why thank-you , an interesting, intelligent and enjoyable post, I don’t have the time to read all the responces just now but to quote a movie star ‘‘I’ll be back’’ !
The interesting thing is that Christ was perfected through suffering yet Ruth expects to walk the same path as Jesus without being perfected in suffering. If people go to hell either their suffering will bring about perfection or it will not and they will simply suffer for retribution sake.
It’s getting a lttle chilly in here.
Actually, I don’t expect to walk the same path as Jesus.
I am not the Way from God to the creation.
I cannot walk around healing others by creating sight where there was never any, by making maimed or withered hands grow again, by creating a healthy working nervous system and/or musculoskeletal structure where someone was paralysed, because I am not the creator.
I cannot go to a dead person’s tomb and call them back to life.
I cannot take the suffering and pain on myself, so that the creation won’t have it.
I cannot go to Golgotha and pour life, healing and forgiveness into the world even as I die.
I cannot go into the nothingness, fill it to overflowing with the life of God so even death cannot hold anything any more.
I cannot spill so much life that the splashback raises me to a new kind of life that never even existed before.
I cannot lead the creation from its death spiral into that new-creation kind of life.
THAT is Jesus’s path.
NONE of us can walk it. Only he ever could walk it.
Sorry, Ruth, but all of your points seem to me to be nothing more than excuses why you can’t imitate Christ and God, as we are asked to do in the NT. If all of those “cannots” you listed are impossible for you to try, within our human limitations, I would submit that what you are proclaiming is little more than the feel-good prosperity gospel that is so popular in the US these days.
1.)* I am not the Way from God to the creation.*
Of course, none of us are. Yet we point to the Way by the manner in which we live, showing how to endure, rather than avoid trials and pain.
2.) * I cannot walk around healing others by creating sight where there was never any, by making maimed or withered hands grow again, by creating a healthy working nervous system and/or musculoskeletal structure where someone was paralysed, because I am not the creator.*
While we may not be able to bring physical healing, we can bring spiritual healing with our compassion.
3.)* I cannot go to a dead person’s tomb and call them back to life.*
We can go to their tombs, and offer hope and comfort to those who are grieving, leading them to new life.
4.) * I cannot go to Golgotha and pour life, healing and forgiveness into the world even as I die.*
We can go to Golgotha in our hearts, and partake of what He did there, and bring life, healing, and forgiveness into our own hearts and lives, and into the hearts and lives of those around us.
5.)* I cannot go into the nothingness, fill it to overflowing with the life of God so even death cannot hold anything any more.*
We do not walk into the void to accomplish what God did. Rather, we step into to it to understand His love more deeply.
6.) I cannot spill so much life that the splashback raises me to a new kind of life that never even existed before.
How can you know that you can’t do that if you don’t try?
7.) * I cannot lead the creation from its death spiral into that new-creation kind of life.*
Then what use is any preaching or evangelism if we cannot lead people to the new life in Christ?
8.)* THAT is Jesus’s path.
NONE of us can walk it. Only he ever could walk it.*
Then why are we asked to take up our crosses and follow Him? If we cannot walk that same path, then there is no way that we can follow Him, and our lives have little meaning in light of His sacrifice.
First, I heartily disapprove of the prosperity “gospel”. It is anti-justice in that it teaches people it’s fine to get more and more wealth for themselves, never mind if it is at the expense of those weaker than themselves. This completely opposes the spirit of Jesus.
Your other responses amply demonstrate the point I was making – our limitations prevent us doing these things.
You have clearly stated that you know we can’t do what Jesus did - I mean REALLY what Jesus did. In other words, we can’t walk “his path”.
You have made a number of suggestions as to what we should do instead. Well, doing something instead is not doing the actual deed itself. And I have to say that they are very poor substitutes.
Sure, we can do a lot of them but let’s face it, offering hope and comfort to the bereaved doesn’t quite cut it when what’s really needed is to restore their loved one to them alive and in good health: that would REALLY comfort them and give them hope. And a rather nebulous “spiritual healing” (whatever that means) doesn’t grow back a hand that’s been lost in an industrial accident - grow the hand back and the “spiritual” healing will come as part of the package.
Others are also offering compassion and inner healing, providing hope and comfort to those who are grieving, and bringing life, healing, and forgiveness to others. A lot of those doing these things are not even Christians, but this may well be a response to the spirit of Jesus. My feeling about this is - Go for it! Do as much good and alleviate as much suffering as you can!
