginations. The world needs the truth incarnated in the lives of believers. Such truth captivates the whole person so that we become living epistles; then and only then will our reasoned words be life-giving and truth-filled words.

5. I was once challenged by a colleague that my language encouraging others to “take up” the Word of God and “handle it” might lead to the objectification of the Scriptures. The concern was that I not mislead others into believing they can control the Word of God. My response is that I wouldn’t worry about that any more than I would worry that someone who took hold of a live, naked electrical wire would by the experience learn to disrespect and control electricity.
6. Theology can be toxic when your knowledge about God is greater than your relationship with him. But when the task of theology (theologizing) is practiced as a sincere expression of worship, a form of prayer and praise, it nourishes the soul and strengthens faith. Indeed, the practice of exploring and articulating the truth of God is a primary goal of authentic Christian living; It is to seek and to proclaim His glory. Thus, orthodoxy, both in the primal meaning of “correct worship” and the derived meaning of “correct doctrine,” is the celestial port to which we sail and the guiding stream that is propelling us there.  JDJ

7. The doctrine of holiness is most maligned not by those who oppose it on theological grounds, but by those who boldly proclaim it with their words while denying it with the patterns of their lives. Many prideful people adorn themselves with this doctrine as a testament to their own righteousness. The truly sanctified wrap themselves in humility so that their words and presence serve as testaments to the holiness, power, and glory of God. JDJ

8. The new birth is not so much about starting over with a clean slate as it is about starting over in a new state, the Kingdom of heaven. We were all born loved but defeated. We were dead and dying. We were born into a perishable world that is passing away. In Christ we are born again by the Holy Spirit as loved overcomers. We were re-born as members of a new creation, an imperishable, undefiled, unfading creation that is being kept for us in heaven (I Peter 1: 3-9). We now live both in that which is passing away and in that which is coming. The Holy Spirit in us is the down payment and assurance we are creatures of the new Heaven and the new earth. We are in Christ and of Christ, in the world but not of the world. JDJ

9. The doctrine of Christian perfection is perhaps the most maligned teaching within the scope of orthodox Christianity. It is routinely dismissed on anecdotal empirical grounds; “I haven’t met anyone who is perfect, yet.” Others dismiss it by proof-texting passages that address the ongoing reality of Christians who come short of the glory of God. Such arguments are typically void of serious exegesis but more telling is the fact that they are most often based on a misunderstanding of the doctrine. Christian perfection does not refer, as its critics imply, to a state of flawless human existence, one in which the believer is incapable of error. It is instead a reference to the human potential by grace to live in a manner that fulfills the teachings of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. We can fully and completely be what God demands that we be. In short, the doctrine of Christian perfection simply teaches that it is possible by grace and through faith to live the Christian life. The atonement of Christ is sufficient to actualize within the believer all of the expectations God has for us. Perfection is simply to please God in word, thought, deed, and affection. I suspect this doctrine is so routinely dismissed because it confronts us with the truth that we are accountable to God for who we are and how we live. JDJ #85
10. Closely associated with the doctrine of Christian perfection is the doctrine of sanctification. Perfection refers to wholeness or completion. Sanctification refers to the act or process of becoming holy. Sanctification is the means and character of Christian perfection. We cannot achieve Christian perfection without being sanctified. In one sense we will not be complete until we have come to the fullness of the image and stature of Jesus and we will not be whole until we are glorified with resurrected bodies in Christ. In another sense we can in this life share in the wholeness of Christ. This is an actual sharing; we are joined to Him. His life flows through us. The wholeness that we will have in the resurrection is already fused into our being. We are what we are becoming. Just because we are not yet what we shall be, it does not mean we cannot be what we should be. We can now be whole within our journey into resurrection wholeness. JDJ #88
11. The doctrine of Christian perfection is important not solely because of what it says about Christian living but perhaps more significantly because of its interdependence with the doctrines of the incarnation and the atoning work of Christ. The promise and expectation that followers of Christ can/should live in a way that is fully pleasing to God hinges on the reality of the incarnation; Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. The claim of God on humanity and humanity’s potential to please God in this life are both made evident by the union of God with humanity in Christ Jesus. Both the power and means by which sinful beings can be transformed into the sanctified children of God are made secure in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Further, the power of Christ to keep us in Himself, plus His grace to empower us to keep ourselves in Him, are assured by His ascension and promised return. I am committed to the pursuit of Christian perfection because of who Jesus Christ is, what He has done for me, and what he has called me to be. JDJ #86

