Wesleyan Theology I - Lesson 2

Nature of Practical Theology (Part 2)

God can only be fully know by revelation. However, we can know some things about God by observation and reason. Thomas Aquinas gave 5 reasons that supports the idea of the existence of God. We can perceive motion and there must be something that caused the motion. Nothing can come from nothing, so something must exist at all times, which is God. Humans are contingent beings, but God’s essence is to exist. There are different degrees of goodness and complexity in organisms, so there must be a being of a highest form of good. Design and purpose must be at work because it’s not reasonable that the universe resulted from chance. Dembski also estimates that the mathematical odds for everything happening from a single cell at less than 1 in 10 to the 150th power. 

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology I
Lesson 2
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Nature of Practical Theology (Part 2)

I. Existence of God

A. Thomas Aquinas

1. Motion

2. Efficient cause

3. Necessary being

4. Gradation

5. Design

II. Existence of God as a Live Option

III. Challenge of Science

A. Nonmanipulables of incompetence

B. Nonmanipulables of Condition

C. Paul Tillich

D. Pascal's wager

IV. Questions and Answers

Class Resources
  • For the first 5 centuries after Christ, the theology of the Christian Church was ecumenical. Since then, you have differences in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, and then the Reformation with different Protestant traditions. The Church has a history of promoting and preserving knowledge in all fields of study. Ideological secularization is characterizing theological ideas as irrelevant and not academic. Structural secularization is the process of marginalizing the subject of theology in the academy. Both revelation and reason are both important elements in the discussion of philosophical and theological subjects. God is transcendant, which means that he is distinct from everything that has been made. God is immanent, which means that the Spirit of God can be communicated in time and space through media, but is not the media itself. 

  • God can only be fully know by revelation. However, we can know some things about God by observation and reason. Thomas Aquinas gave 5 reasons that supports the idea of the existence of God. We can perceive motion and there must be something that caused the motion. Nothing can come from nothing, so something must exist at all times, which is God. Humans are contingent beings, but God’s essence is to exist. There are different degrees of goodness and complexity in organisms, so there must be a being of a highest form of good. Design and purpose must be at work because it’s not reasonable that the universe resulted from chance. Dembski also estimates that the mathematical odds for everything happening from a single cell at less than 1 in 10 to the 150th power. 

  • Humans are both material and spiritual and have the capacity to experience transcendence. Without God, you are describing a diminished view of humanity. John Calvin says that wisdom is the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. Revelation of God comes from Scripture (the most important), tradition, reason and experience. Theology should be participatory and result in transformation. …Wesley’s theology describe in two words would be, “holiness” and “grace.” Wesley’s theology is conjunctive. Holy love is a tension. Holiness results in separation and love results in community. Wesley’s view of grace includes both cooperant grace and free grace. 

  • Two sources for knowledge are revelation and reason. Empiricism teaches  that you get knowledge from your senses. Rationalism teaches that you get knowledge from the operation of your mind. Kant said that the mind makes a formal contribution to knowledge by organizing it.  All knowledge begins with experience but it does not all arise out of experience. Reason can only take us so far. Humans are the only species that worship God.

  • Scripture is unique, the word of God and inspired by God. Scripture is the source of truth and provides a norm for truth. Wesley gives four arguments for inspiration. They are miracles, prophecy, goodness of the doctrine and the moral character of the penmen. Characteristics of Scripture include the sufficiency, clarity and wholeness of Scripture. 

  • Univocal refers to a one-to-one correspondence between the language we use and the reality of God. Equivocal refers to the idea that human language does not correspond directly to describing God, so it acknowledges ambiguity and more than one interpretation. Analogical refers to language used to describe God using  analogy. “Via Negativa” is describing characteristics that God is “not.” “Via Positiva” is describing a characteristic that is true of God, using analogy. Aseity means that God’s essence  is to exist. Eternity means that God transcends the limitations of time-space. There is not a space where God is not. Omniscience of God means that God knows all things. Omnipotence of God means that God is all powerful. Once God creates, there is an order in creation, and God works within the framework he created.  Immutability means that God’s essence does not change. Leslie Weatherhead describes three aspects of the will of God as the intentional will of God, circumstantial will of God and the ultimate will of God. Wesley describes God’s holiness as purity and simplicity. The wrath of God can be described as God’s unending determined opposition to evil.

  • Triunity describe God’s nature. The concept of the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and taught explicitly in the New Testament. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all active in creation, baptism of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus. The Trinity is three distinct persons with the same essence. The distinctiveness has to do, not with their nature or essence, but with the relations. Person is different than an individual. According to Wesley, the Trinity is an invitation to participate in the deeper life of God. The gospel is the universal love of God, manifested in the person of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness apart from love can result in legalism. Love apart from holiness can result in sentimentality and wishful thinking. 

  • God created humans in his image so we have both a physical and spiritual nature. Sometimes biologists make statements about evolution that are outside of what can be examined and verified by science. According to young earth creationism, creation took place in 6, 24 hour days and the earth is about 6,000 years old. According to theistic evolution, once the process of evolution began, no special supernatural intervention was required for it to continue. The opposite of a naturalistic explanation for life is not supernatural, but intelligent causes. Intelligent design makes information theory and mathematical probability integral to its overall approach. Irreducible complexity argues against gradualism in the evolutionary process. 

