Our Theology Must Change?

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Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 12:55 pm

So I'm putting this out here for y'all to consider because, hey, I read here a lot and think you all come at issues from so many angles that one of you is bound to hit on something that will make sense of my question(s). Actually, I'm not entirely sure what the exact question is but I do know the direction of what I'm seeing.

First, I submit this link that says maybe our traditional idea of God's Sovereignty is outdated, if not flat out wrong. In particular, perhaps God is not in control of everything that happens.

https://baptistnews.com/article/theologian-says-god-not-in-control/#.WGkzQRsrKUn


Second, here is an article about Bart Campolo (son of THAT Campolo) who now no longer identifies as Christian.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/magazine/the-evangelical-scion-who-stopped-believing.html

Here's what I'm thinking: Is it possible that we have been wrong on God's Sovereignty in the same way we were wrong on so many other issues? In situations such as slavery, evolution, the earth revolving around the sun / being round, or countless other things, we damaged ourselves greatly in reaching people because they viewed our ideas as backward and uneducated. Is that a necessary roadblock to keep throwing out there? If we adopt a theology that says God is not always in control of everything but is completely Sovereign in Love, does that damage the definition of God? Or take Campolo, for example: he had trouble believing in the idea of hell and eternal damnation, so he adopted a Universalism of sorts a long time ago. The idea of an eternal hell, created by a loving God, for the eternal punishment of people who didn't believe, is all sorts of problematic for everyone's senses. Is that another area where we need to re-examine what exactly it is we believe?

The point here is that in this era where we have (hopefully) a better sense of thinking through all this stuff, oftentimes our theology creates more moral problems than it resolves. I can certainly see many inconsistencies in our theology that unbelievers are pointing out as reasons to reject the faith outright ... and many of those inconsistencies are not ethically defensible on our part. Many positions can be resolved by simply changing our interpretation of some texts, and that would make us be more consistent morally/ethically in our presentation. Perhaps it is that inconsistency that people are seeing, what Bart Campolo recognized, and that is =a= reason (not just =the= reason) some reject the Message.

I'm not in any way saying we should change our theology to fit the "world." I'm not suggesting we soften our positions. I'm saying that perhaps we need another nail on the church door at Wittenberg. The post-modernity doesn't reach everywhere at the same time but it is coming whether we like it or not. Maybe it's time we address legitimate questions about our theology. Are we being resolved in our commitment to truth, or are we being bull-headedly stubborn in refusing to recognize our own inconsistencies?
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:18 pm

Ryan,

I think you've brought up several topics that we might want to address separately as well as together. For example, universalism (or not), the sovereignty of God, and a non-traditional view of hell are not necessarily connected or even incompatible with each other.

So I see you bringing up several questions at once here -

1. What parts of our Christian theology are essential and what things are open to re-thinking and Why?

2. What are our authorities for determining number 1?

3. Followed by specific points of theology that you'd like to consider re-thinking.

I think we need to answer question 1 and 2 before we can fully answer question 3. :)

4. What do you mean by "God's sovereignty?" Also, I'm not sure I've ever interpreted God's sovereignty to mean that "God controls everything." I believe God has given us free will, so he isn't controlling us. I think only strict Calvinists would interpreted sovereignty to mean that God is controlling everything.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:31 pm

All of those are things where we can "rethink" and tweak ... or not. I was really using each of those major questions to illustrate the larger question that much of theology doesn't "fit" the modern understanding of morality or ethics or even what "god" should be like. This is not a re-making of God in our image but it is saying that these questions -- all of which deserve to be explored -- are throwing up roadblocks to the modern listener because we really are inconsistent in many instances. Do we re-think to resolve the inconsistencies? If not, what do we do? If we do nothing, we are going to have much more trouble even maintaining our existence.

Ok. The above was more "thinking out loud" but I hope you see the larger point I was trying to make but don't believe I did too well.

