Friday, April 21, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 3

"I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place." 

(Luke 21:32 HCSB)

This is the third post in this series. You can find the first one here and the second one here. I would suggest that you read all three but it is not necessary to to read the others before reading this. However, after reading this you may want to go back and read the other two.

How do we interpret what we read. Yes, the question is a valid one. All written material has to be interpreted. Some is more straight forward, and less open to varying interpretations, and some is more obtuse, and thereby open to multiple interpretations. There are several things to consider. Who was the intended audience? What was the writer trying to convey? Was there literary devices used? What would the intended audience understand the writing to mean? I think it is safe to assume that the writings that comprise the New Testament were written to the first century audience unless it is expressly explained to be more universal. Am I saying that the messages cannot have a timeless universal meaning, absolutely not. However, I most definitely am saying that they WERE NOT specifically written to us or any generations before us or after us except for the first century church.

Yet, that is precisely how so much theology is determined. It is as though the scripture was written to us here in the 21st century. However, Jesus said these words, to his disciples, as he was leaving the temple. I have shown so far that the questions asked by his disciples tied his "this generation" directly to the destruction of the temple which took place in 70AD, and that his use of "this generation" / haute genea was most likely, the forty-year generation alive at the time he said it, similar to the forty-year generation that died in the wilderness in Moses Day.

Here is a chart I made a few years ago that illustrates how I think that Jesus indeed could have meant this generation as the forty-year generation alive at this speaking:

The above timeline is the record of redemptive history that coincides with the biblical narrative. It shows a little over six thousand years of history recorded in the bible. I realize that some of you may believe the world is much older than six thousand years, and quite frankly so do I, yet this makes a coherent illustration no matter the time from creation to Abraham.

There are however, several salient points to be made. First and foremost let's look at the Mosaic Covenant. It makes up a rather small piece of the timeline given all of the emphasis that is attached to the Law. I find that surprising in view of current evangelical and orthodox doctrine about the importance of law righteousness. What should be even more glaring on this timeline is the small, almost bullseye nature of the two top most periods. I am referring to the orange time of all the prophets, and the red span of the Christ event from Antiochus Ephiphanes to the destruction of the temple. The prophets make their prophecies in the orange period, and they come to fruition in the red period. That is almost like a bulls eye and if the timeline was stretched out proportionally, they would indeed be mere bulls eyes on an enormously long line.

This is especially interesting in light of Jesus words in the little apocalypse: "So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place" (let the reader understand)," (Matthew 24:15 HCSB) Especially when you read the Apocrypha Book, (1 Maccabees 1:54 KJV-1611)  "Now the fifteenth day of the moneth Casleu, in the hundreth fourtie and fift yeere, they set vp the abomination of desolation vpon the Altar, and builded idole altars throughout the cities of Iuda, on euery side:" So, since First Maccabees was known in Jesus time, he was aware of the passage in 1Maccabees 1:54, He was aware that the scribes and Pharisees believed that Aniochus was the abominator, and I think that is exactly why he said "let the reader understand." It was abominated by Antiochus Ephiphanes in 167BC but it would not be desolated until 70AD, still forty-years (one-generation... this generation) in the future. So, it is very likely that the abomination of desolation was not one event but a series on that bulls eye of the timeline.

There are other things to be gleaned from the above chart but we'll let this settle in for this time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 2

This is the second post in this series. You can find the first one here

"I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place." 
(Luke 21:32 HCSB)

In this post we will look at the word generation as it was used in the Greek in the first century. The word is genea. But for starters, since generation is in an English translation of the bible let's look at the definition in English first, here is the definition on Wikipedia. It is not that I find Wikipedia exceptionally reliable in information, but this definition articulates what I believe to be the common meaning when one hears this generation. generation is "all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively." It can also be described as, "the average period, generally considered to be about thirty years, during which children are born and grow up, become adults, and begin to have children of their own." These two definitions sum it up.

Secondly, and this is important... Jesus was a Jew, he was familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, and also the Septuagint which was the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek. So then, it is very important to see the use of the Greek word genea in the Septuagint. When I do a search of the Old Testament for the word generation, I find that it is always translated from the Hebrew word dor. Interestingly, it has the same meaning as the second definition in Wikipedia. That is, dor is a generation of thirty to forty years, and in Hebrew though it was forty years as signified by the forty year span that the disobedient Hebrews had to roam the desert without making it into the promised land.'

So then, even though Greek would allow the usage of genea to sometimes be a nation, that would not be the likely use that Jesus would use. Especially when one looks at Jewish hermeneutical devices. The first century Rabbi's often used words that would take one back to a former passage of scripture. That was a common device in first century Judea, and is everywhere in the new testament. So, when Jesus said. this evil generation he was bringing to remembrence "None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers," (Deuteronomy 1:35 HCSB) He did not just make this statement once but several times. It can be found in Matt 12:39,45; Matt 16:4 & Luke 11:29. It becomes very clear that for two reasons, one that the Septuagint only translated dor as genea, and secondly, that He referred back to Deu 1:35 when he used the word genea, that he would mean dor when he spoke about this generation. Especially in view of the fact that each and every time he said "this generation" he was being critical.

The other reason that theologians use to show that he did not mean the current generation when he said "this generation" is so weak that it is actually absurd when you hear it given. They say that he did not mean the current generation but rather the generation dor alive at the time of the end. Why would he even say that? Of course, it is obvious that at the end of the world, the end of the space time continuum, the generation alive then would see it come to fruition. When you stop and think about it, that argument is idiotic at best, but worse than that, it is deceptive to try to put a spin on the statement because of the fear that it did not come to pass and then one has a dilemma of large proportions. But, there is another solution. One that keeps the integrity of the prophecy.

I am not like the atheists. I do not think that Jesus' prophecy failed. I think it came to pass just the way he meant it but, since people want to stick to a strictly literal translation of the things said in the little apocalypse, they cannot accept that it indeed was fulfilled in the generation of the first century Jews that were contemporary with Jesus. However, it most definitely was!

We will look into this further next time....

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 1

"I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place." 
(Luke 21:32 HCSB)

This is the favorite verse of atheists. They use that to show that Jesus' prophecy did not come to pass and discredit him. There are several meanings that theologians have used to explained what He meant. Yes, they are conflicting. So, there is uncertainty in the real meaning of the passages that theologians have labeled the "little apocalypse." This is especially true when one takes the plain simple meaning of the text. Anyone who is honest would have to admit that it appears at first blush that Jesus referred to the generation alive at the time of his speaking, which would have meant within forty years at the most.

It all boils down to the meaning of the Greek word genea which is translated as "this generation." According to Strong's Greek Lexicon, it can mean either generation or nation. These two meanings account for all of the various interpretations out there. In a nutshell, it is thought to be this nation shall not pass away, or this generation alive at the time of the end will not pass away, or there are those who believe that it is the forty-year generation alive at the time of Jesus.

My answer to this interpretative conundrum is that he indeed meant the forty-year generation alive at the time he spoke. This of course has implications that tend to fly in the face of orthodoxy, but that should not alarm any of my regular readers as I challenge orthodoxy all the time.  It is however very important to unbelievers and believers alike.  We will look at this from several angles, but the first one that I would like to deal with is this: what was the question from his disciples that he was answering? This is an important question in establishing meaning as it provides context for the meaning of this generation.