12. I was a young minister and Lee College student when I gathered the nerve to show my mother a more excellent way. With my superior understanding of theology I had become troubled that she had a ceramic crucifix that hung on the wall of our house. I often saw her pray beneath that cross. Wise fool that I was, I asked her if she knew that the crucifix was a Catholic item and I instructed her that as Pentecostals we did not keep Jesus on the cross; We knew He was resurrected. She responded that she knew Jesus was resurrected, ascended, and seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, “but when I pray He is on that cross for me.” I confess I left that conversation feeling that I had failed to effectively communicate to her the fallacy of her thought processes. I also confess to you that it was my thought processes that needed correcting. She was right and I was wrong; Jesus is the everlasting sacrifice for our sins, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the God who suffers with us and for us. He remains for all eternity both nailed to the cross in identification with us and victor over the cross on our behalf. Thanks be to God. – That crucifix now hangs on the wall in my home. JDJ #89

13. I have come to believe we will never know the full extent of what Christ did through His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. I have also come to believe we know and appreciate far less than we should. When He died He had me and you on His mind, but He had far more on His mind than us as a collection of individuals. He gave Himself for the church, His body, and for all of creation. He did not just suffer on our behalf; He took our sins into Himself and became our sins. He who knew no sin became sin. He then purged Himself of our sins so that we might not only be forgiven but also cleansed. JDJ #92

14. Christ has risen; He has risen indeed! When He arose it was not just as conqueror of death, hell, and the grave. He could have subjugated them with a whisper. Out of His death and resurrection came more than the extension of life, more than endless existence. He arose as the first-born of the new creation. He suffered, died, was buried and rose again in order to receive us into Himself as the fulfillment of that new creation. He arose so that we might share in the divine life of the Trinity; this is eternal life. On the cross, He took our sins into Himself. In His death He purged Himself of those sins. In His resurrection He took us into Himself, as many as believe on Him, making us even now to be seated together in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. JDJ #93

15. The contemporary church seems preoccupied with emotional moderation. There is a façade of happiness but little room for ecstasy and no room for grief. My friend, Dr. Bill Leonard who was my professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and then became the founding Dean of the divinity school at Wake Forrest University, has observed that the one religious artifact that is universal among Appalachian Pentecostals is the tissue box. According to him it is a powerful visual statement that people are not only allowed to cry in Pentecostal worship, it is expected that many will shed tears. While emotional extremes can be annoying and are not always a response to God’s presence, in the Scriptures they do seem normative for those who encounter the holy, living God. Our objective must be the formation of Godly affections and we should avoid superficial manipulation of emotions. But neither should we restrain emotional responses to the move of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps our fear of emotional extremes is a fear of the loss of control, the very thing God demands of us. JDJ #94

16. In conjunction with the contemporary church’s preoccupation with emotional moderation is a continuing “dumbing down” of the faith. This is evidenced in all aspects of our worship but is especially seen in our songs and our sermons. As I have noted earlier, I am truly blessed by our current batch of worship songs, but I am concerned by their overall shallow theology; they are lacking a bold confession of our shared faith. They draw us into a relational response to the gospel but they then set our table with the milk of the Word with little meat for growth. Must we forever nurse the sincere milk of the Word from the breast of the church and not grow into our rightful place at the full banquet of the marriage supper of the Lamb? JDJ #95
17. The current reductionist approach, or over simplification, of our faith is most grievous in the pulpit. Granted that I am limited in my exposure to the preaching of others, being constrained to endure my own sermons on Sundays, my impression is that too many pastors and the televised apostles whom they follow show little concern for building people up in our most holy faith. Their objectives appear to be more carnal and superficial, aimed at attaining the good life. A few decades ago in my tradition this took on the current form of what is labeled as “therapeutic preaching.” While preaching toward wholeness may seem to be grounded in the example of Christ, in my limited exposure it always seems to be more analgesic than therapeutic. The underlying motive seems to be to help people feel better about their lives as Christians. This was not the preaching and teaching of Christ or His apostles. Their word was a word for conversion, deliverance, and transformation which lay the foundation for new life and growth. JDJ #96

