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Richard Clark
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I am with you in like 80-90% of what you are saying. And I love the way you are saying it. The problem is that neither Moses nor Abraham were attempting to justify themselves by rule-keeping. Neither were Elijah or David or Samuel, etc. Not all Israel failed to get the idea of salvation by grace and even more importantly Israel succeeded in its most important task: providing a context and a covenant people through whom the Messiah could come. I DO buy that rule-keeping is the basic orientation of our hearts. But I guess I don't buy that God just poured on the rules as a way of saying, "I am going to show how fruitless it is for you to try to keep the rules." Romans points out that even if all we have is the natural law we can understand the fruitlessness of the effort to keep it. Additionally, if that was God's reason for piling on laws in the OT, what is the reason for ratcheting up the expectation of those laws in the NT? Now, I can hear someone say, "Well, in the OT the motivation for keeping the law was to avoid penalty but in the NT the motivation is love." But we can find both motivations suggested in both OT and NT (including violence from the hand of God in the NT). In the end, I agree (and maybe this is all that is important) that the OT (and NT, for that matter) is designed to lead us to grace and lead us to Jesus by seeing our failure and inability and God's goodness, love, grace, mercy, and I believe (and this is the part we separate over) holiness and just wrath. Thank you for this dialog. It has been helpful to think through these issues this way.
Toggle Commented Jul 25, 2009 on The God of the OT vs the God of the NT at bob.blog
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This is very helpful. Really clears up a lot from the other blog. Thanks. Your point about God doing all the stuff he did in the OT as a means of getting people to understand grace is still the point I guess I am hung up on. I get that this is in part, something that God would do, to some level for sure. But I don't see it as the primary thing he is accomplishing through the OT. I see him revealing what kind of God he is and establishing a covenant people through whom the Messiah can be born. Most of the violence attributed to God was his judgment on sin. This is what has to do with holy wrath, a character trait that does not disappear in the NT. IT also appears to me that many OT characters did understand grace. Abraham, David, and others. They just didn't know about the cross.
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OK, I see better what you are going for here. Thank you. Yeah, I was not trying to suggest that the OT is weighted toward one side of God and NT toward the other. Truthfully, that's what I sensed you were doing, so I appreciate you setting that straight. Contrary to that, I think the OT reveals both the holiness AND the love of God (as well as other character traits, but these two come front and center when we are talking about our need for a Savior). Neither are revealed fully in the OT. And both are revealed in the NT and especially in Jesus. In fact, one has to skip some significant Gospel passages to avoid expressions of holy wrath from Jesus. Let me get back to your first blog. I LOVE the way you started it. The first three paragraphs have me saying, "YEAH!" Then, the only thing I would have done added would have been something like, "Although he is slow to anger, this God who is the same in the OT and NT, will (because of his holiness and because of sin) kindle his wrath against human wickedness." That's a little awkwardly worded so I would work on it a little, but you get the idea. Sorry, I have used too many words and wasted too much of your time to make that point. God bless you, Bob. I am not sure I buy your thesis if what you mean by it is that God is experimenting and trying things on for size. If, on the other hand, what you mean is that God is giving mankind a chance to work it out, so to speak, and then suffer the just consequences of our choices, I definitely buy that. I also think the law did more than point out that we could not be righteous. It was a tutor to show us what righteousness is: namely, the only One who is righteous, holy - the one true standard. The law says do not kill because God is a God of life; do not lie because God is a God of truth, etc. In this sense, the distinction you make between saying God is holy and God is love is one without much difference. In either case, he is the standard. By the way, when we say God is holy it means more than that he does not do certain things. It means that he is a certain thing. That standard is held up for us not only in OT law but in NT law - "as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." Before you think that I am suggesting we can be saved by keeping this law to be holy, we need to point out that the OT saints were not saved by keeping law any more than NT saints are. Hebrews 11 establishes that for us. Anyone who is saved is saved by faith not the keeping of law, whether OT, NT or (as Romans points out) even natural law. BTW, we are in total agreement on the point about all Scripture pointing to Jesus. And I would take it a step further. We need the full counsel of Scripture to get the correct picture of what Jesus is like, not isolated passages. All of the various passages kept in their respective contexts will together present a contextual portrait that is accurate and complete.
Toggle Commented Jul 24, 2009 on The God of the OT vs the God of the NT at bob.blog
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I appreciate the attempt to clarify, Bob. But it seems to me there is still something missing here. Whether adjectives or nouns, the words are used to describe God's being, who he is. And they are treated as intrinsic to who he is. Where do you get from Scripture, in plain language, that his love trumps his holiness? When the worshipers gather around his throne do they sing, "Love, Love, Love, is the Lord God Almighty?" I hope that isn't sacrilegious. I also hope you took that as humor, the way I intended it. What we find is that when God's holiness and love are confronted his beloved's (mankind's) sin it creates a tension within him. Martin Luther, in reference to this tension said that it is a problem fit for God. How will he resolve it? He pours out his holy wrath and fully expresses his love through mercy and grace in one climactic event: Jesus Christ on the cross. So, mercy does not triumph over judgment at the cross, but justice and mercy both win. That verse you cited, as you know, comes from James 2. This is not a reference to holiness and love. It is a reference to believers who were showing favor to rich believers over poor believers. So, the point was not that love wins over holiness but that love wins over discrimination or mercy wins over being judgmental.
Toggle Commented Jul 24, 2009 on The God of the OT vs the God of the NT at bob.blog
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OR some of the violence, especially that which which was commanded by God, DOES reveal something about God but something that we do not like. We would much rather think of all the different things that God is as somehow being component parts of his love. After all, the Bible says, "God is love." But the Bible also says, "God is holy." Why don't we rather think that his love is an expression of his holiness? Because it doesn't fit how we want to think about God. But what if he is both holy (with all that comes with it: his law and when his law is broken, his wrath) and love (with all that comes with it: mercy and grace, etc.)? Then the violence is understandable because it is a lawful expression of his holy wrath. When we do not have full appreciation for God's wrath we also cannot have a full appreciation for his love and grace.
Toggle Commented Jul 24, 2009 on The God of the OT vs the God of the NT at bob.blog
1 reply