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The Goodness of God

Below is a dialogue from Socrates by way of Plato's Republic. My son Micah sent it to me this morning and it is remarkable. It describes a way of thinking which Plato incorporated, and which has been labelled by some as remarkably pre-Christian. In other words, the ancients walked before Christ's birth in the light they had, and they are to be graded on that scale. This dialogue carries certain conceptual seeds which Christianity would later fully harvest.

Please listen to the heart of what is being said here: God is only capable of good. God has no connection to evil. Evil then comes from non-divine sources, even though the masses wrongly attribute all things (good or evil) to the causative will of the divine. Socrates below sounds strikingly similar in thinking to C.S. Lewis.

"Socrates: God is always to be represented as he truly is, whatever be the sort of poetry, epic, lyric or tragic, in which the representation is given.

Adeimantus: Yes, he must.

Socrates: Now, God, of course, is really good, isn't He, and must be described as such?

Adeimantus: Certainly.

Socrates: And surely nothing good is harmful, is it?

Adeimantus: I suppose not.

Socrates: Well, can what is not harmful do anything bad?

Adeimantus: No, never.

Socrates: And can what does no harm do anything bad?

Adeimantus: No, it can't do that either.

Socrates: But what does nothing bad could not be the cause of anything bad, could it?

Adeimantus: No, it could not.

Socrates: What about what is good? Is it beneficial?

Adeimantus: Yes.

Socrates: What is good is not the cause of all things, then. Instead, it is the cause of things that are good, while of bad ones it is not the cause.

Adeimantus: Exactly.

Socrates: So, since God is good, He is not--as the masses claim--the cause of everything. Instead, He is a cause of only a few things that happen to human beings, while of most He is not the cause. For good things are fewer than bad ones in our lives. Of the good things, He alone is the cause, but we must find some other cause for the bad ones, not God.

Adeimantus: That's absolutely true in my view."

Now compare Socrates' above view to James 1:13-17 included below. The similarities in theodicy (the justification of God's goodness in an evil world) are stunning.

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every manis tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 2:13-17.
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I was asked recently about my take on the following passage. Did God order below that children who dishonor their parents be put to death?

Mat 15:3-4 "He answered them, 'Why do you also disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, Honor your father and your mother, and, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death."

I approach this passage in the following way. The OT saints believed that Moses' law was from God, EVEN in its dead letter form. But Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3 that only when the OT is read by the living Spirit, and NOT the killing letter, is the Scripture properly understood. Paul also says in this chapter that there is a hermeneutical "veil" (which "remains to this day" over legalistic eyes) which keeps them from understanding the law Spiritually.

So the better, brighter, and best way to understand and reconfigure this passage with Spiritual light is, I believe, as follows:

"God says honor your Father and Mother, and it is the first commandment with a promise, namely that those who honor their parents sow light seeds which will harvest and facilitate long life.

But, when we unwisely 'give Satan place' (to accuse and oppress us) by 'cursing (or dishonoring) our mother and father,' then we become more vulnerable to the dark dynamics of deathly oppression in all its myriad forms.
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The flood of Noah is better dealt with on its allegorical level rather than on its literal level. 1 Peter 3:20-21, in fact, calls it a "soul saving" event which is a "figure" of "baptism" for us.

So, on an allegorical level, the deliverance of Noah’s family from a corrupted world, by means of “water,” allegorizes our salvation, through baptism, from the power of darkness into the kingdom of Christ (1 Peter 3:20-21; Colossians 1:13).

I believe the hermeneutical key to rightly interpreting Genesis' events lies in us letting Jesus' Spirit interpret it for us Christologically/allegorically, just as He did for the Emmaus disciples in Luke 24.

All the Old Testament is primarily to be read as an allegorical PROPHECY of the coming life, deity, nature, character, sacrifice, death, resurrection, and victorious glorification of Jesus. But the allegory doesn't stop there. The Old Testament also prophesies of the ascended Jesus' eventual INDWELLING of all of us through the Pentecostal outpouring of His Spirit.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told the two disciples "And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He (Christ) INTERPRETED to them in ALL THE SCRIPTURES the things concerning himself....And their eyes were opened, and they knew him.... And they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?... And He said unto them , These are the words which I spake unto you , while I was yet with you , that all things must be fulfilled , which were written in the law of Moses , and in the prophets , and in the psalms , concerning me . Then opened he their understanding , that they might understand the scriptures" Luke 24:26-27, 31-32, 44-45.

To read it allegorically is NOT to deny it lacks any historical value at all. Rather, it is to say that the primary meaning of Old Testament Scripture is symbolic and non-literal. It is more like a heroic "movie trailer" of Christ and His "coming soon" kingdom. The trailer is not in narrative form, but is a series of quicly cut and weaved symbolic snippets which give us exciting flashes of insight into Jesus. But his trailer can only be previewed on a Christological projector.

Now, we know that Jesus is LITERALLY nowhere explictly to be found by name in the Old Testament. But, ALLEGORICALLY, He is everywhere to be found. So Jesus Jesus allegorized the Scriptures to these two highly blessed disciples. And their hearts burned within them as a result.

"Every man, within himself has Moses and the Israelites, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven and hell. Thus, the events described in the Bible, and looked upon by the pious as being things of a past history, are actually descriptions of internal processes taking place in the constitution of man himself". ~Jacob Boehme 1575-1624

God may flood away INTERNAL notions, but He would never flood away EXTERNAL nations. Not nations who have countless infants, toddlers, and children. It's not in God's nature to kill people who, "who don't know what they are doing." Jesus prayed for their forgiveness, not for their destruction. God may seek to slay unloving notions, but never unloving nations.

The Bible authors pervasively used a literary technique called "personification." The ancient writers personified most everything. Personification is the representation of an object, concept, trait or quality AS IF it were a person. Wicked nations become wicked notions. External giants become internal strongholds of fear. Wisdom and foolishness, in the Book of Proverbs, are both personalized as a woman lifting up their voices in the street. Consider Paul's personification of sin ruling as a king in his body, and the "old man" and "new man" as personifications of two warring persons in the new creature after baptism.

So, keeping this personification technique in mind, the flood is spiritually understood as an external symbol, or "figure" as Peter called it, of an internal event. God, by His Holy Spirit, floods our inner being with cleansing and purging energies, a flood of baptismal fire which burns and washes away evil notions, evil impulses, evil strongholds, evil images, evil desires, etc. Conversely, what gets saved is our core soul, that part of us which desires God. Jesus is the protective ark of our salvation which carries us through this sanctifying flood and lands us on dry land to begin our spiritual lives anew in a re-created inner world.
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If we believe that God DID inspire Scriptures, on some level, to be imbedded with divine imagery, divine insights, and divine promises to help us all thrive along our journey...

then couldn't He...

then wouldn't He...

...make sure that they would be rapidly and readily accessible to ALL people in ALL ages and ALL nations?

It seems unthinkable that God would limit access to Scriptures to only the historical scholars, the ancient-language professors, the original-context police, and the grammar nazis.

Rather than being linguistically and historically anal, wouldn't God instead arrange for Scripture to be an intuitively accessed "image bank," from which we can all fluidly and organically draw Spirit-quickened applications and archetypes? Pictures, after all, are really the one true universal language.

"All our truth, or all but a few fragments, is won by metaphor.... For me, reason is the natural organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination . . . is not the cause of truth, but its condition." C.S. Lewis, Bluspels and Flalansferes.

Jesus taught primarily in "similitudes," the use of imagery to see one thing in terms of another. Once we see the tremendous implications of this style of teaching, the stories of the Old Testament are freed form their cocoon of dead letter literality into a butterfly of spiritual beauty. The Old Testament now becomes a treasure trove of pictures, an image bank, from which we can withdraw Christological similitudes (allegories, types, parables, metaphors) pregnant with meanings not apparent in their literal reading.

Paul gives us the perfect example of this type of writing in Galatians 4, where the Old Testament characters Sarah and Hagar suddenly become New Testament similtudes for the dynamics of Law and Spirit.

Consider the depth of parabolic imagination (thinking in simultudes) proclaimed in the following passage. "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." Matthew 13:34-35.

When we read the Old Testament by the dead letter, it often resembles an ugly duckling. But when we read it with a Spirit-quickened imagination, it suddenly transforms into a beautiful swan.

Let me close with this quote by Michael Ward from his article "How Lewis Lit the Way to Better Apologetics” from Christianity Today Magazine, November 2013.

