Theology: February 2005 Archives

This is my second post in dialogue with Back of the Envelope's two posts on slavery and Christianity. The first argued that slavery is a matter of degree from absolute autonomy to being under someone's complete control. No one is ever at either extreme, though some have been closer to the extreme on the higher-slavery end of the spectrum. We're all slaves to one degree or another, to our employers and our government if to no one else. This post is now going to consider what the Bible says about slavery. [update: I've continued in this series enough to collect the links to each post all in one post]

Retroactive Prayer

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Belief Seeking Understanding asks Are Retroactive Prayer Requests Well-Formed? Normally, I would just have answered in his comments, but they seem to be disabled. Douglas seems more inclined toward a negative answer. He says:

Suppose you go to the doctor, and the doctor says "Well, based on everything I know at this point, you either have x or y. X is somewhat of an inconvenience, but y is significantly more serious." Is it foolish to pray "Please God, let it be x and not y?" If y is the consequence of a lifetime of choices, isn't praying such a prayer functionally equivalent to asking God to zap you into some alternate parallel universe where you had x, from another one where you had y?

Having ranted about how people use "Both/And" too often and inappropriately, I am now going to play the "Both/And" card myself. ;)

In regards to the question, "What happens to people in Hell?" the traditional answer is that they are in eternal conscious suffering and the non-traditional answer (or at least the one that I care about for this discussion) is that they are annihilated (possibly after suffering some finite period of suffering).

I would like to raise the possibility that the answer is "Both/And". I should here note that I do not (yet) believe that that is the actual answer. Rather, I want to show that "Both/And" is a viable option as (contrary to all appearances) the two positions are not mutually exclusive.

Both/And

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Frequently I am involved in theological discussions where two concepts are in tension. (The classic example is "Free Will vs Predestination".) More often than not, one person in the conversation will say something along the lines of "It's Both/And, not Either/Or". If such a Both/And seems like a logical contradiction, then the contradiction is "solved" by invoking the mystery or transcendence or omnipotence of God. This annoys me to no end.

Universalism and I Peter

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In a comment on my treatment of universalism and Romans 10, Dave said the following:

Also, what about the spirits that Christ preached to who were disobedient in the time of Noah? They were to be judged according to the flesh, but live according to the spirit.(I Peter 3:18-20a and 4:6).

I don't think either I Peter passage teaches universalism. As I started to explain why in a comment, I decided I might as well make it a post, so here it is.

The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society is now online, at least from calendar years 1995-2003. I've found two sites that give access to it. I believe this site is the official one. Articles are in separate PDF files, and each issue's book reviews are all compliled into one PDF. FindArticles also gives access to articles and book reviews from the journal, in this case from December 1997 through September 2004. They list each book review separately, though they don't list the author of the book, just the author of the article, which is a little frustrating. Update: They also have Trinity Journal.

As I was looking through the lists of articles and book reviews, two pieces stood out as worth highlighting for those interested in the issues they raise. One is D.A. Carson's 1997 paper "Reflections on salvation and justification in the New Testament", which analyzes the strains of thought in Catholic and Protestant views on justification and salvation in the light of the developments around that time that brought Catholicism to accept Luther as never having endorsed the view they had declared heretical. In the aftermath of all that, it became pretty clear to me that Protestants and Catholics have largely misunderstood each other on these issues in many ways, and Carson explains exactly how that is.

The other piece I wanted to highlight is also by D.A. Carson. "God, the Bible and spiritual warfare: A review article" looks at the work of Greg Boyd, an open theist, with one of the most thorough and able defenses of traditional understandings of divine knowledge of the future that I've ever read.

Adrian's Simple Gospel

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Adrian has posted the Simple Gospel, the Gospel message broken down into 10 simple points designed to be understood by young children. He drew some criticism in the comments about it being too simplistic--it leaves out one important theme or another. That seems completely forgivable to me; this is the simple 10 point gospel after all. If you wanted to be exhaustive about the gospel, the people listening to your gospel presentation would have to have a lot of spare time on their hands, and you would need a lot more than 10 points.

Pseudo-Polymath has challenged Christian bloggers to defend whatever divisions among followers of Christ are justified (and I assume to explain which ones not are justified and why). He's been chronicling the responses so far.

I'm going to try to do something independent of what people have said so far, almost without referring to the other posts. If I focused on getting into everything the others have talked about, I don't think I would be focusing on the things I consider to be most important about this sort of issue. The one post I do want to mention is Jollyblogger's post. It's not in the roundup above, but I want something he says to be in the background as I move through what I want to say, so I'll start with a quick comment on what he says and then move into the more controversial claims I'm going to defend.

This is my seventh post for Joe Carter's collaborative project Jesus the Logician (which would better be described as Jesus' Reasoning).

During the week Jesus spent in Jerusalem before his crucifixion, he spent much of his time in the temple disputing with various groups of religious leaders. Much of what we have recorded in the gospels from those discussions is with the Pharisees and scribes. We have only one recorded discussion with the Sadducees, though it appears in all three of the synoptic gospels (Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-34, and Luke 20:27-40).

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