Interesting web site, but you don't have much on the ball intellectually, period. The minute I came on your site, I knew the Sgt. is in deep doo-doo way up over his head and could use some help or constructive criticism. And don't tell me you're not; I teach for the military, up here in Alaska, though I was never in the military. You doing apologetics is like turning a bull loose in a china shop. Phew! Where is this guy coming from? He knows nothing about theology, biblical studies, theology, etc. Oh, well, he's just some anti-intellectual redneck. Forget him! That is the reaction many informed Christians or informed non-Christians are going to have. OK, you don't have to be a scholar, to be saved. That's for sure. But if you want to do apologetics, as you do, then you do need a strong academic background. Apologetics was, is, and always will be the super-intellectual branch of the church. Now, I am not going to sit here and give you a point-by-point critique, you know, well, I agree with this, I don't with that, etc. However, when you feel you are getting in over your head, I could maybe give you some pointers how to come up with something that has some semblance of being a well-reasoned, well-informed response. Why? I am a theologian, 24/7. I have an earned Ph.D. in theology (University of Pittsburgh/Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 1983), I have loads of free time, and like to keep in pratice. I don't charge any fees, simply because I know I am not going to be working that closely or intensely with you. I am just saying that you ought to bounce some of your ideas off myself or someone else who has the necessary formal training.
My response is in Green:
I am sorry you feel the way you do. I will just keep doing what God has called me to do. I am sorry you think training from men is more important than training from God. I must say you come over as being very puffed up with yourself. I hope that is not true, but it sure seems that way from my simplistic reading of your message.
(1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV) But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
I hope you see yourself in that verse somewhere. Take a long hard look at the church today and what the seminaries are putting out. I find it sad that you think just because I am not taught my man I don't have much on the ball intellectually. Maybe I don't, but then again I don't need to since I try to allow God to speak through me. I found your letter very offensive, but then you must have known it would be since you are such a learned man.
I wonder how you think the Apostles managed without your or some other Theologian's help. I thank you for wanting to help me, but no thanks, I will continue to depend on God. Maybe my ministry is to the simple people who would not be able to understand your deep reasoning.
I would encourage you to post your own apologetics website since you have so much spare time. I would love to come visit and see what your site would be like. Please let me know if you post one.
Oh, by the way, I am not longer a Sergeant nor a Police Officer, if you did some checking you would see I left the Police force almost 20 years ago. Not that your mistake is a big deal, but it is hard to take when you are telling me what a fool I am, you should at least try to get your facts straight. You might want to dig into the Bible and do a deep theological study on tact and brotherly love while you are at it.
Well thanks for writing me and reminding me why I never went to seminary.
This is the second message I received from this man. I will let it stand on its own. If you understand his stance then you are smarter than I am, because I find it confusing and to be honest boring.
I hate to fuss, but I couldn't resist pointing a a prime example where you blew it, missed a golden opportunity. It's in your "Is Jesus God?" section, where that guy, totally misinformed, writes to you about Nicea and the Trinity. What he said about Constantine is pure BS!!!!! And the way you handled it was way too ackward. Here's the real scoop: Among early Christians, there was a big, bitter debate over whether Christ was God. Everyone agreed Christ was divine, true, and also a Savior; but was he Deity? The Arians agued he definately was not, because they didn't want to attribute change, body, passions, etc., to God. And they did cite biblical passages to support themselves. How can you say He is God, he who was whipped, suffered, etc.? The other camp, represented by Athanasius, argued Christ was Deity, God, because only God could save us. And then, of course, they fired biblical passages they felt supported them. This bitter dispute was dividing Constantine's church. So he called a big pow-wow at Nicea in 325, which actually never reached any conclusion because it turned out to be a real brawl, with fists flying, shouting, etc. In Constantine's own, subjective, disinterested view, Athanasius and company won. Hence, we have the Nicene Creed, which stresses Christ is "Very God of Very God"..."of one substance with the Father," etc. Incidentally, Constantine found this whole question "uninteresting" in the first place. He was not quite as Christian as we are accustomed to think. But that's another story. When Constantine's son came to the thrown, he sided with the Arians and exiled Athanasius and company. I mean, the church went back and forth on this for years and years. It all depended on who was in power. There was another big meet in 381, where, apparently, the Deity of the Spirit was discussed, the Arians claiming he was a creature, not God, based on Amos 4. Again, we had another brawl that accomplished nothing. The aftermath of these debates is still with us today. If you go to the bottom of it, it is more metaphysical than biblical. Not all, but certain key Hellenic philosophers, namely Plato and Aristotle, pushed hard on the idea that the "really real" is something wholly immutable, immaterial, a temporal, passionless, wholly simple, etc. Now, these world-negating or other-worldly attributes were freely incoporated into the classical Christian model of God, which reigns supreme even today. Hence, God is defined as void of body, parts, passions, compassion, wholly immutable (echoes of Aristotle's Unmoved Mover), in short, God is generally depicted as the complete and total negation of all creaturely predication. Under these, circumstances, it is hard to see how Christ could be identified with God, especially as the Council of Chalcedon dogmatized the notion that the divine nature cannot suffer. I don't blame people for having real trouble with the Trinity. This doctrine really needs some work. Biblically, there are problems here. Clearly, the biblical God is anything but the Unmoved Mover; He is simply too humanlike and even changes his mind. So we have a definition of God that doesn't square well with Scripture, though classical theists have all kinds of out's here, whick I won't go into. The other problem is that the Trinity is not sharply spelled-out in Scripture. Paul, for example, uses Spirit and Christ interchangeably (See Rom.8).
