The Importance of Good Theology

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FAQ—What is my new book about?

What is my upcoming book, “Unboxing God—An Unevangelical Guide to Christianity,” about?

 For a long time, I’ve had thoughts and questions about certain things about Christianity that didn’t fit in with the evangelical—or even protestant—understanding of things. As I began reading more and more about historical Christianity, I discovered that my thoughts were very close to those held by the early church theologians, and by the Eastern Church today. I also discovered that many of the divergent Western theologies began with Augustine in the late 4th Century. So, this book is an attempt to remove God and Christianity from Augustinian boxes, and later evangelical theological boxes, to reveal a God who is much larger than we have been taught, while remaining anchored to the original creeds and beliefs of the Church.

What kind of teachings am I referring to when I say they “didn’t fit?”

I’m talking about core beliefs about the Bible and atonement theories. Is the picture of God that we have in the Old Testament—that differs so much from what we see in Jesus—reflect the people’s thoughts about God rather than the truth about God? And notice that Paul uses a variety of metaphors to describe Jesus’s work on the cross; why does Western theology focus on only one—penal substitution—as if it’s the one and only way to see salvation? Things like that. And as it turns out, the early Church had those thoughts as well.

What other beliefs have I traced to Augustine and other Western theologians?

Original sin, for one. The total depravity of man. And God’s wrath poured out on mankind, so that he had to punish Jesus instead of us. Eternal torment. The list goes on. In the book I try to give explanations of the origins of these doctrines and provide historic, “unevangelical” ideas to consider.   

A final note:

While I present my opinions on the issues I discuss, I am not at all dogmatic about my thoughts. I have tried to keep a conversational tone throughout the book. I quote from a lot of people I respect. I try to ask questions and pose possible answers, while giving reasons to dispose of ideas that I find unacceptable. My hope is that I can encourage people to ask their own questions. I think God is big enough to handle the questions, and I want people to find that bigger God.

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Historic Universalism

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The Perils of Augustine

Augustine, born 354 in what is now Algeria, was a theologian who could be called the father of the Western Church. At least I will call him that. For many in the west, he is held in high regard, in fact known as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church. To the rest of the church (yes, there is a rest of the church), he is largely ignored, and for good reason. I blame Augustine for most of the heresy of the West, and go into some detail in my upcoming book.

Augustine was a Roman citizen and rather privileged. His early years were spent drinking, womanizing, and philosophizing, not unlike many other young men throughout history. Fairly early on he joined the Manicheists, which believed that we were caught in an eternal battle between good and evil, a concept known as dualism. They also believed that the Sun and the Moon had souls, among other things. Augustine seemed to be personally caught up in this battle between good and evil, which continued through his life.

Sometime later, he became impressed with neo-Platonism, another dualistic philosophy, without the astrological nonsense. The battle between good and evil continued, and Augustine struggled to come to terms with the origins of evil. Along the way, his dualistic thinking translated into a dualism of spirit and body, in which the spirit was good and the body was evil.

I’m oversimplifying here, which means that there’s a resultant loss of accuracy, but you get the drift. Finally, Augustine decides to become a Christian (influenced by his mother), and eventually rises to the position of the Bishop of Hippo and writes a lot of theology.

in the 5th Century, there was still only one Christian Church, most of which spoke Greek. However, Augustine spoke (and wrote) in Latin, which created an interesting situation. Because of the languge barrier, much of the church leadership was not aware of Augustine’s writings and teachings, and it was not until much later they realized what he was teaching. As a result, Augustine is not considered a saint in the Eastern church. He’s respected as being a bishop, but ignored as far as being a theologian.

Next: Augustine’s heresies

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