Last year I did a three part series for the Solid Reasons blog on working towards a new type of apologetic approach.
I’m hoping to devote some time to this subject again, and have some posts on Reformed Epistemology soon.
Here is an abstract I submitted for a collection of papers for “Heaven and Philosophy”.
Often when we think of heaven, our concepts tend towards a dualistic view of material and immaterial. Heaven, so it is thought, is a place we go when we die, and is our final destination. Though much has been made of this position, very little evidence points in this direction. When we believe in the false dichotomy of material and immaterial, this leads us into error about the importance of the material world. The Gnostics attempted to do away with the material, as they viewed it was inherently evil. This view has been a subtle poison in the modern day Christian thought, as we seek to somehow escape the material world, and therefore the material is really of no importance. Is this true? When we search the Scriptures, is this the view we find? How are we to understand what Scripture is communicating? This question trends us towards understanding the ontology of Scripture, which would do us well in understanding what it is communicating and how it communicates. Moving from the ontology of Scripture, I will contend that ultimately Scripture is a comprehensive witness to the gospel of Christ, the Word made flesh. It is a sanctified medium in which God communicates His Word to us, which is Christ. The project of Reformed Epistemology, and more specifically the proper functionalist account given by philosopher Alvin Plantinga will be of use to give an account of how we come to have knowledge of the things Scripture communicates. What I contend, with help from T.F. Torrance, is that the existence of heaven does not render Earth pointless. The very fact that Christ became incarnate shows that the material world is not meaningless or pointless. He came to reconcile all things to himself (Col 1:20). He appeared to his disciples in the flesh that hung on the cross. (Luke 24:36-43) To quote Torrance: “He came to take our place, in all our human, earthly life and activity, in order that we may have his place as God’s beloved children, in all our human and earthly life and activity, sharing with Jesus in the communion of God’s own life and love as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
This is part of an essay I wrote for a Theology class. The subject is on God’s activity in the world.
The Activity of God
At the core of Christianity is the understanding that God is active in our lives, and in our world today. We can begin to look at this through the incarnation as our starting point. God’s activity is grounded in the work of Christ. From the incarnation (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9), to His ministry on earth, performing miracles (John 2:1-11, John 4:46-54, Luke 5:12-15), to His death and resurrection (Luke 24:1-53). Through Christ, God is shown to be active, and specifically believers. The Old Testament is the foundation and preparation for the coming of Christ, at one point God dwelt among His people, in which He dwelt in the tabernacle and the temple. His spirit was in some people (Num 27:28), but had not dwelled within His people. Through the work of Christ, the view of God dwelling in the temple became a personal reality for those who belong to Christ. ‘Under the new covenant, the temple is now the believing community itself, God dwells not only among us corporately (Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16) but also in each member individually (John 14:17; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19)’ (Hamilton, pg. 2, 2006). Out of this work and indwelling, we see the gifts of the Spirit being poured out to all believers (1 Cor 12). The speaking of tongues was a sign for the unbeliever (1 Cor 14:22), and prophesies for the Church (1 Cor 14:22). These are signs of God’s activity within the world today. To quote George Hendry:
“If the Holy Spirit means the Living action of God in the world (and we can accept this as a provisional definition), our formulations cannot hope to catch up with reality… the Spirit, which is from God, or “proceeds” from God, makes God known to us, because the Spirit is God’s knowledge of Himself, and we can know God only as he shares his self-knowledge with us.” (Hendry, 1965)
Karl Barth puts it beautifully:
“But the heart of it all is that it is He Himself, the one, supreme and true Lord, who thus unveils Himself to us; that in revelation we have to do with His action as the triune God, and therefore with Himself in every creaturely work and sign that He uses. On this basis and only on this basis can there be real knowledge of God.” (Barth, 1957)
God acts towards us through the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is the only way we can truly have knowledge that He is with us, working in our world today.
Barth, K. (n.d.). Dogmatics in outline.
Hamilton, J., & Clendenen, E. (2006). God’s indwelling presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Pub. Group.
Hendry, G. (1956). The Holy Spirit in Christian theology. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.