I'm all for addressing the outline you gave (a much better job at consolidating my thoughts than I did). I admit I'm scattered on this because there are a lot of points I'm throwing in all at once, but it is something I've been trying to crystallize in my own thinking for a long time now.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby KeithE » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:27 pm

Ryan,

One area of theology that has changed my mind about the nature of God (since about 1988) relates directly to questions about Sovereignty expressed for example as "Is God literally in control of everything that has ever happened or will happen”. The Calvinistic view naturally charges God as being the author of evil (although Calvinist argue that point - how I have not figured out). The Arminian view charges God as being an allower of evil but not the cause - He has the power but often fails to step in. (Arminianism being of course the view that God is all powerful and has exhaustive foreknowledge of all events past, present and future by virtue of His timelessness but that God did not cause all as in Calvinism - as expounded in Third Decree in it's Westminster Confession of Faith). The "open view of God” or “open theism” satisfies those uncomfortable charges to a large degree for me (more about natural evils - e.g disasters- in a later paragraph).

Open theism recognizes that God’s grant of creaturely free will involves giving up His micro-control and causation of all acts/events. Open theism goes on to say that God does not have exhaustive knowledge of the future (especially the freely chosen thoughts and actions of people) and that God is experiencing the lives of his creatures as time goes on. He knows all there is to know but the future is not knowable. This resonates with me and better suits several Biblical themes in that (1) it makes sense of God’s exhorting us in the Bible to act lovingly - what sense would that be if He already knew the outcome?, and (2) it relieves God from being the cause of human evil we see all around us, (3) makes sense of petitionary prayer - why pray asking for a alteration to future events if all is settled beforehand?, and (4) I can view God as genuinely rooting for me. Read Gen 22 account of Abraham’s offering up of Isaac - God is depicted as not knowing what Abraham’s action would be.

I became an open theist through writings like Richard Rice’s Gods Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will, Clark Pinnock’s compendium The Openness of God , Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible, John Sanders’ The God Who Risks, and others. I also heard both Roger Olson and Frank Tupper (featured in your link) lecturing at my church in the 90’s. Olson had said he was 99% sure of Open Theism (when I drove him to the airport after his three day symposium on Open Theism), but I have noticed since that he has reverted to Arminianism since that time (he certainly has that right to change his view being a thoroughly studied professor with strong books on the history theological movements).

Tupper's wife had suffered a horrible death recently (at that time) and much was made of “that could not have been in God’s will”. His A Scandalous Providence (the 1995 book) elaborated on that theme but I always felt the works of Rice, Pinnock, Boyd, and Sanders wee more clearly stated. Thanks for pointing out Tupper's updated book by Same Title and I trust it will be an improvement.

A more recent book and study by Thomas Jay Oord that declares that since God is love, He cannot be controlling or coercive in anyway. His emptying of Himself is an “essential kenosis”. All of this is discussed at His Website. His latest book The Uncontrolling Love of God. I’ve read that book but am still digesting it. What about “tough Iove”?

Counter Open Theism books are God's Lesser Glory by Bruce Ware and Beyond the Bounds edited by John Piper.

Now about natural evil, David Ray Griffin points out (somewhere) that God’s Creation (while stated to be “good” in Gen 1) is not said to be perfect or incapable of malfunction. God may have created a thing that he hoped would never go wrong, but earthquakes /tsunamis happen. Take for an analog Henry Ford the creator of the automobile. Ford is thoroughly an “other greater being” than a car, that does not mean the car would never go wrong.
--------------------------
Anyway, much rethinking of theology is in the air these days particularly in the Emerging Church (which is the New Reformation).

One other area of rethinking involves the atonement and the meaning of the cross. I’ll save that for another post after I read NT Wright's new book The Day the Revolution Began. The cross is not so much to satisfy God with blood, but to reinvigorate humans by His selfish example to bring about a revolution towards a better Kingdom of God.

Of course all of this theological theorizing is well above our pay grade (even sticking with more traditional views - e.g. Calvinism or penal substitutionary view of atonement). But it sure has pragmatically aided my faith to know that God is unabashedly good, always encouraging, and not bloodtirsty.

