Archives for posts with tag: scripture

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,e as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”f

This is excellent. I agree and support the sentiment fully. I believe in God, by faith, in faith, for faith, unto faith, faith–first and last. It is the power of God. The main point is that it is good news. God is saving us, and Jesus is how He stepped in to ensure we get it. He was proving to us, not demanding of us.

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,g in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Here, we first have to ask, “Was God, through Paul, making a universal statement? Or, was Paul simply making an observation of the state of affairs in his day?” We stretch the argument too far if we assert more than the obvious, that Paul was delineating the state of affairs as he knew it in his time and regarding his knowledge of history. For one to universalize and apply to all men through all of history, past, present, and future requires more than is present in the scripture. One can assert the universal as an article of faith, but to claim such based solely on scripture is unwarranted, and would require an improper adding to the scripture.

There are grounds for generalization in the generic, but how far can we stretch it? It is important to note that our clear perceptions of creation are unimaginably different. Paul simply did not understand nature the way we do. He could not.

There has been since Paul, a great deal of truth seeking, both successful and unsuccessful, both within the church and without. There is a great deal of truth known and established outside the purview of religion. I do not allow that Christians have a monopoly on truth; not in matters of faith, not in matters of science, not in matters of fact. The ability to pursue and recognize truth doesn’t depend on some minimum level of correctness in one’s morals and beliefs. Ethics matter, and when ethics run afoul, reality tends to correct the situation. My point is that the abandonment of truth as Paul described is no longer what it was in First Century Rome.

I’m mainly just stating the obvious. I’m not here developing the notion.

24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

This statement is more about the heart-condition of humanity, and it seems sufficiently generic to suppose at least a general universality. We all know our tendency is toward baseness. We have to work, and we need some help, to be able to rise to nobility. Mostly, it says we are selfish by nature, and God leaves us to our self-centeredness if we insist on it.

26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Again, I assert that we must accept that Paul was describing his observations and not speaking for God as an absolute for all time and eternity.

Note that Paul steps away from that subject and changes tone. Here he gets more general and more inclusive.

28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Before I can condemn anyone for things related to verses 26 and 27, I must show that I am perfect with regard to the many factors indicated in verses 29 through 31.

Does anyone want to address all manner of unrighteousness or evil?

What about envy? Strife? Deceit? Gossip or slander?

Haters of God? Does that apply only to certain stripes of atheists or some variety of those who fight for “freedom from religion”? We must admit that there is no group that can claim no intrusion of any who could fit a reasonable description of God-haters. The examples are hopefully rare, but there can be found religious leaders who demonstrated a systematic contempt for God and submission to God and His law.

No doubt all of us have failed in all these regards. It is reasonable to assert that some of us, perhaps many of us, do mature and overcome some or several of these failings, but take those last four. ἀσυνέτους, ἀσυνθέτους, ἀστόργους, ἀνελεήμονας

Definition: unintelligent, without wisdom, unwise, undiscerning (implying probably moral defect). Generally unwilling to use good reason.

Definition: not covenanting, untrue to an agreement, treacherous. Untrustworthy. Faithless.

Definition: unloving, devoid of affection.

Definition: unpitying, unmerciful, without compassion, cruel.

Does anyone think they meet such a standard? Of course not.

I remember Jesus admonition, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

There is no rock in my hand.

7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer selfd is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Some have it harder than others, but this applies to each of us equally.

RJS writes the Jesus Creed blog at,, and copies his work to a WordPress blog, He wrote regarding the camel archaeology I mentioned a few posts back, and he follows up here: He reiterates that he mostly doesn’t think camels matter in context, and he goes on to address a couple of points raised by his commenters. The first point he addresses is how much fuss is made of such things. The “concern” is that unbelievers, or simply the worldly, jump at such either to deride or because they are weak in faith. RJS makes the case the problem is with education within the church, not that which is without, and he points out we need depth in our thinking. Quoting, “We have to guard against sound-bite shaped cut and dried alternatives. Anyone who argues in sound-bite shaped alternatives is almost always quite seriously wrong.”

Point two, I’m going to quote in entirety. It is that good.

2) how do we define “incidentals”? This question gets to the root of the problem. First and foremost we must be immersed in scripture. Not a theory about scripture, not a theology derived from scripture, but in scripture itself from beginning to end. There is no way to have a reasoned view of “incidental” features without a thorough grounding in the whole sweep of scripture. We need to read scripture publicly and regularly in substantive chunks as a part of our worship. Only by so doing will we build in our church an appreciation of scripture. If it is not worth a place on the stage in our worship why in the world would the average Christian in the pew or the child growing up in the church think it is an important part of Christian life? We must teach and emphasize the study of scripture in our churches. This cannot happen in the Sunday morning service. There isn’t enough time, the audience is too diverse, and it requires an opportunity for real discussion, questions, and interaction. Discipleship education is not secondary to formal worship, it is one of the most important roles of the church … for all ages … in multiple forms. In my opinion (take it for what its worth) one of the most pernicious myths in the church today is that success is measured by the number of unique spectators in the seats for a Sunday morning service. Success is measured in the formation of disciples of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t happen (often) through a fairly passive 55 minute experience. A thorough grounding in the sweep of scripture begins with a knowledge of the basic stories, the primeval history, the call of Abraham and the patriarchs, the exodus, conquest, judges, kings, exile, return from exile, John the Baptist, Jesus, the church. … But then we need to go deeper.

Then he suggests we start with Isaiah. “The prophets point to the gospel and the Gospels allude back to the prophets, constantly.”

Same for the Revelation.

His last bit is worth fully quoting as well (all the rest is his):

Back to the Camel. I don’t find the camel – whether actual or from a later fleshing out by a redactor – significant because the sweep of scripture is in the God’s call of his people and the failure of God’s people to forsake idols and follow God alone, the failure of God’s chosen people to love the Lord their God with heart, mind, soul, strength and to love their neighbor as themselves. This rests on the back of a camel?

In the story of Rachel and Jacob we read (Gen 31):

Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

The camel and the camel’s saddle are incidental to the story – that Rachel took the household gods is not, or so it seems to me. This is a portent to the entire sweep of scripture. The impact of idols, Asherah poles, high places, Ba’als, the detestable god Molek, such as these permeate the story.

Returning to the commenter’s question, the exodus and king David are not incidental to the sweep of scripture, although we can ask questions about some of the details of the way these stories are told. The resurrection is essential to the fulfillment of scripture in the New Testament, but should we really worry about the fact that the details of the four different accounts are somewhat different?

If we get the big picture down, the details will work themselves out. Without the big picture, the details are nothing but piddling bits of irrelevant trivia.

What do you think.

Should we start with the prophets to understand the sweep of scripture?

If not where should we start?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

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