Monday, July 30, 2012

Apprehending and apprehended by Christ

Philippians 3:12-14  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  (13)  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  (14)  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
I have used the King James here because of the multiple use of the words apprehend and apprehended. I would like to unpack that word a bit and look at the Greek word translated as apprehend and apprehended. The Greek word is katalambano. It means to *take eagerly* *seize* *apprehend.* I like the word apprehend and I think that it is very descriptive of how we participate in our salvation. When one is apprehended by the police it means that they are taken into custody and cannot get away even if they want to. By the same token, the apprehender seizes and will not let go. Christ provided reconciliation to all and it can be apprehended by faith. So then, there is a double action. We apprehend Christ’s provision by our faith, and Christ Jesus apprehends us and will not let go. This is what the writer of Hebrews meant by persevering to the end.

The double apprehension provides security because we realize that Christ will not let go of us. Once we apprehend we are apprehended. How is katalambano used in other places? That is a very good question. Paul uses it in Romans chapter 9.  (Rom 9:30-31)  “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained (apprehended) righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;  (31)  but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained (apprehended) the law of righteousness.” I inserted the word apprehended because it fits just as well as attained and shows definitely what I am positing. It must be remembered that the word is katalambano in both Philippians and Romans.

The Gentiles had apprehended righteousness by faith… do you see that? --- apprehended by faith. The Jews had been trying to obtain/apprehend righteousness by the works of the law. It should be so obvious by this post and yesterday’s post that orthodox-evangelical doctrine and dogma is grossly off the mark. This eliminates the possibility of self-righteousness and it assures the perseverance of the saints. Holding on, persevering, laying hold of, apprehending is all accomplished by faith. This is a promise that even the chief of sinners can rest in. --- Remember, Paul, the Pharisee that was blameless according to the righteousness found in the law, said that he was the chief of sinners.

The point of all of this, is simply that one must rest in their apprehension by faith of the provision of Christ Jesus. Do not try to rest in behavior and law obedience… you cannot apprehend Christ that way. It is sad that so many evangelical teachers and preachers are emphasizing the law and law obedience as if one could apprehend Christ by obeying the law.

Not having your own righteousness that comes from the law; Self-righteousness is repugnant

(Philippians 3:8-9 NET)  More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things — indeed, I regard them as dung! — that I may gain Christ,  (9)  and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ's faithfulness — a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ's faithfulness.
Most everyone at some level finds self-righteousness repugnant. Self-righteousness brings about the charge of hypocrisy and justly so. Individually, many Christians are not self-righteous by nature, but let’s face it, Evangelical-Orthodox Christian dogma and doctrine promotes self-righteousness. This doctrine has made Christianity a self-righteous religion. It finds its most repugnant manifestations in the legalistic holiness movement, and the legalistic Christian right. In these forms it is not only repugnant it is actually Christ dis-honoring.

In the above passage you have Paul speaking of what a great Pharisee he once was. He states in verse six that when it came to law righteousness he was blameless. Still, he realizes that he needs imputed righteousness that comes from the righteousness of Christ. Yes, in verse 9 the Greek is pisteows christou… it should be translated *the faith of Christ.* This would make the verse read… “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through *the* faith *of* Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—“ This becomes especially important when one takes a solely redemptive view of scripture. Christ’s faith in God’s grace points our way toward resting in God’s gracious provision. Christ’s faith made way for our faith.

This completely eliminates the need for self-righteousness. It eliminates law righteousness. Thus, as I have stated over and over and over again it becomes the catalyst for love for God that will result in resting in His grace. That in turn is the catalyst for loving others, and spiritual obedience. It all emanates from the faith of Christ and God’s grace.

So then, how one sees the word of God… that is… as scripture or gospel, makes all the difference. This is the reason for the necessity of seeing a solely redemptive focus to the scripture. When one sees the entire scripture as the word of God then the law takes a completely different complexion than when one sees the word of God as the gospel. It is the difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant. It removes the read and do mentality that drives the need for self-righteousness.

When will Christian leaders and theologians gain the moral courage to acknowledge this? Down deep in their heart… when they look in the mirror all alone… they know that the legalistic constitutional reading of scripture promotes the self-righteous spirit. Yet they allow fear and peer pressure to go against the gospel and play the Pharisee.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What were Jesus’ commandments?

