Monthly Archives: January 2010

A new way or and old way to read the Bible…

This entire post is based off of Robert Webbers writing in Ancient-Future Worship, and all quotes are taken from that book, except where otherwise stated.

A new way to read the Scriptures… or maybe the original way…?

Robert Webber challenges his reader to read the Scriptures as he says; the way the Apostles and early church read them.

Now, if you’re like me, and you have been taught how to read your Bible in the past 50 years or more, then you have taught to read the Bible literary historical grammatical approach. This way is not opposed to what Webber says, but its focus is misplaced.

As a foundation Webber says we must read the Bible and see Jesus as the focal point. I’d think most of us would agree, but do we really do that?

It easier when one reads the NT, because the authors make Jesus the center of everything for us. But when reading the OT one must make the effort to see Jesus in all things. There is a fine line in what he is saying here between allegorical reading and reading Jesus as the focal point.

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Scriptures.

“The apostolic way of reading and preaching the Scriptures is to see Jesus Christ as the subject of the entire Bible, the subject of all of history.”

“…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Luke 24:27

“The narrative of the whole Scriptures is about Jesus Christ. We find him everywhere and in everything…

While the early church fathers are Christ-centered in their reading of the Scriptures, they do not neglect the Father and the Spirit. The life of the Son is in the communal life of the Father and the Spirit. The Father sends the Son to redeem, to rescue the world from the clutches of the evil one. The Spirit is the one who breathes life into the world and gives life to all the events and persons who prefigure Christ. He is present in all the events of the Old Testament, as well as the ministry and work of Jesus. He is now present in the Church and in God’s people providing us with a conscious and intentional life of Christ to all who live in his name. When we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the new life in Christ. In this way we are brought up in the life of God’s community where we fellowship in the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

So the fathers of the church, while Chistocentric in their reading and preaching of the Scriptures, were also Trinitarian.”


“We must read and preach the Bible as true.”

This is not to say…

“Read it as if it were true.” That would be to read it mythologicaly.

“Read it and make it true.” That would be to read it to prove it.

“Read it for truths.” That kind of reading usually looks for principles to make life more successful.

How we do read the Bible as true?

1. Read the bible with an Ancient mind-set.

“The Fathers [Church Fathers & writers of Scriptures] did not see life as split between the sacred and the secular. For them everything is sacred.”

(This is the same proposition Rob Bell makes in his Everything is Spiritual DVD teaching.)

2. Read the Bible relationally

God is described through stories of relationship; illustrations of how He relates and acts toward man, not volumes of systematic facts (like this book).

“The Hebrew mind does not describe God intellectually in the abstract as though God is an object to be studied. Instead he is always pictured as the God who enters into relationship with his creatures…The New Testament images of God and church continue with this same emphasis on relationship. The church is the ‘body of Christ,’ the ‘bride of Christ,’ the ‘community,’ the ‘household of faith,’ the fellowship in faith.’”

3. Read the Bible in context, understanding its language.

The Scriptures are composed of many different genres of literature, such as law, historical narratives, letters, worship manuals, hymns, and both prophetic and apocalyptic writings. And at least one third of the Bible could be categorized as poetry,

“The ancient language was also one of paradox… So the narrative always has both a divine side and a human side. God chooses, calls, elects. God lives among the people speaking, chastising, directing. But the people live in the presence of God, who is among them. They respond and relate to God. They sometimes ignore God or outright disobey God and chase after gods of their own making. But God is always there.

Western thought—especially Enlightenment thinking—does not like paradox. Rational language cannot see how opposites are two sides of the same reality. So some want to read the Bible from the divine side emphasizing divine predestination and divine foreknowledge, but others approach the Bible emphasizing the human side of freedom and choice. In the Hebrew mind both are real and valid.”

Robert Webber would actually label this section, “read the Bible as metaphor.” He agues we come to Scriptures with our western mind seeking everything to have a literal meaning, when the ancient language was more of one that evoked a feeling.

4. Read the Bible so it reads us and speaks to our world today.

“It has the power to read us and the world because the text discloses the waywardness of the human heart. We should not read the accounts of the Human rebellion against God as a study of ‘some other person’ or of ‘that particular culture.’ Instead those accounts, while rooted in a particular history, reach across time to say, ‘you are there; that’s a description of your life, of your sin and rebellion, of your journey away from God, of your world’s rebellion… It is an interactive story of God and humanity. It reveals truth about God, but also it reveals truths about persons, societies, cultures, and civilizations.

