Friday, February 29, 2008


My most recent reflections have revolved around the idea of discipline. There are probably many reasons for this. It certainly seems a reasonable topic of reflection in the middle of Lent. Yet, in reflecting it has been revealed that I have tended to understand discipline in the negative sense. Growing up it wasn't something that one would look forward to or seek out because it usually referred in one way or another to the reddening of one's backside. I learned to avoid discipline.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not questioning the wisdom of the rod. If used appropriately there does seem to be some benefit in getting our tush switched from time to time. But, I'm coming to understand that that is not really what discipline infers. It comes from the Latin word disciplina meaning instruction, knowledge, training. And the root of disciplina is discere meaning to learn, which is where we also get our words discernment and discretion. Etymology tends to be enlightening for me. You see, this is also the root from which we get the word disciple.

I'm certain that discipline involves pain - that was the truth passed down to me in the wisdom of the rod. Yes, it involves pain because discipleship involves pain - denying ourselves...taking up crosses...following a crucified leader. But, what I missed in those early lessons was that discipline also results in joy, peace, grace, and fullness. The pain makes space to makes room to experience and to live.

This whole Lenten journey is a difficult one. I'm attempting to be faithful and stay on the path, but as we get closer and closer to the cross I want to turn go a different find another leader. Sometimes I can't see beyond the cross. It seems as if the road ends there. Of course, I know in my heart of hearts that it is there that death meets new life and defeat becomes victory, but everything else in my beings fights against real reality. I need discipline.

I'll be a father soon. One thinks of discipline in completely new ways when confronted with fatherhood. It looks different on the giving rather than the receiving end. But, I'm convinced that discipline cannot be an end in itself (though it can still happen on our ends, so to speak) - it is a means to achieving the goals of wisdom, discernment and knowledge. It is a tool used to shape and mold our being and action. For we are creatures that require habiting (also an interesting word to explore).

Too often I observe parents who discipline (or don't discipline) for their own sake and not for the sake of their children. And, it seems that discipline, as many other things in this culture, is treated as an end in itself, rather than a tool used to guide and train a child into a life of wisdom. Of course, it could also mean that we no long strive after a life of wisdom...that this is simply not a goal for many these days. The pursuit of "life, liberty, and happiness" (typically meaning acquisition of wealth, fame or choice) seem to rule our collective desires. Maybe I'm wrong to move against the grain of our culture, but it seems to me that there are deeper things to pursue - the deepest being Wisdom. It also seems to me that the life lived in pursuit of wisdom will experience true life, real liberty and genuine happiness - or that which is deeper and more sustaining than "happiness"; joy.

The life in pursuit of Wisdom is also a life lived as a follower of Jesus. He is the embodiment of all Wisdom. To gain wisdom requires discipline - because it requires us to be disciples who become discerning about reality. That is my hope for my life and for my son. May I learn true discipline from Him that I may guide my son into a life of wisdom. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Time Enough

I've blogged about busy-ness before and am fully aware that it is simply a part of our contemporary culture - but I don't like being busy. Part of me is drawn by the pull of eternal rest in the Triune Life, while the rest of me is frantically fragmented by the forces and realities of this world. And though I don't espouse dualistic philosophical language, I can certainly see why and how it developed out of the paradox of human existence.

I wonder sometimes how much of the busy-ness and fragmentation is actually part of this reality and how much is of my own making. That is yet to be determined...but my father-in-law posted something that really struck me on his blog the other day. He has been reading The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume 2, printed in 1888. And this is what Emerson said in one of his letters:

I had it fully in my heart to write at large leisure in noble mornings opened by prayer or readings from Plato or whomsoever else is dearest to the Morning Muse, a new chapter on Poetry, for which all readings, all studies, are but preparation; but now it is July, and my chapter is in rudest beginnings. Yet when I go out of doors in the summer night, and see how high the stars are, I am persueded that there is time enough for all that I must do; and the good world manifests very little impatience.

