Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Christology and Science 3 (RJS)

posted by xscot mcknight

The last case study in LeRon Shults’s book Christology and Scienceis parousia and physical cosmology. The first case study in this book on incarnation was interesting – but somewhat abstract. The second case study on atonement was fascinating and insightful. But … Shults out does himself in this third case study — and no, I don’t mean in clarity of prose. This chapter is not for the faint of heart in search of light (or clear) reading. An understanding of the paraousia of Christ is, however, a topic well worth discussion and I will attempt to lay out some key points for consideration.
First - it would be useful to define parousia as Shults uses the term. “In the New Testament, the Greek work “parousia” itself can mean either (or both) “presence” and “coming.” … The doctrine of the parousia attends to the variety of ways in which the biblical tradition witnesses to the experience of being confronted with the advent of God through Christ (for example, the coming of the “Son of Man”), and the relation of this arrival to the consummation of the whole created cosmos.” (p. 109)
Second - as with the doctrines of incarnation and atonement the starting point in this discussion is a realization that both the biblical witness and the contemplations of the early church fathers grapple with the parousia, the presence and coming of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, in the context of the available language, philosophy, and cosmology of the day and age. The NT writers grapple with the reality of the Jesus of their experience using language which they know is inadequate to the task. Something brand new, without precedent, had turned their world upside down. The early church fathers continue to wrestle with the new reality.
In articulating the parousia the church has used images of space and time, cause and effect, matter and spirit, that emerged out of their context and culture. The biblical witnesses and New Testament writers used the cosmological frame of reference they shared with their neighbors to describe their experience and expectation of the coming Christ and his relation to the presence of God; the eschatological presentations presupposed the cosmology of their “common knowledge;” they breathed this atmosphere and spoke this language as they tried to express in words the reality of the risen Lord.
In the early 21st century our views of space and time have been revolutionized, as have our descriptions of cause, effect and matter. The big bang, cosmology, special and general relativity, quantum indeterminacy, quarks and gluons all impact on our understanding of God’s creation and the continuing and coming presence of Jesus within creation. Many aspects of causality remain intact – but time, for example, is relative to the observer. Matter and energy are interchangeable. The universe is both infinite and expanding – there is no center. The exploitation of quantum interference effects to manipulate matter and process is an active field of research (in my lab for example). As Shults reports, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle “is not simply an epistemological or methodological limit; the nature of sub-atomic reality is not susceptible to deterministic prediction.” (p. 123) This has profound consequences in many ways — the stability of both atoms and molecules are prime examples.
Well… as I said at the outset, this chapter gets a bit deep, in physics, philosophy, and theology. But Shults’s wrap-up makes several excellent points —

How then can we articulate belief in the resurrection, ascension and coming of Jesus Christ in dialogue with contemporary physical cosmology? Christians believe that Jesus has been raised up “bodily” into a redeemed relation to God through the Spirit. However, the way in which we articulate this belief will be shaped by what it means for a (material) body to be energized in space-time. (p. 147-148)

Watch out this gets a bit deep…

We are no longer required to imagine heaven as a place (near or far), where Jesus is watching and waiting for the right time to return. In light of contemporary cosmological categories, we can move beyond thinking of the “ascension” as a movement through space, away from a fixed inertial point, or the “coming” of Christ as a return from a particular space at a fixed time. Instead we may think of the whole parousia as the manifestation of God’s incursive and evocative redemption of space-time-matter-energy, as the arriving consummation of creaturely desire to belong to and be longed for within an infinitely redemptive field of hopeful communion.(p. 148)

(I warned you…)
Ok – here it gets a bit better:

Here we also have an opportunity to articulate a reforming Christology that makes clear why the arriving presence of God in, to and for the world is good news. Depicting the parousia as a future point on a timeline at which some of us will escape the destruction of planet earth is not only problematic for all of the biblical and scientific reasons outlined above; it also obscures our responsibility to face our neighbors in practical interdisciplinary and inter-religious dialogue about our shared longing for peaceful presence in communion.(p. 149)

Well the last quote still leaves one with a feeling of peering through a glass darkly – but the point is that the good news is not that some of us escape destruction, but that the kingdom of God, God’s new creation, is at hand – both present and coming.
This does lead to a key question…
What do we mean by the parousia – the present and coming reality of the reign of God through the Son and Spirit? What is the present and future Christian hope — the Gospel — and how can we describe the good news for our generation?



