Posts Tagged With: revelation

Why Covenant: Some new thoughts on the purpose and reason for the Covenant

Why did God make a covenant with Abraham and his family?

Three Good Reasons:torah1

  1. Revelation
  2. Relationship/Partnership
  3. Redemption

Often the last two are emphasized by people doing bible overviews or speaking in general about the purpose of scripture. We (in CSBS) put a heavy emphasis on the work that God is doing from beginning to end is a work of Redemption.

Some draw up these ideas together or play them off of each other. Some think that Its primarily about one or the two together. However, all three together really have a lot of merit and can help us understand better the use of scripture. Redemption is the work of God throughout scripture from beginning to end. Revelation is the initial means on Gods part in doing that work. By way of Gods revelation people can be restored to Relationship with God and join his redemptive project.

For years I have been taught (correctly I believe) that Genesis is a book of Beginnings, the beginning of the world, humanity, purpose, sin, and the beginning of Gods redemptive plan. God initiates his redemptive plan by revealing himself to Abram, and then by way of a covenant relationship with Abraham and his family his redemptive plan takes another step forward. When we understand this the rest of the OT falls into place, and Christ and the New Testament falls neatly into place as well.

The Covenant itself is captured in the Torah, and then played out in the historical narratives, then reflected upon in the wisdom literature, then the prophets comment on Israel’s history with a Covenant lens. Understanding covenant will help you understand the whole bible.

Covenant functions as Gods revelation of himself, as well as details how relationship with God work, and demands a participation with Gods ongoing redemptive work.

John Walton believes that before God fixed the problem of human sin he set out to fix the problem of falsely constructed deity or The problem of Babel. [1] This works for continued context of Genesis 11 and then reading Genesis 12 as part of Gods response to Babel. He spreads everyone out giving them different languages and then revealing himself to them specifically like in the case of Abraham. God wants Abram to have a right view of God. Fair enough, I just do not buy into the idea that Covenant is primarily about Revelation. I will conceded that it precedes relationship, and redemption. It was perhaps a large part of his means of building and reconstructing relationship with man.

That said, I believe that Revelation is a key part of what God is doing with the Laws and Narratives of Torah and Covenant. For many Christians there is a sharp dichotomy between Law and Grace. It is a accurate dichotomy for salvation being based on Grace not obedience to Law. But there can be detrimental effects of drawing out the dichotomy to sharply and to often. How did the ancient Israelite’s speak of the Law? They loved it, they desired it, they were grateful for it, and yearned for the Law (via David). It was not a burden to the people of the OT. The pieces fall together when we see Law and its interrelationship with Covenant and revelation. If the Law was part of the Covenant, and the covenant is part of Gods revelation to men then Law is Revelation. If Gods revelation of himself is seen as an essential part of his redemptive work of salvation and Grace then Law can = grace. The point is that basic, Gods Law was his grace to the ancient people. That is the way they saw it. They were extremely grateful for Gods revelation of himself through the Law, and through the entire covenant. To further illustrate this point I want to draw from a creative dialogue from Professor John H. Walton between two ancient Babylonians on pilgrimage the Temple of Shamash in the 2nd Millennium BC.

“Ayyab sees Rab-ilu approaching the crossroads, so he stands to the side and lets others pass while he waits for his friend. Perhaps some conversation will help pass the time. So Ayyab asks Rab-ilu, “Come now, my friend, why so glum? This is feast day, and the great city awaits our arrival. How can one look so sad with the gleam of the temple of Shamash already practically in sight?”

“Perhaps joy comes easily to you, Rab-ilu; your seed coffers are filled and your patch of ground bursting with Shamash’s favor. Your family is well also?”

“Indeed, my downcast friend, the gods do smile on me. Galatu has presented me with another fine son this year, and the others have grown since we last spoke. I do believe my gifts to the gods have been gratefully received.” Rab-ilu’s smile stretched from ear to ear as he reminded himself of the many pleasures of life.

