Friday, March 02, 2018

Powers Trilogy (Wink)

Below I will share my notes from Walter Wink's 3-volume work on the Powers

Volume 1: Naming the Powers

1. Modern people have a hard time believing in the 'powers' talked about in the New Testament. It feels like believing in dragons, elves, or a flat world (4)
2. But while "It is a virtue to disbelieve what does not exist. It is dangerous to disbelieve what exists outside our current limited categories." (4)
3. This trilogy is the result of Wink coming to the conclusion that the 'powers' couldn't be 'dymythologized' into modern categories. He now believes that while the powers can be understood as institutions, social systems, and political structures... there is something more going on-- "something invisible, immaterial, spiritual, and very, very real." (5)
4. But Wink only seems to believe that the demonic 'inner component'  begins to exist when the 'outer component' becomes idolatrous. "Both come into existence together and cease to exist together." (5)
5. The language of power thoroughly pervades the New Testament

The Powers

Tuesday, January 30, 2018



I’ve got crooked teeth
But only on the bottom
With a stiff lower lip
You’d hardly know I got em

I’ve got a stiff upper lip
About my blackest whites
I’m able to survive the day
And not cry through the night

Now I can keep on covering
Or I can cast the blame
I can claim pure motives
But still the fact remains
I could compare with others
Convince myself I’m fine
But no matter how I read myself
There’s still a bottom line

I’m crooked

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Athanasius (On the Incarnation)


The Word of the Father is Himself divine. This was established in my earlier writings. We must now go 1 step further. The Word has been made flesh. This truth makes the blood of the unbelieving Jew boil (even though the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah was prophesied in their own Scriptures). It causes the unbelieving Gentiles to roll their eyes and laugh (even though incarnation is a reasonable rescue plan). But the incarnation is the heart and soul of Christianity.

The Word became flesh out of love to save us. Humanity was in desperate need of saving. Our world was not a chance creation (as the Epicureans suggest). Nor had matter always existed (as Plato suggests). Furthermore, there was no ‘other’ or lesser god who mistakenly created the world (as Gnostics suggest). God created a good world. We were made in the Likeness of God, but became corrupt through sin. This corruption provoked and necessitated the incarnation.

God’s Word, in order to rescue humanity from corruption while simultaneously taking the curse of death seriously, entered the world created through Him. He was born to die (death was otherwise impossible for Him). But through His union with us, re-union with God became possible. Because of His identity as God-man, the law of death was broken and resurrection became reality.

We were made for union with God. We were made like God (in God’s image) so that we could love God. But the image was stained by our sin. What was God to do? The only hope was the coming of the Image Himself! Only the perfect Image of the Father (Jesus) could renew the Image in humanity. Jesus got down on our level to raise us up to His level. In doing so, though, He did not cease to be divine. His body was not a limitation, but an instrument used to save us.

The events surrounding Jesus’ death speak to its importance. The sun went dark. The earth shook. The people were in awe. He publicly died at the hands of His enemies (human and demonic) so that the message of His resurrection would be unmistakable.

What’s more, the continuance of His life is unmistakable. Jesus is alive and active in the world! Think how large the body of believers has grown, each one responding to a living Lord. Think how small the attendance at pagan temples has become. Jesus is proving victorious more and more each day. In light of this, does it make any sense whatsoever to call Jesus dead? It makes more sense to call death dead.  

Jesus put on a body so that in the body He might find death and overpower it. And He did overpower death and more. The world has changed drastically since His victory. The gods have been dethroned. Magic has disappeared. Worldly wisdom is now recognized as foolish. Lives are being changed and enemies are becoming friends. It is clearly Christ who is accomplishing these things. By lowering Himself He has raised the whole world up!

Friday, December 01, 2017

Where is our hope?

Where Should we Place our Hope?
(A non-rhyming poetic answer)
In America, many people put their hope in politics
"If MY SIDE of the aisle were in power...
Things would be better"
But that hope is fading
Both sides have been in power
And many things have gotten worse
More and more, people are seeing
We can't put our hope in the elephants
We can't put our hope in the donkeys
They vote yes to themselves
They only see sin on the other side
They don't see the sin in their own seats
So what?
Do we turn back to religion?
Our old saviors?
But we left them for a reason
We left because of their own violence
Their own scandals. Their own greed.
We left them not only for a reason
But for reason
Should we turn back to that?
Science can't let us down? Can it?
1+1=2. I can trust that.
But can I HOPE in that?
Should we place our hope in numbers?
Meaningless numbers? Without interpretation?
In science, which gives both balm and bomb?
Truth is, we abandoned science with WWI
Because as we won our hope in it was lost
We realized its winning was our failing
So we grow hard
We trust no other
We turn to self
I can trust myself... right?
No! I know myself too well
To trust myself too much
Where is our hope?
If not politics or religion?
If not science or self?
Until we are hopeless
We are hopeless
Let go of your allegiances
Lose your religion
Let numbers be numbers
Look yourself in the mirror
Look up to the heavens
Look down at the manger
Look long at the cross
See Pilate & Herod
See Caiaphas
See the science of torture
See yourself among the scoffers
Lose all hope
Look into the tomb
Last place you'd expect to find hope
And see it empty
Find the King of kings
Find the end of all sacrifices
Search the evidence
See for yourself
Hope springs eternal
In the God-man's breast

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

What is the Trinity?

