Archive for November, 2020

The importance of knowing and doing; What is religion? part 2

November 6, 2020

 

 6thNovember 2020

On page 53 Bavinck starts with saying; “Rationalists tear apart knowing from doing and simply place the one along the side of the other in disjointed fashion, as they also do with systematic theology and ethics.”

Bavinck sums up each of the rationalists view, this is in the main paragraph of page 53.  What are Bavincks view on these rationalists?

The statements in parentheses are my thoughts on this;

·        Kant; Religion becomes ethics (only doing). 

·        Fichte;  The moral world order is itself God  (Doesn’t work!).

·        Hegel; Religion is only a matter of knowing (No ethics!)

·        Scleiermacher: Religion is just a changing state of consciousness. (No ethics again!)

This for Bavinck is simply not true as he says;

Religion always rests upon the communion of God with humans as they

are restored in Christ, established by God’s revelation in word and deed. This

is objective religion. We subjectively appropriate the revelation of God and

enter that objectively established fellowship by faith. This faith is an act of

the entire person, and it resides in the innermost centre in the heart. Its an

immediate, original act, an act of the knowing and willing human person.

Faith is not one or the other, orthodoxism or mysticism, but both. Page 53 last paragraph. 

My interpretation is Objectively, religion is God reaching down to humans and being restored in Christ. Subjectively as Bavinck says; “We subjectively appropriate the revelation of God and enter that objectively established fellowship by faith”.  As you can see religion in Christendom doesn’t split knowing and doing.  In my blogs, when we have looked at revelation the great theologians have stuck to revelation as objective.  God reaches down to us.  We cannot reach out to God without God, without the Holy Spirit who illumines our minds and brings us into the very presence of God.  We are looking at religion and what it is by nature.  The problem is even in our day it is a word that is banded around a lot.  We are very fortunate to have Bavinck as a teacher from over 100 years ago pointing us in the right direction, in the 21stcentury.

 We are only on page 53 and I am getting very excited with understanding how religion ought to be understood and realigning it with good wholesome help from a great teacher.  So, what does religion mean to you the reader? 

All I can say is, that I hope that we treat this small word with a little more respect.  A secular and ‘scientific’ view of this word is just plain boring for a religious educator.  I’m talking about myself here. It is so easy to manipulate atoms and so on, but religion is not about atoms.  Religion is about God’s revelation of himself to us and our reciprocity.    The Bible says God is good, God is love. If there is no love in religion, then it is not true religion and that is the end of that.  If there is no love for God and no love for the neighbour, then it is not true religion.  If one says they love God but don’t love their neighbour, then this is not true religion.  If one says they love their neighbour but don’t love God, this cannot be true religion as it is a denial of as created beings who created us in the first place.  There are objective and subjective sides to religion.  I’m getting excited with this small word because we haven’t even looked at the internal texts in the Holy Bible.  This will be done in our next section and we will find out what Bavinck says about this.

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The Hermeneutic of Love, Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 14 before we start.

November 5, 2020

4th of November 2020

Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 14

As we said earlier, this world of the Corinthians seems very strange to the European mind.  Things are going on and as far as intellect is concerned, we can indeed say we only know in part.  It is so important to try to piece together the background to this letter without demeaning Holy Scripture because that is what it is.  Paul has given us the tools to walk through this maze.  The most important thing he has reminded us is the importance of love;

  1. Here we have a bunch of Christians who couldn’t even agree on a lot of things. 
  2. Paul reminds them of the importance of love.

