Roger Olsen, as he has before and will continue to do, has caused Christians to wrestle with a few things. This time, it is the the Essentials of Christianity. I find it odd that so many would pontificate about the need for some doctrinal system formalized at the end the close of the pagan era. It’s almost as if theology simply stopped at that moment. For those who believe in progressive revelation, they deem this as the moment that theology must remain in. Who is to say that God is not moving the Church to a different understanding, a different narrative, to respond to the Father and the Son?
Personally, I’m with the good Doctor Kirk when he writes,
I’m ready to get back to discussing God in terms of how God has revealed Godself in the story itself rather than wrestling with the church’s philosophical reflections on that narrative.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way.
T.C. notes – and by the way, for my fellow seminarians, I would recommend his blog,
Perhaps along with Professor Olson, we need to rethink what we consider the “essentials of Christianity,” and not be so quick to say, “Here’s a long list of doctrines and anyone who doesn’t believe them isn’t a Christian.”
To me, having the Trinity as an ‘essential Christian doctrine’ is the same as having Justification of the Calvinist variety as the ‘essential Christian doctrine’ or having Young Earth Creationism as the’ essential Christian doctrine.’ What is essential in the New Testament is hardly what we have made essential.
But, then again, on a few of those comments, I have to wonder if their need is not instead preservation of the work of the Son and the Father in salvation and the Father and the Son by the Spirit in the life of the Church rather than some ancient doctrinal statement made in front of the Emperor, under duress.
I note that Brian LePort (please don’t think less of me for linking to his blog; I mean, it’s not like I read it) links to an article by Volf which expresses his focus on the unity of God. Personally, I’d go with Volf for the most part.
But, back to the title of the post…
God is recognized as ineffable,
We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.(Lateran Council IV: DS 800.)
Olsen, I think, agrees that God is ineffable.
So does an ancient Theologian.
And of course, while the New Testament may hold the seeds of the Trinitarian doctrine, why is what grew from it now considered an ‘essential Christian doctrine’ when many believe that God cannot be rightly described? To me, by requiring a certain formula to describe God is profaning the nature of God. We are making God too human when we even begin to try to place God within the concepts of human language – but to require a formula is to destroy the sanctity of God.
So, if God is ineffable, then why are we constantly speculating, theologizing or categorizing God? Wouldn’t that time be better spent doing something more profitable to the Kingdom of God until such a time as we can engage God without the barrier of human existence?