Posted in January

Week 4 Homework (due 1/30/17)

Textbook Outline:

Who Needs Theology? Chapter 7, Constructing Theology in Context

    1. What Kind of Constructive Theology Do We Need?
      1. “Theology’s constructive task is to set forth the unity and coherence of the biblical teaching about God, ourselves and the world in the context in which God calls us to be disciples”
      2. Biblically constructed theology
      3. Culturally constructive theology
    2. How Do We Contextualize Theology?
      1. Starting with the Bible gives the goal of discovering the doctrine within the Bible
      2. Starting with culture gives the goal of discovering spiritual aspects within the contemporary world
      3. “Draw the content of our beliefs from the Bible. The form must arise from questions and concerns of contemporary men and women.”
      4. Start with a trialogue- interaction of Bible, heritage, and culture
      5. Understanding the Bible and reading our culture is interrelated; it cannot be separated
    3. How Do We Systematize Our Theology?
      1. Integrative motif- systematize theology by structuring doctrines around concepts

Who Needs Theology? Chapter 8, Bringing Theology to Life

    1. Theology and Life
      1. “Theology and life are interdependent.”
      2. “Theology is the pursuit of wisdom.”
    2. Living as Christian Theologians
      1. Listen to culture
        1. determine what should be listening to
        2. scrutinize cultural phenomena
        3. appraise and respond to culture
      2. engage in grave social questions through theologically informed eyes
        1. apply Christian convictions to the situation
    3. Viewing Life Through Theological Eyes
      1. “Being a disciple demands that I view myself through the lenses of Christian faith, a process that involves at least two critical aspects.”
        1. Understanding myself according to Christianity
        2. Live according to convictions

Who Needs Theology? Chapter 9, An Invitation to Engage in Theology

    1. What is Necessary for Being a Theologian?
      1. Care to know God over ideas about Him- a heart for God
      2. Be dissatisfied with current understanding- desire greater comprehension
      3. Willingness to work- “no pain, no gain”
    2. The Risks and Rewards
      1. Reward: Theology worships God with our minds
      2. Reward: Theology answers questions contemporary Christians have
      3. Reward: Theology provides a belief system during spiritually dry times
      4. Risk: Theology can cause substitution- intellectualize overrides faith
      5. Risk: Change church affiliation
      6. Risk: Being misunderstood
    3. Becoming a Reflective Christian
      1. Learn the tools (Bible, theological heritage, contemporary culture) in order
    4. Thinking Critically and Reflectively
      1. Journal my thoughts on Christian beliefs
      2. Engage in theological reflection with others

Question Response

  1. My Approach to Theology
    1. What is theology?
      1. Studying and analyzing God, as well as His role in our lives, to understand life and how we should live.
    2. Who needs theology?
      1. The book, Who Needs Theology, made it clear that everybody needs theology.
        1. Everybody already practices theology (is a theologian), as they ponder the questions of life, existence, religion, etc.
        2. People are theologians of their religion or non-religious worldview.
  2. My Practice of Theology
    1. The Bible
      1. I read the Word of God to hear His heart and plan for the world and myself
      2. I study the Word of God (by looking at the Hebrew/Greek words) to further understand the meaning of the scriptures and relate it to my life
    2. Prayer/Worship
      1. Prayer allows me to share my concerns/thankfulness with God and opens the door for me to hear from Him
      2. Worship allows me to revere God and feel/recognize His presence in my life

While I have grown-up in the church, I have heard little usage of the word “theology”.  During my time in this course, I would like to understand how to incorporate theology in every moment of my life.  One aspect is talking to God more, to develop a closer connection to Him.  I also wish to ponder deeper questions of life, suffering, evil, etc., instead of covering the questions with a simple trite.  In questioning these things, and praying more often, I hope to greater understand God and His purpose, while drawing near to Him and His heart.

Posted in January

Week 3 Homework (due 1/23/17)

Textbook Outline:

