Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What are We - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we learned that we don't know who we are. Our hearts and minds are so darkened by sin and the fallen universe that we can't even know ourselves. The only one who know us truly is God. So how do we know God? In Part 2 we said that we cannot fully know God, so we are left with what God has chosen to reveal about Himself and the authoritative record of God's self-revelation is found in Holy Scriptures. We learned that Holy Scripture has a human nature (being written by men in specific places, and at specific times, in specific cultural contexts). It also has a divine nature - being "God's Word, Written" (Article XX). How do we (or can we) determine what is human and what is divine within Holy Scripture?

One of the problems that we have is that we even ask this question. It's almost like we are trying to avoid the parts of Scripture that we don't like by labeling them "of human origin." I've seen this in debates with some people who will say that Paul didn't write that letter or Jesus didn't say that phrase, but they were added later by some editor with an agenda. In this way, we can dispose of the scriptural arguments that we don't like.

If we accept that Holy Scripture is "God's Word, written," then we should be able to speak of it in the same terms as we speak of "God's Word, Incarnate" - Jesus Christ. We will make the same Christological mistakes with Holy Scripture that we make with the person of Jesus.

There are two basic types of christological heresies. The first is normally called "adoptionism" and denies or diminishes the divine nature of Jesus. Adoptionism states that Jesus was a human that was "adopted" as God's Son or became divine at some point. It is a claime that Jesus is not fully divine. The second heresy is "docetism." The word comes from the Greek word for "to seem." Docetic heresies claim that Jesus only seemed human. They advance the divine nature of Jesus at the expense of his human nature. To the docetics, Jesus was not fully (or at all) human.

We can do the same with Holy Scripture. We can take the adoptionist view (prevelant in the Episcopal Church) and say that this passage is not divine or that it was only a product of the human author/editor. The second passage is to say that Holy Scripture is purely the Word of God and not the product of human work at all. You see this in our more fundamenalist sects which require a 6 day (=184 hour) creation because that's what the bible says.

If we want to use Holy Scripture to learn about God and to come to know God, then we need to read it as if God is speaking to us through it while realizing that the metaphores and language used come with a specific cultural setting.

First, we should read it as a whole work and not a collection of smaller, disjointed works. We need to see the overarching theme(s) in Holy Scripture. I've heard men (clergy even) speak or write of Holy Scripture as the story of man's search for God. As I read Holy Scripture, I find the opposite to be true. I read it as the story of God's quest for a relationship with humans and humans attempts to run from or ignore the relationship.

As we read Holy Scripture, what do we learn about God that is important to discovering who and what we are?
  1. God created all things out of nothing. The world was created with purpose.
  2. God created man (and women) in His image. God created us to be like Him
  3. Humans did not want to be like God because of God's way, they wanted to be like God their way - which takes away our likeness with God and distorts God's image in us.
  4. The more and more we ran from God, the more He persued us.
  5. God wants a relationship with us and calls us into relationship with Him - first through the Patriarch, then through the People of Israel, then with the Prophets.
  6. We are incapable of wanting or having a relationship with God on our own (see #3 above)
  7. God the Son became incarnate (in the person Jesus) to bring us into relationship with God. Jesus died and rose again to put us right with God.
  8. God still calls us into relationship with Himself, but we still want to do things our own way.

The only way that we can know God beyond this intellectual understanding that we gather from Scripture is to surrender to God and to accept that we are not good people who just need a little fine tuning, but we are in rebellion against God and deserve to be killed. Our only path to know God is through surrender of ourselves.

More on what surrender entails tomorrow.


Phil Snyder

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