A History of Christian Thought

A History of Christian Thought by: Justo L. Gonzalez
“In short, from its very beginning Christianity has existed as the message of the God who ‘so loved the world’ as to become part of it. Christianity is not an ethereal, eternal doctrine about God’s nature, but rather it is the presence of God in the world in the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is incarnational, and, therefore, it exists in the concrete and the historical.” (29)

Listening to the radio this

Listening to the radio this morning, NPR, the local station news reported a big increase in the cases of Syphilis in the city. The largest increase was in gay men living in Manhattan. As the announcer said, this proves that a segment of the population is not practicing safer-sex, after a decade of decreasing incidents of infection. The segment just isn’t gay men, but certainly a large segment of the gay population. Of course, if there is an increase of Syphilis due to unsafe-sex, that means the HIV infection is also increasing.
The “free-sex” hedonism has to stop. If this type of behavior truly does makes its way into the straight male population – if the social strictures that keep straight men in check fall – we truly are in trouble. I understand how in-the-moment we all do things we would otherwise not do, but when the sub-culture encourages this type of behavior and ridicules anyone or group that champions against such behavior, it is just stupid. It is insane, because what is being encouraged means sickness and death. It isn’t that gay relationships are sick or insane or in themselves cause sickness, as many prohibitionist religious people proclaim, but the actions of and sexual-obsession of the overall gay subculture brings nothing but emotional pain, psychological disfunction, and too often physical sickness and now death. The things we do keep us from the very thing our heart yearns for – to be loved and to love deeply, to be known and to know another intimately. So many gay men are unable to bond with another, are unable to form close, emotionally stable, and intimate lifelong relationships, are enable to mature emotionally and psychologically because we stay in an irresponsible sexual and emotional adolescence. And, the sub-culture just perpetuates this.
It has to end, else I wonder whether the anti-gay people could be right – not with regard to God’s view of same-sex relationships, but in the immorality of the behavior of so many gay men. Immorality because what we are doing is counter to what we yearn for, what is emotionally and sexually healthy, and what is truly the best for our own lives – all of which God says is sin. Immorality because what we continue to do brings destruction. Of course not all gay men are in that place, but too many of us are, and the general sub-culture perpetuates such notions.
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Way too much reading! The

Way too much reading! The problem is, everything is really interesting. I want to read it all, carefully, in order to absorb everything, but it is going to be impossible. I haven’t finished my first week yet, and already I’m a book behind – not even counting all the reserve reading and handouts. Yet, it is great stuff! Plato’s Timaeus is the most difficult to wade through right now, and I can’t just skim it.
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Timaeus by: Plato “We must,

Timaeus by: Plato
“We must, then, in my opinion, first of all make the following distinction: What is that which always is and is untouched by becoming? — and what is always in a state of coming-to-be but never is? Now that which intelligence grasps by way of a rational account is what always is self-identically; while that which is the object of belief by way of non-reasoning sense-perception is that which is coming into being and perishing but never in the proper sense is. Everything, though, that is coming into being must necessarily come into being by the agency of some cause; for it is absolutely impossible that anything should be in a state of coming-to-be apart form some cause.”
huh? Isn’t this fun!

A History of Christian Thought

A History of Christian Thought by: Justo L. Gonzalez
I know some of this stuff is common sense, but it is always good to be reminded. Plus, I like the way he puts things – to me he is very clear and concise.
“The task of the historian does not consist in mere repetition of what has happened – or, in this case, of what has been thought. On the contrary, the historian must begin by selecting the material to be used, and the rules guiding this selection depend upon a decision that is to a considerable degree subjective… This selection depends in good part upon the author, which means that every history of Christian thought is of necessity also a reflection of the theological presuppositions of the writer, and the historian of Christian thought who suggests that such work is free of theological presuppositions is clearly deluded.” (23)
“The presuppositions and value judgements of the historian determine the selection of the material, the bridging of gaps in the sources, and the very manner of presentation, which may appear so objective as to beguile the reader.” (25)
“Faced by these two positions,” (Docetism & Ebionism), “Christianity affirms that the truth is given in the concrete, the historical, and the particular, contained and hidden within it, but in such a way as never to lose its veracity for all historical moments.” (26-27)
“THE truth of doctrine will never be such that we can say: here is the eternal and incommutable truth, free of any shadow or conjecture of historical relativism. The truth of doctrine is only present to that degree in which , through the various doctrines, the Word of God (which is the Truth) is able to confront the church with a demand for absolute obedience. When this happens that doctrine indeed becomes the standard of judgment of the church’s life and proclamation.” (27)
“Are all doctrines then equally valid? Certainly not. Moreover, no doctrine is valid in the sense of being able to identify itself with the Word of God.” (27)

