Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. – Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, June 20, 2021

How Do You See the Kingdom of God? Part 1 of 2

 

Notes from a dear friend

Russ, here is my summary of N.T. Wright's teaching on the Kingdom of God. Am I summarizing him correctly?

THE KINGDOM OF GOD - WHAT DID JESUS MEAN BY THIS?

"It assumes that Israel's God was the world's true ruler. Israel's God would rule Israel in a whole new way returning in Power and Glory, to rescue His people, rebuke the wicked, and set up a new rule of justice and peace. Torah would be fulfilled at last, The Temple would be rebuilt and the Land cleansed. Israel's God would rule in the way He always intended through properly appointed persons and means. By implication the rest of the world will also be ruled through Israel whether for blessing or judgment. Promised Kingdom of God as promised throughout Psalms, Isaiah 40-55, and the Book of Daniel. The people in Jesus' day had long cherished hope for a new exodus out of the exile that began with the Babylon Captivity in 597 BC, a new Temple, a reconstitution of the 12 tribes, a renewal of the Covenant, a national forgiveness of sins, the release from captivity, an epoch of peace and justice and an end of foreign rule. Through Jesus, God was now unveiling his age-old plan." - Anon 

How Do You See the Kingdom of God?
PART 1 OF 2

by R.E. Slater

INTRODUCTION

Having been raised (i) in a fundamentalist dispensational church, then (ii) attending a public university to hear dispensationalism preached all over again at both a on-campus Christian campus ministry and an off-campus fundamentalist bible church, and (iii) once again when transferring from university to study the bible at a fundamentalist private bible college - let's just say I am exquisitely familiar with the charts, diagrams, prophecies, themes, and hopes of Christians and their "Biblical" Systems attempting to organize the themes and eschatology of the bible (known as the "Day of the Lord" in the OT).

For the sake of argument let's simply say there are two prominent schemas of the bible which denominations have proposed and actively promote. One is the dispensational system and the other is the covenant schema of the bible. Certainly there are many more... both as variations of these systems as well as completely different from these systems... depending on your beliefs, religion, and historical roots.

In my graduate year of Seminary (M.Div, New Testament Studies) my capstone project under Dr. Carl Hoch, Jr., was to summarize the bible thematically. I believe we came up with eleven separate themes of the bible as a class where eschatology was woven in-and-out-and-around all eleven themes. Essentially we did not stipulate an eschatological system except through the major themes of the bible which also spoke to God, Christ, and divine purposes, goals, or aims as we could fathom.

DIVIDING THE WORD OF GOD

Before beginning what I would like to mention here are a number of ways to miss what the bible is saying by getting too wrapped up into systemizing it's component parts. Probably the easiest way to graph or chart the bible might be by stating there are two testamental era... (i) one before the cross of Christ and (ii) one after the cross of Christ. However, even in this observation there are some sects which espouse three testaments or even four testaments depending on how they look at the bible's canon. The Jewish bible (e.g., the OT) has three parts:
The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or “Teaching,” also called the Pentateuch or the “Five Books of Moses”; the Neviʾim, or Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or Writings. [As a collection] they are often referred to as the Tanakh, a word combining the first Hebrew letter from the names of each of the three main Jewish divisions.

Know this let me suggest some other ways to divide the bible...

