17 October 2010

Contemporary Theology

http://www.gsja.org/2010/10/15/an-overview-of-contemporary-theology/comment-page-1/#comment-2274


by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

Contemporary Theology
The following is an overview of theology over the last 50 years. It deals mainly with pinpointing certain theological trends and the most influential and well known movements of the day.


CONTENTS:
Fundamentalism
Neo-orthodoxy



Pentecostalism
Evangelicalism
Neo-liberalism
Post-Vatican II Catholicism
Eastern Orthodox Theology
The Charismatic Movement
The Theology of Hope
Process Theology
Secular Theology
Theologies of Success
Liberation Theology
Third Wave Movement: The Vineyard Movement
Feminist Theology
Reconstructionist (Dominion) Theology
The New Age Movement
Creation Spirituality



Fundamentalism
Fundamentalism as a movement began around the turn of the 20th century.  It was a reaction to liberalism and neo-orthodoxy to preserve conservative, biblical Christian truth.  The term “Fundamentalism” came about as it was used in a series of pamphlets that were published called The Fundamentals (1910-1915).  Two Los Angeles laymen, Lyman and Milton Stewart, who thought that every pastor and theological student should receive them, underwrote these documents.  They wanted them to be aware of the contemporary compromises being made by liberalism and neo-orthodoxy.

Liberal Presbyterianism was fought under the influence of the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church in 1910.  They created a doctrinal summary declaring the essential beliefs of inerrancy, Christ’s virgin birth, His substitutionary atonement on Calvary, His miracles, His physical resurrection and the hearing of His love.  The battlefield for this liberalism was mainly in the seminaries where J. Gresham Machen of Princeton fought for the truths of orthodoxy.  He, in turn, helped to found Westminster Seminary as a conservative alternative to the liberal education.  In 1936 he was forced to leave to Presbyterian church because of its increasing liberalism, and founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Equally, liberalism also affected the Baptists.  In 1919 the World’s Christian Fundamentalist Association was founded in Philadelphia.  The least bothered of the Baptist denominations was the Southern Baptist Convention.  In 1932 the GARBC was founded (The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) who identified five key goals: 1) an association of churches – not a convention, 2) complete separation from any liberal Northern Baptist works, 3) Conformity to the London and New Hampshire Confessions of Faith, 4) The fostering of missions among pastors, and 5) aiding churches in finding sound pastors.

Other founding denominations and groups at this time in contrast to liberal theology were The American Baptist Association organized in 1925, The Grace Brethren in 1937, The American Council of Christian Churches in 1941, Bible Baptist Fellowship in 1950, and the Independent Fundamental Churches of America in 1930.

Key ideas surrounding fundamentalism as it emerged was the growing isolation it was conveying from culture.  Religious separation demonstrated a movement away from culture and as a result caricatured for their objections to smoking, drinking, movies, card playing, dancing, lodges and the like.  Political activism also came to light and the religious right was born who were mainly drawn to fundamentalist ties.  Jerry Falwell, for example, founded the Moral Majority in the 1970’s.  Theologically, fundamentalism’s key ideas surround 1) the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, 2) the virgin birth and deity of Jesus, 3) the substitutionary Atonement, 4) the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus, and 5) the literal, physical return of Christ.

Neo-orthodoxy
Neo-orthodoxy, as it was known in North America, was also known as “crisis” or “dialectical” theology in Europe.  Most church historians see the founding father of neo-orthodoxy as Karl Barth.  Barth was a prolific writer who’s magnum opus is known as Church Dogmatics (which was over 8,000 pages long).  He has received mixed reviews among theologians, but among conservative orthodoxy his neo-orthodoxy is quite heretical.  Barth attempted to set the Gospel in a new language which could be understood by contemporary society because the old transmission of the Gospel was inadequate.  Barth taught universal election, and that the Word of God only becomes the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit to each individual in a subjective way.

Emil Brunner may also be seen as a co-founder of neo-orthodox theology.  He is known for his “crisis theology” which taught that a turning point in history occurs when God in Christ confronts humanity.  A person then became aware that there are two roads to take, one toward God and life and the other away from God and toward death.  Brunner, like Barth, rejected both liberalism and transitional orthodoxy.  Brunner’s work, called Dogmatics, was compiled before his death in 1966.   As with Barth, Brunner believed God did not reveal Himself through Scripture, but through experience with Scripture.  The ultimate revelation of God is found in the person of Jesus Christ and the Bible is where Christ meets the reader.  The Bible, then is not the infallible or inerrant word of God, but an “opportunity” to meet the reader as he reads.

Other important neo-orthodox figures include Reinhold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoffer.  Niebuhr may be regarded as the first American neo-orthodox pioneer.  His theology is expressed in his two volume work The Nature and Destiny of man.  Bonhoeffer was arrested by the German Nazi’s and sent to the Tegel Military Prison outside Berlin.  It was during this period that he wrote what later became Letters and Papers from Prison.  He emphasized “religionless Christianity”.  He was executed just before the camp was liberated, but had a great impact on Europeans and American theology through his written works, such as the Cost of Discipleship which antithesized cheap grace from real grace.

Neo-orthodox theology teaches that the Bible is not the Word of God in that it is a series of true verbal propositions to be believed.  Rather, it is an existential encounter with Jesus.  There is no standard of truth and no absolutes.  Jesus is God and Jesus is not God are equally true.  God is represented as wholly other.  He is completely transcendent and unknowable.  Neo-orthodoxy teaches universalism, and sees Jesus as God’s divine messenger of love to the masses.  Neo-orthodoxy also rejects the Fall (following Pelagius) demonstrating that people are not sinners when they are born.  Rather, they become sinful when they sin.

Pentecostalism
The Pentecostal denomination was an attempt to move back to the New Testament interpretation of the Church as it was practiced in the first century.  In 1900 Charles Parham, a former Methodist preacher turned “healer”, founded the bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas.  While the students there were engaged in a study on acts, Agnes Ozman received the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and could not speak English, but only Chinese, for three days.  Within a few days Parham, and most of the other students, had similar experiences.  Parham then held revival meetings over the next few years and by 1905, in Texas alone, there were 25,000 Pentecostal believers.  Another key figure was William Seymour, a black Holiness revivalist, who spawned the Azusa Street revival.  There many were said to be baptized in the Spirit, and his work was incorporated as the Pacific Apostolic Faith Movement.  A third key figure was Charles H. Mason, a former Baptist minister from Memphis, who had been “dispelled” (excommunicated?) from his denomination for proclaiming a second work of grace, and subsequently founded a new denomination, the Church of God in Christ.

Eudorus Bell, Howard Goss, Daniel Opperman, A.P.Collins and Mack Pinson founded the Assemblies of God in 1914 and formulated a statement of “truths” in 1916 at a Missouri Synod.  They taught Trinitarianism, Arminianism, two ordinances, a progressive view of sanctification, a second work of the Spirit in being “baptized” by Him with evidence of speaking in tongues, and a strong premillenial bent.

In Canada the Pentecostal churches began to emerge almost immediately after the Azuza street revivals took place.  Robert E. McAlister, a bible student from Ontario, heard what happened in Los Angeles and brought the message back to Canada subsequently experiencing the “latter rain” movement with heavy concentrations in Toronto and Winnipeg.  Pentecostalism then spread through Europe, Latin America, Africa, Russia, and Asia.

Pentecostalism is really a family of denominations rather than one entire denomination.  They do, however, teach much of the same thing.  Pentecostals declare themselves to be biblicists with no creed other than the bible.  They are Trinitarian (though at one stage a new sect grew out of a denial of Trinitarian doctrine called the “Jesus movement” spawned by Frank Ewart and G.A. Cook.  Today the United Pentecostal Church, the Black Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and the Apostolic Church of Pentecost deny the doctrine of the Trinity).  Pentecostals are in most cases Arminian, though there are strands of Reformed Pentecostals who believe in monergistic salvation.  Pentecostals believe in the freedom of man’s will, and are Semi-pelagian in their anthropology.  They are charismatic in their view of spiritual gifts and believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are in operation today.

Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism began in the 20th century as an attempt to unify fundamentalists and precipitate a national revival in America.  Originally, the term “evangelical” was used during the Protestant Reformation for those who rejected Roman Catholic Doctrine and adhered to the teaching of the Reformed church, although the meaning of the word in Christendom today is quite different.  Elwin Wright of the New England Fellowship toured the US looking for ministers who would band together to speak on the fundamentals of the faith and to unify Christianity.  He held a national conference in 1942 with four speakers who were tied to the task: Harolde J, Ockenga, William Ayer, Robert G. Lee, and Stephen W. Paine.  This sparked the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals in May of 1943.

Evangelicalism is characterized by an ecumenical spirit.  Denominational lines are crossed so that Baptists will work side by side with Methodists, and Methodists with Pentecostals and Pentecostals with Presbyterians, etc., for the cause of the Gospel.  In the 1960’s a new movement of Evangelicals came to light that desired to trace their steps back to the Pietistic and Puritan movements of church history.  Neo- Evangelicals are characteristic of holding to the inerrancy of the bible over higher criticism, seeing Christian practice as an indispensable evidence of saving faith, having a repudiation for Dispensationalism, reemphasizing the social dimension of the Gospel, and obtaining a fresh new dialogue with ecumenical liberalism and various other religious traditions.  They are characteristically inclusivistic rather than exclusivistic theologically.  If there were a single adjective that describes Evangelicals today, it would be “flexible.”  The problem, or dilemma of evangelicalism is that lines must be drawn in order to mark boundaries to the movement, but this will never happen in light of their historical track record which is, admittedly, a broad divergence of opinions, or a theological melting pot.

Neo-liberalism
The advent of Neo-liberalism took place just after World War I and during the Great Depression.  Harry E. Fosdick, Henry S. Coffin and H.P. Van Dusen were spokesmen for this movement which taugtht that the human predicament could be alleviated only with God’s help.  However, this “predicament” was characteristic of appealing to the masses in their “felt needs”.  Fosdick accepted a call to Park Avenue Baptist Church on the condition that the church accept a non-creedal open-membership policy.  This is typical of Neo-liberal churches.

Theologically, Neo-Liberalism teaches that the Bible is outdated, and that the message needs to be updated to appeal to the masses.  Henry P. Van Dusen taught that that Jesus Christ became a divine person based on his human experience that transcends this world to reach the divine.  The divine goodness is really a reality in Jesus Christ rather than Christ as the God-man.  Rudolph Bultmann, a European Neo-liberal, was famous for “demythologizing the Gospel.”  The gospel writers had written down what Jesus said, but the text we have today does not reflect this true words.  Rather, since we cannot get an accurate historical picture of Jesus from the Gospel, we have to demythologize them in order to see clearly what He actually did and said.  Most of the New Testament, then appears as a gloss by the early church to make Christ and the Christian Gospel more than they really are.

Paul Tillich became one of the world’s most controversial Neo-liberals to date and one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.  His theological method has been called the “method of correlation.”  It proposes that theology and philosophy should compliment one another.  Philosophy’s task is to formulate questions and theology’s task is to dialogue with philosophy to try and understand them.  He was unorthodox in every formation of biblical doctrine taking to heart that revelation was really the manifestation of our own ultimate concerns.  Man is trying to become a “New Being” of which Jesus Christ provides the moral example.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were regarded by him as myth, and meant something symbolically greater.

Neo-Liberalism began with attempting to make the Gospel practical in everyday life.  However, this noble goal suddenly became a component of higher critical thinking (which is really another way of saying a “rejection of tradition orthodoxy”) and an abrupt severing with Christian orthodoxy in all its forms.

Post-Vatican II Catholicism
From the time of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 until the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) the Roman Church said that there was no salvation outside the church.  Over the last fifty years, though, a new kind of Catholicism has come into play, and a reinterpretation of traditional ideas has emerged.  This has been blatantly evident as seen in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Vatican II was called by Pope John XXIII which was an international effort to renew the church and define Catholic doctrine.  John XXII set the tenor of the council in stating that the world needs healing rather than condemnation.

Major doctrines that Vatican II discussed were the church, revelation, and the eternal state of non-Catholics.  In relation to the church, it reaffirmed papal infallibility, but extended that authority to other bishops as well.  In the view of the laity, it used to be traditionally said that the church constituted only the clergy of the church, but that has now changed to include the laity.  In relation to Biblical Revelation, Vatican II moved away from the Thomistic emphasis on a rational approach to the knowledge of God toward an experimental and intuitive one.  This new move was more akin to neo-orthodoxy.  In terms of the Roman Church’s relationship to other people outside the church, they said that they were by no means deprived of the mystery of salvation, though salvation could only be found in and through Christ’s Catholic Church.  A new openness seemed to be in view here.  It embraces the “truth”, they said, in all religions.  Even atheists who live morally upright are said to be prepared of the Gospel and regards the qualities in these people as that light which lights every man on the earth.

There is no doubt that major shifts in emphasis occurred in Roman theology, and were later continued by men like Karl Rahner who taught the divinization of humanity, and Hans Kung, who embraces an experiential theology (Neo-orthodox) that embraces all humanity.

