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.

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Posted in February

Week 6 Homework (due 2/13/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 5: God: Great and Good

 

    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.”

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 7: Creation: Good and Fallen

    1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Creation
      1. Confused over goodness and fallenness
      2. “Christian belief about creation regards the universe as good but not God and good but fallen under a curse.”
    2. The Christian Consensus about Creation
      1. “God is source of all; creatures are dependent, real, and good; God creates freedom with purpose.”
      2. Also, “Creation is fallen under a curse and needs redemption.”
    3. Alternatives to the Christian Consensus about Creation
      1. Dualism- “belief in two eternally existing, opposed realities”
      2. Monism- came from one substance
      3. Naturalism- chance creation
    4. Diverse Christian Beliefs about Creation
      1. Young earth creationism- 4004 BC
      2. Theistic evolution- Darwin is true; Bible is metaphor
      3. Progressive creationism- the above are not true
    5. A Unitive Christian Vision of Creation
      1. Despite differing opinions about Creation, Christians, “contrast other worldviews”.

Question Response

When reading the question, “Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?”, two contradicting thoughts pop into my head.  The first thought is that of course He can, God has the ability to create whatever He desires.  The second thought is that no He cannot; no rock could be big enough that God could not lift it.  Like most theological and philosophical reasoning, determining a sound answer is not a quick or easy feat.  When laid out succession though, the answer to this question becomes much clearer.

God created everything—outside of evil—that exists.  This brings the presumption that God can create whatever He wants, as long as it is not bad.  God would have the ability to create something physically bigger, or more dense than Himself.  As this can seem like what is created is stronger than God, though, it can quickly lead to the assumption that God can create something more powerful than Him is.  This belief is difficult to justify as God is often described as All-Powerful, meaning nothing can be more powerful than God’s current state.

Since God is All-Powerful, He is also All-Capable.  He is capable to do whatever He wishes.  If He wishes to create an extremely heavy rock, then He can.  If He wishes to lift this extremely heavy rock, then He can.  God’s power, strength, and ability are uncontainable.  Whether or not God taps into these capabilities—and how He does it—is completely up to Him.

No matter how heavy a rock God created, He could lift it.  Stating that God could not lift something is not actually a matter of physical strength, but of supernatural power.  Considering God’s physical capabilities disregards the make-up of God. God is not even physical, He is a powerful spiritual being.  God can do as He chooses for all ability, power, and authority is found in Him.

 

Scripture Response: Genesis 1; Jonah 3:10-4:11

A key feature of God’s character is His loving, gracious nature.  Grace and mercy are at the heart of who God is.  He understands people and their imperfections, even better than they understand it.  In His majesty and power, God is still considerate in contrast to the mistakes of mankind.  God loves His creation and is willing to continually extend His grace to them.

In this passage from Jonah, confusion overtakes Jonah as he considers the inadequacy of the Ninevites who were given God’s grace.  “Just kill me now, Lord!”, Jonah declares when he realizes that God was going to forgive them, despite their countless errors.  The thought circling through Jonah’s mind, I am guessing is along the lines of, “They are sinful; They don’t deserve it!”.  Jonah knew God’s grace and love earlier, but at this moment, Jonah realized the overarching extent that God gives His grace and love to humans.

God saw the people of Nineveh differently.  Instead of focusing on their negative past, he looked at their present state.  All God saw was a people who were not in their sinful ways anymore; a people who were worshipping and living for Him.  Did the Ninevites deserve it?  Of course not, but that is the point of grace.

When looking at His creation, God viewed them as good and He committed to loving them, regardless of their commitment level.  He chose to create them they way He did.  He also chose to love them, the way they are.  As humans it can be difficult to comprehend God’s grace toward humanity, but since we are not God, we can never fully understand it from His perspective.  All we can do is approach it differently than Jonah, and chose to follow God’s example and love people, in spite of whatever their past looks like.

Posted in February

Week 5 Homework (due 2/06/17)

Textbook Outline:

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 3, Divine Revelation: Universal and Particular

