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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Copy of A Holistic Theology

A Wholistic Theology: The Both/And: The Best View of Objective Reality

 

By

 

R. Alan Woods

San Diego: Rhema Rising Press

Copyright 2009

 

 

 

         

          Why is theology important? Well-defined questions more nearly always produce the most useful answers. I propose that a better question could be asked: What "kind" of theology is important. In the context of the history of the Vineyard I understand that "experiential theology" or real theology ("the attitude which maintains that this kind of theology can only be developed by men who know these realities from personal experience"- Morton Kelsey in his work, Encounter With God: A Theology of Christian Experience) was and is the desperately needed counter-balance to the "intellectual theology" born out of the philosophy of knowing and knowledge developed by Aristotle and promoted within the "Church" by Thomas Aquinas and further ensconced by the worldview produced by Newton's understanding of the material universe. Plato would have been startled and amazed by such a one-sided worldview where Nature is the only experiential reality! Where's the Super Nature? What place has the Archetype? Where the dreams, visions, and auditions just a "figment" of man's imagination? Was sixty-five years of pioneering work by Carl Jung that produced real and tangible results in the healing and wholeness of human beings’ psyches and bodies for naught? Thank God for Jesus of Nazareth! The Numinous made Matter! The God-man. What comes to my mind and memory here is something I remember John Wimber say, "Just be naturally supernatural when you're doing the ‘Stuff’." Both economies/realities are operationally co-existent. As C. S. Lewis has said, "When men adhere to one side of a paradoxical truth and ignore the other, then they go into error." It is the both/and, not the either/or mentality that gives us a view of "objective reality".

 

.           I'm quite sure our call in the Vineyard to "cultural'" relevancy is predicated upon Paul's statement implying that we be all things to all men so that we may win some to Christ. Paul learned quickly through trial and error that men were more likely to be won to Christ when they had a direct, powerful (dunamis) numinous experience with God. In other words he failed in Athens when he used just the intellectual theological approach! It seems to me that regardless of the cultural context in which God makes direct contact with men, it is of more importance that these men have a framework or worldview as it were in which to know that it is possible. In Christ, we as Christians become neither Jew nor Greek nor anything else other than a “new creature” in Christ Jesus that produces or manifests the complementary new culture of Christian community (I refer you to Robert Banks work, “Paul’s’ Idea of Community” as a general theoretical orientation to my meaning here). Paul was adamant about keeping the Gospel pure as it was delivered to him by Christ. In so far as it was possible within that framework, Paul became all things to all men. Once they became "enlightened" or "En-Godded" (a word used often by Leanne Payne, "Listening Prayer"), they were reoriented to a new reality and a lifestyle reflected in Christian community as their newly acquired identity as a unique cultural base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 


Arminianism+vs

Arminianism vs. Calvinism:

Two Differing Views of Christ’s Atonement in Securing Salvation

By

R. Alan Woods

San Diego: Rhema Rising

Copyright 2007

 

To begin with, what was the intended scope of Jesus’ death in securing salvation? Dr. Walter A. Elwell* suggests that there are two primary views that seem to be quite antithetical at their core when he asks,

“Was the death of Jesus intended to secure salvation for a limited number of people (the ‘elect’) or for everyone? The first view is sometimes called ‘limited atonement’, because god limited the effect of Christ’s death to a specific number of elect persons, or ‘particular redemption’, because redemption was for a particular group of people. The second view is sometimes referred to as ‘unlimited atonement’ or ‘general redemption’, because God did not limit Christ’s redemptive death to the elect but allowed it to be for humankind in general.[1]

              General definitions of terms are necessary and are as follows:

Arminianism: The theological perspective of Jacobus Arminius (sixteenth-century Dutch theologian), in which he emphasized mankind’s free will in salvation (that is, one may reject God’s offer) and discounted the Calvinistic tenets of unconditional election and irresistible grace. Arminius also rejected “eternal security”, believing that losing one’s salvation is possible. John Wesley and Martin Luther are just a few of the vast number of theologians who were and are strong proponents of Arminian theology.[2]

