“Scripture is like a cracked jar”–the glory of an imperfect Bible (Michael Hardin part 4)

Today we come to the final post of a 4-part series by Michael Hardin, “How Jesus Read His Bible.” Hardin (see full bio at part 1) is the co-founder and Executive Director of Preaching Peace a non-profit based in Lancaster, PA whose motto is “Educating the Church in Jesus’ Vision of Peace.” Hardin has published over a dozen articles on the mimetic theory of René Girard in addition to essays on theology, spirituality, and practical theology. He is also the author of several books, including the acclaimed The Jesus Driven Life from which these posts are adapted.

In today’s post, Hardin talks about how he sees God speaking through Scripture: through the cross.

**********

If God speaks through Scripture, and I believe God does indeed speak, how shall we understand God speaking? I begin with several criteria.

The first is that in Jesus the “fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily” (Col 2:9). Jesus is the figure who reveals the character of the Father (so Heb 1:1-3, John 1:1- 18, etc).

The second is this: God speaks through broken vessels. The greatest speech/act of God can be found in the cross. God did God’s best work on the cross reconciling a stubborn, blind and rebellious humanity by forgiving them their sins.

The cross is the ultimate place of God’s brokenness. It is in this brokenness that we see most clearly the affection of God for humanity, an affection or love that takes even misjudgment, torture, humiliation and shame and still announces forgiveness.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 says we have “this treasure in clay jars.” This treasure is the gospel (vs. 3). If a jar could contain light, say, the light of the gospel, and it was perfect, then that light would not be seen, for it would have nowhere to shine through. If it is cracked, then there are places for that light to leak out and shine forth.

For me, Scripture is liked a cracked jar, it is because it is cracked that light is able to shine forth. If in our brokenness God shines God’s light in and through us, can we not also assert the same of the prophets and the apostles? Can we not say that we are most like God, not when we are whole, but when we are broken? Does not the Fourth Gospel (John) suggest as much in its view of the relationship between ‘glory’ (doxa) and the cross?

In other words, we do not need to have a theory of Scripture where the Bible must be perfect in order for God to reveal God’s self.

Some may object and say but if that is the case how do we distinguish between what is “man’s [sic] word” and what is “God’s Word?” This has already been answered by suggesting that revelation comes through the voice of the forgiving victim.

It is the Crucified that speaks the eternal word: shalom. The forgiveness announced by Jesus on the cross is no different than the ‘shalom’ announced by the Risen Jesus. They are flip sides of a coin. God is at peace with humanity.

For this reason, I see the cross as the evacuation of all concepts of divine wrath, existential and eschatological. There was no wrath of God poured out on Jesus on the cross; the wrath is strictly ours. Nor is there an eschatological wrath, as though God was only partly ameliorated at the cross but will make sure to vent holy anger come The End.

The cross is the death of all our god concepts, and we humans are the ones who, through the justification of scapegoating, believe that God is one with us when we victimize. After all, ‘God’ victimized plenty of people and people groups in the Old Testament.

This sacrificial way of thinking is terminated by the anti-sacrifice Jesus. Jesus’ blood covers our sin, not through some divine forensic transaction but as we lift our blood stained hands we hear the divine voice, “You are forgiven, each and every one of you, all of you.”

The New Testament writers say this was all done “for us” (hyper humon), for our sakes, for our benefit. This is what the Nicene Creed affirms when it says Jesus “who for us humans and our salvation came down from heaven.” Just as Hebrews 10:5-8 says, this coming was not to be a sacrifice but was the opposite, it was anti-sacrificial.

Jesus did not come to fulfill the logic of the sacrificial system (either Jewish or pagan) but to expose it and put an end to its reign in our lives.

The cross of Christ is the place of revelation, the resurrection of Jesus is the vindication of that revelation, and the ascension, where Jesus is given the Unpronounceable Name (Phil 2:5-11) is the place where that revelation is confirmed for all time.

This is the good news, this is the gospel, and this is why we trust God to use our brokenness to shine his light from our lives into the lives of others, just as God uses the broken prophetic and apostolic witness to continue to shine light to us and for us today.

How can we break through to this new reading of the Bible? What is it that hinders us from really seeing and hearing and experiencing the good news? What keeps us in bondage to our old sacrificial ways of thinking?

