(continued from part 1)
Strictly speaking, the word “condemnation” translates the Greek word “katakrima”. If this word is understood to have only a judicial meaning, then we are bound to read the divine judge into the picture (since judicial verdicts imply the active agency of a judge issuing a verdict, by definition), and ascribe the initiative to him. However, the word “condemnation” is a translation of the Greek word “kata-kri-ma”, which simply means “adverse decision effect”. It may or may not be judicial decision. For instance, if a building is condemned, it simply means that someone decided that it should be marked for destruction. It’s a practical decision, not a judicial verdict.
The world is said to be under condemnation, or “adverse decision-effect” – and that adverse decision which affected the world was made by Adam in the garden of Eden, not by God. It’s quite clear from the Scriptures. God actually warned Adam of the adverse effect of his decision (i.e. death), if anything. God’s desire, in contrast, is that the world might be saved through Christ.
Now, if you read the well-known 1 Cor 11 “communion” passage through this prism, it will read very differently from what’s still commonly taught in a lot of places. Best way to read it is in Greek interlinear with grammar parsings. I will quote from NKJV for brevity’s sake, with revelant Greek verb forms explained in the parentheses:
When referring to the predictions of Jesus concerning his 2nd coming, C.S. Lewis in his essay “The World’s Last Night” concludes that at least one of the prophecies of Jesus was a failed one:
“Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘This generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” [the above paragraph is what C.S. Lewis puts in the mouth of imaginary critics. In the next paragraph, he responds to the criticism]
It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side.
(continued from part 1)
Paul says that he will gladly boast in his infirmities, as a counter-argument of boasting in his strength. Here, the word “infirmities” has nothing to do with sickness, since sickness is not even discussed anywhere in the passage, and doesn’t even fit with the context of what was being said. The Greek word for weakness is “astheneia”, which literally means “lack of strength”. Paul is pointing to his lack of strength in the natural that would be adequate for dealing with this issue at hand, which is a series of satan-originated violent acts against him. Religious people followed him from city to city, stirred up crowds against Paul, which ended in brutality and violence toward Paul, including being stoned (in a non-narcotic way).
Here’s passage that’s often quoted (usually out of context) and is just as often misunderstood:
2 Corinthians 12:5-10
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
First, let’s give this a little context. 2 Corinthians is dated approximately at about AD 55-58, most likely historically placing it in Acts chapter 20, in Macedonia (northern Greece). Here are some highlights of the difficulties that happened in Paul’s ministry up to that point (listed in sequence; the years depending on the dating scheme used could be off by 1-2 years):
~ 48 A.D.
province: Galatia / city: Antioch (of Pisidia)
50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
In the previous post, we talked about how to differentiate between different active personal forces and their roles in the events that we consider.
How do we apply this to inform our theological worldview?
In the very beginning, God designed things in this world to function in a certain way. If you cooperate with the design, you will reap the rewards deriving from your understanding and correct usage of the system. If you go against the design, you will reap the penalty of your own ignorance. The law of gravity works to keep out feet planted on the ground and prevents us from floating in the air when we walk. We cooperate with the law, and we make it work for us. The very same law works when someone jumps off a tall building. We operate against the law, and now it works against us. Note how in both cases, it works the same exact way, but the results are different.
You can’t blame a designer for misusing his design. The designer is responsible for communicating his design; the user is responsible for familiarizing himself with instructions, and if the designer is accessible – with the instructor. Well, in our case, the design is well-described in the Scriptures, and the designer is very accessible, 24×7!
I want to consider the role of God as a system designer and engineer (or “designer”, for short). A correct understanding of that role is critical in correctly informing our theological worldview.
Let me start off with a simple example that illustrates people using just one agency variable to explain processes involving multiple agencies in multiple roles.
Before creation, God’s sovereignty was absolute and was only circumscribed by the parameters of his own character. At that stage, everything God created – and I quote – “it was good”. Unhindered by anyone else, and his plans uncontested by anyone’s free will, it took him 6 days to create this world (I am not going to argue here about literal years vs. year-epochs – the point of it is that the whole of creation fits in the first 2 chapters of the book of Genesis).
After God created a human and said “Have dominion on this earth”, now the decisions of humans, both individually and collectively, play into the outcomes of things happening on planet Earth.
Subsequently, humans were tricked into sharing their God-given authority with satan, and now we have 3 active agent forces. God, humankind, and satan. At that point God’s sovereignty is not absolute, since humankind can act on their God-given free will. Now not everything is good, and evil is introduced into the world.