This is the third message I received from this man (I have put in paragraphs to make it easier to read and I edited two places where I feel he was overly vulgar):
Ralph! I think you are being overly defensive here. Training from God and training from men go together. That's why the Bible says some are called to be teachers, etc. The church fathers were all highly educated and wouldn't have made it without that. And if they hadnt made it, we honestly would not be here. Luther, for example, was a Ph.D. and professor of theology. He did a master translation of the entire Bible into German, which he couldn't have done unless he had, as he did, loads of formal training in biblical languages. The same thing is true of the 47 men who translated the KJV. The same thing is true of the apologetic task, which goes way, way back into Christendom. The reason why the church could undertake such a task was that it had scholars well-schooled in philosophy, science, debate, etc. Without the intelligencia, the church would have never made it, period, end of story.
Am I "puffed up"? Well, I am not perfect, sinless, etc. I have my vices. I do know I have many talents; I am a very good, solid amateur trumpet player, I have been told I have a real flair for languages, which is why I translated and published two volumes of Calvin's sermons and almost majored in biblical studies, I also have the skills to operate a steam locomotive, which I do on weekends. I am proud I finally received my doctorate; it was a real challenge to get there, and I am proud I have done a fair amount of publishing, which is also a difficult feat. And if you would have been there, done that, you would think the same. I don't doubt many web sites, such as yours, really think of me as the stereotypic "effete intellectual snob," very condescending, etc. But you have to remember, as I have said, you have stepped into the intellectual branch of the church, where scholarship is the name of the game. And if you can't stand the heat, you should either get out of it altogether or get educated and be humble enough to admit you need some help from time to time.
I mean, that's how I went from geek to engineman. I always wanted to run a locomotive, so I joined a group that has one, and said show me how, I'm honestly a million miles away from any real mechanical training or ability, I have never gotten my hands dirty in my whole life. Hey, I admit, I'm the geeky, nerdy type, but I really want to be part of the "macho" world of steam railroading. And boy, did I get some real training! There were several people who came in with me, who thought they were already there, paid no attention to the instructors,whom they always downed, but they didn't last long. Same thing with apologetics. People undergo a major conversion experience; and the smart ones will admit that they have some real question now and do need further education. The cocky ones will assume they know it all, need not listen to what any theologians or philosophers have to say, and then they just end up going off half-cocked and causing real trouble in the church. Believe me, I've been there, seen that.
The Bible was not intended by God for it to be an excuse for you to be anti-intellectual, period. The church fathers, from Augustine to Luther, were all spiritually strengthened by taking inspiration from "secular" wisdom.
Well, just what is wrong with what the "seminaries are putting out"? I'd like to know. Don't tell me, show me. Sounds to me like you are stereotyping here. Have you ever been to seminary? How are you in a position to sit in judgment on graduates? What criterion do you use to determine who's worthy of being a minister and who isn't? And why should anyone take your word for it? How do we know your interpretation of anything in the Bible is the correct one? I, for one, am not naive enough to believe that everything you say is coming right from the mouth of the Almighty, as you claim. I think everyone needs to check in at the front office, so to speak, before they blindly assume it is God speaking through them. You know, when I was a trainee in clinical psychology, I once knew a paranoid schizophrenic who claimed God told him to kill all the red-headed women in the world. Now, I am not suggesting you are like that, but you do seem to move in that direction.
Yeah,yeah, sure,sure. Gee, Edison didn't have an education, why should I go to college? Einstein was a bad student, who cut class, why,oh,why can't I, Mom? Real Lawmen, and I mean Real Lawmen, the legends from the Old West, who were the only Real Lawmen, never had police training, etc., so why do we have to go through this sh*t, Sarge? You see my point? You think you're really in The, and I mean "The," Big,Big League, an absolute natural, OK, fine. But frankly, I don't think you are another Paul, who did have alot more formal instruction than you are letting on, by the way. Also, the world today is alot more complicated than it was in the time of Paul. I know that's maybe a cliche, but it is still true. After all, Paul wasn't dealing with a Christian church that had over a thousand-year history of apologetics and heavy academics already in place, nmot to mention schools, colleges, etc. And if Paul were around today, he'd tell you right off that he needs a good staff of well-educated people to have make his message relevant to today. After all, when you deal with the Bible, you are dealing with a work that was centered in an ancient culture, and you are bound to get off the track unless you have some real education in history of the period, language, etc. As to "simple people": I think you will find that people today are a little more sophisticated than you want to let on. Never underestimate the capabilities of the people...unless you want to live and die quickly as some sort of half-a**ed dictator.
I decided not to answer this gentleman since I don't think he cares. I will allow his own words to speak for themselves. You can read what I wrote and if you agree with him that I think I am like Paul or that my words are God's words, then I am sorry you think that because I don't think that. However, I do believe that God can use anyone who is willing to allow Him to work through their lives. As for what is wrong with what is being tauight in seminaries, you can judge for yourself by visiting: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/home.asp Look around and you will find that the majority of seminary graduates in the last ten years or so deny the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the sinless life of Christ and even the resurrection of Christ. That is what is wrong with what seminaries are putting out.
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)
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