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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Battle for Truth ( 'new' beginnings ) World War III

There's a battle raging today, and in some cases, it's right at our own 'doorstep'; it rages, almost imperceptibly maybe, in most seminaries and Bible colleges, and is being fought, almost as a 'Cold War', in many congregations around the world, as well as on the home-front.

Although it could, and sometimes does get physically violent; it is normally more like a battle of wills: who's right and who's wrong ( 'if I'm right, then you must be wrong' ). Much of the time, the weapon of 'reason', or logic, is used;'if this, then that', which can be very useful at times, and often turns out to the correct purpose, but when fighting these battles, it's often easy to forget Who we're dealing with. Most Christians today, when faced with 'reason', will say something like; 'God says, 'For My thoughts [ are ] not your thoughts, nor [ are ] your ways My way', quoting ( which I have been known to do ) Isaiah 55:8, out of context. While this is most certainly true, for God IS God, and 'we' are but human beings ( ? ), able only to copy, or 'ape' Him; we still are wont to remove this passage from it's immediate context, for, as we can see from reading the surrounding ( especially just previous ) verses, God is addressing 'the wicked', and 'the unrighteous man'. Those who have turned to Him, as He adjures those men, in the immediately previous few verses, I believe, if not blinded by the traditions of men, or their own stubbornness, can have a glimpse, maybe even more, of His ways.

Fulfilled Eschatology, aka 'preterism', can be said to be the basis for this Holy ( Cold ) War. 'Preterism' has many facets today, as many as any other belief system ( or more ), so for that, if no other reason; I will be fighting under the banner, first and foremost of course, of God, and Truth, but of 'Fulfilled Eschatology' ( 'Kingdom', or 'Covenant Eschatology' have been employed, but, as eschatology is the study of the end, and neither the Kingdom, nor Covenant have an end ( Dan 2:44, Luke 21:33 ), neither of these really 'fit the bill'! ) As I've noted in at least one previous article, and in discussions I've had with critical brethren; I am not the best theological defender of this view, but I do believe that eschatology, as describing the time of the end, the end of the old covenant (Judaistic ) economy, and the final and full revelation of the new covenant in Christ, was fulfilled ( accomplished ) in the 1st century, in 'the year of our Lord', Anno Domini. Some have argued that the new covenant was established in 33AD, with the death of Christ on the cross, and the subsequent presentation of His 'blood' before the Father, upon the altar, in the Holiest ( Dan 7:13 ). I agree with this, insofar as Christ was Himself, as I pointed out in a previous article, 'the messenger of the covenant' ( Malachi 3:1 ), and in fact, the covenant itself ( in a manner of speaking ( Isaiah 42:6, 49:8 ), but, as the writer to the Hebrews stated, 'the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing' ( 9:8 ), although he did point out, later in the same chapter, 'a testament [ is ] in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.' ( 17 ( 'testament' is another word, in this case, for 'covenant' ). One way to explain why others say ( myself in particular ) that the new covenant was not fully established at the cross, is because the old ( covenant ) economy was still actively being pursued, the animal sacrifices were still being presented, and because, as above, 'the first tabernacle was still standing', and the Church, which was founded and grounded upon the 'Rock' which was Christ, was still being birthed, not being fully established.


What is truth?

Before Jesus was crucified, but during His trial; Pilate asked this pointed question, although I don't believe he was really serious about it, for he didn't seem to wait around for an answer. As we now know, and which Pilate didn't have the advantage of; looking back on Jesus words to His disciples in John 14:6, He WAS/IS 'the Truth'! God's Word is Truth ( John 1:1 ), and vice-versa, the truth is God's word, the Scriptures. I know many brethren who trust ( implicitly ) the word of God, as translated by, and presented by men who may or may not have had God's Spirit. I will readily admit that most translations give us the same basic 'picture' of Christ, and present the same 'good news', and so, have proven to be a fairly accurate rendering of the Word of God. Although I believe the Bible does present the Word of God as revealed to His servants in a time and location 'long ago', and 'far away', we have, unless one knows Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic ( and even those, unless from 2,000+ years ago, are 'suspect, as well ), merely English translations, at best made by 'men of like passions' as we. Can we trust these translations then? I daresay that we can trust God, through them, as through even the original manuscripts ( Scriptures ), to reveal to us His Word, the Truth that we so desperately need, and in most cases, seek. 'What is the point, then, of quibbling over whether or not the Bible is the Word of God?', one might ask. The point is, the Bible is NOT the Word of God! Jesus is the 'Word' of God, as witnessed by the Bible, and as revealed in the Scriptures. This may seem to be an almost insignificant point ( 'in the grand scheme of things' ), but I assure you; it is, at it's foundation, one of the most important truths you will ever discover!

