The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

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Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Theological eccentricities meme

What better way to break my long silence than to respond to the clamoring crowds (that is, two people) who have expressed interest in the "theological eccentricities" that I alluded to a year ago in this post! So, here goes: in this new meme we air any number of eccentric theological ideas or tendencies we may have, things that either go beyond the norm for our particular faith group or for Christianity in general. No particular number - I won't know how many I put down until I'm done with this post.

1. I seem to be the only kid on the block who thinks that the presence of the "second Cainan" in Luke 3:36 is a piece of evidence that the Septuagint reading of Genesis 11:12-13 is correct and preferable to the reading found in the Masoretic text.

2. With regard to the "Filioque" I lean strongly toward the Eastern Christian position, not because I claim a deep understanding of the issues - I don't, and I've seen detailed arguments on both sides that seemed confusing and/or unconvincing to me. But John 15:26 leaves it out, simply saying "... the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of me."

3. Ever since I met a few Coptic Orthodox Christians who had somehow found their way to my church body's small Bible college years ago, I've had a soft spot in my heart for Monophysites (or, apparently more correctly, Miaphysites. Perhaps I'm a closet Miaphysite myself, but I don't know.

4. Now, just to stir up the pot a little, other non-Lutheran churches which have influenced (or at least nudged) my thinking have included the Seventh-Day Adventists (I'm of the school of thought that agrees with Walter Martin that they are a legitimate Christian denomination and not a cult, as some claim). Though I have many disagreements, I respect the interesting brand of internal consistency their doctrines have, and that they have a comprehensive vision of how the Christian faith should shape all of life. Many Christians don't seem to have that kind of vision. I think their doctrine of the Great Controversy is one of their strongest distinctives, and their distinctive form of premillennialism (in which Christ and the saints reign in Heaven during the Millennium while Satan is imprisoned on a desolate Earth) seems at least as valid an option as any other option floating around, so I don't know why I've never heard of any non-Adventists advocating that position (though, come to think of it, one of my seminary professors had a similar position in which Christ reigns from Heaven during the Millennium). Which leads to my next oddity ...

5. I'm not sure what category I fit into with regards to the Last Days. My views either combine or don't quite fit into the usual categories (Amillennial, Premillennial, Postmillennial). Concerning the "Great Tribulation" I thought for years that at least I was clear on being "Post-Trib", but after noticing how many times the Bible repeats "a time, and times, and the dividing of time", "1290 days", 1260 days", etc., I realized that there's something very important about the mid-point of a seven-year period. I don't know if that makes me "Mid-Trib" or not, because I sometimes wonder if "experts" on Biblical eschatology have connected the dots of Bible prophecy in entirely conjectural ways. But I definitely no longer place the "mid-Trib" position on the bottom of the heap, as I once did.

I'm not a Postmillennialist, though I briefly considered it, under the influence of Christian Reconstructionism. The influence I retain from that movement is that I think Christians should be more optimistic about the influence we can have right now. I may be some type of Premillennialist, but not any of the usual kinds. I'm probably technically a Premillennialist because any other view would hold that the two resurrections in Revelation 20:4-6 are different in kind, that is, one physical, one not physical, and I think that strains the text. But, on the other hand, in common with Amillennialists and Postmillennialists, I think it's possible that the "Millennium" is in progress right now because of my next eccentricity:

6. I'm utterly fascinated by the resurrection of some saints mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53. How can such a big thing be mentioned only one place in the Bible? People have speculated over the years about these people. Did they die again? Did they eventually go their way to Heaven? Are they still among us? Nobody knows, since the Bible says nothing more. Going back to Revelation 20, was this event the "First Resurrection", or at least the first stage of the First Resurrection? If so, one could hold a position which has some characteristics of Amillennialism (the Millennium is now) and some of Premillennialism (the Millennium is between two physical resurrections), and that may be my current position.

If indeed there are resurrected humans out and about, could they be some of the "angels" some claim to have seen? In 1987 my Dad and I were rescued from a dangerous situation when a piano we were moving fell out of a pickup in the middle of a 5-way highway intersection. A burly, curly-bearded guy appeared on the scene and singlehandedly lifted the piano back into the pickup, right over the side of the box, showing no evidence of unusual strain, and went on his way. Was he just a guy who worked out a lot, or was he an angel, or was he an Old Testament saint going about doing good deeds? We don't know.

No doubt I have people concerned about how I'm doing. Don't fear, my theology is more coherent than the jumble above may suggest, I've just learned to ask lots of deep questions and to have a high tolerance for ambiguity in the meantime. I guess six is a good number, but don't feel bound by it if you have fewer or more theological eccentricities to share. I'll tag Steve, Sol, and Lars and Phil, and anyone else who wants a go at it, either on your blog or in a comment to this post.