The Bible also reads us because Jesus, who is our Redeemer, is also the model for our true living.”

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God and Pain

I think there are two ways of dealing with pain and God. And both of them are not healthy.

First, let me start my explaining the way I deal with pain and God…

This past year has been particularly painful for me in my relationship with God. This past year has been a year of darkness.

Let me explain. My wife and I moved from California to Texas. This was not an easy move for us, but we felt like this is where God wanted us, and He did for a season. Before this move things were great. Everything was progressing forward, and then God stopped us in our tracks, closed doors in California and relocated us to Texas. In this experience we felt we learned a valuable lesson. Don’t make plans for God! Lesson learned, we were happily living and serving in Texas.

Then after a few years serving there, and as the reasons for us moving there were coming to close we began to seek God for what he desired next. No answer… and it seemed like every time we were ready to give up something little trinket came along and sustained our faith for another week. But the feeling of darkness overcame us, and this darkness persisted, and lingered…

We both began to question ourselves. What did we do wrong? Did we do anything wrong. Why no answer or direction?

And throughout this time we did the only natural Christian thing, we tested different doors. The problem was to many were opening and too many were closing. Nothing seems to match up or make sense.

Then the ridiculous happened. We felt God leading us back to California. The feeling was the only hazy thing we could understand. But Why? Why Could we not understand? Why did it seem the answer was sitting in our blind-spot? Why California? We had just gotten settled, created a great network of friends around us. Then is off to California? Oh, but no more information then that.

My impression was that the longer you follow God, the more it all makes sense, the clearer his voice is, and the more his plan becomes visible. The truth in our experience was proving to be the opposite.

Darkness.

Where are you taking us? Why are you not responding to my prayers? Why do I feel more alone then ever?

Darkness.

Darkness hurts, and looking back now I see how I dealt with the pain. I depersonalized God. I am a person with a deep-seated belief and conviction in God. So in times of pain and frustration in God I de-emphasis his love and focus on his sovereignty. Somehow for me this makes it ok for me to follow God although I feel hurt by Him. I turn to the religious side faith, rather than the personal. My focus drifts toward theology and philosophy. I think God can do what he wants and who am I to be question it. The thoughts of God’s love, mercy, and grace, are overshadowed by his truth, holiness, and power. I grow cold, and tired. “Who is God to know?” I think. I can study him, and maybe that is all a relationship with him means… so I study and study. But my heart… its hard to get my heart into anything. My mind and my strength are Gods… but my heart… my heart is hurt.

That is how I deal with pain and God. Maybe that’s you maybe its not.

The other way I see people deal with pain and God, it to take it personally. Pain in their life is a direct attack from God. If a person at the church hurt them, God did it. Or if a friend or family member dies, God killed them. They see God as the personal predator in their life.

This person retreats from God altogether… this person questions the reality of God. How could a God who causes me pain exist?

In my pain I did not run from idea of God, because I saw God as sovereign but impersonal. However, this person sees God as personal but not sovereign. They question God’s sovereign plan.

I except God’s crushing blows in my life, because I know his plans are bigger. But to deal with the pain God become someone less personal, and more like a steamroller. He’s not doing this to me; I’m just in the way…

The other person rejects God, they must. They see God as the personal God he reveals himself to be… So if he’s real, then he is cruel, and not worthy to be served. Or on the other extreme maybe he’s not real at all…

Both lead nowhere…

God is both personal and sovereign. Sometimes there is an explanation of the circumstances we are wading through. Other times there are not.

God does love you. He is personal. And he does see our need and look upon us with compassion. I was sustained and not crushed. He has held me up by his grace and mercy.

Why the darkness… why the pain…

I wish I had an answer…

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People and change

People rarely change, and apart from God I believe change is impossible.

Like all things our memories work against us. Time begins to mythologize the past, making exaggerations out of minor variation.

However, at the same time people are like sediment. Our characteristic and personality traits layer themselves in our lives, and over time they settle and stratify. Characteristics that were once on the top of who we were may sink a few layers. While other traits which were hidden a few layers deep rise to the top.

This is effect is seen when someone turns to you, a spouse or close friend perhaps, and says, “you’re not the same person I knew… you’ve a different person.”

You begin to think, “Have I really changed? Am I not the same person?”

You sit and think, “Did I not have these same likes or dislikes before? Did I never get mad or upset? Was I always romantic and never critical? Did I not like certain thinks to happen a certain way?

The issue occurs on two levels. One is that our memories reshape themselves into something other than reality. But the other issue is that we become comfortable with who we are. We allow our layers to settle, and in the process layers shift, join and resize. Parts of us we use to have under control, and keep deep in us, slowly rise to top. Personalities traits we you’d never let anyone see, begin to become visible. And others response to this is “You’re a different person!”

Yet, in reality, your not a different person, but you’ve let comfort and lack of self-control reshape how you express yourself.

Now, returning to what I said at the beginning. People rarely change, and that apart from God I believe change is impossible. What I mean by saying that people rarely change is not that people characterizes don’t stratify, and make extremes. No, we just talked about how this happens, and it can happen quickly. What I mean by change is real change. Truly becoming someone they are not.

I believe in the Biblical narrative. So my foundation is that man is fallen, sinful and totally depraved. This means that man’s foundation is not good, but rather sinful. So as man in by natural progression will only grow more sinful. Some men choose of their own effort to continually sift themselves as not to stratify, others don’t.

However, when one surrenders their life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes along side of that person and begins to regenerate that person. Truly making them someone they are not! For the first time qualities that were never present will be present. Real, actual, quantitative life change will be seen.

In both cases stratifying is still possible. When the Christina stops searching himself, and letting the Holy Spirit sift through his life and thoughts layers settle, and old habits and traits reform.

The life in the Spirit is one that challenges us to sift and be searched by God. Walk and be lead by the Spirit. We are a new creation, but is become too comfortable the old man is ready to show up again.

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Must death preceed recreation and renewal? Is creation lost?

There is this conflict within the christian community as how the recreation of the world will take place.

One side believes that all of creation will be destroyed. Then God will form again from nothing a new created world.

The other side believes that this created world will not be destroyed merely recreated. God created this world “good,” loves this world, and does not and will not ever destroy it.

Side one:

2Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The interpretation:

  • Sin has completely corrupted the world, beyond saving.
  • Both mankind, and all of creations was changed beyond return because of mans sin.
  • Therefore God, must destroy the old to bring forth the new.
  • There must be death before recreation.

*This would seem true, but not all believers will die before receiving their resurrection bodies. Those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return will just be transformed.

Side two:

Genesis 8:21

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Romans 8:20&21

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The interpretation:

  • Sin has not completely corrupted creation
  • Creation was distorted and pulled down because of man’s fall into sin.
  • God does not need to destroy creation to restore it.
  • He knew man was wicked, yet when man is restored then creation will be freed from the effects on sin.
  • Man’s sin is what is keeping creation from being how God has intended it, paradise.
  • Once sin is removed creation will be restored.
  • Man’s corruption is the issue not creation.
  • Creation is only a tool that God uses to both bless and punish.
    • Blessings: fruit of the land, provision, beauty.
    • Punishment: Toil the land, natural disasters, sickness.

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How could God allow evil to exist? Not your typical answer!

Refer to these two posts for a background of this argument, and the traditional Christian responses.

https://saintdisillusion.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/the-problem-of-god-the-existence-of-evil/

or a similar article…

http://christianelements.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/how-can-a-loving-god-allow-evil-and-suffering-to-exist/

In this entire conversion, a distinction must be made between Pre-Fall World and Post-Fall. Mankind, and the created universe was completely changed Post-Fall. So we are only speaking of what we hypothetical know of the Pre-Fall universe. Furthermore, we are only looking at mankind, and not angels or demons. It can be seen that Satan was operating with evil intentions before man, however, the universe only seemed cataclysmicly effect when mankind chose evil.

Option A: God did not create evil… or did he?

The same logic that says if you chose not to make a choice means you still made a choice, also means by the mere fact that God did stop the option for evil to exist, although he did not create evil man did when he disobeyed God’s order and design for creation, means that God is still the hidden creator of evil. For example if a biologist created a bacteria with the ability to both help and harm, is he not still the creator of the harm, although he intended only to help?

Even if you argue that evil is not a created “thing” with the previously outlined logic God still created the man with the capacity to “do” evil. Therefore, he is still the creator of evil, because he could have created man without the possibility to “do” evil.

Conclusion to option A: it seems the answer to this question of why God allows evil to exist is more related why does he allows good to exist. Man ability for evil is the same in his relation to do “good”(pre-Fall). So it seems that God allowed evil to exist in the hope that the good would triumph over evil. So it seems to match up with the narrative of the Bible, that evil is an option, but with the intervention of God evil is crushed.