Eastern Orthodox Theology
The Eastern Orthodox church became known as an entity of its own after the schisms of 1054 with the Church of the West.  Previously the church had been one, until with divisions surrounding some theological views in the way theology was thought out between Eastern Theologians and Western Theologians came about.  As a result of a long and intense theological debate over the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son, the Eastern church entered into a number of political problems and ultimately divided itself from the Western church altogether in the Great Schism of 1054.

Today the Eastern Orthodox Church is really a family of churches composed of fourteen autocephalous churches (literally “self-headed” churches).  These include Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

Eastern Orthodox theology has changed little over the last one thousand years.  Their doctrine of revelation consists of both the Scriptures and of Tradition (big “T”).  They also accept ten deuterocanonical books in the LXX not present in the Hebrew Bible.  In their doctrine of God they are orthodox, though they do not follow the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son.  Rather, they believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father.  In their doctrine of man they are thoroughly Pelagian believing that Adam and Eve’s sin was not transmitted to the human race.  Temptation is passed on, but not sin.  Salvation is really the deification of the human being, and through the sacrament of baptism one would receive this salvation.  Their doctrine of the church remains exclusivistic in that there is one church in the world and the Eastern Orthodox Church is that one church.  They say there can be schisms from their church, but there can be no schisms within the church.  This is their way of allowing for other groups outside their church still retain the mystery of salvation.

The Charismatic Movement
The Charismatic movement has it roots in World War II as well as around some of the Pentecostalism trends that emerged at that time.  There was a heightened awareness for the “gift of healing” and a number of Pentecostal “evangelists” (Oral Roberts, William Branham, Jack Coe, and TL Osbourne) began holding evangelistic crusades which extended their ministries far beyond normal Pentecostal boundaries.  Later the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International was organized 1951, and was expanded by Oral Roberts to more than 100,000 members in 300 chapters, then expanding to over 3,000 chapters in more than 90 countries.

Other influential charismatic influences revolved around people like David du Plessi (who ministered to Pentecostals after a 1936 prophecy given to him by Smith Wigglesworth), Harold Bredesen (who formed the blessed Trinity Society), Dennis Bennet (who is officially credited to starting the charismatic movement in 1959), and Larry Christensen (one of the charismatic renewal leaders).  The movement as a whole took into consideration the need for Spirit-filled missions, and adopted the slogan “into all the world”.  Even among Roman Catholics there was a charismatic renewal through men like Ralph Keifer and Patrick Bourgeois whose interest in the Holy Spirit was peaked by reading The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson.

Basic elements of the charismatic movement revolve around a strong centrality of the lordship of Christ, inerrancy of the Scriptures (although revelation continues through prophecy and words of wisdom and knowledge), an emphasis on praise in worship, direct divine communication (which meant that God communicates directly with his people apart from the word of God), the continuation of all apostolic spiritual gifts to all those who receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the need for spiritual power to take authority over the devil (which entails spiritual warfare in exorcism, healings and deliverance ministries).

The Theology of Hope
The theology of hope has its roots in the existentialism of the 1960’s.  It is grounded in the eschatology of Albert Schweitzer who taught that faith, as it relates to history, insists that the meaning of history can only be discovered in its conclusion.  It is a resurrection theology which stands upon the looking back from the future than to it.  It, like Marxism, attempts to envelop the whole world – including field of politics, sociology, ethics, and biology, and has greatly impacted third world countries in their desire to rise up out of poverty and be liberated.

Jurgen Moltmann was a pioneer in this theology of hope.  He desired to transform the present and to press the believer to obtain the reality of hope and promise.  Promise is a declaration that announces the coming of a reality that does not yet exist.  This is really the transformation of culture.  Moltmann saw the events of Christianity as dialectical contradictions where the cross and the resurrection are total opposites.  The synthesis of this contradiction (following Hegel) is the promise of transformation for the world.

Other theologians who affected this line of thinking are Wolfhart Pannenberg (a German Lutheran) and John Baptist Metz (a Roman Catholic).  Their ideas are typical of the movement.  The movement itself will teach as a whole that God is never a God who reveals Himself in the past and present, but One who reveals Himself only in the future.  Jesus is not the God-man of the Bible as the eternal, unchangeable God, they do not believe that his death and resurrection were substitutionary or once for all His elect, and they believe salvation is an existential subjectivism rather than an objective reality.  While the theology of hope does not declare that God is dead, it certainly does not affirm His true life and the life than can be found in Jesus Christ.  Really, this theology of hope is a poor attempt at universalistic relativism that uses Christian ideas as a springboard for philosophy.

