The Grand Finale of Pride

The Church Fathers All Disappeared!

Someday all the creeds and traditions we know will vanish into dust but what God has said will remain. After all the church fathers left the Reunion and went to their long home it was up to simple people like fishermen, tentmakers and carpenters to make sense of the things they left behind. These were the folks charged with cleaning up the mess (physical and spiritual) that was left once the reunion ended. Pragmatticus was a janitor who could see things that escaped the notice of the wise and learned. His friend Meticulus was a clear-eyed scribe who had learned to see things for himself.

Did God Ever Call Himself an Essence or a Substance?

They wondered what was so wrong with the simple truth of scripture that declared just one God. This was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He was the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He was none other than the God of Israel. They knew for sure this God never described Himself as an essence or a substance that “subsisted” in three distinct persons. He alone is God and He is known to us as the Father. His name is YHWH. The janitor and the scribe knew God is not a substance or essence to be analyzed and divided into portions! He is “someone” to be worshipped.

Jesus Offers The Promise of Immortality

In His eternal plan to redeem us to Himself, YHWH fathered a Son (Jesus). This happened when Mary was visited by God’s Holy Spirit and the Virgin conceived God’s one and only Son. We know Jesus as our Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ and our Kinsman Redeemer. He went about doing good and spoke truth to religious authorities and they hated him for it, so they killed him. Jesus rose from the dead though and became the first fruits of God’s great plan. He is immortal and offers immortality to those who believe in Him, trust His words, and obey Him. Jesus is God’s unique agent on our behalf who speaks and acts with God’s authority because that has been given to Him.

We Do Not Worship a Divine Trio

The simplicity of all this is far beneath the sophistication of the learned ones who are “Ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). When scripture says, “There is One God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5) we are among those who simply choose to believe it. We believe in one God and His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. There is no room in our hearts for homoousious and we do not worship a trio of co-equal divine persons.  Like the Apostle Paul we purpose to know nothing more or less than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Philosophy is a Miserable Substitute for Scripture

It is a radical approach indeed that believes God is well able to express Himself perfectly, just as He chooses. As for God, His way is perfect and His word is flawless. Some translations say His word is pure, others say it is faultless.  God’s word is precise, refined, reliable, trustworthy, tried, tested and true. We cannot say this about the words of the church fathers or the platonic philosophy that inspired them. This may be why scripture cautions us to shun philosophy as a miserable substitute for the things God has said.

Church Traditions and Creeds Were Swept Away

Pragmatticus’ final duty was to walk through the meeting halls of the great Reunion with a dustpan and a broom. He swept all the philosophical ideas and jargon, along with the pride of the church fathers into his dustpan.  Then he put it all in the waste bin of history where it belongs while Meticulus looked on with appreciation and respect.

The Things That Remained

When the janitor and the scribe inspected the final result of all their work there was nothing left but the words and teachings of God and His Son Jesus. They both thought that looked pretty good and realized their work was done. The Allstars Reunion had finally come to its proper end.

Dear Reader,

This post concludes the Theology Allstars Reunion and the official account of what happened there. Thank you for coming to visit! We hope our efforts have blessed and cheered you, and perhaps given you a few insights that will help you on your way home to God. If you enjoyed the Reunion you are sure to love our brand new companion website.  You can find it at www.wonderfultheology.com   Please come and visit us there… and bring someone with you.

God Bless!

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Let’s Ignore Jesus!

Jesus Was a Radical Non-Trinitarian

One of the touchiest issues that came up at the All Stars Reunion was how to deal with all the disruptive things Jesus taught. Our discussions about His radical ideas were spirited and controversial to say the least! Everyone knew that Jesus Himself had never espoused anything remotely like the Trinity.  Even though we voted it into existence by a clear majority Jesus Himself was the “odd man out” on this issue. This created no end of theological problems for us but we never gave up on it. No sir! If anything, whenever anyone challenged our formulation of God it just stiffened our resolve! The challenge Jesus presented to our theology was altogether different since He was the Son of God and all. At first it was hard for us to resist His teachings but eventually we figured out a way. We just ignored them!

Was Jesus a Heretic?

There were a few stalwarts who actually thought we should excommunicate Jesus because of His unorthodox claim that the Father was greater than He. After all, our creeds insist Jesus and the Father are co-equal and we had a long history of excommunicating people who dared to disagree with us. The proposal caused quite a stir at first but was finally rejected because it seemed too crazy, even for us. Cooler heads realized that officially banishing Jesus from the faith meant we’d have to excommunicate the apostles too! We knew in our hearts that excommunicating Jesus and the apostles to preserve our creed would be terribly unpopular with the masses, so we didn’t do it.

