Posted in April

Week 16 Homework (due 4/24/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 15: Life Beyond Death: Continuity and Discontinuity

    1. eschatology- individual destiny vs destiny of the world
    2. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Life Beyond Death
    3. The Christian Consensus about Life Beyond Death
      1. Four concepts for personal life beyond death-resurrection, judgment, heaven, hell
      2. “The future bodily resurrection of the dead is the blessed hope of all who are in Christ Jesus by faith”
    4. Alternatives to the Christian Consensus about Life Beyond Death
      1. heresies
        1. “immortality of souls to the neglect or exclusion of bodily resurrections”
        2. “reincarnation or transmigration of souls/spirits”
        3. objective immortality
        4. reincarnation
    5. Diverse Christian Beliefs about Life Beyond Death
      1. nature of the intermediate state-great controversies; two states or three (purgatory)?
      2. nature of hell- annihilations controversy
      3. nature of heaven-least diversity
    6. A Unitive Christian View of Life Beyond Death
      1. Focus on essential beliefs, rather than debating controversial beliefs

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 16: The Kingdom of God: Already and Not Yet

    1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about The Kingdom of God
  1. Christians should be hopeful and optimistic in God’s promises for the future
    1. The Christian Consensus about Universal Eschatology and the Kingdom of God
      1. Jesus Christ will return to earth
      2. “When Christ returns he will establish or completely manifest the rule and reign of God—the kingdom of God—that is already at work in history”
      3. “In the end God will create a new heaven and new earth that will endure forever”
      4. two realities- “the consummation of God’s kingdom and the new heaven and new earth”
      5. “Christ’s parousia will usher in a consummated kingdom of God and a new heaven and new earth in the form of a new world order without sickness, sin or death”
    2. Alternatives to the Christian Consensus about Universal Eschatology
      1. heresies
        1. radically realized eschatology-new heaven/earth have already been realized
        2. extreme adventism and millennialism-God’s rule and reign and when Christ returns are “devoid of God’s kingdom”; ignore all continuity
    3. Diversity within Christian Belief about Universal Eschatology
      1. futurism-biblical apocalyptic literature in future
      2. preterism-already fulfilled but was in future for writers
      3. historicism-fulfilled when written
      4. premillennialism- Christ will return “at the end of this present age of world history”
      5. postmillennialism- the kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns
      6. amillennialism- denies kingdom of God
    4. A Unitive Christian Vision of Universal Eschatology
      1. two dangers: minimizing Christian truth/belief; eschatological fanaticism/obsession
      2. God’s future is good new: He is good and great and He wins!

 

Scripture Response:

Revelation 20:10-21:8 addresses the judgment of the dead and the new heaven and new earth.  Verse 3 mentions how God will dwell among His people.  While God is with us in regards to the Holy Spirit, God the Father and God the Son are in Heaven.  When we reach Heaven, we will experience the entirety of the Trinity—God the Spirit, God the Father, and God the Son—first-hand.  God’s love for humanity is so great that he chose to spend all of eternity with us.  This reminds me of the fact that I will never be able to comprehend God’s love for me and why he decides to do all He has for me.

Heaven brings about a sense of newness.  Verse 5 shows that God exclaimed, “I am making everything new!”  The space we exist in will differ in various ways.  Though they will have a sense of physicality, Humans will not have the same physical bodies they are presently in.  Also, humans will no longer have needs, as they will be near God who meets all needs, and they will no longer experience the needs their physical bodies force on them, such as the need to eat or sleep.  Though the Bible does explain certain features of heaven, human as are unable to fully comprehend what Heaven will look like or entail until they are themselves enter into this place of newness.

One commonly talked about attribute of Heaven is found in verse 4, which states that there will be no death, mourning, crying or pain.  Revelation then continues to say that the old order of things—the operation of the earth we live on—will pass away.  I greatly anticipate the day in which I can live in an arena without death, pain, and sorrow.  I do think this verse also references the absence of more than just those four things.  I think it also shares how we will not have the experience the outcomes of living in the world with the devil as the leader, which would include side effects such as pain and sadness.

 

Question Response:

God is love.  This statement is used as a trite to encourage Christians, and even non-Christians, that the ruler of the universe personally cares about them.  But if God really cares and humanity and each individual, why would he allow them to go to Hell?  He should prevent them from pain and suffering and cause them to go to Heaven, right?  This, however, is not the case.  God loves the people He created, even those that will end up going to Hell.

