Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 8

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if death was inherited from our original progenitor Adam (through whom sin entered the world) by the ban from the Tree of Life, whereupon (epho) everyone sinned willy nilly (Rom. 5:12), i.e., what if “original sin” is a phantom, whereas the biblical facts point to “original death” yielding bondage to sin’s reign by instilling fear of death (Rom. 5:21; Heb. 2:14-15)?

What if Adam’s descendants are not bearing the penalty for Adam’s sin, but instead are suffering the radiating collateral evil effects of his sin, even as the children of an abusive parent may suffer many sinful assaults yet remain innocent, not guilty of their parent’s wickedness, regardless of agonizing delays until the long arm of the law finally catches up to penalize the guilty parent (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ez. 18:1-19-31)?

In fact, what if, in the Old Testament, voluntary “bearing” (nasa) of the iniquity/sin of another person equates to “forgiving/pardoning” that person, and is usually so translated?

What if bearing a sin means suffering the collateral evil consequences it causes?

So, what if the only two New Testament passages that use this expression (Heb. 9:28 and 1 Pet. 2:24) likewise should be interpreted as Christ (and God in Christ) pardoning the deplorable national sin that rendered the crucifixion a sin-offering, and by that conciliating act of peacemaking, beseeching the whole doomed world for Christ’s sake, “Be conciliated to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20)?

What if Aaron remained “Holy unto Yahweh” despite his duty to “bear the iniquity of the holy things” (Ex. 28:36-38; Lev. 10:17-18), because bearing the sins of others does not make a person guilty of sin for doing so—far from it!—it can be an act well pleasing to God (Ez. 4:4-6)?

What if this means that the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement was likewise holy because it bore the iniquity of the people of Israel (Lev. 10:12-20, 16:20-22)?

So, what if this means that Christ remained holy while suffering the iniquitous assaults from Jews and Romans, so could not possibly have “become sin,” but rather “became a sin-offering,” i.e., the One-Sinned-Against?

What if the damage sustained by the first Adam’s descendants cannot properly fall under the rubric of punishment for his disobedience, nevertheless, whatever benefit redounds to sinners from the second Adam does properly fall under the category of reward for his obedience?

What if to suppose both the first and second Adam punished breaks the marvel of sustained antithetical parallelism and destroys the dialectic showcased in Paul’s sevenfold layering of logic in Romans 5:15-21, whereby in each of these seven verses he variously drills the identical contrasting correspondence epitomized by 5:19:  “even as through the disobedience of the one person the many were constituted sinners, thus likewise through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just,with no implied parity of punishment whatsoever (which would heavy-handedly overrule heuristic exposition with dogmatic imposition)?

What if “Christ is the end of the Law for justness” (Rom. 10:4) precisely because “the just-award of the Law” (Rom. 5:16,18, 8:3) that he alone could rightly claim by his faithful obedience to God’s will (Rom. 5:16,18,19 8:3; Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8-9, 10:5-14; John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38-40, 8:29, 9:31-33), and for which God’s justness duly super-compensated him (Rom. 5:17,21, 8:10), namely, the covenantally promised Gift of the vivifying Holy Spirit that raised him from the dead (Rom. 8:11; 2 Cor. 3:6; 1 Pet. 3:18-22), he turned right around and dispensed for free (2 Cor. 3:3-18) to his believing brethren, apart from “works of the Law” (Gal. 2:16-5:14; Rom. 3:21-24), in order to fill them (Rom. 8:3-17), so they can walk in that same Spirit of love (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 5:28-33) bearing all the fruits of the Spirit, against which there is no law (Gal. 5:14-6:2)?

Since Christ fulfilled Isaiah 53:4a (“He our infirmities got, and the diseases he bears”) by miraculously expelling demonic spirits and curing illnesses (Matt. 8:16-17), then what if he similarly fulfilled Is. 53:5,6,11,12 (“…he was wounded from our transgressions and crushed from our depravities…Yahweh Himself causes to come upon him the depravity of us all…with their depravities he himself shall be burdened…he himself bears the sin of many…) by miraculously rising from the dead (Is. 53:10b-12a, 52:13), thereby, in principle, abolishing and swallowing up death in victory and simultaneously condemning sin, which can only reign in death, and whose power is the Law, the just-award of which Christ had won hands down (Rom. 8:3, 5:21; 1 Cor. 15:21-26,54-57), and thereby both morbidity and mortality melt away miraculously?

What if, in accord with the Patristic epitome that “What Christ does not assume, he does not heal” (Gregory Nazianzus, Epistle 110; Theodoret), so, by the logical law of conversion, what Christ does heal (consummately!) via his resurrection—namely, his Adamic mortality—he must have assumed, i.e., Adam’s “body of death” = “the flesh of sin” (Rom. 7:24, 8:3)?

What if sin was “condemned in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3) when Christ was “justified in Spirit” (1 Tim. 3:16) as the “life-making Spirit” (1 Cor. 15:43-45, 2 Cor. 3:3,6, 13:3-4) of the better, New Covenant (Heb. 7:11-28) at his resurrection, hence God never “needed” to condemn the Savior in order to condemn sin?

What if the world (lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, ostentation of livelihood) was conquered in Christ’s own mortal flesh by his perfect learning of obedience (1 John 1:7-9, 2:12-14, 4:4, 5:1-8; Rev. 3:21), enabling him to defeat Satan at that last great trial (1 Cor. 10:11-13) and cast him out of the world by obedient endurance of the cross (John 12:31-33; 1 Cor. 2:8; Heb. 2:9-18), which God swiftly repaid by resurrection, thus swallowing up death decisively, including sin, which can only reign in death (Rom. 5:21; 1 Cor. 15:55-57)?

What if Christ’s two-fold victory over Satan’s temptations—at the outset of his ministry, but ultimately at the appointed time of the cross (Luke 4:13)—equates to his condemnation of sin (Rom. 8:3), the judging of the world, the expulsion of Satan (John 12:31), the erasing and nailing to the cross of the handwriting of Jewish decrees (Col. 2:14-15), and the “killing the enmity” in his circumcised Jewish flesh (Eph. 2:15-22) that had perennially separated Jew from Gentile?

What if at the Cross, in one fell swoop, Christ gained a decisive and total victory over Moses’ Law (with its curses), Satan the Tempter, along with the sovereignties and authorities in high places, plus Death and Sin—all by surrendering himself to be murdered by those he came to save and then waiting for God to justify him to new, immortal life (with a generous surplus to throw a gigantic giveaway) and exalt him to a throne of sovereignty, authority, honor, glory, and majesty over all things—a compound conquest completed, however, only in the aftermath of his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 8:1-3; Eph. 2:13-18; Col. 2:8-3:5)?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 7

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if Christ tasted wrongful sufferings and death in the graciousness of God so as to mature his faith through hard discipline (paideia, Ps. 105:22 LXX; Is. 53:5 LXX; Heb. 2:9-18, 12:1-11; Rev. 3:19; in classical antiquity, just preceding translation of the Septuagint, paideia denoted training or education in Greek culture, art, science, etc., not penal chastising)?

What if the “smoking stove and fiery torch” that appeared when the sun went down and a “darkening [flame, LXX] came,” and passed between the severed halves of the sacrificed animals during the cutting of the Covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:17), were not signs of God’s wrath but of His acceptance, as when fire would fall from heaven to consume well-pleasing sacrifices (even as with the tongues of fire at Pentecost, betokening cleansing for service as living sacrifices), plus divine graciousness in the midst of “the dread of looming darkness” (Gen. 15:12), prophetic of the 400 years of humbling slavery (Gen. 15:13), followed by analogous events at the Sinai Covenant (Ex. 19:18, 20:18-21), for “afterward they shall come forth with a great many goods” and “you shall come to your fathers in peace” and be entombed “at a good greyhaired age” (Gen. 15:14-15)—all tokens of God’s favor?

What if the odd Levitical curse for getting hung on a tree (Deut. 21:22-23) was unjustly evoked (Gal. 3:13—atypically, not for sinful behavior), and was overturned by the more ancient precedent of God’s Covenant with Abraham (Gal. 3:15-29), whose faith was accounted for justness (Gen. 15:6)—that his Seed would outnumber stars and sand—thus pre-empting any lethal late-coming curse (much less any alleged accompanying wrath), even as Christ’s Melchizedekian status and standing outranked any Aaronic pretensions (Heb. 5-7; Ps. 110)?

What if Moses’ curse simply can’t hold a candle to God’s oath to Abraham (Gal. 3:5-19; Gen. 15, 50:24; Ps. 105:8-11,42; cf. 109:28-31)?

What if the conciliation “we now obtained” (Rom. 5:11) equates to the solid realization that in fact God, for His part, does not harbor hostility or enmity toward sinners, so does not need to be reconciled with us, but only desires to conciliate us to Himself in grace and peace?

What if Scripture never states or implies that God was reconciled to human beings or sinners?

What if such a notion is only a hypothetical “necessity” of the economic-legal framing of the penal substitution theory, but has no support in apostolic Scripture?

What if the Gospel reveals a God Who can reconcile because He can recreate, Who can give in, even give up, because He can give back?

What if that conciliation amounts to accepting the conciliatory terms and measures God initiated to placate our alienated race, namely, that His Son, “given up (ekdotos) in the specific counsel (boule; cf. Isaiah 53:10,11, LXX bouletai) and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), God Himself surrendered (paradidomi) to the tender mercies of his foes (Rom. 4:25, 8:32; cf. John 3:16), in concert with Christ’s willingness to surrender (paradidomi) himself into the hands of sinners for our sakes (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 5:25), and give (didomi) his soul a ransom to redeem many from sin (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6; Tit. 2:14; Gal. 1:4)—yet without a hint of wrath toward them, and certainly not toward himself, in the process—becoming thus impoverished in order to enrich us as co-heirs with him (Rom. 8:32; 2 Cor. 8:9)?

Indeed, what if quite a diverse group got in on the action of surrendering Jesus—not only the Father and the Son, but also the disciple Judas (Matt. 10:4, 17:22, 20:18-19, 26:2,15-48, 27:3-4; Mark 3:19, 9:31, 10:33, 14:10-44; Luke 9:44, 22:4-6,21-22,48, 24:7; John 6:64,71, 12:4, 13:2,11,21, 18:2-5,30-36, 21:20), the chief priests, elders, scribes, and Sanhedrin (Matt. 27:1-2,15-18; Mark 10:33, 15:1,9-11; Luke 18:32, 20:19-20, 24:20; John 19:11; Acts 3:13), plus the Roman Procurator Pilate (Mark 15:15; Luke 23:17-25; John 19:16)?

What if the “grace and peace” from God and the Lord Jesus, with which Paul, Peter, and John almost invariably open their epistles, and the “peace” of God with which they, along with Hebrews and Jude, usually close them, instead of requiring a monumental display of God’s wrath and violence toward the Lord Jesus Christ, really only demand a credible demonstration of grace and peace in order to prove them plausible to sinners?  (Is this a no-brainer or what?)

What if shalom is actually a Hebrew economic term for a state of harmonization, equilibrium, balance, or stasis of economic obligations and satisfactions finding just, equitable resolutions without need for intrusive interventions or war to avenge imbalances and restore peaceful order?