Calvinism: A theological system based on the teachings of John Calvin (Jean Cauvin), a sixteenth-century French reformer; Calvin stressed the supremacy of Scripture (Sola Scriptura) in theology and practice. Five key doctrines of Calvinism outlined by the Synod of Dort (1610) form the acrostic TULIP:

       Total depravity of mankind (sin renders us incapable of righteousness),

              Unconditional election (God’s election is not conditioned on our belief),

              Limited atonement (Christ’s redemptive work applies only to the elect),

              Irresistible grace (God’s grace cannot be rejected or thwarted);

              Perseverance of the saints (the elect are eternally secured)”.[3]

 

Particular Redemption

Dr. Elwell goes on to define more specifically the historic theological differences in theses two views. Regarding Calvinism he says,

 

              “The doctrine that Jesus died for the elect in particular, securing their redemption, but not for the world, arose as the implications of the doctrine of election and the satisfaction theory of the atonement were developed immediately following the Reformation. A controversy arose that resulted in the pronouncement at the Synod of Dort (1618-19) that Christ’s death was ‘sufficient for all but efficient for the elect’. This did not satisfy many theologians, even some Calvinists, and the controversy has continued to this day.

              Numerous arguments are used to defend the doctrine of limited atonement, but the following represent some of the more frequently found.

              First, in the Bible there is a qualification as to who will benefit by the death of Christ, thus limiting its effect. Christ is said to have died for his sheep (John 10:11, 15), his church (Acts 20:28), the elect (Romans 8:32-35), and his people (Matthew 1:21).

              Second, God’s designs are always efficacious and can never be frustrated by humans. Had god intended for all to be saved by the death of Christ, then all would be. It is clear that not everyone is saved, because the Bible clearly teaches that those who reject Christ are lost. Therefore, it makes sense that Christ could not have died for everyone, because not everyone is saved. To argue that Christ died for everyone is in effect to argue that God’s saving will is not being done or that everyone will be saved, both of which propositions are clearly false.

              Third, if Christ died for everyone, God would be unfair in sending people to hell for their own sins. No law court allows payment to be exacted twice for the same crime, and God will not do that either. God could not have allowed Christ to die for everyone unless he planned for everyone to be saved, which clearly he did not, since some are lost. Christ paid for the sins of the elect; the lost pay for their own sins.

              Fourth, to say that Christ died for everyone logically leads to universalism. It is true that not all of those who believe in general redemption believe in universalism; but there is no valid reason that they do not. If they were consistent they would, because they are arguing that Christ paid for everyone’s sins, thus saving them.

              Fifth, Christ died not just to make salvation possible, but also actually to save. To argue that Christ died only to provide the possibility of salvation is to leave open the question of whether anyone is saved. If God’s designs are only of possibilities and not actualities, then no one is secure and everything is open to doubt. The bible clearly teaches that the death of Jesus actually secures salvation for his people, thus making it a certainty and limiting the atonement (Romans 5:10; Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; 3:13; Ephesians 1:7).

              Sixth, because there are no conditions to be met in order to be saved (i.e., salvation is by grace and not by works)—both repentance and faith are secured for those for whom Christ died. If the design of the atonement were for everyone, then all would receive repentance and faith, but this is clearly false. Therefore, Christ’s death could have been intended only for those who will repent and believe, namely, the elect.

              Seventh, the passages that speak of Christ’s death for ‘the world’ have been misunderstood. The word world really means the world of the elect, the world of believers, the church, or all nations.[4]

 

General Redemption

 

              Regarding Arminianism he says,

 

              “The doctrine of general redemption argues that the death of Christ was designed to include all humankind, regardless of whether all believe. To those who believe it is redemptively applied, and to those who do not believe it provides the benefits of common grace and the removal of any excuse for being lost. God loved them and Christ died for them; they are lost because they refuse to accept the salvation sincerely offered to them in Christ.

