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

Origen of the Trinity

Origen Is Called the Father of Biblical Theology

Origen was an important theologian who managed to slip under the radar for a long time. He wasn’t officially declared a heretic until he had been dead for three centuries… but by then it was too late! He was already famous! Origen was heir to both Socrates and Plato and is regarded as the greatest philosopher/theologian of the early church.  He also produced its first systematic theology. It is not an exaggeration to call him the Father of Biblical Theology! Many have viewed him as “the greatest genius the early church ever produced.”

Origen Became a Heretic 300 Years After He Died!

In order to be deemed an official heretic you just need to disagree with the majority. That is exactly what happened to Origen! He was mostly acceptable in his lifetime but the opinions of church leaders changed in the centuries after he died! Eventually his work fell out of favor with most theologians and there wasn’t much he could do about it. His story is interesting because it took the church 300 years after his death to brand him a heretic. There is no doubt Origen had some pretty wild ideas!  He never achieved sainthood, and like Tertullian, he wasn’t granted the title of church father either. In spite of his tremendous influence Origen never won any official honors! Fortunately, he was already dead by the time he was excommunicated so it probably didn’t bother him too much.

Origen Mastered Greek Philosophy

Moderator: Well brethren, it’s time to honor another old heretic who achieved a lot in his life but never quite made the grade. He was a notable scholar and at least during his lifetime he seemed like a pretty respectable guy! His epic work On First Principles developed a foundation for the Trinity based on Platonic philosophy. Even his critics acknowledged that he had mastered the Greek philosophical tradition in his interpretation of the Bible! Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble. He upset a lot of people by denying the co-equality of “persons” in the Godhead! Eventually, his chances of becoming an official church father went right out the window.

Origen Wrote More Than Anyone

You all know who I’m talking about! It’s none other than Origen of Alexandria! We thought long and hard about what kind of award you give to a man who wrote so much that some legends say he kept seven secretaries busy! We created a special Windy Award just for him! It’s the Origen of the Trinity Award! How’s that for a nifty play on words!

Audience: Groaning and rolling of the eyes.

Moderator:  Well sorry about that but it’s the best we could come up with! Here to accept his award is Origen of Alexandria!

Audience: How come we keep giving awards to people like Tertullian, Arius and now Origen? None of them agree with our creeds! This is really going to upset Athanasius!

Origen Was Surprised to Be At Caesar’s Palace

Origen:  Greetings everyone! I am so glad to be at this reunion and I’m as surprised as anyone to be here at all! That seafood buffet is sure better than anything I ever had in my lifetime! It’s almost too good to be true. Now that I’m dead I’ve pretty well decided to give up on asceticism, as long as we’re here in Las Vegas anyway. It was just great to be allowed to come here in the first place and then I found out I’m even getting an award!

Can Anyone Think Like Athanasius?

I have to admit I was pretty surprised to learn that I had become a heretic after I died. I was just talking about this very thing with Tertullian and Arius at dinner. Tertullian was surprised when he learned he had become a heretic too!  Arius knew his reputation was in the tank after the Nicene Council so he was really surprised to get an award. It’s a good thing that the theologians who decide who is approved and who isn’t don’t speak for God! Athanasius still says that unless you think of the Trinity like his creed says you can’t be saved. I say no one can think like that! Jesus said no one should!

Origen Pioneered Hypostases and Homoousious

Athanasius’ insistence on the co-equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was based on just one word! Using homoousious to make that claim still seems a bit over the top to me! After all, I was the first Christian philosopher to ever use the term homoousious! I was also the very first Christian philosopher to use the term hypostases to describe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Where did Athanasius ever get the idea that his theories were any better than mine?  We had a very nice schematic of God in Platonic philosophy that made a lot of sense to us.  I imagined God as a descending triad just like in classic platonic philosophy! The Father is greater than the Son and the Son is greater than the Spirit. What’s so bad about that? It sure made sense to us!

Origen’s Descending Triad Was a Platonic Theory!

We thought we had a fine theory about God and a lot of people signed on to our ideas. Just because some later theologians disagreed was no reason to start all the name calling! I don’t think any of them wrote nearly as much stuff as I did.  Besides, without the foundations I laid for the Trinity I don’t think Athanasius would have ever hit the big time in the first place!

Origen Gave Thanks to Philo, Plato and Aristotle Too!

In closing I want to thank all the people who helped me win this award. I want to thank my Mom and Dad, Philo, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle too. I would also like to thank the Awards Committee for such a great play on words and naming my Windy Award after me! Finally, I want to thank all the great cooks and staff who put together that incredible buffet! Good night everyone! It has been great to be here!