1John 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
What does Jesus mean when he says keep my commandments? Does he mean keep the Decalogue (Ten Commandments?) I have heard and read so many people that teach exactly this. How can one square this with Colossians 2:13-14? If God canceled the written code and nailed it to the cross, how can Jesus mean that keeping his commandments is keeping the Decalogue? The answer is that it cannot or the text contradicts itself. Either God canceled the written code through Christ or Jesus demands that we keep the Decalogue, it cannot be both.

Let me try to unpack this a little. Those who say that Jesus commandments and the Decalogue are one in the same thing assume this because they see the entire scripture as the word of God. However, we have proven beyond doubt with overwhelming scriptural evidence that Jesus and his first century followers redefined the *word of God* to mean the gospel. This is the only way that one can square John 14:15 with Colossians 2:13-14. So then, what are Jesus commands anyway? The answer to this question is clearly stated in 1John 3:23-24  “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  (24)  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

While I will admit that loving one another is covered in the Decalogue, it must be seen in light of grace producing love. That is what Paul meant when he spoke of faith working through love. Faith in God’s grace produces love for God. Resting in this fact provides the ability to love one another. It is not a situation of read and do, rather it is a situation built on trust and love. That is, trusting in God’s grace provides the ability to rest, and resting produces the love for God that will lead to true love of others. The evangelical world has this process exactly backwards and it will not work backwards… not ever! They adamantly claim they are right in this when they are wrong.

It is best understood by the difference between the *law of the Spirit of life* and the *law of sin and death.* It is essentially the same law. The difference comes in the operation of obedience. The law of sin and death resides in a read and do mentality. The law of the Spirit of life resides in trusting in God’s grace for no condemnation… not ever! The law of sin and death produces fear. The law of the Spirit of life produces love. The reason that the law of the Spirit of life produces love is directly because there is no condemnation… not ever!

Jesus said this: John 3:17-18  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  (18)  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” It should be plain as day. Evangelical dogma and doctrine distorts and convolutes a concept that is so simple.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grace not law trains us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  (12)  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Colossians 2:13-14 reads;  “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  (14)  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” If you look across evangelical Christianity, it becomes obvious that one of the important focal points of their dogma and doctrine is the Law of Moses and obedience. Yet, look at what Paul tells the Colossians. How did God forgive all trespasses? …By canceling the law. That is not a popular idea within orthodox evangelical circles but it is a fact. How does grace train us to live godly, self-controlled lives? The answer to this question is that grace produces love. It produces love within the person receiving the unmerited favor.

Real self-control and godliness is brought about by love; Love within the person. Grace, unmerited favor, and forgiveness of debt works within us to produce that love, and will produce obedience that the law cannot produce. The law produces death and fear. Grace produces the perfect love that casts out all fear. How does it work? Faith in God’s grace produces this transforming love. I know, it sounds antithetical to all we know and have been taught, but think about it. Being able to really count on God’s grace no matter what is the source of love for God. Love for God is the source of the self-control and godliness.

So why is this not universally taught and understood in orthodox evangelical circles? I think the answer to the question is simply put a phenomenon that Jesus called “the leaven of the Pharisees.” As I have pointed out many times before on this blog, the main evangelical hermeneutic, grammatical-historical hermeneutic, the biblical story is not properly presented. The biblical narrative must be understood with redemption being the over-riding focus. It was expressed by Paul this way. Rom 6:14  “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” This is a fact. The driving force in Christianity is grace and not law.

Because of this view Paul was accused of promoting sin. He goes on to ask the question; (Rom 6:15  What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!) Grace is not the reason people sin… human nature is the reason people sin.

Paul has a similar discussion in romans 5:20 through 6:4. He states that where sin abounds grace abounds even more. There you have it. The emphasis is on grace and not sin and the law. Grace is the driving force. Today, the same accusation is raised against those who teach this obvious spiritual, scriptural truth. I can assure you that teaching absolute grace will not produce more sin. All sin comes from human nature. Now, the law may help one be aware of the sin and fear may help them repress it… BUT IT WILL NOT HELP ONE TO OVERCOME IT! Only the love of God produced by grace will transform one into an overcomer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who do people say that I am? Christ Jesus of Nazareth, the first born unique Son of God

If you read these blogs from start to finish you will find that there are shades of new age thought in my Christian doctrine… don’t be scared. :) The reason for this is that I believe that there is some merit in a lot of new age… more eastern theology. There is one place that I adamantly disagree with new age theology, and it is focused on who Jesus of Nazareth really is. Let me state it clearly once for all time. I see Jesus as the Christ, the unique firstborn Son of God. I see him as the incarnation of God. Therefore, he is uniquely the Son of God in a way that NO OTHER person can be. I realize that there is a very mystical element to Colossians 1:27. Yes, we have Christ in us mystically via His Holy Spirit, but we are not the Christ as Jesus was and is the Christ.