This idea that "there is time enough for all that I must do" struck me. And then I read this from Henri J. M. Nouwen the other day:

Often we're not as pressed for time as much as we feel we're pressed for time. I remember several years ago becoming so pressured by the demands of teaching at Yale that I took a prayer sabbatical to the Trappist monastery at Geneseo, New York. No teaching, lecturing, or counseling - just solitude and prayer.

The second day there, a group of students from Geneseo College walked in and asked, "Henri, can you give us a retreat?"

Of course at the monastery that was not my decision, but I said to the abbot, "I came here from the university to get away from that type of thing. These students have asked for five meditations, an enormous amount of work and preparation. I don't want to do it."

The abbot said, "You're going to do it."

"What do you mean? Why should I spend my sabbatical time preparing all those things?"

"Prepare?" he replied. "You've been a Christian for forty years and a priest for twenty, and a few high school students want to have a retreat. Why do you have to prepare? What those boys and girls want is to be a part of your life in God for a few days. If you pray half an hour in the morning, sing in our choir for an hour, and do your spiritual reading, you will have so much to say you could give ten retreats."

The question, you see, is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that, when someone who is drowning in the world comes into your world, you are ready to reach out and help. It may be four o'clock, six o'clock, or nine o'clock. One time you call it preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling, or later administration. But let them be part of your life in God - that's ministering.

~ From "Time Enough to Minister" in Leadership (Spring, 1982)

Time is an issue of control for me...but I'm learning to let go and to let others be a part of my life in God. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Monday, February 18, 2008

Organic Metaphors

There is a growing emphasis and interest in the "organic church" on our district - so much so, that we are creating an organic church network. I have long been a proponent for recovering organic metaphors in our understanding and articulation of the relational realities of the Kingdom. We have been operating with cold, dead mechanistic metaphors for way too long.

The Spirit (ruach, pneuma) of God breathes life into the world. Human beings become a living spirit(nephesh, psyche) by the Spirit. We're not dealing with machines here - but we have been so captured in the post-industrial West by machines and technology that it is difficult for us to recover more organic ways of thinking and living. And, we've struggled in the Christian community for such a long time because these mechanical metaphors are completely inadequate for theological and ecclesial language. We've operated too much like a factory or machine or corporation and not enough like a family or a tribe or a kingdom.

I contend that these metaphors are important because they change the way that we think, see and act. They have important implications for our understanding of our theological language as well. In light of that I thought I would share a paper that I wrote a few years back that is closely related to this discussion.

Athanasius' Relational Epistemology: a search for adequate language to express the mysteries of incarnation and atonement

What then but apparitions can remain to a philosophy, which strikes death through all things visible and invisible; satisfies itself then only when it can explain those abstractions of the outward senses, which by an unconscious irony it names indifferent facts and phenomena, mechanically - that is, by laws of death; and brands with the name of mysticism every solution grounded in life, or the powers and intuitions of life? Samuel Taylor Coleridge[1]

Much of the confusion concerning the Incarnation and atonement is linked in some way to a misunderstanding of the nature and function of language, which finds its roots in dualistic epistemologies. The rationalistic misconception that abstract, objective propositional language is somehow a more truthful representation of reality has deeply influenced the Western intellect and is not easily corrected. This perception of reality and the function of language has not only diminished our ability to appropriately apprehend theological mysteries, but has also resulted in alienation from reality and a tendency to coercion and control with a telos of desolation, destruction and death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge reacts strongly against this misunderstanding of reality and its use of mechanistic metaphors during the so-called 'age of reason' which is illustrated in his scathing indictment above. It is my contention that this tendency to abstraction found in a dualistic cast of mind rips apart naturally integrated aspects of reality, in which we are no longer able to adequately relate to, apprehend, and articulate our interaction with reality. We then become incapable of inspiration, imagination, and connection and instead move in the direction of senseless nihilistic existence. In the midst of this brokenness, theological mysteries such as the Incarnation and atonement are also rendered meaningless. We require a metanoia that we may see, hear, think, and speak in entirely new categories reconnecting to reality, which is not an abstract conception but the personal reality revealed in the Incarnate Word. This essay will be an 'attempt' to recapture the relational epistemology and language of St. Athanasius as an appropriate foundation for further theological exploration into the deep mysteries of incarnation and atonement.

