Thursday, March 29, 2012

What do I mean when I say that Jesus taught a solely redemptive hermeneutic?


I have spent a lot of keystrokes demonstrating that Jesus and his first century followers who wrote the New Testament redefined the term word of God to mean Jesus or the gospel, and established a solely redemptive purpose to scripture. So what? What is my point you may ask? I will try to articulate the importance of this understanding and what it actually means to the believer and his or her faith and practice.

First let me say that the solely redemptive purpose eliminates the rulebook, and the legalistic constitutional reading of scripture. This is by far the prime method of reading among evangelicals, and it is the one that produces fear in the heart and mind of the saint. When one looks at the law as the exact standard of righteousness, the standard that one is expected to live up to and strive for, it cannot help but create fear in the heart and mind of the saint; Especially the one who realizes that they in no way, shape or form, measure up to the standard.

When one sees the scripture as the word of God in totality, there is no possible way to escape the legalistic and constitutional reading of scripture. In this scenario, the law always trumps grace. This sums up evangelical theology. In the long run, law always trumps grace. However, when one shifts paradigms to the redemptive view that Jesus and his followers taught. You find out that grace always trumps law. James, the most legalistically understood apostle… the one who told the Jewish converts that they establish their faith by their works… made this statement. It is a declarative statement that must be a redemptive decree. ” Mercy triumphs over judgment. ”  (James 2:13) Yes, grace rules!

When one adopts the solely redemptive view of scripture, and sees Jesus and the gospel as the word of God, then, grace suddenly trumps law every time. Why do evangelical preachers continue to preach as though law trumps grace in the end? It is because of their definition of the word of God. They see it as the entire bible, and thereby cannot escape the idea that in the end law trumps grace; especially if it looks like one is misusing grace. They use the scripture to prove the point and it is always the final word. Here is an example of what I mean:

Heb 10:28-29  “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  (29)  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

Anyone who uses this verse to prove that law trumps grace in the end does so from sheer ignorance. If you read Hebrews, and do not take into account the historical context, you can come up with some really scary verses, in what otherwise is one of the most redemptively declarative books of the New Testament. One must understand that the book of Hebrews was written to Jews, who because of persecution, are in danger of returning to Judaism without Christ. All of the *impossible to repent* passages are directed at the fact, that if Jesus is not who he says he is, and, if his sacrifice is not sufficient once for all, then they are in really bad shape because without him there is no repentance at all. Temple sacrifices will not do the trick. The blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer is not sufficient for anything. In fact, these are the dead works that one must have their consciences cleansed from. It is definitely not teaching that law trumps grace, and evangelical preachers who use it that way ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Who is worthy to open the scroll?


Read Revelation 5:1-10 Here.  Let’s take an in-depth look at this familiar passage in Revelation. First off this question comes to mind; what scroll? Well, to answer this question let’s look at the Greek word translated as scroll. It is BIBLION. This is where we get the word bible from today. For a further clue, let’s look at Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Interestingly, in the LXX, Septuagint, the Greek word for book is BIBLION. Again, the word we get bible from.

Is this a future prophecy? Are we awaiting this fulfillment of Revelation 5:1-10 and Daniel 12:4? In view of my paradigm not if you understand Revelation 5:1-10. The one worthy to open the scroll is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. In plain words, it is Jesus that is able to open the scroll and interpret its meaning.

Now, let’s look at the above passages from the point of view of Luke’s gospel. Luke 24:44-45  “Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."  (45)  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” Here is the beginning of the fulfillment of Revelation 5:1-10 and Daniel 12:4. Jesus opened their minds to understand the scripture. How you ask? He taught them a new hermeneutic. He gave them a brand new lens. He showed them that while the Scribes and Pharisees had a Christ centered hermeneutic, one that looked forward to Messiah it was sealed to them. They could not properly understand it. They needed a Jesus of Nazareth centric hermeneutic; One that demonstrated that he was the promised Messiah, and the goal of the law and prophets. In opening the scroll he shifted their paradigm.

There is no great mystery here. Those who say that they are the ones who are able to open the seals of the scroll are misinformed and deluded. Jesus, and no one else, was the one who could open the seals of the scroll/BIBLION. He did it by changing their paradigm. Look at what the revelator says in verse 10; (Rev 5:10)  “and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." It is in view of the new paradigm that folks have been made the kingdom. It is in view of the new paradigm that people have become priests.

