Getting the a priori doctrines right

I’ve been thinking for some time about how that, if you don’t have the a priori doctrines straight, all the doctrines that follow get screwed up. By a priori doctrines, I mean Creation (what the world is, what it is for, what God wants for it), the doctrine of man (what humans are, what we were made for, and what our goal is) and the doctrine of God’s will (what God’s intentions are, and His own desire). When these get off-track, everything after them gets way off course.  Soteriology (what ‘salvation’ even is, and what’s its aim is), Eschatalogy (what the end-goal for Christian living is, based on God’s intent), to name just a couple, but really two of the biggest in the overall scheme of a Christian understanding of, well, everything!

 

Even simple categories of things like what the word ‘good’ means, get twisted bizarrely out of shape in Christian theology, when we get the a priori doctrines wrong. I have heard versions of Protestant theology that actually take a Hebrew word like ‘good’ and, by the time they have wrenched a few verses from St. Paul out of shape, end up boldly stating that ‘good’ really means ‘bad’ in the Bible, especially in regards to soteriology! It’s bizarre. And, unfortunately, common.

 

One of the mechanisms through which this happens, is to play the ‘two covenants’ card at every turn. In doing so, the phrase “well, that was the Old Testament” comes up continually, spiritualizing virtually every concept out of its Hebrew shape, and landing us in a much more gnostic religion than the one Jesus grew up singing, praying and worshipping in. I have even read of one of today’s leading Reformed preachers stating that if you want to understand what Paul means about salvation, you have to go back and read the 16th century Protestant reformers! Lol! How about, if we want to understand Paul, we investigate the worldview he lived in, and what his words meant in the first century and its context, rather than what people 15 centuries and three worldviews later thought!

 

One of the things commonly occurring in this discussion is people believing that they have a ‘biblical’ view of things, when they actually have a 15th century, Western European, Latinized, Christianized, Greek philosophical view. To get the a priori doctrines right, we have to go back to the Jewish beliefs of Jesus’ day, and ancient times before that, to the original (and subsequently developed) meanings of the Old Testament. This solid foundation (which ‘will not pass away’, and which Jesus ‘came to fulfill’) will provide us the ability to get a biblical shape to doctrines of salvation and what God wants us humans to do. The New Testament’s meanings are understood when we aren’t confused about the Old Testament’s meanings. We have to get right the a priori doctrines of the purpose of the Creation, humanity, and God’s will.

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Wealth and Prosperity

Although in our time, with the extreme disparity between ultra-rich and ultra-poor that we are aware of, wealth and prosperity have become words with a negative association in many peoples’ minds, in the ancient Near Eastern biblical texts, wealth and prosperity are seen as blessings, “every man under his own vine,” a security for the survival and safety of your family, a hedge against famine and weather. It is only, as a West Virginia great-grandmother recently put it, “ill-gotten gain” that is critiqued as a sin against the poor and their Creator. That, and fairly acquired wealth, but without a concern for those in need. As I explored briefly in the last post, the ancient scriptures have quite a few examples of men and women of wealth and property who are held up as examples of uprightness in God’s eyes, as they use their means as a way to help those in dire straits; the orphan, widow, poor, and foreigner. A more recent example of this I came across years ago, is this memorial plaque from England describing a man of means who saw his wealth as a tool given by God for the betterment of the world. It reads as follows:

CHRIST IS ALL

In Memory of Robert Holden Esq.

Of Nuthall Temple, born July 24 1805.

A monument of grace.

A noble example to the rich,

And an unfailing friend to the poor.

He lived in holiness before God

And great usefulness to man

And fell asleep in Jesus November 11 1872.