The mysteries above and the mysteries below

It is common enough for Christians to observe that Christ is the key to understanding the Creator. For the witness of the scriptures is that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory” and “the exact representation of his being” and “in very nature God” and that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”.
How many, though, have considered that Christ is also the key to understanding the creation? For the same scriptures affirm that “through him all things were made” and “in him all things hold together” and he is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” and that through him the Creator will “reconcile to himself all things”.

Parenting Styles and Religious Beliefs

different views of godA number of sociologists have observed that people’s political views, consciously or otherwise, often tend to mirror the parenting styles that they consider normal or positive.

I have observed this is often also true of religious views.

On the one hand, many view God as strict and authoritarian, as having a lot to say about law and order. Here the emphasis is on God’s judgement and proclaiming truth.

On the other hand, many view God as as nurturing and permissive, as having a lot to say about care and compassion. Here the emphasis is on God’s mercy and proclaiming love.

Then there are others who see God as disengaged and distant, as not particularly concerned about love or truth, or anything really. The emphasis here seems to be on God’s absence. Guidance is looked for elsewhere.

Lastly there are those who see God as more authoritative, as placing a premium on both truth and love. As challenging people with truth within the context of loving relationship. Here the emphasis is on reconciliation, on restorative justice and transformative mercy.

So who is God for you?

What books make up the Old Testament? 

 While there is some disagreement between different Christian traditions regarding the extent of the Old Testament, these disagreements should be understood within the context of broad agreement overall.
To begin with, the three main branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) as well as rabbinic Judaism all agree the Old Testament includes the core Hebrew texts, commonly known as: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
There is also universal agreement on the inclusion of the Aramaic texts Ezra and Daniel within the Old Testament.
The texts which are disputed are primarily Greek, and that in itself should give us a hint as to why they’re disputed. Quite simply, they were composed later than the core Hebrew texts. In general, the Orthodox and Catholic traditions of Christianity tend to include them whilst Judaism and the Protestant tradition of Christianity tend to exclude them. The texts in question are 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, 3 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Wisdom, the Letter of Jeremiah from Baruch, and the additions to Daniel known as Prayer of Azariah, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. There are also a few Hebrew texts (1 Esdras, Judith, 1 Maccabees, Baruch, Sirach) and one Aramaic text (Tobit) which are also disputed, but by and large it is for similar reasons, due to later composition. It is worth noting however that few doctrines of any of the above traditions are based solely on these disputed texts. Their impact should not, therefore, be overstated.

Sola scriptura and Solo scriptura

solo scriptura .jpgIt seems I’m not as much of a theological miscreant as I thought. I’ve been dropping in on discussions on the difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura and, while being initially inclined to interpret the latter as a Star Wars meme, my subsequent understanding is that solo scriptura is pig latin for more modern distortions of the old Reformation slogan, sola scriptura.

In essence, while both sola scriptura and solo scriptura place scripture in a veto position above tradition, the latter refers to approaches that go way beyond what the Protestant Reformers intended, denying any need for any reference to tradition when interpreting scripture. I found the summary of Jeremy Myers of some help, especially his explanation that solo scriptura is “the idea that we can learn all matters about faith and practice using the Bible alone, plus nothing else. If a group or person studies the Bible, and they think they have found some truth, doctrine, or practice in Scripture, then they should believe or practice this idea, whether or not it was ever believed or practiced previously in the history of the church.”

Now, I may come up with novel interpretations and practices from my reading of the Bible at times, but it’s rarely without at least consulting the wider church tradition and seeking to follow it in substance if not in style. And, as should be obvious to any long term reader of mine, I see context as essential for correct interpretation of any text. I am highly suspicious of any interpretation of a bible passage that ignores the wider cultural and literary context, and ancient tradition can give us important clues for that context.

Indeed, if anything I go further and often triangulate between the major Christian traditions – Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant – emphasizing what they hold in common beyond all the petty and not so petty divisions. Tradition is far from valueless even though it’s not without its faults. I suppose that places me as a definite advocate of sola scriptura over solo scriptura for all my eclecticism. Innovate, yes. But ignore the past, no.


My beliefs concerning Mary, the Mother of God

I do not believe in the immaculate conception of Mary
     But I do believe Mary was blessed amongst women
I do not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary
     But I do believe Mary was a virgin up to the birth of Jesus
I do not believe in the bodily assumption of Mary
     But I do believe Mary will be resurrected on the last day
I do not believe in Mary as co-redemptrix or mediatrix
     But I do believe in Mary as Mother of God