Here is a summary and some thoughts on What is the Trinity? by Dale Tuggy...
Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at a State University close to where I live. I have interacted with him a time or two on facebook and visited his website. When I saw he had published a short little book on the trinity, I decided to give it a try.

Tuggy believes that most Christians claim to believe in the Trinity, but don't really understand (or understand in contradictory ways) just what it is they claim to believe. In this book, he aims to help us think through the issues by "sticking with the foundational, understandable, and indisputable points."

Chapter 1: Don't be afraid to think about God
Tuggy bemoans that fact that even many serious/mature Christians devote little time to thinking on this subject. He suspects this is due to fear or laziness, but encourages us to dive in. God doesn't want to stay in the dark.

Chapter 2: Formulas vs. Interpretations
The creedal statements, according to Tuggy, are ambiguous and are more question-raising than answer-providing. Since it is unclear what many of the key statements mean, we can't proceed in thinking until they are clarified. It's not enough to just parrot the statement if we don't even truly understand it.

Chapter 3: Trinity vs. trinity
Tuggy believes much confusion would be eliminated (and false-confidence deflated) if we were careful to distinguish between trinity (lower-case, referring to the plural) and Trinity (upper-case, referring to a singular God who simply IS Trinity). He states that, in the 1st three centuries of the church, there was a belief in a triad (trinity), but nothing much like 'God in three Persons' belief in The Trinity.

Chapter 4: The deity of Christ vs. the Trinity
Tuggy says that the deity of Christ need not suggest Jesus is equal to the Father. It is not a building block that necessarily ends in a belief in the Trinity. "The Trinity implies the deity of Christ, but the deity of Christ doesn't imply the Trinity."

Chapter 5: Get a Date
It is not true, says Tuggy, that Christians have always believed in the Trinity. While they have always recognized the trinity (lower-case), the doctrine of the Trinity (upper-case) developed gradually. The term 'God' was generally reserved for the Father. It wasn't until the 4th century that mainstream Christians started talking in Trinitarian terms. And even then, Tuggy says, the consensus was acquired largely by political pressure.

Chapter 6: Persons
Tuggy confesses that it is impossible to ignore the distinction, in Scripture, between Father, Son and Spirit. But we should be careful about any tritheistic conclusions (he's not a fan of social-trinity models) or any model that gives a vague definition of the term 'Person'.

Chapter 7: Substance Abuse
In 325, the Christian council declared that the Father and Son share the same 'ousia' (substance), but what this means was not made clear. The word had at least 9 possible meanings. Tuggy goes through each definition and, basically, concludes that the authors of the creed left things somewhat confused and vague. By 381, belief in The Trinity was more confidently stated (to the chagrin of Tuggy).

Chapter 8: Mystery Mountain
It is common to appeal to 'mystery' when talking about the Trinity. By this many things are meant, but it should never be used as a way to derail conversation about what we actually believe. Tuggy suggests that believers in the Trinity doctrine have worded themselves into a philosophical corner that they can't get out of without admitting they've made a mistake.

Chapter 9: What's a God?
Tuggy presents various ways in which the term 'God' is used. He argues that, biblically speaking, God is one (the Father). There are other deities (in a sense) but the one true God is the Father. Tuggy believes his unitarian position actually has older support from the church and is more biblical.

Chapter 10: Says Who?
Tuggy again expresses concern for why the Trinity doctrine took so long to develop. He suggests that scholars generally won't make the sort of arguments for the Trinity that are often made by apologists and lay-people. We should question their authority and go back to the Scriptures.

Tuggy does believe the correct understanding of the trinity is discoverable. He has concluded that unitarianism is the correct view. Jesus is more accurately (and biblically) described as God's messiah, the Son of Man, and the unique Son of God. In any case, there's a lot of disagreement about the Trinity/trinity. We should run toward those disagreements because doing so helps us to find the truth.


I liked this book. I think Tuggy did a good job of clarifying the points of tension in our thinking about the Trinity/trinity. Many of his distinctions may prove helpful for those who read his book and continue to think through these doctrines. I personally found it helpful.

Nevertheless, there are a few areas I would want to push-back on...

First, it seems to bother Tuggy that the doctrine of the Trinity took so long to develop. One gets the impression that this is a point against its accuracy. But I'm not sure why that need be the case. If God is patient and has promised to lead the church into all truth, it should not surprise (or aggravate us) that clarity sometimes arises over time.

Second, throughout the book, Tuggy is critical of apologists for the Trinity. But I wonder if, by the closing chapters, his book couldn't be counted as an apology for the unitarian position. His critique of Trinitarian apologists is that they present a tidier version of their view that fits with reality, but Tuggy's book (by its nature) avoids talking about the nuts and bolts (and apparent weaknesses) of the unitarian position.

Third, in the final statement of the book, Tuggy says that we should begin by asking 'who is the one God?' and then figure out how Jesus relates to him (for Tuggy, the Father alone). However, I think it should be admitted that, biblically, we know the Father best/most through the Son. If we were to start with the Father, we'd have to be doing so largely via philosophy. We must actually start with Jesus to learn best what the Father is like. Starting our theology with Jesus need not demand that we end up with the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is the best way to do theology.

These critiques aside, I really did enjoy (and was helped by) Tuggy's book. I'm personally more inclined toward a 'social-trinity' model, but this book will help me to dig in deeper to think through what I actually mean by that (and what I don't mean). And if I continue to do that... Tuggy has accomplished his goal.