Friday, May 14, 2010

No bad news in Christianity

I hear Christianity summarised as "Bad News. Good News".
That is: it's bad that we're sinful and it's bad that God is angry, but good news: Jesus.
I have questions... Firstly it's a bit (coldly) problem/solution rather than invitational and relational.
Second such a description doesn't often end up sounding all that good...
But also...

1. Why do we begin with sin? 
The Triune God begins by revealing Jesus. He has strong words for the religious but for the "sinners" he's a man of unbounded mercy and welcome. Jesus doesn't deny people are sinful - his words are strong but the proof seems to rest in him not in how deeply we see our sin. And, his cross shows us his love but also our sin more clearly than anything else... seeing Jesus I see my sin less as law-broken and more as a problem of the heart, the deeper problem of betrayal and adultery of the heart... and for all that, I see Jesus.

2. Is the anger of God against sin, bad news?
Would we be better off to speak of the LORD called Jealous (Exodus 34). This is a positive trait of a lover, scorned and burning with righteous anger against her adultery. The jealous anger of the Triune God is good news of which the people of God will sing Hallelujah in Revelation 19:1.  Sure, wrath is bad for those who receive it, but the gospel message isn't "God wants you to go to hell" it's "The Triune God wants you to know him, he sent his son to bring you to into that, through his death and resurrection". The gospel is such that we're invited to receive favour instead of wrath and those who stand with the lamb rejoice in his wrath...

Don't hear this as a call for being sin-lite or wrath-lite - but do hear, I'm pondering how we speak of these things from a Trinitarian basis, avoiding a flat-unrelational-merely-legal gospel language and instead speak consistently relationally without having to pit God against himself or making what is good be bad.

33 comments:

  1. Chronologically, of course, God didn't start with Jesus exactly, but (post-creation) with God (the Word?) walking with mankind. Then law was added because of transgression, and Christ came as a the telos of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

    So while I agree that revelation-wise, we could start with Jesus Christ, in what you've outlined it could sound like you're ditching the whole of the OT. God didn't make a mistake in adding the law to show sin; we've just got to be careful to start with a Trinitarian creator in communion with his creation. Hm?

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  2. Side-stepping the Jesus in the OT thing (yes that's right I'm side-stepping it!!!) I've really enjoyed listening to John Hindley sermons recently where because of his relational-trinitarian framework he's able to preach far more profoundly on sin and wrath than a more simplistic transgression account. Because He's trinity, gift rather than demand is God's basic mode of operation. Therefore when you *do* address sin you can really get to the heart of things. It's not those handful of transgressions you (may or may not) feel shame about - it's a whole heart hardened to a Jealous Husband.

    Glen

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  3. Rosemary - doesn't creation itself happen in the context of Jesus...?

    Glen - best place to start with John Hindley? Top sermon suggestions. I've listened to a few from The Plant which were great, and his Theology Network series.

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  4. You say the bad news/good news dynamic is not invitational/relational, but I would argue that by not starting off with bad news you are actually starting off with an abstraction from our reality. That is far less relational.

    We begin with sin and the anger of God against sin because that is our situation. It is bad news for us as sinners, even if it is objectively good.

    It is also a myth that we can know the Trinity before we come to terms (at some level) with our plight/problem. The Trinity is revealed in our salvation from sin. You can't start with the Trinity without actually starting with an abstraction which is not the real Triune God. The Trinity is not a 'basis' we work from, but a personal God who acts to save us. Again, I think what you're criticising is more relational than the alternative.

    To pick up on other things... You say that "The Triune God begins by revealing Jesus". On the contrary, he starts by throwing us out of the Garden – then he tells us of the coming serpent-crusher. Jesus self-evidently comes at the end of the Bible. We understand him as the Omega before in the light of that revelation we understand him as the Alpha. But it is not very relational or engaging to begin with God's point of view - we should instead begin with our own. Otherwise everything happens over our heads apart from us.

    Also, Jesus appeals to God against God on the cross. To some degree we have to 'pit God against himself'. Although we need to be careful with our wording, that is what we do everytime we wrestle with God in prayer... again I think the dynamic you are criticising (which is essentially the law/Gospel dynamic) is intensely relational.

