DOCTRINE AND DOGMA part two

REVELATION

All things revealed

Philosophically, Christianity’s claim to be God’s ultimate tool rises and falls with how it handles these ideas and questions. Earlier I had mentioned that it is a completely dependant religion. In this sense, Christianity is different than most other belief systems. There are two factors at play which make Christianity ultimately different than other tools for human salvation. The first is that it believes itself. The second is that its teachings come from outside of its own systems, in that there is a truth which cannot be learned but must be taught by God himself. Christianity believes in an absolute revelation. Revelation is a loaded word. It implies that a truth which was hidden has been exposed and is now vulnerable and open for receiving. With it comes an implied loss of the power that comes from secret knowledge while at the same time an excitement for an understanding that has never been attainable. It is a word that has been widely accosted by all religions and it is as much a somber word of divine communication as it is a terrifying word of infiniteness. 

Christianity, unsurprisingly teaches that revelation is a foundational and distinct attribute of who God is. It is an aspect of his personhood embedded deep within the relationship of the trinity. God is a god who communicates. God the Father reveals to God the Son. In this infinite interaction, we find that we expect revelation and that we seek to reveal to each other. Therefore, whenever we see revelation, in its very least, we are reminded of who God is. At its very most, we are called to attribute Godhood to the revealer. What’s more is that these tendencies to remember or to ascribe are not necessarily at the forefront of our minds but can bring us to conclusions about our relationship with the revealer in a passive way. To this end, revelation should never be received without trepidation and careful consideration. We should guard our hearts and our minds whenever words are spoken. 

As an aspect of the tool of religion, Revelation is the manufacturer’s instructions which tell humankind how he was meant to be used and operated. Christianity holds that there are two distinct ways in which this is given to us. The first is called General Revelation, the second is Special Revelation. Each form of revelation is a language, possessing laws and syntax that make it legible, as well as serving as a sort of canon when trying to make sense of it. Because revelation itself is a language, it helps at times to speak of it in terms of grammar and speech.

General Revelation

General Revelation is a simple concept. In plain language, it means that God has always spoken to us in all things and that it is a part of his nature to do so. This type of communication is a result of God’s character being pervasive in his creation much the same way that an artist’s distinct signature is seen in the choices he makes in his paintings. The brush strokes, choice of canvas and every other facet of the creation of a piece serve to reveal aspects of the artists character. General Revelation is not bound by space and time but is rather found in space and time and all within the broadest sense of these two boundaries. Traditionally, Christianity has taught that General Revelation is not enough to point humanity to a conclusive belief in God that can bring him to salvation. This is due to another facet of General Revelation. This is that there are two eras of General Revelation. These periods of communication are divided by the presence of a singular event in human history; the fall of Adam. 

Communication Breakdown

Before the fall, the aforementioned rules of General Revelation applied. All creation spoke of God’s character. Post-fall, creation ceased to accurately portray God’s character. It became restless as a reaction to man’s divergence from God’s image within him upon disobedience in the Garden. The Bible says that the Earth was cursed because of Adam. Added to this is that man is God’s prime creation and all things in creation are his subjects. Therefore, if man falls, so does his kingdom. The entire universe fell from God. In a very real sense, men were created to extol God’s virtues; to sing his song. When men chose to sing a different song, all of creation had no choice but to submit to this new song or dissent and choose God’s original song, effectively putting him at odds with his created master, man. But due to the fact that men were the choir directors the tune was doomed to be dischordant regardless of natures difficult decision. General Revelation in its practice ended when the brush strokes of creation showed man’s choices, rather than God’s. Doctrine teaches that God’s handwriting was not “entirely erased but became hazy and indistinct.” The focus of general revelation had been so marred that it was incapable of carrying an accurate truth as to the nature of the creator. Men had been left with a feeling of God, rather than a knowledge of him. They had traded this once intrinsic knowledge for a knowledge of good and evil instead.

A New Transmission

This radical departure from the image of God in man left him disconnected from his creator and all of creation was affected. Everything in his charge suffered. Everything to come would suffer. This was the necessitating factor in a new line of communication by God. This is not to say that the message contained post-fall was different than pre-fall, but that the approach to that message took into account course corrections for man’s new path. These new speech patterns included an emphasis on man’s sin and his guilt as well as instructions on how to accurately show the image of God which was once brilliant in man with no effort. These targeted steps to correct man’s course are known as Special Revelation. Special Revelation can be found most commonly through the Old and New Testament of the Bible, but it is present in moments of human history whenever the feeling of God, not to be confused with the knowledge of God, is given an event in real space and real time that confirms and shapes that feeling to be in line with the previously established truths found in General and Special Revelations previous. These are moments where God himself reaches into human history to tune humanity so they begin to see God more clearly and gradually approach a pre-fall understanding of who he is.

Speech Patterns

There are 3 basic ways in which God speaks to man outside of General Revelation. Each way has the same attributes and shows a cohesive and compounding image of who he is, but they are all at once distinct in their dispensation. There are Theophanies, dialogues and miracles. These three styles of communication cover the multitude of entrances into humanity over history. And they all carry the same message, character and can even overlap each other in space and time.

The God who is there

The metaphor of God is the theophany. God speaks directly into a creation as a pillar of  fire, wind, or even a physical hand and allows people to relate to him directly in these and many other things throughout the Bible. Being that he is God, he is not merely a pillar of fire in summary, nor is he bound to being a pillar of fire, but for the purpose of communication he will at times take that form so that humanity may more easily converse with him. We need to be careful to make a distinction here. These are not modes of God. He is not merely putting on a mask as if performing a character. He is not pretending to be the pillar of fire or the burning bush. He is pouring the fullness of himself into an extension of his own imagination and therefore making that thing fully himself. This level of saturation for the artist in his own creation is only possible for the artist. A work of Picasso’s can have his full essence poured into it, but I can not fully pour myself into it regardless of how deep my love for a Picasso piece might be. The artist must be God to his creation to relegate himself fully to his art. Philosophically, only the artist can become his creation. Not even the creation of the artist can achieve such a profound connection to itself. The art can not be the artist, though the artist can be the creation. It is not him, but he is it. As we continue to explore Christian doctrine, we will explore God’s nature further. For now, let us suffice to say that God is the Pillar of Fire and let us not presuppose that we can fully understand what that means. 

 Why does God become these Theophanies? He does this to be productive in communication. For the Jews, taking the form of a pillar of fire was not a casual form for God but rather a causal form in that it passively produced practical realities for the Jews. God is bigger than they are. God is a force of nature. God protects them in the cold desert night. God gives them light so they may see. Each theophany of God carries with it meaning and purpose and is chosen by God to cause and carry a very distinct message. This form of communication is seen mostly by Prophets, a station of God’s servants who he gives special callings to requiring strong imagery and solid foundational language to complete. However, it can be given to all people at any time. The strongest most prolific example of Gods metaphor is that of the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth. God became flesh in Jesus. Just as God is the man Jesus, God was the burning bush, the rock that Moses struck and the Pillar of Fire that led the people out of Egypt when they were slaves. God in these moments, relegates himself to a simpler form in practice, fully, as good communication, so that man can better process who he is. 

God’s Voice

Speaking in practical metaphor is not the only way in which God speaks. God has also proven himself capable of directly conversing with men. We must be careful to make the distinction here of a feeling that God is speaking. When God dialogues with men, we are speaking of an encounter that has consequences to real space and time. Without using metaphor to give men an object to speak to, he strips the metaphor and talks with vulnerability of his true nature. His voice speaks the language of the receiver and sharpens that persons understanding of who he is. These instances are the cliche’ of “I heard the voice of God.” They are open to the senses, and are meant to be understood. 

God’s voice is always open to the senses, but it is not limited to these. God often times speaks directly to people through dreams making his voice known on an internal level. These times, however stay true to the compounded character of who he has presented himself to be and they are meant to be understood. Both Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament interpreted dreams for their kings which were given with the intention of these prophets interpreting them. The visions in the apostle John’s Revelation calls for the saints to see the visions and interpret them. God’s voice is not bound to the senses. In every circumstance where God speaks, he calls on the receiver to interpret him, and to do so accurately against those truths which have already been revealed.

God’s voice is not always spoken, though it is always lingual. He has been known to speak directly through writing. This can be done through the use of a willing participant in the communication process, such as a prophet as well as directly with his own hand as was done with the ten commandments and the writing on the wall in the book of Daniel. The Holy Scriptures are a product of God’s direct voice speaking through the prophets. They are his words, in the language he chose so that he could accurately convey his message to be the most effective in space and time. Christianity views the Bible as being the literal word of God.

Bending Perceptions

In conversations, it is sometimes necessary to create radical examples of concepts that cannot be received through direct speech nor through physical metaphor. Strangely, a skeptic may not believe that a burning bush is God if he sees it, it is too unbelievable to fathom and he believes that what he sees lies. A philosopher may not believe that what has been revealed to him is true merely because it has been spoken as truth. He has learned that the truth is too complex to be that simple. Revelations such as these might challenge humanity’s perception to the point that accepting them would destroy its worldview and instead of opening up to the message, it must close down to protect its psyche.

But if it can form a bridge that displays God’s power and character without shattering its psyche, than it might be able to understand. In simple terms,it is “easier” to believe that if Jesus could heal the blind, than Jesus was akin to God, and therefore can speak with God’s authority. This may not present the full picture of revelation, but it is a more palatable message for some than making a statement which forces the conclusion that Jesus is God. This isn’t a direct dialogue with man, nor is it God manifesting himself. The presence of a miracle is different than God’s voice or a Theophany in that it does not demand accountability to its message. Miracles have powerful effects on humankind while making passive statements about God’s character. They allow for interpretation, and encourage further exploration. It does this while pointing to a bigger message. This message, as you may have guessed is the same message laid out in all previous revelations. Miracles are the similes of God’s language. They show attributes of God in a way that reassures humanity that their is still a normalcy in their everyday outlook, though God is presented as well. A man cannot run away from a pillar of fire, or a voice from heaven but he can look the other way when water is turned into wine.

What is being revealed

General Revelation and Special Revelation have a distinct message to present about God’s character. Whereas General Revelation is a display of God’s status in creation and after sin, ( was a poor reflection of that truth) Special Revelation is a targeted thesis on General Revelation and God’s plan to restore the original fullness of General Revelation. It is a treatise on man’s relationship to God that includes God’s interaction with mankind since his creation. It reveals the details of mankind’s inability to live up to the image of God that he was made to accurately display, including how he became unable and how he will be restored to his fullness through God’s love which is personified in Jesus of Nazareth. The messages of the Old Testament Prophets, the Apostles of Christ and Christ himself are all considered a special revelation which is compiled into what we refer to as the Bible.

A divine transformation

Scriptures teach that there are certain benefits from even a minute contact with a Special Revelation. These benefits are certain in that once God speaks directly through Special Revelation, there is always an effect placed into the creation which restores the pre-fall order to some degree. Interaction with Special Revelation and in particular Scripture, is useful for all things which are productive in the restoration of God’s pre-fall General Revelation. Within the Scriptures themselves, is not only an added potential for humanity to act according to the image of God, but is also an added equipping to carry out God’s will. This includes equipping man in a personal accurate reflection of God’s image as well as providing tools to navigate communal interactions, everyday living and creation management in a Godly fashion. 

Empty words

When we are first introduced to our parents, we are interested in self-preservation. In order to meet our immediate needs, we let a cry out into the world hoping that someone interprets the deeper truths behind the shrill inarticulateness of our one sound vocabulary. We hope that someone will give to us the trust of care necessary to meet our needs. When we are first introduced to our parents, this is all we expect. As we grow older, if this doesn’t change, we begin to see this care at every beckon call as a reason to resent them. An over-attentive parent is seen as mistrusting and overbearing. The rules and guidance that once kept us safe become a cage for us as we are now able to navigate this world with some level of competency. But this comes at a price. Our parents quickly become symbols of our incompetence rather than champions of our growth. Our once beloved heroes die. For Christians, there is a growth process as well.

 In salvation we come to the point of spiritual infancy and we are willing to somewhat blindly accept God’s Bible as the thing that will meet our needs and take care of us. It’s truths contain within them everything necessary to pull ourselves out of the spiritual messes we have inevitably made. This is a necessary step for all believers in that we all must understand at the heart of our growth in Christ the concept of his love being unconditional. But as we mature in our faith, we act as we do in our physical state. We push boundaries and interpret once sacred and unthinkable rules and this is a natural part of getting older. If God as a parent remains static in how he provides for us, than he is merely a machine which is there to serve our needs. The moment he doesn’t meet our needs any longer, he becomes a hindrance to our growth. More than this, he becomes philosophically smaller than us and therefore undeserving of the title of god.

We are not made to be static. We our made to grow and the Bible teaches that God longs for us to revel with him in that growth. He wants us to flex our abilities to reason and to be productive. It naturally stands to reason that our needs will become increasingly complex as we mature. One of the ways in which we grow is in communication. It is a facet of who the Bible reveals God to be and therefore being made in his image, who we are meant to be.  Humans begin to truly grow when they start to learn language. The idea that concepts are being communicated in every action and sound being made and that these concepts are meant to be understood and to help us grow is a powerful knowledge. It establishes a world which is safe and a caretaker who is trustworthy. When Christianity presents religion without revelation, he presents a poor picture of the quality parenting exhibited by God. 

God communicates, he intends to be understood, he adjusts himself to our needs, he is consistent in his message and he intends what is best for us. Without understanding that the Bible is revelation, we are left with a rule book. This is a particular cruelty in that the Bible states plainly that its rules are ones which cannot ever be perfected. If God has a manual to follow rather than a message to reveal about how we came to be here, than we will eventually outgrow his usefulness. 

For God to be really deserving of being God, his rules have to be a precursor to a deeper truth. And this truth must be capable of fully holding the weight of our humanity. Believing that Christianity holds no real revelation but instead is a series of human ideas. And, or that these ideas are influenced not by an intentful relational Being but instead by mechanisms of necessity throughout human history, leaves Christianity to be relegated to eventual nothingness at the most and mysticism at the least. 

When a person understands the nature of Revelation in scripture, they are sealed in the knowledge that God is worthy of that title because he is personal like we are, but more. He has a plan for us that is much bigger than we have imagined for ourselves. He is active in providing for that plan regardless of our inactivity. He seeks our commitment to that plan. He wants us. To be a Christian without understanding Revelation is to claim that you are the child of a machine; that a thing which is lesser than your ability to grow has sustained you. Logically, as you grow, you will have to come to understand that thing is not God or you will be forced to lie to yourself to keep it as God. If Christianity is what it claims to be, than none of these options is healthy.You may love God because he provided for you in your infancy, but in your adulthood, you will betray him rather than betray yourself. And not having an accurate understanding of Revelation has left countless Christians with a faith and a truth that is nothing more than beautiful but ultimately empty words. But with a proper understanding of Revelation at the foundation of Christianity, we can have assurance of a personal relationship with a god that is capable of reasoning along with us.

DOCTRINE AND DOGMA part one

RELIGION

the Nature of religion

“The world is a vampire…” The words of the Smashing Pumpkins flowed through the airwaves of 1995 with a shocking conviction matched by the disturbingly forceful tenor of lead singer and writer Billy Corgan. This seminal grunge song, an anthem for a growing anti-God nihilism rang out with such bravado that it has been named repeatedly as one of the top 100 rock songs of our generation. Within the track is a solemn exploration of the relationship between man and God. Corgan bridges the chorus and verse with an almost juvenile scream for attention with the demand, “…Tell me I’m the only one. Tell me there’s no other one. Jesus was the only son for you!” and he ends the lyric with the profound conclusion that, “I still believe that I cannot be saved!”  These three statements in the face of Christianity could be written off as the nature of the rock movement, a beast which stands proudly in the face of God waving the sign of the devil to the beat. However, within the poetry of the Pumpkins and their distorted melody is the foundation for more than just an angsty and thoughtless rant. Instead, Corgan, with many others makes an argument for the irrelevance of religion and raises a fist before a listening world to follow his philosophical rant.

 For a church in the early 2000’s, media such as this is prevalent. Not only does it exist as an increasingly common idea, but its saturation as an idea is only heightened by the digital age and its immediate distribution. While a musician may push their ideas to the masses near instantaneously, he is only one of countless other artists of all forms of media in rapid succession creating a rhythmic mass ideal that forms in real time. Art has always informed the masses and been a step ahead of philosophy presenting itself in the common man, but never has there been a time where the rapid succession of ideas was so quick to overlap its predecessor that the weave of presentation was seemingly sentient. Artists used to have time to digest the philosophy of the day and regurgitate it to the masses. But the speed with which ideas can be transmitted has called for the artist to assume the role of muse as well as artist. They have essentially become a product of themselves. This is a far cry from the typical flow of art which used to be informed by philosophy and then slowly permeate through visuals all the way to music.The gaps between philosophy, art and culture have been closed and the definition of life by artist’s and their appeal to everything from politics to fashion not only informs but now forms the personal lives of the majority of planet earth. And the once relevant means of careful study and consideration of ancient wisdom passed down through long and painstakingly protected analog transcription and transmission is a thing of the past. Humanity’s builds itself religiously around its own ability to be omnipresent and omniscient in the moment through their own tools of artistry, and any person who can communicate an idea beyond the limits of location through a cell phone can now sear that idea into the minds of the masses with that same device. We have traded high art for instant access and low standards and packaged it with the vehicle of necessary communication. Tweets, wiki’s and rss feeds fuel our understanding of the world around us and God and his revelation exist as an antiquated standard for a time that didn’t have the infrastructure necessary to make man live to his godlike potential.

The Purpose of Religion

Religion has therefore become largely irrelevant in a world where mankind is seemingly capable of a sort of “practical godhood.” This is not to say that religion in its most inclusive form is dead. Some religions have done well in the atomistic reductionism of today’s day. The ones and zeros of our base binary language translate well beyond code to philosophy and religion. The decidedly western breaking down of all things to their smallest part, has thrived amongst the Darwinian inverted neo-polytheism of the day. After all, if time plus chance is the beginning of all things, than all things are essentially the same. Polytheistic religions that have always gained relevancy from their own infatuations with distributing one dimensional distinctions as something to be worshipped or idealized have fit snuggly into a growing culture that believes that “I am he as you are he, as you are me,and we are all together… coo coo ca choo.” These religions abilities to be syncretic in nature have left them altered but not broken. Whether it is the BBC’s Doctor Who or James Cameron’s Avatar, religion is certainly not dead, though it may have taken a different form. They have hidden the tenants of their belief systems within clever catchphrases and post modern allegories. However, if one looks just past the surface, the characteristics of religion are still present and anything but silent, though they seem to lack an essential quality of religion, and that is the root belief of truth as an essential and sovereign quality of experience. Without an absolute truth as a hurdle to overcome, it is easy to assimilate new and interesting ideas while at the same time placing a gathering of individuals with similar ideas under the moniker of a religion. The ease at which syncretic and reductionist beliefs have assimilated new ideas and applications is not surprising. This cannot be said for those beliefs which at their core hold an unadulterated stance on truth. In this world, those religions become increasingly pedantic, dated and irrelevant to the everyday lives of people.

This makes having a religion a moot point for this generation, as religion seems to have a singular goal in mind that is no longer an issue. This goal is respectively a sort of ritual cleansing. The idea at play being that the longer mankind stays within the path of a religion, he will become more like God or at least a god. He will become transcendent, all knowing and all powerful. Each religion spins this differently, but even Christianity with its doctrine of Apotheosis and Sanctification can be crudely simplified to such a pursuit. Religion is this pursuit, at its least humble, to God-likeness and at its most meek is a pursuit of Godliness. And to understand religion for this generation, we must understand that dependant on your understanding of who God is within the framework of reductionism or polytheism, becoming transcendent is achievable through merely technological means. As stated earlier, one need only to turn on their smart phone, tablet or PC to streamline the process of being omniscient.

This divide between religion, fueled by philosophical artists and the practical application of a technological and instantaneous pseudo-spiritual religious pursuit of life, liberty and happiness has driven many to question the validity of religion altogether. Why follow a religion when in this day and age, knowledge is easily attained, inexhaustible in its scope and instantaneous in its relevance to real space and time? This is of course in difference to classic religion which focuses on a narrow, long and difficult path of enlightenment at a high cost of personal freedom. With two drastically different paths to attaining enlightenment, it is no wonder that most would rather be spiritual than religious. We have been primed to love philosophy but hate its application.

Religion or Philosophy

To divide religion and philosophy has become a common tactic for those seeking a quick truth. But the seminal connection between the two is hardly separable. Though Billy Corgan’s lyrics struggle to be free from the conclusion of recognizing a God who has standards, they still recognize that “despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.” Trapped in the maze of a mad scientist, or held in the arms of a loving creator, one’s philosophy does not preclude that the glass half empty or half full is still half a glass of something. This generation seems to look increasingly at the glass half empty, placing God as the mad scientist. It is in this context that we must begin to look at religion. The complexities of the machine of religion are rarely seen as miraculous and endearing but instead as the maze that has captured the human race, and God watches us, but barely with benevolent intentions. To define that maze or those arms, we must first recognize our subservience to them. We must first acknowledge the necessity of religion before we can discuss it. And this acknowledgement is less of the intention of the observer of that religion, or in the Judeo Christian case, God, but instead of those who run the race. For better or for worse, our religion is less a choice but instead a fact of life. We cannot escape religion. It simply is, and we would be wise to simply accept this.

That said, we can still ask the question of why we have religion in the first place. What prompted man or God to lock humanity behind a philosophical cage that spans time and culture, race and country?

The origin of Religion

Did religion start with man, or was it given to man as a machine to help us understand something deeper of ourselves? Modern Christianity would have you believe that the answer to this question doesn’t matter. We’ve been duped into believing that the origin of something has no bearing on its purpose in life. We’ve come to believe that the specifics of this world are not as important as the generalities of our reality. If we believe in love than that is more important than who we love. If we believe in fellowship, then that is more important than who we fellowship with. In this day and age quality is not defined by the things that make it standout but instead is given value on its ability to appeal to the masses. In point of fact, quantification of the substance of something is considered too small. It’s considered relegation of an object’s potential. We would rather leave a story open to interpretation so that the facts can be absorbed into the greater consciousness on any level of entrance then leave a single person out of the mix. This of course relegates almost everything to a form of storytelling rather than teaching. There is of course a place for this. This postmodern inclusiveness works very well at the modern box office with stories that American audiences gobble up with great glee as they watch the next dumbed down Spielberg movie. We are constantly served sequel after sequel of watered-down, non-relevant to real space and real-time stories that are all primed with universal themes rather than specific details. The reason why this works is because it addresses everyone’s situation. Unfortunately it addresses everyone’s situation so generally that no one person is moved on a particular level and characters are dry and one dimensional. Events are predictable and monotonous. A romantic comedy always ends with the couple together. A horror movie always ends with everyone dying. Life of course is much more unpredictable. And for religion to be something of value to a real audience, with real people, it has to be big enough. What do I mean by big enough? What I mean is something that is larger than its audience. This is of course a difficult task for something that is just the mere tool of its own creator. If mankind was responsible for creating the tool of religion, a means by which he can tell his stories, relate to his fellow man and pass down his legacy, then this would be an impossible task. The markings of such religions are always found in their ability to surpass their audience. And much like storytelling, we can see the hand of its creator in the elements that play out on the page, or on the screen, or around the campfire. Something of ourselves is always in every story that we tell. It goes against human nature to proffer something that is at the core counterintuitive to who we are. This basic psychological principle, that we produce what’s in our hearts, is something inescapable. And the limits of our heart, the urges, the desires, hopes, fears, and the joys are what define a human religion. This is not to say that this is a bad thing, a hammer with no handle made for the hands of its user is worthless. That said, by looking at that hammer, you are able to glean specific truths about its user and the intent for the existence of the tool. Whenever you find a religion with a particularly human element, specifically an over emphasis on self-preservation, you have to question that religion’s ability to speak to something large enough to have created humanity.

Did man create the machine, or did God create the machine of religion? If man created a hammer for him to build a house, and we call that house a church, and we call that hammer religion, than what we know is that the house will not be big enough for man. We know that at some point mankind’s needs, urges and desires will out mode both the hammer and the house. On the other hand if a divine hammer was sent down to mankind to use to build this house, then we know that that hammer must be up to the task of building a house that has divine qualities. So as we look at the question of the origin of religion, and as we began to study religion as an application or tool by which man can build that house we have to wrestle with the fact that if that divine hammer is not divine than that house will crumble. We also have to be courageous enough to admit that the houses which we had built that seemingly spoke to the human condition but crumbles when measured against the weight of it, was not at all built with the divine hammer. What is the weight of the human condition? The weight of the human condition is summed up in a simple question that all humans mature to the point of asking. “What is the value of a life that ends?” Every religion tries to answer this one simple question. Each system seeks to shed light on some system of measurement to the value of a human life when weighed up against the confines of our carnal, meager existence. At its heart, all religions seek to answer this question. The weight of the question demands an audience with every human heart. The quality of the myriad of answers provides every heart with a choice to either acceptance or denial. The pledge of a heart to an answer is faith. The implications of that answer in people’s lives is a religion. At its most seminal form, religion is not a set of rules, but a commitment to an answer, its implications and its consequences. At the end of the day, people follow what feels right in the moment. And though the moment for some is, like all things, subject to one’s own perception of space and time, religion is commitment to what feels right upon the heart.

Religion as a tool

Finding a belief that truthfully addresses the moments of an individual in a relevant way may lead some to the conclusion that all religions are correct as they each speak truthfully to the heart of an individual. This, however, could be likened to placing an infinite value on a hammer in building a house. The reality is that though a hammer might be a useful tool in the building of houses, it is not the only tool nor is it an irreplaceable tool. A rock may serve the same purpose in dire situations. Finding a particular religion to be akin to truth should have much more than sentimentality, usefulness or brand popularity attached to it. Unfortunately, these things tend to be the first stops along the way to pledging one’s life to a tool that answers the question which weighs on the hearts of men. 

Necessity is the mother of innovation. Religion is a tool men use to digest an answer which is so large that it cannot be truthfully digested in the lifespan of a single human being let alone that of the entire human race. All tools are born out of this need to break the answer to a problem down into manageable portions. And in this vain, religion in its most general sense is truly useful. It is in this vain that syncretism in religions makes sense. The mixing and matching of tools to complete the task of understanding the human condition becomes a sensible thing to do. It is also in this vain that relying on brand recognition and human experience with its sentimental attachment to these tools gives mankind the opportunity to excel. However, with the acknowledgement that there is a place for what each religion brings to the table, we must also remember that what religions bring to the table are tools, not truths. A rock may not work as well as a hammer but it uses the same rules of physics to complete the same task. Does this mean that a hammer and a rock have an equal value in the greater scheme of accomplishing a task? No, a hammer is better than a rock for nails because it was designed with that task in mind. Does this mean that all hammer’s are the same regardless of brand, cost and minor design differences? No, certain hammer’s will have better aerodynamics, better ability to utilize force, speed and the ergonomics of the workman. This is the case with religion. Some religions are better suited to certain metaphysical and esoteric tasks than others and in so much as a hammer is a hammer regardless of where you buy it from, there will be crossover in religions that meets a justifiable need of humanity with little distinction from its counterparts in other beliefs. If we cannot admit that Buddha’s Eight Fold Path has value for making human beings closer to God, than we are blind or liars. Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water in our tenacity for truth. All religions from the veneration of saints to the worship of Satan have become viable to humanity because in some way they meet a need that is universal. But remember that this does not make all religions equal, nor useful. The usefulness of a hammer is based on its ability to navigate the laws of physics in a given task to the benefit of its user. And a rock may be used to drive a nail into the board, but in doing so, fingers may be crushed badly. As the builder with a plethora of tools at hand, we would be remiss to not discriminate for each task. And in our discrimination we would be equally remiss to not firstly take into account three things that remain regardless of our choice of tool. Firstly, the individual using the hammer, secondly the laws of physics and lastly the need for the hammer.

