Monday, December 28, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
For Torrance, faith is what happens when through the Spirit we are brought to see personally that Christ had and has faith for us, that therefore we do not need to have a new and different faith in addition to his faith for us, and when we understand this then we realize that the faith we have is in fact the very faith of Christ himself which is now in our hearts by the Spirit. (lxxix)
Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
"What is truth?" It certainly cannot be expected to encounter man as a phenomenon which is immediately and directly illuminating, pleasing, acceptable and welcome to him. He would not be who he is if the promise of the Spirit came to him easily and smoothly. The gate through which it comes to him, if at all, is not wide but strait, and its way to him is not broad but narrow. Basically, it is in harmony with him and it speaks to his innermost self. For it tells him about the reconciliation of the world to God which has taken place in Jesus Christ, about this as his own justification and sanctification, about the new birth which it implies for him, about the freedom and peace of his true being as a new man in Jesus Christ. Yet telling him of these things, it is a new and strange and unsettling message compared with what he is in himself apart from this being of his in Jesus Christ, and with what he thus regards as pleasing, acceptable and true. It lacks the brightness and radiance which might cause it to seem true and acceptable. Indeed, the new man in Jesus Christ of whom it tells seems to be wrapped in obscurity compared with the old whom we know so much better and with whom we are naturally well acquainted. We need to pierce the obscurity, to penetrate the alien, threatening and uncomfortable aspect under which the truth draws near to man, if we are really to see it as the truth. We need to do something which is not at all self-evident, namely, to become other people. In the first instance, it does not address us; it contradicts us and demands our contradiction. Hence it does not commend itself. It is not welcome but unwelcome. It would certainly not be the truth if it did not have the tendency and power to pierce that obscurity, to penetrate that first aspect, to change us and therefore to open us to itself. It would not be the truth if the newness and strangeness in which it first encounters us were no more than the hard shell of a sweet and very precious kernel, if its aim and impulse were not to make perceptible and accessible to us the joy and peace of our true being as new men in Jesus Christ. But it would also not be the truth if it won us for itself by any other way than that of a powerful Nevertheless and Notwithstanding, if it did not encounter us in that hard shell, if it served up that insight on a platter, if it disclosed itself to us cheaply and otherwise than in a desperate conflict of decision. Things gained in this easy and self-evident way might well be kindly and good and even true within the sphere of a creaturely life, but they would certainly not be the truth of God. And they would be distinguished from this by the fact that they would entail no unmasking of man, no exposure of him as a liar, and therefore no summoning of him to a knowledge of the grace of God, to faith and obedience. That this is so in the case of the truth of God is grounded in the fact that this is identical with the true Witness Jesus Christ as the revelation of God's will and work for man enacted in Him. The glory of this Mediator, however, is a glory which is concealed in its opposite, in invisibility, in repellent shame. This Witness does not encounter man in a splendour which wins him easily and impresses him naturally. Raised from the dead by the power of God, He encounters him in the despicable and forbidding form of the Slain and Crucified of Golgotha. It is as the One whose way leads and ends there that He is the Reconciler of the world to God, the justification and sanctification of man. It is with Him as this One that our life is hidden and secured in God. And it is as this One that He comes again, revealing Himself in the world which moves to this end and goal and therefore in our sphere of time and history. The Word of the cross is thus the light of life, the saving revelation of God, the promise of the Spirit, in which He visits and accompanies and encounters man. It is as the Word of the cross that it has and exercises this power, and therefore primarily in this context the power to unmask the man of sin as a liar. To whom could it possibly appear welcome, acceptable or even tolerable? As it is this Word from which we think we can only turn away in rejection in view of the menace of its form, it is obvious that we should try to escape from it in falsehood, accepting instead a truth or untruth which it is easy to hold and affirm and which has the advantage that it enables us to think that we can avoid exposure. We can only think this. For in face of this Word there is for man, no matter what he thinks, no possibility of escape or concealment.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
We must learn here to think with God always in the centre. God speaks in such a way as not to be brought under our rubrics and estimates. He meets us as the Lord. He saves us and we know we are in his presence. Here our knowledge of God, our theological judgments are not self-centered, but are called out of us as matters of acknowledgement and obedience. We are confronted with the majesty of God and surrender ourselves to him in adoration and devotion. That is why faith insists that what believers do is to let themselves be told by the Word, by Christ himself, allow themselves to be determined by Christ who confronts us in his word, and acts upon us – so that the judgments of faith are not those which believers make according to what they already know, but those which are formed in them as they are obedient to what is presented to them. God summons us, and we obey. He authenticates himself to us and we acknowledge him. He confronts us with a divine act of majesty which creates and forms in us a perception appropriate to what he is, and we are controlled by it. He establishes himself in our human knowing in a way according to his nature, and does not allow our knowing of him to be halted by our normal limitation and capacities – for he upholds us from below and enables us to know what is beyond our natural capacities, and what we acknowledge is an act of adoration and glorification of God. But it is as sinners that we encounter Christ, and as sinners that we are summoned to hear his word and to yield to it the obedience of our minds, so that when we know and obey him, that is a reversal of our disobedience, and involves a decision against ourselves, contrary to our self-will. (35-36)
Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Your position, "God is not real because I cannot sense God as I sense the rest of reality," is quite well and boldly expressed. As an open question, it brings us as humans right to the point at which the gospel speaks. As a final conclusion, it blindly assumes victory after having slain only a straw man.
