Advent is the time when we remember that we are not the ones we have been waiting for.
I’ve just realised I’ve never really posted on why my blog’s called Christ the Truth. That’s a bit of an oversight. So let me now begin a series on how Christ is the starting point for all true theology. It’s taken from this paper on my website.
Christians believe in revelation.
We know God, not through our efforts and ingenuity, but by the gracious gift of His self-revelation. The question of how God reveals Himself will, therefore, affect every aspect of our theology. If we get this issue wrong – everything else will go awry.
With this in mind let’s turn to Matthew 11:25-30 and hear Jesus set us straight on the fundamentals of revelation.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
From this, a number of things can be said:
Firstly, revelation is a fact. It is not a possibility. Revelation of the things of God has happened. We must not waste any time wondering about the “possibility of revelation”. We know that the infinite can communicate with the finite precisely because it has happened!
How has it happened? Well at first glance we may get the impression that God’s revelation is grudging, indistinct or enigmatic. Verse 26 says the Father takes pleasure in hiding the truth from the wise and learned. Verse 27 seems to present an impenetrable union between Father and Son. The Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father. The question is, how can we break into this intimate family secret? Is there a way into a knowledge of God?
Yes there is! The Son chooses to reveal the Father. In verse 27 we see the hiding place which the Father has chosen for all the things of God – all things are hidden in Jesus.
This must be a truth we live by as Christians. God the Father has chosen to mediate all His revelation through Jesus, God the Son. “No-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” To know God – we must come to Jesus. Jesus is the One to Whom the wise and learned refuse to come. Yet He is the One to whom all the little children can come in dependence and love. And when people come to Him to learn the truth – Jesus liberally reveals the very deepest things of God.
In verse 28, Jesus calls all people to come to Him, the great Revealer, and He presents this coming in terms of entering rest. The implication is clear – to come to true revelation is to come to true salvation. Both are offered freely in the Son.
Jesus makes the link between revelation and salvation even more explicitly in John 17:3. There He says: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Coming to know God through Jesus is salvation. Revelation and salvation go together.
The Bible gives us both sides of this truth again and again:
Fallen humanity does not know God
1 Samuel 3:7; Psalm 14; Matthew 7:24-27; 11:25-26; John 1:5; 1:18; 5:37-38; 7:28-29; 8:19; 14:17; 15:21; 17:25-26; Romans 1:18; 3:10-18; 8:7; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:11-14; 3:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:17-19; Colossians 1:21; 2:6-8
To know God is to be saved by Him
Proverbs 1:7; Matthew 11:25-30; John 1:10-13, 18; 14:6-9; 17:3; Rom 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; Eph 4:17-21; 1 Tim 2:3-4
All that we know about God, we must learn from Jesus. Jesus is the point of contact between God and humanity. God can only be known in the place of His choosing. God chooses this place by committing all things into the hands of Jesus. We must come to Him or we remain without hope and without God in the world.
All Christian truth, all true statements about God, must be built upon, defined by and shaped after Jesus, the Word of the Father, for we have no other presentation of God.
The Apostles John and Paul agree:
John 1:18: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
Colossians 1:15: He [Christ] is the Image of the invisible God
Jesus is not an optional extra in our theology – He is the foundation. He is the pole star that guides all our theological enquiries. Anything we want to know about God the Father or indeed God the Trinity, we must arrive at by thinking through ‘who is Jesus?’ The Father has chosen Jesus as the point of contact between Himself and us, we must always go to Jesus.
This post begins a series on theological method. The other posts are here…
Still don’t have the time to write properly on a Christian approach to cosmology. Never mind I’ll jot down some thoughts as they occur.
For now, let me just jot down three thoughts on the multiverse, two quotes from Barth and then a suggestion about how to pursue Christian cosmology.
1) The Bible teaches a division of creation into invisible and visible – the heaven and the earth. This is not the same as the observable universe versus the non-observable multiverse. For the bible the unseen realm is intimately linked to the seen. Heaven is the counterpart to earth in a way analagous to the unseen Father’s correspondence to His visible Image, Jesus.
2) The seen and unseen realms are reconciled to one another in the decisive, once-for-all event of the crucifixion. (Col 1:20)
3) There simply is no room in a Christian cosmology for multiple incarnations or multiple atonements. And this is really the downfall of the multiverse – its relation to Christ. Christ does not bridge multiple universes in multiple incarnation, He bridges heaven and earth in His singular incarnation.