A useful tool

Religion is only useful when it addresses those three predicates. When a religion fails to address these three universal truths, it becomes a crude force which does more damage than good. This is true regardless of its cost, sentimental value or brand recognition. For the job of answering universal existential questions, one must use a tool which is acutely attuned to the task.

Therefore not all religions are the same, but all religions are able to serve the same purpose. For those who choose to inform their worldview with the tenants of a religion, this is the first cause of their choice. Post Apostolic Christianity has tended to purport and operate on the first premise that the reason one should devote themselves to a religion is that religions truth. They assume that the definition of truth is largely pre-hegelian and propositional, but this is not so. In a world where standards are subjective at best, the only first cause for devotion must be practical application. What is practical? As discussed earlier, religion is no longer necessary for the process of having a Huxlian first level experience which puts humanity in touch with a sense of omnipotence and omniscience. This is easily attained with a smartphone and facebook. Religion is a less than practical tool in this pursuit. 

Tools that love

In the past, cultures have come to the conclusion that religion was impractical as a tool. Usually, with the consent of the church, this has led to a degradation of sorts in the infrastructure of faith and its family members: religion, truth and philosophy. This slow burn from light to dark begins firstly with the idea that religion is an outworking of the heart. This doesn’t necessarily seem damaging until you realize that the heart is less of a noun and more of an adjective in this line of thought. It has become a descriptor in that it can be used to qualify an idea, but even the term, “the heart,” is misleading in that it refers more to an idea than a thing that can be defined. The heart is something which is painted as beyond rationality. In this line of thought, the heart is a mystical force which exudes religious words such as faithful or sacred, but lacks religion itself as defined by a set of propositional statements of fact. The heart to the masses is not only untameable, but in point of fact is never tamed. To tame the heart is to remove from it its potential and capacity for deeper things. There are two truths which present humans with a difficulty here. The first is that if religion is an outworking of the heart, than the machine isn’t large enough because the human heart is a facet of the machine of life. If a human heart created religion then how can a religion hold a doctrine of creation whereby a god created things? Every machine such as religion must have something beyond its own defining walls giving it shape. Every machine has a creator. It would appear that a case is cut and dry that the heart is not big enough to have created the machine which it was spawned in.

But what if your view of things in the machine was less of an objective view and more of a philosophical view, lacking a definable set of qualities or values?  In this case, the heart, in the philosophical, is a perfect candidate to give credit to in the creation of such a useful tool as religion. It provides every impasse necessary to take credit for such a feat. It produces passion, and love and holds within it the ideals of hope and salvation. In this, the heart finds a reasonable claim to the idea that religion should have come forth from its philosophical womb.

Part of the difficulty here lies within the english language. Within English, the heart can have multiple meanings which encompass both the philosophical heart and the physical heart. But in both classical senses of the term, we can see that there is a specific quantifiable rationale to both a physical heart and the philosophical heart which links them to specific attributes of human nature. Love as relational and self sacrificing is in a real sense a classic truth. The confusion comes when philosophy as a discipline of definitions for non tangible realities becomes synonymous with non objective ideologies. When we speak of Love or the heart in the modern era, we are speaking of these things in the latter sense of philosophy. 

This leads to a second difficult truth, which is of course that the heart as a philosophical ideal is accepted, expected and glorified as a less than rational truth. Without rationale, tools become things rather than advocates for a deeper passion. It is logical to say that the heart painted a picture, but it is not logical to say that the heart did so with attention to such detail as is befitting a painter. In the cliche that the “heart wants what it wants,” we find that the heart is not a skilled artist. A skilled artist paints an articulate picture of his mind. He does this with tools that are more than blunt instruments of passion but instead require years of training to master. Looking at the drama and tragedy that spawns from the concept of the heart and its trappings in all of its desires, it becomes increasingly difficult to attribute such a disciplined thing as religion to it. 

That is of course unless you remove the premise that religion is rational and therefore not a tool, or you attribute to the heart a level of rationale which it is incapable of meeting up to. In either case you are forced to make an irrational leap of faith towards a heart which is either passionless or pointless but in all cases a religion which is impotent. In the past, religion has been attributed to the heart as if it was capable of attaining such a development and when it proved itself incapable, rather than looking elsewhere for the origin of the skill set of answering existential questions, they created paradoxes to justify the existence of the tools they had been using. Many people in religions have compounded the issue by building maladjusted residuals and completely avoiding the error of thought by a ritualistic dissociation. They look the other way in doctrine in order to stay connected to the tool that builds the house of God. Others become maladaptive in their attempt to process the errors and join in the inversion of proper interpretations creating dogmas. In both cases, each reaction serves to weaken the tool at hand. Religion was not meant to rust from a lack of use, nor was it meant to be deteriorated through misappropriate uses of force and folly. Those who understand the ugliness of the situation are left with little choice but to abandon religion altogether, effectively simplifying their lives by removing the hypocrisy of following a religion they refuse to know anything about or follow. Those who can’t stop there, turn around and attack the very idea of religion itself.

The most fragile tool

Surprisingly, these two ways of coping with a misunderstanding of religion and epistemology become completely reasonable on the classical philosophical level. Jesus himself stated his understanding of the need to be correct and direct with how we play out our belief in him through love. This love is both quantifiable in its production of good works as well as qualifiable in the message of the gospel it leaves with those who come in contact with it.

Washington indie band, Death Cab For Cutie, gives an interesting voice to the dilemma faced by misuse of Love in their song, “I will follow you into the dark.” The lead singer in soft tones lends a condemning stone to the Roman Catholic faith and presumably all religion when he points out his experience,

“In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule, I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black and I held my tongue as she told me, ‘Son, fear is the heart of love.’

So I never went back.”

The verse is sandwiched in between a chorus that presents the modern perspective on love that people are forced to reconcile. 

“If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied, illuminate the “No”‘s on their vacancy signs. If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks,

Then I’ll follow you into the dark.”

Religion is not merely a tool. Religion is a tool which has an incredible amount of potential to be productive but more often than not destructive. To mold religion into a tool that is productive, whole religions have turned into sex-starved nuns with phalic devices slapping the knuckles of children. The tool may be useful for a time, in a way, but when measured against time and space and the capacity of the human spirit, it is useless and overtime becomes a negative. Ultimately without a religion that is bigger than man’s ability to not only love himself but hate himself, men simply follow each other into the dark and learn to call this hopelessness love.

More than love

We know that religion is a tool. We know that religion is a tool of value in that it solves problems that every human being needs to solve. We know that religion is not expressly effective as a tool simply because it bears the marks of passion. We know that religion when treated as a tool of passion but without articulation brings mankind to decide the value of that tool. We know that if religion as a tool survives this process it becomes a self destroying system that turns on itself, destroying its own toolset from within through decay or dent while at the same time ejecting those from itself who would return to destroy it from the outside of its golden perimeters. To put it bluntly, religion in this context has a negative impact as a tool. For those seeking to better themselves and others, it is better to eradicate or disassociate from it.

There is no escaping this conclusion within a system that believes that religion is a tool, a system created by men, or given to men by contact with a universe that is essentially themselves and what they make of it or themselves and the sum of their parts. This is not to say that it is an ill-effective tool for certain things, truths or occasions, but rather that religion in this context is an obscure tool. It is meant to be kept in the garage. It is not something so intransitory and indistinguishable from its user as a body to a soul. Some religions are approaching iterations of themselves which create this fractured worldview; religion is merely the hobby of the mind or body. Christianity of course makes a much different claim. In Christ, religion is not a tool. It is the tool. It is the body to the soul.

Religion was not created by love but rather love is created through proper religion. Religion does not sustain the physical but rather the spiritual. To call someone a Christian is to immediately put them in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. This man from Nazareth taught an inverted apologetics to the status quo which associated thought and practice rather than separating them. To claim a religion based on his life and teachings does not allow room for one but not the other. A proper exegesis of Jesus demands credibility through sacrifice. It proves credibility through stringency to the measure of the law even unto death. Christianity is a fragile tool in that it cannot be separated from its parts. To place it in the garage with the other tools is to destroy its very usability. Yet, Christianity has proven itself to be a very powerful tool despite its total dependence and fragility, all this despite efforts to minimize its true nature. This book is about the true nature of Christianity. And it comes at a time when humanity on a universal level through the advancement of technology and the subsequent advancements of all other fields of discipline increasingly force religions to either religate themselves to the toolshed or fade into obscurity. To truly address the truths presented found within it, the nature of the universal accuser must be noted, taken seriously and despite these things be found worthy. It cannot simply be taken foregranted that it IS truth.To take Christianity as more than a tool but rather as the tool requires that certain propositional statements must be made. The answers which Christianity proffers when measured against these standards is largely different from other tools of religion, but the questions and dilemmas faced by modern man demand accountability to their standards if they are to be viewed as anything but negative in man’s tool belt. These questions should be asked regardless of what religion is being looked at. We can think of them as philosophical constants in man’s relationship to religion(s). First, we have addressed that men build religion innately. Second, he does this for the sake of productivity in addressing his philosophical mortality. Tertiarily, we have noticed that mankind can do this in multiple ways as he attempts to be spiritually solvent. Fourthly, we have also made it clear that this propensity toward syncretism in his own building blocks can easily be attributed to passion and heart rather than creative design. Fifthly, we have touched on the idea that Christianity in particular has lost the battle in how it actively frames religion as the tool for mankind as it tends to promote a fractured worldview rather than give up territory philosophically on the basis of fact rather than fiction. This of course leads to escalation of both the conservatives and liberals in Christianity as well as all other religions and ultimately a fractured impotent view of religion itself wherein it becomes a relegated relic of the philosophical dark ages rather than the tool it once touted itself to be. Lastly, we pushed forth the idea that by the nature of the Character of the biblical Jesus, Christians must have a deeper solution to the losing battle of spiritual mortality or risk alienating and maligning both the uninitiated as the followers.

DECONSTRUCTING SALVATION

with contributions by Monte McGary II

Introduction

Salvation is one of the most debated concepts of Christian theology.  Within the institutionalized organized churches of the Protestant movement, and the Church of Rome, the idea of Salvation has evolved into a doctrine of infinitely intricate explanations.  These explanations have massive ramifications for our view on so paramount a doctrine as Salvation. The ancient Jewish scriptures possess within them the basis for the doctrine of Salvation as developed by the Church.  However, the Doctrine of Salvation is not succinctly defined within the Bible. The purpose of this paper shall be to examine the development of the Doctrine of Salvation from St. Clement through Martin Luther.  

A Few Thoughts

The apologists of the following centuries after the death of Jesus of Nazareth began to set down in detail what His death and resurrection meant.  Within the scriptures, salvation has multiple different implications and different usages. In the New Testament, the word salvation took on a meaning of redemption, but it carries many more ramifications than redemption.  The Old Testament portrays salvation as freedom from oppression or slavery. The New Testament further explains the concept of redemption mixed with the Old Testament’s idea of liberation by likening salvation to liberation through ransom.  The apostle Paul takes a more relationship based approach by likening salvation to a reconciliation of friends after a dispute, and includes in his definition the state of being at peace with the estranged party. The peace that comes after reconciliation is coupled with a forgiveness of sins.  This process is defined as justification, and the party who offended becomes right again in the sight of the offended. 

The debate over salvation that took place over the centuries has not been about the presence of these ideas within the scriptures, but rather about the way in which to interpret these ideas.  As with most other early church controversies, the apologists were the most prominent on the early scene of debate. Six separate interpretations of the implications of Salvation within scriptures began to arise:

  1. Salvation as Illumination (Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, and various early apologists. 90-150 C.E.)
  2. Salvation as Restoration (Irenaeus, Circa 150 C.E.)
  3. Salvation as Satisfaction (Tertullian, Circa 150 C.E.)
  4. Salvation as Victory (Origen, Circa 185-254 C.E.)
  5. Salvation as Deification (Athanasius, 287 C.E.)
  6. Salvation as Justification (Augustine, 354 C.E.) (McKim 74-95)

The last of these became the main thought for the interpretation of the Bible regarding Salvation.  However, all of these ideas show signs of life within the current Doctrine of Salvation. It could be easily said that the Doctrine of Salvation is a melting pot of these six ideas combined over time.  It is important to explore all of these implications, if one is to gain a full understanding of the doctrine that they gave birth to.

Salvation as Illumination

The first of these ideas is that of Salvation as Illumination.  The idea of Salvation as Illumination is one of idea, not experience.  The apologists who developed this idea were interested in the philosophical ideas of Christ as being the Logos (Word) of God.  They believed that the Word was the vehicle by which God imparted to humanity, the divine knowledge that the philosophers of the day were seeking in Gnosticism.  The difference between Salvation as Illumination and Gnosticism is the process of impartation of that illumination.  In Gnosticism, the divine knowledge is given to a select amount of people, although all people seek this knowledge. The early apologists, such as Justin Martyr and Clement, were careful to stress that Jesus is this Divine knowledge spoken about in Gnosticism, yet the purpose of Christ clearly shows that the divine knowledge is one that is open to all people.

Though the idea that divine knowledge is opened up to all people through Jesus, according to the apologists, the essential applications of Gnosticism still apply.  Because the purpose of knowledge is application that brings us into an eternal knowledge, and thus immortal existence, the salvation that comes from the presence of Christ is dependant upon the action of that knowledge.  Therefore, we are waiting upon the summing up of existence into death where we will see God’s love save us because of our knowledge. One of the early apologists who developed this idea was Clement (Behr 204)  Clement does not remove the law from grace and faith, but he joins the two so that they are dependant upon one another.  The result of this is a doctrine that supports works as the justification for faith, and thus for a true knowledge of Christ.  Therefore, the purpose for Salvation by Illumination is to respond to the ideas of Gnosticism.  The Gnostic belief supported the idea that divine knowledge was secret and had to be acquired through secret method.  Salvation by Illumination does not address sin, but instead addresses ignorance. Ignorance is the mother of sin for Gnosticism, and so the answer to this plight is knowledge.  It is clear that Christ is the answer to the Gnostic problem of ignorance because of the illumination that He provides.  However, to make Gnosticism’s doctrine of ignorance the basis for Christ is fatal to making Christ the answer for the problem presented by Gnosticism.  If the Gnostic belief supports the lack of knowledge as being the cause of man’s sin, and knowledge is openly being given in Christ, then humanity should not need Christ to begin with.  The idea that Christ is presenting knowledge of truth to a people that can only receive truth, if given directly by a secret source, supports that humanity should not be able to know who Christ is because Christ is an open source.  Christ sums up the Gnostic experience by opening truth up to everyone, but in Gnosticism true knowledge is hidden. Even when that knowledge is revealed, it is revealed in a secretive way. 

Therefore, for Christ to be the gnosis that all men seek and hear as being truth, truth itself, as being secretive, must be ill conceived.  Calling Christ the secret truth that all men hear, claims that truth is in fact not secretive at all. The natural conclusion is that truth can be heard by all men, but it is very rarely spoken.  To say this is the truth, the Gnostics would have to remove from their thinking the idea that the knowledge they have gained outside of Christ, is of value. The apologists were not seeking to redefine the philosophy of the time, but rather to more define the philosophy.  Using Christ as a filter to understand their struggle with sin, by implying that sin comes out of ignorance of the truth is lazy at best. At worst, it is a means to shift the blame off the self, and to intellectualize a problem that has little to do with intelligence.  

Therefore, Salvation by Illumination is not salvation, but in fact, a further blurring of the understanding of the human condition.

Whether the full implications of Salvation by illumination are valid, it should be noted that the reason the apologists have flaws in their logic is not because the idea is flawed.  The Bible is quite clear that Christ does provide humanity with an ultimate truth that is so unique that it can only be understood through Him (John 14:6). The problem with the idea of Salvation as Illumination is that it takes a valid concept and uses it as a platform for destroying sin.  The purpose of creating this philosophy is a reactionary one, not for the purpose of a better understanding. Its purpose is to answer the ideas that Gnosticism presents, while still maintaining Gnosticism as being ultimately flawed. To build a concept upon something that is flawed, although useful, is ultimately entropic.  The apologists were claiming that Christ was something unique, while claiming that He was better. To put Christ into the position of better, is to make Him comparable. This idea ultimately undermines the idea of uniqueness. It could be argued that this is a viable means to show His worth to those who do not understand His value yet.  This is true, but Christians who claim to understand His value as unique, should not then take for themselves an understanding that is not for the educated, but the uneducated. The apologists were writing mostly to dispel “heresies” from within the church, not from without. Therefore, the approach should not have taken into account the positions of “out of institution” doctrines such as Gnosticism, in their explanations to believers.  Likewise, the Christians should not have taken for themselves defense strategies that were devised for “out of Church” doctrines within church politics. To do this undermines the uniqueness of the Gospel within the institution. Salvation by Illumination is a result of such misjudgments on the part of the institution.

Salvation as Restoration

Salvation as Restoration is a different idea.  The idea of Restoration is a development of the theologian Irenaeus.  The idea of restoration is a concept that defines the state of humanity as being different than its intended state.  Irenaeus believed that Christ’s purpose was to relate to humanity on all levels of human existence. In theorizing this, he explains the reason that the Messiah was incarnated in the womb, and grew from childhood.  The idea that Irenaeus presents is that on every level, Christ restores humanity to its intended state as an initially created being (McGrath 328).  This concept gives way for heavy usage of the Apostle Paul’s allusion that Christ is the new Adam.  Not only is Christ the new Adam to Irenaeus, but the various icons surrounding Christ’s incarnation are given like symbolism.  The cross is the new tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Virgin Mary is the new Eve. Christ is the vehicle of Salvation, just as Adam was the vehicle for the Fall (McGrath 328).  Christ sums up in his obedience the likeness of God, and thus one man has restored humanity to its state of intention, just as it initially fell. Irenaeus describes this process as being a union of man and God, where God lowers Himself to man’s level through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Man is then raised up to God’s level by being in His likeness. The purpose of Christ is to restore man to the original intended state.

The issue of restoration raised by Irenaeus is a valid idea, worth the amount of exploration it given by the apologist.  Restoration to the intended state through the work of Christ on the cross is certainly an idea that is supported by the Bible.  The issue of restoration is about the issue of sin. The idea that sin caused humanity to lose his intended state of created perfection, and thus to be in need of restoration, is an idea that answers the problem of sin.  Therefore, the idea of Salvation as Restoration is different from Salvation as Illumination because the latter supports Jesus’ deity as being before, and not related to sin. Salvation as Restoration claims specifically that the purpose of the incarnation was specific to the presence of sin, and the need that it created for restoration. 

The idea of Salvation as Restoration assumes that the need to address sin is the purpose for Christ to exist.  

Salvation as Satisfaction

Restoration is not the only sin-based interpretation given to Salvation by the apologists.  The great western theologian Tertullian was a man whose theology greatly shaped many of the ideas that Orthodox Christianity holds, such as the doctrine of the Trinity (Olsen and Hall 30).  One such idea that has permeated the orthodox institution is that of Salvation as Satisfaction. 

Salvation as Satisfaction is the idea that a standard must be met for restoration to occur due to the separation created by sin.  According to the writings of Tertullian, good deeds acquire merit, but bad deeds require satisfaction. The death of Christ on the cross is seen as an act of goodwill on Humanity’s behalf (Tertullian 158).  This is the peace offering that opens the door, through reconciliation, for satisfaction.  Tertullian’s God is one who has accepted that a relationship should be maintained, but must be satisfied that the offender is genuine about his want for reconciliation.  Thus humiliation of the self, through exultation of God, is encouraged. With this said, it is not merely enough to accept Christ, but it is necessary to be baptized as a furtherance of reconciliation.  If one does not perform this sign, he is not willing to satisfy the standards of God, and is not reconciled. Once baptized, the offender may discharge his previous offenses by sacrifices of action, and even money.  The sorrow that gained from this shows God the sorrow that man feels for his sinful ways and God will one day forgive them. 

Tertullian’s idea of God is interesting, but more closely resembles the pagan God’s of Rome and Greece, than he does the God of Abraham and Moses, summed up in Jesus.  The sacrifices found within the Old Testament were not a means of satisfying God’s wrath as they have come to be understood. The Mosaic covenant did not support a need for reconciliation with YWHW; instead, it maintained a relationship through the proof presented by blood sacrifice (Robertson 173-174).  Satisfaction through blood sacrifice was never truly achieved by humanity’s ritualistic form of law (Micah 6:6-8).  God Himself declared that these sacrifices meant nothing to Him (Isaiah 1:11-15), and that He would much rather be merciful than punish man for his sins (James 2:13). The stark difference between the God presented by Tertullian, and the God presented by Jesus is one of Mercy.  Jesus’ incarnation presented the idea that God was with man – His name Immanuel clearly presents this (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Jesus openly forgave man of their sins because of their faith, without their sacrifice. His decree to these people was not to make a second repentance by living in constant sorrow for their past sins.  His decree was simply to, “Go and sin no more (John 8:1-11).” The Father who agrees with Jesus by virtue of their Triune nature within the Godhead would be in agreement with the sentiment of Christ on the cross to, “forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).”  

Tertullian was one of the founding Fathers of the Trinitarian doctrine, but he seems to forget that the ways of the Son, are the ways of His Father.  Thusly, because Jesus did not require a sacrifice for sin, in order to be in communion with humanity, and thus to forgive them, neither would God His Father.

Therefore, salvation as a means to satisfy the just anger of the Father is an idea that denies the nature of God found in the incarnation of Jesus. 

This doctrine has been the forbearer of various permutations, such as penance in Roman Catholicism, and the need to satisfy God’s righteous standard found within modern Protestant Orthodoxy.  The doctrine of Salvation as Satisfaction is different than Salvation as Restoration because it places more of an emphasis on humanity’s need for good deeds than Salvation as Restoration. Although their implications are essentially different, they both stem from the same root.  Both ideas present Christ as being present due to the nature of man as sinful. The idea of Salvation as Restoration opened the doorway for Salvation as Satisfaction. Salvation as Satisfaction has opened up the doorway for several ideas to be presented. Among these are the Roman Catholic doctrines of penitence, and purgatory, and the Protestant concepts of God’s wrath and vengeance. The rise of a need for Salvation as both Restoration, and then Satisfaction continued to be picked up by other philosopher/theologians. 

Salvation as Victory

Origen, a student of Clement, believed that the ability of Christ to restore humanity to the Father, and give us a way to work through our Salvation through Satisfaction, proclaimed Jesus as a victor.  He likened Jesus’ act of restoration, as an act of Ransom. According to Origen, Jesus gave himself to the Devil, who owns all sinful souls, as an exchange for the souls of humanity. Once Jesus was taken by the Devil, the Devil found that he could not hold Him, because in Him there was no sin, and Hell can only hold those who are sinful.  It is in this way that Jesus was able to restore humanity to God, and open up the doorway for a satisfaction of God’s righteous standard. Origen likens Jesus to a warrior protecting his friends. Because death cannot defeat Christ, anyone who stands with Christ will be under His protection, although their sinful souls would naturally belong in Hell (Bethune-Baker 337).

Salvation as Deification

Athanasius, who was famous for dealing with the Arian controversy that created the Council of Nicaea (although he was not actually there.), as well as Clement, and Irenaeus also worked on another sin-based idea called Salvation as Deification.  The idea of Salvation as Deification has to do with man’s renewal and restoration to the intended state of perfection he was at during Eden. The term describes not only the act of restoration, but also the process of becoming immortal, perfect, and finally satisfactory to the Father.  Clement sums up this idea by stating that, “the Logos of God had become man so that you might learn from a man how a man may become God (Clement).”  The idea of Salvation as deification is an idea that practically applies the concept of Salvation as Victory.  Its scriptural support is found in numerous places in the Bible. Probably the most notable of these passages is Psalms 82:6 which states that, “You are gods, sons of the most high, all of you.”  The Apostle Paul repeatedly emphasizes the idea of partaking in Christ’s holiness.  This concept is not a new one, although it is very well embedded and quiet within Orthodox views of Christianity.  This concept of Salvation as Deification, and the process that it supports helped give way to other such doctrines of progressive deification, most notably the Doctrine of Sanctification, which almost verbatim describes the process of restoration which Christ as Victor made possible through Salvation, and the ability to satisfy God’s standards ultimately ending in a sort of deification.  The relationship and progression of these ideas is obvious and inseparable. Although Salvation as Deification doesn’t stress its own origin in sin, it tackles its origin by emphasizing man’s potential to overcome sin and one day be restored; satisfying God’s standard, and being victorious over sin.

Salvation as Justification

Some two hundred years of philosophy and politics brought about the doctrine of Salvation as Justification.  Augustine, who would develop the most practical example of the Trinity, and champion the causes of the Roman Catholic Church, was the proprietor of the doctrine.  Within his writings, we find allusions to the previous four concepts of Salvation, as well as the current platform from which Salvation is approached. This platform is an outright attack on the concepts of current theology of the day, as well as early Church theology found within the doctrine of Salvation as Illumination.  For Augustine, the incarnation was specifically related to sin, and the need for restoration, satisfaction, through victory, for the purpose of deification. Augustine proclaims that justification and deification are essentially the same, since it is justification that allows the sinful to become the Children of God. He states that, “if man had not sinned, the Son of God would not have come (McKim 85).”  The current theological debate against his summation of the four previous ideas in Justification was called Pelagianism. 

The namesake of this belief, Pelagius, believed that humanity was free to choose God (McKim 86-87).  In essence, Pelagianism was a logical conclusion to the idea of Salvation as Illumination as a response to the Gnostics.  Instead of humanity being enslaved by sin and therefore incapable of doing what is right, the Grace of God which is inherent in the creation of humanity (as the imago dei – image of God) and is evidenced through Jesus’ incarnation, gives man the help he needs to activate his freewill toward doing what is right.  Therefore, “faith in the first instance is reckoned as righteousness for this reason, that (a person) is absolved as to the past, justified as to the present, and prepared for the future works of faith (McKim 87).”  Pelagius differed with Augustine on the same point as the four previous ideas of Salvation disagree with Salvation as Illumination.  The issue was the idea of Original Sin.

Found within the writings of Tertullian, the same theologian to give us a better understanding of the Trinity, and the idea of Salvation as Satisfaction, is a concept called Traducianism.  This concept is simply the affirmation that the soul of the father is transmitted sexually to his offspring (McGary II).  The consequences of this concept bring all of humanity into Adam’s Original Sin.  Therefore, Augustine’s view of humanity’s entropic condition is a direct response to the theology of Salvation as Satisfaction, which is based upon Traducianism.  In the mind of Augustine, all of humanity participated in the sin of Adam because all of humanity has Adam’s soul. This became the main focal point for Augustine’s justification of the Doctrine of Original Sin, and Salvation as Justification. 

