Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus

Archive for the ‘Justification’ Category

April 11th, 2016 by Joel Watts

the Orthodox view of salvation v. protestantism

This is a great video. For (real) Wesleyans watching this, you’ll note the eery similarities in defining salvation:

But in reality the Church entrusts to everyone the enormous honour to be responsible for the salvation of the whole world, of this world whose flesh is our flesh and whose life is our life. And salvation for the Church is the liberation of life from corruption and death, the transformation of survival into existential fullness, the sharing of the created in the mode of life of the uncreated.1

salvation

Chora Church/Museum, Istanbul,fresco,Anastasis, Harrowing of Hell and Resurrection (Salvation) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe salvation is not from hell but to good works (Eph. 2.8-10). Salvation is not a momentary conversion, but a process of ontological importance. It is found in the Creed, but never defined. However, Protestantism usually sees it in terms of avoidance of hell. You’ll here mentioned “we deserved hell” and “we aren’t worthy.” Yet, Scripture never declares these things as well as the Reformers did. For Scripture, and Orthodoxy (and Wesleyanism), Salvation begins with the love of God, ending in the positive, rather than the negative.

  1. Christos Yannaras, Elements of Faith: An Introduction to Orthodox Theology (trans. Keith Schram; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2006), 48.
July 21st, 2015 by Joel Watts

can United Methodists believe in purgatory?

This actually comes from a conversation this morning via wherein I “jokingly” suggested it would be easier for Osteen and Marcion to get out of the netherworld than it would be for Calvin, et al. But, it started a good conversation.

Article XIV reads,

The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshiping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.

That is pretty cut and dry, I guess, except it is not that cut and dry. Indeed, this “Romish” adjective is both a descriptor of the doctrine and an insult, held over by Wesley from the Anglican Church. I believe a clear reading of the Reformers will show that when “Romish” was used, more often than not the writer meant to set aside the corrupted doctrine and instead attempt to see the pure doctrine behind it. In other words, using “Romish” would not automatically disqualify purgatory as a doctrine worthy to be explored, only the Romish version.

Early Christian Fresco depicting Christ in Pur...

Early Christian Fresco depicting Christ in Purgatory, Lower Basilica, San Clemente, Rome, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And yes, there are other doctrines of the intermediate state available to us. The East, while not calling it purgatory and in many ways differing from Rome in some regards, has a hope for a final liberation.

Thus the Latins receive both the temporal and the eternal fire, and call the first the purgatorial fire. On the other hand, the Greeks teach of one eternal fire alone, understanding that the temporal punishment of sinful souls consists in that they for a time depart into a place of darkness and sorrow, are punished by being deprived of the Divine light, and are purified—that is, liberated from this place of darkness and woe—by means of prayers, the Holy Eucharist, and deeds of charity, and not by fire. The Greeks also believe, that until the union of the souls to the bodies, as the souls of sinners do not suffer full punishment, so also those of the saints do not enjoy entire bliss. But the Latins, agreeing with the Greeks in the first point, do not allow the last one, affirming that the souls of saints have already received their full heavenly reward.

John Wesley, ever reaching to a more sound theology, was looking to this intermediate state even in his own growth.

John Wesley believed in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment “where believers would share in the ‘bosom of Abraham’ or ‘paradise,’ even continuing to grow in holiness there,” writes Ted Campbell, a professor at Perkins School of Theology, in his 1999 book Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials(Abingdon).

Yes, Wesley did not seem to believe sanctification was finished in this life.

Jerry Walls, a current Wesleyan theologian (yes, we have a few in existence today), writes,

Indeed, I am convinced that when Christians take sanctification seriously, they will find the doctrine of purgatory to be a very reasonable implication. The doctrine of purgatory rightly understood underscores the point that sanctification is essential, not merely an optional matter for the super spiritual, and that we must cooperate in our sanctification. We cannot ignore the call to holiness our whole life and expect that God will zap us and perfect us the instant we die. But again, the demand for holiness is the demand of a loving God who wills our true happiness and flourishing, and he insists on cleaning us up not as act of punishment, but as an act of gracious love.

The question, then, is not “if” or “should” but “can” a United Methodist believe in an intermediate state where, as one FB commentator said, the dross is melted away from all?

August 20th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Things we saved our children from

Official seal of Dyersburg, Tennessee

Official seal of Dyersburg, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can imagine, when you rip away the “holler doors” and expose fundamentalism, especially the more pentecostally kind, people get upset.

One of the statements I made was in response to the event called “receiving the Holy Ghost.” I said it involved people beating it into you. This is not the same thing as “laying hands” on someone and having them “slain in the spirit” (perhaps common in charismatic churches) but actually shaking, touching, and other physical contact between the crowd (mass hysteria?) and the individual “under the power.”

If you aren’t familiar, or if you are and you don’t understand the systematic operation at play here, let me break it down to you. The person is standing in the middle of the crowd. Music is blaring. It is not merely theological music, but “praise” choruses sung over and over again. For some, people separate along sex lines. Women for women and so on. Sometimes, men are allowed to help their wives and vice versa but this is discouraged since you have to comingle in very intimate ways with the opposite sex.

