Talking definitively about God

The huge advantage of the influence of Anabaptism is that by starting with a Christology we end up with a God who looks like Jesus. Any other ‘god’ is to be rejected. Now the counter from some quarters is the claim that the Christology being referred to is no more than a Jesus-ology, meaning it is drawn from 3 years of incarnated life rather than the eternal existence of the Logos. That does not convince me as the Jesus-ology gives us the essential and true character of God, who cannot act differently to how he is revealed in Jesus.

Yet regardless of how Christology affects our Theology there are questions that remain about the being of God, such as were raised by Oord’s book that I recently read and reviewed. So I want to touch on some of those in a few blogs. (After all it is February and time for some lighter issues to consider.)

  • God and time
  • God and creation (and fall)
  • God, freedom and foreknowledge
  • God and the eschaton.

And of course, although this site is called Perspectives, all thoughts here will be definitive and the final word on all the above – as if!! Yet that is how we can hold our beliefs in God at times. When Open Theology (the future is not fixed, but free-will agents shape the future) gained some traction with the publication of ‘The Openness of God’ there was a debate and a vote in ‘The Evangelical Theological Society’ as to whether those who subscribed to those views were to be allowed to continue as members.

Defining orthodoxy is increasingly difficult for many evangelicals as there has been a shift in how the definition of ‘evangelical’ works. In 1995 Robert Johnston gave a paper to ‘The American Theological Society’ entitled:

Orthodoxy and Heresy: A Problem for Modern Evangelicalism

(A modified copy can be found here in pdf format.)

In his presentation he suggested that there has been a move from a set of boundaries that once a person strayed outside of them they could be classed as a heretic, to using a core to define the term evangelical. At the core of the core (?) were how two questions were answered:

  • By what authority do you believe what you believe?
    Answer: the Scriptures
  • By what means is a person reconciled to God?
    Answer: through the cross of Christ.

Now we can perceive the issues that are raised. Scriptures: but which of the numerous canons do we mean when we use the term Scriptures? and the critical issue of our hermeneutic – after all we can defend (insist upon) slavery, subjection of women, beating the rebellious child etc. if our hermeneutic allows. We can also defend genocide – indeed we have to use a brave (and necessary) hermeneutic to get round some of those passages. And for most of us we have no effective hermeneutic, but simply a sub-conscious mental tippex (wite-out).

And the cross. We can affirm the above position as a ultra-Calvinist with only the elect being reconciled at the cross, or as a Universalist, and everything in between!

Hence the problem.

I can totally answer the above two questions in the affirmative, and so can carry the label of ‘evangelical’. If however, we were to continually add definitions to the term, my answers would probably go from ‘maybe’ to ‘I don’t think so’ to ‘No way’.

So if the original writers of ‘The Openness of God’ escaped the sword, but only just, I am confident that I have not strayed too far, but also affirm that we need to ask the deeper questions that do not shake our faith but push us toward a deeper trust in the God revealed in Jesus, rather than a dependence on our beliefs. Our beliefs are not the same as saving faith. So as I get time I shall be writing.


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