Augustine believed that humans are incapable of enacting their freewill without sinning.  Augustine was intent on proving that Grace is not merely an aesthetic to the presence of creation, but an essential act of God within a creation that has sinned.  He was worried that Pelagius’ idea of sin as being the sum of a single action and the ability of man to choose to avoid this action would leave man without a need for God. 

According to Augustine, God activates grace first (prevenient).  Grace, “predisposes a man before he will, to prompt his willing. It follows the act of willing, lest one’s will be frustrated (McKim 87).”  This means that grace is God making a suggestion, or programming man’s will to respond a certain way, although the actual event of choosing is open for the personal decision of the individual.  Justification is the act of this will choosing to do what the Father wills through the prompting of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Augustine’s understanding of Justification is, once again, almost synonymous with Tertullian’s idea of Salvation as Satisfaction.  The moment of Justification is not the acceptance of the truth, but the action of baptism, which symbolizes that acceptance.

Augustine had four separate types of Grace:

  1. Prevenient Grace: Grace that begins the act of Salvation without being prompted by the actions of humanity.
  2. Accompanying Grace: The continuing presence of God within the life of those who believe.
  3. Sufficient Grace: The Grace in the Garden of Eden, of which Adam was in possession of before the Fall.
  4. Efficient Grace: The Grace that enables God’s people to be productive for God (McKim 87-88).

Augustine’s conclusions on the subject of Justification through grace led him to the conclusion that God’s grace is always present and capable, and therefore will overcome everything.  However, since not everything is overcome by His grace, Augustine conjectured that God’s grace is intentfully willed, and divided amongst those who God chooses. Therefore, those who are saved, are saved specifically because God chose for them to be saved, and those who are not, were not chose out of intent.

Augustine’s extreme conclusion based upon the ideas set forth by the four apologists before him, and his own understanding of scripture drew much controversy.  Many people accepted some of his writings, and some of Pelagius’ writings. Eventually in 529 C.E., The Synod of Orange tipped the scales in favor of Augustine by condemning Pelagius’ views, while at the same time remaining silent on Augustinian extremes like predestination.  The Synod of Orange affirmed that the fall of Adam was the fall of all humankind through Original Sin and Traducianism (McKim 89). The Synod approved the concept that Grace precedes justification in total; that due to sin, free will in itself cannot lead one to be baptized; and that grace is favor that is unmerited and fully necessary for avoiding evil, and doing what is good.

The Synod of Orange did not close discussion on the issues summed up by Pelagius, and Augustine.  It did however provide a platform from which the Roman Catholic Church could consolidate its power over souls.  Outside of this “Institutional Orthodoxy”, controversy raged on. At the center of the issues was the question of what really happened at the Fall.  Did all men fall in Adam? Are we truly separated from God? Pelagius did not recognize the prevenience of sin, where as Augustine followed suit with his apologist philosophers and emphasized it.  The one thing that all six different belief systems held in common was the presence of works, which justified grace. 

Enter Martin Luther

Martin Luther inadvertently started the Protestant Reformation because of an error he found in the idea that righteousness and salvation are maintained by works, through grace.  Ultimately, this idea came to a head in the selling of indulgences, and penance. Luther expounded upon Augustinian ideas of Justification as Salvation, but instead of summing this up in the process of works and succinctly baptism, he emphasized the moment of belief or faith.  His fight mirrored the Apostle Paul’s words that it is by, “Grace you are saved, through faith . . . not of works (Eph 2:8, 9).” In this way, Martin Luther maintained the same emphasis on sin that his predecessors had done before him, but he changes the point of Salvation from being by grace in works, to Salvation through Faith (McKim 91). 

According to Luther, the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness happen upon acceptance and faith, not baptism.  Our ability to become that which we are already, is a process that is completed at death. This process is called Sanctification. Luther believed that, “Our justification is not yet complete . . . It is still under construction.  It shall, however, be completed in the resurrection of the dead (McKim 92).”  Therefore, Salvation as Justification is not completed by humanity even though Christ completes it.  Salvation as Justification will only be complete when humanity reaches his entropic end and catches up to his justified state.  This is an amalgam of the idea of Salvation as Deification, with the concept of Salvation as Satisfaction. Martin Luther uses his Augustinian understanding of Tertullian’s Traducianism and Original Sin to support that a satisfactory standard must be met before deification can occur.  Thus, Luther both supports, and rejects the power of Original Sin, creating a new doctrine called Sanctification.

Martin Luther’s understanding of the doctrine of Salvation as Justification by faith, is not a completely new idea, but in fact is an old idea that has been passed down through the centuries by his famous theologian predecessors.  Martin Luther did not add to the doctrine, but instead changed its emphasis. The foundations found within the Doctrine of Salvation are present within the current doctrine, even in its institutionalized orthodox form. Within Sanctification, the remnants of Tertullian’s Doctrine of Satisfaction lurk.  Within Justification, the remnants of Irenaeus are buried in the form of recapitulation, and propitiation. The body of the current institutionalized orthodoxy is powered by the spirit of these ancient concepts. Upon understanding that the institution is based not upon scripture, but upon philosophy and political intent, the question is whether these philosophies are indeed scriptural, or based upon mankind’s musings. When this question is brought to the table, a modern day protestant/or Roman Catholic preacher will tell us that the ideas of the apologists are scripturally based. 

As history will show, the philosophies of Martin Luther are not based on scripture at all. His philosophies are measured against scripture when a departure from scripture is thought to be found. The basic structure of Luther’s theology is based upon the structure of Augustine’s theology. Augustine’s theology likewise is an amalgam of the theologian’s before him, most notably Tertullian. The resulting doctrines, which are now present within the church, are toted as being scripturally based, but the truth is that they are based upon the writings of the theologians before them. Because these writings do not outright oppose the common understanding of scripture, they are called scriptural even though several of these ideas are not found in the scripture. Because of this, any common idea is left alone and not checked against the scripture. If there is no checking being done, nothing is found wrong with it, and because nothing is found wrong with it, it is deemed to be in line with the scripture although it is not, at all. This is the very reason Martin Luther’s reformation was made possible. For literal centuries, the common idea of Salvation was based upon works. It was only when the convenience of seeing the doctrine of Salvation by Works became socially inconvenient, that it was challenged. Even the reformation was not a full challenge of the system that had been created through political convenience. Martin Luther did not want to leave the Roman Catholic Church, but was instead forced out. It was not the iconoclasticism of Rome that was addressed in force, but the monetary aspect of Rome. Several issues of improper interpretations of scripture within Rome’s doctrines were noticed, but remained largely unaddressed. His intent was never to lead a reformation, but in fact, he was forced to. This is the Reason that the Lutheran Denomination, to this day, maintains much of its Roman Catholic Heritage, and gives example as to how it is that a doctrine can be challenged without challenging the establishment that created it. 

The issue of fallacy within the foundation of the Doctrine of Salvation should be evident. Consequently, it is not merely the Doctrine of Salvation that should be held up in scrutiny, but the foundation of that doctrine. Neither of these issues is scrutinized by the institutionalized orthodoxy. Although the issue of Salvation is said to be based upon Scripture, it should be clear that the way in which scripture has been looked at in the doctrine of Salvation is an amalgam of various filters. Salvation, specifically, has been put through at least six different filters. By the time of the last filter of Martin Luther, it is hard to tell what is being said in the scriptures at all, without implementing these filters.

The standard for what is right according to scripture and empirical evidence, is whether what is right can be proved wrong. Subsequently, if scripture contradicts one of the filters it is put through, then either the filter is wrong, or the scripture is wrong. Since the scripture is said to be the basis for these filters, then if a filter is wrong, scripture will contain paradoxes. However, it would be impossible for a paradox to be maintained in a filter without making the filter invalid by its disagreement with its own standard of truth. 

An example of this is the interpretation of scripture given by the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith’s interpretations of the scriptures contradict what the scriptures say alone. An example of this is that Jesus is presented by the theology of the Latter Day Saints as the brother of Satan, when the scripture’s are clear that Jesus was God’s only begotten son. These two statements are contradictory. In order for the filtered version of scripture to be accurate, it cannot disagree with the scripture. If scripture disagrees, then it invalidates its own authority, and the authority of the scripture, because when one is based on another, both cannot be right, and yet one still wrong. The second must always agree with the first, although it may expound upon the first. If a paradox exists, it is because the second denies the first, which is the basis for its existence, and in doing so it denies itself.

The doctrine of Salvation has been passed down with filters attached to it. Primarily, these are the filters of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, and Martin Luther. To understand the scripture’s truth, we must ask the question of whether these filters are contradictory or productive. Irenaeus is the main contributor of the doctrine of Salvation through Restoration. His filter is not the doctrine of Restoration, but the means by which he achieved this doctrine. The tools he used to look at Salvation within scripture are two major underlying ideas. The first is “recapitulation”, and the second is “propitiation.” These two ideas together are largely responsible for the formation of the theme of restoration that is found within the institutionalized orthodox Doctrine of Salvation.

The foundation for the idea of Restoration through propitiation is presented by Irenaeus as an expansion, primarily, of the Apostle Paul’s theology. Probably the most systematic explanation of Mankind’s condition and relationship with God is found in the book of Roman’s. Irenaeus takes from Roman’s as well as other Pauline works to build the idea of Propitiation. Using the twenty-fifth verse of Romans, the philosopher/theologian presents a systematic theology of Restoration through propitiation.

For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. (Romans 3:25)

Irenaeus argues, citing Leviticus, that Christ is the sacrificial goat made to take the blame for our sins. He extrapolates an order of restoration, using Levitical law, presupposing a firm foundation that sin has caused a need for restoration. The order for restoration is subsequently headed up by the act of sinning. According to the economy presented by Irenaeus in Romans 3:25; Man sinned, which caused God to become angry, and a relational separation to occur. In order to satisfy God’s anger, Christ sacrificed himself, which then justified that a relationship should be maintained, and thus restoration occurs. The law which man sinned against was the Law of Moses, which then justifies the use of the sacrificial scapegoat, since this method was outlined in the Levitical Law. Therefore, according to Irenaeus, grace is necessary because humankind sinned against the Law of Moses. Because man is unable to fulfill the law, Christ came to fulfill it for him.

According to the theological order presented in Romans 3:25, by Irenaeus, grace is dependant upon the action of Sin. Accordingly, the purpose of Restoration is to bring about reconciliation. Tertullian would later develop this idea, citing the same verse, and claiming that reconciliation occurs when God’s standard is satisfied. Therefore, according to Irenaeus, the purpose of restoration is to cause reconciliation. 

The verses found within Romans chapter three, present a different economy. Verses nineteen through twenty-four are clear that grace comes before sin.

Obviously, the law applies to those whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses and to bring the entire world into judgment before God. For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his Law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it. 

But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight- not by obeying the law, but by the way promised in the scripture long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. 

For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. (Romans 3:19-24)

More than this, they are clear that fulfillment of the law does not make us right before God. This passage is the proper context for a translation of Romans 3:25. The economy presented by the Apostle Paul states that although everyone is guilty of sinning against the Law of Moses and God, following this law does not make a person right before God. Clearly, says Paul, if a person was to follow this law, it would not make us right with God. Therefore, if keeping the law does not equate to righteousness, then how is it that falling short of it equates to wickedness? Putting this question aside and focusing on the order presented by Irenaeus, another contradiction becomes apparent. 

The order of Irenaeus states that Grace is made manifest as a result of sin. This Grace is manifested in the person of Christ who came in order to satisfy God’s standard, which we offended by breaking his law. Paul states in verse twenty-one, that the way, which God provided for being righteous, was presented in the scriptures long ago. Earlier in verse two of Chapter one, Paul claims that this method was given by the Prophets long ago. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he claims that the truth of Eternal Life, through Christ, is a message that was before the creation of the world. In verse twenty-two of Romans 3, Paul states that the condition for this Grace is not dependant upon who we are within God’s creation, and therefore, what we have done inside that creation (which ultimately defines who we are) does not decide our ability to receive this Grace.

Clearly, Pauline doctrine, and economy supports that Grace is first in creation, and therefore does not exist because of sin. In fact, sinning against the law and therefore God apparently has no bearing upon the Grace of God, because, according to Paul, obedience to the Law could not make us right before God. Therefore, Irenaeus is presenting a different economy than Paul has presented within Romans. According to Paul, Grace is extended to humankind before they sinned because it was presented before the world was created. When humankind sinned, all he had to do to come to God was reconcile himself, using the knowledge that the relationship would exist because of the evident Grace of God in Christ. The reconciliation of the creation to its creator would then warrant the restoration of the creation to the position that the creation had previously held. Ultimately, Paul maintains that a position as prime creation had been compromised by sin, but not that the entire relationship had been thrown away. Therefore, it is not a relational separation that occurred in Adam, but a positional separation. In this light, salvation of position, from the power of sin is necessary, but salvation of relationship with God due to separation because of sin is not. 

The picture that Paul presents is that of a Father and Son relationship. The child may throw away his position with the Father and claim that he is no longer his son. He does this by willingly going against the standard of the Father in open rejection and rebellion which apexes in declaring his own emancipation. This is a separation of position within the family. However, the child cannot remove his genetic connection to his Father, because by natural order, he is who he is. If he were able to do so, he would be making a relational separation. Therefore the idea of positional separation does not rely on a geographical position, but a position of economy. Conversely the idea of relational separation is not defined by the kinetic relationship being severed, or by interaction between the parties being ceased. It is defined by the intrinsic connection of the parties being disturbed. 

Irenaeus was claiming that an intrinsic connection had been broken with God by the act of sinning, and in order to set things right Christ came to satisfy God’s anger over the matter, and thus restore us to our rightful position. The main problem with this thought process is that it associates a positional idea of restoration with a problem of relational separation. 

Logic dictates that in order to restore something to its original state you must first bring the estranged parties together. This is done by understanding that an intrinsic relationship exists between the two parties. Therefore, you cannot reconcile something by first restoring it, you must first reconcile it. Paul grasped this concept and presented that man is positionally separated, and therefore in need of reconciliation through knowledge that a relational or intrinsic separation does not exist. This grace was evident before sin, and is manifested in the persona of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is a presentation of sorrow over the positional separation, and an acknowledgement of falling short of this standard, but in no way does it imply a relational separation that ultimately condemns humankind to the Lake of Fire. Because man is reconciled to God through Christ, God restores man to his original state as prime creation, giving justification to the grace presented before the creation. Thus, the doctrine of propitiation falls short because it presents a doctrinal economy, which in practicality and in logic is backwards. Irenaeus’ idea of Salvation through restoration by propitiation due to recapitulation is heinously flawed. The Pauline idea of Salvation is clearly restoration through reconciliation by faith through grace, and is absent of a need for relational or intrinsic salvation.

The book of Romans is not the only letter which presents a relational connection, but a positional separation. The letter to the Ephesians, chapter two, states that humankind is in God’s special favor, which is contradicted in Irenaeus’ idea of restoration through propitiation. Propitiation has, as foundational, in its definition the idea that humankind is no longer in God’s favor. This favor was humankind’s before the creation according to the second chapter of Timothy. Paul was very clear that Grace is first, and therefore reconciliation is primary to restoration. Paul is not the only ancestor who believed this. The unknown author of Hebrews presents a similar economy, citing the Levitical laws like his Pauline counterpart, in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter nine. The author of Hebrews states the necessity of Christ as atonement for sin in verses one through sixteen, and then explains the reason for atonement in verse eighteen, as a mere proof of death. The relevance of having a proof of death is the idea that a relationship is present, and the benefits of the relationship can be claimed. Hebrews presents that the reason for blood sacrifice is not to appease God’s anger and therefore restore us to our relationship with God. Blood sacrifice is proof that the relationship with God exists, and the sacrifice is a way for humankind to reconcile that relationship and restore man from his positional separation.

The apostle Peter states in his first letter, chapter one verse eighteen, that God paid a ransom for our sins. In verse nineteen, Peter states that this ransom was planned before the world was created, and that Christ came for all to see that this ransom was already paid before the world was created. Peter is clearly stating that at no point in creation was man relationally or intrinsically separated, and that Christ came to show this to humankind so that he may be positionally restored by Christ’s own sacrifice.

John, the beloved apostle, states the same thing in verse ten of Chapter four of his first in his triad of letters. John states that real love is witnessed in the fact that God loved us, not in our love for him. According to John, God sent his son as a sacrifice as proof of his love. Paul and Peter would say that this love, and subsequent sacrifice were before sin. The author of Hebrews agrees with Paul and Peter, as well as John, as the beloved apostle expounds on the idea that the proof that sacrifice shows about love, is that God’s love existed beyond sin. Thus the author of Hebrews, John the beloved, the main disciple of the Jews; Peter, and the Apostle Paul, are all in harmony regarding Grace. They all suggest that the economy of Grace begins with Grace itself. They present Grace as independent of sin and time, and salvation show salvation as the capacity of Grace to act within creation as an agent that reconciles the tears in a relationship with God, rather than restoring a relationship that was irreparable. Therefore, salvation is constant in creation as a reconciling agent. Salvation is therefore the agent of Grace in creation. And in concession to this point, Sin merely gave grace the opportunity for itself to be seen and manifested as salvation in creation, but salvation and grace were always present.

Despite the harmony of the biblical philosophers, Tertullian agreed with Irenaeus. What is probably more appropriate, and common of theology in general, is that Tertullian did not disagree with Irenaeus. Tertullian was an interesting man. The father of the doctrine of Satisfaction was not a static personality by the time of his death. Over the course of his lifetime he made a giant swing from absolute legalism to the feeling driven spiritualism of Montanism. It is important to understand that Tertullian was a person whose doctrine was developing. Tertullian was, by association, and terminology a lawyer. Although the evidence surrounding his career cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt (pardon the pun), the arguments that Tertullian used to support his theology were legal arguments. 

An example of such style is the introduction of the terms “substancia,” and “persona” into the explanation of the Trinity. Tertullian did not associate the esoteric meaning of substance that the word has come to imply. To Tertullian, substance was not “matter,” it was the property and the right of a person to make use of something. Tertullian’s idea of “persona” is also a legal idea. Persona is not the individual, but the individual who has the substance. This allusion to the Latin legal system gave Tertullian the ability to present his beliefs as a common understanding of practical society. Thus Tertullian’s ideas on God are seen as logical because they play out in a common practically in a sinful society. This practicality does not substantiate, however, that the ideas are in harmony with the scriptures they are supposedly defending. In point of fact, Tertullian was quite prone to making use of the Latin legal system in order to substantiate theological claims, which were not actually present in the philosophies on the pages of scripture. Tertullian wrote an entire treatise on the validity of scripture as the rightful property of the ecclesiastical body due to its presence with the church for such a long amount of time. He justifies this claim in his Liber de praescriptionibus adversus haereticos. In this work, he uses the Latin legal work Praescriptio longi temporis, which says that the use of a property for a prolonged period of use gives the user a legal right to it. Although this is certainly a compelling argument for the validity of the church to a Latin governed people, it has nothing to do with a biblically governed people. The arguments of Tertullian are patterned in this manner. 

It is a legal tactic to take from circumstantial evidence to prove the point one is trying to make. In order to do this, the subject at hand cannot be addressed as being absolute in its true nature, because that is what is in question. Without proving a point based on the validity of the point itself, outside examples are used to justify the point. Thus the point in question can be assumed to be true without having any valid evidence within itself to justify its truth. Tertullian used this tactic to argue for the validity of the established theology. He did not seek to find whether what was established was worthy of its own establishment, but instead sought to defend it blindly. His method of defense for the validity of the Trinity, the scriptures, and the church follows the suit of his definitions. The apology that he makes is legal, not philosophical. In fact Tertullian was very adamant that philosophy was to be rejected. He believed that philosophy was the parent of heresy, because it brought into question the origins and meanings of ideas that the law assumed into place; such as good and wrong, and right and evil. 

Understanding the mindset of Tertullian as a legal thinker is absolutely essential to understanding his influence on the doctrine of Salvation. His contribution to the doctrine is not a philosophical one that springs from a love of scripture, and a longing to find the truths that it holds. This is not to discount everything that Tertullian gave to theology as being invalid, but it is to give it the place of authority it demands, which is considerably different from the position his theology has been given by theologians in the centuries following him. Tertullian’s theology sprung from a need to justify the ultimate standard held by the Law of both Moses, and the Romans. Using his legal background, he isogeted whatever scriptures could serve him best in order to maintain a sense of order for himself and the people around him. This assessment may seem to be a harsh statement, but consider that Tertullian would later abandon his own legalistic interpretation for the cult of Montanism. Although Church history might say that Tertullian was a well-grounded student of the law and the scriptures, Tertullian himself would deny the legalism he defended so vehemently in his earlier works.

It is this man, Tertullian, who presents the economy of Irenaeus in Romans chapter three. In this twenty-fifth verse, Tertullian seeks to justify that God is an offended party in a legal dispute, by citing the word “satisfy,” of which the apostle Paul makes use. Tertullian transliterates satisfaction into the legal definition of the word. By doing so, he claims that God’s anger must be satisfied, as the offended person in a legal dispute would have to be satisfied in Roman law. Tertullian does not look at the economy presented by the apostle Paul to see the truth presented in its full hermeneutical context. According to established theology, which is filtered through the superstitions of the area and political interests, God not only has every right to be angry at humanity, but also in fact should demand satisfaction. This was common practice in the community of Rome, just as it was common in the mythology of the area. 

Because Tertullian did not delve into philosophy, he did not question whether this point should be taken through the filter of his upbringing and surroundings. Tertullian, more than likely, found this fact to be helpful in helping people to relate to a “common sense” idea of who God is. Therefore, rather than looking at the economy of Grace presented by Paul in Romans, Tertullian perpetuated the same economy of sin Irenaeus presented, stating that satisfaction for God’s anger was common sense to the Hellenized mind, and should not be questioned. Tertullian did not pay attention to the implication of the passage as being absolute and unattainable by humankind. Romans presents satisfaction as something that was achieved, absolutely, and not because of a relational or intrinsic separation. However, the book of Romans presents a positional relationship being offended. Satisfaction for that relationship is presented as something that was accounted for before the world began. The concept of an economy of Grace makes satisfaction of an offense, something that is continually happening. It is like a wound that heals on its own. Grace is the vehicle by which Jesus came into this world, to show humankind that the separation between Man and God is a gap that repairs itself through the infiniteness of God’s grace itself.

As Tertullian understands the idea of Satisfaction, humankind is forever doomed to live up to a standard that is impossible for him to achieve, even through Jesus. According to the economy of Tertullian, and Irenaeus, Jesus restores humankind to a relationship with God, but does not reconcile him. Humankind in his constant state of sin acquires a debt of satisfaction that continues to count against him, until it is paid at death, so that the judgment is ripe upon his death. According to the apostle Paul, Jesus reconciled humankind and thus restored him to his position as Prime creation. This reconciliation satisfied absolutely the fact that mankind had fallen short of his position as Prime creation, and in fact, will always do so. Therefore humankind can be assured that God will never desert him in his sin, because satisfaction is immanent, and yet absolute in the Grace witnessed to us through Jesus Christ.

It is this one idea that has plagued the common Christian for centuries. The acquiring of debt, due to God’s unreachable standards leaves Christians feeling hopeless in their hope. The current incarnation of this idea in Sanctification holds Christianity’s absolute victory over the power of sin off to the side. It becomes a victory, which can only come into existence when life is finished. What is worst about this concept is that its uncertainty is never extinguished upon death for those who are living, for they never see whether the person who has died has received their victory. The power of salvation by restoration through justification by faith, or works, ultimately does not matter. Whether by works or by faith, restoration through justification empowers humankind to feel ashamed of their sin and work toward a goal which they could never achieve on their own. 

For those who finish the race we call life, there is no physical evidence of their victory in Jesus, for they simply die, and then they are gone. The victory of Jesus found in these people is ultimately found in how they lived their life for him during the race. A sad and ironic twist considering that the only thing the runner should be caring about according to this doctrine, is escaping his less than satisfactory performance in this race.  Indeed, anticipation is all that is in the minds of the runner of the race of restoration through Justification by faith or works. In some ways, works makes more sense than faith in this regard, because works does not pretend to find victory in this life, and does not give off the impression that it can rest in working toward their goal of finishing the race. The idea of Justification by faith parades runners who claim to have already won the race yet still feel they must run to win. 

Whichever is more accurate to scripture has been the debate of centuries, but neither side is found in scripture. Scripture presents apostles who were victorious in this life. They withstood ridicule and torture with grace and poise. They were men of conviction who could not be swayed. Their miracles were legendary just as their master was. These were men who were not running a race to win it. These were men, who had already won it, and now were watching and waiting for race to be completed. They gave instructions to the athletes who needed advice, healed those who had been injured, and took the place of those who could not run any longer.

The emphasis of their writing is not on the power of sin, or even the presence of Sin. Their emphasis of their writing was full of grace and hope and peace. Wherever they addressed sin, it was with an economy of Grace before sin. They did not address sin as an issue that humankind needed to resolve, but instead as an issue that humankind needed to remove. They address sin as an issue that is universal not to condemn all men, but to show men that they are all in the same situation. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,” is not a means for all humankind to wallow in his sin, or even to pay for it. It is a means for all men to come to the same conclusion, for the context of this statement is true in every place it is found in the scriptures. God’s economy states grace before sin. Therefore this statement of all have sinned is not for the purpose of saying to all who hear it, “Therefore you must be saved because you have offended a just God who now sentences you to hell, but if you satisfy his standard, or sanctify yourself by recognition of his Son, he will save you.”

This statement misses the point of the verse. The point of the whole sacrifice by a person who was offended cannot be for himself. God was clearly proving a point by sending his son to die, but scripture does not support the idea that it was for restoration. Salvation as presented by the scriptures, old and new, is the agent of Grace in creation. It is something that never has to restore a relational separation, for Grace never allows any sort of intrinsic separation. Therefore salvation is never necessary for creation, although it is always immanent in creation. A good example of this is the gardener/garden relationship. A gardener will tend his garden despite the yield of the garden. In fact, the less the garden yields, the more the gardener tends. Another example of this is a doctor to his patient. The more the patient does what is hurtful to his body, the more the doctor pays him attention. The problem with institutionalized orthodox salvation is that it in essence claims that God is the one who causes the body to break down. It says that God’s just standard must invoke punishment for sin and this punishment is death. Salvation creates a need for itself. This is the same redirect Adam used with God in Eden when God confronted Adam (without condemnation) about his knowledge of his nakedness and Adam blamed God for giving him the woman. 

In this one accusation of Adam, we find the way in which man deals with God; the pattern of his neurosis. And it is from this pattern that God sets out a plan of Salvation, which ultimately removes any way in which blame can be used as a means to avoid where man must grow. The pattern that he sets down is one in which man can see that God wishes to reconcile the relationship. This is why the Jews were capable of believing in Salvation without believing that God had cut them off. The Jews continued to refer to themselves as God’s chosen people although they constantly had their sin made evident to them. This relationship culminated in the birth of Christ, which brought about the physical, tangible evidence of God on earth, communing with creation, despite the idea that God could not be with anything that was so full of sin. Apparently this evidence was not good enough for humankind. Clearly, they still chose to believe that God could not commune with them. They believed that sacrifices and rituals were the only way in which humanity could come before God, and so they killed the man who said otherwise. And in doing so, he became their sacrifice, and gave to the Jews the possibility of restoration through reconciliation, and from them he gave us Paul, so that this message might spread. Despite this, humankind does not seem to understand what Abraham understood before God had appeared in human flesh. Man does not need to be restored, only reconciled through Salvation. This is a message that does not cheapen the work of Christ on the Cross. 