I realize that I’m namedropping a lot here. But I wanted to give Ryan some source and there is so much more.
Last edited by KeithE on Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:44 pm

People have wrestled with these issues forever and there are no completely satisfying answers. There is evil in the world. Whose fault is that and where if anywhere is God in the midst of it?

While I differ greatly with my moderate and liberal brethren here on some theological issues, we are all believers. The extreme theological left has always had an appetite for Christian-turned-atheist stories, as if there is some greater and more profound truth from their lips. Campolo, sadly, has put himself outside not just orthodox belief but any belief. His complete apostasy doesn't make me reexamine anything except perhaps the celebrity culture that dominates American religion.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:58 pm

Interesting William. While I consider myself left leaning theologically, I have no fascination with atheism. I find it to be far less believable than theism. It takes more certainty to be an atheist than to be a believer.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:15 pm

RyanHale wrote:All of those are things where we can "rethink" and tweak ... or not.

Ok. The above was more "thinking out loud" but I hope you see the larger point I was trying to make but don't believe I did too well.



I think you did a fine job of gathering your thoughts!

I am intrigued by the idea of open theism that Keith mentioned. But I have a hard time imagining God inside time and only knowing what we know as we do it. So I end up, not surprisingly, in the Arminian camp there.

Theological I believe in scripture as the primary source for our theology. So I don't personally believe we can re-think that. I don't think it is our only source. Anglicans also add tradition and reason. And Methodists add tradition, reason and experience. But if scripture isn't primary as an authority, I think could quickly move away from Christian theology. I'm persponally not willing to do that. I see basically what has been said in the Apostle's Creed as part of that primary understanding of what is at the bedrock of historic Christianity.

But even within an apostolic Biblical understanding of Christianity, there are a number of ways of looking at salvation (soteriology) as well as what the Bible means by hell and eternal separation from God for those who don't want to follow God.

I fall in between Calvinism and Universalism into what Adam Hamilton calls "inclusivism." I believe that all people who experience salvation do so through the life, death and resurrection of Christ but that God may see some who are in other religious traditions as doing what they can to try to follow God as they understanding. I believe that the graciousness of God may allow those people also to experience salvation through Christ. I don't believe everyone will be redeemed because not everyone wants to be.

As to hell, I don't believe in an eternal hell where people are tormented for all eternity because I believe it contradicts the Bible. I lean more towards inihilationsm if I'm forced to pick something.

As to God's sovereignty, I believe God has given up some of his power in order to give us free will and in doing so knowing has given up some control to maintain our free will. I believe that God's love and grace is actually more important to God than God controlling all the details.

I also think there are numerous theological issues that we aren't not going to agree on or shouldn't have to because they don't matter when it comes to our ultimate salvation though they may matter for some other reasons.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:16 pm

Not sure what you think is interesting. I don't consider you an extreme left lib...just your ordinary lib.

Would campolo get a NYT piece if he was an atheist turned believer? Nope. This is the kind of Christmas/Easter story that the secular media loves. OK with me. Maybe the bike accident damaged his brain.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:18 pm

Timothy: " I lean more towards inihilationsm..."

Gotta be obamaism rather than clintonism.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:33 pm

William Thornton wrote:Timothy: " I lean more towards inihilationsm..."

Gotta be obamaism rather than clintonism.


Spelling was never my strength. Note that the "I" in ism has already been inihilated. :D
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:42 pm

Keith: Thanks for the references. I'm familiar with some of the authors and, if not them particularly, the idea you've presented. The Open Theism is intriguing to me. I came from a Calvinistic background and it took me a long time to get to a point where I was even comfortable thinking that there were some things non-ordained.

Timothy: I've always struggled with the Calvinist-Arminian debate because neither fully satisfied my understanding of the text with seemingly contradictory positions. Nor was my rational thought of a Just and Loving God comfortable with a literal and eternal hell. In seminary days, Universalism was a two sentence sidenote in the debate and it went like this: 1. Universalism says everyone gets to heaven; and 2. That can't be true because the answer is either Calvinism or Arminianism. I think that had more to do with the SBC squabble than serious study. Now that I've given more thought to Universalism, I am beginning (not quite there yet) to see it as the only Biblical position that satisfies all the texts (for the most part) and completes the riddle of both the Calvinistic and Arminian propositions. I'm not saying I'm a Universalist (yet) but I'm saying maybe we should begin devoting more time to it as a serious idea.

