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

Tradition is Our Mighty Fortress

When Athanasius finished speaking on the Splendor of Tradition we headed right back over to the Seafood Buffet. We were as contented as can be! When someone suggested “Let’s get some more!” the idea was hailed as true genius. Some thought “more” meant more King Crab. The more spiritual types among us figured it was a signal that we should hear more about tradition from Athanasius! After some lively discussion we decided that these were both great ideas! Ath was always agreeable to speaking his mind so he quickly agreed to do another session. Then we all loaded up on more seafood! Everyone was excited to know that we were going to hear another great talk by Athanasius!

A Mighty Fortress Rocks the House!

It was an unforgettable experience to hear the majestic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” coming over the loudspeakers. Those magnificent bass notes shook us right down to the bone! It was just like having a huge pipe organ in the room! Pipe organs weren’t even used in churches until the 14th century so that made it even more impressive!  “A Mighty Fortress” wasn’t written until the 16th century and everyone loved the sense of majesty and awe it inspired. Finding out that it was written by Brother Marty (Luther) clinched it for us! It would be hard to imagine a more perfect beginning for what was to come.

Moderator:  Brethren could it get any better than this!? We have already had some great sessions, we have enjoyed great food and we have even played the strange game called golf! I don’t know about you but I wish this could go on forever.

Audience:  Let’s stay here! Let’s refuse to leave! We don’t want it to end! We love Las Vegas!

Chanting:   “We won’t go! We won’t go! We won’t go!”

Moderator:  I’m afraid God has other plans Brethren! The reunion committee that negotiated with God to get us here says that we have to go right back where we came from as soon as this Reunion ends.

Audience:  What a bummer! Booing. That’s not fair!

Athanasius… Our Doctor of Dogma!

Moderator:  It looks like we are stuck with the destinations we earned in our lifetimes but since we still have some Reunion time left we should make the most of it! Here tonight to help us do just that is our Doctor of Dogma and Top Dog of Triune Tradition, Athanasius!

Audience:  Enthusiastic applause, clapping, and shouts of welcome back Athanasius!

Athanasius:  Greetings dear friends! Let’s dig right into our topic. I plan on covering a lot of ground but don’t worry!  We’re going to make it back to that great buffet in plenty of time so you can all relax!

The Kingdom Belongs to God! Tradition Belongs to Us!

Everyone knows that God intends to protect His Kingdom! Many people have learned the hard way that we intend to protect and defend our traditions! First of all, let’s review some of the factors that can make traditions succeed or fail. Just remember that God protects His Kingdom and we protect our traditions! The Kingdom is His but the traditions belong to us!

We have learned some valuable lessons from the flawed traditions that caused Israel so much trouble. You can rest assured that we have wisely avoided those flaws with the traditions we have created. Two good examples of Jewish traditions that ultimately flopped are the prohibition against working on the Sabbath and the need for ceremonial handwashing before every meal. Let me explain!

Jesus Openly Challenged Tradition!

Jesus took His disciples through a field of grain on the Sabbath and they started plucking heads of grain (which was work). They started eating it with unwashed hands (because it’s hard to wash your hands in a cornfield). The religious authorities cried FOUL! but Jesus let them know their traditions didn’t measure up. His disciples were hungry and He cared more about them than a few rules. Jesus intentionally broke their tradition again by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath! He did it in a synagogue right in front of God and everybody! Many people realized that Jesus was right and the way they observed traditions was wrong. A whole new religion was being established right in front of their eyes! Jesus had openly challenged their traditions!

Traditions Can be Contrary to God

Jewish traditions were so concrete it was easy to see how they resulted in calloused decisions down here on earth. Sometimes those traditions were totally contrary to what God wanted!  Higher quality traditions could have saved the nation of Israel a whole lot of trouble. We have carefully avoided the mistakes that caused Israel so much distress! I am about to show you the secrets of building traditions that can withstand the test of time! Trinitarian Dogma is without a doubt the greatest religious tradition of them all and is indeed our Mighty Fortress!

