Putting Politics in Its Place: Vocation and Dominion

I’ve been talking about politics lately. I know that it appeared like I was talking about not talking about politics, but to do that is to still talk about politics, and so, yeah, anyway, here we are, politics. I got a fair amount of responses to my post Political Talk as Totalitarian Distraction, some of them rational and some of them not, and so that gives me a good opportunity to say more. It would be a mistake to assume that I was talking about a kind of theology per se in that post. I singled out “political talk” as the thing under critique, and I highlighted the immoderate consumption and use of “TV news, talk radio, and online media.” I cannot see how this applies to a specific school of theology directly, but I suppose that if someone wishes to volunteer their feeling that the shoe fits, then I won’t be able argue too much against them. Perhaps some theologies do actively promote such immoderate consumption as a key commitment. Still, we shouldn’t confuse experiential memory and reflex with faithful interpretation of text. What I was addressing was not a theology at all, but rather a pathology– giving the discussion of politics, usually a fairly medium-to-low level discussion at that, a totalizing control over your life and, especially, allowing it to dominate your church and family. That was my actual target, and that is what any responsible reading of my words will substantiate.  

Also, my concluding three points were not presented as an alternative political theology but instead as a pre-political theology, or as a way to “put politics in its place,” as I said in the immediate context. If you understand justification by faith, the biblical doctrine of dominion, and the role of vocation in your life, then you will be free to engage in politics appropriately. But if those things are out of order, as they so often are, then you will be unable to resist a totalitarian political theology. It will fill the void of those more basic things, and you will find yourself enslaved. 

But what of politics itself or political theology? Can we say specifically “Christian” things about it? Yes. But before we get there we need to define our terms. Continue reading

Trinitarian Basics- Part 6

Eternal Generation and Spiration

These two concepts essentially address the same issue, with the former speaking of the relation between God the Father and God the Son, and the latter speaking of that between God the Father and God the Spirit.  We’ll leave the filioque to the side for the moment.  Also, I’ll be primarily speaking of the eternal generation, but know that I could also add to everything I say, “And it works the same way for spiration of the Spirit…”  I’m just conserving space here.

What is meant by this doctrine is also what is meant by the “monarchia” of the Father.  That is, trinitarian ordering begins with the Father and then moves to the Son and the Spirit. Continue reading

Trinitarian Basics- Part 5

Divine Simplicity

“Simplicity” is the underlying definition of, or way to understand, the divine essence.  Though hotly contested among modern and post-modern theologians (you can see the shift in the mid-19th cent.  Bavinck even critiques Charles Hodge in a footnote about this very subject), simplicity was mostly universally accepted throughout Christendom.  Recently Lewis Ayres has identified three organizational planks behind pro-Nicene theology, and simplicity is right at the top of the list.  It is the statement that God is not composed of “parts,” nor do his attributes make up a composite.  All of God is all of God, and each of His attributes is Him.  “Simple” is thus opposed to complex or composite.

Simplicity is really another way to explain infinity.  If God is outside of space and time, and thus always all that He is without bounds, then no “real” distinctions can be placed within His being.  This means Continue reading

Trinitarian Basics- Part 4

Nature, Substance, Essence

The terms “nature,” “substance,” and “essence” all signify the same thing when speaking of the being of God in Trinitarian nomenclature.  We’ve previously mentioned the occasional confusion of “substance” and “person” (because of the meaning of hypostasis), and there is similar confusion in the possibility of distinguishing between “substance” and “essence,” however, the terms were eventually worked out into a consistent fashion.  Though “substance” and “essence” could mean different things when speaking of the creation, they meant the same when speaking of God.  Each word signified the single divine being.

Like we saw with “person,” the actual definition of these terms is quite bare.  Esse means “the act of existing.”  Essentia means “the whatness of a being.”  Natura also means essentia or quidditas: “the character of something.”  Substantia could have the connotation of material “stuff,” but in Trinitarian nomenclature it was always identified with the essence and thus spiritual, invisible, simple, and infinite. Continue reading