"Similitudes, seeing one thing in terms of another, finding meanings here which correspond with what we want to say there, are for Lewis the essence of meaningful thought.

'For me, reason is the natural organ of truth,' Lewis wrote, 'but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination . . . is not the cause of truth, but its condition.'

In other words, we don't grasp the meaning of a word or concept until we have a clear image to connect it with.

For Lewis, this is what the imagination is about: not just the ability to dream up fanciful fables, but the ability to identify meaning, to know when we have come upon something truly meaningful.”
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I have nothing to say except: that makes completes sense, and resonates with me on every level... Imagination without meaning (behind it) is .. seems hollow to me

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The concept explained below is vital in helping us obtain a better understanding of what exactly gets cast into "the lake of fire" mentioned in the book of Revelation.

Is it the ENTIRE person of the sinner cast into the lake of fire, or is just a infected subpart of their whole self, a diseased appendage afflicting their personality, an unfruitful branch of being within their soul which needs separating from the rest of their true, best, and created selves? Can the separation of this infected appendage (our sin-man as Paul called it) from the rest of our being occur by the Lord purposely and precisely severing it in a post-mortem purge, and then casting it into the lake of everlasting fire, never again to afflict us?

To answer these above questions, we need to better understand a rhetorical device which the Bible authors pervasively used--- something called "personification." The ancient writers personified most everything.

Here is a quick definition of "personification."

Personification is the representation of an object, concept, trait or quality AS IF it were a person. Here are some notable examples. Wisdom is personalized as a woman (first example), but then sinful temptation is likewise personalized into a woman (second example).

"Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
she raises her voice in the public squares;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
in the gateways of the city she makes her speech." (Prov. 1:20-21)

"To deliver thee from the strange woman,
even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;
which forsaketh the guide of her youth,
and forgetteth the covenant of her God.
For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.
None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life." (Proverbs 2: 16-19)

So we see that both traits and qualities of good and evil, virtue and sin, righteousness and unrighteousness, are "personified" as if they were EACH human individuals.

Consider Paul's personification of sin ruling as a king in his body, and the "old man" and "new man" as personifications of two warring persons in the new creature after baptism.

"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Romans 6:6.

"Know ye not, that to WHOM [notice the "whom" here, sin personified as a subjective "who" rather than an objective "what"] ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" Romans 6:16.

Now watch this HUGE personification of Paul in the below passages where he personifies "the law of sin and death" as a "dead husband" and "warring enemy" and "despotic king" who rules and oppresses our flesh.

"Know ye not, brethren, (for, I speak to them that know the law,) how,) that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:1-7)

"Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:20-25)

The implications of these personifications of "objective sin" as instead a "subjective sin-man" who "dwells" within us [as a person], "wars against us" [as a enemy attacker], and "rules over our flesh" [as a tyrant king] are huge.

Here is why.

When the Bible, by a strictly literal reading, seems to harshly consign "actual" people to the lake of fire, the concept of possible personification intervenes to bring a more nuanced possibility to the interpretive table.

Here is the possibility personification presents: WHAT gets cast into the lake of fire are not WHOLE humans but, rather, diseased sub-components, dead branches, infected soul-limbs, artificial sin-masks, all of which have been surgically removed from the souls of sinners by the Lord's precise and purposeful postmortem spiritual surgery. The lake of fire, then, is nothing more than a isolated dump of toxic waste in which our false and poisoned perspectives are cast, our false identities, our false selves.

Two last personifications by Paul of both the sin-man and the Spirit-man are presented below. Consider the wonderful outcome--

"But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation THE OLD MAN, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on THE NEW MAN, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:20-24)

"But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off THE OLD MAN with his deeds; And have put on THE NEW MAN, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him...." (Colossians 3:8-10)

Under any postmortem scenario consistent with the love and light of God, it is THE OLD MAN which gets cast into the lake of fire, while THE NEW MAN remains now and forever with the Lord. Is this scenario described anywhere in Scripture? Yes.

"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; EVERY MAN'S WORK shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be REVEALED BY FIRE; and THE FIRE SHALL TRY EVERY MAN'S WORK, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN'S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS, BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE." 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

Through the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit, we will progressively shed all our false selves, prideful pretenses and forged identities. It will happen in either this life or the life to come, but it WILL happen. Cooperating in this life is much better and more advantageous in every way and for every reason. But, "God will have all men to be saved." 1 Timothy 2:4.

Here is a brief excerpt on the literary purpose of the personification used by the Biblical authors:

"Personification is ... a frequent device in biblical poetry. Proverbs 1–9, for example, develops the image of wisdom as a woman through several poems. Wisdom is described as a figure whom the student should love, embrace, and seek (e.g., Proverbs 4:8). Such figurative language functions to make meaning more imaginative and vivid. Wisdom comes to life as one who can speak, both rebuking and enticing the student. Like metaphor and simile, personification has both a certain appropriateness and an inappropriateness. Wisdom is like a woman in some ways but not in other ways. Moreover, figurative language is not simply a clever way to say what could be said otherwise. Rather, it communicates novel ways of looking at the world. It requires the reader to consider ideas in a different perspective." Oxford Biblical Studies Online, http:// www.oxfordbiblical studies. com/ resource/ lessonplan_15. xhtm
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Saul's "name" was NOT written in "the book of life." But, wonderfully, Paul's "name" WAS written in the book of life.

In Hebraic thought, the concept of "name" symbolizes "nature." Likewise, all our false names/natures are NOT written in the book of life, while all our authentic God-crafted names/natures ARE written in the book of life.

I see God's nature as only and always curative because I see Jesus that way. Postmortem cures are very painful and anguish-producing because of our stubborn vice-like grip on our delusions, but there is life on the other side.

What gets excluded from the book of life get's cast into the lake of fire. These elements are not our whole beings, but rather are toxic aspects of our non-being--- false identities, sin masks which have deformed, debilitated, and impoverished us from manifesting our original created purpose. These forged identity masks have grafted themselves, with our consent, onto our souls and must be carefully irradiated and excised by the curative and corrective knife of divine love.

Again, Saul was a false identity that needed to be excised out and away from the real identity of Paul. Satan is a sin mask of non-being or false-being, a persona which will ultimately be cast into the lake fire. But Lucifer (if we accept his ontology) the angel will be restored.

New Testament passages that describe this ultimate postmortem restoration of stolen identity are quoted below.

"He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him." (Eph. 1:9-10). Sounds like angels are included here.

"He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject ALL things to Himself" (Phil. 3:21).

"For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL BE MADE ALIVE. But EVERY man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put ALL enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put ALL things under his feet. But when he saith, ALL things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put ALL things under him. And when ALL things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put ALL things under him, that GOD MAY BE 'ALL IN ALL.' Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" 1 Corinthians 15:22-29. ("Rulers, authorities and powers " are mentioned here, which usually refer to angelic authorities.)

"I heard EVERY creature IN heaven, ON earth, UNDER the earth, ON the sea, and EVERYTHING in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (Rev. 5:13). (Angels here included in the restoration-- no creaturely exception.)

"Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make ALL things new'" --- God will dwell with men and he will wipe every tear from their eyes, death, mourning, crying, pain and the old order of things will pass and everything and everybody will be made new (Rev. 21:5, 3-4).

Let's consider two New Testament passages which imply, as does "the book of life" passage, that some names/natures are included and some excluded. In toto, these passages reveal that God's postmortem fire somehow severs and sunders our true identities from our false identities.

"EVERY MAN'S work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be BURNED, he shall SUFFER LOSS: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so AS BY FIRE." 1 Cor. 3:13-15.

"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In FLAMING FIRE taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power...." 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

Is this passage, as well as such other passage as Hebrews 10, is the object of the Lord's vengeance it talking about "evil people" or is it talking about "evil qualities?" The word translated as "who" in verse 9 can either mean "whatever" or "whoever."

Thus, we need to refer to other Pauline passages regarding the postmortem fire, such as 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (quoted in full above) to clarify Paul's thinking in this area. In this passage, the man "suffers loss" but "he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Thus, this passage suggests that what gets punished is a "whatever" and not a "whoever." God punishes with eternal destructions evil notions, not evil nations. Remember, the ancient writers, especially Paul, used personification to describe both virtue and evil all the time.

In other words, when ancient writers used a "who," they often meant a "what."

