Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Response to Bob Campbell

I posted a response of Bob's to a blog of mine. Bob also has a blog. Isn't he a friendly looking guy? I do like Bob. I have liked him since I knew him in upstate New York.


I remember once at a presbytery meeting he had a debate with another colleague on some theological point that I can't remember now. I have to confess that I found more points of agreement with Bob's opponent than Bob; however, Bob was far more gentle, collegial, and decent than the other guy. That scored a lot of points with me. I think it helped me to be more sympathetic for Bob's points of view. Before y'all think I am going to hop in bed with Bob, here is our discussion:

Points of agreement:

#1) Bob said:
I entirely agree with you about premillenial dispensationalism. Anyone who is a Reformed Christian should say the same. Premillenial dispensationalism is a bad exegesis and bad theology.

Hallelujah, Bob. I am pleased that not just wacko liberals have a problem with this. John Dominic Crossan said that the challenge of the 21st century will not be between science against religion but between science and religion against fantasy. I believe that PD (rapture) is a critical issue to face. It is not about theory. It is about the future of Earth.

#2) Bob also sent me an essay he wrote about the Iraq war. Excellent. I wrote about something similar here and, of course, along with Bob, opposed the whole wretched enterprise from the beginning. I am very, very pleased that evangelical reformed Christians like Bob also oppose it.

Frankly, those two agreements are good enough for me. The rest is quibbling as far as I am concerned.

#3) Bob provides a critique of my statement: “A ball does not roll down an incline plane because God wills it.” Bob says that is theological not scientific. I agree. Thanks. But he does understand my main point: science explains the how and theology tries to give meaning.

Points for further discussion:

#1) I would challenge Bob on this statement regarding balls rolling down incline planes. Bob said:
But, being the rather traditional Calvinist that I am, I would also say that if just one time God wants the ball to roll up the incline instead of down, God can do that.

I don't think God can do that. Putting it positively, I think that if scientists observed a ball rolling up an incline plane, they could eventually determine why that happened without resorting to a supernatural cause. That is a scientific explanation.

Now, for a theological explanation. When we think of God we often think of a person. A person much like us to whom we can speak etc. God as a person is a metaphor. It has its advantages and its disadvantages. The major disadvantage to thinking of God as a person is that we get into a metaphysical bind when that person doesn't do something when she should. God, in my view, does not intervene now and then or ever to disrupt the physical laws of the universe. That is because God, ultimately, is not a person. That whole question of God as a person is one in which Bob and I might explore further.

#2) Let's jump to the fun one, the return of Christ. Bob wrote (quite eloquently):

I believe Jesus will return. I do believe that God calls us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to seek to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God now and therefore to live justly and with compassion and also to work in an attempt to so influence governments and societies that there may be more justice and compassion. Both as a theological observation and as an observation on the vicious way humans treat one another and God’s good creation, I don’t believe justice and compassion can become complete until Jesus returns and makes it complete. That, I think, is the true purpose of Christ’s return, of which judgment of humans will merely be a part.

My issue is this: in what manner does Christ return? I am assuming that Bob does not think that Christ will return in such a way that the whole universe will collapse suddenly or that Earth will stop spinning on its axis and cease rotating around the sun. I am assuming that Bob believes that Christ's return has to do with justice for Earth. If that is so, I am in complete agreement. I think that the return of Christ is a metaphor (not just a metaphor, but YES a metaphor!) for the reality of justice and peace on Earth. That second coming is happening now. It is not just up to human willpower, but God is participating in that if we open ourselves to God.

That is enough for now. I am most certain that I have not adequately answered nor stated Bob's concerns. I trust that he will point those out to me.
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