It is time to name the interpretive prison system in which Christianity finds herself. We must discern how the ‘satanic’ sacrificial interpretation manifests itself in our theology. Just as a prison has guards or warders so also sacrificial Christianity has warders that keep it bound to the false logic of sacrifice.

It is the revelation of the resurrected victim that creates the possibility, hitherto an impossibility, for reading texts outside the box of our anthropological mythmaking and justification of reciprocal vengeance. Christopher Marshall also points to this way of understanding our changed relationship to God:

God’s perceived involvement in the infliction of violence is over. God no longer fights fire with fire. God has changed – or, perhaps more accurately, the human experience of God’s association with violence has changed. God no longer permits his identity to be defined by violence; God actively repudiates the violent behavior which has hitherto clouded his character so that the duplicity of violence itself may be exposed and defeated. (“The Violence of God and the Hermeneutics of Paul” in The Work of Jesus Christ in Anabaptist Perspective [Telford: Cascadia Publishing, 2008], 89.)

I suggest a correlation of hermeneutics with resurrection and discipleship as the three legs of a new paradigm of biblical authority.

This anthropological reading of the text is a formative new paradigm for framing the specifics of how the Bible is to be read, understood and lived within the Christian communion.

It is a liberating paradigm for it moves beyond the contentious debates regarding the relation of truth to language and brings to the fore the key problem that has bogged down the church since Marcion on the relation of violence to divinity.

The lens of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus reveals our total sin and God’s total grace. It is a paradigm that calls for more than just intellectual assent; indeed it requires the risk of obedience to Jesus so that, just as he is the Light of the World, so we too, in listening to him and following him, may be light to our world.

my thoughts about thinking about violence in the Bible: a counterpoint
a brief thought on John Dominic Crossan's new book on the Bible and God's violence
Canaanite genocide: it's OK because it wasn't THAT bad (was it?)
get to know me: my approach to interpreting the Bible, in 5 words
  • david

    Thank you for putting your thoughts out there. With that, there will be many who praise you for it, and many who criticize. But, you had the bravery to put it out there, and those who criticize hide behind anonymity. But, with that, I would like to ask a series of yes/no questions, as I am trying to get my head around this, I want to know where it might lead for me (sort like when a car salesman is telling you all the virtues of a car, you might stop him and ask – “hey, bottom line, what am I going to pay for this car”). So, here goes:

    TRUE / FALSE

    1. Jesus’ death and resurrection does nothing to cleanse us from our sins – it just helps us realize how sinful we are (sort of like the death scene in West Side Story where everyone realizes they have been foolish to fight with one another).

    2. Jesus is not God – just God’s representative

    3. OT sacrifice was only there to show us how bad the sacrificial system was. Jesus’ death was another illustration of why sacrifice is wrong

    4. There is no hell, and no personal devil Everyone will go to heaven.

    I know these questions might make you feel like I’m setting a trap – I am not. But I know that I will spend countless hours and months evaluating this, and want to know generally where it will lead me after all that work.

    • Michael Hardin

      Re #1: no, but the question about ritual cleanness, sin, sacrifice and the death of Jesus needs to be framed within a scientific understanding of sacrifice, not the standard Christian one.

      Re #2 no, and yes. Jesus is God’s agent (after all the Fourth Gospel uses the motif of agency), but Jesus also fully reveals the Abba in his person. Didn’t I assert that above? I think this was a trick question. What you really are asking is do I have a Christology ‘from above?’ In worship yes, in study I use a Christology from below. Both work for me.
      Re #3 absolutely! spot on! On the other hand it is important to be able to nuance this inasmuch as there is a shift from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice to self-sacrifice (or if you prefer, self-giving) in the Jewish scriptures.
      Re #4 part 1 (no hell), if metaphoric of our human situation, no; if a metaphysical place where Platonic souls burn forever, yes there is no hell. part 2 I do not believe in a ‘personal devil’ but that is because I do not accept the concept of the autonomous individual which dominates the unscientific mind of much western Christian thinking. part 3 I haven’t the foggiest but I hope so.

