As a first-time reader, you may want to back up a couple posts, if so inclined to read the entire series, though this one alone is quite provoking.
Some of this particular post came from listening to a podcast recommended by an online acquaintance, an interview with Wm. Paul Young, Author of The Shack (See link below for interview).1
Young mentions self-referential incoherence, "hiding in your head," which rang my bells, or as he says “rattled my cage”; worse yet, my prison bars. I seemed to have been there for some years and am just now becoming comfortable with full transparency of my thoughts.
Fear and shame, job security, peer pressure, church politics, politics in general, and yes, even some faux trust cultivated by leaders, a trust less relational, based more on intellectual accuracy...on and on go the reasons for our cages.
As Young says, Jesus was the clearest representation of God...there is no fear in love.
Religion, however, takes the "Voice" away from people, then takes the people’s voice away from them, telling them what to believe. That is the nature of humans, they tend to choose control over a progressive revelation, one which always requires change.
God's intention was never Christianity, at least as we now know it, but the introduction of Himself in Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh.
Religion is as stark in contrast with love as Anarchy with Presence, replacing His system with another...religion vs. relationships; nationalism, military complex, all idolatry...all vs. being Present in love!
I have chosen an approach to life that has required a prayerful interpretation of scripture, a process nurtured now by fifty years of daily study, paralleled with a hands-on experiential application, both within the church. All of this alongside of a deep engagement in the community and the marketplace; add to that the privilege of observing the lives of church goers across five major sectors. Now I find myself asking "How's that working for you?"
Feeling all judgmental as I write and yet still, I hear, "Do this in my Name." (Reference prior post).
I truly believe the God of the Galaxies, who appeared in the bodily form of Jesus is trying to get our attention. I don't mean the "pagans," as we too often call those in other religious sects. Those I am speaking of are typically well-churched, American Christians.
When we well-churched reference people not yet in our camp, we justify their rejection of the Gospel as due to their being creatures of choice, “sinners.” Seldom do we question the means of our presentation of the Gospel. I deeply believe that we are all creatures of choice, and apart from grace, we do a terrible job at it. In a nutshell, that is what sin is.
When we choose not to change, while believing the eternity of many is at risk, we sin! You might read that again!
Let's think through this resistance to change and the predominant and growing fear of change in our present culture, as well as our view of the absolute authority of scripture, rather than an openesss to a progressive revelation by the Spirit, by way of the text of scripture.
Before we begin, I must admit that a lot of this is being driven by the reality of where society has “chosen to go,” which doesn’t look good for the institutions of our past. I say this rather “tongue in cheek,” as I believe ideation is the providence of God, regardless of its source.
Just this week, as I continue to ponder where technology is taking us, i.e., Artificial Intelligence, the buzz of the day, I stumbled upon another digital breakthrough called probabilistic computing systems (see link below). 2
“They don’t just provide a single “right” answer, but rather a range of possible outcomes, each with its associated probability... creating the first ever photonic probabilistic bit (p-bit).” the researchers explain.
AI seems to me basically, the ability provided by a global connection of computer devices (the Cloud). One which allows access to and assemblage of information, faster than the speed of thought. All that bounded only by knowledge previously input by humans.
That is an amazing advantage, one expanded each time information is added, but it does have its limits, thus the caution provided students who now dare to craft their assignments with the help of AI. Easily detectable without some personal touch.
However, now with probabilistic computing systems, we advance closer to human reasoning, given not only an expanded intelligence but a frontend loaded understanding of variables that often take years of experimentation in artificial laboratory systems, and as the article points out, even in a vacuum, the emptiest of spaces, minor fluctuations occur.” Now however with p-Bits, even quantum physics gets a bump forward.
I how now way outside my pay grade, but can you grasp how fast this is moving?
I find all this exciting but at the same time requiring change in the way we go about communicating the Good News, as well as preparing our kids for their future. That my friend is called spiritual practicality!
At the risk of being grossly misunderstood, let me ask you to take a moment and pretend you are where Moses was when he wrote Genesis.
Here you are in your tent, reflecting upon what must have been a relatively well-kept genealogy, his connection with God perhaps no different than the most devoted of today’s pastors and priests.
We tend to elevate Moses, yet even he had his quirks, sufficient for his denied entrance into the Promised Land!
Along with this ancient ancestral lineage and even assuming a download of God Breathed instruction occurs, it is breathed into a human being! One with a knowledge base nowhere near the ability to grasp what our elementary kids know today about the galaxies, the Big Bang or the initial creation.
Something occured well beyond a mere separating of the waters in the firmament. Mose’s objective however was never a science lesson, but an explanation of how these people of God had emerged over time. We today have tried to make it fit science, more and more sounding a little ridiculous, given what providence (sovereign providence) has now afforded.
Don’t leave me yet, as my objective is not to cast doubt but to encourage a more progressive truth than that with which you were raised, or at least was the case with this Boomer!
With writing skills perhaps learned in the Pharoah's house, Moses drafts words sufficient to communicate some substantial explanation to this mass of former Egyptian slaves per their origin of earth, which only much later would the Psalmist describe as the circle of the earth (way before Galileo) just in case you think I doubt the profound mystery captured in the Canon!