Rab-ilu is startled when Ayyab suddenly exclaims, “The gods! Pah!! I despise them! My gifts to the gods have been no less generous than yours, Rab-ilu! I have been no stranger to the temple. I have poured out my libations daily and offered my prayers. What complaint, then, do the gods have against me that my harvest these past two years together has not equaled even one harvest of the previous years? And my children, Rab-ilu. Why do they take my children from me? What do they want, these gods? What does it take to earn their favor? Surely you must know, Rab-ilu; do not hide it from me.”

Rab-ilu allowed the question to hang dangerously in the air as the two trudged on toward the city, caught up in the milling crowd of festive pilgrims. What did he know? He knew what the priests told him, that the gods demanded care. The people of the city and the surrounding villages had the privilege of providing food and a splendid temple for Shamash. In turn, they expected that his favor would shine on them. But how much was enough? How did the priests know what food the gods enjoyed? How did they know what rituals calmed their hearts? What could anyone do to assure that the gods would not strike them? Yet all knew that there were no guarantees. “Then why do you go to temple today, Ayyab, if the gods have earned only your spite?”

“Alas, Rab-ilu, as cruel as the gods have been, it would be folly to ignore them. Better to set fire to my own fields and murder my children in their sleep. The gods would do that and more. No, I come with a gift to ask an oracle of the priests. Perhaps they can instruct me concerning some little detail that I have missed. I want to please the gods; I must find a way to please the gods. We will starve next winter if the late harvest does not improve.”

As they pass through the gateway and on into the temple complex, Ayyab and Rab-ilu stand gazing at the gold-gilded temple reflecting the splendor of the sun god, Shamash. They both think of how little they knew of the gods despite the high price they pay to them. Then they each go their separate ways: Rab-ilu to offer his sacrifice of thanks for the gracious blessing of the gods, and Ayyab to join the long line of petitioners seeking anything that might offer them hope. “Till next year, Rab-ilu.”

Hope is a commodity in short supply in a world without revelation. In the ancient world there were few atheists. Their primitive understanding of the natural world allowed no option such as naturalism to fill the gaps left if deity were eliminated from the picture. Everything was attributed to the favor or anger of the gods. With no revelation, however, there was no way to know what pleased and what angered them.

In a well-known Assyrian prayer entitled “A Prayer to Every God,” the worshiper seeks to appease a deity from his anger over an offense that the worshiper has committed. There are only two problems: He doesn’t know which god is angry, and he doesn’t know of anything he has done wrong. He therefore addresses each confession he makes to “the god I know or do not know, the goddess I know or do not know.” He is ready to confess ignorantly eating forbidden food or invading sacred space—anything to appease. His frustration overwhelms us with sympathy as he expresses his hopelessness:

Although I am constantly looking for help, no one takes me by the hand;

When I weep, they do not come to my side.

I utter laments, but no one hears me;

I am troubled; I am overwhelmed; I cannot see.…

Man is dumb; he knows nothing;

Mankind, everyone that exists—what does he know?

Whether he is committing sin or doing good, he does not even know.14

This is the plight of those who live in a world without revelation. That is why the covenant is so important to us and why the law was such a treasure to Israel. God had spoken. In grace, he condescended to communicate concerning what pleases him and what angers him. We don’t have to guess. He has opened to us his character, his attributes, his heart. How sad it is that the reality of revelation has become so commonplace to us. What a tragedy that we take it for granted. Though we have every reason to revel in the thrill of our eternal destiny, we would be terribly remiss if we failed to realize that greater than the privilege of living forever is that of knowing God because, in the end, our faith is about God, not about us.

We need be wary, however, for in today’s world there are many who seek to neutralize the revelation that we take for granted. From critical scholars who consider the Bible no different from any other ancient literature to the pluralistic demagogues who tell us that one religious book is as good as another, many discount the Bible’s status as God’s revelation. We cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that without the Bible, we would know nothing about God.15 It is only through his Word that we learn the extent and nuances of his holiness, his sovereignty, his justice, his faithfulness, his grace, and his love.” 2

I love this little story. Creatively it captures the need the ancient people had for the revelation of the gods. Most sacred ancient literature does not even claim to be a revelation from God. Sacred texts are written by priests who were skilled enough to crack open the realm of the gods to determine some kind of meaning or purpose or message for their lives.

