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Systematic Theology

The Power of the Creator God – Psalm 135:6,7

If we are to follow God, if we are to trust God, we must have some assurance about God’s character. It is only natural that Bible often spends time with this issue. If we are to trust in God we need some assurance also of God’s power. Is God able to uphold us through the difficulties of life? To me, these are the issues addressed in Psalm 135:7,8.

lightening-and-rainWhich brings me back to the circumstances that made Psalm 135 so vivid to me in the first place. I started reading and meditating on this psalm on a stormy morning. There was a thunderstorm raging outside. And, it is clear that the Psalmist saw the power of God in the thunderstorm. It was not an unruly, threatening natural event — somehow the thunderstorm was also under the sovereign power of God.

So there is no need to ultimately fear what would otherwise seem powerful, unruly or chaotic — all the powers of this world are under God’s overruling power. They reflect the power of God — for God is the Creator of all that is. (more…)

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Pannenberg on the Validity of Faith

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Here are some thoughts on the nature and validity of faith by Wolfhart Pannenberg.

I found these in Systematic Theology, Volume 3. (There is no Kindle edition for that yet — sorry to say.)

Faith is a form of the way we relate to truth, and is comparable in this regard to knowledge. In Hebrew the terms for “truth” (’emet) and “faith” (he’emin) are linguistically related, deriving from the same root. Truth in the sense of ’emet is what is constant and therefore trustworthy, so that we can build on it. He’emin denotes the confidence that establishes itself on the basis of that which is constant, so that those who have it achieve steadfastness and constancy. But only God and his Word and works are fully stable and trustworthy (Ps. 111:7-8; 119:90-91; 146:6; etc.). Hence, those who would be firmly established themselves must be established in God.

(more…)

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The Ecstatic Structure of Human Spirituality

blessing-prayerLast week I posted on What is Spirituality?”. This was my attempt to get a handle on what it might mean to call something “spiritual.” While spirituality is certainly a subjective phenomenon, I believe there is a way of talking about it and analyzing it, to some extent. I said:

Human spirituality is self-transcendence. A spiritual experience is something that lifts us beyond our selves. The true essence of spirituality is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind; and our neighbor as much as we love our own self. (See Luke 10:27, etc.) There is both a vertical (God-ward) axis and a horizontal (other-ward) axis to this. But, spirituality is always being lifted out of ourselves. Spirituality connects us with God, with the community of faith and with the needs of other people outside the community of faith. These vertical and horizontal axes correspond roughly with the idea of God’s transcendence and God’s immanence. Traditionally, Christian theology has affirmed both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence.

Here is another way of saying it: there is an ecstatic structure to human spirituality. A spiritual experience is something that lifts us beyond ourselves. It may provide us a sense of connection to a higher reality or it may provide us with a sense of connection with other people. Or, it may do both. But, in any case, it lifts us beyond ourselves — outside ourselves.

I realize that this assertion (especially the language of “ecstasy”) is very much open to misinterpretation, so I feel the need to say more about it. (more…)

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A Short Course on Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Coming into Seminary out of undergraduate studies in Chemistry was frustrating to me. I had learned a scientific way of looking at knowledge — and theology seemed to have little understanding of inductive method or the theory of knowledge. Many theologians — including highly admired ones like Karl Barth — seemed to me to be fideists — arguing that faith justified itself. Rudolf Bultmann also falls into this category — and for him, it’s not clear to me that this faith has any real-world implications. Only much later did I discover the theological writing of Wolfhart Pannenberg — the first theologian I read who addressed the questions I had been asking for a long time.

So, I owe a great debt to Pannenberg’s theology — though, of course (as with everyone else I read) I don’t agree with everything he ever wrote or said.

Well, I discovered some very fine videos over at YouTube that serve as a good introduction to the theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. (more…)

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