Monthly Archives: April 2014

The peril of violating conscience by teaching contrary to apostolic patterns of explanation

To believe and teach and insist upon some theological theory, such as the Anselmian formulation of the Atonement, even though it amounts to a pattern of unsound explanations neither found in nor founded upon explicit apostolic teaching, is surely to risk violating one’s conscience! As perilous as this is in other cases, it is much more so in the case of teachers who communicate such errors wholesale to whole classrooms of note takers who are graded by conformity to them in the absence of the authentic Biblical data in its own configurations and internal patterns of associations and word relations. To have to continue to struggle with the Biblical patterns, though seemingly irresolvable into handy formulas, is far, far superior to being handed pre-cut systematics of our own terms and on our own terms.Let not many become teachers!” (James 3:1) [12/10/06]

THE DEFICIENCY OF “SUFFICIENCY”

The assertions that “the cross is sufficient for salvation” and “Christ’s death has provided all that is needful for redemption from sin” (Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989], p. 373, the author’s italics) dogmatically marginalizes the work of the Father in raising him from the dead and therefore woefully denature the nature of salvation. This declension goes to the very marrow of orthodoxy, is parroted from generation to generation, and demands vigorous rejection and immediate rectification. The Cross is useless timber without the Resurrection! No! It is not sufficient for salvation and has not provided all that is needful for redemption from sin! How can any devout Christian theologian so blithely ladle out such DEFICIENCY UNDER THE COVER OF “SUFFICIENCY”? Moreover, who are those so ill-informed of the apostolic Proclamation as to believe this caricature, this travesty? The Cross without Resurrection is death without life! [12/10/06]

The notion that “The notion that God might simply have left humanity mired in its own fallen history may be arguable on the grounds of divine righteousness (Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989], p. 376) is grossly unrighteous! It’s an astonishing foible of orthodoxy that God represents His own benign and noble rectitude or rightness or uprightness as glowing in that black light of “arguable” vindictiveness! But this mode of argument comes natural to an orthodoxy that long, long ago wrongly (i.e., unrighteously) butchered the Explanation of Truth and now can keep its error in force without the slightest exegetical effort because almost no one seems to demand it of them! Well I demand it! I demand scriptural proof that “It is not right for God to love” and “it is not holy for God to love” but instead that “rectitude and love are in tension” and “holiness and love must be balanced.”  [12/10/06]

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“ACTIVE AND PASSIVE” OBEDIENCE?

The artificial distinction between Christ’s so-called “active” and “passive” obedience is anything but innocent and clarifying. It obscures the thoroughgoing unity, the seamlessness, of Christ’s singular faithfulness to the Father, separating what God has put together. The motive for such a division is evidently to give place to the incursion of “substitutionary” notions that sabotage the fully participatory glory/meaning of the Lord’s obedience and sacrifice. This diabolical (even if ignorantly well-meaning) rift must be courageously repaired even if the whole wrath of misconceived orthodoxy flares forth to avenge its threatened pet. May God help us forward in this crucial advance to recover the original Gospel in its own apostolic terms and authentic syntax. [12/9-10/06]

“THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS IS THE SEED OF THE CHURCH”

Tertullian’s celebrated aphorism has a rationale that runs very deep, nourishing, in fact, the deepest and broadest roots of the entirety of Christian existence. The full measure of Holy Spirit that Jesus received at his baptism he parleyed and traded for more and more as he continued to chalk up victory after victory in temptation after temptation, trial after trial. He lived the irue “Christian” life—our christened Forerunner. After its consummation in his final, supreme trial and cross, he deposited the entire vast investment of his obedient career—his “sowing into the Spirit (Galatians 6:8)—into the faithful hands of his Creator and Father. Falling thus into God’s waiting hands, this “kernel of grain,” dying, brought forth “much fruit” (John 12:24) in an exceedingly abundant harvest of agelong life not limited to himself, but belonging, by God’s swelling graciousness, to all who believe.

This all reveals a pivotal principle of God’s Kingdom: our offering to God of our life in the Spirit—our blood—allows Him to magnify His graciousness many fold to others who need it. This is why “not as yet was [Holy] Spirit [given]” as far as we were concerned, until “by God’s gloryJesus was raised as Messiah and confirmed Master, and his investment of seed magnified into a rich harvest of Spiritual vitality when he was transformed into a Life-giving Spirit. Observe carefully that it was precisely the Life he received at his Baptism that was given back to him in superabundance through his willing self-sacrifice out of love for the helpless, the hopeless, the enemy! Some investment! One that can never default! What can compare to 3,000, 6,000, or 10,000 percent interest? (“30-, 60-, and 100-fold”!)