The Nature and Function of Language:

We must begin with the nature of human knowledge and theological language in general in an endeavor to correct some of the excesses of the Enlightenment before we attempt any foundation on that great defender of orthodox Christianity. The nature of theological language should be understood as the science of God.[2] We are immediately confronted with the fact that our contemporary culture tends to conflate the more general term science with the specific field of natural science. Our English word ‘science’ comes from the Latin ‘scientia’ which simply means knowledge. Therefore, when we speak of science in this sense we mean a rigorous, disciplined, methodical, organized knowledge of an aspect of reality. Or, as the scientist/philosopher Michael Polanyi says, “Scientific knowing consists in discerning Gestalten that are aspects of reality.”[3] However, we have been so influenced by modern critical methods of research, logical positivistic frameworks, and the search for ‘objective truth’ that we tend to understand all human knowledge in such categories. This perception of human knowledge has been and continues to be challenged. The Modern movement did bring an important corrective to the excesses of authority and power-structures over the individual, but now the complete authority of abstract structures or of the individual person also needs to be corrected.[4] How may we better understand the nature of theology as the science of God?

To expound further we must say that theology is the articulation of our knowledge of the Lord God who has revealed Himself to us.[5] This is what we mean when we say that theology is the science of God. Within this context we understand that all human knowledge is relational and based upon fiduciary frameworks. In other words, there is no such thing as a complete objectivity. All human knowledge has a subjective and objective pole. Thus, if someone were to say, “I know Jane”, this would imply that the subject, the “I”, has had some experience with the object, “Jane".[6] In this instance the subject has knowledge of the object, but there is a difference between knowledge of and knowledge about an object. Knowledge of an object logically entails direct, first-hand experience of the object, whereas knowledge about an object may result from first had experience or a second hand witness to the object’s reality. In either case knowledge is based upon trust.

Human knowledge always begins with trust. We must develop some level of trust in our own experiences to give us knowledge which helps us to adequately relate to our environment and to other human beings. We must trust in the communities that shape and form the language that we use to understand and express our experience in meaningful ways. As Polanyi goes on to further illustrate,

Any effort made to understand something must be sustained by the belief that there is something there that can be understood. Its effort to learn to speak is prompted in the child by the conviction that speech means something. Guided by its love and trust of its guardians, it perceives the light of reason in their eyes, voices, and bearing and feels instinctively attracted towards the source of this light.[7]

We have no meaning or language apart from an initial trust in the people and communities which shape that meaning and language for us. However, these fiduciary frameworks are balanced against the fragmented and developing nature of human knowledge. As human knowledge develops we may question some of our presuppositions, but we must recognize that it is only because of our trust in these essential frameworks that we are able to move human knowledge forward. Without this essential trust we are reduced to nihilistic thinking.

Following in Descartes’ footsteps, the person who believes that human knowledge should begin with doubt ought to consider Kant’s parable of the Dove. Kant speculated that a dove might think it would find flying easier without the encumbrance of the air around it. If the dove didn’t have to constantly push against the air to remain in flight then it would expend less energy in the process. Of course, the dove would quickly find out that it is impossible to fly in a vacuum. In fact, it is the air in our atmosphere which makes flight possible for the dove or any other bird for that matter. In the same way we must trust in human knowledge, language and experience before we can even begin to ask the critical questions. Therefore, contrary to popular ideologies, faith is the ground of true knowledge, not doubt. Or, as St. Anselm said, 'fides quaerens intellectum.' All human knowledge, especially theological knowledge, is faith seeking understanding.

We must also consider the role of language in our epistemological framework. There is a heuristic nature to human knowledge and language, which is dialogical, imaginative and dynamic.

Our conceptual imagination, like its artistic counterpart, draws inspiration from contacts with experience. And like the works of imaginative art, the constructions of mathematics will tend therefore to disclose those hidden principles of the experienced world of which some scattered traces had first stimulated the imaginative process by which these constructions were conceived.[8]

In this sense human knowledge (scientia) is an aspect of our communal indwelling of the world, not some disembodied conceptualization of it. This incarnational engagement with reality recognizes the fragmented nature of human knowledge and approaches these mysteries of existence within the process of learning. Thus, we use language, which in some real sense is inherently metaphorical or symbolic, to articulate our communal engagement with reality.

