We just finished an adult Bible study series at my church on election/predestination today. Boy, was that an interesting one! We certainly don’t shy away from the difficult topics. That is one of the things I like best about my pastor. It turns out that my pastor and I are pretty much aligned on this topic. I assure you that isn’t always the case. I will have to think and study this some more and then maybe do a series on predesitnation here some day. I just wanted to make a quick post here to maybe get you (and myself) thinking a little about it.
Much of the discussion today centered around free will. If God does indeed give us free will then how much of our actions are predestined by him? As you know if you follow this blog at all, I am one of those who believe strongly in the concept of free will ordained by God. Without free will there cannot be love and as we saw on the recent study on this blog Jesus was almost totally about love. Love very much depends on free will. If we program our computer to type (or say) “I love you” everyday then does the computer actually love you? Of course it doesn’t, it is just putting out what you programmed it to do. It doesn’t have any feelings; it is just a computer (robot). The same goes for us. If we are predestined (programmed) by God then we have no say in what our actions are! God did not make robots but instead gave us free will to make our own decisions. Sometimes, and maybe most times, we screw it up and make the wrong decisions but that is part of free will isn’t it? Our free will along with allowing us to make mistakes also allows us to truly love God and our fellow man.
Sometimes I think we think too much about this sort of thing. It is infinitely complicated for us but of course quite simple for our infinite God.
I wanted to spend today’s post giving you some quotes from Greg Boyd. I use Dr. Boyd’s words quite often in this blog but will give some first timers a little info about him. He is a theologian and the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul MN. He is also the founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries and an author of 15 books on theology and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He also has doctorates from both Princeton and Yale Divinity Schools.
Here are his words (the bold letters are my emphasis, not his):
Now through his death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished the task for which he came. He defeated the kingdom of darkness and set humanity free. In principle, therefore the world has already be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:14-21; Col 1:15-20). In principle, the wall of sin that separates humanity along ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, and tribal lines has been destroyed. In principle, all have already died in Adam and been made alive in Christ (1 Cor 15:22; 2 Cor 5:14). In principle, we are already one new humanity in Christ (Eph 2:14-15). In principle. Yet Scripture as well as our own experience makes it painfully clear that what is true in principle has not yet been manifested as accomplished fact. The interval between what is true in principle and what is manifested as fact… The interval from our perspective has already lasted two thousand years and for all we know may go on for another ten thousand…. Now, we need to understand that this interval is not to be a time in which we passively wait for the end. Rather, it is a time in which the kingdom of God that was planted at Calvary is supposed to grow in us and through us to encompass the entire world.
These so eloquently put words are at the very soul of my beliefs of Jesus’ teachings. Let all us followers of the Way spend our time on this earth making what Jesus accomplished in principle actually occur in fact.
Here is a list of books by Pastor Boyd that is well worth reading and may just shake you out of some of your commonly held myths of what being a Christian is all about:
Letters from a Skeptic
Myth of the Christian Nation
Seeing is Believing
Is God to Blame
Myth of a Christian Religion
I will be reviewing each of them in the coming weeks.
I had an interesting Sunday Bible study recently where we covered Romans 13. Of course since this is probably the most debated text in the New Testament it was a lively discussion. I have to hand it to my pastor, he allow a free flow of diverse discussions. I will only cover one topic from our discussions and that is about the “sword”. Here is ther particular verse:
For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Of course these verses refer to how we are to submit to government authority. The particular words I want to discuss here are “for he does not bear the sword for nothing”. It seems that some take these words to mean that God gives permission for governments to kill people via capital punishment and war. Of course being a person who believes in total non-violence they do not mean that to me. I take my clues from the red letters and Jesus only mentioned the sword twice in the Gospel accounts. Once was where is said he is not bringing peace but the sword and that brother would rise up against brother…. The other place was where Peter cut off the soldier’s ear as they were taking Jesus in for subsequent crucifixion. In that account Jesus made the all to familiar statement that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword”. This is a rather negative aspect of the sword! By these words did Jesus give governments the authority to execute people? I think not.
Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God more frequently than any other topic, and it pervades all his actions as well. He mentioned the kingdom of God more than 70 times in the Gospel texts and it is mentioned by his disciples more than 30 times. Since I haven’t done so yet I thought I would spend the next several posts trying to discover just what is the “kingdom of God”? I will do that primarily through studying the red letters. Let’s start out with this post covering some of the higher levels of this topic and then in the coming posts we will address where Jesus mentioned the kingdom of God.
To me the kingdom of God is all about whether we are loving as Jesus loved? That is, the kingdom of God is an action oriented place. Jesus’ love totally encompasses the kingdom of God. Many of the verses that Jesus quotes show that it is literally impossible for any kingdom of earth to even remotely approach being like the kingdom of God. There is no such thing as a Christian Nation. Just as we are all sinners and therefore totally fail live up to God’s expectations all nations on this earth are totally incapable of meeting God’s kingdom standards. Not even one! We in the U.S. have the largest military complex in the history of the world. The Kingdom of God has NO military but instead will love their enemy and even die FOR them. How ironic!
This study is all new to me so please chime in with your opinions, whether they agree with me or not. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or even any for that matter. I’m just a guy trying to understand the concept of the kingdom of God. Let’s enjoy this coming study and please provide any input you can. Due to some side issues I will be posting twice a week, instead of three times, for the next month or so. I just need to back off for a little while to spend more time on some other issues.
I am making a rare Saturday post to give attention to Trevin Wax’s blog posting for today. Go to http://trevinwax.com/2009/03/21/how-scholarship-shields-us-from-the-bible/ . It gives credence to my belief that today’s Christians are generally not doing a very good job of understanding what Jesus says in the Gospels. It looks like this was also not uncommon a hundred years ago. Will we ever learn that Jesus really does expect us to actually do what he says. Thanks Trevin. I will be picking up a book or two by Soren Kierkegaard.