Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Theological Journal, Part 3

            This week, God’s moral attributes were discussed and studied in the reading. Within these moral attributes, special focus was given to God’s love. Within the reading on Feinberg, I especially enjoyed his discussion of egalitarian justice and distributive justice.[1] I agreed with Feinberg when he states, “Distributive justice, on the other hand, renders to each person exactly what is due . . . Though everyone might deserve the same thing, that rarely happens; and even if everyone merited and received the same thing, that would still be distributive justice.”[2] This aspect of God’s justice seemed to resonate with my experience of the biblical reading.
            I found the book edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer on God’s love to be interesting. On one hand, it seemed as though each of the first five essays repeated themselves; they were all concerned with what it meant to say God loves us, or whether it is meaningful in any human sense or understanding at all. On the other hand, I learned much about the issues surrounding God’s love of which I was not previously familiar.
            The essay on Augustine and how he viewed God’s love was thought provoking. This was primarily due to the assertion that not only is “God is love” true, but “love is God” is true as well.[3] I did not find this assertion to be true, at least not in any real sense. The reason is that is is either of identity or predication, as of a property. The problem is that love is typically construed as an abstract object. Abstract objects do not have properties, so it cannot be that love has the property of being God. Nor could it be that love is just identical to God; for God is not an abstract object, but concrete.
            There were several other interesting essays in this volume. Especially noteworthy is Paul Helm’s consideration of whether or not God can will the salvation of all people and the sermon from the book of Hosea. While I did not always agree (especially with Helm’s essay), they were both well-done and well-reasoned.
            The reading for this week focused on the idea of the Trinity. So many issues were addressed that I had never read extensively on or had never even really considered before. I especially appreciated Bray’s discussion on biblical passages that support the Trinity, both in the Old and New Testaments. For instance, Bray compares the story in Genesis 18 of Abraham and the three heavenly beings with Philo’s writing on the subject. Bray claims this may indicate that there was a plurality of persons in the Godhead.[4] Another piece of biblical evidence given is the formulation in Matthew 28:19-20. This verse states new believers are to be baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”[5]
            While some have sought to claim the idea was original to the text but not really spoken by Jesus, Bray introduces some enjoyable biblical textual criticism-reasoning to show it was most likely an original to the text, and what Jesus said. He discusses that the author of the book of Matthew was not likely to create this phrase from a vacuum. Further, Bray adds, “How conceivable is it that the first generation of Christians would have mentioned the threefold name of God if Jesus had not explicitly commanded it, and if there had as yet been no theological reflection on the subject?”[6] This points to a previous tradition from which Matthew wrote—which is to say the quote is authentic.
            In Feinberg, I especially enjoyed the discussion over the logic of the Trinity. He framed the debate well by explaining what a contradiction is and how it can be shown to be a false accusation. The discussion of Bartel’s introduction of “sortals” was extremely helpful in attaching a philosophical term to the idea that there is a difference between saying God is one being manifest in three persons and saying God is one being and three beings.[7] Worthy of note is Feinberg’s illustration of the airline passenger and a person.[8] While at first this may seem like some kind of subordination or even modalism, the illustration is not meant to be taken to such lengths. Rather, it appears the analogy is only to be taken to show it is possible there are two such relative identities describing the same thing; one need not keep adding persons for every passenger claimed, and one need not add a new god for every person claimed in the Trinity. While I certainly do not claim to understand all of the issues involved in the Trinity, our reading this week served to highlight this as a future area of study.

                [1] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 347.

                [2] Ibid.

                [3] Lewis Ayres, “Augustine, Christology, and God as Love: An Introduction to the Homilies on 1 John,” Nothing Greater, Nothing Better, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), 87.

                [4] Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 140.

                [5] Ibid., 142.

                [6] Ibid., 143.

                [7] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 493-94.

                [8] Ibid., 496-97.
All posts, and the blog Possible Worlds, are the sole intellectual property of Randy Everist. One may reprint part or all of this post so long as: a) full attribution is given (Randy Everist, Possible Worlds), b) all use is non-commercial, and c) one is in compliance with the Creative Commons license at the bottom on the main page of this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please remember to see the comment guidelines if you are unfamiliar with them. God bless and thanks for dropping by!