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.