Just a Few Theological Odds and Ends

20 05 2008

Just for fun, I thought I’d weigh in my thoughts on several theological issues that tend to surface, chiefly in Protestantism, but I’m sure all over the place in the Church.

In the great historic struggle between Calvinists and Arminians I’m neither, nor am I the hodgepodge of both as is fairly typical in many Evangelical churches. On the issues of Free Will, Justification and Predestination I take my stand in the Lutheran camp. In my rejection of Free Will it is on the basis that I, poor sinful beggar that I am, am incapable of approaching God or turning toward Him under my own power or strength; it is not a rejection of that philosophical idea of “free will” where I am a free agent to make my own choices, that kind of free will I do believe in. It is chiefly within the realm of soteriology where I make my stand against Free Will, chiefly because of my deep commitment to Sola Gratia and the Theologia Crucis. It is neither with my power to turn toward God, nor is it expected of me, rather God in His goodness, kindness and bottomless love for sinners has given Christ, who alone has accomplished everything necessary for me to have salvation and to know God, and it is the Spirit of God who acts upon me to free me from my own chains and who quickens me through the Word of the Gospel and the Waters of Holy Baptism to be a child of God. Because I reject the Calvinist notion of Double Predestination in favor for a more Lutheran form, I believe quite strongly that God does not, nor has He ever, predestined anyone for damnation; such is quite contrary to the Gospel which reveals to us that it is the desire of God that all be saved and the reality that Christ died for all men, not just for a few.

It was, in fact, this notion that first led me toward careful thought that perhaps all will be saved, which in turn led me to reading up on the doctrine of Apokatastasis, especially among the Fathers. I am highly inclined toward the Restoration of All, though with historic Church I refuse to proclaim it dogmatically, choosing instead to maintain it as legitimate and prayerful hope.

Having contemplated the issue of Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory, especially as it has evolved into the Substitutionary Atonement theory of much of modern Protestantism, I find too much wanting. While recognizing that St. Anselm’s theory is fairly different from what is taught in many contemporary Evangelical churches today, I have found more depth and meaning in the much older theories of atonement such as Recapitulation and Ransom, and have a fondness for how they have coalesced into Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor Theory. Positing that God is foremost an Angry God does not seem to make sense in light of the Gospel, which paints for us a Loving Father who offers His Son, not so that He might take out His wrath upon Him, but so that broken man might experience communion with Him.

I take great difficulty in accepting any notion of an immortal soul, chiefly because it lends itself too greatly toward a dualistic theology of matter and spirit, which has too strong a gnostic undercurrent for it to be acceptable to me. I accept with faith that between death and resurrection there is a temporal, intermediate existence where exile from the body means being present with the Lord; but such is an unnatural state, not a natural one. I reject any idea that the real and fundamental “me” is an ethereal, ghostly thing which simply resides within a fleshbox that I call my body. I am not ghostly, I am flesh, blood and bone. It is the immortality of the body that I believe in, which is what I confess with the historic Church in all her great confessions that the body will rise on the Last Day. While I still struggle with attempting to define what it exactly is I mean by the word “soul”, I am inclined toward the idea that it is something akin to the Aristotelian notion, that “soul” is that which animates me, drives me, causes me to be aware, to hunger, and which involves the “animal lusts” of my body. Which seems fitting as in St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians he speaks of the present body as a “soulish body” (psuchekos soma), usually rendered a “natural body”; this body is one operated under psuche–soul, breath, animal instinct and desire–but the body in the resurrection, though ontologically identical, is something far different, it is a “Spiritual body” (pneumatikos soma), a body that operates under pneuma–spirit–and it is my contention that it is a “Spiritual” body with a capital ‘S’. For it is the Holy Spirit that quickens this body, no longer operating under the animal instincts of “the flesh”, but now under the Spiritual life of the Spirit. However any idea that my eternal destiny lay as a floating phantasm in some cloud-laden paradise is, simply put, an absolute detestable and heterodox idea that has no business being part of any church’s theological corpus.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about anything like this, so I thought I’d offer these random thoughts… ‘cuz I’m rad.

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