So what is the new paradigm exactly? I have shown over and over, post after post, time and again, that the new paradigm is a strictly redemptive view of scripture. .. A view that sees the finished work of Jesus as the foundation of the kingdom and practice. It is a view that sees the gospel and Jesus as the word of God and the bible/BIBLION as the scripture. Please rejoice people, the scroll has been opened and it is not a mystery at all... especially, once you see Jesus paradigm, and have that shift for yourself.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Divine power to destroy strongholds


2Co 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  (5)  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

What is a stronghold? What did Paul mean when he had a scribe pen these words? The Greek word translated as stronghold here is OCHUROMA and it means fortress or something held tight. It is a metaphor for holding onto ideas and not letting go. Paul says that he was given divine spiritual power to tear down ideas that were held too tightly; ideas that were false. The entire letter of 2 Corinthians is written to combat against false apostles that were building up strongholds. If you look at verse five you find that the strongholds were arguments and opinions that had raised above the knowledge of God and was not in obedience to the message of Christ.

What are the strongholds of today? What lofty opinions and arguments go against the knowledge of God? What lofty opinions and arguments are disobedient to the teaching of Christ. One of the main ones that comes to mind is bilio-idolatry. This is a difficult stronghold to attack. People get their back up in a hurry when one charges biblio-idolatry, but the truth is that evangelical Christianity for the most part holds the bible in higher esteem than God or Christ. So, what else can it be? When one elevates something above God, it is idolatry.

I have spent a lot of key strokes demonstrating that Jesus and his first century followers who wrote the New Testament redefined the phrase word of God to mean Jesus and the gospel. Let me emphasize this next sentence. It was to overcome biblio-idolatry. Jesus was God in the flesh and the Jews put scripture above him. Just look at this exchange by the Pharisees. John 7:47-49  The Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived?  (48)  Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?  (49)  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed." There you have it. The Pharisees claimed that Jesus could not be the Son of God, the Messiah based upon their interpretation of scripture. This is the ultimate form of biblio-idolatry. So why does one think that theologians today have the proper understanding of scripture? I have shown that they do not even have a biblically correct nomenclature. When they insist on calling the scripture the word of God, something that Jesus and his followers taught against, they show that they are not properly interpreting the scripture.

Biblio-idolatry is responsible for all of the schizophrenic beliefs that evangelicals insist upon. The entire view of faith and works is wrongly understood because of biblio-idolatry. What was the one main teaching of Jesus? It was the over-arching theme of love being obedience; love for God and love for one another. It was the way in which one could fulfill the law. One cannot properly and realistically love from a position of fear. Biblio-idolatry does nothing but entrench a fear of God in believers. Let me emphasize this next sentence. No one can honestly love God from a place of fear. When they say they do they merely lie.

Yes, God’s law gives a proper picture of what it means to love. Yes, it can be instructive. However, it cannot be instructive when it is emphasized from a biblio-idolatry point of view. That is why the New Covenant is based upon better promises. The better promises is that God will forgive iniquity and will not remember it any more. I would love to have a dialog with you on this one.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fearfully not trusting the intellect, and missing God


Forty-seven years ago, when I was going to enroll at Central Michigan University for the first time I can remember several people from my Baptist church warn me that I should go to a bible college, get more grounded in faith before I went to a secular university and had my faith destroyed. At the time I remember thinking that if I could indeed get my faith destroyed then, my faith had no substance. Today, many of my Pentecostal friends still have a great distrust for developing the intellect. They jokingly refer to seminaries as cemeteries. The joke is of course that seminaries and seminarians are spiritually dead. Further, conservative theologians distrust and have no use for liberal theologians. There is absolutely no tolerance for individuals that dare to question and think outside the box.

Yet, Isaiah the prophet implores his readers and hearers to come and reason together. When you explore the Hebrew you find that Isaiah is saying that God calls on us to come and argue, discuss, reason. Further, it is to reason about something that seems unreasonable; “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow, and though red like crimson they shall be as wool.” The writer of Proverbs states that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Conservative evangelical Christianity has too much fear of reasoning and questioning. It is one of the things that is wrong with the church.

