Friday, 11 July 2014

Embracing a Christocentric view of the bible without throwing away the Old Testament.

Over the last few years I have discovered a secondary way of reading the bible. I used to interpret everything through the traditions of 21st century Protestantism. There was still genuine growth and some changes of views taking place along the way but always still from within the safe theological box of the mainstream denominations.  It may sound weird to some but for me I had to take a step away from that to find a more holistic approach to scripture. I guess that I could point to Wayne Jacobsen’s transition series as the biggest turning point for me in recognizing just how much God looks like Jesus and just how differently they are portrayed from one another in much of the church today. It was the parable of the prodigal God (most know it as the prodigal son story) in Luke 15 that really helped me to start reading scripture in a new way. Suddenly Jesus was not the guy taking a bullet for me from an angry dad’s pistol but rather he was the one showing me Fathers heart. The godhead now working together to rescue you and I from Satan, sin, self and death.

This led to reading almost everything in scripture with new eyes and a fresh perspective. But if God is really like Jesus (which He is); then there are some pretty crazy things happening in scripture that become hard to explain. Many today seem to be going the way of Marcion, an early follower of Christ, who rejected the Old Testament God in favor of what he perceived to be a better God. The problem with that is that Jesus affirmed the Jewish bible and so we should rather learn to see and read it as he did. Did God order the killing of entire nations? Did he drown the world in a flood? Did God really threaten to burn up the wicked in the afterlife? Did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Some would say no and there are some interesting angles worth considering by people who are defending those views. While I can say that I can see some genuine conflict within scripture that invites us to search Christ out and I do think that the progressive revelation of what God is like view does hold some weight in the sense that God was only fully revealed to us in the person of Jesus. I am not willing to say that the Old Testament authors got it wrong; how could I? My view in trying to make sense of these things could probably best be explained by using Matthew 24:22 as an example.

If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

There is no doubt about Christ’s call to us not to wield the sword and his own life was a perfect example of that as he was crucified by the very people he came to save. I believe he was modeling a way for us to live in a violent society and more than that, a way in which to overcome evil with good. Yet I also am reminded of Deuteronomy 32:35, It is mine (the Lords) to avenge, I will repay in due time. Judgment is there and definitely best left to God, He is after all omniscient, compassionate, patient, merciful and forgiving but Love must also intervene in order to protect what is good and also to end what is not . We may as well use the flood as an example because it is the most obvious of the atrocities mentioned in the bible. Thinking back to the principle of Matthew 24:22, if the days of Noah had not been cut short, would Noah and his family have survived? Would evil men have destroyed themselves as well as Noah’s family leaving no line for Jesus to be born into? Perhaps the flood was God's rescue mission for mankind rather than what we tend to make it out to be. It must be emphasized that God gave the men of Noah’s day 120 years to repent (Gen 6:3) before “cutting those days short”. The pattern is similar in many of the other low points of human history recorded in scripture. There is always warnings, invitations for redemption and time before judgment.

The other big one in scripture is hell. Many people have rejected God after the death of a loved one which forced them to consider what kind of a deity would torture someone for the rest of eternity for no obvious reason. While I do not believe eternal conscious torment is the best exegesis of scripture, I find Universalism to be even less convincing. Rather I believe that God offers all men eternal life through Christ. Those that reject this offer will not inherit immortality (see Romans 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, 2 Timothy 1:10) and therefore perish. I do plan on writing an article in the near future on conditional immortality vs. universal immortality as more and more info has piled up as I have continued to study the topic since I last touched on it. I find it difficult to view God as looking the other way regarding all judgment. Consider Satan being seized, bound and thrown into an abyss as described in Revelation 20 and I just cannot explain away the use of force in those kinds of scriptures.

Anyway, all of that to simply say that God is far more loving and good than I believe we could have ever imagined Him to be. Yet I think it is at our own peril if we dismiss the ideas laid out in scripture of God judging the wicked. He does it not because He repays evil with evil but because evil destroys itself (the wages of sin is death) and when left to grow, will ultimately end up destroying everything around it as well. God gives every possible opportunity for men to turn to him so that in His son they could find a release from the bondage of the power of sin. But ultimately, if Christ is to be all in all, everything outside of Him must be dealt with still.

So I do think that we can say that God wars against evil. I do not for a second though think that we should see this as a license to take matters into our own hands. All those verses about us stoning people, paying back like for like, oppressing others or causing harm to others in any other way; Jesus clearly overturned with his call to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. Yet what if the Hitler’s of the world become more and more in number and worse and worse in wickedness? Would we not cry out with the saints “How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10).

*After sleeping on this for a night I felt like clarifying something. I agree with men like Greg Boyd that God was revealed in the cross as the one who conquered sin, death and released the captives not by spilling blood but laying down his own life for his enemies. But to ask the question behind that question. What does God do with the free will agents like Satan or men who reject him after this? There has to be some sort of action to end what is outside of Christ if there truly will be a heaven on earth.


  1. I guess I'm going to have to check out that Transitions series. I also heard he had a "Jesus Lens" series and some other series that was good. Maybe it help me with my own ongoing struggle.

    1. Yip. Transitions and the Jesus Lens were both great, based on your own writings I am sure that you will enjoy him.