    Sorry that's quite a punchy comment!

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  5. But still... God's wrath is not a bad thing, and there are good things to say to connect with people even if you then move on to talk about what's wrong with the world...

    He doesn't start put throwing us out of the garden, he starts by making us and putting us in the garden, having planned our salvation before creation...

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  6. Yes, Dave, it is planned from before creation that the Word will become incarnate as Jesus, and thus in that sense creation happens in that context, but God chose to reveal that to us a little later in the Bible. He starts by revealing himself as a loving creator (Trinity implicit and necessary), against whom we sin (relationally, but by transgressing the law which expressed what would be against the relationship with that kind of God), then we get the promise of the-one-we-now-know-as-Jesus.

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  7. Hi Dave,

    I understand your point of view. I think the difference is in choosing where we stand in relationship to Christian faith. Do we stand apart or in the midst of it?

    I think you’re trying to stand in a position objectively outside the story of the universe. You’re looking down and taking in the whole sweep of history, including even the divine life of the Trinity pre-creation. From this all-encompassing vantage point you can see how suffering turns for good, how wrath is actually derived from God’s love, how the sinner is now a saint in God’s eyes, how the Father plans our salvation before we even fall etc.

    This may all sound attractive, but it is not very routed in our lives, and it is not very sensitive. The sufferer will want to hear how their suffering will be turned for good – but not before you’ve mourned with them over how wrong the suffering is in the first place. Similarly it is not helpful to the person burdened with sin to simply announce that they are forgiven in God’s eyes without first acknowledging that that their sin is a real problem. Otherwise you will simply not engage with people in their situation. It is detached and and deaf religion.

    Alternatively, you may be taking up a position as objective ‘human’. You are right that I was sloppy with my wording about Eden. But except as ‘the human race’, I have never been in Eden. I was born a sinner living under a reign of death. That is my starting point. You could argue that this is not my real starting point because I was created to be in relationship with God, but this is an abstraction from my experience and from reality as it is apart from Christ. I am not born at the beginning of the story; I’m born in the midst of the story. I am not born Christian needing to reconvert (unlike the Muslim perspective); I am born a sinner needing to be converted.

    I have heard Christianity described as 1. good news - 2. bad news - 3. good news (Creation-fall-redemption). That’s helpful in some ways, and is a good summary of the story of the Bible. But it is striking that the Bible spends very little time talking about Act 1 (never mind pre-Creation which seems so in vogue these days). I think this is because the place we are in that story is in the overlap of Acts 2 and 3. We misunderstand the story if we don’t understand where we fit in the story.

    Basically, it comes down to the question: where do we start, and with what perspective? You answer with God, Creation made good, and God’s perspective. It sounds nice, but actually unless we start with me, with fallen creation, and our poor understanding then we abstract everything (personal relationship goes out of the window because the real me is not in the frame [to mix metaphors]). Also, because God reveals himself in salvation of sinners, if we start with ‘Trinity’ before salvation what we start with is not the true God at all, and good creation is not actually as good as you thought, and Christianity seems to be an escape from reality not a declaration that God entered our reality (I suppose that is what Schaeffer would call an ‘upper story leap’).

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  8. This is a bit scattergun, but to return to your point 1. You talk about how in Christ we can see the depths of our sinfulness. That is true. But, what if Christ has nothing to do with you? You can look at Christ all you like and he remains apart from you and his death is something that happens over our head, separate from our 21st century existence. Only if we see that it was not just Christ, but ME on that cross with him does Christ reveal our sin. We have to see the connection before it can have any relevance and to see the connection we have to recognise that we too are under the sentence of death. When we see that, we see not just a man on a cross, or even a god, but a fellow-sufferer and our brother. If he is dying with us, then his resurrection is OUR resurrection too. But death always comes before resurrection. Resurrection then reinterprets the death, but the dynamic always runs that way.

    Finally, I think that there is an important distinction to be made between ‘the Gospel’ and ‘Christianity’.

    Sorry that is all a bit of a mess.

