Friday, May 18, 2007

The Ancients: Irenaeus

I'm teaching Sunday School these days and I'm doing a seven week series on Genesis 1-3. I had intended this week to discuss the deeper purposes in creation, hoping to draw alot from some Barthian concepts I've been hearing about and throwing around this past year. And then today I'm reading Justo Gonzalez' A History of Christian Thought and I come across Irenaeus. Irenaeus is going to teach my Sunday School class this week.

Here is some of Justo's summary of Irenaeus' theology:

"This idea of growth is important for an understanding of Irenaeus. According to him, Adam and Eve were not created as perfect in the sense that they were all that God called them to be, but were rather created so that they could develop and grow in the image of God which is the Son....

For him, Adam and Eve were only the beginning of God's purpose in creation. Adam and Eve were 'like children,' whose purpose was to grow unto a closer relationship with God. Furthermore, that growth was not something to be achieved by Adam and Eve on their own power, but was rather part of the continuing creation of God.

As creatures of God with the purpose of growth, Adam and Eve were free. This freedom is not understood in idealistic terms, but is simply the possibility of fulfilling God's purpose....

[Satan] tempted Adam and Eve, not to oppose the purpose of creation, but rather to accelerate the purpose that God had ordained and thus to disrupt the order established by God. When Satan said, 'You will be like God,' he was simply affirming God's purpose in creation. But when Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation they broke the divine plan and thus became slaves of sin and death....

[However,] even these diabolic instruments can be used to achieve the divine ends. Thus, death serves as a limit to our sinful possibilities, and our enslavement to sin is an occasion to acknowledge God's goodness and to praise God's grace.

In spite ofthe Fall, God does not abandon us, but rather loves us continually. In so doing, God is simply carrying forward the divine plan, conceived from the beginning....

We who live between the resurrection and the consummation are not living in a period of truce in this struggle of centuries, but are living precisely at the time in which Christ is making effective his victory, in order to lead us to the final day."

I have yet to investigate all of this, but this sure rings true to me when I read the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, as I read the ancients I feek like I'm finding my faith again. I had this caricature in my head of Christ as merely God's patch up job after the Fall and of salvation as the secret password of the altar call. But this is a lot closer to Gnosticism than Christianity.

Yesterday I was scanning the bookshelves of recent church and pastoral theology in order to find a topic for a paper on the theology of ministry and I just couldn't stand it. It was all so slick and success-driven. Everyone had their secret to an effective ministry. The books were making me gag.

Lately it is the ancients who are keeping my faith alive. Today it is Irenaeus. Gonzalez says this second century theologian is important because his writings bridge a gap between that of the apostles and the 3rd century, and "his theology ... has repeatedly been a source of theological renewal." I had always heard this guy's name and I knew he was important. But now he has become important to me.

3 comments:

Tony Tanti said...

I really like this framing of Adam and Eve and their purpose. It makes more sense and answers the old question of why God would bother to make something perfect that he knew would blow itself up and become unperfect. Maybe it never was perfect, just very good.

Tony Tanti said...

This line of thinking got me to thinking about the tree, maybe God created it with the intention that they would eventually eat it, when they were ready. Maybe the sin was not in the eating of the fruit but eating it too soon.

Jon, Angie, Elijah & Brady said...

yeah, see my old post on the tree for a similar thought.