Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Great is the Lord 1

RonHighfield.jpgI am reading and blogging through Ron Highfield’s new book called Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God
. This opens our series; it’s a serious volume for theologians and pastors, but it’s faith angle gives the book a doxological approach that makes the heart sing and makes theology what it should be.

How’s this for an opening paragraph observation? Starting with Gregory Nazianzus, Highfield quotes him: “It is more important that we should remember God than that we should breathe: indeed, if one may say so, we should do nothing else besides” (3). Doxology is where theology begins and leads. 
How do you know God? How do you ‘know that you know’ God? What can be known of God through observation of reality and creation? Do you think ‘natural revelation’ is adequate for salvation?
Highfield turns to Revelation and makes these fundamental claims: God wills to be known and God’s revelation begins in God’s self-knowledge and God’s good will to make himself (GodSelf) known to us. Seemingly simple but absolutely foundational to all theological claims. This counters Plotinus and the apophatic tendencies to make knowledge of God less than knowable and known. “Unlike the absolute ‘One’ of Plotinus, the three-in-one God knows himself fully, and consequently he can know the world and make himself known to others” (6).
Revelation means four issues emerge:

Religion as feeling, natural revelation, Scripture and tradition. A brief on what he says.

The Romantic movement, with Schleiermacher as one of its main theological expressions, finds revelation to be feeling itself and words are the human counterpart to the religious experience. Orthodoxy and heresy, therefore, have no permission to work because they deal with the words and not the feeling. Hence, Schleiermacher puts the Trinity at the end of his theology. Theology is the study of the effects of the experience. Highfield is with Barth and Torrance in making Trinitarian thinking determinative for theology. The issue here has to do with the adequacy of words to carry the revelation of God, and those words are renditions of The Word.
On natural theology, Highfield agrees with the many who have argued that natural revelation cannot provide adequate information for salvation.
On Scripture, one of HIghfield’s more interesting sections, the focus is on apostolicity and that genuine faith is apostolic and not simply canonical; the canon is the apostolic witness to Christ. That is, he believes in the gospel in part because he believes the canon provides the apostolic witness to the gospel.
On Tradition: there is a difference between Trent and the Second Vatican. We cannot believe in Scripture alone without believing in the apostolic tradition, so that the early tradition (not the ongoing tradition) and canon coalesce.
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posted May 10, 2010 at 6:43 am

The bible speaks of planting in good soil…man’s heart must be such that a loving God can enter and set up residence, then with that heart wide open, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and our eyes are truly open. With daily nourishment of our soul (staying in the Word, leaving our sinful actions by the wayside), we continue to grow and mature in Him, knowing the true Joy of a loving Father and being witness to others of the real purpose of our earthly existance and bringing His salvation message to a weary world.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

Hi Scot,
When one thinks of relationships, there are people we know something about them (but really don’t know them), there are people we know casually (barely), there are people who are our friends (but being a friend and always know what is going on the relationship is tricky at times), and there are people we are close and intimate to. It seems like people relationship to God is similar to the different ways we relate to others around us from stand-offish to up close and very personal.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I love the tension between natural revelation and tradition / Scripture. We can look at creation and conclude (via reason, not revelation) that there probably is something powerful that started this whole thing. That, however, is not the same as knowing the Christian God. Creation reveals nothing about Jesus; it isn’t sufficient for salvation. We learn about the triune God as we hear and read the tradition passed down from those who experienced him directly, or those writers to whom God spoke, and those who determined the canon. But this is still only believing or knowing *about* the Christian God, even if we believe sincerely and fully what others have told us.
I think God, being transcendent and spirit, has to reveal himself in a different way than those four for me to truthfully say, “I know God.” I can’t meaningfully say that I know Abraham Lincoln merely because I have read his correspondence and his biographies, but that is the extent of the “knowledge of God” that many people have. This still lacks the relationship quality of knowing that makes Christianity so amazing. When I say “I know God,” I mean that we know each other, more than me just knowing what tradition tells me about him. Awesome.

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Mike Crowl

posted May 10, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Thanks for bringing this book to my attention; it sounds definitely like one that needs to go on my reading list.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Regarding Romanticism and Revelation, I am not quite sure what Scot is saying.
My sense is that Revelation goes beyond propositions in the traditional sense of evangelicalism and probably goes beyond words in a more limited sense. I am continually reminded of Catholics : Day, Merton and Percy, who speak of revelation and faith in the poor, in Cathedrals and in efforts to address the brokenness of what we call “civilization.”
My sense is that, at least in popular culture, postmodernism has become an age of romanticism. Just look at the popularity of books and television programs that address parallel worlds in rather ridiculous romantic ways.
The good news as I see it is that for people struggling towards faithfulness, this opens the opportunity to experience Revelation in new ways. I commented to RJS recently that part of NT Wright’s appeal for me is that he presents the gospel as vision to be lived out rather than as apologetic proof or evidence. It is in this inter-relationship of text and hope that I see much good work done, whether in analyzing texts or in proclaiming and enacting the gospel where we are.
Randy G.

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