    (BTW should be 'rooted' not 'routed' in my previous comment!)

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  9. Surely it's right that 'the story' is primarily one of grace. Adam's transgression only makes sense in the context of covenant, gift, etc.

    I think that means that even if a particular conversation or explanation of the gospel begins with 'problem' we'll be explaining that problem with biblical categories, which means grace, Christ, creation, gift, Trinity, covenant etc.

    [i.e. there's a reason that box 1 of twtlive (for all it's weaknesses) is what it is.]

    So, we can go round and round in circles about the order of things (and I'm not always convinced about the value of such arguments), but the really important thing is we understand the inter-relationships?

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  10. Hmmm. Jesus certainly started with bad news for people who were self righteous. I wonder whether culturally at this moment, the bad news does need explaining, because self righteousness "I'm not really that bad, of course if there's a God he'd accept me" is the plague of western liberal cultures.

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  11. Yeah definitely there are difficult words and rebukes for the religious - and there are welcomes for the sinners...

    I guess my concern is that we find a way to speak of wrath in a way that doesn't make it "the unfortunate thing about God" and that in general we speak about Christianity in a way that makes it more than just "a necessary evil".

    To which you guys are probably the long since converted choir who are doing it way better than me.

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  12. Motsy has a great seminar on the gospel as "good news-->bad news-->good news", (tho he may have nicked the content from Micky Green), but worth asking him about it. UCL CU leaders said "I wish i'd heard this 2 years ago"
    - moving from cosmic vision (e.g. 2 tim 1, creation to new creation, bringing life & immortality to light through gospel)
    - through context for gospel (e.g. areopagus, where the core proclamation not there - NB I know this is controversial, I'm not wholly convinced myself, but it's one take)
    - to core proclamation of gospel (e.g. acts sermons - israel's messiah raised as lord of the world, now offers forgiveness of sins & holy spirit on repentance & faith)
    - calling for a new confession (e.g. 2 cor 4 - jesus christ is lord)

    Problem is the cosmic is too big to communicate, the confession is too small to communicate, yet the core doesn't make sense without the context, but the context drives us from the cosmic to the central confession.
    eg suffering - good news: the darkness is real, not illusory, what you're going through is human. there's really something wrong with the world. bad news: this is too big for you & me to sort: it's a consequence & curse of cosmic dislocation; we need rescue, reconciliation & resurrection. good news: Jesus suffered on the cross, God took on personal responsibility for putting it right, smashed the power of the fear of death & launched new creation in his resurrection, which he offers all who come to him by his spirit .

    something like that. Basically, what Dave K said.

    For me, the doctrine of the creation & fall of man in Adam grounds all apologetics in the real world. Can i recommend Henri Blocher, NSBT Original Sin, his Moore College Lectures 1995. In his 1st talk here & in the Q+A, he responds to the methodology (of Barth & which takes a doctrine of sin from christology. It's very helpful. Here's OS p.17

    'I shall be wary of the enticements of those who follow Karl Barth's lead and draw their theology of sin from Christ and the cross directly. Though apparently most 'Christian', this procedure conceals a subtle snare: the selction and abstraction of the relevant elements of Christology...is bound to be arbitrary. If one starts with the cross, the character of Christ's work as a remedy for sin, as redemption, is obscured; simply to read the meaning of original sin off the Christ-event is to act as if we were masters of revelation. Far from it! We are mere disciples, and cannot afford not to start with the teaching of God. Sound theological method requires that we listen to Scripture as a whole...[and not reverse the Adam-Christ order]'

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  13. By the way, TOTALLY agree with the central point you're making. Psalm 96: judgment is good news. Amen. But this is too interesting, and I'm taking the opportunity to try to articulate some thoughts I've had mulling for a couple years. For what it's worth, here's my best brief shot at how things come together:

    When an epistemological crisis is resolved, it is by the construction of a new narrative which enables the agent to understand both how he or she could intelligibly have held his or her original beliefs and how he or she could have been so drastically misled by them. The narrative in terms of which he or she at first understood and ordered experiences is itself made into the subject of an enlarged narrative. (MacIntyre)

    I find that transformative. There are unresolved tensions in Adam (living a lie) which are only resolved in Christ. Persuasion happens when I can say "i once was blind, but now i see"; my life was a wreck, but I thought that was all there was, in fact I embraced & loved it...but now...so the evangelistic task is to say "we too like the rest, were dead in Adam..." and humbly we seek to say - what is it like for you to be in Adam...how does that manifest for you? Now I'm in Christ I know what to look for...

