Posts Tagged ‘theology’

Anger=Love? The God of the Old and New Testament

Scanning through some more blogs, I came upon this blog post, which I thought was very well written. It got the mind ticking, and I wrote a rather lengthy response to it in the comment section, which I’ve reposted here. For those who have no interest in or not enough time to read the blog post, the topic was how to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament, for the OT God seems at times very much like an angry, violent and intolerant God, while Jesus is soft-spoken, meek, humble and loving. Below is my response. Any additional insight others might be willing to lend would be fantastic–even those non-believers who occasionally peruse my blog.

What a great post, as it hits on one of what I believe to be the two main theological issues Christians are faced with in this post-modern world (the other being the problem of suffering).

My wife and I are reading through the Bible this year, and as such we just finished Jeremiah a few weeks ago (never realized that the first 9 months of my year would be devoted to the OT; lot of stuff in there to cover!). You’re right; there does seem to be a lot of raging against nations that isn’t seen in the NT. It is enough to make one question, “why the difference?”

Luckily for me, our church also just went through the book of Hebrews. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the establishment of the context between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. But to me this provides a reasonable explanation for the different responses of God in the OT versus the NT. Our pastor taught (and maybe you agree with this, maybe not) that the purpose of the Old Covenant was to demonstrate to people that they are inherently sinful and deserve punishment for that sin as a result. That’s why the establishment of the law was necessary–to show man that there are objective moral values, and that God is firmly on the right side of them and must respond justly to any actions that fall on the wrong side of them, in accordance with His nature. The New Covenant is to demonstrate to people how to live in light of that sin and to recognize that there is a means of salvation from this punishment. Naturally, salvation sounds plenty better than punishment, so God of the NT sounds a lot better than the God of the OT.

I don’t think the God of the OT went away though; He couldn’t have, otherwise He would not have the characteristic of immutability. One has to wonder if God rages against nations today; I would submit that it’s probable–it’s just that all nations reject Him to some degree, so it doesn’t seem targeted to any one country (i.e. Pakistan doesn’t get hit with more natural disasters than the U.S., let’s say) by our post-modern standards.

The problem that most people shaken by the God of the OT (and this includes both believers and non-believers) is rooted in a mis-understanding that God must be only loving all the time. The nature of God essentially mandates Him to constant righteous anger against sin. This still happens even today. It’s the salvation that exempts us from the execution of this anger that makes it not only a loving gift, but a precious one also.

So the OT to me provides excellent context for the NT, as it shows the reader what God’s nature is bound to, and it emphasizes how loving of a God He is in providing a way to be fit for heaven in spite of our unworthiness and undeservedness. Those who feel like the God of the OT is “capricious, spiteful, hate-filled and war-mongering” also carry with them a certain sense of pride, like God owes them an explanation. I don’t know if that necessarily applies to the person you spoke with, as this person seems more curious than proud. But when we realize that God must act this way to be consistent with His nature and that we are owed NOTHING by Him, it makes a lot more sense and is a lot more understandable.

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The Teleological Argument

I never realized until now that God has been training me even since I knew what it meant.

I grew up in a Christian home that was never short on Bibles. When I was growing up, my favorite Bible was a New Century Version because interspersed throughout the Bible were stories (both fiction and non-fiction) or some facts you might find in a science or history book that were pertinent to what Scriptures were on the page. I don’t remember what the Scriptures were for, but I do remember one such excerpt talking about the idea that if the earth were a few thousand feet closer to the sun we would burn up, and if it were a few thousand feet further away from the sun we would all freeze. The purpose, of course, was to point out intelligent design.

In reading up in Systematic Theology by Norman Geisler, I realized that such arguments are under the banner of a bigger argument for the existence of God: the Teleological Argument. This argument contains 2 pieces. One is the “anthropic principle,” which encompasses what I talked about above and I’ll get into some more detail about later. The second piece is one I hadn’t heard of until my Bible study went through the Truth Project recently. That second piece is the notion of “irreducible complexity.”

Let me explain this concept the best way I can. The term “irreducible complexity” is actually a term taken from Darwin. In Chapter VI of his book “On the Origin of Species,” Darwin explains that one of the bases for his theory is the ability for organisms to undergo slight modifications over a period of time to evolve into their current state. His conclusion says thus: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.” He goes on to say that such an organ would be “irreducibly complex,” and would destroy his theory.

The interesting thing is that modern biochemistry seems to have found what Darwin could not — an irreducibly complex organism. Ironically, this organism is the basis for all human life. It is the structure of the human cell. It has been determined that if any one piece of the cell’s make-up were to be removed, the entire structure of the cell would fall apart and cease to be. If every single piece is necessary, then there is no “evolutionary link” that could have been lacking any part of its structure. The cell either exists in full form or it doesn’t exist; there is no middle ground.