  • God freely created the world and chooses to govern within the framework of the created order. The moral law is consistent with the character of God. God uses the moral law to convict the world of sin, bring us to Christ and keep us alive. Natural law is a body of moral principles that can be discerned by reason. Natural law is the will of God expressed in a created order. Deep conscience refers to the interior witness to the foundational principles of the moral law. Four characteristics of our moral design that are evident at the level of the species are interdependence, complementarity, spontaneous order and subsidiarity. 

  • Adam and Eve were created, not just as physical beings, but also spiritual beings. The image of God includes relationality as well as the capacity for rational thought. Wesley describes it as a natural image, political image and moral image. Wesley says that the natural image of God means that we have physical bodies and also a spiritual nature. Humanity is the conduit for God’s blessing of the rest of creation. 

  • The characteristics that give a human personhood belong to another order of explanation than that explored by biology. Sartre, who is an existentialist, says that existence precedes essence. In other words, each person determines their own nature by the choices they make. Others would say that your choices determine your character but that’s separate from your nature. Postmodernism teaches that the self is only a social and linguistic construct. Some scientists have argued that humans do not have a soul, but that cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method. If God is dead, humanity is dead. Human beings are more than the social groups in which they participate. Humans are animals, but not merely animals.

  • Lucifer brought sin into the world with his sin of pride. The sin of Adam and Eve was unbelief. Wesley describes  unbelief as the perversion of the relationship between God and humanity, a lack of faith in God, resulting in alienation. He distinguishes three types of death as physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. Satan was self-tempted when he sinned. Adam and Eve were tempted by something external to them, Satan.  Wesley sees Adam as a representative of all humans, so all humans inherit Adam’s sin nature. 

  • There are orders of creation and preservation, like family and marriage, that can mediate the grace of God. God sustains creation, and also relates to people as persons. The three-fold circle of divine providence is the outer ring of the whole race of humans, the second smaller circle is all that are called believers and those who profess to be believers, the innermost circle only the true disciples of Jesus who worship God in Spirit and in truth. Wesley doesn’t deny that bad things happen to good people, both from other people and from events in nature. If God eliminated all evil, it would require eliminating freedom, which would also eliminate love. 

  • Wesley describes total depravity as "a want of original righteousness," and also in terms of a "natural propensity to sin.” Luther, Calvin and George Croft Cell agree. Eastern Orthodox teaches that Adam and Eve were not so fallen as to be unable to respond to any subsequent proffered grace. Wesley teaches the total depravity of humans and the sovereign act of God in salvation. He uses prevenient grace in two distinct ways. The “narrow” sense refers to all those degrees of grace that come before justifying and sanctifying grace. The “broad” use views all grace as prevenient and emphasizes the prior activity of God because he is always ahead of us and takes the initiative. Prevenient grace can be understood as both cooperant and free grace. 

  • God acts preveniently to give humans revelation by communicating his divine attributes. God places in humans a moral law that is expressive of the image of God. The Holy Spirit restored to all humans a certain measure of free-will. Original sin makes it impossible for people to respond to God on their own without God restoring their personhood, which they need to be able to respond to God’s grace. God doesn’t do it in a way that overruns a person’s personality.

  • The incarnation is a foundational teaching of the Christian faith. Since Jesus claimed to be God, it’s not an option that he could be just a good person. Paul teaches that Jesus has the same nature as God and that Jesus created all things. Ebionites rejected the divinity and virgin birth of Jesus. Adoptionism taught that Christ was a good man that was penetrated by God’s nature at his baptism and becomes divine, which treats divinity as an acquired attribute. Arias taught that Christ was not coeternal with the Father. He was more than mere man but he was created so he wasn’t equal with God. The first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 affirms the divinity of Christ in response to the teaching of Arias. Wesley affirmed that Jesus existed as one person with both a human and divine nature. To affirm the essential equality of Christ with God the Father, Wesley often used the terms, “the only-begotten Son of God,” and “the Word of God.” The Son of God is the creator and sustainer of all things and the redeemer of humanity. The difference in the Godhead is relations, not nature. 

  • 1 John 4:2 describes the incarnation as Jesus coming to earth in the flesh. Jesus is also referred to as the Son of David in the Gospels. Jesus was able to become the mediator between God and humanity because his divinity meant that he was not a part of the problem of sin and his humanity meant that he could fully identify with humans. This is a unique and distinct role that can only be accomplished by Jesus, the God-human. Jesus suffered physically and emotionally and then died and was resurrected to new life. This qualifies him to be priest, a mediator between man and God. The title, Son of Man also emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. Apolliniarism taught that Jesus had a human body and soul, but a divine mind rather than a human mind. Docetism taught that Christ is pure spirit and only seemed to have a body. Gnostics view the body as lowly and the mind is considered higher. Monophysitism taught that the divine and human nature of Jesus was mixed into one nature. Nestorianism teaches that the divine and human natures of Jesus were sharply separated. Wesley viewed Jesus as the expression of the God of holy love, maintaining divinity while becoming human.

  • As a prophet, Jesus proclaimed the coming kingdom of God. Messiah in Hebrew has the same meaning as Christ in Greek. It means, “the anointed one.” The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of his public ministry.  When Satan tempted Jesus, the temptation was real because of the humanity of Jesus. It was necessary for Jesus to experience temptation. Jesus as a preacher, went from place to place, proclaiming the kingdom of God. As a teacher, Jesus taught in the synagogues and the listeners described him as teaching with authority. Christ as a lawgiver is seeking to communicate wisdom to humanity. This moral law is connected to God’s character. Jesus performed miracles to heal the sick, bring people back from the dead and demonstrate his power over nature. Christ as priest, became the mediator to bridge the gap between God and humanity. At the cross, what the holiness of God required, the love of God provided. Theories of the atonement are the best attempts of thinking about how to express the atoning work of Jesus. 

