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.

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