Words are given to our ontological relations with reality. Language can only arise out of personal relationships, hence there is no such thing as a purely private language. It is built on human interactions, either direct or indirect, and cannot be learned in any other way. In other words, language is the fruit of our communal engagement with the 'other' and we are in the process of finding ever more adequate ways to communicate this relational experience. Theologically speaking we encounter the objective reality of God, centrally in God's objectification for us in the Incarnate Word, and the task of theology, as the science of God, is to seek consistent and adequate ways to articulate our 'onto-relations' with the Lord God. T. F. Torrance further elucidates this perception of theological language:

In theology we have knowledge of an objective reality in which we hear a Word, encounter a Logos, from beyond our subjective experience, a Word which utters itself in our listening to it and speech of it, a Word which speaks for itself in guiding us to ever deepening understanding of the objective reality, and to which we submit our subjective experience for constant criticism and control.[9]

In this we have turned the 'modern' conception of scientific knowledge on its head. The individual is not the judge over the objective reality, bringing it under examination by dissection and evaluation that it might be understood and in the process killing it. Instead, the subject engages in living relationship with the object. Inspiration, imagination, and knowledge are the result of this relational engagement, giving us more adequate language to relate to reality and participate in Lebensformen of sacramental worship to the Lord God. With this understanding of human knowledge and language, we now turn to Athanasius' relational epistemology as a basis for theological exploration.

Athanasius’ Relational Epistemology:[10]

Athanasius of Alexandria was so dark and so short that his enemies called him “the black dwarf;” but, in truth he was and remains a theological giant.[11] We in the Christian tradition today are greatly indebted to him for his for his faithfulness to orthodoxy as he defended Nicene theology against the perversions of Arianism. He is by far the most important theological figure in the fourth century and became the primary symbol of Nicene faith. The theological language of his time and following was so shaped by Athanasius that Johannes Quasten said, “the history of dogma in the fourth century is identical with the history of his life.”[12] Due to my limited engagement with the works of Athanasius; I will be trusting predominantly in the patristic scholarship of T. F. Torrance to further elucidate the relational epistemology, ontology, and theology of this important Church Father.[13]

Although Athanasius stands in the great Alexandrian theological tradition and is heir of the influential theological insights of Clement and Origen, his thinking and language departs in many ways from these Alexandrian scholars. Instead, Torrance places Athanasius directly in the tradition of Irenaeus. The influence of Clement and Origen is not completely absent in his work, it is simply not as significant as one might think would be the case for a bishop of Alexandria. This shift in focus is probably influenced by the fact that Athanasius’ interests were pastoral and polemical rather than systematic and speculative theology. That is not to say that his thinking was not clear and orderly, but his writing is primarily in response to specific needs and not an attempt to create a theological system.

According to Torrance the important factors which shaped Athanasius’ theological language are: 1) the Episcopal tradition in Alexandria, allegedly going back to St. Mark, such biblical and Jewish influences helped Athanasius develop a Hebraic cast of mind, and 2) the important scientific tradition in Alexandria. The heuristic scientific method already employed in Alexandria had an impact on the thinking and language of Athanasius; however, he did give clear attention to the change that language and technical terms must undergo when employed in the service of knowledge and speech about the Lord God. Torrance also proclaims that Athanasius rejected any cosmological or epistemological dualism, which is central to this exploration of his work. The rejection of dualistic ways of thinking is likely due to his Hebraic cast of mind, which was in turn shaped by his knowledge of Scripture. No dualism exists between the kosmos aesthetos (world of sense perception) and the kosmos noetos (universal mind or ideals) in Athanasius’ theology. This ancient dichotomy is similar to Kant’s distinction between noumena and phenomena and further illustrates the relevance of patristic study today. Additionally, there is no hint of a Stoic logoi spermatikoi or impersonal/abstract Logos; in other words, Athanasius is not Platonic, neo-Platonic, Stoic, or Gnostic in his thinking; instead, his theology is fully relational and dynamic, which is amazing given his context.