    To put it systematically,
    - Barth says, "the Christian doctrine of God has to face and answer questions put to it by the God who confronts man and not by the man who confronts God"
    - Tillich says, "God answers man’s questions, and under the impact of God’s answers, man asks them…These answers are contained in the revelatory events [of the gospel]. Their content cannot be derived from the questions…that is, from an analysis of human existence. They are “spoken to” human existence, from beyond it. Otherwise they would not be answers!"
    - ie Schaeffer concludes, “As Christians, we do have the answers to the questions posed by reality. But we have not thought up these answers – we know them from God’s revelation...This being so, every man is in a place of tension…because regardless of man’s system, He has to live in God’s world…"

    or to put it narratively:
    Question: "who am I?"
    Answer: I am (narratively) constituted by my relationships - with God, with others, with myself, with the world
    Question: "am I only what has happened to me? am I only what others say about me? is there a bigger story I can tell of myself & my experience?"
    Answer: yes, hear the good news: in Christ, I can get a new future, a new identity & also a new past: this is the good news: chosen in him before the ages, adopted in him, co-heir in him

    see Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace. (snippet preview 10 minute sermon here)

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  14. Certainly in Western evangelicalism at the moment we seem to be light on judgement being a good thing. It's not a good thing for us if we're not in Christ, but overall it's good. My housemate was just saying the other day that she wishes there were more worship songs / hymns which thank God for judgement and look forward to it: reflecting the NT, that is, not in some self-righteous way. She works with asylum seekers, some of them failed asylum seekers with scars of torture from the police in their country, who have been refused asylum here, have nothing to eat, nowhere to live and are forbidden from working. Perhaps most of us are too successful at insulating ourselves from injustice, and comforting ourselves against pain, to care about judgement being a good thing. I don't know how much it 'works' in evangelism, but certainly God's wrath against sin is not bad news to be embarassed about.

    However, we know that being under God's wrath is bad news for those who are under God's wrath and have been supressing that knowledge (cf Mo's observant comment). The gospel is overall cosmic good news, but it has to be applied to my friend for the announcement that Jesus is Lord to have good implications for her.

    PS I feel I need another degree to follow some of your comments, Chris.

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  15. "1. You talk about how in Christ we can see the depths of our sinfulness. That is true. But, what if Christ has nothing to do with you?"

    I see that, but it also makes me wonder why so many are so quick to turn to the Law to show people are sinful... talk about using something that really has nothing to do with your average Gentile...

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  16. Good discussion. Can't help feeling there's a little bit of talking past one another/ like maybe it is easier to synthesise what we're all saying [this is one problem with arguments over the 'order' of things, like when people argue over the order things should come in a systematic theology. Surely, perichoresis warns us against getting too 'het up' about that?]

    So, is this what we're saying maybe:

    There is, of course, understood properly, bad news - i.e. judgment is real, we are dead in our sins, our natural condition is under God's wrath - believe me you don't want that to carry on into eternity - that sort of bad news.

    Without which bad news, the good news (mercy/ cross/ life in Christ) will make little sense (many of us think/ presume we're alright, none of us realise what is really wrong with us in a full sense).

    But, if we're really going to explain the 'bad news' properly, and not in categories that people already accept (which is always inadequate, as above, people may think there is something wrong with the world but we really don't grasp the true depth or overall shape/ nature of the problem we're in), we'll pretty quickly find ourselves coming back to stuff that's not really 'bad' news at all - creation, God's gracious covenant with Adam, Trinity and the image of God, etc. etc.

    Because, let's face it, without those things, what on earth does being 'dead in sin' even mean apart from 'we're naughty and the big power on high is going to/ is in the business of whacking us for it' - which I'm sure we'll all agree is woefully inadequate.