These thousands of exiles had just been led out of Egypt and needed to understand what had brought them into and through such peril. That's the requirement for his writing the Book of Genesis. Speaking of having a sense another book inside of you, no pressure! Thank, Moses!
Later I assume all his work was consolidated, along with other writings to form the Torah.
Long after Moses' death, the scrambling and warfare among the Judges, the lifetimes of some 40 kings and a divided nation, all of whom struggled with God, save the few who heard from the prophets, and finally this amazing book was birthed. However, along the way, some six hundred plus laws were added (humans).
How does one book mysteriously emerge, that reads like one story, though 66 books, written by at least 35 authors from multiple continents, telling the story of a people called out of idolatry, made more than conquerors, though called "stiff-necked" by their own kinsman, all now looking for a Messiah?
When their own kings, nor their priests were able to birth a Messiah, prophets began to declare that a child would be born of a virgin, something unheard of, yet even the town in which he would be born is named: Bethlehem, the House of Bread.
After some 400 years of silence, Jesus arrives, all predisposed to a rich language by way of Roman emperors naming themselves as “sons of the gods” and with each town conquered declaring euangelion, the Good News of a newly established kingdom. What a set up for the King of Kings!
Then in a remote village, John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb as an unwed Mary would share with her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth the story which an angel had told her. The impending birth of the true Son of God, who would finally bring Good News of a New Kingdom on Earth!
Next, an amazing 33 years as a carpenter's son, who had chosen at age 12 to listen and learn the teachings shared on temple steps among lawyers and priests. Yet, as a demonstration of grace, He would live otherwise than their deeply imbedded religion of laws, whike becoming the sacrificerequired.
Yes, He through love would keep the laws, even to the surrender of his own life, becoming the sacrifice deemed required of God!
His life was a demonstration of grace in a territory where men had taught of only wrath, a wrath seldom appeased short of slaughter.
When he was questioned, he spoke truth even at His own peril, loving those seen by the religious as ungodly, both the spiritual and physical lepers.
He too would be a person with freedom of choice, choosing rather to obey God than men, or women; the latter surely saw where this would end, and not good for this one they would so come to love.
In the end, he became the very Lamb that religion required, the ram provided in the story so faithfully captured by Moses, when that demanding God, YHWH asked for the sacrifice of his son Isaac.
Was it a wrathful God that initially required Isaac, or a loving God that provided a ram in place of the son which Abraham's father had likely reinforced as a necessary appeasement for the lesser gods worshipped by his post diluvian ancestors?
So Moses follows up his garden story, one even demonstrating the gender bias of his day, a bias that the Second Adam, Jesus would break through. No longer could the story of bad choices be blamed on Eve.
Yes, they were in a spiritual warfare and with a fallen angel that strikes like that of the serpents confronted in their desert experience, and much savvier than we humans.
So, no wonder if you struggle with the mystery of scripture, now so bound by doctrines set in stone by an institution given authority by Constantine, one that then killed or imprisoned those who believed differently. Such as it was for Galileo and others who fortunately found a way to allow a separate, now called secular process to continue for God’s revelation.
Meanwhile the scriptures over the centuries, salvaged miraculously, do provide a critical tool by which the Word of God through the Spirit might be progressively revealed, the text itself never intended to be practiced as absolutes. That's the law, which the Apostle Paul declared as only another source of death. Even describing himself as a "wretched man" held in a body of flesh that against his own will would attempt to serve the very law he condemned.
To me "all truly have sinned and come short of the glory of God" and why not, being that we apart from grace are given free choice. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Even when the right choices are made, its most often out of grace or some "imputed righteousness." We later witness the divine potential within us, or as scripture states "Christ in us the hope of glory."
But why would this God of love afford such creatures free choice?
To those of you who by now believe me to be a latter-day heretic, we'll go back to scripture. Isaiah speaks of that fallen angel, cast down from heaven, Moses called him a serpent. Peter describes a "roaring lion seeking whom he might devour."
There is a battle going on in the heavens, where a thousand years is but a day, but in the end, God wins, through love not warfare. Whether the end be as Daniel describes, or Paul's writing in Thessalonians, "a great catching away," or even John the Revelator's much debated chronology, God wins, and we who so choose will be with him.
That is a promise, but for us not the entire agenda. Ours is to bring God's Kingdom to this earth, to unpack our PIECE of God in such a way as to draw out from others “a question as to the hope that is in us.” Yes, one demonstrated from deep within us, a convincing practical presentation of the Gospel, and "if necessary, use words."
To be vessels that deliver ideation direct from God to consumer in the marketplace, one where there is no secular ground, living as a priesthood of professional believers, understanding how to maneuver the morass of politics whether in the governance of cities, states, nations, or even small church plants (communities of believers, in sanctuaries or homes, however designed).
Hopefully as his kingdom expands, more unity will surface with fewer silos, a more expanded provision for the poor among us, and in the end, Peace on Earth
Only then perhaps the New Heavens and New Earth will appear as we inhabit the awaiting galaxies!