The questions over how can a loving God allow people to go to Hell centers around the topic of free will.  If I truly loved another person I would not force my way or my ideas on them.  Even if they end up making harmful choices, they still deserve the opportunity to freely make their own choices, without my preference determining their decisions.  Love is gracious and forbearing; it bestows freedom and power to other people rather than to itself.  In his love, God gave humanity the freedom to do as they wish, even if their choices lead to pain.

When considering all the pain, suffering, violence, and conflict in the world, it becomes easy to wonder if God made the right choice in granting humans their own will.  The answer to this question will not consider God’s omniscience since that does not directly respond to the question, but rather ponder if there would be another, better solution.  There are two main alternatives to free will, which are determinism and universalism.  Determinism (or compatibilism) means that humans have no ability to make their own choices.  God determines everything that occurs.  The problem with this is that humans would be limited and unable to chose their own way, and a loving God would not put them in this state.  Universalism references the idea that a human could have the ability to make their own decisions as a human on earth, but once they die, they automatically go to heaven, whether or not they are Christians.  Humanity would have the freedom to make their own choices on the earth and they would still go to Heaven.  The only problem with this argument is that in forcing humans to go to Heaven, they do not have the ability to choose their fate, so if they do not want to go to Heaven and worship God, they would still have to.  Both universalism and determinism limit humans from the freedom that a loving God should give them, whereas free will is compatible with a loving God granting His people freedom.

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Posted in April

Week 15 Homework (due 4/19/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 8: Providence: Limited and Detailed

      1. “Christians have always believed that the one true God, maker of heaven and earth, is also sovereign Lord of his creation. Both nature and history belong to him, and he governs them and provides for them.”
        1. God is sovereign- He rules and reigns over all
        2. “God is in charge and purposefully, powerfully guides nature and history such that his will always ultimately triumphs in and through (and sometimes in spite of) them”
      2. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Providence
        1. God is in charge of nature and history AND evil and innocent suffering?
        2. Allow room for disagreements about providence
      3. The Christian Consensus about God’s Providence
        1. God and humans propose and dispose
        2. “Nature and history are sovereignty, providentially governed by God and nothing happens without God’s permission”
        3. God does not create evil; He plans for and controls it
          1. Satan is God’s instrument!
          2. Difference between permitting and causing
        4. “God is the good and just governor of nature and history in that he not only created but also sustains, guides, provides for and judges everything”
        5. “Nothing at all can happen in nature/history that God does not at least allow”
        6. “God’s sovereign governance of nature and history is both ‘general’ and ‘special’”
      4. Alternatives to Christian Belief in God’s Providence
        1. 3 main alternatives to Christian belief
          1. fatalism- denies intelligent design; “nature and history are ruled by blind forces that exclude not only contingency but also meaning and purpose”
          2. Deism- “views divine providence as the divinely established network of natural laws that govern nature and history”
          3. process pantheism- “completely rejects any classical account of divine sovereignty and providence in order to rescue God from responsibility for genocide”; “God’s only recourse in the face of a recalcitrant world is divine persuasion toward the good”
      5. Diverse Christian Visions of God’s Providence
        1. Differing models among Christians
        2. 3 main interpretations
          1. meticulous providence- “Whatever happens in nature and history is completely, exhaustively willed by God and not merely permitted by God”
          2. limited providence- “God could control nature and history meticulously but chooses not to; God restrains himself for the sake of a certain, limited degree of autonomy of both nature and human agency”
          3. open theism- “God does not know with absolute certainty all that the future holds, but he is able to predict events and respond in such a way that his ultimate and final will for the future is never thwarted.”
      6. A Unitive Christian View of Providence

Scripture Response:

In Romans 8:6, Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  One question I have from this, is what does spiritually minded look like?

The concept of being spiritually minded is contradictory: the spirit and the mind are two different parts of a human being.  In order for a person to be spiritually minded, the spirit must overtake the mind.  The mind will follow whoever gives it power, which is either the spirit or the body.

The body—commonly referred to in this setting as the flesh—and the spirit are in a battle.  The flesh wants what makes it feel good at that particular moment in time.  The spirit, however, wants what is best for an individual, as well as other people, in the long run.  Instead of jumping from one momentary pleasure to another, the spirit seeks to fulfill an individual’s needs in a satisfactory way, both now and in the future.  Following the spirit enables a person to better enjoy their life as a whole, rather than simply enjoy a particular moment.

