you might be a theologian if…

August 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm 7 comments

The picture to the left shows angels dancing on the head of a pin. One more post along these lines, then on to other things…

Evangelicalism tends to overstate the confidence people can have in knowing its doctrines are true. OK, I know I can be overconfident about what I believe as well. But as a religion, or maybe the culture it produces, I think evangelicalism is especially susceptible to this problem.

As an example, below is a brief transcription from a question and answer period following a lecture by Phoenix Theological Seminary theologian Wayne Grudem, found somewhere on this site.

If there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, then why is death the punishment for sin? If all our penalty for sin has been paid by Christ and he died for us, then why do we die?

That is a little bit of a puzzle. I think we have to say that death for [Christians] should not be seen as a punishment, because the penalty for our sins has been paid by Christ. Rather, it must be that God, in his wisdom and his sovereign good pleasure, has good purposes for us in allowing us to go through the experience of death, and I suppose [of aging] leading up to death.

One point is that God, even though he has forgiven us, still allows us to live in a fallen world, and death is the final outcome of living in a fallen world. Because, even though Christ in his death paid the penalty for us to earn his perfect fullness of salvation with all its blessing, all that has not been applied yet, so death is not yet removed.

I spent a number of years working in computer customer support. Have you ever spoken with a computer support analyst who sounded like they were making things up? They probably were! “The problem is caused by the variegated VGA daughterboard, it’s a type A12 you know…”

The theological answers above strike me in much the same way. “I think we have to say…” Why would anyone have to say that? How about, “We can’t know, but maybe…” Or something like that, I think it would be more honest. “I think we have to say…” assumes there is one correct and comprehensive system into which the verses of the bible can be compiled. And that a teacher needs to have a correct answer for every question.

You might be a theologian if…you make stuff up! Or you might be a computer support analyst…


Entry filed under: apologetics, Christianity, evangelicalism, fundamentalism. Tags: , , , , , .

prop 8 overturned evolving in monkey town

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pf  |  August 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Surely there is a hermeneutic to explain this paradox.

    Or maybe the person who asked the question can be shot.

    Either way rids the problem.

  • 2. Bruce  |  August 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Pastors, preachers, and theologians have all the answers. :)

    Real ones. Made up ones. No matter………….as long as they look like they have all the answers the charade continues.

    The hardest thing for me to say when I was a pastor was “I don’t know. ” I was taught TO KNOW and if I didn’t to bluff. :)


  • 3. Kay  |  August 10, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Oh the joys of word games. They seem to be part and parcel of religion don’t they?

  • 4. Temaskian  |  August 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Haha. Guess we all do that to a certain extent. Viewed another way, the theologian was just trying to be helpful and smart. That’s what he’s paid for anyway, to con the little children.

  • 5. The Wise Fool  |  August 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Valid point indeed.

    Although, if I may (oddly, again) play the Christian’s advocate, I do not find the semantics of his speculation that offensive to truth. It seems to me that in theological circles, three arguments often arise; scriptural, theories based on scripture, and pure speculation. The first two require mention of or allusion to the scripture, while the third tends to speculate on mysteries where there is no direct scriptural basis, such as the question you quote.

    Because Mr. Grudem avoids mention of scripture are it pertains to the answer he provided, we could guess that this is pure speculation (which is typically safe to assume outside of Catholicism). It is his opinion based on his in-depth studies and relationship his with God.

    True, it would be more obviously honest if had said “We can’t know, but…” However, he would probably have to use that expression so often that you’d be thinking to yourself “yes, I know it’s unknowable, get on with your best guess already.”

    It’s kind of like those believers whom you occasionally run into that say “God willing” after mentioning what food they are planning on having for dinner tomorrow. You just want to say to them: “You know what? We’ll just assume that any action you do or plan on doing from now on is ‘God willing,’ OK?”

    Although, pride and training, as Bruce mentioned, may well be part of it also.

  • 6. atimetorend  |  August 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    “yes, I know it’s unknowable, get on with your best guess already.”
    I think you are correct at this point, and since it was a lecture for insiders, it might be safe to assume the speaker assumed they would already have that in mind.

    “You know what? We’ll just assume that any action you do or plan on doing from now on is ‘God willing,’ OK?”
    Funny, great point!

    At the end of the day, I agree with Kay, they are ultimately word games. So if they want to play the games that way…

  • 7. atimetorend  |  August 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    But I still would wish for a speaker who would say that the question points out a problem with the system of assumptions and we can’t really know. For some reason I find the false certainty unsettling.

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