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 not 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!


A Different Gospel; The gospel distorted Part 2

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 second post in this series. So what is it that makes me believe that the gospel that is most presented today by the evangelical church is a different gospel.... a distorted gospel? Well the answer is quite simple. They have tried to weave the gospel into an interpretative lens that sees the scripture as a legal-constitutional document. In the first post, I listed several questions that need to be answered if one is to read between-the-lines and discover what the original author was trying to communicate to the original audience.

I would like to focus on question two: What did the intended readers believe at the time of the writing and was it meant to reinforce what they believed, or was it a correction? In answering this question it is obvious to me that Jesus, and subsequently his first century followers, were trying to correct the view of scripture that held it as a legal-constitutional document, and substitute a solely redemptive view. The reason is that if one maintains the legal-constitutional reading of scripture, the preeminence of the redemptive decrees gets lost amid other corrective messages. It seems obvious that to the first century writers of the New Testament the redemptive decrees had preeminence. 

Let me list some redemptive decrees found in the pages of the New Testament to be sure that it is clear what I am talking about:

  1. John 3:16-18 NASB "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (17) "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (18) "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
  2. Romans 10:9-10 NASB that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (10) for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
  3. Hebrews 9:14 NASB how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
I could go on and on with these decrees but you should get the idea. They are decrees that if for some reason one would alter them based on something else written in another place, they would be meaningless. In a legal-constitutional reading of scripture, all passages and verses have equal weight. This is not so with the redemptive decrees. Most of the epistles are written in a way that states these redemptive decrees in the forefront.  The reason is that the gospel is founded on these decrees. That is what makes it good news, and if other messages in the scripture could alter these decrees, then, the good news is no longer good news. The redemptive decrees supersede the passages of Law.

Immediately some would want to interject, but that will simply allow people to feel free to live any old raggedy way. To that I say whoa! That was not the experience of the first century saints. Here is the reason. If most did not hold a legal-constitutional reading of scripture it would be obvious that the first century saints understood that THE GOSPEL was the mechanism for transforming lives. The Holy Spirit used the gospel to change the hearts of individuals. Grace and the gospel is the transforming force that God chose from before the foundation of the world, that is, before he created anything we know today as the space-time universe, to act as the transformation force.

There are a multitude of verses that tell us that grace and the gospel is the catalyst for transformation. Most are two busy with a legal-constitutional reading of scripture and thumping the bible to see them and their absolute importance. To mention a few; "it's the grace of God that leads to repentance"... "the grace of God has appeared to all men teaching them to live godly"  ...."herein is love, not that we loved God but that he love us" .... "mercy triumphs over judgment." When we adopt a legal-constitutional view of scripture these become lost platitudes, and they are ALWAYS superseded by law.

The thing that makes the gospel a different gospel and a distorted gospel is that grace is not given the chance to be the trans-formative force it is. The Holy Spirit is not allowed to have the gospel really work toward the transformation of the saint, and they are left to try to transform themselves with the law.... THAT IS NOT THE FIRST CENTURY GOSPEL!!!!!

In the next of this series, I will look at the trans-formative gospel and how it operates.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Different Gospel; The gospel distorted Part 1

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.

What is the pristine gospel? What is the gospel that the first century saints heard and understood? Could it be possible that the gospel that we have today is a "different gospel," and a "distorted gospel?" Well, let's look at the gospel first mentioned. Genesis 3:15 NASB "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Yes, this is the first gospel proclamation. He served Satan notice... that though he/Satan would be able to bite at the heels of humanity... humanities seed would eventually crush his head. Moving forward, God presented the gospel to Abraham in this way; Genesis 12:3 NASB "And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." These are general promises that are explained in the New Testament. Galatians 3:16 NASB "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ." So we see that the gospel was the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ the promised seed of Abraham.

I just opened my HCSB Reference Bible that I keep on my desk, and there are 1176 pages in it of mostly all scripture verses. There are 920 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 chapters in the New Testament making a total of 1180 chapters in the bible. There are 23,195 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament for a total of 31,152 verses in the bible. Anyone would have to admit that is a lot of material to wrap your mind around.

All of that was written at least two thousand years ago, and much of it long before that. It was written to a different time and a completely different culture. Add to this, century upon century of millions of pages written to interpret what the bible says, with literally tens of thousands of people writing the interpretation. Further, of the interpretation, much if not most of it was written with the view that the scripture was written mainly to their time and culture. It should not be hard to believe that the gospel as it has been handed down to us is distorted. In fact, in the opposite vane, it would not be sensible to believe that it wasn't. If during Paul's time, the gospel was being distorted by people who had just heard it, how much more is it logical that it would be distorted as passed down from generation to generation. Actually it would only be common sense that this were so.

Going back to the source:

The logical thing to do then would be go back to the original first century writings and, try to read what is said, but also to read between the lines with an understanding of historical context. When one does that, a different perception comes to the fore. When I mention historical context I mean the following:

  1. What were the expectations of the intended readers?
  2. What did the intended readers believe at the time of the writing and was it meant to reinforce what they believed, or was it a correction?
  3. Who had the intended readers held up as authorities before the writing?
  4. What was the cultural climate, and how did it affect their behavior?
  5. What did the intended readers see as authoritative?
  6. What were the accepted and unaccepted norms for the intended readers?
  7. What was the political, social, and financial environment of the intended readers?
The above list is in no way exhaustive, but it shows the level of exploration and study that should go into reading the scripture in preparation to then, move on to read between the lines. If you do this, it is easy to find and understand, that the audience that Jesus spoke to about the gospel, was an entirely different audience, than the one Paul addressed. Jesus audience were Jews, under the Old Covenant BEFORE the installation of the New Covenant. Paul's audience was both Jews and Gentiles but toward the end mostly Gentiles, after the New Covenant had been installed. And still, even Paul's time was a transitional period awaiting the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, whereby God would make manifest his true sons and daughters.

In this series, I want to explore why I say that  today, we have a different gospel, a distorted gospel compared to the one that the first century saints proclaimed. In a lot of ways, it resembles the gospel that Paul warned the Galatians about in the above text. It is a gospel that does not properly acknowledge the mechanism that the Holy Spirit uses to transform lives. Therefore, people are left to try to transform themselves and then, it is not transformation but rather reformation.... it is a lot of work, and proves to be very ineffective. Please join in with me on this series.







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"The Shack" Movie: 5 Biblical and Theological Reasons William Paul Young is right and two thousand years of orthodoxy is wrong; Part 6

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
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!

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6

Love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 2

Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) All of you, take up My yoke an...