While engaging in theology, it characterizes one’s path and beginning steps, as in the Nicene Creed, is faith: We “believe.” Faith differentiates theology from other academic goals. Other disciplines include the first aspect of faith- “We believe that.” The foundation of Christian theology is we believe that God exists. We can’t limit theology to ordinary standards of educational practice because this makes God an object of study as if He is someone we hover over and control using specific methods.
Theology is an engagement with a person. God is ultimately the subject of theology, the person for which who calls and encounters us. “The fact is, we are not only to believe that God exists but also to believe in God, entering into a posture and disposition of trust and surrender” (Blackwell). We all might believe (knowledge) that eating salads will make us healthy, but it is not until you embrace eating it regularly, you commit yourself to that reality. The key is faith.
A common Christian term for special revelation is the “Word of God.” We as Christians refer to this primarily to the Bible. We can also see the concept of the “word of God” as a person, divine person, the word sent to dwell among us to lead the way, the truth, and the life. When we look at the Gospel of John, he declares the foundational truth that: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and lived among us” (1:1,14). The main Word that is addressed to humanity is Jesus Christ, which is the incarnate Son of God, who is the climax of God’s redemptive acts.
Within the person and work, Jesus communicates in the most trustworthy way who God truly is and how we are to live in this light. Jesus is ultimately the Word of God revealed.
It is easy for all of us to allow other pursuits to cloud our spiritual vision. Yes, we must all work to earn money, get a new house, and take vacations. Today, we get so caught up in chasing after money and success that we leave God out of the equation altogether. We must seek first his will in our lives. When we truly do that, everything else will come into balance. Seek the kingdom of God in everything that you do. If you fail to do this very thing, it will only guarantee confusion, failure, and emptiness.
I think freedom is a roadblock to belief in God I find most challenging to address. Today as a culture, we believe freedom is the highest good. Becoming free is the only heroic story we have left. Giving individuals freedom is the main role of any institution and society itself. The question is, do we have to choose between freedom and faith in God? Tim Keller answered this question by saying yes but no. True-the ideal of individual freedom in Western society has done incalculable good. It has led to a far more just and fair society for minorities and women. Indeed, there is a danger that a critique of the idea of freedom could be used to weaken or roll back these gains. But false- freedom has come to be defined as the absence of any limitations or constraints on us. By this definition, the fewer boundaries we have on our choices and actions, the freer we feel ourselves to be.
Modern freedom is the freedom of self-assertion. I am free if I may do whatever I want. But defining freedom this way-as the absence of constraint on choices- is unworkable because it is an impossibility. Keller stated that religion is seen as the enemy of freedom. Instead of allowing religious authorities or tradition to dictate to us, we should be free to believe or live as we choose. None of us are free agents. We are all worshipping and serving something. But the big question is: which “master” will affirm, cherish, empower, and honor us, and which ones will exploit and abuse us? There is no such thing as freedom without constraints. We should be looking for the right, liberating constraints that fit our nature and design. If there is no God, we will have to turn some created thing into a god to worship, and whatever it is, it will punish us with inner fears, resentment, guilt, and shame if we fail to achieve it.
Most people want the freedom to do what they want, whenever they want. They don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, especially by God, who has rules for life for our benefit that many don’t agree with because it goes against their thoughts on the fundamental right of freedom.
One way we can express reasonable belief in God is using references outside of scripture to start. Most people who don’t believe won’t start off relying on scripture seeing that they don’t believe in God and won’t see reason with a book that was man-made.
I would express that it is reasonable to believe in God by reasoning cause to affect. I would start with the Cosmic Wonder stating that space, time, and matter had a beginning. Nothing cannot produce something. Everything must come from something that already existed. This means that there must be some unique being that exists without a cause, that did not spring out of nothing, that is its own cause and the source of everything else. That one being who is Being itself is God.
Another reasonable argument for belief in God is moral realism. We have moral feelings and obligations that we intuitively know. We know right from wrong because it has been written on our hearts. If there is no God, moral obligation appears to be an illusion caused by our evolutionary biology or culture. If there is no God, then whatever we do is just a matter of opinion (ex. Torturing babies for fun). If we have moral values and we do believe that some things are absolutely wrong to do, then it makes more sense in a universe created by a personal God to whom we feel responsible than it does an impersonal universe with no God.