So, how does a person become spiritually minded?  Due to the habitual nature of human beings, an individual needs to become accustomed to saying “no” to what the flesh wants, in order that they do not automatically respond “yes” to the desires of the flesh.  A person also needs to listen to the quiet voice of the spirit and follow what it says.  Instead of rushing into decisions, or doing whatever the flesh feels like doing, an individual should patiently wait for the guidance of the spirit.

The Deuteronomy passage mentions this idea of following the spirit but uses different wording.  In Deuteronomy 30, the Israelites are told to choose between good or evil, also referred to here as life or death.  To choose good (or life), a person must love God, obey Him, and be faithful to Him.  This is the same process as following the spirit, known as being spiritually minded.  When we let the spirit control our decisions, and coincidentally our lives, we are obeying God, being faithful to Him, and using our lives as an act of worship, or love, to God.

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Question Response

When examining the concept of free will, concerns are often brought up of how this relates with God’s sovereignty. Christians argue that God is omnipotent. If God is all-powerful, however, how do humans have the freedom to make whatever decision they want to? God’s supreme power would then override their foolish or self-gratifying choices, or would it?. In reality, since God is all-powerful, He has the ability to do whatever He chooses, even if that means He decides to give the power He has to humanity.
In providing mankind with free will God is not giving up His power. First, this is true because at any moment God could overturn humanity and take the power back. Job 1:21 references this in that it mentions how God gives and takes away. God gave humanity His power and at any moment He could take it back and leave humans as defenseless slaves to Him. This, of course, would not be characteristic of a loving God, and fortunately, is not characteristic of the God we serve.
So how does giving something—in this case, God’s power—to someone else cause the giver to not lose what they gave? When I was thinking about this, I was vaguely reminded of a couple of quotes I have heard before. They address what happens when an individual lifts up or empowers another individual, especially when the first person is in a leadership role. While I cannot remember to exact wording of the quotes or find them online, they basically state that in giving power to another person you do not lose that power, but rather you gain it. When making another person “greater”, you are made “greater”, for giving of yourself. In providing humanity the opportunity to make their own choices, God did not lose His supreme power, if anything, the fact that He gave humans power only made Him more powerful.

Posted in April

Week 13 Homework (due 4/03/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 12: Salvation: Objective and Subjective

    1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Salvation
      1. Atonement- reconciliation; Christ bringing God and humanity together despite humanity’s sinfulness and God’s holiness
    2. The Christian Consensus about Christ’s Atonement
      1. Jesus Christ’s life and death objectively provide for reconciliation between God and humanity and make possible forgiveness and transformation of those who believe and trust in him
      2. Jesus Christ provides salvation for the world (humanity) by his life, death, and resurrection
      3. God acted in Christ’s death on the cross to reconcile the world (humanity) with himself and to make possible the forgiveness and transformation of sinners
    3. Alternatives to Christian Beliefs about Salvation Through Christ
      1. The idea that Christ’s saving work is not necessary for everybody
      2. Unificationism
    4. Diverse Christian Beliefs about Christ’s Atoning Work
      1. ransom theory- Christ became a necessary ransom for mankind
      2. satisfaction theory- Christ satisfied (covered) the cost; i.e. transaction
      3. moral influence- Christ’s main task on cross was to change humanity’s perspective and points them to God
      4. Christus Victor- “Christ the Victor”
      5. penal substitution- Christ took humanity’s punishment, so God’s wrath was subdued; capital punishment
    5. A Unitive Christian View of Atonement
      1. No one explanation does justice to all that happened on the cross
      2. Belief in the objectivity of Christ’s atonement is absolute to the gospel itself

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 13: Salvation: Gift and Task

  1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Personal Salvation
    1. ordo salutis- how and why a person becomes saved; God’s agency vs human’s agency
    2. Problems: disagreement and diversity; complex issue
    3. soteriology: the doctrine of salvation
  2. The Christian Consensus about Personal Salvation
    1. salvation is primarily a gift in which the initiative is God’s, and yet there is something for the human person to do even if only to accept the gift
    2. all major Protestant Reformers and their post-Reformation disciples, as well as modern Christian theologians, affirmed divine grace and human agency in salvation
    3. Christians altogether believe that salvation as reconciliation with God and inward renewal from the corruption of inherited depravity and toward the restoration of the image go God is wholly and completely a work of God’s grace while at the same time also an event and process involving human agency
  3. Alternatives to Christian Consensus about Salvation
    1. Two main challenges: Pelagianism/Semi-Pelagianism and apokatastasis/universalism
  4. Diversity within Christian Beliefs about Salvation
    1. modernism vs synergism; Roman Catholics vs Protestant
  5. A Unifying Christian Perspective on Salvation
    1. No one explanation does justice to all that happened on the cross
    2. Belief in the objectivity of Christ’s atonement is absolute to the gospel itself

Scripture Response:

The Bible utilizes various words, phrases, and occasionally concepts, to refer to the same idea or event.  While the word choice may make the verses to appear to have different meanings, the truths being taught often align.  This is noticeable when comparing Romans 5:1-21 and the book of Galatians.  Even though both passages discuss salvation, Paul employs different wording, which causes him to approach this concept from multiple routes and views.  In this essay, the author will contrast the word choices and paths these two passages use to inform the readers about the salvation Christ brings.

