Posts Tagged 'Theology'



To Get and Acquire

I woke up this morning reflecting on Sunday’s post, specifically Genesis 4:1 where it says, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.””

Two things struck me. The first was that “Cain” means “to get or acquire”  or “gotten one”.  Eve had gotten this manchild with the help of the Lord. Why would she say such a thing if she’d “gotten” children before? And why would the Holy Spirit have Moses record it? 

Secondly, the significance of the idea of getting or acquiring. It occurred to me that the very first act Adam and the woman performed after the fall was one of human good: seeing they were naked, they tried to make things right between themselves by covering themselves with fig leaves. By this act they sought to get or acquire reconciliation. Peace. Normality.

Then, after the fall and leaving the garden, the action first noted by the Holy Spirit as being displeasing to God is also an act of  human good performed by the one whose name means “to get or acquire”.  Cain offered the work of his hands, the fruits and vegetables, products of the earth instead of the blood of the slain lamb he was supposed to have offered.

 (This is indicated by God’s rebuke in vs 6,7; and by the precedent set by God’s provision of the animal skins for Adam and the woman in Gen 3:21 — skins mean an animal had to die for them to be covered, a perfect metaphor for the work of Christ on the cross).

Trying to substitute his own works and efforts for what God had already provided not only showed Cain’s unbelieving state, but also something that I think is the underpinning of human depravity: human good. The desire to get or acquire God’s favor by one’s own effort or merits or righteousness.

Cain’s sins of jealousy, anger and murder came afterward in reaction to the failure of his plan and the thwarting of his desire. (Though technically I suppose that the arrogance underpinning the very idea of human good is the real depravity. It just doesn’t look depraved.)

So many make such a big deal out of sin, but it’s really human good and independence from God that’s the problem. Jesus already paid for everyone’s sins and no one will be judged for them in the end. Instead, they’ll be judged by their deeds. Were they righteous deeds, performed in the power of the Spirit by a perfect individual, or where they human good?

That tree of the knowledge of good and evil… that wasn’t  the knowledge of divine good. They already knew about divine good, because they’d been walking with God every day in the cool of the evening. No, that good was human good, which is a part of evil.

And yet, it looks so good. It feels so good. It feels so right. It is so darned hard to see someone who is sweet and nice and “loving” and doing all these nice things as being a wicked sinner. Human good does not seem gross to us, but in God’s eyes it is as filthy menstrual rags. (Is 64:6 )

I think human good is one of the biggest obstacles not just to admitting you need a savior and believing in Christ, but to really living the Christian way of life.

“Woe to those who call evil good…who substitute darkness for light…” Is 5:20

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Pro 14:12; 16:25

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Pro 21:2

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”  I Cor 3:11-13 

The problem of human good doesn’t get near enough the attention that it should. And that suits the enemy just fine…

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CSFF Blog Tour Wrap-Up – Nephilim

Well, another CSFF Blog Tour comes to a close. I found it fun and informative, and was pleasantly surprised by the level of participation and the number of really good posts.

Becky Miller, apparently the CSFF Blog Tour Overlord (who would have guessed?) finally unveiled her own review of  The Enclave, which I found quite insightful.

Becky’s essay at Speculative Faith called The Truth in Speculative Fiction: a Look at The Enclave by Karen Hancock  is also well worth reading.

Rachel Starr Thomson did an excellent Third Day post on men trying to be God.

Elizabeth Williams did three detailed, thoughtful and very thorough posts on various aspects of the book. On Day 1 she gave an overview, on Day 2  she shared her observations about the scientific aspects of the story and her desire for … well, more development. At which point I was ruefully reminded of my struggles to keep to the allotted word count, which I exceeded, and to finish in the allotted time, which I grossly exceeded! But oh well. The book is what God wanted it to be and all books have flaws.

More than that, no book is going to satisfy everyone, though admittedly, from Elizabeth’s final post on Day 3, when she considered the Christian aspects, it seemed she was overall more satisfied than not. (I particularly appreciated this last post of hers)

For his Day 2 post, John Otte detailed his objection to my inclusion of Nephilim into the story, provoking a number of interesting comments. So many, in fact, that he decided to scrap his original Day 3 post and continue the discussion of Nephilim in Christian fiction . He also offered  a sort of apology. I love that he takes into account his own perspective and frame of reference and acknowledges it in his approach.

Because in all this talk of Nephilim several have suggested that the people who think these creatures were half human/half angel have arrived at that conclusion solely based on a reading of the English translation of Genesis 6:1-4, I’ve decided to address that issue today as something of a wrap-up.

Being one of those who believe they were indeed human/angelic crossbreeds, I can attest to the fact there’s more than just the English Gen 6 that has led me to that conclusion. And I’m not talking about The Book of Enoch, which one person cited as a probable source. I had arrived at my conclusion long before I’d ever heard of The Book of Enoch, though I did skim it in preparation for writing The Enclave. To me it seemed obviously not written by God but some legalistic somebody… so I give it no more credence than Greek myths — which like many other myths most likely contain seeds of truth, and may record the traditions of belief at the time of writing, but are not the absolute truth of God’s word.