For Athanasius God is transcendent but remains immanent being. In his view being is not a static ontological principle; rather, being and action, being and presence, being and activity (ousia and energia) are inseparable. God, then, is the ground of all being/reality and energy/action. As such, God both creates and sustains all things and this creating and sustaining work is done in and through the Logos. Transcendence and immanence come together in Athanasius’ writings. Accordingly, he understands that the Greeks need completely new epistemological categories that they might adequately understand and articulate the creative and redemptive work of God, for it is their dualistic cast of mind that results in many and various heretical teachings.

Central to Athanasius’ understanding of our relation to God is the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. There is a strong distinction between the generation of the Son and creation, but this does not result in a complete dualism. Generation belongs to the inner nature (physis) of God, while creation is due to God’s activity ‘outside of’ Himself. God, then, is distinct from creation and intimately related to and present in creation simultaneously. There is something of a paradox here because activity and being are not separated in Athanasius’ thought. I’m not sure that this is completely resolved by the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Yet, he does emphasize that apart from God’s gracious creative activity toward us we cease to exist. Thus, our being is wholly dependent upon the creative and sustaining activity of God, which is the rejection of the Gnostic and Greek conception of the eternal soul.

In the generation of the Son there is continuity of nature, but in creation there is a disparity between different natures. Therefore, there remains a distinction between God and creation, yet God is present in the entire universe because of His ongoing and outgoing interaction with the all creation, in which He reveals Himself through Word and Spirit. In this sense we do not know God apart from God’s gracious interaction with and relation to the created world; however, though God’s revelation we do have some knowledge of God’s internal or onto-relations. To know God in and through the Logos is to know God in God’s inner reality. The Incarnation, then, has opened up knowledge of God in se, as He is in Himself. In the fullness of time, God became man, so that we may become by grace, that is the re-creative activity of God, what God is by nature. This idea of divinization is what Athanasius calls theopoiesis. The restoration of the imago Dei is the mystery of salvation and should be compared to our Wesleyan understanding of sanctification.

The Arians held onto such a strong distinction between God and creation that the ineffable God could not actually become human. Athanasius discerned their position to result in the complete unknowability of God. Therefore, Arian understandings of God were actually anthropocentric, not Christocentric or Theocentric. Athanasius, on the other hand, operates from a holistic framework. The saving act of God in the Parousia once again unifies act and being. The Logos is internal to the being of God (homoousios). Thus, in the Inhomination of the Word, God truly became man or ‘flesh’—man in his wholeness.[14] The Logos assumed all of our broken/fallen humanity for our sakes. He ministered not only the things of God to man, but also the things of man to God—He truly is the Mediator. Redemption and re-creation takes place within the Mediator’s life; in other words, incarnation, death, resurrection and redemption are inseparable. The acts of God ‘toward us’, ‘for us,’ and ‘in us’ cannot be divided and they come to us through the Son and in the Spirit.

The Spirit, Son, and Father are all homoousios, that is to say that they are all of the same being (ousia). Athanasius’ Trinitarian formula is: from the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. The mutual relation (perichoresis) between the Father, Son, and Spirit constitutes the epistemological ground for all our knowledge of God the Holy Trinity. We, then, are brought into the economy (family) of God through the Son and by the Spirit. Athanasius posits no real distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity for there is One Holy Triad who is ‘over all’ and ‘in all’ and ‘through all’.

Athanasius’ understanding of the ontological relations between the Spirit and the Son does not lead toward subordination of the Spirit to the Son. God is Spirit in the unity of his being and act. It belongs to God’s eternal nature to move and energize and act. While God remains ultimately ineffable, He makes Himself accessible to us and knowable by us through His Word and in His Spirit. God communicates Himself such that we participate in Him. However, while we are enabled to apprehend God in God’s-self we are still unable to fully comprehend Him for we cannot grasp what He is. Therefore, we relationally engage in the reality of God, but this reality still remains above and beyond us, which is the mystery of salvation.