Christians in our modern age are typically not known for being people of Grace. Though one of the most well known and embraced doctrines of Christian Faith is “Salvation by Grace”. These passages about the covenant point to part of the problem even in our 21st Century world. While Christians believe themselves to be the recipients of grace they do not always see themselves as dispensers of Grace. And sadly the world does not see Christians as this either. The typical view of Christians is actually the opposite of people who extend grace to others.

The contemporary significance of the passages comes alive quite well when we consider the original meaning of the covenant. God set out to reveal himself clearly to those ancient people. We wanted them to rediscover relationship with the “All Mighty” God. We also wanted them to be a partner with him in his work. That work post Eden, is about redemption of all families, and all of creation. If we want to be like God we need to go beyond people who are ‘saved by Grace’ to being a people who are ‘characterized by grace”.

Summary Statements:
Overall this has been a paper on Covenant as Gods self Revelation. Although I personally believe in looking at the law as being specifically about both the man-God relationship and partnership for the redemptive project of God. I want to continue exploring how to tack on this key emphasis as well, having to do with Revelation. So much of the content of the Covenant is about Revelation or self disclosure of God. Or I will also tell people that once you get into the details or when you say how God articulates how the covenant works then you begin to understand that its about Relationship and Redemption. But this is actually something God reveals, discloses, articulates in the details of the Covenant. So really all three of these “R’s” are helpful for understanding the covenant, its purpose and characteristics. The more that I clarify this the more I feel this has been there all along in the CSBS’s I have been a part of. It is one of the reason students feel a strong confidence in the use of the Law beyond a purely soteriological reading of Paul and the Torah. There are reasons beyond how to and how not to be saved. Law and Torah has to do with being a dispenser of Gods grace via revelation within the covenant details.

ταῦτα ἀνακρίνω

1. The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis by John H. Walton – Page 400-402

2. The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis by John H. Walton – Page 406-408

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Categories: Ancient Near East, Bible, Context, CSBS, Culture, Egyptian Mythology, Faith, Genesis, History, Modern, Old Testament, School of Biblical Studies, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and the End of Christian Gnosticism

mountainflowersI want to begin this blog with a reminder that the bible affirms environmental stewardship and the sanctity of human life. Gods created order in Genesis one and two reveal a God who created man to partner with God in the good care of all forms of life.

The rest of the bible makes a strong case that man not God brings harm to the many forms of life. The fate of man us intertwined with the treatment of all other life forms.  So man not God hurts God created order.

The other biblical reminder is of Gods Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection. His incarnation initiates the redemptive work in nature and humankind. The idea that the all mighty, powerful, creator putting on human flesh transforms our idea of a distorted humanity. He continues this redemptive work when he is killed, buried and then resurrected. He is reversing what Adam had broken in humanity by taking on death, and overcoming it for all mankind. That he would take on the flesh of a sinful race, die, and be resurrected confirms that Gods creation is still worthy of preservation.

We are challenged to be better caretakers of our environment, because God has carried for it, because he created it, because he incarnates it regularly, because he has future plans for its full restoration.

His plans for the future restoration includes the present. Right now God’s Word is to be incarnate in our lives. We are to follow the model he sets, the job he gives in creation, the job he gives, “go make disciples of all nations” and again in Acts “to the ends of the earth”. So all nations, all people, all lands, all of nature is to be touched by people of God bringing reconciliation and trans-formative restoration. His holistic approach reminds us when we attempt to evangelize a man that we treat him as a whole man. We make our appeal not simply in mechanical terms of truth but in the spirit of Love. We are not appealing simply to a soul without a mind or a body. Love means physical emotional connections must be made. When appealing to the mind we must bring some facts, some reason, some absolute certainty. Yes, and the third, man is a spirit and not just a mind with a body. Man is a metaphysical creature.

