Embrace the Mystery: Does all of theology “make sense”

Logical contradictions

It is an interesting phenomenon, especially in western post-enlightenment, modernist thinking that we hate paradoxes.  People have been so conditioned to abhor logical contradictions that when it comes to pondering the mysteries of an infinite God, contradictions cannot be accepted. This hatred of paradoxes goes far to explain why many good, well meaning followers of Jesus ‘got it wrong’ when explaining some of the difficult concepts in Christianity.

Children are taught from a young age that there are certain laws of nature (also called laws of logic) which cannot be broken.  These children are not taught logic explicitly but the worldview in which they are raised does not allow for paradoxes.  While I agree that most of life does not defy the laws of logic, I would assert that God being who He is has the ability to go against well understood natural laws.  I will discuss these laws of logic briefly then attempt to support my statement that God can and has broken some of these laws.

The 3 laws of logic (a brief summary)

The 3 laws of logic are: the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of excluded middle.  The Law of Identity, simply stated is: P is P.  This seems an obvious statement therefore due to its nature is confusing but all this means is that a statement is, and is NOT something else.  The second law, the Law of Non-contradiction, asserts that it is not possible for something to be and not-be at the same time in the same place.  For example, it cannot be raining and not raining at the same time in the same place. The third law (that of the Law of excluded middle) states simply that one has either P or not P, there is no 3rd option.  In the example of it raining outside this says it is either raining or not raining, there is no other option for that statement.  These three laws hold true for the universe at all times and in all places (except when it comes to God).

So What??

So what’s the point of discussing laws of logic when talking about God?   I brought up the ideas of the laws of logic in an attempt to have us understand what the phrase, ‘it does not make sense’ really means.  When someone says that an concept makes no sense what they are saying often is that the idea being pondered does not fit into their worldview which denies allowances for contradictions.  Having said this little bit about logic and how our minds work when it comes to contradictions, I would like to make the assertion that much of Christianity does not make sense, thus is illogical, yet true nonetheless.  God has and does defy the laws of logic and sometimes ‘God just does not make sense’.

Does the biblical view of the Triune God make sense?

When pondering some of the basic doctrines that are unique to Christianity, we must come to the conclusion they are biblical, even though they are illogical.  One of the fundamental teachings in both the New and Old Testaments is that there is one and only one true God.  Genesis 1:1 states “in the beginning God . . .” stressing to readers the monotheistic religion of Judaism (and later Christianity).  Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, states positively “the Lord is one”.  Yet there are hints in the Old Testament and explicit statements in the New Testament asserting there is more to the unity of God, there is a triunity.  In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Christians use these 2 verses and many, many others to show the equality of God the Father, Jesus (God the Son), and (God) the Holy Spirit.  If they are equal then they are all God, however, there can only be one God so the doctrine of the Trinity does not make logical sense.  Nevertheless for one to be dogmatic on the ‘Oneness’ of God while rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is unbiblical.  The Bible teaches there is One God, yet Three persons are ascribed with divine attributes. 

Arius got it wrong, but his way does make sense

A bishop (pastor) of a Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt around AD 300 (his name was Arius) thought he had solved the difficult doctrine of ‘how to better understand the person of Jesus and the assertions that Jesus is God.’  Arius said God is one and therefore Jesus must be a created being (albeit the highest of all created beings).  To Arius’s mind and worldview Jesus could not be fully God or there would exist 2 God, which is contradictory to the teachings of the Holy Bible.  Arius is quoted as saying, ‘there was a time when Jesus was not’, which would mean He is not eternal, ergo not God.  This was logical to Arius and his many followers, however it is unbiblical.  In the New Testament we have many, many accounts of Jesus accepting worship that is only fit for God.  Arius attempted to put forth a doctrine that was ‘logical’ to him.  At the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 3ooish bishops gathered to discuss the idea of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus).  Their conclusion would later be refined into what is called the Nicene Creed, which states, concerning Jesus,

                                      We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
                                      the only Son of God,
                                      eternally begotten of the Father,
                                      God from God, Light from Light,
                                      true God from true God,
                                      begotten, not made,
                                      of one Being with the Father.
                                      Through him all things were made.

