Learning How to Think Biblically— Part Five

benn

It is not enough to learn how to think Biblically in a general way about the Bible. As a Christian one needs to learn to think about the Bible and its God as the earliest Christians did. The concept of progressive revelation is key here. If it is true that the fullest revelation of the character and plan of God for humankind is seen in Christ, then we need to learn to think about the OT and about the God of the Bible in specifically Christian ways– through the eyes of Jesus and his first followers. Among other things this means: 1) we take seriously the nouns predicated of God in the NT, not merely the adjectives, but the nouns. God is love, God is light, God is life– the three L’s are the primary nouns predicated of God in the NT. God of course is many other things as well— holy, righteous, fair, almighty, all-knowing etc. But the emphasis should be placed on the nouns, not least because it provides a clue as to what we are to be like if we want to be in the image of God, and recreated in the image of his Son Jesus– we are to be dispensers of love, light, and life, not hate, darkness, and death. 2) The writers of the NT were all monotheists and almost all of them if not all of them were Jews or Jewish God-fearers (Luke was perhaps the latter). They believed in only one real God. In this they were not different from the OT writers. 3) however, as a result of the Christ and Pentecost events, they had come to believe that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not only personal beings but part of the one divine identity. Three persons, sharing one divine identity or nature. In other words, they were beginning to think through the implications of what Tertullian and others later called Trinitarian thinking. True enough, we don’t find a fully formed doctrine of the Trinity in the NT, but we certainly find doxologies and God language applied to both Jesus and Spirit making clear that to talk about Jesus and the Spirit is to talk about God. Jews only prayed to, and only worship God, and yet from the earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem Jesus was prayed to (marana tha) and worshipped, as was the Spirit not long thereafter. 4) thinking Biblically also involves some renunciations, for example the renunciation of the notions that fallen human beings have ‘free will’ in the unfettered sense of that term. No, fallen human beings are inherently self-centered and self-focused. Their ‘natural’ tendency is to be self-protective, putting self first. They are subject to all sorts of temptations, some of which become irresistible to fallen persons apart from the grace of God. In other words, modern American volunterism is not a Biblical view of fallen human nature. People are free to sin, but apart from God’s grace they are not free to do much else. 5) salvation therefore is not a modern American self-help program. It just isn’t. It requires divine intervention and a changing of human nature such that ‘if anyone is in Christ they are a new creature, the old has passed away’.

There is far more to say on these points and other points,but this is a good starting place.


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