For Athanasius method and material content go together, this is part of his overall synthesis between being and action. The epistemological significance of the homoousion is that through the Son and in the Spirit, God communicates Himself to us. How we come to know God and what we know of God are inseparable, which is the relational foundation of his epistemology and theology. Therefore, the Incarnation makes genuine theological activity possible. In the Inhomination of the Word, God in some sense objectifies Himself for us that we might truly come to know (kennen) Him. In this revelation we are presented with the reality that ‘truth’ is not abstract and impersonal; instead, Truth is relational and personal. Jesus Christ is Truth!

Athanasius applied the scientific method to his knowledge of the Lord God. Alexandrian science should be understood as a rigorous, ordered knowledge according to the inherent structure or nature of the realities being investigated. This scientific language is stretched when speaking of God; however, we do have true knowledge of God according to God’s inherent nature because of His revelation (objectification) for us. Therefore, our theological language is the science of God, in that it must continually witness to the reality of God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.

The results of the incarnation of the Savior are such and so many, than anyone attempting to enumerate them should be compared to a person looking upon the vastness of the sea and attempting to count its waves.[16]

The incarnation of the eternal Lord properly understood is a paradox. The infinite became finite, but He never really ceased being infinite. The Word became flesh but He did not cease being the Word of God. He was living a human life, but all things continued to be sustained by Him. That is not to say that the Word is creation, but rather that all created things have their existence through Him. God was not restricted by the physical limitations of the body of Christ, but He was truly human. Athanasius exposes the apparent irrationality of the Christian claim that God became incarnate, was crucified, and resurrected.

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1.22-24)

The words of Jesus are the words of God and the acts of Jesus are the acts of God. Human beings, who are corrupted by sin and have no knowledge of the Lord God, have come to know the Father through the life of the Son. This is the Christian proclamation and witness even if it does not meet the requirements of proposed abstract human rationality.

If the Word has become incarnate in Jesus the Christ that God might overcome corruption and death by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and if He remains Lord of the universe in the incarnation, then why does He die in such a ghastly way? If it is simply His life and death that are required to overcome sin, then why does He not die in a more worthy way? In De Incarnatione Athanasius proposes many reasons for the necessity of the cross. The death of Christ by crucifixion was public so that His death and resurrection could not be denied. It came to Him by an enemy so that He might abolish all forms of death, even the most despised ones. Also, crucifixion was considered to be a cursed way to die, and people are crucified outside of the city gates to symbolize that there is no reconciliation for them; they are forever outside of the community. Christ bore the curse for all that He might be victorious over all sin and death, reconciling all human beings to each other and to God through Himself. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. His loving sacrifice broke every barrier that sin constructed between human relations to God, human relations to other humans, and human relations to creation.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The incarnate Word really died. His body lay in the grave for three days and then by His power He raised it up. This gives witness to Christ’s victory over death. The resurrection is not only evident in the written and spoken testimony of Jesus’ followers, but also in the witness of their lives and deaths. These disciples have shown by their willingness to die for their faith that Jesus truly has conquered death and Hades. If people continue to be compelled to follow this Christ and if His followers have no fear of death, then based on this evidence how could one deny the resurrection? The apostolic Church gives witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and is Lord of all creation. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Most importantly Christians proclaim with their words and lives that in Christ there is the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. This knowledge and witness to our at-one-ment with God would be impossible apart from the reality of the Incarnation.

Athanasius’ was a mind that thinks connections in things, not concepts, because concepts and terms have their meaning in reality. He preferred the functional or relational use of language, which is the most adequate use of language based on its inherent relational nature. For him theology and godliness belong together because knowledge, experience, and action all come together in his theological thought. He presents us with a language that is organic, relational, and dynamic. His relational epistemology allows for a theology that is both Christocentric and Theocentric at once, which is possible because Jesus is the image, action, and reality of God. For Athanasius reason is a part of the created order used like a mirror to point us toward the Divine Logos. Rational order pervades all created existence, but it is the Incarnation that presents us with the key for deeper theoretic insights into the saving economy of God. The unity of form and being challenges us to do the same today with a theological language that encompasses all of reality and faithfully witnesses to the Triune God.