"Teacher," they asked Him, "so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" 
(Luke 21:7 HCSB)

"While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?" 
(Matthew 24:3 HCSB)

"Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?" 
(Mark 13:4 HCSB)

The statement that begat each of the above questions was as follows; Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!" (Mark 13:2 HCSB) So then to be clear, the event predicted is the destruction of the temple. It is fair to say then that Jesus answer, has to be seen tied to the destruction of the temple. The time frame is indeed the destruction of the temple. Many of those who speak of this bring up Matthew 24:3 and claim that it is tied to the end of the space time universe. This is largely because of the fact that the King James Version reads "your coming and the end of the world." However notice that in the other two accounts, the only question asked is when will these things take place. What things? Since Jesus only mentioned the destruction of the temple, it is imperative to see that they were asking the question based on the destruction of the temple.

So why was "his coming" and the end of the age mentioned in the Matthew account and not mentioned in Luke and Mark? I believe the answer is fairly strait forward and simple. Luke and Mark were written to a Gentile audience, and Matthew was written mostly for the Jews. The Jews alone, based upon Daniel prophecies were looking for the end of the age. Let's be clear that the end of the age in no way was considered to be the end of the space-time continuum by the first century Jews. Likewise, his coming, was considered only by the Jews as "a coming" in judgment against his enemies, in which he would make his enemies his footstool. This was based upon all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. Therefore, one could legitimately say that they were only asking about the destruction of the temple also. The only difference was that they included the destruction of the temple with the prophesied judgment, and the end of the age. All three accounts of the question his disciples asked were before any apocalyptic language was introduced.

The most important thing to consider in this first post is that the entire conversation was linked directly to the destruction of the temple and cannot be removed from that event. I have not yet mentioned genea and its use but will in subsequent posts.

You can read Part 2 Here

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The obviously cultural aspects of the scripture; Paul the Rabbi/Paul the Mystic Part 2

This post is turning into a series. I am building on the theme that the scripture has cultural bias in it. Further, and more to the point, God did not mean for these biases to be legislated into belief and practice in perpetuity. After reading this, I would suggest you read the first post in the series here if you have not already done so. There are sound, biblical reasons for this. They center on what Jesus taught his followers about scripture interpretation, and what they in turn passed on in the writings that form the New Testament scripture. Jesus' focus was two fold. It was for the immediate future, his death, burial and resurrection, but also, it was more timeless, meant for a time, when the true meaning of his death burial and resurrection would be revealed. Paul referred to it as a mystery.

Likewise, Paul's mission was two fold. 1) He was to take his extensive Rabbi training, and make sense out of the gospel from a Jewish perspective and Jewish tradition. 2) He was a mystic, and given revelation that even he did not completely understand. That is why he called the gospel a mystery. The evidence of his rabbinical training is obvious. He was a student of Gamaliel; He continued, "I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel and educated according to the strict view of our patriarchal law. Being zealous for God, just as all of you are today," (Acts 22:3 HCSB) Here is the other side of Paul, Paul the Mystic, "Boasting is necessary. It is not profitable, but I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don't know, God knows. I know that this man--whether in the body or out of the body I don't know, God knows-- was caught up into paradise. He heard inexpressible words, which a man is not allowed to speak." (2 Corinthians 12:1-4 HCSB)

I will expand on Paul the Rabbi - Paul the Mystic as time goes on but for this purpose, I want to make sure that it is obvious that God used Paul the Rabbi to explain how the Jewish Messiah, was actually, the Spiritual Messiah of all humanity, and He accomplished that through Paul the Mystic. Paul the Rabbi was for the first century. Paul the Mystic was for the future. The message that is timeless is Paul's mystical visions. The cultural aspects written about by Paul the Rabbi were for the first century and quite frankly need to be left there.

One of the more important mystical discoveries of Paul was the relationship of Law and Grace. As a rabbi he had been trained in the Law in great detail. He learned that even though God had commanded Law righteousness, it could not be attained. "For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them." (Romans 10:5 HCSB) However, God had promised in Deuteronomy 30 a new covenant outcome, and Paul is given the actual meaning of Deu 30:14. It was never the plain sense simple meaning. Rather it was ALWAYS the redemptive meaning... the meaning that was given it before the foundation of the world (Ephesians chapter 1.) "On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim(Romans 10:8 HCSB)" This is a quote from Deu 30. Paul explains the message they are preaching.  And what precisely is that message? "If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13 HCSB)

So, it is clear that we have Paul the rabbi, dealing with the cultural aspects of Judaism, and the inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God and His Kingdom, and we have Paul the mystic receiving timeless messages that explain the relationship God desires with all people. The legal aspect is the cultural, and the redemptive aspect is the mystical. Since Jesus taught a hermeneutic that was heavily redemptive in focus, and Paul did as well, that should be the ONLY focus of Christ followers. Whether you call them Christians, the church, the way, the believers by any name, should be taught a solely redemptive focus, and the cultural aspects should be left for the culture and occasion they were written too.  While the cultural can have timeless application, the problem comes in when the scripture is viewed as a legal-constitutional document.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Resurrection Life: a 24/7/365 reality!

Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You." "Your brother will rise again," Jesus told her. Martha said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die--ever. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she told Him, "I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world."
(John 11:21-27 HCSB)

Most of the Jews in second temple Judaism at the turn of the first century believed in the resurrection at the end of the age. They were expecting the end of the age. One of the main reasons for this was Daniel's "seventy-weeks" prophecy. The reason being they knew they were living in the time of fruition and fulfillment for that prophecy. They were expecting the end of the age, and Ola Ha Bah, the beginning of the age to come.

Yet in this passage of John's gospel, Jesus makes a very important statement. The statement does not get much notice for what it really was. The reason is that no one seems to think that he meant what he said and are awaiting a future fulfillment.  However, what he actually says to Martha is profound. He says... look here Martha, you all are awaiting for the resurrection. You expect a day of resurrection at the end of the age. Let me explain something to you.... "I'm the resurrection! I am shortly going to be living proof of the resurrection. I am going to be resurrected and it will be for the purpose of resurrecting everyone else." Anyone in this time who dares believe that I am the resurrection will surely never die. 

Furthermore, this is a redemptive decree. I have mentioned those in past posts. A redemptive decree is one that is stated in such a way that if it is not exactly the truth, not exactly the way in which something will happen, then, it is simply a false decree. Jesus is saying here; "The Resurrection" is not future to my resurrection. My resurrection IS THE RESURRECTION." Well, was this true? Let's look at another passage that is completely overlooked by most because it does not fit well with their theological systems of thought.

But the rest said, "Let's see if Elijah comes to save Him!" Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. 
(Matthew 27:49-53 HCSB)

It is clear from this passage that the saints dead at the time of His resurrection were in fact resurrected. Do we believe that? When you google this passage and land on you find that they say that this was a partial resurrection to show the power of Jesus... HA, says who? There is nothing that suggests that this was partial.... it was just reported about the saints in Jerusalem but no where does it say that not ALL of the saints dead were resurrected that day. That like so much of evangelical doctrine is a theological construct. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How the Holy Spirit Transforms Believers; The operation of the gospel Part 2

The biggest lie that Satan has ever perpetrated on God's people is that once one is born again, the Holy Spirit, enables one to live the Law. This is definitely so far from truth that it has absolutely no basis in reality! Yet, it is the most popular and repeated concept in the sanctification process. It does a lot of irreparable harm. In the first post in this series I explained how the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to transform saints. How many times have you ever heard that proclaimed from a pulpit? Likely never!

