Sunday, December 22, 2013

Greatest Common Denominator: God

I already have some writing plans for next year, but I thought I might outline from time to time what a book following my "Greatest Common Denominator" theme might look like. The idea here is to to get back before Charles Hodge's atomistic approach of the early 1800s to a more big picture approach to Scripture similar to how Christians of the centuries read the Bible. The idea here is:
  • Identify the center of biblical thought on a topic and
  • Recognize that there may be "unclear" passages we need to let lie.
This is different from the current culture, which seems to accentuate difficult verses in the drive to take every verse into account. So what might a chapter on the GCD of God in Scripture look like?

God is God
The biblical authors did not need someone to tell them what a god was. A god was a being of fearsome power who never died. For Christians, God is more than any god of Greek mythology. For us, God is all-powerful. For us, God was never born and is truly eternal. The eternity of God is a unanimous report from Scripture, and while there may be verses that sound as if God does not have all power, the GCD of Scripture for a Christian is that God is omnipotent.

Again, there are verses that sound like God does not have all knowledge, but the GCD takes these as exceptional verses. Explain them how you will--progressive revelation or simply misinterpreted. But most Christians believe that God has all knowledge of both the past, present, and future.

There are a few other GCD attributes of God. God's Spirit is everywhere present in the world. God is self-sufficient--he does not need the world.

Ultimately, to say God is God is to say that God is holy. Holiness is, at its very root, God-ness. Yes, God is pure, without sin, and so forth. But these are simply other ways of saying God is love. At its root, to say God is holy is simply to say that God is God.

God is Love
The central events of Scripture are God sending Jesus to earth, Jesus dying to reconcile the world to God, and Jesus rising to be enthroned as cosmic king. John 3:16 indicates that love was God's motivation. God's primary attitude toward the world is love. He did not create the world just to give him glory, although that is its primary obligation. He also created it to be an embodiment of his glory in itself. The creation is also glorious because God created it.

God's primary desire for the creation is its redemption, reconciliation, and benefit. In the light of the NT, approaches that focus on God's justice as the ultimate value are out of focus at best. At worst, they use a desiccated version of God's love and make it a cold, perfectionistic standard.  God's love provides the ultimate definition of justice--actions and attitudes that are harmful to others constitute wrongdoing that must be curbed.

God's discipline is 1) redemptive, 2) protective, and 3) abandonment, in ultimate cases. What we call justice is simply God's standard of love for the universe written large. Again, minority reports in Scripture must either be considered misinterpretations or instances of progressive revelation. Christ is the final answer as to God's ultimate nature, the ultimate embodiment of who God is.

Some thoughts on what might go into a GCD book on God in Scripture...

1 comment:

Susan Moore said...

“He is the image of the invisible God…” (Col. 1:15). Yea, that’s it!
Had a revelation today. A life changer no doubt.
In my online testimony I write that my Catholic parents gave me a Catholic Bible when I was 12 and I read it cover to cover. I then prayed and responded to Romans 10:9; I believed and confessed and was saved by grace through my faith, and became indwelled by the Holy Spirit. That’s my story and I’ve stuck to it.
But I’ve always wondered what power gave me the strength to say, “No!” to the practices of the cult I was exposed to when I was 5 years old. They obviously had the authority to have their way with me, and they did; thus the resultant PTSD and related sequela.
Every time I said no just made us both more resolved. But I had zero fear. And I do mean zero. They resolved to break me, and I simply would not break. Over and over throughout some months. Who’s power and nature can account for that strength (in a 5 year old, yet)? And if indeed I was not saved by grace until I was 12, but this happened when I was 5…
Today in the class I’m taking on Catholicism I learned that Catholics baptize their babies because Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in my name…” and “if you have faith and do not doubt” so they ask for their babies to be brought into His family. They understand that when enough gentiles come into His family that He returns (Romans 11:25), and that women will be saved through childbearing (1 Tim.2:15).
Catholics understand that His word and His works go together 100% of the time. When they leave the baptism, believers have zero doubt that their infant has been saved by grace through their faith, and now has the immortal Holy Spirit dwelling in him or her. Later in life when the age of accountability has been reached, and after a confession of sins has been made, during Confirmation the same baptized child has the opportunity to confirm their faith as an adult.
My revelation is that the Catholicism faith-tradition accounts for my strength as a 5 year old, Protestantism does not. I was not saved by grace through my faith and indwelled with the Spirit when I was 12. I was saved by grace through the faith of my church family, and indwelled with the Spirit, when I was baptized as an infant (in a church where the mass was still said in Latin, a language I did not understand).
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).