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The earliest surviving plan of Jerusalem.
Detail from the Madaba mosaic (ca. 565).
6th century plan of Jerusalem

Stanley Anderson's

Theology Subject List

(Scroll further down the page to see the text of the subjects in order, or click on a subject title to jump directly to it.) Return to the Loose Cannons main page to see subjects in the other categories of Philosophy, Science, and Mathematics.

Introduction to the Theology Section

We at Bearish Hall attend a traditional Anglican church, and believe and maintain a central core of orthodox and creedal Christianity. The tradition of our church has been called the Via Media (the middle Way), and a phrase that is applied to many practices (e.g. auricular confession) within the church is "Everyone can, some should, no one must."

This outlook allows for wide ranging discussion in the church, but one of the purposes of orthodoxy and creed is to set boundaries. So, as an example, though some may be interested in contemplating homosexuality in the priesthood, this is not a subject on the fringes of orthodox Christianity, but falls squarely outside the borders; it is, therefore, a topic for someone else's website.

On the other hand, I do present some ideas that question some aspect of Scripture or orthodox doctrine (e.g., see "Train up a child . . ."), but always with the assumption that the error lies in defective reasoning on my part, not in Scripture or doctrine. It should be clearly understood that all subjects are approached with humility, and that enlightenment is being sought, not darkness and doubt. If answers to Scriptural questions are not forthcoming, the proper reaction is not the rejection of Scripture, but acceptance of one's own inadequacies in understanding the things of God.

If any topic I approach, thinking it to be on the fringe, can be shown to be clearly outside the borders, I will respectfully back off of it. Intellectual discussion, from a Christian perspective, can be productive only in honest obedience to the authority of Scripture and Church.

The foregoing guidelines should defuse pointless debates on opinions which, even if made to sound reasonable by clever argument, can only be discarded in faith by the orthodox. Even the intellect must give way before God's authority as revealed by Scripture and His Church. But far from dulling the discussion, I believe this limitation can actually enhance the contemplation of "fringe" ideas. As G. K. Chesterton, famous for his paradoxes, points out, the confines of orthodoxy free and clarify one's thinking about things spiritual.

Finally, these discussions should not be seen as any kind of substitute for the central tenets of Christianity, or as an effort to see how far one can safely wander from that center. Indeed, it will be see that most of them seek rather to illuminate an orthodox view in a (hopefully) new and unexpected way. Anyone approaching these discussions without the foundation of orthodox faith will probably not benefit from them.

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Humour and the Fall of Man

(Note: This subject is not connected in any way with the so-called "Toronto Blessing" having to do with laughter in the Church. I have only vaguely heard of that movement and know virtually nothing about it.)

Of all my "Stan theories," as my wife, Angelee, calls them, this is the most difficult to convey without misunderstanding -- but here goes. . . .

My starting point is to ask what it means for something to be funny (as in humour). I also try to imagine an unfallen angel (not the fanciful cute babies with wings or beautiful slender women, but the dreadful and awe-inspiring creatures from Scripture that cause men to fall on their faces in terror and whose first words are nearly always a reassurring "Fear not!"), and I find it difficult to picture an angel laughing at someone slipping on a banana peel.

This has led me to conjecture that humour came into existence as a result of the Fall (maybe the forbidden fruit was really a banana and Eve, after eating it and not knowing what to do with the peeling, carelessly left it on the ground for Adam to slip on, thereby bringing about the Fall of Man and introducing Humour into the world simultaneously -- I'm sorry, I couldn't resist -- this is meant to be a serious essay). I'm not referring here to joy or happiness or lightheartedness, but just straight humour -- what comedians attempt to do.

I have found that this conjecture is almost always greeted with disbelief and (good natured) ridicule. The people I mention it to generally reply that, surely laughter is a good thing, and how could I possibly suggest otherwise?

This is where my difficulty in conveying the idea arises. My explanation is that the funniness of a situation is always based on the fallen condition of someone or something (often nature) -- situations that would normally be sad or irritating or even evil, were it not for humour. Most importantly, these are generally situations that wouldn't exist in an unfallen world.

