[This post is part of the Change series]
I know we ended the last post stating that our discussion of change would start with the Gospel, and indeed, that is a good place to start. Unfortunately, do to my recent reflection on just the idea of change generally as well as how that relates to the Christian life, I’ve realized we have to go back even further in order to make our discussion coherent. Before we can even talk about the Gospel, we must establish some preliminary groundwork about reality. I can’t really assume that everyone who might read this is tracking with where I am coming from when I begin to talk about the idea of change and the way that it plays out in an individual’s life.
My own intellectual journey started at a very young age as I began accumulating Bible knowledge and knowledge in general through school. I did not however start really thinking philosophically or synthetically until I was at Word of Life from 2003-2005, where I first began intently studying the Bible and theology. Given that, the perceptual lenses through which I studied psychology are a little more apparent and thankfully my knowledge of God and man as presented in the Bible tempered most of what I received from psychology textbooks. As new knowledge poured in, it had to be synthesized with existing knowledge, or simply discarded. Fast forwarding to now, that process still goes on, but now in a bit more philosophical way and therefore probably in a bit more advanced way. That tends to come with the territory though so hopefully I’ll learn to do a good job of it.
For our discussion here though, we’ll need to do much of the same thing. Before we can talk about change, we need to talk about who is going to be doing the changing, or in other words, we have to talk anthropology; we have to ask the who/what/why/how/when of humanity in general. Before we can do that though, we have to do the same of God. My contention will be that any talk concerning the nature of man, without first discussing the nature of God, would be nonsensical and generally pointless. The only way to really understand who man is and what he has been created for is to first understand who God is and to what end He created both the universe and man. By attempting to grasp just who God is and what He is like, we may be able to more fully understand man himself and what he should be like. We will also see that generally speaking, man is not in his proper relation to God and because of this all sorts of problems arise that can only begin to be solved as man’s relationship to God is mended. This of course is where the Gospel comes in as alluded to at the end of the last post, but it’s going to take us probably two or more additional posts to get, or I could just combine them into to a rather lengthy discussion of the ontology (metaphysics) of God and man.
As just a side note, and unfortunately something not too many people may be aware of, the general understanding one has of philosophy, that is to say metaphysics (nature of being), epistemology (the nature of knowledge and knowing), and of logic (the nature of sound reasoning), will somewhat govern the way in which one conceives of God. The Bible, which is God’s revelation of Himself and the mirror by which we also understand ourselves is not a systematic theology textbook or a discourse on the philosophy of religion or philosophical theology. In the process of synthesizing the raw data (or propositions) presented in the Biblical revelation, one’s philosophical presuppositions will govern how that happens (as will one’s theological presuppositions as well, but let’s not digress into a discussion of the hermeneutical spiral). Just as an example, when we say God is omniscient, which we understand the Bible to clearly teach, what we make of that practically is determined hopefully first by philosophical presuppositions concerning what that can and cannot mean (which is where epistemology comes in) and secondly by theological presuppositions (i.e. what we declare omniscience to mean cannot contradict other clear teachings of Scripture on the nature and actions of God). Differing philosophical presuppositions can lead one to an open theism view of God (which is another discussion entirely, but grossly distorts God’s omniscience and is based on very faulty views of epistemology) or possibly the view that God conditionally elects people to salvation rather than a view of election as being unconditional (conditional meaning God chooses based on foreknowledge of man’s choice rather than unconditional meaning God freely chooses whom He will based on His own good pleasure). Similar examples could be drawn from studies in metaphysics (which answers just what a divine and/or human nature would include) or from logic (helping one discriminate among ideas that sound alright but commit logical fallacies nonetheless). I am by no means an expert philosopher, but I have a desire to learn more and have studied more than most, so hopefully what I say can carry some weight and still is faithful to God and His Word.
Hopefully not too many of you were lost in that side-road, but if so, the main point is that poor philosophical reasoning usually leads to poor theological reflection and therefore a distorted understanding of who God is and how He relates to mankind. I will try to not take us down into too many philosophical side roads and in the next post on the nature and being of God will try to put it in as plain of a language as possible so as to not get too bogged down in the underlying philosophy of my conception of the Trinity except where absolutely necessary.
So that’s where we are, starting at the most foundational place possible, the Creator of the universe Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God only wise.