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This blog is the archive of all my posts from the expired criticalBelief.com domain.

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Farewell

On 21 August the domain criticalBelief.com will expire and this blog will only be accessible via the address http://cawoodm.wordpress.com.

What started as a series of critical questions, totally committed to Christianity ended in disillusionment not only with the Church but also with historic Christian Faith even in it’s most liberal forms. Calvinism, which I detest, is indeed the most systematic theology and universalism the most moral. It could be that Calvinistic Universalism is the answer but…

…given the brute fact that today, and every day hence, a young boy will starve to death and a young girl be sold for pleasure, I reject the existence, still less, the “worshipability” of any God who is in a position to prevent this. A powerless God maybe, but not the Good Powerful God of our monotheistic faiths. This is a problem requiring a solution, not a crafted answer nor any words and I’ll support any cause/religion working towards it’s end.

Thanks for reading!

Marc

PS: Jesus is Lord!

PPS: Honour in Defeat.

The Reformation: Excercises in Getting it Backwards

Guilt, hell, forgiveness, eternal paradise. Isn’t it odd that these phrases, so central to reformed theology feature not at all in Romans, and barely in Paul’s other writings? Would Paul even understand the term merit as used by Luther and co? If your theology has, as it’s core axioms, statements a) not found in the Bible (like “justification by faith alone”) and b) explicitly denied by the Bible (like James 2:24) then it’s time for a rethink. I think the reformation, got some things massively wrong. Read more…

The Good News is Better Than That

Some people have what they believe is the Good News but if you peel it back it’s something uglier than that. The idea that in our lives, God is the God of unfettered grace, mercy and love and infinite second chances, but that when we die it’s – ‘Oh, sorry. Too late. You had your chance.’ And that those who didn’t choose correctly in life are condemned to eternal suffering and pain. It’s a schizophrenic idea of God that juxtaposition seems untenable.It’s psychologically unbearable. No psyche can handle that. It’s devastating.

This excerpt, from Cathleen Falsani’s interview with Rob Bell on his new book Love Wins, really resonated with me. Sometimes I need an articulate person to formulate the problem for me, in this case the Problem of Hell I’ve grappled with for some years now.

Ultimately the wonder and attraction I have to a loving, forgiving God and the repulsion I feel towards Orthodox Hell (eternal conscious torment) are too much in opposition to abide in one soul: one of them has to go. My worry is that the former (a loving, attractive God) has gone from evangelicalism as people have tried to “hold in tension” things which just don’t coexist.

The fact is the Gospel is better than that, better than the orthodox individualistic message. The news that you are saved but nearly everyone around you is damned just isn’t that good. Like being told you have a place in one of the few lifeboats on the Titanic the relief must turn to horror as you watch your fellow passengers sink beneath the icy Atlantic.

Justification and Forgiveness for Paul and Jesus

I’ve previously explained why I think justification and forgiveness are the same thing for Paul. But what is it, according to Paul, that you must do if you are to be forgiven by God? The Reformers gave us the great Pauline doctrine of Justification by Faith (in capitals) which, according to Luther and co., means you cannot earn God’s forgiveness but only receive it by faith (whatever that means).  Most Reformed theologians are adamant that there are no preconditions to justification/forgivenness but still want to insist that your belief is a kind of channel to grace. Their paraphrase of Romans 3:28 would be: One is justified by belief in Christ and not by good works.

If, like me, you’ve noticed that this does not line up with Jesus’ teaching on the subject (nor with the Old Testament) and have come to be sceptical of the Reformed view you may have heard of the ambiguity in Paul at key passages concerning faith. What Paul literally says is that one is not justified “from works Law but from faith Christ” as in “not from works-pertaining-to-Torah but from faith-pertaining-to-Christ”. This passage is almost always translated “by works of law but by faith in Christ” in our Bibles but it is actually unclear what Paul means. Indeed many scholars and exegetes now say it should be translated “faith of Christ” as this is by far the dominant use of this construction in contemporary Greek writings as well as in the Septuagint. In general FAITH X, means the faith of X not faith in X and thus the dominant view since the reformation[1] is idosyncratic. Read more…

Justification in Paul means Forgiveness

I discovered something strange whilst studying Romans and find it absolutely astounding: Not once does Paul use the word “forgive” or any of it’s cognates (“forgiveness”, “forgave” etc.) to speak of God forgiving humans in Romans, nor in any of the 7 undisputed letters[1]! But the word “forgive” is all over the Gospels and I count about 30 places where Jesus uses this term to describe how God reconciles himself to humanity in forgiving their sins. It’s a major theme and absent in Paul!

At times one would think Paul would have no option but say forgive he will say “pass over sins” or “reconcile” or use other images. If Paul is at pains to avoid the word I can offer no explanation but I can say this, Paul has his own particular and characteristic word for “forgive” and it is “justify”. How do I know this? Because Paul tells us so in Romans 4 albeit in a cryptic way. Read more…

Can Your Faith Limit God's Power?

Last year I began to notice a common underlying theme and assumption in evangelical preaching, at least here in Europe, which is: your faith is the limiting factor in God’s agency. Sunday after Sunday believers are exhorted to believe harder, perhaps coupled with prayer, that God will act to heal, to revive, to convert and save people and communities. Congregations, well aware of shrinking numbers, lack of healings and general Holy Spirit power are reminded by the pastor that it is God’s power alone which can save/heal/revive us but, paradoxically, that we should be praying for this, believing it, claiming it in some spiritual realm. But is it really our lack of faith (i.e. belief) which is holding God back? Read more…