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me:*playing an rpg*
me:I'm gonna be the villain this time
me:*starts to feel bad and makes good choices*
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Exactly how unconditional is unconditional? Surely we must respond to God’s love, must we not? Love must be freely accepted if a free and mutual relationship is to be established, right? For Orthodox, Catholics, and Arminian Protestants, the freedom of the human person to accept or reject God is decisive and ultimate. In the words of Paul Evdokimov: “God can do everything, except constrain us to love him.” It would appear, then, that here we have finally reached a limit, an authentic salvific proviso. How can the risen Jesus promise us that we are destined for his kingdom, when we are free to reject him? Given human freedom, the “gospel” can only, therefore, be a qualified promise. To each gospel announcement we need to append the clause “… if you believe, repent, and persevere.” Hence it’s not really really good news at all. In the final analysis the “gospel” thus is sheer obligation and demand. God has done his part; now it’s up to us to do ours. The burden of our ultimate salvation rests fully upon our shoulders: if we want to be saved, we must repent of our sins, ask God to forgive us, love him in return, commit ourselves to ascetical discipline, follow the moral precepts, and not be caught dead in mortal sin.

It is descriptively true that together faith, repentance, love, sanctity form the one essential condition for salvific communion with the Holy Trinity. We must be made fit for heaven. But consider how this will inevitably be heard by our congregations if we preach this condition as the evangel of the resurrection—gospel becomes law! As we have seen, nomistic preaching of this kind only reinforces the power of “the law of sin and death” over our people and ourselves. Yet preachers do it all the time, and then they wonder why their sermons bear so little spiritual fruit.

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- Father Aidan Kimel (via gtasoldier)

(Source: afkimel.wordpress.com, via gtasoldier)

Interviewing Ikons: Paula Gooder

thepoorinspirit:

imagePaula Gooder is Canon Theologian both of Birmingham Cathedral and of Guildford Cathedral, a Lay canon at Salisbury Cathedral, a visiting lecturer at Kings College, London, an associate lecturer at St Mellitus, and a Senior Research Scholar of the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham. After studying in Oxford, she spent 12 years in theological education: first at Ripon College Cuddesdon and then at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological education, Birmingham. Her research areas include the writings of Paul, with a particular emphasis on 2 Corinthians and Mysticism, Biblical Interpretation and the Development of Ministry in the Early Church. Her recent publications include Searching for Meaning: An Introduction to Interpreting the New Testament (SPCK, 2008), The Meaning is the Waiting: The Spirit of Advent (Canterbury Press, 2008), LentWise: Spiritual Essentials for Real Life (CHP, 2008), This Risen Existence: The Spirit of Easter (Canterbury Press, 2009), Heaven: A Rough Guide (SPCK, August 2011).

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brianmavis asked: Alvin, I think you are the best biblical exegete on Tumblr. (Sorry Rob Bell). So, what is your "canon within the canon"?

Hey Brian!  Thank you so much for the compliment.  For those who aren’t aware, Brian is referring to this post on Brian Zahnd and Christocentric interpretation.  And thank you for the wonderful question!  It’s easy for those who assess and critique others to perceive themselves as being “objective”, so critiquing ourselves is a healthy habit, especially when it comes to biblical interpretation and theology.

1.  Let’s start with a major negative.  Similar to the mainstream Christocentric view (but slightly different), I don’t find the portrayals of a vengeful God (in both Testaments) to be the main portrayal of the Divine.  Joshua is still one of the most difficult books to deal with (along with others), but we cannot forget the major inner-canonical critiques of “Divine vengeance”.  In my post on the fourth chapter of Jonah (in my Jonah series):

The [fourth chapter] of this story is about “Jonah’s hatred of his enemies, but it is especially also about God’s compassion”. These two themes come into a collision in this chapter: Justice versus grace. Jonah is on the side of justice, and God is on the side of grace, with the city of Nineveh in the middle. As Douglas Stuart articulates, “It was God’s grace that Jonah resented so violently – except, of course, when he was the recipient.” The climax of the story is God’s confrontation with Jonah: “Why are you angry?” Jonah answers with silence, probably seething with anger. God challenges Jonah to “recognize how wrong he has been in his bitter nationalism, and how right God has been to show compassion toward the plight of the Assyrians in Nineveh.”

2.  There is a “universal trajectory” of blessing and inclusion within Scripture that goes beyond the people of Israel.  By this, I don’t mean that God overlooks sin, but that God seeks the salvation of all people from every background.  Without pulling out too many passages, we see the idea of Adam and Eve multiplying and filling the earth, to God blessing all nations through Abraham, and the climactic latter chapters of Isaiah.  In the New Testament, the Great Commission and the mission work of the Apostles point in this direction as well.

3.  Two passages strike me as very important and control my interpretations of Scripture:

"Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" declares the Sovereign LORD. "Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"
(Ezekiel 18:23)

" For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him."
(1 Cor. 15:21-28)

Lastly, I personally think in order to move forward (or beyond) the Christocentric debates is to actually look within the Old Testament canon itself for its portrait(s) of God.  Many of those who hold to the Christocentric view don’t talk enough about the positive portrayals of God in the Old Testament.  As long as the silence remains, the dichotomy will stand.