Tag Archives: Karin Heller

Is the Bible open to the perspective of the person reading it?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Karin,

This class has prompted me to question many things about my faith and the things I have been taught to believe about God and the Bible (all good things), so I would appreciate hearing your perspective on a certain topic.  

Is there a right or wrong way to understand God’s teachings in the Bible, or is it open to the perspective of the person reading it — not as a means to manipulate the word, but to help provide the answers we seek?

– Carla

Dear Carla,

Dr. Karin Heller

There are two major ways to read the Bible. The first is a prayerful reading alone, seeking for guidance, consolation, awe, and so forth — exactly what you describe. The second is a reading of the Bible in community, a church community, a family, a Bible study group or other association. The reading in community confronts us with different interpretations than ours. This kind of reading enriches our perspectives and corrects our interpretations. Reading in community makes us dive deeper into the various aspects of God’s word.

Both readings are excellent and should be fostered. We should never do one without the other. We can also read comments on certain biblical texts stemming from the great tradition of the church or contemporary people writing commentaries. The Word of God is never expressed by a single voice, but the single voice is still. God’s revelation occurs through an interaction between three factors — the text, the author of the text and the reader or the readers. The book alone is not enough for God’s revelation to occur! The text has to be read and a dialogue with the author of the text has to be engaged. When this is done correctly there is no manipulation of God’s word, only seeing God’s truth reveal itself in an increasing way throughout Church history. That’s what we call in the Catholic Church the “tradition of the church.” It’s an interpretation of Scripture throughout the centuries.

The biblical text is always open to new interpretations. There is not only one authoritative interpretation of the text. Through  Scripture God speaks anew to every generation!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

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There’s more than one atonement theory?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Karin,

During your talk in class last night I was very shocked to hear there were four major atonement theories: Ransom Theory, Perfect Satisfaction Theory, atonement as a manifestation of love which covers a multitude of sins, and atonement as a manifestation of God’s wisdom.

As a Christian growing up I was only aware of one, at least in the church I attended, the perfect satisfaction and sacrifice offered to the Father to repair human offense. I always remember hearing Jesus died on the cross to heal our sins because people sinned against God and Jesus died to save us from all of those sins so our relationship with God would be restored. Why is it that certain religions only teach their own theory of the atonement instead of all of the views so the members of the church can decide on their own which theory they believed?

During many sermons I have heard Hebrews 10, “He has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever at the right hand of God…through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary.” I also heard the other verses quoted from your lecture but never as a presentation of a different perspective to the atonement theory. As said in class, the true answer could be a mixture of a multitude of theories, it doesn’t just have to be one. I truly feel in society today we have been misguided and taught we have to believe what everyone else believes and we don’t allow, or give, ourselves enough credit to make a decision on our own. We have to look to someone else to make the decision.

Do you think as the religious barriers grow the teaching of the different theories will be more widespread or do you think the churches will continue to only teach their opinion on which atonement theory is correct and not allow the members of the church to make their own decision?

Thank you, 

Amy

Dear Amy,

Dr. Karin Heller

One has to study theology in order to dive into the various atonement theories.

Church leaders very often keep it “simple” for the congregation. They don’t want people to get confused. Leadership can also fear disagreements and disputes that may arise in the congregation. Which one is right, which one is wrong?

Protestants also strongly emphasize the perfect satisfaction theory, because they use it in opposition to what they perceive as a Catholic heresy, i.e. the doctrine of Catholic Mass as a “sacrifice.” This stand led Protestants to falsely believe that at each Catholic Mass Jesus is re-crucified and so to say “sacrificed” every day for our sins. The controversy about the understanding of the Eucharist led Protestants to become kind of prisoners of the perfect satisfaction theory. It was their weapon against Catholic teaching.

Given the polemical context, Protestants narrowed down their understanding of scripture. No other atonement theory was valid, because the perfect satisfaction theory seemed to them evident in the letter to the Hebrews. They neglected other biblical texts, which allow a different approach to atonement. If Protestants open up to Catholic teachings they would probably discover that Catholics read the biblical texts in a way that allows God to express himself through various understandings of his world, not just one understanding.

