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Shadow of the Cross

• Greg Boyd

If Jesus dying on the cross reveals God’s true nature, then what do we do with the barbaric pictures of God in the Old Testament? In this sermon, Greg talks about the problem and offers a different viewpoint of how to see the shadow of the cross in the Old Testament.

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If Jesus dying on the cross reveals God’s true nature, which we saw last week is what Scripture tells us, and if the whole Bible is divinely inspired, then what are we to do with the portraits of God in the OT that seem to contradict the revelation of God on the cross? There are many different ways to view this problem, but this is the way that Greg views this issue.

Many people say that “God is God, and he can do what he wants. In fact, whatever he does is good.” This doesn’t make much sense when we read passages about how God says that he will smash parents and children together, allowing no pity or mercy. Even Calvin admitted that God’s behavior in the OT is sometimes “utterly barbaric, crude, and savage”. Yet, Calvin says that because it’s God, we must say that these actions are “holy” and “good”. This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially when we see the actions of Jesus are nothing like the violent images in the OT.

Some Christians give these utterly barbaric pictures of God and Jesus the same amount of theological weight. This type of thinking makes it difficult to believe in God. We get a schizophrenic God who is both love and war. It doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t make sense for good reason, as Jesus points out in the NT. Both Jesus and the NT authors hold that Jesus’ testimony of God is greater than any previous testimony. In fact, Jesus is the full and complete revelation of God, not just a part of it. And everything spoken of God in the OT is a shadow of the true picture of God, Jesus.

God gave us these shadows to break our addiction to law based relationships, Nationalism, and violence, and thus he laid the groundwork to eventually reveal his true nature in Jesus. The horrific ugliness of the OT pictures of warfare, genocide, and of the cross is simply reflecting humanity’s fallen nature. The cross is the ultimate picture of this stooping to our level that God did. Instead of condemning us for our actions and sin, God stoops down, dons humanity’s frailness, and takes on our sin. In so doing, he reveals true beauty. This image of God is what speaks into the OT accounts of God. This picture of the cross is the fullness of the message of God, and not simply one part of it. The question then becomes, did God actually engage in the shadow activity of the OT or did he merely allow his people to THINK he was doing it?

There are two ways to answer this. The first is that God did engage in the behavior ascribed to him. Some scholars say that God did act and do the things the OT says he did. They say he did smash the Israelites together and also commanded the genocide of the Canaanite people in the book of Joshua. He did this because it was the only way for him to continue his mission among his people. This view doesn’t mean that God didn’t love these people; it just means that he had to do what he did. These scholars still hold that this behavior stands in contrast to the cross. Greg’s latest book started out by defending this answer; however, he became increasingly disturbed by it and found a different answer to the question.

Greg believes that God did not engage in the barbaric behavior attributed to him in the OT. On the cross, God reveals his self-sacrificial, loving character by not only taking action towards us, but allowing action towards himself. The ugly aspect of the cross depicts humanity’s actions towards God. He allowed Judas to betray him and the soldiers to arrest him. We did that to Jesus, not God. Conversely, all the beautiful aspects of the cross were God’s actions towards humanity. In this light, it makes sense that the OT and the ugly pictures of God are things that God allows people to put on him. Out of love, God allows this in order to continue his heavenly, missionary activity.

On the cross, God judges sin by withdrawing and allowing evil to run its course. Romans 8 says that God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us. Jesus died in our place but God let it the evil run its course so that the evil actions would backfire in the resurrection. Because, on the cross, God assumes responsibility for all that he allowed to happen. He took responsibility for the sin and evil that happens in creation and thus appears guilty of it, even though he is not morally culpable for it. When we read through the OT, we see this happening all over the place. God promises to smash the Israelites together, but in fact, he simply withdraws his protection and King Nebuchadnezzar was the one who smashed the Israelites together. The Bible says that God gives Israel into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he (Nebuchadnezzar) will destroy it with fire. It initially sounds like God is doing it; but in fact, the only thing God doesn’t do is protect them.

This view isn’t the only one to explain the OT pictures of a barbaric God. Yet, this view provides a picture of a God, who with a grieving heart, allows others to act in barbaric ways as a judgment for pushing God away, but also taking responsibility for it by allowing others to depict him as doing it. Which looks exactly like what happened on the cross. God has always been revealing himself as the crucified Christ, and when we see this, we need never suppose that God acted in ways that are contrary to the enemy-loving, non-violent character portrayed on the cross.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, God's Will, Problem of Evil


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Focus Scripture:

  • Colossians 2:16-17

    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

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80 thoughts on “Shadow of the Cross

    Wesley Ziegler says: Monday July 23, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Greg,
    Question for your next Q&A time from a Seattle pod-rishioner.

    Passive vs. Active

    In your analogy about the missionaries, it seems to me that their tacit approval and seeming celebration of female circumcision would only be morally justifiable on the grounds that they played a passive role in the atrocities. If one of them took a knife in hand themselves, it seems that the moral justification would be gone. If that is true, wouldn’t you then need to argue that God played a passive role in the atrocities of the Old Testament? How would you argue this (if indeed you must)?

    -Wesley

    Reply
    Teresa says: Monday July 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I still don’t get it.
    1. If the point of the book of Job is to show how we can’t understand how God works with(in) creation… doesn’t that apply to the violence in the OT as well?

    3.What you’re saying in these sermons doesn’t seem to align with the story of ananias and Sephira where God violently struck down two people ….and there are other stories of violence in the NT. Isn’t the triune God we believe in the same yesterday today and forever? IOW If God DID strike down ananias and sephira couldn’t he have also participated in the violence/striking down of human beings in the OT? If so, that would mean that we can’t box God in to fit “our” definition of what love is… Love can be MORE than what we experience it to be as human beings…

    3. ditto what Wesley asked

    Reply
    Lilly says: Monday July 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    It makes sense for many scriptures to be explained by the withdrawal of God’s protection resulting in acts of violence; however, it doesn’t exactly get God off the hook when He commands Israel to wipe out those in the Promised Land so they can have their homeland as promised to Abraham. Wiping out the folks in Jericho or the other Canaanites could be punishment for pagan people and a way of fulfilling promises given, but it doesn’t fall in the category of removing His presence and alllowing sin to take its course. How would you address that issue?

    Reply
    Scott Schneider says: Tuesday July 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

    It is hard to get my mind around all of it but a couple of things come to mind. Greg is on to something and my heart confirms it. The Bible teaches that God is not sin, does not sin, does not temp with sin, but yet we gloss over these things when we talk about God’s activity. Much of the violence described in the OT is what we believe is sin. But we reconcile this by saying well God is in control and he can do as he pleases, or it is in judging sin, or…But if it is called sin if we do it, then a sinless God cant do it either. That is not how scripture describes the heart of God. That is something that I have struggled with for a while. A sinless God, a God who cant stand sin, a God who does not ordain sin, and most of us believe that, cant participate in the sin that is ascribed to him. I think we also need that in our thoughts as we ponder the thoughts that Greg is presenting.

    Reply
    Anna says: Tuesday July 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    @Teresa, this is just my take on the answers to your questions. I could be completely off base, but I did look into some of those same questions a while back and these are my conclusions.

    As to the question about Ananaias and Sapphira, interestingly the Bible does not say that God struck them dead. It says, “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.” and the same about Sapphira.

    Especially considering the author of Acts is most likely Luke and his determination to give an accurate account, I would deduce that God was not the one responsible for their deaths – they were. It is very possible that what is being described is the result of fear in hearing the words of Peter confirming that their deceit was supernaturally known. Peter’s declaration that Sapphira would die as well, was likely a word of wisdom from the Lord regarding what was about to take place, not necessarily that God caused it to be so.

    As for other records of violence in the NT, the only places where they seem attributed to God in any way is 1) when Jesus drives out the merchants at the temple and 2) the book of Revelation. As for the first, I would love to hear Greg’s take on this incident. As for the second, because of both the nature of apocalyptic literature and the obvious use of symbolism throughout that book, I would be hard pressed to site anything in that book as actual violence of God toward man.

    Finally, as to the book of Job, while I agree that a primary point of the book seems to be that we cannot fully fathom the ways of God, I don’t think it’s safe to jump from that to “so we should accept the violence throughout the OT as being of God.” In fact, the book of Job makes it clear that God is not the one who brings calamity to Job, Satan does. Also, considering this book is probably the oldest written book in the Bible, considered a book of wisdom rather than of the prophets, law, or history (although some do argue it as history), it does seem appropriate to conclude that even if also fact, it is metaphor for the state of all believers in this life. Mainly that, so long as we live here, Satan is the accuser of the brethren and this world and the things of it belong to him. (Eph 2:2, 6:12, John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), and there are many scriptures in addition to these that confirm that we can/will be persecuted and tortured even to the point of death in this world. This sounds very much like the story of Job to me.

    So, instead of making the case that God is violent, it seems to me to be saying that the ability to make choices that God has given to both men and angels will often result in unfathomable violence between them, but that we need not fear, but believe in His ability and intention to restore all things in the end.

    Reply
    Charley Swanson says: Tuesday July 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Great questions, everybody… we’re keeping track and hope to get to many of them during our August Q&A services!

    https://whchurch.org/blog/6641/summer-qna

    Reply
    Teresa says: Tuesday July 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Hey Anna, Great answers – thanks! All opinions are valuable. It will be good to hear Greg share more of his view at the Q and A in August. One more question for you in the meantime. In light of your hope in “His ability and intention to restore all things in the end” how do you interpret this verse:
    For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:14 I’m curious because there seems to be a lot in the book of Matthew that says God will not be restoring all things (the parables for example)… thx!!

    Reply
    Scott Schneider says: Wednesday July 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Go Anna!!!

    Reply
    Scott Schneider says: Wednesday July 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    An interesting thought to throw into the mix. While I went to Anderson University School of Theology, both my OT and NT professors talked about “prophecy” and “inspiration” in regards to our discussion here. They spoke about inspiration coming through the human element and the prophet’s world view and historical understanding. Although I cant recall the exact scriptural reference, the prophet spoke through a reference of the world being flat. That although he was speaking through the inspiration of God, the inspiriation still came through a world view of a flat world. Another instance of inspiration that amazes me is Mark chapter one. Mark begins his book with a quote “from the prophet Isaiah” but he is actually quoting Malachi-he does end with Isaiah but the beginning quote was Malachi. I think these reference force us to take a deeper look into what we understand inspiration to be. Inspiration does not only come through a human conduit but also has a human element when written and expressed. Scripture is perfect and inspired and human imperfections are a part of that. For me this is another illustration of what Greg is trying to point out about the human element of how inspired scripture comes through the human element and that human elements understanding of God and the world and culture in which he lives. So we need to change our lens and definition of what Inspiration is and looks like. As in the incarnation is God and man in one, so is Scripture and they both were limited to a degree by the humanity of each.

    Reply
    Teresa says: Wednesday July 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Hey Scott (and Anna) Please know that I’m asking my questions in the spirit of trying to understand this new perspective. I am not an academic nor am I good at being concise when writing things out, so please bear with me. I am trying so that i can weigh up what I’ve known through experience, tradition and scripture against Greg’s (and others) reasoning. I AM open to a new understanding of what I’ve known so far in my walk, but I want to hear from others and be careful to make sure I am hearing accurately – especially when we’re talking about something this obscure. Thinking of God sans violence is very nice. I get it, he’s our friend and savior. It’s a warm thought and SUPER comforting to think that we are all going to be reconciled in the end. I’d even go so far as to say those things are good news! But … Paul warns us about accepting another gospel. We are to remember what we have been taught “from the beginning” (gal) and we are even told to “contend for the faith” in the book of Jude (the whole book is about that!)…so I’m asking a few questions. I see Jesus as a friend, but also as my Master/Lord. I see him as kind, but also very serious. I hear him say he wants none to perish, but I also read “depart from me I never knew you” which is what he says to some who believe in him. …and I already mentioned the narrow road passage. So, see, I’m confused. When I ask questions I really want answers and I appreciate the ones I’ve been given. I Just want to be clear that I’m not on one side or another…

    Reply

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    Dwayne says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Hi all,
    I was reading the posts here and found them very interesting. I tend to agree with Greg, However I have another thought that just came to me. Maybe God practices subjective or relative morality. Let me explain before I am stoned….lol..just a joke.
    Suppose what God says is immoral for us isnt immoral for Him. Maybe it is wrong for creation to practice violence against creation but its perfectly fine for the creator to do so. Hmmmm I dont like this idea but it seems to be an option. It is wrong for us to create our own moral laws but God can. It is wrong for us to accept divine worship but God can. It is wrong and impossible for us to judge who will inherit the Kingdom but God can and does. So maybe what is evil for us to do is not evil for God to do or command.