Audience: This is good stuff Athanasius! Tell us more!

Good Traditions Intimidate Average People!

Athanasius:  One secret of our success is that the tradition we built was not easy or even possible to understand! In fact, it is so incomprehensible that we don’t really understand it ourselves and we created it! Average people are so intimidated by our scholarship and intellectualism that they hardly ever challenge us! We easily overwhelm people who question us with arguments they are unable to understand much less resist. Confounding and incomprehensible complexity is our ally, our strategy and our friend!

The Greatest Traditions Are Abstract and Mysterious

Another secret of our success is that our trinitarian tradition is not the least bit concrete! It is so abstract that it can’t even be envisioned even though learned scholars say otherwise! Is that great or what! It is almost impossible for people to see how our theological tradition could be contrary to God’s wishes. The Trinity is an ethereal mystery that has virtually nothing to do with what we say or do down here! Nothing we do will never make the trinity itself look bad. People will adhere to the tradition we bestowed on them in spite of our behavior! That my friends is the hallmark of a truly great tradition! Israel may have blundered by developing concrete traditions but we got it right!Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Few Dare to Challenge Traditions!

Think about it! We have constructed a secure fortress for ourselves out of next to nothing and it has lasted nearly 1800 years! No one knows how to break down its walls and we are safely surrounded by theological traditions that few dare challenge or question! We are experts and we are in the majority! If anyone even thinks about disputing our teaching we laugh them to scorn, call them heretics or eliminate them! It is plain to see that we  have won the day! Behold what we have built!

From somewhere up above a voice was heard saying, That’s all well and good children but you should have built on something more solid than the sand of your own thoughts. Building on the words of Jesus would have been far better. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” But no one seemed to pay much attention.

Pomp and Rituals and Great Architecture!

Athanasius continued: Yes, yes, I know what some of you are thinking! “What about our pomp and architecture and rituals and hierarchy? Aren’t they important too?” The answer is “Yes! of course they matter!” These are things people get very attached to. They are useful  accessories that decorate the walls of our Mighty Fortress and make it look genuinely religious. We like them because they add a certain “Wow factor” to the tradition we have built. As far as all these other things are concerned, I say the more the better!

Now I want to make an honest man of myself and finish my remarks while there is still plenty of time to get back to that terrific buffet. Thank you all for your respectful attention! I’m sure going to miss these meetings when we have to leave this town.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

 

The Splendor of Tradition

We all knew the Reunion would have to come to an end someday. Soon the glorious buffets and shows at Caesar’s New Palace would be closed to us forever!  Our grand Las Vegas adventure was about to end and this added an air of urgency to everything we did! An unwelcome gate crasher had showed up and even spoke against our most cherished traditions! We decided that an impassioned talk about the glory and beauty of our traditions was in order! We also wanted to make it known that anyone who did not honor our traditions would be in serious trouble!

People Create Religious Traditions!

The thing traditions have going for them (and why we like them so much) is because we make them ourselves! All you have to do is think of traditions as “do it yourself” religious projects and everything makes perfect sense. That’s why people react so violently when anyone questions their tradition because they take it as a personal attack! “Hey! That’s MY tradition you’re messing with!” And they are absolutely right… it IS their tradition.  People create traditions and people keep them going. God doesn’t generally have much to do with it. Jesus said a lot of harsh things about traditions because they are usually so contrary to God’s ways!

Religious Traditions are Serious Business!

Religious customs are no laughing matter! Traditions are way too important to question. Sometimes traditions are even more important than scripture! No kidding! This is hard for some people to figure out and there are always some who just don’t get it! The question on everyone’s mind was, “What should we do about rebels who won’t treat our dogma with the proper respect?” Our first choice was to smite them with the jawbone of an ass like Samson, but finding a good jawbone from a suitable ass isn’t easy.  Besides, most of the church fathers knew that talking an issue to death is nearly as effective. The next challenge was to figure out who was up to the job!