I would also express the fine-tuning and design of the world. The fine-tuning of the Universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design. The characteristics of design in the Universe demonstrate the existence of a Designer. When we look at something like a watch, we know that it had to have a watchmaker. When we see a building, we know that it had to have a builder. Like that, when we see creation, we come to believe that creation must have a creator. Either you have to take a great step of faith to believe there is a God who designed the Universe, or you must take a great step of faith to believe that everything was designed on its own.
In the OT, the Spirit is susceptible to a mere dynamistic or impersonal interpretation, as simply representing Yahweh’s divine presence or power. In the NT, the Spirit appears in dynamistic mode, as the power of the Father or Son. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit speaks (1:16), is lied to (5:3), is tempted (5:9), bears witness (5:32), is resisted (7:21), snatches (8:39), sends (13:4), thinks good (15:28), forbids (16:6), prevents (16:7), and appoints (20:28) – all personal acts. The Spirit can also be blasphemed (Mark 3:28-9; 12:32), which requires for the Spirit both a personal and a divine identity.
There are no biblical texts that explicitly identify the Spirit as God. In the OT, the Spirit plays an integral role in creation (Gen. 1:2), and the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in judgment (John 16:8-11) and in re-creation (John 3:5-8). The new creation is a pervasive soteriological theme in the NT; this includes the Spirit in the work of salvation, which, as with other divine functions, can be performed only by God, even though the Spirit is never explicitly called Savior.
It was John that portrays the Holy Spirit when he depicts Jesus stating that after his departure, the Father will send (literally) “another paraclete,” implying that the Son is the first Paraclete. The Spirit is the Paraclete who proceeds from the Father (15:26) and is sent by Christ (16:7) to glorify the Son (16:14) by way of hearing and speaking what Christ directs (16:13-14), teaching and reminding disciples (14:26), and convicting and judging the world (16:8-11).
The Holy Spirit is the paraclete Jesus promised at his ascension, the advocate, encourager, and counselor. Paul calls the Holy Spirit the “spirit of adoption” because the Spirit is the “bond” that unites us to Christ in adoption as sons and daughters of God, meaning we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Salvation, then, means adoption as a child of God, which comes only through union with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Sacraments are a second means by which the church proclaims the triune God’s work in the world, but liturgically central in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. The sacraments provide this more concrete, even sensual, experience of God’s word as the physical sign (i.e., water, bread, wine) symbolizes and makes present the reality that it signifies (i.e., the gospel promise).The Greek term for “sacrament” was mysterion, and means “mystery.” Baptism, the rite of passage into the Christian church, and communion (Eucharist)or (Lord’s Supper), the rite of spiritual sustenance, have almost universally been accepted as sacraments in the Christian tradition.
It is said that In baptism, the initiate is included in the saving promises connected to the death and resurrection of Christ, as symbolized by her rising up out of the waters of death (Rom. 6:4-4). In the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, given as a saving atonement for sinful human beings, are represented and remembered through the consumption of bread and wine, a sacrament that is meant to nourish Christian faith, hope, and love. These two sacraments, one that is oriented to the beginning of the Christian life and the other that concerns the ongoing nurture of the Christian life, are accepted by most Protestant churches, since they refer to the death and resurrection of Christ and were specifically commanded by him to be observed (e.g., Matt. 28:19 and 26:26-8).
Plantinga wrote that the Christian account of creation is unique in that it does not depict the world as originating as a byproduct of a cosmic conflict, but rather deliberately and ex nihilo – out of nothing – created by the will and at the spoken command of a good and all-powerful Creator. According to Genesis, God created the world in six days, including the human man and woman who he created in his image. On the seventh day, God rested because the Sabbath “sanctifies or sets apart the creation as very good and hallows God as its benevolent Creator.”
A Christian account of creation can be described as, “In the beginning God.” This represents God’s creation at a particular time. Genesis 1:1 portrays this very statement. As Christians, we account for the days of creation that the Bible states as “it was evening and it was morning. Man was created on the last day as the highlight of God’s creation. When God was finished with the creation of man, he stated “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). This all affirms that man was not an accident but the direct creation of God.
Christians’ account of the “fall” involved man being placed in the garden (Adam and Eve) and giving the opportunity to obey God, leading humanity in eternal blessing. Adams’s loyalty and obedience failed God’s test due to Adam’s participation in sin. Adam and Eve gave in to Satan’s temptation and ate the forbidden fruit. Even though Eve was deceived, Adam’s participation made Adam the first sinner (Roman. 5:12-21).