    Some examples of this kind of subject/relative/positional morality on earth are. It is illegal for regular citizens to hold anyone against their will but a police officer can. Its illegal to run a red traffic light but emergency responders can. In Romans it tells us that the Authorities wield the sword and do so as ministers of God but as believers scriptures seems to suggest that we should be non violent as ministers of the gospel of the Cross and Resurrection. When my little sister acted up as a child I could not lay hands on her to discipline but my mother could and that was accepted and justified ( if you believe in spanking). According to worldly standards, a 21 year old can legally drink alcohol, smoke and watch R rated movies. Yet it is wrong for a 10 year old. A two month old baby on their mothers breast is Ok yet a 31 year old adult child on their mothers breast is disgusting and wrong by most of our standards. See my point?????….so things are wrong according to who does it and is perfectly fine and celebrated when another does the same act. Like sex…..married couples = good, holy and undefiled. Take same couple and take away marriage and it = evil and sinful. They do the same act, maybe even have same care for each other but one is allowed and the other isnt.

    Suppose God uses that rule mentioned above. He is God so by nature and position what He does is always loving when He does it but we are not God so it is wrong for us to do those things…unless He commands us to do it. Who are we to define evil???…God defines evil….If he commands us to love our enemies now because He sees it fit and best for us…then we shouldn’t call that evil….He makes the rule. If He at one time thought it was best to command one set of creation to kill another or do it himself then who are we to say He is evil….again He sets the rules.

    I guess this leads to the question….is good morality intrinsic and something that is by default good or is it good only because God called it good? Does God and scripture create righteousness and unrighteousness or do they just define and identify it?

    As I said I really believe what Pastor Greg taught is more inline with my understanding of Christ. But this idea just came so forcefully to mind the more I wrote. I don’t have scriptures to fully back it up but it seemed to be a simple explanation.

    Thanks all

    Reply
    Teresa says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Dwayne, I’ve had the same thoughts. Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t! I definitely think you’re onto something. So glad you contributed to the conversation!

    -Teresa

    Reply
    Anna says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Teresa, no worries at all. I am not an academic either. I was simply blessed with parents that helped me begin reading and reasoning through the scripture at a young age. If you’ve been reading Matthew then you know that Jesus tells his disciples not to ever call or be called by anyone “Rabbi (teacher)” or “Father.” Also James says, “If anyone lacks wisdom let him as of God, Who gives to all liberally and without reproach (prejudice).

    Those scriptures always give me a lot of comfort and confidence to share, and I hope they do the same for you. One of the things that I have fallen in love with about Woodland Hills Podcasts is Greg’s constant invitation to be questioned, and his willingness to admit that even some things that have long been held by the church as dogma could be opinion and precedent does not necessarily equate to truth. For instance, there is precedent for nearly 2000 years that slavery was justified, but that changed when people like Wilberforce were willing to preach the heresy that it was not so.

    As for this sermon series, I’m still mulling a lot of it over, but I tend to agree with Greg on this.

    Scott, you pose a really good alternative theory, and I can see much in scripture that would back you up on that theory. In fact, I would say there IS a lot of precedent for that thinking throughout church history. Notably, this idea that God can do things that would be considered sin for us is often sited by the more Calvinistic vein of the church even today, who believe that ALL things are ordained and pre-determined by God – even the really evil stuff. Although, that doesn’t necessarily mean those two lines of doctrine go together.

    It still leaves me with a dilemma about why Jesus would say some of the things that He said to James, John, and Peter especially, that He clearly could have done (call down fire from heaven, overturn the Roman government, etc.).

    Also, it would seem from that theory that if you take it to it’s end, that would mean Jesus was simply an example of the characteristics of God that He wants us to follow. Yet, when Phillip asked Him to show them God, He clearly states that He is the embodiment God….hmmm…still thinking on that though.

    I have one question specifically for Greg though, that I would love to hear him address, Charley. This is perhaps just semantics, but with all this talk about shadows of God, what do you do with scriptures like James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.” ??

    Reply
    Anna says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Sorry, Dwayne, not Scott. 🙂

    Reply
    Dwayne says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for the response….I dont mind you attributing it to Scott cause I dont really like that alternative view…lol…lol…lol. I even cringe to think that I can think so Calvinistic. I know my option here is very very close to the Calvinistic view of Romans 9 which I think is saying the opposite of what they make of it.
    Let me advocate for this stance against my own desires…lol…As for Jesus being no violent and telling disciples not to be that way in the NT could be God using Jesus as the ultimate example of how God wanted human beings to interact. So in human form it would be wrong for Christ to practice the violence he could as the Father. Just an idea.

    Reply
    Teresa says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Here’s one passage that I struggle with when I try to think of Jesus as the non violent version of God. I’ve read it through several times and the only answer I can come up with is that maybe John didn’t know what Jesus meant when he said “I will” do this or that. The problem with that view is that those words really seem to suggest Jesus is the one doing the action. Anna, maybe you can help me read it differently? I know the book of revelation uses imagery etc, but this seems pretty straight forward. Check it out:

    The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
    (speaking of Jezebel)
    …I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. Rev.2:21-23

    Reply
    Robyn says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Greg’s second message on rationalising the OT God of wrath allows me to understand a bit more of where he is coming from. I don’t think I am fully there yet. I tried this morning to use his technique to bring Paul’s lessons in Israelite history in 1 Cor 10 and one of the episodes he refers to in Num 25 together. This story is about some Israelite men taking sexual partners from Moabite women. God is not pleased, brings a plague in which 24,000 people die and it is only stopped when Phineas skewers Zimri and his Moabite chick to the ground with a spear. God is pleased with Phineas and promises blessings on his household. In the story God is definitely held responsible for the deaths by plague. Not like Greg’s example of the Babylonians where they did the killing.

    The message Paul and Num 25 are both consistent with is that grace has its responsibilities on both sides. At least that is my take home message. “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid”. So I don’t see an inconsistency here between the nature of God portrayed. I am comfortable with it. I suppose I tend to feel that the OT portrayal was written by someone who saw God from the perspective of the jealous warrior king and may ascribe actions to God which are direct, where I may say it was more a result of God withdrawing his protection, but either way that is only semantics and is not the message both these passages are trying to bring home.

    I don’t see this aspect in Greg’s reasoning, am I missing something. To me I have to realise that there are consequences and judgement in setting myself up as an alternative god and choosing my own way. There is both a severity and mercy in God, Jesus certainly taught that. I am comfortable with that aspect, it makes sense to me.

    Is there another interpretation which is more in line with Greg’s message, or is this what Greg is trying to sat?

    Reply
    Daniel Travieso says: Thursday July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I used to struggle with these verses when I was a Christian. I, like Boyd, have no coherent way to reconcile them. Finally I realized the reason Yahweh is portrayed as so primitive and barbaric is because a bunch of superstitious , primitive, barbaric people made up a god in their own image.

    No explanation can get Yahweh off the hook for these atrocities since there are so many of these verses and they clearly indicate Yahweh ordering this, participating in this, having pleasure in this, getting mad at people that didn’t do this when he told them to and getting mad at people for questioning that he was going overboard with this. His convoluted explanation is unnecessary and doesn’t explain all the verses and questions.

    The simple answer makes perfect sense and answers all questions. There was no Yahweh only the stories primitive people made up to explain things they didn’t understand and to control their fellow primitive man.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Friday July 27, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Sin, as far as I know, is an illegitimate pursuit of a real or perceived need outside oneself. Since God has no need outside himself, there is no need for God to sin or beget violence. Although God is not the author of evil, the Scripture seems to teach evil/sin still needs the Lord’s permission to actualize. The Prophets of the Old Testament seem to attribute ultimate source of good or evil to God to show He is in control of all events. Since nothing is outside of God’s purview, He has to grant permission for any possibility to happen or actualize. As Paul says in Acts 17, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Moreover, calamity of various degrees was the promise granted to Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden.

    This means God causes evil “indirectly” by allowing evil agents to be free to act within his control. The outcome is human against human and/or demons against human as the outworking of disobedience. I suppose each time calamity was experienced during the Old Testament time was the fulfilling or outworking of the promise on that inauspicious day in the Garden to Adam’s posterity. God merely echoes the behaviour of the evil agents as he knows what evil they will do.

    Reply
    Craig says: Friday July 27, 2012 at 11:57 am

    So I really was interested to hear what Greg had to say here as I completely agree with him on many other topics. However seeing where this leaves the inspiration of scripture as basically striped of all real meaning I cannot really see a viable way forward. If the OT is inspired in the sense that:

    1. What it says about God is mostly incorrect and actually opposite of His true character.
    2. The only way we have to discern what is a shadow and what is a reality is, is by imposing the ideas we choose to take from the NT, which are those things we think are beautiful (Which are subjective results of our own culture)

    Let me ask this: How then is the OT any different than the works of Homer? Why did Jesus not say anything about how He was misrepresented? Or why did He say this:

    Mark 7:9-13

    English Standard Version (ESV)

    9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)[a]— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

    Here Jesus says that the commandment of God is equal to what Moses Said and thus the Pharisees were making void the word of God here. Note that in this passage Jesus Himself is saying that children who revile their parents should die and that that is Gods word! I think we are in in danger of making void Gods word as well simply because we cannot stomach that God dealt with humanity differently in the OT because He had not yet come to reveal the Fullness of Himself in Christ. No one likes to get a leg amputated but it is not because the Doctor is evil that he does such a thing but because it is because he is trying to eventually heal.

    How is this the same God? It shows a God willing to stoop to a level he never intended because his children by their own will left Him. Honestly how is it that we believe that there can be mercy without judgement? Mercy from what then?

    Now the real question is how does the cross fulfill this OT? God in the OT used death as a means of judgement. Jesus on the cross destroys death and provides a way for all to come to repentance even those whom he judged in the OT. They will be able to choose or perhaps they already have when He descended into Hell and preached to those in captivity. Yes this is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to us Gentiles.

    It is a scandal to the Jews because they misunderstood the meaning of the Law and thus Nationalism/Judgement. They expected their Messiah to Judge further and liberate them in a violent way. They misunderstood that the Law was to lead them to Grace and Mercy. That the final violence was taken upon God Himself to destroy the sting of death and give Himself to mankind not as slaves but as friends as Jesus said.

    And it is foolishness to us Gentiles because we are so compartmental we think we can define God with a hermeneutic or some other logic. It blows out our minds that perhaps specifically because He gives us free will we put Him in a position that He would have to chasten those He loves. We want God to be a system we can count on that will always be the same. When in fact he is involved to such a degree that even we find what He had to do to bring humanity to salvation is a disgusting thing.

    In fact it was disgusting, yet He stooped down and lovingly exercised judgment so that we would understand that He is God above all gods and cry out for mercy. Not only that, He then died to provide a way for all who were vestals of wrath! Read Romans 9 and 10 in that light. Paul says there is a mystery here:

    How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?

    We often take this as how will others alive hear but Paul is still speaking about the vestals of wrath he mentioned earlier. And a few verses he

    Reply
    Craig says: Friday July 27, 2012 at 11:59 am

    And a few verses later he quotes this:

    But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

    “Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

    19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

    “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

    20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

    “I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

    21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

    Please understand I still count Greg as my favorite teacher and I am just trying to contribute to the discussion. Let me know how you agree or disagree. I am not convinced 100% myself of either view…

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    Denley McIntosh says: Friday July 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I would add as clarification the distinction between: responsibility versus accountability. Responsibility means someone who does the work (able to respond so to speak). Accountability means someone who answers for the work that is done. The one who is responsible is not necessarily the same person as the one who is accountable. God takes on accountability for our sin but is not responsible for the work of sin. An example is Jesus who did not need to baptize but chose to be baptized by John the Baptist. However, Jesus repents on the behalf of Israel and the world, which foreshadows the cross. The one who is accountable is the one who identifies with the responsible (the guilty, which is the allusion to God’s ugliness in the Old Testament mentioned by Pastor Greg). However, it does not mean the accountable would have done what the responsible has done.

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    David Anderson says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 2:17 am

    The revelation of God in Jesus is at the heart of what we trust and believe. It is the “inner most ring of our concentric theology” as has been explained at Woodland Hills. We become anxious when we force other dogmas, doctrines and ideas too close to the center. Many people really want to believe a high view of inspiration and inerrancy because it leads to a comforting feeling of religious certainty. I am comfortable with ascribing little or no inspiration to passages in the bible which are not consistent with who I know God to be through Christ.

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    Denley McIntosh says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Hi David,

    The problem I see with ” ascribing little or no inspiration to passages in the bible which are not consistent with who I know God to be through Christ.” we end up with Apocrypha literature(s). We essentially become Catholic or Orthodox if you prefer 🙂 That’s if we don’t mind.

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    Teresa says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

    @ David – We can’t say that one verse in scripture is more important than others (“if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the father” is inspired according to us, but we “ascribe little or no inspiration to passages which are not consistent” with what we’ve decided is the more important passage). If we do that, we are really elevating our brains – not Christ. WE are deciding what in God’s inspired word we want to believe….rather than accepting God at His word. We can’t really compartmentalize things the way we would like to using the concentric circles on this one. The parts affect the whole. That’s the problem. …not to mention the fact that Christ had hard and even violent things to say…

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    Dwayne says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Well I do agree that not all scripture carries the same importance. A New Covenant revelation of Christ is Superior to a Old Testament understanding. The bible makes that clear in Hebrews. Think of it like this….The Old Testament is coded with shadows and types….while Christ and His apostles decoded the OT with the reality and revelation. The OT is the foundation from which we get the revelation but isnt it wise to get the meaning and understanding from the decoded message???

    A house needs a foundation but no one lives in a foundation. We rather dwell in the finished house. Christ fulfilled and finished all the works the OT pointed to. So I elevate new covenant scriptures as a more direct teacher of who God is. The bible never shines the OT over any thing Christ and His apostles did or said. So I trust the image of Christ reveled (decoded) over the shadow and type.

    There is an old Chinese proverb that comes to mind that makes very careful. It says basically
    “A fool worships the finger that points to God”
    If the OT is a pointing finger to Christ fleshed out in the NT why focus on the finger that points rather than the person the finger points to?

    I am not saying Gregs over all position is correct or not. I am just saying that I agree with Him that not all scripture is weighted the same. Not all scripture has the same amount of revelation of who God is. How can we equate the revelatory strength of the message of the Cross with God allowing one tribe to abduct the women of another tribe to make them wives??…Which is more important to salvation and life more abundantly? the NT Gospel of course.

    What I knew of my mom as a child is nothing compared to what I know of her now. It doesnt change the past …that was my understanding of her but now I have a greater understanding. As a child I saw her disciplining and telling me to go study and turn off the tv as bad undesirable unloving things. But now I am grown I see that is was because she loved me and had a desire to see me accomplish greater things. So if you asked me which image of my mom is the truest one to who she really is….I chose what I know now. The with God’s revelation in the Testaments. One is clearly superior.

    Thanks all

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    Steve B says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Just “thinking out loud” as I personally wrestle with these sermons and the good discussions here…

    I see some validity (Scriptural, as well as logical, theological, philosophical, etc) in what Greg is saying. I think we would be unwise to label Greg’s thoughts and self-admitted “opinions” as heretical, and/or discredit them based on what we’ve understood God to be. Even though Greg (he doesn’t seem to want to be referred to as “Dr. Boyd”?!) made it clear that these are opinions and possible explanations that won’t impact anyone’s salvation if they get it wrong, it seems some people still insist on hearing his thoughts with “binary thinking”. By that, I mean that people default to thinking, “Well, if Greg says this is true, then he’s also saying that this other point of view is false”. I don’t think that’s the intention with these sermons. For example, Greg isn’t saying that God should always be understood as “nice” by our modern standards. Just look at Jesus in the temple and ask yourself how Jesus [God] was perceived by those present – that’s more what I think Greg is saying. It’s not so much about “is God always giving out warm-fuzzies, or is He sometimes mean” – it’s about God always doing what’s best, and us not always perceiving it correctly.

    For example, theologians often debate “is God a murderer” (in so many words), because God said, “Thou shalt not kill”, and Jesus took that same message to the next level – so how come God kills people so often in the Old Testament? Then they pick a side and debate it – “Did God kill those people, or didn’t He?”. Greg’s thoughts are taking me, personally, to a place where I’m able to see new questions to ask (not just the old standard, binary, “Did He, or didn’t He, kill them?”). Greg is engaging us in a discussion, not a binary debate – he’s asking us to engage in our faith and ask God our real questions, rather than to pick a side and defend it.

    For example, I can ask myself this: “Did God kill Jesus?”. And I find that my answer is not necessarily “binary”. Depending on the perspecitive I’m viewing Jesus’ death from, it’s not always 100% “yes”, nor 100% “no” – which might seem heretical, but stick with me. It’s like the old saying, “If you want bacon and eggs, the chicken has to get involved, but the pig is committed.” The only way for God to redeem us to Him is to have the sin – which separates us from Him – removed from our relationship. And the only way to do that justly is to pay the price that the sin demanded. So either God allows us to die, or God allows Jesus to die – does either one make Him a murderer? God allowed Jesus to die – so does that mean that God murdered Jesus? No, we did that, and Satan did that. But God had to turn his back on it and allow it to happen, or we would all die in our sin. In that way, God was “involved” in the fact that there was a murder that to some degree He could have stopped – but He did not “commit” the murder, we carried that out on our own. That’s why the debate rages on, because it’s not a one-sided answer – God wasn’t uninvolved in how Jesus’ life came to a (temporary) end, but He wasn’t the One who ended it, either. He allowed us to act out of our own free will, but what Satan intended for evil, God used for good.

    Apply that premise back to the OT murders and genocides, etc. At that time, people were sinning, Satan was “stealing, killing, and destroying”, and God was working out the plan of salvation at it’s “foundational” levels. As a part of that “working out” of the plan, people were sometimes killed – but God wasn’t killing people – sin was, Satan was, people were, and God had to allow it – possibly even condone it in certain situations – for salvation from sin to become a reality, and even for people to figure out that they needed God and salvation. I think Greg is suggesting that fighting and killing was the way THE WORLD worked back then (not God’s Kingdom), and to have a people in the world all “turn the other cheek” and not participate in the fighting at that point in human history would have led to their extinction, not their salvation. But now that their (and our) salvation has been secured, it’s our turn to do things the way God has always wanted them done in His Kingdom on the earth, and has always worked toward making a reality – we ARE to turn the other cheek today, whether or not that’s the way things were done 4000 years ago. That’s not God changing – that’s His creation changing.

    As was made clear in a sermon a few weeks ago, God’s not a “passivist”, He’s a “pacifist”. He has fought and died, humbly taking on the sin and death that should have been our end, and eliminating it from our relationship with Him (and from those who went before Jesus’ death as well – remember that His plan included their salvation from sin and death, too, though we could debate how that works…). And now we are to obey Him as we see Him revealed in Jesus Christ – which still today means acknowledging His ways and following them rather than leaning on our own understanding.

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    Steve B says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Dwayne – well said!

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    Teresa says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    @Dwayne – yep, I agree with your post. Sorry, I didn’t make myself more clear. I was talking about the NT only in my post.

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    David Anderson says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Denley, I don’t quite follow how we end up with Apocrypha doing this. I also think that Catholic and Orthodox opinions should not be discounted. The idea that the Spirit leads us accurately in our understanding of scripture has resulted in hundreds of denominations since the reformation. There is something to be said for listening explanations of scripture by the early church fathers and their tradition, at least as another input into our study.

    Hi Teresa, I would disagree with the idea that all of what we find in the bible is equally “God’s Word” precisely because I am elevating Christ over all of scripture (and hopefully my brain too). At any rate, I think the human factor is more dominant in these types of verses and that the bible contains God’s Word but is not identical with it. Some denominations would say the bible is the “cradle of Christ.” The phrase “accepting God at has word” makes the underlying assumption that we have his Word in every passage and not human words. To make this assumption a non-negotiable starting point places “inspiration and inerrancy” into the dogma ring and I would be more comfortable seeing them in the doctrine or opinion ring.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I’m really glad Greg shared his ideas on this issue with us, even though they may not be the complete truth. I’ve been listening to Woodland Hills sermons for the past year and a half, starting with the beginning of the Luke series in 2005. One thing I’ve noticed is that Greg always expresses his opinions strongly, and argues for them convincingly, and then sometimes, maybe a year or two later, he’ll come back and say he’s changed his mind on this topic or that. It’s all part of the honesty he’s promised the church, and I find it so refreshing. He’s not pretending to be the Word of God himself, inspired and perfect. He’s a human on his own quest to understand God, even though he knows he can only “see in a mirror darkly”. I’m grateful he’s willing to share that journey with us, through all its twists and turns, because there are many times he addresses issues that have always bothered me in the back of my mind, that I’ve never been able to think about clearly. He seems to wallow in the really tough issues that other pastors tend to tiptoe around.

    This issue about the God and violence in the OT is a case in point. It’s a real theological problem that is very troubling. But we can face it without fear, because we know that Jesus Christ is the complete and authoritative revelation of God to us. Our faith in the goodness of God is solid because it rests on Jesus. And God IS Goodness, and God IS Love.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    @ Dwayne: You raised this question in your first post:
    “…is good morality intrinsic and something that is by default good or is it good only because God called it good?…”
    It’s an interesting philosophical point, but I think, because of Jesus, it becomes an unnecessary distinction. Jesus answers it this way: good morality is intrinsic, and God embodies it. God IS love, and Jesus’ life & death shows us how God defines love. God defines good, and God embodies good, as it intrinsically is. (I’m talking in circles)

    We don’t have to try to redefine ‘goodness’ based on what God reveals to Israel through prophets in the Old Testament, because He’s told us clearly in the New Testament that Jesus is the Word of God, the exact representation of God’s being, etc. I think this is one point the Bible makes clearly, and we can be confident in it (and I thank Greg for clarifying it for me).

    This is basically what you seem to be saying in your 3rd post, too.

    The distinction about certain actions being good for God and evil for us, is not arbitrary just because God is God. God can judge, because He is wise enough to judge properly, and we never are. I think the same explanation applies to your other examples about relative morality. The underlying principles of morality stay the same, but they are expressed by different rules in different circumstances. At the simplest level, good morality means to be loving, and to love someone means to want, and to do, what is best for them. But goodness is really deeper and richer and more awesome than that, and our brains can’t comprehend it, so God didn’t send us a logical definition of ‘goodness’, he sent us a story, a true life story he lived out himself.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Monday July 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    @ Craig: I have the same problems you do with the new method of interpretation Greg suggests in these 2 sermons. The idea that some pictures of God in the Old Testament are actually negative shadows, i.e. the opposite of what God really is, seems to take reinterpretation too far. If the Old Testament authors were so wrong in their understanding of the nature of God, in what sense were they inspired?

    Jesus had the authority to reinterpret the Old Testament scriptures, because He is God. And maybe the apostles did too, on Jesus behalf, because they knew a lot more about Jesus’ teaching than what’s recorded in the gospels. But I have trouble with us doing it now. If God wanted us to understand the Old Testament this way, wouldn’t He have said so more clearly?