Many people today have a relativistic view of truth. Phrases such as 'what's true for you, may not be true for me' are seemingly 'bandied' about, almost 'willy-nilly'. In the minds of most Christians; there is no doubt that truth is absolute, but even among Christians, there is often disagreement as to what that 'absolute' truth is, and how it should be presented. There is a certain sense in which something may seem to be true for one person, but not for another, and in that sense could be termed 'relative', but truth does not change, in reality; one plus one will always equal two ( although some have even figured out that that's not 'true' ), right will always be right, wrong will always be wrong, and God will always be God ( 'the same yesterday, today, and forever' )! A person in Australia, for instance, may, at 8 pm ( their time-depending where they are in Australia ) call a person in the US at noon: while for the Australian; it would be quite another day altogether, for the person in the US, it would be the previous day. A person with perfect vision may correctly discern that the shirt that they picked out for the day is red, and that both socks match, while a person that has color-blindness may end up wearing a completely different shirt ( that they thought was red ), and sporting mis-matched socks.Two different college professors, both with a PhD., and both with a degree in theology, and fluent in their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, may have a different perception of what Christ meant, for instance, when He said 'this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place'. We may believe a certain way about something, but even if the majority believes the same thing, that doesn't make it the truth! I believe, as do all preterists ( true, not partial ), that when Jesus said this to His disciples; He meant that all the things that He described to them in vivid terms, in what is called 'The Olivet Discourse', would transpire within the next 40 years or so, before their own generation had died off, while others believe that, by 'this generation', Jesus referred to the generation ( future ) that would see these things happening. Others subscribe to some sort of 'gap theory', in which Jesus told His disciples ( not very clearly ) that some things would happen in their generation, but that the rest would not happen till a future generation. The point I'm trying to make here, is that though our perceptions may change ( or differ ); the truth never changes: 'it is what it is', and what we believe about the Truth does not make it Truth!

Our perception of God, as our our perception of things, may 'color' our beliefs, and therefore actions, but our beliefs about who and what God is do not change the facts. We may believe ( erroneously ) that God is petty, and vengeful, like we humans have a tendency to be, but just because we believe it, our Bible seems to say that He is, and our leaders tell us that He is, doesn't mean that He is. Some believe that, especially with the advent of the new covenant, all have been reconciled to God, and that all will eventually come to a saving knowledge of God, while others go even further, and say that all have been 'saved', whether they believe or not, but this does not change the fact.

Does our perception determine our reality?

As discussed earlier; what we perceive to be true is not necessarily true: 'truth for us is not necessarily truth'. Our perception is a largely determining factor, however, in the way we look at things ( our world-view ), and thus, the way we live our lives. As we have seen though; this does not change the fact that there is an absolute truth, and this truth is rested in God alone, and revealed through His Spirit, when and how He sees fit.

Since the beginning of time ( ? ); perception has always 'colored' men's ( and women's ) 'reality', and caused them to commit acts of rebellion. Looking at Scripture, which is the record of time that we have to deal with; we notice that Eve, because she saw that 'tree [ was ] good for food, that it [ was ] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make [ one ] wise', along with her husband, disobeyed God's explicit instruction, and in so doing, brought upon their descendants a symbolic, typical, and metaphorical separation from God. Her son Cain, perceiving that God favored his brother, for whatever reason, jealously struck down his brother, and became the first known murderer. Sarah perceived that, since her womb was dead, to old for child-bearing, and because she felt that God was taking to long ( II Peter 3:8 ); took matters into her own hands, and thus began a long and turbulent history of wars and fightings in the Middle East. This is but a 'smattering' of the examples that we can look at in Scripture, to see how one's perception, most often wrong, or at least skewed, led to much pain and turmoil, and usually not just for that person, but for all those around him, in his 'area' of influence.

