Monthly Archives: May 2016

Salvation

Faith is “pistis”, pistis is “to be pursuaded”, grace produces pistis, grace is God’s active presence in the world. The two together, we have a moral conviction about how to be in the world and that’s all God’s doing and God’s plan. Two gifts to humanity.

To “please” God then means “responding to grace through faith”. This has nothing to do with works or belief as any part of salvation whatever. Faith is not belief, it is a draw to the good!

Salvation isn’t about pleasing God. It is to discover God through living life. God is an interchangeable word for “the good”. Whether we recognize the good on our own or because the presence of God enables us to, all people respond with pistis; moral conviction, essentially about the character and nature of the God we are icons of. That’s theology talk, so there’s no reason to think that in talking this way about things that any of this requires knowledge of God, a confession of some belief, or anything else; living, responding, seeking, becoming; this is salvation. Life then, and living it, is a sacrament; a visible sign of God in the world.

A response to faith is salvation. Salvation is a process, an experience. In whatever measure we have it here, any of us, it is in how much we seek and respond to life, to the good, through pistis; the draw to the good, which is God.

How does Jesus fit in? This is all very Abelardian, classical, traditional. Jesus is a man who embodied God’s grace, responded to it in all ways, knew the fullness of his humanity and the full sense of divinity in it as a result, and this is God’s intent for all humanity and always has been. Jesus is exemplar, not a gatekeeper with the only key. If you read the very first theology we have of Christianity, the gospel of John, read just the beginning chapter in greek, and learn the history, culture, and language of that author, this is clearly and readily apparent in his use of what logos, hodos, alethea, and zoe mean.

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Grace

God’s active presence in the world is synonymous with grace; they are substitutable in any context.

God is synonymous with “the good”, which is to say, synonymous with our sense of morality.

In suggesting that grace isn’t for all, active in all, sufficient to persuade people to strive to become better and more, then it’s to say God himself is not omnipresent and impotent rather than efficacious.

To suggest one can choose to believe is to suggest people do not desire “the good”. It’s to suggest God’s grace is not obvious, that goodness in all men is apart from God rather than a product of his presence in the world. It is to deny grace entirely; God’s active presence in the world.

Faith is merely being drawn to “the good” and responding to its nature, which implies we are responding to something obvious and universal to all people. Beliefs, whatever they may be, only pertain to descriptions of an experience of two of God’s gifts to humanity that all men enjoy and cannot earn, and a third gift we give ourselves.

That is, grace in the world that like a lover, draws us toward her, an encounter with her that makes us want to be our best selves, to believe in ourselves and to hope she lingers. And the gift we give ourselves is salvation because we can’t keep ourselves from doing something about it all because we now understand why the greatest of these is love.

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A Reexamination Of Salvation

It’s sad how myopic Christianity has become only on account of the unthoughtful Christian. In America at least, both believer and non believer actually think there is only one idea of what Christ, Christianity, and all else related is about. But, never has it been so and never before have so many folks approached God, Christ, or scripture as things to be propositionalized, made black and white, reified, things which are true and things which are false. Instead, name God “the good”, seek it, ask if Christ embodies universal human, and yes, secular, values.

In seeking the good, we are seeking the only thing we can hope links us in any way to God; human nature. It should become clear that the only relevance in talking and “beliefing” about God is one criteria alone, and that is, they move us deeper into an understanding of ourselves, which is to say, moves us closer to God; the idea that goodness itself is a principle beyond just ourselves and one in which we all necessarily participate. Believer, non believer, it doesn’t matter; grace is the name of the principle of salvation and the response only need be being moved into encounters with the good; the experience in the doing and consequences of the doing.

“There is no salvation outside the world … the creative and saving presence of God’s grace [becomes manifest] wherever human persons minister to one another, especially to the neighbor in need. Human love is an embodiment, a sacrament, of God’s love … [These experiences] are fragments of salvation.”

Edward Schillebeeckx, “Extra Mundum Nulla Salus”, 2008, symposium lecture at Leuven, Belgium, held in his honor.

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For The Record …

Matthew 7:16, 12:33 and various verses give the only test there is for the merit of any god-talk; fruit.

All other commentary is about knowing through scripture — yet give no means to know how to unearth good exegesis or hermeneutics — and then by familiarity with God’s character. But these all hang on knowing or recognizing the good.

What does that imply but that God is synonymous with the good, that we are enabled by nature or by grace to know what the good is, and, that though there are many interpretations and applications of scripture, the good of scripture isn’t in correct interpretation but instead, that how we interpret it must lead us toward the good and into deeper understanding of it and into participation with it?

Just a thought.

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Final Commentary On The Trinity

Trinitarians of course say that the Trinity is throughout scripture, however, if you ask a Jew about the Old Testament and how the Hebrews defined God, there’s no question but that they would say there is only one God.