I'll add these while I'm at it:

7. As a whole I believe that churches should behave more conspicuously as care centers or rescue missions, like the Salvation Army, whom I respect very much. In fact, I'd give serious consideration to joining the Salvation Army, except that they don't practice baptism or the Lord's Supper, something I wouldn't be able to deal with.

8. I don't know if this is an eccentricity or just a semi-original idea: I believe many aspects of the personalities of various church bodies and movements can be illustrated (not defined, measured, or quantified) by plotting them on a graph with x and y axes, one axis showing a polarity between orthodoxy and pietism, the other between scholasticism and mysticism. As an example, my church body deliberately tries to be halfway between in the orthodoxy/pietism spectrum, while leaning a bit towards the direction of mysticism.

9. I'm not a Dispensationalist, but I do believe in dispensations. For example, to me it seems clear to me that Romans 5:14 mentions an "Adam to Moses" dispensation, a definite time period in which God was running things in a certain way that changed later.


Blogger Steve Hayes said...

The Orthodox Church regards any kind of millenialism, pre- or post-, as the chiliast heresy.

One of my personal idiosyncrasies is that I have an intens aversion to the word "cult" being used of a group of people. People may practise a cult, but they can't be a cult. I know this is partly because I'm a language pedant, but I also think that religious discourse would be more civil if people observed that rule.

Also, may I suggest that you turn backlinks ON in Blogger -- then you will find it easier to track references to this and other posts on other people's blogs.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Thanks, Steve, for your comments, and the tip on backlinks.

I agree, too, that a more careful use of words would improve the civility of religious discourse immensely. Part of the problem with the word cult is that there are at least two different popular definitions floating around, one as "a heretical version (or offshoot) of Christianity", the other as "a religious group with unusual and/or extreme ideas and practices, usually with some type of psychological oppression or other unhealthy social dynamic." And neither of those meanings is the original meaning of the word. Indeed, words are easily abused, and people are easily abused with words. In many people's vocabulary an ,extremist is "anyone who doesn't see things the way I do." In Lutheranism we have a strong tendency to use the word "Reformed" as a broad category for pretty much all non-Lutheran Protestants. Though I think there's a defensible theological rationale for that category, I think we should use a different word. I don't think it helps inter-church communication when we give our own meaning to a familiar word.

The main current of Lutheranism would agree with the Orthodox Church on the issue of millennialism. My group is one of the few Lutheran groups that openly permit it. I may already really be a type of Amillennialist, but I'm suspending a decisive verdict on the issue until I've become much more familiar with prophetic and apocalyptic literature in the Second Temple period and afterward. A Lutheran dogmatics text we used in seminary referred to premillennialism as "gross chiliasm" and postmillennialism as "subtle chiliasm." Seeing them as two forms of the same thing has taken a bit of refocusing for me, because on the outset they seemed so different and diverging. Some would have a similar struggle, of course, with seeing Arminianism and Calvinism as both "Reformed."

I'm honored by your attention to my little blog. I've briefly perused your blog, and see that you're a very serious blogger (which I doubt I will ever be), and you've achieved something I'm still just working on, namely, expert-level knowledge and writing in your chosen fields of interest. For the last 11 years I've had the privilege of direct exposure to the Orthodox Church, which has helped me "think outside the box" theologically more than almost any experience I've had lately. I may explain this in more detail in an upcoming post, as I've also thought of a couple of other theological eccentricities I might as well reveal.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Steve Hayes said...

I must thank you, because I was wondering what to write for a synchroblog, and your post inspired me to write this!

I would have a problem with saying that Arminians and Calvinists are both "Reformed". Arminians are closer to the Orthodox concept of synergy than Calvinists are!

2:54 AM  
Anonymous Sol said...

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I haven't been able to think of any theological eccentricities.

I don't know if it is eccentristic or just odd that I came to Orthodoxy through Christian Reconstruction. I only became aware of Orthodox because the pastor of a theonomically-oriented Reformed Episcopal Church gave me a copy of For the Life of the Word.

As a result of my Reconstructionist background, I have never disavowed postmillenialism, as no one ever told me this was a chiliastic heresy. Since being received into the Orthodox Church, I would say that I have become a bit amillenial by osmosis. Of course all of my old Reconstructionist friends charitably tolerate me as a iconodule heretic.

I suppose it might be considered eccentric that I think the Eight Tones are overrated. I think that they are used because they are safe. I don't think there is anything particular holy or correct about using music from the 8th century.

On a related note, perhaps it is eccentristic that while I would only consider the Divine Liturgy (or a western Mass) to be a sufficient and proper Sunday service, I still write music for non-liturgical churches. The stuff I write tends to have themes that express liturgical ideas, like my recent "Trisagion".

So how's that?

9:49 AM  

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