  • Penal substitution asserts that atonement primarily involves Jesus’ taking the sinner’s place (‘substitution’) in bearing the penalty (hence ‘penal’) for his or her sin. That penalty was no less than God’s wrath and the sinner’s death. God’s wrath is his unswerving opposition to evil. The moral influence theory teaches that without the fall, that amazing instance of the love of God to humanity would have never existed. Penal substitution and moral influence theory complement each other. In the governmental view, the death of Christ illustrates the punishment which sin may attract and therefore serves good government by acting as a deterrent. Jesus raised from the dead into an immortal body. Only life can give meaning to human existence. Death destroys all meaning. The first time Christ came as a redeemer. As king, Christ is coming again to rule . Three roles of king are giving laws, restoring people to the image of God and reigning in all believing hearts.

  • The personhood of the Holy Spirit is revealed by the roles of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples that he would send an advocate. The Holy Spirit is an advocate, teacher, proclaims truth, provides direction and assists in prayer. Four characteristics of the Holy Spirit that indicate his deity are eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. The Filioque controversy is a difference between how the Eastern Orthodox and Western Traditions describe the nature of the Holy Spirit.

  • At the beginning of creation, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and brings understanding as people read it. The Holy Spirit makes effective the completed work of Christ and gives us the power to live out the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is personal, not an impersonal force. The believers received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after Christ ascended to heaven. The gifts of the Spirit are for the common good of building up the body of Christ. We should be cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and his influence should be evident in how we interact corporately.

 John Wesley's beliefs understood from an historical and theological perspective

Dr. Ken Collins

Wesleyan Theology I


Nature of Practical Theology (Part 2)

Lesson Transcript

Great to be here. And we're raising the basic question here How can we affirm the value of doing theology in an increasingly secular world? And so we start out, of course, with the existence of God. This, I suppose, is the biggest question of all. Does God exist or No? And if God doesn't exist, then there's no point in doing theology. It would be an exercise in fiction or creative writing, I suppose. But I would argue that there are a number of solid reasons why doing theology is both important and necessary for a 21st century world. And in order to get a sense of that, a feel for that, I want to drop back and look at a little history. In other words, what some of the greatest minds in human existence have said and written on this particular topic. And so I want to drop back to the 13th century, to the time of Thomas Aquinas, who offered five proofs for the existence of God. Now we have to put those words that word proof in quotes. Aquinas did not believe he was convincingly, beyond all doubt, establishing the reality of God. Rather, he thought that these were reasonable expressions that made intelligible the likelihood of the reality of God existing. And so the first one is the argument from motion. Our senses can perceive motion by seeing that things act one upon the other. Whatever moves is moved by something else. Consequently, there must be a first mover that creates this chain of motions. And he calls this God. His second proof is actually very similar. Whereas the first one operated on motion and prior causation of the motion. The second proof focuses on efficient cause. And he argues in this way, because nothing can cause itself, everything must have a cause or something that creates an effect on another thing.


Without a first cause, there would be no others. And so it's very similar to the first proof of arguing that you cannot take this chain all the way back, that there must be a first efficient cause, if you will. And this first cause Aquinas calls God. Now, I realize I'm going through these quite quickly, but we'll have some time to talk about them in more detail. Then the third proof that Aquinas offers is the argument from necessary being necessary being because objects in the world come into existence and pass out of it. It is possible for those objects to exist or not exist at any particular time. However, nothing can come from nothing. This means something must exist at all times. This is God. This is actually a very subtle argument, and you have to dig down a little deeper to get its force. Here's another way of expressing it. Each one of us who's listening to this lecture right now, we are contingent beings. We are contingent beings, meaning we are not self-created. We have received our lives at the hands of others. We're not self-generating. We're contingent beings. And beyond that, we are beings who can not be. We cannot be. And indeed, we will not be. That's what we call death. And so Aquinas is really working very heavily with this idea of the contingency of all beings that exist, that, first of all, they didn't bring themselves into being. And secondly, they can. Not be. And he's reasoning that there must therefore be some being. Who existed at all times. Who can not not be. And who is God. And so this proof actually, I think is a little bit different than the first two proofs. I think it's actually a more I think it's a more powerful proof in lots of ways, especially when you think about contingency and being, you know, which is a philosophical question, contingency and being and it points to it points to the reality of God, because you understand we can say this at this point, God, God's essence is to exist.


God's essence is to exist. We could not say that of ourselves because we are contingent beings. It is not my essence to exist because I can not be. And not only can I not be, I didn't give myself my own existence, okay, But it is God and God alone of whom we can say God's essence is to exist. Therefore God cannot not be okay. And so I think this proof actually is powerful to illuminate who we are as creatures, as human beings, contingent upon others. And then what we mean by God who is not contingent, whose essence is to exist and who ever was, who is eternal. Okay. So this I think, is a very strong proof. Then Aquinas argues fully the argument from gradation. There are different degrees of goodness in different things. And he talks about a great chain of being which states that there is a gradual increase in complexity, created objects moved from unformed inorganic matter to complex, biologically complex organisms, and that therefore there must be a being of the highest form of good. So Aquinas will argue, and this perfect being is God. And then the last one here is the argument from design. Now, this has been criticized a lot of lately, especially in the 20th century, latter part of the 20th and into the 21st century. The whole argument from design that Aquinas wrote about it basically goes like this quote. All things have an order or arrangement that leads them to a particular goal. Acorns become oak trees. You know, they don't become birch trees. And because the order of the universe cannot be the result of chance. Design and purpose must be at work. Design and purpose must be at work. This implies divine intelligence on the part of the designer.