BUT (and I've found that I can explain this ten times over and people will still not hear it) THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT HUMOUR IS EVIL OR BAD! I agree that it is a good thing! I see humour as something good that God has brought out of the Fall. The Resurrection of Christ was a result of the Fall; it would not have been needed if mankind had never sinned. But no sane Christian would suggest that the resurrection was anything but good and glorious. God has taken a bad situation and brought good out of it. In the same way, I wonder if God has not created this good thing -- humour -- that is so hard to analyze, out of the sadness and frustration and evil that is the fallen world.

Even if someone were able to show that my original illustration was wrong -- if they could prove that unfallen angels do, in fact, laugh at things -- it would not disprove my theory. Adam and Eve put on clothes to hide their nakedness as a result of their fall into sin. But Christ, the second Adam who remained unfallen, did not forego clothing as he walked through the world. By the same token, I could imagine humour being available now to all creatures, fallen or unfallen. In fact it makes me wonder if perhaps humour might be a sort of allegorical clothing for our souls to cover the nakedness of our sadness from sin.

I have written about this idea as though I believed it to be true. It is really only an idea that I find interesting and cannot prove wrong. If you have any views on it, please email me.

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Quantum Christianity

The theory of quantum mechanics says that a fundamental unit of matter (or energy) has a dual nature. Looked at in one way, it behaves as a wave, and looked at in another way, it behaves as a particle. It is not that it is part wave and part particle; it is one hundred percent wave and one hundred percent particle. If either the particle nature or the wave nature is left out, the theory is incomplete.

Does this sound familiar? Replace matter (or energy) with the second Person of the Trinity, and particle and wave natures with the Human and Divine natures of Christ, and you have an almost perfect creedal description of the Son of God. It is almost as if God has woven His nature into the very fabric of creation at the atomic level.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and, when he is old, he will not depart from it." --Proverbs 22:6

The proverb quoted in the title is used as an admonition to parents; and we quake in our boots at the thought of it, because we are so aware of how imperfect we are. But God is the perfect Father and we, as His children, have departed in sin from His Way. Did He not train us up in the way we should go? If so, what went wrong, and how do we reconcile this proverb with God's perfection and our own waywardness?

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The Limits of "Science vs. Theology"

(Note: This section was written before the recent headlines regarding the Pope's comments on evolution.)

The "Creation vs. Evolution" debate falls under the "interesting, but common, with many other avenues of discussion available" category mentioned in the introduction to this page, so I don't really want to carry on that debate here. However, I do have a comment/question about what the Christian philosophy on teaching science should be.

I have observed that evolutionists are not usually content to teach what they believe happens in the evolutionary process, but seem to imply that one must deny any possibility of divine intervention in order to pursue the theory of evolution. If this intractable "religious" faith in an atheistic science is what Creationist object to, then I say, "fight on."

But if the theory itself is objectionable because it seems to leave God out of the picture, I would ask how this objection should be handled in general. For instance, when I let an apple drop to the ground, does gravity pull it down, or does God make it fall to the ground? When I flip a coin, do statistics say it has a random 50-50 chance of landing on heads, or does God make it land however He chooses? Is Saturn the only planet with rings around it because it was the only one to have one of its moons break up, or did God choose to make it the only planet with rings?

Most Christians would probably answer something like, "Well, both, really. God created the universe to run according to physical laws that He also created. And He probably maintains those laws moment by moment."

The example of Saturn's rings is actually now known to be incorrect, because at least Jupiter and Neptune have also been found to have rings. I mention this example, because science develops systems and theories to account for the information it has so far but is always searching for more information. Thus there is always potential for new evidence to disrupt past theories. This is a natural and expected process for science.

At the same time, there are a multitude of crackpot theories out there that would totally destroy scientific progress by sheer numbers if every one had to be taken seriously along with the prevailing theories. It can be frustrating for those scientists out there with valid theories that are currently considered to be crackpots, but these theories, if they are true, have one advantage: They are true. As such, they will eventually be given their due, just as the Sun-centered solar system view had to eventually be accepted, no matter how strongly it may have been resisted at its first suggestion.