The Romans scriptures emphasize how salvation is a free gift.  Some of the words that stand out in this passage include: reconciled, death, sin, free gift, and law.  In these 21 verses, Paul argues that sin resulted in death, and the Old Testament law could do nothing to fix this problem.  God stepped in and gave humanity the free gift of Jesus, which reconciled them to him.  Romans 5 reminds the audience that this grace which reconciles humanity from the spiritual death of sin is a free gift, which is available for all.

Since Galatians was written for the Galatia church, rather than the Roman audience, the emphasis on salvation differs.  The main words in this New Testament book include law, faith, flesh, free, and slave.  The law and sin make us slaves to our flesh, but by faith in Christ, humans are freed from this.  People do not have to be bound by the law or the desires of their flesh.  Christians live as individuals who were slaves, but now experience true freedom in Christ.

While both the passages studies discuss how the law displays the necessity of salvation, each scripture explains this through a different path.  In Romans, salvation is shown as free for humanity, while in Galatians, salvation is shown as what frees humanity.

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Question Response

When examining the contribution of Galatians to a Christian understanding of salvation, there are multiple ways that can be examined.  This response will focus on what Galatians informs Christians to do with their newfound salvation.  The dramatic shift from living under the law to living under grace can be confusing for believers, both in Old Testament times and today.  Galatians explains how salvation should affect individuals lives, as well as how it should not.

Salvation frees humanity from the weight and toil of the law.  When an individual becomes saved their identity changes.  They are not slaves to rules and requirements, but Paul argues that they are now heirs. In the Old Testament, God promised a solution to the law—salvation through Jesus’ death—for humanity.  As Christians today, we have received this promise and are coincidentally heirs to the promise of God.

Salvation gives Christians freedom; they do not have to make sacrifices or be bound by burdensome rules.  Paul warns in chapter 5, however, that Christians should not abuse their freedom for their own selfish desires or ambitions.  Freedom is a gift and a privilege for humanity, that should not be thrown away or misused.  Paul then informs Christians of how they are supposed to use this freedom, to serve one another humbly in love.  Christians priority in life should not be on their own concerns or desires, but they should use their freedom to free those who are bound.

Galatians lays out what salvation frees Christians from and what this means for them.  Paul is intentional is explaining to believers what their new lives should look like.  This makes Galatians especially beneficial for new believers, as they often do not understand how they should live as Christians.  Some new believers will live as if they are under a burdensome law, while others will live recklessly.  While Galatians helps all believers further understand their salvation, it is especially helpful for those who recently received salvation.

Posted in March

Week 12 Homework (due 3/27/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 9: Humanity: Essentially Good and Existentially Estranged

        1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Humanity
          1. Enlightenment raised serious questions about humanity
          2. Many contemporary Christians are unaware of consensual Christian tradition about humanity
          3. Main issues:
            1. dual nature of human- natural-physical and transcendent-spiritual
            2. humans created in God’s image and likeness
            3. humans as fallen, sinful, and estranged from God
        2. The Christian Consensus about Humanity
          1. Humans are animals and spiritual
          2. Humans are God’s special creatures who possess the gift of God’s own image and likeness
          3. Humans are born as “damaged goods” as they inherent a spiritual corruption that pervades every aspect of their being and leads inevitably to personal acts of disobedience to God (“original sin” or “inherited depravity”)
          4. Christians have always believed that:
            1. humans are composed of body and soul
            2. humans are possessed of special dignity and value over all other creatures because they are created in God’s image and likeness
            3. humans are sinful and in need of redemption by God’s grace in Christ and through the Holy Spirit
          5. Jesus died for all people; all people are sinners without exception
          6. Augustine
            1. before the fall human condition was posse non peccare- possible not to sin
            2. after the fall the universal human condition is non posse non peccare- not possible not to sin
          7. Graces is a universal human need
          8. The three general human beliefs (1., 2., and 3.) are called Christian humanism
        3. Alternative Visions of Humanity
          1. Secular humanism- antisupernaturalism; human-centered ethics; commitment to human reason; humanitarian concerns
          2. Neognosticism- humans created in God’s image; essential goodness of human nature; “spark of God” forms “higher self” in each person
          3. Pelagianism- humans are born without fault or flaw; not born with sin; humans, by themselves, can initiate a right relationship with God
        4. Diverse Christian Interpretations of Human Nature and Existence
          1. Debate over meaning of imago Dei
          2. Debate over original sin/inherited, total depravity
        5. A Unitive Christian Perspective on Human Nature and Existence
          1. humanity: infinite design and value above the rest of nature because humans are created in God’s image, loved by God and redeemed in Christ; also, degraded, worse than animals, corrupt and condemned
            1. paradoxical, but not contradictory

