Skip to main content

Paradoxes and dichotomies

Some fundamental theological paradoxes seem interrelated. The transcendence of God and how he can also be personal and involved in the world. Creation ex nihilo rather than via emanation (an old non-Christian belief that the physical universe was a sort of physical cast-off or stuff that came out of God's being). The nature versus grace dichotomy, which Francis Schaeffer notes has been problematic in Western intellectual history. The creation of humans in imago dei, or human essence, versus original sin and human nature. Reconciling religious rationality and objective theology with personal spirituality, mysticism and awe, without degenerating into religious rationalism or into unbiblical subjectivism or superstition. Biblical inspiration of human writers and the canon. And the dual nature of Christ as God and man.

These all involve the interaction of the divine and the created, the trancendent reality beyond the physical universe interacting with people and the created world. These are all complex problems that we can't really wrap our minds around, but the most approachable is the best starting point, the duality of Christ, since Scripture has much to say on this. I think then that this is the best starting point, for it shows how God could become unified with humanity and matter, part of his creation from which he is normally transcendent and separate.

One's theology of christology will affect how one answers these questions. Whether one holds to dyphysitism as Protestants and Catholics do (i.e., that Christ has distinct human and divine natures) lead to different answers than with miaphysitism (a single fused human-divine nature) of some parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church, with its greater emphasis on religious mysticism. I don't think it's a coincidence that the rejection of the kenosis by rationalistic Protestants cohabits with difficulties in reconciling these issues in practicing spirituality (e.g., rejecting mystical expressions of faith) and unhealthy religious rationalism and religious superficiality. And heterodox views like monophysitism (Christ with a single nature only) will lead to strange views, such as gnostic influenced ideas of emanation, the non-eternality of Christ, and the Arian belief in people attaining godlike status.


Popular posts from this blog

Gossip, accusation and spiritual warfare

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” [1 Cor. 12:20]. Gossip is diagnosed as a serious spiritual problem, not a harmless form of conversation and social entertainment, as many in the secular world would view it.God views it differently. Gossip is the opposite of the love and grace that God wants to display in our lives.
Gossip is often exaggerated (and thus, untrue), or outright fabricated. Even church people engage in gossip in a seemingly sanctimonious guise (“We really ought to pray for X – you wouldn’t believe what he told me yesterday!...”). Whether secular or “christianized,” gossip betrays trust. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” [Prov. 11:13]; “A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates clo…

Evangelicalism's gradual demise

The term "evangelical" was popularized by Martin Luther ("evangelisch" in German), which meant a follower of the gospel. The term was originally a very good and useful term, as it referred to someone who believed in a religion based on faith and following the teachings of Christ, rather than man-made religious rules. It was meaningful enough but also broad enough to encompass a general theological orientation and religious lifestyle. It could include and accommodate somewhat different views or interpretations of Christian belief, including those who focused more on the grace, spirituality and lifestyle of Christ. As such, it was not the exclusive property of one religious group or theological orientation. The meaning has been generally positive in modern church history.

However, in recent decades the term has been hijacked by fundamentalists who insist on a narrow interpretation of the term, insisting on a set of specific theological beliefs, while ignoring the Ch…

Portraits of Christ: John's gospel

John’s Gospel opens with a fascinating prose prologue in chapter 1 that essentially summarizes the themes of the entire book. It introduces Jesus in a manner that emphasizes his deity, then John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, and finally, the spiritual essence of Jesus’ public ministry and outreach, and his ultimate rejection.
John begins with the language of creation, showing that Jesus was always with the Father, was involved in creation, and was thus eternal. John describes him as the Word (logos in Greek), which conveys multiple meanings. For Jewish people, it meant the Scriptures, meaning that Jesus himself is the ultimate revelation of God to us, because he himself is God, more so that the written word of God (the Old Testament, at this time). It also reminds Jewish readers of how God spoke the world into existence in Genesis 1, as well as divine wisdom personified in the wisdom literature such as Proverbs (the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 1-10). …