Sunday, September 09, 2012

2c God's Speakings 1

Last week I didn't have time to post my own biblical theology thoughts to go alongside my review of Grudem's Systematic Theology.  Here is more from my second section on "Revelation."

2a Revelation (From Text to Scripture)
2b Revelation (NT Understanding of Scripture)

So here goes...
God's Speakings
First, we must recognize that while Scripture is the first and best place for us to begin when we are looking to hear God's voice, God's revelation did not begin with Genesis and it did not end with Revelation.  On any reckoning, written Scriptures have existed for less than half of humanity's existence, and by most reckonings far less.  Christ, God's fullest revelation came even more recently.

Even then, this written revelation has only been available to the smallest portion of the world until recent times--most humans in history never heard of Christ.  And when you consider that the vast majority of people throughout history have been illiterate, the details of written Scripture have scarcely been available even to believers until recently. In short, if written Scripture is the only path to God, then the overwhelmingly majority of humanity has not known him.

Many Christians would reject the notion that God determines who will be saved and who will be damned.  Those Christians usually also reject the fall back position that God only determines who will be saved and that the damned are damned already.  Yet to believe that those who have never heard are inevitably damned is simply another form of that idea.  To be consistent, those who reject these forms of predestination should reject the idea that those who have never heard cannot possibly be saved.

The key is two-fold. First, one can be saved through Christ without knowing the source of one's salvation.  Secondly, God is far more interested in what is going on in our hearts than what is going on in our heads.  If God empowers those who have heard to be able to believe on him, then he can also empower those who have never heard to be able to respond appropriately to the light they have.

Revelation is not merely a matter of the understanding. It is primarily a matter of the heart. It is knowing God relationally far more than knowing God cognitively. A person can respond appropriately with his or her heart even if the head lacks accurate understanding.

Creation is the first revelation of God.  "And God said," Genesis 1:3 begins.  The result is that "The heavens are telling the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1).  Paul suggests that God's power and divinity are obvious to the world (Rom. 1:20).  Paul's sermon in Acts 17 implies that it is at least possible to find God through the stars and order of the creation (Acts 17:27-28).

We should not imagine that such knowledge of God is extensive from a cognitive point of view.  We are not really talking about the philosophical argument from design here.  We are talking about the awe of God captured so well as the psalmist is amazed, "when I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have established" (Ps. 8:3).

The stories of Genesis tell of God walking with various individuals who had no written word from God.  Indeed, they had little from God orally either.  We hear of Noah, then of Abram called from a foreign country. Abram came from a situation in which many gods were worshiped (Josh. 24:2). Presumably God spoke to more people and more often than the sparse indications of Genesis. Regardless of when it was written, Job is often thought to picture someone who was not an Israelite but who worshiped God rightly in his heart in the patriarchal period.

Abram knew God as El-Shaddai, "God Almighty," according to one strand of the Pentateuch (Exod. 6:3).  He did not know God as YHWH.  El was the king of the gods in the Canaanite pantheon, like Zeus in Greece.  Is it therefore possible that God met Abraham within his understanding, asking him to worship the highest God, without correcting his sense of the other gods (cf. Ps. 82)?  Melchizedek was also a priest of "God Most High," El-Elyon.  So here is God, long before written revelation, meeting godly people where they were at in their understanding.

At each point, God seems to refine the understanding.  God reveals himself as YHWH, as the "I AM," at the burning bush...


John Mark said...

Some random thoughts. It does seem there was an unfolding revelation; Joshua's farewell address indicates that Israel was polytheistic at the time and obviously struggled with this until the Babylonian captivity.
My personal history is that of a great emphasis on missions, and great memories of the mission movement of the late 19th through mid 20th centuries. "Send the light!" was the cry. I am trying to reconcile your understanding of God's work in the world-which makes sense as I read it-with the imperative to go and rescue 'souls in danger.' 'We believed that in contrast to the popular Calvinism (as we understood it) that everyone could be saved, but it was up to us to get the message out.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Humanity is "God's Mission" according to "secular humanists". It is all a language game, appealing to an "ideal"/universal, as humanity is not a practical reality, unless it is living amongst those where you live NOW!

Some might choose to go elsewhere to help "humanity" but whatever one does is "helping humanity", as long as it increases the prosperity and health of society.

"Hearing God's voice" is the "Mystery" that one has to believe exists, and still communicates. Some do not choose to believe this.

John C. Gardner said...

My reactions to your views on revelation and salvation of those who supposedly have not heard the Gospel. I heard a story from Joanne Lyon several years ago about the showing of the Jesus film to a group of muslims gathered from different countries. Men began to stand up and say that this was the man they had been dreaming about. I also heard a similar story from a missionary in the Middle East. Aquinas believed that God communicated sufficient information to all who were seeking God(including sufficient information about Christ). Several Protestant groups contain similar provisions in their religious articles. This seems consistent with the Biblical story of God sending the evangelist to the Ethiopian Eunuch. A Wonderful post.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Muslims believe that God reveals, and the story of Jesus reveals what they value because it is their culture; poor, ignorant, outcast, etc. Their "hearing" is a bias.

We "see" and "hear" what we are presupposed to believe or according to our bias. Therefore, those that do not believe "God speaks" will not "hear". And believers will call it "hardness of heart"....others will call it sensibility, because one cannot waver from "the Word of God".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

A scientific bias would seek to explain or describe such a situation in a psychological/socialogical/anthropological way.

John C. Gardner said...

You man assert such a position but assertions are not warranted. I hold to a Christian theistic position which is intellectually respectable and includes Denis Alexander(doctorate in NeuroChemistry, John Collins(scientist and theologian) and other eminent scholars. It is a position not consistent of course with naturalistic evolution(which is as much a metaphysical statement as a scientific one. You might also want to read the works of William Farraday. My position within Christian intellectual traditions is Faith seeking understanding.

John C. Gardner said...

My second comment below should read may rather than man.