Mosaic Chapter 2, Sources and Norms of Christian Belief: One and Many

    1. Issues and Polarities of Christian Beliefs about Sources and Norms
      1. diverse opinions held by Christians about appropriate sources and norms for beliefs
      2. tradition- “consensus of Christians during the first nine centuries of Christianity”
        1. the Bible and cannon comes from tradition
      3. Christians disagree if there is one source and norm or various
    2. The Christian Consensus about Sources and Norms
      1. three main sources and norms for early church fathers- the Rule of Faith, the writings of the apostles, the Hebrew prophets
      2. Scripture is the main source and norm, but it is not the only source and norm
      3. the Wesleyan Quadrilateral- four main specific sources and norms for Christian theologians; Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience
    3. Alternative Views of Sources and Norms
      1. Gnostics- Simon Magus; wisdom/higher knowledge is the “ultimate source & norm”
      2. Montanism- Montanus’ prophesies were equal to “those of the Hebrew prophets and Christian apostles”; New Prophesy movement
      3. Holy Order- 1970’s; “Gnostic wisdom and Montanism prophecies”
      4. Deism/natural theology- John Locke; based on “natural reason not spiritual revelation”
      5. liberal theology- Kant; modern ideas and human experience is the source and norm
      6. fundamentalists believe the Bible is the only source and norm
    4. Diverse Christians Views of Sources and Norms
      1. disagreement among Christians to the proportion of authority in Quadrilateral
        1. most diversity between whether Scripture is the first priority or tradition
    5. A Unitive Christian View of Theology’s Sources and Norms
      1. sola scriptura- the Bible is the norming norm; “the most important source”

Who Needs Theology? Chapter 5, Theology’s Tasks & Traditions

    1. Two major tasks of theology critical task and constructive task
    2. Theology’s Critical Task
      1. “to examine beliefs and teachings about God, ourselves and the world in light of Christian sources”
      2. “to divide valid Christian beliefs into categories based on levels of importance”
        1. three categories of beliefs- dogma, doctrine, opinion
    3. Theology’s Constructive Task
      1. “to set forth the unity and coherence of the biblical teaching about God, ourselves and the world in the context in which God calls us to be disciples”
        1. tries to “construct and unify Christian doctrines and relate them faithfully and relevantly to contemporary culture”
      2. “relating biblical models to contemporary culture”
    4. Theology’s Traditions
      1. to understand theology we must understand it’s traditions

Who Needs Theology? Chapter 6, The Theologian’s Tools

    1. Why Theology Needs Tools
      1. Context affects how individuals interpret the Bible
      2. Theology’s purpose- to find living truth, or to live in the truth
    2. The Tools of Theology
      1. sources to construct theology
      2. norms that mold and indicate our theology
      3. these work with the biblical message, church theology, and contemporary culture
    3. The Biblical Message
      1. Primary tool; “Everything about the Bible is foundational to theology.”
    4. The Theological Heritage of the Church
      1. Heritage is a reference point- example of previous theological attempts
    5. The Thought-Forms of Contemporary Culture
      1. Theology must be relevant- understandable, needed and insightful

Question Response

Beliefs are impacted by many factors.  Personal experiences, beliefs from other individuals and the opinions of groups or organizations all impact a person’s beliefs.  Due to this effective nature of beliefs, once one person has developed or shared their beliefs, they will then influence the beliefs of others.  If a pastor has a personal preference which is different from other pastors in similar denominations or churches, this pastor will most likely influence their congregation to feel this way as well.  When a person has a unique opinion, they can cause people to notice and run to their conventional beliefs.   Orthodoxy can lead to heresy and heresy can lead to orthodoxy.

How does heresy lead to orthodoxy?  When I ponder this question, I am reminded of individuals who are very unique, in either their interests, mannerisms, clothing, or thoughts.  While they may often be viewed negatively, there is nothing wrong with this type of individuality.  If causes other people to examine their own choices, attitudes, and beliefs.  Observing a person who acts in a different manner causes people to realize their beliefs and attitudes and typically they cling to them more purposefully.

This is one-way heresy leads to orthodoxy.  Recognizing the uncommon thoughts of other individuals or groups can make a person lean toward more frequently held beliefs.  In this quote, “heresy is the mother of orthodoxy”, the writer argues that heresy precedes orthodoxy.  Heresy causes people to either commit to heresy or commit to what is already orthodoxy.  The heresy precedes the orthodoxy in both instances.

This quote is often also true when people believe in the heresy.  This is due to the fact that if people keep believing in the heresy it will eventually become orthodoxy.  While this may take a long time, if people keep converting to the unusual beliefs they will become the usual beliefs.  All beliefs start as heresy, and with the passing of time, they might become orthodoxy.