              First, those who defend general redemption point out that it is the historic view of the church, being held by the vast majority of theologians, reformers, evangelists, and the fathers from the beginning of the church until the present day, including virtually all the writers before the Reformation, with the possible exception of Augustine. Among the reformers the doctrine is found in Luther, Melanchthon, Bullinger, Latimer, Cranmer, Coverdale, Wesley, and even some of Calvin’s commentaries. For example, Calvin says regarding Colossians 1:14, ‘this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death, all the sins of the world have been expiated’; and on the phrase ‘shed for many’ in Mark 14:24 (KJV) he says, ‘By the word many he means not apart of the world only, but the whole human race.’ Even among Calvinists there is a generalism, called hypothetical universalism, to be found with Moise Amyraut, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, John Newton, and John Brown, among many others. Is it likely that the overwhelming majority of Christians could have so misunderstood the leading of the Holy Spirit on such an important point?

              Second, when the bible says Christ died for all it means just that. The word ought to be taken in its normal sense unless some compelling reason exists to take it otherwise—and no such reason exists. Some passages (e.g., Isaiah 53:6; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; 4-10) make no sense if not taken in the normal way.

              Third, the bible says Christ takes away the sin of the world and is the Savior of the world. A study of the word world—especially in John, where it is used seventy-eight times—shows that the world is God-hating, Christ-rejecting, and Satan-dominated. Yet that is the world for which Christ died. There is not one place in the entire New Testament where the world means ‘church’ or ‘the elect’.

              Fourth, the several arguments that reduce to a charge of universalism are special pleading. Christ dying for all does not mean all are saved—one must believe in Christ to be saved, so Christ’s death for the world apparently does not secure salvation for all. Paul had no trouble saying that God could be the Savior of all in one sense and those who believe in another sense (1 Timothy 4:9-10).

              Fifth, God is not unfair in condemning those who reject the offer of salvation. He is not exacting judgment twice. Because nonbelievers refuse to accept the death of Christ as their own, the benefits of Christ’s death are not applied to them. They are lost, not because Christ did not die for them, but because they refuse God’s offer for forgiveness.

              Sixth, it is true that the benefits of Christ’s death are referred to as belonging to the elect, his sheep, his people, but it would have to be shown that Christ only died for them. No ones denies that Christ died for them. It is only denied that Christ died exclusively for them.

              Seventh, the Bible teaches that Christ died for ‘sinners’ (Romans 5:6-8; 1 Timothy 1:15). The word sinner nowhere means the ‘church’ or ‘the elect’; it is all of lost humankind.

              Finally, god sincerely offers the gospel to everyone to believe, not just the elect. How could this be true if Christ did not actually die for everyone? God would know very well that some people could never be saved because he did not allow Christ to pay for their sins. Even if Louis Berkhof, a staunch defender of limited atonement, admits, ‘It need not be denied that there is a real difficulty at this point.[5]

 

 

Dr. Elwell summarizes the seemingly hopeless irreconcilability of these two views when he says,

 

              “Both points of view try to preserve something of theological importance. Defenders of limited atonement stress the certainty of God’s salvation and the initiative he took in offering it to humans. If salvation depended on our work, all would be lost. The defenders of general redemption attempt to preserve God’s fairness and what to them is the clear teaching of Scripture. Salvation is no less certain because Christ died for all. The decision to reject it brings about condemnation, and faith puts one in a saving relationship with Christ, who died that we might live. E. A. Litton attempts to mediate the two views in this fashion: ‘Thus the combatants may not be in reality so much at variance as they supposed. The most extreme Calvinist may grant that there is room for all if they will come in; the most extreme Arminian must grant that redemption, in its full Scriptural meaning, is not the privilege of all men.’”[6]

 

              I contend that it does not nor has it ever had to be either/or as it relates to the classical debate of Calvinism versus Arminianism. Either/or reasoning has been deemed a logical fallacy for millennia. My thesis is that God’s Sovereignty it not impugned by the agency of a sovereign free will in humankind. How can this be? Either God is sovereign or he is not, right? Wrong. I contend that the sovereign agency of both God and Man are operationally co-existent. Here is a clue to my argument--What is the most significant dissimilarity between Nature and Supernature?

