Friday, April 24, 2009

Dissecting Debbie

Seeking to know God by arguing about the Bible is sort of like getting intimate with your wife by dissecting her. It may be enlightening, but in the end all you've accomplished is to reduce her to meaningless meat. Refrigerate after opening. A felony in all 50 states, mind you.

My wife's grandpa once told me "If you think you can improve it, take it apart. But if you want it to work, leave it be." J.C. Stanley knew machines. J.C. Stanley knew God.

Systematic theology excels at analysis. That is, taking the bible and God apart. It then reassembles the parts in an orderly way (a vast improvement on that crazy, chopped up, puree-of-Bible, right?) It is a grand learning exercise, and great fun for us who relish it. But we must cling to this truth with white knuckles: the final product is not the Word of God, it is an abstraction of the Word, a simplification, an interpretation. At its best, it diminishes the Word; at its worst it distorts the Word. The product is not a living man; not even a dead body. Even at its richest and best, it is a chalk outline on the asphalt that oddly resembles the men who drew it. "The body without the spirit is dead."

Jesus said "The wind (pneuma), where it wills, it goes. It's sound you hear, but you cannot see whence it comes or whither it goes. So is each who is begotten from the Spirit (pneuma)." (Jn 3:8) If your faith cannot endure mystery, I suggest you study engineering, not God.

Those who slice specimens of God and peer at him under their microscopes wind up with nothing better to do than argue "which is greater, faith or works?" (Geez, did not St. James clearly enough warn against separating the two?)

In Love, faith and works unite, and from their union springs blessed life. In Love, heaven and earth unite, as God breathes his spirit into the man of clay. In Love, man and woman unite, and life begets life. In Love, Word becomes flesh and they are one; "whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." Jesus, son of Man, son of God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. These sum up the Law and the Prophets.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jesus for Dummies?

Man, these guys are smart. The blog-o-sphere abounds with bulging theological biceps, and torrents of erudite scribblings about Christian faith. Some are professors, and some are ordinary guys like me. Their intellect is sometimes dizzying. And since I fancy myself the world’s smartest man, I enjoy reading and sometimes even daring to question their conclusions.

But one particularly smart and admirable internet sage really left me scratching my head with this, which I excerpted below, from his blog Parchment and Pen. He says:

“God cares more about what you believe than what you do. Belief, truth, doctrine, theology, and, yes, being correct, is more important than all the good works one can ever do. It is God’s first desire that we believe correctly...Think of the incarnation, hypostatic union, the Trinity, the eternality of God. These are the context in which right worship, the most important deed of all, can take place.”

His blog fans loved this: “It’s about time someone stood up for Truth”, and so on. I did not love it. Does that make me weird?

Does the ability to make subtle theological discourse, or the capacity to evaluate and embrace something like “hypostatic union” mean a man is more able to know and worship and obey God? If that were true, it seems inescapable that God takes more pleasure in the more “accurate” worship of smart people than the “fuzzy” worship of the unintelligent. As your children might phrase it, "God loves smarties better than dummies."

So here is a couple of questions:

How conceptually correct must a man be before his worship counts to God? Is a theology professor better able to warm the heart of God than his dyslexic janitor?

If you and I hold a different belief about God (say predestination versus free will), does that mean one of us is worshipping a different God, a false God?

What would Jesus say?

(By the way, I rearranged Patton’s words from the article and comments for brevity and clarity. Go read the article and all 67 comments for yourself. It really is a pretty good thread for theologs.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Torah and Temple

Could the beauty and splendor of a fancy church ever actually distract people from hearing God and his Spirit? There's a question for you.

And since we here at the unchurch are all about stealing content information sharing, here is a great piece from Keren Hannah Pryor:

Moses's brother, Aaron, was appointed by God as the High Priest (Kohen Gadol). Aaron and his sons are to be instituted and anointed to serve as kohanim (priests) before God in the Mishkan, the Holy Tabernacle of His Presence. Moses is irrefutably the esteemed leader of the people as well as God’s prophet and teacher of Torah – God’s instruction and guidance. Now, in the office of High Priest, Aaron is awarded the place of intermediary between God and His people in the procedures of worship and service to God in the Mishkan.

Torah and Temple
Some Jewish commentaries suggest that Aaron’s appointment caused Moses concern. Not a concern stemming from sibling rivalry and jealousy, but a fear that the ministries of Torah (teaching and studying God’s Word) and the Temple (worship and service to God) would be separated. If they were split apart the people might lose sight of the importance of their essential unity and connection. The beauty and splendor of the priestly garments, the glowing interior of the Holy Place, also the exterior beauty of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple, literally the Holy House), and the dramatic activities of sacrifice and prayer – all these might distract the people from hearing the voice of God. In other words, the glory of the Temple might obscure the truth of the Torah.

History records that by the Second Temple period, when the Temple was a focal point of Yeshua’s life and teaching, this is exactly what had happened. The chief priests, who comprised the leadership, were corrupted by the power of their position and their collusion with Rome. The external was what mattered, and their hearts were far from God. Then the Torah Incarnate walked into their midst. The light of the eternal Word broke into their religious darkness. To some it brought repentance and life but to others, when the status quo of their self-appointed kingdom was suddenly threatened, it brought confusion and rage.

In the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua we see all the separated, dissonant parts of the Torah and Temple drawn together in a glorious, harmonious whole. Mercy and majesty, humility and glory, service and truth merge together in Him. The Messiah, foreseen by Abraham, Moses, King David, and the prophets, perfectly unites the physical and spiritual worlds, the human and the Divine.

A humble prophet like Moses, Yeshua speaks and lives the Torah of God, but He also is the exalted High Priest who bears His own blood of sacrifice to the Mercy Seat of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies. In so doing He gains Atonement for sin once and for all. This same High Priest is now seated at the place of power at the right hand of God constantly interceding on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25-26; 8:1).