Wednesday, January 2, 2008

One True God?

What significance is there to the reality, easily demonstrable, that our biblical faith has some serious overlaps and parallels with pagan religions contemporary with the Bible?

What does that say about the faith of “pagans”? Can there be such a thing?

What does it say about the Bible, the apostles, and the fathers?

What does it say about our claim of the "one true God"? Does he have rivals out there?

What does it say about exclusivism/inclusivism (that is, is "being a Christian" in a certain way the only way to be spared the wrath of God?)

Consider Luke 4 and Jesus’ statement where he compares favorably the faith of the widow at Zarephath to the faith of his Israelite contemporaries. See three themes?

1. God wants Gentiles to know Him. Exod 14:4 is a good example:”But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” God wants to make himself known to Gentiles. An example I think we need to study more carefully is Acts 14:17: in his comment to the Gentiles, Paul says of God: “yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” What's that mean?

2. Some came to know God or truth about God who were Gentiles: Melchizedek (Gen 14), where Abraham uses the name of his God for YHWH.Pharaoh’s magicians (Exod 8:19)Balaam, Rahab, King Huram of Tyre, Naaman, NebuchadnezzarActs 17:28 where Paul quotes Epimenides and Aratus, showing revelation of truth to Gentiles. What's that mean?

3. God’s people's religious culture and customs overlap mightily pagans/Gentiles/etc in ways that predate Jesus, Moses, & Abraham. Circumcision, sacrifice, temples, singing, moral codes, etc. The names for God in the OT are found among pagan religions: El as “God.”Cornelius in Acts 10 and this powerful statement: “but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:34-35). What's that mean?

(This is plagiarized from Gordon McDermott's "God's Rivals" as it is quoted by Scott McKnight on . )


scott said...

It's hard to know what to make of all of this, sometimes. I've had a friend or two that were "strong Christians" that had a serious crisis of faith upon really studying some ancient pagan religions -- ones that supposedly even predate Judaism and Christianity -- that have stories and ideas that are nearly identical.

I don't think that's really the main point of your post, but I do feel that sometimes we as Christians don't educate ourselves on that sort of thing. We just kind of use the "ignorance is bliss" methodology, or we get defensive and start arguing about it right away without really looking into it. It's one more topic I probably need to be more well-read on, actually.

Oh, sorry... Was I supposed to answer what all that means?

Joe B said...

Actually that's probably the bullseye of what the post is about. There was a time when I would have inwardly cringed at these "symmetries" power of Satan to "counterfeit the work of God."
These things don't rattle me in the least any more (now that I realize that I do not have to hold God together with my intellect.)

Does God use universal human mythos to reveal himself to man? Or does universal human imagination simply reveal the fingerprints of his maker?

Bethany said...

joe - can't it be both? Our imagination and mythos is an expression of how we interpret God actively revealing himself? So at its most basic element, it would be God speaking and us retelling that truth through words or story. Like a conversation.

Jesus IS the only way to heaven, but can't how we get to him be different? God is too big to be confined in the church. To only truly be revealed to those who have heard the gospel and are a Christian "in a certain way."

The difference between the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 was not who had heard and accepted the right doctrines, or even been members of a religion. The sheep fed the hungry, clothed the poor, and visited the sick. Simple.

ok, shoot down those statements. They're only propositions, and I don't know what I'm talking about. Yet.

Joe B said...

Yes, Grasshopper. It can be both.

The Divine Conversation, indeed.

Any foundationalists out there want to tear into Bethie?

Re: Mt 25. You'll find that every judgement scene/parable in the NT rests on that same base. Generosity and forgiveness. Neither of which will be found in many "What We Believe" statements.
(Right, Rev 20 doesn't allude to any rubric. So, what do you suppose is in those books...?)