The Bible authors pervasively used a literary technique called "personification." The ancient writers personified most everything. Personification is the representation of an object, concept, trait, or quality AS IF it were a person. Again, wicked nations become wicked notions. External giants become internal strongholds of fear. Wisdom and foolishness, in the Book of Proverbs, are both personified as women lifting up their voices in the street. Consider Paul's personification of sin ruling as a king in his body, and the "old man" and "new man" as personifications of two warring persons in the new creature after baptism.

So, for Paul to say that the personification of all the dark dynamics within us will be destroyed (i.e. NOT written in the book of life) is ultimately a wonderful thing, all our false sin-identities cast into the lake of fire nevermore to trouble us again.
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Gianni Mario Crivello ok I'm gonna keep tagging you in these things cuz this sounds similar to what we discussed that time at chickfila

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I have often wondered why different Christians, who each clearly have a thriving and dynamic view of God, nonetheless approach the knowledge and recognition of the divine from vastly different angles. I think I've found the answer.

My two favorite early church fathers are Origen and Gregory of Nyssa. They both were spiritual and intellectual titans. They both believed in the apocatastasis, the gathering up and reconciliation of all things into Christ, that Christ may fill all things and ultimately be all-in-all. They both also taught that our Christian walk was essentially a mystical journey, but their respective orientations to that journey differed greatly. Whereas Gregory of Nyssa's mysticism was dark, Origen's was a mysticism of light.

Gregory expresses his mysticism of darkness in the following passage:
"Since Moses was alone, by having been stripped as it were of the people’s fear, he boldly approached the very darkness itself and entered the invisible things where he was no longer seen by those watching. After he entered the inner sanctuary of the divine mystical doctrine, there, while not being seen, he was in company with the Invisible. He teaches, I think, by the things he did that the one who is going to associate intimately with God must go beyond all that is visible and—lifting up his own mind, as to a mountaintop, to the invisible and incomprehensible—believe that the divine is there where the understanding does not reach."
—Gregory of Nyssa
Life of Moses, §46

Origen's mystical approach is far different: "Following in the line of biblical theophanies of light, Origen here set the tone for a long-standing Christian mystical tradition that has often been called a 'mysticism of light.'.... Relying extensively on the image of the radiantly transfigured Jesus (Matt. 17), Origen teaches that it is on this 'lofty mountain of wisdom' that the Word also transfigures those who are faithful in following him and patterning their lives after him. Through the increasing attainment of spiritual knowledge the Word, the true light, the sun of righteousness, fills believers with light and makes them capable of beholding the light of God face to face, no longer 'through a mirror darkly': 'For if the light of the mind that is in a disciple, and the purity of his heart shall be bright and shining, he will have this noon time within himself; and, being set as it were in the midday light through this purity of heart, he will see God' (ComCt 2.4)." THE WESTMINSTER HANDBOOK TO ORIGEN, "Mystical Thought" entry, Bertrand (1951); Crouzel (1961, 1977, 1989), 121-33; Louth (1981), 52-74; Rahner (1979). ALAN G. PADDLE.

This helps me understand there is "more than one way to skin (a mystical) cat." Perhaps this can also help us better understand each other as well. My own approach is more in line with Origen's light-based imagery, but many others align more comfortably with Gregory's imagery darkness. Still others embrace both of their perspectives simultaneously.

And that's perfectly fine.
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Gianni Mario Crivello whatcha think of this

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The movie "OZ the Great and Powerful" is full of spiritual manna. The lead character Oz appeared at first to be a con man, a charlatan, and a selfish manipulator. He didn't didn't want to be "a good man," but rather "a great man." As a result, he couldn't give his true friendship to any man, nor his true love any woman.

All could see that he had wonderful and magical powers, but all wrongly assumed they were external in nature. His dilemma in the movie was how to lead an army to victory that was forbidden to kill the enemy. All thought that his sorcery would win the day. But it didn't, it couldn't in fact, because he had no external powers.

But Oz himself was on a personal journey. His heart and ego both broke as he regretted the false hope he had given the sweet people of the Emerald City. Oz had wrongly used his con man tricks to present himself as a magician whose power rivaled that of the wicked witches. And now those lies were coming home to roost as the witches launched their dark attack of slavery and oppression.

Oz became humble and desperate when he saw the people crushed by the evil he was powerless to stop. Then, out of his brokenness, his true gift emerged. And this gift is the most powerful magic of all. Oz had the ability to make people see the gifts they already had been given but which were submerged within them by neglect, unbelief or fear. He had the master gift of exhortation, and he started using it liberally. He rallied the people to come together as one by allowing them to see their own magnificent callings, virtues, abilities and giftings.

He also displayed this same gift of exhortation in the original "Wizard of Oz." He showed the cowardly lion that he his fear was a false identity and that he had displayed limitless courage already, he just needed to realize it. Oz showed the tin man that he already had displayed an Olympian heart, and that he needed to disbelieve the lie that said otherwise. Oz showed that scarecrow that he was not stupid and that he already had displayed great brilliance in defeating the wicked witch. Oz gave each of them a unique and special memento to remind them of who they ALREADY were. Oz did the exact same thing to the characters in "Oz, the Great and Powerful."

At the end of the movie, Oz himself changed. He used his gift on himself. He now wanted to be "a good man," not "a great man." He was able to give himself wholly to friendship and fully to true love. And that was the greatest gift of all. He became what he already was.

And what I like about Oz the most was his incredible smile. In the beginning, his charming smile hid a hugely selfish boy. But, at the end, his smile unveiled omniscient hope and love.

Sounds like grace to me!

Grace can't be conjured, only nurtured.

Grace can't be assembled, only recognized and realized.

Grace can't be earned, only discerned.

Grace can't be manipulated, only appreciated.

What a great and powerful gift!

The kingdom of God is within!
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The mind, without the Spirit's illumination, is a muddled maze of complicated twists, tiresome turns, and ultimate dead ends.

But, the mind quickened by the Spirit is no longer a maze but amazement. The Holy Spirit doesn't bring clouds of bewildering confusion, but bright infusions of insight and clarity.

Divine alignment comes from AWE-lignment.

Awe towards the Lord's goodness is always the beginning of wisdom.

"Awe-lignment" is the soul postured on the edge of its seat, eagerly expecting and vigilantly "visioneering" the showings of the Spirit.
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Exactly why did Jesus drive the thieving money changers out of the temple area at the exact time He did it? Some believe it was to show the wrathful and violent vengeance of the Lord.

Not so.

AFTER Jesus cleared the Temple of the thieves, look at WHO and WHAT immediately took their place. The "blind and lame" came into the Temple courts and "He healed them all" (Matthew 21:14). Then, a large group of "children" came and saw the healings and started "crying in the Temple, and saying Hosanna to the son of David." (Matthew 21:15-16).

Jesus rejoiced at this and called what these children did "perfect praise." The point is that Jesus "cast out" the faithless, felonious and fruitless elements present in the Temple courts SO THAT they could be replaced with elements of fruitful faith and fervent worship.

This passage says that ALL there, including the chief priests and scribes, saw "the wonderful things that He did" (Matthew 21:15). This is hardly a mandate for KILLER JESUS is it?

No, when we read the context of what REALLY happened here, we see it was a wonderful healing and worship revival rather than some sort of bloodbath where Jesus is beating and brutalizing people.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

The condemned worry they have let God down.

The misbelieving lament that God has let them down.

But listen.

It's not a question of letting God down.

It's not of question of God letting you down.

Its a question of letting God in. Then up. Then out.
We are the conduits of God's power. We can do it. We con-du-it.

Get your eyes off yourself. Get your eyes on Him.
Get His eyes in you. Then you will see things aright.

As William Law said, "Our self-will separates us from God. No, better, our self-will IS separation from God."
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Avoid textual temptation.

Don't opinionate prematurely.

Listen to the divine lover of our soul beckon us to deep, profound, and mystically intimate Scriptural encounters. As our hearts yield their desire to things divine, Abba beckons His Spirit to blow pneumatic nuances all over the Scriptures so that we see wondrous treasures we've never seen before.

"Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits." Song of Solomon 4:16.

Seek His voice alone under the surface sheets of all Scripture. Let this be our hermeneutical heart cry:

"Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers." Song of Solomon 1:4.

This very thing happened on the Emmaus Road encounter when two discouraged disciples met a disguised Jesus.