  • Two Testaments: One Bible;
  • by observing Covenantal Continuities v. Discontinuities (based upon the covenanted community at the time in transition per historical era, such as early tribal Israel, pre-kingdom Israel, kingdom Israel, exiled Israel, the InterTestamental Age, Jesus in Roman Israel, Jesus in Resurrection, or the Church after Jesus' death and future coming);
  • Christologically as seen within each of the Covenants in either Testamental period; known as The Christ of the Covenants;
  • perhaps via various schemas of Millenialism (none, pre-, mid-, post-trib, amill);
  • or by God's promises to His covenanted people themselves, better known as Remnant Theology;
  • by the tension between the Here-and-Not-Yet, described as the Presence of the Future;
  • or reading the NT through the eyes of the OT; or, the OT through the eyes of the NT; sic, Jewish v Christian; summarized in the New Perspectives of Paul.
  • perhaps by the biblical themes of Messianic Hope;
  • or themes of Gospel v Law as Contrast or Continuum? between the covenants;
  • there also have been studies of the bible from the perspective of God's Covenanted People: God's promises to Israel (kingdom communities) as versus God's promises to the Church (ecclesiological communities): Israel and the Church;
  • or perhaps of Christ-as-the-MidPoint-of-History (sic, Christ in Time: theophanies, prophecies; thematic pictures of Christ in the OT, etc);
  • then there is God's Design of Creation, Salvation, and Well-Being mostly focused on viewing the covenants for differences in legal pact, formation, geography, and promises; 
  • and lastly, any other basic theological issues in Debate unaddressed by all of the above and in formations and debates around their validity of insight - or overall helpfulness - in knowing God and His creation through Christ, event, experience, and outcome (thus the contributions of many over this past century in applying Process Theology to Hellenised/Modernised Christianity).

Whew! So as you can see, there is no one way to divide the bible but LOTS of ways as one  would expect in a diversity world with many needs, philosophies, and cultural traditions. So to simply say one is a dispensationalist or one is a covenant person really doesn't say a lot except that each individual is trying in their own way to picture who God is, what He wants, and how He intends to interact with humanity (and very creation itself... which we always tend to lose sight of being overly focused on ourselves).


WORDS OF ADVICE

At this point let me throw out a few charts with the precaution that like the study of numerology I would strongly resist getting too far down the rabbit's hole in this subject. It never seems to end... as coincidental imagination runs rampant through the comparative themes of the bible. But some of us love to organize and chart things - meaning that this type of study can be a wizard's delight locking one into his or her own tower of trolling the news and social media looking forwards-and-backwards trying to predict this-or-that to come. To those future prognosticators out there, dial it back... take your passion and apply it in ministry to the underserved by providing bedding, clothing, housing, job training, and local community helps. Don't get lost in this area of predicting and prognosticating. Thanks.

To help sink in this kind of fruitless exploration let me note two things. First, history can be visualized as a helical spiral moving upwards in hope in Christ (rather than downwards in defeatism). Events and circumstances always tend to repeat but never in the same way. The Christian church recently has been going through its own apostasy these past few years (I count since the 1990s)... not unlike past historical ages of Christian apostasy away from Christ and towards worldly structures. Observation: Don't be surprised when history repeats itself... but never in the same way twice. It seems to move in escalated helical cycles.

Secondly, Christ says when He comes it will be as a thief in the night. He's not advertising His coming, He's just coming. Think of it as a surprise birthday party, or special event in your life you weren't expecting. So too with Christ. All the charting in the world is not going to help in determining the times and the seasons of Christ's coming. He's just coming. We call this form of future an "Imminent Coming of Christ" as versus a "Date-certain form of Coming" which we have had plenty of these failed predictions since the year 2000. Name the event and you'll have the prognosticators out there with their charts saying "He is Coming!"

Perhaps I'll add a third... my wife always like to say "Lord Come!" PTL, Hallelujah! To which I sometimes loving respond, "Dear, it's better to say 'Lord BECOME.'" Why do I say this? Because the Cross is a past historical event and whether Christ comes again or not is not in our Christian jurisdiction to control. But it is in our Christian responsibility to birth the love of God and the salvation of Christ to one another in all that we say and do. For me it's not a "Wait and See" event but a "Here-and-Now" let's-get-busy-event. There is work to do and God cannot do it if we are not out in the world bringing it about. I have no intention of waiting, charting, or predicting. But I have every intention of bring Christ to the world right now. Hence, "Not Lord Come! but Lord BECOME! in our midst!"