As you can read they were very intentional and specific on the wording as to not confuse the statement.  The orthodox view of Jesus would forever include this understanding of His person.

I believe this statement gives a precise description of the ‘begottenness’ of Jesus.  I believe Arius was not intentionally unbiblical, he just wanted to ‘wrap his mind around’ these ideas and his aforementioned statement was the best way for him to understand a very complex (yet ESSENTIAL) doctrine.

So what’s the point?????

Here’s the point of my discussion:  Christianity is full of things we just cannot fully comprehend and may not make sense, WE JUST NEED TO EMBRACE THE MYSTERY  and do our best to understand it as biblically as possible.  I had a seminary professor once (shout out to Dr. Albert George “Joe” Crawford (who I refer to often as Albertus Magnus)) who said one thing in relationship to mysteries of God that has always stuck with me.  Dr. Crawford said we as followers of Jesus are to say all the Bible says about any certain topic, no more and no less.  And we are to leave the rest up to calling it a mystery that we will never fully understand.  We are to be comfortable in living with the tension that exists concerning these issues.

Please give me your input and comments.

Question:  Who are some of the people from your past that have made a lasting impression on your thinking.  I would love to read a brief description of the person and the ‘words of wisdom’.

 

Good night and God Bless

 

 

3 Bullet Friday: Timothy Keller

Which person to highlight in contemporary Christianity (2017 America)

There are so many well known Christian leaders and thinkers these days it is difficult to decide on which one to highlight.  As I always do I take some time to ponder the people or events about whom I would like to write.  Many names came to mind, but then I thought I wanted to focus on someone who is around right now (AD 2017).  Even with this I thought of several people who are seen (some I agree with their theology, some I do not) as thought-provoking individuals in Christendom:  John Piper, John MacArthur, Nancy Pearcy, Dallas Willard (although he died just a few years ago), Timothy Keller, N. T. Wright, Max Lucado, Rob Bell, Franklin Graham, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, and many others.

So the question is: who do you pick?  I decided that I would write and emphasize Dr. Timothy Keller.

A short biography of Timothy Keller

Dr. Keller was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1950.  He earned his BA from Bucknell University, MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and his DMin from Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania.  In his years at Bucknell he became acquainted with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, through which Keller became a Christian.  He is interested in urban ministries (sharing the Gospel and discipling new Christian) in the urban areas of large cities.  He and his wife founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989.  Their church has grown into an attendance of 5,000 people per week.  It is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is reformed in its theology.  Dr. Keller is very well known for his pastor’s approach to issues as well as his emphasis on Christian apologetics.  He is the author of several books, among them being:  The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism; Jesus the King; Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering.  

I have not read all of Keller’s books (actually I only read one: The Reason for God, and I own the one on Pain and Suffering but have not read it yet) and was truly impressed with his approach to the topics.  His paradigm is from the perspective of a pastor.  I have read many books and articles discussing some of the major ‘apologetics’ issues, such as the existence of God or the problem of evil, with most of them coming from an academic perspective.  Keller is as academic as most, but uses simple language to express complex issues.  I very much appreciate his pastoral handling of these difficult, yet extremely important subjects.

My 3 bullets for Tim Keller:

  • He writes and preaches about deep theological issues from a pastor’s heart and perspective

  • His time of influence is 2017, so he is dealing with issues current for our time (such as same sex union and suffering)

  • He approach is to address contemporary subjects in a thoughtful and simplistic way, in order for the person who is not schooled in Christian scholarship to understand and ponder.

 

Please let me know what you think of Tim Keller.  Who is a significant Christian to you about whom you would like others to know??

Good Day and God Bless

For What Should I Be Thankful?