When one reads the New Testament it should be easy to see that it is the gospel that the Holy Spirit uses to transform the believer. The problem is with the legal constitutional reading of scripture. It is viewed by way too many as a rule-book. This view of the scripture diminishes the gospel as the KEY transforming message. As I stated above, look at all the passages that demonstrate that the gospel, good news, God's grace, is in reality the transforming catalyst.

  1. Titus 2:11-13 HCSB For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, (12) instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, (13) while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  2. Romans 2:4 NKJV  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
  3. James 2:13 NKJV  For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
  4. 1 John 4:10 NKJV  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
  5. Romans 6:14 NKJV  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
  6. John 1:17 NKJV  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
All of the above passages clearly show that the gospel of grace is the transforming power. The Holy Spirit uses God's grace to cause love for God established by the peace one has with God based upon the gospel message.

The book or Romans is such a clear example of how this works. Paul spends eight chapters of Romans explaining the gospel of grace in precise detail, he then takes three chapters to explain why the Jews are loosing out on the gospel and the Gentiles are included. However, even in Romans 9-11 Paul ends with a glorious proclamation about God's grace and how God is watching over Israel. Then... in Romans 12:1-2 Paul brings the argument to its conclusion. He says, I beseech you brethren by the mercies of God.... He is saying, I just spent a lot of time writing about the gospel, and the goodness and graciousness of God, and now, I am begging you by God's mercy to love God in such a way as to present yourselves a living sacrifice. This whole argument gets lost in the legal constitutional reading of the scripture.

It is a shame, that when one attends most churches, listens to most sermons, reads most evangelical books, that they never hear how the gospel via the Holy Spirit is the transformation catalyst. The read and do, legal approach is found NOWHERE in any of the epistles. Hearing the gospel message over and over produces the peace and love which allows the Holy Spirit to supernaturally bring about love for God that ultimately results in increased obedience, that is, the person grows closer to the image of Christ. Again, the letter kills, while the Spirit gives life!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How the Holy Spirit Transforms Believers; The operation of the gospel Part 1

I would like to begin a new series on the way in which the Holy Spirit transforms the believer. It is a well established fact that the Holy Spirit is the vehicle for transforming saints, but there is not a lot written about how the Spirit does it. The short answer is the Spirit uses the gospel. However, if you would ask the average evangelical, while they would tell you that the Holy Spirit is the transforming force, they would not be able to explain the operation short of saying, well the Holy Spirits enables saints to obey the commandments. But is that true? Is that what Paul and the other writers of the New Testament taught? I absolutely think not.

Here is an interesting verse that may open up our understanding a little better. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NASB "(15) So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." There was word of mouth teaching going on in the first century. That only makes sense, but think about how much of the teaching in your current church setting is word of mouth. Most right? Of-course! No matter how much your pastor or teacher sticks to the scripture, the bulk of every teaching is explanation that is word of mouth. Moreover, it is word of mouth based on the traditions and presuppositions that he or she has been taught. It is little wonder then that Paul would write about traditions that were taught by word of mouth as well as epistle. You can bet the farm that there was a lot more word of mouth than epistles.

Let's look a little deeper in the the passage in Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 NASB "(13) But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (14) It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (15) So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." The letter/epistle explains it well, but let me unpack it a little... let me expand with what the actual word of mouth interpretation of the passage would be. So, we see first that they were chosen from the beginning for sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the gospel. Yes, when Paul writes faith in the truth, he is speaking of faith in the "word of truth" which he defined as the gospel in Ephesians 1:13. It is the gospel that allows one to gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, how does it operate you ask? The gospel brings peace with Father God. It brings peace because one is accepted in Christ, completely forgiven, has been imputed the righteousness of Christ, God is no longer counting trespasses, but rather, has reconciled humanity to Himself through Christ. Paul said in Romans 5, "therefore, being justified by faith you have peace with God." Imagine that, having shalom with God. Peace with God is the foundation for transformation. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel message to create a sense of peace with God. That is the first and most important step in the transformation process.

Now then, follow on along this train of thought.... once a person believes the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, once one believes that they have peace with the Father based on Christ alone, at that moment, they begin to genuinely love God... How did John say it? Herein is love, not that we love God but that he loved us and sent His Son as a propitiation for our sin. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel message to give us peace with God and then as we believe the message, the Holy Spirit begins to generate within us a genuine love for God. Loving God for real.... not just saying so because we know it is a command, but because we believe the gospel. We believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting sin. How can you not love God when you focus on that gospel truth? I'll bet right now as you read this, there is a feeling of warm peace welling up in your bosom, that is bringing about a transforming love for God.... You are witnessing the way in which the Holy Spirit transforms... you are experiencing it even as you read on. Yes, it is just this simple.

This is why the Law kills and the Spirit gives life! When you believe the gospel you are being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately too many preachers think you need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can enable you to obey the Law. That is a lie from Satan and his minions! In order for the Holy Ghost to transform you by the gospel... you have to continually hear the gospel... is that what you hear most of the time in most churches? Absolutely NOT! Most of the time you hear the killing letter... you should be starting to see clearly. We'll stop for now and continue on later.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The obviously cultural aspects of the scripture; Who would think for a minute, that the first century Roman Empire would be God's model society?

When one demands a legal-constitutional reading of the scripture for all time forward, I wonder, does one ever stop to think that the first century Roman Empire or first century Judaism is probably not God's ideal culture? It makes me shake my head in dis-belief. The Old Testament (the law and the prophets) was clearly a legal constitutional document for Old Covenant Israel. I get that. However, Jesus and his first century followers that wrote the New Testament brought the focus from legal-constitutional to the story of redemption. In other words it was shifted to a timeless theme. The focal point being Father God's desire to have a close relationship with his children.

Egalitarianism was not understood, nor for that matter, a part of the conversation of the first century culture. I am not the overlord of my wife by virtue of my plumbing. The true gospel does not operate on compulsion. Here is the gospel.... 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 HCSB "(17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. (18) Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." (21) He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." No one thinks that because the scripture says that "he is a new creation" that women are not included in this gospel promise. It would be absurd to believe that. Yet, because of the time in history, because of the cultural way of speaking and writing Paul used "he." Of course we know it as a universal term that includes all of humanity both male and female. Paul was not saying, "hey there, all you men, be reconciled to God." No, Paul was saying, anyone hearing my words, anyone reading these words, male or female, "be reconciled to God." Still, the language used is male-centric, and if one was to take it literally, one would have to conclude that the gospel only applies to men. IT WAS CULTURAL!!! This was not God's ideal culture. It was the culture he worked with to bring forth the gospel.

