What Pants Are You Wearing? Review of Scot McKnight’s ‘Kingdom Conspiracy’

In Protestant America, you can tell what kind of church you’re at by looking at what pants people are wearing. Are they wearing Skinny Jeans? Or Pleated Pants? In his latest book entitled Kingdom Conspiracy, Scot McKnight uses this division in fashion to represent the division of meaning when people use the word “kingdom” in the context of “kingdom work”. What is this “kingdom work” that everyone is talking about in Protestant communities? Below, I will briefly trace McKnight’s critiques of the two popular approaches in modern evangelicalism.

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Passages to Ponder | T.F. Torrance on St. Athanasius’ Philosophical Language

For Athanasius… the precise meaning of theological terms is to be found in their actual use under the transforming impact of divine revelation. This is how he believed that the words ousia and hypostasis were used at the Council of Nicaea, not in the abstract Greek sense but in a concrete personal sense governed by God’s self-revelation in the incarnation. He preferred a functional and flexible use of language in which the meaning of words varied in accordance with the nature of the realities intended and with the general scope of thought or discourse at the time. Hence he retained the freedom to vary the sense of the words he used in different contexts, and declined to be committed to a fixed formalisation of any specific principle that terms are not prior to realities but realities come first and terms second.

The idea that Greek philosophy entered the Early Church and distorted Christian thelogy needs to be re-examined.  Many hold to this view (I did, at one point), but actually engaging in the works of the Early Church made me re-think that position.  There is, admittedly, some overlap between the Patristics and some Greek philosophy, but is that because the Early Church theology was “paganized” (or Hellenized) or is it because some Greek philosophers actually have some overlap with Christianity?

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Searching For Meaning, Part VII: Translation Theory

Our journey through Paula Gooder’s Searching For Meaning brings us to translation theory. A translation is the “rendering of a text from one language to another”.[1] However, one does not simply translate words into another language. There are a variety of factors, including idiom choices, syntax, tenses, and grammar, that affect the outcome of a translation and its possible meanings. So translation theory “is the study of the principles and procedures that govern a good translation” (56). In certain faith communities, a certain translation is prized over others. A major concept that is often overlooked or dismissed in these communities is that translations are also interpretations.[2] According to Hans-Georg Gadamer, a translation is a “re-creation of the text guided by the way the translator understands what it says.”[3] A translator or translation committee translates the text as they understand and interpret the text, making readers dependent their interpretation as well. This complicates the interpretive process for those dependent on translations: there is interaction between the interpreter and the translated text, and then between the translator and the original language of the text.[4] So what are the different principles of translation theory?

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Passages to Ponder | St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Unlimited Beauty of God

For the life of the Supreme Being is love, seeing that the Beautiful is necessarily lovable to those who recognize it, and so this recognition becomes love, that which He recognizes being essentially beautiful. This True Beauty, the insolence of satiety cannot touch; and no satiety interrupting this continuous capacity to love the Beautiful, God’s life will have its activity in love; which life is thus in itself beautiful, and is essentially of a loving disposition towards the Beautiful, and receives no check to this activity of love. In fact, in the Beautiful, no limit is to be found, so that love should have to cease with any limit of the Beautiful.

This is probably one of the most beautiful passages in On the Soul and Resurrection by St. Gregory of Nyssa.  There is not enough discussion about the Beauty of God and what that means.  I admit that I am ignorant on the topic as well.  What does it mean to know God as “beautiful”?

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“Is the Wrath of God Eternal?” Patristic Reflections

imageA friend of mine was recently asked if the wrath of God was eternal. Those who view hell as everlasting or “eternal” conscious torment would more likely lean towards “yes”. Throughout Scripture, God’s judgement against human sin and rebellion is sometimes expressed in terms of Divine wrath or anger.[1] When applying “wrath” or “anger” to God, there are many qualifications to be made. St. Cyril of Alexandria recognized that human language is inadequate to describe the phenomenon of “Divine emotion” in Scripture. He stated:

Whenever therefore the Divine Scripture wishes to express God’s emotion against impious designs of whatever kind, it derives its language as on other occasions from expressions in use among us, and in human phraseology speaks of anger and wrath; although the divine essence is subject to none of these passions in any way that bears comparison with our feelings, but is moved to indignation the extent of which is known only to Itself and utterly unspeakable. [2]

Keeping this in mind, let us turn to the relationship between the wrath of God and human sin. If “wrath is the expression of the divine judgement upon sin”, then is God’s wrath truly “eternal”?[3] Before sin entered the world, before the fall of humanity, before the rebellion of Satan, there was God. There was the Logos. There was the Spirit. There was the Trinity. There was the God who is Love. In order for wrath to be “eternal”, it has to have no beginning and no end. Did God possess “wrath” before sin entered the cosmos? There are a few interpretive routes to take. One can assert that since God is immutable and does not “experience” time in terms of “past and future” because God exists outside of time, then the wrath of God is eternal. Those who hold to a view of “eternal” conscious torment are definitely more inclined to admit that God’s wrath is eternal.

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