18.  When I refer to the current reductionist approach or over simplification of our faith, I am thinking primarily of our worship and secondarily of our discipleship programs. [Please keep in mind that I am referring to the general patterns of North America and I know my comments do not apply to all.] My concern in part is that we do not tell the story of our faith (just the highlights) and we do not use the vocabulary of our faith; we are Biblically illiterate. There is little recounting of the persons and events of the Scriptures, not to mention church history. And we avoid like the plague key theological terms contained in the Bible. In our attempt to make the gospel relevant to the non-believer we have turned our gatherings into conversations around the “lowest common denominator” of our shared experiences. The results are that few are challenged to learn more and to grow deeper. One does not become a master plumber, or electrician, or automobile mechanic, or lawyer, or doctor without learning a vocabulary and concepts that are uncommon to the average person on the street. Neither does one become a mature follower of Jesus Christ without learning the concepts and vocabulary that define that very relationship. When do we hear the words sin, sinner, redeem, redeemed, justify, justified, atone, atonement, propitiation, expiation, righteous, righteousness, blaspheme, blasphemy, judgment, hell, sanctify, sanctified, holiness, elect, predestination, etc.? If these words are not used and defined among us, we cannot know and appreciate the fullness of God’s revelation of Himself in His Son, Christ Jesus. JDJ #97

19. The contemporary church, like the society in which we live, seems obsessed with tolerance. Functionally, the greatest of the commandments is now “judge not.” We skip over the Apostle’s admonition “Do you not judge those who are within the church? …But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). It seems the two things we have little or no tolerance for are intolerance and negative emotions. Yet, the Scriptures are clear; there are two things the church must not tolerate from within: the works of the flesh and false doctrine (these will be addressed in a later thought). The church must respond decisively to both because (1) the church is the body of Christ and Christ is a holy God, and (2) immature believers are led astray by false teachings and moral turpitude. As Hollis Gause has written, the church must include in its fellowship everyone Christ has welcomed into His body and the church must exclude from its fellowship everyone whom Christ excludes from His body (my paraphrase). We must in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit exist as a discerning community, one which prayerfully navigates the dialectic tension between tolerance and intolerance. Fellowship without accountability is but a party waiting to die. JDJ #98

20. The church must teach with authority about godliness and life patterns appropriate to life within the kingdom of God, but the authority to teach and to rightly divide the Word of Truth is not the authority to disjoin that which Christ has united in Himself. JDJ #100

21. I believe that because the Spirit searches all things and knows all things, the body of Christ can by the Spirit discern the body of Christ. I also believe that R. G. Spurling, the founding pastor of the Church of God, was correct in his insistence that the love of Christ is the primary indicator of life in Christ and therefore the primary bases for Christian fellowship. In the love of Christ we embrace and fuel the fellowship of the saints. I further believe that love generates a predisposition to accept a person’s testimony that Jesus is Lord. We must accept a testimony of faith in Christ until a person’s life bears clear evidence otherwise. And, as noted in a previous post, the only evidences that disqualify a person from Christian fellowship are (1) the unbending promotion of heresy and (2) a life consistently marked by the works of the flesh (Galatians 5: 19-21, I Corinthians 5: 11-13, etc.). JDJ

 22. Legalism is by definition to place one’s trust in the law as a means of salvation and/or to impose the same standard on others. As generally understood this means believing that conformity to the Law (or a law) will qualify one for salvation. As dangerous as this is, and it is dangerous, we must also understand that legalism is a continuum; on the opposite end of believing certain works of righteousness will save is the belief that faith and grace are substitutes for righteousness or the Law. This system of legalism merely reduces the required works to one, just believe. It further misconstrues the definition of grace as “unmerited favor.” It misses the constitutive character of grace as personal unmerited favor. Grace is not just some force, or dare I say “law,” that must be enacted by God, or on God, when someone believes. Grace is unmerited favor within the heart of God that finds expression in human history. It is in, of, by, and through God. Thus, the grace of God is always the act of a personal God inviting a personal response to His redemptive works. Thus, for Paul the focal point is not that grace frees us from the Law but rather that it frees us from sin and unites us with Christ (Romans 5:17-21, Galatians 2:21, 5:4, Ephesians 2:4-5). Grace is always toward reconciliation and righteousness. JDJ #102