Two Barth Quotes from Dogmatics in Outline
“‘Heaven and earth’ describe an arena prepared for a quite definite event, in the centre of which, from our standpoint of course, stands man.” (p60)
“…heaven and earth are related like God and man in the covenant, so that even the existence of creation is a single, mighty signum, a sign of the will of God. The meeting and togetherness of above and below, of the conceivable and the inconceivable, of the infinite and the limited – we are speaking of creation. All that is the world. But since within this world there really exist an above and a below confronting one another, since in every breath we take, in every one of our thoughts, in every great and petty experience of our human lives heaven and earth are side by side, greeting each other, attracting and repelling each other and yet belonging to one another, we are, in our existence, of which God is the Creator, a sign and indication, a promise of what ought to happen in creation and to creation – the meeting, the togetherness, the fellowship and, in Jesus Christ, the oneness of Creator and creature.” (p64)
How to proceed in Christian cosmology
Beginning from ‘the Cosmic Fine-Tuner’ would be like beginning with heaven alone. Beginning from the standpoint of the anthropic principle would be like beginning with earth alone. The Christian can refuse both option. We begin with the heavens and the earth – the theatre of God’s Glory. Of course God’s Glory is His Son, dying to save. The cross is the crux of creation (Col 1:20). When we begin with this in mind we are able to relate the unseen and seen coherently.
The Christian knows that not only is there a Word (Logos) to make sense of the world – not only an explanation beyond. That Word became flesh, taking our world to Himself. Therefore the Word from beyond has become a Word in our midst. The Christian can simultaneously be in touch with this world and with its Explanation – they are one in Christ.
While we ought not to approach Christ ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor 5:16), still according to the Spirit there is a way of examining this earthed Logos. Now ‘according to the Spirit’ means ‘according to the Scriptures’ and therefore this will be a thoroughly theological enquiry. And yet it will not for that reason be a groundless, ethereal investigation. This world in its this-world-ness has been taken up into the life of God and proven to be, beyond any question, a realm fit for God (Col 2:9).
Now that we have seen the creative Word in the world and now that we have seen Him – the visible Image – reconcile the world to the invisible Father in the creative Spirit, we have seen a triune dynamic that is inherent to all creation. Interpenetration of spirit and flesh, then and now, unseen and seen is at the heart of reality. This will lead us to expect similar perichoretic dynamics in the created order. As we move on from what the bible strictly says about creation, we will wear these bible-glasses to investigate creation. This conceptual framework will help us to understand the inter-related-ness of space and time, of waves and particles etc etc.
I’ll have to leave it there.
We’ve talked about how Jesus is the Good Samaritan. But seriously – this is how you preach it…
ht Fools Gold
I was like a wounded man
Jesus came all the way down.
On a Friday evening, He died on a Roman cross
Early one Sunday morning He got up
How many of you believe – He got up?
Thank You, for being a Good Samaritan
Thank You, You didn’t have to do it
Thank You, for taking my feet out of the miry clay,
Thank You, for setting them on the rock
Thank you, for saving me,
Thank You, for binding up my wounds
Thank You, for healing my wounds
Thank You, for fighting my battles
Did He pick you up?
This site will tell you your Myers-Briggs type based on analyzing your blog.
It came up with INTP for me. I’m officially ENFP but my E and T are quite weak so that’s a pretty good guess.
Does it get you right?
PS I’ll get around to writing the last science post some time soon. Bit busy at the moment.
Let me say before I continue that I’ve had no formal training in science and my views on contemporary scientific theories are completely amateur and I’m sure terribly simplistic. However, if we’re looking for academic credentials, my first university could probably claim to have ‘trained’ me in philosophy of religion and science, cosmological debates etc – that’s what I studied much of the time. But really, that’s not why I’m writing about it. I’m writing about this because these scientific claims are theological. They are all-embracing world-views founded upon a logos other than Jesus. That makes them fair game. It also means I should try to be as even-handed and informed in my criticism as possible and this I will seek to do. But that’s where I’m coming from.
In the last post we considered that belief in multiple universes or belief in an intelligent Designer are just that – beliefs. They are not directly testable by the science that faces them. It is not the case that the naturalistic scientist deals in the realm of pure facts and the supernaturalist shadily slinks off into the realm of faith. Both positions are founded upon and shaped after beliefs.
