Interesting and Irritating II

A couple of articles that I found interesting… and irritating to get our week started.

First, Billy Cash, student at Western Theological Seminary has written a comparative post on the ThM website entitled Origen, Barth, and Bell: Theological Perspectives on Hell and Universalism. Through this discussion, Bell has reinforced the reality that he is not saying anything new—Origen and Barth are two guys that he either points to, or have been accused of being  universalists.

“Is Rob Bell saying anything different than what Origen and Karl Barth claimed?”  In the last month I have heard Bell’s view of hell likened to both of these men as well as C.S. Lewis… Ironically, if you Google image “Universalism” both Origen and Bell’s pictures show up.  Origen was excommunicated for some of his teaching, being accused of saying that even the devil might have a shot at redemption.  At the end of Barth’s life he often had to defend himself against the accusation that he was a Universalist.  Is there any correlation between these men?

Within the next few weeks we will see cover story after cover story about Jesus, his death, and resurrection. At this time every year, Christians celebrate the risen Savior, but we are also reminded how many people in the world think the Gospel is foolishness. In the darkness, men like Tim Keller are a light pointing to the true light. Relevant Magazine has posted an article by Keller entitled,  A Case for the Resurrection. It is an excerpt from his recent work, The Kings Cross:

Jesus had risen, just as He told them He would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. That was an infinite sentence, but he must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday he walked out free. The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it.

Donald Miller has written a blog post called Should the Church be Led by Teachers and Scholars? He questions why Jesus chose to start the church with fishermen, yet we have turned the church into academic institutions. I have to say, this is irritating. I simply disagree with Miller. It is not irritating because I disagree, however, his conclusions irritate me.  Granted, the Apostles didn’t start off teachers and scholars, but read the book of Acts—these guys knew their stuff. Then, read the next generation! Read Ignatius of Antioch and tell me if you think he is not concerned with academic pursuit. Now I don’t want to overstate the issue. Miller gives merit to academics, but I think he has created a dichotomy, where the guy in his study pouring over how to explain orthodox, Chalcedonian Christology, is some how not loving people like he should be. Perhaps we have lost sight of the fact that hard study and academic pursuit is virtuous. If academic pursuit is an end—it is absolutely empty and a waste of time. However, if academic pursuit is for the edification, genuine love and concern for the body, then it is necessary and virtuous.

Here is what I am NOT saying: I am not saying that academic pursuit is ultimate. I do not believe that all the problems within the church and society can be solved by education. I am simply not saying that.

* Let me ask you this: Aren’t you a little tired of scholars and psudo-scholars fighting about doctrine? Is it worth it that you are divided against other denominations because scholars picked up their ball and stomped off the playground? If you are tired, then be the church. I’m not kidding, you don’t know everything but you know enough. Be the church and be united. Let the academics go to an island and fight about the things that matter to them, and we will be united based on the things that matter to us.

To this I say: 1) There are times that we should fight. 2) One of the things that unites the church is our distinctive doctrine. Do we have to be mean about it? No, but if you want to define defending orthodoxy, “fighting,” then we should love to fight. 3) Miller seems to indicate that academics just want to sit around and fight. If this is an academic person’s goal, then they have misunderstood what it means to be a Christian academic, or in other words, a theologian. That is a straw man argument and disappointing. True academic pursuit results in a life that is sold out to the truth learned. I would have agreed had Miller gone this direction—but he does not seem to take this view.


2 thoughts on “Interesting and Irritating II

  1. Chris weaver says:

    Good thoughts. If we are not after the truth and actively pursuing it- we aren’t where we need to be. People need help dragging lies into the light. I like your take on academics- seems like clarity of truth comes from it- when we find something contrary to our belief or maybe even just overlooked in our lives while getting at the heart of the Word- well, that’s not a comfortable place to be. Turning the light off doesn’t help but is a false security that isn’t of God.

  2. Exactly. You know, Miller used the phrase ‘fighting over doctrine’ and used it in a negative sense. I wonder how he defines doctrine. If by doctrine he means orthodoxy, i.e. the Trinity, dual nature of Christ, salvation by grace… then I completely disagree with him. We need to stand for these and “fight” when necessary.

    However, if by doctrine he means fringe issues like calvinism vs. arminianism—then I agree that we should not be divided over those issues.

    So, I am sure that this could all be cleared up if Miller himself were to comment—but I don’t count on it. Or perhaps I just missed something in his article… which is also a possibility. If that is the case I will recant.

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