This all is paradigmatic for us, his true children, called to be living sacrifices and living martyrs. His supreme sacrifice, in effect, facilitated a cosmic blood (life) transfusion for the whole needy progeny of Adam—whoever believe in him! His act of true love was trumped and crowned by God’s very own resurrectionary endorsement and Pentecostal infusion. [12/10/06]

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Christ’s once-for-all “crossurrection” induces our one-by-one conciliation

If God, in fact, does not need to be conciliated to humanity, then it is pointless to insist on the questionable exegesis that makes “reconciliation” (actually conciliation, i.e., one-way, not bilateral) something that was “accomplished in the past, once-for-all,” since, in fact, it was not. The verb tense in II Corinthians 5:18 is aorist, i.e., indefinite: “Yet all is of God, Who conciliates us to Himself through Messiah.” This is not a past tense, so does not retroject the action back to the Cross. This verse simply states the decisive fact concerning God Himself as initiator and author of our conciliation through Messiah. The actual conciliation occurs experientially person by person as they believe the amazing Proclamation of the fact of and reason for Jesus’ death on the cross, i.e., in order that God, by raising him from among the dead might unveil with riveting proof His own agelong intention of graciousness to mankind. But although God’s marvelous conciliating event of “crossurrection” was indeed staged once-for-all as an “objective, finished act” (Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life. Systematic Theology: Volume Two [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989], p. 356), it only becomes operative one by one (or tribe by tribe…). But the intrinsic power of the historic deed is diminished if and when we posit some “necessary” spiritual operation “behind” the act. For Heaven’s sake gaze upon the actual historic circumstances of the events as proclaimed in the New Testament. Stripped of substitutionary baggage and penal barnacles, the wonder of the appointed event bursts forth in a blaze of captivating, gripping, conciliating truth! It is this astonishing Message itself which breaks down our sinful resistance and reels us in, one by one, into God’s saving reign! [12/08/06]

“CONSTITUTED JUST

Romans 5 represents Adam’s progeny as being “constituted sinful ones” by Adam’s “disobedience,” because of which “death passed-through into all mankind, whereupon all sinned.” As we know, death overtook all mankind because the fruit of the Tree of the Living was placed forever off limits. So when Paul continues, “thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just [ones],” we notice that it results from “life’s justifying” via the “just award (dikaioma) given to Jesus Messiah by God’s judgment at his resurrectionary vindication and “superabounding” to us by God’s graciousness. In John’s words, “In this was manifested the love of God among us, that God has dispatched His only-born Son into the world that we should be living through him” (I John 4:9). The temporary “pleasure” of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil turned the Tree of Life into the cursed Tree of Messiah’s cross before we could get resurrected back to life. [12/08/06]

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No wrath at the Cross, or all would be lost.

God was not “punishing” Jesus at any point in his earthly career, and most certainly not at the Cross, where his most arduous and extreme exertions of love to his dear Father were being poured out in pitiful agonies of purest devotion and beleaguered expectancy of deliverance and passionate, loyal rescue! A thousand times NO! His uncompromised ardor went up to God in holy smoke, most pleasing to his Father, evoking nothing other and nothing else than undiminished favor and tenderest sympathy, the practical upshot of which was his corporal resurrection and celestial glorification to the highest place. Jesus’ suffering of human abuse, therefore, was endured in the extreme consciousness of divine favor. For he well knew it was training (paideia—“discipline”; LXX, Isaiah 53:5), not punitive, penal strokes of “payment” via “substitution.” As in the disciplining or training of our own children, although indignation may be expected to rise, anger, wrath, and fury must be firmly controlled, and in fact may seriously compromise the procedure and even evoke a counterproductive backlash. (See, e.g., Michael Pearl’s many works on child rearing; also Andrew Murray’s, The Children for Christ, original edition [Chicago, New York, Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Co., n.d. (c.1910?)].) Hence there could be absolutely no wrath from God at the Cross or ALL WOULD BE LOST! [12/08/06]

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God is holy because He loves and loves because He is holy.

The pitting of God’s love against His holiness (i.e., wholesomeness, as I have argued elsewhere) in traditional orthodox fashion is perverse and pernicious. To be sure, this antithesis, this diametric tension, is ever construed as a harmonious balance of divine attributes, but it is radically contrary to the biblical usage of both terms. But no matter, Scripture is seldom appealed to by those who allege the dialectic (I should say diabolic) tug-of-war as they chatter on and on.

Only a God as holy/wholesome as Jehovah could love so mightily as to send His own Son to suffer and bear our abuse, treachery, denial, betrayal, and abandonment, although he did us nothing but good during his entire career. If he had for one moment sinned during his entire life, we would doubtless have theologically construed his horrific demise as some sort of “just deserts” from God for failing Him in the assigned task. But no such escape remains to us. Jesus loved us enough to die this way BECAUSE HE WAS SO FULL AND RUNNING OVER WITH THE AGELONG SPIRIT OF WHOLESOMENESS. THE FIRSTFRUITS OF WHOLESOMENESS ARE LOVE, LOVE, AND MORE LOVE, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!

Moreover, the Father Himself placed His seal of approval on Jesus’ style of wholesomeness such as eating with tax collectors, associating with Samaritans, touching lepers, healing the sick, expelling demons, and raising the dead. By, in turn, RAISING HIM from the dead too! The name of this game is GRACIOUSNESS IN EXCHANGE FOR GRACIOUSNESS! The Son, in our very own corrupt and lustful, covetous and mortal flesh, by the life-giving power of wholesomeness without measure, became a transparently clear SHOW WINDOW, DISPLAYING ALL HIS FATHER’S QUALITIES.

Theologians who depict God’s “holiness” (as they call it) as some sort of legalistic scrupulosity, a punctilious, punitive compulsiveness, need to look long and hard through this “display case” of Jesus’ body so as to behold true, authentic, resplendent, munificent wholesomeness, PURE AND SIMPLE! They still appear to breathe the stuffy air of the scribes and Pharisees, who, though too “holy” to touch and heal, were only “whitewashed sepulchers,” full to the brim with “dead men’s bones and all corruption.” WHO YOU GONNA BELIEVE? [12/07-08/06]

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The cross in Plato

The just will be whipped, stripped of their skin, tied and blinded with fire. When they have suffered all these pains, they will by nailed to a cross. — Plato, Republic (2, 5, 261E). Quoted in Leonardo Boff, Jesus Christ Liberator: A Critical Christology for Our Time (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1978 [1972]), p. 111. [12/06/06]

A STRICTLY PENAL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IS ONE SIDED

Romans 13 teaches that even secular civil governments are instituted not only to avenge wrong but to applaud good! So a strictly penal view of administering justice is ONE SIDED, and certainly veers our understanding away from what God did for Messiah Jesus, the Master, by raising him from among the dead! [12/06/06]

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“Substitution” a misnomer with reference to the Atonement

The logic of God’s Proclamation is not—emphatically not!—that He was “substituting the sufferings of Christ in the place of the eternal damnation of sinners” (Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Systematic Theology [New York: George H. Doran Co., 1878], p. 272, emphasis added). Divine logic, much rather, REQUITED THE ABUSES AGAINST MESSIAH WITH AGELONG FELICITY FOR HIM, but with so much gracious overcompensation that it spills over to all sinners under agelong damnation if they simply trust this rousing fact! How can this properly be denominated “substitution”? Such a misnomer terribly confuses our apprehension of the real Truth and horribly compromises its otherwise stunning impact.

God’s great love can hardly be represented in fairness by a “substitutionary” rationale; it fails from the start to appeal to our sense of justice, the more so if we root that sense solidly in Biblical justice as illustrated by both Testaments! God’s love, however, is incomparably magnified by our getting to enjoy our Savior’s just deserts! [12/06/06]

God did indeed “improve the opportunity, which sin had afforded, to manifest and make known His true character, and thus secure the highest confidence of His subjects” (Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1878, p. 273, emphases added), but assuredly not by the method Finney advances, i.e., by God’s “preferring the [substitutionary] atonement to the punishment of sinners” (p. 272), for this actually, realistically, “rationally,” seriously taints “the estimation in which the sovereign is held by his subjects” (p. 273). God, to the contrary, improved His opportunities to evoke and elicit our everlasting affection and loyalty by unveiling a GRACIOUSNESS BEYOND OUR POWERS TO IMAGINE OR EVEN GUESS! [12/05/06]

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