This TED talk raises some interesting questions to think through. A mentor of mine said: “If you ask the wrong questions you’re likely to come to the wrong conclusions.” Agree or disagree, the video gives us some things to thing through. A big one is: Are we counting the right things?
Book review: No One Like Him by John S. Feinberg
Defined systematic theology as that branch of theology which studies the whole of Scripture and presents the results on the basis of logical connection, detailing what the scriptures mean in our contemporary context. This is the greatest strength of Feinberg’s work on the Doctrine of God. This doctrine has been brushed over in my life and “No One Like Him” is the first serious discourse I have read about the Doctrine. It raises the question of why this doctrine is often taken for granted.
The question being asked
Feinberg’s task in the book is to give a constructive overview (understated) of who God is, in terms of our contemporary culture. Constructive and contemporary are key elements in the book as Feinberg takes on a unique approach. Instead of a flat-out rejection of any theological system that contradicts itself or his own system, Feinberg looks at what the issues of such systems are. Within process theology or the open view of God, the driving force, driven by contemporary culture, is a highly relational God. Feinberg brings out the value of such false systems, and then clarifies how a refined conservative approach fits the needs of contemporary culture. God is King, but He is the God who cares. While not purposely bringing a balance of two conflicting views, in each section Feinberg seeks to answer properly the questions being raised. This approach leads to a logical approach within the book.
Oddly, another strength of the book is its size. One reading is not adequate to review this book as its flow of thought builds a solid argument for God. While the spirit of communication is to state one’s point as briefly as possible, making a case for a God who cares and is King is not something that can be done in a theological journal or a Two hundred page, easy read. In a contemporary culture where people generalize, the need to give ‘exhaustive’ coverage is critical in developing a subject, especially in dealing with a infinite person such as God.
The main Point
The conclusion Fienberg reaches is one of both/and. God is king, and God cares. The conclusion, while the answer for contemporary society, does not fit with how society thinks today. It is today’s culture which polarizes issues, not seeing how they fit together as a whole, resulting in the growing popularity of process theology. God as sovereign and man as a free agent seem incompatible, unless one thinks in a both/and mindset. Great comfort comes from knowing that one need only to prove the possibility of something, not the logical necessity of something. Classical thought, while solid, is a system derived by men with inherent problems.
The bottom line
After reading this book, it begs the question of why there is not a class dealing with God exclusively. It seems that since the concept of God is so immense. As Christians we gloss over the topic and move onto more tangible things, like Christology. Perhaps it is this avoidance of focusing on God that is the root of church decline in North America. In listening to the testimonies of those brothers and sisters undergoing persecution, it would seem that they have a better grasp of who God is than we do. A solid look at God would do us all good, as there truly is no one like Him.
Millennials: Hey world, I have a soul!
Millennials are about the rediscovering of the human soul. I read lately about “Millennials.” Depending on what definition you go by, I am one or I am not one; I consider myself one. Time tables are largely arbitrary. What amazes me about Millennials is the focus on significance and impact. There is more to life and its purpose then mere existence.
I am more than my parts
The problem with modernism and the industrial revolution? They reduced everything to a mathematical formula or chemical equation. Reason was supreme, science was king. Under this onslaught of reason on steroids I cannot help but notice- things got worse not better. Reason & science can build you a bomb, but it cannot tell you if you should use it. The atrocities of modernism should cause pause about being enlightened.
Here is what I mean: Technological progress and the acquisition of knowledge does not equate to human progress. Such ‘progress’ lead to events like Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, abortion on a grand scale, pollution on a grand scale, the break up on the family, drug abuse, etc. Modernity forgot something. I am more then my parts. I have a soul.
My soul is fallen
Anyone who states a person is inherently good never worked with children. People, by nature, are depraved. I often get tirades of pessimism when I state this, but it is the truth. If people are naturally good and education the silver bullet, then things should be getting better. They are not. Again, I cannot help but notice how things got worse or at best remained the same.
Millennials focus on social justice, significance and impact may be the realization of something far more critical: We have a soul and it is fallen. The human soul often craves justice. This sense of freedom and justice demands action. They are foundational to the meaning of life.
The law has failed
The rule of law and the destructive nature of religious fundamentalism did not solve the problems. Millennials crave spirituality, but often reject religion. It points to the argument Paul made in Roman’s 7: The law is good, but it cannot save nor sanctify us. (Romans 7 is debated passage. My take is that human nature is not the focus, but the role of the Law (Torah) is.) Milennials want to cut the fluff and get to the real answers.
The Gospel really is the main thing
The Gospel really is the answer to the questions Millennials are asking. Granted there are problems at home, in the work place, etc. We need help in learning how to handle our money, our relationships, our conflicts. The Bible teaches that it is the role of older generations to teach and pass on that wisdom. Millennials are a generation of wanting listeners. But, that wisdom is not the answer they are looking for.
Theology & exposition of the Scripture stands ands as the answer. For this gets to what should be the root voice and foundation for the church: There is a God who wants be known, make Himself known and the Gospel is the only way that can happen. God doesn’t want us to know about Him, in such case general revelation would be sufficient. God wants to be known in community with us. God is active and involved. The story of Jesus Christ is pivotal to the questions Millennials are asking. The answer results and demands action. The Gospel really is the main thing.
The Bottom line
Millennials are reminding human history that we have a soul. The best response to the questions being raised is the Gospel. Teaching theology as about God, or teaching pragmatic & practical formulas misses the mark of what is asked. One is mere reason against questions of decades past, the other a softer form of legalism, both neglect that God created us with a soul. The Millennials questions bring us back to the main thing: That change occurs best from the inside out, and only the Gospel can produce that change. It’s as if with one voice they are shouting: Hey wold, I have a soul!