Just as our appeal is not only to on part of nature, or one nation of people. It is also to all of creation, all of humanity, and all of what is human. Jesus came to bring back to life all that is dead in his created order. trinity-172175215_std

The Doctrine of the Trinity affirms these many beliefs. That God is in some way inseparable from his creation by the three facts; that it is his creation, that he acted by his word to protect and guide the future redemption of all of creation and that he has taken on flesh and entered into creation. That man is made in Gods image affirms the three part of man that are to be redeemed. Non Human nature also bears the mark of trinity in Protons, Neutrons and Electrons. These three particles are the building blocks of all physical substances. Protons have a positive charge, electrons are negative and neutrons are neutral. In the same way we have the basic particles made up of Hadrons, Leptons and Bosons.

So how is it that we can get the trinity right without getting rid of Christian Gnostic attitudes towards creation. So much negativity has been built up towards the natural order. We are ready to see it all come crashing down. We are ready to see Jesus come back and save it all. But why are we not ready to defend the earth, to defend what God made in humanity.

Maybe we need to set our eyes anew on the last book of our sacred library. Maybe Revelation has something to say. For isn’t it this book that many think confirms our fears, that it is all coming down. That when it does then the rescue comes. Why not just hold on until the end, be raptured, be rescued, and forget about trying to make a pathetic effort to fix any of it.

Just as Jesus left it to his church to go into all the world and disciple nations. Revelation 21 reveals the climax of this work. That when Jesus kingdom comes in full the kings of the nations will bring into the kingdom of God the glory and honor of nations. (verses 24-26). How sad it will be for those who simply held on until the end. There will be no glory and honor being brought into the kingdom of God. There will be no part in bringing in the kingdom of God. Discipling nations to walk in holistic renewal, not just their churches, and the souls of people. But whole people,  whole nations, and the whole of creation. Only this work will be brought into the kingdom of God when it is in its fullness.

My friend Ron Smith, says that “The trinity, is a theological hill to die on”. I think I get what this means when I consider that God also has a certain kind of wholeness. We can distort his image to being parts of the trinity. When we do this we are vulnerable further to distorting the parts of man, parts of nature, and the nature of the Christian mission. A single crack in the trinity can wreck the churches witness.

 

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The Myth of the “Dark Ages” – Discovering Christian Heritage

Introduction

Over the past year I have begun reading a range of historical, sociological, and philosophy books on Christianity. I have read nine books on these topics mostly relating to history. This has lead to placing about twice as many books on my amazon.com wish list that I now wish to continue researching. However, there has been one major issue that has intrigued me in my reading. That is the period from 500-1,500 AD known still by many as the “Dark Ages”. Although most honest and respectable Historians will not use the term any more because its just nonsense, and they know it. Most are unfortunately aware of what is meant by “the dark ages”.

That after the fall of the “glorious” Greek and Roman world Europe was plunged into 1,000 years of “the dark ages” brought about by ignorant Christians until the rediscovery of Classical Literature and learning brought on by the hero’s of the “Enlightenment, and Renaissance”, men such as Voltaire and Gibbons.

However, the 1,000 years stretching from the fall of Rome to the Reformation of the Church was not an era of Christian Ignorance in Europe. It was neither entirely ignorant nor entirely Christian. It was also no shame to see Rome fall, for Europe, though no longer unified under the suffocating grip of the Empire, was free to gain immense wealth through creative innovations, and it was most often the church who lead the way in such endeavors.

A good kind of Asceticism.

The early monastic communities lead a secluded life, reject the pleasures or the consumer world. Often times to extreme lengths to inflict unnecessary pain on themselves, thus proving their devotion to God. This aspect is not what I wish to highlight. If it was all that monastic communities were known for I would not bother mentioning them. But they had a much greater impact on the history of Christianity and the Western World as a whole.

Monastic “asceticism” also lead to a high value on work, or a strong work ethic. For them it was an ethic, it was a value, a discipline. This is where their “asceticism” can not accurately be considered as asceticism at all. It was a unity. An understanding that spiritual maturity could be seen in the work ethic of the monk. This was Saint Benedict’s own words concerning the issue;

“idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as prayerful reading… when they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and apostles did, then they are really monks”.

