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atonement

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Book Review: “Lewis on the Christian Life” by Joe Rigney

Lewis on the Christian Life is another installment in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series from Crossway. This time, the subject is the extremely popular Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis.

It is clear from the start that Rigney has a monumental task. Lewis wrote a lot and clearly had development in his thought throughout his life. Some of this is briefly touched upon by Rigney, but other aspects of it are skipped over (especially Lewis’s development of thought on men and women). Rigney makes it clear early on that he intentionally draws from many of Lewis’s lesser known works in order to try to bring some balance on people’s thoughts regarding Lewis. Rigney divides his look at Lewis’s theology of Christian living up topically, including such things as Prayer, Christian Hedonics, Healthy Introspection, “The Choice,” “The Gospel,” and more (17 different topics worth!).

Of particular interest to me were the sections on prayer and choice. Lewis’s theology is worked through with the idea of choice for the Christian and the person–whether it is heaven or hell. As Rigney puts it, “This is the Choice: God or self. Happiness or misery. Heaven or hell” (Kindle Location 468). People’s choices lead to right (or wrong) living and play out into eternity. This idea of choosing doesn’t meld very well with some forms of theology, particularly a more Reformed or Calvinist one–which is typically what the publisher Crossway leans towards. Rigney touches on some parts of this notion showing how he thinks Lewis’s thought may be compatible with Reformed thought, while also offering some critique. Rigney draws heavily from The Screwtape Letters to discuss many aspects of Lewis’s theology of Christian living, including prayer. I find this work fascinating, and was edified by Rigney’s many looks at aspects of it.

One area I thought was odd was how much time Rigney spent on Lewis’s doctrine of atonement. Lewis was no systematic theologian, but RIgney seems quite concerned to make Lewis one when it comes to the doctrine of the atonement. Particularly, he is keen to show Lewis affirmed penal substitutionary atonement. I’ve been surprised by how frequently this view of the atonement is seen by its adherents as almost equivalent to the Gospel, and this is no exception. I’ve always seen the scene with Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as more of a ransom theory notion of atonement, but Rigney takes it penal substitutionary, with a slight nod to how it could be seen as ransom theory. For myself, I don’t see a huge gap between the two, and also honestly don’t understand much of the debate. It seems clear to me penal substitution is found in the Bible, but so are many, many other aspects of the various theories put forward. Is not a holistic view more preferable because it easily integrates everything? Why must we be mutually exclusive? More relevant for this book, why must Lewis become one who endorses penal substitution when it doesn’t actually seem that clear from his writings? Such questions remain unanswered.

Lewis’s idea of Christian living also allowed for pretty much anything not forbidden. This doesn’t go well with more Puritan-like aspects of thought, but it is, I think, generally correct. Rigney, oddly, takes this as a chance to try to explore what is allowed or forbidden in worship services (kindle loc 4612ff). I didn’t really get how this was relevant or why it mattered, but that might be my own theological background showing through (as a Lutheran, I believe much of this is adiaphora).

Lewis’s views of male and female are certainly a product of his time, and Rigney, apparently endorsing complementarian doctrine, seems to delight in some of the frankly silly things Lewis said in some of his works. Particularly silly was the idea of the oh-so-manly Mars in the Space Trilogy. Why is it manly? Because it has Mountains ‘n’ stuff! Yep, no distorted cultural expectations of masculinity and femininity reflected there, right? Wrong. Rigney seems particularly affirming of these aspects of Lewis’s theology, which frankly seem like the strangest aspects to affirm. Moreover, there is debate over whether Lewis actually maintained this kind of strong complementarian doctrine throughout his life. For example, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwan dedicated an entire book to the topic.

Perhaps my biggest complaint with the book, which I’ve already touched on, is how much space is dedicated to correcting Lewis’s theology, which most frequently means moving him more in line with the kind of Reformed Baptist theology that Crossway promotes. I’ve read numerous books in this series of theologians on the Christian life (see more here by scrolling down), and there are some (like the one on Luther) that seem to fulfill the series’ mission of expositing the various theologians’ views on the Christian Life. This one offers much more by way of analysis than some of the others, and I think I have gotten more out of those that focus almost entirely on showing what the titular thinker had to say than what the author wanted to correct.

Lewis on the Christian Life is an uneven but interesting look at the breadth of C.S. Lewis’s theology of Christian living. Rigney opens up whole fields of investigation into Lewis’s thought, but spends a bit too much time on analysis relative to other books on the series. I recommend it for those interested in investigating what Lewis has to teach us about living life in Christ.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Really Recommended Posts 12/5/14- secular humanism, theology books, RPGs, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneYep, lots of diversity this go-round. We have a challenge for secular humanism, theology books, the atonement, Levitical Law, and a role-playing game. Think I didn’t get a good variety? Think again! Let me know what you think in the comments below, I’d love to read them! Be sure you let the others who wrote the posts know what you think.

The Secular Humanist’s Dilemma– An extremely brief but challenging post. How should secular humanists behave? Is this a compelling argument? I’d love to read your thoughts.

Why November Overwhelms Me (Books!)– A bookseller reflects on this past month and all the awesome looking books that come out in November. Lots of theology books this past month that are of interest.

Zack Hunt and Ken Ham walk into a House of Cards, on Yom Kippur– An interesting look at the doctrine of atonement and the interrelationship with sacrifice via a look at Ken Ham and Zack Hunt. Here’s a surprise- Ham and I agree largely on this point.

Why Wearing Clothes of Mixed Fabrics (Leviticus 19:19) Was Wrong–  Sometimes it seems the laws in the Old Testament don’t make sense. Here’s an interesting post on critiques of the Hebrew Scriptures on these types of laws and points. I got this link from The Poached Egg, a site you should definitely follow!

Americana Dawn: Historical RPG– I don’t often share kickstarters, but when I do, you should take notice! Check out this awesome looking kickstarter for an RPG that is based on early American history. I’m pretty pumped for it!

Is the historical Adam a “Gospel” issue?

4vha-zondervan[Adam] must be a real individual who rebels against a clear divine directive at a specific moment in real time in a real place. (Barrick, 221, cited below)

One of the many issues which comes up related to the debate over the historical existence of Adam and Eve is the relation of Adam to Christ. Specifically: does undermining of the reality of Adam’s historical person undermine the work of Christ? Here, we’ll explore that question.

To be clear: we are not here exploring whether or not Adam really existed or whether there really was a real pair, Adam and Eve, from whom all humanity sprang. Rather, the question is this: if one denies the historical Adam and Eve, does one undermine the Gospel of Christ? Whatever one thinks of the answer to the question of the historical persons, one should consider the answer to this question as well. There are many issues to be addressed, so this post will only touch on a few. Write a comment to let me know your own thoughts or other issues you think of.

“Gospel” Issue?

In order to ask whether the history of Adam is a “Gospel” issue, we must first consider exactly what is meant by a “Gospel” issue. Definitions are important, and my own search for the meaning of this term yielded a whole range of definitions. Thus, I’m going to focus on a kind of working definition: to say something is a “Gospel” issue is to say that a specific doctrine, if untrue, undermines the Gospel [here meaning the glorious truth of salvation through Jesus Christ] and possibly one’s salvation itself. In the definitions I’ve found, and the use I’ve seen of this term, I believe this is an accurate understanding.

The Historical Adam as a Gospel Issue- Two Perspectives

The book, Four Views on The Historical Adam, provides a good background for exploring difference of opinion among evangelical scholars on the historicity of Adam. Most telling for our question is the young earth perspective and the theistic evolutionist response to it. William Barrick argues that the historical Adam is indeed a Gospel issue:

the biblical description of sin depends entirely on the historicity of Adam. He must be a real individual… in real time in a real place… [denial of the historical Adam] has serious implications for the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ… [quoting John Mahoney]: “If the first man is not historical and the fall into sin is not historical, then one begins to wonder why there is a need for our Lord to come and undo the work of the first man.” That makes the historicity of Adam a gospel issue. (Barrick, 221-222)

Barrick’s argument seems pretty clear: if no historical Adam lived and acted in the Fall, then what reason is there for Christ to come as the second Adam and restore humanity to God? If Barrick’s argument is successful, it does seem to establish that the historical Adam is indeed vital to an understanding of the truths of salvation.

Denis Lamoureux takes up the challenge of restoring confidence in the possibility of the Gospel without an historical Adam. His argument is instead that when “behaviorally modern humans” showed up (about 50,000 years ago), they broke their relationship with God (he does not make explicit how this may have occurred). Moreover, he argues that Barrick’s argument is unsuccessful because it is a non sequitor–the conclusion simply doesn’t follow. Is it really the case, Lamoureux asks, that the reality of sin “depend[s] entirely” upon a historic Adam (Lamoureux, 229)? Barrick’s argument was simply to appeal to the requirement for sin to be an action against God (itself a disputable claim–does sin really require action or is it possible to have [actually] sinful inclination?–but we’ll set that aside). Lamoureux notes that saying there was no historical Adam does not undermine or remove the reality of sinful activity.

Moreover, Lamoureux argues that Barrick’s argument conflates the historicity of Adam with the historicity of the resurrection (ibid). Not only that, but:

The gospel is about Jesus Christ, not Adam. The gospel is about the reality of sin, not how sin entered the world. The gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, not specifically Adam’s sin. (ibid, 229)

Adam and the Gospel

So is the historical Adam a “Gospel” issue? Returning to our definition, it seems to me fairly clear that one’s salvation is not determined by whether one believes in a historical Adam. The foundation of faith is Christ raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Lamoureux is right to point out that the Gospel is ultimately the message of our salvation through Jesus Christ. The first part of our definition, however, asks whether the grounding for this salvation might be undermined. Romans 5:12-21 seems to demonstrate that Christ came to save humanity as the second Adam, and that a real person, Adam, really did sin and created the need for salvation.

Lamoureux’s counter to this is to argue that such statements are divine accommodation–that is, Paul did believe in a single, historical Adam, but that doesn’t mean there was one. The debate over this must wait for a different post, but for now I’ll just say that although I think there is divine accommodation in God’s revelation, I’m not convinced it involves allowing for very clearly false statements (such as the claim that Adam existed if Adam did not exist).

So if there is no historical Adam, it seems to me that this entails at least a denial of the specificity of the text in Romans 5. Thus, one could say that this undermines the basis for salvation. However, if one is willing to strip down to the bare bones of “Mere Christianity,” might one still preserve the Gospel? At this point I say yes. The basis for our salvation is belief in Jesus Christ, not belief in Adam. This does not mean that I think the historical Adam is unimportant or non-existent. Rather, I would say that anyone who does wish to say the historical Adam is necessary for salvation has yet to demonstrate that claim.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Check out other posts on the origins debate within Christianity.

Sources

William Barrick, “A Historical Adam: Young-Earth Creation View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

Denis Lamoureux, “Response from the Evolutionary View” in Four Views on The Historical Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her”

hs-gibsonFrom Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective is an extremely in-depth look at the doctrine of “definite atonement” (more commonly known as “limited atonement.” The editors define the doctrine in the introduction: “The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. The death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone” (Kindle location 463).

Due to the length of this book, I will split my review into broad comments on positives and negatives of the book, with a few specifics. It should be noted I didn’t simply reduce the positives to areas I agreed or negatives to disagreements. Rather, I have tried to be as fair as possible and show several areas of interest for this uniquely important work. I look forward to any comments you’d drop off with your own thoughts.

Positives

The most obvious positive of the book is its magisterial scope. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her is a simply huge study which touches upon multiple avenues of research related to the topic of definite atonement. The book touches upon almost every conceivable aspect of the doctrine of limited atonement, from church history to biblical theology to pastoral implications and evangelism. As Daniel Strange comments in the chapter on “The ‘Uncomfortability’ of the ‘Unevangelized’ for a Universal Atonement”: “No doctrine is an island” (Kindle location 14696).

The portions of the book which deal with specific authors are extremely interesting. The chapter on Calvin, for example, shows (in my mind) beyond a reasonable doubt that Calvin–at the least–would have found definite atonement a logical path for his theology to take. The chapter on “Blaming Beza” highlights some interesting aspects of the development of the doctrine which were fascinating.

Many chapters could be held up as “highlights,” but I particularly would say that Strange’s aforementioned chapter, which provides an argument that any view which holds that at least some are not saved is a form of limited atonement was a major highlight of the book. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Strange, his argument forces those who disagree with him to contend with it. Other major highlights are the chapters on Calvin by Paul Helm (an author whose previous work I have enjoyed), the chapter on John Owen (which highlights some aspects of Owen’s teaching I found particularly interesting), and the chapter on “The Triune God” and definite atonement by Robert Letham.

To say that these are “highlights” is to do injustice to the work as a whole, however, which simply provides a comprehensive argument for definite atonement. Even as one who does not hold to the doctrine, I was impressed by the incredible scope of the work and very interested in the historical development of the doctrine as it was highlighted therein. This book is a good read, even if you ultimately disagree with its conclusions. And, if you do disagree, you will be forced to think long and hard about your disagreement.

Negatives

Perhaps the biggest issue is that at multiple points, conclusions drawn from evidence seems overstated. One example, drawn from the chapter on Definite Atonement in Church History, states that Justin Martyr fairly clearly held to definite atonement. Now, I’m not claiming to be a patristic scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems to me the passages cited are hardly a resounding endorsement of definite atonement. Indeed, Martyr said that “[Christ] was going to endure, cleansing through his blood those who believed in him” (Kindle Location 1088). I’m not at all sure why this would be taken as evidence for definite atonement, because apart from universalists, anyone who believes Christ died for the salvation of humanity would also hold that Christ’s death ultimately cleanses the elect; those who believe. None who disbelieve are ultimately cleansed, for the application of Christ’s atonement was not brought about. Now the point is not to demonstrate this latter view is correct; my point is merely that the conclusion drawn here is actually overstated.

Going with the same section, one could just as easily take the passage cited from Martyr about how Christ “ransomed” us as allegedly pointing to the ransom theory of atonement. The problem is this latter case would also be a clear overstatement. Only by starting with a paradigm and reading Martyr through that lens does the alleged evidence turn out to support that conclusion.

Another example comes from the chapter on “Problematic Texts” by Thomas Schreiner. There, in dealing with 1 Timothy 2:1-7, he states “The immediate [contextual] reference to ‘kings and all who are in high positions’ (v. 2) suggests that various classes of people are in view” (Kindle location 9564). For support, he cites further context and a commentary. However, on face value alone, if 1 Timothy 2:2 is indeed that which limits the scope of the passage, one would have to wonder how “kings and… high positions” could be comprehensive in the way required by “all.” I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I by no means rank among kings or those in high places, but I do think that I am part of “all” or at least “various classes of people…” Moreover, Schreiner seems to think that v. 2 is the limiting factor, but the flow of the passage seems to fit more with the notion that all people includes those who are kings and those in high places and that Paul is simply emphasizing the latter group as particularly worth praying for (after all, leaders are those most in need of God’s guiding hand). Schreiner goes on to argue based upon this that the best reading is, again, “all kinds of people” not merely “all people.”

Apart from the fact that Paul could have simply said “all kinds of people” to make it clear that that were his intended meaning, the text itself again goes against Schreiner’s view, because its context is not “all kinds” but rather “kings” or “those in high places…” In any case, I would think this passage would lead to caution about the conclusion, not the absolute conclusion given later: “[T]he pastorals… focus on salvation being accomplished for all without distinction, both Jews and Gentiles…” (Kindle location 9989).

Unfortunately, examples like this may be easily multiplied. Throughout the book, conclusions seem to be drawn prior to the evidence, and so evidence is made to neatly fit with the conclusion. Conclusions often seem to be overstated throughout, without much caution for some of the more difficult passages or acknowledgement that there is diversity among even those who hold to definite atonement on the interpretation of various biblical passages or authors.

Conclusion

Looking back over the review, I can’t help but think that it is inadequate. The scope of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her is so massive that it simply cannot be adequately covered in a review of readable length. Anyone who wishes to deny the doctrine of definite atonement must contend with this work and engage with it critically. Those who hold to definite atonement will find their view ably defended. As a reader, I was challenged as much as I was engaged. I recommend the book highly for those interested in this doctrine, though I do wish there were perhaps some more acknowledgement of the real difficulties on various points.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

David Gibson and Jonathan  Gibson, eds., From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Resource Review: “RTB Live! ‘Beyond the Cosmos’ with Hugh Ross”

Reasons to Believe is a science-faith think tank that seeks to show that Christianity is a profound source of knowledge. They come out with a number of resources from podcasts to articles to books. One such resource is their “RTB Live!” video series which explores a number of topics on science and Christianity by varied lecturers. I recently had the opportunity to watch “Beyond the Cosmos” which is the third in the series.

Hugh Ross presents this lecture which largely focuses on integrating science and Christian doctrine. He prefaces his comments by letting the audience know that he’s not necessarily suggesting that the ideas he presents are the way things happened, but rather that they show that certain Christian doctrines are possible in light of scientific findings.

God, according to Christianity, is “transcendental.” Ross refers to this as “transdimensional.” He begins his presentation by saying that given that God is beyond the dimensions, a number of interesting scientific findings about dimensions can show how God could bring about certain actions.

Ross discusses the Biblical portrait of God as both transcendent and immanent. God is beyond the universe, but is “everywhere within the universe” and capable of interacting with God. He outlines a number of Bible verses to show these doctrinal truths.

He then moves on to general relativity. General relativity has been confirmed to an amazing degree by big bang cosmology as well as other evidence. Rather than going into detail on this section–which should be familiar to those interested in such a topic–the rest of this review will focus upon the theological implications Ross draws out from current cosmology.

One of the central questions people ask is “If God created the cosmos, who made God?” Ross notes “everybody asks that question!” However, he argues that “these spacetime theorems give us an answer to that question… What these theorems tell us is that there is cause and effect going on before the universe comes into existence.” Ross argues that these cause and effects are due to a causal agent which is itself outside of space and time.

Because God is not confined to linear time, Ross argues, God has access to “at least a plane of time.” It’s hard to convey Ross’ argument here because he utilizes a drawing to depict what he’s saying. But basically if one sees two timelines running independently, they are on the same plane. God could see this plane and therefore interact with all the timelines.

Ross goes on to use a very interesting illustration of “Mr. and Mrs. Flat.” He uses paper cutouts of a male and a female that are two dimensional figures. Now because they are 2D, they exist on a plane. But God, being transcendental, could, in a sense, “poke a finger” through that plane and God would be experienced as a circle (the finger). God could also poke three fingers through the plane and be experienced as three circles. Furthermore, God could see Mr. and Mrs. Flat in their entirety, even though they would appear as straight lines to each other.

This thought illustration was intended to show how God, having access to all dimensions–indeed, being beyond them–could interact with all of spacetime and know what’s happening.

Similarly, because God has access to limitless dimensionality, He could listen to every single prayer on earth by utilizing each point in a “timeline” as an infinite timeline running perpindicular to that moment of time. Thus, God could spend infinite time listening to each prayer.

The atonement is often raised as an objection to Christianity because some ask how God could pay for the sins of the whole world by just suffering for a few hours on a cross. Ross points out that, just as God can expand any single moment of time into an infinite timeline to listen to prayer, so too could Christ have suffered on the cross for a potentially infinite period of time.

Reasons to Believe, as an organization, strives to show that the Christian faith can be put to the test. Ross pointed out several testable predictions that their model brings to the table:

  1. Evidence for a single cosmic beginning will increase.
  2. Evidence for finite past time will grow.
  3. Evidence for general relativity describing cosmic beginnings will increase.
  4. The grip of spacetime theories will become more “relentless”.
  5. The case for a transcendent creator will grow stronger.
  6. The evidence for other miraculous events will increase.

These 6 testable predictions are not strictly hypotheses that could be used in a lab and some criticism from skeptics could come at Ross from this angle. However, it seems clear in the context of the video that Ross was painting in broad strokes here. From his writings, one could see that he parses these 6 predictions into much more precise hypotheses.There are a number of other theological issues Ross touches upon, and as someone who is constantly involved in grappling with these questions, I couldn’t help but have my mind expanded and think on how some of these ideas could affect my perception of Christianity. There do seem to be a number of ways that science can provide possibilities for several Christian doctrines.
Finally, it would be remiss to review a resource like this without commenting on the visuals presented by Ross. There weren’t any extremely flashy slides or demonstrations. Rather, Ross used a whiteboard to illustrate a few things and brought a few objects (some balls, Mr. and Mrs. Flat, etc.) to demonstrate some points. What was interesting was the way he used them. In particular, the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Flat was very interesting.

