It’s coming folks, the division is inevitable. I see it coming as we reach this new shift in the global state of Christianity. So many are finding another way… going back to living the reality of God’s set apart people: a people that are not enmeshed with the values of the Empire (can I say the American dream). There will be communities living differently, loving differently, taking care of each other and those in need, sharing, re-imagining how we interact with the earth. Living in a way that looks more like Jesus and what he talked about as the “kingdom of God,” the “dome over which God reigns,” to use Greg Boyd’s phrase.
To use the scripture that comes after what most hear about “being yoked with unbelievers:”
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
And there will be many who will resist. Those who’s faith and religion are so solid and so certain that any shaking, rethinking, or questions result in a monumental destruction of all that they hold on to… possibly even salvation itself. They have yoked following Jesus and national politics, “Christians” who are yoked with war and the slaughter of innocent people, capitalistic economics (can anyone say greed?), consumerism, individualism, judgment, misuse of natural resources, American dream. Enmeshed… inseparable… clearly things that followers of Jesus MUST be a part of.
They will accuse and fight, maybe even kill, those who have chosen another more subversive way. Rumors will spread, sides will be drawn… one will respond with judgment and aggression… one will serve, love, and seek reconciliation. One side will fight… and one side will just do what they feel they are led to do transform the world one relationship at a time.
I received my first admonishment last week. An old friend who cares so deeply for my heart and my ministry. No doubt, very scared for where his dear friend is going and what I am teaching. His words:
I am mourning over what has become of your faith. I will probably hurt for along time over the implications of your current beliefs. I’m extremely sad as I write this. I fear for your soul. I cannot but regard you as an enemy of the gospel and of the cross and a false teacher who has heard the true gospel and rejected it. You have been deceived by the enemy of your soul. I will always love you and appreciate the amazing person you have been in my life.
I see no constructive purpose for further dialogue between us unless you recant what you are currently embracing.
The heart of it… Galatians 1:6-9
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that person be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let that person be under God’s curse!
It’s an inevitable conflict from those who see the gospel as one very small and easily threatened list of “right beliefs.” To see a gospel that is “good news,” encompassing, proclaiming of the reality of the kingdom of God here and now (sounds a bit like Jesus’ gospel, if you ask me), and an open invitation for those who never thought they had a place… this allows only for opportunity… for world change… for reconciliation. Peace.
68 thoughts on “The Division is inevitable…”
There has always been a division between the Church and those who are enemies of the Gospel. It comes down to the Gospel itself. What is it?
The Emerging/Emergent church offers a helpful critique to the Church, but what you are fighting you often become. The critique of the Church is that we need to be relational and love people; that we need to not be so tied to the Republican party, etc. The thing is loving people involves giving them the truth; that they are fallen and dead in their sin, but God offers healing and new life in Christ. The Emerging/Emergent church is quickly losing sight of the Gospel and has instead begun borrowing the talking points of the Democratic Party (i.e. being “green” and the social justice ideals of Jim Wallis).
Every good work we do must be an outworking of the Gospel in our lives. James says that faith without works is dead, but we also know that works without faith is just as futile. For the Gospel to work itself out in our life, it must be the same Gospel preached in the New Testament. A lot of what I’ve seen coming out of the Emerging/Emergent movement and what comes out of Post-Modern thought and ideals is not the same Gospel, but another gospel which is no gospel at all.
You cite Greg Boyd, but what you may not realize is that the beliefs Boyd do damage to the image of God. Open Theism is extremely dangerous (cf. God’s Lesser Glory by Bruce Ware). In Isaiah 41:21-29 God uses His complete knowledge and control of the future to prove that He is God and the idols are not (cf. Isaiah 46:10). If we lose sight of such a basic notion of who God is, it is safe to say the God we serve is an idol and not the true God.
So are you saying that there is only one way to see the gospel and that you have it? Are you saying that there is only one way to understand how God sees time, future, and infinity and you have it? That doesn’t leave much room.
Where do I begin? Can I just say that this is bigger than Emergent? I have not been referring to anything about the emerging church (although, I definitely fit myself in that category). I am talking about a people who are set apart by the way that they live and love. Democrat? Republican? I am the last person who will say go one way or another (or either of them for that matter). I don’t care about that. I am deeply grieved by party politics and the division it causes in Christian communities. Vote how you want (or not at all), but if you don’t look like Jesus and the kingdom of God, then you are not living the way of God. That’s what it comes down to for me.
You talked truth. What about the truth that they are loved by God, created in the image of God? What about the notion that God is a God who wants to reconcile people into relationship with himself for all of eternity and that is why he came as a human? Tell me where Jesus talked about the Gospel you cited as truth. Tell me where he lived out the separatedness of people from himself. He gave life didn’t he? He gave life before he ever talked about the cross and his penal substitution, didn’t he?
So what kinds of good works come out of believing everyone is fallen and sinful and separated from God? and what kind of works come out of celebrating God’s love and desire for reconciliation with people? It seems like the first would have something to do with getting people to believe a certain way so they can seal their eternal salvation and the latter would have something to do with “love because he first loved us.”
Now let’s talk Greg Boyd. This image of God that he does damage to… is that something that changes by our attempts to understand it? I hope not. And who is open theism a danger to? What does it have to do with Jesus teaching of living out the kingdom of God and living in the way of Jesus? Because someone has an idea about God’s foreknowledge that is different, does that mean that they have missed the mark on everything else? I looked at Isaiah 41… I see how you can read foreknowledge into it. I don’t think that is the point. Sorry… but it seems to have more to do with god’s that can’t do ANYTHING. This is far from the God that Boyd talks about. A little pricking question. Why do we pray, then, if God has everything predetermined? (It’s not much different than me praying for something that has already happened, right?) Greg has more of a developed passion for prayer than most anyone I have ever heard.
Thanks for your thoughts… but I think you are missing what I am trying to say. Writing it off as a party politic, open theism, emergent, post-modern thing puts a whole lot on it that isn’t meant to be there. I’d love to talk more about this. Nate
This is not about politics. I was making an observation about the complaints of the Emergent/Emerging crowd and the fact that it often becomes a matter of picking the opposing party. When one picks the party opposing the Church, it is only to be expected that the Church should seek to remove the opposition from its ranks. This is the biblically mandated response to false teachings.
“Why do we pray if everything is predetermined?”
Do we tell God what to do? Do we have any right to question His actions? Judging from Romans 9 and the final few chapters of Job, I’d emphatically say, NO! We pray to communicate with God, not because He needs us, but because we need Him. When we ask God for something we learn His heart and align ourselves with His will. It is absolutely NOT the other way around. Open Theism advocates prayer that aligns God to OUR will. That is blatant idolatry!
I’d highly recommend you read Bruce Ware’s book God’s Lesser Glory. Ware knows Boyd, Pinnock, and Sanders the main Open Theist advocates personally and has repeatedly begged them to repent. He hits the nail on the head of why Open Theism poses such a threat to the Church. The Isaiah text I pointed to earlier is only the beginning of the avalanche of evidence against Open Theism, both from the Bible and from the unanimous history of the Church which affirms a full belief in divine sovereignty (not that tradition is authoritative but it is helpful).
I read Myth of a Christian Nation. I have e-mailed back and forth with Greg Boyd. He is a gracious man, and I don’t doubt that he has good ideas and perhaps even some useful insight. But his dismissal of God’s sovereignty and the idea that God has to guess about the future is absolutely against everything the Bible says.
Our belief in God’s control of this world is the foundation for our trust in Him. We trust in Him because He and only He is in control of our lives and the world around us. Open Theism undermines our trust in God’s ability to “work all things together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”
As Christians we have to have a foundation and concept of truth that is foreign to post modernism which you have embraced. That is the concern with the Emergent/Emerging church. Post modernism undermines the foundations of true belief. This is not the first time this has happened in the church. It began with Descartes, Hume, and Kant during the Enlightenment. Kant fused together Descartesian foundationalism (I think, therefore I am), which says the only thing we can really know for certain is that we exist, with the thoughts of David Hume who was one of the most staunch and influential opponents the Church and theism have ever seen. Kant’s thoughts separated the “things in itself” from the “thing as it appears.” Schleiermacher, the grandfather of the liberal church, applied this to theology and decided we can’t know God, but only know how God appears to us. The implications of this were devastating for the Church. Theology became anthropology, and God’s authority in the Church was completely eroded. Christ was removed as Head of his Bride and replaced by men.