Scripture Response:

The Christian view of humans as both created as good and naturally unrighteous is easily confusing for those in the faith and outside of it. This contrast brings the questions: What caused humans to be unrighteous? Was God’s creation not good enough to remain good? And, why would God allow His creation to become unrighteous? In this response we will answer these questions by studying Genesis 3.
First, we will examine the cause of unrighteousness for humanity. Almost every Christian knows this story; humans are unrighteous because Adam and Eve ate some fruit. While this seems harsh, they blatantly disobeyed the one command God them. Sin separates humanity from God (Genesis 3:8-10). When a Christian makes a statement such as, “humans are born in sin,” they mean that when they are born, they are separated from God.
The next question is a little trickier. God’s creation could have remained good, but he gave them the choice of choosing sin and separation over the connection and closeness of God. I do not believe God intended for humanity to choose sin, even though he gave that option. Adam and Eve were already righteous before God, so He would not have had to redeem them if they had not sinned. I doubt Adam and Eve would not have chosen sin if the devil had not tempted and deceived them (Genesis 3:13).
The answer to the final question addresses the reason for the first two paragraphs. God chose to give His people the opportunity to leave Him, even though remaining in Him would be the best option. He gives humans freewill: this is the ability for humans to make their own choices (Genesis 3:12-13). God did not want to force humanity to abide in Him and His love, so He gave them another option. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve unknowingly picked this option.

Question Response

This week’s question is tricky.  With humans’ duality of being created good and born as unrighteous, the line of what God created becomes warped.  Did God really create both good and evil?  If He did, why did He do this?  If He did not, why did He allow it?  While we may never fully know God’s reasoning and purpose for what He does, we can at least postulate on questions such as these using our limited human knowledge.

God created good.  God is the source of all things.  In Genesis 1, when He created the earth and humanity, He called the creations “good”.  This means that goodness must have been created either before these creations began, or goodness was created while God was creating the world.  In His omnipotence, God created the concept of goodness, as well as all things that are deemed good.

I do believe that God created evil.  Again, He is omnipotent and has the power to create and control all things.  He most likely did not want humanity to experience it, but unfortunately He knew that the decision would be left up to them.  The only other option for the creation of evil is the devil, but angels are never depicted as creators in the Bible.  It the devil was disobediently trying to create such a large concept that would harm His creation, such as evil, God would have used His omnipotence to halt the creation of evil.

Most people agree that evil is negative and detrimental, since evil causes humans to kill or physically or emotionally damage other people.  The creation of this seems in stark disparity to the supposed goodness and loving nature of God, yet God created evil for a purpose.  Evil was needed to illuminate its opposite, which is goodness.  Since God gave humans freewill, He had to allow them the choice of choosing what is bad.  Without the contrast of evil, humans would not know what it good; while everything would be good without evil, humans would not truly have freewill.

Posted in March

Week 11 Homework (due 3/20/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 6: God: Three and One

      1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Trinity
        1. All three major branches of Christianity affirm the faith of Nicaea (believe in the Trinity)
        2. some Christians emphasize the three more than the one, and vice versa
      2. The Christian Consensus about the Trinity
        1. Arian theology- denied Trinity; tried to uphold monotheism
        2. Athanasian theology- upheld Trinity
        3. Nicene creed- “the God worshipped in three persons (hypostaeis) and one substance (ousia) or being. God is one—monotheism—by virtue of the common essence or substance, and three by virtue of the distinction of persons within the Godhead.”
        4. Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) are God but not all of God
        5. The mystery of monotheism—God is one being—combined with worship of three distinct entitles who are equally God
        6. TRIUNE- Three recognized as God; Regarded as three distinct persons; Immanent and eternal, not merely economical or temporal; United in essence; No inequality; Explains all other doctrines yet itself inscrutable
      3. Alternatives to the Christian Consensus about the Godhead
        1. modalism (Sabellianism)- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons, but three modes of revelation of one God
        2. subordinationism (Arianism/adoptionism)- Son and Holy Spirit are less than God
        3. tritheism- implicit belief that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods
      4. Diverse Christian Approaches to the Trinity
        1. God is one “what” in three “whos”; one being manifested eternally as three persons
      5. A Unitive Christian Vision of God’s Triunity

