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.