Jesus Didn’t Love the Traditions of Men

We thought about trying to book one of the Apostles but none of them were trinitarians so that idea fizzled out pretty quickly. No one even considered trying to get Jesus to show up to defend tradition.  He wasn’t a trinitarian either and His stand against Jewish traditions had a lot to do with getting Him crucified.

Athanasius Was the Champion of Tradition!

Someone would have to speak up for tradition and the honor eventually fell to, who else but Athanasius! He once overturned three centuries of church teaching (ie. tradition) with his own radical ideas but he was still a perennial crowd favorite. Athanasius was one of the main architects of the trinitarian dogma that had ruled Christianity for nearly two thousand years! He also knew a thing or two about building and maintaining human traditions!  He was eloquent and bold and not the least bit afraid to promote his own religious ideas in spite of the teachings of Jesus! The jawbone of everyone’s favorite Ath, Athanasius of Alexandria, won speaking honors by a landslide!

Athanasius Was the Defender of Trinitarian Dogma

Master of Ceremonies:  Good evening everyone! We are in for a special treat again tonight! You all know we have had to cope with some unpleasant interruptions in the past few days. We don’t have a lot of time left and we sure don’t want to spend it listening to things we disagree with! Here to silence the voices we don’t want to hear is our theological heavy hitter and the defender of trinitarian dogma!  Brethren I give you Athanasius! Let’s hear it for the Jawbone of Alexandria one more time!

Audience:  Thunderous applause! Stomping of feet! Whistling and shouting aplenty!

Athanasius:  Thank you, thank you! I know we don’t have a lot of time left at this fine Las Vegas Reunion and we all just want to enjoy ourselves while we’re still here. I think we have heard  enough unpleasantness from our critics and as far as I’m concerned it’s time to put an end to it!

Audience:  Amen! Amen!

Take Your Pick! Scripture or Tradition

Athanasius:  Brothers we live in two worlds! The first is the world of “it is written” in the holy scriptures. The other world and the one we wish to exalt tonight is the sphere of tradition which is no less important! We know that some people think Jesus condemned tradition saying “by your traditions you have made God’s laws of none effect…you worship God in vain, for the doctrines you teach are the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15). The Apostle Paul wrote, See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you captive by philosophy and vain deceit (fine sounding arguments) according to the traditions of men.” (Colossians 2) We should just dispense with these scriptural objections right now! Those verses are not talking about us! They are about other people who are not as right about things as we are! There you have it!

Our Traditions Have a Seal of Approval!

You may be wondering; how can we know which traditions are legit and which are merely human? All you have to do is listen to the certified religious authorities we call the Magisterium! In other words, WE will tell you which traditions are humanly generated and which ones are approved by God. It’s just that simple! Fortunately, our traditions have all been approved by specially trained religious experts! 

Our Traditions Are of the Highest Quality!

We have an official document called a Nihil Obstat that certifies in writing that our traditions are the best available anywhere! They have our own special Seal of Approval and are published and approved under our own Imprimatur (license)!  This confirms we have official permission to publish this stuff! These very fine Latin words are your assurance that the traditions we want you to observe are all of the highest quality. Our theology and creeds have passed all these rigorous requirements with flying colors!

We Only Use Violence When Necessary

Yes, we have used force at times to convince people who wouldn’t yield to us but that’s just how it is sometimes.  Burning at the stake, massacres and torture may seem harsh to some but that’s just what it took for us to finally establish our authority. We mostly only killed adversaries who called themselves Christians. In hindsight we probably should have killed everyone who didn’t believe what we wanted them to! We tried to do just that but things didn’t work out so well in spite of our best efforts. Sadly, the days when we could use lethal force are just a fond memory. Religious violence is frowned upon these days so we are inclined to be much more gentle!

The Trinity is Our Greatest Tradition!

Today I am here to assure you that our trinitarian tradition is undoubtedly the majority opinion. If you want to go with a winner you will go with us! Just consider our Magisterium, Imprimatur and Nihil Obstats.  It is little wonder that our traditions are at least equal to, if not greater in importance than what is written in the scriptures. Traditions and scripture are both important but since our traditions give us the sole authority to interpret scripture we can confidently say that tradition has won!  In spite of what some reckless heretics may say, highly qualified religious professionals like us are the only people who are able determine exactly what you should believe!