What if forgiveness after all didn’t have to wait until someone blamelessly innocent came along to suffer as a substitute, for what other blessings of our salvation would in that case likewise depend on substitutionary punishment to be deployed—specifically, was God’s expression of grace dependent on His wrath getting exerted in order to satisfy His honor, holiness, or penal justice?

What if the active ingredients of the Atonement are not wrath and violence from God, in the least, but the diametric opposite, grace and peace from God, which were exuberantly unveiled following Christ’s resurrection as the divine answer to all the Satanically inspired human wrath and violence at the Cross?

What if grace and peace did not, after all, come by wrath and violence from God—for otherwise wouldn’t the Gospel harbor a preposterous absurdity that undercuts its inner consistency, integrity, and credibility?

What if in the actual historical denouement of Jesus’ prophetic parable of the vineyard owner (Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-20) God did not, after all, immediately destroy His Son’s murderers, but instead, in place of their well-deserved deaths, as a substitute for their timely destruction, He gently brought His precious Son back to life and declared a reprieve of one generation to give the killers time to repent before wreaking due wrathful vengeance upon the incorrigible by “surrendering” (paradidomi, Rom. 1:24,26,28) them to their self-invoked curse (Matt. 27:24-25; Acts 5:28) in a horror of unspeakable self-inflicted atrocities such as the nation has never experienced before or since (Matt. 3:7-12; Luke 3:7-9, 21:20-24, 23:26-31; 1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 1:4-10); however, divine wrath against His Son—what conceivable utility could that have, and what prophet ever announced such a travesty?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 6

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if, by means of the cross, the ancient Serpent bruised Christ in the heel, yet by his resurrection, Christ bruised that Great Dragon, called “Adversary” and “Satan,” in the head (Gen. 3:14-15; Rev. 12:9-11)?

What if the cup Christ drank (Matt. 26:37-46, Mark 14:33-42, Luke 22:41-46), which so “disturbed” (John 12:27), “overawed,” and “depressed” him—“Sorrow-stricken is my soul to death” (Matt. 26:37-38; Mark 14:33-34)—was not God’s wrath, but the prophesied bitter cup of afflictions from Satan, as with Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 39:19-23; 50:19-21; Ps. 105:17-22) and Job (!), but with no holds barred this time around, so as to win a more extreme prize in his battle victory over Satan at the cross, proving God is for the underdog who endures faithful?

What if the cross was the arch-exhibit of Satan’s rage and fury (Rev. 12:12,17), whereas the resurrection was the landmark exhibition of God’s grace, which, to be sure, was abundantly present at the cross as well, to sustain the Lord in his trial (Heb. 2:9-18, 4:14-16, 5:7-14), but was strategically hidden then by God’s wisdom?

What if Jesus stayed put for two days (John 11:6) before proceeding to raise Lazarus from a death he could have prevented (John 11:21-26,32,37) for the same reason his own Father waited two days before raising him from a death He could have prevented—for the greater credit of God, for Heaven’s sake (John 11:4,40, cf. 9:3-5, 12:23,28, 13:31-32, 17:1-5)?

What if the obedient Boy must be killed or the Father’s transcendent resurrectionary justice must lay dormant forever, along with all its ultra-compensating hope and redemption for the cosmos?

What if God’s wrath against sin is sufficiently revealed by His myriad punishments shown throughout history (particularly Israel’s), so that the cross (at which Israel committed its greatest sin) was designed to reveal, by contrast, the very opposite:  the Lord’s mercy for not calling more than twelve legions of angels to destroy those tormentors (merely Satan’s pawns, after all)?

What if the cross was violent because sinners “needed” to vent their enmity in order for God to leverage His readiness to forgive even such a nefarious misdeed by showing His miraculous power to set matters right even after the fact, and thus God was playing to our human weakness?

What if God did not “choose so violent a means of reconciliation” as such, He simply chose a supreme blue-ribbon opportunity allowing His extraordinary conciliating touch, for Heaven’s sake, i.e., He needed suitable material to mold and stage a salvation Event of memorable dimensions, and nothing less horrific could leverage so great a salvation?

What if God needed a paramount episode of official, public, excruciating injustice in order to certify the wrongful death He had been planning to reverse since before sin entered history?

Conversely, what if God’s justice was “revealed from heaven” as life-raised-from-the-dead for the One who was “just by faith,” in fact, who was “the Inaugurator and Perfecter of faith,” who “for the joy lying before him endures a cross” (Heb. 12:2), a joy undimmed by God’s wrath?

What if there was no outpouring of God’s wrath at the cross, no punishment, no condemnation, no penal judgment—in fact, no justice whatsoever, either from God or human being?

What if Christ was wrath-proof, due to his perfectly faithful obedience, especially under extreme trial, so that whatever suffering he endured could only have been wrongfully inflicted, hence he remained beloved, God’s delight (Matt. 3:17, 12:18, 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; 2 Pet. 1:16-18; Col. 1:19), ever in His favor (Heb. 2:9; Eph. 1:5-6; Phil. 2:8-9, 1:29), all the way through his well-pleasing sacrifice (Eph. 4:32-5:2; Phil. 4:18; Rom. 12:1; Heb. 11:6, 12:1-2,28, 13:16,20-21), and all the more so when temptations to revile and threaten became more severe (1 Pet. 2:19-23; Ps. 105:17-22)?

What if God was hyper-pleased with and copiously rewarded Jesus precisely because he did not return reviling for reviling, much less avenge himself (as he had the right to) but instead bore it all, and even made intercession for his foes, dying without an unkind word on his lips, therefore God brought him back for a curtain call—so it’s in his reward that we get justified and our sins washed away, because of God’s justness in him “acted out” so graphically (Gal. 3:1)?

What if we are safe from God’s eschatological wrath, then, if we are baptized into, and stay in, Christ by faith?

What if we are called to “be drinking the cup” that Christ drank (Matt. 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39) and “be baptized with the baptism” that Jesus underwent (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50), then shouldn’t we likewise suffer God’s wrath as he was said to, or does this parallel fall apart?

What if we who wish to follow Christ are called to bear our cross even as Jesus did, then are we likewise called to bear God’s wrath as he is alleged to have done, or does this analogy inexplicably break down here, too, and we get off cheap?

What if the author of Hebrews stressed that Jesus “endures [hupemeinen] a cross, despising the shame [aischunes]” (Heb. 12:2), but missed a golden opportunity to mention the allegedly more efficacious wrath of God—something kinda crucial to some folks?

What if James, the half-brother of Jesus, similarly refers us to “the endurance [hupomonen] of Job” (James 5:11), to admonish us by his “example of suffering evil and patience” (5:10), along with the many “prophets who speak in the name of the Lord.  Lo! We are counting those happy who endure” (5:11), yet neglects to mention all the “wrath of God” Job was put through?

Or what if all Job’s suffering was an unsuspected encounter with Satan instead, whereas in hindsight we can now see “the consummation of the Lord” in awarding Job over the top for his sterling, if flawed, endurance (Job 42:10-17) of undeserved trials by the Wicked One—“for very compassionate and pitiful is the Lord” (5:11), and “No trial has taken you except what is human.  Now faithful is God, Who will not be leaving you to be tried above what you are able, but together with the trial, will be making a sequel also, to enable you to undergo it” (1 Cor. 10:13)?

But what if Christ’s trial was not merely “human” but more than human—then did that “extra” consist in his additionally bearing God’s wrath, or rather in his undergoing Satan unleashed, since God had charged Satan, “only keep his soul [alive]” (Job 2:1-6) in the case of the all-too-human Job, who in the end confessed, “I recant and repent on soil and ashes” (Job 42:6), whereas Jesus declared that he had come “to give his soul a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) as a Good Shepherd (John 10:10-18) for his sheep, since he had the authority from his Father, and for which the Father loves him, because this is what a person does for friends (John 15:13) and family (1 John 3:16), since this is how we conquer Satan (Rev. 12:11)?

What if both the ordeals of Job and of Jesus, in view of “the consummation of the Lord” (James 5:11), are meant to heighten our expectation that God will certainly come through for us if we similarly bear our own crosses in vivid view of the glorious outcome?

What if, unlike Job, whose benefit from undeserved suffering accrued to his own family (cf. also Ez. 14:14-20), and unlike Joseph, his distant relative, whose benefit from undeserved suffering in Egypt accrued to a whole nation, our Lord Jesus Christ suffered without breaking down into a sinful reaction or casting blame—for the benefit of the whole blamed world?

Alas, what if Job’s “comforters” were compelled to offer up ascent offerings on their own behalf, “For you did not speak concerning Me what is rightly so as My servant Job has done” (Job 42:8), indeed, even daring to “teach” Job that he was suffering the wrathful displeasure of God (Job 20:20-29, etc.) so that if Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were found guilty of false doctrine concerning the wrath of God, then how much more are modern theologians and ministers guilty of teaching that God’s wrath was poured out on His beloved Son?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 5

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if a chief function of Luke’s record in the Acts of the Apostles “whom [Jesus] chooses through Holy Spirit, to whom he presents himself alive also, after his suffering, with many tokens, during forty days, getting visualized to them and telling them that which concerns the kingdom of God” (1:3), building as it does on Luke’s Gospel (24:43), is to serve as a repository of public testimony (1:22) to the apostolic “teaching…and announcing, in Jesus, the resurrection from the dead” at the end of the age (4:1-2), which Jesus’ own resurrection confirms, for our assurance and consolation:  “And with great power the apostles rendered testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord.  Besides, great grace was on them all…” (4:33)?

What if the Holy Spirit was commissioned to corroborate with additional power of signs and miracles Christ’s own testimony about everlasting life (John 5:36-44, 8:12-18, 10:25, 15:26-27, 18:37) as well as the apostles’ testimony about his life from the dead (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:8, 2:30-33, 3:12-15, 4:33, 5:30-32, 10:38-48, 14:3, 15:7-9; 1 Cor. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:6-14)?

What if the centrality of such resurrection testimony is emphatically confirmed elsewhere in the New Testament:  John 5:39, 15:27, 21:24; 1 Cor. 1:6, 2:1-2, 15:15; 2 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim. 2:5-7; 2 Tim. 1:8-10; Heb. 11:1-12:2; 1 Pet. 5:1; 1 John 1:1-2, 4:14, 5:5-13; Rev. 1:2,5,9, 2:13, 8:14, 6:9, 12:11,17, 17:6, 19:10, 20:4, 22:16-17?

Oh, and did I forget, what if the four Gospels stand as towering interdependent testimonies to the incontrovertible resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from an officially certified execution?

However, what if there is no mention of the cross or crucifixion (stauroo/stauros, xulon, prospegnumi) at all in the apostle Paul’s weightiest epistle, to the Romans, his landmark elaboration of the Gospel?

What if, by stark contrast, words and expressions referring or alluding to resurrection proliferate (egeiro, anistemi/anastasis, haima, zoopoieo, zesetai/zoe (ek nekron/aionion), dikaiosune (tou theou), dikaioma, anakainoo/kainotes, sozo/soteria, apolutrosis, huiothesia,  doxa/doxazo, elpis/elpizo, epaggellomai/epaggelia):  Rom. 1:4,16-17, 2:7,10, 3:24-25, 4:17,24-25, 5:9-10,15-18,21, 6:4-5,8-11,13,22-23, 7:4,6, 8:2,4,6,10-11,13,15,17-19,21,23-27,29-30,34, 9:23, 10:1,7,9-10,13,15, 11:11,14,26, 12:1-2; 13:11, 14:7-9 15:4,13) and constitute his pervasive centerpiece?