Posted in January

Week 2 Homework (due 1/18/17)

Textbook Outline:

Mosaic Chapter 1, Christian Belief: Unity and Diversity

  1. The Necessity of Unity and the Great Tradition that Unites
    1. Christian must be distinct and not be compatible with every other belief system
      1. some Christian beliefs are more pivotal than others
      2. Great Tradition- essential beliefs that stemmed from the apostles
        1. “authentic Christianity”- Scripture, tradition, community
  2. Orthodoxy and Heresy: The Authority of the Great Tradition
    1. orthodoxy- right beliefs/correct doctrine
    2. heresy- a taught belief that goes against the orthodoxy
    3. difficult to distinguish between the two for “free-church Christians”
  3. Preserving Unity While Allowing Diversity
    1. theology should identify Christian orthodoxy and distinguish core beliefs from secondary beliefs (adiaphora)
    2. three categories of true Christian beliefs- dogmas (uncompromisingly true), doctrines (denomination or church beliefs), opinions (not in Bible/related to Christianity)
    3. bounded set category model- black-and-white, either Christian or not
    4. centered category set model- flexible, less boundaries on who is a Christian

Who Needs Theology Chapter 2, Not All Theologies are Equal

  1. Anyone in a particular study or discipline needs theology (everybody does)
  2. Theology is “faith seeking understanding”
    1. populist mentality to theology- negative view of those knowledgeable of Christianity
    2. Christianity should be reflected on by critical thought, logic, historical consciousness, and objectivity
  3. Folk theology- denies critical reflection and maintains informal and traditional beliefs and practices; beliefs from subjective feelings
  4. Lay theology- questioned folk theology; individuals interpret their faith
  5. Ministerial theology- reflective faith by trained, Christian preachers
  6. Professional theology- study and/or teach theology; critical; question students’ beliefs
  7. Academic theology- disconnected from Christianity; philosophical; highly speculative

Who Needs Theology Chapter 3- Defining Theology

  1. theology- “teaching concerning God” or “the study of God”
  2. Christian theology- “reflecting on and articulating the beliefs about God and the world that Christians share as followers of Jesus Christ”; “grounds Christian living”
    1. must use Bible to scrutinize beliefs
    2. should explore the significance of our beliefs for all life
    3. pleases God; theology should be God-centered

Who Needs Theology Chapter 4, Defending Theology

  1. No theology should not replace bad theology. Good theology should.
  2. Objections to theology-
    1. Killjoy- “Arent God and his Word meant to be enjoyed?”
    2. Divisiveness Charge- “Jesus unites; theology Divides
    3. Speculation Accusation- theology examines incomprehensible mysteries; impractical
    4. Stalemate Indictment- stuck reasoning, with no future progress available

Question Response

“Theology is an exposition of the teachings of Scripture”.  Exposition is defined as a description or explanation.  While I believe theology can portray and elaborate on what the Bible is saying, I do not entirely agree with this definition.  Theology should look at each scripture in Bible, not just the ones that define what Christianity is or who God is.  Theology should also consider other sources in its search of the Christian beliefs.

Theology works to interpret the meaning of the entire Bible.  This quote limits the impact and range of theology.  It narrows what the Bible covers to only the pivotal beliefs that can be easily defined or listed.  Theology should study more than just the main scriptures within Bible.   Theology should look at the Bible as a whole and address each issue and within it.

While the teachings found within the Bible should be the mold which Christianity takes, other aspects shape how Christianity, and God, is understood.  Theology should consider these alongside the truths in the Bible.  Accounts from ancient and current historians, Christians, philosophers which address attributes of the Christian God should be referenced.  Authors such as C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers, and John Bunyan greatly influenced society’s understanding of the gospel and the God of the gospel.  Since these authors have and continue to elongate the reasoning and comprehension of the Bible, their influence on the Christian beliefs should also be studied within the realm of theology.

The Bible is the main source for understanding God and His way of living. While a crucial attribute to theology is describing and explaining the scripture, there are other documents that should also be considered when examining Christian beliefs.  Alternative writings and sources should come alongside the Bible to create a clear and easily understood theology.

Acts 17:16-31 Response

God is here.  I love that the God we serve is ever-present and ever-willing to help.  He is not an abstract concept, he is a personal connection.  Unfortunately, there are many people who believe in the One, True God, and yet miss out on this close relationship.  In Acts 17:16-31, Paul addresses this issue by showing the Athens that God desires to intimately interact with each individual, rather than receive religious sacrifices and offerings.

Paul used strategic methods to connect with his audience and persuade them to his reasoning.  In verse 22, Paul began by recognizing the Athens’ devoutness to their religion.  This caused them to validated and respected, which helped them become more open to listening to Paul’s announcement.  Paul then acknowledged that the Athens did not know the God they worshiped, which they even admitted on their altar.  By formatting his speech this way, Paul affirmed the Athens’ religious faithfulness while showing them that their religion could have a greater impact if they knew the God they served.