Process Theology
Process thinking has been said to reach back to the time of the Greeks and the philosopher Heraclitus (500 B.C.).  In recent times process theology was revived by Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) who believed the universe was in a constant state of change.  He believed that matter is eternal, and that God did not create the universe at all.  God is conceived as having a primordial nature that has potentiality to it, which means it changes.  God is a “god” of flux and change.

Process theology continued under the teaching of Charles Hartshorne, who rejected classic theism and held to pantheism.  Hartshorne differed from Whitehead on how God exists, not as flux, but as the ground for all worlds, or a pantheistic idea of God being everything everywhere as the foundation of the universe.

The teachings of Process Theology demonstrate their firm resistance to traditional orthodoxy.  They reject the Bible as God’s authoritative word (how could a pantheistic ideology hold to verbal revelation?).  the bible is only what one desires it should be subjectively.  Thus, there is no authority system except one’s own ideas.  God is seen as either in flux and changeable, or as in pantheistic ideologies.  Christ is not the Son of God and does not do miracles.  The Bible is myth in this regard, as true as the Olympian gods.  They reject Christ as the divine God-man, and see him only as the authentic man who sacrificed himself for his fellow human beings to show them a better way and higher view of life.  Salvation is not the inward regenerating work of God, but a self-consciousness that causes one man’s work for the community of humanity and fulfills his purpose for the good of mankind in general.  Process theologians are Pelagians who believe that men simply need to climb up the ladder of “humanitarianism” to reach a greater height before their fellow men in service to one another.  Process theology sets the stage of Open Theism which tends to view God in the same light as changeable, mutable, and likened to the Greek mythological Zeus.

Secular Theology
Secular theology was formally recognized in the 1960’s though it has it roots in the period of the Enlightenment.  It was profoundly influenced as a movement by neo-orthodoxy: Tillich’s “Ground of Being”, Bonhoeffer’s “worldly Christianity” and Bultmann’s “demythologization of Scripture.”  Secularism refers to a rejection or expulsion of religion and religious considerations.  The word “secular” means to transfer from ecclesiastical to civil or lay use.  In considering any secular theology, we are considering a theology of secularization rather than of secularism.

One movement in the secularization of theology was the Death of God movement.  George Hegel (1770-1831) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) (“God is dead and we have killed him.”)  This theological stance was carried by Thomas Altizer as one who resurrected Nietzsche’s thinking.  Altizer William Hamilton, Gabriel Vahanian and Jewish rabbi Richard Rubenstien all taught that humanity had killed God theologically.  The leader of secular theology is Harvey Cox, professor of divinity at Harvard University.  His work, The Secular City (1965), was a best seller.

Secular theology teaches that traditional orthodoxy and the traditional manner of interpretation, is no longer helpful.  Sin has no place in the theological outlook, and God is not sovereign, transcendent, not the Creator, and not a person.  It rejects Jesus Christ and His divinity as myth, and salvation, heaven, and hell are all considered from Bultmann’s neo-orthodox view which leaves them lifeless and mythological.

Theologies of Success
Theologies of Success are most fitted to the vanity and materialism of North American lifestyles.  The theology of self-esteem was born into the pop culture of the 1960’s and reacted against the theology of the Reformation that taught that men were sinners, and worms, before God.  Instead, the Pelagian Robert Schuller, pastor of the Reformed Church in America at the Crystal Cathedral, began “enlightening” the public with thoughts of the need for self-esteem.  His theological backbone was based on the thoughts behind Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.  If you think you can, then you can.

Schuller sees God as the Father of all men, and that people simply need to recall that God is their Father so that their worth and self-esteem will rise through positive thinking.  Sin is the villainy behind the oppression of humanity.  Schuller rejects original sin, and that Adam’s sin had any affect on humanity.  Sin for Schuller is any thought or act that would rob a man of his self-esteem.  To be born again, then, means going from negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  The church is the epicenter of this positive thinking and procreation of positivists.

Prosperity theology is the counterpart to theology of self-esteem.  It grew out of the historical roots made popular in the Americanized charismaticism of faith healing with Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland.  Charles Finney was a staunch proponent of faith healing and this type of idea that “faith always obtains the object.”  The real father of faith healing is the spiritualist E.W. Kenyon who used many of the Christian Science concepts and adapted them to Christian language.  Hagin followed Kenyon in the prosperity Gospel and passed this torch to his son, and others in the charismatic movement.

