Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Christians Miss the Main Thrust of God's Word

It is sad that in this day and age, too much emphasis is given to new Christians on the New Testament. Most modern day evangelicals (the average church attender) are New Testament Christians only and not Biblical (whole Bible) Christians. As a result we have produced a race of Christians who are formal, "keep-your-nose-clean", unexcited and unexciting, ultra-right-wing conservatives and very often, quite legalistic Christians.

One must have a big picture view of the Word of God in order to approach it the right way and to get not only maximum value from God's infinite wisdom but to bathe and immerse in loving communion with the God of the universe who is now OUR Father and OUR personal Shepherd.

Assume that there were no New Testament and we lived before Christ and the only source of God's revelation is the Jewish Scripture (which is the Christian's Old Testament). One would find the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who promised a covenant relationship with an elect group of His creation. Reading further one would discover the God of Joseph who can put down and raise up, the God of Moses whom we can communicate personally and directly with and sometimes argue with and yet although He is a God of mercy and will constantly forgive, many times He WILL NOT remove the consequences of our sin (Moses never entered the promised land he worked so hard to bring God's people to).

And so on and so forth, the God of Joshua and Gideon who can fight for His people, the God of David who can reward to the highest degree (David's line will be eternal) and punish to the lowest degree (humiliated David forever for his sin with Uriah and Bathsheba and killed the son that resulted from that sin despite David's efforts to beg for his life!). Read the major and minor prophets and discover a relationship with God that is beyond personal relationship.

So, to put the New Testament in perspective: It was meant to do just a few things
  1. Demonstrate the extent of God's unconditional love. God also had to show that He exceeds Abraham's sacrificial gesture of sacrificing Isaac.
  2. Clarify that salvation is by grace through faith resulting in inheriting the righteousness of God, or being reckoned righteous before God.
  3. John 15 and the Sermon on the Mount clarifies that God is a relational God, that his objective for creating man in His image is to have a loving covenant-relationship with autonomous creatures out of their own free will, for them to surrender back to Him that free will willingly and completely.
  4. To clarify that justification or salvation is just a step (albeit definitely necessary) in the big picture of relationship with God.
  5. To explain the unique culture that a child of God and citizens of heaven must possess to be DIFFERENT from the world and normal men.

Christians should not approach the New Testament with a "what must I do to keep my nose clean" attitude, in much the same way as not approaching it with a "what should I do to get what I want" attitude (much like the health-and-wealth or name-it-and-claim-it aberrations of theology).

Christians should approach the New Testament as a culmination of the principles and demonstrations of God's relational objectives with those whom He "created in His image". To derive maximum value from the New Testament, one must view it as an addendum to the Old Testament and the completion of God's revelation to man. It must NEVER be viewed as God's NEW dispensation because the old covenant as written in the Jewish Scriptures have been changed.

This last point is quite important. The first century church which started as a mustard seed has grown to be the biggest tree in the garden consistent with the parable of Christ. It is God's Kingdom among us, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy. One can only appreciate the Spirit behind transformed lives in the first century when one realizes that their ONLY Scripture was the Jewish Scriptures or what we now know as the Old Testament. The church grew inspired by a risen Savior and a new enlightenment of what the Jewish Scriptures were all about. What we now know as the Gospels, Paul's letters and the other epistles were essentially just incidental letters of instruction that further explained what the Jewish Scriptures were all about. The main point I wish to draw from this important historical background is that it is necessary to read the Bible THROUGH JEWISH EYES in order to fully grasp and appreciate the the Author and the Spirit behind those Words.

Sadly, much of the influence of the later church fathers as well as some early church fathers looked at Scripture from the intelligencia Hellenistic perspective and the clouding of the relational aspects of Scripture gradually faded in favor of the classical Greek concepts of a more impersonal God ( the unmoved mover, lower case to me as it IN NO WAY describes the God of Israel!), an impassive God (pure Bible contradiction of God's personality), Absolute (and unbridled) Sovereignty (another Greek concept so devoid of love and relationship at its heart because it believes that God cannot and will not risk anything [a clearly empirical and experiential contradiction]), and other theological "garbage" (read that in French!).

[This is work in process....more soon]

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