I’m astonished that you present this as comparable to YHWH becoming flesh, coming into the world to experience what we experience, to live among us as one of us. His endurance was not an endurance test, nor was it an example for us to follow: he came to be in solidarity with us in our suffering and to know us intimately by physically experiencing the worst that we experience; he was also after the outcome – to rescue the whole creation from that suffering and give it abundant life.
What Jesus did was very concrete, very physical, very real. Golgotha is God coming to us, not us going to him.
He went to Golgotha to give Life to all at the cost of his own life. He brings Life to those who are unable to go and get it for themselves – the helpless, the hopeless, those who have given up on even the idea of a god or a healer or any kind of rescue or relief. He gives freely to all, even (and especially) to those who can’t take it for themselves.
He is the creator, we are the creation: we don’t partake in the act of creation, we have life because of it. In just the same way, we can’t partake in what Jesus did at Golgotha; we are beneficiaries because of it.
Again, you agree that we don’t accomplish what God did.
It’s hard to understand what you mean by the rest of your comment. Wasn’t the purpose of Jesus’s death so that we wouldn’t step into the void?
I’m astonished by your reply. You must have a very different idea of what that means.
On the cross, Jesus poured out the life of God to such an extent that death was overflowed by life: it couldn’t hold Jesus, and he was raised in a physicality that worked differently from what we are familiar with. It was, as Paul puts it, like a solid house in comparison to a tent – we might say super-physical – and the pattern of how the entire creation will be when it is made new, when God is all in all, when he is directly present to all.
That is what I mean – that none of us can start the entire New Creation by our own death!
There’s no point in preaching or “evangelism” if what you preach is not the “evangel” – the good news about Jesus.
In any case, we can’t lead anyone, we are not the good shepherd, Jesus is. He is the one who seeks and saves, not us. He goes after the lost sheep, no matter where or how far he has to go, or through what danger, discomfort, or pain. He goes alone, leaving the other sheep behind in a safe place, finds the lost sheep and carries him home.
I’m afraid it sounds as though you’re just presenting another guru, and Jesus didn’t come into the world to teach the world but to save it.
“Taking up one’s cross” meant something very specific to the people Jesus was speaking to: it meant literally carrying a cross to a place of execution and then dying on that cross. It didn’t mean anything other than that or less than that.
Jesus did not ask anyone to do this. He said that if anyone wanted to follow him, it would involve doing just what he did.
I’m not bothered about the meaning of our lives, what matters is the meaning of his life and death – because that’s what brings real life to the world.
Well, Ruth, we have little common ground to discuss very much, since it seems to me that you’re a literalist, and I have little use for study of scripture on a detached, non-personal surface level.
If “Taking up one’s Cross” refers only to those in Christ’s time literally doing that, then the lives of many devoted followers of Christ since then have been utterly meaningless. And by declaring that statement as having no meaning on our personal lives today, then there can be no new and real life in the world today.
Also, to view that statement as a purely literal call to welcome one’s own crucifixion makes no sense at all, since He gave this instruction to the disciples long before He walked the Via Dolorosa, and used that instruction in the context of daily self sacrifice.
Challenging questions about the nature of what Jesus was seeking to do seem to be at stake in this discussion. Like Eric, my own perception is that when his movement saw “Jesus as the way” to mean that we are called to be “the people of his way,” who follow in his steps and teaching, Christianity operated with great power. But when later eras changed to an emphasis on believing that Jesus in himself provided an objective transaction that in some magical sense transformed the nature of God and/or of our existence & what God’s calling is, then Christianity lost its’ effective purpose & power.
I admit that this is the evangelical paradigm in which most of us have been shaped. But if what Jesus was talking about means that in what God is pursuing there are now no “conditions” on our part, and no significant role for our pursuit of righteousness, then I personally would feel that I am not understanding anything that he was talking about, and as well must reject most of what seems to clearly be the Bible’s storyline.
Sorry, I’ve been on holiday/ vacation. Just getting back into things.