23. Libertinism is by definition to declare oneself free from restraints, at liberty to be guided by one’s own desires. It is similar to antinomianism which is a doctrine which views the Law as an obstacle to salvation, a doctrine which is “against the Law” (anti nomas). As implied in the previous “thought,” libertinism and antinomianism are in reality expressions of a form of legalism; they define salvation in terms of the law. Likewise they are grounded in faulty understandings of grace. In my observation, there are two main misunderstandings about grace at work in them. Some seem to think grace is an automatic, unlimited fountain of forgiveness, i.e., grace means God will forever overlook our sins; no matter how much we sin God has to forgive us because we are hidden in Christ. Others seem to think grace is God’s way of redefining sin and making it irrelevant, i.e., grace means that sin is now merely a legal debt that once paid is forever and continually eliminated: sin isn’t so bad after all. In truth, grace makes more evident the power and hideousness of sin; it teaches our heart to fear. Both of these errors eliminate the possibility and the necessity of living a holy life. But grace does not alleviate the need for righteousness or faith; it fuels and absorbs them. Neither does grace eliminate the Law; it fulfills the Law. The reception of God’s grace is inseparable from the fulfillment of righteousness. We receive grace not to excuse our unrighteousness but rather to make us righteous and to empower us to live accordingly. JDJ #103

24. Jesus was not, as some seem to believe, soft on sin. Consider the Sermon on the Mount where we see Jesus shift the focus from sin as behavior to sin as a condition of the heart from which sinful behavior arises. There He also clarified the consequences of sin (think “fiery hell”). In this first “sermon” He made clear that salvation requires a righteousness greater than the Law with its emphasis on human conduct. He unveiled the depths of our disease (as He would later offer Himself as the cure for our deformities). If the Law says do not kill; Jesus says do not hate. If the Law says do not commit adultery; Jesus says do not lust. If the Law says love your neighbor and hate your enemies; Jesus says love your enemies. The message seems clear.  It is not enough to obey the Law; like Him, we must embody and fulfill the Law. We must be holy; we must be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). JDJ  #110

25. Creation is not just the artwork of God, it is His self-portrait, of which He is the canvas and the paint. Creation is a spiration of Gods being, or as one scholar said, the overflow of His essence. That is, creation exists in God, of God, from God, and for God while being distinct from God. Creation is other than God but not outside of God. God is dynamically, actively, and purposefully present within and throughout His creation. He envelopes and permeates it so much so that it is more than a revelation of His attributes; it is an expression of who He is. His presence in creation as well as His sovereignty over it require our reverenced care for all that it contains. JDJ #120

26. Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. He arose victorious. Soon, all of His enemies shall be placed under His feet. If read through a lens of triumphalism, these truths can rob us of other truths to which they are married. I am referring specifically to the everlasting nature of the incarnation and the efficacy of His suffering. Christ did not go through His agonies so that He could free us from our humanity. He suffered so that we might be perfected in our humanity. He did not suffer as an event in a temporary state of incarnation. He took our suffering into Himself and made it forever a part of Himself. He even now bears in His body the wounds of our transgressions. These wounds perfect Him as the author of our eternal life. The Scriptures teach us that He was perfected as our redeemer through suffering (Hebrews 2:9-10). He remains for all eternity the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Death, hell, and the grave were not annihilated by Him; they were swallowed up into His being so that all things are once more being subjugated to Him. This is our hope, not to escape our humanity with all its limitations, but to find our existence fully joined to the eternal suffering servant. JDJ #255  

