Thursday, September 9, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Race

Racial discrimination is a big issue which this country has faced and it has its influence in every social-political structure. Justice rather than reconciliation is the better rubric under which to consider the issue of race. If reconciliation is understood as the repair of broken relationships and the restoration of trusting an intimate community between persons and groups, then justice is its first step. Racial reconciliation is not possible unless there is first the redress of race-based or race-lined injustice.

        Some of the injustice can be seen in the violent crimes and death committed against Black people or a particular group of people. We see hate crimes and death penalties handed over to a particular group of people. This has led to a reduction in life expectancy. Many of the political decisions and steps taken are racially biased. We see power imbalances and discrimination at every level. We see from history that there existed housing discrimination and exclusion from voting rights. Even some people are excluded from churches and other voluntary associations.

        God-given diversity of human family was twisted by sin into the destruction of human community long before the first slaves reached this country. The Bible records the conflicts between the human people groups and offers rich normative resources for racial justice and reconciliation. There are distinctions drawn between the Israelites and other people and these are religious-moral rather than racial. Jesus clearly undertook his ministry within the Jewish context but much of the ministry was focused in Galilee and he also visited non-Jewish areas.

There is a need to overcome these differences and provide justice for people who have suffered as a result of racial discrimination. As Christians, we need to learn to see people in the way God sees them. All human beings are the creation of God and every one is created in the image of God. This does not mean that we do something which may display that we see everyone as equal but it has to come from deep inside of us and it needs to be reflected in our words, actions, and thought.  I believe that it will require a lot of repentance or intentional effort from our side so that we see people as equal and not discriminate based on the color of skin or any other physical traits. The main point is that we cannot ignore justice in any form of reconciliation we aspire to have with people whom we betrayed or oppressed.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Shame and Conscience

In his chapter on Shame and Conscience, Bonhoeffer says that man is reminded of his dis-union with God in shame. Conscience is man’s disunion with himself and it relates to himself and is not concerned with God and other men. Conscience is satisfied when the prohibition is not disobeyed. Whatever is not forbidden is permitted and for conscience, life falls into two parts: what is permitted and what is forbidden. 

There is no positive commandment and what is permitted for conscience is identical with good and it does not register the fact. And even in this man is in a state of disunion with his origin. The range of experience of conscience does not extend to the fact that this unity itself pre-supposes disunion with God and with man and that consequently beyond the disobedience to the prohibition, the prohibition itself, as the call of conscience, arises with disunion from the origin. 

This means that conscience is not concerned with man’s relation to God and to other men but with man’s relation with himself. Bearing within himself the knowledge of good and evil, man has become judge over God and man just as he is judge over himself. Man begins to reflect upon himself while he starts knowing of good and evil in disunion with the origin and in conflict, the judge is invoked and the judge is the knowledge of good and evil which is the man.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1955.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Love

Some of the key points from Kingdom Ethics: Love.

Love is at the heart of the life of Christ, his teaching, and his death on the Cross and for Christians, love is the heart of living. Even on the cross, Jesus reflected his compassion through his actions. It is important for Christians to understand what we mean by love and what the true shape of love is. It is important to compare and discern which form of love fits best for Christian ethics.

    Sacrificial love is the agape love which is purely unselfish, spontaneous and unmotivated by any value or benefit the other might have for us. It is not created by any value it sees in others but instead creates value in them. This love is regardless of the attractiveness of the one we love and is not something we do but God initiates it as a pure gift and we reflect the love that shines from God through us towards others. The sacrificial love throws its pure white light on our usual way of loving and reveals our selfish rationalizing and calculating but it has some very damaging liabilities. People sometimes see it as ideal and impossible and they either write it off as impractical or experience its lack with a guilty conscience. It also seems to sewer the connection between love and justice. It has also been used to keep oppressed people at their place. It also seems to understand the significance of Jesus’ death. Jesus did not die on the Cross for the sake of self-sacrifice but to deliver us from our bondage to sin.

    Mutual love is the love which is two-way and not one-way. The New Testament doctrine of love is based first on the mutual love between God, the Father and the son. Another type of love is the love with equal regard. This love means that we value all persons equally regardless of their special traits, actions, merits of what they can do for us. This fits well with the struggle for justice. Equal regard also seems to assume that the problem we have is to get a correct philosophical definition of our ethical norm. Another kind of love is the delivering love which is not a single principle but a complex drama which is with dramatic actions. Christian love points centrally to the drama of Jesus Christ.

    God in Christ loves us even to point of becoming vulnerable to our rejection of him at the Cross. The delivering love offered in the cross has continuity with the works of God and the deeds of deliverance. Jesus did not merely die for the sake of sacrifice but to deliver us. Delivering love does not divorce the Cross from the greedy injustice and the legalistic hate that continue to cause Jesus to be crucified again. We need to understand that love includes confrontation, and God’s love confronts those who are far away from him. As Christians we need to evaluate our own life and see what kind of love we should have towards others as it concerns how we behave and how we deals with people.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.


Monday, September 6, 2021

Kingdom Ethics: Authority and Scripture

Below is a reflection from Kingdom Ethics: Authority and Scripture.

The two key methodological issues in Christian ethics raised by Jesus when he talks about law and the prophets found in Matthew 5:17-20 are:

  1. Where shall Christians turn for authoritative insight and direction in shaping their ethics which relates to the source of authority?
  2. How shall scripture be interpreted in Christian ethics and how is Scripture used?