No doubt, Trinitarians support the doctrine of the Trinity with scripture. The question isn’t about whether or not this can be done, but whether or not Trinitarian theology was on anyone’s mind, including Jesus’, or the disciples’, or the apostles’ as Christian theology was emerging as reflected in New Testament scripture as it was being written; much of it from oral tradition.

Given as an example, Jesus’ teachings were a departure from the common Jewish understanding of the law, of Messiah, and admonishments of the conduct of Jewish leaders. Of course because it was controversial, Jesus’ ideas and commentary are clearly laid out. We have a very good historical note in time when those ideas originated and why there was a need to clarify distinctions between old and new ideas.

We have the very same marker for the Trinity, and it is exactly in the fourth century as a dispute between Arianism and Trinitarians; though a complete meaning of “Trinity” wasn’t yet defined in some “final language”.

The question as to whether or not the Trinity is an idea held by early Christians, starting with Jesus himself, is quite easy to answer. That answer is “no”, unequivocally. Were Jesus, the disciples, or the apostles to have at all implied an ontology of God different to the Jewish conception of God, the doctrine would appear in some clear way even if not in some “final language”; just as when the idea did emerge evidenced in no other earlier writings than Tertullian, finalized in 385 CE.

The absence of any controversy between Jesus and early Christians and the Jews damningly means all agreed on God’s ontology. More, that when the Jews began to think Jesus had a different ontology about God and in particular, whether or not Jesus saw himself as a literal son of God, Jesus said “No! I am not God, but the son of God in the very same way you are: a prophet, a teacher, anointed, burdened with those responsibilities” (referencing Psalms and giving its definition of what a “son of God” meant). Jesus’ response, mind you, was exactly what kept him from being stoned.

The absence of any conversation about the ontology of God or any commentary in the New Testament remotely suggesting Trinitarian theology or any attention at all to how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit relate to one another, and the complete absence of an ontology of Jesus aside from his own reckoning with Psalms, or an ontology for the Holy Spirit ought to clearly indicate nothing new was being said at all about who and what God is.

There has only been a controversy about the Trinity since that idea emerged, which is clearly in the fourth century. And in the twenty first century, the origin of the basis of the idea of the Trinity ought not be a controversy. We know it is not in the New Testament. We know that no patristic thinker before Tertullian spoke of such a thing. We know when a controversy over the ontology of God arose.

As all Christian theology is diverse and developmental, it is completely appropriate to adopt novel ideas. However, we must acknowledge they are new developments. We must also confess that they cannot be ideas which must be believed in order to be Christian, lest we are wont to say Jesus too was a Trinitarian, or a Predestinationalist, or a Dispensationalist, and so on, or that perhaps James or Peter were not Christians. In that case, the only sense in which these ideas, the Trinity in particular here, define any centrality about Christianity is that for some community professing to follow Christ, those ideas are central to that community’s way of thinking about a Jewish carpenter from Galilee.

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The Folly Of Fide

The only consequences of beliefs are actions. Rather than focusing on proper behaviors as the Jews do in order to be MOT, the unthoughtful Christian disdains the idea and unwittingly banks on proper beliefs. I repeat, the only consequences of belief are actions.

One cannot frame salvation as two opposing ideas; faith versus works. They are synonymous! You can no more believe your way to heaven than you can work your way there. You cannot believe your way to get your way any more than you can work in order to get your way.

A profession of faith has nothing to do with salvation aside from defining, announcing, that this or that sort of idea is what you think about when you think about it all.

It is grace and grace alone that is efficacious for salvation. It is a gift. It includes everyone, even those who have different professions of faith or none at all. Accepting God’s grace is to seek the good, to act toward it, and in acting, because of it.

If that puts a bunch in the panties of any Christian who would say beliefs matter and without belief there is no salvation, I have to say again to this very clearly deaf person, the only consequence of belief is action! You literally cannot judge in any case because fruit is the product of grace! There is no difference between the beliefs of a Christian or an Atheist where both are living lives that bear fruit. In what significant way do either differ in beliefs since the consequences of belief are actions?

If the rejoinder is that some folks don’t have proper beliefs, all the while having proper actions, then that kind of rhetoric is pedantically vacuous. It is also to deny the Holy Spirit; said to be the only unforgivable sin. It is to clearly deny God’s grace is sufficient, but arrogantly demand that human consideration alone is; because one must also have “proper beliefs” in addition to simply giving all of the signs of having accepted grace in anyone’s life. That is the only improper belief in the whole matter!

One can no more “believe in order to get” than they can “work in order to get” any gift, as gifts are given, not owed, and God owes humanity nothing at all. Fruit is the only sign of grace and the acceptance of grace in anyone’s life. Should a person yet want to say there must be acknowledgement of some theology at play in all of this, such a desire is still to say there’s something a man must do in order to receive God’s gift of grace, and this no more than underscores the necessity of this entire conversation, as people are deaf even to what they themselves are saying.