27. I sometimes think of the Scriptures as the handprint of God’s tender grasp on His creation. A handprint, or fingerprint, bears the unique identification of the subject imprinted on an object. It exists only as a mingling of the two. The print is “written” on the object with elements of the person’s existence and serves as a sign of his or her actual presence in time and history. The Scriptures are the Word of God imprinted in time and space as human language. As historic documents, they reveal much about the mediums of their origin, the apostles and prophets who spoke and inscribed them. But the true nature of the Scriptures lies in the God who through them embraces humanity with whispers of His presence. The Scriptures are Word of God continually being breathed by the Holy Spirit, powerful, purposeful and sharper than any two-edged sword. In them God touches His creation in a way that communicates His presence. JDJ # 257

28. There is a wisdom that garners the great truths of the ancients as sources of guidance for the challenges of life. This is the collected wisdom of human experience. It is to be cherished and communicated to our children. There is another, more modern, wisdom that seeks truth in science and the scholars of our time (and/or popular pseudo scholars). This is the wisdom of applied knowledge. It is necessary to prosper in our time and should be sought with discernment. There is a higher wisdom that brings the great truths of others, past and present, into dialogue with the truths buried within the challenges of our present. This is the wisdom of a gestalt from combining recovery and discovery. Then there is the highest wisdom, the fear of the Lord. It is here that true wisdom begins and ends; this is the wisdom of confidence in God, a certainty that He is sovereign and that His will is good, attainable, and certain for those who fear Him. JDJ #258

29. I believe, teach and preach that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God. For the record, I also believe the Bible was inerrant in its original manuscripts. But inerrancy is for me a secondary and problematic doctrine, the product of a modernist over reliance on scientific reasoning. All of the scholars who teach inerrancy acknowledge we do not have the original manuscripts; Obviously, God did not consider it important to preserve them. In spite of what is stated on the official Church of God web site, the General Assembly of the Church of God (the highest governing authority of my denomination) has never endorsed the doctrine of inerrancy. This is phenomenal in that the Declaration of Faith was adopted at the time when the Church of God was becoming a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals and inerrancy was a litmus test for most Evangelicals of the day. It is unfortunate that many Pentecostals have confused faith in the Scriptures as inspired and therefore infallible and authoritative with a modernist reduction of the Bible to an artifact of a bygone time when God actually spoke. (Continued tomorrow) JDJ #265

30.  As stated yesterday, I believe in inerrancy, but I find it a problematic doctrine. This doctrine of the Enlightenment devalues the Word of God by reducing inspiration to an event in the past, i.e., the Scriptures were inspired at the point they were originally written. In truth the Scriptures are continually inspired by the Holy Spirit, carried along by the very breath of God. They are Word of God, not word from God as if apart from Him. They carry His very presence. As commonly presented, the doctrine of inerrancy is also in error because it implies there must be an inerrant text in order for us to be certain of what to believe. In short, we cannot know God without an inerrant Bible. This false teaching implies that God cannot effectively communicate His personage except through an inerrant text. It further implies that human reason and ability to read a text are sufficient to gain knowledge of God. But the Bible itself says that God is revealed by the Spirit and the Son. The extremist would even argue the Spirit only works through reason and intellect. Furthermore, I am also troubled by the modernist doctrine of inerrancy because the fundamentalists who formulated it tied the doctrine to a belief that the gifts of the Spirit ended when the Apostles died, a false and blasphemous doctrine that borders on outright heresy. I do not believe in God because I have an inerrant Bible and the ability to read it; I believe the Bible is Word of God (and inerrant in its original manuscripts) because the ever present, miracle working, Holy Spirit has caused me to know the God of the Bible. JDJ # 266

31. [The following thought came to me in the late seventies while listening to Pat Robertson explain why “we” are humanitarians and not humanists.] I am a Christian humanist. It is not enough to be a humanitarian who is responsive to the plight of people but denies their ability to improve. I believe in the great potential of humanity when responsive to the grace of God. I am not a progressive or liberal or secular humanist, if those terms refer to confidence in humanity’s ability to build a better world without the guiding hand of the Almighty. I am a conservative; we have a sacred responsibility to preserve and pass on to the next generation the great truths/values entrusted by our heavenly Father to us through the lives and teachings of our ancestors. I guess this makes me a forward looking conservative; I can’t quite swallow the label of liberal with any qualifiers. I am a humanist because God is a humanist. You cannot believe in the nature and potential of humanity more than the Creator of humanity who left His throne, set aside His glory and became fully human. If God was merely a humanitarian He would have put us out of our misery, but He didn’t. He became human so that humanity might be joined with His divinity. You cannot be more of a humanist than that.JDJ # 267