As a result, we have “churches” today that don’t believe the Bible is authoritative, and when the Bible is no longer authoritative for the church, men are, and that never goes well. It is the same thing that happened with the Roman Catholic Church when she decided the Pope had greater authority than God’s Word. That is why the Catholic Church today embraces a works based Gospel (which sadly is no gospel at all). That’s a billion people worldwide who believe their works will save them.
When the Bible is no longer authoritative as the Word of God, our exegesis no longer searches for God’s meaning, but for “a word from God.” Instead of hearing God’s Word, we then filter everything through what we want to hear, and ultimately through our cultural values. This is why we see churches that directly disobey the biblical commands that only men are to be elders. This is why we have seen many churches embrace homosexuality despite the fact that the Bible repeatedly says that homosexuality is a form of sexual immorality. Romans 1:24-32 speaks of men denying the existence and authority of God and directly connects it with homosexuality and other forms of sexual immorality.
Is it any wonder that with the rise of feminism and the gay rights movement that we have seen churches worldwide with women and homosexual elders and pastors for the first time? To think they are not directly connected is to be completely naive to the effects our culture has on us.
Christianity is radically separate from our culture. We agree on that much. But this is where we need definition. Not a list of social issues (although there are always implications here), but a developing understanding of who God is and how we relate to Him. He gave us His Word so we can know Him and His will for us. If we are not in line with His Word, then we are out of His will and in opposition to Him.
Also, as some extra food for thought; seek a balanced theology. Balance an understanding of God’s immanence by beginning with a wonder for His transcendence (cf. Isaiah 40). If we don’t understand the holiness and majesty of God, then we will not wonder at how He makes Himself near to us. He is so high above us that it is dramatic indeed for Him to stoop to our level, become a man, and die on a cross for our sin. Balance an understanding of the depths of our sin with an understanding of the immeasurably perfect character of God. Without this kind of balance, we feel a sense of entitlement to grace, emphasize a transcendent God that can’t relate to us, or emphasize a god who relates to us but is impotent.
you just laid the smack down on Catholics, liberals, emergents, post-moderns, open theists, women in any kind of leadership in the church, homosexuals, biblical non-literalists, and even possibly democrats. Gosh, is there anyone who thinks differently than you that might possibly have some truth? Or have you got it all figured out?
Thankfully, I only fit in the categories of post-modern, emergent, women in leadership, loving of homosexuals, and biblical non-literalists… or I would feel terribly judged right now.
You are missing the point. The issue is twofold: truth and authority. I serve a God who has given truth to His people in His Word. His authority is His Word, His Spirit, and His Church. If we reject these, we are left with ourselves as our own highest authority, which is idolatry. We are left to dismiss the inconveniences of biblical passages about sins such as homosexuality (notice I never said anything about not loving homosexuals, but love must be tempered with truth or it is not love) and having to take the Bible literally (and take God at His Word). I point out these perversions of Scripture not to “lay the smack down,” but because we pervert Scripture based on our own authority and a rejection of God’s authority.
It’s not about “thinking differently” or “having it all figured out.” It’s about submitting our minds, hearts, and souls to God. Post-modernism is a deconstructionist view of knowledge that dismisses everything Christians know and hold dear as culturally relative. Our framework of knowledge is God and His Word as believers, not the latest bit of worldly philosophy. When we embrace philosophy over and in spite of God’s Word, we forget that the Gospel is a “stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles.”
It is not a matter of me judging you or anyone else who may believe the same. It is a matter of God’s Word being our judge. His Word is our ultimate arbiter of what is true, and you seem to reject even that. Beyond this point, where can we go?
The issue at hand is not the “conversation” as you like to call it. The issue is where the conversation comes from and where it goes. When the conversation comes from a rejection of knowledge and leads to an outright rejection of God (His Word, authority, Spirit, and Church), the conversation is not a Christian conversation. At this point, the Church is glad to converse with you as a non-Christian seeker, but refuses to do so under the guise of Christianity. This is because ultimately, to call this movement a part of the Church is to legitimize error, heresy, and false teachings. This movement has the “appearance of godliness, but den(ies) its power (2 Timothy 3:5),” is “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7),” and “these men also oppose the truth (2 Timothy 3:8).” As believers, Paul issues a stern warning to the Church to “avoid such people (2 Timothy 3:5).”
What I am saying is what Paul says in Ephesians 4:4-6. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” I do not claim to know and live out every nuance of the one faith, but I strive to know Christ, and in following him daily, come to a fuller knowledge of the one truth, the one way, and the one life. It is my desire that you come to a knowledge of the truth, see the error of post-modernity, and embrace this one faith in Jesus Christ.
Quick question… is there any spot in the bible.scriptures where they claim for themselves to be the “Word” of God? I keep coming to the conclusion that the scriptures actually refer to the Word as something bigger than what can be written down. They also never claim their own inerrency or infallibility as we like to define them. Just some points that I think we would probably differ on. Because of this difference, the use of singular verses and even the use of the word “Word of God” means something very different to each of us.
Also, I don’t think that post-modernism throws out everything Christians hold dear. Maybe early post-modernism… but i don’t think we can be so reductionistic with something that is such a prevailing idea of our time. It is a reality… we have to live in it. Also, I don’t think that emergents throw out knowledge OR reject God. This would be pretty non-sensical.
The “Word” of God has a few senses that we must define. In one sense it means the proclamations/ decrees of God, in another it refers to the Scriptures, and in another it refers to the incarnation of Jesus Christ (John 1). There are several reasons we trust the Word of God, in all three senses, and know that it is true.
1) Christ is the way, the “truth”, and the life. As the incarnate Son of God, and God in human flesh, Christ used the Scriptures. He quoted the Old Testament repeatedly, and always with a sense of their authority. He usually would say that God spoke through the prophets, or something to indicate that the Scriptures were more than mere words of men. His trust in the Scriptures should set the model for us, “for man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
2) God in Himself is the embodiment of everything good and all truth. There is no truth that does not find its meaning ultimately in God. We are to take Him at His word, whether that word comes to us through an Old Testament prophet (if we lived at that time), or through the words recorded in the Bible. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it (Numbers 23:19)?”
3) Scripture internally testifies to its use, truthfulness, and inspiration over and over again.
a. David meditates on the Torah (the Scriptures in his day) and separates the wicked from the righteous by those who study and apply the Scriptures (Psalm 1).
b. Scripture testifies to its inspiration being the Spirit of God: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).” As you have said this all points back to Christ, but we must trust the Scriptures to truthfully lead us to him and not lead us astray.
c. God makes proclamations and decrees by the prophets and makes His words known to His people through Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, etc. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).”
d. Christ promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to lead the disciples “into all truth.”
e. Peter recognizes Paul’s writings as authoritative Scripture.
Ultimately, as I said before, it is an issue of authority. Without the authority of God in His Word, who or what is your ultimate authority? The obvious and unavoidable answer is that without God’s authority, men are in authority over themselves. It is prideful arrogance and a slap in the face of God for men to dismiss the teachings of Scripture and pursue their own ideas, whether individually or in communities.
Biblical inerrancy and infallibility are assumed. They are never addressed or questioned in Scripture because without these ideals, Scripture is absolutely worthless! Inerrancy and infallibility belong to the Scriptures because the Scriptures are breathed out by God, and God is not a liar. He does not err, and everything He says is true. By claiming the Scriptures as anything other than the true Word of God, you either call Him a liar, or call every man that ever wrote Scripture a liar.
There seems to be a lot you are missing in your understanding of the terms inerrancy and infallibility, judging from your previous posts. There are some great things you can read that would help, especially the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (link at bottom), Robert Stein’s book A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, and Robert Saucy’s book Scripture. The Chicago statement gives a list of affirmations and denials that should be especially helpful to understand what is meant by inerrancy. Saucy’s book speaks a lot to the authority of Scripture and why it is so important. Stein’s discussion on interpreting Scripture is helpful. He divides the Bible into genres that will help guide us in our interpretation (for instance, noting that David is writing poetry and describing the world as it appears to him doesn’t imply that he is writing scientifically that the earth stands still and the sun rotates around it).
Do men interpret the Bible wrongly? Absolutely! Does it follow from there that no one interprets the Bible correctly? Absolutely not. But when the Bible says “X is a sin” it is not up for interpretation. When the Bible says that man is saved by grace through faith as a gift of God (Ephesians 2) there is only one correct interpretation.
As a final word; post-modernism is reality only so far as that there are many who have bought into it. It is a bankrupt system, just as Cartesian foundationalism before it. Any philosophical system that has a foundation other than God will fail. If you read the Bible, there is never a question about whether God exists, or whether He is the foundation of all life. It is in Him that we live, move, breathe, and have our being. Starting anywhere else has its foundation in atheism, and “the fool says in his heart there is no God.”
Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy:
Ok I must enter into this dialog and make it a polylog.
1) Jesus quoted the old testament and often said “it says but I say”. Was he not being like the post modern voice to the Jews who had misinterpreted the old testament and Jesus had to set them straight on just waht the old testament really was saying? Cannot people today hear the call of Jesus and the Spirit of God and say the same things to the existing church?
2) But what about the third person of the Trinity? Cannot people today hear the voice of God whispering in their ear from the Holy Spirit and learn new ways of understanding and thinking and acting for God?
3) Yes, and it also is interpreted by us today, and we are not God, and God has consistently in the Bible changed his interaction with humans.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to prove his point; God wrestled with Jacob; God relented and let Israel have a King; God let Israel be sent into Exile; God brought the Jews back from Exile by using a Syrian King; God sent his Son to give not only a better understanding of the old Testament, to set a new Covenant, to give us an example of how to live as people created in the image of God, but also to learn what it really means to be the created and not the creator!!
I fully agree that it is a question of Authority. But whose authority.? Your interpretation of Scripture vs mine? Or the authority of God, the Scriptures, the Spirit of God and the witness of the Saints of history and the current understandings of science?
My God is bigger than 66 books and probably 250,000 words in the Bible. My God is bigger than any human understanding of God. My God calls me to be loving, generous, slow to anger, non-judgemental, humble, a creature, one with a log in my eye, limited in my authority, and actually very happy and joyus.
So, I am a happy follower of Jesus, living to love others, to become the human God created me to be, and to be humble in my stance before the awesome God who give me life. My only purpose is to love God, to love others and not to get the two confused.
My prayers are with you Andrew in your continuing struggle to break out of your modern straight jacket. Welcome to the Post modern dialog. May you continue to engage in the conversation, and may you find the loving God that I have found so that you can begin to love al of God’s children and not only those who agree with you.
1) Jesus was not always quoting the Old Testament. In some of these cases he was quoting the traditions of the religious leaders. He says “You have heard it said, but I say.” In other cases, he is upping the ante of the Mosaic Law. For instance, he says “you have heard it said ‘you shall not commit adultery,’ but I say anyone who looks at a woman with lust in his heart has committed adultery with her.” I don’t call that “setting the record straight” at all. The Jews knew adultery was wrong, but Jesus eliminated the surrounding gray areas. He draws out all the implications of the Law in order to show that men have no hope of life in the Law.
2) The Holy Spirit always confirms the Word of God. He is the One who inspired it to start with, why would He change His mind? There is no variation or shadow of change in God (James 1:17). The Bible is known as the “canon” for a reason. The word canon denotes a standard or measure of our faith. The canon is the standard the Church follows, and those who do not follow this standard are not the Church.
3) Each time that God revealed something new, it was anticipated by the Scriptures. The new covenant of Christ was spoken of by Jeremiah (ch. 31), Ezekiel (ch. 36), and others. When the Israelites anointed their first king, God had spoken of this in the Torah. When Israel was sent into exile, it was because they had broken God’s Law. This was also prophesied in the Torah. It’s not as if God changed His mind, since He has declared “the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10.” He had a plan that is set at specific times in history.
The authority of Scripture comes in allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, and not post-modernism to do our interpretation. As I have repeatedly emphasized, post-modernism is a deconstructive principle of knowledge which leads to “always learning and never able to j arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).” There is truth and it is the truth that sets us free. There is no “modern straight jacket” to truth. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Post-modernism seeks a middle ground where there is no middle ground.
The emerging/emergent groups riding the waves of post-modernity are nothing new. In the same way, the liberalism of the 17th and 18th centuries followed Cartesian foundationalism and Kantian epistemology. A better grasp on history would be useful for the emerging/emergent church. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum and are not without precedents and roots. As Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.” The emerging/emergent church is liberal Christianity 2.0; a recycled version of a washed up and bankrupt system. The liberal church lost Europe already, where upwards of 50% claim atheism/agnosticism today. The same will happen here in America. If the Church doesn’t hold the truth, what good is she?
This is not about “those who agree with [me]” versus those who don’t. That is a fundamental misrepresentation of the issue (and an all too common one). This is about those who submit to God (His Word, will, and Spirit) and those who don’t. A basic exegetical study of the unified Church in Ephesians shows that unity is predicated by the Gospel. If our Gospel is not the same, our unity has no foundation. Unity cannot be forced with those whom we do not hold the Gospel in common.
Your attempts to make it sound as if one bearing the truth is unloving show a misunderstanding of the person of Christ. Jesus always spoke the truth to people, whether they wanted to hear it or not. You also pull the concept of judgment out of context. Jesus does not say “don’t judge.” He says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).” Note the words “and then.” This implies that there will be time to judge. The time is here for the Church to understand the critique of the emerging/emergent church (and even take some of it to heart). But with that, the Church must also understand the views, perspectives, and theologies of this movement and recognize that it is fundamentally un-Christian and must be exposed to the light.
There are many perspectives that are simple, easily understood and wrong. I know that at least 20% of what I believe is wrong, but I really cannot know what part of what I believe is part of that 20%.
Can you acknowledge this Andrew? If you are fully convinced that your human logic and reading of Scripture is infallible, then what makes you any different from God?
I agree that there are some things we have wrong. I am not claiming personal infallibility. But I cannot agree with the implications you draw from there. What you miss is that the Holy Spirit leads believers into truth and NOT falsehood. There is a “faith once delivered,” and we cannot stray from it. There are essentials and there are non-essentials. The problem is many are denying the essentials.
My essentials are:
Love one another
Everyone is a child of God
God’s Grace overcomes sin, even mine
I was created in the image of God, and my job in
life is to live fully into that image as lived
That is about it.
What else is essential to you?
Truth is essential to me, which is why I want to ask you a few questions before I go into my essentials.
What is this love you speak of? Can you separate American concepts of love from Biblical love (hesed, agape, phileo, etc.) ? How do we love God? How do we love people? Your definitions are vague and could easily be more Buddhist than Christian.
Would your preaching get you thrown out of the synagogue? Jesus’ did. Paul’s did. Peter’s did. Are you like them?
To Love God is to give back to God all your heart soul and mind and to be about the work of God in the world. God’s work is Grace to all God’s children loving them with an unconditional love and compassion, working for their ultimate good and lifting them when they stumble, crying when they are not like they were created to be, waiting patiently 70×7 as they continue to screw up and loving them all over again and again.
I only aspire to this, but it is a life worth living and dying for.
That is what we need to extend to each other.
Christians do not have an exclusive on Love, so yes I believe that Buddhists can love others with the Love of God too.
The reason they were kicked out of the Synagogues is that they no longer were willing to continue to follow the rules of Judaism like circumcision, or adhere to the idea that God is one, i.e. the Shama. Believing in the Trinity like I do would get me thrown out of any Synagogue then or today.
Perhaps the emerging church Christians are being thrown out of the existing church because we will no longer adher to the old rules and will just go about being children of
God and loving all the other children of God as best we can and not trying to make them follow a set of rules.
Ok, so I want to jump in here… i have withdrawn from the conversation (too much f2f interaction with people to stay glued to my computer), but am totally fine with you all keeping going with it.
I want to simply pose a question. How much time (can I even say hours?) has gone into the following conversation? All the time I have taken typing and thinking and reading, and all the time you both have taken thinking, typing, and reading… not to mention if there are others reading all of this banter. How many collective hours have gone into the above 20 pages or more of written word?
And how much of that is making an ounce of a difference in the lives of the people in your neighborhoods or your city?
Doesn’t Jesus have something better for you to do than this?
Like I said above, keep the dialog going if you want, but this is why I am not engaging in it anymore.
How do we love God? What does Jesus have to say about this? Christ says, “If you love me…” do what?
What is your biblical basis for your definition of love? You didn’t actually define anything. What about passages about God’s particular love like Romans 9? What about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart or “Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated?” Does that mesh with God working for everyone’s ultimate good?