You have the crowd, the loud music, the chanting, and the examples of others doing it right next to you. You will raise your hands and pray until you begin to cry. People will be yelling at you, suggesting you say this or that, or yelling the “Holy Ghost” into you (I guess). They will scream encouragement at you and so forth. Someone will hold up your arms (because you ain’t giving up that easily). The crowd is now thick around you. You are not moving except by the power of others.

The music gets louder. If you start to murmur, someone may start to tap your lips/chin to “loosen them up.” By now, many in the crowd are “speaking in tongues.” Some may whisper into your ear about hell and “where you be tonight if you died.” You feel the immediate necessity to be saved — because this, the “infilling/indwelling” is the moment of salvation. If you are lucky, you only have to do this once or twice a Sunday for a few months until a revival comes around and you have a larger crowd.

This is the church (if you’ve read the book…) in Dyersburg, TN. The person in the center is the pastor’s son (not sure if he is still the pastor or not). He was up at the altar for years “seeking.” I guess one night he got lucky. But, you will notice through the crowd the movement by others geared to “helping” him.

Please don’t think I am in anyway making fun of the children and others who have experienced this. I believe with every fiber of my being that these experiences are real because with mass hysteria, you can pretty much do anything and people will feel it and internalize it. However, I digress.

These videos are not the fullest extent of what I have seen but it does help introduce you to the world. Oddly enough, one of the leaders of the old organization (not sure it exists and I sure as heck ain’t calling him a bishop) declared that no one should physically rough house anyone “seeking the Holy Ghost.” The older folks got mad. His stance on that changed slightly. Regardless, the process of “getting the Holy Ghost” in this type of Church is a physical (and psychological) one. Indeed, it is the moment of salvation.

Keep in mind — my experience applies to the types of churches I attended and indeed, to many oneness pentecostal ones as well. Perhaps your oneness pentecostal church does not do this, or rather, perhaps you do not recognize it and cannot externalize what you believe actually occurred. However, it happens and happens with greater frequency than you would care to admit.

I really have no need to continue this conversation beyond a rudimentary exploration of why I will continue to serve God without enthusiasm.

July 14th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Redemption of Life – The Price of Admission in Exodus, Job, and 2 Maccabees

JUDAEA, First Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel ...

Your life ain’t worth 2 shekels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this interesting. I am currently researching substitution (hint, I don’t think Jesus was classically substituted in Galatians) for my dissertation. These passages all connect for me.

The translations are from the REB.

The Lord said to Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites, each man is to give a ransom for his life to the Lord,* to avert plague among them during the registration. As each man crosses over to those already counted he must give half a shekel by the sacred standard at the rate of twenty gerahs to the shekel, as a contribution levied for the Lord. Everyone aged twenty or more who has crossed over to those already counted will give a contribution for the Lord. The rich man will give no more than the half-shekel, and the poor man no less, when you give the contribution for the Lord to make expiation for your lives. The money received from the Israelites for expiation you are to apply to the service of the Tent of Meeting. The expiation for your lives is to be a reminder of the Israelites before the Lord. – Exodus 30.11-16.

Yet if an angel, one of a thousand, stands by him,
a mediator between him and God,
to expound God’s righteousness to man
and to secure mortal man his due;*
if he speaks on behalf of him and says,
‘Reprieve* him from going down to the pit;
I have the price of his release’:
then his body will grow sturdier* than it was in his youth;
he will return to the days of his prime. – Job 33.23-25

He levied a contribution from each man, and sent to Jerusalem the total of two thousand silver drachmas to provide a sin-offering*—a fit and proper act in which he took due account of the resurrection. Had he not been expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and senseless to pray for the dead; but since he had in view the splendid reward reserved for those who die a godly death, his purpose was holy and devout. That was why he offered the atoning sacrifice, to free the dead from their sin. – 2 Macc 12.43-45.

This does not mean I believe we can buy our way into heaven; but at the very least we can two things.

  • a “biblical” model for pre-Reformation indulgences.
  • the hope of redemption by acts, even after death.
April 29th, 2014 by Joel Watts

William Law on Infidelity and Self-Torment

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am currently reading William Law‘s works for a review of Anglican Gold on Logos. I found this gem:

 I will grant you all that you can suppose, of the Goodness of God, and that no Creature will be finally lost, but what Infinite Love cannot save.

But still, here is no Shadow of Security for Infidelity; and your refusing to be saved through the Son of God, whilst the Soul is in the redeemable State of this Life, may at the Separation of the Body, for aught you know, leave it in such a Hell, as the infinite Love of God cannot deliver it from. For, first, you have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that your Soul is not that dark, self-tormenting, anguishing and imperishable Fire, above-mentioned, which has lost its own proper Light, and is only comforted by the Light of the Sun, till its Redemption be effected. Secondly You have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that God himself can redeem, or save, or enlighten this dark Fire-Soul, any other Way than, as the Gospel proposes, by the Birth of the Son of God in it. Therefore your own Hearts must tell you, that for aught you know, Infidelity, or the refusing of this Birth of the Son of God, may, at the End of Life, leave you in such a State of Self-torment, as the infinite Love of God can no way deliver you from.1

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  1. William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 158.
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