The Scriptures contain many references to God that are explicitly feminine in character.  They all flow out of the creation account where we are told humanity, male and female, is created in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26-27).  God speaks of Himself as having a womb (Job 38: 29) and of giving birth (Deuteronomy 32:18). He compares Himself to a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15). He cries out like a woman in the labor pains of birth (Isaiah 42:14). He repeatedly describes Himself in the role of a midwife at the birth of a child (Psalm 71: 6, 22: 9-10, Isaiah 46: 3-4, 66: 9-10).  He fulfills the role of a mother or nanny nourishing and teaching Israel like a young child (Hosea 11: 1-4). He comforts like a mother comforts her child (Psalm 131: 1-2, Isaiah 66:13). He is as the mother eagle who cares for and teaches her young (Deuteronomy 32: 11-12) and He protects His own like a mother bear protects her cubs (Hosea 13: 8). Jesus speaks of Himself as a mother hen who would gather her young to herself (Matthew 23: 37, Luke 13: 34). These feminine images of God do not make Him female any more than the masculine images make Him male. All of them serve to communicate to us that our God is a personal God to whom we can relate. How sterile would our knowledge of God be if we did not know Him both as father and mother, masculine and feminine? JDJ # 416

33. Just a Thought: Good Friday. On this day we remember Christ was crucified and buried on our behalf. We tend to measure and define His sacrifice in human terms; that is after all our only vantage point. If Jesus was/is fully God, how could He die? Did He die both as human and as God? In spite of our theological commitment and emotional desires to understand life to continue after death, we are predisposed to see death as the end of existence. When someone dies they cease to exist in our lives except in our memories. How could God the Son cease to be? But if we understand death not as the end of existence but rather as being “cut off,” a more literal reading of the Greek, then death is the loss of communion or connection. (All-be-it, for the Greeks the concept was for the soul to be cut off or separated from the body.) Death is not about existence but rather about separation. It is about the tearing and disruption of the fiber of one’s being and one’s relationships. Thus, for the Jews the emphasis was not on the separation of the soul from the body but the separation of the whole person from the realm of the living. “Soul” refers to one’s being while “spirit” refers to the life force that animates one’s being. Death is the loss of that life force but not the separation of the soul from the body. Jesus “gave up” His spirit, His life force that animated His human existence, but the entirety of His personal being went down into the tomb. The Apostle Paul would later merge the Jewish and Greek concepts when He stated that for the believer “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Death itself cannot separate us from God. Our continuing union with God is secured by the historic disruption in Christ’s union with the Father. If we die to our sins we will not die the second death. The fact that Christ is God did not make His death less traumatic than ours; no, it made it infinitely more traumatic than ours. The One who guarantees that nothing can separate us from the love of God cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The experience of the loss of God’s love on the cross was simultaneously the fullest expression of His love. Whatever death is, Jesus experienced it in its entirety on the cross on our behalf. JDJ # 426

34. Just a Thought; Reflections on the Fullness of Christ’s Death: “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). How much love is required for a father to sacrifice his child for others to be saved? But God is not just any father and Jesus is not just any son. They are Father and Son and they, with the Spirit, are one triune God. As Jesus hung on the cross, He who knew no sin became sin. In that event the relational distance between God the Father and God the Son became the greatest distance within all that exists. God died to God. The eternal died to the eternal. There is no human separation that can match their separation. His death was greater than all other deaths combined. But as great as His death and separation were, there was One Person great enough to bridge the distance. The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and with the Son. The Spirit is witness to their interpersonal (not ontological) separation and testifies to their indissoluble union. God spans the chasm between Himself and Himself. In other words, the atoning sacrifice of Christ was real and complete within creation and within the Godhead. It reveals the capacity and sufficiency of God to both enter into the suffering of creation and overcome its cause. He is more than big enough to swallow up into Himself all of the pain of death, and death itself, to span the chasm of sin and take captive all of His creation into Himself. This weekend, we celebrate the conquest of death, Hell, and the grave. But the real victory is not in what has been defeated, what we have been redeemed from, but what has been accomplished, what we have been redeemed into. Through His death and resurrection Christ welcomes us into the eternal, triune life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. JDJ # 427