In closing I trust that this short explanation has answered all your questions, calmed all your doubts and settled this issue once and for all. Now let’s head to that great seafood buffet!

Pragmatticus was up in the rafters and although he didn’t start cussing he could not keep from laughing.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Background

It Was Time For a Theologians Reunion!

It was very late in the day (but before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ) when it suddenly dawned on us that the time had finally come for a reunion! We hoped the great theologians of the church might all get together in one place and explain things to the rest of us in ways normal human beings could understand.  Theologians just love to explain themselves so we had no trouble at all getting them to show up for our grand event. God even gave all of them permission to attend! Our hearts were filled with anticipation and excitement because we knew that at long last all the confusion about eternal truths would finally be laid to rest. What follows is the unabridged and unbiased account of pretty much everything that went on from beginning to end.

The “Church Fathers” Wanted Us Think Right

The ancient philosopher theologians we call “The Church Fathers” were a brilliant bunch! In their wisdom, they tried to lead us down a path of right thinking. But… is it possible that instead they ended up unleashing violence and hatred between brethren on a scale never before seen?  Our fond hope is that this reunion transcript will help us see things more clearly. Someday when Jesus returns He will reveal what He thinks about our religious traditions. In the meantime we’ll just have to do our best to figure it out all by ourselves.

Romans Thought Christians Were Enemies of the State

The early disciples of Jesus traveled all over the place establishing small pockets of believers around the Mediterranean and Europe. Eventually there were enough Christians to seriously annoy the Romans for lots of reasons that seemed pretty important at the time. They were known as enemies of the state who ought to be killed or at least tortured until they came to their senses. Persecution didn’t work very well though and Christianity flourished in spite of it.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!

Early in the fourth century a pagan emperor named Constantine ruled that Christians weren’t so bad after all and that it wasn’t necessary to kill them anymore!  It was a classic “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!” strategy. Until then Christianity had flowered secretly into a host of different varieties that co-existed in relative peace.  As soon as churches were free to worship openly trouble started. Who believed the right way and who was wrong? Who was a true Christian and who was not? Disputes between Christians became so intense that Constantine saw these religious divisions as a threat to the Roman Empire. The emperor just wanted an end to all the fighting.

Constantine Held a Church Council in Nicea

In 325 AD Emperor Constantine invited 3000 church officials  to a council at his summer palace in Nicea. (about 300 actually showed up) The idea was that they would talk things over and iron out their differences.  Then they would vote on a short statement of faith (a creed) that would become binding on all believers. Surely this would end all the conflict! What could be easier and more sensible than that? What could possibly go wrong? It turned out that a lot went wrong in a hurry!

The Nicene Creed Caused a Lot of Violence

The Nicene Creed they voted on enshrined Trinitarian dogma as the official dogma of Christianity. It also unleashed so much violence between believers that even pagans were scandalized by how much the Christians hated each other. To this day most Christians still solemnly recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday…. even if no one really understands exactly what it means. With these things in mind we could see that the only way out of this mess was to host the Theology All Stars Reunion! So that is what we have done.

Anyone Who Disagrees With Us Must be a Heretic

Heartfelt apologies are hereby offered to the disciples of any particular philosopher or theologian who may be offended by our humble reporting. Nevertheless we must press on and share this honest and accurate account of their lofty words and heroic deeds with you. Be assured there is no fake news here at all. No indeed! This officially authorized transcript is guaranteed, certified and warranted to be absolutely 100% accurate and unbiased. For this reason anyone who disputes this account is hereby declared a heretic, expelled from fellowship with those of us who have the right opinions, and banned from doing anything we consider worthwhile on behalf of or in relationship to anything that has anything to do with ANYTHING related to God. On the other hand, may God richly bless all those who agree with us.

AMEN

Let us begin…

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes