Archive for March, 2009

Lecture Notes from Theology 1050 (03/30/2009)

Monday, March 30th, 2009

THL-1050 – Professor Ruscil

03/30/2009 – 16:30

Next Monday – 2nd Quiz, same format (T/F & Mult. Choice), next Wed. we’re not going to meet.

Final quiz, end of April, finish reading Borg book by then.

Start thinking of a topic for the research project, from 7 topics. 1 of the gospels (matthew, mark, luke or John), outside the bible, the gospel of Thomas, or the Dead Sea Scrolls (a general outline), or the Q document. Type of research is more or less the background information, not about the document itself. Form criticism, redaction criticism, authorship, dating, historical circumstances behind the document.

Today: Dialectical Theism, how Trinitarian theism ties in

DT is trying to move away from supernatural, classical, theism, which is influenced by Greek philosophy. DT = if we can let go of the idea that God is the miraculous, superstitious, god that intervenes in man’s affairs. DT = A god who is very present to creation, but is not in complete control, actually powerless, defenseless in the face of evil. God granted full freedom/autonomy to his creation, which created his self-limitation. God can’t be in control, otherwise freedom wouldn’t be real.

Process Theology

A God who in the beginning is not yet God but is in the process of becoming (a different type) God (than he was in the beginning). A trinitarian God.

· A God that needs to self-actualize, self-actualization of the trinitarian dimension.

· The 2nd dimension of God (acc. to x-tianity) (“person”) à”God’s capacity to relate with & co-exist with “another”. (We’re not talking about Jesus here)

1. Creation becomes the “condition for the possibility” for an authentic relationship with another.

2. Freedom & full autonomy is a pre-requisite for relationships

3. God becomes vulnerable, defenseless, & limited in relationship to creation.

4. God’s dependence on creation for self-actualization means that the creation/human beings become co-creators, therefore there is RISK involved for God.

5. God’s self-limitation creates the opening for evil – many free agents alongside God in creation – consequences of freedom results in evil.

6. Jesus is the first, concrete manifestation of God’s goal for creation

7. Creation is a continuous activity of God – God creates in order to redeem (or in order to come into union with that creation). Redemption is the crown of creation. Creation continues until the final goal is met.

If God doesn’t have this power but is subject to the freedom of the material world, how do you talk about God’s involvement in the world, and should people be praying for God to accomplish things in the world (if he’s vulnerable)?

Pan entheism

Greek, pan = “everything”, theos = “god”, + en = “within” = Everything is within God, God is within all things, working through, with, and in, always in the context of freedom.

God is not separate from creation, he is within.

God within everything (immanence)

· But always more than created reality (transcendence).

· Connecting to sacraments, the created has the capacity to manifest the sacred

· God’s mode of acting/presence in the world is incarnation

· Connecting to Christology – Jesus is the climax of God’s incarnation activity

Lecture Notes from Theology 1050 (03/25/2009)

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

THL-1050 – Professor Ruscil

03/25/2009 – 16:30

New Topic: A Contemporary Image of God
A synthesis of all previously covered topics

Two poles

Transcendence <—————– God —————–> Immanence


– Classical Theism (AKA Supernatural Theism) [theism = belief in God, the opposite of atheism]: This model always emphasizes God’s distinctness, God’s separateness (aloofness) from the world (Greek origin)
– Of the attributes attributed to God, omnipotence is the one most often emphasized here, the puppeteer, God is pulling all the strings/in total control
– Also God’s immutability is also emphasized
– God’s impassibility (the etymological root is “passion”, suffering) – God cannot suffer or be affected in any meaningful way by anything outside God. Therefore, God cannot be affected by creation.
– The unmoved mover
– Comes from Greek philosophy, the ideal of perfection, metaphysics

Evil in this view = (if God is all-powerful) God IS able to prevent evil; yet evil does exist. Therefore for some reason God is unwilling to prevent/thwart evil.

Critiques of this view:

– Cancer, famine, war, etc. are of God
– Evolution does not support the view that God is in total control. Matter is self-structuring, the molecular world is self-engineering, randomness in nature, a great deal of chance, a great deal of molecular self-actualization.
– Survival of the fittest
– Freedom: If God really is in total control, does freedom make any difference? Predestination, the plan of God, is freedom just an illusion? If so, what of hell? Would nuclear destruction of the earth be stopped by God if it wasn’t his will, or if it happens, would it be his will?

Strength of this view:

– the providence of God -> God has the capacity to influence the outcome of human history.


– no real acceptance of human freedom


– Biblical Theism (Hebrew origin)
– Emphasizes God’s presence (in the world) struggling with humanity against evil
– (Our) Experience of God in history (as a liberator, as a savior, Egypt, etc.) God’s saving power lies in historical events

– God is compassionate, merciful, and loving; God is actively involved in the world.