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josenmiami

posted September 16, 2008 at 6:26 am


wow! makes me want to read the book. Just from your post, it sounds like a worthy attempt to recontextualize resurrection realities in our contemporary understanding of cosmology. I’ll definitely put it on my “to read” list. So many books, and so little time!



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Bob Brague

posted September 16, 2008 at 6:50 am


My Old Pauline Perspective made me turn to 2 Corinthians chp 5, which you can read for yourself. I for one am not interested in recontextualizing resurrection realities in our contemporary understanding of cosmology. Contemporary understandings often turn out to be antithetical to solid ground.
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. That’s all I really need to know.



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Bob Brague

posted September 16, 2008 at 6:51 am


And, no, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.



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Bob Brague

posted September 16, 2008 at 6:52 am


What if coffee turned out to be part of the problem and not part of the solution? :)



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John Frye

posted September 16, 2008 at 7:07 am


RJS,
I agree that LeRon can write some very thick stuff. Thanks for tackling this intriguing book. Today’s post was very informative and I appreciate your ability to make LeRon’s “reforming” ideas accessible to us. Thanks for including this line from LeRon: “…it [parousia on a timeline] also obscures our responsibility to face our neighbors in practical interdisciplinary and inter-religious dialogue about our shared longing for peaceful presence in communion.”



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John Frye

posted September 16, 2008 at 7:15 am


Bob (#2),
Aren’t you leary of the danger of being an earth-centered cosmologist in a Galileo universe? :) The Bible was quoted emphatically to prove Galileo (and before him Copernius) wrong. You seem to be a person who would be very interested in these contextualizing endeavors.
John



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Daniel

posted September 16, 2008 at 7:15 am


“Depicting the parousia as a future point on a timeline at which some of us will escape the destruction of planet earth is not only problematic for all of the biblical and scientific reasons outlined above;”
Well, I can agree that scripture points to Christ’s kingdom as “already and not yet”, meaning that we are a part of the kingdom but there will be an actual time that Christ physically sets up His kingdom. But the problematic phrase in the above quote for me is the seeming bending of scripture because of “scientific” problems. This of course is nothing new since many churches bowed to evolutionary theory not fathoming that an all-powerful God could create in 6 days…even with the appearance of age!
Also, I think it’s poor Bible interpretation to assume that the inspired authors of Scripture had to write words down that they ultimately couldn’t understand unless they lived in the 21st century.
Other than that, it’s great to ponder the coming of Christ when this sinful world can no longer effect us, and we can glorify God by enjoying Him forever!



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Daniel

posted September 16, 2008 at 7:17 am


“Also, I think it?s poor Bible interpretation to assume that the inspired authors of Scripture had to write words down that they ultimately couldn?t understand unless they lived in the 21st century.”
I must hasten to add that since I haven’t read the entire book, I can’t say with certainty that that is what the author does, but it is a definite first impression.



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John Frye

posted September 16, 2008 at 8:16 am


Daniel,
Poor Bible interpretation? The writers of Scripture did, in fact, write down things that they did not fully understand as we understand today, e.g., when they wrote about a flat earth, the sun moving from one side to the other, etc. Geocentric or heliocentric? People were excommunicated over these things and “Bible interpretation” was right in the middle of it. See comment #6.



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ChrisB

posted September 16, 2008 at 8:52 am


[skreeching to a halt]
Christians believe that Jesus has been raised up ?bodily? into a redeemed relation to God through the Spirit.
Does that sit wrong with anybody else? It kinda sounds like he believes Jesus is an elevated human rather than the eternal creator.
Depicting the parousia as a future point on a timeline at which some of us will escape the destruction of planet earth …
It’s not that some will escape the destruction of earth; some will escape the judgement of sin. Earth’s fate is the same either way.
So can the “new earth” just be a change in how people related to God and each other? I don’t think so — there’s that bit about immortality and no more pain, etc.
I’m not going to question whether we can understand parts of the scriptures differently than those in the past (e.g., how the virgin birth worked), but we need to be cautious about throwing out the clear reading of scriptures because of the prevailing scientific theories of the day.
If the God who created the universe from scratch decided to completely rewrite the physical laws, I don’t see why He couldn’t. Will God do something that drastic? I don’t know.



