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Understanding the Holy Bible : Chapter One

Chapter One

I

Review of the Biblical Theology and its current usage

      Content of the Biblical and theological terms and statements, their understanding and making correct statements of them is the issue in this study. This learning is critical to proper understanding of God’s message in the Bible, and its sharing with people. Spiritualization is the option generally followed and imparted. Except in rare cases with the obliging customers, such spiritual approach is not at all the method to present God’s message especially to people of other faiths. Moreover, the Bible holds message of life to humanity to conduct its life on earth and for eternity with God. If so, the exact mind (to the extent God has revealed), the word and work of God as it has been revealed from the beginning of the Creation must be precisely grasped in its entirety.  That means, understanding ‘the Bible as whole.’

     Terms such as “God,” “the willof God,” “God’s word(Word and word),” “God’s purpose,”  “the ‘Bible says’”, etc. – are very commonly used in preaching and teaching.  What exactly do these terms mean when speakers liberally use them?” It is rare that anyone, except an erudite Bible teacher or a scholar, defined and clarified the terms for the purpose of everyday preacher. Sunday school graduation alone does not help.  We need more.

     Statements and words are exclusively Biblical, - for a people (in most cases), for a time, for a purpose and with conditions and qualifications. They are contextual. The church and the believers in preaching have adapted and been using them as meant for our day.  Of several omissions we commit, the glaring one is the ‘conditionality’ behind every promise in the Bible that we claim as ours today. In this lies the biblical truth: these conditions apply to us even today as they did originally to Israel in particular, and to others in general then. Those conditions are enduring since they represent the very Attributes of God.  God expected humanity to conduct its life on them,.  Even so, the terms relating to God - especially, must be used with full understanding of the full intent of God.   For this reason, learning (not merely guessing) the meaning of these terms is critical about the word of God.

      Important: Every command of God since the past has God’s basic purpose based on the Attributes of His very Being (truth, justice and righteousness). As such, this basic foundation never changes even though God’s deeds may sometimes stand at variance. Simple example could be this: In Leviticus, God commands that if a member of the Hebrew community, or the community itself sinned unintentionally, it would be counted a sin; therefore guilty (4:13, 27). We may ask, “How can this be?”  

      Three reasons govern this thought.  First, God gave the Law of Life through Noah and sons for future humanity to conduct it life on earth: “God has made man in His image” and that God would require an account for the blood of his fellowman (The Law of Life, Gen 9:5, 6). This holy creed has set the path for the conduct of the entire humanity on earthy. Thus, humanity knows what God requires of us.  Secondly, every one of God’s own people Israel who had been led by God, who personally experienced God’s great works better than any people on earth know what the Holy God required of them. Third, Israel that had other laws leading them so far knows the basic divine virtue that governs their life and all life of on earth. As such, the principle in all these is that the member(s) of the knowledgeable community had been negligent, and unmindful of God’s active word among them and careless about their holy calling.  To the basic human mind imbued with basic knowledge of right and wrong, these should be enough guidance; no special rules are required.  This holds for today’s humanity as well.  

     Some Problems:  Problems mentioned here are due to lack of serious and in-depth intellectual encounters with people of other faiths.  These encounters at deeper levels almost never occur because Christians proactively never seek them.  It is so because Christians remain content with their Bible study and learning within the church walls. Preachings, Bible studies and discussions are hardly oriented to witnessing activity at the Biblical and theological levels. Instead, only these two angles are persistently followed: One, studying ‘the doctrine of salvation,’ Two, emphasis stays on spirituality and self-help (‘how to be a good Christian,’ –  in faith and works).

     In this process, preachers customarily rush to a few verses here and there in the Bible to suit their message to make their point. When we draw verses from here and there in the Bible, we are drawing them together from different contexts and conditions. Herein is a problem: in so doing varied contents are blended to suit the message on hand. Such attempt to make the listeners believe that this is the real meaning of it is misleading.  As a result, people go home with hope built on duplicitous and unsubstantiated theological reasoning. Quoting many verses to support the creed of salvation, assuring God’s care of our every need and problem and to grow as a good Christian with deeper spirituality is not enough. In this, real understanding of how God works is not attempted; therefore that issue remains a unexplained truth. 

