Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Could God save us from Annihilation without the Incarnation?

April 21, 2009

The following is a summary of a paper I wrote defending Athanasius’ view of the necessity of the incarnation. I argued that given certain definitions of God, humanity, and annihilation, it is not possible for God to save humanity from the post-mortem annihilation of the soul unless Christ becomes incarnate.

In his On the Incarnation, Saint Athanasius explains that part of the fallen human condition is the possibility that every human being will be annihilated. (more…)

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On the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation in Scripture

December 30, 2008

Under the Mosaic law, only specific persons received the special gift of the Holy Spirit—prophets, priests, and kings, and other such folk. The new relationship between God and man inaugurated in Christ involves the incorporation of all citizens of the Kingdom into a participation in the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in Christians was promised by Christ (John 7:37-9). The Spirit becomes incorporated into humanity supremely in Christ’s miraculous anointing at his baptism. This is the first step in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, for Christ sums up all flesh in himself (1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1:10).

To “receive the anointing” which is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20-27) or “receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, 8:14-17, 9:6, 17-18, 19:1-7) refers to a sacrament still practiced in the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism to this day. The word “Anointing” is “criso” in Greek; hence “Chrismation”. (more…)

Cirlot on Grace in and Outside the Church

September 24, 2008

The Anglican bishop Cirlot wrote a book on whether or not apostolic succesion is true (incidentally, its title is Apostolic Succession: Is It True?  Practical name for his book, eh?).  One of the objections he had to deal with to the Catholic position was that there seems to be a lot of Christians outside of of the visible Church.  The Catholic view (not Roman–just universally held by Christians across the centuries; this is the view shared by Anglicans, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics) is that the Church is an organization with visible criteria of membership, instituted directly by Christ with a heirarchical structure that has sacramental grace.  The Church is a polis, a city or nation of sorts–not an earthly one, surely, but a true polis none the less.

Cirlot mentions the arguments of the archbishop of Cantebury William Temple for the conclusion that Protestants are fully the Church in just as unqualified a way as the Catholics (which here designates Anglicans, Orthodox, and Romans).  The main argument is from the superabundance of grace that we see outside the Church.  The moral and spiritual character of Protestants is not excellent across the board; there are some bad apples.  But there are so many good Protestants that it makes the Catholic view of the Church improbable.  How could a Catholic possibly deny that a good Protestant is in the Church? 

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Supererogatory Actions? Part 2

July 10, 2008

So a while back I posted a short speculative little bit questioning whether there is a place in a place for supererogation in a proper Christian ethical system. This little thought project eventually begat a short semester paper in my ethics class. I’ll be posting it in a few different pieces. This is the first part. As always constructive feedback is greatly appreciated. (more…)

Natural Consequences (2): Isaiah on the Fire we Light

May 8, 2008

Is hell just retributive punishment inflicted actively by God?  The language of “punishment” and the fact that God is a judge who casts people into the fires of hell seems to favor this understanding.  But is there any biblical evidence for the idea that the fires of hell (whatever they are) are self-lit?  Consider Isaiah 50:10-11: (more…)

St. Cyril of Alexandria on Justification as Deliverance

May 7, 2008

I remember me and Mark had a conversation at lunch back when he was still a Calvinist, but had rejected penal substitution. I asked him “hey, what do you think justification is, if not imputed righteousness?” and he responded with a puzzled look. He went on to say something like “I donno, but it had better be connected to Christus Victor atonement somehow.” At the time this seemed absurd. After all, justification is obviously a legal term, so how could it have anything to do with being freed from the devil’s power? Right? (more…)

Natural Consequences (1): Jeremiah on Word, Fire, and Wrath

May 5, 2008

It seems like I’m always starting series of posts that I never finish. Oh well.

Anyways, this series is going to be about the biblical data and theological implications of the idea of “natural consequences”. To say that something has natural consequences for you basically means “what goes around, comes around” or “you asked for it”. Natural consequences are the non-intentional results of actions we take. They are not inflicted by an exercise of will that is aimed at retributively punishing us for our guilt; they just sorta happen because of the way the world is. (more…)

Conditional Election in the Incarnation

March 2, 2008

Defenders of unconditional election will generally deny that there are any examples of God choosing a person based on qualities internal to them in Scripture. Many of them will also assert that if God depends on human decisions (if He “waits on man to respond” as it is sometimes said) to accomplish salvation, then this robs God of his glory and sovereignty, because its really man’s choice that counts, not God’s.

Luke 1:28-30
“Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

If defenders of unconditional election are correct about these two ideas, then why does it seem that in Christ’s incarnate economy, the very foundation of our salvation, God elects Mary based on a faith that she chooses to have? Notice the lack of “God elected you to accept grace” language; rather, its “God elected you because you accepted grace”. And if God conditionally elected in something as great as the Incarnation, why not think God conditionally elects in personal election of believers unto salvation?

Inclusivism (5): The Gentiles in Romans 2:12-16

February 28, 2008

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.”

Apparently the Gentiles have the law written on their hearts, can follow the law by nature (would you call such a nature totally depraved?), and their conflicting thoughts may EXCUSE them on the day when God judges the hearts of men by Jesus Christ. Hmmmm…

Inclusivism (4): The Example of Cornelius

February 2, 2008

Up until now, my posts on inclusivism have been aimed at establishing a principle that lies behind inclusivist theology, and countering an argument for exclusivism. Now we come to a positive argument for inclusivism. Any theology of the unevangelized must deal with the example of Cornelius. This example is especially important, because of what Peter says he has learned when he meets with Cornelius:

Acts 10:34-35
“Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

What is implicit in Peter’s words is a recognition of Cornelius as a paradigmn case. Whatever is true about those outside of the Church, and specifically the unevangelized, is embodied by the example of Cornelius. If Cornelius was saved only when he was a Christian, then we are to understand Peter’s words as implying that God accepts those who fear God and work righteousness in their act of becoming Christians via evangelization. If, on the other hand, Cornelius was saved prior to evangelization, then we are to understand Peter’s words as implying that God accepts those who fear God and work righteousness prior to their actually becoming Christians. Clearly this is an important issue.

I will argue that Cornelius was saved prior to evangelization. This argument borrows heavily from John Sanders’ “No Other Name”. (more…)