Freidrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is not exactly a household name to evangelicals, but the progeny of his ideas are well-known and loathed by evangelicals. Schleiermacher is generally reputed to be the father of Modern (Liberal) Theology. But what makes evangelical repudiation of Schleiermacher ironic, even if it is not done by name, is that they are more the disciples of him then they either realize or carer to admit. And he would love our church camps too.
Tag Archives: evangelical
Yesterday I argued that every culture, or subculture, has a worldview, and any group’s worldview is embodied by a metanarrative or myth. Both worldview and myth function at a pre-cognitive level, relatively out of sight. These in turn produce a set of basic beliefs, and at this level the group is actively aware of the beliefs as well as the symbols and praxis that sustain the beliefs. Therefore, examining a group’s use of symbols and praxis should tell you something about the underlying worldview to which they adhere. So the question is whether Evangelicals, based upon an examination of their use of symbols and praxis, are American, Christian or an unhealthy combination of the two?
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At the Saturday night service and the two Sunday services, MacDonald read a prepared statement after the message. Please click here for updates to The Elephant’s Debt regarding his comments.
Last Wednesday, Ryan Mahoney introduced the readers of this blog to a new series we are running, entitled Contextual Theology. In short, this series is driven by our desire to see Evangelicals re-root themselves in the Great Tradition of the Church. While many within Western Protestantism have been taught that “tradition” is a dirty word most commonly associated with Catholics, the Reformers of the 1500s would never have seen the Great Tradition in this light. Indeed, it takes little more than a cursory examination of even a few of the writings of Calvin, Luther and Zwingli to see that these men were deeply invested in tying their theology to the teachings of the universal church that preceded them. So today, as we continue to walk in the footsteps of the Magisterial Reformers, our series continues by taking a look at the modern, pro-life movement through the lens of an ancient text called The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Read the rest of this entry »
We have been discussing the need for evangelicals to develop an evangelical, political philosophy in this series of posts. Previously, we discussed the problem of present evangelical engagement with the political culture and the need for a coherent vision for such engagement, using Ron Sider’s book The Scandal of Evangelical Politics as a jumping off point. The last post briefly surveyed the history of Christian engagement with culture, and I argued that evangelicals needed to root themselves in the tradition of this engagement as a guide for future direction. But, there is a problem; even if evangelicals could decide which elements of the tradition are worth retaining and who gets to decide such matters (both of which are very large problems that will need to be addressed later), we still need to articulate our position to the broader culture. What authority generates our political convictions: scripture, reason, experience or some combination thereof? How can we meaningfully engage such a pluralistic society? How can we articulate “our” political message to Hindus, Buddhists, Jewish people, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, and other people holding to different worldviews? Read the rest of this entry »
Today, as we continue our series on No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, we finally come to the place where Dr. Wells begins to lay out the core of his argument. And while one might expect him to begin with evangelical concerns such as the loss of biblical literacy or the degradation of personal piety, he actually begins with a far more insidious problem that he identifies as the “world cliché culture.” Read the rest of this entry »
As we continue our journey through David F. Well’s No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, it is important to understand where Wells is coming from. Without question, Wells is clearly concerned by the ongoing degradation of theology in many evangelical churches. But at the same time, he also believes that everyone possesses a theology of sorts. Let’s begin by taking a look at a critical opening remark: Read the rest of this entry »
Over the past few months, as I have written about various issues arising in evangelicalism at large, and at Harvest Bible Chapel in particular, I have repeatedly come across comments that are disturbing on a number of levels. Take, for instance, this recent comment by a man identifying himself as “Bob”: Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this year, we started a new series on the Gospel according to Mark. Today, as we continue to build upon the foundation that was laid in part 1 of the series, we turn our attention to the latter half of Mark 1:1. As has already been argued, Mark is writing in the context of a war – a war that ultimately leads to the destruction of Israel and the failed last stand of the Jewish Zealots in the desert fortress of Masada. For the Jewish people, many of whom had been longing for a Messiah for well over 400 years, all appears to have been utterly lost. Rome had laid waste to Jerusalem and her beloved Temple; and those that actually survived the onslaught had been either scattered or enslaved. Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome back to our discussion on theosis and deification. If you haven’t been following the series thus far, I’d like to suggest that you scroll down to the end of the article and take a look at the links I have listed. For without the background of these articles, very little of what is said in the remainder of this series is going to make sense to you.