      • Bev Mitchell

        Michael,

        Very helpful answers. I’m enjoying the book and am trying to think through the challenging way you sometimes use well worn and well accept words/ideas. Some is, perhaps, rhetoric, other times you really mean it exactly the way you say it (or so it seems to me). Without doubt, you are making us think.

        On david’s point four, an expansion that makes his question clearer, at least for me. Do you see evil as having a will? – that is, something more than the total absence of the good? Or, more provocatively, is evil even ‘creative’ in its will toward total destruction?

      • Tim

        Michael; On #4, can you clarify what you mean by “metaphoric of our human situation”? (I have your book and I’m reading through it now. I’ve barely started but I’m enjoying it immensely so far).

        • Guest

          ‘hell’ as a metonym for mimetically induced social crisis.

        • Michael Hardin

          Good catch, it should have read “If metaphoric of our human situation, yes.” Hell then functions as a metonym for human social crises that are mimetically induced.

          • Tim

            Ok, great. Thanks for clearing that up! That’s kind of what I thought you meant, but I wasn’t sure.

  • Guest

    Michael, another thought provoking post! There is much here I can resonate with. However, I have a few questions.

    I see that you are pushing back against the idea that Scripture is “perfect” (and perhaps inerrant?) and rather it is a “broken jar.” I wonder if perhaps we have a faulty notion of “perfect.” Scripture is a divine-human collaborative. And human beings, by definition, are limited. Human beings are creatures. So, are we, then, imperfect for being limited creatures? I don’t think so. I believe what we see in Scripture is not imperfection or brokenness but simply humanness. That humanness means we see through a glass darkly. Or as Paul, a writer of Scripture himself, put it: we see in part. Later we will see in full. So Paul writes Scripture as one who “sees in part.” This is also why it is said that the prophets “searched intently” in an effort to discern God’s revelation (I Peter 1:10). Why did they have to “search” and inquire if they had been made suddenly omniscient? Similarly, the New Testament says that prophecies are to be weighed. Why do we weigh them? Because it requires some discernment.

    I think the problem is not that Scripture is imperfect or broken but that we have a faulty doctrine of the nature of Scripture and how inspiration occurs.

    Also, I was wondering about your language around sacrifice. You say Jesus does away with the sacrifice. What exactly do you mean by that? For example, Paul says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” And Jesus said, we should “take up our cross daily.” Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. Do you mean to rid us of any concept of self-sacrifice?

    Also, I wondered if you could say more about this statement: “God did God’s best work on the cross reconciling a stubborn, blind and rebellious humanity by forgiving them their sins.”

    So the Cross effects forgiveness? I understand Jesus obviously forgave his tormenters in that moment of violence. But, you are applying the Cross as a medium of forgiveness to humanity broadly. Does this mean the Cross was necessary for forgiveness? And if so, isn’t that essentially the same as penal-substitution? Or if not, what does your statement here mean when you correlate the Cross with forgiveness of all humanity across time?

    I also wonder about how understanding literary devices is useful for this conversation. For example, Scripture does not present only one picture for what happened on the Cross. Its trying to say “The Cross is like this and like this and like this too.” In this case it seems unnecessary to discard some of these concepts as being problematic and instead understand them for what they are–a plurality of examples trying to give some glimpse of a transcendent reality.

    • Michael Hardin

      I would agree that the problem of Protestantism lies in its faulty understanding of the nature of scripture and its function in the church.
      I would say the trajectory of scripture is to move us from ‘other’ sacrifice (scapegoating) to self-giving (or self-sacrifice if you prefer).
      The Cross does not effect forgiveness, it does away with the accusatory instrument (Col 2:13-15), God has always been in a posture of forgiveness toward us. The Cross demonstrates this (as does the resurrection). And yes, I am applying the death of Jesus to humanity broadly, as does Paul in his theology.
      In my essay on atonement in Stricken by God? (Eerdmans, 2007) I argued that one can use complimentary models of atonement (e.g., Christus Victor and Moral Example) but that penal substitution is of a different order and is what the NT writers are arguing against!

      • Jeff Martin

        Dr. Hardin,

        When you say, “it does away with the accusatory instrument”, do you mean the record of what we have done? Because I am pretty sure that when someone forgives someone that is what they are doing, so…….