        The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 11: Holy Spirit: Divine Person and Power

        1. Issues and Polarities about the Holy Spirit
          1. Nicene Creed- Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets
        2. The Christian Consensus about the Holy Spirit
          1. Nicene creed- the Holy Spirit is the third divine person of God, eternally equal with Father and Son as to his deity
          2. “Augustine introduced the much debated filioque- since the Spirit is the Spirit and Love of the first two Persons, he must be said to proceed from those Persons
        3. Alternative Views of the Holy Spirit
          1. Montanism- example: Mormonism
          2. Pneumatomachianism- denial of deity/distinction of the Holy Spirit
        4. Diversity within Belief about the Holy Spirit
          1. Renewalists- Christians who believe in an experience of the Holy Spirit called baptism/filling subsequent to conversion and the continuing presence of supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit
        5. Cessationism- Christians who believe gifts of Holy Sprit were withdrawn by God

Scripture Response:

In the Bible, the Holy Spirit takes on various roles and purposes.  The Holy Spirit guides and provides for the Jesus, Mary, the disciples, and the non-believers, in the New Testament.  The Holy Spirit functions the same way for humanity today.  Leading people to make moral and beneficial choices and giving comfort and peace are common ways people experience the effect of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  This essay will consider Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 3, and Matthew 28:16-20, to recognize the role of the Holy Spirit in each passage.

Luke 1:26-38 shares the story of the angel meeting with Mary to tell her that she is pregnant.  How the Holy Spirit plays into the narrative is in verse 35, “The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.’”  The meaning of this verse is that the Holy Spirit is how Mary became pregnant.  When I think about how the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, I am left confused, but I recognize that what the Holy Spirit does is often confusing to comprehend, but it is always for my good.  I might not know how the Holy Spirit is able to speak to me and help, but I know that I can trust Him, even when it seems improbable, as it did in this instance with Mary.

While the Holy Spirit’s role in the Luke passage happened only that one time, his role in the Matthew passages happens commonly, even today.  In Matthew, the Holy Spirit baptized people.  Many Christian churches still believe in the power of baptism.  The role of the Holy Spirit, in baptism, is to help Christians reach the goals they have in their lives, as well as show them the dreams and plans that God has for them.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a door that allows Christians to further experience the influence of God in their lives.

Question Response

The Trinity argues a compelling argument.  That three unique gods could take the form of one God.  The human brain easily becomes confused at this statement.  How could three distinct gods be united as one God?  Each person of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is essential for God to fulfill His purpose for humankind.

God does not work as an individual, but as a team.  God has various jobs to accomplish, such as Creator, Savior, and Guide, so in order to carry out these multiple roles, He had to take on multiple persons.  An example of why this is necessary is that if there was only one God, who came down to earth and died for humanity’s sin, there would be a span where there would be no God.  I am not sure what would happen during that time, but there is a fairly good chance the world, both earth and potentially heaven, would not survive this period.  A deity was required to justify and redeem mankind since humans were unworthy, but since God the Father could not do it Himself, He sent God the Son instead.

As a team, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have the same purpose.  Their heart toward humanity is one of love; their purpose is for humans’ profit, rather than their own profit.  The purpose of God is also to fellowship with His people—humanity—and have them be in a relationship, and loved, by Him.  While the tasks each person of God meets is different, they all work together in order to accomplish this purpose.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all feel the same love toward humanity, and work together as a team to allow people to feel this love.

So how is God one person, while being three persons?  He is one in His purpose and heart for humanity.  Each person of God desires the same thing for humanity and work under the same power, authority, and holiness.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons in that they have different tasks, and roles, in humans’ lives.  One deity could not successfully, or perfectly, meet each role in a person’s life, which is why God had to take the form of three-in-one.

