Topics: Theology

The study of God – who He is, how He behaves, and what He thinks. The source of my Theology comes from two main sources – the Bible and my personal interaction with Him, which are both in perfect harmony.

Design & Theology

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

I did an internet search recently to understand what designers like me (web, graphic, or industrial designers specifically) think about their activity in terms of how it relates to God.  The first post I came across after doing a Google search was a blog with a category page with a confusing title of “The Design of Theology.”  All its posts were instead about the theology of design.  The first one I read was about how the main purpose of graphic / communication design was to share or promote the glory of God.  This seemed to me a good idea, but a little odd because a professional graphic designer often does things other than that, so it would be hard to argue that this is the primary purpose of Graphic design in the sphere of human society, and it would lead a professional to feel a little guilty that he or she wasn’t doing something “churchy.”  This is unhelpful theology to me or anyone not working as a graphic designer for a church.

The second post I read was much worse.

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Christianity According to the Old Testament

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,
declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)

I find this passage fascinating – I can get out of this some interesting aspects of this “New Covenant” from this passage alone.  These thoughts were inspired by a class I was in a couple of years ago, but more recently have been on my mind…
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The Problem of Natural Evil

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Within the last 6 years, two devastating natural disasters have shaken the consciences of our generation.  On December 26th 2004, an underwater earthquake with a magnitude measuring between 9.0 and 9.3 on the Richter scale occurred a hundred miles off the coast of northern Sumatra, a province of Indonesia.  The resulting tsunami, later named “The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,” devastated the coastline communities of nearly all nearby land masses with tidal waves up to a hundred feet high.  The death toll was enormous: nearly a quarter of a million people perished, and based on the many photos taken in the aftermath, many of its victims were small children, whose bodies were found scattered up and down the coasts where the tsunamis hit.[1]

Six years later in January of 2010, another devastating earthquake hit a small town 16 miles away from the heavily populated city of Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti.  The quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, and the death toll according to the Haitian government was 230,000 with 300,000 injured and 1,000,000 left homeless.

No more than a month later, an even more severe earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit off the coast of the Maule region of Chili, devastating coastal towns thought the region. Although the death toll was not as high as the Asian tsunami or the Haitian earthquakes, local news services at the time reported that more than 1.5 million people had been displaced.

This was not the first time such visceral evil and suffering had jarred the minds and hearts of people in this decade.  From an American perspective, the beginning of this century was marred by a horrifying display of terrorism as the infamous events of 9/11 flashed before our eyes on television and computer screens across the world.  People all over the country, unaccustomed to violence so immanent in their lives, sought to find answers and consolation.  How could this kind of evil have happened to our country?  Some people turned to religion to answer questions.  Church attendance grew for a time.

However, the Tsunami of 2004 awoke in men and women of this generation the realization of a different kind of evil – one that could not be blamed on men, but on whimsical natural forces of the earth.  No longer could the senseless violence and the deaths of thousands be blamed on moral agents as we had been culturally accustomed to thinking about evil over the last 3 years, but was instead the fault of an “act of God.”  A discomfort with religion and its attempts to explain such suffering began to emerge.  Both the atheist and the theist could see a common enemy behind the 9/11 attacks, but with the horrors of a natural disaster now in the forefront, the national and international religious communities began to struggle with answers for questions they were not used to addressing.

In some cases, Christians and religious leaders could not digest the events of the Tsunami or other instances of natural evil without readjusting their views of the goodness or power of God.[2] Outspoken atheists seemed to find real proof that the claim of the Christian God being all-powerful and loving was illogical.[3] Outspoken Christians unconcerned with correlating these events with God’s character were quick to see them instead as being a righteous judgment against people who deserved it.  Others saw it as an act of God that was in some way beneficial to the human race or more specifically to enlightened Christians.  As it turned out, there were a lot of bad explanations for the reasons behind these terrible disasters, but there was an absence of any good ones.  Why would God allow such devastation?  Many more thoughtful and rational religious thinkers agreed: there was no answer.[4] Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on suffering

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

When it comes to difficulties and tragedy in life, a question has always been on my mind:  why does God not reveal apparently important things to us, especially things regarding terrible experiences that have the potential to emotionally ruin us?  Why does God remain silent as to its meaning or ultimate purpose in our lives—people whom he has a loving relationship with? Didn’t he himself suffer on Earth with clear purpose?  Shouldn’t we likewise be knowledgeable of the reasons behind our portion?

