A Courteous Contrararian

Religion of Peace Part 4

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - May• 01•15

I want to show you something from the Bible that I find startling.

I think God has designed the Bible to progressively reveal slightly different aspects of His Plan as we are ready to receive them. In my mind it is truly the living word.

When John tells us Jesus is the living Word, it is a clue supporting my premise. Jesus is the living Word in that he works from within our hearts continually; he is a living presence within. Part of that work is to illuminate Scripture. You know what I’m talking about. A passage that you’ve read many times before can make fresh sense on a day the Holy Spirit teaches you more. The living Word interacts with the living word. He changes us and then the Bible supports his work. Before we were changed in some small specific way, a passage or verse didn’t have the same meaning it has for us now.

I said we would look at biblical evidences, and we will momentarily. First I need to mention something else I’ve noticed about the Bible. It gives us what we would think is contradictory data, and it often does it within a single sentence or verse. The consecutive Proverbs verses that give opposite advice (Don’t suffer fools/suffer fools gladly) is probably the most famous example.

I first noticed this on a Calvinism vs. Arminianism discussion thread that I followed for years. Sometimes they would cite the same verse as proof of their position, or verses from the same passage. Witness, in the predestination argument, For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. and on the other hand … No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day [John 6:40, 44 NIV].

One example that occurs to me is I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ [Isaiah 46:10 NIV]. This verse is easily cited by people who think God knows the future as a concrete thing; I make known … from ancient times, what is still to come. But an open theologian (who thinks God doesn’t know the future) can point to the same verse. I will do all that I please. He hasn’t done it yet. Because it’s in the future. He’s just confident that he is powerful enough to bring it to pass. He was powerful enough to make our beginning and he is powerful enough to achieve his ends.

So why would God put cognitively dissonant ideas adjacent to each other so often? (And if you look hard enough, and open mindedly enough, you can find such “contradictions” on almost every page of the Bible.) I think he means for one to gain ascendancy once we are ready for it, and then the other.

God knows how we are. If we see two ideas that might be in conflict, we devise a method for giving one the greater weight. That’s theology. For example, the NT has various vice lists that warn we won’t get to heaven if we do such things. That same NT also gives ample proof that faith, not lack of sin, is the way to heaven. So which is it?

Since Luther, we have come down resoundingly on the side of grace. But it hasn’t always been so, or you wouldn’t even know who Luther was. For a long time before Luther, Christianity, even Christianity, was hung up on the rules, the Law. I think Luther is proof that we had changed for the better. Remember those homicide rates? By the time of Luther, lawlessness had receded to a more manageable problem, so the Law texts could be de-emphasized.

The Holy Spirit (so my theory goes) had up to that point been “illuminating” the passages that didn’t accentuate grace. Once we were ready for more, the Spirit began to teach us grace. And then the living Word made the Bible available to all through Gutenberg so we could confirm it for ourselves.

Now on to those examples. The verses I’m going to paste in are all passages that I didn’t quite understand previously. They share the idea that God was withholding truths from certain people. I couldn’t figure out why.

Actually, in this first one Jesus tells us why; to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. But why did he prophesize such a thing in Isaiah?

This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ” ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving  Matthew 13:13-4 NIV]

Mark reports what might be the same episode but gives an additional reason for jesus’ obfuscation. so that, ” ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven! [Mark 4:12 NIV] Oh, Jesus doesn’t want them forgiven! That doesn’t even make sense.

Our resident historian echoes Matthew (actually, vice versa). He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ” ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’ [Luke 8:10 NIV].

To recap, the synoptic writers all think it important enough to mention that Jesus spoke in parables to confuse his audience. That’s the opposite of the idea we advance today. We say Jesus spoke of everyday things, of grain and wheat, wine and skins, rulers and servants, to clarify by timeless and commonplace illustrations. So which is it?

Both. He probably confused a great many of his listeners when he spoke that way but the timelessness of the examples helps us today.

And that thing about speaking in riddles so people wouldn’t get saved? A small jest. Jesus was being sarcastic. How do I know? Paul clarifies, without parable.

They (the Jews) disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 
” ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ [Acts 28:25-27 NIV]

I think God healing them, from the end of the passage, is the same as them being saved, from Jesus’ joke. That’s why I think Jesus was being sarcastic. Otherwise he and the Father were doing the same thing for opposite reasons.

So, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can understand the parables differently than the original audience; the members of the faithful throughout the Dark and Middle Ages, sometimes each other, and often differently the we ourselves once did.

The Bible truly is the living word!

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