DISPENSATIONAL CHARTS AND AGES



Dispensational Link

http://voiceoftruthblog.com/a-survey-of-the-history-of-covenant-theology-part-ii


THE SEVEN DISPENSATIONAL AGES
1. The Dispensation of Innocence. (From Creation to Adam’s fall)
2. The Dispensation of Conscience and Sacrifice. (fall of man until the flood)
3. The Dispensation of Human Government. (flood until the tower of Babel)
4. The Dispensation of Promises. (Babel until Moses)
5. The Dispensation of Law. (From Moses until Pentecost)
6. The Dispensation of Grace Abounding. (Pentecost until the rapture)
SEVEN DISPENSATIONS

The number of dispensations vary typically from three to eight. The typical seven dispensational schemes are as follows:

1 - Innocence Adam under probation prior to the Fall of Man. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Some refer to this period as the Adamic period or the dispensation of the Adamic covenant or Adamic law.

2 - Conscience — From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge.

3 - Human Government — After the Great Flood, humanity is responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law in reference to this period of dispensation.

4 - Promise — From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness. Some use the terms Abrahamic law or Abrahamic covenant in reference to this period of dispensation.

5 - Law — From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD70. Some use the term Mosaic law in reference to this period of dispensation.

6 - Grace — From the cross to the rapture of the church seen by some groups as being present in 1 Thessalonians and the Book of Revelation. The rapture is followed by wrath of God constituting the Great Tribulation. Some use the term Age of Grace or the Church Age for this dispensation.

7 - Millennial Kingdom — A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1–6), centered in Jerusalem, ending with God's judgment on the final rebellion.


COVENANTALISM

My next path of life began occurring during (i) those same years in private university, then (ii) under a beloved bible teacher in Sunday School (Dr. Hoch, again) whom (iii) I followed into New Testament Studies in Seminary after graduating from the fundamentalist bible college I had attended. The Lord was preparing me to see the bible not from a dispensational viewpoint but from a Reformed Covenant viewpoint. Though the seminary was attached to the dispensational college I had just graduated from, for some reason, there were seminary professors more in line with covenantal thinking at the seminary level. Curious, right?

Which ended up being very helpful as to me, as dispensationalism felt very artificial and subjectively placed onto the Scriptures. A forced exegeticism if you will. But the covenants of the bible from a Reformed understanding of them (ahem, but not from a Reformed Protestantism perspective - they tend to be more fundamental. But a covenantal perspective more in line with the RCA and CRC churches of America) made more sense biblically to me. And as a Baptist moving away from fundamentalism and towards a progressive form of evangelicalism (though all my environments could be classified more accurately as conservative evangelicalism... not progressive evangelicalism) it felt more appropriate to speak of God and the future in the broader terms of His covenants as they reached out to humanity.


As I know them, there are seven covenants which recognize biblically without straying into systematic versions of the covenants such as covenants of law/works v grace, or covenants of redemption, or into covenants of church ritual practices such as baptism and communion, etc.

And the reason these are important is because they are all related to the Semitic idea of relationships classified more formally as ancient Near Eastern Covenant Treaties of which I have several very long seminary papers expressing the meaning and vitality of each covenant treaty of the Old and New Testaments.

I suppose the one I like the best is the one showing how the Abrahamic Covenant is related to the ancient Suzerainty-Vassal Treaty form of the bible made between God and man where God says He will sacrifice Himself for the good-and-protection of those expressing allegiance to Him (Genesis 15.17). Of course the natural parallels to this B'rit speak to Christ and the church with the Cross as the cleavage between life and death where the Prince of Life, the Creator-God of the cosmos, is sacrificed on humanity's behalf and for our salvation. What are the seven covenants? Here they are:

THE SEVEN COVENANTS

Ancient Near Eastern treaties
The Hebrew term בְּרִית bĕriyth for "covenant" is from a root with the sense of "cutting", because pacts or covenants were made by passing between cut pieces of flesh of the victim of an animal sacrifice.

There are two major types of covenants in the Hebrew Bible, including the obligatory type and the promissory type. The obligatory covenant is more common with the Hittite peoples, and deals with the relationship between two parties of equal standing. In contrast, the promissory type of covenant is seen in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Promissory covenants focus on the relationship between the suzerain and the vassal and are similar to the "royal grant" type of legal document, which include historical introduction, border delineations, stipulations, witnesses, blessings, and curses.

In royal grants, the master could reward a servant for being loyal. God rewarded Abraham, Noah, and David in his covenants with them. As part of his covenant with Abraham, God has the obligation to keep Abraham's descendants as God's chosen people and be their God. 

God acts as the suzerain power and is the party of the covenant accompanied by the required action that comes with the oath whether it be fire or animals in the sacrificial oaths. In doing this, God is the party taking upon the curse if he does not uphold his obligation

Through history there were also many instances where the vassal was the one who performed the different acts and took the curse upon them.

1 - Adamic/Edenic
2 - Noahic
3 - Abrahamic
4 - Sinaitic/Mosaic
5 - Priestly
6 - Kingly/Davidic, and
7 - New Covenant





HITTITE SUZERAINTY-VASSAL TREATY
FORM OF COVENANT

1 - Preamble: Identifies the parties involved in the treaty, the author, the title of the sovereign party, and usually his genealogy. It usually emphasises the greatness of the king or dominant party.

2 - Prologue: Lists the deeds already performed by the Suzerain on behalf of the vassal. This section would outline the previous relationship the two groups had up until that point with historical detail and facts that are very beneficial to scholars today, such as scholar George Mendenhall who focuses on this type of covenant as it pertained to the Israelite traditions. The suzerain would document previous events in which they did a favor that benefitted the vassal. The purpose of this would show that the more powerful group was merciful and giving, therefore, the vassal should obey the stipulations that are presented in the treaty. It discusses the relationship between them as a personal relationship instead of a solely political one. Most importantly in this section, the vassal is agreeing to future obedience for the benefits that he received in the past without deserving them.

3 - Stipulations: Terms to be upheld by the vassal for the life of the treaty; defines how the vassal is obligated and gives more of the legalities associated with the covenant.

4 - Provision for annual public reading: A copy of the treaty was to be read aloud annually in the vassal state for the purpose of renewal and to inform the public of the expectations involved and increase respect for the sovereign party, usually the king.

5 - Divine witness to the treaty: These usually include the deities of both the Suzerain and the vassal, but put special emphasis on the deities of the vassal.

6 - Blessings & Curses: Blessings if the stipulations of the treaty were upheld and curses if the stipulations were not upheld. These blessings and curses were generally seen to come from the gods instead of punishment by the dominant party for example.

7 - Sacrificial Meal: Both parties would share a meal to show their participation in the treaty.


CONCLUSION

I'll leave below helpful links to today's article. The next set of topical links will relate to Eschatology and Kingdom Perspectives from a variety of view points. These I will develop in a second related article to today's posting. Enjoy!

R.E. Slater
June 20, 2021

* * * * * * * * * *



Kingdom Series, Parts 1-3

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tuesday, June 22, 2021



Article References







Related Topics Here at Relevancy22


Eschatology - End Times (22 articles)

Eschatology - Our Responsibility (15 articles)

Kingdom Eschatology (37 articles)

Kingdom Now (12 articles)

Theologian N.T. Wright (19 articles)

Paul - NT Wright Series (23 articles)






Related Topics at Relevancy22

Listed by Topic

Eschatology - End Times (22 articles)

Eschatology - Our Responsibility (15 articles)

Kingdom Eschatology (37 articles)

Kingdom Now (12 articles)

Theologian N.T. Wright (19 articles)


Listed by Index





* * * * * * * * * *