The Catholic Church allows its members to integrate all of these understandings in their spiritual life. The Catholic Church never condemned any of these theories.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Why do so many Christians spend time and money on false instruction based on the Book of Revelation?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dr. Heller,

Thank you for explaining the Book of Revelation to our class. I confess I have had little exposure to the book. Even church service readings from Revelation are rare it seems. 

With Revelation being touted as a book of prophecy for end times on earth by some Christian denominations, why do so many Christians spend time and money on false instruction of Revelation?  What do they hope to gain from scaring believers that the book is about the coming of the antichrist on such-and-such date?  Scripture tells us “no one knows the hour.”  

Thank you for your thoughts on this subject.  

– Charlie 

Dear Charlie,

Dr. Karin Heller

Sometimes people who insist on the “secrets” of the Book of Revelation are scared  and do not want to be the only scared people. Other people make money with fear — it’s a business. One exploits human needs, weaknesses and so forth to make money. Such practices bear witness to the frailty of people who over and over again believe the last day is coming. It shows these people do not have a strong faith! They are like reeds in the wind.

Also, very often people want to believe what they want to believe, no matter what. They are setting up their own belief system, because it makes them feel secure. Others want to impress. They know better and more (all these secrets of the book of Revelation), which makes them feel powerful. In all these cases it comes to idolatry of oneself. So, some are proud of their religious security system, and the others are about their “knowledge.”

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

How should we deal with divorced and remarried people?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller,

My dad is a divorced man. He was married before he married my mother, and I have two half brothers. My parents have been married for almost 22 years and have a stronger relationship than anyone I know. In the bible it says that those who divorce are seen as adulterers. In addition to that, my dad has tried to hold certain positions at our church (such as deacon) and is told that because he is a divorced man he cannot be a part of it. I guess I am just confused. Where does the forgiveness factor come into play? My father is a great Christian man and it seems wrong that he shouldn’t be able to be a part of the church in that way. Do you have any way of maybe explaining this better to me? Thank you for your time.

Bobby

Dear Bobby,

Dr. Karin Heller

Yes, there can be hard situations in Christian lives. First of all, you should know that your dad is a full member of the body of Christ, which is the universal church. This cannot be taken away from him, especially if he was baptized. Now, with regard to exercising a church office, this is not a question of forgiveness, but a question of example. People look up to those who are in leadership and hold church offices. That’s why they should meet certain standards Paul lays out in 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Note in this scripture, “elders and deacons must not have been married more than once.” These standards are matters of church discipline; they do not pertain to faith or doctrine.

Already for Paul it was wise not to admit remarried men to church offices. These offices are not a reward for being a “good Christian,” however, to admit remarried men to church offices can confuse certain people in the community. They can interpret this fact in the following sense, “you can do bad things and still receive honors,” and therefore water down the gravity of divorce. I think this rule makes sense, but there should be exceptions to it!

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Is homosexuality OK in Jesus’ eyes?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller, 

I have a question about something that was brought up at Judy Shepard’s recent presentation on her son Matthew’s death. Her son was gay and was killed by two other young men out of hate for homosexuals. Judy is a Christian, and with a son whose sexual orientation is by the Bible’s definition a sin, this woman is caught between love for her son and the truth of the Bible. At one point in her presentation a question was voiced over how she felt about this contradiction. Her answer confused me. She said, “the New Testament gives us permission to move away from the teachings of the Old Testament.” She believes that Jesus’ call to love our neighbor regardless of their sins makes homosexuality OK. What are your thoughts on this? I’m a bit confused on how to feel about homosexuality and how to love these people without accepting their way of life as one approved by God. 

Thanks for any insight on this issue, 

Travis

Dear Travis,

Dr. Karin Heller

Your message raises a question on the way we very often come to a conclusion on biblical texts. Is it my personal experience that determines how we should interpret texts? Or does a right interpretation of a biblical text depend on interaction between the author of the text, its reader and the larger Christian community? Martin Luther went with the first option. Only personal experience counts. This choice led to the Reformation and a splitting up of Christians in thousands of different denominations.  The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches continue to stick to principles of biblical interpretation represented by the second option.