  1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Divine Revelation
    1. Revelation- God’s message know through various methods
    2. Divine revelation is a give-in for believers
  2. The Christian Consensus about Divine Revelation
    1. “God is specifically revealed in Jesus Christ and that this surpasses other revelations of God that might exist”
    2. “There is a minimal knowledge of God—perhaps only that God exists—possible through God’s revelation in nature.”
    3. “The Bible, then, came to be regarded by all Christians as a form of special divine revelation—above nature but below Jesus Christ himself.”
    4. “The threefold form of God’s Word—divine revelation—provides significant common ground, that is, a consensual tradition, for Christians down through the ages and today.”
  3. Alternatives to Christian Beliefs about Divine Revelation
    1. Revelation might overpower the Bible and Christ
    2. General, universal revelation holds more worth than special divine revelation
    3. The best revelation is interior and mystical
  4. Diverse Christian Beliefs about Divine Revelation
    1. Disagree about: natural knowledge of God, the nature of special revelation, continuing revelation
  5. A Unitive Christian Vision of Divine Revelation
    1. Divine revelation is both-and
    2. Universal revelation consists of “questions about existence and particular revelation as God’s special communication that answers those questions”

The Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, Chapter 4, Christian Scripture: Divine Words and Human Words

    1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Belief about Scripture
    2. The Christian Consensus about the Bible
      1. “Scripture has a divine origin and possess divine authority because of its unique inspiration”
    3. Alternatives to the Christian Consensus about Scripture
      1. Some believe the Scripture is a classic; not inspired by God
      2. “overemphasis on the divinity of Scripture can be just as wrong as overemphasis on the humanity of Scripture”
    4. Diverse Christian Beliefs about the Bible
      1. Scripture is divine, human, and authoritative
      2. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians generally affirm an intrinsic interdependence of Scripture and tradition
      3. “Magisterial Protestants believe that the Great Tradition helps Christians hold on to faithfully accepted Christian beliefs insofar as they are consistent with Scripture, but all traditions are subject to Scripture’s authority”
      4. the author’s words were freely chosen but came from the Holy Spirit
    5. A Unitive Christian View of Scripture
      1. “The Holy Spirit of God is the sacramental authorising agent of the Bible and that the Bible’s special quality is as unique instrument of encounter with and knowledge of God”
      2. Scripture > tradition

 

Question Response

God is abstractly invisible.  Christians argue that they know and hear from God, while in the physical reality He is an unseen concept.  This is bewildering and questionable for those who do not believe in the Christian God.  What people know about God is often uncertain belief that they trust for themselves to be true.  Individual opinions easily confuse itself with what is true in reality.

People never know anything for certain, but they often think they do.  The constant bicker of beliefs in our world muddle the definition and reality of truth.  People quickly adhere to the thoughts thrown around without critically analyzing their validity and reliability.  All too often, people adamantly believe something and later become crushed to realize the contrary truth.  A thought can be perceived by many as true, but that does not mean it truly is.

This is where faith comes in.  The only way a finite, limited human being can reliably know anything about an infinite God is through their faith in Him.  Some people argue that faith does not mean it is true, but I believe that faith makes it true for that individual.  Does this mean it is valid or reliable?  Maybe not.  Most people would consider these beliefs undependable, but the person in faith depends upon it with assurance.

So is faith a strong enough to transform a belief into truth?  The answer to that question depends on who you ask.  Most unbelievers would argue “no”, while Christians would have varied answers.  I believe that faith makes it true for those who believe it, even if it is not noticeably true in reality.  Can people ever know for certain that our thoughts of God are accurate?  Probably not, but what they can do is have faith to make it reliable true for them.

 

Scripture Response: Psalm 19 & Romans 1:18-32

God’s laws are desirable and beautiful; they are perfect and bring joy to the heart.  They also cause anger from God, as well as sin and immorality among humans.  How can something perceived as perfect cause so much violence?  While Christians today are no longer subject to the law, they should be aware of its foundational presence in our connection to God.

David, the man after God’s own heart, loved the law.  He revered it and called it, “more desirable than gold (Ps. 19:10)”.  As a Christian who lives according to the new covenant, rather than the old covenant, this is confusing for me.  What I do know, however, is that whatever God commands and prepares for His people is for their benefit.  The intent of the law, to make people holy and right with God, is perfect, but the imperfection of man taints the beauty of the law that David illustrates.

Mans’ choice of sin over the law resulted in negative consequences.  People chose hate, killing, fighting and lying (Rom. 1:29), which forced God to punish them.  God is a just God, which means He had to enforce the penalties attached to the upright law.  The law was not created as a punishment, but unfortunately had to be that at times.  God used consequences to show them the worth and significance of Himself, found in the law, but all-to-often this was not enough.

The law was created to point people to God.  God is needed to, “live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)”, but the Israelites tried to proceed contrary to the directions from God.  The law would have been a beautiful guide to life, if humans were flawless.  As humans have flaws, rebellion, and selfish desires, God gave humans something more powerful than the law, he gave us grace.  He provided people with a new, beautiful guide to life, but this time, it can be experienced without consequences for errors.