theology

Reply to “The Word” (John 1:1)

Dear Biblical Unitarian,

I have to say this paper was quite confusing as it meandered all over the place. It made it difficult to follow any particular train of thought. There’s a rather long excursus in the middle which has nothing to do with “the Word” of John 1:1 which is, in and of itself, a topic of its own. So I’ll just get that out of the way first in order to concentrate on the more salient points.

Here’s a list of the verses brought up in the excursus (Gen 1:26-27; Mark 10:6,9; Col 1:16:17; Mark 13:19; Eph 3:9; Acts 17:24-25; Mal 2:10; Psa 33:6; Rev 4:11; Acts 4:24; Psa 50:10-12; Rom 8:17; Matt 4:8-10; Rev 3:21; Luke 1:35; Rom 1:4; Matt 28:18; Heb 1:3; Col 1:19). (more…)

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Biblical Unitarian on The Word (John 1:1)

The Word

 1 In The beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

…And the Word became flesh…

This passage is one of those really contested ones. I will start out with the most common Trinitarian interpretation and then give my rebuff. On average a person interprets it something like “Jesus is the Word, Jesus was in the beginning, Jesus was with God, and Jesus is God” “Then Jesus created all things”. Basically as Jesus=Word. Then we read the incarnation where Jesus takes on the human nature and becomes a man.

Let’s start with John 1:1 – So here is the first problem, everyone agrees that the “God” in the second clause is the Father, which I totally agree. All the arguing is about how “God” is used in the third clause. Now the standard Trinitarian argument is that it is qualitative. That part I agree with as well, I think it is qualitative. [I’m not going to go into explaining why right now] Meaning the qualities of the “word” = qualities of God. The departure I make here is that most people think of this as “divinity”. So a better way to say the standard argument is that Jesus is “divine”, as God is “divine”. This is where the famous “substance” in the Trinity comes from. My problem is that it turns the one God into a “substance” or “divine quality”. This is how the Trinity works though. Now each person can be fully God because they share this divine nature. I don’t think that John meant that, I think he just wanted to express that the Word is fully expressive of God, just as my words expresses myself. This is a much better interpretation since in order to view the Word as “divinity” it changes God into a quality, God fundamentally becomes one “it”. (more…)

Reply to a Biblical Unitarian

My response to a Biblical Unitarian’s paper.

Dear Biblical Unitarian,

My friend and ministry partner, Rev. Charlie Koo, forwarded your material to me requesting some help to respond from a (shall we say) more orthodox Christian perspective. Rev. Koo also gave me a little background on your short term mission to Iraq. I have no doubt you must have had some invigorating and heated—unfortunately, they often turn out that way—discussions with the Muslim community there, which probably re-shaped some of your theological thinking.

I just returned from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland after doing some postgraduate studies in scripture & theology. One of the topics of interest we studied, relevant to our discussion here, is Early Christianity, and, more specifically, the worship of Jesus and its development from monotheistic Judaism. By the early 2nd century, there can be no historical doubt that the Christian community did in fact worship Jesus. But how did this develop? And can we trace that development in the 1st century, and within the pages of the New Testament? (more…)

I am a Biblical Unitarian

No! Not me! I am referring to something written by a friend of a friend. Before posting this on my blog, I asked for his permission so that we could have an open, public discussion. After all, Christianity is not a secret, private religion, but its doors have always been open to the public. He has agreed. So I am posting his initial paper explaining why he thinks being a “Biblical Unitarian” makes the best sense of the scriptures. I will followup with my response shortly. Feel free to comment yourself, I only ask that we keep things civil, and I reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. Here is his paper: (more…)

The Portable Atheist

Lately, I’ve been reading “The Portable Atheist,” and find it thoroughly enjoyable. Sure, there are some ad hominem attacks among other such fallacies, especially when some entries seem to be of the “there is no god because … I’m smarter than you” variety, but all in all, I find most of the selected articles Hitchen’s stitched together here to be cogent and representative of current atheistic beliefs, even where those beliefs differ from each other. One of the articles, “Atheists for Jesus,” from Richard Dawkins, really caught my attention:

From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human super niceness is just plain dumb – Richard Dawkins

Dawkins goes on to explain how evolutionary theory is not nice, in fact, natural selection is just plain brutal, it makes no allowance for altruistic acts of selfless kindness. You can derive a sort of utilitarian (John Stuart Mill) or selfish gene (Ayn Rand) type of rational ethic which ensures survival of the species based on cooperation through self-interest, but not the kind of irrational “super niceness” that a few people practiced or advocated throughout history. Yet Dawkins likes this irrational niceness. He wants it propagated.

First, kudos to Dawkins for remaining consistent, as opposed to those who insist that evolutionary theory alone can account for human morality. Dawkins likes Jesus, or at the very least, his ethical teaching, even if it is irrational to behave that way in a world where natural selection determines everything.

So why does Dawkins endorse Jesus? Apparently because human consciousness has evolved to the point where irrational goodness is a good thing. Altruistic acts of selfless kindness goes contrary to natural selection, but that is where evolutionary theory ultimately leads … to irrationality.

 

Heading to University of Saint Andrews

The good news is that I have been accepted at the Divinity Department at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. I’m looking forward to taking classes and hopefully mentorship with N. T. Wright who has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. Even before I started my seminary education at Fuller, I was a fan. Of course, there are other capable professors there, especially Scott Hafemann, whom I hear was recently removed from his post at Gordon Conwell for advocating the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). So he’s back at Saint Andrews, having taught there previously.

Meanwhile, this means that I have to leave my post as Pastor for LifeSpring in Garden Grove, which I do with a deep sense of sadness. There are people whom I cherish and will miss very much. Nevertheless, I plan to stay in touch with as many of them as possible, exchanging ideas and growing and nurturing each other in our Christian faith.

(more…)

Schweitzer, Eschatology & Matthew 10:23

“But when they persecute you in this city, flee to the next one; amen I say to you, you will not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23 My translation)

Matthew 10:23b is a theological quagmire that has caused endless controversy especially since Albert Schweitzer’s seminal book, “The Quest of the Historical Jesus” (1906). His book in effect ended the “First Quest for the Historical Jesus” that had begun in Germany with scholars such as H. S. Reimarus, D. F. Strauss, Johannes Weiss, and William Wrede.

The so-called “First Quest” (circa 1700-1900) rose out of the Enlightenment Age with its emphasis on reason. It was an optimistic age. Western Civilization had “come of age” so to speak, and there was broad confidence that humanity would eventually solve every problem through the application of reason and modern science.

The original “questers” were confident they could uncover the true, historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, solely based on historical inquiry using scientific methods, rather than relying on faith or church tradition. They sought to distinguish the Jesus of Faith from the Jesus of History. (more…)