Friday 21 June 2013

I require of theology...


A comprehensible and coherent account of

the necessity

of the experience

of incarnate mortality;

for Mankind, for each Man, and for Jesus Christ.



John said...

Have you prayed that it might be revealed to you?

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - It *has* been revealed to me.

I am here just stating what was/ is my primary requirement of theology, as a discourse.

J. B. said...

Dr Charlton-

Do you recognize any authority within the Church that can say what is or is not the right teaching?

You seem to reason theologically based on your own experience and what makes sense to you--what solves the problems you are having. Which is very interesting, but for me a lot of it is a non-starter because it has already been contradicted by the teaching authority of the Church. I'm Catholic for what it's worth. Do you recognize any authority that could overrule you and say "sorry, this is out of bounds?"

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jables - it's a fair question. But it does simply kick the can further down the road - because in the end I personally have to decide who is the authority to whom I consent to defer.

You may have decided that the authority you choose to defer to is The Magisterium, or maybe the Pope when there is disagreement, or maybe the most recent Pope when there is disagreement across time, or traditionalists may regard the current Pope as (temporarily) in error and defer to the SSPX hierarchy (etc).

But it is always a choice to submit to a particular authority.

Eastern Orthodox Catholics have regarded that authority as illegitimate for the past 1000 years.

Alan Roebuck said...

“…in the end I personally have to decide who is the authority to whom I consent to defer.”

But do you choose in a purely subjective way, or because you recognize that the authority to which you choose to subject yourself has an objective authority? If the first, then you make yourself the Supreme Authority, which is obviously no good.

And if the second, then there must be reasons that guide you in recognizing the validity of the authority.

(Although I’m protestant, I agree with the overall thrust of Jables’ comment.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@AR - Agreed. So where does that get us? Apparently you landed in a different place from J.

But the point of this posting is that the answer to what (among, for instance, the denominations) we recognize as a Christian authority is likely to be affected by what is, for each of us, that theological question to which we require a comprehensible and coherent answer.

If we require an answer, and the answer given is incomprehensible, then that is no use; if it is incoherent, then that is no use either.

Kevin Nowell said...

Which part of the standard orthodox Christian answer to that three part question do you find incomprehensible or incoherent?

ajb said...

"But it does simply kick the can further down the road - because in the end I personally have to decide who is the authority to whom I consent to defer."

Analogy: as an executive, it sometimes make sense to grapple with a specific issue oneself, and figure out the best decision - with assistants and experts who can inform one's choice. Other times, it makes sense to choose to delegate the decision making to those assistants or experts.

In either case, one must choose at some level oneself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@KN and ajp - What I am grappling with here (as perhaps ajb intuits) is the decision that each Mere Christian must make of 'which denomination?'.

So I am not going to provide an answer to KN's question, because I do not believe that it matters to other people, this was my personal concern - and I believe all real Christian denominations are valid.

But this is one heuristic which could be used in making the choice.

If there is a particular theological issue which you brought with you into Christianity (this was the one for me) then answering that particular question may give you the answer to the question of which denomination (given that all Christian denominations have significant weaknesses and flaws, as well as strengths).

Donald said...

Not all beings with free will have mortality. The angels, once created, never die.

Humans are created mortal. They are also vastly weaker in strength and intelligence.
Why the difference?

Perhaps because although they start lower, the are able - if they so choose - to cooperate with G-d and be divinized. They can partake in the very life of G-d, except of course in his uncreated nature.

This may explain the Devils rebellion, that he might be subordinated to one of these lowly creatures he balked out of pride and rebelled!

It also explains the incarnation "the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself."

Only in such a world, with limits and pressures and pain and suffering - can we truly be free to accept theosis - truly exercise our free will and unite will, mind and action with that of G-d.

Perhaps if we were more intelligent (as in angelic superintelligence) we would be more prone to pride. Or if we were immortal we couldn't be redeemed.

Perhaps theosis requires just these conditions we find ourselves, and they can't be satisfied by angelic like conditions - a reasonable speculation given these are the circumstances we find ourselves in!