The institutionalized orthodox view of Christ on the cross is a message of much pettiness and sadness. It says that God is a God of two faces. It claims that God condemned his creation for making one mistake and threw them away. And he did this because he couldn’t get over his own standards; because he couldn’t, in essence, swallow his pride and allow his creation a second chance. Hypocritically, it then turns around and states that God found a loophole to his own standard which makes him willing to compromise his idea of Justice, and sent himself as a sacrifice for that standard, which is essentially doing for us what he refused to do for us in the first place; humble himself and allow us a second chance. It claims that this is the ultimate standard of truth and grace, when really what is presented is a God who is petty, and prideful, and self-compromising. Grace is presented as giving freely to something that is undeserving, when grace in fact is giving freely regardless of how deserving they are. And truth is presented as a standard that God must act within, rather than a standard that he defines by his actions. Ultimately restoration as salvation by justification, through faith, by grace, is petty, and shameful in its picture of truth, grace and the God they are from.

The scriptures paint a picture of a God who saw that his creation had a neurosis. He listened to his prime creations inability to get over his own guilt, and made a path of reconciliation based upon that. When he saw that man had become to dependant upon the guilt offering, he presented to them a clear and tangible evidence of his continuing love for them in Jesus. But man would not let go of his guilt. Just as in Eden, humankind needed to place blame, and so knowing that his death would prove his power over death and their punishment, he allowed himself to be killed providing them with both proof of their intact relationship, and proof of his sovereignty. 

This is not a picture of a God who created a box of laws that he had to abide in at risk of being unjust. This is a God who humbled himself to work within the box of law’s that his creation needed in order to abide with him. This is a message that makes God’s Christ more powerful than institutionalized orthodoxy ever gave him credit for. The church has taught that Christ came to die because it was necessary for the satisfaction of God’s just standard which is indeed powerful, but consider how much more powerful it is that Jesus came as the Christ, acting within the only standard mankind would understand though he did not have to.

The true Gospel is found in the famous verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This message is powerful when you consider that God did this to accomplish his will and yet satisfy his standard, but it still remains petty. This message only takes on its fullness when the standard of man’s sin is removed from the interpretation of the verse, and you see God giving his son though there is no standard he must fulfill. The true Gospel message is not that we needed restoration and we have that through Christ. It is that: Though we did not need restoration, Jesus reconciled us as Christ by dying for us, because death was the only thing we would accept. To believe anything less is shortsighted, petty, and shameful on our parts.

As followers of Christ, we must learn to look with open hearts and open eyes for the true meaning of Salvation, and bring honor to Jesus, who died so that we may have it.

Bibliography

  1. Behr, John. Ascetism and Anthroplogy in Irenaeus and Clement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  2. Bethune-Baker, James Franklin. An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine. To the Time of the Council of Chalcedon. London: Methuen & Co., 1903.
  3. Clement. Exhortation to the Greeks. Vol. I. n.d.
  4. Mateo Seco, Lucas F. and J. A. Riestra. The Mystery of Jesus Christ: A Christology and Soteriology Textbook. Trans. Michael Adams. New York: Scepter Publishers, 1994.
  5. McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart. Handbook of Today’s Religions. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.
  6. McGary II, Monte R. Myspace.com Blogs – On The Origin of the Soul – II MySpace Blog. 1 March 2005. 29 November 2007 <http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=7865083&blogID=16865415&Mytoken=DF9BF14F-519B-4678-A4C2D52DCD493DA219824926&gt;.
  7. McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
  8. McKim, Donald K. Theological Turning Points: Major Issues In Christian Thought. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988.
  9. Olsen, Roger E. and Christopher Alan Hall. The Trinity. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002.
  10. Robertson, O. Palmer. The Christ of the Covenants. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1980.

Tertullian. “The Five Books of Quintus Sept. Flor. Tertullianus Against Marcion.” Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Trans. Peter Holmes. Vol. VII. Edinbourgh: T & T Clark, 1868.

INVERTED APOLOGETICS

a response to the dilemma of Maladaptive Inverted Hermeneutics

Introducing Apologetics

To have an apologetic method is to have a relationship with the truth. One cannot argue a simple statement, such as that, “Christ is Lord,” without first presupposing definition to these words. To be Lord, must mean something specific. More to the point, to proclaim this idea to an audience, is to have an expectation that the audience will understand the specific meaning of your words. Thusly, to speak of Christ, there must be a definite understanding to whom we are referring. The truth presupposes that certain things are factual. To say that something is factual here, is to refer to those ideas as the basis for significant actions and ideas to spring from. 

When we speak of the Bible through the lense of testifying to its truth, it is called Apologetics. But calling it Apologetics doesn’t make it Apologetics. The reality is that many people who have come to speak on behalf of the Gospel, have come to the podium without an understanding of the gospel as a truth worthy of defense. For them, the Gospel is not The Truth for humanity, but rather a truth for the individual. To this end, to speak as a witness to the universality of the Gospel’s power is too official a format for the subject of truth. To many Christians, Apologetics has become merely the practice of sharing a personal, but ultimately subjective experience. This is a decidedly humanistic way of approaching the significance and sincerity with which the Gospel narrative commands to be shared. The witness of the scriptures is not to be treated as a casual experience of a significant set of personal revelations about Jesus. Instead it is to be treated as the testimony of a witness to the power of God unto salvation.

To this end, Apologetics is not merely a sharing of the Gospel. It is a defense of the actuality of God’s hand in human history and his intent for a significant and loving relationship with his creation. This type of defense is of significant importance. It is not a musing of ideals or idle speculation, but is meant to be a thoughtful exposition on the philosophical supremacy of the revelation of Scripture in a grounded and liveable reality. When Paul claims in Romans, “I am not ashamed.” This is not meant to be a personal proclamation to paul’s social network or a narcissistic humanist rant about one’s self esteem. Instead, Paul presents, before a watching world, the legal testimony of a learned individual, spoken in the courtroom of philosophy.

The early twenty-first century has seen this concept marginalized in favor of a court of public opinion. Universal truth has become something which cannot be testified about. Its significance has become seen as something which is neither universal, nor measurable. And through the years, this impotent view of reality has pervaded the space of Christians circles as well. Whereas the first century church exploded onto the scene, viewing Truth as the winner of a competition between the myriads of philosophical mindsets freely flowing about the syncretic culture that was Rome, it did so in such a way as to force Rome to view the Christians as a physical threat. Christianity today may garner unfavorable glances and gossips, but in the realm of truth, it has become popularly laughed off as being an archaic belief of the uneducated masses. This is a direct result of the parishioners of Christendom having allowed a redefinition of the terms of engagement with The Truth. Instead of returning the Gospel’s fight to the courtroom of reason, they have largely been content to box their once prolific belief system into a non offensive and benign “sincerely held belief,” so they may carve out a small metaphorical plot of land that is peace loving and benevolent, amidst a sea of competing ideas.

This is not the brazen Christianity that once led Christians to be slaughtered at a particularly gruesome time in human history. Those ancient Christians lay in stark contrast to today’s impotent Christianity as the majority of popular Christians in America would have easily made the choice to avoid the Roman gladiatorial games. The digital footprint of Christianity today implies that many would have no difficulty with Caesar as Lord of the physical world and Jesus as Lord of the spiritual world. Followers of Christ in the first century would be saddened and appalled. This is because they believed Jesus to be Lord over both and often died because of it. By the compelling nature of Christ’s status as the great reconciler of all things unto himself, Christians proclaimed, in full view of the thinking man, in every nation they could reach, that Jesus is the one true Lord of all. They did this in the footsteps of their savior, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked the same path. It is clear, that Jesus believed his own words and interpretations of God’s will to perfect and to supercede the authority of the Scriptures. He even called himself God and claimed that he is, and was, greater than the greatest Jewish Patriarch, Abraham. This was not stated as an opinion or a personal belief. Jesus stated these things, directly, succinctly and in a fashion in which could be understood by his audience. To this end, he was held accountable for his words, publically and legally. 

To stand with Jesus, is to stand before Pontius Pilate and to give an account of the Truth, knowing that this truth might end in death. Therefore, any Apologetic method should reasonably be built with this in mind. Unfortunately, American Cultural Christianity strays off the mark left by Jesus and his early followers. Rather than build an apologetic method for defending the veracity of the Gospels, using the tactics revealed in scripture, methods have been built upon a Humanistic Enlightenment framework. This presents a major difficulty in giving Christian  testimony. In Chapter 13 of Nancy Pearcey’s work, Total Truth, she proffers this conclusion,

 “The only way the church can establish genuine credibility with nonbelievers is by showing them something they cannot explain or duplicate through their own natural, pragmatic methods-something they can explain only by invoking the supernatural.”

If the purpose of Apologetics is to defend the faith as philosophically viable and supreme above all other worldviews, and therefore worthy of embracing, pursuing and ultimately dying for, then how can we present that truth as tacitly similar to the truths of those we are sharing it with?

To this end, we need to have an understanding of our truth as grounded in confirmed revelation, practiced in our day to day living and easily understood as set apart from the other truths vying for allegiance. But having this understanding, is not enough. Other ideas calling themselves truths, exist in the same philosophical landscape as God’s truth, pulling the dysfunctional hearts of men as carnival barkers, distracting God’s creation away from his specific voice. This is an effective method of distraction for a creation that was compelled to sin by seeing how ripe and tasty a simple piece of fruit appeared. But God is not without his methods for presenting truth in a way that can speak in louder tones than these sideshow attractions.  Historically, God has dealt with these distractions by presenting himself as an inversion of these abnormalities. Our Apologetic method should follow God’s own practices, inverting the Apologetic method of the world’s calls so that God’s unique voice will stand out amongst the din. In seeking to understand the dilemma in presenting God’s truth to the masses, let us consider Jesus and Pontius Pilate.

Quid Est Veritas

Pontius Pilate, standing in front of the Messiah, posed the question, “what is truth?” This question was one of rhetoric rather than a true thirst for knowledge. Pilate would have understood the severity of the circumstances which pervaded his everyday existence. He grasped the political balance of tenuous relations between the ever increasing zealotry of a nationalistic Judaism and a Roman territory seeking to hold power. Because of this, Pilate’s thought on the man standing before him would need to be decidedly pragmatic. The Jewish authorities sought to involve him as a judge in the matter of the man before him but they did not understand who Pilate was. The supposed Jewish heresies Jesus of Nazareth had been spouting may have ruffled the feathers of those concerned with more esoteric matters, but they were of no importance when measured against the political hands gripping Pilate. Christ spoke of truth. Truth was not relevant to Pilate unless that truth was empirical. If It didn’t touch the tension of his world, it had no place in his day to day of riots and rumours. 

But Jesus did offer truth. He offered a truth which was not empirical but tacitly defied empiricism, instead holding that the truth which could be perceived was merely a shell to the ideals which made it measurable. He proffered the idea that those who understood this were part of a kingdom which had no borders and that those who lived there worshipped in the form of truth and spirit rather than taxes and a bent knee.

A New Kingdom

Curiously, Christ offered a new kind of kingdom. The kingdom of Christ was not interested in power. It was interested in ushering in a metaphysical understanding of one’s place in creation. This truth was structured with Christ at its center, not demanding to be king, but claiming kingship on the laurels of his eternal nature. It was a kingdom based on the propositional truths of the universe and one which didn’t need Jesus to claim his kingship, but simply recognized this to be the way that things were. To this end, all who lived in its philosophical territories and served in its fealty bowed before Christ without having to be broken before him. They would do this willingly. His sovereign reign was the defining narrative for his subjects. This truth was not a truth but the Truth. Christ would usher this truth into our existence. He did not care what man served on an earthly throne using force or bribery to bring allegiance to their name. Those who knew the truth would know the Truth and they would serve God fiercely, regardless of the man on the throne. This is truth. For a soldier working his way through the ranks of roman rule, this was not a threat. It was in point of fact a sort of lunacy; a perverted and inverted delusion at best. This supposed Christ was harming himself and the old Jewish superstitions, but he was of little concern to the empire of Rome.

Pilate was, at the heart of it, a man who had lost his connection to the idealism which Christ presented. Christ was a fool in this world. He spouted idealistic musings, drunk on the promise of a theocratic Israel. To Pilate, Jesus gave people a misguided hope at best, all while alleviating the political tensions by calling for peace. In contrast, Pilate was a worldly man; weathered by his Roman campaigns and the type of political pressures that over time redefine strong soldiers into petrified monuments to the lost battles of this forsaken world. Christ testified to the beauty of a loving God and in doing so, he pleased the masses. Pilate was a learned man. He believed in facts and had been educated in blood and iron. He could not afford to please any man. He was tasked by his superiors with being strong, an extension of the strong hand of the Roman Empire. On the surface, they could not have been more different. Their worlds were disconnected; Christ’s a mere tangent of the grounded reality of Rome.

Only Time Will Tell

If you asked Pontius Pilate which story would still be forming two thousand years later, he would have been wrong. Fast forward two thousand years and the story of those who follow Christ is still being told day to day. Roman rule has been traded, if not completely obscured, by Christianity. It would seem that the kingdom of Truth, with a lovable lunatic from Nazareth as it’s king, was much more relevant than a learned and worldly soldier could have predicted. As Christians, we understand and devote our lives to this truth and this king. We have been taught that the resilience of the carpenter from Bethlehem is the definition of truth. The nature of this truth, personified in its king, is life altering for all those who encounter it. Jesus turns people toward wholeness. He connects people to God by showing them a truth which is not primarily empirical at its core, but instead based upon the veracity of God’s own character. His truth is not merely evidence of underlying principles but is instead the underlying principle.

Framing the Problem

Though Christianity itself has outlasted Rome, the ideology of Pontius Pilate never died out. The hard life of a soldier undoubtedly played a hand in Pilate’s loss of connection to the truth but his journey to disregarding it is a story which predated him and continues to be told. This is in stark contrast to Christ’s very presence, which was an affront to the lie that truth is not relevant. Christ’s presence in real time and real space was a war effort. It was an open act of aggression on the battleground of the mind. When people come to a saving knowledge of Christ, they are forced each time to reconcile what his nature is. He phrases himself in such a way as to demand a conclusion to his identity and what he means for our existence. Is he the only way to God? Is he our creator? Is he God? You cannot come to Christ half-heartedly. You must ask yourself how he fits into your day to day life. How is Christ relevant? How is truth relevant? Christ presents both questions as being one and the same. The reconciliation of these concepts has resonated throughout history and continues to this day. Is it any wonder then, that Pilate’s ironic answer in the form of question, has proved to have its own staying power in the discussion. 

The Scales Fall Off

For the apologist, the question posed by Pontius Pilate is a continual source of difficulty. The question of truth’s relevance has been pedantically delivered again and again with new ways to echo Pilate’s sentiment that truth is not relevant. This is a particularly bleak obstacle to overcome for the apologist as Pilate had not only fully given himself over to this train of thought, but he did this with the best personification of truth he could possibly have at his disposal in Christ Jesus. He was so disconnected from the truth that he could not recognize it standing in front of him. Any argument for truth given by a believer in Christ needs to factor that Pilate’s sentiments were unhindered by the presence of personified truth.

That said, God called his Apostle out of Time to the forefront of the battle from the other side of this argument. From the ranks of those who would betray the truth personified came the most treacherous of the religious right. After an encounter with the truth of Christ on the road to Damascus, God revealed the Truth to him about himself; that Saul, in persecuting Christ, was in fact persecuting God. This brought Saul to the other side of the battle. Now called Paul, he fought for Christ’s relevance with a fierce determination which echoed a battle cry that continues to be a source of strength for propositional truth to this day. In Colossians he decries the Godhood of Christ by forcing the gnostics to reconcile Christ’s pre-existent nature. In Romans, he expounds on the presence of a law, written on humanities heart, that can convict or defend our actions on the Day of Judgement. In Ephesians, he explains the proper relationship between the Church and calls them to strict adherence of the spirit and truth of Christ. Paul is not alone in his understanding that Christ is the truth. Every disciple speaks boldly and repeatedly to this fact and in doing so, their words cemented the very Gospel itself. This is the message of the sacred Scriptures. 

The Devil Hides

The majority of the works of Paul, as well as several of the Disciples’ works, are targeted attacks on the idea that truth is relative at best and is a non-existent at worst. The early church fought against these attacks with a resolve befitting their savior. The infant church had been birthed into a syncretic society who based its concept of truth on its own ability to observe nature. As Paul points out, in the opening of Romans, this led observant men and women to an ultimately inverted outworking of reality. They structured their lives around worship of gods who didn’t exist and the created rather than the created. Paul judges all men in Romans, but the truly insidious nature of this misjudgement by God’s prime creation is most painfully felt amongst believers. John’s gospel and his epistles called for a strict understanding of what had been taught as he watched the predicted wolves in sheep’s clothing creep amongst the flock of young believers. These false prophets called for law without mercy, love without accountability, men without their fallen state and Jesus without his historicity. The responsibility of the church has always been to weed these men and their inversion of God’s truth out from among his people. But Instead of exorcising them, the church has often held them philosophically captive, and used them for their methods and charisma. This is especially prevalent in the early church of Rome as sincere and beloved church Fathers, such as Tertullian, would argue for the methodization of pagan tactics to bring about an ease of spiritual growth for once and new pagan converts. This is especially telling in the case of Tertullian who would later convert to the heretical Montanism. Indeed many important developments in Christendom, happened by accosting and implementing pagan ideologies, practices or simple Hellenistic thought. Over time, these mechanisms became so ingrained in the machine of the body that their relevance, if any, became hard to distinguish from the revelation of Scripture . The Church began to look like the nations surrounding it. Though reformations and splits have taken place over the centuries to rectify this tragedy, the truth remains that the church continues to flirt with a return to Egypt from whence it came. This is of course exactly what was predicted by Christ and his Apostles and will continue to polarize into a coming apostasy. The sad reality is that since the church came out of a proverbial Egypt, it has always sought to point to Egypt, struggled with reasoning like Egyptian and wearing their proverbial garb. It has never been uniformly true to its own vows and the watching world knows it and looks on in disgust.

What is Qualia?

Experience can be a tricky thing. Two people can know that a fire engine is red, but red can mean different things to those same two people. To this end, there is a measure of truth which can be known and communicated between two people, but is not objectively true beyond that personal experience. Two people see one red fire engine, both recognizing that it is red, but one would call that red, “red hot,” while the other might find that red to be a “happy red.” Verifiably, the only corroborable fact is that both people are experiencing the same “red,” in different ways. Qualia is a term that Philosophers have used to describe the measurement of a perception which can only be known introspectively, but still be revealed and affirmed through communication. In this case, the perception of Red. This is to say that every interaction has a qualia of experience which can be felt sincerely, understood and then communicated. Due to the introspective nature of qualia, the general application of that qualia is limited to the perceiver and therefore problematic for general application. Put in simple terms, if any one person’s idea of the qualia of Red became known as the authoritative definition of Red, it would become difficult, at best to have Red things and impossible at worst. Therefore, qualia is not a good foundation for understanding the universal qualities of a thing. In qualia, an objective universal truth is unattainable without a measureable outside force confirming that an experience is demonstrably the same as an observation and therefore a factual conclusion. This is why math and physics play such a profound role in scientific progress. They are demonstrably accurate and seemingly universal and therefore can be reasonably relied on. Nevertheless, mankind has a brain which seems to consistently beg the question, “Is the truth of an object what one experiences, or what one can observe and corroborate?” To this end, there has been much debate, centering around the Truth and where it becomes a fact and where it starts being an opinion. As much as qualia cannot be a reasonable foundation for truth, often, it is a reasonable starting point for filtering what a universal truth is.

God the observer

Christians have an easy reconciliation for the dilemma of truth’s identity. The Scripture demands that Christians understand ultimate truth as being measured, not by man’s senses, but rather by God’s revelations. To this end, man does not need to bear the burden of sifting through the multitude of relevant qualia on any given subject or asking phenomenological questions. For Christians, a disparity exists between the perception of men and the truth of God as a matter of presupposition. Revealed as being a result of the Fall of Man in Genesis, men have an inverted view of the relationship of the qualia of experiences, viewing experiences to be greater than the universal truth. As stated by Paul, this leads to the usurping and ultimate replacement of the Truth itself. Man has apologized for his perception of the truth from the moment he was first questioned in Eden. The default argument for Man has been to deflect and project his own blame onto God. Ever since that moment, God has been actively pursuing mankind in counter intuitive defense of the pre-Eden truths. God calls those who have accepted their faulty condition and his new narrative to new eyes upon the truth. These new eyes have a refracted view, which affirms God to be the lone determiner of Truth. He makes this happen by using an inverted defense of the original truth in the upside down world in which man operates. For argument’s sake, we will refer to this method as an Inverted Apologetic.

Ecce veritas

An Inverted Apologetic, as it applies to Christian theology/philosophy, is a defense of established Christian truths, which accepts a disparity between the Qualia of truth as a perception of experiences related to an object and truth as a property of an object. This can be expressed as Qt<Qe. In another language, someone with this ideology might believe that the idea of Truth is less important than the experience of a truth. In real terms, a person who believes this might believe that the objective color of red is not as important as the feeling that red evokes. Therefore, to call something, “Red,” isn’t as important as feeling that something is, “Red.” This is a counter biblical view of Truth. Red is Red because God created Red to not be any other color. The word for Red may change, but the idea of Red is present and authoritative in real time and space, regardless of how one might experience it or express it. Therefore, an inverted apologetic would also recognize the presence of this inappropriate philosophical understanding and attempt to return that understanding to the presupposition that the Qualia of Truth is more important than the experience of that truth. This could be expressed as Qt>Qe

the advent of Qt<Qe

The presence of Qt<Qe in perception is predicated in philosophy by the lack of a rational unified perspective on life’s struggles and mankind’s place within the greater echelon of the cosmos, space and time. Notable Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer describes the complete lack of hope due to a non-cohesive and impotent worldview as being below the line of despair. Thus Schaeffer concludes that the ultimate result of this is a philosophical nihilism or a complete hopelessness.

The rise of Maladaptive Inverted Hermeneutics

The result of residing below the line of despair is a complete lack of stability through thesis or antithesis. This leaves humanity with only one plausible means of attaining philosophical solvency, or rising above the line of despair. They must depend on themselves to find solace. Indeed, this has been the conclusion of many philosophers and was, tho positively phrased, the conclusion of the enlightenment movement which began with Descartes. There came to be a philosophical divide between what was sacred and secular and this radically altered the way humanity could tell its own biography. Without a fundamental understanding of truth that is reasonable and adequate, men are left having to replace what Paul says they innately know, with something impersonal, inadequate and meaningless. To operate from this basis comes at a cost to the psyche of an individual. 

In order to survive, the individual must either recognize their own inability to achieve coherence and embrace the idea that they cannot partake in an adequate and meaningful,  unified worldview, or reject that such a truth is attainable at all. Those who own their inability to partake but recognize the standard of coherence are in danger of self destruction. By owning the standard and sacrificing oneself to that standard, an act of sacrifice might achieve coherence in the face of losing one’s life. However, an acceptance and dwelling on this inability to achieve the standard might lead to such drastic acts as suicide.

I would humbly suggest that may have found a third option. In Philosophy, there is a term called Hermeneutics. It is a term which mostly refers to the methods by which one interprets something. This is often used in conjunction with Biblical methods of interpretation but can be applied in a much larger sense. A hermeneutic method encompasses the ideology which informs one’s perceptions. In the case of those residing below Schaeffer’s line of despair, their hermeneutic method includes the presupposition that all truth is derived from self and what one may experience. To this end, the qualia of truth is less than the qualia of experience.

When this happens, a person must develop new psychosocial skillsets to adapt to an increasingly unreasonable environment. Erikson’s stages of development describe the process of moving through life both existentially and physically, as well as the dangers that can happen when people progress too quickly without having been fully developed. It posits that behaviors which are maladaptive in nature are part of a string of behaviors which have been compounded through a person’s life, due to the inability to resolve certain philosophical questions or crisis about one’s identity, before advancing to a new stage of development. In this way, religion and theology is similar. Even with the language of Christianity or a Christian consensus on which to operate, if the presuppositions of Christ are left behind in development, the outcome can become maladaptive and ultimately fatal for one’s faith and even those around them. 

It is therefore unsurprising that the New Testament warns early church leaders to guard against an unstable foundation for truth as well as the rapid acceptance of leadership in spiritual growth.

Those who have not been guarded will often develop a maladaptive inverted hermeneutic, or a way of defining life that is the inverse of God’s truth and does not serve their needs on a psychosocial, or spiritual level. MIH(maladaptive inverted hermeneutics) is essentially a rejection of the ability of truth to inform an experience. This can be expressed as Qt<Qe. Truth becomes the experience, or more succinctly, perception of the experience. As the predicator for MIH is being below the line of despair, the base ideology is always that there is no meaningful truth. Since truth no longer has a value of perception in the loss of thesis and antithesis, this can be expressed as Qe=t. 

The principle of philosophical alethic inversion

MIH has a first principle of a lack of meaningful truth. As such, every perception of truth, which in fact is functionally equal to having truth, is instead replaced with merely the quality of experience. However, this is not simply a postmodern experience. Postmodernism can be expressed as Qt=Qe. The qualia or perception of experience has been confused with the perception of truth itself. This philosophical mindset is a precursor to Schaeffer’s line of despair. In MIH, truth itself is not only replaced by experience but is actively worked against. Therefore, a negative or opposing force against truth is silently present in the mindset of Qe=t. This inversion of the truth, though possibly subconscious is specific in that its reactions to truth as a property of an object or idea is directly challenged and inverted to appear the opposite of its nature. This maladaptation allows those operating below the line of despair to operate with a significant amount of adaptation by replacing their perceptions of experiences and denying that those experiences are true. Philosophically, suffering becomes pleasure and thus a manageable experience because it is no longer a quantifiable experience with any bearing on meaningful reality. Indeed, this tactic has been used for centuries in mystic traditions, such as buddhism, which teaches their adherents to understand the sensory inputs as a mere perception, and to view oneself as not truly existing in a meaningful sense.

Managing MIH

The inverse is of course that pleasure becomes suffering. Paradoxes like this are always easier overlooked as their qualitativeness is always positive in reality from below the line of despair. For instance, it is reasonable to rationalize that you are not hungry when you are in fact starving(operating below the line of despair), thereby creating an inverted hermeneutic about hunger and by extension food. However, if you were unable to leave that inverted perception behind when you are not starving(operating above the line of despair), so that your mind said you were starving when in actuality you are not, this would be a much more manageable reality than if you were actually starving. This is because your body would not truly be being starved, though your mind might perceive it that way. Though this too would surely have negative consequence, it would be more easily lived within.

