Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Myth of the Theological 'Alone'

It happened in the context of an argument. It often does for me, so I'm used to it. A group of people who all disagree when I bring forward an alternative view that I'd been brewing, and yet I didn't think they needed to. My alternative view didn't rule out anything they said, though they treated it that way. I was merely emphasizing something that I thought had been neglected. So I've been pondering how things like that happen. It came to me that Martin Luther might have started it. Since his 'Justification by Faith Alone' it's possible that the use of the word 'Alone' has been an expected feature of all theological debate. It speaks of entrenchment. It speaks of either-or, it rules out both-and.

Look at Luther's cockeyed down-rating of the book of James -- a mere straw epistle he called it. James, that wonderfully practical view of the Faith, mere straw? And why? because Luther could not reconcile James' emphasis with his own now entrenched position. Yes, I know he got to this position through divine revelation. I don't even doubt it. But it seems to me that revelational experience is a double edged sword in theological pursuits. We need fresh ideas and paradigms and that's one edge, but defending your private revelation is apt to entrench you in your own ideas and not allow for balancing views. 

Bad Theology And God's Love for His Children

Yesterday at prayer meeting we prayed for some specific people, that God would heal them. There was a bit of a discussion in that process that turned up some bloggable material that I'd like to hash through here.

Point. There's not one bit of God that is bad. He's all good. He never intends evil to anyone. Even though he is never caught off guard by evil and can and will go to extravagant lengths to redeem his creation in face of evil, his intentions never include it. (So yes. I'm a thoroughgoing open theist. God made Adam and Eve with every intention of a joyful eternity and did not 'know' that they would fall. I speak here of a timeless 'knowledge' that would make him out to be a twisted person who would see all the horror awaiting his children and create them anyways. I just don't -- God help me -- accept that.)

From this we understand that God's plan, although, he will work with and around our sickness is never our sickness itself. He doesn't wantonly damage his creation: he restores, he redeems, he heals it. Suffering in the context of the kingdom battle that is still happening will come, but not from God afflicting his children with sickness.

So what do you do about stories where people who receive their sickness as from God and suffer and die with a glorious sense of the presence of God all around them? I realized (again, probably, because I'm sure it's not the first time I've thought this) that God's love for his children supersedes bad theology. "According to your faith be it done to you." or something like that. If someone has a problematic idea that blocks God from doing what he does naturally, i.e. heal, he will still love them and dwell with them, sometimes gloriously. But don't let's, as Christians have in the past, build a theology around it and bless sickness itself as a 'gift' from God.

Yeah, that sounds a bit militant. Whatever.