      Such struggle could be seen among preachers and Sunday school teachers in explaining the terms and concepts such as ‘God’s will,’ ‘His purpose,’ His manner of dispensing the righteous judgment; human propensity to sin and the concept of sin,’ etc., are never seriously and Biblically addressed. Easy definitions based on Samuel’s admonition to Saul: “Rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (1 Sam 15:23); or fumbling on to the story of Adam and the forbidden fruit without precisely defining ‘sin’ is never the Biblical answer. Same is the problem with the concept of the Kingdom of God and its connection to the Christian ministry.  There is ambiguity with the terms such as, the “word” in the “seed” – of the parable of the Sower” (Mt. 13:1-23). These are just a few to cite.

     The problem is that even in the theological schools, the learner’s need for the ability to concisely state definitions of  these concepts and terms on the basis of their ‘root’ in the ‘word’ of God has not been purposefully taught though such ability is critical to Christian witnessing.  The reason is that, in many schools, “theology of Christian mission” has already been determined around the concept of “salvation” with other concepts as supplemental to it.  About “sin” we say, - “we sinned” and “God forgave our (my) sins through the blood of Christ.”

     This does not say much about “sin,” or the theological reasoningon why Christ should die for us. “Sin” has become a general term without the real content, deeper meaning and specificity in definition. Most of today’s preachers and Sunday school teachers follow some curriculum material already determined.  We, the preachers and teachers, have not moved toward serious investigation of these terms and concepts.  The reason is that we always stayed with the simple message of “salvation” claiming, after all, the essence of the Biblical message is just that.  We know that it is what we have been doing for centuries.  We would simply preach ’salvation’ and move on, whether or not they accept. 

     The problem here is that this much is not enough in our conversations with people of other faiths that want to know more about all what we say.  However, if we are as deep with meaning as they are searching, results would be tremendous.  This may serve as an eye opener. If our sermons, Bible studies, Christian thematic discussions are based on deeper theological issues, people are more apt to be attentive and involved than if we simple stayed with quotations from the Bible.  Some may say that we must always support our conversations with others with extensive use of the Bible.  It must be remembered that such use of the Bible helps only after we first prepared the hearer of our message (from other faiths) with basic theological reasoning.  We may ask this question: “Why should a person of other faith and religion, who comes with negative perception on the Bible, believe our emphatic claim that the Bible is the ultimate authority in understanding God and His work?”

     Does this issue help us to understand the trouble of the skeptics?  “Have we ever noticed that Jesus refrained from “talking about his death on the cross for the redemption of humanity” until he prepared the minds and hearts of the people with God’s righteous requirement in their life? Doesn’t this explain why John the baptizer began his ministry with the message of “repentance?” Jesus did the same. He began his ministry reminding people about God’s righteous requirement, - what God wanted of them, - this, going back to God’s word in the Scriptures. After reminding, Jesus showed humanity’s (even Israel’s) failure “to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” (Gen. 18:19). He then showed that such failure warrants retribution. Jesus then introduced the need for God’s justice. However, Jesus presents himself as God’s payment for humanity’s sin.  God’s love and grace, God’s desire as per the Scriptures to send the Redeemer – His own Son, even Jesus. 

      As such, all this form of ministry Jesus used runs on a very systematic method of God ‘reasoning with humanity’ to show them what was required of them, of their failure (sin), what it entails, and what God proposed to do, but with love and grace. [See more on this in subsequent essays].

     Our evangelistic method: In the evangelistic models handed over to us, Christian witnesses were asked to go straight to the issue of sin, and salvation without wasting any time on arguments.  Since we mostly went to the uneducated and uninformed, depending on the methods evangelists used to get as many souls as they could, some responded positively. Many more resented with very pertinent questions and objections. We simply moved on never having the ability to address them.  Today’s humanity, even the rural folk, being vastly different, demands good reasoning from us. 

      Since we seldom seek conversational opportunities with the intellectual, spiritual, the enquiring and the cynics of other faiths, we are unable to perceive the problems posed here in these lessons. By reading through the treatment of the terms and concepts presented here, readers can understand the issues being addressed here.   It may help us to know that except in very, very rare cases, almost no serious-minded person of other faiths come to the Christians wanting to seriously discuss theological and biblical issues with the intent to become Christian.  Nor can we expect to have experts around to rescue us in our difficult encounters with those people. We must be prepared.  Such preparation comes only when the entire Bible is studied and understood it its comprehensive form as a single message of God

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Last modified on Friday, 03 August 2012 00:37

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About Path of the Divine Virtue

Some understanding of the term *The Divine Virtue is necessary. The series of articles on Biblical themes, study of the biblical topics (Bible Study), topics on Christian witnessing, theology, understanding the Bible Read More..

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