"And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He (Christ) INTERPRETED to them in ALL THE SCRIPTURES the things concerning himself....And their eyes were opened, and they knew him... and they said one to another, Was not our HEART BURNING WITHIN US, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?.... And He said unto them , These are the words which I spake unto you , while I was yet with you , that all things must be fulfilled , which were written in the law of Moses , and in the prophets , and in the psalms , concerning me . Then opened He their understanding , that they might understand the scriptures...." Luke 24:27, 31-32, 44-45.

Jesus brought these two highly blessed disciples into the Scriptural "chambers of the Lord." And their "hearts burned within them" as they finally understood the true import of the Old Testament-- to reveal Jesus. And so can our hearts burn as we too allow "the divining rod" of the Spirit lead us to the underground river of Christological ambrosia flowing beneath the surface of Scripture.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

God reveals Himself through the rainbow hues of relationship.

A thoroughly relational God. Who would have thought?

Abraham's best friend, Israel's first husband, our beloved Abba-Papa, and Christ the firstborn of many brethren.

And it's not just His relationship to us, but also ours to Him. We are His rescued bride He carries across Heaven's threshold. We are His returning prodigal son He rushes to embrace, enrobe and celebrate. We are His offspring.

Yet, even those relationships don't go far enough. Jesus is one who actually sticks CLOSER than any human brother, any human father, and any human husband. Explore Him interpersonally by actually relating WITH Him, not hypothesizing ABOUT Him.

The only way to relate to Him is........to relate to Him. That is what He longs to have. He loves us so. He loves you so.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Let me offer an example from the church father Origen in how to allegorically deal with the violent stories in the Promised Land battles of Joshua.

Commenting on the brutal wars in which Joshua was involved, Origen says:

"The Jews who read these events, I am speaking of the Jews according to the appearance, who is circumcised in his body, and ignores the true Jew who is circumcised in his heart; this [physical] Jew does not find ought except description of wars, killing of enemies, and victory of the Israelites who plundered the possession of the foreigners and pagans, under the guidance of Joshua....

While the Jew according to the heart, that is the Christian who follows Jesus, the Son of God, and NOT Joshua the Son of Nun, understands these events as representing the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He says, 'Today also my master Jesus Christ fights the powers of the evil and drives them out from the towns which they occupied before. He drives them out of our souls. He kills the kings who reigned over them, so that sin will not reign over us. As our souls become free from the reign of sin they become a temple of the Lord and of the God’s Kingdom, hearing the words, 'The kingdom of God is within you'".... Homilies on Joshua 13.1[125]

"Unless those carnal wars (of the Old Testament) were a symbol of spiritual wars, I do not think that the Jewish historical books would ever have been passed down by the apostles to be read by Christ's followers in their churches... Thus, the apostle, being aware that physical wars have become personal battles of the soul against spiritual adversaries, gives orders to the soldiers of Christ like a military commander when he says, 'Put on the armor of God so as to be able to hold your ground against the wiles of the devil'" (Eph. 6:11). (Hom 15.1 [138]).

"[A Christian] affirms that even now my Lord Jesus Christ wars against opposing powers and casts out of their cities, that is, out of our souls, those who used to occupy them. And he destroys the kings who were ruling in our souls ‘that sin may no longer reign in us,’ [citing Rom. 6:12] so that, after he abolishes the king of sin from the city of our soul, our soul may become the city of God and God may reign in it, and it may be proclaimed to us, ‘Behold, the kingdom of God is within you'" [citing Luke 17:21] (Hom 13.1 [125].

"This warfare must be conducted by the Christian not with physical weapons, but with prayers, meditation on the Word of God, good deeds and good thoughts. Only in this way is the Christian able to withstand the works of the Devil, all the while invoking the help of Jesus Christ" (Hom 16.5).

Origen repeatedly stresses that a Christian reads with circumcised heart and thus 'understands that all these things are mysteries of the kingdom of heaven' (Hom 13.1 [125].

Origen says that literal (dead letter) Bible readings, at least in these warfare texts, is equivalent to heresy. Origen charges that reading Joshua’s warfare texts literally is "teaching cruelty" (Hom 11.6 [119]). Literalists "make malicious charges against our Lord and Savior, who commands the kingdom of heaven, which he had promised to those who believe in him, to be seized through violence" (Hom. 12.2 [121]). Without the "deeper understanding" of an allegorical reading, literalists, in Origen's view, produce "perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse. . . [that]. . . . introduce into the churches sects not fitting to us, and to pollute all the church of the Lord" (Hom 7.7 [83]).

So, Origen sees "the promised land enemies" not as hostile humans but as carnal and/or Satanic IMPULSES. These enemies represent NOT flesh and blood foes, but rather terroristic thoughts, malicious mentalities, lustful strongholds, deadly ideas, and sinful mindsets. This alone is where ANY level of violence is spiritually permitted-- on our own inner toxic impulses and lethal ideas, NEVER on humans made in the image of God.

This allegorical reading also helps us interpret passages like the 2 Corinthians 6:7 passage which says we "brandish weapons of righteousness in our right hand and in our left."

"Every man, within himself has Moses and the Israelites, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, [wise and unwise virgins], the Patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven and hell. Thus, the events described in the Bible, and looked upon by the pious as being things of a past history, are actually descriptions of internal processes taking place in the constitution of man himself". ~Jacob Boehme 1575-1624

By internalizing and allegorizing these types of passages throughout the Old and New Testament, we can see that our inner patterns of thoughts/impulses/desires, both wicked and righteous, are often contrasted and allegorized as careless or careful virgins, faithful or foreign wives, Philistine or Israeli powers, cannibalistic or caring fathers, and faithful or prodigal sons, etc.

Here is how that works.

We flood our enemies with forgiveness. We resist them with non-retaliation. We capture them with the love of God. We arm ourselves with disarming.

We brandish weapons of righteousness in our right hand and in our left.
What exactly are those weapons?

We flood our enemies with forgiveness.
We throttle them with tenderness.

We overcome them with an opposite spirit.
We pulverize them with patience.

We maul them with meekness.
We crush them with caring.

We ambush them with the awe of the Lord.
We bombard them with blessings.

We fight with a faith which works only and always through love.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

At some point in the divine nature of God, "can't" and "won't" merge into the same thing. Scripture says it is "impossible" (Titus 1:2) for God to lie. Yet, how can this be?

Doesn't God have the innate freedom to lie if He wanted to? He is all-powerful, after all. Doesn't that give Him the right, the power, the authority, the capability to lie whenever, wherever, and to whomever He wanted to?

Even if we are just talking hypothetically, couldn't God tell a big fat whopping lie if He decided to? .....No way. Not if the Scriptures are true which say it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie. So how can this be? What is the dynamic going on here?

Well, there is only one workable explanation. If God won't do something, then He can't. "Won't" and "can't" mean the exact same thing to Him. The Lord is so purified in perfect purpose, so lavished in loving light, and so constant in character, that HE "WILL NOT" AND "CANNOT" VIOLATE HIS OWN NATURE------ NEVER----- EVER.

This distinction is not mere semantics. We, as humans, all frequently lie to varying degrees, to ourselves, to others, to God, by both omission or commission, by exaggeration, minimalization or distortion. Let God be true and every man a liar. Romans 3:4.

As opposed to God, OUR "won't" and "can't" does mean two entirely different things. We CAN lie at any time and place, and we often DO. Sometimes we WON'T and DON'T lie in particular situations, but if enough added pressure were applied, we certainly COULD at the drop of a hat.

But, God's perfect character has rendered sin "impossible" for Him. His nature has transcended beyond sin as even a hypothetical possibility. Jesus proved that by remaining sinless on the earth, sinless as He harrowed Hell, and sinless as He ascended to Heaven.

We too will ultimately achieve the same state of sinless perfection where our "won't" merges with our "can't." We "won't" sin because we "can't" sin. This is what the end of our faith walk is all about. This is the sanctifying work of the Spirit which Jesus said grows and grows and grows from within us until our "whole" being is "leavened" with the Kingdom of God. Luke 13:21.

And this dynamic just doesnt apply to lying. It also explains why God doesn't EVER coerce, kill, maim, oppress, afflict or act in ANY other unworthy way toward us. It simply is not in His nature. He won't do it because He can't do it. He can't do it because He won't do it. The words mean the same thing BECAUSE God's will and God's nature are both flawlessly unified and seamlessly weaved in purity and perfection.