            The issue of biblical authority is a recurring question in church life and Christian ethics. If the church is functioning as it should, it will continually and very earnestly engage in a search for authoritative direction and insight concerning its character and its conduct. It is not enough to say that Scripture, tradition, divine guidance, conscience, church leaders, and the other function as the sources of authority. Christians need to know which among these sources they should really use and how to order and rank the constellation of sources to which they turn. Jesus Christ in his teaching and preaching constantly upheld the Scripture quoting, alluding to, or showing the impact of all aspects of his Bible. It is clear that Jesus immersed himself in the Scriptures, knew them well, and lived out what he understood them to teach. Jesus’ discussion of the Pharisaic/ Rabbinic religious tradition makes the centrality and the authority of Scriptures strikingly clear while also revealing his approach to tradition itself. On a scriptural basis, Jesus rejected the tradition. For Jesus, a clear distinction existed between the Word of God and human tradition. Jesus clearly cherished the Jewish religious tradition and participated in it in a wide variety of ways but he insisted on subjecting the tradition to Scripture and to God’s creative and redemptive intentions. The place of divine encounter in the life and ministry of Jesus is apparent, Though Scripture records no direct example of Jesus’ moral teachings flowing out of the divine encounter. Jesus frequently retreats into prayer, especially before major decisions and experiences. There is no mention of what happened during these encounters but his teaching and preaching reflect the impact and centrality of Hebrew Scripture. Even his central teaching concerning the kingdom of God is a biblical concept and it is not something he discovered and created through his encounter with God. Christian ethics has repeatedly addressed the sources of authority and they have identified it in the use of the Bible.

            If Scripture is to be so central, a source of authority, we must be careful about how we interpret it for Christian ethics. We can see that the Sermon on the Mount is best understood as a series of interpretations of teachings in the Torah and the prophets. For Jesus, the Hebrew Scriptures were to be interpreted not through the grid of Rabbinic Scribal Casuistry dominant in his day but instead that offered by the prophets of Israel. Jesus interpreted the Torah as a gracious, divine covenant rather than as the law. Jesus understood the Torah as an expression of God’s grace just as the Exodus was an expression of God’s grace. Interpreting Scripture through a prophetic grid leads to a moral than on the cultic aspect of the law. Jesus had a prophetic rather than a legalistic understanding of the content of righteousness. Jesus repeatedly calls his listeners to turn from an emphasis on ritual defilement and outward purity and to an awareness of the wellsprings of real moral purity. Jesus’ emphasis on the heart is apparent through the Sermon on the Mount and it should not be misconstrued by saying that conduct does not matter but only the heart’s attitude matters. Jesus whole-heartedly affirmed the validity and the continuing authority of the Law and the prophets. Obedience, deeds, and practices are the keywords and they are not merely assent to the right moral convictions. Scripture is the central source of authority for Christian ethics and Jesus is the key to interpret Scripture. 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1955.

Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2004.

 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Reflections on Evangelical Ethics

Technologically, we are making a lot of progress, but morally we appear to be lost. Evangelical Christians are challenged to formulate their positions on what are literally matters of life and death. Since the time of reformation, the subject of casuistry has become less fashionable in Protestant circles. 

Jesus in no way minimized the role of specific obedience to the commandments of God but made such specific obedience a test of the genuineness of the disciples’ love. The teachings of the Scripture are the final quote of appeal for ethics. Human reason, church tradition, and the natural social sciences may aid moral reflections but divine revelation found in the Bible constitutes the bottom line of the decision-making process. 

The Word of God is the only infallible and inerrant rule of faith and practice and consequently is the highest authority for both doctrine and morals. There has been a widespread tendency in modern biblical scholarship to minimize the prescriptive element in New Testament ethics in favor of a generalized appeal to Christian faith and love apart from the specifics of the law. The love of God shed abroad in the heart of the believer is indeed the dynamic motivation of Christian behavior, but this love demonstrates itself in harmony with and not apart from, the specific commandments and the precepts of the Holy Scriptures. 

The Bible endorses the principle that human life is of far greater value than physical property or possessions. When the loss of God conflicts with the loss of man, the human loss must yield to the higher authority of God. Christians seeking to influence public policy will recognize both the value and the limitations of civil law as an instrument of social change. Civil laws that are consistent with the teachings of Scriptures point society to a higher standard of righteousness which is fulfilled only in Jesus Christ. Such laws remain a worthy object of Christian concern and social action.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Problem with Relativism

Relativism is a knowledge-denying claim i.e.; that truth claims are really just opinions or culturally-shaped perspectives. Facts, moral precepts, or values can be true for you and at the same time not true for me. Relativists deny that objective universal truth exists. Many Christians struggle to respond to relativism and fail to live a faithful life in a morally discouraging culture. The culture war between truth and relativism is not at all new and the belief that universal objective truth does not exist (alethic skepticism) or cannot be known (epistemological skepticism) is not a latecomer to the Western civilization. Although relativism has intermittently appeared and reappeared throughout history, its dominance of culture is new. They argue that rather than having a significant voice in public life, religion has to be relegated to private and personal life. Relativism is a knowledge-denying enterprise and if you say you know something you are not really a relativist. It claims that knowledge is unattainable and objective relativism tells us that no truth is objectively true or false. One person’s truth which amounts to opinion can conflict with another’s truth and still both can be valid.

