Day: 16 May 2010

the more I study the Bible . . .

The substance of this post seems to have originated with Diglot, which then spread to Εις Δοξαν, and then made its way to Rightly Dividing before finally commandeering this blog. When Diglot gave his summary, it addressed the question of ‘liberal’ vs. ‘conservative’ views regarding certain points of politics and theology, with both sets of views stemming from further readings of a single source: the Bible. When Εις Δοξαν and Rightly gave their summaries, the political question was sidelined in order to focus solely on the theological.

Like Εις Δοξαν and Rightly, I will avoid the political side of things for now (mainly because I’m still working those out in my own head). Unlike Diglot, however, I will refrain from using the ‘liberal’-‘conservative’ categories simply because they are too slippery and they tend to be based on the ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’  tendencies of the one calling something else ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’.* In my own work and thinking, I have begun using the categories of ‘critical’ or ‘uncritical’, which, to me, describes the way in which people wrestle with key issues.** And by ‘critical’ I do not mean views that are negative, deconstructive, or even lib. . .(that was a close one); instead, I simply mean: ‘has the person done their homework in an honest, fair and rigourous manner?’

All of that aside, here is my list of where I am theologically as a result of further and continued readings of the Bible:***

  • Scope of salvation: while I maintain an exclusive view, I allow room for the possibility of surprises. God’s grace is infinitely greater than mine.
  • Hell: I do not accept any description of hell that even resembles Dante’s portrait (although his is a fun read), with its various levels of punishment based on particular types of sins. Hell is separation from God (and I believe that separation to be eternal), so any amount of torture or punishment or darkness–however heinous–is a cake-walk compared to that separation.
  • Evolution: while I am sensitive to the debate on this issue, and while I have great respect for those who attempt to make a case for theistic-evolution, my personal view is that, the discussion is conducted primarily on philosophical grounds (like Darwin’s Origin of Species) rather than textual. If the Bible were trying to make a case for the development of species, then the debate with evolution would make sense. However, since I do not see the Bible being concerned with explaining things in a Darwinian or anti-Darwinian fashion, I see this particular debate as a bit forced.
  • Inerrancy of the Bible: I believe the Bible to be true in what it proclaims, especially as it relates to God’s ultimate plan of restoring a broken and sinful world to himself.
  • Young or old: (my wife will love this one) I cannot believe the earth to be 6000 years old or even 10,000, and I cannot hold to a literal 24-hour-7-day view of creation–the text simply does not require such a reading. Moreover, there is too much within the account that speaks against a literal 24-hour-7-day creation. What I do believe is that God created the universe and everything in it.
  • ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it. . .’: the particular views of Preterist, partial-Preterist, hyper-Preterist, historic-Premillennialism, Dispensational-Premillennialism (and all of its ridiculous subcategories), Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism are all interesting (in their distinctive ways), but I am not inclined to accept any of them. I believe that Jesus will return, and that this return will be without warning, which means predictions on such an event are futile and misguided (not to mention ascriptural). I further believe that when Jesus returns, the dead will be resurrected and will join those still alive when they gather to meet his return. I also believe that, with this return, final judgment will be announced on all humanity and that a full restoration of heaven and earth (i.e. the Garden) will occur.
  • Atonement: I am deeply sympathetic to both ‘penal-substitution’ view and ‘Christus Victor‘, primarily because both have explanatory scope and power, even though the ‘penal’ view is a bit archaic (in the sense that the feudal structure of society no longer exists, and it was that structure that allowed for a ‘penal’ view to flourish). Here, I have to agree with Rightly who states that no single view of atonement is an adequate explanation in itself.  (See the final bit of my earlier post on ‘Good Friday’ to see why I stand by this conclusion).
  • Caught up?: I cannot believe in a ‘rapture’ (as passionately held by Dispensationalists), mainly because the point of 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17 is something else (not to mention the fact that the Greek word usually translated as ‘rapture’ does not mean what Dispensationalists think it means). This rejection necessarily speaks to the question of whether or not Christians will endure the so-called 7-year Tribulation (which I do not take to be a literal 7 years). There is simply nothing in the biblical text to suggest that Christians will ever escape θλιψις (tribulation) or that θλιψις is only reserved for a particular time in history. There is, however, plenty of affirmation that Christ is with those who faithfully endure θλιψις; and more importantly, that Christ has overcome the ultimate cause and effect of θλιψις.
  • ‘Original Sin’: I cannot ascribe to the Augustinian view of ‘original sin’ in the sense that every human being is damned to hell from birth. Part of my disbelief in this regard is quite simple: the term ‘original’ is a misnomer, for it only applies to human beings after Adam and Eve, thus ‘original’ is not ‘original’. (Pedantic, I know; but so was Augustine, so shame on him). I am more inclined to believe in a inherent (not inherited) sinful nature, or a propensity to sin. Similarly, I am more inclined to believe in an inherent (not inherited) good nature, or propensity to do good. In other words, as dangerous as this might be to admit, I am (currently) persuaded by the Qumran and Rabbinic view of yetzer hara and yetzer hatov. (Discussions of whether or not this is to be read as Pelagian, semi-Pelagian or non-Pelagian will have to be curbed for now).

* I said I wasn’t going to use those categories, and yet I referred to them three times in one sentence.  Stupid me.
** Do not read this as, ‘Diglot, Εις Δοξαν and Rightly are not critical in their thinking’. All three of them are extremely bright individuals and each committed to wrestling with theological questions in an admirable fashion.
*** This listing merely follows the ones provided on the blogs mentioned, which means this list is not meant to be exhaustive.