Setting the Stage
Can Christians show forth the intelligibility of the Christian Faith? Can the Bible be a book that makes sense as opposed to being contradictory? I personally think the long-winded answers to these questions are ‘mostly yes.’ Quick glances lead to no.
My proposal is to offer a more historical look at the Bible and team this with philosophy. With this foundation the two questions above can be mostly satisfied. I say “mostly satisfied” because I think certainty is difficult. I cannot guarantee this for any one individual. My account seeks to satisfy the criteria of explanatory scope and power given a correct understanding of Christianity’s own development through the centuries (Part 3 of the book).
This book will not offer any arguments for God’s existence. My conviction, based on the argument from necessity (in a contingent universe or series of contingent universes you need necessary being, of which God is the best explanation) is that God does in fact exist. Neither will I spend time on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Good books have been written on the topic.
The focus of this work is to make sense of the grand plan of God through the developmental period in the Old Testament on forward to Jesus Christ. Christians often fail to account for the developmental features of their Scriptures. Failing to do so makes their internal consistency impossible.
Going further, I want to offer a couple of theological and philosophical categories that will enable the Christian to deal with ‘difficult’ portions of the Bible. The Christian always has the option to argue for the justice of a given action in Scripture, but I will argue that this is often misdirected. We should be realists when it comes to our own book. There are times we should agree as God himself does, that a passage of Scripture is unjust.
There is much interest regarding the ‘justice’ of passages from both believers and non-believers. Being a Pastor I get to look at texts of Scripture for every Sunday service. I ponder them for the community and what they meant long ago and how we can apply them today. Religious answers are not always philosophically sound answers. They are helpful in their time to help a stuck community and more. Without Philosophy however, we remain stuck ourselves.
This work I am interacting with broader questions in the philosophy of religion. I wholeheartedly hope that more people in society begin engaging with philosophy, the love of wisdom. Our society could use it. It is here, that I think many of my non-believing readers will get closer to voicing an “Amen!” The task of this book is one based on reason, and therefore the joint pursuit of skeptic and believer alike.
Most of what I am writing draws upon the classic ideas resident within the developmental period of the first few centuries of Christianity and even into the middle ages. For most of the Christians I meet, these ideas sound foreign. The reasons for this is manifold. Lack of philosophical training, no knowledge of Church history, a disconnect from the centuries after the close of the New Testament and more.
One of the most important ideas of this book comes from Saint Irenaeus, a Christian Bishop in the second century. In his classic work called, “Against Heresies” he focuses attention on God’s plan to mature his creation. Maturing humanity is the central idea of this book. This idea connects greatly both with Scripture and the natural world that we live in.
When applying Irenaeus’ concept of maturation to the whole of humanity and the universe, one can ‘go back’ to the Garden and make better sense of the whole account. Moreover, one can make better sense of why there is updating internal to the Bible in the first place. Maturing humanity helps to understand the whole of the religious communities which produced the Bible.
Not only does this perspective make better sense of the whole of the Bible, it also affords Christians a friendly relationship with the biological sciences which are ripe with maturing themes. An Irenaean understanding of things would be hard pressed to be hostile to evolution, even if it was not true. Irenaeus predated Darwin by over 15 centuries, and the two perspectives make a lovely couple. On the other hand, let’s be clear that since this starting point took place before the rise of modern science, it simply must end any suspicion that my own account is a mere accommodation to modern categories.
For some in early Christianity, developmental themes continue even after death. Gregory of Nyssa thought that in heaven we are “pressing forward, drawn by love, to penetrate further into God.” Even in heaven there is room to grow and mature. One does not get to know all of God all at once, since God is still above and beyond humanity’s capacities.
Not only does the maturing humanity concept give us a better start to making sense of humanity in the Bible (and general history), it links us to the rest of the pages of Scripture also. If God’s purpose was to offer maturity to the early and quite tribal human race, then we have ourselves a recipe for why there are changes within the Scriptures as the centuries go by. New books are written to further reveal God, and further mature humanity.
Let’s get started.
 ("History of Philosophy," Copleston Volume 2, p. 36).