              Calvinist’s and Arminian’s are both equally valid and correct in their respective views. It is not either/or but rather both that are based in reality and truth. Look for my book: The Journey is the Destination: the Way on is the Way In, San Diego: Rhema Rising, 2007, by R. Alan Woods.

             

 

                           

 

 

 

             

             

             

 

 

 


[1] Horton, David (General Editor) and Horton, Ryan (Associate Editor). The Portable Seminary. Grand Rapids: Bethany      House, 2006, P. 142.

[2] Ibid, p. 680.

* Dr. Elwell is author and editor of numerous books, including the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology and the Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible. A former book-review editor for Christianity Today, he is emeritus Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. He earned his doctorate from the University of Edinburg.

 

[3] Ibid, p. 682.

 

[4] Ibid, pp. 142-143.

[5] Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1938, p. 462.

[6] Litton, E. A. Introduction to Dogmatic Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 3rd ed., 1912, p. 236.


the+future+of+the+printed+book+


              The Future of the Printed Book


By


R. Alan Woods


San Diego: Rhema Rising


Copyright 2007


 


With the technological innovations of the Personal Digital Computer and the Internet the future of the printed book will most probably go the way of the earliest devices for carrying written and graphic information, which were comprised of clay tablets (2500 B.C.- A.D.100), papyrus rolls (2000 B.C.- A.D. 700), and the codex (A.D. 150). The driving force behind the evolution of the “book” is the need to find and disseminate information more rapidly. Although the codex is still with us, the one major change in it having been the replacement of manual writing by machine printing, the introduction of computer-driven photocomposition and the emergence of the electronic book (A.D. 2000) at the end of the twentieth century provide us with the eschatology necessary to recognize the proverbial writing on the wall.


The electronic book is a major innovation in the form of the book, which has been evolving over the last forty five hundred years and as such, meets the need for “light” speed. The E-book meets societies need for readily accessible information; it assimilates the current technological knowledge and experience, our modern organizational experience and capability, the capability of integrating a new form into existing information systems, and it is economically viable. The electronic-book system, when fully developed, will need to be accessible by a device that will serve as a comfortable vade mecum for an individual user. If we define a book as a storehouse of human knowledge intended for dissemination in the form of an artifact that is portable as well as transportable, then the E-book is the future means of conveying this organized knowledge.


In the last third of the twentieth century, the book in the shape of a long familiar object composed of inked sheets folded, cut, and bound began to metamorphose into the book as a screen display on an electronic machine. The transformation, in materials, shape, and structure, of the device (The PC) for carrying written and graphic information has been more extant than any since the original creations on clay and papyrus in the third millennium B.C. While the E-book may not replace the printed book any time in the near future, I am sure that my yet unborn great-great-great-grandchildren will find it a daunting task to find an affordable if existent printed book.


Eng123D


The Sanctification of Humanity En-Godded by Christ:


In the Christian Worldview's of Flannery O'Connor and Percy Walker


As Incarnational Reality


   A Critical Review


Of


Robert J. Baker's:


"That Was a Good Story You Wrote"


 


Robert J. Baker in his article “That was a good story you wrote”[1]- written as a critical review in the form of a dialogue- says,


Being Catholic and writing fictions that were explicitly concerned with matters of... [Christian]... faith made them doubly alien in the South. Despite their status as outsiders, O’Connor and Percy largely initiated a sea change in Southern literature when they chose to depict a South no longer under the spell of the Civil War or the romanticized antebellum period, and O’Connor and Percy continue to be significant presences in Southern and American Literature” (p. 112).


Thus, Baker informs us of his purpose for writing the article and his thesis statement. The three resources that he uses to provide support for his thesis and from which he devises the analytical tools to illustrate his argument logically are articulate and valuable studies that are each different in their emphasis.* Of the different emphases expressed in the three resources utilized by Baker in his article, he says,


“Ralph C. Wood places O’Connor’s work in the social, cultural, and religious milieu of the South in which she wrote to demonstrate that her fiction challenges the beliefs and complacency of her time and ours as well... [in addition]... John F. Desmond presents a careful, meticulous analysis of the tension between solitariness and community in each of Walker Percy’s novels; Desmond makes obvious the Incarnational and Eucharistic nature of the community Percy sought, and he identifies the threats that contemporary culture poses for it..., and [finally]... Farrell O’Gorman explains the historical and intellectual contexts which shaped the faith and imaginations of O’Connor and Percy, and he argues for their continuing legacy among Southern writers” (p. 112).