What if the unique expression, “word (logos) of the cross,” although launched in 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul strategically delayed elaborating until chapter 15 (“the Resurrection chapter”) so that in the meantime he could correct his spiritual offspring about crucial ethical matters without prejudice, since they had become ensnared by semi-gnostic, anti-somatic, hence anti-resurrection doctrines that Apollos learned from Philo in Alexandria and introduced in the church at Corinth?

What if Paul never wrote, “If Christ has not gotten crucified, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins!” but instead said, “If Christ has not gotten raised, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17)?

What if the “word (logos) of the cross” can be spelled:  R E S U R R E C T I O N ?

What if the cross alone is never said to be the “power of God”—only “the word of the cross” is?

What if the New Testament never attributes power to the cross, but only to the resurrectionary “explanation of the Cross” (1 Cor. 1:18), to the testimony, explanation, declaration, proclamation, or heralding of the risen “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23-24, 2:1-5), of the risen Christ (Acts 8:4-19, 10:36-47; Rom. 15:18-20), of the risen Jesus (Mark 16:6,14-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 4:1-14, 6:8-14; Rom. 1:2-4,16), of the risen Lord (Acts 19:10-13; 2 Cor. 4:3-15; 1 Tim. 1:8; Heb. 2:3-4), of the risen Son (1 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Pet. 2:16-18), of the living God (Heb. 6:5, cf. 4:12), of the Kingdom of God and the name of the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12-13; 1 Cor. 4:20), to faith in the living God (Heb. 11:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:5), or simply to God’s raising the Lord and us to life (1 Cor. 6:14, 15:42-43; 2 Cor. 13:3-4; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 7:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:3)?

What if the cross is virtually never depicted by Christians in the earliest attested Christian art (whether catacombs, baptisteries, early house churches, etc.) before the era of Constantine?

What if the New Testament contains virtually no “theology of the cross”; instead, its focus is riveted on Christ’s resurrection from the dead?

What if in the New Testament the cross is an Event, certainly; an Ethic, without a doubt; but never an Emblem, and definitely not a Theology?

What if the cross only became an Emblem, under Constantine, when it stopped being an Ethic, and thereafter was ripe for mutating into a Theology?

What if the death of the Cross is encompassed in the Resurrection, but not the other way around?

What if  “the apostolic preaching of the cross” is a full-grown oxymoron ready for sacrificing?

What if in the absence of a sound theology of the Resurrection, Martin Luther’s doctrine of the Atonement fractured into a paradoxical, cheerless, comfortless theologia crucis on the one hand, and on the other hand deteriorated into reviling every “theology of glory,” by which he meant every fumbling attempt to rise above his approved “three uses of the Law” to grasp a lifestyle of walking in the Spirit—the gifts and the fruits alike, drawing from the cornucopia of Christ’s resurrection power?

What if the cross is not self-explanatory (as the theologia crucis seems to presume) but demands an explanation or reason (logos) that accounts for its necessity—the most “necessary evil” of all?

What if the cross was necessary in order to certify Christ’s real death, and so reinforce the authenticity of his extraordinary resurrection from the dead?

What if the cross was the fulcrum that leveraged the resurrection, because you can’t get behind proclaiming a plausible resurrection without a successful crucifixion?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 4

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if such abuses of imputation (Augustine started it) also undermine the apostle Paul’s categorical declaration that our faulty human faith is imputed or accounted for justness precisely because it is not a work at all (much less a “supererogatory” work of a “Saint”), so accords fully with God’s graciousness (Rom. 4:4,16)?

What if God chose faith as His condition for selecting sons and heirs because it is not a work at all, but a work-stoppage or Sabbath (Rom. 4:1-6; Heb. 3-4), thus it cannot render God indebted to sinners on account of their work, yet it does necessarily obligate Him on account of His own voluntary, oath-bound promise to Abraham (Gal. 3:15-29; Rom. 4:7-22; Heb. 6:13-20) to reward his faith with the status of justness, and thereupon confer life?

What if the stimulus that generates faith is simply the vital power of the Gospel narrative about God the Father raising up His Own wickedly sacrificed Son instead of—that is, “as a substitute for”—destroying the wicked, so that this Story itself gets accorded the distinctive credit for conciliating God’s enemies peacefully, without any violence from His side, and turning them into friends (Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23,25; James 1:21; 1 Cor. 1:18,23,24; John 6:44, 12:32; Rom. 10:9; Rom. 1:16-17, 10:17; 2 Tim. 1:7-10, 3:15; Tit. 1:1-3; Acts 20:32, cf. John 17:17-20, 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-7)?

What if the sin that kept Moses (and Aaron) out of the Promised Land (Deut. 1:37, 4:21, which say the Lord was “angered” [anaph] or “furious” [LXX ethumothe] with Moses over it; cf. Deut. 3:23-27, “enraged” [evrah]) was precisely that he “struck [epataxe] the rock [petran] twice,” (Num. 20:11, LXX), i.e., in wrath (“Hear, I pray, you rebels!  From this crag shall we bring forth water for you?” Num. 20:10; cf. Ps. 106:32-33, “provoked to wrath,” [katzaph; LXX parorgisan]), hence God declared, “Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me before the eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I will give to them” (Num. 20:12)?

Yet most significantly, what if “all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of the spiritual Rock [petras] which followed; now the Rock [petra] was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4), thereby emphasizing, if rather severely, how unholy/unsanctified it would be to impute divine wrath to the striking of that antitypal Rock on Golgotha before the eyes of the children of Israel?

