We’re continuing to consider a series of articles making arguments in favor of Christian gay marriage. The next Christian thinker we take up is Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury: Rowan Williams’ four essentials for being ‘Christian’ and “The Body’s Grace”.
In the first article, Williams says,
Archbishops don’t decide doctrine, and in a church where the majority holds a more traditional view, an archbishop has to respect that. I still see a strong case for a less restrictive approach, on the grounds that what the Bible condemns isn’t necessarily what we today recognize as same-sex partnership.
This is hardly new theological ground. The argument made is that the homosexual relationships Paul would have known were abusive — pederastic, prostitution, or idolatrous — and so Paul was condemning homosexuality of the type he knew. As a First Century man, he would have been unfamiliar with loving, faithful homosexual relationships comparable to healthy heterosexual marriages. Continue reading
A couple of years ago, I posted a series called “Jesus and Paul on the Hermeneutics of Sexuality.” The point of the series is that we should find our hermeneutics in the scriptures, rather than importing our hermeneutics from law, humanism, or whatever. And the best source of scriptural hermeneutics is to study how Jesus and Paul interpreted and applied the Old Testament.
Here are links to the posts: Continue reading
2 Cor 5:17
(2Co 5:17 NET) 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!
For many, this is considered the central text on theosis. It’s subtle but important. And so we need to start with some Greek.
“New” is kainos, the same word for “new” as is found in —
(Rev 21:1 ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
(Rev 21:2 ESV) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
(Rev 21:5 ESV) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
“New creation” means a creation that’s been renewed or restored, the same idea we find regarding the New Heaven and New Earth in the Rev. The Eschaton — the end of all things — has already happened in each individual Christian from the moment of his or her baptism. God does a miracle in us comparable to the miracle of the Creation itself! It’s not just washing away sins — although it is that! — it is also remaking us so that we are suited for what is to come. Continue reading
(Gal 2:20 NET) 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
As we covered earlier, God is faithful to his covenant promises (Rom 3:3) and so Jesus has also been faithful, especially on the cross. We respond by being faithful — which can be just as well be translated “having faith.” In having faith, we take a critical step toward becoming like God.
God responds by coming to live within us through his Spirit (Rom 8; Gal 3:3-4), making our one-ness and in-ness that much more so.
Therefore, Paul can say that “I have been crucified with Christ.” We want to argue about when this happens and how it relates to baptism, but the point is more about what our faith, baptism, and receipt of the Spirit do to change who we are. It’s not niggling over God’s timing but submitting to the transformation from self to Christ living in me. Continue reading
Since the time of the early church fathers, the Christian church has spoken of the final destination of the saved in terms of theosis.
Among the Eastern Orthodox, theosis is considered a central element Christianity. In the West, until recently, theosis was generally ignored but, when not, was often considered heretical, and it’s easy to see why. Many in the East speak of “deification” or “divinization” of the Christian, as though we become somehow co-equal with God.
That’s not really the teaching, but it’s easy to understand the confusion when such terms are tossed about — and I’ll not be using those terms because that is not what I mean by theosis.
More recently, in the West theosis is becoming a respectable term, thanks in substantial part to the work of Michael J. Gorman. Some Eastern writers may have used overwrought language, but the NT certainly teaches a doctrine of the unity of the saved with God and Jesus. Actually, it’s all over the pages of scripture once you start looking for it. In fact, the Orthodox are right to point out that it’s an important NT concept. Continue reading
The patience of God
An major theme of the NT is the patience (or forbearance) of God — his decision to wait on us to repent rather than being done with us.
It doesn’t seem that important of a doctrine until you view through the lens of the covenants.
(Rom 2:4 ESV) 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
(2Pe 3:13-16a ESV) 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.
And all this makes sense of Paul’s speech at Mars Hill — Continue reading
The Second Coming of Jesus is not ever described as a new or changed covenant. Rather, the clearest and most common image is that it will be a return to Eden, except better.
For example, I highlight the more obvious allusions to Gen 1 – 3 —
(Rev 21:1-5 ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Rev 22:1-5 ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
The comparison is richer and deeper than the highlights indicate. After all, Adam and Eve surely saw God’s face in some sense, and there was no mourning, crying, or pain in Eden. Continue reading
So the goal of it all is the knowledge of God. When Jesus returns, Isaiah says that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9b). The new covenant will cause all God’s children to “Know the Lord” (Jer 39:34).
All of history, molded and pushed by the hand of God, was meant to lead to Christians knowing the LORD.
And so, my question is very basic. If one of the primary goals of all of God’s dealing with humanity throughout history is the knowledge of God, then shouldn’t we read the scriptures with that question primarily in mind? Shouldn’t we ask as we turn each page, “What does this tell us about God?”
We want to know about how to appoint elders and how to run the assembly and what words to say over a baptism and whether the grape juice really needs to be fermented when we take communion — because we’ve been shaped by very bad theology to believe we’re being tested by a new law that replaced the old law. But long before we ask such questions, we need to understand who God is. And in learning who God is, we’ll learn the right questions to ask.
In fact, if as we’ve seen, Adam and Eve can be priests of God in the Cosmic Temple of Creation, in the very image and likeness of YHWH himself, based solely on knowing the general nature of God, without the revelation of a single law, surely our relationship with God is not best defined by law but by knowledge of God. Continue reading
In Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan, John Walton suggests that the entirety of scripture and the entirety of God’s relationship with humanity are held together by the theme of God’s self-revelation. God made the covenants and inspired the scriptures to tell us about himself. Why? Well, we’ll get there.
In the previous post of this series, we see how God’s self-revelation to Adam and Eve allowed them to be sinless, indeed, to exist as the very images and likenesses of God, until they sinned in response to the serpent’s temptation.
God’s dealings with Abram/Abraham also do not speak directly in terms of knowledge of God. And yet God plainly is revealing himself —
(Gen 15:4-6 ESV) 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God is a God of grace, who makes promises to the undeserving. Continue reading
[Fair warning: In the next several posts, I’ll be well off the beaten path, trying to fit some elements of the last several years of Bible study together. Several answers will be unconventional and are offered for your consideration and comment. But the fact is that, as you re-arrange the dispensations and move a few other things around just a bit, well, several vases fall off the shelves. And so we need new, better vases. In fact, we may need new shelves … maybe even a whole new room of furniture.]
As I said at the end of the last post of this series, most of the steps in our A-B-C-B’-A’ scheme are not about God presenting laws to be obeyed. They’re about God presenting himself. The sole exception is the Law of Moses. Not a single other self-revelatory act is primarily about law.
Adam and Eve
For example, God only needed to give Adam and Eve one law — don’t eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why? Well, did Adam and Eve become pornographers and pedophiles in the absence of direct revelation of God’s will? It seems unlikely. Continue reading