In further reference to these three resources Baker says,


 


“In underscoring the great gift O’Connor and Percy left all of us in their intersection of the Catholic... [Charismatic]... Revival... [of the 1950’s]... and the contemporary South, of faith and literature, of prophecy and sacrament, Wood, Desmond, and O’Gormans studies remind us of the achievement of these extraordinary writers by stressing the depth of their faith through which they understood their region, writing, and themselves while additionally illustrating that their faith gave O’Connor and Percy a common vision of the world’s ailments and the joyful remedy of its ills” (pp. 120-121).


O’Connor and Percy were writers of short stories, novels, reviews, and essays based upon and sustained by their Christian faith. Their faith caused them to assume the “prophetic voice” in their writing, which warned us of the dehumanizing and alienating effects upon human beings that the encroaching menace of consumerism and scientism that began its expansion exponentially after World War II (p. 112).


Baker’s thinking- informed by his reading and study of O’Connor and Percy’s writing combined with Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s accentuated studies of them- is logical, sound, clear, concise, and qualified. The information he utilizes is accurate and highly significant. He defines what he means when he uses terms, and has interpreted information and those terms fairly.


Further evidence of Baker’s thoroughness in revealing O’Connor and Percy’s worldview and subsequent mind-sets can be found in his discussions of the author’s that influenced their thinking. Baker’s economical use of word’s and laser beam focus on his thesis is evident by the ground he covers- well below the topsoil- within ten pages. Based on a preponderance of evidence, Baker’s presentation is valid.


              It is a rare occurrence when one can say unequivocally that one agrees completely with an author’s views. This is one of those rare occurrences and I agree completely with Baker’s views. I have defined what I mean when I use the term “Christian Author”[2]- Mr. Baker does a much better job. My concurrence with Baker, O’Connor, Percy, Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s views has been predicated on and informed by the works of Leanne Payne[3], Robert Banks[4], Saint John of Damascus[5], Agnes Sanford[6], Dorothy L. Sayers[7], and the Apostle Paul[8]- a three to five page limit does not allow me to cite all of these references.


              The Triadic Trinitarian theology of Sayers, Incarnational Reality in the Christological theology of Payne, Saint John of Damascus, The Apostle Paul, and Sanford and the Ecclesiastic Communalism of Banks and Paul of Tarsus is readily apparent in the views of Baker and the thinking and writing of O’Connor and Percy.


              Thanks to Baker’s success in achieving his purpose and aims in his article one can come to appreciate the tightrope walk that is required to balance the artistic and the didactic aspects of the style, form, and content of Flannery O’Connor and Percy Walker’s work as informed by their understanding of Theology and their Christian life experiences. This enabled both of them to pragmatise in there work that which is hard to perceive and understand as it relates to Lady Wisdom- “... we will define wisdom as the theory of knowledge that equipped individuals in the Old Testament...and [us moderns] to understand themselves and their world... Lady Wisdom is a heavenly creature, residing in proximity to God.”[9]


             


                           


             


             


             


1


 





[1] Baker, Robert J. “’That was a good article you wrote’: Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy”. The Journal of Christianity and Literature (54:1) August 2004.


 


*Note: Mr. Baker’s works cited for this article are Wood, Ralph C. Flannery O’Connor, and the Christ-Haunted South. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004; Desmond, John F. Walker Percy’s Search for Community. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004; O’Gorman, Farrell. Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.


[2] Woods, Rodney A. The Oracles of Christian Men: the Christian Author is a unique and necessary phenomenon of the postmodern church. San Diego: Rhema Rising, 2007. p. 1.


[3] Payne, Leanne. Real Presence: The Christian Worldview of C. S. Lewis as Incarnational Reality. (Third edition.) Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995. Passim.


[4] Banks, Robert J. Paul’s Idea of Community. (Second edition.) Boston: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Passim.