Posted in March

Week 10 Homework (due 3/13/17)

Scripture Response:

The resurrection was a shocking event for those who experienced it firsthand.  Even though Jesus and the Old Testament scriptures referenced it, no human fully expected it or knew what would happen.  They did not understand Jesus’ or the scriptures mentions of a resurrection, for they were would not be able to fully comprehend it before it happened.  Even if they had known Jesus would rise again in three days, they still would not have been able to grasp the effect of his resurrection on humanity’s state.  The resurrection, and its implications were kept from human reasoning as humanity is too limited and vulnerable to fathom it.

The three days without Jesus were important for the disciples.  It taught them how to live without him there to guide them.  Some of the disciples may have been grieving Jesus’ death during this time, which showed them how to address emotions and loss without God there to help them.  They were shown how lost and confused they are when they do not have someone to advise or mentor them.  When Jesus returned to heaven, he encouraged his disciples that they are not alone this time; Jesus left Christians with a supernatural guide.  The days Jesus were dead taught the disciples the necessity of having God’s presence and direction in their life.

One question that just ran through my mind is why did Jesus come back?  Could he have overcome death without returning to earth?  I am not entirely sure, but I think God could have pulled Jesus “up” from Hell into Heaven, without stopping in the earth.  The only problem with that is no human would know that God had saved humanity from sin and destruction, and the disciples would have believed Christianity ended as quickly as it started.  It would be like having a solution, but not sharing it with others, so it sits idly without helping people.  God needed to bring Jesus back to the earth to prove to humanity, not the devil, that Jesus was victorious.  Since Jesus did return to earth, humans are able to recognize what he did for us and saved us from.

Question Response

The resurrection is foundational to Christianity due to its great impact on Christian belief.  The resurrection is necessary for redemption, grace, and faith.  These are key aspects of Christianity; they are particular to Christian beliefs.  Jesus’ resurrection was the start of Christianity.  If Jesus had not been resurrected and brought back to earth, Christianity most likely would not have begun.

The Christian story is one of trusting that God has granted our undeserving selves righteousness.  It is a belief that humanity can choose to accept God’s gift of freedom and justification.  In order for this to occur, Christ needed to rise to life again from death.  “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  If the resurrection did not occur, redemption did not occur.  If humans are not saved, then the Christian faith and belief system is void and meaningless.  This is why the redeeming emphasis of the resurrection is crucial to Christian beliefs.

Christians argue that they are who they are because of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Their worth and meaning is not in their physical bodies, choices, or success, but in the fact that God extended His grace to them in salvation.  The resurrection proves this point; the resurrection shows that God rescued humanity from the harmful power of sin and death.  Christians now take on a new essence by recognizing the power of God’s redeeming grace in their lives.  Without the resurrection, Christians would not know or experience this new identity, created by deliverance, and formed in grace.

The core message of Christians is of redemption and salvation.  It is mandatory to accept this belief to become a true Christian.  It is also required to understand the significance and impact of the resurrection and redemption to comprehend the “how” behind Christian beliefs.  Jesus “becoming sin” in a sacrifice and rising from the dead is how we are able to be redeemed.  Without this knowledge, there is no point or meaning to the Christian religion.

Posted in February

Week 8 Homework (due 2/27/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 10: Jesus Christ: God and Man

    1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Jesus Christ
      1. Various beliefs on the topic
        1. Gnostics
        2. Adoptionists
        3. Arians
        4. Apollinarians
        5. Nestorians
        6. Eutychians and Monophysites
        7. Liberal theologians
    2. The Christian Consensus about Jesus Christ
      1. Doctrine of the hypostatic union- perfect union of 2 distinct but not separate natures
      2. one person, two natures is more common
    3. Alternatives View to Jesus Christ
      1. 6 main christological heresies
        1. docetism- Jesus’ death was fake
        2. adoptionism- God “adopted” Jesus
        3. arianism- Jesus was God’s first and greatest creature, but not God
        4. apollintarianism- “God in a bod”
        5. nestorianism- marriage of two people in Jesus
        6. eutychianism and monophysitism- hybrid of human and divine
    4. Diversity Within Christian Belief About Jesus Christ
      1. Christian leaders are “more protective of Christology than of any other area of Christian belief”
        1. diversity often heresy
      2. “So long as one does not deny the full and true deity and humanity of Christ and so longs one does not divide him into two persons or describe his being as a hybrid of two natures, one is permitted to speculate far and wide about his being and person”
      3. debate over whether “Jesus could be present bodily in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper”
      4. kenotic Christology- two natures, one person; emptying
        1. vs two minds model- “denies any limitations of knowledge and power in Jesus Christ and attaches two wills and two consciousnesses to his single personhood”
    5. A Unitive Christian View of the Person of Jesus Christ
      1. “Jesus Christ as God incarnate; one unified person—the eternal Son of God equal with the father; of two distinct but never separate natures, human an divine”
      2. Christology is a mystery
      3. Jesus teaches us of the will and character of God and of humanity
    1. “Our God is both glorious beyond our understanding (transcendent) and more perfectly good than any creaturely goodness.”
    2. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Go
      1. Tend to emphasis either His greatness or His goodness, not both
      2. Should question, how is God both great and good?
        1. These are correlational
    3. The Christian Consensus about God
      1. The nature and attributes of God is largely debated
      2. God’s immanence- His “loving presence around all things drawing them to himself and luring them to his goals for them”
      3. “God is both transcendent in possessing a superior quality of being such that everything depends on God for its existence and immanent in the sense of being graciously present in love with his creation.”
    4. Alternatives to Christian Consensus about God
      1. Deism- God is Creator of the cosmos, but uninvolved/uncaring
      2. Panentheism- emphasizes immanence; neglects self-sufficiency transcendence
      3. General, universal revelation holds more worth than special divine revelation
      4. The best revelation is interior and mystical
    5. Diversity within Christian Beliefs about God
      1. Each attribute of God must be interpreted
    6. A Unitive Proposal for Christian Belief about God’s Nature
      1. “In His greatness God is capable of self-limitation.”
      2. Universal revelation consists of “questions about existence and particular revelation as God’s special communication that answers those questions”
      3. “Avoid speculation about God’s inner-life apart from Creation.”