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Daniel C

posted September 16, 2008 at 8:58 am


John,
You state: “The writers of Scripture did, in fact, write down things that they did not fully understand as we understand today” And then you give the infamous heliocentric argument. The difference here is that whether the earth rotates around the sun or not is not addressed in scripture. However, the issues of creation, the resurrection, and Christ’s return are specifically addressed.
Not to be too harsh on science though. Science can help me appreciate the truths found in Scripture, but it cannot change them.



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Daniel C

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:03 am


Quick note to John (#9) here’s a link that addresses the issue of whether the Bible teaches a geocentric view or not.
http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v15/i2/geocentrism.asp



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Rick

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:05 am


ChrisB #10-
Good points.
I think looking at this scientific perspective is helpful, but it does have limits. One gets the sense that science should be driving the ship, and that it has superior insight to that of theology, Scripture, and the early church. Again, science can be a helpful tool, but some humility in its ability is needed.



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Diane

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:05 am


Thanks for taking this on, RJS. I don’t think we commonly understand the nature of the physical world well and am glad of books that help reconcile the Bible with science in intelligent ways.
P.S. While I do believe God could create the earth in six days AND make it look old, that’s not consistent with my understanding of how God works.



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Diane

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:06 am


Thanks for taking this on, RJS. I don’t think we commonly understand the nature of the physical world well and am glad of books that help reconcile the Bible with science in intelligent ways.
P.S. While I do believe God could create the earth in six days AND make it look old, that’s not consistent with my understanding of how God works.



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RJS

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:07 am


ChrisB,
I think that Shults is moving in parallel with NT Wright here a bit – the question isn’t judgment; the question is the meaning of new creation and the Lord’s prayer and …
Certainly Wright makes strong arguments against the destruction of planet earth as “the point.” So a good place to start would be to interact with how Wright views scripture on this topic; and of course – why he may or may not be correct.



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LE

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:08 am


I see that I am probably in a minority here, but I have not been greatly enlightened by the passages of the book so far quoted.
Without having read it, it seems to me that there are some questionable assumptions being made.
The first is, that the NT authors and church fathers developed their understanding of the gospel on the basis of contemporary knowledge in the physical sciences. For example, there was a reference in an earlier post to the ancient obstetric theory that the male sperm provided the logos or pneuma of a child, and the woman the material substance. However, the NT and the church fathers are not so crude in their presentation of the incarnation as to suggest that Jesus consisted of a divine rational element in a body that was physically human. The word did not “enter” the flesh, but _became_ flesh. It certainly is not how the doctrine is put in the creeds, which were the main frame of reference for the original post.
Secondly, there is the assumption that the Gospel now needs to be presented in a manner that is consistent with modern physics. This is questionable because modern physics quite expressly does not provide a way of imagining the world. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle may have entered into educated popular consciousness, but nobody pretends that it is easy to reconcile with the way the world appears to us on an everyday basis. I know what the principle is, and I could explain it to somebody else, but I can’t “see” how it can be true. Contrast this with the pre-quantum view of atoms as consisting essentially of mini-solar systems, or of tiny golf balls whizzing around each other. I can imagine that: however, I am told by physicists that it is wrong.
On the contrary, I would say that the NT presentation of the incarnation is grounded in a phenomenological cosmology, which has not really changed. Up, down, before, after, “because of” and “as a result of” may be categories that are difficult to reconcile with what modern physics has told us about the world, but they still resonate very well with our everyday experience of embodiedness. That is, we can still make perfect sense of the phrase “upper class”, or the sentence “the future lies before me”, because they are grounded in the physical reality of being human. That is, we know that the “upper class” is not necessarily any further from the centre of the earth than the “lower class”, but we recognise exactly what is meant because what is “up” is usually stronger or more powerful or in a better position than what is “down”.
Having said all of that, I do not wish to play down the very real problems that ought to be addressed (and which, to be fair, the book may address if I were to read it!). I, too, see the difficulty of squaring belief that Jesus will “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” with the apparent fact that the universe is expanding to the point of eventual uselessness; the problem of squaring belief in the “resurrection of the body” with the observation that the body consists of atoms and molecules that are constantly being recycled into other bodies (or with the philosophical problem in seeing how a being “raised from the dead”, or re-created, at some time in the future not chronological contiguous with my earthly life could be “me”); the problem of squaring the proposition that death came into the world through sin with the obvious fact that death and pain among animals have been a natural part of life for millennia prior to the existence of human beings; or even the proposition that human beings uniquely among the animal kingdom have “fallen” with the fact that other animals (such as chimpanzees) behave a lot like us (i.e. they live in societies where they suffer from one another’s violence, envy, power abuse, etc.).
If I were not a Christian, these are the questions I would be asking. In fact, I am a Christian and find these the greatest intellectual challenges to my faith! The point is, I just don’t believe that they are essentially hermeneutical problems. The NT and the creeds are not hard to understand; it just isn’t always clear how they can be true.