One of the results of not reasoning and intellectually examining the scripture is the multitude of conflicting interpretations. Further, when you add in the teaching of the Spirit… by that I mean the individual messages that people, especially Pentecostals get… the meaning of scripture passages become so individual that there is really no chance for corporate understanding and agreement.

Just as bad as that is the insistence that scripture passages are meant to be understood in our time and written to us in the twentieth century. If you do not understand them within their cultural context… that is… what they would mean to the original hearers and readers, then you lose an important part of the meaning. The problem is that people have been forcing the party line of interpretation on people for years. We have literally had to put up with interpretation that does not hold up to even mild scrutiny. It seems that the scripture is so clear on a point but when you look further into it you find out that it is not nearly so clear as it may seem. All of the bibles we have are translations. They are translated from Greek and Hebrew into English. There are things lost in the translation. The translators put their own biases in the translation it cannot be helped.

Another thing that must be considered in scripture interpretation is the transitional quality of the New Testament writings. One must understand the audience that is being addressed, what is the occasion of the letters, what kinds of things are being addressed? The gospels were written about things that were said and done before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They were for the most part said to Jews who were under the Torah.  They are all transitional between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and even the letters of Paul, and the other apostles, written to the Gentiles, are written in a transition period between covenants.

So, what am I advocating here? I am advocating that sincere Christ loving individuals take the time to reason together about scripture translation. It may take some hard work. It may be uncomfortable from time to time. People may have to let go of their preconceived ideas in favor of taking a second and even third look at what they believe and why. This could actually result in finding a Christianity that is more faithful to the teaching of Jesus and his apostles, and one that will impact the world around us for the kingdom of God and actually begin to bring it forth.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Not many of you should become teachers


Today I want to reiterate the advice of James. (James 3:1) Those who teach will sustain stricter judgment. Then also, do not forget my two favorite verses, Galatians 6:7 & 2Corinthians 5:10. Many evangelical leaders, pastors and teachers are just absolutely down right smug in their certainty of their doctrinal correctness. This is in plain view of the multitude of others who are diametrically opposed to their certainty with a smug certainty of their own. Do they ever think that *ALL* will stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Do they ever see all as including themselves? Do they ever consider that what they sow in judgment and condemnation, they will certainly reap? Do they ever consider that both of my favorite verses apply to them?

I am reminded of Paul’s admonition to the Jews in Romans.  “For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Rom 2:24) This could now be said of the evangelical church. The non-believers blaspheme God because of you, teacher, preacher, pastor. I hear the Lord telling me that it is long past time for someone to call to account those who smugly believe that they have the true doctrine. We would all do well to question and examine what we teach and believe.

What if what we have believed to be true all along is really the strong delusion of 2Thess 2:11? Answer this question; why is it that you do not see real transformation in the lives of people around you? Can you honestly state that people are being transformed? Or, are they in reality simply being reformed? Do their lives change by fleshly effort to adhere to a set of principles, or are they supernaturally transformed by love for God and each other? Are they motivated by duty and manipulation, or are they motivated by love, joy and peace? I would say that most would have to admit in the mirror that the motivation is duty and manipulation and not the latter. This tells us that something is radically wrong. What is wrong you ask? It has to be the teaching.

Can you even give an explanation of how true transformation works? Is it by reading the scripture and applying it? How is that different from law based obedience? Where is the mystical conversion? All of these apparent flaws are wrapped up in wrong teaching. Can I get an amen? I want this post to be an introspective exercise. I want folk to examine motives and results. I want honesty; the kind that you only get when you look square in the mirror when you are all alone. Are you sure enough about your teaching to boldly want to stand before the judgment seat of Christ?

I can assure you that if you do not see pure love as the motive you have somehow grabbed on to the wrong training, and you are passing on a false teaching plain and simple. If you do not see people being genuinely transformed by love then there is a problem. If transformation does not come from real love it is *not* the fruit of the spirit plain and simple. Holler back at me on this one!

Are many evangelicals spiritual jihadists?

Notice right off the bat that I say many and not all evangelicals are spiritual jihadists. A Jihad is a holy war waged on behalf of Muslims,...