The nature of humanity and our fallen condition separated us from God. Adam and Eve broke the communion and fellowship with God. From that point on, man has been corrupt in many ways. We have a nature to hurt others instead of building them up. We tend to hate, murder, steal and disobey every law that God gave.
Evil takes a variety of forms. Natural Evil occurs when natural forces oppress and devour innocent victims, such as tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes wreak havoc on communities. Moral Evil, which occurs when acts perpetrated by accountable moral agents result in suffering. The best available defense for the Problem of Evil is the “free-will defense.” God desired that moral creatures freely respond to God-that is, in love, of which freedom is a necessary condition. Because we have free will, that allows us to love, but also the opportunity to do Evil.
The task of Christian theology is to describe the contents (what we believe) and all implications (how we should live) of the Christian faith for the Christian Church. As Plantinga stated, “The story begins with the creation of the world, relates humanity’s fall away from God into sin, and climaxes with the salvific life and death of Jesus Christ, while anticipating the fulfillment of human history and the renewal of creation.”
Christian theology works from three main sources:
The primary source of theology is Scripture because it relates to the triune God, creation, and their relation. It all starts with the creation of everything, how humanity fell into sin, which separated us from God, salvation through the life and death of Jesus while waiting on the renewal of creation.
The second source of theology is Christian tradition through a way of worship, spirituality, biblical interpretation, and theological reflection. Earlier in church, it was a real need to clarify the Christian beliefs, and this led to the development of the “Creeds.” Protestantism considers these sources to be secondary in terms of normative value, and subordinate to Scripture, but Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy treat them as co-equal in authority with Scripture.
The third source would be Philosophy (“love of wisdom”) which are the truths taken from human inquiry. When we think of truth, it does not always come from scripture or the church. We gain further knowledge by thinking and experimenting, with the world around us. It was stated that, “If theology is to make contact with the real world, we must constantly ask whether our conclusions on the basis of scripture and tradition make good sense, whether they cohere with the world of our experience.
Churches have always decided which parts of the Bible are valid for today. What is a teaching in the Bible that your church tradition tends not to see as valid for today when perhaps it ought to? Conversely, what is a teaching in the Bible that your church tradition tends to see as valid for today when perhaps it ought not to?
I will first start with a teaching in the Bible that my church tradition tends to see as valid for today and shouldn’t. Keep in mind this is not my (current church) but the one I grew up in. The early Christians spoke in tongues (Acts 2), Paul spoke in tongues frequently (1 Corinthians 14:18), and Christians throughout the church have spoken in tongues. The tradition is, when you are saved (Baptized in the Holy Spirit), you will be able to speak in tongues. It has been long a tradition that if you are truly saved, it will demonstrate through the gift of tongues. This is not valid today because speaking in tongues is not a requirement to be saved, nor is it a requirement to demonstrate the gift of tongues as proof that you are saved. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says that “the Spirit distributes gifts to individual believers as he determines.” As (He determines) is the key! Not everyone will have the gift of speaking in tongues, so it is not a tradition that should be looked at as valid today biblically. Some people will have that gift but it is not valid today in order to be saved or a right of passage for demonstrating that we are saved.
One teaching in the Bible that my church tradition tends not to see valid today in which they should is, what and how to properly (sow seeds). The problem with this is, sowing has always been spoken in terms of (money) put into the church. The misconception about this is, the Bible is not referring to (money) per se. Sowing seed means “the Word of God,” which is sharing the gospel with others. Don’t get me wrong, sowing sometimes included (crops); like in the OT with Isaac, Genesis 26:12 says that Isaac sowed a crop and received a hundredfold in one season because the Lord targeted him for blessing. Some traditions believe tithing/sowing are the same, where others see it as separate. In my church tradition, the teaching of (sowing seed) was only stated in a manner of money, which came to be false. Galatians 6:7 states, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap. When you exegetically study the verses on sowing, you see that it has been taken extremely out of context. This is why so many “Word of Faith” so-called pastors emphasize (sowing seed) to receive blessings from God. It is put out there mainly in regards to giving all your money because it is the only way God will bless you. What might be traditions that you feel may or may not be valid today?