My point here is that a culture cannot express ideas that are foreign to it. Can you imagine what one would have written and said back in the first century had they seen a vision of a 2017 automobile? Since they have nothing within their culture to compare it too, or describe it by, they could not describe it. We do a disservice to God when we assume that the cultural admonitions in the scripture are his endorsed ideal. However, when one insists on a legal constitutional reading of scripture, it cannot be escaped. Things in scripture that were cultural become a legislated ideal with a legal constitutional reading

So then, the important message of the scripture is found in the above passage. It is a message that if believed will bring peace and love to the individual. When one realizes that God made Christ who knew no sin to be made sin on our behalf, and further made it so we could be the righteousness of God in him, then one cannot help but love God based upon grace. Love for God in turn enables love for others supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit, but only so long as one focuses on redemption and grace. As Paul wrote, when it becomes a legal document, it kills the spirit.

The point of this post is that it is only common sense that much of what was written by inspired writers was cultural. It reflected the cultural advancement of the time in which it was written. If you are familiar with Spiral Dynamics, you would realize that the NT writings were written during the blue traditional stage of the development of culture. This is precisely why it is important to limit ones view of scripture to a redemptive focus. According to Jesus and his first century followers it was the redemptive narrative. This reflected in John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27, 43-45.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Stop calling the bible "the word;" A message from The Word!

John 1:1-5 AMP "In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. [Gen. 1:1; Isa. 9:6] (2) He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. (3) All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. (4) In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. (5) The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it."

I fear that we have made the bible an idol. We have given it a position it was never meant to have. I think this came about for two reasons. One honorable and one not so honorable. The honorable reason was solidified with the Reformation. It was obvious that church doctrine had run a muck and in an effort to eliminate the authority of church doctrine, sola scriptura was put in place. However, I believe that the original authors of sola scriptura meant it as scripture alone for explaining salvation, in the same way that sola fide, meant faith alone for salvation, the way that sola gratia meant grace alone for salvation, and the way that Solo Christo meant Christ alone for salvation. Over time, sola scriptura has been expanded to include the concept of scripture alone for all faith and practice. This greased the slippery slope that has led to thousands of denominations and beliefs, and was innocent in motive.

The not so honorable reason was inserted into church doctrine for control purposes. It has been made clear over and over on this blog that Jesus and the first century saints that wrote the New Testament changed the definition of "the word" from Torah (the Pharisees) to the gospel, and as seen in the above passage from the first chapter of John's gospel, and Jesus the gospel made flesh. The early church fathers went back to defining the scripture as "the word" to give it the authority that would give the clerical class control over people. In doing this, they also re-established the legal-constitutional reading of scripture that was the hermeneutic of the scribes and Pharisees. Sadly, still today, it is used to control people. In fact, I would safely state, that the control motive is the most widely used, and practiced method of scripture presentation in modern evangelicalism. It is much more widely used than the gospel message. This in view of the fact that for Jesus and the first century saints, redemption was the main focus.

So, let's look at the above passage from John in light of what Paul taught. Ephesians 1:3-8 AMP "Blessed and worthy of praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, (4) just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight. In love (5) He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will-- (6) to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ]. (7) In Him we have redemption [that is, our deliverance and salvation] through His blood, [which paid the penalty for our sin and resulted in] the forgiveness and complete pardon of our sin, in accordance with the riches of His grace (8) which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and understanding [with practical insight]." I hope you took the time to read this passage that I have posted. This passage not only reaffirms what is written in John 1:1-5, but goes on to elaborate on why redemption was God's purpose in creation. Yes, you read me right. I wrote that REDEMPTION was God's purpose in creation.

The bible is the scripture! It is God breathed! It is inspired! But Jesus also revealed that it is the REDEMPTIVE NARRATIVE, and not a legal constitutional document for New Covenant believers. It is OK to understand that much of it, even parts of the New Testament is cultural and reflects the culture of those who were inspired to write it.  It was NOT a description of the practices that God demanded. Paul's treatment of women is cultural! It was progressive for the times, however, the times were not progressive.

It amazes me as I look at my Facebook news feed and see discussions of whether or not women should cover their heads in church. Paul wrote some important things along with the cultural things. Romans 13:8-10 HCSB "Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (9) The commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and whatever other commandment--all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself. (10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law." No matter what you think, a saint is not to use scripture as a rule-book. Yes, it can generally inform us how to treat others and conduct ourselves, but once it becomes the law... the letter... it kills the love and peace we have for Father that is established by the gospel and no other way. That is precisely why so many believers are so mean, and intolerant!

They are devoid of the gospel and its effect. They erroneously have accepted the lie that the gospel is a one time thing, and once you are saved you need to substitute the rule book to make sure you stay and act saved. This is a lie out of the depths of Satan's deception. You cannot properly love when you see the scripture as a rule book that you must follow and are out of favor with Father whenever you mess up. Most of all, you cannot properly love Father.... if you don't know peace with Father away from the accuser of the brethren, you simply CANNOT LOVE no matter how hard you try.

Ephesians 5:14 HCSB "for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said: Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and the Messiah will shine on you." Wake up sleeper... believe the gospel and love!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

You cannot rightly divide what you have not rightly defined! II

The predominant way of looking at the scripture within evangelical Christianity is in a legal constitutional way. The question we should be asking is as follows; is this correct, and how much difference does it make? My short answer is as follows: it is definitely correct, and it makes such a significant difference as it literally changes the entire paradigm. With this in mind, let us examine Paul's concept as found in 2 Timothy 2:15. He writes: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Of course this means to rightly divide or correctly handle the scripture right? Wrong! Paul most definitely meant that one should rightly divide the gospel. In other words, were I to give a translation of this verse today, I would write it this way: Be careful to show that you are approved by God, correctly handling the gospel. Paul defined the word of truth as the gospel in Ephesians 1:13. In this verse he writes, "the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation."

In the mind of Paul, he meant gospel when he wrote word of truth. James appears to concur with Paul's definition in James 1:18 it reads as follows; "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." In the James passage, it is clear that he meant gospel. James is not saying they were begotten by the scripture but rather, they were begotten or born again by the gospel. So then, by 2 Timothy 2:15 the follower of Christ has the obligation to rightly divide or correctly handle the gospel. Let's try to flesh out what that means, can we? There must be a correct way to handle the gospel, and an incorrect way to handle the gospel. Paul defines the gospel as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. What does the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus mean to people? Quite simply put it means that humanity has been reconciled to God by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

As stated above, the predominant way of looking at scripture is as a legal constitutional document from God to humanity. The reality however is that it is the redemptive narrative. According to Jesus, the scripture is all about him (John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27, 43-45.) When one looks at Ephesians chapter one, one finds that redemption was God's purpose in creation, and that the gospel was the plan from before the foundation of the world, in other words, before creation. So when one looks at rightly dividing the word as rightly dividing scripture, one has an erroneous way of looking at the 2 Timothy 2:15. It follows that one can NEVER rightly divide what one cannot rightly define. However, if one shifts the definition to the correct one, defining the the word of truth as the gospel, then one at least as the definition right.

What does rightly dividing or correctly handling the gospel mean? Well, to begin with, one can only, really divide the gospel with the cross and resurrection event. Prior to the cross and resurrection, the gospel was simply a promise. Afterward it was a fulfillment. The gospel is the news of the promise to Abraham in which his seed would bless the world. But, the way in which his Seed was to bless the world, is with a New Covenant that was based on BETTER promises. What specifically? 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 HCSB (19) For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us--by me and Silvanus and Timothy--did not become "Yes and no"; on the contrary, a final "Yes" has come in Him. (20) For every one of God's promises is "Yes" in Him. Therefore, the "Amen" is also spoken through Him by us for God's glory. ALL of God's promises in Christ Jesus is "YES and AMEN!