Donald said...

But why Christ's sacrifice on the cross?

Substitutionary atonement? Ransom to the Devil?

What is it to be in Heaven. It is to be in G-d's presence. But G-d is All Holy, All Good --> meaning He is All Loving, but also Righteous and Just. Thus he cannot, by necessity, just blink at sin. He must cleanse and purify, right the wrong.

So in other words His justice must be satisfied. Substitutionary atonement.

But then why the Devil? Why the ransom?

Even though the Devil was cast down from Heaven like a bolt of lightning, because he is an immortal creature (a necessity for free will apparently) he still maintains some of his prestige and power - Hell too has a hierarchy which he sits as an Anti-Christ: a parody of the rule of Christ. Thus all those humans barred from Heaven as a necessity of sin fall under his domain - they are his 'property' in conformity with G-d's Holiness and Righteousness precluding the humans from entering heaven.

But Christ, in willingly being sacrificed, both full man and full human, can legitimately take on their sin and pays the price for those humans fulfilling G-d's justice - and thus they have been liberated from being the Devil's 'property', they belong to Christ!

Donald said...

What Church do I join?

To say that all Christian Churches are 'valid' for salvation is to say that they are 'invalid' in many of their core truth claims. That is they are valid in 'essentials' (salvation by faith it seems is the only thing that binds them all) but deluded on a number of 'core issues'.

Is that a preferable position?

It will indeed depend on the question you are asking. On earth our epistemic position will always be limited. But the key question on salvation is this: in which Christian Church am I most assured of salvation?

Perhaps the reason Bruce says that all Christian Churches are 'valid' is because he believes that peoples salvation is 'assured' better or worse depending on various contingent factors (so an intellectual might be closer to salvation in a Catholic Church which appeals to his aesthetic and intellectual side whereas a blue collar man might be attracted and have a deeper faith in an evangelical protestant church) --> essentially salvation by Faith alone.

But surely this is only half right.

The only assurance is to be in the Church founded by Christ. And is this not a real, living body - an existential reality? Can we not, with as reasonable certainty as any human has, at least trace an unbroken line through the Apostolic Churches to the authority of Christ (said Donald rhetorically)?

So indeed by divine economia those in various schismatic sects may indeed be counted as part of Christ's Church - just as some non-Christians too by Divine Grace may receive the kingdom. We aren't in the epistemic position to know --> one indeed hopes for the best and trusts in G-d's goodness because ultimately He is to judge their souls, not we.

But surely it is different to say those outside the existential reality of the Apostolic Church may be saved and all the Christian denominations with mutually exclusive claims are all correct.

Indeed, it may be a sin of significant pride to say 'all Christian Churches are valid' for perhaps they are not and one might lead another astray! Millstones and all that (I think you are acting in good faith, of course, but leftists think so too and they are involved in all sorts of evil).

So you should at least try and establish which Christian Church is (most) correct, and if you think you discover it join it...I don't think I'm recommending you become a mormon Bruce lol

Bruce Charlton said...

@Donald. That explanation does not cohere for me; but if it does the job for you, then that is fine!

Arakawa said...

If one assumes there is one unified Church somewhere which alone enjoys the fruits of a true understanding and worship of God, then in conjunction with the knowledge of how most people (nominally Christian or not) are in the grip of historically-abnormal levels of corruption, one is forced to conclude that the true Church is one of the tiny 'remnant' congregations. i.e. the SSPX rather than mainstream Catholicism, or perhaps one of the Old Calendar Orthodox congregations, or something like that; since these are the only places where apostolic succession is unbroken and no embarrassing concessions are being made to modernity. Then there is a remnant church somewhere, one, true, but not readily visible or discernible to the unbaptised sinner's eye.

On the other hand, to swallow that Catholicism as a whole remains a true and visible Church, requires me to believe in a level of Grace and leniency from God that makes it plausible any number of other churches would serve as true and visible, in spite of not being Catholicism.

And then there is the issue that I am not wise enough to know which of these two possibilities is actually the case.