Is There a Problem?
Do you ever feel like you are saying things about
God that don't really fit together? Kind of like these two signs
in the picture?
For example, you'd like to say that God wants
everyone to be saved through Jesus (1 Timothy 2:3 - 4; 2 Peter 3:9;
Ezekiel 18:23, 32 - 33). But what do you do with the word
"predestination"? Or the idea that maybe Jesus died for
only some people, not all?
Or, maybe you want
to say that God loves everyone (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8). But in
eternity, will God keep some people in a kind of
prison? Will they want to get out of jail and be with God, but God will keep them
locked in? If God loves everyone, why does hell work that way?
You might wonder if the only way to hold
statements like these together is to allow "mystery" into
what you think of God's character. But then Christian theology no longer sounds consistent.
And will evangelism built on this foundation be
effective? Will this erode your spiritual life? You
might feel especially challenged at a secular university if you feel
like rationality itself is not on your side.
Where Did These Problems Start?
It may surprise you
to learn that
these problems were introduced a long time ago by Augustine of Hippo
(354 - 430 AD). Read
this for more information. That
is why NHI goes back before Augustine. We draw from Nicene
theology, named for the Nicene Creed. We find it heals the schism
in our minds and hearts.
What is Christian Theology
from the Time of the Nicene Creed?
theology uses a medical and restorative framework still used in Eastern
Orthodoxy and some Catholic circles, as opposed to a legal and punitive
framework familiar to most Protestants. It says that Jesus reveals God's desire to lovingly unite Himself
with every single person. He heals and transforms human nature,
undoing the corruption of sin in it, first in Jesus, and then in us, as
He shares Jesus with us by the Spirit. This understanding was the
foundation stone for Christians to say that God is 100% good and loving,
and even how we experience God as a Trinity. Here is an
article which explains it well.
Was the Nicene Council (325 AD) really that
significant? Yes: it consisted of three hundred and
eighteen Christian leaders from all over the Christian community
worldwide, to discuss the spread of the Arian heresy. The map
below shows the spread of Christian faith in
the Mediterranean world by 300 AD. (Note that there was a thriving
Christian community in the Persian city of
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, from at least the early second century.
And unfortunately the map omits the spread of Christian faith to
the south, primarily Ethiopia, and further east, in places like India
and perhaps even China, Vietnam, and Japan.)
Nicea was the first ecumenical (universal) council
of the church. So
Nicene theology comes from a time of intellectual
church unity, even across multiple languages and
What Are the Practical
Implications for Us? In the Nicene Paradigm:
We can say to the wounded
skeptic who is used to two-faced friends that the God we worship does
not have two faces; He has only one face of purifying love, shown in
Jesus; He is 100% good.
We can say to the social
activist that Jesus wants to heal the source of evil and injustice in
every single one of us; he's not just taking away the consequences, or
dealing with externals.
We can say to the Muslim that the Christian God has indeed
embraced unclean human flesh, and even cleansed it permanently in Jesus,
which is what the angel could not do for Mohammed; and Jesus shares
himself with us.
We can say to each person who needs healing that Jesus struggled with a fallen
human nature, too, and shows us by the scars on his resurrected body
that every act of faithfulness and love to God will be remembered upon
We can also say to Protestants, Catholics, and
Orthodox alike that they can do mission out of this paradigm, and be
shaped by it, and still very much honor their own traditions in a
dynamic way. It reflects the time when the church was actually one.
All that is truly good news.