The World of Sven has clearly wrestled honestly with some of these issues which are starting to divide the online community of “God bloggers”.
It is interesting talking to my wife about this. She is very gracious and loving but cannot understand why people who would deny the notion that Jesus died to take away the punishment for our sins could be considered Christians.
I choose to interact with people like Sven and Richard simply because I consider them first as people that I should reach out to and try and win over to a biblical understandind or at least engage with and try and come to some mutual improvement in understanding of each other.
So, first for Sven (I will address Richard in a differnt post)
Sven believes the bible is “a fundemental part of faith” and asks me to turn my “liberal warning lights off”. The trouble is Sven, you dont reassure me. The bible is our only inerrant authoritive source of knowledge about God. It does not contradict itself, and we should not use one part of it to “neutralise” another. Nor does the bible derive authority from our experience of God- it is in reading the bible that our experience of God is rooted. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. I believe that the word of God preached is what is primarily used by God to bring his presense to us, and to birth faith in us.
If my experience of what I believe to be God and what I read in my bible contradicts, then what I read in the bible should trump my experience any day. Incidently this is one of the arguments against cessationist theology which often essentially says “we dont see miracles today, therefore they must have stopped with the bible”. If I never see a creative miracle again in my life, my belief in the Book will continue to tell me that God is a God of miracles and that he could break in to perform one at any minute.
God has determined to impart his authority to the bible such that it is to be the final arbiter in any issue that is of importance to face the church.
We do not have Jesus with us in bodily form, and we know in part and prophesy in part. We are therefore expected to weigh every spirit that talks to us today by the word of God which is authoritative. Thus I DO believe in sola scriptura which makes arguing with Sven and others very difficult. Such a belief divides the visible church and yes it is very difficult and probably ultimately unprofitable for evangelical scholars to interact with liberals (or for that matter neo-liberals) when the frame of reference for the discussion is so different. It is no wonder that the writers of popular evangelical theology simply do not bother to interact with those that do not share the same view of the bible.
With respect it simply will not do to try and use Jesus to contradict Paul or the Old Testament. To be honest he said a lot of things about punishment of sinners in hell, and about the judgement of God which are pretty uncomfortable in any case. But most importantly of all he said quite clearly that nothing in the Old Testament Law would pass away, and that he had not come to replace what had come before. So Jesus himself re-iterated the notion of God as a God of wrath and was clear that he treated the Old Testament as scripture. Thus, it is appropriate for us to see what the bible as a whole has to say about an issue- to me that is what systematic theology is all about.God is BOTH a vengeful AND a loving God- the bible makes this clear. What parent would not be glad of God’s vengeful nature when they discovered someone had abused or murdered their child? Is it wrong to want justice in such a situation? Is it wrong for the Christian counsellor to advise the victim of such a tragedy to begin to forgive the perpretrator and give up the desire to repay them themselves, leaving room for God to act. As it says in the word of God in Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.. The ESV footnote gives an alternative translation for the phrase “leave it” to instead read “give place”. Thus, in just the same way that in a civilised society we expect people not to punish each other for crimes committed but leave it to the state to do so, God expects us to do the same.
It is in the nature of love to be wrathful about anything that destroys the loved. The tragedy of sin is that it is so entwined with the person who committed it that short of the cross there is no way for God to be only angry against sin and not the one who committed it. Thus God can both love the sinner and desire them to be saved and determine to pour out wrath on them.
Sven seems to know more about the family of churches I am a part of than I expected- I keep thinking of newfrontiers as an obscure group no one has ever heard of. HE knows enough to know that on most points many of our members would agree with Wayne Grudem (although there are a couple of areas I would differ from him on.) But I suspect that he may be even closer to the group than I previously realised- Sven seems almost as close to Richard as I am to jollyblogger- I actually wonder if they attend the same newfrontiers church together.
I will finish by saying that at the moment I am not terribly interested in reading a “better” systematic theology that cannot be described as “all evangelical”. I am sure that some Christians need to interact with the ideas raised by these people, but for me I feel that unless there is a fundemental agreement on the nature of the bible as THE authoritative source of doctrine and practice for the church then why am I even discussing things with this person!
It saddens me that there are great swathes of the visible church that don’t interact with the bible in the way I wish them to. It saddens me that there are also whole swathes that to some extent or other pick and choose which bits of the bible they like to listen to. At least with the second group I can try and point out to them where I believe they are ignoring the implications of parts of the bible. With the former group, I am not sure I have much to say.