In our last discussion of Chapter 1, of Horton’s The Christian Faith we looked at Horton’s use of Tillich’s paradigm. He continues with the model in Parts II: A Covenant Account of “Meeting a Stranger” and III. Epistemology.
An important point he makes is that this model assumes that God and the world are distinct. Given what pantheism and panentheism believe that is an important distinction and one that is important to note with your discussions with people in our age who believe one of those worldviews.
I also have appreciated and been thinking through the idea of God as a stranger. “God is a stranger in a positive sense, in that He is qualitatively distinct from creation” but thinking negatively, “God is not only qualitatively different from us but morally opposed to us. (p. 42) I became a Christian through Young Life and I am remembering how both of these principles were presented to be on a Young Life weekend. Though the words may have been different, this was the principle. I think this is wonderful tool when we are sharing the gospel to someone.
I teach the Ancient Greeks philosophy and Horton explains how their idea of a single unifying principle (logos) goes against the idea of God, who though one in essence is also three persons. In my omnibus class, we look at the unifying principles the Greek philosophers presented and how they didn’t answer their questions: Thales, water; Anaximenes, air, and the list goes on. “The Logos is a person rather than a principle” (p. 43)
This leads to the covenantal relationship that in Section C, Horton says is the heart of the model. He discusses the three covenants: covenant of redemption, covenant of grace and covenant of grace. In this section, he also explains how “the Bible gives rise to a sense of history, with its pattern of promise and fulfillment.” As one who teaches history and has read many of views of history this is an important distinction. “Meaning is found within history, not beyond it.” (p. 46) This is why it is important for us to teach our children history: Biblical history, world history, American history, family history. The most important part of that history is that God the stranger, came to this world, “He has condescended to relate us to Himself.” (p. 47)
This background sets up for a discussion of epistemology and how we can know God. “Our theory of how we know anything depends on what we think there is to be known.” (p. 47) This is so helpful to remember when we talk with people who are not Christians. What do they think there is to be known? The starting point is often different in this generation. They did not grow up in a home that told the Bible stories, as most did not go to church and many do not believe that there even is such a thing as truth. We have a myriad of apologetic approaches and I think we do need to be aware of them so we can dialogue with those who don’t know God. Most importantly, we need to remember it is the Holy Spirit who is working in people’s hearts and though we may point the way, it is His work that brings people to the Stranger.