Inadequate metaphors concerning incarnation and atonement have persisted primarily because dualistic ways of thinking have persisted. The foundation of orthodox theology must be found in the relational epistemology and ontology which is evident in Scripture and human knowledge, and is profoundly illustrated in the work of Athanasius. Based on this foundation, we are able to plumb the depths of the mystery of salvation, which is the mystery of God’s being and action, without falling into heretical thinking and we may confess with all confidence that we are reconciled to God, in Christ by the Spirit. The reality of this confession is experienced as we are caught up in the life of God in Christ by the Spirit, and we praise the Source of all Life as are being transformed into the imago Dei through God’s redemptive and creative activity with, in, and for us. Hallelujah!

[1] Gunton, et. al., The Practice of Theology, p. 299.
[2] This is evident throughout the history of theological development and finds distinctive articulation in Barth's definition of Dogmatics as 'the Science of God'.
[3] Science Faith and Society, p. 10, his italics.
[4] We must also take into consideration this constant tension between emphasis on ‘universals’ or ‘particulars’ in the history of Western philosophical thought.
[5] Dr. Noble, this is obviously the definition that you give for Dogmatics in ‘Systematics I’.
[6] This is a simplistic illustration of the complex web of human relationships, knowledge, and language, but it does help to point out the relational nature of language.
[7] Science, Faith, and Society, p. 44.
[8] Polanyi quoted in Gunton's Enlightenment and Alienation, p. 43.
[9] T. F. Torrance, Theological Science, p. 48.
[10] This section presents again much of the material that I covered in my first presentation. I hope that is acceptable.
[11] González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, p. 173.
[12] Quoted in, González, A History of Christian Thought, Vol. 1, p. 291.
[13] Most of Torrance’s insights into Athanasius, which I’m drawing from his article Athanasius: a study in the foundations of classical theology, have been validated in my mind through ongoing research. However, there are some claims made by Torrance with which I am still struggling. One primary example is Torrance’s proposal that there is no hint of Apollinarianism in the thought of Athanasius, which is disputed by many other able scholars. I have yet to come to a resolution on some of these issues, so tensions will remain throughout this paper.
[14] The wholeness is emphasized by Torrance because of his rejection of Apollinarian thought in Athanasius, but I’m not so sure that Athanasius did not at least lean in this direction.
[15] This is similar to Irenaeus’ two hands of God, the Son and Spirit, which bring forth creation and recreation.
[16] St. Athanasius quoted in González, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, p. 173.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I told someone today that like Amos "I'm not a prophet nor the son of a prophet." There is not a lineage of pastoral ministry in my family. I come from, well also like Amos, a family of farmers and skilled workers - you know, HVAC repair folk, electricians, plumbers, and food servers. Yet, for some odd reason God called me into pastoral ministry. My one desire is simply to be faithful.

I suppose that it is good to focus on our desires during the season of Lent. Sara and I have given up television. It is never easy. I find that my addiction to television has increased tremendously since graduating from seminary, which is a little strange since we don't even have cable. I usually turn the t.v. on when I get home from the office to catch the news, and it stays on the rest of the evening. It becomes a constant noise and distraction in our home - but it is an addicting distraction. Hopefully, the time and space opened by turning off the television will allow me to engage in higher pursuits - spending quality time with my wife, praying, reading, thinking, writing.

Back to the Amos thing. I don't have much of a sounding board in this type of situation. Out of a desire to continue honing my preaching skills, I will periodically post one of my messages. I would appreciate honest feedback. You can listen to the message from today - the first Sunday in Lent here. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Friday, February 8, 2008

30 Days

Dave Brush posted this video over on his blog and I found it really interesting. This whole series of shows is from the guy who made the documentary Super Size Me, where he conducted an experiment by eating nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days to see what affect it would have on his body - the results were amazing. He started this show that journeys with different people as they live in someone else's shoes for 30 days. It is an enlightening social experiment. In this episode an evangelical Christian from the South spends 30 days living as a Muslim in Dearborn, Michigan. It is a little long, but it is well worth watching.

Sorry that the format looks kind of funny...I'm not really a techie so you'll just have to deal with it. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS