12 Propositions…#2

Tony Sig

The Incarnation would have happened even if there had never been a “Fall”

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44 Comments

  1. I don’t think so, the Incarnation was the event that lead to the resurrection and reuniting of God and Man. If there were no Fall, then there would be no sin dividing God and Mankind. So the Incarnation, the act of God becoming flesh in order to walk with Mankind, would not have needed to happen.
    Adam and Eve walked with God in Eden, because they were pure and blameless; without sin. There was no need for an Incarnation because Man and God could interact directly.

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  2. Matt, your view presumably assumes that the state pre-Fall was equivalent to that post-Redemption.
    Surely it is only after Calvary that there is a Redeemer? That the redeemed are to be dressed in white and live in a city, not innocents in the nude in the garden? As the hymn has it, blessed the time that the apple was eaten.
    And if God has perfect knowledge of all of time (if (s)he has) – or if the necessary result of free-willed beings is that they follow their own agendas over those of the Creator – then the question doesn’t apply. The Fall was programmed in from the moment that God said “Let us make humankind in our image”.

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  3. Greetings HandsomeMatt,

    Welcome to the the blog and thanks for commenting! I will piggyback on what the Archdruid said.

    If, as St. Ireneaus said, “He became what we were so we might become what he is,” or to put it differently, if the Incarnation, as the uniting of the Divine Nature with our Human Nature is a precondition to our ultimate end, and if the end and goal of Humanity is now the same as it was “pre-Fall,” then it is at least logically possible that the ultimate salvation of humanity would still have been less-than-perfectly-accomplished if Human nature had remained distant from God’s own nature by an incurable divide, so that the uniting of the two Natures would still have been gloriously “necessary” even for the unfallen Human race.

    R.O.,

    I’ve now been called a Lutheran and a Scotist on this blog and I’m not sure I’ve read enough of either for them properly to stick! I thought St. Athanasius said the same thing…or am I mistaken? Aquinas is at least conscious of the ambiguity in the Tradition even as he asserts the one over the other – http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4001.htm#article3

    ++Eileen

    Good points all round.

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  4. Some relevant thoughts from Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware:

    “The Incarnation of Christ … effects more than a reversal of the fall, more than a restoration of man to his original state in Paradise. When God became man, this marks the beginning of an essentially new stage in the history of man, and not just a return to the past. The Incarnation raises man to a new level; the last state is higher than the first. Only in Jesus Christ do we see revealed the full possibilities of our human nature; until he is born, the true implications of our personhood are still hidden from us. Christ’s birth, as St Basil puts it, is “the birthday of the whole human race”; Christ is the first perfect man – perfect, that is to say, not just in a potential sense, as Adam was in his innocence before the fall, but in the sense of the completely realized “likeness”. The Incarnation, then, is not simply a way of undoing the effects of original sin, but it is an essential stage upon man’s journey from the divine image to the divine likeness. The true image and likeness of God is Christ himself; and so, from the very first moment of man’s creation in the image, the Incarnation of Christ was in some way already implied. The true reason for the Incarnation, then, lies not in man’s sinfulness but in his unfallen nature as a being made in the divine image and capable of union with God” [The Orthodox Way Revised Edition (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), pp. 70-71].

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  5. Salvation can only occur if there’s something to be saved from. Without sin there’s no reason to be saved. Adam and Eve were perfect and blameless in God’s sight, and they would have known the God-head better than we do now.

    To Eileen: You tread down a dangerous road for two reasons: To begin with, a hymn’s theology should never supersede that of the bible. Many are flawed in their beliefs in an effort to make a rhyme. Secondly, following your argument of “the Fall was programmed in…” brings us to a rather tough question: Who programmed in the Fall?

    If God did it, then God is in fact the author of sin by forcing Adam and Eve to disobey his command. This also negates our free will as well, in that we never had a choice in this matter. If Adam was a victim of programming, then I am a victim of programming, therefore just as a computer or machine can’t be held responsible for it’s actions, but the operator is. I shouldn’t be held responsible either, because God programmed me to sin. Although I don’t know much about God, I do know that He isn’t responsible for sin.

    This leads us to the second answer, that perhaps Satan influenced the creation of man, warping it in some secret way. This too raises a question about the omniscience and omnipotence of God. Why would God not notice that Satan is warping his prize creation and not do anything about it? Either he chose not too, which means he implicitly is responsible for sin, or he couldn’t, which means that God is not the greater than anything and everything. So then, God in fact is not God, but something less than.

    Furthermore, if we were programmed to sin, to disobey, then how is it that at the end of Creation, God looks over everything he has made and declared it good? When clearly, man is not good and they will disobey and turn on God?

    To Adhunt and Bryan:

    The divide between Man and God didn’t exist in the Garden. Look at the verses in Genesis: Man and woman were without shame, and we see in Genesis 3 that God walked in the Garden and called out to Adam and Eve asking where they were. This would imply that prior to this God, Adam, and Eve had all walked together. There was no divide, no Holy of Holies, no temple set apart, no need for sacrifices or atonement, or redemption. It wasn’t until the first act of disobedience that redemption was needed.

    And as we look at the old testament, we see God choosing a people to be a light to the world, so that all nations might know who God is. When the Israelites continued to sin and fail, God then sent His son.

    There would have been no need for God to become man, God became man in order to take on the sins of the world and forgive them. Jesus was a pure, innocent, and blameless sacrifice for the sins of man. Where there no sin, there would be no need for the Resurrection, therefore no need for the Incarnation.

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    1. Handsome,

      However blameless ‘Adam and Eve’ were, their Human Nature was still not united to God’s own by means of Incarnation. And if it is fitting and necessary that God become Incarnate then it will have always been the End.

      “Many other things are to be considered in Incarnation of Christ besides absolution from sin” – Augustine (De Trin. xiii, 17)

      Reply

  6. Matt, you’re assuming that the incarnation is strictly a corollary of salvation, and you’re assuming that salvation is a corollary of sin.

    There may be a lot more to this incarnation/salvation thing. You might want to discover how wide the Church’s thinking on these things have been before spewing answers all over everybody.

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  7. To Eileen, so then freedom equates to evil and disobedience?

    To Charismanglican,
    No I’m not stating it’s corollary. I’m stating it’s necessary for salvation. And that Salvation is the necessary redemption from sin. Or else why have the cross at all?
    And spewing answers? I’m hardly spewing, but kudos to you for spewing forth such a foolish statement and accusing me of not studying the breadth of the Church’s teaching without even knowing me. That’s a very judgemental thing to say, and who could read or know the breadth of two thousand plus years of writings and teachings?
    But to engage your argument again, how is salvation not a corollary to sin? What need is there for Salvation if I have no sin, nor have never experienced sin? This is akin to having the fire department rescue you when there’s no fire in your house. Furthermore, how could you be saved by Jesus had he not become flesh through the Incarnation?

    To Adhunt,
    What then was keeping Man and God divided in Eden prior to the Fall? Human nature was blameless , without sin, the only creation to be explicitly filled with “breath of God” and they walked in innocence without shame. What then was keeping them from God?

    And finally, the Incarnation was the miracle of God becoming flesh. This is true, but it was in order for Jesus to become a sacrifice, to satisfy the “wages of sin” which are death. God’s justice needed to be fulfilled, and Christ through his coming to earth and sacrifice on the cross did that. The Incarnation is forever linked with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

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  8. Matt, taking the Fall as a Truth (I can’t take take the Garden of Eden as a historical truth) – the evidence we have is that on the one occasion that human beings were given free will, sin resulted. That’s a 100 per cent record, albeit on a statistically small sample. I don’t know whether there is a possible alternative – certainly all the evidence around me is that given free will, people will go wrong.
    There seems to be a difference in quality between Eden and post-parousia Paradise. Adam before the fall was still tempted, and failed. The Paradise to which we look forward has no tempter, no temptation and a perfect relationship resolved. I believe that the pre-Fall state, whatever it represents, is not as good as the post-redemption one. We have been bought at a price.
    Your view of redemption does seem to be very narrow on the Evangelical spectrum. There is more to the redemption than solely paying the wages of sin; and these other aspects – such as being caught up into the life of God – seem to be the fruits that could flow from the Incarnation whether sin entered the world or not.

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  9. As far as I’m concerned having a view that is considered narrow by evangelical standards is a compliment.

    And you’re right there is much more to redemption than the forgiveness of sin. But it doesn’t matter if sin isn’t forgiven.

    And we don’t know how much time elapsed between Adam’s creation and the Fall, and we don’t know what would have happened had Adam not fallen.

    And if free will has a 100% record when it comes to giving into temptation, then why are there good acts in the world at all?

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  10. And Adam was already caught up in the life of God and God’s work. He was tasked with naming all the animals in Creation.

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  11. Is it not plausible, given say, Colossians 1:16, that the Incarnation is indeed the point of creation and that the plan all along was to gather the created into the uncreated, i.e. that we might be participants in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)? If so, then the fact of the fall does not determine the Incarnaition as such, but rather shapes the direction the Incarnation took under the shadow of sin and death.

    I think Irenaeus points to something like this. Certainly Duns Scotist does. Charles Williams and Hans urs Von Balthazar do as well.

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  12. Perhaps we’re suffering from a type of religious Stockholm syndrome. The idea of Eden is so foreign to us and what we have seen of in a world warped by sin, that it’s impossible to comprehend it. A world without sin, with Man and God interacting directly, working together, is so foreign to us that it’s incomprehensible.

    Yet we’re told that the Kingdom of God is now, but do we really believe it? If the Incarnation is what it takes to be participants in the Divine Nature, then what were the Hebrews and the entire cast of the Old Testament participating in, if not the Divine Nature of God?

    Perhaps I lean to much towards Process theology to believe that your argument is legitimate, who knows?

    I will give you the point that it’s plausible for the Incarnation to have been included in the plan. However, it is equally plausible that had the Fall not occurred, the Incarnation would have never happened.

    But what if the Incarnation has become a crutch to approach God. That without it, there’s no possible way for Man and God to interact together. But is that really true?

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  13. Matt,

    I think that Christian tradition is mixed on this issue. As I pointed out above Aquinas is on your side.

    In regards to your particular points, I simply am unable to consider the particularities of Gen. 1-3 as literal as you take them. Not that the passage is worthless or unauthoritative, but to push all particularities of the narrative(s) to the point you do, I think, goes beyond the scope of the passages themselves.

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  14. Matt…I’ll only answer one thing you said.

    You said that I’m being judgmental. I’m cool with that. Judgment in the church needs a rebirth. Paul commands us to do it.

    It’s Care Bear Liberalism that says ‘Don’t judge me!’ Well, and Jack Black’s character in Tropic Thunder.

    The rest of it I’ll just let stand based on your response.

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  15. So the whole “judge not, lest ye be judged” and that statement Jesus made about the plank in your eye and the speck in someone else’s, should be ignored?

    And Paul commanded a church in the ancient world to judge, and specifically on certain issues. But he also commanded to love as Christ loved, which if I remember correctly was fairly non-judgemental; he would eat with anybody, which was the Israelite way of saying “we are equal.”

    And what are you trying to do, push people away from the church? Again? Go ahead and be judgemental, you’ll end up with a church full of judgemental people that will expect perfection, and turn you out the instant you fail. So much for freedom in Christ and the grace that is forgiveness.

    If you’re perfect and capable of judging others, because your blameless in the eyes of God, then congratulations and tell me your secret.

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  16. Anyone who thinks that Jesus isn’t judgmental isn’t reading the same New Testament that I am.

    Matt, you’re my brother in Christ. Well, I’ll assume that as I can hardly know (nor can you) from a few posts on a blog. So, yes, I need to love you.

    Nonetheless, we need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. And the thinking of the u.s.american church is so muddled with liberalism that words like love and forgiveness lose their meaning in a mushpot of personal individuality…love begins to mean that we let everyone think the way they want to think and say what they want to say.

    It wasn’t always that way. God is not nice. Or, as C.S. Lewis put it about his character Aslan: “Safe?..’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

    You’re right that if I have a plank in my eye that I have little business telling you to study a bit more. The thing is, I study a whole helluva lot. And we’re commanded to ‘study to show yourself approved’. I call it worshiping God with my mind.

    Pushing people away from the church in u.s.america might not be such a bad thing. So many ‘Christians’ here marry for romance, divorce for nothing, live for convenience, buy and spend like it’s their own private business, give their opinion like it matters on issues they know little about, pledge allegiance to the flag, kill for the state, etc. and call themselves Christians that it’s almost impossible to know what in the world it would take NOT to be called a Christian.

    Compare this to the Church of the first few centuries where someone would have to spend three years demonstrating a commitment to discipleship and Christian ethics before they were allowed to be baptized or even stick around for the Lord’s Supper.

    Compare this to Jesus, who speaks in parables ‘lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears.’

    I’m all for freedom in Christ and grace and forgiveness. But in order to have any of those things you need to speak the truth in love. Without truth, there is no love or true reconciliation.

    Jesus eating with sinner’s was a way of saying that they were equal? That’s an anemic way of understanding table fellowship in Jesus ministry, if not completely erroneous.

    Jesus eating with ‘sinners’ was actually a prophetic act of judgment. It was a judgment against the temple cult showing that he was the new center of YHWH’s forgiveness. It was a judgment against the Pharisees and their concept of ritual ‘clean-ness’. It was a judgment of the nationalistic violence that some Jews would have perpetrated on Jewish sell-outs (tax collectors). It was the judgment of a dying age and the in-breaking of a new kingdom.

    So sure I want to push people away from the Church. They should know before entering that being a Christian entails practices that by their very nature are a judgment on the world that is passing away.

    You’re not a pagan. I’m not going to be ‘nice’, especially in a forum like this. You are talking about things from a very specific perspective. That’s okay…we all are. But you’re going to have to be open to the possibility of being wrong and not take it so personal.

    And, yes, I think you need to study up a bit.

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  17. I’ll just go ahead and put my B.A in Youth Ministry with it’s heavy focus on theology, my study of the Old And New Testament, my readings on the 6th and 7th Century BC prophets, my focus on exegesis, and the countless hours of reading and reading and reading away because apparently I need to study more.

    A few points though:
    I’m not taking it personal, the original principle is bad theology.

    Second, nice and safe are completely different. I never stated that God was safe, you read that into my statements.

    Plank in my statement and in the original story had nothing to do with knowledge, but rather with sin. Only God and the one who sits at His right hand, are allowed to judge. We shouldn’t judge anyone, lest we be judged as harshly as we judge others.

    Your statement about ‘christians’ in the American church seems to suggest an underlying hatred for them, that is at odds with all true Christians call to selfless love for others.

    Jesus eating with sinners was not a prophetic act of judgement, against pharisees, nationalistic violence, or anything else.

    To counter your argument that it was, I would point you towards the make up of the 12 disciples. That more than anything is prophetic, in that it shows the very nature of the Kingdom of God, all men of different backgrounds coming together under Christ. This comes to full focus, in the Last Supper, where Christ symbolicly shares himself, as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies, with his disciples. Disciples who are later charged with going to the ends of the Earth to share the good news.

    Should I prepare a list of who my professors were, the books and articles they’ve written, my papers, books I’ve read and my references or are we going to drop the claim that I’ve not studied enough.

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  18. I don’t hate u.s.american Christians. I’m both a Christian and a U.S. citizen. That you hear hatred in what I wrote is absurd.

    The 12 disciples proves the point. That you didn’t hear me saying something not unlike what you said about the Lord’s Supper just shows that you have no interest in actually hearing me.

    No references necessary. When you say that you’ve studied enough, I believe you.

    It’s not a trait I admire. I see discussions of this sort in these forums as a type of learning. But, since we are clearly at cross-purposes, I will kindly wish you peace and shut my proverbial mouth.

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  19. And if ‘the fall’ itself is a myth? as well as a complete mythreading of the biblical text anyway: wasn’t it Augustine who invented the concept?

    Isn’t it more realistic to see ‘sin’ as something left over from our origins in the evolutionary process? Something that our evolving intelligence is breaking away from as we emerge towards a better way, the way of love? And Jesus: is he not the one who shows us the way? Not so much God becoming human as humanity becoming divine: is that what incarnation is?

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  20. Greetings Phil, thanks for stopping by the blog.

    I’m probably a bit more of a traditionalist than you.

    – I had no particular “model” of “the Fall” in mind but it is a concept that I’m not at all sure a Christian understanding of Salvation can really neglect.

    – Likewise, humanity becomes divine only because the divine first became man. Really, all of Christianity is a “myth” in the sense that it is layers of meaning written into or taken from “mere” history; excepting of course those literary elements which are “fiction” (Job, Jonah, etc…)

    – I just don’t have the hope in our evolutionary process the way that you seem to. In fact I think that modern secular governments have waged more war and killed more people than any inter-religious fighting, what with their concepts of “sin.”

    So do you run the SPCK bookstore over there?

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  21. Thanks Anthony. You can blame the Archdruid for my presence, btw πŸ™‚

    I’m just not convinced by the entire fall/salvation concept β€” to me it’s an idea that theologians have used in an attempt to explain the state of humanity and to posit a way forward out of the mess we’re in, and I’m happy to let it go along with the dinosaurs and six-day creationism.

    My hope doesn’t lie in evolution per se β€” I see evolution as God’s creative process; and like any creative process, it’s a messy business … messy enough when you’re simply sculpting something static like a piece of stone: how much more messy when it’s the stuff of life itself that you’re shaping? Or when it’s your very self?

    Re. SPCK: I run the SPCK/SSG news blog, which I set up to report on the Brewer brothers (a couple of crooks from Texas and Arizona) and their run-down of the former SPCK bookshops in the name of their so-called ‘Orthodox’ mission. A sad business and a long story but now essentially over.

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  22. Ah yes, I saw her on your blog. The Archdruid draws a diverse crowd.

    For my part I’m happy to let bad theology go along with anything by Tillich πŸ™‚

    And forgive me for sounding kitche, but my hope is in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

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  23. How did I miss this wonderful argument? Crap!

    @ Fr. Matt

    I really do want to come visit your church – I need an excuse to come to chi town.

    @ Handsome Matt

    Have you ever watched someone in the middle of a room full of people who is shouting at them, demanding their attention/obedience – screaming “I am in charge here!”? Does that sound like behavior to which someone who is in charge must resort?

    If learning, teaching, and blogging have taught me anything, it is that I have a whole lot more (a WHOLE LOT more) studying to do. If you stick around, you’ll find a lot of wonderful resources for growth with these guys.

    Forgive us, if we are suspicious of the guy that waves his B.A. around in a room full of students and educators shouting about how educated he is.

    @ Joey

    Come on, play nice (Frankly, it feels weird for me to say that to someone else – instead of someone saying it to me, it kinda tingles).

    @ Phil

    What Fr. Matt said – and don’t be suspicious of the event of the “fall” or our need for “salvation.” However, do (always) be suspicious of how people want to use it. The supposed apotheosis of Christ probably won’t find a lot of adherents around here, as Tony has already said.

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  24. Apotheosis … I knew there was a fancy word for it somewhere. It’ll do me. I get my theology from realreads.co.uk β€” I’ve got the New Testament Boxed Set.

    Seriously, though, I just did a double-take on Fr. Matt’s the Incarnation is indeed the point of creation β€” I read it not as the incarnation being the purpose of creation (which is what I think Fr. Matt meant?) but rather as the point: the epicentre: the big bang: the beginning … the centre point from which the entire universe springs into being … pardon me whilst my mind boggles at what that implies … time flipped inside-out and back-to-front and upside-down … forcing me to read the Bible and all of human history from that point back to Genesis rather than the other way around… heck … I think I’m having some sort of epiphany moment…

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  25. Phil, glad to see you came over here to re-awaken this rather riveting Christmas thread!

    Your last posting sounds awfully Quantum! The idea that the necessary Observer is the quantum condition that brings the entire universe into existence. Especially when that Observer is the one that, ultimately, all must observe.

    I’m feeling rather mystical this morning. Must be the feel of Lent in the air…

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  26. @ Shawn

    I was hardly yelling and waving my BA around, my credentials were called into question. I was accused of not studying up enough on a subject; I responded.

    So far what I’ve seen from this theological “discussion” is this: an idea that is counter to what you believe in or propose is dismissed as foolish and uneducated. Like liberals dismissing Glenn Beck. No attempt to engage anything, just written off as someone “spewing answers” and “screaming ‘I am in charge here” or “care bear liberalism.””

    It’s cool, you guys like to throw around big theological terms and yet you miss the concepts behind them. I get the appeal, sophomore ministry majors do the same thing.

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  27. I’m glad you’re catching on Handsome. If there’s one thing that this blog doesn’t allow is people disagreeing with us.

    But really, I think what some of us, myself included, can tend to do is assume that most people will understand where we’ve come from and how we got there. So we have a specific critique of ‘Evangelicalism’ in mind when we seem to summarily dismiss conservatives such as yourself. Though I don’t believe I acted that way on this thread if I have dismissed you without argument I’m sorry.

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  28. Handsome,

    I have not yet begun to throw around big theological terms. πŸ˜‰

    Allow me to try another way – If you’ll be so gracious as to forgive and forget my previous statement, I’ll provide what (admittedly just my opinion here) I feel like would be a productive response to any conjecture brought up about your credentials (and, frankly, as I write this I have that foreboding feeling of “yeah, that’s right, Shawn, stick your foot deeper into it” but, hey, I am an optimist at heart).

    So, let me reset the scene as I have seen others handle it.

    1. You make a statement that seems to contradict the “culture” of the blogging community at this site.

    2. Someone claims you do not understand the context of the statements being made.

    3. You ask questions for the sake of clarification, and then restate any information that remains pertinent with research citing scholarly sources that support your claims (which, if you look back through the posts you were not doing).

    4. Those who disagree with you, provide research they have done, which they feel supports their points over and against your points (which, if you’ll look back on the posts, they were doing).

    5. Everyone throws research around until a) you figure out you really were wrong, b) we figure out you really do have a point, c) we all agree to disagree.

    It’s really very productive, and also happens to be what I was alluding to when I said that this group can really be very encouraging.

    thoughts?

    Reply

  29. It wasn’t a claim that I misunderstood the context.

    These are the quotes:

    ” You might want to discover how wide the Church’s thinking on these things have been before spewing answers all over everybody.”

    “And, yes, I think you need to study up a bit.”

    I don’t mind the counter points; this is a discussion.

    What I do mind is this: For all the theological verbage being used, there isn’t much actual theology. I’m bringing up basic theological tenants and I’m being told I’m wrong? Really? Somebody resurrect (unless we’re going to start saying that was a myth as well) Wesley, Luther, Augustine, Origen and the other church fathers and let them know a blog has decided they and their views are wrong.

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  30. I can see I am wasting my time, Matt.

    Your real argument is with Joey.

    Would you like to discuss something that is less based in research. The weather perhaps?

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  31. Hey Handsome: theological tenants are like any other tenants: subject to the landlord’s authority, but probably with less rights; but I guess you meant tenets, and I love that the only definition of tenets that Google can find comes from the Reformed Druids: probably +Eileen’s doing again.

    So let’s assume the resurrection isn’t a myth: doesn’t mean it’s any less true. I wonder what Jesus does all day, enthroned in heavenly glory? Being an inveterate self-harmer, I expect he sits there picking at his nail scars and making them bleed again. That’s when we’re not doing it for him, of course. Who’d be a god these days, eh?

    Reply

    1. Handsome,

      Considering the many voices in this thread I’m not at all entirely sure with whom you have problems but my original Proposition is a piece of “Speculative Theology.” Being as it is not something to be dogmatically affirmed for right belief in the faith, I’m comfortable going out on a limb with it. There are considerable theologians who have allowed for this, for instance Duns Scotus. So if you feel that I’m making judgement on our great saints and teachers you’re just wrong. I happen to submit a lot of my judgement of Origen, Augustine, etc…

      Phil,

      I couldn’t disagree with you more.

      Reply

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