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Emerging PA

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I just found a new blog that I’ve added to my blogroll.  It’s one by a fellow grad student who loves writing about the Christian life from a philosophic / theological point of view…  Awesome stuff.  I’m still reading posts from it myself.  If you have a chance – please go take a look.

http://www.emergingpa.blogspot.com/

A study of Psalm 23

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

One of the things we are doing in class is closely studying individual passages in the Psalms. Our process includes background research, a structural analysis, a verse-by-verse examination highlighting confusing parts, a section on theological insights, and then a concluding practical application. Believe it or not, most of the good scholarly exegetical work is done by atheists!

Anyway, here is the psalm according to the TNIV translation. Following this will be my analysis.  Hope you guys enjoy it.

A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

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What kind of theologian are you?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

I thought the theist crowd might enjoy this! This was inspired by mindonfire’s “What kind of atheist are you?” quiz, which I took and promptly flunked. Here is the link. I ended up being what I was hoping for – in line with Martin Luther! (this does not include his anti-semitism.) I have never read Finney, but I have always loved Luther and more recently, Anselm.

  You scored as Martin Luther, The daddy of the Reformation. You are opposed to any Catholic ideas of works-salvation and see the scriptures as being primarily authoritative.

Martin Luther
 
80%
Charles Finney
 
47%
Anselm
 
47%
John Calvin
 
40%
Karl Barth
 
33%
Augustine
 
33%
Friedrich Schleiermacher
 
27%
Jürgen Moltmann
 
27%
Paul Tillich
 
13%
Jonathan Edwards
 
0%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Can a person please God or be saved without direction revelation?

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

These are some thoughts from my father on this subject – one that has bothered me for a long time now and I have often sought to figure it out in more detail. But as you can see in a list of 26 points, the Bible is pretty clear — absolutely!

  1. Enoch, who had no access to any direct revelation from God, “walked with God” (Gen 5:24). Apparently human beings, even without direct revelation, had been given enough to enable them to seek to live righteously and to be able to please God.
  2. Likewise Noah “walked with God” prior to receiving any direct revelation from God; he was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time” (Gen 6:9); and “he found favor in the eyes of the Lord”–before God spoke to him (Gen 6:8)
  3. It seems unlikely that Enoch was the only human being who pleased God during the time between Noah and Abraham (the two individuals who received direct revelation from God). God apparently did not seem pressed to give more direct revelation in order to make it possible for the millions of human beings who lived during those 10 generations to hear, and be saved.
  4. Did all the people on earth go to hell during the 400 years that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt, since there was no direct revelation from God during that period of time?
  5. Did all the people on earth go to hell, except for a few Israelites, between the time of Moses (ca. 1440 B.C.) and Jesus’ death (A.D. 31), since no one except for the Israelites had access to God’s direct revelation during this time? If God provided a way for human beings without direct revelation to be accepted by God during these years, does this mean that God-fearing people in the Fiji Islands (or China or Tibet) could go to heaven if they lived during the time from 3000 B.C. to 31 A.D., but would go to hell if they lived during the time from 31 A.D. onward? Wouldn’t this mean that Christ’s death actually doomed to hell countless thousands or millions of God-fearing people in distant lands who had the misfortune of being born after, rather than before, Christ’s death?
  6. If God provided a way for God-fearing non-Israelites to “be saved” without access to direct revelation during the millennia before Christ, did he suddenly change the rules at the moment Christ died on the cross?
  7. God’s revelation of himself to the Israelites (the OT) never claims that it gives the Israelites a better chance of going to heaven than non-Israelites.
  8. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who had never received revelation from God, was a priest of God and instructed Moses (Exodus 18).
  9. Melchizedek, who never received any direct revelation from God, was a priest of God who was highly commended in Scripture.
  10. The Law given to Moses was not perceived as a way for people to “get saved” or go to heaven.
  11. God would have saved the city of Sodom if there had been 10 righteous people there–which suggests that people in a non-Israelite city could live righteous lives and be pleasing God.
  12. The Syrian Naaman and the Phoenician woman of Zarephath were righteous individuals, and they were more pleasing to God than the Israelites, despite the fact that, unlike the Israelites, they had not received any divine revelation.
  13. Job, who had never received any direct revelation about God, was the most righteous man on the earth at the time. This would mean that Job was more pleasing to God than any of the Israelites, who had access to God’s direct revelation. People in OT times who had never heard about the true God of Israel could live righteous lives and be more pleasing to God than those who had received God’s direct revelation.
  14. The book of Job often refers to “the righteous” (among the nations), as those who please God, etc. (e.g., Job 28:28).
  15. God accepts Job’s three friends (Job 42:9ff.)
  16. The books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes divide mankind up into “the righteous” and “the wicked”–without regard to whether or not they have received direct revelation (e.g., “it will go better for those who fear God . . . ”–contra the wicked)
  17. In the NT, the Phoenician woman amazed Jesus by her faith (Matt 15:21-28).
  18. The Roman centurian amazed Jesus by his faith (“I have not found such great faith in Israel!” (Matthew 8 ).
  19. Jesus declared, “Many will come from the east and west and take their places at the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom [of Israel] will be thrown outside . . . ” (Matt. 8:11-12)
  20. The Roman Cornelius and his family were living lives that were pleasing to God before they heard anything about the Gospel: “He and his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10).
  21. Peter to Cornelius: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35)
  22. The woman from Thyatira, Lydia, who was not Jewish, is described as “a worshiper of God”; and the Lord opened her heart to receive Paul’s message of the Gospel (Acts 16:14).
  23. Not only Jews, but God-fearing Gentiles keep turning to Christ throughout the book of Acts.
  24. Paul to the Athenians: “God has given all men life and breath and everything else, . . . God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each on one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’. As some of you own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’” (Acts 17:25-28).
  25. God said to Paul, about the city of Corinth: “Do not be afraid; I have many people in this city (Acts 18:9). Apparently a number of the (Gentile) inhabitants of Corinth, even before Paul arrived there with the Gospel, were God-fearing people that God considered his own.
  26. Regarding those who have never received the kind of direct revelation which the Jews received, Paul explains: God judges all human beings justly, rewarding those who seek to live righteously and punishing those who live wickedly. God gives eternal life to the righteous, and he punishes the wicked (Romans 2:6-11).