Thusly a phenomenon is present among those with MIH. This is that a necessary antithesis is implied in every Quale of experience. Those with MIH may not believe in truth, but all of their experiences using MIH actually argue against Qt as if it still has a presence that is authoritative in their lives.

Examples of MIH

Therefore MIH on an individual level occurs when a perception argues that truth does not exist by replacing established constructs with an individual’s antithesis. This can play itself out as God becoming the devil, or good transposed to evil. MIH is a non respecter of perceived dualities as qualitative properties of truth. This seems to be best perceived where MIH is an active philosophy in the individual. 

Implications of MIH

With social constructs based upon thesis, antithesis and synthesis being the makeup for most societies, the presence of MIH can be incredibly destructive. This is due to the fact that MIH creates a localized phenomenon in the individual that pairs its qualia of experience with necessitated antithesis to qualia of truth. Since thesis, antithesis and synthesis are based upon an understanding that truth can be reasonably known and therefore authoritative in practicality, the idea that truth is in no way authoritative undermines institutions built upon this common thread. Therefore, if an individual with MIH perceived anything as good in a society, he would innately invert this into a negative connotation with disregard for the long term effects.This is true for any system which upholds a greater ethic, be it law or government, God or the state.

This is not to say that there is immediate degradation for standards, as there are mitigated circumstances at play once truth as a reality is an impossibility. Namely, the immediate effects on one’s qualia of experience may serve to buffer the degradation. Specifically pain and other experiences which have immediate physical tie-ins may be particularly effective in creating inhibition or a semblance of order for one whose world knows no truth.

Outmoding Postmodernism

In a system where antithesis, thesis and synthesis are no longer relevant, it is no wonder that MIH has even outmoded postmodern subjectivity. This inversion of the truth, though perhaps subconscious, is specific in that its reactions to truth as a property of an object or idea is directly challenged and inverted to appear the opposite of its nature. Therefore in MIH, there is no room for Qt. In other words, it is not that all truths are equal, but that there is no truth at all. This maladaptation often presents itself as the synthesis in Hegel’s dialectical approach. Unfortunately, with an underlying enlightenment-humanism as its foundation, it lacks the critical fortitude to withstand the requirements of a practical everyday worldview. Christianity needs a core that is larger than human reason. In point of fact, both Marx and Darwin were able to draw decidedly unchristian applications from this dialectical approach. As time moves forward, more MIH lends to more improper synthesis. Sexuality, for instance, has heterosexuality being perceived as the thesis, where homosexuality (especially in view of the church) is viewed as the antithesis. The maladaptive inverted hermeneutic has started to create a new synthesis, that there is no sexuality at all except what one experiences. One might call this asexual(complete lack of sexuality) by one extreme where another might call this pansexual(complete lack of sexual boundaries) by another. The natural outworking of postmodern subjectivity and its philosophical humanistic counterpart is that they eventually outmode themselves by removing the need for any authoritative truth due to the presence of a wholly impotent qualia of truth.

Today’s MIH in western society

In the early 2000’s, we can already see the presence of a popular and cultural mass maladaptive inverted hermeneutic. The phenomenon of popular culture through the medium of the internet makes it possible for instant transmission, reception and even to some degree production(though often without a physical product). This creates the perfect ingredients for MIH to exist as the lack of the need for an institution to transmit information removes the captive audience to conventional reception of information and the presence of immediate realization in art combine to make high critique an outmoded concept. It also mirrors the fact that maladaptive inverted hermeneutics do not allow for the production of any truth, just as the internet and cloud production produce virtual products rather than physical products that have quantitative attributes. Suddenly, through the wonders of technology, the tenacity of voice is more important than the quality of that voice. Herein lies the key for MIH, in that philosophically, MIH is at its best a mechanism of survival. Thusly, the institutions, which have been able to survive on the laurels of a closed system of fame as the titans of information, have become no match for the hungry and deprived, starving and feral nature of the maladaptive inverted hermeneutic. The maladaptive will outlast, without any substantial threat, an institution which is resting, fat and lazy on the laurels of its own impressive achievements. The virtual environment, with its instantaneous method of information disbursement and degradation of high critique has not only given MIH a voice, but it has also popularized it. This is largely due to the ease, speed, saturation and uniqueness of the popular voice of MIH. Every proponent of MIH is a dynamic survivor and everything he says is ultimately present solely for its help within his own philosophy to help him survive. This is in sharp contrast to the self-righteous rhetoric of conventional wisdom which has been passed down from generation to generation with the exact same intonation and words each time. Adding technology as a platform, it is not difficult to infer how the ethic of working hard to survive is replaced by the ease of digital computation, the ethic of relational maintenance through personal investment and hospitality is replaced by the standard of social networking, a coded way of reductionalizing relationships into a series of likes, posts and tweets. It is an incredibly telling truth that unfriending someone on a social network is akin to defriending someone in the “real’ world. Across the board there is replacement of Qe=Qt to Qe=t or at its best Qe>Qt. This is true in the most extreme ways on a macroscale as well as on a microscale.

 A stark example of the large scale MIH already present is the way in which information itself is viewed. Information used to be a means to be productive, and was passed in such a way to make that transfer conducive to productivity. In the early 2000’s, the education system, the main vehicle by which information secured transmission and reception, is still thought to be the main means by which productivity is accomplished. Information is power and information is found in schools. Schools give you the information you need to be productive. However, productivity was judged by a product. This was a measurable object or resource that re-contributed to society’s melting pot of information. This was a measurable quantitative product which determined status and income. In other words, it had value. However, technology has allowed us to produce a macro-soft productivity wherein there is no actual physical product. A song produced by an artist is released from its measurable form once it achieves digital distribution and its value becomes immeasurable and largely uncontainable(attempts to measure and contain it notwithstanding). Therefore, music piracy in philosophy becomes, by example, the releasing of the value of information and product. In short, at one point, we worked for quantitative and measurable values. This has all been changed by technology which unleashes the ability to work for qualitative and immeasurable values. Value is being equalized by technology into a state of qualitativeness. This is a rather large example of a form of institutionalized maladaptive inverted hermeneutic. On its surface and on a microscale, this may seem a minor argument with no bearing on the overall reality unfolding, but on a macro level it means that products have no value and therefore the quality of expression is becoming an increasingly mute point. In a world where a high schooler’s blog is reasonably seen as the same quantitatively as his teacher’s, there are alarming implications. Especially when his teacher and himself reside below the line of despair and at their base level believe in nothing and subconsciously work against truth. If allowed to persist, the nature of maladaptive inverted hermeneutics is ultimately destructive and its presence is already present and even accelerated by technology.

Who are we

Whether we as a universal humankind are fully in a state of MIH is debateable. However, biblically speaking, the fact that this time is coming to the world and the church is not. This time is marked by a complete inversive understanding of value which in turn lacks authority but has lasting and incredibly damaging implications. The Bible alludes to a coming apostasy within the church. It does so with the knowledge that the world’s philosophical economy is already maligned as active participants in the demonic patronage of Satan. The nature of apostasy is not merely the implication of a church which is deceived but rather a charge which claims to be for God but is actually operating in the polar opposite capacity. At its base level, this is a textbook inverted hermeneutic. 

What we have done

The churches typical reaction to this coming apostasy is to institutionalize passion for God. To put it simply, the church finds methods of sharing the gospel that address the public through the already established methods present. This is unsurprising as the church’s history is founded in Judaism which at its first premise held a relational distance from those surrounding it. In order to enter Jewish culture, you had to assume its attributes. We also know that imposition of the philosophical modernism was struggled with from the church’s inception as early as Peter and the Judaizers. But is this method effective? By the time of Christ, the method of Jewish qualia of truth had already begun to destroy itself. The Jewish government was ripe with corruption, even in the more progressive Pharisees, leading it to buy witnesses against Jesus. From the modernist progressive interpretation of the Pharisees came a decidedly post modern answer to their problem of Jesus. As leading authorities in their time, they had both power and money and had established for themselves a good deal of fame by the time Jesus came into the picture. Jesus presented a challenge to this. But why were they so eager to kill him? If Jesus was meeting the Jewish leaders on the level of philosophical modernism, his approach should have been acceptable and profitable for them. The Jewish Messiah would have an invaluable market value. He could have been their puppet, or at very least, they could have ridden his coattails to an even higher level of fame. As God’s chosen people, and the heads of God’s chosen people, the coming of a messiah would have brought them even more power. But Christ clearly had a different idea. Christ would consistently challenge every convention they had, to the point of their exhaustion, until they killed him. The religious authority, once born out of the progression of Moses’ leading had eventually altered into a much different reality. Where once there was progression, there became complacency, and Christ would ultimately push that complacency to a place of no hope. The presence of Christ would force the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees and Sadducees to focus on God or drop below the line of despair. Upon dropping below the line of despair and slipping into a state of panic and subjective interpretations, their method for regaining their presence above this line was to create a maladaptive inverted hermeneutic. They would confidently tear their clothes and cry blasphemy at the idea that Jesus was the Messiah. This is because their view was completely reversed and Jesus of Nazareth had become the devil to them. What had Jesus done to insight such disdain?

God and refraction

The Bible states time and time again that God uses things which men find to be wise to make fools of them. In the principle of refraction, light is taken through a lense, bent and either focused or dispersed in order to create a desired image. This same principle is used in telescopes in order to see long distances as well as in glasses in order to correct vision which is blurry. God has proven to use a similar tactic when meeting those who would consider themselves to be wise in the extreme. His tactic is simply to, philosophically, refract their arguments to either focus them or make them philosophically blurry. He does this best and specifically in the very personhood of Christ, who in his very earthly presence is an affront to the qualia of experience. For God, a virgin can give birth. A bush can light on fire without being burned. A man who is dead can raise from the dead. Water can be walked upon. Spilling of blood gives life. A mortal can live eternally. Repeatedly, we see universally throughout scripture a particular method of revelation wherein God chooses to invert the convention of perceived reality. This inversion ultimately returns mankind back to a proper philosophical view. One which is coherent, powerful, adequate and meaningful in his practical world.

an Inverted Apologetic

Rather than approach mankind on the terms of his conventional wisdom, we see God approach mankind with an inversed rationale from his own debased mind. This however has rarely been the case of the church or its cousins the jews. The church has fought for a philosophically modern apologetic attitude which paints Christ as the establisher of God’s kingdom within a decidedly Christian framework. that is to say that the church as a first principle goes back to its jewish roots in establishing as a first principle ideologies which exist at their base above the line of despair. To understand this, you must first understand soteriology and the Jews unique understanding of God. To put it simply, the Jews believe that they are innately connected to God. Their need for a messiah for salvation is not the same as a decidedly western view of salvation. By nature of having God as an inseparable first principle, who provides for all needs and claims ownership, the Jewish nation can never truly achieve a maladaptive inverted hermeneutic as they cannot truly fall below the line of despair.

There is of course one caveat to this in the presence of the outright rejection of that God and the replacement of that God for their own personal godhood. For the normal jew, not only would this not be a real concern but it would be outside of their frame of reference as the presence of God was insured regularly through safeguards in culture laid in place by moses. However, by the time of Jesus, there had not been a prophet for around four hundred years and the Jews had undergone much oppression. Though the everyday Jew would still turn to God in their time of need through the religious authorities, who would the religious authorities turn to? This need to balance the power equation and needs of the people cast an incredible weight on the Jewish leaders which eventually led them to compromise their faith in God and to conspire with the authorities of the land. Essentially, they dropped their nationalistic/modernist pro-God movement for a more postmodern survivalist mentality. The presence of Jesus among them, and a lack of allegiance to him forced them to choose between maladaptive inversion rather than self loathing or sacrifice. 

Less than a hundred years after Christ had risen, the church was already facing similar issues within its government and within three hundred years of his resurrection would already be turned into several different factions at war with each other on the issue of political powers, distributions of lands, funds and doctrines. These things would continue to ale the church through divisions, schisms, blood feuds and all out wars. Where once Christians showed the truth of who Christ was by the method of meaningful and Godly love, it became the pattern to show who he was by his power. Rather than take the methodology of God in revelation and as Christ in manifestation by altering their perception of truth, the church continues to this day to establish a machine which benefits those that sit at its top. Christ, however, used an inverted apologetic on humanity. A methodology which at its heart was so simple as to make him the start of a revolution he never actually started, but had always aimed to bring about. 

A Modest Conclusion

If the Visible Church is to follow in Christ’s footsteps, it needs to give the world an authoritative uniqueness in regard to the truth. It has to regain the boldness of the early martyrs and apologists who boldly proclaimed Christ as The Truth for all, without allowing their fears of public shaming, loss of status or imminent death sway them. Methods of following Christ which replace God’s revelation with humanistic prime narratives ultimately erode with enough pressure. The stories of too many sincere Christians have ended with their intentions ultimately being destroyed by their method’s lack of ability to produce a distinct and compelling Christ-led narrative for a non-believer to follow. Psychology, Sociology and even Theology can be powerful tools in teaching who God is, but they are all theoretical when weighed against the standards which God set for apologizing his gospel message. The scriptures teach us to disciple each other through our Christian hope, which is ultimately a sharing of how God set himself apart as Holy and worthy of the praise of mankind, culminating in our overall salvation from our sins. It is precisely this holiness which is missing from the narrative of so many churches and would be apologists. God, through subjective humanistic rationalization has become holy, only as a matter of method, and not essence. The truth of his holiness can, no longer, reasonably be understood as The Truth. His innate essential holiness has been reduced to the feeling that comes from being in his presence and being made in his image. This has diminished God to less than he is. For someone who only views God as holy due to the feeling he perceives, God is no different than that person’s perceptions. Man becomes the eye by which God comes into focus and revelation is left out of any substantial understanding of God’s character. With such a cavalcade of different perceptions in the sea of diverse human beings, the idea of God and the holiness of his character become marginalized to one voice amongst the masses. Man cannot be a starting point for our testimony. He is to small. Our apologetic method cannot be rooted in humanistic and pagan methods. Our Apologetic method must be rooted in God’s revelation, through Scripture. It must be distinctly set apart to reflect God’s holiness. When God wished to show man that he was unique to his people, he inverted the method by which they proclaimed truth. God’s truths are found in a blazing bush that doesn’t burn, in an ark that couldn’t hold an infinite being, on a criminal’s cross that gives life. As we seek to testify to what we have learned from and about him, let us build Method’s which call truth seekers to listen for a small voice amongst a crowded room, fisher’s to catch men instead of fish and for those to gain their lives by actively losing them. As the world has hated the truth and inverted it for their purpose, let our apologetic be an inversion of what men find to be wise so that they may find our God.

Works Cited

“Anatta – Wikipedia.” N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought, Volume 1: From the Beginnings to the Council of Chalcedon. Nashville: Abingdon, 1970. Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought, Volume 3: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century. Nashville: Abingdon, 1975. Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought, Volume II: From Augustine to the Eve of the Reformation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971. Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L. Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation. Harper Collins, 2010. Print.

“Hermeneutics.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 08 July 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.

Linnebo, Øystein. “Platonism in the Philosophy of Mathematics.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 01 July 2017.

McDowell, Josh, and Bill Wilson. A Ready Defense: Over 60 Vital “lines of Defense” for Christianity. San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life of Campus Crusade for Christ, 1990. Print.

Papalia, Diane E., Sally Wendkos Olds, and Ruth Duskin Feldman. Human Development. McGraw-Hill Humanities, Social Sciences & World Languages, 2007. Print.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print.

“Refraction – Wikipedia.” N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

Schaeffer, Francis A. (Francis August). The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian WorldView: Volume 1: A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture. Westchester: Crossway, 1985. Print.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. Print.
Tye, Michael. “Qualia.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 20 Aug. 1997. Web. 01 July 2017.

THE BIBLE AS REVELATION

Why a postmodern Christian should know his Bible

A Postmodern language for absolute terms

The Bible has always been a work of great contention. Whether belief in the Bible’s historicity, or surety of the Bible’s claim to infallibility, believing in the Bible is a complex task. As Christians, it is a foundational task to our faith. The descriptions of God’s interactions with men over space and time have been foundational to that very faith. These stories have served to create a narrative understanding of the personality of the Judeo Christian God. To this end, countless cultures have embraced, accosted and sometimes pillaged the Holy Scriptures to be a defining aspect of their cultures. 

This is easily demonstrated in postmodern America, where the Bible serves as a social narrative in Christianity, but with many varying interpretations of that narrative, resulting in countless denominations and quasi-religions. Indeed, many Christians claim to include belief in the Bible as a pillar of their faiths but seem to lack a definitive understanding of that inspired work, or a drive to include understanding it into their everyday lives. In this way, the Bible seems to be the constant New Year’s Resolution. For a book so widely sold, it is a wonder that it is also so unattended to by those who claim it’s authority.

Nevertheless, the Bible remains a work of authority in the Christian faith, even if by fame alone. This is due to it’s clear message of salvation for a broken humanity, an outline of the plan to make this salvation attainable and an introduction to the architect of mankind, and his salvation, Yahweh. Through the Bible, and it’s easy to understand message, countless people have come to put their faith in Jesus, have made radically positive changes in their lives and passed those changes onto the world. As with all powerful tools for change, men will distort and destroy with that tool what they can, despite this, the shear perpetual force for positive change found within Scripture is undeniable and invaluable.

It is in this light that we ask how such a tool became so underutilized in a society that so clearly speaks the praises of it. How did it come to be that everyone bought the Bible, but so few have bought into it? As Christians what is our responsibility to this book and how is life affected by our lack of commitment to a relationship with it? 

An Enlightened man finds his answers within

If DesCartes were told that his works might outmode the Bible, he might have laughed. DesCartes was a Christian. He believed in the Bible. He believed in its authority in his life and believed that God could be proven. He believed that the ultimate proof of God lie in his own ability to disprove his own rational self and this sturdiness of surety gave him the springboard necessary to prove the rest of the natural world. It was on the basis of his axiom, “I think therefore I am,” that his Cartesian rationalism was developed. Science benefitted greatly from his legacy.

Yet, years later, philosophy often credits him as being a father of The Enlightenment era. This era, which employed DesCartes’ Cartesian Rationalism, was categorized by an extreme cynicism or doubt. This system eventually detached itself from the biblical core of a sincere knowledge, that the God of creation was knowable, and within two hundred years was being touted by men who denied the existence of that very god. Baron Von Holbach, a well known atheist, expressed his Enlightenment ideals thusly, 

“Let us endeavor to disperse those clouds of ignorance, those mists of darkness, which impede Man on his journey, … which prevent him marching through life with a firm and steady step. Let us try to inspire him … with respect for his own reason — with an inextinguishable love of truth … so that he may learn to know himself … and no longer be duped by an imagination that has been led astray by authority … so that he may learn to base his morals on his own nature, on his own wants, on the real advantage of society … so that he may learn to pursue his true happiness, by promoting that of others … in short, so that he may become a virtuous and rational being, who cannot fail to become happy.”

Upon reading this conclusion by Von Holbach, it could be easily concluded that the Christian God has lost his place in a love of Truth, the morals of one’s nature, and one’s true happiness. How did such a paradigm shift take place?

Something Missing

DesCartes, along with other well meaning and devout Christians had removed an essential element to belief in God, while seeking to bolster that very belief. What they had inadvertently removed was a recognition that universal truth is something men must have help to know. The idea of deep universal truth as unknowable was at the heart of DesCartes’ development of Cartesian Rationalism. While devout Christian philosophers that came before him, like Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great extolled the virtues of nature, by appealing to the senses, DesCartes felt the need for something more. He could not reason past his own doubts about what he perceived. The outcome would be that knowledge of the world comes from a knowledge of oneself. Self, for DesCartes is the lense by which all truth is viewed since self cannot be doubted. As stated earlier, DesCartes assumed a relationship between self and God, presupposing that the idea of one’s self can only be derivative of God. Unfortunately, because doubt was the base philosophy, rather than a personal God, many who came after him did not. 

Removing the glasses

As the world progressed, Christianity became a relegated truth. The Bible which was understood to be a book of pure revelation from the creator of the universe, became only that when viewed from a specific and antiquated lense. As society moved toward placing self as the lense by which to view the world around it, the lense by which revelation is viewed became murkier and murkier. Indeed, in this day the Bible is often no longer viewed as a work of inspiration at the hands of an almighty and personal being, but often as a mere fancy of man’s creation. It is, at best, nothing more than a mechanism produced by men to alleviate their fear of the unknown. Where Paul claims to Timothy that:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

The Men of Science and reason make claims to each other that:

“…the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries”

Of Men or God?

When the Bible is known as the work of men, it can certainly not be known as the divine work of God. Paul spoke of this when he called the belief in Jesus “foolishness” if Christ’s resurrection did not occur in real space and time. To Paul, the Scriptures had a bigger importance than their effect on today. They redefined our pasts and shaped our future’s in not one life, but two: This life and the next. But when the Bible was divorced from revelation and became the work of men, it lost its authority to shape the life of men. This is not to say that the Bible lost its power. Vishnal Mangalwadi in “The Book That Made Your World,” states it well,

“The Bible created the modern world of science and learning because it gave us the Creator’s vision of what reality is all about. That is what made the modern West a reading and thinking civilization. Postmodern people see little point in reading books that do not contribute directly to their career or pleasure. This is a logical outcome of atheism, which has now realized that the human mind cannot possibly know what is true and right.”

Despite its power to shape lives and culture, because the Bible is now seen as a work of man, it has become a book that struggles to find its voice above other works of men. Never before had the sacred scriptures had to vie for a place on one’s proverbial bookshelf. Its status in years past was a guarantee. This is attested to by a well known fact of antiquity that Bible’s used to be chained to pulpit’s in the middle ages to keep them from being stolen. The Bible was the definitive voice on the knowledge of the physical and metaphysical. But, as a work of fiction in the minds of the post enlightened, the value of the Bible would soon be taken for granted. This is because for the first time in antiquity, the Bible had to be chosen. For it to be chosen, it had to be lifted beyond the realm of a literary work back into the framework it was presented in… as the very word of God. This is still waiting to happen.

How Christians view the Bible

Instead, Western Americanized Christianity has chosen to allow for the Bible to remain primarily a literary work. This too, is a natural outworking of post enlightenment thinking. For Christians who are born into this ontology, it is unsurprising that the Bible is sacred but without power. Instead, the Christian is left to find a place for the Bible amidst the cacophony of varying barkers in his life. Even if the Bible manages to come off a store shelf and into one’s home, placing its words and ideas out of the pages and into one’s heart is an even harder task. Even if a Christian is able to place the ideas in his heart, he has to peel back the filters with which he has come to look at his very being before he can begin to interpret those ideas into a meaningful application. Attempting to share those ideas and applications with a person who drastically needs that precious revelation is even more daunting. To convince a Christian that he should read his Bible as revelation is a herculean task in this light.

A Postmodern Argument

There are many arguments that one could make from a postmodern vantage to a inspire a Christian to read his Bible. Here are a few:

  1. The Bible is a story about us and God. To not know this story is to be ignorant of ourselves.
  2. The Bible has had incredible effects on any civilization that sought to employ it’s wisdoms. To not explore what it offers is to waste it as a resource.
  3. The Bible is the analog to today’s digital. It is the vinyl to today’s streaming. To know the Bible is to hear the authentic voice of the past.
  4. The Bible is the source work for the faith we have. To live as a Christian without knowing the source is to be fake and to have a poser/meta-faith.

However, arguments such as these, true as they may be, fail to communicate one simple, but important truth about the Bible; that it is a work of revelation. Without that fact in the argument, reading the Holy Scriptures is simply uncompelling when it stands against easier and more accessible, and quite frankly, less judgemental works. A rational person can reason away these arguments as relegated, non compelling or even archaic and cliche. Quite frankly, they would be right to. 

The Bible Demands an Audience

The Bible doesn’t want to be read this way. Every book within is written with an expectation that the reader view it as revealing a truth once unknown, or shedding light on a truth previously revealed. Scripture is to be read, by its own telling, as the breath of God. It is, by its own testimony, a work of nonfiction. To support this, where it speaks as a historical narrative, it gives real dates, times and facts by which its audience can check its veracity and it calls its audience to do so. For instance, the Bible calls for a Prophet who is wrong or out of line with previous prophecies to be murdered by the whole community. Yet many Christian leaders today have a less than stalwart view of the Bible as historically accurate and actionable in its message to, even, Christian congregations. The concept of revelation is left unaddressed as the banner of non-believing critical scholarship is taken up in increasingly insecure statements which present the Bible as ultimately a work of man. Questions about biblical inerrancy are raised and biblical transmission is called into question. The intent of the authors of the Scripture is seen as unknowable and his mindset is dismissed as unimportant. In this way, proper exegesis has all but ceased to exist. Scripture has become a work of culture rather than of God. This is a bastardization of the Cartesian Rationale applied to Scripture. It states that we cannot prove revelation, therefore revelation cannot be assumed. Mangalwadi speaks of the short sightedness of such arguments

“Some friends maintained that the Bible could not be God’s book because it was the product of a particular human culture. Each of the Bible’s books bears the imprint of its human authors. Paul’s language, vocabulary, and argument are different from John’s. This argument seemed convincing until I paused to look at a lotus flower in our garden. It was gorgeous. It clearly depended on chemistry and climate. It was chemistry. It was also vulnerable to insects and humans. But could it also be God’s handiwork? Each of us wrote what our professors revealed. My notes were different from my friend’s notes, just as each lotus was different from the others. Yet what my friends and I wrote were words and thoughts from the same professor. Why couldn’t words bearing signatures of several authors be the words of one God.”

To ease the Postmodern mind, one can dive into the study of Scriptural Critique. Because the Bible is a relegated work that does not provide leisure or money for the Postmodern Christian, most will not. In this vein, the Bible can retain a semblance of its status as a foregone conclusion and available guide in the theological life of believers. To do this, it must simply pivot from a work of revelation to a personally inspiring work. Many have tried to force the Bible to do just that. For them, the Bible is not a necessity for the day to day ethical practices of those who believe. This inevitably leads to moments where a Christian is called to stand, theologically with the Bible though a postmodern mindset tells him to stand on the basis of self. To marry the two ideologies, he will hold the view that to be a Christian, one must make a Kierkegaardian leap of faith in the Bible’s validity, though it has not “earned” its status as valuable. In a pre-postmodern culture, the sacrifice of Isaac would be seen as an affirming act of revelation. Abraham would have, yet another, chance to prove that his faith in God was justified. However, in a postmodern culture, this would be seen from a wholly different perspective. Abraham would not know the mind of God as revelation. He would instead dread the experience. His obedience to God is an irrational state of mind which he developed in order to maintain his own love for God in the face of a culturally immoral act of murder. American Christians are not generally faced with as nearly substantial a crisis to bear in this day and age, but the choice is the same. 

A Shattered Mind

To follow Scripture with the postmodern mind is to choose to bear the weight of, sometimes, culturally immoral commands. If one holds a postmodern premise, but also subscribes to the Bible, this can be a very difficult state of tension. Christians believe their own nature to be derivative of God, therefore they cannot live without embracing his word. As a postmodernists, they cannot fully embrace his word as having any higher revelation or authority, so instead, they relegate it to the place of irrationality. The Bible becomes a guilty pleasure.  It has become the movie that everyone should see because it will, “change your life.” The informative power of the Scripture over a Christian’s life becomes tangential at best. The Scriptures no longer live and inform one’s life on a daily basis. They are like a good movie, once you have seen it, you have seen it. 