It is time to stop the legal-constitutional reading of scripture. It has never been a legal-constitutional document for Gentiles. And, since the advent of the cross and the destruction of the temple, it has not been a legal-constitutional document for the Jews either. In Christ, ALL of the promises of the Old Covenant have been fulfilled. All of the Old Covenant promises were types and figures. Old Covenant ways of atonement have been eliminated with the resurrection of Christ, and since the destruction of the temple the methods of atonement have been done away with by the sovereign act of God.

Incorrect definitions keep us locked in a mixture of old and new covenant which leads to error and renders the New Covenant of no effect! The word of truth is the gospel not the scripture.

Here is a link to Part 1 Comments are welcomed always!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

An Atonement Theory for the Paradigm Shift Part II; In a student union coffee shop

I want to continue this series with a brief story. Several years back, I was waiting for someone in the Alameda College, Student Union Coffee Shop in Alameda CA. when I lived in the SF Bay Area. I was going to be there an hour or better and was sipping coffee and reading a book. A group of students and their instructor came in and took the large table adjacent to me. It turned out that they were on break from a comparative religions class. I was reading and *ear hustling* their conversation as they were discussing creation myths. Of course, they included the account in Genesis 3 as equal with all of the others, including the one of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish.

Not surprisingly, if you know me at all, I could not keep my tongue, and asked if they minded if I get into their discussion and naturally they said yes. I went on to tell them my observation about the creation myth in Genesis. (Remember Paul saying that he became all things to all people) I did not want to discuss the merit of the Genesis account in relation to the others based upon my view of the bible. I merely wanted to make an observation about the Genesis account in Gen 3.

Here is the observation that I shared
"Isn't it interesting that the creation myth in Genesis is the only one that describes the source of human pathology?" I went on to tell them that the sentence of death and the knowledge of good and evil are precisely the cause of all of our problems. The reason is that death produced the survival instinct, which in turn begat greed. Add to that the knowledge of good and evil and one is given the tools to justify greed. It is very easy to reason ourselves as good and the other as evil. Societies have been doing that throughout time. It is the source of wars, crime, and every other manner of human pathology. I prefer the term pathology to sin for two reasons. 1) Sin has a connotation among evangelicals that does not square with the biblical concept of missing the mark, and 2) It is an inherited pathogen, i.e., very akin to a disease, a spiritual disease but a disease non the less.

So, instead of a penal-substitutional atonement theory, I have discovered that the biblical data supports a victory-atonement theory whereby, Jesus by his perfect faith, overcame the pathology. He was convinced that he was eternal, and thereby, was willing to die to prove it, and in so doing overcame death. Likewise, his faith allowed him to believe all that the Father told him, and the Father told him that he loved him dearly as his first born son. All who believe this message, receive the Holy Spirit who enables them to believe that they too have overcome death, and the knowledge of good and evil. They have overcome death because they are assured of their eternal life, and they have overcome the knowledge of good and evil because they can now believe that they are loved and accepted by the Father.

It is possible to believe God's original declaration found in Genesis 1:31.... all of his creation is very good. That is the purpose of the gospel and it was God's plan from before the foundation of the world. He purposed that by this plan, all would praise his glorious grace.

Here is a link to Part 1 Comments welcomed!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Repairers of the breach

Isaiah 58:12 NKJV  "Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In."

Isaiah chapter 58 is squarely in the New Covenant portion of Isaiah. This statement has a double meaning. Yes, it speaks of naturally building up the old waste places, restoring the foundations of many generations and restorer of streets to dwell in, but it also speaks spiritually of the restoration of the breach between creation and creator, between God and man. One of the many earthly missions of the Lord Jesus Christ was to be a mediator of a new and better covenant... to be a mediator between God and humanity, and as disciples of the master, we should be mediator's as well. Paul tells us in 2 Cor 5 that we have the ministry (service) of reconciliation. We should facilitate reconciliation between others and God. How, by proclaiming boldly that humanity has been reconciled by Christ and all should merely believe and accept that reconciliation.

The breach has been repaired. God was in Christ repairing the breach. That is simply another way of saying that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." The breach is totally and eternally repaired. The question at hand is will we believe it? Will we accept as fact our reconciliation to God? Will we walk daily in that new reality? If and when we do, we will begin to see a transformation never before seen. Too many are waiting for a future completion of something that is already done.

A breach is simply a hole. Something is broken. In this case, the break is in the relationship between God and humanity. Think of a a bridge between humanity and God. Death/mortality and the knowledge of good and evil put a breach in that bridge. The breach does not affect God like it does humans. God is ever present but humans are not aware of it. Therefore, it is like there is no relationship at all. The gospel repairs that breach, and once it is repaired, it should then have an effect on the old waste places. Now I am referring to actual physical waste places. These waste places are most frequently found in the inner cities of America. Yes, it is the result of neglect of many generations of individuals.

This is precisely the way in which the kingdom of God should impact the world's kingdoms. Knowing that the breach has been repaired between us and the Father, should develop a love within us that makes us want to restore the streets and rebuild the old waste places. This is precisely why Jesus said in Matthew25, "I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was hungry and you fed me, I was sick or in prison and you came to see about me." When asked when they did all of these things for him his reply was, "when you did it to the least of these my brothers you did it unto me." Many have tried to say that he meant fellow Jews only, however, as the last Adam, Jesus is the ultimate representative of ALL humanity and therefore, all are his brothers and sisters.

We need to proclaim that the breach has been repaired and restored!

BE RECONCILED TO GOD!!!! Comments welcomed!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Different Gospel; The gospel distorted Part 4

Galatians 1:6-7 NASB I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; (7) which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

This is the fourth post in this series. So what is it that makes me believe that the gospel... that is presented today by the evangelical church is a different gospel.... a distorted gospel? Well, the answer lies in who and what the current evangelical church holds up as authorities and what they hold as authoritative. I will look at how this affects the understanding of the gospel and in turn, how it distorts it.

I would like to focus on question three: Who had the intended readers held up as authorities before the writing?

The answer to this question is two-fold. First, the Jews, the audience that Jesus targeted were first century second temple Jews. Furthermore, and this is important... His only targeted audience was the Jews. Likewise, his audience was Torah observant Jews. This group held the scribes and the Pharisees up as authoritative except for the Sadducee's. They saw the priesthood as authoritative, both groups viewed the Torah as authoritative and the scribes and Pharisees also thought that the Mishna, the oral tradition was authoritative. The second audience of the first century New Testament scriptures was converted Gentiles. Some were God-fearing Gentiles that were already attached to the Jewish community and the synagogues, and some were Gentiles that were converted to Christianity without much knowledge of the Jewish religion. The God-fearing Gentiles saw the Torah and the scribes and Pharisees as authoritative, and those who simply converted to Christianity only saw the apostles as authoritative. However, all of the believers also saw the apostles as authoritative. Confused yet? It was a lot more complicated than one first assumes. Still I will look at how this makes the gospel of today distorted.

Now let's look at who the modern day evangelicals see as authoritative and what they hold to be authoritative. If you asked the question to most you would get the answer the bible. That is the source that most evangelicals find as the ultimate authority. Next in line would be the collection of doctrine that the church as a whole has called orthodox. The doctrine exists in creeds, faith statements, and theological writings. Finally, evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit will bring about illumination that will help one to understand the bible. The thing that is glaringly absent in the evangelical view of what is authoritative is the apostles. That is interesting in view of the fact, that for the first century church, apostolic authority was number one. The source of apostolic authority was the Holy Ghost. Look at this passage: Acts 2:42 HCSB "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers." Yes, the apostles doctrine was number one. The apostles teaching and doctrine were one in the same. The Greek word for teaching is DIDACHE, and it was translated as doctrine in the KJV.

Well, what exactly was the apostle's teaching/doctrine? Here is something you can take to the bank. It was much more oral than it was written.... let me repeat that for effect... it was much more oral than it was written. This makes it far more difficult to understand exactly what the apostle's teaching was. It takes what I call reading between the lines to actually cipher what they taught in totality. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church rightfully claim apostolic succession. That means that they can historically trace their roots all the way back to the second century. Of course they claim that they can trace it back to the first century but the fact is that from the destruction of the temple there was a forty-year silence. In other words, there is nothing written during that time that would prove apostolic succession.

It is at this juncture that 2 Thessalonians 2:11 HCSB comes into play; "(11) For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false." Earlier in the chapter, in verse three there is a warning of a great apostasy. So the question becomes did it happen? It was certainly prophesied for the time frame of the intended audience. Here is the facts as I see them; if the great falling away did not come, then apostolic succession should be in place up until today, and we all should be either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Or, if the Reformation was justified, then it is necessary that the great apostasy happened back at the time Paul prophesied.

These facts alone should raise doubt about the authenticity of the gospel as it is currently described by evangelical orthodoxy. I am not saying that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is not the gospel it most definitely is. What has been lost is the operation of the gospel as a transformation catalyst. The gospel alone without self effort was the driving force in transformation in the first century saints. It was faith in the gospel alone that prepared the heart to love God, and love each other.

This is getting lengthy and I will actually divide it into two bites this being the first. In the next post, I will expand into what the apostles taught about grace and law and transformation.

Comments Welcomed!!

A Different Gospel; The gospel distorted Part 3

Galatians 1:6-7 NASB I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; (7) which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

This is the third post in this series. So what is it that makes me believe that the gospel... that is presented today by the evangelical church is a different gospel.... a distorted gospel? Well the answer is quite simple. Today, evangelicals have very different expectations than those of the intended readers of the first century. Most have a futurist view of the prophecies that in no way squares with the expectations of the readers.

I would like to focus on question one: What were the expectations of the intended readers?

I will list in order what I believe the expectations of the first century readers was:

  1. Due to the timing, they knew that the Daniels seventy weeks prophecy was due during their time in the first century. The first century Jews were expecting the fulfillment of the Messiah prophecy
  2. They were also expecting the end of the age and the beginning of the age to come.
  3. They were expecting the fulfillment of all the prophets and the day of the Lord.
  4. They were expecting the restoration of the glory of the kingdom's of David and Solomon.
  5. They were expecting God to intervene in a supernatural way and remove Rome from governing.
  6. They were expecting the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecies about the peaceable kingdom.
  7. They were anticipating a New Heaven and a New Earth.
None of the expectations went beyond the generation of the first century saints. In fact, were it possible to speak to one of them today, they would likely just say that the prophecies failed. The reason that there are so many skeptics about Christianity today lies in the fact that they also just simply believe that most of the prophecies failed. Modern liberal Christianity exists with the realization that most of the prophecies failed. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The temple and Jerusalem was destroyed just as prophesied. Jesus enemies were made his foot stool just as prophesied. The day of the Lord's wrath came just as prophesied. The New Heaven and the New Earth came just as prophesied... or did it? The answer to that is yes but it will take some unpacking. There was an already, not-yet period during the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. It was the time between the resurrection and the destruction of the temple. During that time, you had two "peoples of God" claiming that they were the true followers of God. You had the Torah Observant unbelieving Jews, and you had the believing Jews and Gentiles that were first called the way and later Christians. There were essentially two competing covenants in play. They were waiting for a time when God would make manifest who His real sons and daughters were. How would God manifest the sons and daughters of God? By destroying the temple and making Jesus enemies His footstool. It should become clear that the prophecies of the first century did not fail. Not at all. They simply were fulfilled in a way that did not meet the expectations of the intended readers.

Let's take a look at a New Covenant prophecy: Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, (32) not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. (33) "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (34) "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Now then, the covenant written about in the above passage is simply an unconditional covenant. It does not require Israel's agreement. The reason is that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel's proxy in this covenant. Please do not construe my comments to be anti-semetic. I am not in any way. I believe that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable and ALL Israel is saved. They are loved for the sake of the Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Here are the facts. Either that covenant is in force today, or the Gentiles are merely deceived and really not saved. However, it is in force today. Matthew 26:28 HCSB "For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins." In the KJV, it reads "this is my blood of the New Covenant" so either that New Covenant is totally in-force or the writer of Matthew's gospel lied. Notice also that Christ's blood was "shed for the forgiveness of sins," and the passage in Jeremiah saying that "I will forgive their iniquity, and the sin I will remember no more." All of you that are concerned about Israel need to chill! God has redeemed them through Christ whether or not they know it yet. The fact is that all of the expectations of the first century saints were met. God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD to Himself not counting trespasses. He made Jesus, representative Israel, who knew no sin to be made sin for them, but not just them for the sin of the whole WORLD!

So then, how does this distort the gospel and create a different gospel? Very simply, most all of Christianity is caught in the transition period between the resurrection and the destruction of the temple. They are preaching a transitional gospel. Paul did not. He preached the gospel, and acknowledged the transition, as did ALL of the first century writers of the New Testament scripture. The gospel simply put is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, for the reconciliation of people to the Father, and for the installation of a New Covenant with much better promises and no conditions!

Comments welcomed!!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"The Shack" Movie: 5 Biblical and Theological Reasons William Paul Young is right and two thousand years of orthodoxy is wrong; Part 7

This blog is much longer than usual. What I have done here is combine the other six blog posts together so it can easily be read as a whole. Even if you have already read the individual posts, it could be good to read them all together as it will present a more clear and complete picture of the point being made.

Here is the body of the blogs combined:

March 3rd, my wife and I went to see "The Shack." It was indeed the best movie I have ever seen. It dealt with the MOST difficult subject that can ever be tackled; where is God in the midst of horrible evil. I am not a movie critic. I am an "amateur theologian" who has spent thirty years examining the gospel and theological views. I have therefore come up with five reasons that "The Shack" is biblical and theologically correct, while all of evangelical and orthodox Christianity is terribly wrong.

The Five Reasons:
  1. God has always wanted to have a personal relationship with humanity from the beginning forward.
  2. God created humanity the way it is, and in spite of that declared that it was "very good."
  3. Jesus overthrew the legal-constitutional focus of scripture in favor of seeing it as the redemptive narrative.
  4. God's ultimate purpose in creation was redemption.
  5. Humanities pathology results from mortality, and the ability to judge what is right and wrong.