Church and the perception of God

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Elise got me thinking about another fascinating (although in real life, painful) subject: How the dogma and behavior of a church are in part a reflection of that organization’s perception of God. If religious life is composed of being forced to follow a list of dogmatic rules (not drinking alcohol, going to church 2 times a week minimum, tithing 10%, mandatory baptism, mandatory bible verse memorization, etc.) then that organization’s perception of God is one who is distant and needs to be appeased by good behavior. I used to attend a church like this myself and HATED it. I have found that there are some people that do not think of God this way but still attend a church like this. To me however, it is a loosing battle. This society that supports oppressive dogmatism will steal away their good perception of God and it will instead mold it into the one the church affirms. Only integrity will help you survive and get you out.

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God and the natural world

Monday, November 6th, 2006

I remember when a girl down the street from me died.

Her name was Andi. She was only 3 years older than me and a senior in my high school. I was friends with her younger brother, who would get together and talk about video games and cross-country running with my other good friend. It was a terrible shock to our small rural neighborhood. She lived with her parents and her brother in a renovated farmhouse, and our whole neighborhood, who were mostly Christian, got together at her house to express their grief with the family. One neighbor tried to comfort the parents by saying that God was in this somehow, and I remember my father coming home upset by that comment and told me so. “You should never say such a thing, he told me – who knows that stuff… it’s better just to cry with them and just shut up.” I was too young and stupid to understand, but I never forgot what he said. Her parents moved away not too long after and we never saw them again.

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Beyond the extremes

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

One of the reasons I started this weblog was to develop a decent theology through writing and good feedback that will eventually land me somewhere between the two extremes of Reformed Theology (Calvinism) and liberal forms of Arminianism. Part of my quest for answers includes reading literature by authors who fall into the Reformed Theology camp who have beliefs that I am repulsed by. But, just in case I misunderstood the few men who I discussed the subject with, I thought I would go buy a book by one of the leaders of the movement and make sure I understand. I don’t want to be tripped up by semantic confusion.

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