Author Archives: flyinthelyceum

where the divine & human meet

A POST BY JARED:

One of the most famous theologians of all-time is Augustine of Hippo, the man who almost single-handedly defined what was orthodox or what it meant to be a Christian in the first few centuries after the death of Christ. His contributions to the church are broad, in fact it is difficult to speak of any Christian doctrine without inadvertently relying on his thought. He is known as the Doctor of Grace, and his instruction on the nature of grace and the sovereignty of God in salvation were fundamental to medieval theology, the Protestant Reformation, and the formation of the doctrine of grace ever since.

Augustine’s greatest contribution to the church is his definition of the doctrine of original sin, which stated that all men since the fall have been so corrupted by sin that they are incapable of pursuing God. This doctrine was born out of a conflict between Augustine and a charismatic church leader named Pelagius, who taught that humankind does not necessarily sin, but can willingly choose to love God and keep his commandments, prior to any redeeming experience of grace. It is no secret who won the day. The Pelagian doctrine of free will and perfectability was condemned as heresy at the Council of Carthage in 418A.D.

After this council Augustine continued to write, teach, and lead as the Bishop of Hippo until his death on August 28, 430A.D. In his defense of the doctrine of original sin he argued that sin has so corrupted man’s nature that it is only by the grace of God that any are saved. It is in the wake of this argument that the current tension of divine and human freedom meet. The ancient question of freedom & sovereignty can be laid at the feet of Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. It was this very question that brought Augustine, less than 100 years after his death, under intense scrutiny.

On July 3rd, 529 Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, and the subsequent doctrine’s of predestination and effectual grace, were called into question. The church, since Augustine’s death, had grown increasingly hostile to the way in which Augustine articulated and defended God’s sovereignty and man’s corrupted state in the process of salvation. Had it not been for a seemingly unknown theologian by the name of Caesarius of Arles, we may have never have known the full weight of Augustine’s theology of grace. In his defense of Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, and specifically how that impacts the tension between the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, he says this:

“Perhaps you say: ‘God does indeed desire that all would believe in him, but not all are willing. Why? Because they are unable to do so without His grace.’ At this point I ask you whether [you meant that] the human will has the power to contradict the divine will rather than that the power of God is able to convert human wills to itself… If [God] has done whatever He has willed, [then] whatever He has not done He has not willed — by a hidden and profound and yet a just and incomprehensible judgment.”

-Caesarius of Arles, quoted in

The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan

Ultimately, Augustine’s doctrine of grace and original sin were upheld as genuine Christian doctrine. The question remains: what is left when the divine & human meet? Is it such that man’s will has the ability to forsake the will of God? Or is the will of God capable of moving even the most resolute desires of man? 

the Prize of Liberty & the Burden of (the) Right

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s Supreme Court legalized gay marriage Friday in a unanimous and emphatic decision that makes Iowa the third state — and first in the nation’s heartland — to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Just a few hours ago, Iowa overturned a law that had been passed in the state restricting marriage to one man and one woman, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to exclude homosexuals the right to civil marriage. This decision was made on the basis that the court was charged with upholding ‘equal protection under the law’ for all citizens of the state of Iowa. This brings to the surface an ongoing struggle that has been addressed often and misunderstood even more.

The question that should plague us as Christians is: “how are we as the church supposed to respond to judges and politicians and kings who pass (or overturn) laws that go directly against what God has revealed in His word?” What is the burden of the Christian when the governing entity allows or restricts liberty that is in contradiction to God’s revealed will?

Paul wrestles with this very tension in the first few verses of Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.

The challenge with his logic here is that he seems to be glossing over the fact that governing authorities very often go against the authority of God. He seems to miss that there are times when supreme court justices declare something lawful when God has declared it sin. Paul’s audience would have known that he was not making such an unforgivable gloss; he had been systematically persecuted, beaten, thrown into prison, and was facing certain death from the very institutions that he argues are appointed by God. He knew that governing authorities lose step with the God who has given them their authority. It was no mistake that he was being persecuted; it is no mistake that Iowa has declared gay marriage an inalienable right.

To the church in a pagan city Paul encourages submission for the sake of the gospel. His burden was not to create the city of God on earth by means of the authority and rule of the Caesar. His burden was to see the gospel of Jesus Christ go out to the ends of the earth reforming, regenerating, and enlivening the hearts of those who in their sin suppress the righteousness of God. The implication for the church in the wake of a secularizing government can not be overemphasized!

There will be men who battle over the legality of such a decision, and others who refute the content and the logic of the ruling itself; however, these attempts are doomed to failure if the church is not at work in the world retelling and reliving the beauty of the gospel.

God, would this decision break our hearts all the more for those who are seeking satisfaction outside of the God for whom they were created. Give us a deeper love for your gospel and a deeper passion to see you worshipped throughout our world. Amen.

jared