Thursday, April 26, 2007

End of Semester Insanity

The end of my last semester at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky draws near and my attention is focused on three large term papers I must finish by May 13th. I've taken some of the best classes I've ever had in any university setting this semester and all three papers should prove interesting. My classes this semester were "The Philosophy of C.S. Lewis" and "The Problem of Evil" with Dr. Walls and "The Theology of John Calvin" with Dr. O'Malley. Doctors Walls and O'Malley are two of my favorite professors here and the content of the courses has been quite good. I thought the subjects of my term papers might interest some of you so I describe them here below along with the appropriate illustrations:It's been cool taking a Calvin course at an Arminian seminary. I haven't yet taken our systematic theology (Basic Christian Doctrine) so the only systematic I will have taken on campus will have been John Calvin's. For class we've read the majority of The Institutes and a good biography by Wendell. My paper will focus on Calvin's idea of the third use of the law, how that theology affected his pastoral ministry and then compare that to Luther's concept of the law and how that affected his ministry. I'm not a fan of all of Calvin's theology but I do like his third use of the law. Basically, Calvin said that the law was useful to instruct Christians to lead a holy life. This is contrary to Luther's view where after a person is saved the law no longer has any claim on a person's life. “If I look to myself,” said Luther, “then all is flesh, all is sin. If I look to Christ, I am completely holy and pure, and I know nothing at all about the Law.”
I chose the cover of David Bentley Hart's book The Doors of the Sea as the illustration for my Problem of Evil class because I thought it was such a poetic and profound account of the problem of evil and theodicy. I highly recommend this book! This class has been the best I've taken at Asbury. The readings have been intensely interesting and the class discussions enlightening. I became interested in one theme from The Doors of the Sea - that of the problem of natural evil. Hart suggests that natural evil could be the result of demonic activity. I'm going to go at this problem, trying to defend the thesis that natural evil is actually the result of a corruption of creation resulting from the fall. I'm going to check out some commentaries on Romans 8:20-21, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," and go from there. I've started on my Lewis term paper and hope to finish it tomorrow. I'm exploring some ideas surrounding one of the characters from Lewis' The Great Divorce. The character is the liberal Episcopal bishop. The bishop has taken a bus ride from hell into heaven and has a discussion with a former friend and classmate who is in heaven. The chapter is a wonderful indictment of liberal theology and I would say also much of postmodern thought. Let's just say I bring a lot of passion to this subject - I grew up in a liberal church and I'm still recovering. I think a lot of Christians, epecially those who have always been around evangelicals or fundies, are very ignorant of the serious dangers of liberal theology. I love what one of my professor's Lawson Stone had to say about liberalism, "I personally believe it to be the most effective heresy Satan ever fomented on the church."

Well, now I've spent another hour procrastinating. God's Peace.


Arthur said...

Hey Matt,

It prolly wont be something you would include in your paper as it is a very Catholic approach, but you could do worse than this quote as an entry into the meaning of Christian suffering:

"I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body that is the church" (1 Col 24)

Christian suffering is really quite different than suffering in general, I believe.

BTW, I took a a course in CS Lewis from Peter Kreeft as a philosophy undergrad at Boston College. Simply amazing.

Good luck with your exams.


MattJP said...

Wow, a course on Lewis with Peter Kreeft - that must have been amazing. I really like Kreeft's stuff.

We have discussed the more Catholic approach to suffering you mentioned. It is one of the better approaches to the problem of evil in my opinion and it's generally how I tend to think about sufferings in my own life.

Anna said...

I'm procrasitnating, too, and I'm about to write the rest of my speech on chastity, which is ending up being a highly-applicable topic to seminary life. I'm interested in how chastity preserves the body of Christ, and is a deeply-woven virtue in Christian Lauren Winner's book on chastity, Real Sex. I was highly sceptical but she won me over with her awesome, holy ideas.