             Religious relativism maintains that one religion can be true for one person or culture while untrue for another. Religious beliefs are seen as simply an accident of birth and are a product of historical happenstance and the argument goes that no single religious belief can be universally or objectively true. Moral relativism rejects any binding moral values for all maintaining that there is no objective ethical right and wrong and that morality is an individual or cultural matter.

            Relativism is an assault on the truth but at the same time, it has its cultural implications. On the religious front, persuasion is prohibited and evangelism is seen as cramming your religion down someone’s throat. Sharing about Jesus gets people upset and evangelism implies that you believe that your news is true and you believe that your hearers should turn from their present way of life. Another implication “is to be exclusivistic is seen as arrogant.” The variations of religious beliefs in the world claiming to know something others don’t must be wrong-headed and erroneous. Another implication is that tolerance is the cardinal virtue implying that someone is wrong sounds terribly intolerant when tolerance popularity is defined as (being open or accepting of all ideas). For example, what homosexual activists call tolerance is an unconditional acceptance of their lifestyle as legitimate and right. A final implication of relativism perhaps best explains how disputes over truth can begin to feel like a war. “Absent the possibility of truth, power rules the day.” i.e.; once the truth is whatever we say it is, asserting power over others is a natural next step.

             On the surface level, relativism sounds relaxed and easy-going. When we think through its implications and apply them rigorously to life, we see the pitfalls of being so accommodative.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Copan, Paul. True for You But Not for Me. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009.

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Case for a Creator: The Evidence of Consciousness: The Enigma of the Mind

This blog presents a summary of Chapter 10 from Lee Strobel's book 'The Case for a Creator.

The basic argument in the chapter- 

The basic argument of the chapter is that there is a mind or consciousness existing in human beings which is beyond or different from the brain. We are created in the image of God and hence our soul is complex to understand. The chapter deals with evidence of consciousness. Lee Strobel starts with the controversy over consciousness and concerns related to brains boundaries. Then he writes about his interview with J.P. Moreland which deals with various issues and questions regarding consciousness.

2.  The major points of the argument that impressed me the most-

Wilder Penfield, the renowned father of modern neurosurgery through performing surgery on more than a thousand epileptic patients encountered concrete evidence that the brain and the mind are actually distinct from each other, although they clearly interact. Penfield ended up agreeing with the bible’s assertion that human beings are both body and spirit. A year-long British study provided that evidence that consciousness continues after a person’s brain has stopped functioning and he or she has been clinically dead. It was dramatic new evidence that the brain and the mind are not the same but they are distinct entities. A scientist could know more about what is happening in my brain than I do but he could not know more about what is happening in my mind than I do. He can know about the brain by studying it but he cannot know about the mind without asking the person to reveal it because conscious states have the feature of being inner and private. The argument for computers being able to imitate intelligence and that can have artificial intelligence and the fact that they will never ever have consciousness and the arguments put forth were also impressive.

3.    Some questions that came up while reading the chapter -

a)     What is the relation between our feelings or emotions in relation to the debate of mind and brain? What plays a major role in determining how our emotions are controlled?

b)     If our consciousness or mind does not die when we are clinically dead and our brain ceases to exist, then what part plays the function of the brain once a person is dead? During an after-death experience, what is that part which helps in doing the function that the brain does when a person is alive? In other words, how will intelligence function when a person is devoid of his body and left only with his consciousness?

How does this argument "measure up" as an apologetic?

I think it is a good argument for the existence of an intelligent designer behind the design of human beings. The issue of the difference between mind and brain can draw the attention of a person to think beyond the natural or accidental way of thinking about human life. This argument can be used as an apologetic argument at an advanced level. The existence of consciousness which cannot be replicated in any other machines or computer is a strong argument for human beings being unique in creation. Various arguments given by J. P. Moreland in support of dualism like the inner and private mind, the reality of the soul, etc., lay down a strong foundation to understand the difference. If the existence of a consciousness which does not die when a person dies can be proved, then the destiny of this consciousness which does not die when a person dies is an interesting question. This could draw a person’s attention to a supreme power or a creator God to who people are accountable. This argument cannot be used as a standalone tool but can be combined with various other arguments.


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Religious Experiences and Apologetics

There are many ways to approach the reasonableness of theistic belief. It seems possible for a person to come to believe in God as a result of coming to believe in the truth of Christianity or some other particular religion. The topic of religious experience is not limited to consideration of exceptional or mystic experiences. Genuine believers in God often feel that they are dealing with God continually in their day to day lives. The argument asserts that it is only possible to experience that which exists and the phenomenon of religious experiences demonstrates the existence of God. One important distinction is that between the kind of religious experience in which the individual experiences union with the divine and that in which the individual experiences a separation between himself and God. There are two models for understanding experience. They are the representational model and the model of direct realism. Some experiences clearly seem to be subjective and dreams are paradigmatic examples of such experiences. The direct realist claims that an experience of an object provides an impressive sort of the object’s reality.