God is infinitely loving, but it must be balanced with His infinite justice. Until we see God’s justice, we will never fully understand the depth of His merciful love. Your understanding of sin and its effects on man is lacking. Without a full understanding of sin and its effects, what is the need for the Gospel? Aren’t we all just basically good people? That is the lie that liberalism bought until WWI and WWII came around and eyes were opened to the depths of human sin.
This notion that man is basically good comes from Pelagius, a 4th century evangelist who preached this idea. His teachings were condemned as heresy by the Church, but survives in the Roman Catholic Church in Semi-Pelagianism, which says that man is fallen but basically still good.
Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. were not thrown out of the synagogue for circumcision or the Trinity. They were thrown out because the Gospel is a “stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” Emerging/Emergent church ideas are not being thrown out because of “old rules.” They are being thrown out because they are unbiblical. They would be right at home in a Unitarian Universalist or Bahaii “church.” There is nothing offensive about your notion of loving people and loving God.
The concern with Emerging/Emergent groups is precisely what you are articulating. What you have defined as your essentials is fuzzy at best and you give no Scriptural basis for your beliefs. It is left to the emotions and whims of man what it means to love God and love men.
Read 2 Samuel 14 to see where relying on emotions and disregarding Scriptural commands leads. David pardons his son Absalom in spite of the Law requiring that Absalom either flee to a city of refuge or be executed for murdering his brother Amnon. If you read on from here, David’s sin is punished as Absalom rebels and Israel is thrust into civil war. Absalom dies anyways as a result.
I’ve been following this conversation since yesterday and I have more that I could say, but catching up this morning I wonder, Andrew, how do your neighbors know that you love them?
Since you have said that I do not quote chapter and verse in the Bible as a basis for my understandings of God I thought I would share a little exegesis on a very wonderful verse that is often used to be the major plank of the more conservativeBbible quoting arguments:
For God so loved the world:
God acting purely out of love is about to act not just for the just or the believers but for the each and every person, and not just for people, but for THE WHOLE WORLD!
That He gave his only begotten Son:
This is a problem since we know that Jesus is not just the Son of God but is God in the Trinity. This is Emmanuel, God with us. God becoming human in some wild mysterious and unfathomable way. Being of the same substance of God, yet being fully human, a human not only with grace and eloquence, but a human with BO and farts and fears that make him sweat blood in the garden knowing he will die in a few hours
That who ever believes in Him:
Ok, believes what in him? That He is God, that HE is a teacher extraordinaire, that he lived a perfect life showing us how to live, that he went to the cross for each of us, that He resurrected, that he sent the Spirit after this to be with us always. YES!
Will have a whole and lasting life:
(I think this is a more accurate translation of the last bit of this verse from the Greek, and it is exactly the words used by Peterson in The Message translation)
So what do we get from believing in Jesus, we get a life that is whole and lasting and worthwhile and good. We do not mostly get a free ticket to heaven, we mostly get a life on Earth that is worth living today and tomorrow and the next day and so on. We get every day to live out the Kingdom of God by living the way of Jesus, to live as God created each of us to be and as he had Jesus show and tell us how to live.
And this takes me back to the previous post and that is to live out the words of Jesus in saying that all the law of Moses can be summed up with “Love God and Love your neighbor”, Paul says without Love we are just noisy cymbals. And we pray the only prayer we have directly from Jesus that God’s Kingdom come to earth, not just wait to get it in heaven.
Where does it say that my neighbors will know I love them? You’re looking at it from the wrong perspective. Did the Pharisees know Jesus loved them? Or did he just love them?
You still never defined what love is. A theology based on John 3:16 is precisely my point. There is more to the Bible than one verse! And using the Message translation… are you serious? It is a paraphrase. Are you an authority on Greek? The Greek words ‘aiwnios zoe’ don’t mean whole and lasting. They mean ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ as they are used here and in verse 15.
Put John 3:16 back into its context, and you find that Jesus goes on to talk about the judgment of those who do not believe. When’s the last time you lovingly told someone they were going to be judged?
Okay, good point. So how do you express love to your neighbor?
To avoid pharisaically patting myself on the back, I will give generic examples of how to love one’s neighbor. It starts with taking genuine interest in other people’s lives; their thoughts, feelings, stories, etc. Showing Christ’s love by giving and expecting nothing in return. Praying for them, and hopefully reaching the point of giving the only gift truly worth giving; the Gospel.
Does that sometimes involve telling the truth in love and hurting feelings? Absolutely. It is not hurting feelings for the sake of hurting them, but the Gospel and truth are offensive to a world that loves darkness. We must remember that light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness and their evil ways.
Well said, Andrew. I would add that learning to love other people unconditionally, like Jesus loves us, seems to be a lifelong process. It also takes a very long time to reach the point in a relationship where you can tell your friend the truth about what you see in his or her life and then still maintain a relationship beyond that point. I have managed to do that with some people in my life, but at other times I have also pushed people away, and that doesn’t just hurt the other person, it hurts me, too.
We must be careful not to value the friendship over the Gospel. We can’t fear God if we’re afraid of men. We are faithful first and foremost to the Gospel. People don’t like the truth. It’s offensive for someone to hear that they are dead in their sins. But we need to make sure we get from death to the new life we are offered in Christ; both eternally and here on earth.
Loving God BEFORE we love our neighbor is our only option. If we don’t love God first we can’t truly love our neighbor. This is a difficult one for all of us, but we can’t succumb to pragmatism. Does this make sense?
Bob, are you still there?
Still here but nothing to add.
We seem to be stuck on what the Gospel is. You see it coming from a God of fear and I am coming at it from a God of love. We both think it is good news, but we disagree and are both committed followers of Jesus. So be it.
I never said it was from a God of fear, although God is to be feared. You still have not given a biblical definition for love. Do you believe that God loves some people more or differently than others?
Love is caring more about the other than about yourself. Jesus showed this love by washing the Disciples feet, being the servant to the other not being above the other. He showed it by dying on the cross for all humanity. God showed it by always caring for the nation of Israel, even when they would not let him be their God. I am not a chapter and verse Bible quoter, I am much more focused on the meta-narratives, the overall story the grand scope, not the details.
You just did say it directly, and all you say points to an assumption that God must be feared, and we must act to appease this God, just as you contend that Jesus died to appease a God who would destroy the humanity He created. This not the God I know and love and believe in and find in the Bible.
What about Gen. 22:12, 31:42, 53, etc. There are many throughout the Bible that speak of a reverential fear of the Lord. Should we ignore these?
It is the chapters and verses that make up the meta-narrative. That’s like saying you read Lord of the Rings and all you did was read the cliff notes version. You miss the action and the drama!
What I am trying to point out to you is this- It will absolutely rock your understanding of God’s love to understand it in light of His holiness and justice. The way you have described God to me, He is just a nice guy that loves everyone. But if you read through the Bible that’s not God. “Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated (Malachi 1, Romans 9).” That’s God… the God who led Israel on dry ground through the Red Sea, and then swallowed Pharaoh’s army in the waters! Is that a God who loves everyone equally? Why not let the waters return before Pharaoh’s army got to the middle of the sea? Why not spare Egypt’s firstborn sons like He did Israel’s? Why make a covenant with Israel and not the rest of the world? How is God forever angry with Esau’s descendants (Malachi 1:4)?
He is a God who demands justice and shows mercy, not because people deserve it, but because of His name! If you read through the Bible, most passages that speak of love are not a general love to all people. They are a specific love to God’s chosen people (Israel, the Church). John 3:16 is an invitation to all men to be a part of God’s people. Look at the covenants God makes in the Old Testament; with Abraham and Moses. They are covenants with a specific people; the covenant of Abraham to his seed Christ (and thereby the Church) and the covenant of Moses to Israel.
God’s love is a love that doesn’t have to. It is a gracious and merciful love. And unless you understand why He would withhold that love, you don’t understand that love.
You smellin’ what I’m steppin’ in?
“It is the chapters and verses that make up the meta-narrative. That’s like saying you read Lord of the Rings and all you did was read the cliff notes version. You miss the action and the drama!”
Yes, the action and the drama are interesting and very entertaining, but if you only focus on the action described in the text, you miss the allegory and the Christian metaphors and the overarching theme of how one person can stand against evil and how much we need each other in our individual quest. These themes are never explicitly stated so you will never find them in any specific text, but they form the key messages of the books, and the reason they were written in the first place.
“God’s love is a love that doesn’t have to. It is a gracious and merciful love. And unless you understand why He would withhold that love, you don’t understand that love.”
