Imagine God…Creation Defines God

I was thinking about this idea of defining the image of God for a few months now…and here is where I am at…banter with me if you will. 

God is not an image we truly can know the looks of. God is One – alone – no one person to compare God to – we have no real frame of reference for the comparison. Humans, well we can compare away – there are billions of us. We can make sculptures and statues of men and women from times past – even when we are not sure their looks (we have something to compare them to). As for God, He is One…with no comparison.

But does God care to be imaged?

Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol (or graven image), or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth

Is God a burning bush? Is God a still, small voice? Maybe God has human characteristics – as seen in the garden of eden “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen 1:26). But you know what…in all of these instances…we are not given God’s image (but pieces of the image). 

I am under the assumption God does not want to be ‘seen’. Maybe this is all for the better – we humans would try to own God in some ‘image-making’ way.

God is mysterious – the unknown – even His name remains mysterious. I like that you know. I don’t want a God that I can define with an image – God is imageless. That’s an important point to make. Once we can define God (physically or whatever) – we cease looking to God – but to the image we have created (even the one in our minds).

Mistake…do not make God into an image…God is not an image…or at least one we can define.

God…Can I Have My Allowance?

Again, I think that all of this would much more easily be solved by simply affirming that God’s nature is not that of a supernatural interventionist who has the power to act upon the world from the outside if he/she so decides to, but rather as a creative force that acts through the natural world, through persuasion rather than coercion. Take away the idea of God as omnipotent supernatural interventionist, and the problem of theodicy goes away.” (Mystical Seeker – on ‘Ehrman and Wright’)

The first line I actually agree with altogether – God seems to be in the business of allowance – letting humans decide their own fates. This would be similar to a parent’s actual level of control over a teenager or a young adult – limited but still loving.

However, if I can use the parent comparison some more, even sometimes the parent does break-through and is allowed to help in a decision for the grown, responsible child.

God may not be into intervening per se – just don’t tell that to the Jewish Nation – Exodus is just such an event for them. Now real or not, we can make our judgments about that, the fact is this is a theological viewpoint from within the texts of the bible. But here we have a case of God’s intervention – actually – a lot of the biblical narratives contain intervention (even up to the prophets themselves – who sort of change the interventionist mold).

I see a move in the theological viewpoint from Adam to Noah to Abraham/Moses to Joshua to Judges to Kings and to Prophets. If you check it out – we move farther away from intervention directly from God to intervention through humanity (via the words of God). I think intervention has to be real or why even look into the idea of a God at all (Ehrman has a point here) – intervention is in the texts themselves is even a cornerstone of God’s connection with humanity.

The problem of evil, for me, is answered in the idea of God’s allowance…God is letting humanity shape itself with the very words of God. Even if God spoke directly at one point (Sinai) – there does seem to be a shift from the treatment of humans as children (needing to be led) to adults (using the words now to define the path). God wants us to be responsible with what we were given by God (created for). This is where evil is given a chance – in choice – we can ask Adam about this…maybe even Moses.

For me, God intervenes…on some small level now – but largely through the written teachings. I’d be remiss to say God is no longer in the business of intervention – then God doesn’t have the ability more or less – and that’s may be stripping from the reality of the Creator. The created can think the Creator is made in its image.

Maybe God is leaving the responsibility of intervention also within our hands – the teachings we embrace cover ideas directly linked to this – peace, justice/mercy, love, charity, community, etc. I think the problem is ‘is God letting us be more responsible’? And this may be to the human failure/success – but that’s no better or worse a prospect than Noah’s times.

The ‘I’ in Interpretation

There is no ‘I’ in interpretation…wait…sorry…there are 2 of them. Which leads to the precise point of this blog – we are part of the interpretation we decide upon. We play a role and to not play that role risks an interpretation that is…well…lacking having real substance. 

The most unpleasant interpretations involve us not having elaborated on the teaching we are reading – there is no ‘I’ in the Nterpretaton (doesn’t look right does it?). Basically, we are removed from the equation and no matter what our experiences – they have no bearing on the meaning of the teachings of God…but someone has to decide what it means don’t they? 

I tend to think, and call me crazy, we are all involved in what we read and the meanings thereof. You cannot remove yourself from the interpretation – actually – you are the interpretation. Say it with me ‘I am the interpretation’ (uh oh – he just used an ‘I am’ statement – I am only speaking in the 1st person and metaphorically). 

What do I mean – ‘you are the interpretation’? It’s easy – you decide what the words of God mean to you and how they will look when ‘applied’ in your life. God does not decide that for you – God is into delegating this responsibility onto us – we have a mind and the ability to ‘use it’ (some would say ‘you are created this way’). 

Blessed are the meek’…you decide how that is going to look and what it is going to mean in your community. Maybe there is no blessing for the meek or maybe there is an over-abundance of it…either way…how are they ‘inheriting the earth’ and ‘how does this look to you’? ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’…maybe there is room for action towards the under-classed in your community – then again – maybe there is no concern for their plight. You decide this one

They may be ‘true’, they may be ‘the way’, and they may even be ‘life’ – but they are also quite ‘useless’ if not applied/used. You don’t build a house by thinking about it – you develop the plans and put in the ‘work’. Not every house is the same either – thank God – and we all elaborate a little bit on how we want the house to look. But we are involved in the meaning of it all (call it our interaction with the fingertips of the Divine). 

May our mansions be based solely on the way we developed our foundations – upon the work we’ve committed to our house standing…this is my simple prayer.

Hard to the Core (Interpretation)

The beginning of the discussion in any of these doctrinal discussions is interpretation – what do the words mean that we are reading. I have noticed this is the beginning of where we all start to go ‘one way or another’ – not that this is ‘bad’ – but this is where we choose our perspectives on what a scripture will say.   

I think we all try to let the scriptures speak for themselves and that is our goal – but we cannot help but bring in some of our own biases – that’s quite normal. The real question is – does our biases hurt the interpretation or help in the ‘mining’ of it? 

EX1: Blessed are the meek (gentle or humble), for they shall inherit the earth (Matt 5:5) 

That sentence is going to depend on how we define the terms within it. Meekness is a word we have to define – what does it mean to us? Its blessing is interesting – ‘shall inherit the earth’ – what does that mean? It’s also antithetical in its emphasis – meek inherit the earth? How so? But that’s the task of the interpreter. 

EX2: But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matt 9:13) 

Interesting teaching, when you consider its ramifications…but this is a teaching attributed to Jesus. Why does the focus on compassion mean more than the focus on sacrifice? What are the ramifications of a sentence like that on our daily lives? On our theologies? On the way we view God? On the way we view others? Meaning does, in a sense, determine your actions. 

This is where we all are having the problem clicking with one another on our various interpretations of scripture and debates into the study of God (theology). This however goes a lot deeper than a few passages – we actually get into whole books, whole works of an author, and comparative frameworks. 

Some see the various books as quite different but working together – some do not see this at all – the books are harmonious. Some see a difference in focus from gospel to gospel – and letter to letter…some think is not the case. So we will never see ‘eye to eye’ on all issues – that’s the obvious part – but that’s not the troubling part. 

The troubling part is only select interpretation is the intent of the author – and someone knows it (to some in-depth extent). We start to discuss ideas about God (or even scriptures themselves) and apply the selected criteria to those passages – so it reads as we need it to. 

EX1: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me“. (Matt 7:13 & John 14:6) 

These passages are sometimes held so in common one might think they were written one after the other in the same chapter. However, they are not – they are in different books with different authors (and in different contexts/conversations). Do those passages mean the same thing? Question is – how can they – they look nothing alike. 

EX2: The gospels in their accounts of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus say little to nothing about the meaning of the atonement (fact). Many of the letters refer to this aspect of the death of Jesus. 

Why do the gospels not delve into the meaning of the atonement in more depth – if it is such a huge theological breaking point for the faith? The letters, namely Hebrews, seems to make this such a central theological point that it cannot be ignored (unless one stops reading). Whose emphasis is right? The gospels or the letters? 

The problem we are all facing is breaking down the teachings/scriptures to their core meanings and what is important. So what is the core meaning and how do you arrive at it?

The Evidence of God II

***Comment taken from the ‘Evidence of God’

Society. I may be wrong but I think he is saying he is afraid for your soul if you do not believe Jesus is God in the flesh” (Michelle)

Agreed…but that’s not what he said – he did say this ‘I sense that you are not serious about God or the eternal state of your own soul’. If I said that to you Michelle (or anyone in here) – what do you think I am implying with that sentence? One, you dont care about God and two, you don’t care about yourself (my soul was mentioned) – nice…two commandments in one sentence.

I do not believe Jesus is God/Deity in the flesh – that’s not to say I don’t ‘follow Jesus’ and believe he was ‘the son of God’ and ‘Messiah’. I can say like John ‘every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God’ (1 John 4:2). Jesus (last name not Christ) the Messiah has come in the flesh and gone.

to believe Jesus is who He claimed to be — the great I AM.” (Michelle)

I am a believer (in God – the I AM) but I don’t believe that statement. Now there is some claims to Jesus being divine in the NT (not gonna argue that) – but there is no concensus from book to book to letter. John and one verse of Paul allow for divinity (and John can be read a few ways – not just literally all the time) – but there are 4 real problems here that orthodoxy (these councils) did not ‘Flesh’ out.

(1) God cannot die…that is a fact none of us would dare argue. Fact is – Jesus does die (for a period of 3 days). Are we going to admit God can die…what a sturdy foundation we have been given?

(2) God cannot be tempted…another idea from the Tanakh and even the NT “for God cannot be tempted by evil…” (james 1:13). – Yet we know full well Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness – for what…40 days! Granted he did not give in – but if he was God then who cares – that’s not being tempted at all. Ants build nice houses – but they don’t tempt me to want to live in them.