William: Prolly not. If an atheist becomes a believer that is not something that would be in the NY Times. It would, however, be a story used by several evangelistic groups, Baptist press organizations, Christian Political Action Committees (let's call them what they are), and mega-churches all over the nation would be putting that person on the speaking calendar, complete with radio, print and TV spots and email blasts every week. But none of that is the point I was making. I'm saying that many of the questions raised by Campolo and others are about the inconsistent theologies we hold. Maybe we need to be honest and admit that they have a point, and we should address those issues. Inconsistency in the area of ethics or morality, particularly an inconsistent view of God, tells unbelievers that we are not all that bright or, even worse, nutcases.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 01, 2017 6:05 pm

I don't accept your premises, Ryan. Campolo wasn't driven to complete unbelief because of inconsistent theology. He made a choice. I have no issue with anyone asking hard questions, though.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 6:24 pm

I hear you, William. But I don't accept that he wasn't driven to unbelief by our inconsistent answers.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Haruo » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:44 pm

William Thornton wrote:Would campolo get a NYT piece if he was an atheist turned believer?

Probably not, but if Stephen Hawking went public with an account of his newfound faith in Jesus (or even just in God) my guess is the NYT would write him up, however unwillingly. Remember Malcolm Muggeridge!
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:47 pm

RyanHale wrote:I hear you, William. But I don't accept that he wasn't driven to unbelief by our inconsistent answers.


I have to agree with William on this one. It sounds like you are claiming he had no choice. Choosing atheism is a choice. Others presented with the same information choose something else.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Haruo » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:48 pm

William Thornton wrote:I don't accept your premises, Ryan. Campolo wasn't driven to complete unbelief because of inconsistent theology. He made a choice. I have no issue with anyone asking hard questions, though.

Looked to me like he was unconverted secondary to a brain injury. Not sure he did "make a choice" even though you and he think he did.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:57 pm

RyanHale wrote:I hear you, William. But I don't accept that he wasn't driven to unbelief by our inconsistent answers.


"Driven to unbelief"? No one is driven to unbelief. It's a choice. Just like faith. Everyone here, the handful of friends that range across the theological spectrum, has the same questions and recognizes the difficult issues yet all are believers. We make choices the most basic of which is to put faith in Christ or not. In decades of conversations with people about that choice a few have honest struggles with questions that cannot be answered completely. I respect that but not to the extent that I conclude that they thereby are free from the consequences of unbelief.

If flummoxed, I'll pass them along to a rabid Calvinist for final judgment. :)

Actually , Haruo, I mentioned brain injury.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:59 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
RyanHale wrote:I hear you, William. But I don't accept that he wasn't driven to unbelief by our inconsistent answers.


I have to agree with William on this one. It sounds like you are claiming he had no choice. Choosing atheism is a choice. Others presented with the same information choose something else.


Not at all. His choice. Completely. What I'm saying is our inconsistent answers may not have given a complete framework of reference. Think along the lines of a really smart teenager, without teachers who care or a home life that fosters academics, dropping out of school. His choice, but the system and his parental socio-economic status stacked the deck to that outcome. Yes, I know that is simplistic but that is the general idea.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:59 pm

Haruo wrote:
William Thornton wrote:I don't accept your premises, Ryan. Campolo wasn't driven to complete unbelief because of inconsistent theology. He made a choice. I have no issue with anyone asking hard questions, though.

Looked to me like he was unconverted secondary to a brain injury. Not sure he did "make a choice" even though you and he think he did.