Out of the early monastic community comes the first record of effective Capitalism. When wealth is not despised, but the consumer attitude and the ‘love of money’ is not prevalent, these early communities reinvested in those with similar notions of labor dignity. There own theological position changed, with prayerful reading and study, to becoming small investment firms that valued hard work over accumulating wealth for worldly pleasures.

Such market freedom was not possible under the Roman Caesars nor the Republic. Roman roads did not lead to Free Markets or creative innovations. Roman roads acted for the empire as an easier way to move about their armies returning with sacked goods from invaded lands benefited only by the elite in Rome. The Fall of Rome benefited everyone in Europe but an elite ruling cast of the Empires most privileged.

Romes Moral Grip 

Something often overlooked are the moral progressions moving away from the fall of Rome, and the dissipating of Greek Philosophy and its grip on cultured Greeks. For one, much of Europe was no longer Greek at all but German. Two, we shall take a look at the nature of what is often Romanticized and not addressed honestly as seriously lacking in ethics modern minds would even agree with. Again, it was no tragedy here to see the culture of Roman and Greek learning moving to the background.

Two issues often overlooked are views concerning women and slavery. There is plenty of praise for Plato, and Aristotle for being some of the greatest philosophers of all time. Yet both were slave owners and their philosophy justified these actions. Slavery has been a universal issue accepted by even the most primitive people groups. However, Christianity rejected human bondage more than once in the “Dark Ages” alone. Possibly the first know elimination of sanctioned slavery was not brought on during the “Enlightenment or Renaissance” but smack in the middle of the “Dark Ages”.

It was clever church leaders who first, extended sacraments to all slaves. Eventually priests began urging Christians to free their slaves if they had become Christians. Eventually the issue of intermarriage came along, and despite this being against most laws there is evidence of mixed unions between slave and free. In 649 Clovis II, King of the Franks, married his British slave Bathilda. Then the King dies Bathilda ruled until her son cam of age. Bathilde used her position to halt the slave trade and buy back the enslaved. Upon her death the Church acknowledge her as a saint. Then in the 8th Century Charlemagne opposed slavery along with the Pope and many other voices of clergy. Bishop Agobard, 9th Century;

“All men are brothers, all invoke one same Father, God: the slave and the master, the poor man and the rich man, the ignorant and the learned, the weak and the strong… none has been raised above the other… there is no… slave or free, but in all things and always there is only Christ.”

Again, in the 11th century St. Wulfstan, and St. Anselm successfully campaigned to bring an end to the last grips of slavery in Christian Lands. The slavery reappears no true Christians doubted that slavery in itself is against divine law. I have chosen these examples out of many throughout Christian history because again the “Dark Ages” is not only a fictional period but the idea that Christianity being the reason for the ‘darkness’ is nonsense.

Not to go in-depth but, slaves and potential slaves were guarded by the innovations and technologies created during this great time of progress. Water mills, wind mills, damns and agricultural innovations revolutionized trade and commerce throughout Europe. The earliest of such innovations were developed out of monastic communities by Christian monks.

In regard to women it’s not actually a stretch for anyone to try to find the prevalent views among Greek philosophy and the nature of the role of women in Greek culture. But what people often don’t know is the many benefits for women among Christian circles. They are astronomical. Truly. Even from infancy; women in Greek and Roman culture were far more likely the those born into Christian families to be discarded altogether. This was common and legal. There were many wealthy women in Greek culture, however they remained subject to laws that kept them out of the political and social arena -they had little to no public influence and were still view as less than men and no greater than slaves. Christian communities from the time of Christ welcomed women, even those who were outcasts, and many influential women in the Gospels and Acts are seen in support of the work of the church and hosting apostles and services in their homes. Paul’s views on women are the subject of a lot of scrutiny but are rarely looked at in light of Greek and Jewish culture. When you take another look it’s not to difficult to see that Paul’s views are progressive though not in the way of leaps and bounds. Women were appointed apostles, and taught in the early church, and in some churches Paul requires that as there are many women in church, that they refrain from asking questions in church but wait until they are home to be further educated. It was not common for Greek women to be educated let alone by their husbands.