Follow up Questions:

Why did God create evil only if he planned on destroying it?

Does evil need to exist for good to exist?


Or option B: Evil is not a created “thing.”

The Bible does not explain the origin of evil, but rather only the origin of evil within the created world. And since evil is not a thing, just as love is not a thing, both are wills and intentions of the heart/mind; they are ways to use things, rather than things themselves; then God merely made man with the capacity to operate on either the network of love, or on the network of evil. We were in one sense beings with free roam capabilities. However, God is a being that exclusively works on the network of love, and although he intended us to function lovingly, man does not always do so.

Therefore, the question as to why does God allow evil to exists is unanswerable with the information given. The question and focus becomes not where did evil come from or why is it here? But on how does God intend us to live. This also coincides with the narrative of the Bible, which is that God steps into creation to redeem creation so it has the power to resist evil.

Follow up Questions:

If evil is not a “thing” can it even be created? And if it cannot be created has it then always existed, and apart from God?

More to this thought:

God never intended man to understand “good” and “evil.” It was the forbidden fruit. God only intended us to operate on the network of love, and man in his first act of evil sought to understand both “good” and “evil.” After eating our eyes were open to what evil is.

If this is true, then it presents another serious question. Man’s first act of evil/sin proceeded his understanding of what evil really was. Therefore evil must have existed before man sinned, and the fruit of the tree only represented man falling victim to penalty of that understanding… judgment.

Before the fall, the question of evil is irrelevant. For man righteousness and judgment was only based on one rule, “do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” If man obeyed righteousness was obtained.

So man could have done acts we now know as evil, but he would not have been judged for them. (If they would have this is not certain, there eyes had not been opened to seeing these things) Paul writes to this effect in Romans, that those judged without the law are judged apart from the law. They are judged by their own standards. (But no man can even live up to his own standards, so we are all guilty of at least breaking our law.)

Therefore, the question of How does God allow evil to exist is not a question at all. The reality is that the more we know about evil and good, right and wrong, the more we become accountable for those actions. The more evil a man does with understanding the more judgment he comes under. So with this, it is understood that God is both bothered with evil, as he punished it, and with our understanding of it because the more we know the guiltier we become and the more evil we seem to do.

In the end the answer to the original question is unanswerable, but to say that God does not like evil, that is why he punishes it, and that he never intended us to know evil and therefore its hurts and pains.

To phrase it another way:

As to the origin of evil or why God allows evil to exist, it is beyond our understanding. What is known is that God never wanted mankind to experience or participate in it.

Maybe it had always existed?

It could be said that because evil or love is not a created “thing”… it has always and always will exist as an option, because as it is not a “thing” only an intention, so as long as that intention is a possibility, “evil” will exist. Before creation there was only God. God is love, in Him there is no evil. Therefore evil was not presently visible. But when the created world was formed, evil was given a facility to operate and became a present visible reality. Both evil and love are only “made” or become visible and real when when someone chooses them (for example man).

If in my life I never chose to love… this does not mean love did or does not exist, just that I never chose it. This same principle applies to evil. Before the creation evil was not seen because God never operated with evil intentions. But after man was formed evil is made visible because man chose to operate in evil.

So the question of who created evil is the same question as to who created the ability to be generous, rude, kind, or mean. These are not “things” they are ways to use and treat things/others so before there was things and others, none of these characteristics were possible, for there was only God. The created world only gave these non”things” a platform to operate within.

However, this then presents another serious objection for option B. If the created world opened a “Pandora’s box” of evil. Then why did God create at all? If the created universe was only going to give a pathway for evil to be made visible why make it?

Maybe… it was worth creating because God wanted to make a community, who  like the triune God, could live and share love. Maybe… in love God created so that others could experience love, but first they would have to reject evil. Maybe, this is why God was willing to send his own son into the world so man could be redeemed from evil and the Holy Spirit could be with us, empowering us, de so that we could live in communities of love.

Conclusion for option B: God wanted others to experience the love in community only the godhead had experienced up to that point.  So he created the universe in love, which gave pathway for evil. Then it was either let evil destroy creation or step into creation to rescue and redeem it? The Biblical account testifies God chose the ladder option, and by stepping into creation God defeated evil and prepared the way that we could once again live in a community of love.

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