Friday, June 9, 2017

God and a Christ-Shaped Theology

The way we worship is the way we believe. Back in the fourth century, Evagrius of Ponticus said, “The one who prays is a theologian; the one who is a theologian, prays.” I have discovered that the more I consider Christ, the more my theology changes in conformity to Him. One of the changes this has meant for me is in how I understand the portrayal of God in the Old Testament.

I take all the Scriptures to be true, but I take them all to be about Christ. Because that is what Christ taught us they are about. I take their witness of him to be trustworthy, authoritative and infallible — because that is the purpose God has intended for them (see Intention and Inerrancy). However, I do not take them to be infallible in regard to whatever other purpose we might wish to put them to.

I have a very great problem with an interpretation of the Scriptures that depicts God as destroying a whole world of people, or of commanding genocide. Such depictions seem to me to be ungodly, because they are unChristlike. The New Testament teaches us that Jesus is the perfect expression of God. Jesus himself said that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father. So we should expect that God behaves like Jesus and not in a way contradictory to Christ and his teaching. We should expect that God practices what Jesus preached.

And what did Jesus preach? He taught us to love our enemies. And how does love behave, or what does love look like? Like genocide? Of course not! The New Testament shows us very clearly what love looks like and how it behaves. We can see this in the Gospels. We can see it in the cross. We can find it in the epistles: for example, in First John, in 1 Corinthians 13, in Philippians 2 and elsewhere.

We find in First John that God is love. Love is not just something God has, something God does or something God chooses. No, love is what God is. Love is his nature, so everything God does is the manifestation of his love. That being so, we should expect that God always acts in love towards all, even towards the wicked and all who have considered God their enemy.

How does God deal with his enemies? By wiping them out? No! But we can see in Jesus Christ what God does: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). How does God deal with his enemies? Not by killing them but by humbling himself for our sake. By pouring himself out on our behalf. By uniting himself with us, and by shedding his own blood on the cross for us, to free us from the power of sin and death.

So I reject any interpretation of the Scriptures that portrays God in such a way that contradicts the revelation of God we have in Jesus Christ, and in what Christ and his apostles have taught us about love. Though my discipleship may be weak, erratic and poorly lived, I take the Christ-centered hermeneutic very seriously, and I am challenged by the Christ-shaped, cross-shaped theology in the Scriptures.

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