Scripture Response: Matthew 16:13-28; John 1:1-14, 14:1-11, Phil 2:1-11

Who is this Jesus?  That is question these verses try to answer.  When the disciples consider who Jesus is He asks them, “Who do they say I am?” (Matthew 16:13).  When the disciple’s answer was not who Jesus is, He responded by asking them who they think He is.  Jesus guided them into the revelation of truth they did not realize, as He often did.

Jesus was not blunt.  Most of what He said was not clearly stated; most of it required analysis and interpretation.  The way Jesus phrased His words and spoke in parables hid the true message of His words from the audience.  Not only did the bystanders not comprehend His words, but even the disciples did not understand Jesus’ parables and sayings at times.  Why would Jesus do this?

Jesus utilized parables and unclear sayings to hide the meaning of His messages.  There are a couple of different reasons Jesus would do this.  The first reason is the fact that the people at the time could not have understood what God’s plan was, lest they interfere with it.  Jesus knew that the people were not to comprehend His messages.  Coincidentally, Jesus’ messages typically required divine explanation or revelation from Jesus himself.

The other reason Jesus’ sayings were not to be understood by the listeners was because Jesus was foreshadowing how people would hear from God.  Once Jesus left, things would be quite different for the disciples.  They would have help, however, in the Holy Spirit.  The nature of hearing from God changed when He gave humanity the Holy Spirit.  Instead of having Jesus to guide them and explain the sayings of God to them, they had the Holy Spirit to fill the same role.

Question Response

Jesus was born from a human; Jesus is a human.  Jesus is a part of the Trinity; Jesus is God.  Even after growing up in church my whole life, this thought can easily become confusing.  Trying to explain this to someone who does not believe in Jesus or understand Christianity presents an obvious challenge.  As Christians, it is important to consider who Jesus is so we are better able to understand Him and be able to explain His nature to other people.

The need for Jesus all begins in the Garden on Eden.  Since you know the story, I will not go into details, but I am bringing this up to reference how mankind needed redemption because they chose to disobey God’s command.  Humans became “tainted” with the stain of sin and are not good enough to fix this problem themselves.  This is why they needed God to come and make a way for them to be made right with Him.  God is the only one holy enough to cleanse people from their sin.

This was able to happen due to God’s covenant with humanity.  Once Jesus died for people, they are able to put on the cloak of righteousness and receive the righteousness Christ has, which they do not deserve.  When Jesus came He gave them the ability to have a relationship with God.  Humanity is no longer bound by the burden of sin but is free to run to God.  God promised that He would send a servant who could free them from their sins, and like always, God came through to fulfill His promise in sending Jesus.

So is Jesus a human, God, or both?  I would argue that Jesus is a human since he had a body and was tempted, but in order to redeem us, Jesus has to be more than that.  Jesus is also the Son of God.  He was born with the holiness and righteousness of God, which we are not able to be born with, and through His faithfulness in the midst of temptations, He was able to remain in righteous until death.  Jesus came with the power and authority of God, yet as a human, He suffered the worst punishment that mankind has received.