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Dan B.

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:11 am


I think this book makes some good points, but takes some steps a little too far forward. Are the Scriptures shaped by the language and thought of the people who wrote them? Of course they are and it is helpful to analyze those items, but we have to be careful on a number of points. Sometimes the language is less than scientific, but that doesn’t mean what’s being said is incorrect or that the authors were without a clue. E.g. the sun standing still. In a sense this didn’t happen. Most likely it was the earth that stood still. And remember, today we still talk of the sun setting and rising, and that probably included the scientific community. At the same time, maybe something else beyond our current comprehension happened. We are constantly amazed by new and crazy scientific truths. This is the most important point. We need to be careful about assuming how much we know. We think we know one thing today, but in 50 or 100 years, maybe our science will stand on its head and we’ll find out that even the language used in the Bible is truer than we currently understand. I guess we’ll just have to wait to talk it over with God himself ;)
So as to the issue at hand, the parousia. Yes, today we have new conceptions of time, space, matter, etc. While the Bible speaks of new heaven and new earth and the end, what is this saying? It says that our time, our earth, etc will be ended and a new era and new earth, etc will be reborn. What part of this is inconsistent with today’s scientific revelations? The time, matter, energy, etc of today will be ended and something that seems similar, but will indeed be quite different will come about. In the same way our bodies and souls, realities today, will be reborn in a way that is similar but also quite different. Just because we realize that today’s stuff is quite bendable, doesn’t mean that the future reality God paints can’t exist, especially for the God who creates all things.



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ChrisB

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:23 am


RJS, I’m not sure I’d say the destruction of the earth is “the point,” but in the Bible (esp. Isaiah and Romans) the redemption of human nature goes hand in hand with the redemption of nature (whether it’s true destruction or simply transformation).



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John Frye

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:37 am


Daniel C (#11),
I agree and that’s my point. You seem to assume that you’ve got the biblical record nailed down because it reports “…creation, the resurrection, and Christ’s return.” Do you actually think tha all that has been or ever could be said about these realities has already been said? The old “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” just doesn’t fly anymore. Yes, these events are clearly expressed in the Bible, but you and others are left *interpreting* them. LeRon is not denying any of the biblical reports; he is seeking to understand them in light of what science is discovering. He and others are asking: How can these events be shown to be true in light of what we know now? How can this endeavor be wrong? We are not asking ANE biblical writers to be 21st physicists; what we’re wondering is this: how do current scientic discoveries intersect with biblical reports? LeRon is not out to overthrow the Bible.



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John Frye

posted September 16, 2008 at 9:38 am


Daniel, sorry for my pathetic spelling in comment #20. :)



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Daniel C

posted September 16, 2008 at 10:09 am


Spelling. Shmelling. :-) Sometimes the best of intentions can lead down heretical paths. I’m sure LeRon is not out to overthrow the Bible, and I don’t intend to insinuate otherwise. And I also don’t mean to insinuate that science cannot give us new appreciation for the events of the Bible. However, the Bible is also clear that God rules science and not the other way around, and so He is free to bend or break those rules at His pleasure…and for His glory.
And for the record…the old “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” phrase is a bit long. It should be “The Bible says it, that settles it.” Which of course will be ultimately true when we stand before our God. Our interpretations will mean nothing if they are wrong.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted September 16, 2008 at 11:25 am


Daniel #7
God could have created the world in six days and made it appear older. He also could have created it five minutes ago providing us all with memories and evidence to suggest that the world is older. But the character we see from the God of scripture is that is not a deceiver.
Many early geologist working years before Darwin were clergy and they concluded that the earth was quite ancient. This gave them no pause with the Genesis account. The idea that these were not literal 24 hour days shared by a number of early church fathers. Not believing in literal 6 day creation is not an indication that one does not trust God’s power.