A History of Christian Thought

A History of Christian Thought by: Justo L. Gonzalez
“Just as the Israelites, when they escaped from Egypt, carried off some of the gods of their oppressors, so the Christians utilized the ideas and intellectual methods of their opponents in fashioning their replies. Broadly speaking, the intellectual concerns of the Christians, although theological rather than philosophical, placed them in the tradition of Greek philosophy, and even those Christians who, like Tertullian, decried the use of pagan learning , nevertheless in the acuteness of their reasoning were heirs of the classical heritage. But there was also a background in Judaism for intellectual pursuits. The synagogue was unique in the ancient world, a church without an altar, only a desk for the reading of the Law. And after the reading came the exposition, for the Law was to be interpreted. The desk in the synagogue was the lectern of a professor as well as the pulpit of a prophet. The rabbi was both. Significantly the first churches were modeled after the synagogue.” (14)
“The incarnation of God in the man Jesus involved another affinity of Christianity with Judaism and a divergence from the Hellenic approach to religion, because Judaism and Christianity see the primary self-disclosure of God to man in the events of history. The Eternal breaks into time. This is supremely the case with the incarnation, itself an event in time… The Word became flesh at a point in time. Therefore, Christianity must always be historically oriented. This also means that God in Christ was disclosing himself to man. This is revelation.” (15)
“This is essentially true of the Stoic and Aristotelian approaches and largely also in the case of the Platonic, where, form the shadows that he sees, man infers the realities that he does not see. In such a case, revelation, if such it can be called, proceeds from the ground up. It is not a deposit, but the object of a quest…. There need be no anchorage in the past, and there is nothing once and for all delivered.” (15)
This last sentence reminds me of the attitude among most of the Evangelical, and especially Pentecostal, Christians I know. The knowledge of history among most in the Church is atrocious. Historical ignorance is an American phenomena, so this characteristic isn’t something particular to the American Church. All the while many religious-right political leaders like to harken back to different periods in history to justify their political stands or their theological dictates, their use of history is often so selective as to render their pronouncements null and void. Of course, we find liberals doing the very same thing. Yet, if we are to be a church, a people, rooted in the historic understandings so to better understand the place of faith in our own time, we need to be well versed in history.
This seems to be such a common sense notion, but it is lost on most of us. Especially within Pentecostalism, where the idea of God doing new things through the Holy Spirit is so engrained that every whim of excess can quickly sweep through whole denominations and church-groups. It is a pop-theology, a pop-expression of Church, and the very thing we want – the one and forever Truth – can be quickly lost in the urgent and the now. If God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever, world without end, then the one and forever Truth is there to discern and understand, but we have to be open to understand, even if the understanding completely upturns our clenched current beliefs. As Father Wright writes, “If one is to avoid becoming a mere prisoner of present perspective, then one must transcend the conventional wisdom of the immediate past, avoid the tyranny of the ‘tract-rack’ theology, for the past must be surveyed before it can be surmounted.” and “Participation in the future by interpretation of the past.”

A quote from Father Wright’s

A quote from Father Wright’s handouts for our Patristics class: “To comprehend and assess the fundamental elements and basic positions of the Anglican tradition and its relationship to the wider church… And, as an Anglican, to be able to distinguish tradition, ‘the living faith of the dead,” from traditionalism, ‘the dead faith of the living.'”
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First day of the spring

First day of the spring term. I have to miss one of my classes today. I scheduled my CPE interview with NYU Medical Center at 2:00, not realizing that Patristics begins at 1:20. It is going to be a cab ride to the interview today – too far to walk on a very cold day. During the summer, I suppose it would only be about a half hour walk – not too bad.
I’m nervous about this term. I truly have no blocks of time to study during the day, except Fridays. I don’t know how this is going to work. I may end up getting up early again, because attempting to study in the evening just doesn’t work. There is going to be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to all my classes, especially OT2 with Judy Neuman. I just like her.
I certainly hope the NYU CPE position is offered and over with. I have to start focusing on financial aid. I received an application form from the Society for the Increase of the Ministry – quite an extensive form. There is going to be a lot of work for this one grant, alone.
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Celebration of Discipline by: Richard

Celebration of Discipline by: Richard Foster
“…if we can quite ourselves enough to listen.” (25)
“Whereas the study of Scripture centers on exegesis, the meditation of Scripture centers on internalizing and personalizing the passage.” (26)
Chapter 3: The Discipline of Prayer
“Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. It is original research in unexplored territory.” (30)
“The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.” (30)
“But when we pray God slowly and graciously reveals to us our hiding places, and sets us free from the.” (30)
“…we should remember that God always meets us where we are and slowly moves us along into deeper things.” (31)
“It is Stoicism that demands a closed universe, not the Bible.” (32)
“Sen Kierkegaard once observed: ‘A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening.” (34-35)
“The prayer of guidance constantly precedes and surrounds the prayer of faith.” (35)
“If we are still, we will learn not only who God is but how His power operates.” (35)
“Coincidence? Perhaps, but as Archbishop William Temple once noted, the coincidences occurred much more frequently when he prayed.” (38)
“Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance.” (39)
Chapter 6: The Discipline of Simplicity
“Simplicity is freedom. Duplicity is bondage. Simplicity brings joy and balance. Duplicity brings anxiety and fear.” (69)
“The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.” (69)
“Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly.” (70)
“Inwardly modern man is fractured and fragmented… He has no unity or focus around which life is oriented” (70)
“Asceticism and simplicity are mutually incompatible.” (74)
“Asceticism renounces possessions. Simplicity sets possessions in proper perspectives.” (74)
“The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first – and then everything necessary will come in its proper order.” (75)