But this doesn’t ease the Postmodern Christian. Instead, it creates inconsistencies in the mindset of the believer which force him to drop into a state of despair. It is simply intellectually dishonest to, “keep quiet and just believe.” A postmodern mind rebels against such a call to hide one’s doubt by looking away. This paradox is the Ouroboros of the enlightened man. The post enlightenment man becomes so divested from revelation that he is forced to find all truth within himself. But since he knows himself to be incapable of finding truth, or doubts his own ability, he must cling to revelation to have any truth. But since he cannot cling to revelation as truth, since he has removed that possibility, he rots away having no truth in revelation or in himself to rely on. His actions become meaningless gestures with endless interpretations and no true value. His sincere love for God or self is now irrational at best. The Bible speaks of this process clearly,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts. Although they claimed to bewise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man…”

Dropping the Scales

Sincere men of God, resonating with the power of his word, but looking at it through a postmodern enlightenment filter, have preached the word triumphantly. There is no denying the power of God’s word to shape cultures and the hearts of men, despite their worst intentions. But still, the love for God’s word as revelation, as actionable and as significantly necessary in the hearts, minds and lives of believers continues to dwindle. This is a truth Paul, Peter and John warned about vehemently in the Epistles. They knew that one day, the true words of God would be mistaken for a lesser version of truth. In this way, those of us who have seen God’s word but mistaken it for a lesser version are not unlike Paul who saw God in Judaism but fought God in Christ. For Paul, it was an undeniable revelation that resequenced his thoughts into admittance that Jesus was God. For Christians who hold the postmodern idea that the Bible is valuable, yet claim that it has no rational power or authority in your lives, is it possible that you are in need of the scales dropping from your eyes as they did from Paul’s?

A Return of Power

The Bible cannot be hid away. If a Christian is to believe in the value of the Bible, a Christian must weigh the value of the Bible without the lense of postmodernity. He must treat the Bible how it demands to be treated and call it categorically true or false. And he must give weight to what he finds. 

Heading to Damascus

Tho Paul committed murder for his beliefs, he can be admired for the zeal with which he pursued the new Christian religion. It was on the road to Damascus, where he had intel of a Christian cell, and it was here that God intervened in his life to show him the truth. For Paul, the truth that he met on the Damascus road was, by his human power, inevitable. Paul was primed to see the truth, because he was willing to pursue it at all costs. But it was God who reached into history, on that road, to give Paul what he had been looking for. God had to directly interact with Paul for him to recognize what he was seeing as Truth. It is a sad reality that many Christians still wait for God to reveal his truths to them, as if God has not already spoken. This is not because God is not listening, or is not there. Unfortunately, though the truth has already been revealed to Christians and neatly packaged in the Bible, many Christians are simply uninterested in the authoritative truth that the Bible gives. Unlike Paul, they are unprimed for an encounter with any truth. They do not understand it philosophically, though they believe in it morally. Instead, they confidently believe that they have all they need to interpret any truth that presents itself, without a revelation from God. When truth comes before them, they would not even acknowledge its presence, let alone seek to understand it. Mangalwadi states it like this:

“They presumed that because we have eyes, we can see for ourselves without nonhuman aid. Our eyes are indeed as wonderful as our intellect. But to see, eyes need light. Why would eyes even exist if light did not? If intellect cannot know truth, perhaps it needs the light of revelation. In fact, intellect can know nothing without revelation.** It seemed to me that the intellect’s existence required prior existence of revelation and communication. To a priori rule out revelation was putting confidence in eyes while excluding light…”

Understanding the Bible first means understanding that you are not equipped to understand the Bible without using the tools contained within it. Even someone as trained as Paul needed a revelation to place his training in order. Even after this, he had to contemplate all that he had come to know, heading off into seclusion to study. Revelation is present, but it is only appreciated by those who open their ears to hear it. 

Be Not Just Hearers

Though the Bible is present and speaking to those around, even those who accept its message have a hard time listening to it. What should be done? As a doctor becomes defined by his calling, so must a Christian become defined by the calling of the word of God. But this cannot be done by simply admiring the Scriptures. A doctor becomes worthy of his calling by discipline, accountability and immersion in his field. As lives hang in the balance under his care, he does not have the luxury to view his medical books as a literary work with a special place in his heart. If, as a Christian, you hold that God is the creator of the universe and therefore the personal and infinite sustainer of all life, than you must treat your calling with similar bravado. 

Many Christians preach the Bible without such boldness. Labeling it as a precious treasure, they sincerely beg young believers and non believers to hold their own Bible’s in such esteem. But when it comes time to practice the methods of the Bible, or to call upon its sage wisdom, that Christian would rather call to the gods of culture for advice or salvation. Christians would rather go to Facebook or Instagram than go to their Bible for advice. In their defense, they have not been taught better. To read the Bible properly is to enrich the lives of Believer’s with every principle that one needs to battle every sort of crippling issue life might throw at the Believer. 

Man Cannot Live By Rules Alone

In reading the Bible this way, we affirm a truth that is central to our Christianity. God communicates. He intends to be understood. He dynamically adjusts himself to our needs while remaining faithful to his character. He is consistent in his message and he intends what is best for us. Without understanding that the Bible is revelation, we are left with nothing but a rule book. This is a particular cruelty in that the Bible states plainly that its rules are ones which cannot ever be perfected. If God has a manual to follow rather than a message to reveal about how we came to be here, than we will eventually outgrow his usefulness. 

For God to be really deserving of being God, his rules have to be a precursor to revealing a deeper truth about his person. And this truth must be capable of fully holding the weight of our moral and cultural selves and keeping us from sinking into despair. Believing that Christianity holds no real revelation but instead is a series of human ideas and, or, that these ideas are influenced not by an intentful relational being but instead by mechanisms of necessity throughout human history, leaves Christianity to be relegated to eventual nothingness at the most, and mysticism at the least. 

When a person understands the nature of Revelation in scripture, they are sealed in the knowledge that God is worthy of that title because he is personal like we are, but more. He has a plan for us that is much bigger than we have imagined for ourselves. He is active in providing for that plan regardless of our inactivity. In the name of relationship, he seeks for our commitment to that plan. He wants us. To be a Christian without understanding Revelation is to claim that you are the child of a machine; that a thing which is lesser than your ability to grow has sustained you. Logically, as you grow, you will have to come to understand that thing is not God or you will be forced to lie to yourself to keep it as God. If Christianity is what it claims to be, than none of these options is healthy. You may love God because he provided for you in your infancy, but in your adulthood, you will betray him rather than betray yourself. And not having an accurate understanding of Revelation has left countless Christians with a faith and a truth that is nothing more than a transitory beauty, filled with empty and powerless words. But with a proper understanding of Revelation at the foundation of Christianity, we can have assurance of a personal relationship with a god that is capable of reasoning along with us.

Come Let Us Reason Together

In the postmodern world, Reason reigns supreme. It is a self governed reason, but it is a form of reason nonetheless. When a Christian reads the Scriptures as divorced from reason, he reads them wrong, no matter the sincerity behind his interpretation. The Bible read in this context creates an unsustainable philosophical minefield for a postmodern thinker. His only choice is to keep it locked and hidden away from his soul, so that he might not accidentally destroy himself while exploring the richness of God’s graces that it guards. To know the Bible becomes debilitating at this point. Without accessing the depth of Scripture, life loses definition. Without definition, life is meaningless. Having the feeling that the answer to life exists in front of you, but sincerely believing that the answer is a lie would be tortuous. For the watching world, it would be foolishness. Mangalwadi again speaks sadly of this truth when he says:

“Now, having amputated the Bible, the Western educational machinery is producing “strays,” lost like Cobain. It can make good robots but it cannot even define a good man. The postmodern university can teach one how to travel to Mars but not how to live in one’s home or nation…”

This is in stark comparison to the biblical work of the Apostle Paul who boldly states:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

With such a tacit difference in ideologies, between the modern biblically amputated Christian and the Apostle Paul, is it any wonder that Christianity produces more strays than it does converts? If our faith is a true faith, then we must allow God to define himself. His word states that it is to be pursued as the useful tool for all things. This is not a sales gimmick, to get one in every household. This is a warning on a battlefield to take special heed as trouble comes our way. A Christian should familiarize himself with the Bible. He should immerse himself in the study of it. He should engrave it upon his heart. But most of all, he should allow it to redefine the way in which he perceives reality. To hold this function back from the Bible is to withhold the impasse for a Christian’s growth and well being. To do anything less is to remove the very reason why a Christian wishes to be saved. That Christian will end up disconnected, disjointed and confused about who God is and subsequently who he is as God’s creation.

Conclusion

If you are a reasonable person, you will presuppose that the Bible is the revealed word of God, before you treasure it as something less. If you believe it is the revealed word of God, than you will familiarize yourself with every sinew of its body so that you may better know who God is. Learn its transmission, its development, its cultures, its history, its effect on the world and its plan for you and me. Prepare yourself to find joy in understanding why the whole of the Bible is the Good News of God. As David alluded, carve God’s word in your heart. If you take on this task, your faith will bring you more enlightenment than your own understanding ever could.

“Best-Selling Book of Non-Fiction.” Guinness World Records. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2017.

Bristow, William. “Enlightenment.” (2010): n. pag. Web. 20 July 2017.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. 10th Anniversary Edition. Random House, 2016. Print.

Geiger, Abigail, and Posts. “5 Facts on How Americans View the Bible and Other Religious Texts.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 14 Apr. 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

González, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century. Abingdon Press, 1987. Print.

—. Story of Christianity: Volume 2: Volume Two: The Reformation to the Present Day. Harper Collins, 1984. Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. Harper Collins, 1984. Print.

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Harper Collins, 1994. Print.

Mangalwadi, Vishal. The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Thomas Nelson Inc, 2012. Print.

Schaeffer, Francis August. A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture. N.p., 1985. Print.

Shelley, Bruce. Church History in Plain Language: Updated 2nd Edition. Thomas Nelson Inc, 1996. Print.Starting Point Small Group Bible Study by Andy Stanley – Session One. N.p., 2015. Film.

DE SOTERIA

A commentary on the institutionalized orthodox doctrine of Restoration by Salvation through Justification by faith/works.

Salvation is one of the most debated concepts of History. Within the institutionalized organized churches of the Protestant movement, and the Church of Rome, the idea of Salvation has evolved into a doctrine of infinitely intricate explanations, and massive ramifications. Within the ancient Jewish scriptures is the basis for this doctrine of Salvation, as developed by the Church. However, the doctrine of Salvation is not succinctly defined within the scriptures themselves. It is the apologists of the following centuries, after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, who began to set down in detail and doctrine what his death and resurrection meant. Within the scriptures, salvation has multiple different implications and different usages. In the New Testament, the word salvation took on a meaning of redemption, but it carries many more ramifications than redemption. The Old Testament portrays salvation as freedom from oppression or slavery. The New Testament further explains the concept of redemption mixed with the Old Testament’s idea of liberation by likening salvation to liberation through ransom. The apostle Paul takes a more “relationship based” approach by likening salvation to a reconciliation of friends after a dispute, and also includes in his definition the state of being at peace with the estranged party. The peace that comes after reconciliation is coupled with a forgiveness of sins. This process is defined as justification, and the party who offended becomes right again in the sight of the offended.

The debate over salvation that took place over the centuries has not been about the presence of these ideas within the scriptures, but rather about the way in which to interpret these ideas. As with most other early church controversies, the apologists were the most prominent on the early scene of debate. Six separate interpretations of the implications of Salvation within scriptures began to arise:

  1. Salvation as illumination (Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, and various early apologists. 90-150 C.E.)
  2. Salvation as Restoration (Irenaeus. Circa 150 C.E.)
  3. Salvation as Satisfaction (Tertullian. Circa 150 C.E.)
  4. Salvation as Victory (Origen. Circa 185-254 C.E.)
  5. Salvation as Deification (Athanasius. 287 C.E.)
  6. Salvation as Justification (Augustine. 354 C.E.)

The last of these became the main thought for the interpretation of the scriptures, with one twist contributed by the famed Martin Luther, but all of these ideas show signs of life within the current doctrine of Salvation. It could be easily said that the Doctrine of Salvation is a melting pot of these six ideas combined over time. It is important to explore all of these implications, if one is to gain a full understanding of the doctrine that they gave birth to.

The first of these ideas is that of Salvation as illumination. The idea of Salvation as illumination is one of idea, not experience. The apologists who developed this idea were interested in the philosophical ideas of Christ as being the Logos (word) of God. They believed that the Word was the vehicle by which God imparted to mankind, the divine knowledge that the philosophers of the day were seeking in Gnosticism. The difference between Salvation as illumination, and Gnosticism is the process of impartation of that illumination. In Gnosticism, the divine knowledge is given to a select amount of people, although all people seek this knowledge. The early apologists, such as Justin Martyr and Clement, were careful to stress that Jesus is this Divine knowledge spoken about in Gnosticism, yet the purpose of Christ clearly shows that the divine knowledge is one that is open to all people.

Though the idea that divine knowledge is opened up to all people through Jesus, according to the apologists, the essential applications of Gnosticism still apply. Because the purpose of knowledge is application that brings us into an eternal knowledge, and thus immortal existence, the salvation that comes from the presence of Christ is dependant upon the action of that knowledge. Therefore, we are waiting upon the summing up of existence into death where we will see God’s love save us because of our knowledge. One of the early apologists who developed this idea was Clement. Clement does not remove the law from grace and faith, but he joins the two so that they are dependant upon one another. The result of this, is a doctrine that supports works as the justification for faith, and thus for a true knowledge of Christ. This doctrine supports the idea of free will, and mankind’s responsibility and ability to choose to know God and the divine gnosis. This is contrary to the more popular Augustinian doctrine that would later develop which emphasizes the inability of man to choose anything but sin, and therefore contradicts Salvation by illumination.

Salvation by illumination is an interesting doctrine that is grown out of a more interesting premise. The premise for salvation by illumination is a response to the ideas of Gnosticism. The Gnostic belief supported the idea that divine knowledge was secret and had to be acquired through secret method. Therefore, salvation by illumination does not address sin, but instead addresses ignorance. Ignorance is the mother of sin for Gnosticism, and so the answer to this plight is knowledge. It is clear that Christ is the answer to the Gnostic problem of ignorance because of the illumination that he provides, but to make Gnosticism’s doctrine of ignorance the basis for Christ is fatal to making Christ the answer for the problem presented by Gnosticism. If the Gnostic belief supports the lack of knowledge as being the cause of man’s sin, and knowledge is openly being given in Christ, then mankind should not need Christ to begin with. The idea that Christ is presenting knowledge of truth to a people that can only receive truth, if given directly by a secret source, supports that mankind should not be able to know who Christ is because Christ is an open source. Christ sums up the Gnostic experience by opening truth up to everyone, but in Gnosticism true knowledge is hidden. Even when that knowledge is revealed, it is revealed in a secretive way. Therefore, for Christ to be the gnosis that all men seek, and hear as being truth, truth itself, as being secretive, must be ill conceived. Calling Christ the secret truth that all men hear, claims that truth is in fact not secretive at all. The natural conclusion is that all men can hear truth, but it is very rarely spoken. To say this is the truth, the Gnostics would have to remove from their thinking the idea that the knowledge they have gained outside of Christ, is of value. The apologists were not seeking to redefine the philosophy of the time, but rather to more define the philosophy. Using Christ as a filter to understand their struggle with sin, by implying that sin comes out of ignorance of the truth is lazy at best. At worst it is a means to shift the blame off of the self, and to intellectualize a problem that has little to do with intelligence. Therefore, Salvation by illumination is not salvation, but in fact, a further blurring of the understanding of the human condition.

Whether the full implications of Salvation by illumination are valid, it should be noted that the reason the apologists have flaws in their logic is not because the idea is flawed. The scriptures are quite clear that Christ presents mankind with an ultimate truth that is so unique that it can only be understood through him. The problem with the idea of Salvation through illumination is that it takes a valid concept and uses it as a platform for destroying sin. The purpose of creating this philosophy is a reactionary one, not for the purpose of a better understanding. Its purpose is to answer the ideas that Gnosticism presents, while still maintaining Gnosticism as being ultimately flawed. To build a concept upon something that is flawed, although useful, is ultimately entropic. The apologists were claiming that Christ was something unique, while claiming that he was better. To put Christ into the position of better is to make him comparable. This idea ultimately undermines the idea of uniqueness. It could be argued that this is a viable means to show his worth to those who do not understand his value yet. This is definitely true, but Christians who claim to understand his value as unique, should not then take for themselves an understanding that is not for the educated, but the uneducated. The apologists were writing mostly to dispel “heresies” from within the church, not from without. Therefore, the approach should not have taken into account the positions of “out of institution” doctrines such as Gnosticism, in their explanations to believers. Likewise, the Christians should not have taken for themselves defense strategies that were devised for “out of Church” doctrines within church politics. To do this undermines the uniqueness of the Gospel within the institution. Salvation by illumination is a result of such misjudgments on the part of the institution.

Salvation by Restoration is a different idea. The idea of Restoration is a development of the theologian Irenaeus. The idea of restoration is a concept that defines the state of mankind as being different than its intended state. Irenaeus believed that Christ’s purpose was to relate to mankind on all levels of human existence. In theorizing this, he gives explanation for the reason that the Messiah was incarnated in the womb, and grew from childhood. The idea that Irenaeus presents is; that on every level, Christ restores humanity to its intended state as an initially created being. This concept gives possible explanation for the heavy usage of the Apostle Paul’s allusion that Christ is the new Adam. Not only is Christ the new Adam to Irenaeus, but also the various icons surrounding Christ’s incarnation are corresponding symbolisms of that fact. The cross is the new tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the Virgin Mary is the new Eve. Christ is the vehicle of Salvation, just as Adam was the vehicle for the “fall.” Christ sums up in his obedience the likeness of God, and thus one man has restored humanity to its state of intention, just as it initially fell. Irenaeus describes this process as being a union of Man and God, where God lowers himself to Man’s level through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Man is then raised up to God’s level by being in his likeness. The purpose of Christ becomes to restore man to the original intended state that he was in, before he had sinned.

The issue of restoration raised by Irenaeus is a valid idea, worth the amount of exploration it was given by the apologist. Restoration to the intended state through the work of Christ on the cross is certainly an idea that is supported by the scriptures. The issue of restoration is about the issue of sin. The idea that sin caused mankind to lose his intended state of created perfection, and thus to be in need of restoration, is an idea that answers the problem of sin. Therefore, the idea of Salvation through Restoration is different from Salvation through Illumination because the latter supports Jesus deity as being before, and not related to sin. Salvation as restoration claims specifically that the purpose of the incarnation was specific to the presence of sin, and the need that it created for restoration. 

The idea of Salvation through Restoration assumes the need for sin creates the purpose for Christ to exist. Restoration is not the only sin-based interpretation given to Salvation by the apologists. The great western theologian Tertullian was a man who’s theology greatly shaped many of the ideas that Orthodox Christianity holds, such as the doctrine of the Trinity. One such idea that has permeated the Orthodox institution is that of Salvation as Satisfaction. 

Salvation as Satisfaction is the idea that a standard must be met for restoration to occur due to the separation created by sin. According to the writings of Tertullian, good deeds acquire merit, but bad deeds require satisfaction. The death of Christ on the cross is seen as an act of goodwill on Mankind’s behalf. This is the peace offering that opens the door, through reconciliation, for satisfaction. Tertullian’s God is one who has accepted that a relationship should be maintained, but must be satisfied that the offender is genuine about his want for reconciliation. Thus humiliation of the self, through exultation of God, is encouraged. With this said, it is not merely enough to accept Christ, but it is necessary to be baptized as a furtherance of reconciliation. If one does not perform this sign, he is not willing to satisfy the standards of God, and is not reconciled. Once baptized, the offender may discharge his previous offenses by sacrifices of action, and even money. The sorrow that is gained from this is said to show God the sorrow that man feels for his sinful ways, and God will one day forgive them. 

Tertullian’s idea of God is interesting, but more closely resembles the pagan God’s of Rome and Greece, than he does the God of Abraham, and Moses, summed up in Jesus. The idea of satisfaction is not presented within the scriptures. The sacrifices found within the Old Testament were not a means of satisfying God’s wrath as they have come to be understood. The Mosaic covenant did not support a need for restoration with YWHW; instead it maintained a relationship through the proof presented by blood sacrifice. Satisfaction through blood sacrifice was never achieved by Mankind’s ritualistic form of law. God himself declared that these sacrifices meant nothing to him, and that he would much rather be merciful than punish man for his sins. The stark difference between the God presented by Tertullian, and the God presented by Jesus is one of Mercy. Jesus’ incarnation presented the idea that God was with man; his name Immanuel clearly presents this. Jesus openly forgave man of their sins because of their faith, without their sacrifice. His decree to these people was not to make a second repentance by living in constant sorrow for their past sins. His decree was simply to, “Go and sin no more.” The Father who agrees with Jesus by virtue of their Triune nature within the God head would be in agreement with the sentiment of Christ on the cross to, “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Tertullian was one of the founding Fathers of the Trinitarian doctrine, but he seems to forget that the ways of the Son are the ways of his Father. Thusly, because Jesus did not require a sacrifice for sin, in order to be in communion with mankind, and thus to forgive them, neither would God his Father. Therefore Salvation as a means to satisfy the just anger of the Father is an idea that denies the nature of God found in the incarnation of Jesus. 

This doctrine has been the forbearer of various permutations, such as penance in Roman Catholicism, and the need to satisfy God’s righteous standard found within modern Protestant Orthodoxy, specifically in the doctrine of sanctification. The doctrine of Salvation as Satisfaction is different than Salvation as Restoration because it places more of an emphasis on mankind’s need for good deeds than Salvation as Restoration. However, although their implications are essentially different, they both stem from the same root. Both ideas present Christ as being present due to the nature of man as sinful. The idea of Salvation as Restoration opened the doorway for Salvation as Satisfaction. Salvation as Satisfaction has opened up the doorway for several ideas to be presented. Among these are the Roman Catholic doctrines of penitence, and purgatory, and the Protestant concepts of God’s Wrath and vengeance. The rise of a need for Salvation as both Restoration, and then Satisfaction continued to be picked up by other Philosopher/Theologians. 

Origen, a student of Clement, believed that the ability of Christ to restore humanity to the Father, and give us a way to work through our Salvation through Satisfaction, proclaimed Jesus as a victor. He likened Jesus’ act of restoration, as an act of Ransom. According to Origen, Jesus gave himself to the Devil, who owns all sinful souls, as an exchange for the souls of mankind. Once Jesus was taken by the Devil, the Devil found that he could not hold him, because in him there was no sin, and Hell can only hold those who are sinful. It is in this way that Jesus was able to restore mankind to God, and open up the doorway for a satisfaction of God’s righteous standard. Origen likens Jesus to a warrior protecting his friends. Because death cannot defeat Christ, anyone who stands with Christ will be under his protection, although his or her sinful souls would naturally belong in Hell.

Athanasius, who was famous for dealing with the Arian controversy that created the Council of Nicaea (although he was not actually there.), as well as Clement, and Irenaeus also worked on another sin based idea called Salvation as Deification. The idea of Salvation as Deification has to do with man’s renewal and restoration to the intended state of perfection he was at during Eden. The term describes not only the act of restoration, but also the process of becoming immortal, perfect, and finally satisfactory to the Father. Clement sums up this idea by stating that, “the Logos of God had become man so that you might learn from a man how a man may become God.” The idea of Salvation as deification is an idea that practically applies the concept of Salvation as Victory. Its scriptural support is found in numerous places in the scriptures. Probably the most notable of these passages is Psalms 82:6 which states that, “You are gods, sons of the most high, all of you.” It should be noted that this passage is often used by various pseudo Christian cults, such as the Latter Day Saints, in order to support an idea of becoming (G)ods, although the passage actually reads, (g)ods. The Apostle Paul repeatedly emphasizes the idea of partaking in Christ’s holiness. This concept is not a new one, although it is very well embedded and quiet within Orthodox views of Christianity. This concept of Salvation as Deification, and the process that it supports helped give way to other such doctrines of progressive deification, most notably is the Doctrine of Sanctification which almost verbatim describes the process of restoration which Christ as Victor made possible through Salvation, and the ability to satisfy God’s standards ultimately ending in a sort of deification. The relationship, and progression of these ideas is obvious and inseparable. Although Salvation as Deification doesn’t stress its own origin in sin, it tackles its origin by emphasizing man’s potential to overcome sin and one day be restored; satisfying God’s standard, and being victorious over sin.

Some two hundred years of philosophy and politics brought about the doctrine of Salvation as Justification. Augustine, who would develop the most practical example of the Trinity, and champion the causes of the Roman Catholic Church, was the proprietor of the doctrine. Within his writings, we find allusions to the previous four concepts of Salvation, as well as the current platform from which Salvation is approached. This platform is an outright attack on the concepts of current theology of the day, as well as early Church theology found within the doctrine of Salvation as Illumination. For Augustine, the incarnation was specifically related to sin, and the need for restoration and, satisfaction, through victory, for the purpose of deification. Augustine proclaims that justification and deification are essentially the same, since it is justification, which allows the sinful to become the Children of God. He states that, “That if man had not sinned, the Son of God would not have come.” The current theological debate against his summation of the four previous ideas in Justification was called Pelagianism. The proprietor of this belief, Pelagius, believed that Man was free to choose God. In essence, Pelagianism was a logical conclusion to the idea of Salvation as Illumination as a response to the Gnostics. Instead of Man being enslaved by sin and therefore incapable of doing what is right, the Grace of God, which is inherent in the incarnation of Mankind and is evidenced through Jesus’ incarnation, gives man the help he needs to activate his freewill toward doing what is right. Therefore, “faith in the first instance is reckoned as righteousness for this reason, that (a person) is absolved as to the past, justified as to the present, and prepared for the future works of faith. Pelagius differed with Augustine on the same point as the four previous ideas of Salvation disagree with Salvation as illumination. The issue was the idea of Original Sin.

Found within the writings of Tertullian, the same Theologian to give us a better understanding of the Trinity, and the idea of Salvation as Satisfaction, is a concept called Transducianism. This concept is simply the affirmation that the soul of the father is transmitted sexually to his offspring. The ramifications of this concept bring all of man into Adam’s Original Sin. Therefore, Augustine’s view of mankind’s entropic condition is a direct response to the theology of Salvation as Satisfaction, which is based upon Transducianism. In the mind of Augustine, all of mankind participated in the sin of Adam because all of Mankind has Adam’s soul. This became the main focal point for Augustine’s justification of the Doctrine of Original sin, and Salvation as Justification. Augustine believed in the idea that humans are incapable of enacting their freewill without sinning. Augustine was intent on proving that Grace is not merely an aesthetic to the presence of creation, but an essential act of God within creation, a creation that has sinned. He was worried that Pelagius’ idea of sin as being the sum of a single action and the ability of man to choose to avoid this action would leave man without a need for God. 