Even in our late history ( the past 1900 or so years, since the end of Biblical 'canon' ), we have seen much turmoil, much of it directly related to Biblical history, and some only incidentally: take 'The Crusades', for instance; because ( and this is not meant to be a historically accurate or concise relation ) it was decided by 'the powers that be', through their perception of Scripture, that Jerusalem and Israel had been given to the physical Jews, that forces must needs re-enter the so-called 'land of promise', and remove the infidel heathens, restoring the land to its rightful owners. This fight continues to this day, and was only exacerbated by the re-installment of Israel as a nation, in 1948. Beginning in the late 12th century, the infamous Inquisitions began to be carried out, mostly by the Roman Catholic Church ( other 'churches' had their own 'versions' ), because of someone's ( the majority ) usually somewhat skewed perception of orthodoxy, and desire to rid the 'land' of heresy. This battle, usually to a lesser degree ( thankfully ) continues all over the world still today.

To answer the question above; it first must be determined what reality is. We can, in our limited and finite human minds conceive of a reality that may be altogether different from another man's conception. As we have noted above; God is Truth, He is the only and ultimate reality: He IS ( Exodus 3:14, Isaiah 43:13, 46:9, John 8:58 ( 1:1-3 ) Revelation 21:6 ( 1:8 )! Is our reality what we perceive as 'our reality', or what God has said is our reality? Even if we don't perceive ourselves to be in a covenant relationship, good or bad, right or wrong, is our reality in any sense different? God is our reality, no matter how we perceive things; sure, because our perception is different than someone else, our action are most likely going to differ somewhat ( that's life ), but even then, our actions don't change the fact that 2 plus 2 equals 4, and so on; that's the reality, and reality doesn't change: it is an intangible. 'Our reality', in some sense, could be seen as real, and it could be truly said that certain things that happen in our lives, such as the death of a loved one, or some such other tragedy really happened, and thus, in that sense, are true, but again, our perception has much to do with our world-view. Recently, and most of us can relate to this, we have experienced 'the loss of a loved one', but did he really die, or did we just lose communion ( or communication ) with him/her? Must we kill ourselves to pay the bills, put food on the table, and a roof over our heads ( not necessarily in that order ), or do we take God's Word for it, and seek first His Kingdom ( Matthew 6:33 ), and trust Him to meet all these needs? ( don't get me wrong; we are to do what we can ) Our perception DOES determine what we perceive to be our reality, but God determines our reality!

Some may say that it is not until we knowingly ( willingly ) enter into covenant with God, whether it be through the 'waters of baptism', or however we decide ( ? ), that we are in covenant relationship with our Creator. Although this may be one's perception; this does not change the reality that all are children of their Father ( like it or not ) in 'Heaven' just as they are physically children of their earthly father ( like it or not ); He has provided, and provides, all things necessary for physical existence, for each of His 'children', and thus, if only for that reason alone, can, and should be, termed, 'our Father'! Do those who do not respond ( positively ) to the covenant that God, as our True Father, has instituted with all His children, enjoy the blessings ( Deuteronomy 28:1-13 ) of His covenant? Of course not; don't be ridiculous! God has made a covenant, whether you will or not, with all of His creation, and every one of His ( sentient ) creatures has a choice, a choice of whether to obey or disobey, to love or to hate, to kill, or to make alive, keeping in mind the Scriptural principle, 'you reap what you sow' ( Galatians 6:7 ). Paul wrote, to the church in Corinth, 'we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ' ( II Corinthians 5:10a ); this, in itself, should remind us of the all-inclusiveness of the covenant ( some might argue here that Paul is speaking only of those who have been 'birthed' into covenant with God ), but the context he wrote these words in, is that all will 'receive the things [ done ] in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad', again, the basic principle of 'you reap what you sow'. In the following passage then; Paul adjured his readers to 'be reconciled to God', reasoning that 'all things [ are ] of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ', that 'He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again' ( see also Romans 14:10 ).

I will ( ? ) freely admit, as above, that until we knowingly and willingly respond in a positive way to God's covenant; we will not enjoy the benefits to the fullest ( even those who still reject Him enjoy some of the physical benefits of being His ), but in no way, I believe, can we say that one is outside of God's covenant until one decides to enter into covenant ( up till that point, one simply has a bad relationship with God, as a disobedient and self-willed child )!

The 'battle' continues.........................

As we continue our search for truth ( really only a search for understanding, and a prayer for enlightenment ), let us remember that God is Truth, and if we know Him truly, we know ( have ) the Truth, and thus share communion with all who know Him! Our perception of this Truth may change over the years, and will likely always remain personal, but the truth is; God never changes; 'He is what He is' ( I AM what I AM ), and THAT is one thing that we CAN count on!

Many ( multiplied greatly ) blessings,
Charles Haddon Shank

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