The claim that people may have direct experiences of God has often been rejected as impossible but the reasons commonly advanced for these rejections are not very good ones. Philosophers call an experience in which the object of experience has been truly perceived a veridical experience. The task of checking experiential claims is not so easy and straightforward as it might appear to be. Even in simple cases there are more objective and subjective conditions that must be satisfied for a successful observation to be carried out. The importance of these subjective factors is at least part of what is meant by those religions that emphasize the necessity of faith to know God truly. The existence of a community of religious believers who claim to have experience of God may even provide evidence of God’s reality for those who personally do not have such experiences. A good deal of what humans know is not gained through firsthand experience but through the testimony of others.

miracles

A miracle is a special act of God which he performs at a particular place and time as an act distinct from his normal activity of sustaining the universe including its natural processes. It is true that something different happens when a miracle occurs. When God steps in specially, a new factor is added to the situation. Miracles are traditionally taken as validations of religious claims. Jesus did many miracles and his resurrection from the dead was one of the greatest miracles. According to David Hume, no matter how strong the evidence of a particular miracle might be, it will always be more rational to reject the miracle than to believe in it. Sometimes it is alleged that miracles are impossible because they are violations of laws of nature and the assumption behind this objection is that the laws of nature are necessary. In one sense, miracles are indeed violations of laws of nature but the laws of nature are most plausibly interpreted as descriptive of the actual processes of nature, not as descriptions of the way nature had to be. Some contemporary philosophers have also tried to rule out miracles through different arguments. If an exception to the law of nature occurs, this only shows that the supposed law of nature in question is not a genuine law of nature since it did not hold universally. Some philosophers claim dogmatically that miracles cannot happen. Miracles seem possible at least and it also seems possible for there to be compelling evidence for their occurrence. It seems possible that a reasonable person could become convinced that miracles have occurred even if he did not have a previously high estimate of the likelihood of God’s existence.

the problem of evil

Some philosophers have put forward arguments from the evil that purport which seems to show that God does not exist or that belief in God is unreasonable. Many people, both believers, and non-believers are bothered by evil. When faced with suffering, they may ask the question of why. This may ultimately lead to the existence of evil and suffering which is thought to undermine the rationality of belief in God. There are different types of evil and versions of the problem and many types of responses. Moral evil is a type of evil that is all the evil that is due to the actions of free, morally responsible beings. The natural evil is all the evil that is not due to the actions of morally responsible beings such as the pain and suffering caused by natural disasters and many diseases. The theistic responses to the problem of evil can be divided into two types. The more ambitious type of response is a theodicy which attempts to explain why God actually allows evil. It tries to show that God is justified in allowing evil, and it lays out the reason why God allows evil and tries to show that those reasons are good ones. A more modest type of response is called a defense that tries to argue that God may have reasons for allowing evil that we do not or cannot know.

personal faith

The term faith is sometimes used to refer to the assumptions, convictions, and attitudes which the believer brings to a consideration of the evidence for and against religious truth. Faith is all these though this must be taken to imply that there are no significant differences between the various kinds of faith. In the ongoing life of an actual person, there are simply two different moments in what might be called the faith dimension of life. The faith which we bring to our reflection embodies previous commitments and the commitment which is the outcome of the reflection is the faith that we bring into our future reflection. Faith can be thought of as prayer, conviction, and commitment. The general structure of faith has the personal commitment which both informs reflection and is shaped by reflection and is common to both the believer and non-believer.

  

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Evans, C. Stephen and R. Zachary Manis . Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith. New York: HarperOne, 2009.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Spiritual growth in an efficiency-focused world


Note:-  This article was published in Goodnews Online Illuminer.

Currently, there is a lot of focus on improving productivity and efficiency. There is an endless race for transformation that will increase efficiency and maximize profits. Digital and customer experience is an essential factor, and a lot of money is spent on it. As new technologies bring improvements in many areas of life, it has resulted in a continuous flow of information and engagement. It has resulted in information overload and has made people busier and hurried in general. There is a lot of stress and anxiety, resulting in strained family relations and complacency in spiritual life.

 

"Complacency is easy, and it is a deadly foe of spiritual growth." - A. W. Tozer

 

Many try to apply efficiency principles to spiritual growth, and it has not worked the way people expected. In general, shortcuts taken to bring spiritual growth have not yielded desired results, which has resulted in many people not pursuing personal spiritual growth as an essential matter. Lack of character transformation is no more seen as a serious issue. When moral and ethical standards mentioned in the Bible are violated or ignored, nowadays, we see a growing tendency to move on with no regret, thought, or action.   

  

At times people hide under what they do for God to cover the failure to become what God desires from them. According to Dallas Willard, "The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it's who you become. That's what you will take into eternity." We can be so busy for God that we do not have time to spend with Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us. Have we reached a point in our spiritual life where we have quietly said to ourselves that, "I am like this, and I will remain like this? I do not think God can transform me internally."  

Paul talks about a Christian becoming mature in the Lord and measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Are we willing to pursue spiritual disciplines in our life which will help us become more like Christ?

 

We should not neglect our daily devotion time of prayer and Bible reading. We should not form a habit of neglecting our devotions by thinking that we will do once we are done with all the other pressing needs of daily life. We must give it a top priority and have a set time and place for it. We should look at adding spiritual disciplines that will help us grow in our devotional life and challenge us to be intentional with our activities.

 

When it comes to our spiritual life, we must be intentional that we do not become a Consumer Christian. 

"Consumer Christianity is now normative. The consumer Christian is one who utilizes the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special occasions, but does not give his or her life and innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions over to the kingdom of the heavens. Such Christians are not inwardly transformed and not committed to it." - Dallas Willard.