This designer is called God. This designer is called God. Now this gets us into a whole area of controversy, especially in light of what's taking place in the latter part of the 20th and into the 21st century, with evolution and scientists and theists responding and that sort of thing. And I've written on this topic actually a whole lengthy, lengthy chapter. But I'm going to recall to your attention what I said in terms of methodology earlier, what two of the four Aristotelian causes dropped down in the 17th century as the scientific method was being promulgated? Do you remember what I said? What two causes for? Well, no formal call that formal cause. That's right. And the final cause. That's right. Formal cause and final cause. We talked about material cause, instrumental cause, cause, Formal cause. I said related to issues of design. That design targeted towards a final cause, which would be the end. Okay. And that's exactly what we're working with here. So just as. An introduction. Just at the get go of the debate. You need to recognize that when science is going to make judgment in this area, for example, in terms of the whole intelligent design movement, it has already bracketed out the whole question of formal and final causation in its own methodology. So my question as a philosopher slash theologian is on what basis do you do that? Because your own method has eliminated formal and final causes from consideration. Okay. In other words, design in your methodology and then also a formal cause. So this is going to make the conversation interesting because I would argue that science, given its methodology, given its focus on instrumental and material causation, has nothing to say about formal and final causation because you bracketed those out in your own methodology.


Okay. And so when intelligent design comes along or, you know, the debate heats heats up, it heats up greatly. You are, of course, aware of William Paley. You've heard that name before. William Paley. He's famous for, you know, having talked about walking in a forest and, you know, kicking a watch and then looking at the watch and discerning the complexity of the watch and then reflecting on a watchmaker and all of that and some of the streams of natural theology that flown out of it have been criticized almost ever, ever since then, ever since then. But at a basic level, I would say to the critics, since you've abandoned formal and final causation, what is your basis for criticizing William Paley? That would be that would be one part of the approach. I'll say something else on this head because the topic is of interest. William Dempsey, who is a champion of intelligent design, he actually came to Asbury Seminary, gave a couple of lectures, and I read his works. I read his work very carefully, and I read the works of scientists. I read very broadly, which is that what you need to do if you're trying to grapple with an argument. You need to read broadly every different side. And the thing that convinced me about Dempsey's works was the mathematics of it all, because he had evolutionists arguing against him, saying that, you know, if we have one living cell, that's all we need. And by the way, they don't know how that one living cell got there. They don't know. Scientists today can tell you how we go from non-life to life to a living cell. But all they need, they say, is one living cell. And from that one living cell, then everything else will just follow.


You know, in terms of the stated evolutionary theory, which is now called neo-darwinism, because we've added the genetics component to it, that sort of thing. And what Dempsey showed me, which I thought was fantastic, because he has a Ph.D. not only in philosophy, but also mathematics, he started to talk about mathematical probabilities of of like getting certain things out of that one cell. And the mathematical probabilities became astronomical, one to the power of 150. That would be a ten times ten or 150 times. Those are your odds. And so for those who want to argue, there are no problems here that simply nature divorced from intelligence gets it done in the face of a 10 to 150 power. I simply have to turn to you and say, great is your faith. I don't have that kind of faith. I'm much too a rational person, much to a reasonable person. And even Jay Stephen Gould, the great late scientist before he died, said in lots of the evolutionary theories he read, they filled in the gaps with lots of lots of stuff, with lots of creative imagination. And so I read a work not too long ago by William Alister McGrath, the British Evangelical. Who is slowly making the case once again for natural theology. Natural theology, because everybody thought theology, natural theology was dead after William Paley had been criticized. But then we brought in the mathematicians and we realize the enormous improbabilities of what was being said and that scientists were constructing a just so story, as Stephen Jay Gould pointed out, a just so story. Oh, it just all works out somehow. Well, that's not good enough. That's not good enough. Especially when we're talking about the complex, multidimensional, hard to understand thoroughly existence of a human being.


And in the 20th century, 20th century and 21st century, we have experienced such diminished anthropologists that have reduced human beings. And it's time now for the Christian community to push back with intelligence, with reasoned argument in order to show the significance of our faith. Now, there were a couple of scientists who I read in this whole endeavor, Donald Brownlee and Peter Ward. And by the way, they're they're scientists, They're not ID people or anything of that sort. But even in their work and the book is called Rare Earth, they showed the Goldilocks sort of conditions that you have to have here on Earth in order to have the kind of life that we are. And and once you look at all of these things having to be properly fine tuned, then if you're going to come against that and argue, oh, it all happened by chance again, I turn to you and say, Great is your faith. I don't have that kind of faith. I don't. I'm too much a man of reason. So what did they argue? To have life on earth, this pale blue dot as as the late Carl Sagan referred to it. You have to have the right distance from the star to close your burn up too far away. Life won't happen. You have to have the right mass of a star. Too large. There are problems, too small, stable planetary orbits. And by the way, the wobble in our axis has something to do with global warming. People need to pay attention to that. It's the reason we've had ice ages in the past. I never hear discussions of that on issues of global warming. You have to have the right planetary mass. You have to have a Jupiter like neighbor who's going to gobble up all the space junk so it doesn't hit you.


