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Thoughts on the Last Day of the 1st Decade of the 2nd Millenium Anno Domini

December 31, 2009 4 comments

Here are some random thoughts I wrote down today. I hope they will make sense to some. I’m not sure I ended up where I wanted to, but I’ll leave them like this, and possibly I’ll work more with these later. Basically, I had this stream of thoughts which I felt I needed to put into some kind of medium. That sweet creative impulse should not be ignored when it is sparked or muted. I also had a conversation with Percival/Zooloo about refining my work – changing the format but not the message. It’s something I really do need to work on. But not during the last 5 hours of the decade.

Today I woke up to watch Loren Cunningham speak at Onething ’09 (see this video, about 2 hours in). I was at a New Year’s Camp in Kungälv organized by Credo/u-Oas for two days, but I got a flu of some sort while there… So I was in quarantine throughout the night and remained in a pretty restricted area there until 17.00 when my mother picked me up and drove me home. I’m fine now. But I’m probably going back on New Year’s Day (January 1st, 2010, i.e. tomorrow).

Anyways. I thought about quite a few things as I was watching the Onething webcast. I really appreciate Loren’s preaching/talk/exhortation, and I can definitely identify with his way of speaking. Mike Bickle, however, is someone I have a little more trouble connecting to. I mean, I do think he has a great message to the Body of Christ. I actually agree with 98% of what he says. However, as a Swede, I am sort of unused to that kind of communication. There’s a lot of… grandeur and hyperboles, which I recognize as Biblical but hard to understand in the Swedish culture. I hope Americans are better at getting his message :P

Misty mentioned the “6,000 years of creation”, which does sort of offend reason in many ways… In one sense, I do admire Young Earth Creationists for their faith, but I do sometimes wonder if it may be misplaced faith is something that is not really the point the Bible was trying to make. I just hope Young Earth Creationism is not a doctrine IHOP encourages – I have not heard such statements beyond Misty’s words at two occasions, but I am still sort of worried.

While I am a fan of the Bible and believe it to be infallible in all matters of doctrine, I think Bibliolatry is too common in the “Evangelical” Church. There are, as usual, two extremes in the views of the Bible within the Body of Christ. There is on one side the Liberal Christianity, which places all authority on reason, the individual and the Spirit of the Age. However, on the other side are those who go beyond the actual point of the Bible, to emphasize the Bible to the point where it actually restricts God and His Church. The way I view it,  we should not teach anything which is contrary to Scripture.

However, there are so-called “fundamentalists” (a term that should be positive) who teach that we should not do or say anything with regards to God or our lives that is not explicitly expressed in the Scriptures. This is, ironically, an incredibly low view of Scripture, as it implies that only the literal and direct meaning of Scripture is to be followed. The way the Jews and the Universal Church (until the last 2 centuries) has always viewed Scripture, is that it has both a direct and allegorical/symbolical meaning, and that while the literal meaning is primary, sometimes there *is* no literal meaning, for example in the case of many Psalms.  My point is that imagination is encouraged in the Bible,  and always has been among those who call it sacred. It’s amazing to think how these “fundamentalists” must view the reality of the writers of the Bible. I don’t think they were in a trance when they wrote most of it, and in a way, I don’t think true and holy writings are restricted to the Bible. I think there are still anointed and fully true/divine creations and things being said and written today, it is just that the Church is too split and divided to come together and recognize it as it. And considering all this division, agreeing on new Scripture would only hurt more than it edified. However, that does not mean that the Bible is somehow more magical than our reality. It is as true as when we hear that silent voice from God saying He loves us.

Oh well. The site that sparked this in me was this site: http://www.bible.ca/ It’s basically one in tens of thousands of English-speaking sites that claim to have “Bible-answers”. Most of them have very, very, bad layouts, usually because it’s one or maybe two or three people that are behind it. To me, a very good way of determining if you should doubt someone to have understood the “true, Biblical meaning” of subject X or Y, is when it turns out to be the thoughts of pretty much one dude. Another good way to determining if it’s true is when it’s done using cold logic and zero humility. Considering humility and broken-heartedness permeates the entire Bible, it’s a bit suspicious when people try to take other approaches than those to understand it.

What people think matters. I think we cannot ignore tradition, nor can we ignore human experience throughout history. We need to honour or predecessors much more than many in the West are doing right now. I am not Catholic, nor am I Orthodox, but I do think it is disrespectful when Protestants claim that all tradition is hogwash and to be ignored. I also think they need to remember that it was the ancestors of the apostles, not the Apostles themselves, who canonized the Scriptures. Before that, they were just letters. And yes, I know 2nd Peter calls some of those letters “scripture”, but ironically, if the author indeed is Peter, it can’t have included later works like the Gospel of John or Revelation. Sidetrack. What I’m getting at is that we would not have the Bible had it not been for tradition, it was thanks to people who put faith in the person the book spoke of, not the book itself, who canonized the Scriptures.  I belong to a Lutheran Church, and I’m learning how to identify myself as one. I want to honour my background and my tradition, although I cannot claim to think the Lutherans have got it all right. Nor have I got it all right.

God does, however,  have it all right. But I honestly do not think 100% correct doctrine among Mankind (until His 2nd Coming) is even that high on His agenda! I think we humans are too broken, too unsanctified and simply too limited to write down some kind of rational systematic theology on everything in the Universe.I am very Lutheran in this sense, as there are places I come to in my theological struggles that I simply cannot understand with my reason. I think the Orthodox have got a good idea of this with their concept of Mysteries – A truth that we cannot understand. I refuse to explain Biblical doctrine beyond what the Bible is explicit on. That is not to say we can’t talk about it, but almost all heresies are derived from trying to use logic to “fill in the gaps” and to let logic override revelation. Also, the focus needs to be on God and His love.

This takes me back to where I started, with Mike Bickle and Onething. I think Mike’s got it right on this point. The First Commandment, to love the Lord our God with all one’s heart, soul and mind (Matt 22:35-40), needs to be central to all of Christianity. A closeness to God, and an openness to His transforming love and power, should be at the absolute core of everything a Christian does. Everything, and I mean everything else, comes second. However, the fact that it comes second does not mean one is free to rationalize away other parts of the Law – because “if you love [Jesus], you will keep [His] commandments” (Joh 14:14). All of the Law, all the things He has ever required of His people, have been out of love.

The Law is a guide to Love. It is a cause for concern when the two do not mix, and usually the solution is neither “ignore it and continue, or you’re an apostate”, nor “let’s throw that doctrine out, it doesn’t fit with ‘my’ god”. Usually, there’s something wrong with how we read and interpret it, and I would say that those who say they are orthodox but do not radiate God’s love, probably do not have the First Commandment as their focus either. And in a way I understand them – I can’t claim to have it myself either. In fact, I should erase what I just wrote – no human can police another human being for not being pious enough… But at the same time, the pattern is all too obvious, when the fruits of the Spirit are not shown through some particular Christian ministry. All I can say is that in my own life, I have experienced an enormous change in my own ability to live out the SECOND commandment (love your neighbour as yourself) by coming back to the FIRST commandment. Emphasizing the second over the first, ironically has the opposite effect of the intended. I am getting more and more allergic to using the word “Liberal Christianity”. However, I believe what that loose term is trying to describe is any theology that puts other commandments, from God or from Men, before the First one. And that is why I am not a Liberal.

Discoveries and theological challenges

July 2, 2009 1 comment

I realized that it’s a bit funny that I have not been updating my blog recently. Because instead, I have been posting random reflections about things on my Facebook, plaguing my FB friends with political and religious reflections, and also letting my reflections be lost in oblivion for everyone except the Facebook staff, who probably collect everything relevant to their interests (which probably include world domination and subjugation of inferior races).

Since I got home from Israel, I have returned to my parents’ house in Halmstad, where I have mostly been chilling, playing Wii and reading, until I started working this Tuesday. I also went to Gothenburg, Knippla and Liseberg with Ingrid to visit my sisters and my grandma. That was fun :) As I said, though, I started work two days ago, and so far it’s gone so-so. Managed to lock the keys inside a building, which delayed me a bit. I’m beginning to handle it now, though.

Anyways, I’ve been getting more and more into reading about Israel and the End Times recently… Since my Israel trip, it’s pretty much been impossible for me not to think about it. I’m almost finished reading the book I bought in the Messianic Bookshop of Christ Church in Jerusalem: “Why Care About Israel? How the Jewish Nation is Key to Unleashing God’s Blessings in the 21st Century” by Sandra Teplinsky. Quite controversial are dealt with (which is awesome), and I agree with a lot. It has a very interesting spiritual review of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well. A recommended read! Another book I hope to finish reading once I get back to Johannelund, is “Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement with an Ancient Past” by David H. Stern. The book does seem to emphasize Jewish culture’s importance almost a bit too much, but it still has quite a bit of interesting thoughts.

Before we went to Israel, and afterwards as well, I listened quite a bit to Misty Edwards, worship leader of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, which is an 24/7 prayer and worship place. When we found out there is a 24/7 prayer place in Jerusalem, close to the Old City, we knew we had to go there. It is called Succat Hallel, and is connected to IHOP in many ways, it seems.

Either way, I checked out some of their notes and teachings, and found this article about their view on the End-Times. They call it “Apostolic Premillenialism“, and is basically an expanded version of CLASSIC pre-millenialism, which is what is also what seems to be the view of Paul and the other writers of the NT epistles. It is also what has always been the Jewish view of the End-Times, a restored Paradise on Earth, a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, literally ruled by the Messiah, our King of Glory, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

This view is quite close to what I’ve always felt is the view of the Millenium that is most respectful to the entire Bible, especially the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel. I am not a fan of the interpretations that turns basically everything in the Bible into an allegory for Christ. I mean, sure, you could argue that it glorifies Jesus’ triumph over Satan and evil, but in the end, it is very worrying to have the attitude to God’s Word that no matter what it says, we’ll keep on trying to read one single thing into it, namely what Jesus did on Golgatha. True, what he did there is indeed the focal point on History, and the understanding of which is a matter of life and death. However, what if God did want us to know more? What if those 66 books of the Bible had something APART from the very basics of the Christian teaching? Read with your heart what the writer of Hebrews is telling us:

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”
(Hebrews 6:1-2, ESV)

First of all, the “elementary doctrine of Christ” is not elementary in many churches today. But the point is that the knowledge of Christ is so much more than the basic Sunday school stories. It is something that will take an eternity in God’s arms to learn. As my dad has said many times: “Christianity is both the simplest religion in the world and the most complex religion in the world.” All that is required is to confess one’s inadequacy and let oneself be loved by God. But there is so much more we are called to understand. And I believe the 66 books of the Bible have tried to teach us some of these other things. In the end, the Holy Spirit is our teacher in these matters, but He works through his Word. I do sincerely believe that many Old Testament stories are prophetically speaking of Christ, perhaps all of them. After all, Christ is what the Law points to:

“For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.”
(Romans 10:4, Complete Jewish Bible)

In case you don’t recognize this translation, here is what classical Protestant translations, tainted with centuries of Replacement theology interpretations of Romans 9-11:

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
(Romans 10:4, ESV)

This is not my point, so if you are interested in this, read this very informative blog entry explaining this verse and the relationship between Jesus and the Law.

My point with showing that Christ is what the Law points as, is that there is indeed a point in reading the Old Testament as an image of Christ. He is Israel. That is why the true spiritual Israel is the Body of Christ, while the unsaved Jews are cut-off, but still natural, branches, who God eagerly wish to graft back in on the Olive tree:

“And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob””
(Romans 11:23-26 ESV)

But even so, what if God wanted to say something more? What if God actually meant something with the prophecies in the Old Testament, most of which seem very specific.  I want to puke when I hear how the more traditional churches (including Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed) speak of these as either as “mystically referring to Christ and his Church” or in the worst case “less important or of dubious origin because it goes against the New Covenant”. If all of the Bible in its original manuscripts is inspired, as the Church has believed almost without exception until the 19th Century, it is a betrayal towards his Word to embrace a theology which simply ignores part of the Bible without actually explaining why those parts aren’t important. True, yes, some parts of the Law, most notably the instructions in relation to the Temple service, as explicitly, at least in part, superseded in Paul’s teachings and in the Epistle to the Hebrews. However, that is because in this case, Christ completed that part of the Law. The New Covenant is basically a new way for God to apply His law to the Gentiles.

Oh well. I’m too tired to write more now. I have made a lot of discoveries over the past few months, and I will probably post more of them here later. Among them is my ongoing attempt at discerning the underlying doctrines of IHOP, with concerns about stuff Mike Bickle did in the 80’s. My take on it is that I think any prophetic movement will be a bit too crazy for their own good, and it seems to have been especially common back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, around the time of the Toronto Blessing. But the guys who claim to be discerning the evils of this, are all very anti-Charismatic in general, and are also anti-John Wimber and distance themselves from anything to do with the prophetic. I somehow think God is greater than that. I think he works through broken, sinful people. There are no perfect churches.

I will close the same way Paul did on his explanation of God’s purpose with Israel:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
(Romans 11:33-36, ESV)

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