No, my reasons come pretty much straight from the word of God:

Item #1

The phrase in Gen 6, “sons of God” is “beni ha Elohim” in the Hebrew. It is a phrase used only three other times in the scriptures, all three in Job. I would note that Job is regarded as the oldest book of the Bible in terms of content — that is, the events it records occurred before Abraham and were believed to have been part of an oral tradition that pre-existed the writings of Moses (which Moses would have known about), though it was actually preserved in written form some time after he wrote the Torah.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came among them.

Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself to the Lord.

(Since they are presenting themselves to the Lord in heaven it’s pretty obvious these are angels)

Job 38:7 — the last line of a passage wherein God asks Job where he was when “I laid the foundation of the earth! Tell me if you have understanding. Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy…”

This reference is also pretty obviously depicting angels, if the earth was still in the process of being created as they were singing and shouting. Additionally, the morning star phrase links to Is 14:12 where it refers specifically to Satan, before his fall.

Item #2

First Mention Principle. One of the means of understanding what a term or phrase means in the Bible is the “First-Mention Principle” wherein you look at the first time a word/phrase is used to glean its meaning for later usages. Looking at beni ha Elohim in Genesis 6, its first usage could certainly be ascribed to angels, but it’s inconclusive. However, if you consider that Job is the earliest surviving account through oral tradition, then technically Job is the first mention of the phrase, where the usage is not at all inconclusive. And as I mentioned earlier, Moses was probably familiar with it.

Item #3

Genesis 6:2 says that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.

“took wives” is laqach, the BDB Definition of which is “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away”

Other scholars suggest “to take by sheer strength, overwhelming whoever protected them.”  Thus an alternate translation could be, “seized women for themselves, whomever they chose.”

Which sounds like rape and conquest to me. An examination of ancient history and cultures, especially Greek mythology, shows that women were more often taken and snatched and seized as wives than they were “married” as we know it today.

Item #4

If the sons of God were just men, and the daughters of men were just human women, then why bother referencing some special kind of progeny? ie, “Nephilim” who were around “in those days and also afterward.” Wouldn’t they be the same as other people? Why call them mighty men? Why use the same term later to refer to the giants in the land? Giants who clearly weren’t just regular men if the Jews saw themselves as grasshoppers in their sight.(Numbers 13:33)

Item #5

Jude and 2 Peter tell of a special group of angels who sinned in a particular way, different from the rest, who are currently being kept in prison:

Jude 6ff And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bounds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh (ie, flesh they were forbidden to go after, including flesh of a lower creation), are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

The angels who did not keep their own domain are equated in this passage with some sort of sexual sin comparable to the sin of homosexuality of Sodom and Gomorrah, a sin God refers to as an abomination in Lev 18:22 comparable with copulating with animals (a lower creation), forbidden in Lev 18:23

2 Peter 2: 4,5   For if God did not spare angels when they sinned but cast them into hell (the Greek word here is Tartarus) and committed them to pits of darkness reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of rightousness with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

These verses tie the angels to a sin of “gross immorality” outside the boundaries God had apparently set up, and are here clearly linked to the judgment that came upon the pre-flood world.

I consider this, taken together with Gen 6 and the verses in Job to be convincing support for the angelic/human crossbreeding interpretation.

Item #6

Why would the angels do this? Just out of lust?

I think it’s because Satan was right there when God made his promise to the woman in Genesis 3 that the human race would be saved through her seed and that that same seed would crush Satan’s head. I think he wanted to thwart that plan by corrupting the genetics of the human race so that it was no longer human. Then the promise of a purely human female seed could not be fulfilled and God would be proven a liar.

The first sentence of that paragraph is supportable in Gen 3. The second is logical extrapolation. There are other verses that do support it indirectly, but that involves many more doctrines than I want to pursue in this wrap-up which is already long enough. I’ll save it for another time.

Again, I want to thank everyone who participated for taking the time to read and review The Enclave — or at the least just make mention of it on their blogs — and especially those who went the extra mile in providing additional reflections, comments and humor.

Godliness

Lately I’ve had cause to reflect on what I believe the Bible teaches about what the plan of God is for us as Christians after salvation, a reflection from the point of view of making a defense. If you’ve read my old blog for any length of time, you probably know that I believe scripture teaches  we are, in fact, called to a very specific plan and mode of operation: we are to submit ourselves to the prepared pastor teacher God has assigned to us and sit, filled with the Spirit, under his teaching, which, according to scripture should be done on a near daily basis. In this way the water of the word and the work of the Spirit transforms our thinking into our Lord’s, as per Ro 12.