There are three theological essentials in prosperity theology:  awareness of the promise before it can be claimed, secondly, the key to prosperity is complete obedience, and three, the claim of authority over resources that have already been guaranteed by God.  Christ will give us all things so long as we believe.  This includes healing, financial prosperity, and the power of positive confession.

Liberation Theology
There is no epicenter to the movement known as liberation theology.  It would be more accurate to speak of Liberation “theologies”.  The movement attempts to define the international movement of eliminating oppression mainly in third world countries with the idea that only divine intervention can escalate the “liberation” of such oppressed people.  Wherever there is pain, there is the downtrodden and downcast.  Only the theology of Liberation can rescue them in the social anarchy.  Liberation theology, then, is best defined as God’s continuing work in the world where He rescues the oppressed and understand that important work to involve the reconstruction of persons and societies according to the “mold of the Master.”

Liberation theology’s inception began around the colonization of Latin America.  The Latin world is the cradle of Liberation Theology.  Vatican II and Medellin both acted as spurs to the movement.  Gustavo Gutierrez, a Pelagian, was a preeminent Latin theologian who is  considered to be the best systematician of the movement in his work A Theology of Liberation.  Jose Miguez-Bonio was a leading theologian in Argentina, ministering first in medicine, who wrote Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation, which is an excellent overview of the theology of Liberation.  Leonardo Boff ministered in his native land of Brazil, and was an Arian who taught that all humanity who are socially and historically oppressed need to be liberated.  Black Theology emerged in North America that also held to liberation theology.  Blacks were attempting to take control of their lives through black power.  Albert Cleage wrote The Black Messiah, which taught Christ was black and that the oppression on blacks should be resurrected in the black overhaul of white oppression.  Black theology looked for relief from social oppression where Latin theology sought refuge from economic oppression.

Liberation theology is basically anti-orthodox in every area of theology.  They deny the Sovereignty of God, the deity of Christ, original sin, imputation, justification by faith alone, and utilized a free spirited liberalism as their foundational theological viewpoint.  This theology has infiltrated most socially oppressed countries such as those throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Third Wave Movement: The Vineyard Movement
The Third Wave Movement came about as the result of two ministries that interested: C. Peter Wagener, professor of missions at Fuller Theological Seminary, and John Wimber, pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.  Wager had cultivated Pentecostal associations, and Wimber was immersed in power evangelism, miraculous spiritual gifts, Spirit anointing and contemporary faith healing.  By 1985 the Vineyard Christian Fellowship grew to 5,000 members and 120 other congregations.  Wimber published two books that became instant hits: Power Evangelism and Power Healing.

Third Wave theology claims to be non-charismatic, which obviously invokes confusion.  They believe that the Western Worldview of the church is wrong, and that it has become secularized.  As a result they desire to go back to the New Testament church.  They desire to go back to the Oriental idea of dreams, visions and mysteries housed in religion, seeing, what they think, are New Testament church signs and wonders.  There is no question that they are concerned for evangelism, but an evangelism that is linked with a communication of the Holy Spirit in insights, inklings and “strange thoughts.”  They also believe in power healing, where they see hundreds of people healed every month.  Also, they are immersed in the spiritual warfare and the supernatural.  They believe Christians should be aware of territorial demons, exorcisms, and the ability to wield the sword of the Spirit against such demonic influences.  Such is the case with their eschatological view which is overly premillenial.  Not only do they believe in the millennial reign of Christ on the earth, but that much of what will happen can be ushered in now.  Sickness and suffering, Wimber says, exist because Christians do not exercise their ministry of healing.  Suffering has no place in the eschatological kingdom and should not take place now.

Feminist Theology
Among theological movements in contemporary theology that tend toward liberation, Feministic theology is no different.  Some women believe that they struggle in every area of life and that they should obtain rights for women equal to those enjoyed by men.  These Feminists believe that the struggle for feminism roots back to the Reformation.  There, they say, that Martin Luther and John Calvin refuted the Roman Catholic ideas that women were spawns of the devil and unclean, those who tempt men to lust and wickedness.  Luther and Calvin can hardly be called feminists, but they did defend the biblical right of women.  Feminism, however, is much different than simply exegeting biblical doctrine.