One other such example is the bacterial flagellum, which requires all parts in order to be a fully functioning organism. Those attempting to refute this idea suggest that not enough is yet known about the bacterial flagellum with which to make this conclusion to a certainty. Another interesting concept is the idea of blood clotting. If this process evolved the way other processes evolve, then the starting point or middle ground would have meant that blood would not clot properly, in which case a person (or ape, or whatever) would simply bleed out because nothing could stop the bleeding. If all of these creatures were dead, then how could they evolve? It appears that Darwin’s theory is breaking down.

The anthropic principle is equally important to emphasize the nature of a Creator with intelligence and a perfect knowledge of what we need. My understanding of this principle is that there is evidence suggesting some intelligent design in the way the Earth was created for us to be able to sustain life on it . Some examples given by Geisler:

1) Earth’s atmosphere is 21% oxygen. If this ratio was 25%, fires would erupt; if it was 15%, humans would suffocate.
2) If the gravitational force were altered by merely one part in ten to the 40th power (ten followed by 40 zeroes), the sun would not exist and the moon would crash into the earth or veer off into space.
3) If the universe were expanding at a rate one-millionth more slowly than it is, the temperature on Earth would be 10,000 degrees Celsius.
4) If the earth’s crust were thicker, too much oxygen would be transmitted to support life. If it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life untenable.

Albert Einstein may have summed it up best when he said, “The harmony of natural law…reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”

What’s most telling about the teleological argument is that its claims are made based on scientific discovery, which is the primary rebuttal against a pro-theistic stance (no evidence of intelligent design in science). From what I’ve seen in debates on YouTube and other websites (which of course, is filled with bias both ways and what I’ve seen in no way represents every mention of the subject), it appears that evolutionary biology is scrambling to find answers to these questions posed to them. I admit that I entered this realm with a definite bias, but this type of science leaves me with fewer questions and more answers, which is more than I can say about evolution at this point.

I guess ultimately what I’m saying is that I’m so glad to have a God that is omniscient and can foresee our needs, and as a result tailored together such a wonderful thing that can support our existence. I’m sure similar posts are forthcoming, as this is only chapter two in volume one of systematic theology. I’m anxious to learn more about our great God!

The Concept of Salvation

So I finally read the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words” and have to say it was definitely an interesting read. Lots of real-world examples that make very compelling arguments. At the end of it, I had to sit back and think about whether or not my theological perspective had changed. I came to the conclusion that mostly it had not. However, as I started thinking about one particular position, it led me to an interesting idea, and one that I’ve tried to defend: that salvation only affects us as we cross from this life into eternity.

Here’s my thinking. If salvation is a gift from God (as is explained in Ephesians 2:8), then it seems like if we have free will we have the choice to open the gift or not. However, God has predestined some to open that gift, and others not to. This allows for the idea of unconditional election while still giving credence to unlimited atonement. I’ve been thinking that if salvation is really being “saved from our sins,” it doesn’t really take affect while we’re still on the earth, because it doesn’t really stop us from sinning. In that sense, salvation is the removal of our sins from us when we die, so we can be made perfect (the concept of glorification) and fit for heaven.

However, WIFE brought up a good point earlier this week. She said that salvation isn’t necessarily just from our sins, but from being enslaved to past sins and tied down to them. Another friend, who we’ll just call Theology Man, said something similar in a brief text discussion. I tend to think this is more in line with the concept of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the point at which we accept Jesus as Lord in our lives and the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives (sanctification). This is how 2 Corinthians 5:17 becomes a part of our lives, as the old is gone and the new has come.

Interestingly, I was surprised that Paul addressed this very issue of salvation vs. sanctification in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” It seems evident from this verse that salvation and sanctification are tied together with faith. So what is the relationship between salvation and sanctification? The relationship between salvation and glorification?

In short, my theological perspective has changed slightly. I now believe (which I assume is not an uncommon position) that the 3 big Bible words (sanctification, justification, glorification) are encompassed by the overarching concept of salvation. Salvation includes these three things, which is why God is able to use the past, present and future tenses in the Bible when discussing the salvation He has given us. I still believe that salvation is an eternal decision that is extended to all men, but I think at least now I better understand why.

Is WIFE correct? Yep. Is Theology Man correct? Most definitely. Am I correct? I think so now. What once was a belief that salvation is tied to glorification has now turned into glorification as the final step to salvation. Thank you Lord, for providing a Word that gives us a glimpse into Your awesome ability to do such works in us, and what exactly that means in the course of eternity!