One final fact about Christian communities the differed from Greek and Roman customs was the marriageable age. Simply put, in Greek culture and most ancient cultures daughters marriages were arranged often before puberty and young girls would often be subject to the worst atrocities at young ages forever ruining their sex life and possibly their ability to actually bear children. This resulted in very low fertility rates in Greek and Roman times. This was due to the desire to be sure that your bride was a true virgin. Among Christian communities the fertility rates were extremely high in comparison, simply due to older aged brides. Women enjoyed benefited immensely from being Christian for these reasons and more. Life was better for women whose fathers and husbands were Christians and children benefited from Christian parents.

Rome Losses its Mind

Had the great minds of the Greek and Roman world continued to pursue knowledge that would have been one thing. Greek thinking came about as close as it can get to mans discovery of ultimate meaning and truth. The climax of Greek thinking was perhaps their grasping of the idea of the “Logos”. An ultimate power behind everything, sustaining all things, essentially they nailed it on the head. However, Greek philosophers had grown tired of the use of logic, and reason. It had been cheapened by the political system of the day. Politics defended their agendas with the use of greater rhetoric and logical arguments. This giving birth to Skeptic Philosophy regarding the use of logic and reason. How is logic and a better rhetoric intrinsic to reality? And thus the skeptics were able to create this intellectual climate in which rationalism was now suspect to doubt, and dissatisfaction, and allowing the claim that real knowledge comes independent of reason. Again, they were so close they simply lacked the answer only God could reveal, Logos Incarnate.

That said, it was no tragedy to see Rome fall, and Europe was not plunged into an era of ignorance. There was no plunge into the so-called “Dark Ages”.

Enlightenment and Renaissance started in “The Dark Ages”

So the story goes, that once the fall of Popes from political influence held for centuries during the “Dark Ages” Europe was free at last to think again, to express themselves again, and to explore reason and science. That art, Literature, education, music, and science was to finally pick back up following were the Greeks had left off. That’s the story. But its all a lie.

Were Greek thinking climaxed and crashed Christian communities which developed in 5th Century continued to explore reason, logic, literature, education, and yes -Science. For now what I want to lay out is how the “Dark Ages” found freedom of expression to develop new music, art, and architecture.

900 AD saw the publishing of the first known Polyphony; the sounding of two or more musical lines to create harmonies. The 10th Century saw the development of a system of musical notation. Now music could be recorded and reproduced by someone who had never heard the song before, so long as he could learn to read the note and was skilled.

goth

As for art, here is a building from what was a poorly named period called “Romanesque”. An expression in art, sculpture, and architecture that was beyond what most Roman artists would understand, for sure.  During the Enlightenment and Renaissance period, art and architecture was criticized for not conforming to standards of Classical Greece and Rome. However, the middle ages also saw the expressions of Christian aspiration in the Cathedrals build by the Goths. Still standing today they are a reminder that during this era there was a great eagerness to express the thoughts and aspirations of men.

pagan-philosophers

13th Century artist Van Eyck was the first to use Oil Paint and put their work on stretched canvas rather than on wood or plaster. Thus allowing the painter to take his time and use brushes with great detail not worrying about the paint drying to fast.

Finally the church is often rightly criticized for not working to translate the great works of classic antiquities or even the bible itself out of Latin into the common language of the people, and thus educate the masses. However, the monastic communities were open to those who would send their children to such orders, and open for learning. But what of literature? The great writers and proponents of the Enlightenment; Gibbons wrote in English, Voltaire wrote in French, Cervantes in Spanish, and Machiavelli and Da Vinci in Italian. It was possible for these men to eloquently, yet falsely write concerning the “Dark Ages” and woes of Christendom because these languages had been given their form by medieval giants such as Dante, Chaucer, and nameless other monks beginning as early as the 9th Century. So much for the illiteracy and ignorance of the “Dark Ages”.