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2016 and this is what I am thankful for

As I pondered what to write in this blog I kept coming back to Thanksgiving and what I am thankful for.  I also did a little research on some respected men from church history to see what they thanked God for.  There are so many things for which to be thankful if I stopped to write them all down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the list and explanations of all the things for which I am thankful (I tried to paraphrase John 21:25).  But the point is there are so many things I take for granted every day for which I should be thankful, it seems an insurmountable task to list them all.

Sort of keeping up on the theme of 3 bullet Thursday on this Thanksgiving

I simply decided to tell 3 things for which I am thankful then give you a link to read a short article on a Thanksgiving Day sermon from Jonathan Edwards.  Here are the 3 things for which I am thankful:  Faith, Family, and Friends (although those of you who know me could add a 4th, which would be Food, but that’s another blog post).

  • Faith

  • Family

  • Friends

My faith is extremely important to me.  I tried to thank God daily not only for His love, mercy, and grace but specifically the love that sent His Son to die a horrible death to deal with my sins.  I spend some time every day pondering the mysteries of Christianity.  I attempt to filter all of my life through the lens of God and His world.

My family is another thing that I am thankful for.  I grew up with a Christian mom and dad who tried to instill in me the importance of seeking after and living for the God of the universe.  Also have brothers and a sister with whom God has blessed me.  I enjoy their fellowship and interaction.  My wife is the most wonderful woman on the planet for me.  She keeps me grounded and gives unconditional love.  My 2 children are a blessing who have taught me much about myself and my shortcomings.

My friends are a Godsend that I do not take lightly.  Each of them shows me something to which I should and can aspire: whether it be more study of the Bible, or more passion for family, or more compassion for the needy.  I cherish the times spent in conversation and dialogue.

I could go on and on and on and on and on, but I won’t

As mentioned earlier I could go on about the innumerable blessings God has given me and then ponder a deeper question, which is Why has he blessed me so much, but I will stop here.

A short description of a Thanksgiving sermon by Jonathan Edwards

As I was researching people from church history and what they said about giving thanks, I came across an article from Christianity Today from several years ago that gives a link to a sermon by Jonathan Edwards on Thanksgiving and then summarized the sermon.  I thought this was a very good article so here is the link, enjoy.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/november/edwards-ian-thanksgiving.html

For what are you thankful,  let me know.

Be thankful, be very thankful

Good night, and God bless

What are some of the ‘bumper stickers’ from Church History?

As I study Church History I attempt to boil down enormous bunches of information into bitesized pieces.  There is SO much information on almost an infinite number of people and events that there seems to be just TOO MUCH for the average person to keep in their minds.  So as I teach I try to summarize the important things concerning people into small bites.  My goal is to pull out 3 to 5 significant facts (other than of course their particular time period and geographical location) so that when I come across that person in discussions or readings my mind can recall some of these facts.  I understand that this is not the entirety of their importance (some would say these things may possibly be irrelevant to the big picture), but to me, if I can recall a few select bits of info about someone then I have the capabilities to learn about more people.

I see my options as:  1.  learning a lot about  few people, but being someone ignorant of the rest, or 2.  learning a little about more people, therefore having a more well rounded understanding of Church History in its context.

So here are just a few ‘bumper stickers’ from different people in different eras:

Bumper Stickers from the Protestant Reformation – 

  • Sola Scriptura – this means the authority for the Christian should be the Bible and only the Bible (this idea protests against the Roman Catholic Church having the Bible and tradition, and the Pope as their authority).
  • Sol Fide – this means Faith Alone:  it is from the conviction that salvation is for the person who believes in the salvific work of Jesus only, and not based on deeds or acts that one does.
  • Sola Gratia – this means Grace Alone:  it is the clarification that salvation comes from God based on GRACE ONLY, and not on anything the person does, has, or is.
  • Soli Deo Gloria – this means ‘to God alone be the glory’:  God exclusively should be the person to be praised, no other entity is worthy of as much honor and glory.

There are many other ‘bumper stickers’ that can be seen in the history of Christianity.  In the future I will be mentioning others, just to have a summary (although truly inadequate) of some of the people, places, events, and movements in Church History.