I recently did an interview with John Shuck on the radio show/podcast progressive spirit, also on youtube about my book “All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.” I hope you enjoy it.
The fluttering of a butterflies wings can start a chain of events leading to a tsunami, this is a parable used in Chaos theory called the butterfly effect. It’s also a parable used in theology, specifically theodicy, to explain how we can never know all the factors of, and effects of, evil. It’s used especially by Calvinists who appeal to the principle found Genesis 50:20, the idea being that God pre-ordains evil because he intends to use it to bring good out of it. The same goes for non-calvinists, arminians and modalists; they will often point to the finitude of human understanding to make the point that God created a world with evil but that it is justified because there is ultimately good that will come out of it, even to the point of saying it would be logically impossible to create a world without evil.
A Theist is someone who believes in God or a god, an atheist is someone who lacks such belief. Is it that simple? Is Atheism simply a lack of belief? Obviously there must be more to it then that, since that would mean that dogs are atheists, and babies may or may not be atheists, but generally we those we call atheists are expected to at least consider the possibility of a Deity. So how about defining an atheist as someone who might otherwise believe in God, or a god, but lacks such belief for whatever reason, and nothing else.
Saint Augustine is one of the most influential theologians in history; he’s almost synonymous with western Christianity. In my opinion, all theology needs to start with biblical hermeneutics, what do the scriptures tell us? How are we to read them? What is and is not authoritative? How can they be interpreted? These are the questions that are going to have to come first in theology. Saint Augustine wrote many interpretive works, most famously “the literal meaning of Genesis.” But in his work “on Christian Doctrine” he lays out some general hermeneutical principles, given his influence, I’m going to go over two that I find interesting and pertinent to modern theology.
Continuing from the previous post (which itself was continuing from two previous posts here and here) I will be continuing my overview of Stephen Law’s second response to John Milbank and John Milbank’s second response to Stephen Law. About the question of Evil Stephen Laws response to John Milbank’s point that any possible distinction between Good and Evil is already granting a Divine is simply a misapplied empirical point he says:
It’s often claimed that unless we believe in God we’ll suppose ‘everything is permitted’ and so end up sliding to moral catastrophe. Yet, when we look across world’s developed democracies, we find that those that are most religious – including, of course, the United States (where 43% of citizens claim to attend church weekly) – have the highest rates of homicide, sexually transmitted disease (STD), teen pregnancy and abortion. The least religious countries, such as Canada, Japan and Sweden, have the lowest rates.
The mainline protestant Churches in the United States are in decline, this is news to no one who are paying attention. Some people have bemoaned the decline, some people have delighted in it, most people simply are ambivalent to it, to be honest I don’t know what I feel about it, culturally I think it’s a sad thing to lose, theologically I think they don’t have a leg to stand on. Chris Hedges, liberal Christian activist, has recently put out an article on his take on the liberal mainline decline. As one would expect Christ Hedges doesn’t link their decline to the mainline Church’s theological un-seriousness, their more or less complete secularization or their complete abandonment of the Christian message of the sovereignty of God over all creation. Rather he puts the blame on the idea that the mainline Churches aren’t political enough, that they aren’t focusing on Social issues enough, he says:
A recent debate between John Milbank, Stephen Law and Madawi Al-Rasheed really caught my eye, firstly because it included John Milbank a great theologian of whom I am a fan. Also, because the debate included 3 viewpoints that were not only extremely different but also very often have a problem talking to each other. To start let me summarize what I believe to be the core of John Milbank’s case (he rarely says or writes anything in a simple clear way):
- A distinction needs to be made between a God, a divine being, and The God, the ground of all being, by definition there can be no direct empirical evidence of The God since it is transcendent.
- Either meaning or culture are completely arbitrary and vacuous or they describes reality in some way and add something to it.
- If the latter is true, it must be justified somehow.
- There can be no possibility of fully justifying any system of meaning on its own, so every system of meaning must have included in the system a telos that is outside the system, i.e. a space for the sacred.
- Once you have that, the extra sacred Telos from outside the system that holds the system together you basically already have religion, you have already admitted God.
- Without that, the entire system of meaning falls apart and you end up with anti-humanism, purely mechanistic and arbitrary systems.