The video was extremely thought-provoking and certainly would be a good watch for a study group on science and religion. As someone who specializes more in the realm of philosophy, I would say that a few of Ross’ ideas have larger implications than is illustrated in the video. For example, it seemed as though the way Ross described God’s interactions in time would entail something like William Lane Craig’s view that God is timeless sans creation and temporal subsequent to Creation. However, from some of Ross’ writings, I am fairly sure he holds that God is in fact “still” timeless (a view I share). Thus, one would have to take the views he puts forth here as perhaps more speculation than reality. Such a discussion over whether God is timeless or in time was beyond the scope of the video, but I think the video could be used to bring up discussions like it.

Overall I enjoyed the video very much. As usual, Hugh Ross was a thought-provoking speaker whose ability to combine his knowledge of astrophysics with theology is often startling. The video would be perfect for a small group and could go hand-in-hand with Ross’ book of the same name (Beyond the Cosmos). Furthermore, the video could be used for a higher-level apologetics group in order to discuss some implications for God and time or science and faith. It is highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I was given this DVD to review by Reasons to Believe. I was not asked for a positive review, nor was I asked to focus upon any particular content. My thanks go to RTB for the video. 

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Atonement and a Timeless God

One of my own struggles with Christianity as I began serious contemplation of its core doctrines is the doctrine of atonement. Specifically, I kept wondering how it is that Jesus’ death two thousand years ago could be used as atonement for my sins now. In order to overcome my difficulties figuring this out, I admittedly opted for a fideist type of approach and just assumed that God could do what He wanted, and if He wanted to forgive me because of something two thousand years ago, that was fine.

More recently, however, I’ve been thinking about God’s timeless nature. I touched on these thoughts in my last post, but wanted to get into more depth now.

Consider this: If God is timeless, then God’s existence occurs “all at once”; there is no sequence of events to God, only one eternal “now.” But then it follows that God the Son, Jesus Christ, is eternally crucified, eternally exalted, eternally reigning on high.

In some sense, if God is timeless, then it follows that while I am sinning, Christ is suffering on the cross. As I ask for forgiveness, He is rising from the tomb. As I read Scripture, Christ is speaking. I don’t mean these things temporally, of course, for on this view, god is atemporal–He is without time. Thus, I am not saying that “now”, Christ is dying in a temporal sense; rather, it is meant metaphorically. Christ is crucified in God’s eternal “now”; during which all events are “present.”

What does this mean for atonement? At least in my opinion, it seems to make a lot of sense out of the idea that Christ’s death pays for my sins. For there is no moment at which Christ is not suffering for my sins–a truly horrific thought. On the other hand, there is no moment at which Christ is not glorified with His Father in heaven. All of God’s experience occurs in an instant.

It should be noted again that these considerations are not intended to imply that all events are “simultaneous” in a temporal sense of “occurring at the same time”; rather, they are simultaneous in the sense that from God’s perspective, they have occurred; are occuring; and will occur. All events are eternally present to God. Neither does this mean that God has no sense of the order of events. God’s eternal now sees events in order of logical priority as opposed to temporal progression. Therefore, God knows that one event (x) occurs “before” another (y) in the sense that x is logically prior to y; x had to occur for y to happen. But God experiences all events as “now”; as the changeless, immutable deity, He is eternally crucified, eternally glorified; eternally paying for our sins, and eternally forgiving us for them.

At Communion today (Sunday), I was contemplating the implications of an atemporal God for atonement and justification. I was overcome with emotion as I thought deeply on the issue. As I was eating of the body and blood, Christ was being crucified for my sins; as my forgiveness was declared, Christ was rising.

Powerful thoughts. I think divine temporalists (those who hold that God is temporal) still have to deal with the doctrine of atonement: how does a death thousands of years ago atone for me now? Those who hold God is timeless can answer this question sufficiently: Christ is paying for your sins.

SDG.

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