Ignoring Jesus Works Just Fine!

We decided it would be much better to simply ignore the teachings of Jesus rather than oppose them directly and openly! Fortunately, there was a lot of precedent for this and it has the distinct advantage of being something many believers are already familiar with! The essence of this approach has been most eloquently expressed by Rev. D. James Kennedy, the once famous (but now deceased) religious broadcaster.

The Apostles’ Creed Ignores Jesus’ Teachings!

“Many people today think that the essence of Christianity is Jesus’ teachings, but that is not so. If you read the Apostle Paul’s letters, which make up most of the New Testament you will see that there is almost nothing said about the teachings of Jesus. Throughout the rest of the New Testament, there’s little reference to the teachings of Jesus, and in the Apostles’ Creed, the most universally held Christian creed, there’s no reference to Jesus’ teachings. There is also no reference to the example of Jesus. Only two days in the life of Jesus are mentioned – the day of His birth and the day of His death. Christianity centers not in the teachings of  Jesus, but in the Person of Jesus…

Ignoring Jesus is a Clever Idea!

To this we simply say WOW! THANKS A MILLION REV. KENNEDY! It is truly clever to say that Jesus is central to the faith but His teachings aren’t really so important! Once we were able to dispense with Jesus’ teachings it was a piece of cake for us to create creeds, doctrines and traditions that we liked better. It took a lot of doing at first but we reinforced our own teachings by discouraging believers from even reading the words of Jesus. We encouraged people to trust in us instead of trusting in scripture! We really got our point across by killing anyone caught owning or reading the Bible in spite of our orders. This was a brilliant move and it worked like a charm!

Some Good Old Theological Razzle Dazzle!

Eventually most people were so under our sway that even if they did read the Bible it didn’t really matter.  All it took was some good old theological razzle dazzle and people believed whatever we told them while they still claimed to believe in scripture alone! People would read a verse and fail to see what it said! They would listen to the words of scripture and not hear them! “They have eyes to see but they see not and ears to hear but they hear not.” Maybe they didn’t hear what Jesus said but they sure heard us!

Jesus Says God is One…  We Say God is Three

Jesus teaches that God is One but we teach that God is Three… and just ignore what Jesus said! This works so well that most Christians solemnly affirm that God is three persons and not one. When some people protest that the Bible says something different than our trinitarian dogma we tell them their problem is that they want scripture to mean what it says. Then we patiently and cleverly explain that scripture does not always mean what it says and they believe us!

Don’t Argue With Jesus… Just Ignore Him!

We never argue with Jesus’ teachings!  We have found it is better to just ignore His words and promote our own ideas instead. Some complain that Jesus warned us not to call Him Lord Lord unless we actually follow His teachings, but we have learned to ignore that too! After all, if the Apostles’ Creed can completely ignore the teachings of Jesus why can’t we?

PS: It’s hard to imagine that people believe “in” Jesus… but ignore the things He taught! Maybe that good old razzle dazzle is more potent than we like to think. While you’re considering these things would you be willing to take a minute to share a link to  theologyallstars.com with a friend or two? That would be nice and we’ll thank you if you do!  God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

What God Did Not Say

It is sacrilege to put words in God’s mouth. It is the height of hubris to speak for God, as if God did not make Himself clear. When it comes to religion, theologians cannot help themselves; they simply must speak for God. The theological fallout is lay Christians carry the heavy burden of attempting to justify how there are three in one and one in three when it comes to the “godhead.” What a curious and non- Biblical term that is. This becomes ever more complicated when fiddling with defining the divine and human natures of Jesus as a part of the three-in-one “godhead.”

God certainly did speak to His creation. There are many hundreds of Biblical references to God speaking to His people from Genesis to Revelation. In the first verse of Genesis, God created His creation. Then, in the first short chapter, He specifically spoke, proclaiming His work was good. Adam and Eve were spoken to, as was Moses. Throughout the Old Testament God spoke to His people and His Prophets. In the Gospels God and Jesus had some of the most intimate and compelling exchanges in the Bible. Finally, God spoke to the Apostles and the writers of the Bible. Recognize Scripture is not merely a collection of Bible stories. It IS the spoken word of God.

When God speaks, it is often an awesome event. “The Lord thundered from heaven” (2 Samuel 22:14). “The God of glory thundereth” and “the voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness” (Psalms 29: 3-9). The longest conversation with God comes in the Book of Job. The tremendous tenor of it is made plain in Chapter 38 when God speaks from the whirlwind asking Job where he was when the foundations of the earth were laid, and if he could change the stars in the sky. All the way to Revelation God speaks with unequivocal authority: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Revelation 1:8). Awesome, just awesome!