    Or have I misunderstood half of what's being said here?

    ????

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  17. (plus, I basically agree with you Bish on the 'preaching the law first' thing, but funnily enough, I agree for the exact reasons that I suspect we still disagree re. the law and the believer:

    http://peteincyberspace.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/preaching-the-law-first/

    funny, eh?)

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  18. Dave,

    If the law has nothing to do with Gentiles, in any form, then what did Jesus obey for you? Or did it obey it only for Jewish believers?

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  19. I guess I'm arguing that in the form it's sometimes used I'm not sure it does...

    Anyways... this all comes out of hearing too much unattractive and unpersuasive sharing of the gospel and wanting (without distorting the message) to hear more that is as attractive as the gospel is, and persuasive as it is...

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  21. Hi Dave,

    I suppose I ought to have a crack at answering your response to my bit on the cross. I think we have to see the Mosaic Law as of one piece with the conscience in the Gentile, with the reality of death, with the unfulfilled longing for X which is never quite realised etc. The Mosaic law I would say clarifies all those bits of 'bad news' and explains them while simultaneously increasing our guilt.

    The Mosaic Law, like Israel as a whole, represented something much wider encompasing all of creation. NT Wright talks about heaping up all the sin and evil in the world in Israel and Jesus taking that upon him. I think that is helpful. The Mosaic law always has something to say to Gentiles because it is not just arbitary rules, but is God's coming close in a special way to sinful humanity - further revealing our sin and driving us to Christ.

    Pete,

    I love your perspectivalism (is that right?)... and I think you're probably mainly right. Certainly these things loop back on each other over and over in a continual spiral as we increasingly understand the seriousness of the 'bad news' and the beauty of the 'good news'. In this movement we see that we can never rest in one or the other but are always driven to move to the next.

    I think the starting point is important because I am first a sinner and then a saint. First I'm put to death and then I'm brought to life again. The cross is good news and is beautiful, but it only BECOMES that looking back from the perspective of the resurrection. To pick up on Chris's comment, Jesus got a 'new past', and we do too when we believe (which is itself the new life breaking in.

    Chris says it better than me. Not because I'm saying the same thing - but because I think I should be. Identification with sinners in the midst of the 'bad news' act of the story of redemption where there are questions galore but no answers, and then lifting up people's eyes to see the good news which is the big picture which found in Jesus Christ (his life and death containing all creation within it, and revealing the Trinity). That seems to me to be what evangelism should be. Sure I don't really understand where I'm standing if I'm staring at the floor, but, as Chris says, if we jump to the cosmic that seems to have no connection to the hearer!

    Coming to the end of this comment though I'm struck that probably my biggest fault in sharing the Gospel is not what I say but how I say it, and the context of the words which is my life. Do I live a life of joy in the midst of suffering? Do I come across as believing the Gospel 'just is'? Or am I one of those Christians who we have all met who seems to be full of happiness only because they've excused themselves from the real world?

    Anyway... it is a good concern you have Dave, and these are good things for us all to wrestle with I imagine.

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  22. I'm all for wrestling with the horror of life under curse, Ecclesiastes is in my top few places to dwell in the Bible... and to rage at the curse is a good thing.

    It's trite evangelism, flat evangelism, formulaic evangelism that I guess I'm fighting - I want to see people affected - so if you want to speak of sin, curse, hell and wrath then weep and share in the jealousy of God rather than just saying "Hey! Bad News!"....
    And the good news is better too.

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  23. attempt at brevity:

    Martin - Jesus fulfilled the law so that the promised spirit, could be poured out on all who believe (jews & gentiles)

    Dave K - when you say law/gospel, i fear you're abstracting the terms as they appear in biblical theology to general principles - "the elementary principles of the world"?

    Dave - perhaps Marcus' distinction ("dont go to the law to convict of sin - go to christ") is better by "go to death in adam, shed light on by christ's death & resurrection"

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  24. Chris,

    That's not connected to my question. If, in the gospel, the righteousness of God is available to all who believe, and if we become the righteousness of God in him, then what did Jesus obey for Gentiles?