By 1920 women were having a good measure of success in America.  By 1925 they could enter into most professions and even run in legislative offices.  The Great Depression slowed this work down, and World War II brought in jobs that were filled mostly by women.  The post-wars years brought a reaction against working women and a renewed emphasis on the women as homemaker, wife, and mother.

Feminism, though began in 1960 with its infiltration into two basic arenas – politics and commerce.  The mother of liberal Feminism was Betty Friedan who wrote The Feminine Mystique (1963), and said that all rights should be extended to all disregarding any sexual discrimination.  Marxist social feminism is another strand which plays on women’s inferiror status and its anti-class and anti-capitalist agendas.  Radical feminism is a group that sees all men as oppressors and wants to exclude them altogether.  Female homosexuals have also been an aggressive faction in the radical movement.

Theologically, feminism does not give place to the biblical ideas surrounding God’s Fatherhood, but desire to stress equally the Motherhood of God.  Feminists are strongly against a masculine interpretation of the bible, regardless of the constructions of the Greek and Hebrew languages in the masculine in reference to God.  Their desire is to demonstrate the motherly aspects of God as well.  Many feminists adopt a liberal stance in theology toward Jesus Christ, and salvation becomes a universalism that accepts all people.  Original sin is denied, and Dorothee Solle writes that sins are not particular things people do, but structures of power that rule over people.  Feminists desire to be ordained in the church, in equal opportunity in all offices, and many of the liberal denominations have given in to such pleas.

Reconstructionist (Dominion) Theology
Over the last thirty years a movement began around evangelicalism called the Christian Reconstructionist Movement.  It is also called Dominion Theology which follows a system of thinking about the manner in which the law works in society as well as in the church.  The movement is increasing in numbers because of its strong appeal to the law of God and the ushering in of the millennial stage in the here and now.

Gary DeMar characterizes the movement when he says that the Word of God (all Scripture) should be applied to all areas of life.  With faithful application in all areas of life, God will bless these efforts and His people in this age, and then in the age to come.  Under this system of law, crimes such as homosexuality and adultery would become capital offenses.  Dominion theologians are post-millennial and believe that there will be a long utopia era here on earth before Jesus returns.  Historically, Gary North says that twenty years ago this movement did not exist.  So it is a new trend that has not been part of the church for 2000 years.

Proponents of varying degrees, which are part of the Reconstructionist or Dominion camps, are men like R.J. Rushdoony (who is deemed the father of Christian Reconstructionism and wrote The Institutes of Biblical Law (1973)), Greg Bahnsen (who published Theonomy in Christian Ethics) and Gary North (who is known for his book Inherit the Earth: Biblical Principles for Economics (1987)).  The movement began under Reformed Philosopher Cornelius Van Til at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Theologically, Reconstructionists isolate three basic concepts that are important: 1) The immutability of God, 2) God’s character as perfectly reflected in the law, 3) as a result His laws are eternally binding.  They rest on three distinctive doctrinal foundations: 1) personal regeneration, 2) the application of biblical law to all areas of life, and 3) the advancement of that already present kingdom of God in history.

Theonomy is defined as the obligation of the Christian to keep the whole law of God as a pattern for sanctification and that this law is to be enforced by the civil magistrate where the stipulations of God so designate.  The phrase “By the whole law” is meant the law as codified in the Old Testament.  This is the hallmark of their systematic understanding of the Bible.

The New Age Movement
Defining the New Age Movement is difficult because it is a great melting pot of ideas that are as different as there are New Agers who believe them.  It is best described as a metanetwork, or network of networks.  These networks share common language but not necessarily common ideas about ultimate reality.  The term “New Age” suggests that humanity stands at the threshold of a new era that must be ushered in by enlightened thinking.  The problem is that New Agers rarely think through their ideas.  So it may be more suitable to say that the New Age is a new era being ushered in that stands contrary to traditional Christian orthodoxy.

New Age is an updated version of various concepts taken from Eastern Mysticism.  It is a westernized version of Taoism, Zen, ancient Babylonian religions, ancient Egyptian Religions, and Vedanta Hinduism.  The basic mantra is that “God is all and all is God.”  Helena Blavatsky imported oriental mysticism into the Americas in 1875, and it was given the name Theosophy.  It was a religion that claimed to receive its teaching from superhuman masters, and stressed the universal brotherhood of man.  Edgar Cayce was another exponent and catalyst for brining New Age teaching into the Americas, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was the link between new Age and the Catholic Church.