"How can you be omnipotent, O God, if you cannot do all things? How can you do all things if you cannot sin-- if you cannot lie, if you cannot make false what is true? If you are unable to sin, you cannot claim to be alike to do all things. Or is it that sin stems not from power, but from powerlessness? For those who commit sin have so little power over their own natures that they actually harm themselves. They are at the mercy of forces which they cannot oppose....The more peole have power to commit sin, the more they are powerless. So Lord God, you are in fact more truly omnipotent because you cannot act through powerlessness."
Saint Anselm, Prosologion, Chapter 7.

As Anselm says, God is omnipotent only within the context of His character. He IS all-powerfully good, compassionate, heroic and merciful BECAUSE this is the core nature of light and love Jesus reveals. But, He is NOT all-powerfully wrathful, violent, cruel and hateful BECAUSE He can't and won't operate in these toxic and unworthy motives and purposes.

Once we understand the "won't" and "can't" of God in a clear way, we are now ready to understand the "can" and "will" of God's goodness. "Can" and "will" also mean the exact same thing to God. God ALWAYS hastens to "will and to do" the highest available good which our corporate and individual faith levels "allow."
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Is there a difference between the apostle Paul's opinions and his epiphanies? Are we to treat them differently?

The Apostle Paul was a great man. He had many "third heaven" revelations. He also had many "first heaven" educated opinions. We need to know the difference. "Third heaven" revelation from the "throne room" of God fills Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. "First heaven" opinions based on Paul's practical philosophy frequently appear in Timothy, Titus, Romans and Corinthians, even though these books also contain many "third heaven" insights as well.

Let me clarify. Jesus never talked philosophically about politics, slavery, women's rights, etc. However, Paul did. And without question, Paul's opinions on these issues certainly matter. They are a good place to start. They may be the floor, but they are not the ceiling.

I think it would be an error to call Paul's opinions on philosophical issues the final word for all time. Are we forever chained to Paul's opinions? Are we unable and unauthorized to better develop them, respectfully disagree with them, or rigorously debate them? Do we stand on Paul's shoulders or does he stand on ours? If Paul stands on OUR shoulders, then we, as the low man on the totem pole, will never see the answers directly for ourselves, but will have to totally trust Paul's philosophic vision as the ONLY legitimate seer on these matters. But, if WE stand on Paul's shoulders, then we should be able to see higher and better and fresher and clearer than Paul did on these issues.

I can easily imagine Paul exhorting us in the cloud of heavenly witnesses to carry the baton of his truth faster and farther than he did. He would WANT us to refine, improve and expand his personal philosophy to better honor the Lord. Paul's opinions in these areas might be part of the foundational "floor" we stand on for initial balance, but they are not the ultimate conceptual "ceiling" we grow to reach toward and beyond.

Let me give an example. Jesus NEVER talked about political systems, except perhaps when He said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). The implication is that these two kingdoms are not the same. This one statement is hardly a political manifesto with which to guide our Christian walk.

Jesus NEVER said ALL governments were ordained by God to execute the sword over evil doers or that government officials were ministers of God. And yet Paul said all these things in Romans 13:1-7. But, one could argue that this differed from Jesus' view because in the wilderness temptations it is revealed that all the kingdoms of the worlds are in the power of Satan to give to whom he pleased (Luke 4:5-6). 1 John 5:19 confirms that the whole fallen world lies in the power of the evil one -- Satan. Thus, one could make the Scriptural argument that earthly governments are unspiritual at best and demonically influenced at worst.

Yet, Paul had a higher view of government as a godly authority, or at least he did when he wrote the book of Romans. But let's think about that for a moment. Paul was a Roman citizen, a status which gave him a lot of protection. Time and time again, Paul was protected from death at the hands of the Judaizers BECAUSE he was a Roman citizen. To Paul, the government he was exposed to offered him and his ministry a level of protection.

But, would Paul have felt that Rome was "God's minister" when they sacked Jerusalem and killed thousands of Jewish men, women and children. Or, if Paul was given a prophetic foresight into the despotic governments of Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao Zedong's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Saddam Heusein's Iraq, Pavelic's Croatia, who, in total, harshly oppressed and brutally killed hundreds of millions of their own citizens during their rule, would Paul have written Romans 13:1-7? If Paul could have seen their future evil, would Paul call ALL government authorities "ministers of God" as he did in Romans 13? Surely not!

The point is that what Paul said about government was HIS philosophy, HIS best Christian opinion, and HIS best advice to a young church in need of practical counsel. BUT, what Paul said about government was NOT his "third heaven" revelation. Paul's "third heaven" revelations consisted of his transcendent epiphanies of the Lord's "SUPERNATURAL GRACE" and the matchless "IN CHRIST" realities available to all believers.

Paul acknowledged in Romans 14 that our respective maturity levels of faith might result in us having differing opinions on various practical matters such as diet, drink, calendars and festivals. The brother with weaker faith may have a different view than the brother with more mature faith, yet the freer brother should not be a stumbling block to the weaker brother by purposely doing anything which would be a stumbling block to the faith of the less developed believer. Paul's point was that each believer could be on different sides of an issue, yet both still be right IF they both were acting from their respective levels of faith.

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, Paul also acknowledged that he had particular revelation which he was certain was from the Lord with regard to marriage, BUT that there were OTHER marriage-related issues in which he could only hazard his best opinion. Paul simply didn't have "throne room revelation"on every practical or philosophical question that came before him. And he was man enough to admit it.

Let's take other examples. Paul said women should NOT speak in church, should NOT teach men, and in fact should NOT exercise any authority over any men (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). Are we to be tightly and permanently bound to Paul's philosophical view of women espoused in the above verses? Certainly not. The body of Christ has, for the most part, left this primitive philosophy behind. Today, there are multitudes of skilled female teachers, prophets, pastors and minsters who, thankfully, DON'T keep their communicatory gifts silent in church.

Another example. Paul instructed slaves to be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5; Titus 2:9). The church has violated this principle repeatedly by supporting anti-slavery activities of all kinds, including underground railroads during the Civil War which both encouraged and enabled slaves to disobey their masters by running away.

Do mature Christians planet-wide agree with Paul's philosophy which would have run away slaves always return to their masters to once again subject themselves to a yoke of bondage, JUST to comply with Paul's opinion? Paul did this very thing to the runaway slave Onesimus in Philemon 9-24. Here, Paul sent Onesimus back to his master Philemon, along with a written plea to free him.

Don't get me wrong. Paul's solution in Onesimus' case was beautiful and full of grace. His plea to Philemon brings tears to read it. However, does this mean that Paul's philosophy of slaves obeying their masters is a universal rule meant to apply for all times in all situations? Or, can we develop, modify and evolve Paul's thinking to discover a different "faith solution" for ourselves? Millions of runaway slaves over the last thousand years have done just that. Do I have the confidence to say that the Holy Spirit has NEVER led ANY oppressed slave to escape his oppression by running away? No!!!

And, bringing government back into it, Christians also have a long history of protest and refusal when it comes to "obeying" the authorities God has set "over us." From abortion to military service to unjust wars to capital punishment, Christians have long "resisted the ordinances and powers of government" when quickened to do so by their consciences. But Paul said that "whoever resists the power or ordinance (of government) resists the ordinance of God and shall receive to themselves damnation." Romans 13:2.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is universally admired for his righteous lifestyle and ministry, is widely considered a martyr for conspiring to physically remove Hitler from power. He failed and was executed by Hitler's regime. Bonhoeffer would definitely disagree with Paul that ALL government "powers that be are ordained by God" ( Romans 13:1). There is just no way God ordained Hitler to rule Germany under divine unction.

Paul's gross oversimplification of complete political obedience was, as Albert Einstein famously said, "Simpler than possible." Nobody would seriously label Bonhoeffer's acts of "resisting the power and ordinance" of Nazi Germany as an offense which would bring him "damnation." If every great Christian who resisted government authority and power was "damned" for doing so, then heaven will be sparse indeed.

By the way, the Holy Spirit has definitely managed a few "technically illegal" jail breaks in his day, such as in Acts 5:19; 12:10; 16:26. If Paul's Romans 13:2 propositions were universally true, then the apostles, who frequently escaped numerous lawful prisons, along with the Holy Spirit Himself, would ALL be guilty of "resisting the power and ordinance of God." I wouldn't like to be the officer who tries to serve THAT arrest warrant on the Holy Spirit.

Aside from the issues listed above, it may also be that Paul's linked views on election, predetermination and the potter-clay analogy used in Romans 9-11 may all be influenced more by Paul's philosophies than by Paul's epiphanies.