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  25. Sorry, Chris. I guess I may be over simplistic.

    I may just run with your Gal 4 reference though. In the OT there is a war which sees victories for the Devil, and victories for God's people... but the theme and the direction is ultimately defeat - exile, taken up by Jesus on the cross. In the NT era there are also victories for the Devil, and victories for God's people... but now the theme and direction is ultimately victory - because the decisive battle has been won; D-day has happened in the Resurrection of Jesus.

    It would be wrong to say that the OT = defeat only, or that NT = victory alone; but I think we can say that broadly (not as an abstraction, but by putting it in the context of the whole Bible). As we zoom out further though we should return to the OT and see that God was actually using the defeat as part of his own plan (turning it for good, like a Judo player using the opponent's strength against them). The Devil is God's enemy, but God effectively makes him his servant against his will.

    I think the OT saints looked forward to this. They believed that God would keep his promises so, although the law was resulting only in prophets continually beating up on them all the time, they trusted that the law was a good thing because God would remember his promises and enable them eventually to fulfil it through sacrifice. And he did!

    Sorry, I've probably got distanced from the text again, and from the subject of Dave's post. But I think there are connections.

    > Paul connects the Torah to enslavement to "those that by nature are not gods", and I think there is something in translating it "elementary spirits".
    > Paul connects the Torah to Adam, sin and death in Romans 5. So there is a connection between Torah and creation under the curse. So there is a connection between 'law' and everyone - including Gentiles.

    I think I keep on trying to bite off more than I can chew and summarise the whole bible all the time - an impossible task! Then I'm trying to sweep down and see us, the OT saints, etc in the midst of the story. It is quite dizzying.

    Dave, like your last comment... nothing to add on it!

    Wish I could do brevity.

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  26. Dave, I love this post. And am with you totally on the greatness of Ecclesiastes!

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  27. martin: I'm surprised you say it's not connected. Dare I suggest, to my mind it's exactly the question.

    Jesus obeyed, fulfilled, completed the law of Moses given to Israel (no one else, although the whole earth was his), whose end pointed beyond itself - Lev 26, Deut 30 to an age beyond the law, when the law had been fulfilled in the curses on disobedience ...which i take to be entirely focussed on the land & people of Israel - those curses are what Jesus took on himself. But in fulfilling the law, being completely obedient, even unto death, he fully revealed God's name. He's the LORD, the LORD (Ex 34), Php 2. So the who5) le point of the law, what it was pointing to but couldn't offer, was the name of the LORD, so that we'd worship him on his mountain (Ex 5:1-2) - not jerusalem or gerazim, but the heavenly tabernacle, Jesus himself. In other words, the real deal is fellowship with God by his spirit, being incorporated into Christ's own righteousness, not having one of my own but being adopted into his, built into the true temple for God to live.

    So now that Jesus obeyed & fulfilled the law of Moses, now the real thing, the thing which the whole law made you ache for, the hope beyond exile (in which the law was powerless except in pointing beyond the law to God's name - Dan 9, Neh 9), namely - the spirit...could be poured out on all who believe (not those who obey the law...), which therefore includes gentiles.

    That's why I worship jesus for obeying the law "for me"...not because I had that law to obey, but because israel did...and didn't, nay couldn't obey it. They were in the same boat as me, dead in transgressions & sins, captive to the elementary principles of the world. Ephesians 2, Galatians 3, Acts 13... I see that as the heart of the good news for gentiles.

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  28. Dave K,

    Yeah, perspectivalism helps I think, in arguments about the 'order' of things to bring a little, well, perspective.

    So, I'm really not all that concerned with where people start their evangelistic explanations (i.e. with the bad news of the good news) and I fully accept that there are loads of reasons, practical and theological, for picking the options we do, and I'm really quite happy with that.

    So, when you say 'I'm a sinner first' I'd have to agree.

    Though of course, it depends what you mean by 'first' doesn't it? Adam, my federal head, certainly wasn't a sinner first. And, even then, if we want to really get at what 'sinner' means we're suddenly into the back story of Adam, Eden, Creation, the goodness and graciousness of the Triune Creator, etc. etc. After all, a sinner is someone who has fallen short of something. So, note how, even when he starts with the 'bad news' in Romans 1:18ff., Paul is quickly into some of that back story about the gracious goodness of the Creator we've all rejected for idols.