God does not always speak with the voice of intimidating and dramatic events or revelation. In the 18th and 19th chapters of First Kings, Elijah was pursued by Jezebel wanting to kill him but was thwarted by an earthquake and fire. God comforted the exhausted Elijah with “a still small voice.” God spoke to Jesus solemnly as in famous Luke 3:22: “Thou art My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

God is succinctly summed up in the Shema of the Hebrew and Jewish tradition from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” Notice the one. God specifically reiterates this with “I am the Lord thy God” no less than seven times: Exodus 20:2, Deuteronomy 5:6, Psalms 81:10, Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 48:27, Isaiah 51:15, and Hosea 13:4. In Genesis and Exodus alone God spoke in the singular twenty-seven times about the covenants with Israel using “My covenant” and “I covenant.” And, when God spoke to Jesus, it was always in the singular. Of the many hundreds of times when God spoke, there is only one oddity.

“Let us make man in our image.” Genesis 1:26 is simple fodder for those who are compelled to make a sophomoric attempt at speaking for God. This “us” is in no way evidence of a trinity, but rather God and His attendant angels. God makes it clear He is a single God when He tells us, “I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24). God reiterates this again with, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). These verses among hundreds of others tell us God is one God. But because one errant interpretation among the hundreds of other singular verses, theologians and indoctrinated lay Christians believe they can speak for God in the pluralistic three-in-one and the one-in-three.

It is a pretty big deal for God to be three persons in one being. In fact, this is the biggest deal of all in the Bible and the biggest deal to Christians. Lay Christians labor over this mystery, and theologians build entire careers on this conundrum. However, and this is a gigantic HOWEVER, not once did God ever say, “We, the three-in-one and the one-in-three, covenant with Israel.” God did not compel Job with, “We will demand of thee, and thou will answer Us” (Job 38:3). From the second verse of the Bible to the second to the last verse of the Bible, God did not say: “Surely We will come quickly” (Revelation 22:20).

Six times God tells us He is a jealous God. Tampering with His words and His being is the height of hubris. Christians needn’t speak for God. There is no need or reason to pick up the weight of a man- made mystery and turn God into an egg or water. All we need do is accept God the Father, His Son the Christ, and listen to the gift of our Paraclete in the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, Jeremiah 33 tells us He (not we) will forgive our inequities and remember our sin no longer. It is sacrilege to speak for God!

Marvel and Worship… or Analyze?

Jesus astounded those around Him with miracles. An especially exciting one was The Transfiguration when Peter, John, and James went with Jesus to a high mountain to pray (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2- 8, and Luke 9:28-36). Jesus was transfigured by a great light and his clothes became white as light. Then before Peter, John, and James also similarly appeared Elijah and Moses. They were terrified at the sight and the voice of God when He said “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Jesus consoled the three and told them to not be afraid. They marveled at seeing Jesus in a heavenly light.

The great theologian Thomas Aquinas considered The Transfiguration “the greatest miracle.” This is as it ought to be. But being a theologian, Thomas could not leave well enough alone and simply marvel. No, Thomas, as theologians are wont to do, launched off into a statement about the hypostatic union opining on how Christ’s human body became one with the essence of His divine glory. This is brought up at length, and I mean length, in his impressive work Summa Theologiae. Specifically Thomas dissects The Transfiguration in his Question 45 which is answered in four Articles each of which has three or four objections and three or four replies to the objections. All together that is twenty-eight lengthy paragraphs (a lot longer than these) plus eight more points and commentaries. This is a long way down the bunny trail from marveling, but it has given theology students 750 years of headaches.

Most of the miracles Jesus performed were of healing – and bringing back from the dead cannot be topped. They, though, relate as much to the act of faith as the act of healing. When the ruler’s daughter died and the mother touched the cloak of Jesus, He turned and said, “Your faith has healed you.” (Matthew 9:18-26). Luke 7:11-18 describes Jesus raising the widow’s son from the dead. The onlookers did NOT analyze the hypostatic union but rather were filled with awe and praised God.

Other notable miracles were feeding the five thousand (men that is plus the women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:15-21). Another time he fed four thousand (men plus the women and children) with only seven loaves and a few small fish (Matthew 15:32-39). Maybe the most remarkable was Jesus walking on water with Peter (Matthew 14:28). Let’s not trouble Aquinas with this one. Suffice it to say Thomas had an awful lot to say about what God knows and doesn’t know and the essence of His being. In the future we will have great fun with his Summa Theologiae.

