Monday, April 29, 2019

Glorify me!

I've heard the average pagan, in their typical fit of derision, claim that God is a bit obssesed, wanting to be glorified.

When the average pagan doesn't think about is that they make this claim from their own proud, selfish position, not as God, who is love (1 John 4:7).

God seeks us to glorify him because we particpate in a touch of his life in so doing. He is the one who saves and brings to glory those who turn to  him. It is good to be thrilled at hisi love for us.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Wet fish theology

The opening of John Feinberg's No One Like Him (his doctrine of God contribution to the series Foundations of Evangelical Theology) sent shivers down my spine.

But not good ones!

The first move for belief springs from the creation: Feinberg tells us that "It is hard to imagine that it just "happened" ". As though his imaginative circumference defines the scope of imagination for us all.

Then we slip into his view of a universal hankering for a divine command theory of moral epistemology. A similar forlorn romanticism to the wonders of his imagination, with "...we sense that there must be a moral lawgiver." Some might agree with this, but  many would not; and while there seems to be a universal moral sense that needs explaining; projecting our notion of legislation onto the creator of the universe trivialises the whole notion of the divine.

But we are not yet finished.

The impetus for belief in God stems also "from a desire to understand who we are and why we are here." This is close to a useful theological starting point, although has an discomforting instrumental flavour to it. However, any good it does is immediately swamped by another emotional outburst of romantic floundering: we need a friend in times of trouble...God as problem-solver.

Is that all God is? An emergency aid worker for the crestfallen.

He moves on to get a little more theological, and the later pages of this chapter grow some philosophical chest hairs, but the start itself should be gripping, not flapping like a wet fish on the dock.

I'm perhaps being a little unfair about the 'desire to understand' line. But it has got to be more than a desire: it must be a profound failure to integrate our knowledge, being and sense of other minds into a world that is presented to us as baldly material, as we stand at the tail end of materialist empiricist attempts at dealing with such questions and the threshold of 'New Age/Post-modernist/Critical Theory (sic)' belly gazing irrationality.

The failure of the cosmic rule-maker approach (and the failure too of the related 'God owns us' approach rampant in the Sydney Anglican diocese) is that the 'rules' are not just an arbitrary assortment. The 10 commandments, for example are a coventantal document and are about the representation of the people of God doing God-acts before the watching nations. By God=act, I mean, acting in consistency with being in God's image: loving like God loves! This permeates the NT as well, where our moral settings are 'read down' from who God is: God who is love and who made the creation as the place where we would fellowship.

This is the starting point of the doctrine of God. It flows from who he is as creator-with-a-purpose, the one who, in three persons, is love without beginning and who thus is the point of departure for our 'first philosophy' as Plantinga terms it, or our foundational definition, theologically.

Of course, this would all be undermined by an impoverished theology of Creation (see recent posts in this regard); I await with bated breath for what Feinberg has on this.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Is our fellowship with God real?

Following from my post on Genesis 1, how can we tell that our fellowship with God is real if we deny that his basis for that fellowship: his creation, is not real?

One cannot have it both ways: if Genesis 1 is tossed out, so is what it is said to teach; correspondingly, if it teaches something, it teaches about our fellowship with God as real in a real world created in real terms reflective of that world's real-ness by its real creator.

 Here are some thoughts.

OTOH, if we put Genesis 1 in a box (or 'bubble') we don't end up with knowledge of the God who is, but have a god who is constructed of the 'real world' that comes from somewhere else.

Monday, April 22, 2019

If it ain't real, it ain't tell'n me nuthin.

I'm reminded of an article, famous in some circles, by Deirdre McCloskey "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

I think it was published in the American Scholar (when Deirdre was Donald).

Its a story of 'put your money where your mouth is' and comes to mind as I contemplate attending the local Anglo-Baptist church where a series on Genesis 1-11 is to be presented next term.

I can guess at the outcome: 'Nothing here is real, folks, but still, take it seriously. Now, move along, nothing more to see.'

The nagging trouble with approaches to Genesis, particularly chapters 1 and 2 (and no, Dorothy, they are not separate creation accounts), that present it as other than representing concrete events in and about the world where we encounter and fellowship with our Creator, present it as something completely other than it presents itself, and is so treated by the rest of Scripture.

The top of this pile of refuse is the Framework Hypothesis (for a shorter piece, and here and here). Like those in McCloskey's sights in the article mentioned above, it treats God as a not very good business consultant: can't give the substantiating detail, but only a 'framework'!

Like all non-realist views of Genesis 1, whether regarding it as allegory, 'parable', analogy, metaphor, illustration or opera (!), unless anchored in the concrete and meaningful creation as we experience it and in and by which we encounter God, the account, under these pretenses, can tell us nothing about the real world: the world in which we fellowship with God; or the God who fellowships with us in that same real world. God, fellowship, are consigned to a fantasy land equivalent to the Aboriginal 'dream-time'.

If the events of Genesis 1, the events that define the ground and scope of our fellowship with God, of God's initial move of love, that tell us...indeed show us who we are and the and the nature or the reality that is...that sets the base and ground of our thinking as Christians and knowledge of the world and our relation to it...did not really happen, then something else really happened. Then it is this 'something else' that tells us who we are, what our relation to The Real and our God really is and how our knowledge and experience of 'being' are defined, are to be construed and their significance.

But, on the non-realist vision, we do not know anything of this from the Bible despite its claim to the contrary; and such knowledge is left for the fragile hands of mere human imagination (or materialism riding on the back of an assertion of science). So much for the core and substance of Christian faith in the God who is love, who speaks, and redeems!

A mountain Easter

Easter was away time for family and I.

This Easter it was at Blackheath Anglican Church.

After recent experiences of both 'Anglo-Baptist' and regular Baptist services, this one was a relief.

In fact, it was wonderful.

We gave the Easter greeting, said the confession, read Psalm 51 and John 21, had prayers, said the Lord's Prayer together, also the Apostles' Creed. We were dismissed with the blessing: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."

Does it sound like all the routine stuff? Words that one can let glide over one's head?

But I listen to it and want to take it in. It also reminds me of the millions of Christians now and through history who have been similarly reminded of our faith across space and over time.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Not about me

Tiring of the 'songs about me' of previous post, I attended a friend's church this morning.

At least the songs were better: more theological and not 'about me'. That was good.

Knowing the church, I'd expected more prayer and Bible-reading. I was sorely disappointed. The program below gives it away.

1. Welcome, but no Bible verse to orient us.
2. Kids' spot was OK, seeing it was a 'family' service (this generally means embarrasingly dumbed down, these days).
If it wasn't there I'd like this to be time for some interaction, a couple perhaps giving an ad hoc reflection on something.
3. But only one prayer and one Bible reading!
I would have preferred the double song segment to be split by the reading of another Bible passage.
4. Prayer could have been also improved: perhaps a short prayer at commencement could be added.
5. The 'message' was OK in a Moore College sort of way: I don't know how it is possible to train people to give one-dimensional, narrowly cast sermons distanced from the life-concerns of the faithful! But Moore seems to have the knack.
6. 'Sending out' was good: quote from a Bible verse.

The upshot: not coming back any time fast.