Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Intersecting Thoughts

I've been reading through the book of Matthew over the course of the last few weeks. Because I haven't picked up my Bible in many months, I decided to start with the gospels, the core of the Christian faith. I've read them many times along with all the other books in the Bible. Some stories I could quote in my sleep, others I re-read with a little surprise, thinking,"Oh. I forgot about that."

The Assistant Village Idiot has an interesting post titled Understanding Jewish Thought, wondering how it may influence our reading of Jesus. It's a good read.  I commented, and only later realized that my comment seems more confident and final than I really meant for it too.  I could add more, but I tend to ramble when I'm thinking things through as I type comments, so I restrained myself from going on and on. 

While reading this morning, I was near the end of Matthew and the Passion.   I was struck once again by the wording that Jesus uses when he explains things to his disciples.  Many times, after getting the point of what he's saying, I find myself wondering why exactly he said things that way.

Today's example occurs when Jesus is being arrested and Peter strikes the high priest's servant, cutting off his ear.

Matthew 25:52-56

52"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

 55At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Most people would read that and go on about how God fulfills his word, or how this is proof that Jesus is the Messiah. I read it and think,"Is this an example of God conforming himself to the expectations of humans?"

Jesus consciously avoids doing things that would contradict previous prophecies, which implies  the possibility existed that he could have done things differently. Did he submit to the prophecies because that is what God declared, or because of the expectation that God's people had?  As an adult deals with children and uses the examples they are familiar with, did God condescend to enter the story that his children had narrated according to their human understanding of Him?

Some would say that makes God subordinate to the human will. I would conjecture that it makes him a cooperative creator, using whatever means necessary to communicate.

A further example of this cooperation:

While in a debate with the Pharisees, Jesus discusses marriage and divorce.

Matthew 19: 3-9

3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

 4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'[a] 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'[b]6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

 7"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

 8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

So....Moses incorporated regulations allowing for divorce into The Law, what Jews considered the very Word of God, yet Jesus says this wasn't really from God, but from Moses as a concession to human conditions.  

a little

These are only a few examples.

As another intersecting thought, Greg Boyd has a post about unfulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament (HT: Randy from the BHT). Greg Boyd is an open theist, who advances the theory that God allows humans to exercise free will and works within the circumstances that arise from humans exercising free choice, rather than dictating history and actions to humanity.

These tangential thoughts bring to me an image of God condescending and submitting Himself to humans throughout Scripture, and in our lives.  He pursues us, many times on our own terms, in ways that we understand, and through methods we'll accept.




Assistant Village Idiot said...

I didn't object to your surety, only that you'd given the game away to soon. That was somewhat near where I wanted people to get after some thought. You're too clever.

As for open theology, I am fascinated by it. It is different enough from what I was taught that I keep expecting to run across a complete demolition of the concept by someone trustworthy or persuasive. But it does resolve some puzzles, so I am keeping an eye on it. That God would volunteer to not know something, to hide it from Himself even though he could know it, seems quite odd. However, it is in keeping with the Incarnation itself, and is a nifty explanation of free will.

terri said...

Sometimes I'm too clever for my own good...and everyone elses too!

I admit that I am intrigued by open theism. I wouldn't say that I completely embrace it, but it has some definite appeal....especially when it comes to resolving so many of the paradoxical issues of free will, God's will and the existence of evil.