And if you cannot know that God’s love is freely given to all and that we are to go and do likewise, you will be eternally stuck in an us vs them state and “we” are always the “good” guys. Get a little humility and be willing to admit that this might just be the case and invite everyone in the world to join in this new way to be human.
Ok, by the way, I am a retired computer executive, Elder in the Presbyterian Church, a Bible study leader for over 25 years, leader in a new church start-up that is singularly focused on the people in the 19 to 35 age group,who would never set foot in “church” or even start a conversation with a self professed “Christian” due to their very valid concerns about how they will be perceived.
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16)
Let me poke my head in really quickly here to make one point:
The difference between Andrew and Bob’s perspective really comes down to a “low” vs. “high” view of scripture. I think you two will keep speaking sideways without admitting this fact.
Really the issue is not biblical interpretation, but an a priori presupposition about the nature of the Bible as authority.
I think you’re both going to have to surrender to that fact. It’s not really productive to disagree about a shade of wall color when you’re standing in different houses.
I’d say, admit your divergent presuppositions and move on… 🙂
Or, more to the point, if you’re going to have a discussion, have it about the nature of scriptural authority. Otherwise you’re going to keep talking past each other.
Ok, I have admitted to Darren before and I do perceive that I do hold a “low” view of Scripture in his definition, but I do rebel at this hierarchical categorization. It may be historically characteristically “low” as it has been defined by those who hold the “high” view, but it is not low in my perspective. I see it as actually “higher” than a literalist view. It is more complete, more contextual, more holistic, more comprehensive, and more nuanced than what I often hear from the more conservative perspectives.
So, yes, I fully agree that we hold different views on the interpretation and authority of the Bible, but I do not agree that one is in any way superior or inferior to the other.
So can we agree on this?
Also, Andrew, my recitation of what my background is, was not an attempt to boast but an attempt to create more connection and I was hoping for more revelation about you. I apologize for how you interpreted it. I subscribe to the Japanese perspective that if you misunderstand my communications it must be entirely my fault.
To clarify “high” and “low”, in this context, refer specifically to the amount of authority you give to the literal expression of the words themselves. So I don’t think you have to worry about sounding inferior. The words are not meant to refer to whether or not you respect the Bible, but rather whether or not you hold to a more literalist perspective.
And to add further clarity, its not even really about “literalism”, but whether or not you see the expressions, commands and structures attested to in the Bible as being authoritative throughout time and across cultures.
But I do do that, I just do not interpret or understand them the same as you or as Andrew. I think the Bible is authoritative, but not a rule book to follow literally. It is much more magnificent than that.
So what is it authoritative over and in what way and why? Your view waters it down to nothing… that’s not magnificent.
I’m not sure you’re hearing the distinction I’m making. Let’s try not to boil this down to two polar extremes.
On the one hand there is the issue or literalism: For instance, is the Genesis creation narrative meant to be taken as an accurate, historic accounting of the beginning? I understand that you don’t want to take that literally; and, for that matter, neither do I. I believe it is true myth, but not true history. Let me know if that distinction needs further parsing.
But then there’s the issue of whether or not, for instance, you assume the resurrection of Jesus to signify the first fruits of what we can expect as Christians. You seem very unsure that this is what we can expect. So, in this case, it seems that you do not lean on scripture as being authoritative.
Now, lets not get caught up in phrases alone. I know you want to say the Bible is “authoritative” in some sense for you, and I get that. But that’s not quite the same as having the view I’m describing here, nor what Christians have historically understood the “authoritative” nature of scripture to mean.
Honestly, as I may have mentioned before, I think you’re better off (based on the presuppositions you hold to) abandoning the idea of scripture as being authoritative altogether. If I were you I’d use a term more like “informative” – because it does feed your worldview. But it is by no means the final arbiter of your worldview. And that’s what most Christians mean when they say “authoritative”.
Why stay committed to the post-modern worldview if it is not a biblical worldview?
Interesting parsing for all of us. A “Biblical Worldview” gives too much credence to a limited vehicle for understanding the fullness of God that was written down by people who never saw the earth from Space, who never understood even that the world is not flat, that there is evolution, know DNA exists, that Einstein and Schroedinger existed, that Freud and Jung existed, and that CAT scans can tell us much of how the body and brain work and on and on. I can no more accept a six day creation than I can say these are not part of our understanding of God’s universe and how it all works.
I do not see this as the problem you seem to. Biblical witness is essential but not sufficient. Compelling but not complete. Invaluable but not literally authoritative. Worth living and dying for but not all there is of life.
Post modernism is not my choice it is simply acknowledgement of reality as we understand it today and it will change in the future for sure, but it is the accumulation of our best and most accurate understanding of reality from where we stand today, and is based on the past by testing and validating and rejecting what fits or does not fit with reality as we continue to grow in our perception of what it truly is.
The Bible gives us the best understanding of God that can fit in the 250,000 or so words of one book, but I can no more say I understand God by gazing on the starry host at night, than I can say I can understand God without that experience and by only reading what is written in the Bible.
There is no one “biblical worldview”. There are multiple worldviews, attested to in the lives of the various people groups made mention of from Genesis to Revelation. Believe me, an Ancient Near Eastern nomad did not have the same worldview as a turn of the millennium Palestinian Jew.
The idea that there is one “biblical worldview” is a complete myth. In fact, all it is is an anachronistic, modernistic, 20th century construct.
So, if we’re going to have this conversation, let’s deal with reality.
Your idea of the fullness of God is far from full. If God says He created the world in 6 days, who are you to say He didn’t? Don’t you think that’s a bit presumptuous?
You need to look up the developments of post modernism. It’s not as simple as you seem to think. And it definitely is a choice.
You are rejecting special revelation in light of general revelation (nature). It’s pure foolishness to place the wisdom of men over what God has revealed.
You seem to lack a conception of genre when it comes to biblical interpretation. Both Bob and I would argue that the Genesis Creation narrative is not meant to be read like a 20th century science textbook. Its meaning is primarily theological, not historical – by that I mean the text is not meant to represent a journalistic description of history. Don’t you see that reading it that way would be anachronistic?
And to address your last point, I’m pretty sure that both Bob and I would agree that special revelation is present in the Bible, but we would greatly differ from you in terms of what aspects of the biblical narrative are meant to be taken this way. And before you pull a “who are you to pick and chose which parts are special revelations and which one’s aren’t” let me clarify that we ALL DO THIS. Even you. Guaranteed. The problem is that you are so close to your own lens, that you don’t even see what you are doing.
And that’s what Bob is getting at in speaking of a postmodern worldview. Both Bob and I, as postmodern Christians, embrace the fact that our lens shapes how we see everything – including the Bible. Only a modernist would assume otherwise.
Let’s deal with reality. A biblical worldview is not a modern construct (post modernism really isn’t either for that matter). It is presented by the biblical authors from Moses to Peter, Paul, and John. It is followed by men from Ignatius, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Warfield, on down to modern times. Let’s narrow it down to what we mean by a biblical worldview. Let’s also break down the post modern one while we’re at it. There is a foundational philosophical construct to each worldview.
A biblical worldview is theocentric (God-centered). It starts with God and moves outward to creatures and creation. There is never a question of the existence of God in the Bible. The biblical worldview says the Bible is true, and attempts to understand what the Bible says; about the creation, the Fall and resultant state of man, and the purpose of God’s actions in this world that culminate in the fulfillment of Messianic promises in the Church.
The Bible says God created the world in 6 days. A biblical worldview takes this at face value (but that’s another topic for a different discussion). After creation, man sinned and fell from a state of perfection to a state of sin. That sin was passed from generation to generation to the current day.
In that state of sin, we are separated from God, hopeless, helpless, and spiritually dead in our sins. But God sent Jesus to die, pay the penalty for sin, and rise from the dead. In the same way, when we follow Christ through the gracious election of God in faith and repentance, our sinful flesh is put to death and we are brought to everlasting life. That life begins on this earth, as we are made part of the Church and do good works that flow from the Holy Spirit within us. It continues in heaven after we die and are resurrected on the last day.
The biblical worldview seeks to take the Bible and see the world through it, not the other way around. It sees men as fallen creatures in need of grace, the creation as the work of God, and longs for God to redeem His creation and creatures. It realizes that social justice without the Gospel is like giving a homeless man a dollar, rather than providing him a home, a bed, and a job. It may appease our consciences, but it doesn’t do the homeless man any good in the long term.