[5] John, of Damascus, Saint. Three Treatises on the Divine Images. New York: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003. Passim. 


[6] Sanford, Agnes. Sealed Orders. (1st edition) Gainesville: Bridge-Logos, 1972. Passim.


[7] Sayers, Dorothy L. The Mind of the Maker. (3rd edition) Greenwich: Connecticut, 2004. Passim.


[8] Paul, of Tarsus, Apostle. 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Gal, Eph, and Rom. (3rd edition) New International Version, 1984. Passim. 


[9] Dumbrell, William J. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002. p. 263, 1p and p. 266, 2p. 


The Sanctification of Humanity

The Sanctification of Humanity

En-Godded by Christ In

The Christian Worldview's



of Flannery O'Connor and Percy Walker

as Incarnational Reality





A Critical Review

of

Robert J. Baker's

"That Was A Good Story You Wrote"





By




R. Alan Woods

San Diego: Rhema Rising


Copyright 2007


 




Robert J. Baker in his article “That was a good story you wrote”[1]- written as a critical review in the form of a dialogue- says,

“Being Catholic and writing fictions that were explicitly concerned with matters of... [Christian]... faith made them doubly alien in the South. Despite their status as outsiders, O’Connor and Percy largely initiated a sea change in Southern literature when they chose to depict a South no longer under the spell of the Civil War or the romanticized antebellum period, and O’Connor and Percy continue to be significant presences in Southern and American Literature” (p. 112).

Thus, Baker informs us of his purpose for writing the article and his thesis statement. The three resources that he uses to provide support for his thesis and from which he devises the analytical tools to illustrate his argument logically are articulate and valuable studies that are each different in their emphasis.* Of the different emphases expressed in the three resources utilized by Baker in his article, he says,

“Ralph C. Wood places O’Connor’s work in the social, cultural, and religious milieu of the South in which she wrote to demonstrate that her fiction challenges the beliefs and complacency of her time and ours as well... [in addition]... John F. Desmond presents a careful, meticulous analysis of the tension between solitariness and community in each of Walker Percy’s novels; Desmond makes obvious the Incarnational and Eucharistic nature of the community Percy sought, and he identifies the threats that contemporary culture poses for it..., and [finally]... Farrell O’Gorman explains the historical and intellectual contexts which shaped the faith and imaginations of O’Connor and Percy, and he argues for their continuing legacy among Southern writers” (p. 112).

In further reference to these three resources Baker says,

“In underscoring the great gift O’Connor and Percy left all of us in their intersection of the Catholic... [Charismatic]... Revival... [of the 1950’s]... and the contemporary South, of faith and literature, of prophecy and sacrament, Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s studies remind us of the achievement of these extraordinary writers by stressing the depth of their faith through which they understood their region, writing, and themselves while additionally illustrating that their faith gave O’Connor and Percy a common vision of the world’s ailments and the joyful remedy of its ills” (pp. 120-121).

O’Connor and Percy were writers of short stories, novels, reviews, and essays based upon and sustained by their Christian faith. Their faith caused them to assume the “prophetic voice” in their writing, which warned us of the dehumanizing and alienating effects upon human beings that the encroaching menace of consumerism and scientism that began its expansion exponentially after World War II (p. 112).

Baker’s thinking- informed by his reading and study of O’Connor and Percy’s writing combined with Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s accentuated studies of them- is logical, sound, clear, concise, and qualified. The information he utilizes is accurate and highly significant. He defines what he means when he uses terms, and has interpreted information and those terms fairly.

Further evidence of Baker’s thoroughness in revealing O’Connor and Percy’s worldview and subsequent mind-sets can be found in his discussions of the author’s that influenced their thinking. Baker’s economical use of word’s and laser beam focus on his thesis is evident by the ground he covers- well below the topsoil- within ten pages. Based on a preponderance of evidence, Baker’s presentation is valid.