Paul's pharisaical background so steeped in hyper-sovereignty and hyper-predetermination, combined with his ongoing vexation at his Jewish brothers' continuing rejection of the Messiah, may well have combined to push Paul a little too far over into his "vexed" opinion and away from his spiritual revelation.

I say this because issues of predetermination and election never seemed to concern Jesus in His teachings or preachings.

Yet, Paul describes God as a sovereign potter who either predetermines humans to fail as instruments of wrath and dishonor OR succeed as instruments of glory and honor. This preformation of men occurs in the same way clay is manipulated by the hands of the potter. This image portrays God as an omnipotent potter PRE-forming and PRE-determining all our futures by EITHER giving us inborn "flaws to fail" or inborn "faith to succeed."

This analogy by Paul is not well thought out and is not fully consonant with the loving Father revealed by Jesus, a Father Who in NO way has any connection to putting evil flaws into us and Who gives ONLY good gifts to His children (James 1:13-17; Matthew 7:11). Matthew and James, both also New Testament writers, simply disagree with Paul's apparent assertion that God can "give" us debilitating and damning gifts. Again, this questionable analogy may be more due to Paul's philosophical bent towards hyper-predeterminsm than it is to perfect "third heaven" revelation.

The point is that we must not treat Paul's personal philosophy the same way we treat his supernatural "third heaven" revelations which come straight from "the throne room of God." Jesus NEVER preached or taught on these specific topics listed above for a reason. He wanted US to be fluid, thoughtful and faithful in OUR generation by going BEYOND Paul's advice into greater and greater solutions for OUR day and OUR circumstance.

Paul's wisdom is certainly to be esteemed and understood from every angle, but it is not the only acceptable philosophy on these matters. Christians of different faith levels and giftings can disagree on these non-essential, tangential issues listed above and still be operating in faith that pleases God.

The point for us is to find and follow our OWN "faith" in these issues of conscience.

So, let's commit to learn the difference between EPIPHANIES "from the Lord" and PHILOSOPHIES "about the Lord." Epiphanies are divine revelations which are non-negotiable and non-amendable. Philosophies, by contrast, are informed human opinions which are always negotiable and subject to higher and better interpretations.

Jesus, both during His earthly ministry as well as His current indwellng of us, just remains silent on so many things-- politics, social moors and sexual orientations. To say Jesus votes Republican, favors gun rights, or disfavors all homosexuals seems wrong. Nor is it that He necessarily favors all these things, but rather that He stays curiously silent and non-condemning on them, as if they were not the real issue.

It is one thing to wrestle with resolve and vote our conscience the best we can by making our "best call" on the issues of the day. It is quite another to say Jesus would definitely vote our way and our way only, for all eternity.

"This is the work of God, that you believe on Him who He has sent." John 6:28. Belief, belief, more belief in, toward, and with Jesus. If our hearts are filled with faith, then God will give us the desires of our hearts, the very desires themselves, which will lead us to vote or not vote as our faith leads.

Paul had many epiphanies and many philosophies. Epiphanies are gold we can take to the bank. But philosophies are another matter. Philosophies are our "best opinions" based on our understanding of the current situation at the current time. Paul's IN CHRIST epiphanies were priceless and spiritual gold. Take and totally and eternally trust them for all their worth. They are God's unadulterated heart and are not to be dickered with. But, philosophies on the other hand, are subject to interpretation and improvement by all free-thinking sons of God.

For instance, Paul's philosophies about women NOT being allowed to teach men or ever speak in Church; his philosophy about slaves NEVER opposing their masters; his political philosophy about governments ALWAYS being ministers of God; and his philosophy that God was a cosmic master potter PREFORMING men to fail or succeed from the womb; were all opinions we are certainly to seriously consider. However, Paul's opinions are NOT epiphanies we must rigidly adhere too for all eternity. They are informed opinions, but not necessarily divine decrees.

Jesus has given us flex and room to grow and develop something better if we can. We stand on Paul's shoulders, not vice versa. If we can see something better, higher, truer and stronger than did Paul, then he himself would delight and encourage us to make the better call. An enlightened opinion is not the same as an eternal epiphany. Opinions evolve and fluidly change. Epiphanies do not. It is wisdom to learn the difference.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Quick test.

What is our first thought when we hear the word "blood" used in the context of Christianity?

At various times in my life my answer would be different.

When I was young and more combative, my first response to the word "blood" would be "battle" in the spiritual or physical warfare sense.

At another time in my life, in the wake of having seven children, "blood" would bring "family loyalty" to my mind, including spiritual and literal family. Blood covenant brotherhood would the key idea here.

But, in recent years, when I hear the word "blood" my gut reaction is simply this--- "life." Jesus' blood is truly the gift of life. Soul-life. Spirit-life. Body-life. Corporate-life. Divine-life.

Sometimes we need to see that our presumptions are blinding us from seeing "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise" Philippians 4:8.

Many today are seeing Jesus' "blood" ONLY through the presumptive lens of negative violence. In other words, Jesus' blood is the revelatory mechanism which reveals our scapegoating violence toward God and each other. Thus, Jesus' "blood" here becomes a repulsive symbol of "unjust death" rather than a glorious symbol of "indestructible life." Hebrews 7:16.

And while there is certainly truth in the revelation of Jesus' blood as a metonymy of our unjust violence toward God and each other, there is so much more to meaning to His "blood" than just this aspect.

Let's all keep evolving and expanding our understanding of the cross and Jesus' blood NOT as just a symbol of His "unjust death," but as a heralding event of His "indestructible life."

"Blood is the gift of life!"

So the Red Cross rightfully tells us. Blood transfusions save countless millions of lives every month. Yet, this concept of transfusion was unknown in the ancient world. Think about that amazing fact. The New Testament, again and again, emphasizes the life infusing energies and curative benefits of Jesus' blood as the paschal lamb of God.

But consider this--- the world changing science of the bountiful benefits of blood transfusion wasn't EVEN discovered until the 17th century. And yet, in the first century, Jesus was priming it as a dynamic spiritual symbol to richly bless us two thousand years later. What an incredible testimony and apologetic proof of the advanced revelation surrounding Jesus!

The blood of Jesus isn't about transgression, but transfusion. Jesus is a blood-donor, not a blood-shedder.

"The life is in the blood," as the Scripture says. And Jesus' life pulsates in His blood. Jesus doesn't want us laboring listlessly with our anemic iron-poor life energy. Rather, Jesus wants us to allow His iron-rich life force to course through our spiritual veins.

Jesus' blood is not about paying for our past transgressions but rather providing for our future transfusion.

Jesus wants to transfuse us with His transcendence, His very divine nature, His very goodness, His very own love-rich emotional and mental states.

Jesus doesn't take life, He gives it. Better yet. He gives us HIS life. Let's start looking at His cross, and ours as well, as donor tables laid next to each other so that His curative energies can fully flow into our beings.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

We so poorly understand the concept of omnipotence, the notion that, "God is all-powerful."

God IS all-powerful, but only within the context of His character. There are certain qualities that are NOT in the divine nature, a nature which God won't EVER violate. Men certainly violate these qualities, but not God, not Jesus, not the Spirit.

For instance, Scripture says that it is impossible for God to lie. Titus 1:2. But, some would say, "Sure God can lie, He is all-powerful after all." But, no, it is impossible for Him to act outside of His flawless nature of love, light, Spirit, truth and grace. He won't lie because it is AGAINST His nature.

This is easy to see in the context of lying, but what about other qualities which are NOT to be found in the divine nature of God? What if violence, coercion, brutality, manipulation, cruelty, and pettiness are NOT in His character? Well, there can be only one conclusion: God's omnipotence must always be defined within the context of His character. He is all-powerfully good, all-powerfully forgiving, all-powerfully healing, all-powerfully truthful, all-powerfully patient, all-powerfully restorative, etc. But, He is NOT all-powerfully cruel, all-powerfully condemning, all-powerfully vindictive, all-powerfully violent, all-powerfully coercive, etc.

Thus, God WON'T lie to us, kill us, coerce us, manipulate us, brutalize us, abuse us, threaten us or terrorize us. God WILL protect us, bless us, correct us, teach us, convince us, strengthen us, encourage us and deliver us. Consider the following passage from Saint Anselm:

"How can you be omnipotent, O God, if you cannot do all things? How can you do all things if you cannot sin - - if you cannot lie, if you cannot make false what is true? If you are unable to sin, you cannot claim to be able to do all things. Or is it that sin stems not from power, but from powerlessness? For those who commit sin have so little power over their own natures that they actually harm themselves. They are at the mercy of forces which they cannot oppose . . . .The more people have power to commit sin, the more they are powerless. So, Lord God, you are in fact more truly omnipotent because you cannot act through powerlessness." Proslogion, Chapter 7.

Thus, true omnipotence (contrary to popular opinion) allows its possessor to be maligned, abused, and ignored by those who aren't. This is highly offensive to our human view of omnipotence.

Jesus' life demonstrated the curative power of patience, wisdom, and love. Through these virtues of the divine nature, God overcomes all evil with all good. Our carnal view of omnipotence includes force, manipulation, and coercion-- God's view simply does not.

This is the revelation of the cross.
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2 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Is God obstructed in any way from fully intervening here to deliver us from various evil events and circumstances? Most would quickly respond, without even thinking, that, "No, of course not, God is omnipotent. He can intervene wherever and whenever He wills."

And yet, we see in Mark 6, at Nazareth, that Jesus "could do no mighty works" because of "their [corporate not individual] unbelief." Jesus was omnipotent, but He was nonetheless obstructed, even though He still was able to perform a few healings.

This is a tough question that deserves a thorough answer. Here is my best response.

God IS all-powerful, but only within the context of His character. There are certain qualities that are NOT in the divine nature, a nature which God won't EVER violate. Men certainly violate these qualities, but not God, not Jesus, not the Spirit.

For instance, Scripture says that it is impossible for God to lie. Titus 1:2. But, some would say, "Sure God can lie, He is all-powerful after all." But, no, it is impossible for Him to act outside of His flawless nature of love, light, Spirit, truth and grace. He won't lie because it is AGAINST His nature.

This is easy to see in the context of lying, but what about other qualities which are NOT to be found in the divine nature of God? What if violence, coercion, brutality, manipulation, coercion, and pettiness are NOT in His character?

Well, there can be only one conclusion: God's omnipotence must always be defined within the context of His character. He is all-powerfully good, all-powerfully forgiving, all-powerfully healing, all-powerfully truthful, all-powerfully patient, all-powerfully restorative, etc. But, He is NOT all-powerfully cruel, all-powerfully condemning, all-powerfully vindictive, all-powerfully violent, all-powerfully coercive, etc.

Thus, God wont lie to us, kill us, coerce us, manipulate us, brutalize us, abuse us, threaten us or terrorize us. God will protect us, bless us, correct us, teach us, convince us, strengthen us, encourage us and deliver us. Consider the following passage from Saint Anselm:

"How can you be omnipotent, O God, if you cannot do all things? How can you do all things if you cannot sin - - if you cannot lie, if you cannot make false what is true? If you are unable to sin, you cannot claim to be able to do all things. Or is it that sin stems not from power, but from powerlessness? For those who commit sin have so little power over their own natures that they actually harm themselves. They are at the mercy of forces which they cannot oppose . . . .The more people have power to commit sin,the more they are powerless. So, Lord God, you are in fact more truly omnipotent because you cannot act through powerlessness." Proslogion, Chapter 7.

So, the next time somebody pulls out the worn out argument that if God is all-powerful, He would immediately zap to oblivion all evildoers with His Zeus-like lightning bolts, THEREFORE whatever happens must be His permissive will or He would have zapped it into oblivion, you know what to say. Jesus is God. God is all-powerful LOVE. Anything outside of LOVE is not in God's nature. God does save us to the uttermost, but ONLY by His limitless virtue. He always overcomes evil one way and one way only, with patience, love, and goodness.

John Wesley said, "It seems as if God is limited by our prayer (faith) life. He can do nothing upon the earth unless a man prays." We are the spigots that release the omnipresence of God unto manifest presence. Our faith doesn't create the victory, it only recognizes and releases it FROM Heaven TO earth.

Whatever the reason for the occurrence of evil events, it wasn't because of God's lack of ability, lack of readiness, or lack of willingness to save us from them. Rather, the culprit was the individual and/or corporate "neglect" of the members of Christ's body in not resisting evil as a unified army of interceding faith-warriors. Hebrews, in fact, warns us that we won't be able to "escape" the destructions of evil "if we neglect [individually and corporately] our so great a salvation."

I am convinced that suffering largely exists because the church corporate doesn't pray in unity of heart and purpose. The church bride is here to relieve and/or cure the world's suffering, but we are too busy disagreeing and blaming rather than agreeing and blessing.

Christ, for His part, is always ready, willing and able to manifest His rescuing power into every situation of need. But, the church is His spigot of release here on the earth, a spigot which we haven't yet learned to corporately open full throttle.

I believe the throttle/faucet of the spigot is on our side of the equation. I believe that spigot is what James called "effectual fervent prayer," both individual and corporate.

I certainly agree we can't ever trivialize suffering, but on the other hand we also mustn't trivialize prayer. I also agree that the sheer weight of suffering is mind boggling, but, on the other hand, the power of prayer is even more mind boggling, at least if we are to believe Jesus in Mark 11:22-25 and many other like passages. Earnest prayer should be our first and instant response to an outbreak of suffering of any kind, just as water is our first and instant response to outbreak of fire.

John's Wesley taught that out prayerLESSness inhibits and obstructs God to fully manifest His A-game deliverances. He needs our organic faith-consent on some level. This occurred in Mark 6 when He, though fully willing, could do no mighty works because of their corporate unbelief.

Here is a thought experiment that might clarify this issue. God's willingness is to always intervene on our behalf, but there are limitations which can obstruct us His interventions from fully manifesting. This is due to His non-coercive nature as discussed above. We see this dynamic obstructing Jesus' will to do "mighty works" in Mark 6 at Nazareth where He was ready, willing, and able to do them right there and then in their midst, but, instead, He "could do no mighty works there" because of "their unbelief at which He marveled." .

I think we can agree that if Jesus, during His incarnation, was PHYSICALLY present while a woman and her child were being physically assaulted by a gang of cutthroat brigands. We intuitively know Jesus would have quickly intervened to stop it (as He did with the woman caught in adultery).

Jesus might have used some natural means, but more than likely, sticking to His normal modus operandi, He would have used some supernatural means to save the victims. He used supernatural wisdom to disarm the mob mentality seeking to kill the adulteress. Several times, He Himself supernaturally slipped right through and past hostile mobs who were trying to kill Him on several occasions.

But, in any event, the Jesus revealed by BOTH the Gospel AND our Spirit-quickened consciences would NOT have stood idly by doing nothing. That's inconceivable given the parameters of our thought experiment.

Jesus would not have:
--continued to walk past the event to keep His ministry events on schedule
--stood by watching and shaking His head in empathy while the abuse continued
--turned His face the other way in revulsion, planning to later help the victims cope with their injuries, assuming of course they survived.

As sure as the Sun rises, we know the Jesus of the Gospels would have stopped this brutality-- immediately, decisively, and skillfully. Acts 10:38 tells us that, "Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and went around doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil." No Gospel narrative (other than the events surrounding the Crucifixion in which Jesus voluntarily lowered His divine defenses) describes Jesus EVER allowing any form of physical brutality, demonic activity, or physical infirmity afflicting any third party in His immediate presence to go unchallenged.

Now, to continue the thought experiment, change the peril to any one of a hundred menacing scenarios.

--the woman and her child were in the death throes of a plague
--the woman and her child were decomposing from leprosy
--the woman and her child were being victimized by an abusive husband/father
--the woman was suffering from a severe mental disorder and was attempting to smother her child
--the child was having an epileptic fit and had swallowed his own tongue
--the mother had just suffered a stroke related to her brain cancer and was now unresponsive on the ground as her weeping child tried to awaken her
--the woman and her child were about to be killed by a rockslide

REGARDLESS of the peril, what would the Jesus of the Gospels have done in coming physically upon these situations? It's obvious. Jesus would have stopped each of these tragedies dead in their tracks.

Here then is the point. We KNOW the will of God is to always heal and protect when Jesus is PHYSICALLY present. It's clear and irrefutable. How is it then that we have come to LOSE that knowledge of His healing will when God is only SPIRITUALLY present--- here in our modern day life situations in other words.

How can we now say God's will towards healing has gone from kinetic (moving) in Jesus' day to static (not moving) in our day? Has Jesus changed His willing mind or curative nature? Or, is the problem on OUR side of the CORPORATE equation?