Paul Young has developed the book, which ultimately ended up being the movie, based upon the above presuppositions which form the paradigm. Over time, in a series, I will examine and elaborate on each of these reasons. Seeing the movie was a breath of fresh air for my wife and I.... seeing it in the heart of the Bible Belt, and seeing that there was less than thirty people in the theater, is very telling and disheartening.

While there are those who embrace the book, the movie, and the paradigm. There are many who see it as a damnable heresy. That audience is my target. While I may not convince them he is right, I will be able to lend a strong, and well-reasoned voice, that will show that there is truly an alternate lens to look at the biblical narrative, and make sense out of it.

There are equally valid if not more valid ways to read the biblical text, and conclude a completely different paradigm than is currently driving evangelical doctrine. It is time for apologists of a different paradigm to make their case known. If one understands that God's ultimate reason for creation was redemption, which would bring glory to his grace, Ephesians 1:6, then the paradigm that "The Shack" presents would obviously be one that is compatible with the biblical data.

God has revealed Himself in many ways in times past to the prophets. He was a burning bush to Moses, and there are many and varied theophanies in the scriptures. It is not a stretch at all to have God reveal Himself as an African American woman who brought comfort to a young boy in a very difficult and painful childhood. To present that image of Papa merely shows that God will go to any place that is necessary to communicate his love to his children. In Mack's case, he would not have made any progress at all given Mack's relationship with his abusive alcoholic father. To appear as a concerned neighbor that showed him love as a child is precisely the proper image to present.

There is a richness in the imagery and dialog of this movie that tells a most important story. It is a story that demonstrates the lengths to which God has gone to redeem and reconcile humanity. The depravity of humankind is the result of having the appearance of being able to judge good and evil without really knowing the criteria that God alone can use. In subsequent posts, I will develop each of the five points offering biblical evidence of their validity. I highly recommend that everyone interested in Christianity and redemption see this most important movie.

I look forward to continuing this discussion as the days and weeks go on.

Reason One: God has always wanted to have a personal relationship with humanity from the beginning forward

All one has to do is look at Genesis chapter three to find out that prior to the incursion of the knowledge of good and evil God had a close relationship with mankind. Now then, whether one believes that there was a literal Adam and Eve, or that the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical explaining the effect that gaining reasoning had on humanity, it is obvious, that the inspired authors of the biblical text put an emphasis on a personal relationship between God and humanity from the very beginning. Adam is portrayed as having a conversational relationship with God. One can reasonably imagine that this relational aspect is foundational and fundamental to the entire biblical narrative.

God had a personal relationship with Noah and called him to preserve humanity at the time of the flood. Once Abraham was called, God chose to communicate with Him in various ways. A most noticeable way was a trance. Jacob was able to wrestle with God according to the scripture. Moses saw God in the form of a burning bush, and then we are told in Numbers, that God spoke with Moses face to face. Ultimately, God came and dwelt among humanity in the form of His Son Jesus, and now, since the resurrection dwells with believers via the Holy Spirit. The precursor of this was the tabernacle in the wilderness. It was a figure of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Exodus 25:8 NKJV says it all;  "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." God called Israel to have a relationship with them.

It is not strange that God would want a relationship with Mack. Nor, is it strange that He would present himself as an African American woman. Furthermore, the New Testament scripture clearly shows that all of the trinity is included in the relationship. Actually, the evangelical view of a relationship with God is the one that is unbiblical. God has stated through the writer of Hebrews that he would never leave or forsake us. Yet, evangelical doctrine insists on a person having an obedient, compliant relationship. They teach erroneously that one can be out of fellowship with God based upon their attitude and behavior. Yet Mack was able to wrestle with God, not unlike Jacob. He was able to show his anger toward God, thinking that God had abandoned his daughter. In a sense, he was a judge of God. In-spite of that, God loved and wanted a relationship with Mack more than anything. Evangelical and orthodox dogma does not stress how deeply God desires a relationship. It makes it seem as though God only wants a relationship base upon his terms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Twenty-four years ago, I made a three-day car trip alone from California to St. Louis MO. I was going there to work for about an eight-month stint. I remember so vividly traveling with the sense that Jesus was sitting next to me. He was an ever-present companion on that journey. That was a time of great spiritual growth for me. Essentially, I was alone except for my relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father. That was important in my paradigm shift. God poured so much in me as I prayed, read the scripture, and began to gain insights into His deep and abiding love for me.

There is a lot to be gleaned from watching "The Shack" movie. There was a lot in the book and in my view, the movie is very faithful to the book... it is just simply condensed.

Reason Two: God created humanity the way it is and in spite of that, declared it was "very good."

Ok, you may ask, what does this have to do with "The Shack?" Well, a lot. Evangelical and orthodox doctrine sees humanity, since the fall, essentially evil. In the shack, Paul Williams portrays humanity as capable of unspeakable evil, but viewed by God as essentially good. This of course is a biblical concept based on Genesis 1:31 NKJV  "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." In case you want to quibble here and say that he was talking about everything he made and not just humanity, I would like to point out that in all the other things that was created God merely said it was good. After adding humanity, God then said that it was very good. This indicates that humanity was the crowning touch in creation.

Paul explained it this way: Romans 7:19-24 NKJV  "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  (20)  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  (21)  I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  (22)  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  (23)  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  (24)  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" The war that is in the members of our body that Paul refers to is the survival instinct. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but it is almost impossible to talk about these five reasons without seeing how inner related they are. Reason 5 deals with the consequences of what has been called the fall. In order to not be robots without choice, it was necessary for humanity to gain the knowledge of good and evil, (reason,) Paul called it the wisdom of the world... "claiming to be wise they became fools."

All of this in no way changes God's original decree. What he created was good, and it was for the purpose of His creation which takes in another of the five reasons. The Shack actually deals with this tension in a very biblical way and helps make sense of the human condition. So we can see that God wanted a relationship with sentient beings who could genuinely love Him and praise his glorious grace. he then created them to be exactly what He wanted and what would bring about the ultimate purpose of creation which was loving Him and praising his grace. 

In the next post we will show that Jesus changed the hermeneutic from a legal-constitutional reading of scripture to one seeing it as the redemptive narrative. This redemptive narrative theme is foundational in the the theology presented by "The Shack."

Reason Three: Jesus overthrew the legal-constitutional focus of scripture in favor of seeing it as the redemptive narrative.

This is the most important point. Reason 3, makes it possible to see that William Paul Young has a much better understanding of the gospel than most. Jesus had two important focal messages with respect to the scripture. 1) It was completely about Him and redemption. 2) He redefined the phrase word of God from Torah, (first five books of the Old Testament,) to gospel (the message of redemption) and to Himself as the living gospel or the gospel made flesh. In so doing, for the New Covenant age, he made the focus change from a legal-constitutional reading for the Old Covenant, to a SOLELY redemptive reading for the New Covenant. I have proven this over and over in many of the other blog posts. I will not elaborate here for the sake of brevity. If you want to see the proof of this claim, simply go to the search function on the blog and type in "word of God" or "redemptive narrative."