    It seems to me that sometimes the apostles start with the 'bad news' (as properly understood - nothing about God is 'unfortunate' of course), sometimes they start with creation and God's grace and goodness to all humanity. What they never do is sell cheap grace, or soft-pedal on judgment, or fail to present Christ as the only option for sinners. And if it's good enough for them...

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  29. Chris, Martin, (excuse me butting in)

    Does it help to consider whether Adam was required to 'love the LORD his God with all his...' in the garden?

    Gentiles are not under Moses but they are in Adam aren't they?

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  30. Pete

    Bingo. Israel, God's son, recapitulates Adam's experience and has the covenant of works (creational law) republished at Sinai (although not simpliciter given the fact that the legal aspect of the Mosaic administration is itself underpinned by the covenant promises to Abraham). Christ as the last Adam fulfills the law, the broken covenant of works, for all his people. He brings us to the end and not the beginning of the road that Adam walked.

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  31. pete/martin - i'd agree with that. My only problem is it's a ton of language scripture itself doesnt use...does it?

    covenant of works - like Blocher, I dont like the phrase, even if the doctrine of a covenant is substantially right (cf Hosea 6:7)

    republished at Sinai - where is Moses framed in terms of republishing natural law? or even in reference at all to Adam/Eden? All I've got is an arg. from silence, or at least not ery close reading (i've no doubt missed lots), but imho there seems to be a paucity of direct reference.

    the legal aspect of the Mosaic administration...um

    "the last Adam fulfils the law" - this is a phrase which though correct, is a connection which jars a little with scripture. When Paul relates Christ as the last Adam, it's specifically in the fact that he's going beyond the law, reaching way back beyond the law, to do something which the law weakened by the flesh could never do...Rom 5:13. When he talks about our fulfilling the law in Gal 5, he talks about things against which there is no law - being spiritual.

    I confess, I do find doctrine difficult. But I'm trying to see doctrine as direction in the theodrama of the gospel (to borrow a phrase), and as such, I prefer to stay closer to the lingo of the script(ure), if you like. Anyway, that's why I'm hesitant. Does that make any sense?

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  32. I'm afraid I'm out of argument Pete, and can't disagree with anything you say.

    The trouble with your perspectivalism is that it makes you so damn reasonable.

    Chris, perhaps it helps if the language is dropped and we just think of it as relationship with God. That is what humanity was created for and it is what Israel was created for. Legal terms are just formalised ways of describing how relationships should work (between companies, individuals, states etc) - they are not anti-relationship. In that way I think one of the functions of the Mosaic law was to put in more formal and clear language the way that humans have always meant to have related to God.

    Having said that I don't think even Adam/Abraham/Israel were each in their own 'contract'/'covenant' in quite so rigid and comprehensive a way as is often made out. I think things were more liquid.

    Having said all that, I think I'm going to chew on your comment about Gal 5/Rom 5.

    Also, have you seen the Vanhoozer videos? I liked them.

    Is Vanhoozer where you're borrowing language from? Although I was interested to learn on Sat that 'theo-drama' may have originated with von Balthasar (always learning).

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  33. Chris,

    I'd suggest Israel as new Adam, Canaan as new Eden typology is all over the place.

    So, yes, I grant some of what you're saying about terminology, and tbh I'm not a massive fan of talking about Adam (or Israel) in a covenant of works. Likewise, law/ torah language is sometimes quite specific (though the problem there is also that I don't think the OT or NT are entirely uniform in their use of these terms either).

    But, substantially it is correct that Jesus succeeds where Israel and Adam had failed.And his faultless sinless faithful obedience to the Father is a big part of that. E.g. unlike Adam in the garden and Israel in the wilderness he stays faithful under temptation from Satan - and this is linked to torah-compliance by the use of 'man shall not live by bread alone but by every word...' - what Israel should've learned in the wilderness but didn't.

    And so on...

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