 

A statement from John Ortberg has challenged me a lot. He says that "Spiritual growth doesn't mean a life of doing what I should do instead of what I want to do. It means coming to want to do what I should do." Are we committed to genuine spiritual growth, which will transform our character in this efficiency-focused world? If we invest time, we will reap rewards that will last for eternity.

 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

KINGDOM ETHICS: JUSTICE

There is a secularizing split between the private realm of inner attitudes ruled by the gospel and the public realm of actions ruled by secular authorities which causes a painful problem in Christian ethics and Christian living. We skip over the huge biblical emphasis on justice as central in God’s will. Christians not only neglect but believe that justice is inferior and unimportant. There is no split between Jesus and justice.

 Justice has four dimensions:

1.     Deliverance of the poor and powerless from the injustice that they regularly experience.

2.     Lifting the foot of domineering power off the neck of the dominated and oppressed.

3.     Stopping the violence and establishing peace.

4.     Restoring the outcasts, the excluded, the Gentiles, the exiles, and refugees to the community.

Justice is an important subject mentioned by Jesus in the New Testament. Skipping over the biblical meaning of justice creates a vacuum. Many Christians see biblical love as superior to justice and view it as an abstract principle. They ignore the thousand biblical teachings on justice and believe it is inferior and unimportant. They have no answer to the secular ideologies which tempt them to do unjust practices. They become unbiblical and move in the opposite direction from the way the bible says God is moving. We have to understand that there is not split between Jesus and justice. Justice is one of the central virtues in Jesus’ teachings.

            God cares deeply for the justice of the poor, the powerless, the outcasts, and the victims of the violence. This theme is emphasized by the prophets of the Old Testament and is continued by Jesus. Jesus came proclaiming the reign of God and announced God’s justice as the deliverance of the outcast, the poor, and the oppressed from the dominion of greed and concentrated power. Justice and righteousness are what God wills and does. God enacts and carries out justice. Even in the preaching of John, the Baptist, the deliverance of the poor from the extortion of the powerful was the central theme. Jesus confronted the wealthy for their greed and there are many parables spoken by Jesus regarding it. Jesus taught that God cared deeply for the poor and the powerless. Jesus enacted it and fed the poor and hungry and taught the disciples the practice of sharing with those in need. Jesus often confronted the injustice of domination and sought to bring out deliverance through the practice of mutual servanthood. Jesus confronted anyone who would exclude enemies from the circle of love by teaching that we should love not only our friends but also our enemies. Confronting the exclusiveness of the Pharisee, Jesus called Matthew, the tax-collector to be his disciple. Jesus’ practice of table fellowship with outcasts and the unclean was a deliberate demonstration of his fundamental disagreement with the central practice of the Pharisees.

            Those who do not suffer injustice frequently get lulled into a lack of concern for those who do suffer it. At the heart of Christian discipleship is the overcoming of the privileged lull. We need to enter into the pain and injustice of the suffering world. When we see how Jesus fought for justice and died when the powerful whom he was confronting for their injustice conspired to kill him and the disciples betrayed him. We need to ensure that we are not hiding or ignoring justice while focusing on love. We need to follow what the Bible teaches us regarding justice.

 

ETHICS: The concepts involved

According to Bonhoeffer, the concept of state is foreign to the New Testament. It has its origin in the pagan world and its place is taken in the New Testament by the concept of government which holds power. The term “state” means an ordered community and the government is the power that creates and maintains order. The term “state” embraces both the rulers and the ruled while the term “government” refers only to the rulers. For the New Testament, it is an eschatological concept; it is the future city of God, the New Jerusalem, the heavenly society under the rule of God. The term “government” does not imply any particular form of society or any particular form of state and it is divinely ordained authority to exercise worldly dominion by divine right. The concept of government and not the concept of state can have a theological application. In using the term “church” and its relation to the terms “government” and “state” we have to distinguish between the spiritual office or ministry and the congregation or the Christians. The spiritual office is the divinely ordained authority to exercise spiritual dominion by divine right and it does not proceed from the congregation but from God. A clear distinction must be drawn between the secular and the spiritual authority but at the same time Christians are citizens and they are also subject to the claims of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer is arguing that the relationship of the spiritual office is different from then government for Christians.  

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stassen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1955.

 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

PowerVision Family Empowerment Episode - Spreading Hope


A few months ago, I had the privilege of doing an episode for the Agape Partners Family Empowerment program broadcast on Powervision TV.

We live in difficult times, and people are dealing with #anxiety and fear. Many times, anxiety gets spread from one system to another. People are anxious about themselves, their families, finances, etc. Trusting in Jesus and His teachings is the protective factor during these difficult times. God knows everything about us. We need to spread #hope and faith among our dear ones. Enjoy each day as a gift from God and live with an eternity perspective based on what Bible teaches us.  In this session, Dr. Tinku Thompson, Director of Operations, ICPF International, and Pastor of Minnesota Pentecostal Assembly Church speaks on the topic of  Spreading hope during difficult times.


 

Theology and AI Thesis Link

In a previous post, I shared about my other site TheologyAI.com which is an outcome of my Doctorate Degree Thesis on the topic CREATOR GOD, HUMANS, AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: FRAMEWORK TO ADDRESS THEOLOGICAL AND RELATIONAL ISSUES.

