God: The Modern Problem

Ancient Christians thought of God as an absolute, unchanging essence, based on the thought of the philosopher Plato. This underpins our concepts of the Trinity and even the salvation story of Jesus’s death and resurrection. But with the rise in the Middle Ages of nominalism, a new philosophy that emphasizes language over substance, the ancient view of God began to fall apart. Christianity is still struggling to pick up the pieces. Here David Galston, Ecumenical Chaplain at Brock University and author of Embracing the Human Jesus: A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity, describes this problem in more detail. He explores different attempts to save or defend God against the problems presented by modern thinking, and introduces some ideas for moving forward with the historical Jesus.

David Galston presented the above talk during the Once and Future God Session of the “Early Christianity: Heritage or Heresies?” conference, sponsored by the Westar Institute in October 2013. He refers a couple times to the God Seminar: this is a new project by scholars affiliated with Westar that is still in the planning stages. You can also watch a discussion of the future of Christianity from this same session.

The lecture is available as five separate video clips. You can watch all five continuously below, or visit the YouTube playlist to browse different topics.

2 replies
    • james warren says:

      We’re all lying on our backs in the summer grass, looking at the shapes we see in the clouds. I have done this as a child with my friends. I would like to do it again someday. I enjoy the gentle. give-and-take that went on among us as we shared with each other the variety of animal shapes we could come up with.

      That paragraph I just composed is something I am trying to use as an imperfect metaphor to approach my own incomplete idea as to what the historical Jesus is saying to me now, in my life, in this time.

      To lie down with friends on a summer’s day and share my impressions and thoughts about the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth is my idea of talking about the contours of what I think Jesus meant by “the Kingdom of God.” I get some measure of spiritual strength, just as I do when I read and reply to your own comment online here.

      I don’t know if I am making any sense to you or not. My bottom line, I guess, is that the historical Jesus will always be somewhat of a puzzle. Just like life is a puzzle. I just have to do the best I can and wish others the same.

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