Weakness (in this view):
– If God is loving and compassionate,
– God is willing to prevent evil; but evil exists (nevertheless). Could it be possible that God is unable to prevent evil?
– What happens to God’ power b/c he seems so vulnerable and limited

accepts (human) freedom

God (the center of these two poles, a contemporary view)

– Dialectical Theism:
– offers an image of God where God IS unable to prevent evil
– God creates to enter into a relationship, but freedom and autonomy are requirements in/demanded by an authentic relationship
– evil is the exercise of freedom/autonomy
– freedom is God’s limitation in relation to this world
– God depends on creation for its acceptance of God.

If there is a goal to creation, it has to take place in the context of freedom. If God brings creation to a specific goal; God MUST be involved.
God acts through human freedom, humans are co-creators with God.
God acts not through force, but through inspiration, through allurement, or through persuasion.

Lecture Notes from Theology 1050 (03/23/2009)

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

THL-1050 – Professor Ruscil

03/23/2009 – 16:30

Reading handout on Gnosticism, a particular form of dualism that x-tianity battled with in the early (post-1st-c.) church (after the diaspora to Greece). Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities, ch 06

Next quiz: Mon. of “Holy Week” (Wed. class may be canceled that week). Covers all material covered since the mid-term. Review next Wed. (read all articles, more content than the first quiz)

2nd response paper assignment will be assigned then too.

Tonight: Compare and contrast biblical x-tianity to a type of dualistic, platonic x-tianity that x-tians inherited after moving to the Greek world.

To understand the message of what Jesus was about, the Jewish side must/should be understood.

The body has no understanding of categorical parts of itself. There is no dichotomy. Not a Jewish concept, this came from the Greeks.

Lord’s prayer, un-Greek. Asking for heaven to come down to earth (not for earth to go up to heaven)

If God grants life for either of these two groups, it will mean greatly different things. For Jews “something we can experience”, for the Greeks, “afterlife”.

The assumption of Mary, the feast is about Mary being assumed bodily, the symbol of x-tian discipleship, see #9 under Hebrew Spirituality below.

Hebrew Spirituality:

1. Make-up of humanity:

· Embodied persons (synthetic)

· Hebrew “bashar” –> difficult to translate, but “flesh” might be a way to approach it. “All flesh will see the salvation of God”. “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God”. Not really in the “meat” sense, but emphasizes our common, objective dimension that we share together. –> Human attributes like weakness, corruptibility (physical and moral), mortality, etc.

· Hebrew “nephesh” –> Again difficult to translate, but “personal self”, or “living beings”. “Self” – emphasizes the subjective dimension, not psychological, not an inner quality. –highlights relational dimension; emphasizes life. Both these (bashar and nephesh) refer to the totality of a person. They are inseparable, there is no dichotomy, one cannot be without the other.

2. Motto: I AM my body

3. Approach to life: living life to the fullest; embracing bodily life (Braveheart reference again given, eveyone’s going to die but not everyone lives).

· Quality = blessings of God (pleasures)

4. Human vocation –> to become fully human through your relationships / any diminishment of life = evil. (The glory of God is the human person fully alive.)

5. Sin = based on our behavior within relationships/alienation, etc.

6. Main human attribute –> heart, desire of the human person, or the will St. Bernard “What you love is what you will become”

7. The enemy of humanity: death (and any type of physical, emotional, or spiritual handicap that lessens human living)

8. Major Conflict: life vs. death –> Salvation must be an embodied reality.

9. Salvation/Redemption –> focus is on the totality of the embodied person –> “resurrection”/transformation of life, a completely transformed physical totality.

· Emphasize the sanctity of the body

Greek Platonic Spirituality:

1. Make-up of humanity: dichotomy of body to soul

· Body –> temporal, provisional, a shell

· Soul = The “real” you, the center of consciousness, the subject of a person, immortal (Socrates, don’t worry about my body, my soul will transcend. Kind of a cavalier attitude about death, as opposed to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, much more grave (though hemlock vs. crucifixion is something to ponder)

2. Motto: I have a body

3. Subjugating bodily desires; needs; passions to the spirit;

· “Asceticism” –> denial of bodily need

4. To rise above & transcend physical, bodily life > soul is imperiled through body –> “apatheia” –> ideal of life > total detachment

5. Sin = what we do with our bodily life/ bodily life is context for sin

6. Main attribute –> knowledge or intellect. Salvation & knowledge go together.

7. Physical existence is the enemy; death is positive –> the release of the human soul from its prison of earthly life

8. Conflict: body vs. soul –> world is static, no chance of change, no hope, nothing new is going to happen in the world. –> Salvation is escaping.

9. Salvation –> emphasizes the the immortal/disembodied soul

· Focus is on the eternal (after-)life of the “other world”.