Chistians are in a different position. They believe that God's Word is solid and unchanging, and that the world will contradict it and fight it, but will not prevail. Christians, if they believe that it is not their strength but God's alone that preserves God's truth, can watch in confidence as science thrashes about among its theories from century to century (very often providing good service to mankind in the process), with the assurance that if a particular current theory apparently conflicts with God's Word, they may say "This, too, shall pass," and press on with more spiritual matters.

This leaves the Christian child with having to "learn" scientific theories, and at the same time accept Christian doctrine. These two may sometimes seem to be in conflict. Some Christians see this conflict as a dangerous attack by the world that should be avoided. But knowledgable Christians recognize the paradoxical nature of the Christian life every time they "turn the other cheek" or "love their enemies" or "drink the blood and eat the flesh of Jesus Christ." The world rubs us against the grain, and we need to be able to hold a strong faith in the face of it.

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I am (to the distress of my wife, Angelee) always trying to figure out how things that come in threes can symbolize the Trinity.

For instance, the three gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus -- gold, frankincense, and myrrh -- are often seen as symbols of the three offices of Christ as prophet, priest and king. I am sure that this symbolism applies, but it has always seemed to me that the gifts are also a good representation of the Trinity. Gold represents God the Father, myrrh as an embalming substance represents God the Son, and frankincense represents the Holy Spirit.

It has sometimes seemed incomplete to me that the Eucharist itself consists of only the two elements of bread and wine. It just seems like it should have had three elements -- something like bread, wine, and meat, or perhaps fish would be appropriate as the third element.

Physical properties have often been used as analogies for the Trinity, such as the solid, liquid and gas states of water. But, like my feeling of incompleteness regarding the two elements of Communion, I have always wanted there to be a third state of existence in the physical universe in addition to mass and energy. A tiny amount of mass is equivalent to an astounding amount of energy according to Einstein's famous equation E=mc2. I have thought that an interesting premise for a science-fiction story would be that, likewise, some equally tiny amount of energy might be equivalent to whatever it is that forms conciousness and self-awareness in living creatures. Then there would be a nice trinity of physical nature to correspond to The Trinity of God.

I would be interested to hear of other "trinities" that might make good analogies for The Trinity.

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Abraham, Isaac, and the Ram

(Note: this was written before the airing of the series on Genesis by Bill Moyers.)

Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeyed God and prepared to carry out the sacrifice. When Isaac asked where the sacrificial lamb was, Abraham told him that God would provide a lamb, and continued the preparations. At the last moment, God stayed Abraham's hand and provided a ram caught in a bush for use as a sacrifice.

The usual interpretation I have heard of this story is that Isaac, being Abraham's only son of the promise, is an image of Christ, who was sacrificed for us. It seems to me, though, that Isaac might also represent mankind, to whom death and condemnation have come through sin, and that the ram symbolizes Christ, who was sent by the Father to be sacrificed in our place.

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Hatred and the Fall of Man

Unlike my previous conjecture that humour is a result of the Fall, I think it is fairly well accepted that hate is a result of the Fall. I also firmly believe that a more subtle result of the Fall is that people enjoy finding things to hate.

Thus, I get greater enjoyment from reading a letter to the editor that I disagree with than one I agree with. It's much more fun to think about how stupid that letter writer is and how I could put him in his place. I also notice that sometimes among good friends, there is a tendency for conversations to deteriorate to the stage where we savour discussion of what we mutually despise rather than what we mutually enjoy (I'm waiting for someone to reply that what we enjoy is talking about what we despise).

I think that there is a place for discussing, in moderation, things that anger and frustrate us and things that are wrong with the world. However, I know that I tend to enjoy negative discussions too much; so I try to be on my guard and steer group discussions in a more positive direction or change the subject if I think that the group is getting too much enjoyment out of hating things.

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