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Daniel

posted September 16, 2008 at 11:34 am


(#23)”But the character we see from the God of scripture is that is not a deceiver.”
That’s not deceptive…especially since he went out of His way to explain how He created universe.
“Not believing in literal 6 day creation is not an indication that one does not trust God?s power.”
No, it’s an indication that one does not trust God to speak clearly through His Word.



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dopderbeck

posted September 16, 2008 at 11:43 am


I think the general faith-science-hermeneutics discussion in this thread has gone off-track. Michael Kruse, you’re absolutely right, IMHO. However, the concerns I have about what Shults seems to be saying in these quotes (I haven’t read the book either) go beyond questions about phenomenological language or ancient cosmological assumptions in scripture. I’m concerned that he’s moving towards a sort of syncretism that is a danger in faith-science dialogues, when the conversation moves beyond interdisciplinarity to a melding that doesn’t really respect theology as a distinctive category.
First — it seems that Shults is contextualizing the resurrection in a way that comes dangerously close to modernist existential theology, which tends to hold that Jesus rose in the “hearts and minds” of believers but that his physical body probably remained in the grave. Certainly we can get beyond a naive “reanimation” theory of the resurretion, and we can speculate on the nature of the “resurrection body” of Christ, but it seems to me that we have to insist the resurrection was an ontologically real event in space and time. (I don’t see this as a conflict with science because the Resurrection clearly was a miracle that by defnition falls outside the realm of scientific proof or disproof).
Second, and related, Shults’ notion of the Kingdom of God here also seems to be heading down the path of existential theology, in which the Kingdom is only an existential internal state and not also an external ontological reality. And, it seems, Shults might perhaps be suggesting a kind of universalism in which Christ isn’t uniquely Lord and Savior, again a common feature of this sort of existential theology.
Maybe I’m over-reading the quoted paragraphs and Shults is, as you noted RJS, simply elaborating on the theme of a concrete coming Kingdom ala NT Wright. But those are my concerns.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted September 16, 2008 at 11:47 am


RJS
You got me hooked. I’ve pre-ordered the book.
N. T. Wright uses the analogy of our bodies as hardware and our mind/spirit as software. The hardware gets redone and the software is re-installed.
Volf suggests that God somehow holds us (and all creation) in his memory and then rematerializes everything with everything that does not honor him filtered out.
I’ve often thought of the Star Trek transporter. A person is dematerialized and if you know about Star Trek you know there are bio-filters and such that prevent disease from being transmitted through the beam. In a sense the new creation could be like passing through a transporter beam.
We, as well as the NT church, are looking for ways to describe that which has never been seen and can’t be verablized well. Does Shults address how others have tried to describe this?



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mariam

posted September 16, 2008 at 11:51 am


Interesting article Daniel. #12 Amazing that there are still flat-earthers and geocentrists around and teaching at universities no less (!). The article seems to be an attempt by the 6-day creationists to try and disassociate themselves from the geocentrists, while the geocentrists in the article are trying to disassociate themselves from the flat-earthers ? all quoting and interpreting scripture to prove their point.
What the author argues is that the geocentrists? arguments are often based upon an improper understanding of theories and data, that we should not base cosmology on a few Biblical texts that are not designed to explain cosmology and in particular we should rely on the ?poetic? books as a source for teaching doctrine or science. (Guess that does away with half the proof-texts for original sin.) Several points of possible mistranslation of Hebrew are discussed including the statement that the words ?shall? and ?should? do not occur in Hebrew and are inserted by the translator to make the text intelligible so that when they do occur they should never be used as the basis of doctrine. Well, I?m going to have check what Bible verses have just been eliminated as the basis of doctrine but it would seem to me a considerable number. He also convincingly argues that we should not use language which merely reflects human perception and God?s desire to communicate with us on our terms (with words like ?sunrise? and ?sunset?) as representing a basis of cosmological reality.
Regarding the geocentrists the writer concludes:
?This extremely literal approach to the Bible is reverently intended, but it badly misses the mark. At some points it almost reads as a parody?
In fact, the author makes some very good points ? essentially the very same points that Christians who accept current scientific understanding of the age and nature of the universe and evolution make. Yet the writer is a 6-day creationist (and probably a Calvinist and complementarian). I don?t suppose he perceives the irony, however.



