Saturday, March 17, 2007

Getting Our Arms Around the Octopus... God and the Bible, a Brief (?) Overview...

Okay, gang, I have given you 12 hours to respond to our good friend the seeker/agnostic... can't stand the I will start and the rest of you can fill in gaps where you see I have forgotten to mention something significant or if you can think of a way that might be more easy to grasp than the way I will put things together here...

My agnostic friend is proceeding from a number of perspectives that will almost certainly make any attempt to persuade him be doomed to failure. So I am going to suggest a few books along the way, since I don't want to have to reinvent the wheel to "prove" points.

First off, if you (any of you) haven't read LEARN THE BIBLE IN 24 HOURS, I strongly suggest that you do so. It is not a long or a difficult book, and it is very engaging... and it will convince even the most hardened skeptic to invest some respect when contemplating whether or not the Bible is the inspired word of God. I promise you a journey that will open your eyes, even if you believe your eyes are fully opened. Chuck Missler (the author) connects all the dots in the Bible so that you can see and understand how this book had to -- I repeat -- had to have been inspired by the Creator of the universe. (I don't mean "inspire" the way one says, "You inspire me to write a love poem." I mean "inspire" in its original meaning: "breathed into your spirit by God.")

Because unless you first can accept the Bible as something extraterrestrial in nature (God is extra-terrestrial, you know), something so far beyond our own understanding, experience, and training, you are always going to think, as our skeptical friend does, that it is just a loose collection of stories handed down from many different cultures, or the game plan of one religion (until Christ, one of the Jews among them, appeared and upset the apple cart)...

Here are some basics (but please, please, please go get the above-named book and read it. I promise you a delightful time. It is far from dry!)

The Bible (Old Testament) was written over a span of 1,600 years, "received from God" by forty different authors, most of whom did not know each other... and yet it hangs together as one long narrative, and is accurate historically.

The Old Testament, much to Jewish believers chagrin, points the way to the New Testament, the coming of a great Messiah who will at last wrest the world from domination by overlords, evil empires, and all things false and fallen. The Jews missed the Messiah when he came because their paradigm was that the Messiah would be a great earthbound warrior who would reign right here on earth. And they were right, but it hasn't happened yet. That is still to come when Christ returns again.

That's as far as I can go with this for now. LEARN THE BIBLE IN 24 HOURS is a must-read if you want the above to be "sunk home" so that we can proceed with a respectful reverence for the Bible. Lacking that, we are spinning our wheels. People get very bent out of shape when the fanciful STAR TREK universe doesn't follow logically. I get equally bent out of shape when I feel we are comparing apples and oranges -- skeptics and believers. First we have to be on the same page as far as the reliability of the Book we are both discussing. Fair enough?

Next on my list: The Theology of the Call versus the Theology of the Serpent, in a nutshell.

My skeptical friend wonders why the world is in such a mess if God really is Who he or we say He is. I will outline the situation...

When God created Adam and Eve, he created them pure, innocent and undefiled, just as he creates everything He makes (since he is pure, innocent and undefiled himself, He could only make creation to reflect these attributes."The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," as the saying goes when talking about progeny.)

But it doesn't take long before a fallen angel (one of God's created beings, also created pure and undefiled, and given free will by God to serve or not to serve) Satan decides he can rule God's creation a whole lot better than God. Satan has an ego (sound familiar? Self-awareness, giftings for leadership, etc.) and while God is sovereign, Satan is sullen. He wants a piece of the action. He wants to rule and be cherished and revered in the same way God is by all His creation.

Before too long, Satan's discontent has infected a third of the angels and God casts him and his disciples out of heaven (God cannot live with defiled spirits -- He is Holy, pure and good.)

Ya see, God gave angels free will too.

Perhaps if God had just made us all robotic androids none of this would have happened.

Ah, yes... that's true... but then God would have been living in a holographic world, where what he saw as mutual love and adoration was merely a reflection of his wishes... He would have had a universe filled with a Deception. God does not deceive. Ergo, he doesn't want a Deception; he wants a true Devotion.

So he allowed us the one thing perhaps we shouldn't have, humans and angels: Free will.

Satan came on down here, figured it was ripe for harvest his way, and slithered over to the first two creatures made in God's likeness, and suggested -- did not insist, as he has no power there (God gave us free will, remember?) -- but suggested that perhaps God was leading them astray when He told them not to eat the apple. It was beautiful, it was there to be picked, and... it would give them wisdom and knowledge equal to God's! This was a full meal deal! What was there not to like about becoming like God?

Cut this couple some slack. They loved God! Check it out in Genesis.They walked with him daily in the garden, held conversations with Him, and knew personally and intimately how wise and wonderful He was! What was the harm in "meeting Him on a level playing field"?

Ahh, but you see, Satan had tried that in heaven... and it had resulted in placement "below."

God is our creator; we are his created. He will always be above us until we meet him in heaven and have been transformed "in the twinkling of an eye" to his exact likeness (pure, holy, undefiled).

This, in a nutshell, is The Theology of the Serpent, first seen in Genesis 3, and it goes like this:

Satan suggests an untruth ("surely you will not die and you will be equal to God if you eat this apple"); his seduction in this way leads Eve to distrust what God told her; her distrust leads to disobedience; and disobedience leads to God's curse ("I love you as I always have, but you can't live with me anymore. I can only live with pure, undefiled beings). The Trinity's (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) sole goal is to create human beings in God's image so we can be with Him and inherit the things Jesus died to leave to us in His "will." But we have to be heirs to inherit what He left, as in any will.

There is a divine opposite to this Theology of the Serpent. It is the Theology of the Call, first seen in Genesis 12. It goes like this: If you will accept God's word as the Truth (that, even more reliably than a Vulcan, He is incapable of lying), you begin to trust him because he always tells you the truth, every single time; your trust leads to obedience because you know he has your best interests and wellbeing at the heart of everything he does for you; and because you trust and obey his careful, insightful instructions, every time out, you receive his blessing as a family member, someone who's hanging on Him as much as He is hanging on you!

You have to get to this place in your awareness -- of God's great devotion to you -- before you will be able to understand anything at all about "the rest of the story" and why the world has fallen to the degree it has, that children are dying in wars they didn't start, that people are hurting in Darfur, that there are leaders who appear as lambs but are wolves, etc.

The world, as it is, is not God's fault. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

I would love to divest my skeptical friend of the picture in his head (yours, too, if you feel similarly) of God looking down on you to try and catch you doing something wrong. Instead, can you imagine yourself, as a father, looking in on your young, sleepy but not quite asleep children in their bedrooms -- just making sure they aren't setting the mattress on fire or tying the cats' tails together?

The only reason He is looking in on you is because he loves you and wants to keep you safe from harm...

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