The link to the full report is posted here - https://www.theologyai.com/2021/08/published-thesis-link.html




Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Spiritual Growth Bible Study in Malayalam

Malayalam Bible Study - Audio Links

Pastor Tinku Thompson

Topic - Spiritual Growth

Part 1 - What is Spiritual Growth? -  https://youtu.be/96p3EEr1tz8

Part 2 - Challenges with Spiritual Growth - https://youtu.be/8yFvPXRRuEI

Part 3 - Practical Steps for Spiritual Growth - https://youtu.be/fB2NdcSqEaU

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Relationship between Christianity and Culture

 


According to J. Gresham  Machen, one of the greatest problems that has agitated the Church is the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity.  He defines Christianity as a way of life that is founded upon doctrines which is considered as objectively true. Culture is defined as those intellectual forces in the world that are hostile to the claims of Christ and these make it problematic for Christians living in a pagan culture. Most of the time Christians are unprepared to face this challenge since our education system keeps religion and culture as far apart as possible and no question of joining them together is allowed to arise. In the study of philosophy, religion is kept at the background while on Sunday the sermons do not encourage thoughtful reflection. The scientific spirit seems like it is incompatible with the old spirit of simple faith.  So it comes down to the problem of the relationship between knowledge and spirituality.  It is portrayed as if culture and Christianity are incompatible or as if they are in conflict with each other.

three possible solutions

The three possible solutions to the problem discussed by Machen are:

  1. Christianity should be subordinated to the culture. The Christians should resolve to bend Christian truth claims so that it will conform to the claims made by modern thought. In that way Christian truth claims will always be below culture and will be altered as needed. When new inventions or theories come out, we should give them more weight than Scripture. It means that we remove the supernatural in Christianity and make it merely natural. This resulted in the destruction of true Christianity.
  2. Give religion the clear field so that it seeks to destroy the culture. We should view world as evil and it must be a matter of indifference to a Christian. This solution will result in a person withdrawing from the things of the world which was the way fundamentalists solved this issue. This will result in culture being given an upper hand implicitly.
  3. Instead of destroying the arts and science or being indifferent to them, we should cultivate them with enthusiasm but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God. We should go ahead joyfully and enthusiastically to make the world subject to God. Christianity can be given the upper hand explicitly by engaging in culture and then sifting the good and rejecting the bad.

dealing with extra-biblical truth claims

Some theologians affirm that all truth is God’s truth. When extra-biblical truth claims are made, it is important to distinguish between God’s truth and Satan’s error. It is also important that we interact with these truth claims without undermining the principle of sola scriptura. I have seen many claims like animal signs of the Holy Spirit, which they claim to be biblical while we see that there is no support for such things in the Scriptures. One place to validate all claims is the Bible, and we should make sure that all claims conform to it.  All claims should be validated before being embraced.

There are various ways in which truth claims can be validated. I think at first we should use God-given wisdom to discern the truth. The church is a good place to validate such claims and it can be safely discussed and challenged there. We should be patient and wait for the result or fruit which is produced as a result of any truth claims. Once I encountered a challenge in which a person started teaching free grace and taught people that God has no problem with sin. He went to the extreme where people started believing that they can do anything they want in life and God is not concerned with sinfulness in people. This resulted in one woman destroying her spiritual life and having to go to a physiatrist.  We can clearly understand that any truth claims which have a Biblical basis should not result in this kind of problem. All truths which are true should lead people closer to God and liberty. So we can understand that patience and discerning the truth claims is important before accepting it as God’s truth. We should never forget that Satan can also deceive people and try to present deceptions as truth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Theology and Doctrine

Theology

Theology is the study of divine things or religious truth. It is the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe. It can also be defined as a study about God which is done in a systematic and careful way. Systematic theology involves collecting and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that what we should believe about each topic is clear.[1]

Doctrine

Doctrine is a body or system of teachings relating to a particular subject. It could be a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated by a religion or government. In biblical terms, a doctrine is what the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic. Doctrine is the result of doing systematic theology in regard to one particular topic.[2] Doctrine can be very broad or very narrow.

Object of Theology

The object of theology is that it should both be objective and subjective. Many people think that studying theology has to do with only intellect of a person and a person does theology only with mind. Theology as sapientia (wisdom) and as scientia (knowledge) is important. Knowing about God or adding knowledge is not enough when we do theology. Knowing God personally should be the direction in which we are moving as a result of studying theology. Doing theology is important to communicating Christian beliefs and faith to the outside world. Most important, theology should help as to know God and love him. Understanding the nature of God is important for a believer and doing theology helps in doing this. Theology is also important for the church to flourish as a church[3].  For the church to survive, it is important that its theology be correct. Church is the home of theology.

The ultimate purpose of theology is spiritual. It is the science of God that enables faithful Christ-followers to know God more and to find spiritual wisdom[4].

Theological Method

Theological method refers to the way in which a person does his theology. It has to do with the way a person finds meaning from the text of the Bible. Methods are followed to come to a conclusion about the meaning of the text. Doctrines are derived from the text of the Bile and hence theological method plays an important role in the formation of different doctrines.  Different theologians use different theological methods when doing their theology. It is important to note if a theologian is using the method correctly when he deals with important texts related to various subjects. Different theologies like systematic theology, biblical theology and historical theology use different methods to derive their results.

