Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Creeds, Confessions, Traditions and the Kingdom of God: Part II

I am in the middle of a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not something that can be said to be here, but only something to anticipate. I have made six arguments, a "so what" post, and a number of quotation posts. Last night I wrote a state of the union explaining my curiosity at finding Premillennialism suspiciously absent from the creeds and consensuses of the major branches of Christendom. Tonight I post a followup to that. Specifically, I have a two-pronged answer to why I think Premillennialism can't really be found in any of the creeds.

The other day Jon and I were talking and he was explaining to me a revelation he had had. As he's been dealing with government offices and policies and businesses and the business world he realized something like that we are all just people and this is a big mess.

As I have been studying (admittedly only a bit - I am no scholar), I have been realizing that historical Christianity is full of just a bunch of people and is a big mess. Now don't get me wrong - I think the Holy Spirit has moved in that mess and I think the History Books tell us stories of "just people" being used by God for His purposes. I think the Hero is always God and it is always Him despite humanity, and that's part of the whole point.

At any rate, my current thinking on the councils (those called "ecumenical" by various groups and otherwise) is pretty broadly stroked and fuzzy, but comprises two elements.

First, their creeds and canons were not divinely inspired like the scriptures were (and I think they would agree).
Second, they were conducted by humans (and I think they would agree with this too).

The second belief I list above in light of the first lowers my view of the veracity of the creeds. It is not clear which councils ought to be considered "ecumenical", much less what ecumenicity is exactly and exactly how it is relevant. Each council has its own set of controversies, dissenters, and amendments (some are even amended [contradicted?] by later councils that are also recognized as authoritative by certain groups recognizing the previous as authoritative).

If one wants to believe in the authority of church history, one has to pick a historical side on a ton of issues in succession, or work really hard at principally defining the scope of those to be considered authoritative while sifting through their disagreements to find the lowest common theological denominator (and is this even the right approach?).

Theology by democracy seems tricky when it isn't clear whose votes to count.

Further, how ought this picking, defining, and sifting be done? According to what criteria? At some point one has to think for oneself. This must be done to come up with the right criteria by which to pick, define, and sift, or one has to think about which authority's picks, definitions, and sifts to adopt.

But isn't thinking for oneself (in some qualified sense anyway) incompatible by the belief in religious authority?

Not to mention the fact that it is not clear how Jesus' promise, that the Holy Spirit will guide us, has or will occur exactly (viz. it is not clear that the councils were the direct and exclusive outworking of this promise, or that the majority of those who administered or attended them thought so).

As of tonight, I am not convinced that any creeds or authorities outside of the scriptures ought to be seen as inerrant. It seems like they are about extremely useful.

So on to my second prong. It seems like, while Premillennialism isn't explicitly taught by any of the major creeds, neither is any other eschatological system. It appears that they just weren't addressing Last Things yet. They were still worrying about basic things like, you know, condemning major Christological and Trinitarian heresies.

Either that, or they believed that there was room for eschatological disagreement within orthodoxy.

There is much to be studied on all of these matters. Still I maintain that the works that we have all agreed are canonical, teach Premillennialism, and I find it significant that most of the earliest and most respected church fathers, especially those said to have had direct ties to John himself, were evangelistically Premillennial. I hold these conclusions with an open mind.

Can a man be faulted for honestly struggling to understand these things?
"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5)

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9, NLT)


  1. Are you implying that these verses have something to do with the nature of theological authority (or lack thereof)? That is, it could be true that we have only one Mediator in terms of our relationship to God, and that we can perform priestly functions in relation to each other, but that, in terms of our theological authority, we should only trust Scripture, or only the Church, or some combination thereof. These verses seem to have nothing to do with which theological sources are trust worthy or normative.

  2. "it could be true that we have only one Mediator in terms of our relationship to God... but that, in terms of our theological authority, we should only trust... the Church..."

    How do you distinguish between our relationship with God and our theology?

  3. Cf. morning conversation. But also: As a protestant, you think that Scripture is a (the only) theological authority, but surely you don't think that it mediates your relationship with God, in such a way that by its use, you now have both Christ and the Bible as your mediator.

    If this is right, though a Catholic or Orthodox trusts the Church as a theological authority, it still is the case that they have one mediator- Jesus Christ.

  4. Good point; I don't have an answer for that.


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