  • Michael Hardin

    Friends, please remember these four posts are all excerpted from a 380 page book. There is a lot more to the argument than I can give in four 1,000 word posts.

    • Agni Ashwin

      *Now* you tell us.

  • James

    Jesus’ blood covers our sin, not through some divine forensic transaction but as we lift our blood stained hands we hear the divine voice, “You are forgiven, each and every one of you, all of you.” What motivation then does the cross give us to lift our blood stained hands? In a noble effort to correct faulty views of the cross you swing the pendulum too far. Hopefully, we can find a balance that leaves some tension between “the goodness and severity of God.”

    • Michael Hardin

      No need for tension as far as I am concerned. You may wish to think about this for a bit. If there is a tension in god maybe that god needs some medication.

      • James

        tension from our point of view. Michael, if you find no tensions in your conception of god, you are a much smarter man than I.

  • Daniel Werner

    Hi Michael,
    I’ve enjoyed your stimulating series and look forward to reading your book for more information. Briefly, what is your take on the notoriously difficult passage of Mt. 5:17ff? Thanks!
    Dan

    • Michael Hardin

      That would require an essay.

      • Daniel Werner

        Fair enough. But obviously you must not think Jesus is subscribing to the literal meaning of every jot and tiddle of the Hebrew Bible.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    I am in such profound agreement with this. In Jesus, God and man was reconciled. Jesus shared not only the body of man, but the mind. Who had to learn and practiced from the age of 12 to 30 before his ministry took off. Who suffered all the same temptations we do, meaning he wanted things he wasn’t supposed to have just as much as we do. There’s a verse I’m too lazy to look up, but it says that while he was here, Jesus was known to pray with loud cries and shouts. Have you ever been hurting so badly all you could do was shout at God? Jesus’ humanity didn’t start in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    Which is to say that God doesn’t view us and our weaknesses as pollutants. If they were, he couldn’t have shared them with us. What God can’t share with us is sin. Which means our humanity is not fundamentally sinful.

    The fact that our scripture reflects not just God, but man, doesn’t discredit in any way. Scripture’s an amazing accomplishment. We have the oldest library in existence. It gives us snapshots, taken over the course of thousands of years of our our spiritual ancestors’ experiences and views of God. It’s like our spiritual family memoir. There’s nothing else remotely like it.

    But it’s not God. It’s the record we kept. So it’s going to share in our weaknesses. But that doesn’t make it worthless or unreliable. If we don’t accept Jesus’ full humanity, we can’t understand Jesus. Likewise, if we can’t accept a scripture which is as much about humanity as it is about God, then we won’t understand the God it is telling us about.

  • Daniel Merriman

    Your posts prove Feuerbach’s thesis, though Girard is Catholic.

    “The religious or practical form of this humanisation was Protestantism. The God who is man, that is to say the human God, Christ, this and only this is the God of Protestantism. Unlike Catholicism, Protestantism is no longer concerned with what God is in himself, but only with what he is for man; hence, it knows no speculative or contemplative tendency like Catholicism. It has ceased to be theology – it is essentially Christology; that is, religious anthropology.”
    Feuerbach, Ludwig and Zawar Hanfi (Translator). Principles of Philosophy of the Future. 1843

    Anabaptists want a non-violent God, so load up Jesus with rhetoric abou mimesis and scapegoating and, voila, that’s the God you get.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “Unlike Catholicism, Protestantism is no longer concerned with what God is in himself,”

      “What God is in himself” . . .what on earth does that mean?

      • Bev Mitchell

        Sorry. Misplaced comment. Where is the delete?

        • Michael Hardin

          I’m wondering what Anabaptists have to do with anything. I’m not an Anabaptist although I appreciate their peace position.

          • Bev Mitchell

            Michael,

            Don’t know, especially radical ones. :-) I think I see Daniel’s concern(s) though, which may fit somewhere into the Arian/Gnostic continuum. But some additional clarity would help.

            I think the ‘new’ emphasis on looking to Christ first when we want to know what God is like is fundamental. But, of course, so is recognizing the struggle with (and victory over) evil that the life, death, resurrection of Christ – and the sending of the Holy Spirit- are about. Any real success in living like Christ very much involves a Spirit inspired victory over various non-Christ-like modes of behaviour. These alternatives are all, at some level, in some sense, anti-Christ (evil). If there is a case to be made for violence, in Christ’s name, it must surely be against true evil.