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Daniel

posted September 16, 2008 at 12:02 pm


“Yet the writer is a 6-day creationist (and probably a Calvinist and complementarian)”
And? Definitely for another thread. :-)



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Cam R.

posted September 16, 2008 at 12:12 pm


I think from this thread and others (finding faith/losing faith) we see that our interpretation of biblical accounts and our view of science impacts our faith and worldview.
I wonder if Shults isn’t trying to point out that modern physics is saying at the heart of matter and energy is uncertainity and mystery; and that opens things up for opportunity for God to break in at the base level. Opposed to the physics of 100 years ago that dealt with laws, rigid determinism, and fueled a deist view of God.
I don’t think science is the be all and end all but it seems that new theories in science may be opening the door for the truth of the bible?



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RJS

posted September 16, 2008 at 12:13 pm


dopderbeck,
I don’t think that Shults takes an existential view – that resurrection was in the “hearts and minds” but rather a literal bodily view of resurrection.
But I’ve never met him, never talked with him, this it the first of his writings I’ve read, and this is not the clearest of books. I do know that he was at Bethel seminary in St. Paul before he moved to Europe – and this is not a liberal (existential) seminary.
Perhaps Scot or someone else has more info.



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mariam

posted September 16, 2008 at 2:20 pm


Daniel
Well, at lest I took the time to read it:) Couldn’t resist the wink after your argument with Luke the other day over Psalm 5:15 but, agreed, another time, although our arguments will always come down to a few basics on which I doubt that we will ever agree.
RJS,
Pretty dense language. Is Shults saying in the last paragraph you quote that it is risky to assume that we should just wait until God destroys the earth (and the majority of mankind with it) to usher in his Kingdom because His Kingdom may be co-present now and our job is to help establish it and redeem creation rather than wait for its destruction? Is that what he is saying?



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RJS

posted September 16, 2008 at 3:54 pm


Michael (#26)
Scot has the link to a version not yet released, but if you click on paperback in the “Also available in” section on the amazon site you will get to a version that is available now.



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Dana Ames

posted September 16, 2008 at 4:04 pm


I haven’t read this book, but I have read Shults’ “Reforming the Doctrine of God”. It sounds like he is trying to connect the concepts he laid out there with what we know of science today. Based on my understanding -I don’t feel so bad about having to read parts of RDG 2-3 times, if *you* think his writing is thick, RJS :) -Cam R #29 hits the nail on the head.
Dana



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RJS

posted September 16, 2008 at 8:23 pm


dopderbeck (and some of the others),
I am not sure that I have done justice to Shults in the series of posts. Perhaps it was not such a good idea to skip the first introductory chapter and only discuss his three case studies. The impression that I get reading the book, especially the introduction, is that in no way is he liberal or skeptical in his core theology. The divinity and humanity of Jesus, his real human and divine action, his person and his work are the ground, the foundation, on which any Christology is to be built. In the first quote I have in the post above he talks about articulating belief in the resurrection, ascension and coming of Jesus Christ because these basic Christian beliefs are assumed to be foundational. Jesus Christ lived, he died, and he arose from the dead, he is present with us and is coming again.
Jesus lived as a human being on this planet — so Christology should consider the incarnation and how we understand the incarnation — God becoming man, his real human and divine nature. How do we understand the person of Jesus?
Jesus died and his death was for our sin, so wrestling with the atonement is a necessary theological exercise, perhaps not for every Christian, but certainly for every Christian theologian. How do we understand the agency of Jesus?
Following his resurrection Jesus ascended in to heaven and is coming again so it behooves us to think on these things. How do we understand the presence of Jesus?
But — and this is the Big point — these are always discussed, articulated, wrestled with in the context of culture — in the context of the way human beings make sense of the world. The way we make sense of the world today is different from the way sense was made in the 1st century, the 4th century, the 16th century, or even the 19th century — particularly in the explosion of “scientific” knowledge. So we must wrestle with and articulate our Christology in light of the way we make sense of the world. It may even lead to deeper appreciation and better theology (as Cam R suggests in #29).
This is particularly important, I would say imperative, precisely because of the great cohesion and utility of our science. We may move beyond relativity, quantum theory, and the standard model to a better and even more complete theory of everything, but it will incorporate and build on the science of our day, it won’t abolish it — in the same way that relativity and quantum theory build upon and extend Newtonian mechanics. F=ma did not go away.
I don’t agree with every direction Shults takes in his discussion, but I like the conversation. But because of the centrality of Christology to the faith the discussion will be disturbing. Some one (or more) of his statements below will hit most of us where we live.