It is a rare occurrence when one can say unequivocally that one agrees completely with an author’s views. This is one of those rare occurrences and I agree completely with Baker’s views. I have defined what I mean when I use the term “Christian Author”[2]- Mr. Baker does a much better job. My concurrence with Baker, O’Connor, Percy, Wood, Desmond, and O’Gorman’s views has been predicated on and informed by the works of Leanne Payne[3], Robert Banks[4], Saint John of Damascus[5], Agnes Sanford[6], Dorothy L. Sayers[7], and the Apostle Paul[8]- a three to five page limit does not allow me to cite all of these references.

The Triadic Trinitarian theology of Sayers, Incarnational Reality in the Christological theology of Payne, Saint John of Damascus, The Apostle Paul, and Sanford and the Ecclesiastic Communalism of Banks and Paul of Tarsus is readily apparent in the views of Baker and the thinking and writing of O’Connor and Percy.

Thanks to Baker’s success in achieving his purpose and aims in his article one can come to appreciate the tightrope walk that is required to balance the artistic and the didactic aspects of the style, form, and content of Flannery O’Connor and Percy Walker’s work as informed by their understanding of Theology and their Christian life experiences. This enabled both of them to pragmatise in there work that which is hard to perceive and understand as it relates to Lady Wisdom- “... we will define wisdom as the theory of knowledge that equipped individuals in the Old Testament...and [us moderns] to understand themselves and their world... Lady Wisdom is a heavenly creature, residing in proximity to God.”[9]

 

[1] Baker, Robert J. “’That was a good article you wrote’: Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy”. The Journal of Christianity and Literature (54:1) August 2004.

*Note: Mr. Baker’s works cited for this article are: Wood, Ralph C. Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South . Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004; Desmond, John F. Walker Percy’s Search for Community . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004; O’Gorman, Farrell. Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction . Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

[2] Woods, Rodney A. The Oracles of Christian Men: the “Christian Author” is a unique and necessary phenomenon of the postmodern church . San Diego: Rhema Rising, 2007. p. 1.

[3] Payne, Leanne. Real Presence: The Christian Worldview of C. S. Lewis as Incarnational Reality. (3 rd edition.) Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995. Passim.

[4] Banks, Robert J. Paul’s Idea of Community . (2 nd edition.) Boston: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Passim.

[5] John, of Damascus, Saint. Three Treatises on the Divine Images . New York: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003. Passim.

[6] Sanford, Agnes. Sealed Orders . (1 st edition) Gainesville: Bridge-Logos, 1972. Passim.

[7] Sayers, Dorothy L. The Mind of the Maker . (3 rd edition) Greenwich: Connecticut, 2004. Passim.

[8] Paul, of Tarsus, Apostle. 1 Cor, 2 Cor, Gal, Eph, and Rom . (3 rd edition) New International Version, 1984. Passim.

[9] Dumbrell, William J. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament . Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002. p. 263, 1p and p. 266, 2p.

 


CST240paulonhisbestday+04

Paul on His Best Day[1]

 

 

              Dr. Dodd in his book says, “The purpose of this book has been to explore problems that Paul’s letters present to a...(post)[2]...modern reader, to raise awareness of how our cultural context affects our interpretation of the Bible, and to encourage a conversation with Paul and his interpreters” (p. 157). Dr. Dodd goes on to say that Christians have for the last nineteen hundred and fifty years found Paul’s thoughts difficult to understand- even the author of 2 Peter and early Christians who were his peers!

              The analytical toll that has been devised by Dr. Dodd to help us better understand Paul’s words is a “bridge” which is utilized to cross over into the cultural context of the “FCMW” in which Paul and these Christians to whom he was speaking lived. This analytical device produces a five-way conversation- a conversation between us, other readers, Paul and his original readers, and the Holy Spirit. This bridge is exceptionally helpful because the chasm that lies between the Hellenistic culture of the Greco-Roman period and that of the present post-modernistic era is more than vast.

