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In the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John’s Gospel is well known for its emphasis on the not-this-worldliness of Jesus’ message. Unfortunately, this has led many to falsely assume that the kingdom Jesus lived and died for is an otherworldly reality. Others, who are attracted to the unequivocally earthly character of the Gospel of Luke and the fiery Old Testament prophets of justice, tend to downplay passages, such as the one I just quoted. They downplay these passages in order to shed the gospel of its more seemingly more spiritualistic and superstitious elements. Both are gravely mistaken. So, what are we supposed to make of Jesus’ claim that his peace is not of this world? (more…)
Does anyone have any thoughts about the problem of supersessionism? It is becoming more and more apparent to me that place of “Israel according to the flesh” (henceforth, simply “Israel”) in Christian thinking is theologically consequential—but that it is just not clear. The question of Israel is a pressing issue in the theologies of both James Cone and Robert Jenson, and in at least one conversation I had with Jenson, we came to the shared conclusion that the church’s thinking on this matter is directly related to political theology; this is because, insofar as the church is, by definition, the gathering of the nations to Israel, the way the church answers the question of Israel has a direct impact on the way that the church understands itself as a polity (i.e., as the gathering of the nations).
All that’s fine. But having said that, the most basic theological reasoning seems to consistently lead me to say things that, if I step back, sound awfully supersessionistic (is that even a word?). For example, I think God’s election of Israel according to the flesh is not other than God’s election of Jesus according to the flesh; the event of Israel’s messiah is not docetic. In that this is so—and orthodox Christianity says that it is—Jesus is the telos of Israel, the one in whom the election and calling and vocation of Israel come to their fulfillment. But in that that is so, the ongoing particularity of Israel apart from the man Jesus seems, at best, theologically redundant. (more…)
What is perhaps most difficult for people to grasp in this age of science and technology is the difference between God and creatures, between being as such and beings. It is difficult, because we are trained to think about reality in a linear fashion. We are very good at, for instance, identifying and understanding the chain of causes that let to this or that phenomenon. We easily comprehend what doctors are doing when they test for the underlying causes of symptoms. We find it obvious that a drunk driver is likely to cause a car accident. Most people have no problem dealing with efficient causation in the world of things, that is, within space and time.
However, things get pretty convoluted when we start to talk about divine action, especially creation. Most of us have some trouble grasping the vertical relationship between God and creatures. Most Christians are used to thinking about God quasi-deistically. They see God primarily as the first cause among many, who occasionally might interrupt the chain of natural causes. God, in this picture, is a being in the universe who is only different from creatures by being a lot more powerful, intelligent, and morally admirable. However, this creates numerous problems for Christianity. (more…)
Theology is talking about God, and talking about all things, sacred or secular, in their relationship to God.
What makes a theology trinitarian?
A couple of options immediately present themselves. Perhaps the most common, with roots even in the classical tradition, is to take some subject matter, doctrinal or otherwise and engage in what’s called appropriation. Showing how some aspect of the subject matter imitates the Father, Son, and Spirit, respectively. This can be fun and perhaps fruitful, but it lacks any real precision that could raise it above mere speculation.
Further, by supposing that creature can participate differently in the Father, Son, and Spirit, could imply that the Trinity is composed of three substantial entities that just so happen to then be related in a certain way. The opposite is the case. In the Trinity there are relations that are so perfect that they subsist as Persons.
Another option, more a product of our times, is to say that a theology is trinitarian because it deals with relationality. I find this mode of trinitarian theology to be unpersuasive as well. It is sheer anthropomorphism.