It’s not my goal to displease the lady whose son died in such horrible circumstances. But the harshest words on homosexuality can be found in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-27). Yes, according to God’s law and Jesus’ new commandment (John 15:12), we are called to love one another as Jesus loved us. Now, what does “to love” mean? It does not mean to disregard sin, any sins, including homosexual acts. Homosexuality is a human condition just as heterosexuality is. Both, homosexuals and heterosexuals, have a sinful nature; both can sin. To love people is not to accept whatever they do or hold. To love as Jesus loved is to show homosexuals and heterosexuals a path to life where all are offered healing from sin, including homosexual acts and sexual sins related to heterosexuality.  This lady just wants homosexuality to be OK! Does she want she and for her son to be totally healed from whatever sin? That’s the ultimate question.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Help! My boyfriend is Catholic!

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Hi Karin,

I’ve been raised a Protestant my whole life and have a strong faith. My family members are also very dedicated in their faith. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is Catholic. My dad constantly tells my brothers and I that we should marry someone who has the same beliefs and religion. I tried telling him that Catholics believe the same thing but he disagrees. I guess I don’t understand where the religions disagree so much that he would be so concerned. How should I show him that they are the same? Do you have any advice or information as to things I should talk to him about?

Thank you for your time!

Claire

Dear Claire,

I think you’re strong enough to fight this through. If you truly love your boyfriend and if your boyfriend truly loves you, you’ll get through this situation and you’ll love one another even more, because this resistance will show you that you really care for one another.

Dr. Karin Heller

Catholics and Protestants have many things in common like the apostles and the Nicene Creed, the bible and baptism!

However, I do not want to undermine the differences. They can be summed up in three terms: the pope or the view of authority in the church; the Eucharist or the entire sacramental understanding of the church; and Mary, mother of the church. As you see, three times, the word “church” popped up! The misunderstandings turn all around the church, not Christ or the trinity. This spring I’ll teach a seminar entitled “Catholic and Protestant Theologies in Dialogue.” That would be the right class for you at this moment of your life!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

What Catholic Council decided that Jesus had to discover He was God by reading Scriptures?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller,

What Catholic Council decided that Jesus, as a young man, had to discover that he, in fact, was God by reading scriptures and that he did not innately know? And what scripture does it cite to enforce its doctrine?

Brendan

Dear Brendan,

Thank you for your message.

Dr. Karin Heller

A council did not “decide” this. A council always responds to questions raised by Christians during a certain time period. It comes up with responses subject to discussions and better understandings throughout the centuries. The specific question you relate to concerns the relationship between the divine and the human nature in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. These relationships were in debate at the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century. So, here is what the council teaches (sorry for the technical language, but that’s how councils work and here you see that councils do not merely decide this or that!).

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as once complete in godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body, of one substance with the father as regards his godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from his sin; as regards his godhead, begotten of the father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, (emphasis mine!); the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same son and only-begotten God the word, Lord Jesus Christ…,” the Council of Chalcedon reads.

Wikipedia Photo

So, in a nutshell, the Council of Chalcedon teaches the unity of one person and the distinction of two natures in Jesus. The two natures in Jesus are not subject to change. His divine nature, in particular, could not overrun his human nature or give him some advantage over his human nature. Paul himself teaches by quoting a Christian hymn handed down to him that Jesus, “did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself, to assume the condition of a slave … ” (Philippians 2:6-7). In other words, with the Incarnation, Jesus gave up all of his divine privileges. Therefore, Jesus fully assumed a human physical, psychological and spiritual life. He discovered the world like any baby of this world. He learned to speak, to read and to write, interacted with his father and mother, went to school, learned a profession and asked the three existential questions each human being asks: Where do I come from? Who am I? Where do I go? Jesus turned to his teachers, the pharisees, with such questions, who in turn taught him about salvation history in Scripture. Through the Scriptures Jesus discovered his particular identity as son of God, called to save human kind through his human nature. It’s through Jesus’ human nature that we are saved, not on account of a magic Jesus mixing divine and human elements.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.