People change their minds about things in response to traumatic experiences. I don't think we have enough information to conclude that the injury knocked the faith out of him or something.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:02 pm

RyanHale wrote:Not at all. His choice. Completely. What I'm saying is our inconsistent answers may not have given a complete framework of reference. Think along the lines of a really smart teenager, without teachers who care or a home life that fosters academics, dropping out of school. His choice, but the system and his parental socio-economic status stacked the deck to that outcome. Yes, I know that is simplistic but that is the general idea.


I don't think people become Christians (or not) because of consistent theology. All human knowledge is fragmented, incomplete and at least in part inconsistent.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:02 pm

William Thornton wrote:
RyanHale wrote:I hear you, William. But I don't accept that he wasn't driven to unbelief by our inconsistent answers.


"Driven to unbelief"? No one is driven to unbelief. It's a choice. Just like faith. Everyone here, the handful of friends that range across the theological spectrum, has the same questions and recognizes the difficult issues yet all are believers. We make choices the most basic of which is to put faith in Christ or not. In decades of conversations with people about that choice a few have honest struggles with questions that cannot be answered completely. I respect that but not to the extent that I conclude that they thereby are free from the consequences of unbelief.

If flummoxed, I'll pass them along to a rabid Calvinist for final judgment. :)

Actually , Haruo, I mentioned brain injury.


Leaving it to the "rabid Calvinist" is pretty funny. See my previous answer to Timothy. Perhaps I didn't explain myself well initially and used a poor choice of words.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:04 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
RyanHale wrote:Not at all. His choice. Completely. What I'm saying is our inconsistent answers may not have given a complete framework of reference. Think along the lines of a really smart teenager, without teachers who care or a home life that fosters academics, dropping out of school. His choice, but the system and his parental socio-economic status stacked the deck to that outcome. Yes, I know that is simplistic but that is the general idea.


I don't think people become Christians (or not) because of consistent theology. All human knowledge is fragmented, incomplete and at least in part inconsistent.


Completely agree. I'm only questioning how (if) our inconsistencies created a strand of doubt that, when pulled, unraveled the whole belief system.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:09 pm

RyanHale wrote:Completely agree. I'm only questioning how (if) our inconsistencies created a strand of doubt that, when pulled, unraveled the whole belief system.


I suppose in part it depends on what you put your faith in. If you misplace your faith resting all on a theological concept that is later proven not to exist, yes that could lead to a faith crisis. I had a friend in college who was from a KJV only church and believed that the KJV was the very Word of God. When a couple of solid theology classes showed that to be false, he dropped out of school for a year and rethought his entire theology.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby RyanHale » Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:29 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:
RyanHale wrote:Completely agree. I'm only questioning how (if) our inconsistencies created a strand of doubt that, when pulled, unraveled the whole belief system.


I suppose in part it depends on what you put your faith in. If you misplace your faith resting all on a theological concept that is later proven not to exist, yes that could lead to a faith crisis. I had a friend in college who was from a KJV only church and believed that the KJV was the very Word of God. When a couple of solid theology classes showed that to be false, he dropped out of school for a year and rethought his entire theology.


And that's what I'm getting at. Campolo may have had a shallow faith to begin with and that smack on the head caused him to have even less ability to hold onto faith ... or just caused him to doubt even more because he couldn't make sense of it all. No idea. But, like you're King Jim Only friend, when he had to face the seriousness of theological answers, he just couldn't do it because the answers he had didn't make sense. Rambling. I know.

I am 100% certain we won't resolve the Calvinist/Arminian/Universalist debate. I suppose I was looking to see if anyone besides me thinks all these questions are causing many to refuse the Message.
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Re: Our Theology Must Change?

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:02 pm

RyanHale wrote:I am 100% certain we won't resolve the Calvinist/Arminian/Universalist debate. I suppose I was looking to see if anyone besides me thinks all these questions are causing many to refuse the Message.


My opinion is that it is less theology that causes people to disbelieve than it is the behavior of Christians themselves. The theological implications of people who say they believe one thing and then do something else is a much larger barrier.

But I agree that theology can be a barrier to belief.

Check out this article. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martin-th ... 11353.html
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