PS: Some say truth is stranger than fiction and church history is pretty strange. It’s also pretty entertaining! (except of course, for all the violence and hatred that resulted from the creeds and dogmas of our fiercest theologians.) Modern Christians should at least know these things. Why don’t you help them out and share a link to theologyallstars.com with a few of them? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued…

Tertullian’s Trinitas Award

Tertullian Was the Founder of Western Theology

Tertullian has rightly been called the Father of Latin Christianity and the founder of Western Theology. Although he was not at all a trinitarian in the modern sense of the word he was the first theologian who ever used the Latin word trinity (trinitas) in his writings and that is a big deal. It’s even more impressive when you consider that not even Jesus Himself used the word!  None of the disciples of Jesus Christ ever heard him speak the word trinity either before His crucifixion or after His resurrection! No wonder the Reunion organizers felt Tertullian deserved a Windy Award! His thinking may not have been biblical but it was definitely original.

Tertullian Wasn’t a Saint!

Tertullian was Augustine’s predecessor. Historians tell us he eventually joined the Montanist movement that swept through the early church. The Montanists were similar to today’s Charismatics and Pentecostals and were regarded as a bit too extreme for most people. Although Tertullian was a very important theologian he was never granted sainthood! He wasn’t even recognized as an official church father by the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Catholic church. He really aggravated both churches by his insistence that Jesus was subordinate to the Father! This was seen as a direct assault on the Trinity and it definitely hurt his book sales.

Tertullian Wasn’t Even a Church Father!

The Awards Committee felt Tertullian made such a huge impact on Christianity that an official Windy Award was long overdue. He was like one of those famous actors who make a lot of memorable films but never quite win an Academy Award.  He wasn’t an official “Church Father” but he definitely deserved some recognition. Everyone knew Tertullian was at least a Church Uncle! His speech on the “Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach” was an instant hit and was destined to become a classic.

Critics Called Tertullian a Heretic!

Moderator:  Tonight we want honor a theologian everyone has heard of! Tertullian was never officially honored as a Church Father but we all know he really is one. He was always something of a wild card as theologians go. Most Christians think he is so famous that he must have been the real deal! His critics call him a heretic but his fans just call him Uncle Turtle. The Awards Committee has voted to give him a Windy Award for creating the Best Brand Name Ever!  Let’s give a warm welcome to our controversial but always interesting colleague, Tertullian!

Audience:  Generally warm applause with a few holdouts here and there. Some theologians were clearly unhappy to see Tertullian get any recognition at all.

Tertullian Was More Like a Church Uncle

Tertullian: Thanks everyone! It feels good to get some official recognition but I’m a bit uncomfortable about being called a “Church Father”.  I’d like it better if Jesus hadn’t said, “Call no man on earth father for one is your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) I do enjoy being a “Church Uncle” though so please just call me Uncle Turtle. Winning this Windy Award is sure more pleasant than getting excommunicated!  (Modern scholars acknowledge that Tertullian wasn’t a Trinitarian!).

The Threeness of God Startled Most Believers!

I remember when we first started kicking around our new ideas about the threeness of God. I knew this wasn’t going to go over very well with the average believer on the street. When I wrote  Against Praxeas I tried to make that clear. “The simple, indeed (much less will I call them ignorant and uneducated), who are always the majority of believers, are startled at the arrangement (of the Three in One) the very rule of faith directs them away from the world’s many gods toward the one and true God…”

Trinitas Was a Great Brand Name!

I knew that our new theological “arrangement” forming God into a tri-personal being was going to be a tough sell. I figured such a big idea called for a new “brand name”. Trinitas has a nice ring to it and was the best Latin word for the job. The rest is history! Once believers began using  the word trinity I knew we had a winner on our hands. Trinity sounds so spiritual and scholarly that it’s hard to resist! It’s also so hard to define that people who don’t understand it go along with it anyway!

Tertullian Rejected the Co-Equality of the Son

My adversaries should stop arguing with me about co-equality but we can talk about that another time.  For now all I can say is thank you for this terrific Windy Award! May God bless all of you except for “you know who” over there in the corner. He is still glaring at me after all these years! I do hope he comes to his senses someday and quits being so argumentative!

PS: Who would have ever guessed Tertullian was such an interesting character and a heretic to boot! He may be famous but according to Athanasius, Uncle Turtle isn’t even saved! We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime why don’t you share a link to  theologyallstars.com with a few friends and see what they think? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued….