First, let me establish once, and for all that God's purpose in creation was redemption. Ephesians 1:4-8 NKJV  "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  (5)  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  (7)  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace  (8)  which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence," This is the proof text for the correctness of Wm Paul Young's theology. 

Look at the underlined passages. The first one before the foundation of the world tells us that things mentioned in the passage predate creation. Paul is saying that God had purposed redemption before he created anything. The second underlined passage, to the praise of the glory of His grace tells us the why. Finally, He made the grace abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. This was because he knew that grace would lead us to loving him, and loving him would lead to obedience. So first and foremost, the grace stance that Young portrays in his book and in the Movie is very biblical indeed.  It is Pauline to use a pun.

Further under the new covenant, it is peace with the Father, Romans 5:1,I realize that prepares the saint to have a supernatural change of heart that is the direct result of the gospel of grace. I realize that in tackling reason 3 I have also touched on reason four but as I wrote earlier in the last post, these reasons overlap and cannot be properly handled without mentioning them time and again.

The bottom line is this, when one uses the presupposition of redemption in forming the hermeneutic, there is a big shift in the message and focus of scripture. Jesus said that the entire scripture was to point to Him for redemptive purposes. This is stated clearly in John 5:39-40 and Luke 24:27; 43-45. Young's emphasis of grace beyond judgment fits in very well. Finally, even the Apostle James tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment.

It baffles me why theologians that name the name of Jesus Christ reject his teaching on scripture interpretation. They insist on returning to a legal constitutional reading, and thereby make the redemptive reading, an ineffective step child.

Reason Four: God's ultimate purpose in creation was redemption.

There has been a lot made of the fact that the God of the Shack is not holy enough, and is too invested in love and grace. The argument is that God is also concerned with justice. I have heard and read comments from others that imply the God of "The Shack" is too syrupy and soft. Likewise, if one adopts a legal-constitutional reading of scripture, then one would ask where is the judgment that God brought especially in Old Covenant times? This is precisely why "reason four" is the most important reason and probably should have been tackled first.

Over the course of 370+ blog posts here, I would venture that 50% of them have been devoted to the redemptive focus of scripture. The bottom line is that if reason four is true, and I have proven over and over again it is, The the focus that evangelical and orthodox doctrine places on the scripture is erroneous. The main proof text for this is found in the first chapter of Ephesians. Ephesians 1:3-7 NKJV  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  (4)  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  (5)  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.  (7)  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Again, I have underlined the verses that demonstrate that God's first purpose in creation was redemption. Since that is the case, redemption must be the main focus of the scripture. The fact that God chose people in Christ before the foundation of the world, then, it only follows that this was God's ultimate purpose in creation. 

Paul is not the only writer that makes this claim. Peter and John also make the same point. 1 Peter 1:20 NKJV  "He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." So, with Peter you have a second witness that redemption was the purpose of creation. Finally, Revelation 13:8 NKJV  "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Here we have three witnesses who all proclaim in one way or another that redemption was planned before creation, and Paul gives the reason. The reason was to the "praise of the glory of his grace."

Furthermore, given the sovereignty of God; Ephesians 1:11 NASB 
"also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will," How likely is it that God would then relegate the vast majority of people who ever lived to eternal torturous punishment? Right, not likely at all. I will allow the possibility that  some people will simply be annihilated, having their life on earth be their only reward. But, I have also proven on this blog, that the current evangelical concept of hell is a misunderstanding of things written in the New Testament prophesying the impending destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. It is further complicated by the King James rendering of Sheol and Hades as hell when it is most clearly simply the grave. Gehenna, is the Greek word translated as hell connected to the lake of fire, and is a metaphor for the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, a judgment that was given for the rejection of the living Word of God in their presence.

In the movie and the book, it is made clear that the main purpose of God is to have a relationship with humanity and that it is facilitated by redemption.

Reason Five: Humanities pathology results from mortality, and the ability to judge what is right and wrong

Death and the knowledge of good and evil combined are responsible for all of humanities pathology. I like using the word pathology instead of sin for two reasons. 1) the modern connotation for sin is off the mark. 2) The result of the fall is akin to a disease... a disease of the mind. I want to emphasize dis-ease. This pathology keeps humanity from feeling at ease... especially with God. So, how does it work practically? Well, mortality or the propensity toward death, and the knowledge of good and evil causes a schism between humanity and the creator. First of all, with the inevitability of death, comes a survival instinct that makes one avoid death as much as possible. I believe that this is the source of greed. 

The knowledge of good and evil, Paul called it the wisdom of the world, causes two problems. 1) One can never really believe that they are good, especially in the eyes of the creator, and 2) trying to be good at all costs, one justifies ones own actions and judges the other to be wrong. All of the evil in the world result from this condition. Jeremiah stated that the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. He goes on to ask, who can know it? He answers that question with "I the Lord search the heart." This condition has been called by some theologies depravity. There are varying degrees of evil, but even the best of intentions, and what would be viewed as the best behavior, is always motivated out of self. Those who work incessantly to do good do so out of the selfish position of wanting to be better than others. What I am saying is that humanity at its best have motives that are concealed and selfish. To one degree or another this is the condition of every woman, man, girl, or boy.

However, to be able to choose demands the knowledge of good and evil. Without knowing the essence of what is good and evil one could never choose good. By the same token, one must know pain to experience pleasure. The human condition presents yin and yang as opposite halves of the whole. All of this stems from not knowing if one is good enough, and the fear that one is actually evil. it seems that there are few people who can see both sides of an issue. The reality is there is three sides to every story... there is yours, mine, and Gods. We use the knowledge of good and evil to justify what we do, what we believe, etc. This is why religion per se is so ineffective. 

What is needed to overcome this pathology is the understanding that God loves and accepts us just as we are. We need to be able to believe Genesis 1:31 NASB "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." The only way one can accept this is by faith. But it is very difficult to have the kind of faith that would change our circumstances because we believe and then we doubt, back and forth... back and forth. That is the state of humanity (Adam if you will allow the metaphor.) Humanity, left to itself, with mortality and the knowledge of good and evil can NEVER have that kind of faith.

That is where Jesus of Nazareth comes into the picture. He, being born of the Father, had perfect faith. While his faith was tempted and tested, he always remained sure of the Father's (Papa's) love for him. He ultimately was so sure of it that he was willing to die, knowing that he was eternal, and the Father would resurrect him. He was able to do that because he had the Father's Spirit as a constant companion. His death overcame death. Death is no longer a threat to humanity... why, because just like the Father resurrected Jesus, he will also resurrect us. He through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus has demonstrated his unstoppable love for humanity. When we accept and believe this good news... we then, get the same Spirit that assured Christ Jesus that he was beloved of the Father.

It is God's love and grace that cures our pathology once for all time. That is precisely what happened for Mack in the book and movie "The Shack." God was in Christ reconciling THE WORLD to himself, not counting their pathology against them. Papa was along side Mack, Jesus was along side Mack, The Holy Spirit was along side Mack as he worked through the pain that evil had perpetrated on him. This shows the real working of the gospel, and how the Holy Spirit supernaturally heals with the gospel.... that is, provided the gospel is properly presented, and believed. Humanity has been reconciled to God. How many realize it?

I am imploring anyone reading this as Paul did.... BE RECONCILED TO GOD!