The biblical worldview recognizes scientific discovery and encourages it (historically some of the greatest scientists were believers, i.e. Newton), but realizes that science functions within a worldview. Currently that worldview is naturalism, which starts with the non-existence of God (the Bible says that the fool says in his heart there is no God, cf. Romans 1). So we see immediately that the two are incompatible, and until science changes its worldview to a new paradigm, science and religion will be at odds. Evolution has been demonstrated on a micro scale, but the macro scale is far from certainty.
Evolutionary naturalism has no answer for origins. If you watch the movie Expelled (which I highly recommend, if for nothing else than to watch Richard Dawkins squirm for 3 minutes at the end), the answers given to the question of origin of life only serve to push that origin back further (to aliens) or give outrageous and untestable hypothetical situations (i.e. life grew on crystals).
Post modernism begins with man’s understanding of the world. It is anthropocentric (man centered). In essence it says ‘there is no absolute truth.’ The problem is ‘there is no absolute truth’ is an absolute truth claim. So immediately we see that something is extremely wrong. It’s foundation is a logical contradiction.
When post modernism approaches the Bible, it does so from the Liberal hermeneutic. It assumes immediately that the Bible can’t be what it claims to be; the Word of God (since there is no absolute truth). It dismisses the Bible’s claim to be God’s Word, not for well thought out reasons or responses to the text, but from philosophical presuppositions; naturalism (rooted in Humean philosophy) and Kantian philosophy (a combination of Cartesian Foundationalism and Humean philosophy).
Kantian philosophy suggests that we cannot know the thing in itself, but only the thing as it appears to us. Men like Friedrich Schleiermacher (known as the Grandfather of Liberalism), Albrecht Ritschl, and Adolf von Harnack applied this to theology, Christ, and interpreting the Bible. Theology was no longer God as He is in Himself, but God ‘as He appears to us,’ which is anthropology (and moves immediately away from the biblical worldview of which God is the center).
Schleiermacher said that the Bible is a record of how God “appeared” to men and was based on their “feelings” of God (and not a testimony of actual events). This completely opposes the biblical record. Ritschl applied these ideas to Jesus and rather than Jesus being the Son of God (and God incarnate), he embodied “God-consciousness.” So in his view, Jesus is no longer God, but a man like us, but who was setting an example. Von Harnack took these ideas to the Bible and said, “we must separate the kernel from the husk.” By this he meant we must strip the Bible of all its miracles and make them all stories (lies and exaggerations). Von Harnack did this starting from a presuppositional naturalistic worldview (miracles can’t exist because they contradict nature/are supernatural), not from any evidence from the text or history.
All this lead to a rejection of the doctrine of original sin, which is a heresy the Church condemned and rooted out in the 4th and 5th centuries. It was known as Pelagianism (after an evangelist named Pelagius). Augustine, was the main opponent of this theology. The loss of original sin as a doctrine led to optimism and a utopian view of society in Liberal churches, which lasted until the world came crashing down around them in WWI. People saw the depravity of mankind in the carnage of the next few decades and for a while moved back toward original sin. Since the 1960s, these views have been making a resurgence in the Liberal church (i.e. PC-USA, Methodist, and even to an extent in some Southern Baptist churches), in liberal politics (i.e. President-elect Obama), and in many Emerging/Emergent church circles.
It’s useful to know the history behind some of the ideas you bring to the table. I’d suggest reading up on some of the men I listed to see the development of these thoughts (Dr. Bruce Ware also has several helpful lectures on this in his Systematic Theology 1 class available for free at BiblicalTraining.org). Post modernism has deep roots in philosophy beginning in the Enlightenment.
On the other hand, the biblical worldview is built on 3500 years of biblical history, and well over 2000 years of exegesis. It takes into account historical development of doctrine and theology and the interactions of scholars, rabbis, religious leaders, teachers, and pastors from Judaism and Christianity. No one is saying that the biblical worldview included things we know today about the earth and the universe. What is being said is this… let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself and carefully examine philosophy and science in light of the Bible first, giving God the final say. The biblical worldview recognizes that our own scientific paradigms have been based on faulty exegesis in the past (i.e. flat earth and geo-centrism), but realizes we do not need to reject what the Bible says at any point (nor have we had to in the past).
The biblical worldview does not suffer any damage from true science, and knows that science has constantly abandoned old theories and paradigms in light of new evidence. Intelligent Design has attempted to present new evidence against the current paradigm, but has suffered ad hominem (personal) attacks, intimidation by the establishment, and laughter from overly self-assured scientists. Much of science right now is unfortunately so sold out to naturalism that there is no room to examine the paradigm. Scientists look at the dating of rocks and assume because the rocks appear billions of years old the earth must be as well. Yet there is no room for the thought that perhaps God created the chicken before the egg, the tree before the seed, or the rocks were created to appear older than they are.
In summary, the biblical worldview starts with God and looks to see what God tells us about the world in His Word based on this theocentric presupposition. The post modern worldview starts with man, examines knowledge and truth, and rejects the (certainty of) knowledge of God and His truth (in His Word) based on an anthropocentric presupposition. The two are immediately at odds based on their ultimate presupposition, and one must be rejected. If the Bible is authoritative, we should be theocentric and have a biblical worldview. If we reject biblical authority, we may embrace anthropocentrism and post modernism, but we do so at great risk. We can never fully understand and recognize the truth of the Bible and the true nature of God within the framework of post modernism.
I have a conception of genre. There is nothing to indicate that any of Genesis, much less the Creation account, is written in a genre that would cause us to question it’s truthfulness and literalness. That is a direct result of your philosophical presuppositions.
The use of genealogies throughout the Bible tracing from Adam eventually to Christ, should clue us in that Adam was a literal person (and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.). There are many other reasons to believe that this was a literal account, as the Church always has (until Liberalism).
You said, “special revelation is present in the Bible.”
That’s the problem. The Bible IS special revelation. ALL Scripture is breathed out by God (Gk. ‘theopneustos’, 2 Tim. 3:16). Not some… ALL. There is no picking and choosing to be done. The special revelation IS not to be separated from the whole of the Bible. That is a Liberal idea (see above).
I’m starting to wonder why on earth I am still allowing comments on this post… there is no constructive dialog going on here at all. I don’t know why you guys feel the need to spend so much time talking about things you know that you don’t agree with.
Since, I am one to allow space for dialog, I have let this go on, but constructive dialog is much different than what is happening here. Get you last words out, gents… there’s only a few days left.
No constructive dialog? I laid out the roots of our disagreement; the historical and philosophical presuppositions. I put my own presuppositions out there and demonstrated the difference.
You are always talking about “the conversation” and it is happening right here. Disagreement doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the dialog. It means there’s something wrong with the views contributing to the dialog. Examining those views allows us to analyze them and figure out what is wrong. I’ve put forward the views and presuppositions of biblical Christianity and post modernism in contrast, and now it is on those holding the post modern worldview to respond and demonstrate their worldview to be coherent.
Constructive dialog seeks truth. That’s what I’m after. Christian unity is unity in truth.
This is your blog, so you can decide what to do with it of course.
And yes, we all have to be careful to try and stay on topic, and be constructive – or at least civil. But I think you also need to focus on not unilaterally assuming something that others might not agree with.
Earlier in the comments between Andrew and Bob you said their time would be better spent out meeting people. But that’s a false dichotomy. Its not like we have to do one or the other, converse online or go meet people.
Sometimes, even when things get a little spicy, people can walk away having learned something.
Remember, if you want to be for conversation, and for bringing people together, then you have to be open to letting real dialog take place.
Don’t forget you’ve suggested that Bob should spend more time and effort dialoging with others – especially others of a more conservative streak. Well, Bob’s doing that here. And now you’re critiquing him for it.
You can’t have it both ways, brother. 🙂
Thanks for the push-back guys…
Andrew, you basically said that you have laid out what you perceive that the the right perspective is, that it makes sense to you, and that its up to the others to make sense as well… while on the other side often times it is the exact same thing. Sometimes i wonder if the pursuit of truth is merely an attempt to get others to see our truth as the right truth. This isn’t dialog, its missions.
Darren, I appreciate your thoughts… and Bob’s too. You guys have your positions down. You know how to respond to all the counter arguments. You guys engage in these discussions all the time. This is good. But is there an attempt to figure out where both sides can go together, or is it just an attempt to give the right persuasive approach so that the other side will loosen up and be open to a different perspective… ie yours.
Just heard something the other day… those who know, don’t say. Those who say, don’t know.
“those who know, don’t say. Those who say, don’t know.”
So Jesus didn’t know? That’s where that logic leads…
This is the last point I’ll make, because even I, who’s all for conversation, recognizes that this one is petering out.
Andrew, the Bible never asks that you take every word literally. That was my point about genre, different genres ask you to do different things with different texts. I still contend that you don’t really understand genre. Genre is not just about style of writing, each genre also gives clues about interpretation as well. But you want to treat the books of the Bible with one broad brush. That’s just wishful thinking my friend. And its not really treating the Bible with respect.
You really are in a fishbowl my friend (no pun intended :)). I know you’re convinced of your position, because you’ve been surrounded by the same worldview for so long. But just so you know, I’d say Nate and I both stood somewhere near where you stand at some point in our lives. But we’ve learned to see a more complex reality. And as Bob suggests, this creates more mystery, more wonder, more magnificence. Not less.
I’m sure you’ll come back at us with some more modern logic (and yes my friend, it is modern – you’re so deep into it you don’t even see it), but again, you’re not going to convince us by resorting to utterly modern precepts.
God bless on the journey. I trust that one day this will all be clearer to each of us.
If you are so convinced of your worldview, why not lay it out? Defend your views and attack my worldview, rather than making ad hominem (fishbowl) attacks against me.
You argue for a different genre understanding of the Bible. By all means, make the argument! But realize that 3500 years of biblical interpretation is on the other side. Only since the Enlightenment has the Bible been interpreted in the way you suggest by those who call themselves Christians.
I laid out my presuppositions, my philosophical ideologies, and my worldview. It’s not some mystery to me. You are welcome to deconstruct it.
This conversation is petering out because you have refused to defend your views and contribute anything constructive. You have made denials and accusations but have presented not a shred of evidence. That’s a cop out. Why not discuss how you came to your post modern views and put it all in perspective rather than assuming the conclusion? What do you stand to lose?
This really will be my last post on this topic. My friend, to say that only since the Enlightenment have people read the Bible the way I’m suggesting is ridiculous.
Much of the OT is poetry, and thus, not meant to be read literally or as if it were a different, information-focused genre. Are you trying to suggest that people from the time it was written didn’t recognize this? And are you trying to tell me that the people of the Ancient Near East would have read the Genesis creation narrative like we would read a 20th century science textbook? That just doesn’t make any contextual sense.
The Bible is a collection of books, not one book. You need to read each in its appropriate literary and cultural context. Your one-size fits all approach to the Bible is, as I’ve said before, a purely modern construct.
So I don’t think I’m being vague. Your entire worldview is build on modern assumptions. As a postmodern I don’t reject modernism per se, but recognize and reel it in when it overreaches.
And lastly, to your point about a “biblical worldview”, I can agree with you that it begins with the premise that there is a good God who is supreme, personal, and father of all creation. However, to suggest that a biblical worldview is a starting/finishing point, rather than a reference point in cooperation with other disciplines (science and such) is, again, to make a strange, modern leap. The Bible is not a Cosmic Almanac. It is a record of people’s relationship with Yahweh across time and across cultures. As Bob pointed out, revelation is given at various points, but that revelation is still going to be understood through the lens of a particular worldview. And that’s the point, revelation is an equation, involving both sender=God, message, and reception (human beings with a particular worldview). I know its not as cut and dry to recognize this fact, but this is reality. This even helps to explain why you see a progression of understanding across the canon of scripture. Its not just that God was saying different things, but that people heard different things, because they filtered revelation differently through a changing worldview. And, as Bob no doubt would argue, even that progressing worldview is led by the Spirit of God.
So its all good. God is still in control. Lean more on the Holy Spirit my friend – He’s still alive and well and leading us today. And the Bible is, as they say, the menu, not the meal.
By the way Andrew, if you really want to continue this dialog, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out of respect for Nate, we should probably vacate this virtual location rather than overstay our welcome! 🙂
Again you’ve not made an argument. You say your interpretation has deeper roots than the Enlightenment… let’s see them! Otherwise, you’re just begging the question.
If my worldview is a modern construct, show me why. Show me how it differs from Christ, who obviously took the prophecies of the Bible literally, and never said anything by which we should know that he did not take the narrative literally. He speaks of a literal Abraham that looked forward to his coming. If you can’t demonstrate the validity of this argument, it is nothing more than a straw man.
I never said the Bible was an almanac or science textbook. I don’t think it tells us a whole lot about science, but I do think that it interacts with the philosophical presuppositions of science (atheism and evolution) where science wanders beyond the evidence.
If Genesis is not meant to be literally interpreted, show me why. Don’t just say that it’s not. Again, you are begging the question.
Why shouldn’t poetry be interpreted in a literal manner? I’m not saying we have to take it word for word and make dogma out of it. I am aware of the figurative nature of poetry, but figurative language doesn’t equate to wasted words. There is a theology that informs the poetry. When David writes a song to God, he’s not just writing the words because they rhyme and sound good. His songs are informed by his theology and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Much of the Old Testament is historical narrative. It is written by people who often are there at the actual events. What is it that you think indicates any of this to be fiction? How do we and why should we separate the historical narrative of the Torah from the Creation account?
Do some research into how the canon was developed, both the Old and New Testament. You don’t seem to understand the canon how the Jews, the early church, or Jesus did. Paul and Peter address the canon, with Peter even referring to Paul’s works as Scripture.
I have already answered your questions. I told you, several times, that an ANE culture would not have read – or more specifically, based on the original context, heard – the Creation narrative like scientific history. Why? Because that kind of understanding of factual, scientifically described fact didn’t exist then. It just wasn’t the way they talked about the world. Perhaps you need to study those cultures a little more so you can see Genesis in a new light; because, after all, it was written, first and foremost, for them.
And on the point of Jesus referencing a literal Abraham, I’m not sure what you’re getting at there. Do you think I doubt the historical existence of Abraham? I certainly don’t.
So, as I’ve been saying all along, the burden lies in the contextual evidence within these various cultural traditions. So I would suggest you study that some more, in order to come at the equation from the other direction.
You’re the one making the assumption that you’re reading of scripture is the same as it has always been for these various people groups. But that’s just pure error.
And one last point, when we speak of the “authoritative” and “inspired” nature of scripture, what many 20th and 21st century fundamentalists mean by these terms is a long way from what was the understanding around the time leading up to the canonization of the NT. In the context of the early Christians, a text was considered “inspired” because someone with the Holy Spirit wrote it; in other words, a Christian wrote it. And it was considered “authoritative” when a certain work had recognized pragmatic value by its use in various churches.
Now those definitions, which were the understandings of the early church, are a far cry from what fundamentalists understand them to mean today. And that’s why some real historical inquiry is necessary in these matters; because even the meanings of terms change over time. And, as I’ve said before, it was assumptions born out of modernism that led many fundamentalists to skew the meanings of these terms as they did. And then these fundamentalists want to turn around and suggest their reading the texts like they’d always been read. But this is just not historically true – for reasons, among others, that I just described.
You haven’t answered my questions with any supporting evidence. You’ve put forth theories that don’t account for the evidence.
The Creation account is not a scientific account. There isn’t talk about certain elements or anything along these lines. God spoke and the earth came forth. John 1:3 speaks of the Creation coming about by God, through Christ. How can we not interpret a literal Creation here?
What clues do we have to suggest we separate a historical Abraham from a historical Adam and a historical Creation story? There are no textual clues in any of the Bible that suggest we do that. Adam is taken as a literal man in all the genealogies, and the Creation account is the basis for gender roles in the church and in marriage.
Not to mention that the early church fathers literally interpreted the Bible. Should we assume those who were so close to the time of Christ all completely missed the boat? Are we so much smarter than them? Show me where your definitions of authoritative and inspired were used by the early Church. I see no evidence for that. I’ve read Irenaeus, Ignatius, Clement, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Cyprian, Athanasius, etc. I see no evidence of your definition. What have you read that has led you to this conclusion? You give reasons, but no supporting evidence.
I’m not just assuming these early Christians read the Bible like I do. I’m reading them to see how they read the Bible. I’ve yet to come across one of them who does not interpret literally what the Bible says.
Just because Ancient Near Eastern cultures believed in myths does not mean that the Creation story is a myth. That shows a fundamental misunderstanding between revelation and myth. There are some similarities between Jewish cultures and those of their neighbors, but they are not equals. Remember that there is a difference between Israel and the nations. Israel knows and worships the true God while the nations worship idols made of wood and stone.
