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So we had a very active and stimulating meeting last night and discussed a whole range of topics; a lot of it focused on the nature of God and how He relates with us.
Virtually all of us agreed that a theocracy was not the best form of government and disagreed that the Kingdom of God that Jesus talked about would not fall under the category of a theocracy; strains of Manichean beliefs or at least dualism within not only charismatic and fundamentalist sects of Christianity but also Catholicism; struggling to define what a ‘spirit’ actually is and what it means that God is ‘spirit’, and whether or not it differs with the concept of a soul; the eternal question of free will and God’s sovereignty (i.e. Does God have a predetermined plan for everyone’s lives or are we responsible for our own actions) and whether or not the universe might be free and open; and discussions on whether or not God suffers and if that is the case, does that mean He can change his mind or plan on things.
Here are our essays.
We will finish the rest of Book III as we go over chapters 7 – 12.
The more questions I think of as I go through Confessions the more profoundly impressed I am of Augustine and his thinking.
Please answer one of these questions and write an essay on it.
We will go over all of Book II of Confessions for our next meeting.
In this Book , Augustine describes the onset of adolescence (he was around sixteen at the time – c. 370-371 AD) and enters what he seems to consider the most lurid and sinful period of his life. He describes how he returned home after having spent a year in Madaura, a nearby city where he had gone to study rhetoric. His parents had now expended their meager resources for his schooling, which led the young Augustine to take a year off and give him the opportunity to get into some trouble. He “ran wild,” he writes, “in the jungle of erotic adventures…and became putrid in [God’s] sight.”
This past Thursday we had our first fruitful discussion of Augustine’s Confessions.
We had interesting discussions on topics about who makes the first step in reaching out to us: God or us? Musings on life and death (even reincarnation) and the ‘sinfulness’ of infants and babies were discussed.
You can take a look at our responses here.
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.
Since the group will be encountering John Calvin very soon in MacCulloch’s book, I thought I’d get a head start and write about one of the most famous and also controversial doctrines of the Protestant/Reformed theology – predestination or election.
It’s definitely a hot potato topic and if you want to rile up a bunch of Christians and see some heated conversations, just introduce the topic of predestination, sit back, enjoy, and watch the sparks fly.
Well, here’s my entry into this eternal theological boxing ring for all its worth.
Also, as you’ll see, it’s listed on a new sub-menu called “Reformed Theology” under “Theology” at the top menu bar.
Though I know what I present won’t be a novel position by any means, it did give me pause to think when I first read it in Eugene Boring and Fred Cradock’s The People’s New Testament Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic as well, so please do share if you have any.
Just created several new pages pertaining to current studies within Cognitive Neuroscience and Theology under the new menu category Science and Theology on top.
Some topics of interest include:
- free will; how human emotions affect our decisions
- biblical understanding of the afterlife
- is there an intermediate state after death?
- do our identities survive after death? If so, then how?
- what the Apostle Paul believed about the afterlife
- eschatological ontology
- role of genetics and environmental influences upon the brain in relation with human free will
- consciousness and the soul; do we even have a soul?
- the selective and fluid nature of memory; false memories
- Why are there so many factual discrepancies in the gospel narratives and accounts in the New Testament?
Check out the new page here.