Maybe we don’t know as much about theology as Aquinas, but neither did Peter. Some think it’s a wonder Jesus did not pick a disciple a lot smarter and more articulate than Peter. But, for some reason Jesus chose Peter to be a fisher of men. On a windy night Jesus walked on the sea out to the disciples’ buffeted boat. At first they did not recognize Jesus, but He called to them. To Peter He commanded “Come.” As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he too walked on water. But as he looked to the storm Peter began to sink and Jesus saved him (Matthew 14:31). Then in verse 33 those in the boat worshiped Him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The disciples were awed by the power Jesus had over the sea and marveled. John did not say, “I understand your hypostatic essence did not sink in the waves, but how can it be, Lord, that your body stayed above the water? Does your essence dictate your substance?” It’s too bad the disciples were not theologians equipped to ask these pertinent questions.

The disciples, and those around Jesus, marveled at the miracles, were in awe of them, and worshiped. It was as simple as that. They did not pull an Aquinas and philosophically reconfigure a simple message using Aristotelian logic. They were simply primitive Christians that marveled and believed.

Copyright 2021 by Greg Hallback

Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach

A Message from Tertullian

No one quite knew what to expect when Tertullian’s name appeared on the program. Most Ancient Theological All-Stars are known as “Church Fathers” but Tertullian was more like an eccentric “Church Uncle”. Some of his views were at odds with mainstream opinions and were suppressed and ignored in later years due to official disapproval. By and large most people just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well that’s old Tertullian for you!”

Tertullian Was a Great Satirist!

Tertullian was a delightful satirist too! Theologians are not known for having much of a sense of humor since they take most things, including themselves, very seriously. Tertullian, on the other hand, seems to have been cut from different cloth! It was rumored he was secretly pleased that his most ardent fans liked to call him Uncle Turtle. When the topic of his speech was announced there was little doubt that it would be fascinating and entertaining and he did not disappoint!

Tertullian Said the Son Was Not Co-Equal!

Moderator: Our speaker today is fondly called Uncle Turtle by many and is a true theological giant. He may have fallen out of favor with some Church Fathers but his keen observations earned him a place in church history and in our hearts. However, his insistence the Son was not co-equal with the Father really aggravated some of his peers!  This may have hurt his book sales but Old Turtle just kept plodding along and saying what he thought anyway. You gotta love a guy like that! So with no further ado I give you our non-conformist and always interesting Uncle Turtle!

Audience: Warm applause and shouts of “We love you Uncle Turtle!”

Tertullian: Thank you everyone! Thank you so much for such a warm welcome! I know it can be hard to feel kindly toward someone who doesn’t share all your opinions so this heartfelt reception means a lot to me! What an honor and a privilege it is to be here at this reunion! We all know this is never going to happen again so let’s just make the most of it! Isn’t this the most incredible palace ever? The buffet is out of this world and those casino games really grab your attention!  All the pretty young ladies almost make it hard to think about spiritual things so please try to concentrate! On a more serious note I’ve heard about the Emperor’s troubles and wish him a speedy recovery.

Jesus Failed to Teach Us Anything About the Trinity!

Tertullian: Today I want to share a few thoughts with you about the greatest Teacher of parables the world has ever known. It is a miracle that Jesus managed to convey such profound spiritual truths without using the big words we theologians like! We stand in awe at the depth and beauty and power of His words. Sad to say, as you well know, His parables are also woefully incomplete! Somehow or another He failed to address the critically important issues that matter to theologians when we are busily writing our creeds! We must face facts and admit that Jesus neglected to teach us anything about the Trinity! He even forgot to command us to write a creed!

Audience: Shocked silence. No one knew what to say to such bold speech.

Jesus Did Not Give Us the Parables We Need!

Tertullian: Yes, it is shocking to say out loud that the Son of God failed to give us the teachings and parables we need! He did not provide us with any support for our systematic theology! You know it’s true! He claimed to have told us “all things” but can we find even one single solitary parable about the Triune God? Where in Jesus’ teachings is there any attempt at all to explain the Holy Trinity? Where is it I ask? The answer is distressing… it is not there!

Jesus Failed to Teach Any Parables About the Trinity!

What an incredible oversight! You all know there is nothing more important in our theology than the doctrine of Three Persons in One God! How can it be that Jesus completely failed to give us a single parable about the Triune God? It looks like the greatest Teacher the world has ever known really dropped the ball on this one brethren, and that is why we had to come up with our own parables.

PS: We’re glad you’ve taken the time to read about Tertullian and his thoughts on the Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach. We’re not done yet so please come back for more on our next post!

PPS: If you are enjoying this website and maybe even seeing church history more clearly, then why not share theologyallstars.com with a friend? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes