Re: the tradition that Abraham engaged in astronomical studies

From: Graham E. Morbey (
Date: Fri Jun 27 2003 - 10:28:32 EDT

  • Next message: Josh Bembenek: "RE: Concordist sequence--why be a concordist? (off list)"

    Recently, I suggested that George might be too stringent in his
    understanding of the analogy of the book of creation (I don't like to
     talk of nature when I am addressing mostly Christians because it smacks
    too much of Greek thinking, ie., allows talk that may leave God out at
    all levels) and the bible as Word of God. I suggested gently that George
    might be blind sided by Christocentrism - and not just the
    Christocentric which is the focus of our salvation. My solution is to
    pay more attention to the doctrine of Creation and allow it to function
    more deeply in redemptive history. Where George's tradition and my
    tradition touch base very clearly is that of predestination re the
    discussion below. Here we touch the deep mystery which separates the two
    sciences of theology and philosophy in the endless discussions of
    freewill and determinism. When theology tries to emulate philosophy too
    much we get into the quandary of scientific methodology being applied
    to the bible story such that the gobbly dragon-head of inerrancy begins
    to chew up scriptures and spew out false assurances of salvation. :-)
     (forgive the purple prose!)

    John Polkinghorne has some interesting takes on the questions of what
    he calls the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell in his

    George Murphy wrote:

    >Josh Bembenek wrote:
    >>George: "Certainly what Abraham is pictured as being engaged in is natural
    >>theology. I agree with your analysis of the origin of such legends, but
    >>this isn't simply a matter of building of Abraham. By doing that the
    >>capability of human beings in general to discover something of the truth
    >>about God on their own is built up. If we take this legend seriously we're
    >>flattering not just Abraham but ourselves."
    >>I agree that the presentation of Abraham discovering God is giving credit
    >>where credit is not due. However, it seems that your description of our
    >>coming to faith is solely placed in God's hands (as much scripture
    >>supports.) It comes across almost like a natural law: God chooses and we
    >>believe, much like magnets are drawn to one another naturally. I would love
    >>to hear how you see free will participating in this process, and how we are
    >>given enough freedom to remain responsible for our actions and commitment or
    >>lack thereof to Christ, yet it is God who predestines and calls... (a magnet
    >>has no choice to pull toward another magnet, according to natural law and
    >>-besides it not being a moral agent- would not be held accountable for
    >>acting according to magnetic forces.) I had a conversation about this with
    >>some friends recently and would love to get some feedback, perhaps some
    >>citations. Not to elevate the credit humans have, but to develop an
    >>accurate and complete picture...
    >Josh -
    > Dave has pointed out some of the thorny philosophical problems involved with
    >determinism & free will. Theologically the issue is not so much determinism, in a sense
    >like that of Newtonian mechanics, as it is of damage to the will due to sin. The
    >fundamental problem which sin poses isn't that we want to trust God but for some reason
    >aren't able to. It's that we don't want to. It's precisely the will that's messed up.
    > The question of whether or not our wills play a positive role in conversion is
    >different from the question of whether or not you have freedom to choose what to have
    >for breakfast. The latter question is something that scientists and philosophers debate
    >- though of course it also has theological implications. In any case, the Augsburg
    >Confession (to operate within my tradition now) has no problem in saying (Article 18)
    >that we are free to choose "whether or not to eat or drink or visit a friend" &c. But
    >as far as our relationship with God is concerned a person is (prior to the work of the
    >Spirit) "not capable of making himself acceptable to God, of fearing and believing in
    >God with his whole heart, or of expelling inborn lusts from his heart." Ephesians 2:1
    >describes people prior to conversion not as being simply "bound" or "wounded" but
    > That being the case, conversion must be the work God - something done _in_ us
    >(we're the ones who believe) but _by_ God. "No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by
    >the Holy Spirit" (I Cor.12:3).
    > That of course raises the question of why God doesn't simply convert all people.
    >Why aren't all saved? The standard answers are:
    > a) Some people don't contribute the activity of their "free will" to believe -
    >problematic in view of what was said above.
    > b) God has not only predestined some to be saved but has predestined others to
    >be condemned - which is hard to square with I Tim.2:4.
    > Both answers are logical, though both have to finesse parts of the NT. The
    >classic Lutheran answer (Formula of Concord, Article 11) seems logically unsatisfactory
    >but is more sound theologically: Those who are saved are saved because God has chosen
    >them and converted them, and those who are condemned - well, it's their fault.
    > That's, as I said, the classic response. I think that Karl Barth's
    >understanding of election (that it's first of all _Christ_ who is elected - both for
    >blessedness and for condemnation) puts the whole issue in a different light, & also
    >raises some new questions (like universalism). But I've gone on long enough.
    >George L. Murphy

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