          • Daniel Merriman

            Bev, why don’t you ask Olson what he thinks of Girard?

            I was with a minister from my church back during the financial crisis after it became obvious that the banks would be bailed out and no one would go to jail. We parked next to a car that had a “Who would Jesus Bomb?” bumper sticker. I read it out loud, and he immediately said “The Hamptons” (the site where all the Wall Street Bankers have their vacation mansions).

          • Bev Mitchell

            Daniel,

            This post is about Michael’s book. I’m just about a third of the way through, and see lots of very good stuff. Maybe we should first consider how he handles Girard. And, I still have to read Girard for myself. So many books, so little time! Peace.

          • Daniel Merriman

            Let me know how you like it. Disquis, for all of its flaws, does seem to be good about letting me know of follow ups. The only book of Girard’s I have read is “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning” and that was with a friend who had previous familiarity with him. Not sure that would be the place to start. As I recall, I thought his biblical exegesis was thin, but his comparative mythology (for lack of a better term) was awfully strong and powerfully argued, though my friend thought the translation was not the best.

          • Daniel Merriman

            Sorry, brain infarction. I am presently interacting with some folks locally who have recently discovered Girard and would feel comfortable with the label. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

          • Michael Hardin

            Girard’s anthropology presents deep challenges to ‘typical’ Evangelical thinking. That is why I sought to develop a new paradigm of biblical authority that is truly Jesus centered in a theology of the cross from a Trinitarian perspective. I just don’t think that the Reformed model has a future. That, of course, is only my opinion but I interact with more and more people every single day who are dissatisfied with Evangelicalism, have left it or are leaving it but still love Jesus and wish to still retain some sense of the Bible’s role in the church. And I suffer from brain infarctions all the time, no worries!

          • Daniel Merriman

            Michael, I am most certainly not Reformed, and I have never self-identified as an evangelical at least in the post WW II use of the term. Too much fundamentalism. If Bev likes your book, I will put it on the list.

          • Bev Mitchell

            Daniel,

            I’m happy to recommend Michael’s book – for whatever that’s worth. In reading I like to try to put certain key passage of the author into my own words, just to see if all the parts, that seem necessary to me, fit. Here is a key passage from early in the book followed by my (always longer :-)) rendition. Maybe Michael will have time to let us know if I’m getting it. It’s also a good passage for Holy Week.

            “For Jesus, as for the psalmist, God is not some far off angry deity. It is the crowd who is angry, who requires sacrifice of the innocent. God is caring and present with the victim.”

            It is sin, expressed through the mob, that demands a death. And, in this case alone, the victim is completely innocent. The justice of God will not let this injustice stand. The Spirit of God provides the power for restoration to life, the power to say no to such monumental injustice, an injustice so terrible that it is unique in history. Christ, the perfect Son of God, thus rises again as the first born from among the dead. His victory (the Trinitarian God’s victory) is so great that it is sufficient to cover all sin, all injustice, The road to a new creation has begun.

            BTW, as you may know, there is a good number of volumes with this book’s general theme or basic foundation. I think Michael’s unique contribution is to link it all with Girard’s thesis. Two good ones of several are Bruxy Cavey “The End of Religion” and Greg Boyd “The Myth of a Christian Religion”. Thinking about all of this has brought Thomas F. Torrance to mind and I’ve pulled his “The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons” off the shelf. I don’t expect to find all that much disagreement between Torrance and Hardin, just quite different ways of expressing things. But then Michael

          • Daniel Merriman

            Bev, I got the Kindle edition this afternoon. I am presently reading something entirely different (Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit) so it will be a few days before I get to it).

          • Daniel Merriman

            Michael, you need to tell your publisher to make your book available in Kindle format. Apparently an earlier edition was.

          • Michael Hardin
          • Daniel Merriman

            That was quick, or else something was amiss when I tried to find it this morning. Ordered.

      • Daniel Merriman

        It has been 40 years since I actually read Feuerbach, but I think it would be fair to say that for Catholic you could substitute Thomist, and the aspect of God that is lost by His complete humanization is His utter transcendence. A God whose ways are not our ways isn’t a God whose support the religious right, the religious left or the neo-Anabaptists can count on, so they invent another one by making a Jesus that suits their agenda.