The monastic communities may not be the best model of education. They were however a formal education that involved prayer, study, and work. The need for a better form arose and Christians were the first to create the University in Europe. It was very much unlike the Chinese Institutions previously in existence. The Universities in Europe were not merely concerned with teaching the received wisdom. There concern and popularity was gained by innovation. The pursuit among university professors known as the ‘Scholastic” was knowledge, and knowledge that is meaningful gives way to remarkable results that make Christian university great. The worlds first two universities were started by Catholic scholars in Paris and Bologna in about 1160. Forty years later, Oxford and Cambridge, and by the end of the 13th Century an other 20 universities. Again, they became popular because of innovation. One of, if not thee greatest achievement of universities was the Scientific Revolution. Or I like to call it a revelation.

Science

Critical Revelation was required for societies to develop actual Science. Not that it was the only factor but there were many other cultures that could have developed science but were lacking a certain element of revelation for the task. China, Greece, and Islam were perhaps the closest of all other cultures to come close. The Chinese could have long before Christians or Greece.

Perhaps the overarching reason that neither China nor Greece reached an actual system of Science is because just as small gods do not create a universe, neither do impersonal essences or principles. Greece had a system of small gods, limited in power that they actually believed were the forces behind the physical world but their gods were an incoherent group that lacked the unity needed to even begin to comprehend the world around us. And the potential of Science falls flat on its face. And so it is with China, their god is an impersonal essence and universal principle. While there is received wisdom the universe has always been and will always be and is without natural laws that we can comprehend in physical terms. And again, Science is dead before it begins.

The truly most interesting case is that of a possible Islamic Science. It never happened. But they came very close as well. It is true that Muslim Intellectuals collected some classical manuscripts. However, their own “enlightenment” reached by the discovery of Classical Philosophy was detrimental to the potential of science rather than what some wrongly consider a tribute to Islamic Science.  The Devout Muslim historian Caesar E. Farah writes;

“The early Muslim thinkers took up Philosophy where the Greeks left off…Thus in Aristotle Muslim thinkers found the great guide; to them he became the “first teacher.”     Having accepted this a priori, Muslim philosophy as it evolved in subsequent centuries merely chose to continue in this vein and to enlarge Aristotle rather than to innovate.”

Here is one mistake. Aristotle was wrong about most of his philosophical theories and was not a scientist. In order to be a scientist you need to do science. Science involves theory and philosophy but is a system and brotherhood of accountability proving or disproving theories that help explain life in physical terms.

And what of their religion. Wouldn’t Islam have the necessary God to underwrite the rise of science? No. Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but has been conceived of as an active God, intruding regularly on the world as he deems it appropriate. Consequently in Islam arose theological problems which condemned scientific efforts to determine natural laws. This may lead to man determining that there are ways in which God is limited. Christianity was only different from Islam in this way because although God has been understood in the same way. The Christians, such as Rene Descartes (1596-1605) justified his attempts to determine natural laws on the interpretation that God is perfect and acts in a manner consistent with his Creation. (This is not to say that God can not perform miracles. But perhaps if he is the one performing them then he can do it in a way consistent with what he has created.)

My favorite example so far is Galileo. He is my favorite because it seems he is a favorite of those who criticize Christianity for its ignorance and holding back progress and innovation. There is a lot of drama in the story of Galileo. He was an arrogant, cocky, Christian Scientist whose views were not so much hated by the church but his way about publishing them. Galileo was friends with Matteo Barberini while he was still Cardinal. Upon becoming Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) he knew and liked Galileo published his scientific works and enjoyed his attacks on Jesuit scholars. The Pope went on to write a poem about the glories of astronomy.  Then some things went wrong. Remember too, the historical context; a Thirty Year war raged and counter reformations were underway.  The issue of these times was authority. The Pope not the scientist or reformer had authority to overturn the tables. Galileo was warned and assured that his Science could go on but that he needed to be willing to sidestep some of the theological issues and present his science as such without attempting to tamper with theology and thus challenge the authority of the church, forcing the Pope’s hand. Other great scientists works were celebrated pre-Gelileo because of their willingness to present their work without assuming ultimate power to outright condemn Catholic Orthodoxy.

