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Friday, August 07, 2015

Not My God

In my recent discussion on "the Noble Sentiment" a commenter complained, "Why follow the God of your interpretation? Why follow the God that causes blindness, muteness, and deafness? Why follow the God that causes calamity? Why follow the God that ordains evil?"

Welcome to a prime example of the Noble Sentiment. In this view, God is not like that. God doesn't do that. "That is not my God." The upshot, of course, is "My God is much better than that." By which we might conclude, "He conforms to my preferences in what a God should be."

This is a problem. It is a problem for me, of course. (That was the commenter's aim. "Why follow such a God?" was a rhetorical question, requiring a given answer: "Don't!") Why do it? Let me first say that it isn't quite accurate to call it "your interpretation" when I'm simply taking what is stated, applying no twists or turns, without overlaying my preferences or feelings, and coming away with what it says. I can't find anything that precludes it in Scripture. I can't see that it contradicts anything in Scripture. So I'm forced to conform my interpretation to the text (rather than the oh, so common alternative of interpreting Scripture to conform to my own views).

So, if Scripture is clear and consistent and actually says what I quoted it to say, then what are my options? I don't see very many. I can suggest that it's wrong and I'm right. "My God wouldn't do that." Or I can offer my interpretation that would change the straightforward meaning of the text so that I can end up with "My God wouldn't do that." I can, of course, simply decide, "The text is right and I don't want anything to do with a God like that." Or ...

I can say, "The Bible is God-breathed. It is God's self-revelation of who He is. Since God is not a man and is Holy ("other", not like me), I would expect that He would not conform to my simplistic perceptions. Therefore, I will choose to agree with what Scripture tells me and follow a God who is good even if He does not conform to my preferences or self-imposed interpretations." In this, of course, I would have to conclude that Christ, as God, would be the same as God, so falling back on the ever-popular "But Jesus wasn't like that!" only creates a contradiction.

That's the point of the whole "Tyranny of the Noble Sentiment" question. Am I going to go with what God says is true? Or am I going to side with the "Why follow a God like that?" perspective? Am I going to let God be true, though every man a liar, or am I going to construct my own view of God and bend Scripture to match? Why follow a God like that? Because He says He's like that and He says He's good and that's enough for me. Can I trust Him? He says I can and that's enough for me.

Now, of course, the other side will have to figure out its own problem. Why is your version of God better than the one presented in God's Word?


Anonymous said...

Most Christians would claim that they are in pursuit of the truth. but are they even aware of the principles of truth? and if not then how can they ever hope to discern the truth from the noble sentiment? 1. the truth cannot be destroyed, only suppressed.
2. the truth does not conform to anyone's opinion.
3. the truth is exclusive. it separates fact from fiction.
4. the truth cannot be created. we may have our own opinion but, not our own truth.
5. the truth does not contradict itself.
6. the truth is not a set of facts. the truth is a person. I am the way , THE TRUTH, and the Life.
7 know the truth (Jesus) and it (He) will set you free.
it would do well for us to clean the slate, forget everything we think we know, and rediscover the True God of the scriptures.
it matters not what we think He is , but rather what he says about Himself.
this should create a new sense of adventure to your pursuit of the Truth.
Bronx Bomber

Josh said...

Just a quick question. Is all scripture equally important, or are some passages more important than others?

Anonymous said...

is all scripture equally important?
interesting question, the question appears to be sincere, however i have to note that it is somewhat fragmented. that is to say, important with respect to what? if the question was "is all scripture inspired by God? the answer is Yes. do the scriptures speak the truth? the answer is yes. do the scriptures contradict themselves? the answer is no.
but in what respect is all scripture equally important? i could only surmise that since all of scripture does currently exist, both old and new testament, that it's importance is self evident. each document serving a unique purpose. but still the question still remains open ended. hey stan what do you think?

Stan said...

Like Anonymous, I'm not at all sure how to answer your question, Josh. Important in what sense? Equally important in that God breathed it all. Equally important in that it's true. Equally important in what sense? Equally applicable? No. Some, for instance, is given as a command to a theocracy we know as Israel. No longer exists. Principles are still valid. Some is historic narrative and some is poetry and some is proverbial and some is doctrinal. Are these literature types (and there are more in there) "equally important"? I'm not sure what that means. Now, if we're going to ask, "Are they equally important, or do some contradict others?", that's an easy answer. No, they don't contradict. "If Jesus said it, does it override what it says elsewhere?" Very, very problematic. I don't know the aim of the question, so I'm not at all sure how to answer it.

Josh said...

I will clarify. Can we interpret the OT different from its original context, based on the information revealed in Christ and the NT?

Stan said...

Scripture should always be interpreted in context. That would be in its immediate context as well as in the context of all of Scripture. There are three regular errors made in this.

The first is to fail to use the context. In this version you can find all sorts of things in the Bible that were never intended. My favorite is where the Bible clearly and unequivocally says, "There is no God." (Psa 14:1) That, of course, leaves out the preface, "The fools says in his heart ..." This is useful for prooftexting. "The Bible says I can do anything by the power of Christ (Phil 4:13)." Wrong.

The second is to pile on some Scriptures with which they claim that "The Bible teaches ...", discarding the Scriptures that say it does not. The most popular one here is "God loves everybody equally. Says so in John 3:16." And they can offer more passages about God loving us. Except that this ignores other passages that says God hates as well.

The third is to select a particular position, say, "Because Jesus said so," that clearly contradicts what Scripture teaches when taken in its entirety. (Closely related to the second above, but intentionally cancelling out Scripture.) Jesus, for instance, didn't cancel the Sabbath laws; He explained them. The food laws of the Old Testament weren't cancelled in the New Testament. They were part of the old covenant and anyone under the old covenant still needs to keep them.

Your question, then. Does Christ delete the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures in the New? No. He clarifies, corrects understanding, reveals new things, expands, but never says, "God was wrong back then, but I have figured it out now."