The topic of theological method is important for Christians because the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ requires his disciples to go and preach the gospel and make disciples. This Commission does not end there but we are supposed to teach them to obey everything which Jesus commanded. It requires teaching the content of his teachings to people.  According to B.B. Warfield, it is very important that we communicate the substance of biblical teaching in a way that will make sense to the person living on our generation. The Christian belief should be the basis on which everything else gets stated. Modern thought should not be the basis on which we derive Christian beliefs. We should state modern thoughts in terms of Christian beliefs. How we communicate while teaching plays an important role in determining if correct beliefs are thought.

Theological methods should not be seen as more authoritative than the Word of God itself. No method is equivalent to the revelation given in the Scriptures. So it is very important to remember that theological methods are results of human thinking and analysis. We use theological methods to develop and communicate the revelation found in the Scriptures in an effective way, but this can never be seen as authoritative as Scriptures itself.

Theology as a Spiritual Enterprise

Doing theology is properly regarded as a spiritual enterprise. When done with the right attitude it should help a person to grow spiritually. It should enhance the religious or spiritual experiences of a theologian. It is important that a minister of God is learned as well as godly so that he will not only teach others but will also be able to lead a religious life.  Theology helps a person grow in devotional life as he understands about the divine nature of God. According to B.B. Warfield, the unique end of theology is to make God known. The student of theology is brought by his daily task into the presence of God and is kept there. Depth of his spiritual culture can be developed as a result of this. Just as an enterprise, it is important and not easy. It needs the grace and help of God as theology not only concerns with knowledge which people acquire as a result of his study but it also results in spiritual growth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Clark, David K. To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 21.

[2] Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 25.

[3] David K. Clark, To Know And Love God: Method for Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), 210.

[4] Clark, To Know And Love God: Method for Theology, 219.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

PERSPECTIVALISM


 Introduction to Perspectivalism

'Relativism' is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context and are not absolute. It is the belief that different things are true, right, etc., for different people or at different times. It can also be defined as a theory that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the conditions of knowing or a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. A form of relativism in epistemology is perspectivalism, the idea that all knowledge is "from a point of view" and therefore suspect.

Two views on Perspectivalism

Commitment to Total Perspectivalism

One view is a total commitment to perspectivalsim. They are the ones who believe that the idea of objective truth is entirely suspect and claim that all knowledge is embedded in a perspective. They will say that there is no ultimate perspective and no "God's-eye" point of view. It implies that all knowledge is locked into a particular person's or specific culture's way of seeing the world, and this emphasis calls us to question whether genuine, objective knowledge of God or anything else is possible at all.

Resist Commitment to Total Perspectivalism

The other view is that we cannot commit to total perspectivalism. They focus on the idea that "truth is ultimately true," at the same time will acknowledge that cultural variability is real. Despite cultural variability, they work with strategies to shift out false ideas, to identify culturally variable ideas, and to hone in on ideas that are in some way objectively true or which is true for all. Perspectives are recognized at different levels, but they will resist commitment to total perspectivalism.

 

Personal view on Perspectivalism

A total commitment to perspectivalism is incompatible with true Christian theology.  The human perspective cannot know everything about God but they gradually and partially contact what is true by using the epistemic capacities and belief-forming abilities God created within.  Perspectives do shape human knowing, but there is a reason to reject strong perspectivalism. It is a largely postmodern mentality that revels in a leveling of conflicting viewpoints, but we have to overcome fragmentation and find unity in truth. People living in different cultures will have different perspectives about different things, but a truth about creator God is absolute, and we have to find ways to bring out this truth among various viewpoints. I think it is possible since the same God created everything and revealed himself to everyone.

Knowledge of God and Postmodernism Challenges

God is a divine being who is removed and foreign from our own experiences. Our desire to know if there is a God leads us to the question of who is God or if it is possible to have the knowledge of God. There are many competing claims about gods or God being made by different religions.

The Bible is clear that the only reason we know God is because God spoke first and revealed himself to us. So we can know God, not due to our own search or experiences but because God chose to reveal himself to us. We cannot completely define God, but we can describe based on how God has revealed himself to us. God is not an object to be studied because when we study or analyze an object, we stand over and above the object, and we decide what that object is and what it can and cannot be. In order words, we have authority over our study's object, and it is not true with God. We cannot discover or analyze God, but God speaks to us. God is a free subject, and neither creation nor self-revelation is necessary for God to be God.  So everything we can say about God is, at the end, derivative, a reflection back to the source of the self-revelation we try to describe.

Relativism and pluralism have taken root in the current culture, and many unbelievers come from this worldview. They claim that the knowledge is embedded in a person's views or a culture's views. So this knowledge is not a reliable guide to the absolute truth. So they would argue that truth is relative, and it can be different for different people. So the statement that 'truth is relative' is absolute truth, and hence it will be a self-defeating statement by proving that truth is not relative.  On the other hand, if the truth is absolute, then we can make the statement that "truth is absolute" and it will be true and not self-defeating.  Even postmodernism claims there is no truth and only one truth, which is postmodernism. By stating that, they are accepting that there is absolute truth, and it becomes undeniable.  So if there is no absolute truth, then we cannot be sure of anything, and we have to accept pluralist or agnostic view. Absolute truth will be narrow and will exclude what is opposite to itself.  Absolute truth is not impacted by the seekers desire and sincerity as it does not change false to true or transform the false as the truth.