(3) Jesus is proclaimed to have been human – yet the orthodox position is clearly Jesus was 100% God and 100% human…I got some bad news for everyone – there is nothing human about that statement. Jesus has a whole 100% more than any of us in these convo’s – his God side…making him not a human but someone in the appearance of humanity.

(4) Jesus says he follows the One – “”What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD” (Mark 12:28-29). That is the Shema in Jewish circles – which all Jewish people have recited for decades (prior to Jesus even) – and was supposed to memorized as the greatest teaching. Jesus, oddly enough, calls it the foremost teaching – so he agrees. What he is also saying there is ‘God is One’ in agreement with the scribe…does he think he is the One? From context – it doesn’t seem that way.

I think I raise fairly valid questions on these issues – and give plenty of reasons (from scripture itself) why I do or don’t accept certain ‘beliefs’. Does that realy make me any different than anyone else here?

***Now I am kind of tired of the Jesus and God debate (for writing in blogs) – but I laid out 4 good reasons I dare anyone to challenge – my own Josh Mcdowell/CS Lewis theory if you will. I think this is the best trinity case I have put together.

Atonement and ‘Common Ground’

A lot of recent convo’s into atonement and it’s meaning have revealed a few things to me that I haven’t thought about in some time and I made some conclusions on my part (and again, that is open to change because this is a process of learning). However, it raises the best questions around – which I will get into.

Firstly, the atonement is a thing that has little bearing on the way faith is played out right now. We still struggle with sin, we are still going to die, and the Torah/Prophets is still waiting complete fulfillment. So what does the atonement really mean in current context? Resurrection, sin, and death are all things to be dealt with at a ‘later date’ – and we use them figuratively to foreshadow that day. I know I struggle with a variety of sins so what does it all mean? I will die because this is the human reality.

Secondly, this leads me to a ‘common ground’ thing – concerning our fellow compatriots in Judaism. Are we not all just following the Torah and Prophets – us being Gentiles (and not quite as closely as they do) and they being Jewish? Isn’t this our role right now – to follow the teachings of God and develop our faith that way? To be perfectly honest, the Torah and Prophets is not completely fulfilled (according to my view of it) – so isn’t the Judaic way quite alright a way to follow? Just cause we are Gentiles should not cancel out the greatness of the faith that inspired us – Judaism.  

Lastly, the real problem has ‘come alive’ of what really seperates us. Brad makes this point ‘Of course, key to this aspect of orthodox doctrine is that Jesus’ death, while sufficient and freely given for all, is only effectual for those who know Him.’ It doesn’t matter though – because we are all still just following the teachings of God at this point – and Jesus (and all the letter writers) – only elaborate on original Judaic texts. One can ascertian the Jewish faith actually follows the teachings of God…this is my opinion.

Jesus’ death was sufficient for what? Forgiveness of sins? Isn’t this all subject as to whether we follow the teachings of God (to be forgiving or what not) and thus should recieve that mercy? How can we be sure someone knows God is the better question?

The Problem w/Atonement

“Some good questions. I have mentioned this before elsewhere, but this is a very appropriate place to bring it up again. The idea of substitutionary atonement is deeply rooted in Judaism. Remember that in Genesis 3, we owe death for our sin…He needed to become the perfect sacrifice, He needed to pay the penalty that was due the Lord, He needed to take our death onto Himself” (Mike)

“Uhm…Mike…I think you are forgetting something in this theology….we all still die…yeah…it’s still happening. So if Jesus’ sacrifice was to replace the ‘temporary coverings’ then how come death is still being required of us? Did i miss a memo somewhere?…If Jesus has taken our death – then there should be no death at all for us who believe?” (SVS)

“Yes, it is. But His resurrection is “proof” of that future promise being fulfilled. This is confirmed in Paul’s epistles as well as Revelation. Revelation especially shows the saints yearning for that future restoration of the new heavens and new earth. The “not yet” aspect is also prophesied in the Old Testament (Ezek. 37). Jesus accomplished in the middle of history what He will do for us at the end of history.” (Brad)

“But Brad, if it is ‘not yet’ then what did the atonement actually accomplish? Jesus resurrected – that’s great – but we all die still irregardless of some subsitution for our sins (which apparently is the penalty for our sin – this death thing – passed on from Adam)…we are still paying for our sins (dying) because the substitution is not fulfilled? Isn’t that what it has to mean in this theoogy? It’s also quite ludicrous to say Adam sinned so he died and we will not die because our sin has been wiped clean…fact of the matter is…we die…thus sin still exists.” (SVS)

See, here is the problem with the rhetoric…sin = death. We are all still dying – that’s a fact we all can attest to (even as I sit here and read the obituaries). So if we are so ‘free from sin’ as is claimed – then shouldn’t it also be that we wouldn’t die (since sin is taken care of)? But we do die. So the atonement theory needs more explaining in my opinion – what did Jesus die for then? And if sin is still the problem and Jesus died to correct the situation some 2000+ years later – and sin is still the problem (forget resurrection) – how does this all work?

Taken from ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ on Confessions of a Seminarian.