Yet not beliefs divorced from evidence. Both positions claim that their belief has more explanatory power in accounting for that which is testable and both move forwards on the basis of this belief. Everyone conducts themselves according to the dynamic of ‘faith seeking understanding’.
(As an aside, naturalistic science conducted according to it’s own beliefs and methods will turn up many fascinating things, draw many remarkable links and make innumberable positive contributions to our common life. This is precisely parallel to the ‘good’ done by atheists and other religions in many charitable causes. It is not testimony to the ‘rightness’ of their underlying beliefs but to the inter-relatedness of all things in Christ’s creation. The child who makes a bridge out of their mechano set will, on one level, have produced something good and useful. On another level the components used were meant to form a helicopter and it’s all ‘wrong’ – but it works (but it doesn’t).)
But now that we’ve established that the multiverse and the intelligent Designer are faith-positions – should we accept the dilemma offered to us? Should we prefer a Cosmic Fine-tuner to a multiverse explanation?
Well, both positions are inferences from human reason to possible explanations. Therefore, by my reckoning, neither option is properly Christian. Why not? Well the route to both explanations begins with the certainty of us, of ‘the facts’ and of our ability to assess ‘the facts.’ It then puts confidence in our working towards the truth. Finally, at the end of this process, we come to ‘God’ who is posited as the most probable of the explanations (even if the probability claimed may be astronomically ‘likely’).
Such an intelligent design deism falls into a number of errors.
First, it effectively considers God’s Word as one among many voices to be considered. And in practice it is a much lesser and later voice in the process. First we investigate the strong force of the atomic nuclei, then we listen to God!
Second, it capitulates to the naturalist’s worldview from the outset. It makes the starting point for both the Christian and the atheist the same – us! We decide to go along with the belief (and it is a belief!) that, while the existence of a deity can be doubted, the veracity of ‘the facts’ and of ourselves as competent judges of reality is bedrock truth!
Third, it falls for a god of the gaps. When our human enterprise comes to an end, ‘god’ comes to the rescue as the explanatory cause. God is not the beginning, middle and end of our doctrine of creation, He is the poly-filler to be used only where our ‘understanding’ falters.
Fourth, it is natural theology pure and simple to argue from nature to God. I’ll let David Congdon lay out the perils of this:
[Natural theology] is antithetical to the Christian faith for a number of reasons: (1) we do not know who God is apart from Jesus Christ; (2) we either begin with the triune God revealed in Christ or we do not begin at all; (3) we are incapable of knowing anything about God apart from faith, because the Fall has noetic implications, i.e., our reason is fallen; (4) therefore, knowledge of God is saving knowledge, because we only know the God who saved us in Jesus. There is no other god, no prior abstract deity, no foundational divine reality upon which Christ builds. The point of these (and other similar statements) is that we either know the one true God who reconciled the world in Jesus Christ or we simply have some concept devised by fallen human reason that has no connection to this revealed God. Philosophy does not provide a stepping-stone to theology. We either do theology from the start, or we don’t do theology at all.
(For more on this see David Congdon’s post here. I agree with the first three of his four theses).
So really it’s not a case of sitting with the atheistic scientist, agreeing to their presuppositions, their epistemological self-confidence, their scientific method and then demurring on their conclusions. If ‘their science’ leads them to the Cosmic Fine-tuner that’s interesting. It’s not the stepping stone to faith in the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ. There is only one Mediator and He’s not the god of intelligent design.
What can we say? Maybe next post I’ll give some thoughts.
Paul’s is less a blog, more of a one man theological mega-resource.
You will be introduced to his excellent ‘Book by Book’ bible studies. These are ready-made resources (DVD and all) to be used individually or in groups. The books covered thus far with DVDs are:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Psalms, John, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Esther, 2 Corinthians and 2 Timothy are coming.
Watch sample episodes and read overviews…
You can also read his articles on issues such as:
But perhaps my top recommendation of all – visit his Frameworks page where Paul is building up a doctrine course podcast by podcast. I did Paul’s Frameworks course about 8 years ago at All Souls Langham Place. It remains hands down the most challenging, profound, heart-warming, life-changing and Christian theology I’ve ever been taught. Everyone… Everyone… will be fed, challenged and equipped by listening to these.
So go to it…!