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

Golfing Reveals the Trinity

The Emperor Needed Some Fresh Air

The last session of the All Stars Reunion, A Road Less Traveled, caused quite a stir! The uninvited intruder left many of the attendees feeling rattled.  Others thought a social break was in order anyway and that right now would be a good time for it. The Reunion Committee decided some good old-fashioned rest and relaxation was definitely in order! When someone suggested a golf outing the idea was received with enthusiasm by one and all. Emperor Constantine had just completed his mental health hold and he clearly needed some fresh air and fun. A day on the golf course was just what the doctor ordered!

The Church Fathers Wanted to Relax

It’s hard to imagine what it must be like for an emperor to play golf for the first time, but we shall try! The day began with high hopes and good intentions. The “church fathers” had never even heard of golf but thought it sounded like fun. Everyone agreed it would be a wonderful way to relieve some tension and create good will. Little did they know! The whole group felt energized and exhilarated as the day began. The idea of golf was exciting but the reality of golf was something altogether different! (Readers who have played the game will know exactly what I mean.)

Theologians Competed for Preeminence

Tensions began to rise when the  church fathers tried to decide who would get to drive the golf carts. Many refused to ride with anyone whose opinions were other than their own. The Romans felt they should be first in everything. The Alexandrians were convinced they knew more than anyone and that they alone should drive. The Antiochians argued for the beauty and history of their fair city. The team from Jerusalem just KNEW that no one was more qualified to lead and Constantinople insisted on preeminence too. It never dawned on anyone that none of them knew a thing about golf!

Emperor Constantine Made the Rules

In spite of his golfing ignorance Constantine was to be the final arbiter in all disputes (just as he had been at Nicea)!  His decisions were final, authoritative and binding on all golfers. This was most apparent when he tallied scores after each hole. No matter how many strokes a player might claim, Constantine had the final say. This was especially true of his own scores. No one dared challenge the accuracy or math on the emperor’s scorecard! On the very first hole took nine strokes to put his ball in the cup but he gave himself a three!  Then he proudly declared that he had just made par on his very first hole ever!

The Logic of the Trinity Prevailed

A few golfers argued that Constantine’s counting was faulty but he silenced them with indisputable trinitarian logic! The emperor proclaimed that three strokes in play equaled one stroke in scoring! He said there was no difference between three strokes and one stroke since they were all of the same essence.  Therefore his nine strokes were actually just three strokes and did anyone want to argue about it? It’s pretty hard to argue with that kind of logic! A unitary score subsists in a plurality of strokes and these must not be confounded or distinguished. It was all very reminiscent of the arguments that held sway in Nicea.

Does One Really Mean One?

Some players foolishly insisted that one stroke equals one stroke and that the meaning of one is simply one. Not surprisingly this caused them to be banned from play and their scorecards were burned and taken out of circulation. Those who persisted in their contrary ways were removed from the course and never seen again. Players who wisely supported the emperor were hailed as true champions of golf and also enjoyed imperial favor.

The Golfer’s Creed

“Multiple strokes in essence equal single strokes in scoring and the final score is thus a true and single score. Those who would play golf must first acknowledge that this is the only true and orthodox rule.”  This became known as the golfer’s creed and is why it is so important to keep a close eye on other players. There was much uncertainty and debate about how a plurality of actual strokes could equal a single scoring stroke.  Just because words are supposed to have meaning doesn’t mean that they mean what they mean at all! That was the beauty of the golfer’s creed!

Words Lost Their Meaning!

A great deal of confusion also arose over the meaning of the word four. Inevitably this raised the question of when or even if, it was ever proper to shout “fore” after hitting a bad ball. Misunderstandings over words and ideas began to multiply and some proclaimed that confusion owned the day. Debate also raged over whether an eagle should be considered a birdie, a fowl or a foul. Is it legal to use a putter to put a ball closer to the hole? or is the time-honored foot nudge the only acceptable method?

The Blind Were Leading the Blind

By the end of the day it became clear that the “blind were leading the blind” and no one was any the better for it!   The Church Fathers were “ever golfing but never coming to a knowledge of the game.” All in all though, it had been a fine day on the golf course and at least everyone got plenty of fresh air and sunshine.

PS: Once you begin to grasp the implications of Trinitarian “Logic” lots of things begin to make sense! Even if its peculiar reasoning doesn’t make any sense at all we can still have some fun with it. May God Bless us all, each and every one.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes