According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Who Is the God of the OT? Is the Jesus of the NT that same God?

 

  
I continue to be interested in the topic of whether we have a dipolar God of the bible who is harsh and judgmental in the OT, or loving and forgiving in the NT. Some have answered that this is a problem between cultures and societies - that humanity is progressing steadily forwards in its apprehension and understanding of divine redemption and forgiveness (sic, David Webb's "Redemptive Movement" hermeneutic). While others suggest that it is the biblical authors themselves who allowed their nationalized perspectives to overrule their descriptions of God (re the creation of the composition of the bible during the Jewish second temple period when collating Israel's ancient, oral legacies and stories). Some, like Richard Dawkins, simply give up trying to understand the God of the OT altogether and throw both God, and the bible, out as imperfect representations of the true God of the universe, recreated by zealous, religious bodies of believers. And then there are charges of a less-than-sublime bible that cannot be authoritative nor infallible if it isn't also inerrant and literal. Which subject we have declared null-and-void in previous discussions pertaining to all things salvific and redemptive, as versus literature that is genre-based (poetry, songs, psalms, hymns, etc) and comparatively written to the cultural beliefs of ancient Near-Eastern societies of the day.
 
 
 
 
So that it seems to me that the issue of discovering who the God of the bible is, is one that has been percolating within the ranks-and-files of the church for awhile now. On the one side, we see wild acclamation for the unbelievable and unsupportable in films like History channel's recent depiction of "The Bible" supporting the stoutest of evangelical doctrines delivered in the best of the American imagination. And in years past, we have beheld Discovery channel's many interpretive depictions of the bible and its characters swinging from conservative beliefs to liberal charges of incredibility and inaccuracy. So that battle lines are drawn up between the faithful and the heathen, and no one seems to be able to civilly discuss their charges without delivering one-line zingers from one side to the other in smug propositionalism and fracturous impunity.

However, the better course of action is to attempt to provide civil answers to these topics rather than denigrations about fellow rivals by honestly allowing legitimacy of the problems pertinent in each area while working towards resolution without the necessity of having to form complete answers. That is, to live in the tension and mystery of the bible where-and-when it must reside, while at other times declaring what we think we do know couched within whatever working paradigm we are coming from. And in this case, when looking at the seeming differences between the God of the OT and the God of the NT, asking ourselves just what area does this discussion fall within.... Is it Theology Proper - the study of God Himself? Is it in the field of biblical interpretation and hermeneutics? Is it within our frame of modernism's scientific enlightenment and forced syllogisms? Or is it within postmodernism's frame of tension and narrative? Does it delve from questions of Sovereignty, or the Divine Character of love and holiness - touching then upon the several theosophical areas of Classical Theism, Relational Theism, Process Thought, and Open Theology? Is it one of human subjectivism based upon our closed epistemologies and personal existential needs of the moment?

Accordingly, this broad base of anomalous biblical study is made even broader and more complex so that we find ourselves sucked into the vortex of a black hole of theologic discussion causing us to flail around its turbulent center unable grasp onto anything solid enough without losing hold to drown even deeper within its violent philosopohic whirlpools and eddies. Ultimately to give up and say its too complex, or to determine within ourselves our own subjective declarations and pejorative judgments regardless of fact or reason, creates in essence our own revisionistic fiction and mitigating group beliefs.

However, theologians, historians, sociologists, psychologists, academicians, ethicists, and so on, each are asking, like Eric Siebert himself, who this God of the OT is when we see Him so brightly portrayed again in the NT by its many biblical authors and descriptive stories. And to that extent we need answers, not calls to be more "zealous and faithful" to the Bible. Part of the answer lies in not separating out the Actual God of the bible from the Textual God of the bible, which can be fraught with redactive subjectivity and cultural impingement. But in sublimely discerning that Jesus identified the YHWH (God) of the OT as His God, who was present in Himself fully, who was Himself YHWH, become Incarnate amongst His creation, in the NT.

Thus, we know the God of the OT through Jesus who necessarily redefines Yahweh by His incarnate life and ministry. And apparently this needed to be done because by the time Jesus appears in Jewish history the templed priests and hierarchy were speaking of a God of merciless law judgment rather than of one who ruled by divine love and example. So that when Jesus corrects these representatives of the Old Covenant He is crucified for His heretical teachings and rejected for His example. Leaving with us the gnawing feeling that those who study only the OT cannot know God's true mind and heart without the Christ of the NT. Such is the legalism found within religious man's prideful heart. A legalism no less found in the church today as it was 2000 years ago.

Henceforth, for guide and guidance we must start with a Jesus-centered bible and move both backwards in time, and forwards in mission, with Jesus at the center of all things present, historical, and teleological. For it is in Jesus that we have a fuller understanding of God whose image is all the poorer and murkier without Jesus. In Jesus Yahweh becomes One. Not less. Not two. Not idealized nor idolized. But one in revelation by divine incarnation. It is the grand mystery that Christianity must spin around less we become flung from orbit around the very God we proclaim and vouchsafe.
 



And it is here then that we have a baseline to begin with. A baseline that Siebert mentions many articles earlier as a possible answer to the charges of a dipolar (ethical) God. One which he says that the Jesus of the NT is the exact representation of the YHWH of the OT - an OT God who doesn't simply judge, but loves, and loves intensely. Just as the Jesus of the NT not only loves, but judges intensely (ultimately, Himself, upon the Cross, for our sins). Charges that may transcend mere human editorial in the OT and NT, towards discovering a consistency between the God portrayed in both Testaments, singularly and alone.
 
That said, we might then begin  with Scott McKnight's review of David Lamb's book, "God Behaving Badly," and see if we cannot discover another line of thought alongside the several that Eric Siebert has helpfully proposed. Thus transitioning this discussion from one of biblical interpretation to that of "theology proper" (e.g., "the study of God"). To begin here first before moving forward to all other areas. And more than that, to the study of Jesus, the incarnate Yahweh, come to men.

R.E. Slater
March 9, 2013

 




God has a bad reputation. Many think of God as wrathful and angry, smiting people right and left for no apparent reason. The Old Testament in particular seems at times to portray God as capricious and malevolent, wiping out armies and nations, punishing enemies with extreme prejudice.But wait. The story is more complicated than that. Alongside troubling passages of God's punishment and judgment are pictures of God's love, forgiveness, goodness and slowness to anger. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction? Can God be trusted or not?
 
David Lamb unpacks the complexity of the Old Testament to explore the character of God. He provides historical and cultural background to shed light on problematic passages and to bring underlying themes to the fore. Without minimizing the sometimes harsh realities of the biblical record, Lamb assembles an overall portrait that gives coherence to our understanding of God in both the Old and New Testaments.
 
- Amazon book description, "God Behaving Badly"
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Articles by Scot McKnight
May-June, 2011
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Suggested further study
 
How God Became King, by NT Wright

Book Review: How God Became King, by Scot McKnight

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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