Postmodernists reject the idea of "objective truth."  It is important to understand the historical origins of postmodernism. Throughout the West's history, philosophers and theologians affirmed the objective character of ethics and religion and did not think that these truths were relative to individuals or cultures. They thought that it was relevant and applicable to all people universally. Plato thought that we could know ideal truths by deductive reasoning, while Aristotle believed that we could understand them by inductive reasoning. They both were realists and thought that every human being has a goal towards which they should aim. During the Middle Ages and Reformation, theologians and philosophers affirmed a belief in universal, objective truth. During the Age of Enlightenment, rationalism, and empiricism gained ground. Rationalism emphasized the adequacy of human reason to comprehend and know the objective and rational truth, while empiricism emphasized that we can only know what we can touch, taste, smell, see or hear. 

David Hume developed empiricist thought and insisted that morals are just our passions and reason is their slave to serve them. Immanuel Kant tried to answer Hume's empiricism in order to defend rationalism, but he accepted the idea that all knowledge comes by way of the five senses. Kant's view developed the idea that science gives us knowledge and facts while other disciplines like religion can only give us values or personal opinions. Later emphasis in philosophy was shifted from experience to language – a shift that came to be known as "the linguistic turn" – and it marked a turn towards postmodern thought.  

Postmodern thought rejected the idea of objective truth since it believed that there is a real-world, but we cannot know it without talking about it. We are on the inside of language, and there is no way to get out of it to know the real world truly or objectively. They also reject that there is a universal truth that holds true for all people at all times.  There are many languages, and each word's meaning depends on the social settings and grammatical rules of a particular culture. So there is no way to know reality in its true form, and it depends on how we talk in our respective communities. So from a postmodernist view, since there is no way to know truth objectively, there is no such thing as objective truth.

Those who endorse a classically Protestant understanding of "right reason" would say that although objective truth can be known, it cannot be known objectively. Protestants focus on the fact of human depravity and take the Fall and original sin seriously. They insist that the regenerate alone have the moral ability to see the revealed truth, which is glorious. In regeneration, Holy Spirit works through the word and brings a transformation that helps a person view things differently from how it was seen before. He sees everything in light of the Scripture, and they look through the eyes of faith through Scripture. They alone have the ability to see the revealed truth, and it is objectively glorious. Personal experience and devotion play a role in this, and hence it cannot be without bias. If objective reality is the immediate object of perception, then it can be known objectively. But objective truth is not an object of perception and hence cannot be known objectively.   

Another significant issue with postmodern thinking is that the authority to derive meaning lies in each individual's hands.  The authority is from within a person and not from outside. This has an impact on how people view religious authority also. Christianity can no longer demand nor expect any privileged status to make its truth claims in such a climate. So Christian faith does not have any special claim in the open but has to stand by competing beliefs. So Christian apologetics has to become more relational and dialogue based in a postmodern society. Christian exclusiveness has often created a problem of our inability to dialogue with people outside our faith in a meaningful way.  Without engaging in meaningful conversation, it is not possible to engage a postmodern mind. There was a time when the tool most used by Christians for reaching out to the lost world was just evangelistic preaching. The times have changed, and non-believers will no longer give their attention or, most of the time, do not show interest in attending an evangelistic meeting. In such circumstances, it is important to rely on different tools like a personal relationship, continuous witnessing, being patient with the person, etc. The Holy Spirit's help is still very much needed, but how the postmodern mind works make it essential to continue the dialogue. In some cases, it could be the combination of many people impacting a person in different ways, ultimately leading a person to Christ. So it is crucial to continue and not give up when we do not see an immediate response.

It is also crucial that we have a clear understanding of truth and make sure that the person we witness knows about the knowledgeable truth.  Unless the foundation of absolute truth is not solid, we may not be able to drive the person to believe in one true God.  Once a person acknowledges the existence of one true God, we can claim Jesus Christ being the son of God who came to save humanity. If we try to talk about Jesus to the postmodern mind that views everything in a relative view without dealing with the concept of truth and God first, it will be difficult to understand why Jesus is unique.

Conclusion

To discuss faith, we can also apply reason and logic in matters of religion. If we apply reason and logic, then pluralism is ruled out because it is illogical and contradictory to believe that diametrically opposing truth claims can both be right. Now all religions and belief systems cannot be true at the same time since they contradict each other. We know that truth cannot be self-contradictory. Many religions are claiming to be the ultimate truth, including Christianity. Christians make the exclusive claim that the God revealed in the Bible is the only true God. Muslims claim that Islam is the only true religion.  When we apply the test of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and existential relevancy, Christianity provides the right answers and stands out among other religions.

Relativism has made it difficult to change a postmodern mind to acknowledge an absolute truth.  Perspectivalism is popular in the culture today, but a Christian cannot give a commitment to total perspectivalism. We cannot ignore the influence and the reality of perspectives, but that does not negate the fact about absolute truth.  For the Christian, the ultimate expression of truth is found in the Bible, in Jesus who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6).  Of course, most philosophers and skeptics will dismiss His claim, but he is the mainstay of hope, security, and guidance for the Christian. 

 

Bibliography

Clark, David K., and John S. Feinberg. To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2003.

Burge, Gary M. Theology Questions Everyone Asks: Christian Faith in Plain Language. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

 

Kingdom Ethics: Race

Racial discrimination is a big issue which this country has faced and it has its influence in every social-political structure. Justice rath...