Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week in Review

Writing Assignment 2 – Divine Revelation

What does it mean when one states, God reveals himself to men? How does God reveal himself to mankind? As individuals pursue the Bible they gain insight and information about God. God’s revelation of himself can also be seen in nature, through history, in Jesus and through personal insights. These different avenues of revelation can help individuals gain an understanding of God, which can cause them to seek him for directions to their lives. For the individuals that have taken the step of acceptance of this God as head of their lives, it can help them grow in the understanding of God and his purpose for their daily walk.

How do we answer this question? Author Alister E. McGrath in his book, Christian Theology – An Introduction states, “How can God be known? For some, God is to be sought out within the complexities and ambiguities of the world. The ‘human quest for God’ involves the careful weighing of evidence drawn from the natural world, including human reason and conscience. For others, human nature is limited in its abilities, and is unable to discern the existence or nature of God in this way. Humanity needs to be told what God is like” (200). Who then is responsible for telling mankind about God? God took this task and revealed himself to men. It is through divine revelation that man comes to understand God.

The author, Carmelo Dotolo in the book, Christian Revelation states, “What is the meaning of the term revelation and why is it so important for theology? What is the secret of its appeal and, at the same time, of the difficulty that its use provokes in the familiar lexicon with which man tries to read the world? Without doubt, it is a strange word that seems to hint at a reality not controllable by man; or, in any event, a reality normally distant from his vision of things” (1). “The issue being debated is fundamentally that of revelation – the Christian notion that God chooses to be known, and makes this possible through self-disclosure in nature and human history” (McGrath, 200).

If one accepts that the knowledge of God is made available because God chooses to reveal himself, then one must look at the different ways that God accomplishes these events. The first way is through nature. “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set they glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:2). “The Earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness therefore, the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded in upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1-2). These are only a few of the many verses of scripture written where men tell of their understanding of God through nature. “Might the study of the natural world lead to an increased appreciation of its creator?” (McGrath, 208). These biblical writers were able to gain greater appreciation of the creator through their understanding of what they saw in nature. “If God made the world, God’s ‘signature’ (so to speak) may be found within the created order” (McGrath, 209).

God reveals himself in nature to draw men to an understanding of his ownership of all. God shows himself to be a God of order. Seasons change at relatively the same time. The sun sets and rises each day. These all attest to a God of order. He also shows himself in nature to draw men. “God takes the initiative to provoke the search of man” (Dotolo, 19). This can also be understood when one reads Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” God revealed himself in times past as well as today, through nature to draw men to an understanding of his presence in the world. “In other words, the contemporary world itself invites us to take into account, even with all the different interpretative points of view, the reality of religious experience as the space for understanding the appeal and the mystery of existence. To look at such experience means to become aware of what the religious sciences agree to define as a structural, inalienable and conclusive dimension of human experience” (Dotolo, 8).

Another way that God reveals himself to men is through events or history. God’s people (the Israelites) were allowed to understand God as he revealed himself to them and as time progressed, they had their historical background to remind them of the attributes of God. The author, Andrew Moore in his book, Realism and Christian Faith: God, Grammar, and Meaning states, “the name revealed to Moses, YHWH, ehyeh asher ehyeh, and the narrative context in which it is given — that of the promise of the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt — imply that God reveals himself, but that his self-revealing is a simultaneous self-veiling. God’s name reveals that he is unnamable, ungraspable, unencompassable. We may see God’s glory but not his essence. God remains veiled even in his self-unveiling:” (167).

The people of God were allowed to see the miracles of God, yet they knew that this God was above what they could see or think. Joseph Girzone in his book, Trinity remarks about one such miracle, “Those hundreds of thousands of people had to be fed miraculously during all those years. There was no food in the desert to satisfy the needs of that many people. The guidance and protection and comfort God gave his people during that time is also remarkable. The world has never known a god of such benevolence and care for his creatures” (15).

Work Cited

Dotolo, Carmelo (2006). Christian Revelation. Aurora, CO, USA: Davies Group Publishers.

Girzone, Joseph F. (2004). Trinity.Westminster, MD, USA: Doubleday Publishing.

McGrath, Alister E. (2001). Christian Theology – An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Moore, Andrew. (2003). Realism and Christian Faith : God, Grammar, and Meaning. West Nyack, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Samuelson, Norbert Max. (2002). Revelation and the God of Israel. West Nyack, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. (1988). The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc.

Week in Review

Writing Assignment #7 – Synthesis

Humans are lost because of sin without the plan of salvation given by God through his son, Jesus. The first step one must take to be redeemed is acceptance of this plan of salvation. Part of God’s plan of redemption also empowers the new believer to live a holy life through the working of the Holy Spirit. In this process, the new believer begins to learn how to live this new existence. This new life calls for one to learn how to fellowship with other believers. The body of believers, the church, has an internal purpose and an external purpose. All of these steps must be taken to fulfill the purpose God has for those he saves and sends to the mission field.