Because someone had the Holy Spirit did not mean they could write Scripture. All Christians have the Holy Spirit, but not all can write Scripture. The New Testament was written by Apostles and men closely associated with them.
I didn’t say that if a book was considered “inspired” that it could be scripture. It also had to be considered “authoritative”, which I also defined, and yes apostolic proximity was one of the factors.
By the way, do you consider it coincidental that Adam and Eve, in Hebrew, are not just proper names, but also mean “man” and “mother”? Sounds pretty general to me. But again, I’m not even arguing specifically that they are not historical figures. Perhaps they are the first two, among many early humans, whom God breathed deeper consciousness into. My point is not to argue over these specifics. The point is that, considering there is considerable evidence to take much of the Genesis narrative as something other then accurate history, and considering scientific data we have today suggests the story, when taken literally, does not fit with history, then we should accept this and move on. We don’t lose anything in doing so; other than believing in a Bible that must be interpreted literally in every case. But, as I’ve said, I think its clear that this is not how the early Christians understood things anyway.
Anyway, thanks for the conversation. At this point I think we’ve done enough circling of the wagons.
You think it’s clear the early Christians understood the Bible not literally. Why? Prove your case. Don’t just make empty assertions. Have you read the church fathers? I can pull some quotations if you’d like that show they took the Bible literally.
Scientific evidence is a moot point right now. Science ignores anything that doesn’t fit the current naturalist (atheist) paradigm. We don’t know the history of our origins scientifically. When science look at origins all they are doing is philosophy, which is out of bounds. If scientists take a hard look at the evidence without the presupposition that God does not exist, the evidence for evolution shrinks considerably. We are far from closing the book on evolution. Darwin himself admitted that evolution only worked given the observable simplicity of organisms at his time. He stated that if the inner workings of organisms were significantly more complex, that his theory failed.
You’re the only one circling wagons. I’m getting dizzy just watching.
This will be the 58th comment and I don’t think that anyone has gotten any closer to anyone else here. The “baiting” that is happening is amazing to me. This is one of the most interesting “dialogs” that I haven’t fully followed. Back and forth, back and forth… prove me this, prove me that. Accusation from one side, critique from the other side. I’m not sure why you guys are still asking each other questions at this point. You know how the other will respond and you know how you will respond to that.
Interesting that the first comments were about literal interpretation and the most recent comments are about literal interpretation.
To be completely honest… Of course this comment is just another bait for you to bite on. Will you respond and raise another issue? Will there be another 50 replies? If I were trying to follow Jesus’ example I probably wouldn’t have told you that. I am still amazed, Andrew, that you see Jesus as a western teacher… one who laid everything out there black and white. Your reply about Jesus saying it because he knew it… that was the most revealing and brief statement to me of how far west you have come… how far removed from the original context.
Peace, gentlemen… don’t bite the bait.
Uh oh, the false dichotomy is back.
You say “Much of the Old Testament is historical narrative. It is written by people who often are there at the actual events. What is it that you think indicates any of this to be fiction? How do we and why should we separate the historical narrative of the Torah from the Creation account?”
This is patently not true. All major biblical scholars know that nearly all of the books of the old testament were first recorded years, even centuries after their supposed date of setting. Books like Daniel, Judges and Kings, Chronicles, etc. were all first recorded after the exile not before. They were most likely passed down via oral tradition since very few could read back then! There is much evidence in the books to support this as well as the forms of the Hebrew language used etc. If you do not agree to these facts then I am not sure what more evidence I can give you of the contextual nature of scripture.
The evidence actually leads most to believe that the books of Judges, the Torah, etc. were written before the exile. The Chronicles were post-exilic as were Nehemiah and Ezra. But that is apparent from the books. They don’t claim otherwise.
You know why some scholars say Daniel was written after Israel returned from exile? That is because these scholars assume that Daniel could not possibly have prophesied the rise of the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires with such precision (including the prophecy that Alexander’s kingdom would be divided four ways upon his untimely death). This is due to the liberal presupposition that prophecy does not happen. The problem is, even if Daniel was written after the return from exile, Daniel prophecied that Christ would be crucified 483 years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem. If we do the math on the dates it is either the exact year of Christ’s crucifixion, or within 5 years!
The textual evidence is not nearly as strong on the liberal side as they lead people to believe. Not to mention, we really don’t know quite enough about Hebrew to lead us to conclude an exact date. I would suggest you read some of the other side of the argument. Remember, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Prov. 18:17).”
Although the oral tradition was strong, so was the scribal tradition. There is no reason to conclude that books claiming pre-exilic origins or origins during the exile were not written down. Once again, much of the argument here comes from the liberal side, due to naturalistic and even atheistic presuppositions. Much of this scholarship has come out of Germany in the last 300 years since the rise of liberalism there under Schleiermacher.
Why are you so quick to undermine the books that are the basis of Christian faith?
You come across as defensive and angry. And on top of that, you seem to have built yourself one massive circuit of circular reasoning. You take the evidence that fits your presupposition, and simply undermine or outright ignore that which doesn’t – calling it false for its supposedly “atheistic” underpinning.
Do you call this fair dialogue? If we simply choose evidence like we do food from a smorgasbord – taking what we want, leaving what we don’t – then almost any presupposition can be “supported”. But again, this is neither fair, nor accurate.
All I can say is that you are in the great minority on the issues we’ve discussed here at this blog. And there are fewer and fewer of you each and every day. No doubt you consider this some great Satanic conspiracy. But we call it just facing up to reality.
God still reigns supreme my friend. He is good, just and loving. Letting go of some of your antiquated assumptions isn’t going to change that fact.
I’m sure you’re ready to fire back with some frustrated retort, but maybe one day cooler heads will prevail.
I’m not defensive or angry. That is a red herring argument. I’m not using circular reasoning. The evidence does fit my presupposition, but that does not mean that it is necessarily wrong. I’ve laid my presuppositions out there for all to see in previous posts while meeting with resistance when trying to get the same courtesy from other conversants. My theology is God-centered and focuses on the truth of His Word, as opposed to the man-centered theology of the rest.
There are good reasons for taking certain evidence and leaving other so-called pieces of evidence. I’m not outright ignoring the evidence if I don’t buy someone’s conclusions. That is a false assumption on your part.
If we look at where and who the evidence is coming from, a lot of times we find a person’s presuppositions that mislead their conclusions. Most of the conclusions that certain canonical books were not written until later, or the named author wasn’t actually the author come from liberal sources. These arguments come from men and women who are rather poor scholars in many cases. Many of the claims are by people who deny that Christ is God, or even deny the existence of God. I don’t build my theology on the ideas of those who deny fundamentals of orthodox Christianity.
Would you build your view on the American economy from reading Karl Marx? Then why build your theology on ideas of those who are not orthodox? Might there be some truth in the assertions of liberal scholarship? Yes, there may be. That means we should listen closely, but discern everything for ourselves.
Would taking your position and getting rid of my “antiquated” views put me in the majority? Possibly so, but my goal is not to stand with the majority. I stand with Christ, who calls us to take the narrow road, for there is a broad road that leads to destruction. I stand “for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).”
I pray one day you too will find this faith.
I am sure that Darren will say that he once held the faith as you define it but he grew out of it as he encountered the reality of the whole world and the varied views of God contained within it.
So as a parting perspective, I pray for you Andrew that you can grow beyond your current limited perspective on God and faith. Let a little daylight into your dark closed structures.
You asked earlier about what Love is and why this is my core view of God. Here is my favorite Biblical passage in response. May you also put aside childish view and become a true man of God loving all as Jesus/God first and always loves us:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
More parting words… amazingly Andrew is praying that we will stop backsliding and believing a false gospel (he is not the only one…) and on the other side folks are praying for Andrew (and those on his side) that he will expand his thinking. Each side prays to God, who they think they have the handle on, that the other will come to see from their perspective.
It’s like two countries at war saying that God is on their side. It’s crazy! I don’t know the way around this, but it just feels messed up to me. Sad that it happens within the body of Christ. Talk about a confusing message for the world.
What does it mean to grow up in Christ and his love? It means we speak the truth in love, as I have sought to do.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… (Eph. 4:15)
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess. 2:9-10).
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… (1 Pet. 1:22)
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).
Gentlemen, I have said all that can be said. This is not about sides. This is about the truth that is right there on the pages of Scripture. I am available for further discussion, but this will be my last post here. I have too long neglected my studies.