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God-Talk

We can have no other meaning for the word “God” but our ideas and definitions. We have no idea or concept of God but what we can imagine. Unlike most other thoughts we have where there is some object we are referencing, what is “knowledge” of God except perhaps that we’re aware there’s some other question we need to ask about reality, and that question goes by the name “God”?

If God is transcendent, then by implication, we have no basis for our ideas about God because our point of reference is reality, finitude, limitedness. If God is imminent, then God again by implication, is indistinguishable from that which manifests; the ordinary, the mundane, nature.

What is God in the minds of men but a projection of humanity and an extension of nature declared spectacular, supernatural but not in a transcendent sense; only in the sense that there is a grander “This, but only way better”, be that God’s “personality” or God’s “reality”.

What can our god-talk signify in that case but something God doesn’t at all transcend nor what God is imminent with?

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On Equivocality …

To be clear, given the incomprehensibility of God, there is no difference between belief in God and belief in the beliefs we have about God.

That means when someone rejects your beliefs, it doesn’t mean they think there are no gods, nor does it mean they have another set of beliefs instead of yours.

That means that when you assert something as true of God, you are only asserting your beliefs about God are true, your ideas.

That means when you say you have faith in God, it is not God you have faith in, but that you have faith in your own ideas about God.

That means that when you say a person can be certain something is true about God, you’re abandoning any concept of mystery and faith and instead, you’re telling someone else your ideas about God are unassailable and equivocal; impossible though, given an incomprehensible God.

To be sure, ideas about God are important, but only in the sense that we act on what we believe … and none of these beliefs are otherwise worth having. Too, none of these matter except in the case any one of them causes us to bear fruit should we believe it.

If fruit is the only means by which we can judge and all else are fiats that our ideas about God are true of God, then the story of God, and of Christ for the Christian, needs to open its discourse far wider than it has allowed thus far.

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Venture Capital …

The failure of modern Christianity in the West is generally a product of a consumerism about Christ. The commodities are heaven, hell, and the capital is belief, literally by way of the correct denomination; that there exists a “final language” about Christ and some certainly know it. And of course this is mistaken in every way.

It can be easily understood by any laymen as a competition between “I believe in order to get” versus “I do in order to get”, and the two distinctions are both a radical departure from fourteen centuries of Christian theology. Neither are efficacious to salvation.

It is because God’s grace lights on us that a change begins. It is “because of” grace faith is born, and “because of” grace and its work that our lives, in participation with it, bears witness to God’s grace in us. Justification is merely a cooperative principle that as long as we work with the good and seek it, our status as sharing in the covenant of God is never in doubt; how could it be. Our lives are then a continual resurrection with Christ and shared as the endeavors of a new life, all possible by grace, in response to it, hallmarked by it. Grace is a gift; faith and works are consequences.

To suggest there is a golden ticket to the chocolate factory by way of something owed to us “because of” faith or “because of” works or “because of” some combination or interplay between either is to be at the better end of a mistake and folly of Reformation thinking, devoured absolutely in a Western, consumer culture as if we have any capital whatever!

And if it is the grace of God which justifies, however Christ managed it once and for all, and grace which enables its fruit to be born through humans endeavoring to make a world full of such things, then what is believed is no longer containable within the mere framework of Christianity or Christian thinking once one has understood it. God’s grace and Christ are both much larger than we can imagine, and certainly much larger than what we have already.

God’s grace is venture capital in humanity and all that term can imply.

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Why, Exactly?

Listen carefully, because all examples are either Modalisms or Tritheisms and very clearly in all instances, conversations about Trinitarianism end the same way. That is: “mystery”.

If there were a more desperate word than “beg”, I would use it. It begs the question of how on earth such an incoherent or at least incomprehensible idea as the Trinity could play any role in Christianity, much less the central role it has since it was literally invented in the fourth century.

The Trinity cannot be explained.

The Trinity cannot be used to explain anything else as a result.

Why on earth do people think it matters?

Ultimately, it doesn’t tell us at all how God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are related. When we wish to talk about that relationship in terms of oneness, the polytheism required by the definition of the Trinity cancels out any relevant discussion. When we wish to speak of the distinctness of the persons of the Trinity, the modality required by the definition of the Trinity removes all ability of speaking that way.

Together, there is no hope of having any meaningful conversation about the Trinity aside from parsimony: that it was purely an invention of Rome, attempting to appease Jewish, true monotheism with Greek polytheism and articulated in a way such that the impossibility of such a mix is to appeal to a mystery that if not accepted, literally ended your time on earth, and usually by barbequecion.

About the Trinity, there’s nothing else relevant to say because it literally cannot mean anything as long as its definition remains a violation of the law of non contradiction. And as for its centrality in Christianity, it certainly is at least as useful as saying “Spot, Rover, and Benji are the same dog, but Spot, Rover, and Benji are also not the same dog.” Christianity, in 385 CE, put at the heart of itself an absurdity and somehow remains content to do so.

The only true mystery of the Trinity is why folks still believe in the idea, especially when no one can articulate what they’re even believing!

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