It is important that we face the fears that we bring to such an endeavor. Some theologians will be concerned that discussion of particular claims about Christ may offend the pluralist sensibilities of the interdisciplinary community, while others will be anxious that serious engagement with science will simply render implausible some cherished christological formulations. Some scientists will worry that talking about Jesus in public will undermine their reputation among their colleagues, while others will suspect that religionists are encroaching on their territory. Some laypersons will fear that any change in inherited formulations brings the destruction of faith itself, while others will wonder whether maintaining the centrality of Christology is really worth the effort. (p. 2)



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Michael W. Kruse

posted September 16, 2008 at 8:49 pm


RJS #35
I love the quote. True of so many efforts to discuss how other topics intersect with theology.



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pam w

posted September 16, 2008 at 11:35 pm


RJS – great post and thread.
when it came to psychology, my evangelical seminary profs would always argue “all truth is God’s Truth”, whether found in “Special” revelation or “general” revelation. The Truth we found in general revelation was not secondary to Special revelation, but was always changing our understanding of it. For some reason this does not apply to other sciences in many people’s minds. Your thoughtful comments are helpful to understand this VERY important topic.
love #34, thanks



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Kyle

posted September 17, 2008 at 3:27 am


RJS,
Thanks once again for tackling a very difficult book!
Everyone else,
Pam nail it. It’s not that Shults is letting general revelation trump special revelation, but is simply looking for ways to express the special revelation that we already know to be true in light of what we learn from general revelation. We have the Spirit of God, and know that Jesus came, died and rose for us ad that he will come again. Shults is simply looking for ways to express those truths in light of the truths God has revealed to us in general revelation. God does not contradict himself, so what is true in general revelation does not contradict the truth of special revelation.
We are always quick to jump on scientists and say, “Well they are simply wrong in how they interpret the data,” because we fear that the data might contradict what we believe to be true about special revelation. We are not as quick to question ourselves, and the church at large, and admit that our sinfulness has often led to poor interpretation of God’s special revelation and that we may still be interpreting it poorly today.
For those who aren’t as familiar with Shults, there are a few things that do factor into his books:
1. He’s first and foremost a philosopher, with theology being a close second. He’s not a biblical scholar and so we shouldn’t hold him to the same level of biblical exegesis that we would hold Scot.
2. Shults holds to the core tenants of the faith, and from what I can tell would gladly confess the historic creeds. With that said, he does clearly hold to a somewhat low view of Scripture.
3. Because he is extremely well read, he likes to mention people in his writing and often writes their views off extremely quickly. This makes him seem arrogant in his writing, but I don’t think it’s intentional in the least.
4. Shults is looking to reform and believes the church is to be constantly reforming. That’s his aim, and he applies his desire to reform to every topic. As such, he may take ideas farther than some are comfortable with taking them. He clearly goes farther than Pannenberg, Polkinghorne, McGrath, etc. but I think he realizes that and is wanting the church to think through the issues as much as he is wanting the church to agree with him…he probably thinks he’s gone too far at times as well…that’s the name of the game when you are committed to semper reformanda.



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Brian

posted September 17, 2008 at 8:43 am


RJS,
Does Shults actually say much about the eschatos? If the earth eventually falls into the sun, the sun eventually dies, and the universe becomes cold and lifeless, where does that leave any kind of Christian perspective?



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