So if God’s holiness was compromised because Moses represented God as wrathful when He was in fact not, then what if the doctrine that God poured out His wrath on His own sinless Son in order to vindicate His holiness likewise compromises that holiness and makes God indignant, yet praying, “Hallowed be Your name,” rehabilitates the graciousness of God’s premial justice?

What if Yahweh distinguished carefully (Num. 35:20-24) between being guilty or not guilty of striking (nakah) in “enmity” (ehvah; LXX, echthran) or “hatred” (sinah; LXX, menin ‘rage’, associated with thumos ‘fury’ in Gen. 49:7)?

What if the only enmity at the Cross was between Satan and Christ:  “And enmity [ehvah; echthran, LXX] am I setting between you [the Serpent] and the woman [Eve], and between your seed and her Seed.  He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15)?

What if God, by declaring, “I shall be striking [nakah; pataxo, LXX] the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31; Mk. 14:27), no more behaved in enmity or wrath toward His beloved Son before raising (egeiro) him from death in the resurrection (anastasis), than the angel struck (pataxas) Peter in enmity or wrath before raising (egeiren) him from sleep to rescue him from prison, commanding, “Rise!” (anasta) (Acts 12:7)?

What if Isaiah, in 53:4, “And we account him assaulted, struck [nakah] by God and humbled,” is faithfully reporting Israel’s slipping into an unnuanced imputation of divine enmity and wrath toward His Servant, due to their forensic blindness to God’s ways of wisdom?

What if God “desires to crush [daka]” (Is. 53:10) him whom He actually favors, in view of the extraordinary good results that He planned to bring out of it to bless and benefit multitudes of others (Ps. 34:15-18-22, 44:9-19-26, 38:1-8-22, 143:1-3-12; Is. 57:13b-15-18—if these outcomes apply to the sinful, then how much more to the Sinless)?

What if, to tally up the “theology of the cross” in the book of Acts, we find that of its eleven Gospel testimonies (five by Peter, one by Stephen, five by Paul), Peter mentions “hanging (him) on a pole [xulon, “tree” (LXX), intimating to his hearers that they had invoked the curse of Deut. 21:23 on their own Messiah]” twice (5:30, 10:39), “crucify” twice (2:36, 4:10), “assassinate” twice (2:23, 10:29), “gibbeting” (2:13), “kill” (3:15); Stephen cites “murderers” (7:52); while four of Paul’s speeches use no equivalent for “cross” at all, while another uses “do away with” (13:28) and, in passing, “taking him down from the pole” (13:29)?

What if the word “cross” (stauros) itself is mentioned exactly nowhere in the book of Acts?

By stark contrast, what if every one of those episodes without fail emphasizes Christ’s resurrection, and most of them more than once:  Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40) four times; Peter at the Porch of Solomon (3:12-26), three times; Peter to the rulers, chief priest, elders, and scribes (4:8-12); Peter to the Sanhedrin (5:29-32), twice; Stephen to the Sanhedrin (7:1-60), climaxing with his on-the-spot live eyewitness show-stopper of the heavens getting opened up to reveal the now-risen Son of Man standing (not sitting for this one!) at the right hand of God (Dan. 7:13-14); Peter to the household of Cornelius (10:34-43), twice; Paul in the synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia (13:16-41) five times; Paul in Athens (17:16-31), twice; Paul to the Jerusalem mob and Sanhedrin (21:40-21,30-23:11), where, having testified to a public encounter with the risen Jesus the Nazarene, yet rudely cut short by the mob from delivering his punch line, speedily cuts to the chase before the Sanhedrin with the explosive one-liner, “Concerning the expectation and resurrection of the dead am I being judged,” which brought the house down (21:40-21,30-23:11), twice; Paul’s defense before Felix (24:10-21,25), three times (including his testimony of publicly encountering the risen Nazarene); Paul’s defense before Festus and Agrippa (26:2-23), twice; for a grand total of twenty-seven references in only eleven speeches?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 3

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if God’s justice was only “satisfied” by the resurrection, not by the cross, per se, at all, and therefore Christ’s resurrection is actually a paramount judicial act of God?

What if Paul never used such phrases as “Christ’s righteousness” or “the righteousness of Jesus/Christ,” etc., for the simple reason that he intends by “the righteousness of God” to denote the Father’s restorative justice toward the Son (and through him dispensed to others of faith) in distinction from the Son’s obedience of faithfulness (Rom. 1:5, 16:26) toward the Father?

What if Paul’s famous reiteration of “the just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:2-4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), which so resonated with Martin Luther, refers in the first place to the Lord Jesus himself—the Just One (Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14; 1 John 2:1,29, 3:7; Matt. 27:19,24; Luke 23:47; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 15:3), who, due to his own faithfulness to God (Rom. 3:22,25,26; Gal. 2:16,16,20, 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9; Rev. 1:5, 3:14, 19:11), was raised to superabundant life (John 5:21-29, 10:10; 1 Cor. 15:45)?

What if Paul’s strategically repeated phrase, “the faith[fulness] of Christ” (pistis christou—subjective genitive case) refers to Jesus’ own covenantal response to God’s will and promises (Rom. 3:22,26; Gal. 2:16,16,20, 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9), to which we should add  “through (dia) [the] faithfulness” where it plausibly refers to Christ’s own (Gal. 2:16, 3:14,26; Rom. 3:22,30,31; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 2:8, 3:12,17; Col. 2:12; 2 Tim. 3:15), plus instances where the “faithfulness within (en) Christ” himself seems to be in view (Gal. 3:26; 1 Tim. 3:13; 2 Tim. 3:15; Rom. 3:25, where it may be figured in his blood—as it were, the vital active ingredient), sometimes coupled with love (Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:13), but does not include our faith in Christ (objective genitive case), which is usually denoted by a different preposition (eis, literally ‘into’) and occurs abundantly throughout the New Testament for a complementary purpose?