You have to have the Mars. You have to have plate tectonics, an ocean, a large moon. Do you realize how important the moon is for the Earth in regulating the stability of our axis so it doesn't wobble like Mars does that it stays pretty much 23 and a half degrees, although every now and then it changes a bit. That's due to the moon. Keeps our axis in a regular fashion. We have to have the right amount of carbon. The evolution of oxygen, the right kind of galaxy, right positioning in the galaxy, on and on. You've got it. Set all of these variables. Exactly right. Exactly right. Okay, So this doesn't prove God. I grant you that. But it does point in the direction of the existence of God. It does point in the direction of the existence of God. Now, William James, back in the early 20th century, Harvard psychologist, philosopher, talked about the existence of God for 20th century people as a live option, that it was yet a live option, even though, as he also said, our children are growing up almost scientific. He realized how they were being raised. He said, nevertheless, that religion is a live option. And he wrote the book The Will to Believe. And he argued in this book that belief in God is a genuine option. And for people living in his age, the 20th century, and we can say 21st century, it is a genuine option precisely because it is a living option to use his language. It is forced upon us. It is momentous, forced upon. In this sense that if God exists and there is great value to be had, if God exists, then if you miss out on that, you miss out on a huge amount.


And that's what James is trying to get at, that this is a forced option for us. Now, I think when we will get to the discussion of Jesus Christ, we're going to realize that it's not a thing of indifference. It's a forced option for us as well. Why? Because what is at stake? Because if Jesus is who he says he is, meaning come from God, Son of God, Divine. And we miss out on that. That's a huge thing to miss out on. And so, in a sense, whether Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life is a forced option in that I can't be ho hum about it, because if it is a great value, there is the possibility I can miss out on that great value and missing out on that great value is missing out on the resurrection of the body. And so no surprise here, William James philosopher, that it was thought through these issues very carefully, something as a genuine option, like belief in God, like belief in Jesus Christ. If it is a living option, living option for us, if it's forced and if it is momentous, is this momentous? Yes. Whether God exists or no. Momentous. Absolutely. Absolutely. I know what you're going to tell me. You know, and this is what some scientists say even today. And Yuval Harari has said it in his book, Homo Deus. He's got a trilogy out there. I've read all three of them. And what he basically argues is science always replaces religion. Religion never replaces science. Hmm. I thought about that for a while. Science always replaces religion. Religion never replaces science. And I said, You know what? That's not true. That's not true. And here's why. Here's why. And again, we get back to methodological problems.


You know, science, not content to stay within the scientific method methodology, but wanting to pontificate outside of that in areas in which it doesn't belong. Okay. Let's consider the human condition. We are confronted with what an author, Trammell Trammell has this wonderful little book, Religion, What is it? Wonderful little book. And he talks about what he calls and his thinking of human existence. He talks about non manipulable, non-linear footballs. In other words, these are things in our world that we can't easily control. We can't easily control. They're in our lives. Sometimes they're forced into our lives. That's why they're called nominative bowls and we can't control them. What are we thinking of? We're thinking of such things as disease. We're thinking of such things as death. Dying. Death. Okay. And therefore, because we can't manipulate them, we call them religiously significant, because we are now beyond what our technology can do. And so if we are beyond what our technology can do, what are many people going to do? They're going to pray, God help me, God help me. I have cancer. God help me. I have lymphoma. The doctors are doing the best they can, however. Oh, Lord, help me. Okay. And so in the face of that non manipulable, something that has been forced into our human environment, we now take up some sort of meta technology. In other words, not just science. We're engaging in radiation and prayer. We're praying, God help me, God help me. And so we're looking to the one who transcends our technology, our human limitations, the one who transcends us in power and glory and honor. We are looking to that God, a God of holy love. Okay. Now Tremble continues very helpfully, and he says there are two kinds of religiously significant, non manipulable, those of incompetence.


And I'm going to talk about them in a moment. Those are incompetence and those are. Condition. Those. The condition. Okay. Let's take a look at non Manipur bowls of incompetence. Again, there in our environment, there in our lives, we can't control them. They're there. We don't have the competence to deal with them in our with our technology. What do we do? So one does not know how to manipulate them at the moment. Excuse me, they are temporarily, temporarily non amenable such things as famine and diseases. So I'm sure you can think of stories. For example, the plague. Okay. Did science catch up with the plague? The disease of the plague? The answer is yes, it did. It figured out that people were getting the plague in Northern Europe during the 14th century because of the fleas on the rats. And the fleas were biting the people and they were giving them this disease of plague. Well, once you understand the nature and the course of the disease, then your knowledge, your technology can catch up with it. And we could think of many examples where science has caught up with disease in terms of vaccinations, that sort of thing. So it looks like on this first level of the discussion that science is replacing religion, it looks like science is replacing religion. It may seem as if science is always replacing religion or prayer to God, but here's the problem. Not all non manipulable bulls are those of incompetence because they're on non manipulable of condition of condition, meaning that they are not going away. That wherever you have human beings you will encounter these things. They therefore have to use the technical and philosophical language. They have ontological status, they have ontological status. To quote Trammell here, when nonlinear fuels of condition basically do to you, what they basically do to humans is threaten their very being, threaten them with Nonbeing.


