Postmodern Prophet -

Wisdom

For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ec 1:18.

I’m not all that wise, but I’ve found this statement of The Teacher to be true. The more I learn the more I despair over the church. I have often longed to be normal, but God has not answered that prayer.

My best advice is that you work hard not to advance beyond your second grade Sunday School class.

Inclination

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.

 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ge 8:21.

At this point, following the flood and Noah’s offering to him, God decided to deal with us humans as we are. No longer would he try to develop a “pure” strain. Instead, he would have grace toward our impurity.

Thus, an imperfect Abraham could be God’s instrument. A very imperfect David could be called a righteous man. And me. And you.

Takes some pressure off, doesn’t it?

The Genesis flood story thus affirms that God has faced the monumental obstacle to the creation project constituted by the negative inclination of the human mind, has therefore thought of abandoning this creation project, but has determined not to do so.

John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 178–179.

One Day

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Is 11:1–9.

After the resurrection, when Jesus establishes his kingdom fully on earth, this is what day life will be like. I’ll take it.

God Never Changes?

He certainly does. Or at least, he certainly did that one time.

God became a man. He started that process as a fertilized egg, a zygote. Then he went through the various fetal stages. Eventually he was born as a baby and grew as a child to manhood.

That, my friend, is about as big a change as I can imagine.

Staying Involved

The life of the world, the life of nations and communities and the life of individuals are characterized by ongoing conflict. The First Testament gospel sees in that a frustrating of God’s creative purpose. God won a victory at the Beginning. Things were not meant to be this way. They came to be that way through the course of events. But having determined to achieve something, and having determined to overcome forces of disorder, God stays involved with this story. [Emphasis mine]

John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 74.

The world had not gone the way God would have liked. The story has many twists and turns, disappointments and discouragements. God could have given up on us. Yet he decided to stay involved and to tweak his plan (often) to counteract our bad decisions and actions.

I want to live a life of cooperation with God. That is the key, I think.

Creation

For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
Ps 33:4–9 (NRSV)

God created the world with love toward it and commitment to it. He created it to be good, righteous, and just.

Anything that isn’t good is not from God. You can blame him, if you want to. He can take it. But it isn’t his fault.

Jesus came to set the world right. To make it what God meant for it to be in the first place. He is coming again to complete the process, but who knows when that will be. Our job is to uphold righteousness and justice in the meanwhile, the in-between. For some reason, he has entrusted this responsibility to us.

Until kingdom come.

What God Does

Christian theology has not regularly talked about God in narrative terms. The creeds, for instance, are structured around the persons of Father, Son and Spirit, and systematic theology has often taken God’s trinitarian nature as its structural principle. Before the revival of trinitarian thinking in the late twentieth century, systematic theology often emphasized the fundamental significance of attributes of God such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and perfection. The Old Testament narrative does incorporate equivalent statements about God’s character, such as God’s self-description in Exodus 34:6–7. But the kinds of statement about God that emerge more directly from the narrative itself are ones such as those I listed above (God began, God started over, God promised, God delivered, God sealed, God gave, God accommodated, God wrestled, God preserved). It is this narrative that nuances for us who the Father is, for example, or what omnipotence is, or what grace is.

John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel, vol. 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 32.

In fact, our creeds — focusing as they do on a description of what God is like — are more platonic than biblical. Let us focus on who God is, how he acts. To do that, we must let the Bible speak for itself and not force the biblical content into a preconceived pattern of what we expect God to be like.

Not Perfect

In my tradition we have often been admonished to be perfect as God is perfect, without any teaching that would qualify that admonition and make it achievable. Many have been shipwrecked because perfection is unattainable. The old saints claimed such perfection, but we could see better, we knew better.

In God’s grace, there has been a change of emphasis in recent years.

As I’ve been slowly reading through Genesis, I’m struck by the fact that our patriarchs are far from perfect. Noah went on a drunken binge and exposed himself to his son, then blamed it on the son. Abraham lied about Sarah, putting her in danger to keep himself out of danger. Isaac let himself be duped by his wife and son. Jacob schemed his whole life and let his sons get out of control.

My purpose in life is to please God and advance his kingdom. I’m glad that is the kind of perfection he wants, because I’m no more capable of God-like perfection than our fathers were.

Apologetically Speaking

The time for Christian apologetics is past. The apologetics elves have either sailed out of Middle Earth or they missed the boat.

Once upon a time, Josh McDowell dined out on stuff like that. Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Even More …, etc. Then came Lee Strobel. The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, etc.

You were supposed to read those books so you could convince people who didn’t believe to believe on the basis of your logical prowess gained by careful attention to the arguments presented by McDowell and Strobel. Probably few ever did that. But they had good intentions.

Anyway, that won’t work anymore.

  • No one cares about logic anymore. All they care about is feelings.
  • Discussions always turn into arguments anyway.
  • We have more important things to do.

Rather than convincing people to believe, let’s get on with our mission. Love God and love people. Maybe they will get it.

Fair Fight

God wrestled with Jacob at Peniel. Jacob wouldn’t let him go until he received a blessing from God. Jacob got a new name — Israel.

The thought of wrestling with God is quite daunting. It doesn’t seem like a fair fight. “They are weak, but he is strong.” Yet Jacob/Israel wrestled to a draw with the living God and the only harm done was a sore hip.

Because God wrestled in the form of a man and made it a fair fight. God is love. And he started the fight.