    I agree that Jesus does reinterpret the Old Testament for us in terms of legalism and tribalism. Paul also spends chapters explaining how the law is obsolete, and the kingdom of God is no longer a single race in a single country.

    I think one underlying problem we’re all having is this: While we understand that legalism and tribalism are not God’s ideal, we can still accept that God chose to use legalism and tribalism for a while to accomplish His purposes in history, and we don’t consider it sinful. But we do consider violence sinful. And if God uses violence directly; if God kills babies and their parents by smashing their heads together, if He commands the Israelites to commit genocide, etc., then He cannot be as beautiful and loving as Jesus on the cross, dying for His enemies. We don’t really have a problem with God telling Israel to obey the law; as Paul says, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good”, even if it doesn’t work. But we do have a problem with God telling Israel to do violence. Or at least I do.

    Another problem is this: While the New Testament authors spend a lot of time and effort to change our understanding of legalism and tribalism, nowhere does it say that God didn’t give Israel the law, or establish Israel as a nation. It is very clear that the law came from God. Much less time and effort is spent on correcting our ideas about violence (although that is in there too), but this is where we have the biggest problem with the portrayals of God in the Old Testament. If the law and the kingdom of Israel are God’s direct work, how is the violence not God’s direct work?

    I’m just throwing out my thoughts as I wrestle through this. I appreciate the idea that it’s God’s nature to bear our sin (i.e. take accountability for it, Denley :), that He bore our sin on the cross, and He may have done the same in the Old Testament. But the Bible says so very clearly that God bore our sin by dying on the cross, and it never says that He bore our sin by giving the appearance of being more sinful than he actually is in the Old Testament.

    Anyway, to FINALLY circle back to the start of my first post – I’m glad Greg gave this message. I’m not sure yet how much I can agree with it, and I’m still wrestling with how little direct Biblical evidence there is for it.

    The violence in the Old Testament has always been a huge problem for me. I’m happy I don’t have to have to solve it in order to trust God, since the God I believe in looks like Jesus, but I want to solve it. I’d stop trusting the Bible before I stopped trusting Jesus, and that’s where I am right now, with a fairly low estimation of the quality of inspiration in the Old Testament.

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    Teresa says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 7:51 am

    @David – you said ” I would disagree with the idea that all of what we find in the bible is equally “God’s Word” precisely because I am elevating Christ over all of scripture (and hopefully my brain too).”

    My question: How do you know the Christ that you elevate? Don’t you know him through what you’ve learned in scripture? If you say you know him personally, don’t you believe you should check what you know with scripture? Satan masquerades as an angel of light, right? How do we discern things about Christ if we don’t trust scripture?

    You said, “At any rate, I think the human factor is more dominant in these types of verses and that the bible contains God’s Word but is not identical with it. Some denominations would say the bible is the “cradle of Christ.”

    My question: is it fair to say that we should wonder about the dominance of the human factor of each verse then? How do we decide? What’s our litmus test? Is it the Christ who turned tables and said “woe to you” and “depart from me I never knew you?” or do we use the Christ we like – the one who said “father forgive them…?” Don’t you think that makes scripture weak?

    You said: The phrase “accepting God at has word” makes the underlying assumption that we have his Word in every passage and not human words. To make this assumption a non-negotiable starting point places “inspiration and inerrancy” into the dogma ring and I would be more comfortable seeing them in the doctrine or opinion ring.

    My reply: Well, I thought Greg and WH put scripture in the dogma ring. I could be wrong… But if they put it in the doctrine ring (and certainly if they put it in the opinion ring!), I’m not sure how Greg can preach years of sermons where he points out how profound this or that word is in a verse. The human factor could have caused the author to use words that didn’t come from God, so why preach them with so much certainty/passion/conviction?

    I would much rather deal with the fact that I don’t understand the violence in the O and N testament than to begin to doubt scripture or try to discern on my own what to ascribe to God and what to ascribe to the human factor.

    Moreover, Jesus depended on the written word and he told us to do the same when he said “we don’t live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” He was quoting scripture so he obviously didn’t take it as an opinion/doctrine. He said “it is written”…

    He also had this to say in Mt.5:18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Finally, I thought of this quote by Kierkegaard. He says things a little bit more harsh than I might, but I think he has a big point..and I think it’s applicable here. Check it out: “The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” ~SK

    “Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly.” If we would do that, we wouldn’t have time to try to explain the violent verses in scripture. We would be doers of the Word – the word we trust – rather than discerners of what is from the human factor and what isn’t. It’s not popular, but I put scripture square in the middle as dogma. I do it because Christ did it and I do it because it has a huge affect on everything else I believe. I can’t have dogma that doesn’t agree with scripture. So scripture has to come first.

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    Teresa says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 8:26 am

    forgot we can’t edit things on this site – not huge affect – huge effect 🙂

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    Scott Schneider says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 11:21 am

    @ Teresa. Wow lots of posts since ve been away. Im just gonna respond to Teresa from July 25th, in her response to me. Hey Teresa I dont claim to be a scholar either. I only reference seminary to say that some scholars mentioned something so it gives it a bit of credence. This is hard to get our hands/heads around and that is the way it should be, I think. God is to big for us to totally control. And he is too big for one phrase theologies to encompass as well. So I journey with you. In response to another gospel. Paul was addressing the Galatians in reference to the contingents against Paul in that day, ie judaizers, who were saying you need Jesus and…and circumcision, and the law, and right behavior, and eating the right food…Paul said the true gospel is Jesus and Jesus alone, and only Jesus and nothing else. Jesus is the only thing that brings life and new life. So to add anything to the Gospel/Jesus is a false gospel. This actually adds to what Greg has been saying. I dont know how all of the violence of the OT fits. I think Greg is onto something. I do know inspired Scripture has the human element and is limited somewhat by it, just the way that humanity limited Jesus(He could not be omnipresent while on earth, he was limited by his humanity). I think once we understand that about inspiration and humanity, then we can begin to tackle the concepts that Greg has introduced.

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    Scott Schneider says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Melanie while reading your post a thought popped into my mind. I loved your two posts and I agree with your thoughts on that I dont know if I agree with Greg’s shadow thing, but it has begun a thought process and a dialogue that needed to happen. As I read your post I thought about slavery. We consider slavery sin. We consider slavery in any matter sin. Yet the NT instructs not only slaves how to behave but how slave masters should treat their slaves. It did not instruct them to abolish it(I know it is not the same as America had but lets not split hairs). There was more than just indentured slavery going on at the time and the NT does not specify a specific form of slavery, it just talks about “slavery.” Why did the NT not address slavery differently? Just thought I throw that into the dialogue.

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    David Anderson says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Hi Teresa, you have some very good points and I appreciate your taking the time to elaborate them. I can understand where you are coming from in your objections to what I wrote. It is true that to begin to doubt the inspiration of just one verse opens the door to doubting others. I don’t like that either and it would be easier not to go down that road. But then I don’t think we have any guarantee that the interpretation of scripture will always be easy, in spite of Soren K’s nice sounding quote. It is true that we shouldn’t waste our time thinking about this stuff and rather be going about the business of serving others instead. But, we want to be faithful disciples and the interpretation of scripture matters to us, so here we are. 🙂

    I know that WH places scripture in the dogma ring but the difficult question is what exactly does it means to do that. If it means always reading it literally and placing equal importance on all verses I know Greg would disagree because he has said so in his preaching.

    I think what I am saying when I characterize some verses as lacking in inspiration effectively is the same thing as placing less importance on those passages.

    Regarding what Jesus was referring to as the law, he refers to a specific portion of scripture here, which is only a portion of what we find in our bibles. He advocates living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. What does he mean here by “word?” The NT did not exist at the time and certainly the law is part of what he meant but what about the Word he places in our hearts? His Word comes to us in many ways, scripture included. Scripture comes first but which interpretation? It is not easy to answer that question.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Scott – Thanks for your reply. I agree – Yes, slavery is a sin, and no, God didn’t specifically forbid it in the New Testament. He didn’t tell his followers to free their slaves, but instead he taught them to see the slaves as equal citizens in the kingdom of God, and to be blind to social distinctions that encourage injustice. But God wasn’t the one who instituted their system of slavery either.

    I don’t have a problem with God accommodating sin; it’s clearly necessary if God’s going to have any relationship with fallen humans, since generally we can only work on one problem at a time even when we’re doing our best to follow him. Jesus didn’t give instructions about abolishing slavery, or giving women equal rights, or about any number of other social issues. But he did plant the seeds for these changes to occur, he taught and modelled a changed attitude in that he treated all people equally, with respect and compassion, and he made a point of doing it publicly in ways that shocked his contemporaries. In the New Testament God’s program is to change our hearts, and then change our lives and our communities from the inside out.

    I think Greg may have a point about God being willing to appear sinful for a while, in order to create a strong contrast in our minds when He reveals how much he really hates sin. I don’t personally see this working for all the examples of God’s violence in the OT, but it’s very useful in some cases. Take the story of Abraham and Isaac. It makes so much more sense when we realize that Abraham EXPECTED God to accept human sacrifices. That was the only type of deity his culture knew, and the relationship God was building with Abraham and his descendants was just beginning. So Abraham was still fuzzy on many aspects of morality and God’s character – he wanted to show he was willing to sacrifice as much for his new god as the people he left would sacrifice for theirs. For God, it wasn’t enough to just tell Abraham He didn’t want child sacrifices. He wanted to make sure he’d never forget it, so He made it into a traumatic object lesson. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, acting out Abraham’s perception of God, and then steps in again to stop the sacrifice at the last minute. God never again asks for a human sacrifice – for the rest of the Old Testament it’s considered an abomination.

    So it’s clear that in this case at least, God is willing to appear sinful, to portray himself according humans’ skewed expectations. But how far can we take this? In this story God stops Abraham from actually committing the abomination He Himself commanded. But in the conquest of Canaan, He clearly does not.

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    Teresa says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    @ David – Thanks for your response. I appreciate your explanations very much. This way of communicating is difficult because we lack body language, we’re limited by time and space, and these are big topics. Not to mention we don’t know each other! I apologize if I’ve not been clear with what I’m trying to say. Let me clarify a few things.

    When I say I’m not an academic, I mean I’m not the best at articulating big ideas in small amounts of space with small amounts of time to do it in. IOW being concise is not one of my gifts. However, I do have a four year degree in divinity (m.div) and many years of theological study under my belt. That’s our starting point.

    Now let me respond to your last post.

    You said: I know that WH places scripture in the dogma ring but the difficult question is what exactly does it means to do that. If it means always reading it literally and placing equal importance on all verses I know Greg would disagree because he has said so in his preaching.

    My answer: I don’t know anyone who takes every verse in the bible literally. No one is asserting that Greg or anyone at WH believe that. To place scripture in the dogma ring is to say we believe all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching etc. It is to believe in the authority of scripture & to believe the bible is the word of God. It’s OUT of that belief that we read each book according to its genre and do our best to faithfully interpret what we read. We place less importance on LESS important things because it might make sense to value the parables and other red letter verses more than a lament in the psalms or something. And maybe that’s true for many of the descriptive verses… I don’t know. I don’t really spend time wondering which verses are less important/less inspired because I believe in seeking what God is trying to teach us as we’re reading his word. I believe ALL scripture is God breathed and we should treat it as such.

    You said:Regarding what Jesus was referring to as the law, he refers to a specific portion of scripture here, which is only a portion of what we find in our bibles. He advocates living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. What does he mean here by “word?” The NT did not exist at the time and certainly the law is part of what he meant but what about the Word he places in our hearts?

    My answer: these questions are precisely why I posted the Kierkegaard quote. Why not simply take scripture and apply it to our lives? I thought Jesus was pretty clear when he began by saying “it is written” – as in “this has authority” or “pay attention to this.” He gave us scripture as his word. Then the OT, now the New and old together. To ask “what exactly does that mean?” all the time instead of accepting the obvious causes confusion, keeps us from becoming doers of the word and tempts us to give more authority to our brains than scripture.

    You said: His Word comes to us in many ways, scripture included. Scripture comes first but which interpretation? It is not easy to answer that question.

    I think its easy to answer that question….and I’m not naive. The bottom line is this: if we don’t believe in the word “all” in the following passage, I’m not sure how any of us can say for certain what we believe. How can any of us discern what you claiming are other sources of His word if we don’t first accept what was “written.” This passage from Timothy sums up what I think on this whole topic: “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

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    David Anderson says: Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Teresa,

    Thanks for continuing our diagolue. It has been delightful and I know by what you have written that a “real” conversation together would be very enjoyable. Some of my most enjoyable college memories are of theological discussions like these. You have a more formal background however as I was not a divinity student although I have been reading about this sort of thing for many years.

    I think the bottom line in our discussion is that you are more committed to the idea that ALL of what we find in the bible is “God breathed” than I am. The author of 2 Tim 3:16, as you know, was referring to the Jewish bible and perhaps a few NT writings that existed at the time of his writing. The early Christians didn’t have nicely bound “Holy Bibles” like we do.

    But “shadow language” or not, I simply cannot accept that God was the author of the types of verses we are talking about. Those hateful words simply cannot have come from Jesus – to believe that is to betray what I know in my heart to be true of Him. It is true that the bible introduced me to Jesus, but honestly, the bible is not my Lord, Jesus is. “I get life” from Jesus and He is where I place my trust. Isn’t that where the first Christians placed their faith? In their experience of the risen Christ?

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Hi David,
    In reference to your response on July 25th toward my previous thought, Apocrypha is defined as obscure, hidden and/or hard to understand. Apocryphal books are documented as such in the Protestant tradition. The difference between Scripture and Apocrypha: one is inspired text and the other is not but provides valuable or useful teachings. Apocryphal books have elements that fall short of the test canonicity. Authenticity is one of those tests, which means the teaching is not consistent with what we know about God, Jesus, humanity, after life etc. from other clear teachings in Scripture. There are Apocryphal books like the Book of Maccabees that allude to teachings on purgatory, as an example. According to Protestant tradition, this book loses its status as inspired text from God. (However, it provides us with good history of the Jewish people during intertestamental period.) Therefore, when we start to discard areas of Scripture, which we feel does not accurately portray God – not authentic or consistent with Scripture – we must ask ourselves what elevates this ‘erred’ passage of Scripture above an Apocrypha text. Does that make sense?

    I agree that we can learn from other brothers and sisters in the Lord spanning other denominations and traditions. However, some denominations like Catholics and Orthodox hold to Scripture plus other “books” as their point of reference for Christian living. The other “books” are not deemed inspired (to most Protestants) but held up highly like the “Shepherd o of Hermas”.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Sometimes we have an expectation on how we should die and others should die. Death is a certain reality but many want to die on their “own” terms. We prefer to see people (and ourselves for that matter) die peacefully in our sleep at a ripe old age; to die otherwise especially “suddenly” makes God cruel. Unfortunately God does not tell us when and how to die. So maybe our objection is not violence itself but our expectation on when and how people should die. The question is: would we prefer God “killing” someone in the way He did with Ananias and Sapphira? Their death was non-violent and non-bloody. However, even that form of death stirs people to say that God is cruel and violent. The fact is we are all going to die. However God directly or indirectly kills someone, we know that God’s intention/character is good although may not appear so through a violent event. To clarify what I mean, I recall this passage in Romans 2:1-3:

    “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”

    The “violent” God in the OT merely and justly mirrored the treatment that the Wicked had done to others. This seems to be the theme running throughout the OT. Although these violent expressions obscure his goodness to us, he remains good/just for Apostle Paul says he judges based on truth. I suppose the manner of death in the Scripture was as much to communicate to wicked people and others observing the Wicked reap what they have sown. God treated them in the way they treated others as an act of judgment. In another way, God treated the Wicked as they would want to be treated.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Teresa & David:
    Great conversation! You both do a very good job of represent 2 Christian approaches to understanding the “Word of God”.
    I’m sure you’ve both studied this topic before, but you may be interested in the following perspective, from Bruxy Cavey at the Meeting House:

    The Jesus Hermeneutic
    http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1725/the-jesus-hermeneutic-4734
    Sermon summarizing the Catholic, Protestant and Anabaptist approaches to scripture.
    (interpretation is necessary to apply the principle behind the rule)

    Scripture Scandals —
    http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1746/
    3 part series all about the Bible. How to understand its development, how to interpret it, and apply it.

    Happy to see the conversation carry on. I tend to be with you David. I don’t like questioning the Bible, its messy and leaves us uncertain about many things. But I don’t expect to understand many things while I’m in this body and “seeing darkly”. What’s most important now, and what we have to hang onto, is that JESUS is the word of God.

    Reply
    Teresa says: Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for the conversation everyone! Good stuff.

    I wish I could buy into the whole idea that we get to decide which verses in the Bible match our version of Christ and which don’t, but I can’t. I think of it this way – if he can heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons, he can keep a book together. Indeed, it would be a low bar of love for him to do so, don’t you think?

    Besides my reasoning that it would be easy for God to keep his word together, I spend hours in prayer daily and the Spirit witnesses to my spirit that scripture is alive and active sharper than a two edged sword….and that all of it is God breathed. So I guess I have the Word/Christ/The Spirit witnessing as well.

    Do I like the “hateful”/violent verses, no. But I trust that God has a reason for including them in scripture and I’m humble enough to be OK not knowing everything about why that is now. (this is, to me, the real interpretation of seeing through a glass darkly. God’s ways are higher than our ways and we won’t understand all of them until later “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,so are My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.Is.55:8-9) If Is.55 and verses like this are true, it would be unwise for me to think “I” can decide which verses in scripture line up with my thoughts about Christ and which don’t – especially if I start by elevating the “God is love” verse above “woe to you” verses. It’s an all or nothing deal, in my view… If we accept all of it, we learn and grow in our understanding over time. If we are wary of it, we make our brains our “god” and we cause confusion.

    I, too, get my life from Christ. But to me that means I accept what he says about me in scripture. I AM dearly loved, I am a new creation but also woe to me if I am rich, well fed.. etc. He’s my “one commanding officer” as Greg used to say and I get all my life and worth from him, but I am also commanded to act on what he calls me to act on and not worry about what others think about that. I don’t get life/worth from other people. That, to me, is the right interpretation of getting all our life from Christ. I don’t get my life from Christ apart from scripture – I get it from Christ and scripture – his word.

    The bottom line for me is this: we need to let God reveal himself rather than constructing a god we’re comfortable with. Constructing a God out of comfort or desire is an age old deception if you think about it. Some wanted to make God an avenger, some want a law/rule enforcer and some/many today want a grace filled lamb who requires nothing of them. All are wrong images of God. God is the Lion/Lamb combo we see in scripture. As greg used to say “lock it in!” 🙂

    Anyway, grace, peace and much love to all!

    Reply
    Cyndi Bohun says: Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Trying to digest these 2 sermons, the beauty they could possibly protray is radical. Anyway so I begin in the OT to try out this theory, and come to Noah and the flood. I see that God was disgusted with the evil of man and they all perished. Is this a picture of Jesus and salvation, or can this be explained by God’s withdrawal, can’t quite put the picture together in my mind.

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    Denley McIntosh says: Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    This has been some good dialogue. Melanie and Teresa especially, you guys rock. This is a definitely some meaty thought that I’m (and others are) still chewing. I hope the conversation will lead to nourishment and not indigestion for us all 🙂 I hope to add some antacid to the mix to help with the chewing, which my help toward reconciling these “naughty” passages.

    Many time I find God to be speaking (and many other characters in Scripture like Jesus) using rhetorical devices (i.e. metaphors, repetition, irony, simile, sarcasm, personification etc.). It is one of the ways God communicates and stresses a point to persuade us to act. There is one rhetorical device that is seldom address but apparent in Scripture is prosopopoeia.

    The word is defined as a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer communicates to the audience by speaking as another person or object in the simple case. The technique is used by the Apostle PauI in areas like Romans 2-4. It was a technique commonly used not only in New Testament time but Old Testament as well. The Psalms are good examples where you find some violent outbursts of the prayer. Thus I submit that God probably used the technique as well. Let me explain this thought as a nuance to Pastor Greg’s point about God taking on our ugliness in the OT.

    As we read the OT narrative, you get the sense that God goes into character so to speak (or role plays) a violent character. He does this to personify the curse/judgment that Israel will receive or the violent agent of judgment who Israel will encounter, because of their sins. At the end – as evidence in the many narratives – it is not God directly carrying out the violent activities that He role play; but He foreshadows and/or gives voice what the agent(s) of judgement will do. Ultimately, God takes on humanity’s ugliness via role playing in many of these difficult scenes/passages. I think God communicates this point using the rhetorical device of prosopopoeia.

    Using prosopopoeia would be also like taking on the role of “devil’s advocate” in a debate. We take on the contrarian role not to support the opposition but strengthen the proponent via the technique. I sense God takes on the violent role in a dialogue with those prophets to make the point of judgment as salient as possible. This is however different than saying He will actually carry out the role. In other words, what an actor (God) conveys in a role (as evil, violent agent) does not necessarily reflect the values and characters of the person (God’s goodness and love) behind the role.

    This is a thought based on pattern in Scripture I notice. I encourage anyone to review those “naughty” passages again through the lens of prosopopoeia and see where you land. I hope that helps. Good thoughts! Keep it coming!

    Reply
    David Anderson says: Thursday August 2, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Hi Melanie,

    Thanks for the link to Bruxy Cavey’s sermons on this topic. I listened to one and I think he is a fantastic teacher. Really great material!

    Reply
    Scott Schneider says: Thursday August 2, 2012 at 7:02 am

    @Melanie. Yeah this sermon has spurred some thoughts and the dialogue has taken it deeper. You know I dont know if God appears sinful, or it is that He takes us where we are at and leads us to our unique path to Him and his heart type of thing. I really like what you are bringing to the discussion. Christianity is so enamored with sin, that we forget that it is relationship that we are after, not elimination of sin. Eldredge says that it is not about sin management but that is where most of Christianity has gone. There is no life there!! There is only life in Jesus and our relationship with him. If we focus on sin we are missing the point. If we focus on Jesus to lessen sin, then Jesus has become a means to reach a goal. Jesus is THE goal, not elimination of sin. I think that is why God, and slavery is an example of this, takes us where we are and leads us to him. We judge behavior(s) instead of just allowing each other to walk the path that Jesus has for us. Each walk is unique, and the negative things that fall away in our walk is in our own unique time for those things to happen. The gate to salvation is narrow, Jesus only, but the paths to Jesus and with Jesus are many, as many as there are people cuz each one of our walks is different from any one else. And that is a beautiful thing!!

    Reply
    David Anderson says: Thursday August 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Hi Denley,

    Thanks for your response regarding Apocrypha. Your question:

    Therefore, when we start to discard areas of Scripture, which we feel does not accurately portray God – not authentic or consistent with Scripture – we must ask ourselves what elevates this ‘erred’ passage of Scripture above an Apocrypha text. Does that make sense?

    That is an interesting question. I would suggest that the ‘erred passage’ in question should not be considered as revelatory as the rest of the book from which it comes. Apocryphal texts may even be of more value by comparison.

    Overall, hopefully we don’t reference these types of texts as a part of our discipleship anyway but the question is interesting. 🙂

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    Reynolds Shook says: Tuesday August 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Greg,

    You make sense,but I have many questions.

    I am post Epsicopalian,Listening to Greek orthodoxy.Now
    listening to you.What a gift you have of making complicated issues easy to understand.

    I simply admit I need a Bible study,but not Beth Moore who has overtaken the South.I am a fish out of water down here.

    I thank God for you!!

    Reynolds

    Reply
    Ryan Calhoun says: Tuesday August 7, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I really like what you said here Greg. It sheds so much more beautiful light on the dark OT. but i have 3 problems..

    1/What about when God drowned the the Egyptian soldiers? If i am not mistaken, he split the red sea (i think), allowed His people to cross it, but then drowned the soldiers…that too me looks like the “shadow” you are talking about..except He is personally killing people this time, rather than making it seem like he is killing people..

    2/Sodom/Gomorrah..he turned them over to their greed (which fits what you said he does) but then he destroys the cities. HE destroys them. They don’t destroy each other. This also doesn’t look like forgiveness or love.

    3/Joshua. What about whenever God would actually tell people to go on murderous rampages? He isn’t hurting anybody, but he is instructing them to..which is just as bad. Not only is He instructing, he is helping the bloodshed by stopping the sun in the middle of the sky..This once again does not fit the character of Jesus, but is a “negative contrast” of His love.

    I’m sure you tackle all of this in your new book. I plan on getting the uncut full volume version. But i think it will benefit a lot of people if you hit these questions up in August. I’m only 16, so i’m positive there is a bigger picture that i am not seeing.

    also, before it forget, what about the people this affects? When God, instead of being violent, allows violent, what happens to all the innocent people that get killed..just to benefit US? Was it really worth it knowing all the lives that were taken?

    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Wednesday August 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    @ Ryan – great post. I talked around many different issues in my previous posts, but the 3 questions you hit here are exactly the ones I’d most like to hear addressed too. I just never got around to saying it that clearly.

    Your last point (about who benefits from the violence God allows) is not as much of a problem for me. I think all Christian teaching is fairly clear that noone truly benefits from violence, or any other sin. God allows it, not to give one group an advantage over another, but because he can’t protect humans (and angels) from our own hard hearts. It’s a matter of free will. If he wants to create people with the capacity to do great good, he has to allow them the opportunity to do great evil, in order for their choice of goodness to have any meaning. And if He blocks all the consequences of evil actions from affecting other people, then it’s meaningless to say their actions were evil, if no one was hurt. So if God removes the possibility of people actually doing real evil, then real goodness would loose its meaning as well. This is the universe our God chose to create – it includes other beings, besides himself, who have the ability to act independently and hurt people he loves.

    Still, God does sometimes use violence as way to advance his plans in history. This isn’t so much of a problem for me, as long as God isn’t responsible for the violence (which is why your first 3 questions are so important). The greatest example of this is Jesus dying on the cross. Greg did a good sermon on this last month, see: https://whchurch.org/blog/6567/the-sting. God uses the violence of humans and angels to defeat the powers of evil, but its not HIS violence. All God’s plans are for the good of all people, and whenever He can twist violence and evil around to bring about good, he will. So I don’t see this as a case of God benefiting US at the expense of other groups of people. But maybe I’ve misunderstood your point in the last paragraph.

    Reply
    Ryan Calhoun says: Wednesday August 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    By my last paragraph, i mean is our life right now worth all the lives that have been lost that God allowed? i’ve always said “are my rights as a US citizen worth having knowing all the bloodshed behind those rights?” let me see if i can explain this. When God stopped the sun the sky to allow more violence just so he can show us who Jesus really is worth it in the end? i don’t want any violence, even if it ends up benefiting me in the end. i guess my question is more of questioning God’s technique.

    thanks for your response.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Hi Ryan,

    I concur with Melanie’s point(s). What I notice with God and violence, he usually mirrors the ugliness/violence that the evil agents have done to others. In other words, God treats the evil agent as they want to be (although unintentionally for them). This of course happens after numerous warnings and heart that is totally hardened. In fairness/justice, God “pushes back” on those who push around others. Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) is a great illustration, culminating with this line from Christ: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

    Now I must admit some of the violence that God permits seems “spectacular” or “over the top” but it says to me we haven’t seen all the violence in the background, which God sees. Therefore, as He said to Abraham in Genesis 18 about judging Sodam fairly for their evil deeds, God shows how much judgement has been stored up for the unrepentant and is released in one fatal swoop i.e. the flood of Genesis 6.

    It is interesting to note for we are called to see the world through eyes of Jesus. The Lord Jesus himself said, implicitly, the judgement on Sodom was fair and just as He was describing discussing the consequences of those towns which rejected the gospel: “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. I hope that helps man.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I just checked in this blog site again, and I see my post from yesterday is still held up in moderation. I’m posting it again now, without the links I’d included…

    @ Ryan – There are 2 parts to your question I’d like to pull apart, and then answer in different ways:

    1. “are my rights as a US citizen worth having knowing all the bloodshed behind those rights?”

    Answer – NO.

    (Sorry, when you used “US” in your first post, I thought you were talking about “us” as opposed to “them”.) Although I’m Canadian, and we may not be as vocal about championing our rights as Americans, we certainly still expect to be treated fairly, and get mad when our rights are violated (and we think our rights include free health care).

    This may be a case of confusing the U.S. or Canada with the Kingdom of God. This is a problem on this issue because: a) God’s plans are always for the benefit of all people. The U.S. government’s plans are not. b) To follow Jesus, we are called to lay down our rights, not pick up a gun to defend them.

    I think it’s a very big mistake to say that God’s purpose in history (i.e. the goals he is trying to achieve, and sometimes uses other people’s violence to advance), is to give U.S. or Canadian citizens a life of security and freedom. God’s purpose is to win himself a bride, a church full of people who know His love and demonstrate the beauty of Christ’s character in their lives. And throughout history, the church has grown the fastest, and been the truest to Christ’s character, when it is persecuted (i.e. when the Christians have no rights).

    I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot this week. Here are 2 sermons I’ve just listened to that address this topic directly:

    Sermon in 2007 by Greg Boyd:
    (Link removed – look in WH sermon archives under 10/14/07 – “A Call to Stand Out”)
    Topic: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – a Christian perspective.

    Last week’s sermon by Tim Day at the Meeting House: (Link removed)
    The first part of the video is an interview about compassion. Sermon “blessed are the meek” starts at time stamp 17:30.

    2. “When God stopped the sun the sky to allow more violence just so he can show us who Jesus really is worth it in the end? … i guess my question is more of questioning God’s technique.”

    Answer: This is a tougher problem.

    Knowing “who Jesus really is” is worth a lot – it’s the reason God created humans in the first place. Knowing who Jesus is means knowing who God really is, and we can’t really trust God or love God or worship Him if we don’t have some concept of how beautiful and awesome and loving and scandalously gracious He is. Jesus shows us God’s character, and the whole human race would be lost without him.

    But is it worth God using violence? Encouraging violence (by stopping the sun so more Canaanites could be killed), or acting violently himself (drowning the Egyptians)? This is where I question God’s technique as well. I think Greg was arguing in these 2 “shadow” sermons that God didn’t actually do these things, although God seems to take responsibility for this violence in the Biblical text, it was actually the devil’s work.

    The examples you raised before are the hardest to reconcile with this theory – these are the stories in the Bible where it states most clearly that it was God acting, and not anybody else. Throughout the Old Testament, God is celebrated as the one who rescued his people out of Egypt and established them in the Promised Land, wiping out their enemies before them.

    So yes, bringing Jesus into the world, and making it possible for all people to know him, is worth a lot. And I have no problem with God using other people’s violence to accomplish this (as he used other people’s violence against Jesus at the crucifixion, to win us our salvation). Violence is inevitable in a world where people have free will, and it is part of God’s wisdom and glory that He can twist it around to accomplish good purposes. It’s only a problem when God does the violence himself, or commands his people to do it, because this contradicts the beautiful character of God that Jesus came to reveal to us.

    This is a terribly hard theological problem, and in his message, Greg said he’s been struggling with it for years. I don’t think Greg’s “shadow theory” completely solves the problem (mostly because of examples in the Bible like the ones you raised), but I think the theory does help explain God’s actions in some cases (like God calling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac).

    I think this issue is something we’re all going to continue struggling with for a while. I’m very glad Greg raised the topic and provided a new perspective on it, because for me this is the biggest unresolved theological problem I have, and almost everybody ignores it (except the atheists).

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Melanie,

    I read your last point. Is there a difference between a benign death versus a violent death? What makes a death truly violent? Is it the bloodiness, the abruptness, the quantity of people involved and/or strangeness of the death? It could be argued any way that God allows a person or people to die as violent. Whether He does it directly as with Moses’ death or indirectly using the devil.

    What is your thought?

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    Melanie Ghent says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    Denley – Good question. Still thinking…

    Here are some initial thoughts:
    1) Death is an evil thing. It’s not part of God’s original design for the world, and it’s still not his ideal will for us. Although Jesus defeated death on the cross, and Christians can rejoice in the prospect meeting our Lord face to face (and might even prefer death to continuing the struggle on earth, like Paul in Philippians); death, in itself, is still something that is wrong, and we look forward to it being completely abolished in the new creation. We still mourn when someone we love is dies, and we know it’s not RIGHT that the love we shared is interrupted.

    2) God does have the right to judge. He has all wisdom, he knows all human motives and capabilities, and as the only being without sin, God is the only person who has both the ability and the right to judge correctly. As Abraham said, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    Still, I think Jesus teaches us that God prefers mercy to justice, if only we will accept it. It’s when we won’t accept God’s mercy, and we reject God (who is life) that he turns us over to the consequences of our sin (which is death). And the judgement is just.

    3) I’m aware that these thoughts are incomplete. Greg Boyd has challenged some of my pre-existing ideas on this issue, with his talk of God’s ideal and accommodating will, and God’s perfect beauty as revealed in Jesus. I think my old ideas were based on a combination of Old Testament legalism, New Testament “chastisement” and C.S. Lewis’ arguments in _The Problem of Pain_, which I last read as a teenager 15 years ago. I know C.S. Lewis has some very good things to say, and I’m planning on revisiting that book now. Maybe my thoughts will be more complete after I’ve read it again, with more questions in my head, and a more critical attitude than I brought to it last time.

    Still thinking… What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    btw, in case I didn’t make it clear in my last post, I think all death is evil (although it is also inevitable), no matter how ‘violent’ it is. Their are differences in degree between especially ugly deaths and more peaceful ones, but not differences in kind.

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    btw, my very last post was an opinion, not a conviction. I’m still in process about this.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Friday August 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    btw (#3) … Thanks for reading my posts Denley!!! its great to have someone to talk about this stuff with.

    Reply
    Denley says: Saturday August 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Hi Melanie,

    Thanks for the follow up. I will use an analogy to express my thinking on this. In the two scenarios below, which person has shown violence?

    A. The vengeful wife who poisons her abusive husband who then dies peacefully in his sleep.

    B. The renowned surgeon who performs a bloody, open-heart surgery on a sickly child who dies uncomfortably in surgery.

    We would naturally say the vengeful wife shown violence. However, based on the gory circumstance, it could be argued that the surgeon is the one who committed a violent and bloody offense. Yet, we learn to distinguish the surgeon’s effort as not being violent. In this case, the surgeon is being careful and caring, and has acted with the best intentions for the child. The wife, on the other hand, has acted with the worst intentions for her husband. She hated her husband and thus creating a violent circumstance the moral sense.

    We can say that violence is preeminently rooted in the motive of the person not the circumstance (Matthew 5:21-22). On the surface, the peaceful death of the husband does not appear violent, but the death was violent for the wife had a violent motive. This begs the question how is violence defined in the moral sense. I would say any destructive and injurious force that someone uses on another to willfully dehumanizes them. This is how I distinguish between the circumstantial violence of the careful surgeon and moral violence of the callous wife.

    Based on that thinking, many of God’s judgment is violent on the surface – circumstantial violence. However, God is love, and Jesus makes it clear that God loves his enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). That means God’s action should not been seen as violent in the moral sense. God’s motive is never to dehumanize when judging. (The judgment is to treat in kind.) We see that in the Garden of Eden when God prevented Adam and Eve from touching the Tree of Life. Why? Adam and Eve would not be stuck in a perpetual state of sin (Genesis 3:21-24). Thus death, although a curse, was a blessing in disguise for a humanity whose imagination is perpetually evil (Genesis 9:20). (You made reference to that above with Paul in Philippians.)

    I agree that death is not God’s original design. In a sense, all death can be seen as violence, because it dehumanizes and fragments us. However, I sense God’s violent displays in the Old Testament are not substantively or morally violent, because God shows love for his enemies in the midst of death. The very fact he sustains (and not annihilate) a devil that has been judged – and will be judged again – gives a hint of God’s love for his enemies and non-violent heart within his perichoresis life

    Does that make sense?

    Reply
    Ryan Calhoun says: Saturday August 11, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I get what your saying Denley, but my official thought when i read that was “that sounds almost serial killer-ish”. Please don’t take this as disrespect to God, but the God you described that is loving in nature even when he would kill people sounds… deranged. If somebody were to kill somebody else, but “do them a favor” by making it a “loving kill” then we would label them a nut and throw them in prison. It’s like this, the God you described here “Based on that thinking, many of God’s judgment is violent on the surface – circumstantial violence. However, God is love, and Jesus makes it clear that God loves his enemies” automatically makes me think “but what about the people he kills? where was the love for them?”.

    I guess all my posts can be summarized in this: the OT God and the NT God completely clash against each other. Greg Boyd was able to explain the majority of the stories..but there are still some examples that don’t really fit with his theory, so i would like for him to cover those examples. I would like to see how he can read those acts HE personally committed “through the lens of the cross”.

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    Melanie Ghent says: Saturday August 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Denley, in your example with the surgeon, we can agree that although his actions seem ‘violent’, his intentions were good, and if there was a reasonable chance the surgery would be successful, it was a good thing he tried. However. We only excuse him, and hold him innocent of any wrongdoing, because he is human, imperfect, and had no way of knowing that the surgery would fail. If he knew beforehand the child would die, we would not excuse him by saying he had “love in his heart”.

    So I would disagree that this analogy can be extended to God. God is wise enough to know what the consequences of his actions will be. If he killed someone, it would not be accidentally, like the surgeon. I also think it can become dangerous to allow a precedent of “loving killings”, even when we apply it to God. To me, it sounds too much like Augustine’s argument that Christians could kill their enemies so long as they had a “loving attitude” toward them, which Christians subsequently used to justify wars of conquest and forced conversions.

    Reply
    Denley says: Saturday August 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    I know sounds kind of wacky but when God takes a life it’s not the same when a human takes a life. That’s pretty much what I can say. May sound unfair but we as humans don’t see the world as competent as God does. I just know as the Apostle Paul says in Titus to the pure, all things are pure. So we have to trust God is “pure” making his actions pure as well. Human motives unfortunately are not totally pure making our actions suspect and not pure. As I said, Jesus never denounced the judgment of Sodom when one reads the gospel. So if we’re going to see the world through Jesus, we have to see the judgment through Jesus as well. I hope that helps.

    Reply
    Denley says: Saturday August 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Melanie,

    Hmm…I can see how my analogy can purport inferences that I would not want to communicate. Unfortunately the analogy is pressed beyond my intent. Let me delimit and qualify the analogy so I do not unduly be ascribed a view, which I do not personally hold.

    Accidents that cause death can be violent. However, if the perpetrator’s intent was benign, they will be held responsible but not seen as morally repugnant. This is the point when I was defining violence. Moral violence should have a malicious intent to make it truly a dehumanizing occurrence for the victim.

    I will also clearly say that I do not advocate a “just war” principle. I hold to a non-violence and love your enemies stance whenever and however possible. (This is probably rooted in my cultural history – seeing God liberating us sociologically and soteriologically through non violence means. Yet, I am not a proponent for liberation theology.) I assume the term “loving killings” is probably a term deduced from prior points. Term is somewhat oxymoronic, and I am not comfortable saying that I embrace. However, I will say there may be some truth to that term, but language is strained for me to coin a more accurate phrase. Saying that, in 1st Corinthians 11:27-30, we have the remarks from Paul:

    “27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”

    Jesus similarly is speaking to the Seven Churches in Revelation 2 and 3 with some stern remarks as well:
    “20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds… 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” (Revelation 2:20-23; 3-19)

    This may actually speak to the “loving killing” more accurately, which we are critiquing. Again, I do not feel comfortable with that term, so I ask we find a better term to comprehend those aforementioned passages.

    Melanie, I appreciate your insight and critique – good food for thought.

    Reply
    Denley says: Sunday August 12, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Ryan,

    In regards to the term “serial killer-ish”, now to say God is a serial killer is to say that God enjoys “picking off” folks as a Navy Seal sniper. This is neither the God of Scriptures nor hopefully the One that I am conveying in my prior notes. Serial killers are known to enjoy their killing spree as game. God – to the contrary – repeatedly mentions He takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner:

    “25 “Yet you (Israel) say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just. Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27 But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. 29 Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

    30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:25-31)

    I will propose this thought. I think the issue of God taking life can be assuaged somewhat by looking at the Flood in Genesis 7. Oddly, very few skeptics complain about the flood as a killing implementation. However, I know no other greater destructive force in recorded history thus far. When thinking about it, the flood drowned everyone save eight. This means the deadly inclusion of innocent babies and animals, which were not in the ark. If we can accept the greater loss of life and have no qualms, everything else should be logically fine. Thus, the argument could and maybe should be was the flood acceptable. If it was not acceptable, then we can critique the other violent occurrences throughout Scripture quite freely. If it was acceptable, there should be nothing more to argue. I submit we can accept the violence of the flood, because Jesus accepted the flood as just. He builds the case of final judgment based on the flood:

    “36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:36-39)

    Again, if Jesus is the Amen of God and He was fine with the violence of the flood, we should be fine as well. I would then interpret the passage as Jesus rebutting your clashing argument of “the OT God and the NT God.” God is consistent and not schizoid.

    Ryan, in general for me, when God’s activity escapes my logic and appears derange (serial killer-ish), it is by faith in his character that I hold on to. It is only thing I can do: trust God’s track record, biblically and personally; and the Christ who says God loves his enemies and desires none to perish.

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Monday August 13, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Hi Denley,

    I’ve been thinking more about your last 2 posts, and I think you’ve brought us all the way back around to where Greg Boyd’s sermon started. It seems like you’ve found a way in your mind to reconcile the beautiful love and forgiveness of Jesus with some of the harsher portrayals of God in the Old Testament. That’s great, and I’ve got no problem with the position you describe.

    Some further comments:
    ————————————————
    1. I’m sorry if seemed to ascribe the “loving killings” philosophy to you. I was just pointing out the implications if someone stretched your arguments way farther than you intended. Augustine started out farther in this direction than you did, and I think even he would be horrified at the uses to which his philosophy has been put. We always have to remain aware of how people might misinterpret our words. Humans are always looking for loopholes out of the high standard that Jesus set for us in terms of doing good to those who hate us.

    As long as you leave judgment to God – and you always make a clear distinction between what humans are allowed to do in terms of violence, and what God can do as our creator and the perfect judge, then I don’t see these dangers in your position, as you’ve explained it further in these last 2 posts.
    ———————————————–
    2. As far as your suggestion that we define violence as ‘the intention to dehumanize’: I don’t really see the point of this; we can define violence that way if you like. But I still think it’s a sin for a Christian to intentionally hurt another person, whether it’s done with the intention to dehumanize as well or not. If you want to use a different term to define that type of hurtful action, you can choose one, but whatever you call it, I would still call it a sin. The human heart is deceitful: we can fully believe we’re acting in someone else’s best interest, and still hurt them terribly. So I would prefer to define violence as intentionally hurting another, it’s harder to pretend to ourselves that a certain action won’t hurt someone, than to pretend it will do them good in the long run, and therefore doesn’t dehumanize them.

    The only exception I could possibly see to this, is parents with children of a certain age. Even this is a huge area of controversy, and since I don’t have children, I haven’t bothered to closely examine my position on this. The only argument I can possibly see for Christian parents intentionally hurting their children as a method of chastisement or correction, is that they are taking them through a stage of Old Covenant legalism, before they are old enough to be capable of understanding grace, and appreciating it without taking advantage of it. But even this is iffy.

    In general, I think Christians are required to treat everyone with grace; to help other people grow in righteousness by means of encouragement, exhortation, setting a good example, and by always pouring out the unconditional, sacrificial love of God, which is the only force that has the power to change a human heart. Under the New Covenant, we are never called to stand over other people as a tutor with the right to discipline. We can point out a sin, in love, if we’ve examined our own hearts first, but we can’t chastise. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin.

    SO… I can’t see any good reason for a Christian to hurt another person, except accidentally.

    I can agree that hurting someone WITH the intention to dehumanize is especially vile, offensive, and repugnant to God. In some cases, it might seem obvious to us when there is an intention to dehumanize. In other cases, it’s impossible to know what the perpetrator was thinking. Only God can see inside the heart. So this is a useful distinction to apply to ourselves, and we must always reject any attitudes in our own heart that come close to a desire to dehumanize someone. I don’t see this as a useful standard to apply to anyone else, whether they are Biblical characters, people we know from history books or the media, or people in our own lives.
    ———————————————-
    3. I’ve got more comments to share, about God’s use of violence for righteous judgment or loving chastisement, coming tonight or tomorrow. My lunch break is long past over.

    A final thought for now:

    – JESUS is the word of God! I trust His character far more than I trust the prophet’s understanding of the God who spoke to them, and my own interpretation of their words.
    “For I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2Tim 1:12) “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1Cor 2:2)

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Monday August 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Denley, here’s another follow up, containing my recent reflections about the judgment of God. (bear with me, I WILL get around to that topic eventually)

    There are many Christians who choose to believe things about God, and follow God’s instructions in the Bible, even when they don’t understand it, or it makes God seem less beautiful to them than they would prefer to imagine Him. I’ve moved away from this attitude, but I respect those who hold it for their attitude of obedience to God, even in areas where it makes them uncomfortable. It’s true, God values our character more than our comfort, and we can’t just stop obeying a certain command because we don’t like it. I also respect their willingness to value God’s wisdom above their own, with the attitude “if God says it’s right, then it must be right, even if I don’t understand it”. To me, these are godly examples of humility and obedience, and I don’t question the character or sincerity of people who hold these attitudes.

    The denomination where I first became a Christian taught that women should wear head coverings and never instruct men in a church setting. They got it sincerely, from the Bible. The women knew they had other options in our society, and they never accepted being insulted or undervalued, but they chose to obey God in this way as an offering of worship to him. They demonstrated humility in a way rarely seen in our culture. I’ve come to believe that attitude in the hearts of these women should be held up as an example to all Christian men and women. However, this specific teaching really bothered me, because I like sharing ideas with people of both genders, and I occasionally feel called to teach. Sometimes, it felt that by staying silent I was stifling the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t want to reject God’s authority over me, or deny the authority of the Bible. What to do? I eventually went with the guiding of the Spirit. I left that church, and found another church that let me lead youth group Bible studies occasionally. But the issue remained unresolved for a long time, until around 10 years later, when I found a teacher (at the meeting house) who actually taught on these passages in a rational way, that also acknowledged the Bible’s authority, and that pulled MORE meaning out of the text than my 1st church. At the same time, the passages were explained in a way that allowed women to speak their minds when God led them. Because of my experience with those 10 years of uncertainty, I became comfortable with not always understanding everything in the Bible, but trusting that God is more beautiful than we expect him to be.
    ——————————————————–
    [On a side note:] I received another observation at the Meeting House that’s helped me in this way. Have you noticed that the Bible never claims for itself to be the final, inerrant, authoritative ‘Word of God’, the way some churches claim for it? I hadn’t. According to the New Testament, JESUS is the Word of God, the final, perfect revelation of God to humanity, with all authority granted from the Father. Acts and the Epistles often refer to the message of the gospel as the ‘word of God’, but then the Book of Mark starts out this way “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” and goes on to tell the whole story of Jesus life.

    God reveals himself as a person, not a book. The New Testament refers to the Old Testament (and indirectly, to itself) as ‘the scriptures’ not ‘the Word of God’. The scriptures are inspired, and useful for many things. We refer to them because they’re our best source for understanding Jesus’ life and teachings. But Jesus himself says “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” (Jn 15:26) and later, “The Helper will convict the world… concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me” (Jn 16:10). So perhaps when Jesus left, the Holy Spirit replaced Him as our primary source of ‘correction in righteousness’, not the Bible.

    Jesus also says “you are the light of the world” referring to his disciples, and He prays: “My prayer is not for [the apostles] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us SO THAT the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. THEN the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23) So perhaps the church is meant to be the primary means God uses now, to show himself to the world (I’m not going to insist on this point, just noting a possibility).

    The scriptures are useful (and necessary) in correcting the church when it strays off course, or correcting us as individuals when we’re inclined to interpret the Holy Spirit’s guidance according to the preferences of our flesh. They’re useful for other things too. And DEFINITELY inspired. I just don’t fully understand what inspired means, and I’m not fully convinced they’re completely inerrant and fully authoritative throughout. But Jesus is. He is my Lord. [I’m aware that may have been a controversial side point, please continue reading the rest of my main point with an open mind]
    —————————————————–
    I truly believe that humans can never make God seem more beautiful than he actually is. If there’s something that really bothers me about a certain teaching – I mean something that bothers my spirit, not that bothers my flesh – then that’s a signal to me that I might be interpreting God’s instructions the wrong way. I’ve learned not to place so high a value on the ‘faith’ necessary to accept these apparently obvious teachings without challenge, living in obedience to commands that chafe my spirit. I now place a higher value on wrestling with the Biblical text, and challenging all assumptions about God that make him seem less beautiful than Jesus, dying on the cross for his enemies, even if these assumptions are based on the Bible. I’d rather admit to not understanding the process God used through history to reveal himself to humanity, than to admit that there might be any shadow on the beauty of God’s character.

    With all that as background, I’m ready to move on to the topic of God’s righteous judgment:

    While God is the only person with the right to judge others (being all-wise and without sin), I think Jesus may be showing us that God chooses not to exercise that right. I’ll list here some things I’ve noticed lately that seem to point in this direction:
    1) Jesus says “let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone”, and then “neither do I condemn you”.
    2) I’ve really appreciated learning about the Christus Victor model of the atonement, which rejects the idea that, on the cross, Jesus redeemed us from the wrath of God. It emphasizes the contrasting idea that God is IN Jesus, redeeming the world to himself, not outside Jesus, pouring out wrath on him.
    3) Throughout the Bible, it is Satan who is identified as the accuser, not God. Greg Boyd uses the example of Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3) who is accused by Satan before God. God rebukes Satan for accusing Joshua, even though Joshua is wearing dirty clothes (probably symbolic of sinful acts).

    To me, this picture of God seems incredibly beautiful. It’s a scandalous grace that goes beyond human wisdom and human sense of fair play (like the parable Jesus tells about workers who are hired at differnt times throughout the day, then all get paid the same wage). That gives me a hint that it just might be true, and so I’m going to entertain this idea for a while, as I go back to the bible with these questions in my head, and hash out these new ideas with other people (of whom you are the first).

    I’m still not exactly sure how to deal with the final judgment (Revelations passage you refer to, Denley) or the previous worldwide judgment (the great flood you also refer to). If this new theory that I’m entertaining about God is true, then God isn’t directly pouring out judgment in either of these cases. The only answer to these that I have at the moment is to repeat what I said before in an earlier post: ‘God prefers mercy to justice, if only we will accept it. It’s when we won’t accept God’s mercy, and we reject God (who is life) that he turns us over to the consequences of our sin (which is death).’ God’s gift of free will to us means he CAN’T force a relationship with himself on anyone who has rejected him. And he can’t give us life in any way than by giving us himself, since he IS the only source of life. So humans choose their own judgment, seperating themselves from life, it is never God who chooses it for them. This idea does seem to be supported by many of the things Jesus says:

    “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son … But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (Jn 5:22, 45-46)

    “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (Jn 12:46-48)

    If there’s anyone else out there who’s still following this (extremely long-winded) blog, please chip in. Do you have any other ideas about how to interpret the Final Judgment passages, in light of the theory that it’s Satan who is the accuser, and God’s heart of love always chooses to offer grace? Ryan, do you agree with this theory? It’s clear that Jesus has the authority to judge. The question is whether he ever exercises that authority directly, or not. Do you know anyone who’s worked through these issues before? (I’m looking for resources.)

    Denley, it seems to me that you’ve taken the position that God does sometimes exercise the authority He has to judge his people, and does kill people directly. But you may want to add some clarifications now, in response to the position I’ve set out here. I’d also appreciate your critique.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Monday August 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Fair post Melanie…

    In regards to your thoughts on parenting, I am cogitating, reflecting and eventually penning my thoughts on Spirit-led parenting with the issue of violence in mind. As a father of 2, my children are unfortunately the “petri dish” of my theological reflection as I prayerfully test my hypothesis. Pray for my wife and I on that one 😉

    Look forward to your upcoming post!

    Reply
    Craig says: Wednesday August 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Just a thought…

    How many of you would be willing to have a skype meetup to discuss this in a little more organic form?

    If you would like just send me a message on facebook.

    /craig.bertrand

    This is such an important topic and honestly it is hard to find others to have intelligent and loving conversations with about this.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Wednesday August 15, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Hi Melanie,

    It has been a little busy at my end. However, I said to myself I will go through your piece and offer my thoughts. I want do it justice. So here I go girl!

    First off all, I respect your honesty, and you sharing your past and past experiences with church. Your transparency is humbling. You demonstrate the road that some Followers of the Way have to travel when they meet the Way who is the truth and the life. It reminds me of some of the biographies and stories from renowned and beloved author Philip Yancey shared in his non-fiction: Soul Survivor – How My Faith Survived the Church. It is a great book to recommend to others who are still traveling to find the Way.

    On the point of “the Bible never claims for itself to be the final, inerrant, authoritative ‘Word of God’”, I agree the Bible never used the exact term as you described. However, I do sense the meaning of these adjectives: “authoritative” and “final” are used:

    “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near”. (Revelation 1:1-3)

    I interpret authority from “reads aloud the words of this prophecy”, which signifies that concept. Although this verse does not speak for all of Scripture, but it does speak of authority. If we review the term final, we can look at the other bookend of Revelation:

    “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

    I interpret final from the admonishment of Christ to keep the prophecy or word of God, pertaining to Revelation, as is.

    Inerrant, similarly, is not used but the thought is. Moreover, the term inerrancy is a tricky one, because of our cultural conditioning. If you base inerrancy on modern (our) standard of truth, the Scripture is not inerrant. However, if you based on the standard of truth within those biblical cultures, the Scripture is inerrant. I share two quotes from Dr. Clark Pinnock who contributed greatly on this subject of inerrancy:

    “He actually prefers the wording of the Lusanne Covenant that says the Bible is “inerrant in all it affirms” or that of the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy that says: “We deny that is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.” In other words, the Bible may contain errors of incidental kinds, but it teaches none.” (Barry L. Callen, “Clark H. Pinnock: Journey Toward Renewal” Evangel Publishing House, 69)

    Also, Dr. Craig Blomberg who contributed in the Case for Christ attests something similar:

    “My conviction is, once you allow for the elements I’ve talked about earlier – paraphrase, of abridgment, of explanatory additions, of selection, of omission – the gospels are extremely consistent with each other by ancient standards, which are the only standard by which it’s fair to judge them.” (Lee Strobel, “Case for Christ”, Zondervan, 45) I think those thoughts help to make sense of the inerrancy debate. I do encourage you (and others) to source these materials to read on further.

    These quotes do not alleviate hermeneutic challenge, but it is still encouraging to know. The thoughts remind me that all Scripture is inspired but not all Scripture weighted the same in terms of authority. I believe this is what you were trying to communicate when you said, “and I’m not fully convinced they’re completely inerrant and fully authoritative throughout.” I concur with your sentiment.

    As I move along to your thoughts on judgment, I agree with your point Melanie that Jesus does not condemn. He merely ratifies our self-condemnation if we reject him:

    “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18)

    Jesus reminds us that Hell, as the fruit of self-condemnation, was not designed for human beings (Matthew 25:41). Nevertheless, Jesus speaks about this AWESOME judgment the most among all the alienated voices (i.e. prophets and apostles) crying in the wilderness of faith. Saying that, Jesus words of mercy, love and forgiveness is the controlling theme and rhetoric of His mission. Judgment is part of the story – but not THE story! Notice how Revelation moves pass the judgment theme and ends on focusing on God’s love toward His people. I rejoice over that fact: God’s love, unity and glory on display for His people to see, bask and admire.

    These are my thoughts Melanie. I hope that helps. Again, I appreciate your thinking on the subject.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Wednesday August 15, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Hey Craig,

    Let me know the time and place. I’d be happy to take conversation further. I’ll look for you on Facebook.

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Thursday August 16, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Denley – Thanks especially for your thoughts on the judgment, the verses you listed were very useful.

    About Biblical authority, right now I’m in a state of indecision. I’m fully convinced that All of the Bible is good history (at a minimum), written by people faithfully recording their encounters with God to the very best of their understanding. There is too much honesty in the scriptures about personal shorcomings, to doubt their intent to be honest (and there are lots of other reasons to trust their historic accuracy). So at the very least, the Bible is an accurate window to see Jesus, which is the most important service it can give us, anyway.

    There are times in the OT histories, where I disagree with the narrator about interpretations they give to the very events they record for us, and I wonder if these authors sometimes see God’s character through cultural conditioning and rather than by God’s revelation.

    1 example from the life of David – when ‘God’ struck out in anger and killed Uzzah son of Obinadab for his (unintentional) irrevrence in touching the ark of the covenant. David was angry about this, and left the ark where it was rather than bringing it into Jerusalem. I relate to David more than the narrator here. How does the narrator know the anger of God burned against Uzzah, and that’s why he died? I trust the narrator related the events accurately, but I’m not so sure I trust the interpretation.

    I like your thoughts on the subject of the Bible being “inerrant in all it affirms”. If we’re going to consider inerrancy at all, that is definately the standard that makes the most sense.

    Reply
    Melanie Ghent says: Thursday August 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Craig & Denley –
    I’m not on facebook, and I don’t have skype. But my mother does, and I could go over and borrow her system, if we set it up beforehand. I’d not be adverse to a live conversation about this stuff. If you want to get in touch with me directly, send to “my full name” (as one word, no spaces) at gmail.

    Reply
    Denley McIntosh says: Thursday August 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Hey Melanie,

    I can sense your concern about those narratives. The only thing I can say that God knows the heart. If God gets angry, it is usually because the heart is not right. Sometimes an act which seems innocent on the surface (to us), but God looks on the heart, sees otherwise and judges the arrogant person. This tends to be the usual reaction from God, which I see.

    Again, that is my assumption for you can only imply that from the text.

    Reply
    Hannah says: Monday April 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Hi, thank you for this sermon. I have been struggling with this concept also – especially as I have been reading the Old Testament lately. What about the flood or Sodom and Gommorah? That was God clearly working and him being just. Thanks.

    Reply
    markw says: Wednesday February 26, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Although Greg may be on to something here, at least part of the reason that God revealed himself in the way He did in the OT was because he had to.

    The human race had given the destroyer (satan) the power to rule over them to a degree. This forced God to treat his people with regard to these agreements (unwittingly) made with satan…God had to respect the agreements humans had made with satan. God could not overrule these agreements and bondages until a human (Jesus) could obey God in every detail. Then, since a man had obeyed God, God could intervene with humans in a way which respected that truth also.

    The book of Job gives us the model, where God at least sometimes has to almost bargain with satan, because satan had won humans over to a degree.

    For example, although the law was holy, being instituted by God, it was not a law that could give us spiritual freedom, because no human had completely followed the freedom which God gives before Jesus. God can not give us complete freedom until someone follows him completely. Adam and the rest of us had played with satan; therefore God had to negotiate with this truth in mind whenever intervening in human affairs, especially in the OT.

    God will reveal Himself in a much purer way in heaven, because all do His will gladly there.

    Reply
    Mohammed Ali says: Sunday June 22, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Why has Isaiah 29:21 been mistranslated,misquoted,etc. to justify arresting men who compliment women and jailing people who are racists?

    Reply

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