I think so, yes. The weird thing for me (and what’s harder for me to pin down, but I believe is the crux of the apparent disagreement between parties here) is that God seems to be the cause of us fulfilling the conditions of response allowing us to experience salvation fully, as well as being the initiator of the process. I certainly agree that it’s a process, and that it’s often painful; not in a punitive way, but more as a matter of course. It just seems to be the way that God designed things to work. For example, let’s say that I have a cold. I actually have the virus for several days before I feel its effects, but once I begin to experience symptoms, it’s because my body is already working hard to kick the virus out. That miserable feeling that we often get when we have a cold is actually the sign that our body is already recovering, unpleasant as the experience is… This is what many in the natural health professions refer to as a “healing crisis”; the body actually has to feel worse temporarily while it is actually getting better! I see this reflected as well in scripture, as you also seem to see the same themes from a different perspective, but it’s certainly there. It’s counter-intuitive; we’d all like the quick-fix, but that is the exception that proves the rule. Make sense? Now, it may not always be this way, and once the new heavens and earth arrive, things may operate very differently. But I think at that point, all things are already made new, so the process is over, so to speak…
Thanks, you well express my bias about how to formulate this. I agree that universalists especially should recognize that God is the “cause” who gets the credit for bringing us to meet the required conditions. And I also believe that seeing the process as “the way God has designed things to work” is a healthy view that allows common ground with others who are seeking to make sense of life. It does appear that the Bible can speak of our suffering as direct and punishing acts of God, i.e. “extrinsic.” But it also comes to think of sin as bringing “intrinsic” consequences, wherein God is perceived as giving us over to such results, in order to bring us to repentance and restoration. I prefer to emphasize the second, although as theodicy, if God “designs” it that way, perhaps it does not ultimately remove God’s personal involvement.
Yes; what’s interesting to me is that it isn’t even always those being given over to the results of unrighteousness that are (immediately) being pushed toward repentance. Israel was (is) cut off (temporarily) in order for the gentiles to benefit from salvation as well.
But I agree. I think it’s Isaiah that said that we learn righteousness when God’s judgments are in the earth; it isn’t his favors, but his judgments that bring righteousness. But it is at the same time the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And; God is not mocked, man still reaps what he sows. (i.e. natural consequences). I think our problem is that the Church has long held a very wrong-headed idea of what judgment is, and so as universalists our tendency is to react too much the other way.
It “seems” you are saying that my illness, my pain, and my current conditon, can be a direct punishment from God?? If this IS true, why would I want to worship such a God?? I don’t think I like your God very much IF this is the case… I’d rather be an atheist!!! Or maybe you ARE right and I DO deserve exactly what I’m getting as in one reaps what they have sown. I must have done some pretty horrible, rotten, and very mean things growing up than, because the payback now is horrendous. I realize you are basing your thoughts on the Bible, I just think any of us can find in the Bible whatever it is we want to find. However, IF you ARE right, I want nothing to do with that/your God. Sorry Bob, I just can’t believe that God is “up there” passing this harsh of a judgment on me… what, so I’ll get on my knees and beg forgivness?? Been there done that. I’m still dying. As to whether or not God IS personally involved in my situation, I don’t know. I’d like to think He’s only letting a sinful world do what it does, cause pain and suffering. Your words scare the heck out of me, as I’ve previously said. Maybe it’s because I don’t want them to be true?? Again, IF they are true, you can have Him, I want nothing to do with a god like that!
You are saying what **a lot **of people are thinking and feeling.
Most of those people have been turned so antagonistic towards anything to do with God because of this kind of idea. Most wouldn’t even get as far as coming to this board.
Here are two people who put it rather well:
Remorse is cureless - the Disease
Not even God can heal,
For 'tis His institution - and
The Adequate of Hell.
Thinking as I do that the Creator of this world is a very cruel being, & being a worshipper of Christ, I cannot help saying: “the Son, O how unlike the Father!” First God Almighty comes with a thump on the head. Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it.
William Blake (a little bit of sarcasm there, I think!)
Thanks for sharing your valuable vantage point. I love your contribution on our site. I regret that it sounded like I think that your suffering is God’s punishment. I don’t know your situation well, but I highly doubt that. My impression is that you are a more gracious guy than I am, and I can’t imagine that God would find you more in need of woes than He would me. For me, the problem of evil is a difficult and unsatisfying mystery, and it appears to me that Scripture takes a variety of approaches to explaining it. But I don’t believe that we should assume that suffering means that we are worse than someone else, or ever conclude from our suffering that God loves us less than others. Please forgive any contrary impression that I left.
Stating that God “can” use our suffering in a redemptive way does not mean that I think we should assume that most suffering is God’s punishment for our personal sins. When, you say that “a sinful world does what it does,” that is actually identical to what I called the “intrinsic interpretation,” which I said I favor. But as you say, I’m trying to articulate whatever it is that the Biblical writers believe, even if it seems problematic to us. I sympathize with the frustration that the Bible seems capable of saying whatever we want. Still, I seem cursedly fascinated with trying to understand its’ writers’ viewpoints, even if at some points I find that view wrong-headed.
Thank you brother for hanging in there with us whose interpretations can be quite insensitive.
