Theological Issues - By Carole Burton

Theological issues which are basic to the Christian faith are at stake in relation to the Reimagining Conference, the "whole world ecumenism" espoused in the United Church's "Toward a Renewed Understanding of Ecumenism", and much of the theology which is currently coming forth from many directions within our church.

  1. THE TRANSCENDENCE OF GOD. Is God one with creation, the material order, as in Hinduism and native spirituality, or is he separate from creation (though deeply involved in it)?
  2. THE NATURE OF HUMAN BEINGS. (a) Are we divine, as Hinduism says, needing only to come to awareness of our divinity, or do we have a spark of the divine,along with a seriously-flawed nature-- tremendous potential in addition to a tendency to do wrong things? b) Are we by birth (nature) divine, part of God ("God is all, and all is God"), or does Christ come to dwell within us only if we invite him to do so -- with him even then being greater than and beyond us?
  3. IS GOD PRIMARILY TRANSCENDENT AND ONLY SECONDARILY IMMANENT? (i.e.primarily other and beyond us, and secondarily within us- if he receives our consent to come and dwell there.) We need to think this through as we come to be faced with statements such as "The God in me greets the God in you".
  4. DO WE NEED ATONEMENT FOR SIN? Can we come to God without it? Is our wrongdoing/sin a serious problem in relation to God's holiness, or could God have just passed it off, so to speak? Without something being done to deal with our sin, could we survive in God's presence? If not, is this due to vindictiveness on God's part, or is it an ontological problem, due to God's very natureof holiness ? In the Christian doctrine of the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, was God an "abusive parent" (*1)
  5. IS/WAS JESUS REALLY DIVINE, THE SON OF GOD, GOD? This question is pivotal, and each of us will have to answer it for ourselves.
  6. THE PLACE OF NATURE --THE ENVIRONMENT AND ANIMALS. Are animals on the same level as humans, or do humans have a spirit/soul within them which animals do not have -- thus setting humans on a much higher level than animals? Are humans one with the environment, as pantheism states, or are we separate from the environment, and entrusted with responsible care and use of it?
  7. DO WE LIVE ONLY ONE LIFE ON EARTH ("It is given to man once to die, and after that the judgment." *3) or is there reincarnation, as eastern religions teach? Both cannot be true.
  8. IS EVIL A REALITY? Does Satan exist? If all is one, as Hinduism teaches, then is evil one with goodness? If evil exists, is it stronger than God? Has God done anything to deal with evil? -
*1 Virginia Mollenkott, Reimagining Conference --"I can no longer worship in a theological context that depicts God as an abusive parent and Jesus as the trusting and obedient child. This violent theology encourages the violence of our streets and of our nation." She and other speakers at the conference rejected the concept of the atoning death of Jesus as an abuse of power-- which provides the undergirding for continuing abuse of the powerless. - Christian Week, April 12, 1994.-

*2 Rev. Dr. Garth Mundle, while principal of St.Stephen's Theological College (U.C.) --"This business of a violent God who demands the sacrifice of an only child to pay some cosmic price for sin must go."-- from tape "Authority".)

*3 Hebrews 9:27