According to Augustine, Grace is activated by God first and it is prevenient. Grace “predisposes a man before he will, to prompt his willing. It follows the act of willing, lest one’s will be frustrated.” This means that Grace is God making a suggestion, or programming man’s will to respond a certain way, although the actual event of choosing is open for the personal decision of the individual. Justification is the act of this will choosing to do what the Father wills through the prompting of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Augustine’s understanding of Justification is, once again, almost synonymous with Tertullian’s idea of Salvation as Satisfaction. The moment of Justification is not the acceptance of the truth, but the action of Baptism, which symbolizes that acceptance.

Augustine had four separate types of Grace:

  1. Prevenient Grace: Grace that begins the act of Salvation without being prompted by the actions of humanity.
  2. Accompanying Grace: The continuing presence of God within the life of those who believe.
  3. Sufficient Grace: The Grace in the Garden of Eden, of which Adam was in possession of before the “fall.”
  4. Efficient Grace: The Grace that enables God’s people to be productive for God.

The ideas of Augustine on the subject of Justification through Grace led him to the conclusion that God’s grace is always present and capable, and therefore will overcome everything. Since not everything is overcome by his Grace, Augustine conjectured that God’s grace is intentfully willed, and divided amongst those who he chose. Therefore, those who are saved, are saved specifically because God chose for them to be saved, and those who are not, were not chosen out of intent.

Augustine’s extreme conclusion based upon the ideas set forth by the four apologists before him, and his own understanding of scripture drew much controversy. Many people accepted some of his writings, and some of Pelagius’ writings. Eventually in 529 C.E., The Synod of Orange tipped the scales in favor of Augustine by condemning even semi-Pelagian views, while at the same time remaining silent on Augustinian extremes like predestination. The Synod of Orange affirmed that the fall of Adam was the fall of all human kind through original sin and Transducianism. The Synod approved the concept that Grace precedes justification in total; that due to sin, free will in itself cannot lead one to be baptized; and that grace is favor, which is unmerited and fully necessary for avoiding evil, and doing what is good.

The Synod of Orange did not close discussion on the issues summed up by Pelagius, and Augustine. It did however provide a platform from which the Institution could create Orthodoxy. Outside of Orthodoxy, controversy raged on. At the center of the issues was the question of what really happened at the “fall. “Did all men fall in Adam? Are we truly separated from God? Pelagius did not recognize the power of Sin, where as Augustine followed the suit of his apologist philosophers and emphasized it. The one thing that all six different belief systems held in common was the presence of works, which justified Grace. 

Enter Martin Luther. Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation due to an error he found in the idea that righteousness and salvation are maintained by works, through Grace. Ultimately, this idea came to a head in the selling of indulgences, and penance. Luther expounded upon Augustinian ideas of Justification as Salvation, but instead of summing this up in the process of works and succinctly Baptism, he emphasized the moment of belief or faith. His fight mirrored the apostle Paul’s words that it is by, “Grace you are saved, through faith, and not by works.” In this way Martin Luther maintained the same emphasis on sin that his predecessors had done before him, but he changes the point of Salvation from being by Grace in works, to Salvation through Faith. 

According to Luther, the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness happen upon acceptance and faith, not baptism. Our ability to become that, which we are already, is a process that is summed up at death. This process is called Sanctification. Luther believed that, “Our justification is not yet complete… It is still under construction. It shall, however, be completed in the resurrection of the dead.”  Therefore, mankind does not complete Salvation as justification even though Christ completes it. Salvation as Justification will only be complete when mankind reaches his entropic end and catches up to his justified state. This is an amalgam of the idea of Salvation as Deification, with the concept of Salvation as Satisfaction. Martin Luther uses his Augustinian understanding of Tertullian’s Transducianism and Original Sin to support that a satisfactory standard must be met before deification can occur. Thus Luther both supports, and rejects the power of Original Sin, creating a new doctrine called Sanctification.

Martin Luther’s understanding of the doctrine of Salvation as Justification by faith, is not a completely new idea, but in fact is an old idea that has been passed down through the centuries by his famous theologian predecessors. Martin Luther did not add to the doctrine, but instead changed its emphasis. The foundations found within the Doctrine of Salvation are present within the current doctrine, even in its institutionalized orthodox form. Within Sanctification, the remnants of Tertullian’s doctrine of Satisfaction lurk. Within Justification, the remnants of Irenaeus are buried in the form of recapitulation, and propitiation. The spirit of these ancient concepts powers the body of the current institutionalized orthodoxy. Upon understanding that the institution is based not upon scripture, but upon philosophy and political intent, the question is whether these philosophies are indeed scriptural, or based upon mankind’s musings. When this question is brought to the table, a modern day protestant/or Roman Catholic preacher will tell us that the ideas of the apologists are scripturally based. 

As history will show, the philosophies of Martin Luther are not based on scripture at all. They are checked with scripture where a deficiency is thought to be found. But the basic structure of Luther’s theology is based upon the structure of Augustine’s theology. Augustine’s theology likewise is an amalgam of the theologian’s before him, most notably Tertullian. The resulting doctrines, which are now present within the church, are toted as being scripturally based, but the truth is that they are based upon the writings of the theologians before them. Because these writings do not outright oppose the common understanding of scripture, they are called scriptural even though several of these ideas are not found in the scripture. Because of this, any common idea is left alone and not checked against the scripture. If there is no checking being done, nothing is found wrong with it, and because nothing is found wrong with it, it is deemed to be in line with the scripture although it is not, at all. This is the very reason Martin Luther’s reformation was made possible. For literal centuries, the common idea of Salvation was based upon works. It was only when the convenience of seeing the doctrine of Salvation By Works became socially inconvenient, that it was challenged. Even the reformation was not a full challenge of the system that had been created through political convenience. Martin Luther did not want to leave the Roman Catholic Church, but was instead forced out. It was not the iconoclasticism of Rome that was addressed in force, but the monetary aspect of Rome. There were in fact several issues of improper interpretations of scripture within Rome’s doctrines that were noticed, but essentially overlooked by Martin Luther, as being miniscule and harmless. His intent was never to lead a reformation, but in fact, he was forced to. This is the Reason that the Lutheran Denomination, to this day, maintains much of its Roman Catholic Heritage, and gives example as to how it is that a doctrine can be challenged without challenging the establishment that created it. 

The issue of fallacy within the foundation of the Doctrine of Salvation should be evident. Consequently, it is not merely the Doctrine of Salvation that should be held up in scrutiny, but the foundation of that doctrine. Neither of these issues is scrutinized by the institutionalized orthodoxy. Although the issue of Salvation is said to be based upon Scripture, it should be clear that the way in which scripture has been looked at in the doctrine of Salvation is an amalgam of various filters. Salvation, specifically, has been put through at least six different filters. By the time of the last filter of Martin Luther, it is hard to tell what is being said in the scriptures at all, without implementing these filters.

The standard for what is right according to scripture and empirical evidence, is whether what is right can be proved wrong. Subsequently, if scripture contradicts one of the filters it is put through, then either the filter is wrong, or the scripture is wrong. Since the scripture is said to be the basis for these filters, then if a filter is wrong, scripture will contain paradoxes. However, it would be impossible for a paradox to be maintained in a filter without making the filter invalid by its disagreement with its own standard of truth. 

An example of this is the interpretation of scripture given by the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith’s interpretations of the scriptures contradict what the scriptures say alone. An example of this is that Jesus is presented by the theology of the Latter Day Saints as the brother of Satan, when the scripture’s are clear that Jesus was God’s only begotten son. These two statements are contradictory. In order for the filtered version of scripture to be accurate, it cannot disagree with the scripture. If it disagrees, than it invalidates its own authority, and the authority of the scripture, because when one is based on another, both cannot be right, and yet one still wrong. The second must always agree with the first, although it may expound upon the first. If a paradox exists, it is because the second denies the first, which is the basis for its existence, and in doing so it denies itself.

The doctrine of Salvation has been passed down with filters attached to it. Primarily, these are the filters of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, and Martin Luther. In order to further understand the scripture’s truth, we must ask the question of whether these filters are contradictory or productive. Irenaeus is the main contributor of the doctrine of Salvation through Restoration. His filter is not the doctrine of Restoration, but the means by which he achieved this doctrine. The tools he used to look at Salvation within scripture are two major underlying ideas. The first is “recapitulation”, and the second is “propitiation.” These two ideas together are largely responsible for the formation of the theme of restoration that is found within the institutionalized orthodox Doctrine of Salvation.

The foundation for the idea of Restoration through propitiation is presented by Irenaeus as an expansion, primarily, of the apostle Paul’s theology. Probably the most systematic explanation of Mankind’s condition and relationship with God is found in the book of Roman’s. Irenaeus takes from Roman’s as well as other Pauline works to build the idea of Propitiation. Using the twenty-fifth verse of Romans, the philosopher/theologian presents a systematic theology of Restoration through propitiation.

For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. (Romans 3:25)

Irenaeus argues, citing Leviticus, that Christ is the sacrificial goat made to take the blame for our sins. He extrapolates an order of restoration, using Levitical law, presupposing a firm foundation that sin has caused a need for restoration. The order for restoration is subsequently headed up by the act of sinning. According to the economy presented by Irenaeus in Romans 3:25; Man sinned, which caused God to become angry, and a relational separation to occur. In order to satisfy God’s anger, Christ sacrificed himself, which then justified that a relationship should be maintained, and thus restoration occurs. The law which man sinned against was the Law of Moses, which then justifies the use of the sacrificial scapegoat, since this method was outlined in the Levitical Law. Therefore, according to Irenaeus, grace is necessary because mankind sinned against the Law of Moses. Because man is unable to fulfill the law, Christ came to fulfill it for him.

According to the theological order presented in Romans 3:25, by Irenaeus, grace is dependant upon the action of Sin. Accordingly, the purpose of Restoration is to bring about reconciliation. Tertullian would later develop this idea, citing the same verse, and claiming that reconciliation occurs when God’s standard is satisfied. Therefore, according to Irenaeus, the purpose of restoration is to cause reconciliation. 

The verses found within Romans chapter three, present a different economy. Verses nineteen through twenty-four are clear that grace comes before sin.

Obviously, the law applies to those whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses and to bring the entire world into judgement before God. For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his Law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it. 

But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight- not by obeying the law, but by the way promised in the scripture long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. 

For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.

More than this, they are clear that fulfillment of the law does not make us right before God. This passage is the proper context for a translation of Romans 3:25. The economy presented by the Apostle Paul states that although everyone is guilty of sinning against the Law of Moses and God, following this law does not make a person right before God. Clearly, says Paul, if a person were to follow this law, it would not make us right with God. Therefore, if keeping the law does not equate to righteousness, then how is it that falling short of it equates to wickedness? Putting this question aside and focusing on the order presented by Irenaeus, another contradiction becomes apparent. 

The order of Irenaeus states that Grace is made manifest as a result of sin. This Grace is manifested in the person of Christ who came in order to satisfy God’s standard, which we offended by breaking his law. Paul states in verse twenty-one, that the way which God provided for being righteous was presented in the scriptures long ago. Earlier in verse two of Chapter one, Paul claims that this method was given by the Prophets long ago. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he claims that the truth of Eternal Life, through Christ, is a message that was before the creation of the world. In verse twenty-two of Romans Three, Paul states that the condition for this Grace is not dependant upon who we are within God’s creation, and therefore, what we have done inside that creation (which ultimately defines who we are) does not decide our ability to receive this Grace.

Clearly, Pauline doctrine, and economy supports that Grace is first in creation, and therefore does not exist because of sin. In fact, sinning against the law and therefore God apparently has no bearing upon the Grace of God, because, according to Paul, obedience to the Law could not make us right before God. Therefore, Irenaeus is presenting a different economy than Paul has presented within Romans. According to Paul, Grace is extended to mankind before they sinned because it was presented before the world was created. When mankind sinned, all he had to do to come to God was reconcile himself, using the knowledge that the relationship would exist because of the evident Grace of God in Christ. The reconciliation of the creation to its creator would then warrant the restoration of the creation to the position that the creation had fallen short of. Ultimately, Paul maintains that a position as prime creation had been compromised by sin, but not that the entire relationship had been thrown away. Therefore, it is not a relational separation that occurred in Adam, but a positional separation. In this light, salvation of position, from the power of sin is necessary, but salvation of relationship with God due to separation because of sin is not. 

The picture that Paul presents is that of a Father and Son relationship. The child may throw away his position with the Father and claim that he is no longer his son. He does this by willingly going against the standard of the Father in open rejection and rebellion which apexes in declaring his own emancipation. This is a separation of position within the family. However, the child cannot remove his genetic connection to his Father, because by natural order, he is who he is. If he were able to do so, he would be making a relational separation. Therefore the idea of positional separation does not rely on a geographical position, but a position of economy. Conversely the idea of relational separation is not defined by the kinetic relationship being severed, or by interaction between the parties being ceased. It is defined by the intrinsic connection of the parties being disturbed. 

Irenaeus was claiming that an intrinsic connection had been broken with God by the act of sinning, and in order to set things right Christ came to satisfy God’s anger over the matter, and thus restore us to our rightful position. The main problem with this thought process is that it associates a positional idea of restoration with a problem of relational separation. 

Logic dictates that in order to restore something to its original state you must first bring the estranged parties together. This is done by understanding that an intrinsic relationship exists between the two parties. Therefore, you cannot reconcile something by first restoring it, you must first reconcile it. Paul grasped this concept and presented that man is positionally separated, and therefore in need of reconciliation through knowledge that a relational or intrinsic separation does not exist. This grace was evident before sin, and is manifested in the persona of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is a presentation of sorrow over the positional separation, and an acknowledgement of falling short of this standard, but in no way does it imply a relational separation that ultimately condemns mankind to the Lake of Fire. Because man is reconciled to God through Christ, God restores man to his original state as prime creation, giving justification to the grace presented before the creation. Thus, the doctrine of propitiation falls short because it presents a doctrinal economy, which in practicality and in logic is backwards. Irenaeus’ idea of Salvation through restoration by propitiation due to recapitulation is heinously flawed. The Pauline idea of Salvation is clearly restoration through reconciliation by faith through grace, and is absent of a need for relational or intrinsic salvation.

The book of Romans is not the only letter which presents a relational connection, but a positional separation. The letter to the Ephesians, chapter two, states that mankind is in God’s special favor, which is contradicted in Irenaeus’ idea of restoration through propitiation. Propitiation has, as foundational, in its definition the idea that mankind is no longer in God’s favor. This favor was mankind’s before the creation according to the second chapter of Timothy. Paul was very clear that Grace is first, and therefore reconciliation is primary to restoration. Paul is not the only forefather who believed this. The unknown author of Hebrews presents a similar economy, citing the Levitical laws like his Pauline counterpart, in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter nine. The author of Hebrews states the necessity of Christ as atonement for sin in verses one through sixteen, and then explains the reason for atonement in verse eighteen, as a mere proof of death. The relevance of having a proof of death is the idea that a relationship is present, and the benefits of the relationship can be taken advantage of. Hebrews presents that the reason for blood sacrifice is not to appease God’s anger and therefore restore us to our relationship with God. Blood sacrifice is proof that the relationship with God exists, and the sacrifice is a way for mankind to reconcile that relationship and restore man from his positional separation.

The apostle Peter states in his first letter, chapter one verse eighteen, that God paid a ransom for our sins. In verse nineteen, Peter states that this ransom was planned before the world was created, and that Christ came for all to see that this ransom was already paid before the world was created. Peter is clearly stating that at no point in creation was man relationally or intrinsically separated, and that Christ came to show this to mankind so that he may be positionally restored by Christ’s own sacrifice.

John, the beloved apostle, states the same thing in verse ten of Chapter four of his first in his triad of letters. John states that real love is witnessed in the fact that God loved us, not in our love for him. According to John, God sent his son as a sacrifice as proof of his love. Paul and Peter would say that this love, and subsequent sacrifice were before sin. The author of Hebrews agrees with Paul and Peter, as well as John, as the beloved apostle expounds on the idea that the proof that sacrifice shows about love, is that God’s love existed beyond sin. Thus the author of Hebrews, John the beloved, the main disciple of the Jews; Peter, and the Apostle Paul, are all in harmony regarding Grace. They all suggest that the economy of Grace begins with Grace itself. They present Grace as independent of sin and time, and salvation show salvation as the capacity of Grace to act within creation as an agent that reconciles the tears in a relationship with God, rather than restoring a relationship that was irreparable. Therefore, salvation is constant in creation as a reconciling agent. Salvation is therefore the agent of Grace in creation. And in concession to this point, Sin merely gave grace the opportunity for itself to be seen and manifested as salvation in creation, but salvation and grace were always present.

Despite the harmony of the biblical philosophers, Tertullian agreed with Irenaeus. What is probably more appropriate, and common of theology in general, is that Tertullian did not disagree with Irenaeus. Tertullian was an interesting man. The father of the doctrine of Satisfaction was not a static personality by the time of his death. Over the course of his lifetime he made a giant swing from absolute legalism to the feeling driven spiritualism of Montanism. It is important to understand that Tertullian was a person whose doctrine was developing. Tertullian was, by association, and terminology a lawyer. Although the evidence surrounding his career cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt (pardon the pun), the arguments that Tertullian used to support his theology were legal arguments. 

An example of such style is the introduction of the terms “substancia,” and “persona” into the explanation of the Trinity. Tertullian did not associate the esoteric meaning of substance that the word has come to imply. To Tertullian, substance was not “matter,” it was the property and the right of a person to make use of something. Tertullian’s idea of “persona” is also a legal idea. Persona is not the individual, but the individual who has the substance. This allusion to the Latin legal system gave Tertullian the ability to present his beliefs as a common understanding of practical society. Thus Tertullian’s ideas on God are seen as logical because they play out in a common practically in a sinful society. This practicality does not substantiate, however, that the ideas are in harmony with the scriptures they are supposedly defending. In point of fact, Tertullian was quite prone to making use of the Latin legal system in order to substantiate theological claims, which were not actually present in the philosophies on the pages of scripture. Tertullian wrote an entire treatise on the validity of scripture as the rightful property of the ecclesiastical body due to its presence with the church for such a long amount of time. He justifies this claim in his Liber de praescriptionibus adversus haereticos. In this work, he uses the Latin legal work Praescriptio longi temporis, which says that the use of a property for a prolonged period of use gives the user a legal right to it. Although this is certainly a compelling argument for the validity of the church to a Latin governed people, it has nothing to do with a biblically governed people. The arguments of Tertullian are patterned in this manner. 

It is a legal tactic to take from circumstantial evidence to prove the point one is trying to make. In order to do this, the subject at hand cannot be addressed as being absolute in its true nature, because that is what is in question. Without proving a point based on the validity of the point itself, outside examples are used to justify the point. Thus the point in question can be assumed to be true without having any valid evidence within itself to justify its truth. Tertullian used this tactic to argue for the validity of the established theology. He did not seek to find whether what was established was worthy of its own establishment, but instead sought to defend it blindly. His method of defense for the validity of the Trinity, the scriptures, and the church follows the suit of his definitions. The apology which he makes is legal, not philosophical. In fact Tertullian was very adamant that philosophy was to be rejected. He believed that philosophy was the parent of heresy, because it brought into question the origins and meanings of ideas that the law assumed into place; such as good and wrong, and right and evil. 

Understanding the mindset of Tertullian as a legal thinker is absolutely essential to understanding his influence on the doctrine of Salvation. His contribution to the doctrine is not a philosophical one that springs from a love of scripture, and a longing to find the truths that it holds. This is not to discount everything that Tertullian gave to theology as being invalid, but it is to give it the place of authority it demands, which is considerably different from the position his theology has been given by theologians in the centuries following him. Tertullian’s theology sprung from a need to justify the ultimate standard held by the Law of both Moses, and the Romans. Using his legal background, he isogeted whatever scriptures could serve him best in order to maintain a sense of order for himself and the people around him. This assessment may seem to be a harsh statement, but consider that Tertullian would later abandon his own legalistic interpretation for the cult of Montanist. Although Church history might say that Tertullian was a well-grounded student of the law and the scriptures, Tertullian himself would deny the legalism he defended so vehemently in his earlier works.

It is this man, Tertullian, who presents the economy of Irenaeus in Romans chapter three. In this twenty-fifth verse, Tertullian seeks to justify that God is an offended party in a legal dispute, by citing the word “satisfy,” of which the apostle Paul makes use. Tertullian transliterates satisfaction into the legal definition of the word. By doing so, he claims that God’s anger must be satisfied, as the offended person in a legal dispute would have to be satisfied in Roman law. Tertullian does not look at the economy presented by the apostle Paul to see the truth presented in its full hermeneutical context. According to established theology, which is filtered through the superstitions of the area and political interests, God not only has every right to be angry at humanity, but also in fact should demand satisfaction. This was common practice in the community of Rome, just as it was common in the mythology of the area. 

Because Tertullian did not delve into philosophy, he did not question whether this point should be taken through the filter of his upbringing and surroundings. Tertullian, more than likely, found this fact to be helpful in helping people to relate to a “common sense” idea of who God is. Therefore, rather than looking at the economy of Grace presented by Paul in Romans, Tertullian perpetuated the same economy of sin Irenaeus presented, stating that satisfaction for God’s anger was common sense to the hellenized mind, and should not be questioned. Tertullian did not pay attention to the implication of the passage as being absolute and unattainable by mankind. Romans presents satisfaction as something which was achieved, absolutely, and not because of a relational or intrinsic separation. However, the book of Romans presents a positional relationship being offended. Satisfaction for that relationship is presented as something that was accounted for before the world began. The concept of an economy of Grace makes satisfaction of an offense, something that is continually happening. It is like a wound that heals on its own. Grace is the vehicle by which Jesus came into this world, to show mankind that the separation between Man and God is a gap which repairs itself through the infiniteness of God’s grace itself.

As Tertullian understands the idea of Satisfaction, mankind is forever doomed to live up to a standard that is impossible for him to achieve, even through Jesus. According to the economy of Tertullian, and Irenaeus, Jesus restores mankind to a relationship with God, but does not reconcile him. Mankind in his constant state of sin acquires a debt of satisfaction that continues to count against him, until it is paid at death, so that the judgement is ripe upon his death. According to the apostle Paul, Jesus reconciled mankind and thus restored him to his position as Prime creation. This reconciliation satisfied absolutely the fact that mankind had fallen short of his position as Prime creation, and in fact, will always do so. Therefore mankind can be assured that God will never desert him in his sin, because satisfaction is immanent, and yet absolute in the Grace witnessed to us through Jesus Christ.

It is this one idea that has plagued the common Christian for centuries. The acquiring of debt, due to God’s unreachable standards leaves Christians feeling hopeless in their hope. The current incarnation of this idea in Sanctification holds Christianity’s absolute victory over the power of sin off to the side. It becomes a victory, which can only come into existence when life is finished. What is worst about this concept is that its uncertainty is never extinguished upon death for those who are living, for they never see whether the person who has died has received their victory. The power of salvation by restoration through justification by faith, or works, ultimately does not matter. Whether by works or by faith, restoration through Justification empowers mankind to feel ashamed of their sin, and work toward a goal, which they could never achieve on their own. 

For those who finish the race we call life, there is no physical evidence of their victory in Jesus, for they simply die, and then they are gone. The victory of Jesus found in these people is ultimately found in how they lived their life for him during the race. A sad and ironic twist considering that the only thing the runner should be caring about according to this doctrine, is escaping his less than satisfactory performance in this race.  Indeed, anticipation is all that is in the minds of the runner of the race of restoration through Justification by faith or works. In some ways, works makes more sense than faith in this regard, because works does not pretend to find victory in this life, and does not give off the impression that it can rest in working toward their goal of finishing the race. The idea of Justification by faith parades runners who claim to have already won the race yet still feel they must run to win. 

Whichever is more accurate to scripture has been the debate of centuries, but neither side is found in scripture. Scripture presents apostles who were victorious in this life. They withstood ridicule and torture with grace and poise. They were men of conviction who could not be swayed. Their miracles were legendary just as their master was. These were men who were not running a race to win it. These were men, who had already won it, and now were watching and waiting for race to be completed. They gave instructions to the athletes who needed advice, healed those who had been injured, and took the place of those who could not run any longer.

The emphasis of their writing is not on the power of sin, or even the presence of Sin. Their emphasis of their writing was full of grace and hope and peace. Wherever they addressed sin, it was with an economy of Grace before sin. They did not address sin as an issue that mankind needed to resolve, but instead as an issue that mankind needed to let go of. They address sin as an issue that is universal not to condemn all men, but to show men that they are all in the same situation. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,” is not a means for all mankind to wallow in his sin, or even to pay for it. It is a means for all men to come to the same conclusion, for the context of this statement is true in every place it is found in the scriptures. God’s economy states grace before sin. Therefore this statement of all have sinned is not for the purpose of saying to all who hear it, “Therefore you must be saved because you have offended a just God who now sentences you to hell, but if you satisfy his standard, or sanctify yourself by recognition of his Son, he will save you.”

This statement misses the point of the verse. The point of the whole sacrifice by a person who was offended cannot be for himself. God was clearly proving a point by sending his son to die, but scripture does not support the idea that it was for restoration. Salvation as presented by the scriptures, old and new, is the agent of Grace in creation. It is something that never has to restore a relational separation, for Grace never allows any sort of intrinsic separation. Therefore salvation is never necessary for creation, although it is always immanent in creation. A good example of this is the gardener/garden relationship. A gardener will tend his garden despite the yield of the garden. In fact, the less the garden yields, the more the gardener tends. Another example of this is a doctor to his patient. The more the patient does what is hurtful to his body, the more the doctor pays him attention. The problem with institutionalized orthodox salvation is that it in essence claims that God is the one who causes the body to break down. It says that God’s just standard must invoke punishment for sin and this punishment is death. Salvation creates a need for itself. This is the same redirect Adam used with God in Eden when God confronted Adam (without condemnation) about his knowledge of his nakedness and Adam blamed God for giving him the woman. 

In this one accusation of Adam, we find the way in which man deals with God; the pattern of his neurosis. And it is from this pattern that God sets out a plan of Salvation, which ultimately removes any way in which blame can be used as a means to not address where man must grow. The pattern that he sets down is one in which man can see that God wishes to reconcile the relationship. This is why the Jews were capable of believing in Salvation without believing that God had cut them off. The Jews continued to refer to themselves as God’s chosen people although they constantly had their sin made evident to them. This relationship culminated in the birth of Christ, which brought about the physical, tangible evidence of God on earth, communing with creation, despite the idea that God could not be with anything that was so full of sin. Apparently this evidence was not good enough for mankind. Clearly, they still chose to believe that God could not commune with them. They believed that sacrifices and rituals were the only way in which mankind could come before God, and so they killed the man who said otherwise. And in doing so, he became their sacrifice, and gave to the Jews the possibility of restoration through reconciliation, and from them he gave us Paul, so that this message might spread. Despite this, mankind does not seem to understand what Abraham understood before God had appeared in human flesh. Man does not need to be restored, only reconciled through Salvation. This is a message that does not cheapen the work of Christ on the Cross. 