What if even the Latin Vulgate has retained each of the eight “faith of Christ” renderings intact, and the Aramaic Peshitta retains all but the two in Gal. 2:16?

What if, in fact, Paul is framing “God’s justice” and “Christ’s faithfulness” as covenantal correlates in order to highlight and epitomize their respective, discrete mutual obligations in the full process of our salvation?

What if, in view of the fact that a truly Just Man had finally shown up in Israel, Yahweh could finally break with long grim tradition and, instead of the routine curses, unleash wholesale the blessings He had vowed to give any perfect Covenant-keeper (Lev. 26; Deut. 28)?

What if Jesus, by his Covenant faithfulness, won all the promised blessings of the Old Covenant (so inaccessible to any mortal sinner) so that he could prudently give them away for free to repentant Covenant-breakers on the gracious condition of mere faith alone, by having negotiated via covenant renewal a New Covenant no longer liable to default by human failure?

Furthermore, what if Paul’s expressions, “the faithfulness of God”—Rom. 3:3-5, where “our injustice” of crucifying the Lord is actually said to be “commending God’s justness” of raising him from the dead!—and “the faithfulness of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12) are connected to and exhibited by Christ’s resurrection?

What if this curiously profound truth of the Cross commending the Resurrection only really makes sense on the assumption of premial justice and elegantly accounts for those two puzzling passages (inexplicable on a penal assumption) where Paul denounces judgment against slanderers who alleged he taught “We should be doing evil that good may be coming” (Rom. 3:8), similarly echoed in, “We may be persisting in sin that grace should be increasing” (Rom. 5:20-6:1), and whose germ of truth Paul himself reprised so memorably in Romans 8:28, “God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God…,” itself a reflection of Joseph’s declaration to his brothers, “You devised evil against me, yet God, He devised it for good in order to accomplish, as at this day, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:19), as we would expect of the living God?

What if the cargo to be conveyed in salvation is Christ’s own personal just-award of damages from God, transferred through him as Sponsor (Heb. 7:22) and Mediator (Heb. 8:6-13, 9:15, 12:24) of this fresh, new, better, everlasting Covenant (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Rom. 11:27; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 4:21-5:1; Heb. 13:20), to us as the stipulated beneficiaries, instead of our deserved punishment transferred to him (as postulated by not-quite-ancient-enough Protestant tradition)?

What if the uniquely Protestant expression, “the imputation of Christ’s righteousness” (in overreaction to the medieval Roman Catholic doctrine that the interior operation of the Holy Spirit makes us righteous pending justification at the Final Judgment), has served to obscure Paul’s teaching that the Gift of Holy Spirit constitutes the subjective contents of God’s justness (via Christ’s just-award redistribution) within believers/saints (2 Cor. 3; Gal. 2:20-3:29; Rom. 5:5-21, 8:11-30, 14:17; 2 Cor. 9:8-15; 2 Pet. 3:13; John 16:7-11)?

What if such “imputation” theology all comes down to artful accounting—“cooking the books”?

What if one person’s sin, guilt, and punishment cannot legally or morally be transferred, accounted, or imputed to another person (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ez. 18:1-32, 14:14-20), yet one person’s reward, by contrast, can be further distributed at its recipient’s discretion?

What if true justice always entails redistributing wealth to make peace (or hadn’t you noticed)?

What if the alternatives reduce down to:  either Christ’s sufferings were undeserved by him but borne as a substitute in the place of sinners who did deserve them, and then diverticularly rationalized to benefit sinners somehow, OR Christ’s sufferings were undeserved by him and hence deserved compensating justice from God to repay him with an extraordinary award of damages, which could be transferred to whosoever will receive them by faith?

What if the “merits” of Christ were not transferred by imputation, but justly super-compensated with the Holy Spirit of life, which is then given away graciously for free to whoever believes?

What if the Protestant doctrine perpetuates a vestige of medieval Roman Catholic penitential speculation about the separability, commodifiability, accumulation (“treasury”), and transferability of supererogatory “merits” of the innocent suffering of a “Saint” to another person, and accordingly, the transfer of Christ’s personal righteousness to a believing sinner?

What if exactly that kind of “commercialization” led to the invention of indulgences, the abuses of Tetzel, the rationalizations of Eck, and the explosive protest of Martin Luther that kicked off the Protestant Reformation with his “Ninety-Five Theses” on indulgences, in the first place?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 2

Today, November 1, 2017, is the 500th Anniversary of the All Saints Day (commemorating all the martyrs who had died for the Christian faith over the centuries) for which Martin intended his 95 Theses on indulgences, and when many people read it for the first time.  It has been said that they spread throughout Germany in fourteen days, and throughout Europe in thirty days.  It swept Western civilization in moments, historically speaking.  Imagine if Luther had been able to post his Theses on a blog site.  Following is part two of my “umpteen conjectures” that challenge many of the assumptions that dictated especially the doctrines of Atonement and Justification at that time, but which still reign lo, these five centuries later.  Were those presuppositions in accord with the “pattern of sound words” laid out in the Biblical Scriptures?  You be the judge.

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if the Old Covenant required victims to be overcompensated in order to satisfy justice (Ex. 21:34-22:15; Lev. 5:16, 6:5; Num. 5:7; 2 Sam. 12:6; Prov. 6:30-31; Is. 61:7; Zech. 9:12)?

