Sunday, July 30, 2017

What's the Gospel?

1. This question lies at the heart of Christian theology, yet the question is deceptively simple. One challenge is that we're using to resorting to theological shorthand. The NT uses key words borrowed from the OT. And those words derive their summary connotations from entire paradigmatic narratives. They then get translated into Latin words, that are retranslated into  English synonyms. We use traditional categories like "sin", "atonement", "redemption", "grace", "justification", "salvation", "the cross". But what does that mean?

There are two opposite ways they can lose meaning. One is through unfamiliarity. Someone who's biblically illiterate. Someone who's not a from a Christian culture.

Conversely, through overfamiliarity. It can be like dead metaphors, where people forget (or never knew) what the metaphor originally represented. What's the source of the metaphor? Even Christians can forget what these words stand for. 

2. Left to their own devices, humans are evil. Evil is hatred of good and the source of good. Evil is ingratitude.

Evil has two sides: 

i) To be blameworthy. Having blameworthy beliefs and attitudes. Committing blameworthy actions.

ii) To suffer from malice and ill-will. Alienation from the source of good. An inclination to destroy anyone who gets in your way. 

Humans are born into this condition. They don't become evil, although they can become more evil. 

We can see this in our own culture, as it becomes increasingly secularized or post-Christian. Abortion, antinatalism, and euthanasia. Intolerance for babies, the elderly, and the developmentally disabled. The impulse to destroy babies, the elderly, and the developmentally disabled through abortion or euthanasia. Murderous ill-will. We can see this in people who hate God's design for human nature. Hate to be a normal man or woman. 

Our society is increasingly Nietzschean. Not coincidentally, Nietzsche was an apostate.

2. It's possible to wrong someone without harming someone. Take the Biblical prohibition not to trip the blind or curse the deaf (Lev 19:14). The motivation to trip the blind isn't necessarily to injure them, but to humiliate them, and take advantage of their disability. That's even clearer in the case of cursing the deaf. They can't hear you. 

The point behind the biblical prohibition is that we have a duty to protect the vulnerable. It's especially vicious to play on their handicap. 

Another example might be a celebrity memoir where the star defames a dead or senile parent. The star lies about their parents by claiming, falsely, that their parents were abusive. 

Technically, that doesn't harm the parent. They don't lose their livelihood. They don't suffer a physical injury. But it's a mark of contemptuous ingratitude toward those we owe the most. 

3. A paradox of evil is that, by dint of evil action or evil character, the wrongdoer is morally disqualified from climbing out of the hole he dug for himself. He desperately needs to be forgiven and repaired. 

But this means the offended party must act on behalf of the offending party. The offended party must absorb the punishment by taking the place of the offending party. Salvation by divine Incarnation, vicarious atonement, and sanctification. 

To have faith in Jesus is to acknowledge that only God can save you by acting on your behalf and in your place. 

4. What does it mean to be forgiven? Isaiah uses the anthropomorphic metaphor of forgetfulness (Isa 43:25). It's as if the offended party forgot that you wronged them. Yet you remember, and that's a cause for humility and gratitude.

5. Suppose one student hates another student. Maybe he hates the other student because the other student is a rival. He plants evidence in the rival student's locker to get him expelled. Maybe drugs or explosives. Yet he forgot to wipe his fingerprints. Or maybe there's a hidden security camera that recorded him planting the evidence. Or maybe he phoned in a bomb threat, in the name of the rival student–only the phone call is traceable to the malicious student rather than his target. Now the scheme backfires. 

Suppose, though, the rival student is in a position to destroy the evidence which incriminates the perp. He did something for the wrongdoer that the wrongdoer couldn't do for himself, even though he was the intended victim of the wrongdoer. That ought to make the malicious student thankful. Indeed, it ought to turn an enemy into a friend. That's like vicarious atonement. 

6. Consider someone who's clinically insane. He requires psychotropic drugs to restore his sanity, but his condition renders him incompetent to consent to treatment. He doesn't think he's crazy. He thinks everyone else is crazy! He requires an intervention. Help from the outside. Initially, he can't even cooperate with the psychiatrist who medicates him. That's like monergistic regeneration. 


  1. Evil is hatred of good and the source of good.

    Evil is "the source of good" = ?


    1. Syntactically, "hatred" governs both "good and "the source of good".

  2. Yeah, that is what I figured out only after I published my comment.
    Ken Temple

    I don't know what happened to 'blogger" ID - it seems google plus took it over and I don't know how to get my old "blogspot" ID back again,

    1. Maybe Google knows you're a missionary to Muslims. Google is censoring searches on Islam.

    2. ha ha to first sentence. :-)

      second one - are they doing that? or that just your guess/speculation ?


    4. From what I've read, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are censuring speech critical of Islam.