35. Just a Thought: God is One. All that Jesus experienced on Calvary, in the tomb, and in the resurrection, was shared by the entire Godhead. His death was not death from the Godhead, but death within the Godhead. The triune God did not cease to be God. Throughout the events of Holy Week Jesus remained fully human and fully God. His death was the death of the incarnate God, the One who is fully human and fully God. It was a human death and a divine death. In Christ, God took death into Himself. In the tomb God took death into the bowels of creation that it might be defeated in all of creation. In the resurrection God swallowed up those dead in Christ into His life. On that first Easter morning, when the Spirit of God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead called Him forth from the tomb, that same Spirit called forth into eternal life all that believe in Him. Our resurrection was born then and there. Because He lives, we live, now and forever more. Christ has risen; He has risen indeed. JDJ # 428

Just a Thought: In my doctoral program Dr. Findley B. Edge gave us an assignment to create an original educational philosophy that reflected our core beliefs in dialogue with the leading educational philosophies of the twentieth century. I titled my philosophy “Re-creationism.” The heart of my educational philosophy was/is that every generation must discover, interpret, and re-state truth for itself. Contra Traditonalism/Perennialism, truth can not just be handed down from generation to generation. Contra Pragmatism and Empiricism, truth has its origin in God and not experience. Contra Essentialism truth is more than the selection of truths appropriate for our life situations. Truth lays claim to us; we cannot master it; we can be mastered by it and be partners with it. But, every generation must join in God’s creativity by discovering/interpreting/re-creating eternal truth as that which governs creation. [I did not state in the paper that for me truth is but a metaphor for the engagement of the Holy Spirit with creation, i.e., the Spirit of truth.] The critical issue behind my philosophy is the question of where one finds truth: the ancient texts of Traditionalism, the experiences of life as in Pragmatism/Empiricism, or the appropriation of ancient texts and science for life experiences as in Essentialism. In my system truth can only be found in God, the God who continually speaks through the Scriptures, the ancients, science and creation itself. He invites us to join Him in His activity within and toward His creation, to join in His creative activity to shape the future. [To be continued…] JDJ #483

Just a Thought: Modernity was hamstrung by a worldview that limited knowable truth to that which can be attained through sensory experience and reason. The Reformation had already rejected the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as being the primary interpreter of Scripture and with the aid of the modern printing press placed the Bible literally back in the hands of the people. Modernity gave the people a tool by which to “properly” interpret the Bible, i.e., scientific reasoning. Modernity also gave us progressivism and liberalism, an unbridled faith in social progress. Modernity then provided a counter balance in the rise of fundamentalism, making fundamentalism perhaps the last vomit of modernity, one which limits knowable “spiritual” truth to ancient texts interpreted through reason. It restricts truth to the application of science to the interpretation of the Bible. When confidence in modernity began to wane it was supplanted by post-modernity. In the place of a single road to truth, post modernity became lost in a maze of infinite paths leading to infinite sets of truths, making personal perception/intuition the ultimate filter for truth. While holding on to modernity as one layer of truth, post modernity opened a window to higher orders of truth. If the conservative Christians of modernity erred in limiting the voice of God to reason applied to ancient texts, the post moderns err in the dissolution of the voice of God within a cacophony of competing ideas. There is now a movement within Christianity that is seeking to hear the voice of God in venues other than Scripture: Church tradition, meditation, creative expression, and charismatic gifts, etc.. Many are relegating the Bible to a back seat in this paradigm. I regret the inevitable fundamentalist type reaction against them (such as the “New Reformed” movement) but I am also greatly concerned about any paradigm that does not revere the Bible as Word of God inscripturated. JDJ # 484

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