Monthly Archives: January 2008

Governing Assumptions and What He Wrote

Recently, I have been watching a DVD series by Reggie Kidd on Paul’s theology. He has made the point that in order to grasp Paul’s theology, you can not take the themes on the surface of each of his epistles as the constituents of his entire theology. For, his epistles are the pastoral treatment of the various churches. Instead, you must look for what assumptions drive his approach to the various problems. Methodology is one of the clearest indicators of someones beliefs, and so Paul’s treatment of the churches belies a more foundational and multi-faceted understanding of God. When Paul treats the Jew and Gentile problem in Romans, he does so in reference to justification, adoption, and union with the second Adam, the founder of the new creation, Christ.

This is a a happily familiar method of investigation for me. It was in my 20th Century Philosophy class that this way of thinking was first made clear. Much energy was devoted to systematizing our knowledge in such a way as to ground all of our beliefs about the world. If our empirical knowledge of the world could be boiled down to a set of logical axioms, then our knowledge would gain validity since it would fully scientific. So people like Russell, Carnap, Quine, Wittgenstien and the members of the Vienna Circle set out to give a completely objective basis for our knowledge of the world. Their idea was that empirical knowledge is the most basic building block of all our knowledge, and if epistemically justified completely, would demonstrate the validity of our knowledge and demonstrate what beliefs ought to abandoned. Well all was fine and dandy until Quine published an article, the Two Dogmas of Empiricism. This was a provocative title since the premise of empirical (Analytic) philosophy was that every belief was able to be justified, and there existed no unfounded dogma in their system. It was seen as the end of all superstitious epistemology as in Hegel and the rest of the rationalists. Passing over the particulars, the article revealed that there were numerous doctrines involved in any empirical belief. Thus it became clear that the very methodology they employed betrayed the purpose of the investigation. They could not escape the assumptions that guided their investigation. So the underlying beliefs, the foundational assumptions, (hinge beliefs as Wittgenstien called them), became clear after an investigation into the manner of their inquiry.

Now, this is similar to the study of Paul’s Theology only in that Paul’s manner of treating topics is what best demonstrates his theology. There are numerous doctrines which we can glean from a cursory reading of his epistles, but the guiding principles, and the overarching flow and rhythm of his theology will be made known to us by keeping mind of his method. His method is determined by his doctrine. His method belies his ultimate reference point, and basis for all things.

Anyway…. I am excited to dig in and hear what Dr. Kidd will say.


Recent Reading

Since I have been so negligent in posting in the last few months, I thought I would post a few quotes from what I have been reading, Ridderbos’ Paul.

He is in the midst of defining the “with Christ” and “in Christ” language of Paul apart from the preceding generations of study.

“At the root of ‘being in Christ,’ ‘dying, rising with him,’ is supposed to be the idea of an absoprtion with the deity, indeed of a physical unification with the divine being. …All the emphasis was placed on the naturhaft character of this mysticism, which one must take, not in an ehtical or symbolical, but in a proper and real sense as union with the deity and which is effected in particular through baptism and the Lord’s Supper in a magical way as in the rites of the mystery religions.”
This interpretation is wrong for a number of reasons. “this is evident even from the fact that ‘being in Christ,’ ‘crucified, dead, raised, seated in heaven with him,’ obviously does not have the sense of a communion that becomes reality only in certain sublime moments, but rather of an abiding reality determinative for the whole of the Christian life, to which appeal can be made at all times, in all sorts of connections, and with respect to the whole church without distinction (cf., for example, Col. 2:20ff.; 3:1ff.). Rather than with certain experiences, we have to do here with the church’s ‘objective’ state of salvation, for which reason an appeal is repeatedly made to baptism (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). … But in addition to what may be urged against this interpretation even from a purely historical-phenomenological point of view, the unmistakable fact is passed over that in Paul dying, being buried, etc., with Christ does not have its ultimate ground in the ceremony of incorporation in the the Christian church, but rather in already having been included in the historical death and resurrection of Christ himself.

This is very close to the difference between the Arminian understanding of faith and the reformed understanding. Christ’s death is what effected our salvation; not our faith in it. Our faith is the means by which that salvation is applied to us by the Holy Spirit; but our faith is neither efficacious nor meritorious. The Arminian understanding, however, is that Christ’s death simply makes available the opportunity for salvation which is made efficacious by our faith. Having quoted 2 Corinthians 5:14ff., Ridderbos goes on to say,

“From this it is to be concluded that ‘having died,’ ‘being in Christ,’ ‘being new creation,’ the fact that his own are no longer judged and ‘known according to the flesh’ (namely, according to the worldly mode of existence), has been given and effected with the death of Christ himself.”

The beauty of the gospel is that Christ finished His work on the cross and it is all sufficient.