A delayed reply after another out of town teaching stint.
"Howard J. Van Till" wrote:
> From: "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <email@example.com>
> > Our only possible source for the Trinity is revelation.
> Dave, I don't mean to sound excessively feisty, but what do you make
> of the fact that the relevant "data" was apparently downloaded mostly
> in the first century, and then lay relatively unprocessed until it was
> needed in the fourth century to craft a theological solution to the
> problem of controversy that threatened to divide the institutional
1) This is inaccurate historically. The "relevant data" was
not at all "unprocessed" during the 2d & 3d centuries but dealt with
extensively by - just to mention some important figures - Justin,
Irenaeus, Tertullian, & Origen. By the beginning of the 4th century
various mediating positions had been attempted & found to be wanting &
the church had to deal with the question, is it really appropriate to
speak of Christ as God or not? The influences of ecclesiastical &
imperial politics were of course important during the period in the 4th
century when this decision was being fought out, but that shouldn't
obscure the fact that the church had been wrestling with these issues
2) The fact that the fundamental revelatory event (i.e., the
life, death & resurrection of Jesus - not the writing of the New
Testament) took place ~ A.D. 30 need not mean that its full significance
was grasped then by the first disciples. It's clear that within ~25
years they were speaking of Christ as a pre-existent divine being (cf.
Phil.2) but teh full implications of took a long time to work out.
Analogy: We had observational evidence in 1941, from anomalous CN
spectra, for the MWB but the significance of that data wasn't recognized
for another 25 years.
3) Dave must of course speak for himself, but IMO to say "Our
only possible source for the Trinity is revelation" must mean that we
would not know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit apart from God's
revelation in Christ. Various philosophical, literary &c tools are used
in the development of a "doctrine of the Trinity" which is based on
revelation, & thus the way the church expresses belief in the Trinity
will be to a certain extent culture-dependent. But if it were not for
revelation we would not have such doctrines connected with Jesus of
Nazareth at all, though we might have more or less interesting
speculations about a 3-fold character of God.
> >Only recently has the Big Bang indicated a beginning to the
> universe, which was
> > already in the scriptures. Apart from the Hebrew
> scriptures, the "creation"
> > myths are a reshaping of something, whether by Marduk
> using Tiamat, or the
> > Demiurge using what was available.
> Re science: I would suggest that we admit that Big Bang cosmological
> theory is able to speak only to the formational history of OUR
> universe since t=0. It has no empirical access to what may have
> preceded it, and it has relatively little to say about what may
> co-exist with it.
> Re exegesis: Given the uncertainties in translating the opening lines
> of Genesis, many biblical scholars are quite modest in their claims
> about what the Bible actually says about an absolute beginning. Some
> suggest that Genesis 1 starts not with "nothing," but with chaos.
Belief in creatio ex nihilo does not depend exclusively (or, I
would argue, even primarily) on Gen.1:1. But Claus Westermann (see the
1st volume of his Genesis commentary, Augsburg 1986) has made a very
convincing argument that this should be read "In the beginning God
created ..." rather than "In the beginning, when ..."
> > There is another aspect of the situation, in that theology
> has been described as
> > the application of philosophical methods to the data of
> My question has been, Why limit the "data" of theology to the biblical
> text alone? I'm eager for theology to be a vital and contemporary
> discipline that is as relevant to the continuing human experience as
> are the sciences. Why treat God as essentially silent (non-revelatory)
> since the Church chose to close the canon?
Sola scriptura can't mean that we use only the Bible to develop
our theology: We wouldn't even know how to read the Bible in its
original languages if we did that. It's clear today that the ways in
which we express some doctrines, such as those concerning creation &
original sin should take into account scientific developments that the
biblical writers weren't aware of. But if a theological position has no
clear support in scripture, it should be presented at best as a
theological opinion, not a dogma of the church. This is why, e.g., the
Roman claims concerning the Immaculate Conception & Assumption of Mary
are so problematic, even though we might agree that they need not be
church-dividing if held as non-binding theological opinions. (& this is
why, however strongly I might feel about the need to take evolution into
account in dealing with human origins, I would never say that acceptance
of evolution is a requirement for church fellowship.)
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
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