One understands the need for salvation by first understanding human nature and sin. In his book, Newness of Life, Richard Howard states, “Sin has been defined as self-delusion, self-reliance, listening to oneself instead of listening to God, man’s self-assertion in rebellion against God, turned toward oneself and making oneself the center of his self…Sin, then, is self-separation from God in the sense of decentralization, the place which should be occupied by God being assumed by the self” (42). Howard describes this attitude as self-sovereignty. In an article written by Margaret Alter in Christianity Today, she explains sin this way, “Sin is a state of being alienated from God, from others, and from our true selves: Out of our sense of alienation, we behave in alienating ways…We are desperate to fix things. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we sew fig leaves together to hide our nakedness from ourselves, from each other, and from God” (1997, 2).

The nature of man is to rule over self and believe he/she has the power to fix whatever is wrong. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;” (I Corinthians 15:3). Man does not have the ability in himself to forgive sins or remove the consequences of his actions. God’s plan is made available only through his son. Self-sovereignty in man takes God’s rightful place of lordship and depends on self to rule one’s life. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). No matter what a person does, the choices made will only lead to death. It is not until the sinner turns from selfish rule to Godly rule, that any change will be effected. For one to move from self-sovereignty to God as sovereign, one must release the control.

On the web site of Global Media Outreach, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, their article, How to Know God Personally, gives steps for the sinner to take in receiving forgiveness of sins and release from the bondage of that sin. “God LOVES you and offers a wonderful PLAN for your life. Man is SINFUL and SEPARATED from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life. Jesus Christ is God’s ONLY provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life. We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our life” (2 – 3). In this process, the self-directed life, where self is on the throne is replaced with the Christ-directed life, where Christ is on the throne (Global Media Outreach, 4).

When the sinner accepts salvation, he is given a new standing in the Lord. Margaret Alter states it in this manner, “Jesus tenderly receives those who are obviously sinful and forcefully confronts good religious people who bargain their goodness before God. In other words, those who know they are burdened and alienated find release, and those who have covered their need with fig leaves of their own self-righteousness are found out and invited to give up pretense” (2). Here the writer makes the point that not only does the sinner need to know God but also those that are self-righteous yet attending church and participating in the services. When the sin is released, Jesus changes the sinner’s standing from one sentenced to death to one alive.

In the book, Holiness Teachings – The Life and Work of B. T. Roberts, Benson H. Roberts makes this statement, “It is a false assumption which takes it for granted that those who maintain a respectable standing in a respectable Church are therefore justified. Some of them are. Many are not” (1). Paul’s writing to the Romans was trying to convey a similar message to his readers. Paul wanted believers to know it is not by ones own trying that they are saved. Man cannot will himself to do what is right before God. The law is righteous, but man is unable to follow without failure. Paul in Romans 7:14-25 was pointing the reader to the only one that could do what the law was incapable of doing. Under the law, man was condemned because he was not able to fulfill the requirements of the law. The law was to show men their sin, but it was only Jesus that could fulfill the requirements of the law. Matthew Henry, in Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, states this in another way, “The remainder of indwelling corruptions which he here speaks of, to show that the law is insufficient to justify even a regenerated man, that the best man in the world hath enough in him to condemn him, if God should deal with him according to the law, which is not the fault of the law, but of our own corrupt nature, which cannot fulfill the law” (2210).

The sinner or even the believer is not able to change the inner self without the working of the Holy Spirit. The new believers are not to fool themselves into believing that because the first step has been made, all is finished. The acceptance of salvation is a beginning. The author, Alister E. McGrath, in Understanding the Trinity, states, “Christianity is not like some sort of religious education lesson in which facts are pumped into our heads; rather it is like a love affair – something powerful, challenging and possessing real meaning to those involved…It isn’t a ‘knowledge’ for which a relatively high IQ and a university degree are required, but a personal knowledge of God which lies within the grasp of everyone…It is a knowledge which arises through meeting someone, through encountering the living God, not through reading dry and dusty textbooks” (43). In order for the relationship with God to grow, the new believer must have a deep love for God, a love affair. It will not be the facts given to the new believer or their intelligence that will deepen their walk with the Lord. It will be the new believer’s love for God and the releasing of control of his or her own will into the capable hands of God.

Work Cited

Alter, Margaret Gramat. Christianity Today: The unnatural act of forgiveness. Vol. 41 Issue 7, P. 28, 3p 2c. 1997. 22 February 2006. How to know God personally. 2006. 22 February 2006.

Howard, Richard E. Newness of Life. United States of America: n.p., 1975. Previous Questions -Christianity. 2004. 22 February 2006.

McGrath, Alister E. Understanding the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988. Scripts – Encourage One Another. Palau, Luis. 2005. 22 February 2006. Prison Fellowship. 2004. 22 February 2006.

Phillips, J.B. Your God is Too Small. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Rheenen, Gailyn Van. Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies: Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.