New Article and Book Update
As I mentioned in “Latest News” on the Home Page of this website, I just had an article published in Religious Studies. It’s entitled: “Two ancient (and modern) motivations for ascribing exhaustive definite foreknowledge to God: A historic overview and critical assessment.” In this article I attempt to demonstrate that two driving motivations that led early Christians to assume God knows the future exhaustively as a realm of definite facts (rather than partly as a domain of possibilities) derive from pre-Christian pagan philosophy. I argue that both of these motivations are misguided. If you’re interested you can access the article on-line in the Essay section of this website (under “Warning — Egg Head Essay“).
Also, I thought some of you might be interested in an update on Jesus Versus Jehovah, the book I’m currently working on. Pulling together all my ideas and research surrounding the issue of how to reconcile the violent God of the O.T. with the crucified God of the new has thus far been a marvelous experience! I was going to put this project off another five years (until I completed Myth of the Blueprint), but I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s been coming together nicely.
The core of the book is structured around six “principles.” Just to provide a little “heads up” as to the direction I’m going, here’s a short definition of each principle.
The Christocentric Principle: All of our thinking about God must be rooted in Christ. Jesus reveals what God has always been like. We thus need to read the Old Testament “through the lens” of Christ.
The Principle of Incarnational Flexibility. If Jesus reveals what God has always been like, then God didn’t start being “incarnational” with the Incarnation. Rather, God has always been willing to humbly “embody” himself within our fallen humanity and has always “borne our sin.” The portrait of Yahweh as a nationalistic, law-oriented, violent-tending warrior god is the result of God condescending to “embody” himself within our barbaric and deceived views of him in order to work toward freeing us from them. (The reference to “god” rather than “God” in this previous sentence is intentional, since I argue God takes on the semblance of a sub-Christ-like “god” when he condescends to work within our fallen framework). Like Nanny McPhee, God is willing to appear as ugly as he needs to in order to free us from our ugliness and eventually reveal himself as he truly is to us (which is what takes place in Christ).
The Principle of Contrastive Pedagogy. Though you’d never get this reading the Old Testament itself, Paul tells us that the most fundamental reason God gave the Law was to increase our sin and, by way of negative example, drive us to Christ. I argue that when we read the Old Testament through the lens of Christ, we can say the same thing about the nationalism and violence of God’s program in the Old Testament. It tells us more about what God is not like and how not to build his Kingdom than it tells us what God is like and how we are to build the kingdom. When Jesus shows up, he reveals a God and a Kingdom that invalidates nationalism, is rooted in empowering grace (not law) and is utterly free of violence, for it is centered on loving and serving enemies.
The Principle of Punitive Withdrawal. When Jesus was crucified, God delivered Jesus up to wicked humans and “the powers.” Moreover, by entering into solidarity with us in our spiritually oppressed and fallen condition, Jesus experienced God-forsakenness. Since all of our understanding about God must be centered on Christ, Jesus’ abandonment and God-forsakenness should form the center of our understanding of how God punishes sin. He does so by withdrawing his protective presence and turning people over to experience the consequences of their decisions — a truth that is confirmed throughout the Old Testament. God’s “wrath” is his withdrawal.
The Principle of Cosmic Conflict. Jesus’ ministry as well as the whole of the Old and New Testaments reveal that the world is engulfed by cosmic forces of destruction. Like a dam being opened, when God withdraws his protective hand to bring judgment, the powers are allowed to carry out their evil intentions and chaos ensues. Yet, whenever God “pours out his wrath” by withdrawing himself, he does so with a grieving heart and for the ultimate purpose of bringing healing and redemption.
The Principle of Responsible Identification. Though he was in fact all-holy, on Calvary the Son of God identified with our sin to the point of bearing our guilt. So too, the Father is said to have afflicted his Son (Isa. 53) though in fact he merely allowed wicked powers using wicked people to crucify Jesus. When we read the Old Testament through this lens, we find God frequently identifying himself as the agent of violence, though the context makes it clear that he is merely allowing violent agents to do what they want to do. God is portrayed as doing what he actually merely allows. There are historical and exegetic reasons for this, but the theological reason, I argue, is that God has always been a God who takes responsibility for all that he allows — even though he detests much of what he allows. This is how God bears our sin and why he takes on the semblance of a nationalistic, law-oriented warrior god.
I argue that each of these six principles are rooted in Christ and confirmed throughout Scripture, and they take us a long way in reconciling the crucified God with the violent portrait of God found in the violent strands of the Old Testament.
I hope to have the book finished and sent to a publisher by the summer of 2010. If God so leads you, keep me in prayer as I continue work on this book. I’d appreciate it.
Blessings on you!