Okay, let me let me open that up for you so you can get a greater sense of it. There was the 20th century theologian Paul Tilak, who wrote a slim little volume called The Courage to Be the Courage Today, and in that book, The Courage to Be. Now here I'm using Trammell's language. But Tillich basically lifted up three examples of non Manipur bowls of condition, things that are a part of a human being's existence that are not going away. Science is not going to catch up with them. And in a sense you're going to have to deal with them. What are they? Well, he talks about, first of all, the issue of guilt. Do human beings have guilt? Oh, yes, they do have guilt. They've done things wrong. Their conscience bothered them. Sometimes the conscience is annoying. They've experienced that reality. Okay. That's one area. The second area is in terms of meaninglessness, Meaningfulness, Meaninglessness. What's the meaning of my life? Does my life have meaning or is it meaning less so? Tilak in that book talks about being confronted by the challenge of meaninglessness that my life is confronted by that challenge. Is that something science is going to catch up with? Once again? The answer is no. And then finally, the most weighty matter of all death. Death, as great as technology is, as great as science is, it is not going to catch up with death that human beings will continue to be born and die. They will continue to be confronted with the specter of their own demise and they know it. And so Tillich is basically suggesting in the courage to be that these are religiously significant, the issue of guilt, of meaninglessness and death. And therefore, on the basis of that knowledge, I, as a theologian with confidence, can say religion, the Christian faith is going to be alive and well in the 21st century.


It's going to be alive and well in the. 22nd century. If the Lord doesn't come, it's going to be alive and well in the 25th century, so long as human beings are present. Why? Because we will. They will continue to face these non manipulations of condition in the form of guilt, meaninglessness and death. No amount of human knowledge, no amount of scientific advance will ever catch up with it. And then you must also consider you must also consider what Tremmel lifted up in terms of religion, what he calls meta psychological response. Meta psychological response is real. It's real and it's real whether God exists or not. All that is necessary is that one believes that God exists. Okay. Do you want to see what meta psychological response response to use trammell's words is a term to designate those inner psychological changes that are affected by religious beliefs, actions and experiences and meta psychological response can be delineated as self-consciousness or even as subconscious or unintentional. Let me give you an example so you get a greater feel for what this is about. Let's say you are about to face an army. You're you're all a part of an army. You're going to face another army. The other one of the armies you're going to face is made up of atheists, agnostics who believe that that that death is an end. And that's that's their army. The second army believes they are fighting for a purpose, that they're fighting for God. Their God is a just God. They want to sacrifice themselves, give all of their strength, give all of their wisdom and knowledge and expertise to God. They want to fight heroically to honor God. Which army would you like to face? I know the one I'd like to face.


The first one. The first one. Because they could probably be disorganized and made chaotic, which is no longer an army rather quickly because it's basically a conglomeration of individuals, whereas the other ones are focused, they are tightly focused not only as a unit, but they are focused on God and what they are doing. They believe it has a higher purpose. Okay? And so religion has meta psychological benefits, whether or not God exists. This is what the atheists and agnostics don't understand. If you believe God exists, that's all that's necessary for you to have the comfort, the peace you know, that flows in the wake of such a belief. Okay. And so in bringing these two things on the table, I have to clearly say, you know, that religion is not going away. We hear the death of religion announced again and again. It's not going away. And when I hear folks say that, it tells me not that they don't understand God, which is bad enough, but it tells me they don't understand what it means to be a human being and what human existence entails and the kind of moody existence, existential existence we have in terms of such matters as guilt and meaninglessness and death and all of those things that we grope with as genuine as genuine human beings. Okay. And so and so, yes. Now, along these lines of the existence of God or no, you perhaps have heard of Pascal's Wager. Pascal's wager. Pascal was was a genius mathematician, something of a philosopher as well. And in his pawn says he brought forth what has come down to us as as Pascal's Wager. And he basically argues, and I'm summarizing his more philosophical argument, but he writes, I am confronted with the choice to believe in God or no.


Okay, so he's considering this whole thing as a betting man, I'm confronted with this choice. Shall I believe in God or no? Let's explore the first option of not to believe in God and let's run the consequences. See what we come up with. First of all, the question is, can I ever know that I am right in this belief? Can I ever know that I'm right in the belief that that God does not exist? The answer is no, because. If you're right, you've gone off to oblivion and you cannot know that you've been right. Uh huh. And so you can also raise the question, will there be great loss if this position is. Not true. Yes. An inordinate value will be lost. There's going back to James's forced option and inordinate value will be lost. And there may also be punishment. Let's explore the second option to believe in God. Okay. Can I ever know that I am right in this belief? Can I ever know that I'm right in my belief in God? And the answer is yes. Because if you're right, you will be around to know it. Death is not an end. And so you'll know that you are right. Will there be much to gain if this position is true? Absolutely. And in order to have fun, the values can be realized. There will be many, many rewards. So if I'm simply a betting person, the situation is this. With the atheist view, I can never know that I am right, but I can only know that I am wrong. And perhaps with some very nasty consequences with the theist view. On the other hand, I can only know that I am right and I can never know that I am wrong.