By "expressed openly" I mean within the limits of human finitude but without excluding the possibility of the objectivity and freedom of God beyond those limits. We can't intelligently say, "God doesn't exist because I can't touch him", while you could say that apart from Christ "God is not real to me because he has not made himself real for me within the limitations that my knowledge is necessarily bound to." For me as a human to know something or someone is real, that reality must present itself as both sensible and intelligible. Enter Jesus Christ.
The Gospel tells us that God, who cannot be touched or fully comprehended, has condescended to make himself known to us within the physical and intelligible limitations of human life and speech by becoming incarnated in Jesus Christ. God made himself knowable by presenting himself within our touchable and intelligible realm. However, even this is still not on the terms you describe. To touch Jesus' skin and hear his words was not to touch God directly or hear him directly, but to touch and hear that in which God had made himself fully present and through which he made himself known. In other words, one can take a position of doubt, saying Jesus was merely a man, his words merely human words. No overwhelming logical argument can fully refute this doubt. But for those, as Jesus said, "with ears to hear", God made and continues to make himself fully knowable in the sensible and intelligible reality of the man Jesus Christ.
"Did you just say 'continues to make'? Jesus isn't walking the earth today!" Yes, but God's taking human form and human speech in Jesus Christ as the Incarnation of his eternal Word has forged a new knowledge of himself in humanity that perpetuates itself through those who know it, the church. You can see and hear the church, understand its proclamation of the risen and everliving Christ; these are sense experiences you cannot deny having, it is just a question of your willingness to receive them as communicative of knowledge of God. How do we know God is communicating himself through the church's proclamation? You must approach God through them and see if he is there to be found. How? Through the means appropriate to him: prayer and worship.
This is the message of Christianity. Your fundamental argument, "God is not real because I cannot sense God as I sense the rest of reality," has met a counter claim. If you have made your argument "openly", you must consider the church's proclamation of Jesus Christ, God come among us in our sphere of observability, and make your judgement. As it is, your argument, if expressed in a closed way, is a rejection only of a straw man, something other than the Christian God who is defined by untouchability but has nevertheless taken on touchability for you and for me. This seems to be your complaint though: God is too untouchable in his eternal nature and too touchable in his human mediation. This is just complaining that God is too God.
At this point, the first two categories of tangible experiences of God you mentioned I would consider dealt with. Christians, having heard the voice of the eternal God in the proclamation of the gospel and thus having learned to correlate events and realities in this world, both fantastic and mundane, with their source and meaning in the eternal love and will of God for us in Christ, interpret both fortuitous synchronicity and pretty sunsets as the Creator speaking in his creation. Of course these things cannot prove the validity of this theological interpretation; that can only be validated by a prior encounter with God in his gospel. Of course there are other ostensibly plausible interpretations of these events. You've offered a common and compelling one, the one of the linear evolution of human understanding where we go from mythology, to religion, to naturalistic science. This story is forceful and persuasive, except for the fact that it offers no proof of itself. It is just as liable to the charge of total fabrication as is any meta-narrative of human or cosmic history. Just as the Christians' interpretation works perfectly well if God exists, so does yours if God doesn't exist. But this does nothing by way of offering any evidence for or against God's existence. Lets come back to that shortly.
Your point about Christians not believing in the God of the Bible I found totally compelling and convicting. You're right; most Christians don't really believe in the God of the Bible. The Bible presents us with something quite alien to our experiences, what Karl Barth called "a strange new world". Liberal Christianity explains all this away and repackages the Christian message as human progress, or social or personal enlightenment (God-lite). On the other side, fanatical Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity seems to deny the tension and convince themselves that they see pillars of fire and so on. Really, though, both are doing the same thing; reducing the Creator to the sphere of the created. The rest of us fall feebly somewhere in between. For myself, I seek to believe and be faithful to the God of the Bible, but I'm constantly faced with my incompetence in this regard; I can't help but feel a serious conflict between the world the Bible depicts, one in which God is seemingly ever present, active, and articulate, and my own world which feels much less spectacular. But this tension is necessary. If the Bible and the God whose revelation it mediates to me weren't so wholly other from the world of my experiences and expectations, it could not call me out of myself to a faith whose center is another Being entirely. It is a tension that seizes me, calls me to repentance for trying to resolve, and produces faith and hope in the man at the center of that tension. If the story of that man were pure mythology, I could easily dismiss it and there would be no tension. If it conformed to my experience and expectation, it would reveal nothing to me. This tension you have so well named here I will not apologize for leaving unresolved. God speaks in that tension and moves to resolve it himself in the fulfillment of history yet to come in Christ's return.
Let me finish by coming back to the issue of the equal footing of internally consistent worldviews. Both Christianity and atheism provide ways of looking at the world that accord fairly well within themselves. Their starting points, however, cannot be arrived at neutrally, but are bound up with the view of the world they provide. You have spoken of the experience of others from a worldview of unbelief; you answered Jesus' "who do they say that I am?" from a standpoint hostile to faith. Now he asks you "who do you say that I am?" This question cannot be answered neutrally. It calls your self and everything you think into question. You cannot evade the question with appeals to presuppositions about sense or evidence. If Christ confronts you, it is he and he alone on whom your answer must be based. Is Christ a liar? Is the proclamation and fellowship of his church a fraud? If you would answer yes, it cannot be because you can't touch God. You need to reject the actual message as it presents itself to you, not a caricature of it.