Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter and humanity: a response to Michael Adee

Presbyweb today linked to an interesting article by Michael Adee entitled "On Being Human & Divine: Reflections & blessing at Easter." While I have disagreed with Dr. Adee in the past and don't agree with everything he says in this article I find the article food for thought and well worth reading and commenting upon. The following is an email I sent to Dr. Adee in response to the article.

Dear Michael

First in the interest of total disclosure let me say that I am one of those people that think that God does not approve of sex between people of the same sex. However I’m not going to comment on that because I think there is much in your article that is worth chewing upon. I liked much of what you said in your article and want to interact with it. Also I’m going to post this on my blog.

I read your article today with interest. I found your talk about theological tension helpful, part of what I think we all need to hold on to. I do have some comments about your dualities:

  1. I will admit I don’t particularly like the word dualities or dualism as you said in one paragraph. I’m not sure paradox says it either although I like creative tension. I actually prefer dialectic as being a better word to talk about creative tension than paradox.
  2. I try to hold on to the Hebrew idea that we are unitive beings, not flesh and spirit, at least that we are not created that way. If you use the terms as Paul does, flesh meaning sinful and spirit meaning obedience to God or faith I would agree with you. I think the Greek split between flesh and spirit, rejecting flesh and thus physicality as bad is a total misreading of the Bible. From you article I suspect you agree with me. God created us to in the image of God and thus our bodies, minds and spirits are all one and all reflect, or should reflect the God as God’s image.
  3. I too have strong reactions against the idea that after we die we are bodiless spirits floating around. The Kingdom of God both present and future is for embodied creatures. Thus as you said, (at least in this time) we are sexual beings in relation to God and our sexuality somehow images God. How is a very interesting question.
  4. God did indeed create us good. The problem is we sin. Thus our goodness is, if not broken, at the very least stained with our sinfulness. We live in a sinful world and are sinners ourselves. I suspect, given your seeking of justice, you would also agree with this.
  5. I don’t know that I would put faith and reason as a duality. Following Augustine and, I think, Calvin, I would suggest that faith comes first, that is faith seeking understanding. Reason is also tinged by our sinful natures. Thus I am suspicious of Natural Theology and from other things you have written I suspect you would agree with me.
  6. I am not quite sure that you are suggesting that we are human and divine as or at least in analogy to Jesus Christ being fully human and fully divine. This, as I am sure you know, is a theme in Eastern Orthodox theology that has been abandoned by the Western Church. I admit I have not examined this much at all but know it is a theme of Athanasius’ work. Are you talking out of this tradition and if so would you comment on it?
  7. I really like your comments on the Jesus who interferes with everything. May he interfere with all of us the more and when we resist him may he push us and pull us until he has our attention. Or maybe in traditional Calvinist terms, may he drag us, kicking and screaming, into his ways and not our ways of being human citizens of the Kingdom!

Thank you for your article. It provides great food for thought

He is Risen!

Bob Campbell


Alan said...

Not much here to comment on, other than I'm glad you actually emailed Michael, rather than taking a few words out of context and declaring him to be a neo-pagan, without bothering to actually ... you know ... simply ask for clarification. Too bad not everyone was brought up as well.

Viola Larson said...

If that was aimed my way, I did e-mail him, and he hasn't answered me.

I also like some of the things Bob has written and I am glad he wrote what he did. Nonetheless I stand by my own posting.

Alan said...

And why wait for a response when it's so much easier just to assume? Seems like you've hardly had the chance to clean the egg off your face from your hilarious FOG post, and you're back at it already.

Some folks never learn.

Alan said...

Anyway, Bob, sorry to derail the conversation. That wasn't my intent, but was simply to compliment you for doing the right thing.

Jodie said...


And then there is Viola's "smooth" transition to ranting against Amendment B.

Reminds me of Bush when he used to rant against the 911 terrorists (Saudis living in Afghanistan) then conclude with

"Let's kill Saddam!"

You just kind of sit there wondering what kind of drug causes that kind of mental malfunction.

So yes, Bob, much much better. I hope you get an answer.

Pastor Bob said...

You know folks I talked about a series of theological issues. Could we talk about them instead of Viola

Alan said...

Sure we can. But there's nothing really new here. And Michael isn't saying anything that people haven't been talking about for, oh, 2000 years.

We're created in the image of God. That actually counts for something. At least, God clearly thinks it counts for something because after God created us, He declared us "good." And Paul tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation altogether.

The tension is between those truths, and the acknowledgement of total depravity. But even total depravity doesn't mean that we are no longer created in God's image.

Recognizing and understanding that tension is, I think a crucial part of understanding who we are and our relationship to God. It doesn't mean, of course, that because I am "In Christ" I am a god, and if that's what that meant, then our earliest Apostles are neo-pagans too, I guess.

It's good that Michael is bringing out these points, because it's clear that many don't understand the basic tenants of Reformed theology as it relates to our understanding of humanity. It's not for nothing that Calvin places these sorts of questions at the very beginning of his Institutes. Folks should read them sometime. Maybe they'd learn something.