And perhaps with some very wonderful consequences. And so belief in God. The undertaking of theology, at least according to this kind of reasoning, would be the best course, the best course of action. The best course of action. Indeed. Now, I want to appeal to something else. And this appeal, you rarely hear this appeal today because we live in such scientifically technological cultures. And I want to appeal to a basic what's the word? I'm going to use your intuition that I would argue that all of you in attendance in this class, this lecture today, you have the basic intuition, which I want to work with. You have the basic intuition that your own life is meaningful and that what you do with your life counts. And it counts more than in terms of just you. You believe it counts for others and maybe even counts you farther than that. And so I know that Freud mocked this basic human intuition, which I would understand as a species of grace. And he called it wishful, wishful thinking. But I would argue that all of us here have a sense that our life is meaningful, and that sense is buttressed by our conscience. We all have consciences. Unless we're a sociopath, I suppose. We also have this intuitive sense that good and evil are more than matters of taste. That there's a real difference between good and evil. That harm done to people is genuinely wrong. Harm done to people is genuinely wrong. We all have this basic intuition and. We have this sense that. Death as an ultimate end would reflect back upon the present life and render it meaningless. And we have great difficulty with that. We have great difficulty looking at death as an absolute end and having that reflect back upon our present life and saying that it is ultimately meaningless.


We have we have difficulty with that because we are meaningful, meaning grasping people. We assert values, we desire values. We are trying to acquire greater and greater values. That's the kind of people we are. Okay. And so I'm appealing to this basic intuition, this basic intuition that we have that our life is meaningful. And that is, in a sense, a window on God. It's a window. Doesn't prove God, but it's a window on the reality. The reality of of God. How are we doing on time here? Do you want to take a break or take questions right now? Take questions for a few minutes. Well, I can raise. Do you have a question? I can. I can start asking you questions because I certainly have questions for you. What what theological considerations make the case for the importance of doing theology today? What theological considerations make the case for the importance of doing theology today? Why should we do theology today? Why should we do theology both in and outside the church? Or if you don't like that question, what is a good working definition of theology? What would be a good working definition of theology? What would you need to fill up? All that theology does. What domains would you have to appeal to? What venues? Well, it seems like, yeah, with in the context of what you're talking about with the different, the four different levels of things that we consider that if you leave out the formal and final considerations that you've left out an important part of reality and that by not considering that it makes it so that we're ignoring something that's really fundamental to what it means to be a human being. Is that so? So when you're studying theology, then that would be part of what you would be doing is, is studying those considerations in the terms of existence and and why that's important.


Yes. I think you've actually hit upon a very important area, very important topic. And I appreciate the fact that you went back to the Aristotelian causes in terms of the formal and final cause, and I want to open that up a bit so that people can get a sense of what's entailed here, because lots is at stake and it's also indicative of what's going on in our cultures today. So I'm going to focus for a moment in light of Ed's question on what is a final cause. Now we know that dropped out in terms of science. We know that happened somewhere in the 17th century. What is the question that final causes ask? Here's one. And notice it's not a scientific question and therefore is seldom asked. Here's the question. What is the purpose? Of a human being. There it is. There it is in all its glory. What is the purpose of a human being? How many times in your education, whether in high school, undergrad grad, the professor were standing up and raising as a genuine question of inquiry? What is the purpose of a human being? I've never heard it raised except in in a seminary classroom. I've heard it in a seminary class. And that's why, again, I think the kinds of dialogs we're having in seminaries need to be brought back into the university because they need to be thinking about this question, too. What is the purpose? What is the purpose of a human being, which, you know is. Is an important question to to be raised, to be sure. Okay. And that's going to get us at a lot of different things. A lot of different things in terms of in terms of human knowledge. In terms of human knowledge.


Okay. Anybody else want to pick up on that? What's the. Okay, go ahead. Well, and I think that has a lot to do with the kinds of discussions we see in our culture today. Because if we look at human beings only as utilitarian or ignore the meaning questions, then the public policy decisions that we make and the dialog we have as culture are are framed by those kinds of considerations. If we never go past just the fact that human beings function in a certain way and have some sort of societal worth and ignore the the questions of meaning or things like that, then that informs how we make decisions as a culture and the kind of dialog we have in the process. Yes. Yes. Very helpful. Let me fill this out. What you just said. Add in a slightly different direction so you all can get a sense what's going on here. I'm going to appeal to the work of John Rawls, who is a moral philosopher, political philosopher, and. Given the context of the United States, which has separation of church and state, He articulated a theory of justice in which what we're talking about here What's the purpose of a human being? In other words, what goals should I end? And, you know, what goals should I choose in my life? What should I aim at? He said that in a modern liberal democracy that has to be left open such that any human being should be free to aim at, to aim at whatever goal or purpose that they choose for their own lives. And according to Rawls, and this is where I thought in reading his works, that he was somewhat somewhat naive. He did not believe that this would create conflict, especially for traditionalists such as religious folk who have throughout history answered that question.