Now, as you know, the genesis of this series was a question posed by a friend of mine. He wanted to know if the Eastern Orthodox concept of theosis (“becoming one with God”) was related to Oswald Chambers’ “Christian Perfectionism.” So I began the series by unpacking 2 Peter 1:3-11, the most famous text upon which this presumably Eastern theology is built. Following that, I moved the discussion forward by exploring significant Catholic thinkers who have defended the theology as well.
So the question that lies before us today is this: is theosis (or deification) taught by significant Protestant and evangelical theologians? When I first started this series, my immediate, ill-considered impulse was to answer this question with a rather non-committal “probably not.” But the fact of the matter is, I could not have been more wrong. As it turns out, Western theologians, as far back as Augustine himself, have taught a version of theosis. Consider this list of Western theological giants: Anselm of Canterbury, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, and N.T. Wright. All of them, without exception, have wrestled with the concept of theosis, and all of them, without exception, have defended the idea that through our union with Christ – by being “in Christ” – we are in some way deified, and made into a “god.” Lewis himself says it most clearly (to our modern ears), when he writes in Mere Christianity:
“[God] said that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him-for we can prevent Him if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for.”
And so there you have it. Whether we are comfortable with it or not, there is no doubt that in the historical, orthodox teaching of the universal Church, theosis and deification have been taught. And for those of us in the Western, Protestant, evangelical tradition, this probably comes as something of a shock to our systems. What are we supposed to do with this? Is this idolatry? Wasn’t this the sin of humanity at the Tower of Babel? All of these are great questions, and as the series continues, I will unpack some of these ideas and more. But for now, I wish to leave you again with the words of C. S. Lewis. May you ponder them as you look upon the people that surround you in your everyday life.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . .”
—C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Recommended Reading in this Series on Theosis and Deificaiton:
 While it is true that Augustine lived and worked prior to the Great Schism that divided the East and the West in 1054 AD, he is generally thought of as a Western theologian, primarily because the Western Catholic Church and the Western Protestant Church has leaned upon him so heavily.
 N.R. Kerr, “St Anselm: Theoria and the Doctrinal Logic of Perfection,” in M.J. Christensen and Jeffrey A. Wittung, eds., Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
 In his writings, Luther used the term Vergottung, to express this idea. Moreover, he most explicitly defended this doctrine in his Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, where he refers to the justified Christian as ein gottliche Creatur (“the divine creature”).
 J. Todd Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). It should be noted that amongst this list of theologians, Calvin’s doctrine of deification would be the weakest as he maintained the largest gap between a Holy God and a totally depraved humanity. Nevertheless, his writing in The Bondage and Liberation of the Will provides the clearest understanding of Calvin’s understanding of union with God though Christ.
 S. T. Kimbrough, “Theosis in the Writings of Charles Wesley,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 52 (2008), pp. 199-212.
 Richard B. Steele, “Transfiguring Light: The Moral Beauty of the Christian Life According to Gregory Palamas and Jonathan Edwards,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 52 (2008), pp. 403-449.
 Lewis touches on this theme in multiple works including (but not limited to): The Weight of Glory, A Grief Observed, and even his classic, Mere Christianity.
 See http://dunelm.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/nt-wright-and-theosis/. For an audio mp3 of the actual lecture, you can follow this link: http://media.intervarsity.org/mp3/N.T.Wright2-Glory.mp3
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1976), 174-75.
 C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” in The Weight of Glory (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1976), 45.