The institutionalized orthodox view of Christ on the cross is a message of much pettiness and sadness. It says that God is a God of two faces. It claims that God condemned his creation for making one mistake and threw them away. And he did this because he couldn’t get over his own standards; because he couldn’t, in essence, swallow his pride and allow his creation a second chance. Hypocritically, it then turns around and states that God found a loophole to his own standard which makes him willing to compromise his idea of Justice, and sent himself as a sacrifice for that standard, which is essentially doing for us what he refused to do for us in the first place; humble himself and allow us a second chance. It claims that this is the ultimate standard of truth and grace, when really what is presented is a God who is petty, and prideful, and self-compromising. Grace is presented as giving freely to something that is undeserving, when grace in fact is giving freely regardless of how deserving they are. And truth is presented as a standard that God must act within, rather than a standard that he defines by his actions. Ultimately restoration as Salvation by Justification, through Faith, by Grace, is petty, and shameful in its picture of truth, grace, and the God they are from.

The scriptures paint a picture of a God who saw that his creation had a neurosis. He listened to his prime creations inability to get over his own guilt, and made a path of reconciliation based upon that. When he saw that man had become to dependant upon the guilt offering, he presented to them a clear and tangible evidence of his continuing love for them in Jesus. But man would not let go of his guilt. Just as in Eden, mankind needed to place blame, and so knowing that his death would prove his power over death and their punishment, he allowed himself to be killed providing them with both proof of their intact relationship, and proof of his sovereignty. 

This is not a picture of a God who created a box of laws that he had to abide in at risk of being unjust. This is a God who humbled himself to work within the box of law’s that his creation needed in order to abide with him. This is a message that makes God’s Christ more powerful than institutionalized orthodoxy ever gave him credit for. The church has taught that Christ came to die because it was necessary for the satisfaction of God’s just standard which is indeed powerful, but consider how much more powerful it is that Jesus came as the Christ, acting within the only standard mankind would understand though he did not have to.

The true Gospel is found in the famous verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This message is powerful when you consider that God did this to accomplish his will and yet satisfy his standard, but it still remains petty. This message only takes on its fullness when the standard of man’s sin is removed from the interpretation of the verse, and you see God giving his son though there is no standard he must fulfill. The true Gospel message is not that we needed restoration and we have that through Christ. It is that: Though we did not need restoration, Jesus reconciled us as Christ by dying for us because death was the only thing we would accept. To believe anything less is shortsighted, petty, and shameful on our parts.

A NEED FOR HERESIES

“Explain why it is necessary for the Church to respond to heretical teachings.”

February 15, 2004

Often times within a life of trial and suffering, the human mind seeks to find a purpose and meaning for its current state of uncertainty. Finding a purpose to such events helps the psyche to cope with the suffering by minimal zing its transitory pain and uncertainty by emphasizing the greater picture that it helps to create. Tribulations are regarded as nothing more than a pixel to a composition, and they are seen as absolutely necessary to the existence of the composition in whole. Everything that is within the picture is working to complete the picture and the elements that appear to corrode its design can be rationalized as relevant and necessary to the designs completion. If Christianity is the design of God, than its heresies are Christianities corrosive elements. The orthodox view of heresies based upon the method of coping used by the human mind presents heresy as an unwilling agent of good that is unwittingly working to perpetuate strength within the very system of beliefs that it intends to destroy. Hidden within this interpretation of heresy lies a clause that heresy is necessary for the outworking of what is good. This dualistic interpretation of the application and tactics of scriptural living places a paradoxical need for evil in the outworking of right and denies the sovereignty of righteousness by establishing a connection of necessity with evil. 

The concept that heresy is necessary for the productivity of faith is not a new concept. It is found in the literature and artwork of every major religious belief system that the world knows. Some beliefs take the necessity to the furthest extreme, such as eastern mysticism. This belief system holds what is evil, and what is good as being equal and necessary to each other. Orthodox Christianity may not technically support that good and evil are one, but it does place an emphasis on Lucifer, or Satan, as being directly in opposition with the will of God and therefore implies it. Lucifer, and his plans within common Christian theology, has become a worthy God’s equal adversary. He is a roaring lion whom we should watch out for because at any moment he could destroy us. His lies and deceit are things that are always in opposition to the will of God and therefore should be paid close attention to. We have countless amounts of literature detailing spiritual warfare against the lies of the devil. Heresy is only one such lie. We are taught to be on the lookout for these destructive falsehoods, and to fight for the sovereignty of the will of our God. However, this is the first problem with believing that responding to heresy is a necessity for the outworking of God’s will. 

If the heresies present, are present, in order to ultimately facilitate growth in the body of Christ, than there is a relationship of a symbiotic nature that is seeking to destroy itself. This idea is a rationalization of heresy based upon a need for Good to supercede evil. Christ himself was accused of containing such a paradoxical nature when he cast out demons in front of the Pharisees. They claimed that he was Satan casting out Satan. In like manner, if we believe that heresies are a part of God’s plan, yet we cast them out, than we would be a body divided. Christ himself said that a body divided does not stand. The idea that heresies are necessary is antithetical to the way we treat them within the body. 

Believing that heresies are evil and should be responded to poses yet another problem within the idea of God’s sovereignty. If God is a sovereign god, than nothing happens that is outside of his will. This coupled with very tangible evidence leads us to the conclusion that heresy as well as its founder, evil, must be within God’s sovereign plan. This is hard for man to understand because man himself can be rationalized as an example of God’s design coexisting with evil in order to bring glory to God. This realization once again leads us back to the idea of a symbiotic nature between good and evil. The idea presented of heresy within this context, has not been created by a need for good to supercede evil, but for good to acknowledge evil’s presence. This idea comes at heresy from the perspective of Mankind, yet does not address heresy from a Christ like perspective. The scriptures are quite clear that Christ defended truth, but did not use it as a weapon, nor did he seek out heresies and evil to fight with. On the contrary, it was the heresies and evils that sought him out.  The book of Jude sums it up very well as it talks on this very subject. Jude admonishes believers to defend the truth, and have faith that the Lord will defend them. The scriptures emphasize awareness. They present the idea that where the truth is attacked, it must be defended. This could be taken to mean that where truth is being attacked, we must fight back, but this is not the meaning of the word defend. Jude then sums it up by emphasizing Christian living based upon the principles of Christ and scripture. Nowhere is there a contingency plan presented for the disposal or containment of the heresies of the moment. Even Christ himself did not attack or address evil until it addressed him either in mind or tongue. Even the attack on the temple moneychangers was actually a strategic defense of his Father’s house from the merchants who had attacked the sacred worship ritual and settled in, defiling it by their greed. The example that we see within scripture is not one of good addressing evil as an equal, but rather good being addressed by evil as if it is its equal. Even after this address, good very rarely attacks the evil, but instead strengthens itself.

It is quite clear that heresy is often given a place that it does not deserve within the mind of the common Christian. It is often times implied to be an equal and worthy adversary of God’s will and treated as such. This should not be so. Other times it is addressed by the overzealous Christian theologian as being a threat to the faith of Abraham. This should not be so. Heresy exists as a reaction to Christianity. The very word “heresy” implies the pre-existence of a force to oppose. Christianity is not linked to it, although it often times links itself to Christianity. God’s sovereignty is neither disturbed by its presence, nor is it threatened. If it was threatened or disturbed, than God could not be sovereign. Taking God’s example, neither should we be. As believers we should be relying on the infinitely exponential truth and productivity created by the presence of the Holy Spirit to cause us to grow in our faith. With this said, it would be neglectful not to acknowledge the fact that the presence of heresy has stirred many a Christian philosopher and theologian to strengthen the conciseness of the faith, but it is a fact that is regretful. It is a sad thing that the church relies so heavily on the presence of evil to be its catalyst for growth in what is right. Therefore heresy is not a necessary device of God’s plan, nor is it one that presents a threat to the body of Christ.

NEED FOR A FOLLOWING

“Support or reject the idea that Jesus intended there to be a following of his teachings.”

February 15, 2004

In the history of mankind, no one’s teachings have been more influential than Jesus of Nazareth’s. The ideologies presented within his speeches and conversations convey an aptitude for truth and morality that fully encompasses the spirit of righteousness without being defined by its laws. The values of his teachings have played themselves out in society so vastly that it would be practically impossible to quantify his influence. Even two thousand years after his time on this earth his greatest critics would not deny the title he referred to of rabbi, or teacher. What has remained a source of debate and discussion throughout the ages with all such teachers is not their status, but rather their intention. The orthodox view of Christianity supports the idea that Jesus’ teachings were a means to an end; the foundation for a following built upon his revelations from God the Father. Other views have arisen throughout the years. Albert Schweizer believed Jesus as a fanatic who died to bring about the end of the world. Bultmann believed Jesus was a prophet presenting a choice to the people?. The philosopher/theologian Tatian believed that Jesus was the expression of God the father in creation. Differing views and opinions have existed since Christ and will more than likely continue to exist.? What is most important about the debate is not the definitive answer when speculation is involved. It is the recognition of all aspects presented as being pieces of the puzzle. And unfortunately, the pieces of the puzzle that are Jesus’ teachings do not refer to his intent as much as they refer to his understanding. Therefore to make a conclusive statement of rejection or acceptance to the idea of a following being intended by Jesus would be flagrant at best. Examining his teachings and conversations, it becomes clear that Jesus was aware of such an attempt being made and responded by neither denying or confirming his intent for a following of his teachings but rather emphasized concern over the reconstruction of man’s interaction with mankind and his creator. Therefore it be comes clear that although he accepted his role as a teacher; he was not concerned with his teachings being followed as much as he was concerned with mankind understanding the truths that were present before his birth, encapsulated within his words and actions.

The focus of Christ’s teachings and revelations do not revolve around the necessity of his ideas, but rather their absolute truth within the intended will of God the Father. Jesus’ words focused almost exclusively on the way to live within the kingdom of God, which was understood to be impending, or in some cases immanent.? His actions toward sin seemed to give no value to sins power and authority within this world? and in doing so only furthered his teaching that the kingdom of God was about to reveal itself to humanity in a tangible form. His parables were clever metaphors for appropriate beliefs as well as actions. His conversations and personal interactions were those metaphors made tangible. His sermons were his tangible actions made simple, or within grasp of his audience, and his signs and miracles were parables, conversations, and sermons made personal.

Due to his focus on a kingdom that had not yet been visible to humanity, and him as the foundation for that kingdom, a distinct inference can be made that Jesus was teaching humanity (through his disciples) to follow his teaching.? This understanding of Christ’s intent is common and supported by numerous scriptures where Christ asks people to follow him, comments on the necessity of following him, and warns on the danger of not following him.? Through these scriptures and actions of those who did follow Jesus, there is undeniable proof that Jesus was aware of the foundation he was laying for a society that made his teachings a physical reality and there is historical evidence to support that Jesus was successful in creating this society.

If the evidence purports that Christ was successful and aware of his teachings and what they would accomplish, why is there controversy over whether he intended people to follow his teachings? To put it bluntly, man is a paranoid being and Jesus was a man who seemed to be a magnet for paranoia. Without having been at the events depicted within the texts of scripture, there is very little readily available physical evidence to support the events even happened by the social standards of today. The concept of Christ being a human being named Jesus that walked the earth two thousand years ago and now sits at the right hand of God is a concept that requires evidence beyond word of mouth. Certainly the evidence to support the validity of scripture becomes more and more substantiated throughout the ages by science and advancements in fields of historical study such as archaeology, but as science progresses to prove God, man moves away from the essence of understanding who god is, in that God has never explained his existence. This is the cause of the controversy; Mankind demands God prove that he exists, while at the same time not recognizing that his demand justifies God’s position that God can’t be explained, only known.

Jesus never tried to explain God to mankind; he did claim to be the way in which mankind would know who God is. It is in this context that Jesus’ teachings become valid; not in the summation of the law, but in the fulfillment of it. To hold his teachings as the end of his passion is to say that he intended to leave behind him a legacy that was summed up in those teachings. Jesus gave no indication of such a will in his life. He did not commission the writing of his thoughts, or debate their validity. He did not develop a definitive staff with individual priorities and responsibilities to perpetuate these things. His disciples were companions, walking side by side with him, taking in all they could.

Jesus was a man who did what he did because he believed in its validity above that of even his own life. At best, scripture supports that Jesus intended there to be a following of the morals and ideals of God the Father, but never in scripture does Jesus take credit for these things. He is a man pointing in a direction, but he is not the direction in which he is pointing.

This element of Christ’s teachings is probably the hardest to reconcile with the orthodox view of who Christ is. The common question has been, “How can someone know they will have a following, yet not intend for that following to exist?” I would submit that if the purpose of the question were to provide a way in which to successfully live life in the present, than the aforementioned question is valid. However, Christ was providing us with a destination that went beyond the boundaries of time and space and teachings on how we should and will be acting there. A following is inevitable, but the information that gained the following is merely a description of things to come. To think of Christ’s following of his teachings as being a purpose for his presence denies the truth presented in Christ.

Jesus did not come into this world that we might remain on the road to an eternal destination. He came to free us from such a perception. The way he did this was by teaching us where to place our focus in life, and this did not include a focus on his teaching so much as the truths they presented and eluded to. Jesus could not have intended there to be a following of his teachings because to do so would encapsulate the truth he was presenting into a smaller package than one which could contain something so absolute.

VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR

“Describe the theological developments that lead up to the Council of Nicaea, and what each faction represented concerning the issues that prompted the calling of a council. Address the political interest that effected the council and its main participants, and determine at what point these issues were resolved.”

March 21, 2004

The world was united by the reign of one emperor. His vision before his epic battle with the army of Maxentius forever changed the course of history, and faith. On October 28, 312 C.E., he advanced his troops under the banner of the cross, and advanced Christianity to a new status. Within the last five years, the emperor Diocletian had openly persecuted Christians. Rome was about to fall due to political upheaval in the form of imperial assassinations, and indecisive actions within its hierarchy. Diocletian seeking to stabilize the empire divided his power amongst three other generals of the empire. One of the generals was to be an Augusti, a separate emperor, like himself. Together they would stabilize the nation by focusing on separate parts. One way to do this was a unifying cause. The persecution of the faith of the masses was a common vehicle that could unify the slowly dying empire. But instead, the common persecution caused more and more upheaval. In 305, C.E. In what seemed to be his plan all along, Diocletian abdicated his throne, and he forced Maximian, his other Augusti to do so as well. However, a new more vicious Augusti arose in Maximian’s place named Galerius. His persecution of the Christians was so strong that he was rumored to have actually started the persecutions. Constantinus Chlorus, the other new Augusti, however, seemed to be against the bloodshed. A conflict of unifying policy arose amongst the emperors. 

Despite the constant persecution and all the murder, and pillaging happening, the Roman government could not seem to stamp out the faith of the Christians. So strong was their young faith that it is reported that the Bishop of Carthage removed the right of martyrdom from those who sought out persecution, because so many were openly doing so. This type of bold-faced opposition left such an impression on the Augustus Galerius that he had no choice but to order the toleration of the Christian faith, or watch his entire empire become extinct. When Galerius died, a fight broke out for control over the position of Augusti. In 312 C.E., spring, the son of Constantinus Chlorus fought to take hold of the position against Maxentius. Constantine received a vision stating that he should conquer using the symbol of the cross. These events in history set the framework for a different type of power struggle. 

The win of control of the empire led Constantine to a conclusion of mass proportions. The Christian faith was declared superior to the pagan religions of the empire, and Christianity was declared the empire’s national religion. Constantine made changes both political and personal. Ministers were given the same imperial sanctions and protections as pagan priests, Crucifixion was abolished as a form of execution, gladiator battles were halted as punishment for crimes, and Sunday was made into a public holiday. Constantine’s children were brought up as Christians, and he himself was baptized. After his baptism, he refused to wear the imperial robe associated with the emperor, or god hood, and instead wore a white robe to symbolize his spiritual change. 

Christianity, which had five years ago been a religion of persecuted individuals, became the religion of the celebrated tradition. Although many in the past had become Christians by choice of life or death, Christianity was now opened up to be a choice of convenience. Instantly, the faith of the weak and the humble was now the faith of the strong, and the popular. The Roman Empire became unified again.

The once practical issues of Christianity defined by Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and his baptism and his communion were no longer issues of practicality, but tradition and religion. Under persecution these practices had to be the focus of a Christian life, because there was time for little else; one could be dead just moments after accepting Christ, and in fact all who did accept him did so with the realization that they were in fact signing their own death certificate. Under Constantine, Christianity was allowed to not be looking over its shoulder every moment of every hour. Christianity could relax and take a much-needed break. In fact it was widely perceived that the position and status that Christianity had gained was a fulfillment of Christ setting up an earthly kingdom. Although the entire known world was now Christian, very few knew what it meant.

The religion of martyrs needed to be understood. The Roman’s were a Hellenistic culture, and their society was built upon philosophical views and ideals. Christians up until this time had been mostly concerned with the practical need for salvation from death, and the communion of this need with others. This need was no longer a practical one within society. The Hellenistic mind of the Romans began to seek out an explanation for such a faith. They were not so much interested with God’s involvement in history. To them this was an established fact for all to see, summed up within the whirlwind change in sociological, psychological, and political structure of the last decade. The Hellenistic Christians needed to know why? And in order for them to answer this question, they needed to ask who is Jesus Christ?

The writings of several individuals over the last hundred and fifty years before the council of Nicaea began to grow in popularity, because they answered that very question. Although these writings were mostly forged by the apologists to show the people of Rome the validity and wisdom of following Christ, they would shape the Hellenistic mind of Christianity for a knew generation that was devoid of religious persecution and free to explore itself. The philosophers known as the apologists had several different espousing about the person of Christ, but all of them came from a particular viewpoint on the issue. The believed that Christianity was a superior form of philosophy. Their intention was never to show the presence of God in history, but rather in truth. And they believed that the pursuit of wisdom and truth led to them to the knowledge of Jesus. Therefore they did not simply reiterate the acts that Jesus achieved while on this earth, but instead tried to philosophize about their purpose for humanity. They were attempting to merge the superior faith of the persecuted masses, with the superior intellect of the elite Hellenistic culture, in order to show that Christianity was useful for all people in all walks of life, and not a threat to the empire and its emperor.

At the forefront of these apologists is an amazing list of authors, each one of them shaping and influencing society even fifteen hundred years after their quills touched their paper. This list of philosophers came before the year that Constantine made Christianity legal. But their writings helped to influence the understanding of the people afterward. Justin Martyr was one such philosopher. Justin was the philosopher to point out the relationship between God and truth. He theorizes that mankind is filled with seeds of truth that come from the plant of God who is truth, and therefore all who acknowledge truth, must know God. He believed that Jesus was that truth assuming form, which gave him a distinct persona from the plant of truth that he came from. 

Another Theologian was Irenaeus. Irenaeus gave to modern theology the idea of the divine economy. He does not theorize on the process of the Logos taking the form of Christ, but instead assumes it to be so. His gift to theology is this concept of God disclosing his triune nature over history to humanity. He also gives more weight to the Holy Spirit as being equal in the Godhead, even going so far as to place him next to the Christ as being equal in creation. Before Irenaeus, the spirit was a largely unlooked at part of the Godhead by the apologists.

Because of the distinctions within the nature of the Godhead being made by apologists, a theological movement began in order to maintain that God is one God.  In order to protect the validity of God’s unity, but also promote the validity of the Logos, and Spirit as being God, Tertullian developed the ideas of “Substance” and “Persona.” He used Irenaeus’ divine economy but theorized that the distinctions within the economy were of the same substance while being of different persona. Therefore God could be three separate persona, while still being one God. Tertullian was the first apologist to use the term “trinity,” Latin for “three in one.” 

Although Tertullian was popular in the western churches, Origen was the most influential in the eastern churches. He too ascribed to the idea of homoousious, which is Greek for “same substance.” His thought process often times seemed paradoxical because it was extremely developed. Often times he would refer to the son as a completely created being, and yet as a being not subject to creation. Despite his extreme and often time’s unexplained paradoxes, he helped the eastern part of the Roman Empire to understand the idea of the trinity better.

Due to Constantine, the church enjoyed a time of peace in terms of persecution, but with the emperor’s Edict of Milan, more questions were being asked by Christians of Edict, rather than faith. Although theology was much debated and fairly developed within the last hundred years by the apologist, not one position was openly advocated over another until about 318 C.E., when Arius of Alexandria came into a dispute with his bishop Alexander. Arius was the pastor of the Baucalis Church in the East. The members of this church were very influential and outspoken like their pastor Arius. Seeking to accommodate a form of teaching that would help his pagan converts to understand their new appointed faith, Arius developed and taught the idea that Jesus, or the Logos (word) from the gospel of John, was actually a created being who was less than God. His deity was merely an approximation of godhood, much like the demi-gods of Greek and Roman mythology. This was a simple concept for the Alexandrian pagans to understand and accept because it was essentially no different than the beliefs they were forced to come out of, except in name. 

However, this did not please Alexander, playing on his understanding of the Christ within the trinity via the writings of the apologists. In 320 C.E. Alexander called a meeting of Churches to have Arius excommunicated and his pastorship stripped. Arius, however, was friends with the bishop of Nicodemia, Eusebius. Thus a quarrel for power broke out between two very powerful districts of faith. One, led by Alexander was a center of theological and philosophical thought; the other was a center of extreme political power. 

This issue was larger than a simple quarrel between religious authorities. It was delicate in a manner that was threefold. Firstly, their was the political interest of the empire in keeping the peace that Constantine had ushered in with his legalization of the faith. Secondly, their was the issue of what is sound doctrine and considered canon. And lastly their was the sovereignty and superiority of the Christian Faith as being something different and greater than the other religions of the world. If Arius were allowed to preach his doctrine openly, the validity of Christianity would be compromised, and Alexander and his followers would revolt. If Alexander were allowed to have his way, a standard for religious persecution could be established although the sovereignty of Christianity would remain intact. That could leave the pagan/Christian converts alienated and seeking to revolt. Either way, Constantine was facing another power struggle, this time disguised as theology. He had to deal with the situation delicately, and immediately.

Arius wasn’t the first person to think of Christianity in terms of levels of Godhood. Probably the most prominent example of this line of thought was found in the Gnostic thought. The Gnostics believed in a line of emanation moving outward from the Creator. They believed that Jesus was a lesser being than God, existing as a result of the first line of emanation. Although Arius wasn’t the first, he was certainly the charismatic leader that the idea needed in order to bring a threat of massive revolt and uprising to the emperor’s attention.

In 325 C.E., The emperor Constantine called for a council of about three hundred of the area’s bishops to be held at Nicaea, just outside Nicodemia in Asia Minor. The stark contrast in reality was apparent to all who had eyes. Less than thirty years prior, these bishops were being persecuted and molested by the emperor’s Galerius, and Diocletian. Now they rode as royalty into the palace of the emperor as his guests of honor. The significance of such an event in Christianity as well as history could not be denied regardless of one’s theological position. Ironically, the council was being held exactly for the reason of giving regard to the varied positions of theology that had developed out of the various apologetical, and pagan teachings of the last hundred years. Constantine intended to do to Christianity what he had done to Rome. Hopefully, the bishops that came into the council separate and disagreeing would leave unified and in agreement as to the issue of the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Constantine did not direct the conversation but instead stepped aside and allowed the bishops to come to a single conclusion. His abdication of his authority was only prefaced with the idea that separation of the church is worse than war. The issue of Arius’ views were easily settled. The main discussion was in how to keep them from surfacing again, and whether Alexander’s Synod that excommunicated Arius was valid.

Various creeds were presented as statements that the entire church could stand behind. But none of them were sufficient to exclude the possibility for Arian controversy in the future, and so the council set out to make its own creed, which was thought to be patterned off another one from out of Palestine.

I believe in one God the Father Almighty; maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds. God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,  by whom all things were made; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I  believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the prophets. And I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

This creed was enough to put aside the issue of the Logos, as it applies to infinity, and places the Holy Spirit at equality with both the Father and the Son in regard to his complete deity. Arianism was almost unanimously and fairly instantly deemed as heretical. However, this did not end the effect of Arianism on the empire, but instead forced it underground in order to grow a following and resurface through a series of social/political upheavals. It wasn’t until Alexander’s pupil Athanasius, and his fellow theologians Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa further developed the understanding of the Nicene Creed, that Arianism was able to be finally quenched. This didn’t happen until fifty-six years later at the Council of Constantinople.

Athanasius developed a very complex doctrine of the trinity although he was largely practical as a theologian and leaned more towards theology than philosophy. 

Basil took the understanding of the persona within the trinity developing it more. It was his claim that just as every human being has his own distinct personality, and yet represents the whole of humanity universally, the distinction of God in three persons is absolutely necessary. He defined the various personas of the Godhead in terms of their role to mankind; the paternal(Father), the child(the son), and the sanctifying power of love(the Holy Spirit.) These distinctions made by the three Cappadocians were a new way of approaching the problem presented at Nicaea, and of helping to combat the same issues as their contemporary Athanasius. Whereas Athanasius, and those before him dealt with the issue of finding the three separate persona of the Godhead by looking at the unity of God, Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, and of Nazianzus did not. These three Cappadocians examined the plurality of the Godhead in order to find its unity. Thus these three emphasized the unity of substance over the rank of persona within the Godhead, and encouraged more attention to the Holy Spirit than had ever been done before. This position was further solidified at the council of Constantinople when it was added to the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit is:

The Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father,

 who together with the Father and Son is adored and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.

This idea was added and accepted into the Nicene Creed and was told to be accepted by the Bishops who were present. Thirty-six of the One hundred and eighty six bishops present from the eastern empire denied the doctrine of divinity regarding the Holy Spirit, and they left after it was presented.

 This confirmation of acceptable doctrine served to provide the church with a doctrine that it could stand behind as being considered absolute within revelation. As time passed the Nicene Creed, or technically the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed became the universal statement for the Eucharist within Christendom, as well as the baptismal statement of the eastern empire. This single creed born out of socio-political angst and turmoil, as well as religious in-fighting and rivals, birthed by a kingdom of ignorant pagan mothers, and overzealous philosopher turned politician fathers gave birth to theology as we know it.

The purpose of the Nicene Creed was not to achieve a doctrine for all to stand behind, which represented the most absolute truth that could be understood; regardless of how absolute its truth may be. The Nicene Council and Creed were created to be a pacifier to quell the cries of an empire that was spiritually infantile; born into a faith they new nothing about. The creed in its original form did nothing to counter act the fighting within the church but instead brought it to an extreme. The extremity of the insanity was qualified by the constant deposing and electing of bishops who agreed with the current popular view of theology at the time. 

Despite the fact that the Catholic Church now had a spiritual pacifier in its infantile mouth, it’s Hellenistic mind would soon become disenfranchised with the simplicity of the creed presented to it because it was too simple. Taking into account all factors of the situation Constantine was presented with, it becomes clear that the Nicene Creed fails to address the one question that it tries so hard to explain; who is God? The Nicene Creed only answers the question of who is God in history, but the Roman Empire already knew the answer to this question. Their upbringing of philosophy in Socratic, platonic, and Aristotelian thought forced them to need more, and so the Nicene Creed became what it tried to avoid. The creed became nothing more than a breeding ground to build upon endless doctrines all seeking to answer that first unanswered question…who is God? In the end, the philosophy of the apologists that gave birth to the theology of politicians killed its very reason for existence, creating more room for dissensions of the truth than there ever could have been before. The council of Nicaea was a point in history that, dealt with correctly, could have been a new age of Christian philosophy, but instead became the herald for a new age of Christian travesties, and Christian ignorance.