Love is the glue that holds the church together.  Love is something that can overlook wrongs. Love makes a friend stick to you closer that a brother or sister.  Love makes the other person more esteemed than yourself. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.   Every person has baggage from their old life, but the baggage is not always anti.  Culture is not necessarily a bad thing; it just means things in that culture are done in a particular manner.  It isn’t a sin to come from a culture.  Everyone has a culture even anti-cultures, but I don’t want to go down that road just yet. So, let us remind ourselves where we came from.  In 1 Corinthians we had our Lord show us the power of love, even to die on the cross so that we wouldn’t die of the second death. We then went into 1 Corinthians 11 and we looked at the spiritual gifts.  We found out that perhaps the Corinthians at times could be a little proud.  Let us not get proud either because we are not any different to them.  1 Corinthians 13 was also about love and what love is all about.  Paul spelled it out to the Corinthians! Are we listening to the words of St Paul? Now we are going to embark on chapter 14 and we need to move with humility otherwise we will ‘miss the whole of the heavenly glory’ (Bruce Lee).  I don’t really care if you believe or don’t believe in the gifts but please stay humble before the Holy Spirit. Love should be a driving force not the gifts.  We need to get this the right way around. Isn’t this so?  O Charismatic person is love more important than the gift. Strict Brethren believer; Is love more important than thinking the gifts died out?

The Hermeneutic of Love, Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 14 before we start.

November 4, 2020

 

4thof November 2020

Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 14

As we said earlier, this world of the Corinthians seems very strange to the European mind.  Things are going on and as far as intellect is concerned, we can indeed say we only know in part.  It is so important to try to piece together the background to this letter without demeaning Holy Scripture because that is what it is.  Paul has given us the tools to walk through this maze.  The most important thing he has reminded us is the importance of love;

a.     Here we have a bunch of Christians who couldn’t even agree on a lot of things. 

b.     Paul reminds them of the importance of love.

Love is the glue that holds the church together.  Love is something that can overlook wrongs. Love makes a friend stick to you closer that a brother or sister.  Love makes the other person more esteemed than yourself. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.   Every person has baggage from their old life, but the baggage is not always anti.  Culture is not necessarily a bad thing; it just means things in that culture are done in a particular manner.  It isn’t a sin to come from a culture.  Everyone has a culture even anti-cultures, but I don’t want to go down that road just yet. So, let us remind ourselves where we came from. 

In 1 Corinthians we had our Lord show us the power of love, even to die on the cross so that we wouldn’t die of the second death. We then went into 1 Corinthians 11 and we looked at the spiritual gifts.  We found out that perhaps the Corinthians at times could be a little proud.  Let us not get proud either because we are not any different to them.  1 Corinthians 13 was also about love and what love is all about.  Paul spelled it out to the Corinthians! Are we listening to the words of St Paul? Now we are going to embark on chapter 14 and we need to move with humility otherwise we will ‘miss the whole of the heavenly glory’ (Bruce Lee).  I don’t really care if you believe or don’t believe in the gifts but please stay humble before the Holy Spirit. Love should be a driving force not the gifts.  We need to get this the right way around. Isn’t this so?  O Charismatic person is love more important than the gift. Strict Brethren believer; Is love more important than thinking the gifts died out?

 

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The Timeline for Faith, Hope and Love.

November 1, 2020

1st November 2020

Let us begin by reading the following from 1 Corinthians 139-1313.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 NASB

Verse 9

Love is still the theme but there is still a lot to unpack here.  We don’t know everything and because we don’t know everything, we can only say a certain amount. 

Verse 10

Teleios (end, maturation) This partial knowledge we have will one day give way to perfection or maturation, so that we understand everything.  The word hope in verse 13 is not an accident.  Hope is about the future.  Hope will one day be turned into the now and there will be no need for hope anymore. Because we will be there in God’s presence for all eternity.

Verse 11

With this example Paul is showing some type of timeline.  Where on the timeline can we be found as Christians?

Verse 12

Again, he speaks about a mirror.  We don’t know everything yet but hopefully one day we will.  One day we will see Jesus face to face and then we will understand but until then our knowledge is incomplete although the Lord’s knowledge is always complete.

Verse 13

Calvin makes a comment about this verse;

“Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” Calvin. (I haven’t found the source of this quote yet but I found it at; https://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_corinthians/13-13.htm It is very true, love indeed is the second greatest commandment and we are expected to show love to all our neighbours.  It is true also that faith is personal, and hope is personal, although hope can also be understood in a collective manner.  More thinking is needed here.