Paul continued his declaration by stating the features roles of God.  As the Athens did not know God personally, Paul displayed to them the character and heart of God.  He described God as the Creator and Lord (24), a Provider (25), a present Power (27-28), and a Father (29).  Paul knew that telling the Athens to get to know God on their own efforts would likely have little impact, so he laid out to them who God truly is.  Paul’s desire was for the Athens to catch a glimpse of God’s great love and care for people, which would hopefully motivate them to know the God they devoutly worshiped.

Paul recognized that he could substantially impact the Athens during his brief time there, but he had to be careful in how he formed his statements.  The Athens were religious in their actions, but they did not know the reason for their religious deeds.  Paul’s thoughtfully structured speech validated the Athens’ current religious faithfulness and encouraged them to be faithful to God, who was waiting to join them.

 

Posted in January

Week 1 Homework (due 1/13/17)

Mosaic: Introduction Summary 

  1. Unapologetic Apology for Yet Another Handbook of Christian Doctrine
    1. This book fills a gap in Christian literature
      1. “thoroughly biblical and faithful to the Great Tradition of Christianity”
      2. “contemporary in its restatement of what Christians have always believed”
      3. “a mediating theological perspective within the broad tradition of evangelical Protestant Christianity”
      4. non-speculative- it aims to justify the reasoning
      5. “simplicity without oversimplification”- avoids theological jargon and explains technical terms
  2. Both-and Rather than Either-Or Theology
    1. Theology scares many Christians
      1. they assume that this caused the problems with Christianity
  1. Christianity is at risk to become a “folk religion”
    1. feelings instead of intellect
    2. resist criticism and confessing beliefs
    3. New-Age movement- 1970
    4. little or no public impact
    5. Christian’s decline in “awareness of basic Christian beliefs”
  2. This book aims to give “a fresh exposition of the old Christian faith in its unity and diversity”
    1. the book covers beliefs, in both doctrine and theology
      1. belief- “assent of the mind to a proposition (truth claim) or set of propositions”
        1. Christians have always believed certain things and not believed other things
      2. doctrine- “a relatively complex religious belief”
        1. develops from beliefs
        2. there is a doctrine of separation of church and state
      3. theology- “the process of examination and reflection that leads to the construction and reconstruction of doctrines”
        1. theology is process, doctrine is product
        2. heresy- wrong belief, that must be rejected
        3. dogma- an unquestionable, required doctrine
  3. Either-or theology or both-and theology
    1. either-or theology- people accept false alternatives, i.e. either this or this
    2. both-and theology- often unused, people recognize both sides are true
    3. theology should “construct relatively coherent, workable models of the transcendent realities revealed by God in Jesus Christ and the inspired Scripture”
    4. both-and theology does not exclude either-or theology
      1. “it looks at twin truths of divine revelation and seeks to do justice to both”
    5. historical theology has illustrations of false either-or reasoning
      1. example: debate between Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus
    6. both-and theology is important
      1. false doctrines undermines Christianity
      2. quarreling and indifference, due to reasoning with theology, becomes scandalous
      3. convinces Christians importance of doctrine and theology
  4. Writer’s theological perspective
    1. influenced by various forms of Christianity
    2. evangelical approach
    3. will try to avoid biases in the work

 

Question Response

The complexity of theology provides opportunities for improper arguments and beliefs.  Either-or theology, in particular, causes individuals to disregard certain beliefs as they do not fit into more strongly held beliefs.  It holds that since one statement seems truer than another statement, only that statement is true.  Both-and theology endeavors to eliminate this fallacy.  Both-and theology provides the space for an individual to believe two views, even when they appear contradictory.

The both-and approach to interpreting theology benefits those who employ it.  It specifically works well when two arguments appear to be true but conflicts with each other.  An example of this is the Bible’s statements that Satan is the God of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and that God is over all, including the world (Ephesians 4:6).  If these two passages were explained through either-or theology, one of the statements would be deemed false, invalidating the Bible reliability.  By understanding the verses through either-or theology, a person can recognize both the power that Satan holds in the world and how in spite of this, God still remains over all.

Both-and theology is not perfect, however.  Since this approach can classify two opposing views as true, it can cause believers, or non-believers, to believe both sides of an argument when only one side is true.  This can be seen when Christians know God wants them to bless them (Malachi 3:10), but believe that God blessing them financially is a form of greed (Psalm 37:16).  People who take a both-and approach to understanding this may decide that God should not financially bless them and coincidentally miss out on God’s provisions.  While both-and theology is not appropriate for every theological dilemma, it provides an opening to validate two contradictory views, a crucial aspect of understanding theology.