There are four main components of New Age Philosophy: Pantheism (all is God), reincarnationism (that people are brought back into this life in a new form after they die to relive life in a better way), relativism (what truth is right for you may not be right for me, but it is all truth nonetheless), Esotericism (the philosophy of enlightened knowledge following after Gnosticism of old).  Situational ethics rules New Age morality, and man is placed in the center of their “religion” removing the transcendent God altogether.  They reject any single source of revelation, and follow a myriad of various revelatory sources such as channeling, mediums, and religious books like the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, and the writings of their “prophets.”  They have a high regard for Jesus Christ but only as a good teacher (although that is a blatant contradiction since Christ taught he was God, and stands in direct opposition to New Age thinking.)   Sin is a matter of ignorance and salvation revolved around the esoteric knowledge they are seeking after in having an experience with their God-consciousness. Satan is even seen as Lucifer – the highest order to which man can elevate himself, and that Lucifer acted in the best interest of mankind by tempting Eve to discover her God-consciousness.  The New Age movement stresses experimental subjectiveness as opposed to an objective religion, which is why it has such a large appeal – everyone makes up their own ideas and calls it “religion.”

Creation Spirituality
Spirituality has always attempted to pull the church back to its spiritual roots.  However, whenever a movement of “spirituality” takes place, it is often one which enters into the mysticism of spiritualism instead of spirituality.  The founder of creation spirituality is Matthew Fox, who lived during the mid 20th century.  He was ordained in 1967 and came under the influence of Thomas Merton while studying in Paris.  His goal was to make theology palatable to the public at large.  In 1977 Fox established the Institute of Culture and Creation spirituality.  Merton was profoundly influenced by medieval mystics though his reading of men like Hildegard of Bingen and Meister Eckhart.

Mysticism is a type of religious procedure which centers on personal experience of the divine.  Fox’s focus is toward the primal sacraments, as he calls them (earth, wind, fire and water) so that the subject can experience nature and the divine all at one time.  Its context is to be found in properly defining cosmology (in which Fox uses creation spirituality and the word cosmology as synonyms) and a living cosmology constituted by the holy trinity of science (knowledge of creation), mysticism (experiential union with creation and its unnamed mysteries), and art (expression of our awe at creation).  There are fourth paths which lead the subject to a higher mystical experience: the first path of the via positiva or a friendly attitude toward Mother Nature, the second path is the via negativa where one discovers the darkness and mystery of creation, the third path is the via creativa where one realizes they are co-creators with God, and the fourth path is the via transformativa where the world will ultimately be recreated with a new world order in which peace and justice rule supreme.

Theologically creation spirituality rejects the God of the bible for a pantheistic God in which God is in everything and everything is in God.  Fox refers to the Holy Spirit as Mother Sophia, and the person of Jesus Christ as the prototype for the new world order and the renewal of God’s image in man.  Jesus is a way to God, but not the only way to God.  Sin is not something human beings “must do” since they have the innate ability not to sin.  They must realize this and awaken to the new order where peace rules, rather than sin.  Human being must see themselves in this new light where the new age will begin, consequently named the Aquarian Age.  It is easy to see Fox’s influence by New Age principles.

Two Third-World Theological Directions
Most of what is happening theologically in third world countries really involves Liberation theology and the movement to raise up the socio-economically oppressed.  Asian theology has attempted to demythologize the Gospel and recapsulate it into its new context.  This, though, loses the Gospel in the transition.  Culture, instead, must be adapted to the truths of Scripture.  The Waterbuffalo theology of Kosuko Koyama in Thailand follows a distortion of the 1 Corinthians 9:22 passage about being “all things to all men.”  Yin-Yang theology is the concept developed of an American educated theologian from North Korea named Jung Young Lee.  He teaches that theology must be “either-or”.  He believes that Westernized minds follow Aristotle when they should be following Oriental philosophy of the tension between right and wrong, and how these could both be right at the same time from different perspectives (which is relativism).

African theology is moving away from what they call “European imperialism” and toward the teachings of John S. Mbiti.  Mbiti believes that one must be unified with Christ while at the same time embracing culture (and in this case it is the African culture against its Westernization).  Also, E. Bolaji Idowu, another African theologian, attempts to teach Christianity in the context of other African religions, which has created religious syncretism.  He sees the gods of the Africans as divinities that have come to teach some things until the sovereign God of the universe is revealed to them.  Christ has no significant role, then in Idowu’s philosophy.
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