If you were interested in Discussion on the Character of God, then you might want to read this article. Here I am posting the next email in this discussion so we can hopefully follow up on some key ideas presented in the last post. If you have not read the first post you might want to in order to understand the full point of our conversation. I might come back and write articles related to specific issues mentioned during this discussion, but for now as always questions and comments welcome. Also as a reminder, the words of my friend are in bold and my response is in regular text.
I think in retrospect my comment was a little absurd. Obviously there are going to be mythical, and like you said, the entire idea of God and much of the Bible is very mythical. I should’ve have elaborated and spoke about how it seemed like other mythologies. Greek mythologies, Norse mythologies. Who spoke of larger than life, god warriors who routinely intervened in daily affairs, slayed their opponents and had legends created. That’s what I meant, that the Old Testament sounds like a mythology more akin to the Greeks, with tales of heroic Israelites and their legends, and their relationship with their God. I wondered what you had to take on that.
For specific stories, I think Moses is a great example. His upbringing from fleeing from genocide to becoming a prince, then rejecting them in favor of God. Speaking to God through a burning bush and then leading the Israelites to freedom by parting the Red Sea. This may seem harsh or maybe a little crass, but sometimes I think. What if I just replaced God with Thor…would this story fit right into that mythology?
I’ve heard it argued before that the OT stories are just recycled legends and that you can find the same legends in other religions and cultures. I don’t think that is a totally unreasonably possibility to a certain extent, though this does not take away from their truth. There is only one true history of this world, so it makes sense to me that we might find some stories in the Bible that are similar to Greek mythology and the like. That does not take away from the reality of these stories, as some might suggest. To me, this attests to their truth. This isn’t something I know a lot about, but you have sparked my interest so I might research this and write something about it later. Sorry I don’t have much to say about this right now.
What I meant by putting the OT and NT into the same timeline is connecting Jesus’s story to the greater story of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. Kind of connecting the dots so it’s all one cohesive narrative. Which I think the Bible does a very good job of, there were just some issues in mostly sometimes how different Jesus comes across and God. Who are the same being, but Jesus was there for God’s greater purpose. It’s difficult to wrap my head around sometimes. Though I think I have seen from what you’ve read and others, and the bible itself that I think God’s character is very consistent. More so than I thought.
That makes sense. Thanks for clarifying, and I’m glad that you are seeing how consistent God’s character remains in the person of Jesus Christ. I think we can see how the OT and NT are cohesive if we consider the promises made to Israel and how Jesus fulfilled those promises—and in this we see Jesus’s purpose for the people of Israel.
When I consider this for myself, my thoughts are directed towards the message of the gospel. In the Old Covenant, the chosen people of God were limited in a very strict sense to only include the decedents of the tribes of Israel. As we’ve talked about in previous emails, this covenant was first established in the law of circumcision that was given by God to Abraham. The laws of Moses were given much later, and they became important for setting the people apart and providing sacrifices for sin.
The point I want to get to is this. In the prophets, the people of God were told that they would one day be given a new and better covenant in which the laws would be written in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10). This is the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. They were also promised a king who would descend from David—a king that would free God’s people from oppression and bring about the kingdom of heaven. This is also the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, and they are one and the same promise, just described differently.
I’ve written about this a lot, but it is worth repeating because there is a full picture of the gospel that Christians should lay hold of. On this earth, we are either ruled by the prince of this world, Satan, or we are ruled by the prince of peace, Jesus Christ—who is the King of Kings. These rulerships are not purely physical, but spiritual. Either we are servants of sin and death, or we are servants of light and life (Matthew 6:24, John 8:34). This comes down to the heart, and as the Old Covenant laws show, man cannot be made pure of heart by law. The same is true for legalistic Christianity, and that is something I want to write more about sometime on KindlingTruth.
The New Covenant is one in which we are becoming freed from the greatest of oppressors—Satan, sin, and eventually death. In order for this covenant to be established, the payment for sin which is blood had to be made. The payment of death. We know that Jesus paid that price on the cross so that those who believe in him can be forgiven. However, that is not all there is to the New Covenant.
We also have the promise of resurrection, which we believe in and understand is a central component of the Christian faith. However, what we often miss is the fact that the kingdom of heaven is not just physical. Although there is a coming kingdom, first we need to understand that the kingdom of heaven is “within you” (Luke 17: 20-21). By the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, we have a seed of the divine nature that will cause us to grow in righteousness as we learn what is the perfect and acceptable will of God (Romans 12:2). We are renewed little by little, and over the course of our lives we begin to walk uprightly—not according to our corrupted works, but the righteous works of grace through faith as evidence of our salvation (James 2: 14-26). We are promised a new nature, and that transformation begins during this present life, not just after we “die and go to heaven” in a physical sense (Titus 2:12).
There are many important misconceptions about the kingdom of heaven as well as the consistent character of God that affect our understanding of the gospel and overthrow the faith of many. I plan to write more about these things in the near future on KindlingTruth.
Let’s backtrack to promises made to Israel, specifically Abraham. Abraham was told that his seed would be as the sands of the sea, and through his lineage, all nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). This was fulfilled in Jesus because in Christ we have the adoption of gentiles into the people of Israel. So now, the chosen people of God are not Jews only, but “all.” As mentioned in the last email, this does not mean every person to live, but rather, this means people of all nations. God has always had a separate people, and this did not change after Jesus because God does not change. The difference is that all lineages are brought in so that the “world” is saved.
The last thing that comes to mind when forming a cohesive understanding of the OT and NT is what is yet to come for the people of Israel. As Christians, we are Israel. In Christ we are told that a Jew is not one outwardly, but inwardly (Romans 2: 28-29). Again, this goes back to the circumcision of the heart. It does not matter how much we honor God with our lips or whether we make a profession of faith, if our heart is far from the things of God, then our faith is a sham (Isaiah 29:13, Mark 7:6). We are not really sincere, and our natures are still under the rulership of the kingdom of death.
God cast out many Jews because of their hard hearts and unbelief, and many people who call themselves Christians are going to be “weeping and gnashing their teeth” when they too find themselves thrust out. We cannot take the New Covenant lightly, and if we really love the Lord, appreciate the sacrifice, and seek Him, we won’t. We will “bring forth fruits” of righteousness fit for the kingdom of heaven. Those who do not bring forth fruit are cast out (John 15:2, Matthew 7:19).
God is patience and merciful. God is also powerful and He eventually overthrows those who oppress His people. Jesus, who is God and also the Son of God, is the same. God’s will and character is also the will and character of Jesus. Though Jesus is patient and merciful, he hates wickedness and he will return to avenge his people, and those for whom his wrath is ordained will not be protected just because they call themselves Christian. If God cast out the Jews, what makes us think we are any different? See Romans Chapter 11.
The reason I emphasis this is two-fold. One to show that the character if God (even in the person of Jesus) remains the same, and two, because many people have this false sense of security in their salvation. Many Christians do not take their salvation seriously, but rather they take advantage of the mercy of the Lord, pervert grace into some cop-out for sinful living, and oppress sincere believers with legalism, pride, hatefulness, and unforgiveness.
God is merciful and we cannot judge the salvation of others, but God knows our hearts and whether we are ruled by Christ and life or Satan and death. If life rules our hearts, then we will grow in bringing forth fruits of life—we will be lights for this world and foster healing and growth in others. If our hearts are ruled by death, then we will bring forth fruits of death. We will kill people with our words and actions, damaging those around us, even driving them further from God. Calling ourselves Christian and doing things to be seen as righteous outwardly will save us no more than such things saved the Jews. If we continue as one who is ruled by death, death will be our just reward.
I didn’t have a problem with God’s jealousy. At first I thought it was strange that jealousy could be a sin, but yet God is jealous. But I understand his jealousy is not of a sinful way, and it’s mostly due to the insufficient words in the English language to describe the character of his jealous. It should be more like he GUARDS RIGHTEOUSLY what he creates, safeguards it. I think that would be more accurate maybe?
Neither do I have a problem with his smiting. My problem was his smiting in relation to Jesus’s very tolerant, in comparison to God’s, pacifistic approach. Jesus seems more content to play a long game. Like he is more interested in the soul getting to heaven, and being forgiven, than to smite evil. He is a Shepard, God is the Warrior, to put in a crude way. I think my issue was confusing them as having the same PURPOSE, rather than understanding Jesus was sent under God’s will to do different works than God himself, despite being the same.
The will of God and the will of Jesus are the same. God is very patient and tolerant. If He were not, then the world would have been destroyed already. As for tolerance, God as presented in the OT and Jesus in the NT both tolerate much. God allows much evil to continue for the purpose of raising His children in Jesus Christ, and He is very patient and merciful towards us as we strive to grow in the things of the kingdom of heaven presently.