              It seems as though Paul stirred up controversy and various degrees of opposition most everywhere he went. There were those who questioned his Apostleship for a variety of reasons. Jewish Christians who could not accept his non-legalist approach to Jewish law and customs as it related to the Gentile Christians. There were Jews and Pagans who practiced physical violence against him because they adamantly disagreed with his views, the civic controversies that stemmed from those views, and the threats to their livelihoods that his teachings provoked. Sometimes it was even difficult for the early Christians to understand what Paul was saying! Then there were those who twisted and distorted everything Paul said out of their ignorance and instability just as they did with the scriptures of the Old Testament. Because Paul’s writings were considered “authoritative”- by direct (Rhema) revelation- at this very early stage of the Church, they must be paid attention to and analyzed very carefully with in a context that consists of numerous variables.

              I can certainly identify with Martin Luther when he said of his own journey, “In the scholastics I lost Christ but found him again in Paul”. I am firmly convinced that Paul’s conversion experience and its radical affect on him is the best evidence for the Resurrection of Christ. One of the counter intuitive paradoxes with Paul’s thinking is expressed by Karl Barth[3], a major German theologian of the twentieth century, when he said, “If we rightly understand ourselves, our problems are the problems of Paul; and if we be enlightened by the brightness of his answers, those answers must be ours” (p. 1). Therefore, Dr. Dodd is correct in concluding when he says, “Paul, though sometimes puzzling, is not always a problem”. In fact, he seems to be the correct solution to all the problems that arose in the early church and that continue to arise today! I agree with Dr. Dodd that the key to understanding Paul’s thinking and the meaning of his writings can be found in their Christ-centered nature. Dr. Dodd understands, as I do, that Paul’s life, thought, and ethical views are based upon his understanding of  life “in Christ” (p. 158). Paul obviously understands who Christ is and what He has done for us through his foundational instructions to the early converts. Paul’s teaching is Christ-centered! Dr. Dodd explains that social ethics did not play an important role in Paul’s world. Therefore, Paul as a missionary extraordinaire was hyper-pragmatic in subordinating social ethics to his obsession to make the resurrected Christ known. Dr. Dodd says, “This was his determining factor and justifying means” (p. 159). Paul adamantly believed that within limits the Gospel should be proclaimed to all by doing whatever it took to accomplish this Commission! Many of Paul’s social imperatives were methods utilized to accomplish his missionary ends- “...often questions of strategy and etiquette rather than principle” (p. 159). Paul’s corollary mission statement as conjunctive to “Christ crucified and resurrected” is “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10). As Paul Tillich[4], the twentieth century theologian, said, “To the [person] who longs for God and cannot find him; to the [person] who wants to be acknowledged by God and cannot even believe that he is; to the [person] who is striving for a new imperishable meaning of his life and cannot discover it- to this [person] Paul speaks” (p. 13). At the core, all that Paul has to say is anchored in the timeless and transcendent truth of Christ as God’s plan for our redemption. Dr. Dodd concludes by expressing his desire that our conversations with Paul will connect all of us with the more...”important and timeless conversation with the One for whom Paul lived and died” (p. 160).

              In my opinion, I believe Dr. Robert Banks[5] continues on where Dr. Dodd ends his book. Dr. Banks takes Dodd’s thesis much further and in doing so makes it significantly, much more clear and understandable not only what Paul meant but also what predicated much of what he had to say in his epistles/letters. Dr. Banks is correct in his assessment of Paul’s writings when he says, “...it was through interaction with the society about him, as well as involvement with his communities, that Paul came to hold the views expressed in his letters, not through theological contemplation removed from the cut of every day life...‘where the rubber-met-the-road’[6]... in the earliest Christians lives” (p. 6). One would be well advised to thoroughly read, study, and contemplate Dr. Banks’ magnificently crafted book in order to grasp a much deeper and superior understanding of Paul’s thinking and writings as primarily revealed through the Pauline Letters and as secondarily manifested in the Act’s.

             

             

 

             

 

 

             

             

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[1]  Dodd, Brian J. The Problem with Paul. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

[2]  My insertion of the word, post.

[3] Barth, Karl. Romans. London: Oxford University Press, 1933.

[4] Muggeridge, Malcolm and Vidler, Alec. Paul, Envoy Extraordinary. London: Collins, 1972.

[5] Banks, Robert. Paul’s Idea of Community. Boston: Hendrickson, 1994.

[6] My words