We are not and never will be the redeemer. Certainly, we can aid in making people aware of the fact that they are redeemed. We are not now and never will be the reconciler. Certainly, our main mission is to proclaim that people have been reconciled to God, but God reconciled the world to himself with and in Jesus of Nazareth. We are not now nor will we ever be seated at the right hand of Majesty. In other words, Jesus of Nazareth was and is God incarnate in a way that none of us can be.

Now with that made clear I will say that we are much more powerful spiritually than most of us know and accept. There is an ALMOST infinite ability at our fingertips.  The mystical capabilities that we possess are manifestly limitless. We just do not choose to tap our natural power. I think it is because we are too afraid of new age mysticism and do not want to acknowledge some of our superpowers.

These superpowers that I speak of deal in the spiritual realm to affect the natural realm. They reside in all areas of life. They can affect healing, wealth, relationships and many other aspects of our lives. It is found in the concept in the Proverbs… as he thinks… so is he. The question becomes what does one consider important? What is the focus of the mind and heart? It is very difficult to control our thoughts but, in so doing there is great power. This is the place where new age thought can be beneficial. Especially in meditative prayer; there are many ways to pray and meditate, and mystical Christianity along with experience are an important part of our overall spiritual growth. It makes sense in my view to use some meditative principles in prayer. If you become totally relaxed you can find it easy to begin to comprehend the presence of God. After all, we are taught that we are divine because of Jesus the Christ. As he was/is in the world so are we. I challenge you to begin meditative prayer. However, keep your focus on Jesus.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who do people say that I am? Christ and the culture he came to

This is a part of the series of posts “Moving toward a holistic theology.” ; Christology

Matthew 16:15-16  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  (16)  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

As I stated in the last post, I see Jesus as God incarnate. That means that Jesus is God made flesh. I went on to point out that in the risen Jesus all of the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. The incarnation necessitates the entrance into a specific historical time. In other words, Jesus came at a particular time in history to a specific location and culture. So often, people overlook this very important point when reading and interpreting the scripture and draw conclusions that do not necessarily follow.

Christ was born an Israelite, a Jew in the first century CE. This was a time when the Roman Empire had political control over the entire area. The culture was a mixture of Hellenized Jews and Roman Military occupiers. The main influence of the culture was second temple Judaism. Many leaders in second temple Judaism were expecting an imminent end of the age and fulfillment of the Old Testament Prophets. The terms they used to describe the idea was *this age* and *the age to come.* Daniel chapter nine was chronologically due to happen any time, i.e., it was expected to be fulfilled in the first century. Jesus came to a culture that eschatology was very important in all of their thinking.

Roman civilization accepted slavery as a matter of course. Throughout the Roman Empire immorality thrived. In spite of this, Jesus came to the Jews, a very religious and moral people by comparison. Who did he criticize? The answer to that question should be very instructive. Jesus was critical of religious people. His strongest criticism was toward the religious leaders and theologians of the day. He criticized them for being judgmental, self-righteous, and proud. His whole concept of being in the world but not of the world saw the world as religious people. He did not define the world as Christians today define the world. He was not speaking of the pagan world. To Him, the world was Judaism; the unbelieving Jews were the unbelieving world. Jesus stated that he came to the Jews and the Jews alone; (Mat 15:24  So he answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.") This is something that is greatly overlooked by theologians. The gospel went to the Gentiles only after it had first been delivered exclusively to the Jews.

These are facts that we must consider when we think about who Jesus was and is. As I reflect on my scripture study in view of evangelical orthodox doctrine and dogma I am astounded at the way in which they have completely missed the mark. One could say that the bulk of Christian doctrine has missed Christ completely. If they had not missed Him they would not think that the *world* is bars and nightclubs. They would not self-righteously judge so many groups of people. They would get rid of their religious pride.

Finally, they would also realize when reading the New Testament that Jesus was almost always speaking to Jews who were under the Law of Moses. Right after Jesus told the Jews that they were searching the scripture to find life when in fact they should be searching it to find him he said the following; John 5:45  "Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. It saddens me that these words still ring true today. Christianity claims the name of Jesus Christ but they put their hope in Moses!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who do people say that I am?

This is a part of the series of posts “Moving toward a holistic theology.” ; Christology
Mat 16:13-16  Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  (14)  And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  (15)  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  (16)  Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? This becomes a very important aspect of any Christian systematic theology. It is a question that must be answered in detail. As I have stated in the past and as the blog posts show, I have a very high Christology. What has informed my opinion and belief when it comes to Christ Jesus? I will say first and foremost that it is a solely redemptive, Jesus of Nazareth centric, lens in scripture interpretation. One of the key passages of the Old Testament Prophets that is descriptive of Jesus and his role is Isaiah 9:6-7.  “(6)For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (7)  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

In the above description one can see the fullness of the God Head. The Wonderful Counselor is the Holy Spirit, Everlasting Father is God the Father, and the Prince of Peace is the Incarnation. Mighty God describes the fullness of the God Head in one. While Jesus had an earthly ministry, one can clearly see the Trinitarian aspect of God in operation. At his baptism  Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on him, and the Father announced from heaven this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Paul then goes on to say in Colossians the following; Chapter 2, verse 9.  “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” Paul states that in the risen Jesus, the fullness of the deity dwells bodily. That is counselor, father, and prince of peace. That makes up the mighty God. There you have it, in my Christology, Jesus is God.

Now while I do not think that one has to be baptized in Jesus name only (I will explain this in future posts), I do think that the Oneness Pentecostals are on to something when viewing the trinity. The entire 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians is interesting to me. At the time of the writing Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting his enemies to be made his foot stool. Think for a minute. Who were really Jesus enemies? Yes, that it is correct. His enemies were the unbelieving Jews. They are the ones that were set on killing him and were the ones that got him killed. In other words, He was awaiting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. That would be the time when his enemies were put under his feet. The last enemy death, the Old Covenant, was put under his feet and now He is the all in all.

Yes, there is a lot more to cover but enough for today :)!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Moving toward a holistic theology V; the scripture, revelation and mysticism – Where I differ from orthodoxy

This will be the final post for now on the doctrine of scripture, revelation and mysticism. I may revisit from time to time and will provide for categories on the blog posts at some point in the near future. I have stated several times on this blog that I believe that main stream evangelical orthodoxy is off the mark and in error. I believe that it is evident by the sheer numbers of denominations and the radical differences they have in doctrine. The main cause of this division and error is the interpretation of the scripture that the various fragments employ. In other words, it is their hermeneutic. It is the rules they use to interpret, and the presuppositions they bring to the text.

One of the main reasons for this error is the foundation of the Reformation. It is the extreme to which evangelical orthodoxy has taken sola-scriptura, scripture alone. The original Reformers limited sola-scriptura to salvation. In other words, they taught salvation was not in the Roman Church but rather in scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, by Jesus Christ alone, to the praise of God’s glory alone. Most evangelicals have expanded it to mean that all faith and practice is by scripture alone. This is the practical result of evangelical orthodoxy’s view of scripture alone.  On the other hand, I see it within the original parameters. Salvation is made known by scripture alone and so there is a redemptive limit to sola scriptura.

Faith and practice should be regulated by scripture and Spirit, with the stress on the Spirit. There can be consideration given to church tradition but that should not be the driver. The driver must be the Spirit. This is precisely why illumination is so very important.  The scripture without illumination is nothing but dead letters.

The question comes to mind; how can we judge spiritual illumination? How do we know that our interpretation is illuminated by the Holy Spirit? The answer is simple in my view. First, it will be an interpretation that promotes the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and (lastly) self-control. Secondly, it will completely embrace Jesus view of scripture (John 14:26.) In other words, since Jesus taught an exclusively redemptive purpose to scripture (John 5:39-40 – Luke 24:27, 43-45,) it becomes incumbent on the one following Jesus to use his scripture interpretation hermeneutic. This is such an important issue, and it is one of the main places that I split with evangelical-orthodoxy. I want to underscore this point… Jesus and the Spirit taught a solely redemptive hermeneutic and yet, you had the temple and Judaism competing with him. He was sympathetic to the Jews and the fact that they were the vehicle that brought him into the world. This is why I have stressed the transitional nature of the New Testament writings. They move from John the Baptist the forerunner, to Jesus the Prophet, Priest, and King, to Pentecost and the origin of the Jewish Church, to the inclusion of the Gentiles with Cornelius, to the letters to the Gentiles, to just before the destruction of the temple.

The Spirit will take all of this into consideration while illuminating the scripture. The Spirit also takes into consideration that there is nothing left but the new covenant today. The Old Covenant limped along side by side with the New Covenant until the destruction of the temple. When you consider that the destruction of the temple, and the dispersion of the Jews was the promised judgment prophesied in the Old Testament Prophets, this also must be taken into consideration when you are interpreting the scripture; keeping in mind that the New Covenant promises the following; "For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done."

This eliminates the strong emphasis that evangelical-orthodoxy puts on sin. Hebrews, (the Rosetta Stone for the New Covenant in my view) equates sin and unbelief in Hebrews chapter 3 & 4. The sin that the Holy Ghost convicts of is the sin of unbelief (John 16:8-9.) This scripture interpretation will allow the saint to rest in redemption and reconciliation.

Jesus, during his ministry, and later by his Spirit through Paul and others provided the impetus for this solely redemptive understanding of scripture. The Spirit will reinforce it with illumination. The problem that I have with evangelical-orthodoxy is that the current dogma and doctrine rings so strongly in the mind and ears of people that it is difficult for them to really hear the promptings of the Spirit. I think that is a shame because as they continue to focus on sin and legalism… they miss God.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Moving toward a holistic theology IV; the scripture, revelation and mysticism continued

In this line of posts I am trying to build progressively on the subject matter. It would be good to state how I view the scripture. This can be backed up by many posts on this blog and I will try and link some of them at the end as I move forward.

1) First and foremost, I believe that scripture is divinely inspired and redemptively inerrant. When I say redemptively inerrant I am not suggesting that there are historical errors in the bible. That is not the point, however, it is only inerrantly inspired as it tells the story of redemption. It is not a legal constitutional document. It is not a manual for life per se, however, once the redemptive purpose is acknowledge, it can give direction on how to love God and humanity when legal obedience is not the focus. It is a narrative (story) that explains how God has dealt with humanity over millennia focusing on God’s desire to redeem humanity and have a relationship with his creatures. The story shows that God’s entire purpose in creation was to move toward a climax of reconciliation. The story is written to fit within the cultures of the people being addressed. The cultures explain the advancement of humanity at a particular point in time time and are not necessarily God’s ideal. The important message is one of faith, hope and love. This post deals with 2Tim 3:16-17 and would be good to look at with this view in mind.

2) The entire scripture is written to point to Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior. It has no other purpose whatsoever. The law portions of the scripture were included to show us our great need for redemption and forgiveness. It was not written to show us a standard whereby we might be righteous before God. It saddens me that so many are sucked into this point of view. In large part, the legal constitutional idea comes from the idea that the bible is the inerrant Word of God. That is precisely why Jesus and his first century followers spent so much time redefining the word of God to be the gospel, and Jesus the living gospel; when one sees the scripture in this legal constitutional way it makes it impossible to rest in redemption. It places the saint in the dubious position of always trying to please God, realizing that they never quite measure up. I have written a series of posts that demonstrates that Jesus and his followers redefined the term word of God. Here are a few of them and I would encourage you to look at all of them.
Here again underscored is the fact that how one views the scripture effects the hermeneutic, and the hermeneutic effects the theology. What I find exacerbatingly frustrating is the fact that this way of looking at the scripture is obvious as you read the New Testament writings, and yet, there are no theologians that are embracing this view. In my view that is unconscionable with all of the ink devoted to it in the New testament. Why in the world would Christian Theologians overlook what Jesus obviously taught? Please, Please, can someone answer this question?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Moving toward a holistic theology III; the scripture, revelation and mysticism continued

As we move along in developing a systematic theology from my paradigm shift, we must continue to look at revelation, scripture and mysticism for a while. The question to ask in this post is whether or not God speaks to humanity outside of the bible? There is division in evangelical Christianity in this area. There are the cessationists and the continuationists. The cessationists believe that the gifts including prophecy have ceased since the first century. Many of them believe that the closing of the canon in 457AD was the time that all the gifts ceased, and that God only speaks through scripture today. 

One of the proof texts for the cessationists is 1 Corinthians 13:10; they claim that the *perfect* that was to come was the scripture. The continuationist on the other hand, believe that all of the gifts including prophecy are still available to believers. Pentecostal groups are among the continuationists. They essentially believe that all the gifts are still in operation and some of them believe in the offices listed in Ephesians 4:11; they call it the fivefold ministry however when one looks at the Greek, I think one could argue that it’s the four-fold  ministry because pastor and teacher is likely one office.

I personally think that the two opposing views both miss the point in a way. This is why I have included mysticism in the mix here. I think the mystical union with Christ via his Holy Spirit is a very important consideration. Jesus told his followers that he would send an advocate, a comforter that would teach them everything and help them remember what he said to them (John 14:26.) He also said that he would send the advocate comforter to be with them forever (John 14:16.)

As I have shown in many posts on this blog, Jesus interpreted the scripture so that they could understand what it really meant… he opened their understanding… opened the scroll as it were (Luke 24:27 – 43-45.) He gave the proper understanding to what the scripture meant. Besides that, he gave it a solely redemptive purpose (John 5:39-40.) When he returned to be with his Father he continued to do that by his Holy Spirit. I believe that the Spirit of God will illuminate the scripture for those who are resting in Jesus. I believe that my paradigm shift is the result of illumination. Sometimes however, you have to be willing to step outside of the traditional dogma and doctrine to receive the illumination.

I am not certain what came first, the paradigm shift in my theology, or the paradigm shift in my understanding of the scripture. No doubt it was a little of both. I remember as I read portions of the scripture that would get me up tight and get me condemning myself. The Spirit would gently whisper in my mind, “read it all Joe.” I was always left with a sense that I did not quite understand it yet when this happened… and it was often followed by the warm gentle thought, “my grace is sufficient for you.”

I see no evidence that the Spirit is not speaking to people today. On the contrary… I see abundant evidence that God’s Spirit is very active in speaking to the saints. I wonder how many times we rebuke His Spirit like the Pharisees of old when we think that it could not possibly be God speaking. We will continue on with this in the next post and may I suggest that you click on this link and read this post on Jesus teaching about scripture from the archive.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Moving toward a holistic theology II; the scripture, revelation and mysticism

The first question that one must ask is how is God revealed to people? Is God currently practicing revelation or did it end with the closing of the canon? Is illumination a better term for God’s revelation and interaction with people today? Let’s first define our terms for our use. It is always better when the writer and, the reader understand the exact meaning set forth. We all have various connotations of the meanings of words, and revelation is no different. For our purposes we will define revelation as God communicating, and explaining divine truth to humans.

Two avenues of revelation that should be explored are scripture and mysticism. When I mention scripture, for our purposes, I mean the bible. By mysticism I mean the mystical union whereby God communicates to individuals with thoughts, audible messages, dreams or visions. You hear mainline Christians make the statements that the Lord told me or shared with me all the time. Quite frankly you can hear me say that from time to time and sometimes quite often. To simplify it, revelation is God communicating with people and the vehicle can be scripture or mysticism.

It is fair to say, that according to Christian tradition, based upon the scripture itself, that all of the scripture was delivered to us via a mystical experience of someone. How one views scripture and mystical experience determines ultimately their theology concerning God’s revelation. It is not just how one views the bible. It is how one views all methods of revelation including mystical experience. You may not like the word mystical but the fact is that it is the best way to properly explain people’s interaction with God’s Holy Spirit.

I have several acquaintances including my wife who tell me that God speaks to them from time to time in nature or by road signs. My wife has experienced both. I personally am a thought kind of person, that is, God speaks in and to my thoughts. When God speaks to me I generally think it. An exception to this is one Sunday when my wife and I were out to a nature sanctuary preserve on the San Francisco Bay. We were rejoicing and praising God when all at once all of the marsh and sea birds took flight and song at once. It was a loud and prolonged experience. I realized at that point that all of nature praises God.

I share this because I want you to think about your experience with revelation and mysticism outside of, or beyond the scripture. I am certain that my experience is not unique. I am equally certain that many of you have had similar experiences and stories to share. I welcome your comments as I undertake this exercise is explaining my own systematic theology and how it compares to Christian dogma and doctrine. This is usually the jumping off point in all systematic theology books. They usually always begin with revelation and scripture. The reason is that it informs the source of the theology.

Finally a word about illumination; I see that as a spiritual revelation from the Holy Spirit that gives a clearer understanding of what scripture means. Jesus did a lot of illuminating, and much of the New Testament scriptures are dedicated to illuminating what God’s revelation really meant. This is especially true with the redemptive focus that was applied by Jesus and his followers. Here is a beginning…. future posts will build on this foundation.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Moving toward a holistic theology I

Lately, I have felt the urge to write down my theology as it exists currently. That is, to write out concisely my findings from biblical and theological study, and list my conclusions, and the presuppositions I bring to theology. I think it is necessary to define the terms. First, theology according to Merriam-Webster  is : the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world; and secondly, the definition of the word holistic which again, from Merriam-Webster, is : a theory that the universe and especially living nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes (as of living organisms) that are more than the mere sum of elementary particles . To restate it in my own words I define theology as the study of God and his interaction in the world and holism as the idea that the universe is a part of a bigger whole than just the sum of its components. With these definitions in mind I will move forward with my holistic theology.  

As I think about it, this task demands that I put forth a systematic theology that explains how I view various topics that are found within the bounds of Christian Theology, and how my views differ from the current mainstream systematic theologies. I use the plural term theologies because that is the actual state that exists. There are several systematic theologies that exist within Christianity. By this I mean that there are differences based upon the various views of several denominations each having varying systematic theologies.

Why another systematic theology?

With all the different systematic theologies that exist within orthodoxy one could ask why another one? My answer is that the divisions that currently exist could perhaps be reconciled, and that perhaps this is the ripe time to begin to look at a new systematic theology that would honor the biblical data faithfully in the midst of post-modern culture, and allow for a more tolerant stance that would be more inclusive and much less divisive. As I have pointed out throughout the posts of this blog, there are many things about current evangelical orthodoxy that is simply incorrect. This systematic theology exercise could possibly show ways to correct some of these errors.

Here is a list of the main heads or areas that are commonly found in systematic theologies. As these particular posts proceed I will examine many of these areas in view of moving toward a holistic theology. The list is as follows:
  • Scripture, revelation, and mysticism
  • God
  • Humanity, the soul and spirit
  • The fall
  • Sin
  • Christ Jesus of Nazareth
  • Salvation, redemption and reconciliation
  • Eschatology or the theology of the last days
  • The Church, The Kingdom of God
  • The New Covenant
  • Science and evolution
  • Social Justice
I may add to the list of categories within the theological system as is necessary but this is a real good start. As this blog progresses I will use the scripture as I understand it to develop the various system categories. I will continue to do this in small chunks 500 – 750 words each to keep it easy to digest. I hope that you will follow along on this journey and comment as you feel led.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Justified by the faith OF Christ; Galatians 2:16 – Part II

In the last post, I began looking at the translation of Galatians 2:16. Specifically looking at whether it should read the faith of Jesus Christ or faith in Jesus Christ. In the Greek it is pisteows (genitive case of faith) ihsou (genitive case of Jesus) christou (genitive case of Christ). If we were to literally translate it into English, it would be Jesus Christ’s faith or the faith of Jesus Christ. Paul used the same phrase in 3:22, and Rom 3:22, 26. Still, except for the King James Version, Young’s Literal Translation, and the new NET Bible it is translated faith *in* Christ and not the faith *of* Christ. This is not the only place that the genitive case has been ignored by translators… sometimes… even the King James Translators. Another glaring example that I have blogged about in the past is the obedience of faith in Romans 1:5.

So then, what is the reason behind these mis-translations. I call them mis-translations because you can find translations that have rendered them one way or the other. Bill Mounce in his blog article states that sometimes we have to just use the translated word that makes the most sense, or fits the text the best. I suppose that he could be right however, I think it is a bit more sinister than that.  I think that the words are chosen to fit a certain theological understanding.

In the case of Galatians 2:16 the *theological understanding* aspect becomes very important indeed as shown in yesterday’s post. This makes me wonder about translations in general. If we have two glaring cases… one of the *faith OF Christ*… and the other of the *obedience OF faith* … it is fair to ask the question from the Matrix Movie… how deep does the rabbit hole go?

The fact is that correct genitive translation fits well with the idea that Jesus taught an entirely new, solely redemptive, hermeneutic; one where he was the savior of humanity by the will of God and his faithfulness.  In fact, the correct genitive translation points to the idea that much of orthodox/evangelical dogma is off the mark and has been over the two thousand years of Christian history.

This brings me to the conclusion that all translations have flaws. This includes the sometimes deified King James Version. For this reason I find the relatively new NET free bible at to be quite informative. They give accompanying notes that explain the reasoning in their translation choices.

Look at Galatians 2:16 from the NET bible. “yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

Christ’s perfect faith is summed up in his total faithfulness. You are not justified by your faithfulness but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Let me share the note that goes along with this verse.

52 tn Or "faith in Jesus Christ." A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated "faith in Jesus Christ," an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστο (pisti Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Gal_2:20; Rom_3:22; Rom_3:26; Gal_3:22; Eph_3:12; Phi_3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean "Christ's faith" or "Christ's faithfulness" (cf., e.g., G. Howard, "The 'Faith of Christ'," ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, "Πίστις Χριστο," NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Mat_9:2; Mat_9:22; Mat_9:29; Mar_2:5; Mar_5:34; Mar_10:52; Luk_5:20; Luk_7:50; Luk_8:25; Luk_8:48; Luk_17:19; Luk_18:42; Luk_22:32; Rom_1:8; Rom_1:12; Rom_3:3; Rom_4:5; Rom_4:12; Rom_4:16; 1Co_2:5; 1Co_15:14; 1Co_15:17; 2Co_10:15; Phi_2:17; Col_1:4; Col_2:5; 1Th_1:8; 1Th_3:2; 1Th_3:5; 1Th_3:10; 2Th_1:3; Tit_1:1; Phm_1:6; 1Pe_1:9; 1Pe_1:21; 2Pe_1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, "The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul," NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, "Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ," SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.

I added the notes in their entirety. They are pretty neutral. I of course am not neutral.

Justified by the faith OF Christ; Galatians 2:16

Important Note: This will be at least a two part blog post and perhaps more. I urge you to study all of them as they go forward and go back and forth.

Are we saved by our faith in Christ, or are we saved by the faith OF Christ? I think the answer may be surprising to some. Well, one of the first steps in salvation is justification. I do not want to enter into an argument about the order of salvation, ordo salutis in this blog post. I do believe that all can agree that one of the important first steps in salvation is justification. This is the point of this post.

Look at Galatians 2:16 from the KJV “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

Now look at the same verse from the NKJV Gal 2:16  “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

Here we have a disagreement between the King James Version and the New King James Version. One group of translators say that it is faith in Christ, and the others say that it is the faith of Christ. The Greek text has the phrase in the genitive case so it is the faith of Christ, (pisteows ihsou christou.) All of the newer translations translate it faith in Christ except the NET bible. Of the older translations only the King James Version, and Young’s Literal Translation translate it as the faith OF Christ.

Let’s look at the difference in meaning. If the correct translation is faith in Christ then we are justified by our faith in Christ, but if it is translated faith of Christ, then we are justified by the faith of Christ, or we are justified by Jesus’ faith. It makes the difference between monergistic and synergistic justification. In one case it is solely an act of God in Christ, and in the other case it is an act by humanity. In the first case God acts independently and humans apprehend it by faith… in other words they believe that God did it and rest in that belief. In the second case God makes a provision with Christ, but the choice of being saved is with the individual… in a sense humanity becomes his or her own savior. In first case, Christ’s faith is honored and in the other, it is ignored or marginalized.

According to the gospels, God announced that Jesus was his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. How did Jesus please him? We get a clue in Hebrews 11:6. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." The only thing that pleases God is faith. Therefore it is safe to conclude that if Jesus pleased God, it was by his faith. He was willing to believe God to the point of death. His faith was the ultimate faith. That is why his faith would justify the many. Adam took on the knowledge of good and evil, did not believe God, and made it impossible to believe him completely. Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David, just to name a few, were examples of those who would believe God from time to time, and therefore became metaphors/types of the saving faith that was to come in Jesus.

Jesus saving faith is something that we apprehend by faith. We are given that faith by the Holy Spirit when we hear the gospel message. In order to apprehend it correctly one must hear it correctly. I do not mean that if one does not apprehend it correctly they will not be saved. I do mean that if they do not apprehend it correctly they will NEVER be able to rest in Christ completely.

I posed this question to Bill Mounce and he wrote a blog article on it. He, in essense, justified why the newer translations translate it as *in Christ* instead of  *of Christ and I will examine that in the next post.* I think my blog articles will help add some additional food for thought.  I think that it shows the depth of the understanding of the Apostle Paul.

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