Is it possible that something is hindering or obstructing Jesus' total willingness to do mighty works of curative deliverance here today? If so, could it be the same dark dynamic which hindered Jesus from doing mighty curative works in Nazareth as detailed in Mark 6 (except that He still healed a few sick people), where despite Jesus' absolute willingness, their CORPORATE (not individual) unbelief kept those works from manifesting in their midst-- a corporate unbelief which caused Jesus to "marvel" (and not in a good way) that they were missing the time of their curative visitation.

Nazareth is so instructive, because in that narrative we have all the relevant elements-- an always willing-to-heal Lord NONETHELESS obstructed by a corporate (not individual) mindset and heart-set of unbelief.

God, as most theologians readily acknowledge, is in some sense omni-present. God is present everywhere in some continuous capacity today, here and now. But, that by itself isn't enough to release His personal presence (which I would define as the kinetically curative Jesus revealed in the Gospels) to full manifestation.

So, again, I have to conclude that some dynamic on our CORPORATE side of the equation is "quenching" and "benching" Jesus' kinetically curative presence back into static latency.

The widespread failure to heal today simply can't be Jesus' LACK of willingness. So again I go back to Nazareth as the template of explanation for His un-manifested mighty works. There was a scorched sky of CORPORATE unbelief in Nazareth which kept the Lord's healing light from fully shining through to do the mighty works which were in His heart to do. Again, He was able to heal a few sick people, just as a few sick people today continue to receive healing from time to time through prayers of faith, but not nearly on the wide scale we would see as ideal for a fully functioning body of Christ. The reason? We are living today in a postmodern Nazareth laboring under a scorched sky of corporate unbelief.

The freedom of angels and men often combine to form interference patterns of resistant force with which we must diligently deal. The Lord is always willing to manifest, but He often needs our synergistic cooperation to fully penetrate the situation at hand. He won't (and can't) coercively rape reality with His interventions. He travels on the active faith of men. This allows Him the consent He needs, the cosmic elbow room to deliver the situation by catalyzing it with the delivering energies of Christ.

The question is NOT "whether" or "why" God intervenes or not in human affairs.

Rather, the question is "whether" or "why" WE (corporately as the body of Christ) intervene or not.

God's interventions of deliverances need OUR corporate synergistic faith, catalyzing prayer, and enabling action for His deliverances to fully manifest here on earth as they are already manifest in Heaven. God has already intervened to the max in every past, present and future situation. His Spirit fills all things (Ephesians 1:23; 4:7-10). His pre-destinies (Ephesians 2:10) swirl around us like butterflies coiled in potentiality, eagerly waiting to be sprung into actuality by our prayers of faith. But our corporate unbelief can "quench" and "bench" these potentialities into the realm of the unrealized.

So, I think there are three conceptual choices when it comes to God's response to intervening prayer:

1) God says "yes" to some healing interventions and "no" to others.

2) God says a provisional "yes" to all healing interventions, but something on our corporate [NOT individual] side of the equation hinders or obstructs the fulness of healing from manifesting. Mark 6:1-6.

3) God neither says "yes" or "no" to particular healings but remains detached and uninvolved.

1 and 3 are unacceptable for the flowing reasons:

-- Jesus never said "no" to any particular request for healing (2 Corinthians 1:9-20)

-- many times Scriptures say Jesus healed "all" who came to Him (Acts 10:38; Matthew 4:23-24; 8:16; 9:35; 12:15; 15:30; Luke 4:40; 6:17)

-- the only time Jesus was obstructed from healing "all" came from a corporate hindrance, not from a lack of willingness or consent on HIS part (Mark 6:1-6)

-- healing appears to be promised in several New Testament passages ( James 5:15; I Peter 2:24 and its fulfillment in Matthew 8:16; Mark 3:15; 16:18; Luke 9:2, 10:9; John 14:12-14)

-- if God refuses to heal some mothers and children of cancer while healing others, then He is capricious and cruel

-- if God stays away from healing altogether, then He is capricious, cruel, and, even worse, He has placed all of us in a death-trap creation in which disaster, disease, devastation, and destruction reigns supreme, a terminally infectious creation for which He alone is responsible.

Failed healing largely exists because the church corporate doesn't teach, pray, or believe in unity of heart and purpose. In short, the church doesn't effectively model coherent belief in a healing God. The church bride is here to relieve and/or cure the world's suffering, but we are too busy disagreeing and blaming rather than agreeing and blessing.

And let me be clear-- I am not attributing any particular person's unrealized healing to any singular person's lack of faith. That's far too simplistic and just plain wrong. I am speaking in the corporate sense. We are all connected to one another, in seen and unseen ways, in conscious and subconscious ways, in spiritual and unscriptural ways. When the revelation of the healer bride reaches a critical mass of realization within the corporate mass of believers, I believe there will be an explosion of "mighty works" upon the earth even greater than seen in the days of Jesus and the early church (John 14:12-14). A rising tide lifts all the boats.

Christ, for His part, is always ready, willing and able to manifest His rescuing power into every situation of need. But, the church is His spigot of release here on the earth, a spigot which we haven't yet learned to corporately open full throttle.

But, I always try to remember this champion truth toward which we are all called to evolve together. Our heavenly Abba "hath put all things under His (Jesus') feet , and gave Him (Jesus) to be the head over ALL THINGS TO the CHURCH. Which is His (Jesus') body, the fulness of him that fills ALL IN ALL." Ephesians 1:22-23. It's going to happen sooner or later. Sooner is so infinitely better, so may the unified vision begin. And may we each play a vibrant part.
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3 weeks ago

The Goodness of God

Did Paul instruct the Corinthians that a particular man was be "turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh that his spirit may be saved?"

Well, yes and no. It's important to know the whole story. Meaning evolves as we discover the whole story. This passage (2 Corinthian 5) is often cited to show Paul's utter disdain and lack of tolerance for sexual sins. But is this fair reading of the entire episode?

2 Corinthians 5 was written, as I read the context, to address one particular "hot topic" situation where a man was having an affair with his step-mother. "It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

I grant you that Paul was pretty strident with his tone here. YET, observe how he softens his tone later regarding this same situation in 2 Corinthians. His mindset has changed from one of prosecution to one of mercy. It's really beautiful to behold. He tells them to turn him over to Satan in 1 Corinthians 5, but in 2 Corinthians Paul reverses that pronouncement in exhorting them to forgive and comfort the sinning man, a great example of mercy triumphing over judgment.

"For out of great distress and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not to make you sad, but to let you know the love that I have especially for you. But if anyone has caused sadness, he has not saddened me alone, but to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as well. This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him." 2 Corinthians 2:4-8.

Wow! What a difference a day makes! While Paul doesn't expressly retract what he said earlier, he does SO temper it with an infusion of mercy that His position toward the situation seems to have undergone a 180 degree shift.

But, I do acknowledge that Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 the following: "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you."

But, I have to wonder if Paul was striking the rock a little hard here as well, since it was in the wake of his wrath (later withdrawn) against the sinning man mentioned above. I think sometimes Paul writes more "emotively" than "doctrinally." We all often say things out of emotional frustration and concern when initially confronted with shocking situations. And this frustration can cause our initial statements to be more in the nature of rhetoric meant to unsettle rather than doctrine to declare.

But, I do acknowledge that IF this entire I Corinthians passage was intended as instruction, it was aimed more at hypocrisy than anything else. Paul appears to be saying we are not to associate with those CHRISTIANS who continually practice hypocrisy, not just in the sexual area, but in ANY area of virtue: verbal abuse, drinking, swindling, or greed. That covers quite a bit of ground.

But, even here we have to be cautious. Slipping into hypocrisy is very common among us all, in both big and small ways. So, this Pauline passage, without further refining, can lure us into some rash, hard-hearted, and prosecutorial mindsets.

I certainly acknowledge that continual, flagrant and non-repentant hypocrisy does need to be discerned and confronted on some level. It's just the older I get, the more I see us all/me erring in so many ways that a hard and condemning eye would see as hypocritical. We could end up judging each other out of fellowship altogether if we did not temper this critical evaluation with divine wisdom and mercy. Honestly, I don't really sense Jesus being so quick to pull the hypocrisy-bashing trigger as perhaps was Paul.

To be fair to Paul, when we BLEND together the entire episode described in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Paul's initial rhetoric of frustration evolves into a richly tempered declaration of mercy. It's certainly ok for us to emote initial frustration at disturbing situations we encounter. But, we are called, as was Paul, to later "cure" that frustration with relentless grace, restorative mercy and tempered tenderness.
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