Grace be with you,
When two fertilized eggs bump into each other in utero, they occasionally fuse together and continue developing as normal. This is called a chimera, where a single person is composed of the cells of two different people. In rare cases, a person can be both male and female. One poor woman nearly lost custody of her children when it was “proved” she wasn’t the actual mother. In fact, she was a chimera, and the authorities had tested the wrong set of DNA.
Now suppose Farmer Fred is a chimera. He is made of two different sets of cells affectionately called Jack and Jill. Alas, Jill has a terrible genetic defect which threatens to destroy Farmer Fred. The doctors decide to give him a powerful drug that kills Jill but saves Jack, and sets Farmer Fred free.
The treatment will be painful.
By analogy, I believe we are spiritual chimeras. One part of our being is “born of God” and cannot sin. It hears God’s voice, is loved by God and will be saved. Another part is “born of the devil”, and can do nothing but sin. It cannot hear God’s voice, is hated by God and will be destroyed in the fire of his wrath. The person-shaped shadow-self which we all carry about like an albatross will be filled with divine light. And this will hurt.
There is no fellowship between light and darkness. If I am pure darkness, there is nothing in me to save. If I am pure light, I have no need of salvation. But I can be saved, and I need to be. Therefore I am both light and darkness. I am a paradox. I am in Adam and in Christ, old and new, alive and dead, of earth and of heaven.
Exhortations to holy living are calls to the good in me to rise up against the evil. It’s civil war. Worse than brother against brother, it is me against myself. Wake O Sleeper! Put to death (ouch!) the old Adam. Crucify the evil bastard! Christ can help you. Christ *will *help you. God himself now knows how to die.
Edited out for personal reasons.
As I said in our private correspondence, you are a dear brother, who have endured so much crummy stuff, and shown way more character than most of us will ever come near. I have deep confidence that you are secure in Him.
Paul said that walking in the spirit will produce the fruit of the spirit. No need for purgation. I myself have experienced this several times in my life. When one feels and is aware of acceptance by God, obsessions, compulsions and addictions lose their power.
I don’t need purging; I need grace!
I happened to be browsing through Derek Flood’s “Rebel God” blog the other day and came across this post from 2010:
I think this raises a very important point: when speaking about “basing theology on experience” that needs a qualifier. I should say basing theology on the experience of grace. Grace is the central narrative of the New Testament, and it is also the lens though which Jesus and the authors of the NT interpreted the Old Testament. Grace is what characterized the entire ministry of Jesus to the sick and the sinner. Grace is what turned a violent Saul into the Chirst following apostle Paul. Miss grace and you miss everything.
The gospels tell a beautiful story of a “sinful woman” who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and pours a jar of alabaster perfume over them. The Pharasees are shocked at this display. But Jesus says “those who are forgiven little, love little” (Lk 7:47). From that let me make a bold assertion: Those who do not know grace, cannot properly understand the Bible. Those who have experienced grace little, understand the Bible little.
On the other hand, if we have experienced grace - that is, if we have known God’s amazing grace in the middle of all of our brokenness, darkness, and hurt, that unearned wonderful love completely changes us. It sends us to our knees, it melts our hearts. Such a lived experience of grace is absolutely essential to proper theology. Truth to be understood, must be lived. We need to come to the text as those who know grace and have been transformed by it. Otherwise we may miss its central point. We see this in the story of Paul who before his encounter with Jesus has in fact completely misread the narrative of Scripture and as a result was opposing the church. When he was encountered by grace, this changed his whole outlook, including how he read the Bible. http://www.therebelgod.com/2010/11/basing-theology-on-experience-pt-2.html
This resonates with and compliments what you are saying Rob. Sin is not dealt with by chastisement and punishment or fear and self-loathing. The answer to sin is not more harm and suffering, albeit it may be spinned as “loving” discipline and punishment. The stranglehold of sin is overcome by freely given grace (unconditional generosity, kindness and even handed equitableness of God) to those damaged and enslaved by sin. It is God giving Himself away to all of us and all things in the creation through the great healer and judge (liberator) Jesus Christ.
I just don’t see it. It seems that much of what I read here are assertions without any real evidence. Claiming that punishment does not have anything to do with love or grace seems to me to require qualifications. Is it possible that God humbles the arrogant in more than just one means (kindness)? Does love get angry? And if so does it not act angry?
I will agree with Talbott that love, when angry, is still love. But I see no logical reason to conclude that angry love behaves the same as non-angry love. Love def. gets angry - but how does it look?
It seems like it’s simply a necessary assumption to dismiss God’s anger/wrath/punishment/chastisement in order to maintain either an ultra-universalist position or a pacifist position.