What's the purpose of a human being in a particular way? But what we have found out in the 21st century of late is that all sorts of people are aiming at various ends or goods and they are coming into conflict with with others. Okay. That it didn't work out as smoothly as John Rawls had imagined, because when one group in society is aiming at a set of goals or values that necessarily is expressing judgment on others who hold different values. Okay. We see this very clearly in terms of human sexuality and marriage. Okay. So two people want to aim at a reconfiguring, a revisioning of marriage. Rawls said, you're free to do that. You're free to aim at that goal. Okay, play that out. Now that activity is reflecting back upon how traditional marriage has been understood. Okay. And it's bearing negative consequences. So, for example, many in the church today are being labeled with very negative labels simply for pursuing the goods that they have traditionally pursued throughout history. What has changed? Well, what has changed is now other people are aiming at goods and values. Okay. The final cause is, if you will, that they freely choose, that they're freely choosing and that activity necessarily has negative consequence upon others. So that's where we are today. Now, some are arguing because of this dynamic what's happening, that the whole liberal project by liberal me, I mean here classic 18th century political liberalism where well as expressed in the 19th century by John Stuart Mill in his treatise on Liberty, you know, each person should be free to do what they will or desire so long as it doesn't have negative consequence upon another. But now we're starting to see that there are negative consequences when everyone starts setting up their own final ends towards which they're aiming.


And that does have consequence upon others who don't share those ends. And it doesn't work out as neatly as Rawls had led us to believe. And that's the predicament we're in today. And that's why people like Deneen and others are writing that the liberal project has failed. It's collapsed in on itself. It allowed this other context of freedom and people are making all sorts of choices, choices that go against science, genetics, biology, etc. and then the rest have to live with the consequences of those choices and we get labeled and all sort of that. I mean, that's that's where we are today. So your question is a very important one, though. Science methodologically has bracketed out formal causes and final causes. These have never been bracketed out from human existence because this is where humans live. Human beings are constantly going to be asking the question, what's the meaning of my life? How does my life count? And. What should I give myself to what? What should I give my efforts to? What should I spend my time with? What should I spend my money on? What should I devote my energies to? We're going to be making all of those judgments, and those are very human things to do. We do them all the time, and we would criticize a person if they weren't doing that. In other words, you know, laying on the couch, drinking beer and watching sports all day. You know, we criticize them. You know, you have a human life. You can do something with that life. Do you find that the discussion of what is my purpose as a human being as difficult within a seminary class among your students as it is in the outside world? I think it would be more difficult to have that conversation outside a seminary classroom.


Here's why. Because people in seminary at least, are coming to an awareness of something greater than themselves. In other words, that their own lives, as valuable as they are, are not the most important value, that there is something greater, and they're being called to participate in that, something greater. Whereas outside the classroom, you know, many people may simply be living a moral egoist. In other words, not that they don't get along with other people, but everything has to be done in benefit for me. Everything is a transactional analysis. I'll be kind to you. Why am I kind to you? Well, it's also beneficial to me to be kind to you, and they'll utterly operate out of that basis. Few people will ever check them for doing this as wrong because they're being treated well. But it's all done for the self. It's all done for self glory. And they really don't care about you. They really don't. They care about themselves. They've been affirmed in that in many ways. They've been applauded, they've been honored, etc.. But I would argue that that is a very diminished form of human existence because they're missing out on the greater goods, the greater goods that can only be had in group life, the coming together in fellowship and even beyond that, transcending that in spirit in terms of a God of holy love. So I think there is a difference. I think there is a difference between a seminary classroom and the classroom at the University of Berkeley. I think there's there's a great difference as to what those people in each class are expecting, what they acknowledge, what they're aiming at, and what they see is the point of it all, the point of their educational experience.


Yes. Does that mean, then, that there's a consensus about what their purpose is or is there a divergent viewpoints within your classes? In other words, does everybody have the same idea of what their purposes? Oh, you mean in the seminary? Yeah. Oh, I think I think that could be various. I think when folks come to seminary, they come to seminary for all sorts of reasons. They tell us that some come they're not quite yet believers, but they've had bad experiences. They're coming for healing. They're coming for therapy. Some are coming out of curiosity. Some are coming for professional reasons. This looks like a good use of their talents to be a counselor or a pastor or that sort of thing. So I think people come to seminary for all sorts of reasons. Hopefully the discipline of seminary education will show them a larger vista, that there is a larger vista beyond themselves, beyond the small communities in which they have participated. And they become open to enjoying the richness and life of God. Yeah. Yeah. It seems like it's important as we talk about theology and how we understand that and how it affects our lives. To be able to discuss that in terms of like a context of people that we agree with about final outcomes and things like that, but also be able to put it in the perspective of helping other people that have a different idea of final causes to put it in a language that they can understand and we can actually have a dialog with them about those kinds of things in a way that is productive and interactive. So we do as much listening as we do talking in those situations, sometimes to value them and to understand really how to help them understand what we have come to understand about theology.


Would you agree with that? Yeah, no, I like the dialogical part of it. It's conversational, it's conversational. And I think the people that I listen to most have spent time with me and her and have shown that they care about me. I listen to them very carefully as we go out and further rings, acquaintances and beyond that, to strangers. I don't hear them quite the same as I hear someone who shows they care, that sort of thing. And I think that's an operative principle in the church as well. I mean, I think if we are excited about the Gospel and about Christ, I think we have to take the time in trouble to communicate that and care about people and spend time with them and listen, listen to them, know who they are and know their journey, what they've grown out, grown up out of and that sort of thing. So, yeah, I'm totally in agreement with you. I, I believe in dialog conversation and it's the way we were talking about this the other day, why I'm in social media, but I never tweet and I just have a small circle of friends. And that's intentional because I discount I do discount larger voices out there at times because they don't know who I am, and I haven't allowed them to know who I am because that gets revealed only to those who can come close and I allow to come close. I think there's wisdom in doing and living one's life that way.