        • Bev Mitchell

          Daniel,

          Missing the transcendence of God, or missing the humanity of Jesus. Isn’t this concern about as old (and important) as it gets? The temptations to Arianism and Gnosticism are always with us. You’re way ahead of me on reading in this area, so I’ll listen more than talk. Except to point to an interesting post (April 11) by Roger Olson on there being nothing really new in theology :-)

          • Daniel Merriman

            Bev, I haven’t read Olson today, but how true that sounds. Luther said of the radical Anabaptists in his day that they had swallowed the Holy Spirit feathers and all. I fear that the neo-Anabaptists “red letter” types today have swallowed Jesus feathers and all. Not that either group would mind the accusation, I suspect. And I doubt seriously that I am better read than you. I do have a weird memory for things I’ve read, though, which Google has only facilitated.

    • Bev Mitchell

      Daniel,

      “Anabaptists want a non-violent God” And exactly who wants a violent God? And if someone does want a violent God, it is probably wise to wonder why.

      I think Michael’s (and Pete’s and many others’) point is that we go to Scripture, with the help of God’s Spirit, to try to find out what God is like. We are not (should not be) on a search through Scripture to find the kind of god we want, or the god Greek philosophy imagines etc. For Christians, it really does seem right (as in, in agreement with the Spirit) to expect that Jesus offers us the best understanding of God available – from God himself and in himself.

      • Daniel Merriman

        Hey, Bev. Don’t disagree with the broad outlines of what you are saying, but Girard just isn’t capable, for me, of bearing the weight many of his disciples put on him (though he might not object). And I say that as someone who thinks he is provocative and well worth reading. But Feuerbach had a real point, and he should at least cause us to exercise a good bit of humility in our journey. Revelation does not eliminate obscurity.

        I hate to name drop in com boxes, but Disquis has already dropped my first reply to you and I have a busy weekend, but have you read much Denys Turner? He is well aware of the Feuerbach problem.

  • rvs

    I especially appreciated this point: “I see the cross as the evacuation of all concepts of divine wrath, existential and eschatological.”

  • Frank

    Unconvincing.

    • Tim

      Impressive; A one-word non-argument.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    I’m a Christian pacifist, or have claimed to be for most of my 35+ years of following Jesus, and I think I get Girard, so please try to consider why I find some of the Michael Hardin kind of approach to these issues unhelpful. I think he, and Peter Enns in his somewhat different way, propose theological hermeneutics that are ultimately self-negating. Let me try to explain.

    I find it nearly impossible to figure out why anyone would conclude that following Jesus exclusively is justifiable if the Old Testament biblical tradition is understood to be suffused with human misperceptions about God and what he spoke and asked his people to do–these are the scriptures that made Christ an historical probability or necessity. Is there any reason not to apply the same hermeneutic, the “we now know God can’t be like that so biblical authors were mistaken about what they said,” to the scriptures that claim to portray God in Jesus for us? Most people don’t think the Bible is authoritative let alone inerrant or infallible so why should we care if the portrayal of Jesus and God in the New Testament is one which includes divine violence in active or “passive” condoning of judgements or not? Indeed, why should we think the Cross of Christ is of any significance at all–isn’t it all completely outdated now? If Old Testament authors were in error in their portrayals of God’s commanding violent acts of judgement why shouldn’t we think all the interpretations of God’s supposed non-violence in the New Testament are also in error? Indeed, if scripture is full of error, a hermeneutic with “resurrection and discipleship” is mostly meaningless. Resurrection? Ridiculous! Discipleship? A waste of time. Obedience? To errors! If you prefer a non-violent god you can just as viably argue for one from a purely philosophical, anthropological, or sociological perspective; no need to propose a self-contradictory theology to try get you there.

    Just saying’: we may need to rethink what we are saying about scripture if we want anyone who really cares about what it says to listen. If you want those who haven’t yet cared what scripture says to care you might do better to give them a valid rationale, a consistent line of reasoning, to help them care.

