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Throughout my life I’ve experienced a wide range of beliefs: from Evangelical to agnostic, then to atheist, then a period of dabbling in Eastern religions, to Pentecostal, then to Presbyterian/Calvinist, and now, well, to where I am today let’s just say.
Once you think you have grasped a firm understanding of God, you come across something that catches you off-guard and makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve believed in. As St. Augustine once said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand, you have failed.“
Over the recent years, as I have delved a bit more into the scientific underpinnings of God and theology, as well as my ruminations of the Bible, I’ve adopted more of a “non-interventionist” viewpoint of God.
What is God Like? Does God Change? Is Everything Predetermined/Predestined by God? Has God Settled the Future? – Greg Boyd
Does God change?
Does God know the future?
In most churches today, if you would answer in the affirmative to the first question and negative to the second, you’d likely be branded a heretic or “liberal”. Many people seem to be so set in his or her ways that they won’t even carefully consider a different opinion or viewpoint about God or other theological matters. But it makes sense – for many, his or her view of God that they’ve grown up with or have adopted over the years, they’ve formed a close, emotional (not just psychological or spiritual) bond to it that’s hard to let go.
The very notion of entertaining the thought of God NOT knowing the future or that he can experience new things, or that he is NOT in absolute, complete control of everything (his omniscience, omnipotence, etc.) can be quite (emotionally) unsettling to even consider. (As a criticism of open theism, it may seem to anthropomorphize God a bit too much.)
Much of theology these days (and same goes to a vast majority of the view of God that is communicated through pulpits every week on any given Sunday) seem to be stuck in medieval or Reformation times, and seem to be unwilling to budge. As you know, much of history, science, technology, etc. has changed and progressed since that time, and the Church has had a hard time (or a very stubborn reluctance in) catching up to the rapid changes that are happening in our modern world, so it faces a crisis of remaining relevant to future generations if the Church continues on this trend I believe.
Perhaps our theology and understanding of God need to be updated.
Interesting viewpoints on God’s nature and action according to open theism.
From the website:
Does God know all future events? Only if the future is in some real sense already determined. God, to be God, must know every true proposition, including all about the future. But if the future is truly ‘open’, not even God could know the future because there are no true facts about the future to know. Why is this disturbing?
Gregory A. Boyd’s profile and an interesting series on God and theology below his profile.
UPDATE: Chapter 19: A Worldwide Faith (1500 – 1800) – Submissions: Bartolome de las Casas and Christianity in Japan
Here are our essays for Chapter 19.
Christianity goes global, to the South and Central Americas and all the way to Japan.
And of course, a lot of bloodshed and death on both sides – for the native populations as well as persecutions for Christians.
A great movie to watch about the missionary activities of the Jesuits in South America was “The Mission” starring Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro.
Time-lapse History of Europe and the Middle East in the Last 1000 Years, Emergence, and Divine Sovereignty
I came across this rather interesting time-lapse map of Europe, Western Russia, and present-day Turkey, where you see the dynamic evolution of human history over the course of a millennia which is still going on right now.
(Also, history is so much more kick-ass with music from the movie “Inception” in the background.)
For a little over a year now we have been studying the history of the Christian Church and delving quite a bit into the history of Europe from ancient times, through the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire, and now into the Reformation, so the vast movements in this map should be familiar to those in our group.
I was never much into history, but if you want to be a serious student of theology, a solid knowledge and foundation in history is invaluable to see how ideas and beliefs began and evolved over time, and how everything fits together. Studying history may radically alter your beliefs even.
Also, in my spare time, I’ve been delving into the science of emergence by reading Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson. Here’s an excerpt of the book that I read today that directly relates to history and the map shown above, specifically in terms of information and energy flow as cities, civilizations, and countries grow more and more complex over time.
For next week we will cover the first two sections of Chapter 17: A Door in Wittenberg and The Farmers’ War and Zwingli.
We will be going into the heart of the Protestant Reformation by focusing on Martin Luther in Germany (or the Holy Roman Empire I should say specifically because the state of Germany didn’t exist during this time) and Huldrych Zwingli of the Swiss Confederacy.
Last week, as our group was discussing the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, we also talked about the roots of antisemitism in church history. Our understanding was a bit foggy at best.
However, after watching the second episode of the PBS series “The Story of the Jews”, narrated by Simon Schama, I gained a better understanding of the long, and very shameful history, of Christians murdering and persecuting Jews throughout the centuries. And of course, Muslims have had a long history of persecuting Jews as well.
Schama places the Christian roots of antisemitism with the writings of St. Paul, and then hatred toward Jews reached its heights with the fiery preachings of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, during the 4th century AD who associated Jews with demons and the Devil, and as “Christ-killers”.
When you think about it, as Mr. Schama discusses in this episode, having strictly monotheistic Jews accept the Trinity or the deity of Christ would not only be unacceptable to them, but downright weird. Even claims that Jesus was the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament by the prophets seems unconscionable to Jews who believe that with the coming of the Messiah, he would usher in an age of peace throughout the world – but as you know from history, the world has hardly been a place of universal peace after Jesus.
Watch the episode here.
Update: Chapter 16 – Perspectives of the True Church: Part II (1492 – 1517) – The Expulsion of the Jews in Spain, the Spanish Inquisition, and Erasmus
Here are our responses from last night as we finished up Chapter 16.
We focused on the Spanish Inquisition and the legacy that Erasmus left in influencing the Protestant Reformation.
We had a lively discussion last night, mainly spurned on by Erasmus’ preference of Origen’s theology over and against Augustine. We discussed the nature of original sin, and I was surprised to find out that basically half the group still held on to (or were at least somewhat reluctant about abandoning) the doctrine of original sin. Though we all agreed with the basic understanding of human evolution, most of the group still believed that God somehow interfered in the process and specially endowed human beings with the capacity to know and understand God. (I personally am in the very small minority of believers who believe that was not the case – in terms of divine interference in human evolution – but I’ll leave that for a future post perhaps.)
In order to really get a good understanding of Christian theology and Christian philosophy, you first need a solid foundation of understanding Plato’s philosophy.
There’s just no way around it. Even Paul’s writings contain Platonic thought and ideas.
Plato’s philosophy still heavily influences Christianity today as well – for instance, our ideas about body/soul dualism, the afterlife, the spiritual being greater than the flesh/material, repentance, conversion, etc.
Here are some summaries we wrote about Plato’s and Greek philosophy’s impact on Christian thought here in terms of church history.
Here is Prof. Andrew Davison of St. Johns College, Nottingham, UK, talking about how Plato influenced Christian philosophy – especially that of Augustine, who was heavily influenced by Plotinus and Neoplatonism.
We just concluded our readings about the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire.
One of my favorite programs that aired on the History Channel was a series titled “Engineering an Empire” hosted by Peter Weller, lecturer of ancient history at Syracuse University – yes, that Peter Weller who starred in “Robocop”, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai”, and most recently in last year’s “Startrek: Into Darkness”.