Though God in the OT is easily seen as a warrior, so is Jesus. He is the greatest warrior against Satan, sin, and death. He is the Lord of Lords, also called the Lord of Hosts (armies). He is very powerful and as mentioned in our last email, when Jesus returns he will be both shepard and warrior. He will shepard his people to the promised land as he devours their enemies.
Although as Christians, we should take our salvation seriously and seek to grow in righteous living by looking to the Holy Spirit for changing our hearts into conformity with the laws of the kingdom of God, we will make a lot of mistakes. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to forgive our sins, and the wrath of God is not appointed to us. If we are sincere in the faith, then we should trust the Lord and believe in His promises rather than overly condemning ourselves because of sin or fearing that we will lose our salvation. However, a healthy respect for God and all that the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus brings is important.
As for the purpose, Jesus’s purpose is God’s purpose. They both share the same will in the purpose for creation, though Jesus does serve some distinct purposes as the Messiah and bringer of the New Covenant.
I think from now on I’ll try and respond like this more so we can get more indepth.
I read through the rest of your responses, and that’s where I came up with the idea above of Jesus being the Shepard and God being the warrior, or judge. Sent here to do righteousness through different ways. As you said too, Jesus was not tolerant or pacifistic. He did not abide by sin and told people bluntly what would happen to him if they did not accept his lineage. His incident where he violently roots out peddlers and salesmen at the church is one of my favorite stories of Jesus honestly. I strongly abhor the empty tolerance, and weak wristed approach many Christians do today. The catholic Pope is a good example of someone who acts like God’s will can be bended, and his laws for people are subject to the current politics of the present time. I dislike Christians like that more than non believers, because at least non believers do not lie.
God is described as being a judge. Jesus is described as our advocate. Satan is the accuser. However, we cannot forget that though Jesus has a kind of distinction from God, he is also one with God. So, although Jesus might have some differing purposes as you call it, the ultimate purpose of Jesus is aligned with the will of God. I hope this makes sense, because it is kind of hard for me to explain. I agree with the other points you make here, and I also like that story because it shows that Jesus does not tolerate God’s house being made into a “den of thieves,” something many churches today remind me of. Not all, of course.
As for Christians who are like non believers, I understand how you feel. I feel the same way, but it is important for us to remember that we cannot judge whether or not someone is a “true” Christian. Judgments of the heart and of salvation belong to God alone. Instead, we love them and patiently wait for the Lord while we seek to our own salvation so that we are fruitful in the things of God. It’s easy to become distracted by Christian corruption, but focusing on the truth of Jesus is more beneficial for our own spiritual growth. I’ve seen many judgment ministries that condemn Christians, and they end up becoming very vain, proud, hateful, and lacking in mercy. We do not want to go down that path.
Lot was one of the righteous who lived in Sodom who God told to flee it’s coming destruction. He hesitated, and angels had to come and rescue him, placing him and his family away from the city. They told him to not look back and flee. He was fleeing with his family, and his wife looked back as Sodom was being destroyed. She was turned into a pillar of salt. It’s likely too, to continue his line. Lot had intercourse with his daughters to continue his patriarchal lineage.
Just an odd tale, that sounds like more of a mythical story like I said earlier. Mythical referring to like, the tale of the Greek man who went to hell to save his wife, but looked back and she was enslaved forever in hell. I wondered what you thought of it.
I find the story of Lot and his wife very interesting. I find the story of the destruction of Sodom interesting in general, because in the New Testament this story is referenced as a foreshadowing of the final tribulation. I also think it is interesting that when Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom after being told not to she turned into salt. Being that the events of Sodom and Gomorrah foreshadow the final tribulation, to me I see this as something that relates to what Jesus taught about how when the abomination of desolation is revealed we should flea quickly and not look back.
We have to stay focused on the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ or we will be destroyed by the powerful deceptions of that time. That’s why seeking the truth of the gospel now is so important. As for Lot’s daughter continuing his lineage, I understand how that makes people uncomfortable. They lived in a very perilous time and the need to continue was very important to them. Maybe the act was rash and not totally ethical, but we should try to be understanding of the mindset people had in that time period. As for the story seeming as one that compares to a story in Greek mythology, I again have to say that is because these were real world events that were told by other civilizations, but I do hope to look into this more when I have time so I can answer this concern better.
I’m sorry if this was too long-winded! I want to make things clear, so it’s easy to get carried away. Believe it or not, I struggled to keep this as short as I did! I’ll get to Nietzsche as soon as I can.
Coming Soon, Discussion and Response to Nietzche’s Criticism of Christianity.