    In my estimation we are more likely to be in error in what we say about God in Christ than were the Apostles and New Testament authors. It is not in new abstractions about “the Cross” as we reinterpret it that God is best known, but in the speeches and acts of Christ, including those on the Cross, as revealed through the “cracked jars” of scripture. To place our own present day re-representations of the light of Christ in a position of equivalence to that of scripture is a claim to have a greater light rather than humbly pray that the light of Christ might shine through our cracked conceptions. Despite the many scriptural quotes and paraphrases in Hardin’s new gospel, there are enough elements ignored or negated that it should be seen as a New if not Different gospel. A universal-salvation-of-all gospel is implied, and is very appealing, but it isn’t what the New Testament says unless you radically cherry-pick it. And I don’t think that those who reject this kind of “everyone is forgiven” theology are necessarily desiring the punishment (or “sacrifice”) of those who won’t repent, believe, and be saved. Jesus the Crucified does speak eternal shalom and rest for those who believe, but he also spoke of judgment to come for those who don’t repent; denying the latter while affirming the former is an error. Replacing the fullness of biblical revelation with a New Revised Hardin Version just doesn’t cut it for me.

    • Tim

      It doesn’t appear from what I’ve read of the book so far that Hardin is actually denying judgment. What he’s trying to point out and emphasize is that it is not retributive in nature.
      Actually, the New Testament does imply an eventual salvation (reconciliation) of all in several places (and some of this is pointed to from some pretty strong statements from the OT as well), but not apart from Jesus, and not apart from repentance. Judgment is part of the process.

    • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

      Richard, I appreciate how you give careful thought to a consistent, reasonable approach to the nature and interpretation of the Bible. In about 5 decades of studying the Bible – first just the text and hearing sermons, etc., then the various tools and historical approaches to it, etc. [2 seminaries along the way], I admit to a failure… to find an approach to it that can be easily summarized and applied. I do think we can know the Bible is a fully human document, though one of remarkable structure and contents. In that latter sense, no denying a “divine” input. That, to me, is best explained (though not perfectly) by a system called “Process theology”. Its strongest benefit (though confusing to some because it is not simple or either-or) is breaking down the often-misleading categories of “natural” (or laws of nature) and “supernatural” (or God’s realm/prerogatives, above nature).

      To me, only the suspending of these either-or categories can make room for the kind of evolution-of-thought-and-ethics seen within the Bible itself AND the idea that God is also involved in that progress… without needing to make the Bible uniquely authoritative either in its earliest pre-babylonian-exile sections or its 1st century ones. This opens the possibilities for evolving concepts of loyalty to covenant (OT to NT), judgment for failure in that in either period, the effecting of redemption, etc. Perhaps above other things, the removal of the need for or prerogative of retribution is seen as a core natural/supernatural (so to speak) progression.

      • Richard Worden Wilson

        I have reflected some on the potential in Process Theology to explain the religious phenomena we encounter throughout history up to now. ISTM that the evolutionary conception of God’s engagement with creation by synthesizing creation and creator or nature and super-nature effectively nullifies any further need for scriptural revelation or Holy Spirit inspiration to understand it. As a rational construct it has definite appeal, but I can’t conceive of the God of biblical history and narrative as being relevant for long given the trajectory of Process thought and culture. One may find non-violence in theory and practice, health and wealth, golden tablets, golden calves, sexual liberation, or anything at all as the key to understanding progress toward what god is becoming, as all part of the Process.

        OK, so, I can see the various developments in the various Christian churches as being reasonably characterized as evolutionary. But is it not possible to see the development of religious beliefs and practices in the Old Covenant texts as constrained by those God inspired and authorized to navigate the waters of those changes? It is certainly conceivable in regard to the New Covenant documents, however we may debate the fringes–or at least that is a common idea amongst Protestant Evangelicals. Moving beyond what God authorized the Apostles and their representatives to document as guides, as the Roman church and others have done and do, is certainly evolution, but those changes aren’t necessarily led or authorized by God. God can change what he requires of us, but for us to change what he has authorized, or to deny that he is personally engaged or responsible when changes are to be made, as when we decide on our own or claim to know what comes next for God’s people, puts us in the place only God has a right to be.

        Until I experience a personal relationship with Process Theology I guess I’m just stuck back here with the not yet evolved God of scripture. 8>)


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