What if the vengefulness exhibited by Lamech:  “Since avenging is seven times for Cain, for Lamech it shall be seventy-seven times [hebdomekontakis hepta]” (Gen. 4:23-24, LXX), was flipped by Jesus, who was evidently alluding to him in his reply:  “I am not saying [to forgive] ‘Till seven times,’ but ‘Till seventy-seven times [hebdomekontakis hepta]’” (Matt. 18:22)?

What if Christ’s “blood of sprinkling…is speaking better than [the righteous (dikaion)] Abel” (Heb. 11:4, 12:24; Matt. 23:35, cf. Luke 11:51) because it was perfectly righteous, hence his shed blood cried out for a more perfect avenging (ekdikesis) than Abel’s—an immediate and total reversal of death, plus life superabundant enough for all takers?

And what if God’s avenging of that innocent blood on Christ’s own behalf (i.e., premially) is, more than coincidentally, what inaugurated the New Covenant in that blood (Matt. 26:27-28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25-32), by glorifying him and awarding him the restitution of abundant life in the Holy Spirit to pass along, out of love, to our mortal race (John 5:21-29, 6:47-63, 7:37-39; Gal. 2:29-6:18; Rom. 8; 2 Cor. 3:1-18, 13:4; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1 John 4:1-5:13)?

That is, what if the New Covenant was inaugurated by the power of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, not at his cross, and that’s why his blood may be said to “avail”?

And what if that blood, the cup of New Covenant blessings (1 Cor. 10:16-22) along with its varied powers, is appropriated by us when we simply drink it worthily, by faith, in the risen Lord’s Supper, for a recollection of him, announcing his wrongful (not penal) death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26) by his blood getting shed criminally (not penally)  (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20-22), for the sake of many, for the pardon of sins?

What if by “the righteousness of God,” as commonly but one-sidedly translated, the apostle Paul was not referring so much to the character quality as to an historic event—the event of Christ’s resurrection, which singularly, publicly exhibited God’s restorative premial justice?

What if, somewhat ironically, only the Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Version of the Bible (1582/1609) translated from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (as compared with the Hebrew and Greek), consistently renders dikaiosune/justitia as “justice,” which, although likewise one-sided (but the opposite side, reflecting Roman legal predilections), yet just so happens to make far better sense in many of Paul’s key passages as well as elsewhere in the New Testament?

What if the “righteousness of God” fell on the Third Day as rightful justice for Jesus and has no reference to the Cross at all?

That is, what if Paul’s famous phrase “the righteousness of God” refers to God’s justice in action (dikaiosune includes both personal and social—I suggest the composite rendering ‘justness’) revealed (Rom. 1:17), manifested (Rom. 3:21), and displayed (Rom. 3:25, 26) by His raising Jesus from the dead, executed on the Third Day as restorative justice for His Son?

In brief, what if “the justness of God” refers first of all to the Event that made it most famous:  His raising Christ from the dead?

What if Martin Luther would have been an order of magnitude more overjoyed to discover that “the righteousness of God” was full-on premial to Christ and not in the least penal?

What if the following instances of dikaiosune probably refer to God’s justice as epitomized by Christ’s resurrection, encompassing the just due He awarded to Christ:  Rom. 1:17, 3:5,21,22,25,26, 5:17,21, 8:10, 10:3a,3c; 2 Cor. 3:9, 5:21, 9:9; Phil. 1:11, 3:9b?

Thereupon, what if such phrases as “justness of/for faith” (Rom. 1:17, 4:11,13, 9:30,32, 10:4,5,10; Gal. 5:5), “faith accounted for justness [apart from works/acts]” (Rom. [2:26,] 4:3,5,6,8,9,10,11,22,23,24, 9:8; [2 Cor. 5:19;] Gal. 3:6; Phil. 3:9; [Heb. 11:17-19]), the justness which accords with faith (Heb. 11:7), justifying faith (Rom. 3:24,), etc., all refer to Christ’s just-award, the Gift of the vital power of God’s resurrectionary public justice—the Holy Spirit—now graciously poured out upon us, encompassing every spiritual gift and blessing of the New Covenant, as promised by God “to [eis]” and “on [epi]” our faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:22; Phil. 3:9)?

What if the Gospel (euaggelion) of “the righteousness/justice of God,” from another perspective, is simply the proclamation of His righteous fulfillment of His ancient covenanted promises (epaggelia), first generally to Abraham concerning descendants and a Promised Land (Acts 7:5,17; Gal. 3:8,14-29; Rom. 4:13-21, 9:4-9; Heb. 7:6, 11:9-19), then to David concerning Seed Royal who would save Israel (Acts 13:23,32-39, 26:6-8), and ultimately to everyone who possesses the faith of Abraham, concerning the Gift of the Holy Spirit of adoption, the down payment of an inheritance of everlasting life in the Messiah (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 2:33,38-39; Gal. 4:23,28; Rom. 15:8-12; 2 Cor. 1:18-20, 6:14-7:1; Eph. 1:13-14, 2:11-13, 3:1-12; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:2-3; Heb. 4:1-2, 6:11-20, 8:6-7, 9:15, 10:23,35-39, 11:39-40; 12:25-28; James 1:12, 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:4,9,13; 1 John 2:25), which all nations could now access by faith and immersion into Christ’s faithfulness and divine favor (Rom. 5:1-2), divine power, indeed, even participation in divine nature (2 Pet. 1:1-4)?

What if Jesus never asked God for mercy, but his sinless blood did cry out for just avenging?

What if the only thing that could really satisfy God’s justice was to welcome His Son alive and well back Home, restore his fortunes, exalt him over his enemies, and then kindly show them mercy so they could repent and be saved…and even share his good fortune?

So what if God’s justice fell on the Third Day, not on a hill far away?

~~ To be continued ~~

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