Archive for July, 2010

Exploring Hell – Part 2

Saturday, July 17th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

A couple of weeks ago I began a series about hell. In part 1 of the discussion I gave a brief overview of the topic of hell in the Old Testament. I concluded that there is no explicit mention of hell in the OT and that any attempt to identify Sheol with hell would be futile. Today I want to take a brief look at the topic of hell in the Second Temple Period. Again, I am not a biblical scholar, so if you find some gaps in my scholarship, please contribute to the discussion below and let us know your thoughts.

As I have already mentioned, in the Hebrew Bible (OT), hell, in the way that many modern western Christians conceive of it, is simply unknown. We do not find a fiery place of torment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. What we do find in the Old Testament is the grave. God is the one who lives in heaven and human beings live on earth. When a human being dies, in the OT, they go into the depths of the earth. It does appear that the person continues to exist in some way, but they do not go to heaven or hell, at least not in the minds of early Jewish writers. Things begin to shift, however, when we arrive at the Second Temple Period (roughly 200 b.c. – 200 a.d.). In and around this era, the Jewish people have been exasperated by empires and persecuting rulers. Having recently been freed from exile, the Jewish people found themselves under the attack of Alexander the Great then Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and finally the Roman Empire. In the Second Temple Period (hereafter 2TP), the Jewish writers are often seen trying to make sense of the world around them. In 1 Enoch we read of fallen angels from Genesis 6, who slept with human women and bore hybrid offspring who would continue to torment the earth while their parents (the angels) were subjected to punishment. In a book called Jubilees we find a similar story of angelic beings disobeying God and bearing hybrid offspring who tempted the faithful under the rule of a leader named Mastema (or Satan). In both of these stories, the offspring of these fallen angels appear to be the cause of evil in the world and the reason that the Jewish people are continually tormented. Read the rest of this entry »

Online Education

Friday, July 16th, 2010 by Dale M. Coulter

We are currently in a time of significant transition in terms of educational models. This transition is no different in significance than what occurred during the move from Cathedral schools to the university and from scholasticism to Renaissance humanism.

I wonder, what are your thoughts about online education, especially since Regent is fully committed to this new educational model.  My own attempts to evaluate what we do here at Regent is in terms of past attempts to renew education.

So, here is the framework in which I work:

  • Does online education allow for greater links to be forged between the church and the academy that Cathedral schools had and that was placed in jeopardy through the rise of universities?
  • Does online education allow for the creation of a community of learners guided by a teacher who attempts to help them assimilate a body of information?
  • Does online education allow for the preservation of a connection between the moral life and the life of the mind?
  • Does online education allow for a return to the sources?

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Grace Still On My Mind

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by Antipas Harris

Is the purpose of the preaching the gospel merely to communicate condemnation and exclusion? Certainly, people struggle due to poor choices and sinful behaviors. The authors believe it is biblically grounded to assert that the purpose of preaching the gospel, moreover, is to share the preeminent message of God’s love rather than condemnation. God’s love is best expressed in God’s grace that grants us opportunity to become better rather than infliction of bitterness; grace transforms us into the image of God rather than transfer us the face of God; grace liberates us from the pangs and punishments of sin rather than makes us liable for destruction because of sin.       

Among many theological concepts that are continuously intriguing us, we have constantly visited and re-visited the theological concept of grace and the function of grace in God’s salvific process for humankind. Grace is intrinsic to the gospel message that must be communicated maximally or emphasized more effectively. This book assumes the need for grace for everyone. In fact, while grace appears to everyone, sustaining us even in our sins before we accept salvation, grace does not disappear when we surrender to the divine call of salvation. Grace remains, rather, an essential element for the successful Christian life. John Wesley once said the following in his sermon, “On Repentance of Believers:”

It is generally supposed, that repentance and faith are only the gate of religion; that they are necessary only at the beginning of our Christian course, when we are setting out in the way to the kingdom…. And this is undoubtedly true, that there is a repentance and a faith, which are, more especially, necessary at the beginning: a repentance, which is a conviction of our utter sinfulness, and guiltiness, and helplessness…. But, notwithstanding this, there is also a repentance and a faith (taking the words in another sense, a sense not quite the same, nor yet entirely different) which are requisite after we have “believed the gospel;” yea, and in every subsequent stage of our Christian course, or we cannot “run the race which is set before us.” And this repentance and faith are full as necessary, in order to our continuance and growth in grace, as the former faith and repentance were, in order to our entering into the kingdom of God.

Agreeing with Wesley, this book contends that there is no place in our spiritual walk or faith journey wherein we have elevated to a state of perfection devoid of a need for God’s grace.

Important questions emerge in this discussion: what is grace?; what is the function of grace?; does grace require human transformation?; and does grace excuse the need for human transformation and justify humanity before God without human transformation? These questions and others concerning grace continue to ponder my thoughts.

The Imago Dei in Historical Perspective

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 by Diane Chandler

Throughout history, theologians have attempted to define the imago Dei (Latin, image of God) and identify what exactly being created in the image of God refers to.  Four perspectives have been offered.

The first perspective relates to humankind’s capacity to think and reason.  This has been termed the substantive view, connoting that the imago Dei can be described by any one or more of its essential parts, but particular human rationality.  Church fathers such as Irenaeus (d. 202) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) fashioned their theological views around God’s creating humankind in his image with the ability to reason and think over the non-human creation.

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Facebook or “FaceTime”?

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 by James Flynn

Do you have the same problem as I do?  I am convinced that I have perfected the art of getting caught up in the little things that don’t make a lot of difference while neglecting things that are most important.  I have to watch myself.  To this day, I am not very active on Facebook because I think it would consume me and other things that are more important would suffer. Maybe you are a lot like me and have been asking yourself some important questions about how you can best use your time—it is so easy to get caught up in what is good and miss what is best..

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Impractical Theology — Does It Exist?

Monday, July 12th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

If you are a seminary student, chances are you are pursuing a degree in “practical theology.” Chances are, also, that you deliberately chose that degree program over other choices. Somehow the term, the idea of pursuing something with practical implications appealed to you. If you are teaching at a seminary, chances are good that you are teaching courses in a practical theology curriculum. After all, this emphasis on “praxis” is a significant aspect of the character of a seminary. But what does that phrase imply? Does it mean that those who choose a different course of study may not get what is practical? Honestly, this way of labeling begs the question: Is there such a thing as “impractical theology”? Read the rest of this entry »