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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

An elaborate, complex and sophisticated theology?

Did the author of the epistle to the Hebrews envision an elaborate, complex and sophisticated theology? He/She/They (we don't know the identity of the author) wrote: "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permit." Hebrews 6:1-3 Having enumerated the foundational doctrines of Christianity, is the author suggesting that spiritual maturity involves a systematic theology project? Does this passage imply another layer of more sophisticated doctrines?

In attempting to answer that question, I think that most students of Scripture would agree that context is critical. And, for the sake of clarity, we're talking about these verses in relation to the ones which precede and follow them AND the times in which they were written.

The verses immediately preceding our passage talk about the immaturity of the folks being addressed in the epistle (5:11-14). Enough time has passed since these people were introduced to Christianity that they "ought to be teachers" (verse 12). Instead, the author calls them babes and exhorts them to leave the "milk" behind and acquire an appetite for "strong meat" (verses 13-14). Does that support the thesis of those who are arguing for a more elaborate theology? How does the author define maturity?

After a brief discourse on the perils of falling away from Christianity (6:4-8), the author returns to the business of defining spiritual maturity. He/She/They assure the audience that "we are persuaded better things of you" (verse 9). Continuing, we read: "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of LOVE (emphasis mine), which ye have shewed toward his name, IN THAT YE HAVE MINISTERED TO THE SAINTS, AND DO MINISTER." (Verse 10) Isn't that interesting? The author equates spiritual maturity with love for and service to the saints! Isn't that consistent with Christ's own message (and that of Peter, Paul and John)?

Moreover, the author concludes his/her/their commentary on the subject with an exhortation not to abandon HOPE (verses 11-20). Notice that the author underscores the importance of the experience of emotions, and an elaboration on doctrines isn't mentioned ANYWHERE! Could that indicate that erecting a complex and philosophically sustainable statement of beliefs isn't really important? Do elaborate theologies build up and unite folks? OR Do they focus on intellectual vanity and dividing folks from each other?

Remember also, we mentioned the context of the times. How do you think Peter, Paul, James and John would have responded to terms like Trinitarianism, Unitarianism, Sabbatarianism, rapture or transubstantiation? With a blank stare? You'd have to explain the concepts to them before you could get them to venture an opinion!

Is it possible that a great many theologians and religious folks have focused on things that don't really matter? After all, if they truly mattered, don't you think that God would have put more effort into explaining and clarifying such things? What do you think?

4 comments:

  1. From "The Six Great Doctrines of Hebrews 6" - an Ambassador College production available for viewing at www.hwalibrary.com:
    "In the first grade a small child does not begin his study of mathematics by solving higher equations. He starts with 1+1=2. In like manner one must commence his Christian life by learning the first principles of the oracles of God...The newly begotten Christian must first be thoroughly grounded in the basics."

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  2. Christianity is a faux edifice; its early founders were a bunch of fraud plagiarists. There was love before the cults of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, X'tianity... and there will be love after these fraud philosophies are extinct. That's right, religions go extinct eventually - look at what happened to Zoroastrianism; look what's happening to
    X'ianity today!

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    Replies
    1. Welcome back, I've missed you. I wasn't, of course, trying to claim that Christianity has exclusive rights to the emotion of love (or that the phenomenon originated with it). I was attempting to make the point that love is central to "TRUE" Christianity (at least the biblical version of that religion), and an intellectually based theology is secondary.

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    2. Yeah but notice how Paul arrogantly speaks like he has divine authority on the subject of Love? And doesn't he say elsewhere that the Church of God is the "pillar and ground of truth"? Wow, that's a big claim: in reality they didn't even have a scientific (truthful) cosmology or anthropology, and as for 'Love', they turned anti-Semitic very early!

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