Galileo was anything but tactful  in his next publication. However, he was creative in finding a way to get the work published making a spectacle of the Pope and Catholic Orthodoxy and betraying a powerful friend. Pope Urban VIII attempted to limit the consequences on his friend but the response was a general crack down on intellectual freedom on scholastics. However, these crackdowns came to late to prevent the surge of the scientific revolution developed by Christians including Galileo who was willing like Luther of his day to challenge the official orthodoxy with innovations he believed to be consistent with Gods creation and control.  Galileo;

“The book of nature is a book written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics”

Rodney Stark: “while Pope Urban VIII religious views may have caused Galileo to suffer for his scientific views, Galileo’s Science did not suffer because of his own religious views”

Being Grateful for the Reformation

I have always been grateful for the work of the great reformers and those who prepared the way so that this great movements could take place. However, there is new light cast on the Reformations that I am very grateful for as well. I realize more accurately why I can be grateful for what happened as a result of the reformations.

Bibles finally began appearing In more common languages. However a problem remained that was prominent during the medieval period. That is, people still need to learn to read so they can access the power of scriptures for themselves. Churches before and after the reformation were mostly empty. The catholic church became more concerned with baptizing Kings, thus whole kingdoms into Christendom. No need for personal evangelism, or personal salvation, when you can just baptize a whole kingdom. This was perhaps one of the biggest failures of the time leading up to the reformation and a problem the reformers faced as well. How do you get people interested in learning to read and wanting to read scripture and be in church. A problem Europe faces still today.

These conclusions have led me to believing that it was not simply the reformation or protestant movement that was needed but that the reformations eventually gave way to subsequent reformations that introduced Christianity to a new problem that would turn out to be Christianities best tool for multiplication. Christian Diversity. Though it is sad, the number of denominations within protestantism, it is amazing how the multiple expressions of the same faith creates an atmosphere of healthy competition among groups to out evangelize and win more reach more people with the message of salvation, and the Christian worldview.

Today

Unfortunately this means we need to constantly take efforts to unify our diverse ideas of how the church should look. There is a need to be under a larger banner of sound orthodoxy of the basics of the Christian faith. Social Christian Networks are a thing for the future of the Christian movement. As we have already seen the split and we continue to see new expressions of the faith popping up all the time in new christian communities, the challenge will be to network under some of the basics of a Christian Biblical Convictions.

Our circles will be popular for a number of cultural reasons. But perhaps we can attempt to popularize our networks through innovative action, built upon a sound biblical foundation, for the Glory of God,  seeking first his kingdom. Just as was carried out during the “Dark Ages” a period known for Christian Ignorance but in fact a period in which Christians successfully moved forward new innovations, such as the University one of the original centers for higher education, innovation, evangelism, and biblical foundations. A place where people were unified under the basics; ‘Know God and Make him Known”.

Final Thoughts

What will people say about our era?  Not just our generation but the era we are in? How will what we do affect the way people look at the centuries surrounding our life?

Revelation, Exploration, Reason, Innovation, Multiplication

Bibliography:

I know I didn’t use quotations. But I just want to give reference to some of the authors I have been using. I am very grateful to a friend John Randerson for correcting me on some of my own ignorance about History. He suggested Rodney Stark to me. I’ve since read 5 of his books, and have a couple more on my shelf to read. Vishal Mangalwadi’s book, “The book that made your world” was a huge encouragement to me and a massive faith builder. I have also begun reading the works of Francis Scheaffer and his re-hashing of history particularly history of philosophy and religion and worldview. Bruce L. Shelley’s very readable book on church history was awesome as well. Also thanks to years of biblical study in extra biblical resources such as Alfred Edersheim and the use of some great dictionaries.

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Categories: Church, Enlightenment, History, Modern, Philosophy, Renaissance, Society/Culture, Uncategorized, Women, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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