It is a long, gradual process. In between classes, we are attacked by our flesh, the world system in which we live and sometimes agents of the kingdom of darkness, though that happens most frequently when one first becomes interested in following this mode of operation and then later when one has begun to move into spiritual maturity. The scripture terms this eusebeia, often translated “godliness,” the latter a word that’s frankly never really meant anything to me. Being good? Being like God? Being pious — and what is pious, for that matter?

A study of the word itself helps. Eusebeia comes from eu (well) and sebomai (to be devout) Thayer defines it has having reverence and respect for God, and characterized by being devoted to the fulfillment of religious obligations or mandates. Thus, perhaps a better, more meaningful translation and one my pastor uses is “the spiritual life” or  “the spiritual lifestyle.”

Vine’s Expository Dictionary notes that the releated word eusebes (also from euand sebomai)

“directs us [not toward piety of the inner being but] rather to the energy which, directed by holy awe of God, finds expression in devoted activity.”

It’s a manner of living where everything is directed toward God. Since you are what you think as Proverbs 23:7 says, this direction begins with thinking. What you think directs everything else. And if your thinking has been transformed into His thinking, and you spend much of your day filled with the Spirit and thinking His thoughts, obeying His commands, then you are living the spiritual life. So the primary objective is to take in the instruction that will cause one’s thinking to be changed — i.e., daily. It is a slow, incremental process since it’s estimated that in any given lesson, people are actually able to recall only about 5% and able to apply a mere 1%.

I don’t think this is the usual meaning people ascribe to the word “godliness,” nor is this the usual lifestyle most Christians pursue or even believe they should be pursuing. In fact my experience is that many argue against it as being fanatical, not supported by the word, weird, excessive, etc. Besides, the argument goes, what about 1 John 2:27, which says,

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

 Yes, there it is… you have no need for anyone to teach you. That does seem to contradict the view that says you must be taught on a daily basis.

But what about Eph 4:11 – 15?

“And He gave some as apostles…and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

The and between “pastors” and “teachers” is not accompanied by a definite article before teachers and so, according the Granville-Sharpe Rule, should rendered with a hyphen to indicate that both nouns refer to the same person. Hence, “pastor-teacher.”

2 Ti 4:1,2 makes it clear that pastor-teachers are supposed to be teaching. (“Preach in season and out of season.”)

I Thess 5:12, 13 instructs us to “appreciate those who have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.”

 I Pe 5:1-3 instructs pastors to feed the flock…”not lording it over those allotted to you.”

Okay, but where does it say it has to be daily?

Well, that is not quite as obvious, but still clear I think, if you pause to consider. First we have the example of Jesus, who taught daily (Lk 9:14;22:53), as did Paul (Acts 17:11; 19:9), the early church met daily (Acts 2:46) and even in the OT the devout were advised to wait daily at the gates where doctrine was taught (Pro 8:34)

Job considered doctrine or the teachings of the word of God to be more needful than his daily food (Job 23:12). We are told to live one day at a time. God gives us our daily bread, referring  not just to the physical food we need each day but also the spiritual. The manna given to the Israelites in the desert is a picture of the provision of daily spiritual food. Jeremiah wrote of the metaphor specifically: “Your words were found and I ate them…” (15:16)

It’s interesting to me that people consider the gathering together to listen to God’s word on a daily basis as fanatical, but no one has a problem with people gathering daily to eat food. They don’t even have any problem with a daily walking or running group gathering together to exercise. In fact, daily exercise is preached everywhere these days as needed for good health.   And if you should want to be a first class athlete (or artist or doctor or pianist or anything) it’s expected that you will put in daily practice time in that field . Of all things to be world class in in life, shouldn’t it be so with our Christian walk?

Okay…but what about that verse about not needing a teacher? Well, I believe that’s refering to the fact that as Church age believers we each have the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who, if we are under His control, makes whatever the pastor-teacher is teaching understandable. The Holy Spirit is the one who guides you to your pastor teacher, and it is His message you are receiving through the man. It’s not the man, it’s the message. In fact, I’ve been in correspondence with a pastor-teacher recently who told me that sometimes his experience of presenting a message is very much like my experience of writing The Enclave — you feel as if you have little idea what you’re doing, and yet the hearers are hit right between the eyes with information precisely targeted to issues they are dealing with.

As a message recipient, I have to say this happens to me constantly. Something I tusseled with earlier in the day, some question that arose in reflection, an argument, a difficulty, a discussion… hardly a day doesn’t go by that I don’t put on class live at the appointed time and somewhere in the message the exact issue is addressed. In such specificity it is truly like God is talking right to me.

And if you consider that the pastor-teacher, being filled with the Spirit himself, and having spent hours and days and weeks and years studying the Word and preparing his messages, then Spirit-filled when he delivers them to, ideally, an audience of Spirit-filled believers ready to receive them… you begin to see that the whole operation is the Spirit’s and not the man’s at all… Hence it’s not the man you need to teach you but the Spirit.

~~


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