Drinking Deeply

Sunday, November 06, 2005 at 2:40 PM

Statement of Faith (1)

One of my friends from back home challenged me to write a statement of faith, beginning from the basics. Well, I don't know how far I'll get, but I figure I'll do bits and pieces of it every Sunday or so. Maybe I'll be able to look back in 10 years and be like "wow, I was a pretty solid heretic!"

Looking at other statements of faith, it seems to be like the basics of what they hold to. Ok, lets keep this basic then.

I. The primacy of theology (strongly adapted from Vincent Cheung's Systematic Theology)

God is the ultimate. Therefore, the study of God, the knowledge of God is the greatest thing a person is called to. It is of upmost importance to understand God and to know God. Since God is the ultimate reality, all of our understanding of God has a direct impact on our interpretation of reality itself.

We cannot love God and love our neighbors without knowing how God commands us to do such things. We cannot fear God and keep His commandments without knowing what it means to fear God and what His commandments are.

Theology, whether we claim to be a theologian or not, comes first.

Jeremiah 9) 23Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

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Blogger jefe said...

Hate to be difficult right from the outset, but do you really think that "the study of God, the knowledge of God is the greatest thing a person is called to"? That sounds a lot like the world's philosophers--like Aristotle, who concluded that a really good God would spend all of his time only contemplating himself.

You argue that knowing God is (to some degree) required for doing anything else. That may be, but mortar is required for masonry; does that make the cement "greater" than the temple? Is typing greater than literature?

Seems to me that in the Christian life, "knowing", while an important and in many ways fundamental task, is by no means the most important. Remember 1 Corinthians 13: "If I ...can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge...but have not love, I am nothing."  

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Blogger mxu said...

Hey Jeff -

A few things 1) the Logos doctrine from John 1 sounds like the world's philosophers too. Just because something sounds like a pagan doesn't make it wrong (and certainly I would agree that Christianity is not like pagan religions in any sense).

2) God doesn't need anything or anybody. In a sense, He is in perfect fellowship with Himself and would be perfectly satisfied in that fellowship. I see no reason why God doesn't rejoice overhimself: Look what I've done! Look at my Son! Look at my children!

3) You are correct, there is a knowledge that is not true "knowing" and does not lead to anything. We all know people who have studied Christianity for years and never came to a knowledge of the truth. Maybe I should have made that distinction.

4) What is love? I think I can present a decent argument that love (in Scripture) is tied directly to knowledge.

5) What did you think of the Jeremiah verse?  

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Blogger jefe said...

Following your numbers:

1) Yes, you're quite right. The fact that Aristotle said it certainly doesn't make it wrong. My observation of the similarity really is just an observation, not an argument. I believe that the many philosophers (following Plato and Aristotle) who have claimed that philosophy is the most important thing in the world were mistaken; I think you're in danger of making the same sort of mistake here. But as you say, Aristotle merely provides context, not any additional force for my claim.

2) Certainly. I didn't mean to imply that God *doesn't* rejoice in contemplating himself, just that that isn't the only thing he does. That was Aristotle's claim, because he regarded any activity besides thought as baser.

3) Perhaps it would help if you made explicit the distinction you have in your mind between "knowledge that is not true 'knowing'" and knowledge that *is* "true knowing". I've been using "knowledge" in the sense of intellectually apprehending what is true; if what you mean by "know" is something different, then it would probably be good to clarify.

4) "...Love (in Scripture) is tied directly to knowledge"--I couldn't agree more (depending perhaps on what you mean by "directly"). But I certainly wouldn't say that love *is* knowledge--would you? And the fact that knowledge is *necessary* for love does not imply that knowledge is *greater* than love. As I argued before, that kind of reasoning is invalid.

5) I agree with you (and with Scripture) that knowledge of God is awe-inspiring, excellent, and necessary. What I disagree with is only the claim that knowledge (in the sense I'm using it) is the unique or maximal such thing. Looking at the Jeremiah passage, I read the force of the claim as being *contrastive*: the context describes how God has reduced to shambles human wisdom, strength, and wealth, and concludes that they are worthless next to understanding God's character.

I think the reason I care about this arises from Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8--"knowledge puffs up, but love builds up". If we treat theology as the end of theology, then we risk becoming self-inflated: rather, humility before God and others is the end of theology.

Perhaps, though, all of our disagreement would be cleared up by drawing a firmer distinction between "knowing about God" (which is what I would put under the heading of "theology" and "study") and "knowing God"--being intimately acquainted with his person and character. When Jeremiah says "understand", I suspect he may have a richer concept before him than the American Heritage Dictionary's "to perceive and comprehend the nature and significance of".  

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Blogger mxu said...

For those who are interested, I'll give some clarification in my next post.  

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