Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Rediscovery of True Wonder. Part 2 - Revisiting the Fulness

The word "glory" is used in relation to many things in the Bible, including:

:: One's possessions/prosperity
:: The excellence or inherent goodness of something/someone
:: The shining out (or demonstration) of that excellence
:: The acts of God in the universe and in the lives of people
:: The act of praise

But there is also another meaning...

If you run a Bible search on the phrase "the glory of the Lord" or "the glory of the God of Israel" you will notice something curious about the references they throw up. Namely that these two terms often refer (perhaps even exclusively), not to some weird super-duper deluxe light bulb that comes down from Heaven, but to a person. See especially Ezekiel 3:23 and 43:2. That person, is Jesus Christ. This is even clearer in the New Testament in places like Hebrews 1:3

(BTW Knowing this gives us a fuller appreciation texts like Romans 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 3:18)

The giant Puritan thinker Jonathan Edwards assumes that the glory of the Lord refers to Jesus here (see second paragraph) when he gives his summary of how the Bible defines the word glory. (I pinched from him for my first paragraph.)

So when the Bible says in Romans 1 that the human race... exchanged the Glory of the Immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, animals and reptiles, this is not the rejection of some abstract New Age divine light from Heaven but the flat rejection of and rebellion against Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason that the whole world stands condemned and knows it (even if they suppress that knowledge) and thus in need of the mercy of God. We have not rebelled against "some benevolent, wise, powerful, detached-from-the-universe being – the construct of Western philosophy…" Intelligent Design type God. Rather, we have specifically scorned and rejected Jesus Christ.

So the person who asks: How can God justly condemn those who have never heard the gospel? is asking the wrong question.  Moreover, Christians like me get all emotionally twisted up in knots over this question because we ourselves, still don't see things as clearly as Paul did. God help me. God help us!  I humbly (and admittedly tentatively because I'm no giant like Edwards was) put it to you that the question we should be asking is not How can God justly condemn those who have never heard the gospel? but rather How can human beings be so dumb and rebellious that we cannot see the clear message of creation as it declares/sings/shouts to us about the death, resurrection and lordship of Jesus Christ?  The question is not: What is wrong with God? but rather What is wrong with us?

(All thoughts/comments/contrary arguments gratefully received!)


PS I don't like cheesy pictures like the one above that make the Son of Man out to be some Arian superman and yet it is helpful in trying to ground these thoughts in something more concrete. After all what did Daniel see, if it wasn't some thing like this in Daniel 7:13?  Maybe it's like what Ezekiel saw too...

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