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What is religion? Part 1

November 1, 2020

 

1st November 2020

The Collins dictionary says;

” 1. belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny

2.  any formal or institutionalized expression of such belief

the world’s major religions

3. the attitude and feeling of one who believes in a transcendent controlling power or powers

4.  mainly Roman Catholic Church

the way of life determined by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience entered upon by monks, friars, and nuns to enter religion

5. something of overwhelming importance to a person football is his religion

6.  archaic

a. the practice of sacred ritual observances

b. sacred rites and ceremonies

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers ”

Taken from; https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/religion

I’m sure that if I was to look at various dictionaries, I would find different takes on the word religion.  This would be a work in itself.   For Christian theology itself this is a very important question.  Secular schools of thought have penetrated every aspect of culture in the West and religions tends to be looked at in terms of comparative lenses. For me this misses the big picture and it does not give respect to the various religions including Christianity.  All the religions are not the same, they are different.  Thankfully for us Herman Bavinck in his ethics goes to great lengths in his explanation of what religions are  and are  not.  I have heard in Christian circles;

“I am not religious because I have a living relationship with God.”

I never really understood this but after reading Bavinck I have a better understanding of the issues involved, and it is time to reclaim the words ‘religion and piety’ for the living Christian faith.  Religion and piety although close are not the same thing.  We will go on our road of discovery looking Our Relation to God at pages 50 – 60.

On pages 50 – 51 Bavinck looks at some definitions of the word religion found from;

1.     Acts of the Apostles 1728.

2.     Zwingli; Reformer

3.     Thomas Aquinas; Very important theologian

4.     John Calvin; Very important theologian and Reformer

5.     Polanus von Polansdorf; (He was a church reformer and translated the first Calvinistic German translation of the Bible).

Bavinck starts with;

 Our Relation to God

As humans we are God’s image and have an innate idea of God.” Never

and nowhere are we independent of God but always dependent on the highest

power. Yet this is not the relation of which we are speaking here. Animals

and plants are also dependent on God. All creatures live and move and have

their being in God (Acts 17:28). Animals and plants also stand in relation to

God. But in the case of humanity, that relation is a relationship and a post or

office.” An animal exists before God in a state of bondage, a human person in

a state of dependence. This peculiar human relation to God we call “religion.”

What is religion?” We are born to obey, know, and follow God. “By this bond

piety, we are bound and obligated to God, and this is whence it received

the name ‘religion’ itself, not, as Cicero thought, from the word ‘reread.’ From Bavincks Reformed ethics page 50 

Reflection

This is an important context.  All plants, animals and humans have a relation to God, but our relation also has an office and our complete dependence of God.   He then says; “this peculiar human relation to God we call “religion.”” Page 50 

Collection point for interpretations of relgion in various churches

He then raises a general discussion on the nature of religion and he finishes off  with three collecting points;

The following, then, are some features of the Reformed and Lutheran views;

 

1. In establishing what religion is, they start from true religion and on that

basis determine what false religion is. This is especially the case with

Zwingli.

 

2. The Reformed definition always makes it apparent that religion rests

upon and arises from knowledge of God. The views of Calvin and Sohn

serve as examples.

3 The Reformed maintain that the essence of religion is not abstract

knowledge, but knowledge and activity (trusting, believing, willing

faith).

Reflection

The word religion is not an empty word devoid of meaning.  It is a word that is loaded with connotations.  Bavinck has a lot to say about our understanding of our relation to God.  I am not making anything personal at the moment with this word.  What I can say is that there are subjective and objective definitions for the word religion and also with how knowledge of God and activity were split with the liberal movement.  We have only scratched the surface.  In the next section we will continue looking at Bavinck and, in the end, find a proper understanding of our relation to God.

Ad excursus (An excursion)

It is interesting that Bavinck uses the word office.  Yes, we have a relation to God, and we have a job to do for God as the image of God.  We have a serious responsibility to this earth and as humans we need to take a certain amount of the blame for the mess that this planet finds itself in.  I think we need an ecological theology for this day.  We need to repent of our bad stewardship of the human resources and realize that making money is not the be all and end of all of our activities.  

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