Friday, September 18, 2015

Theology Established in Genesis 1-11 Gives Us Confidence in its Authenticity

Biblical themes established in Genesis 1-11

Have you ever felt like you could not trust the accuracy of the Bible? Have people said to you that the Bible is a book of "fables", or not historically accurate? Have even some of your Christian friends made you doubt more specifically the authenticity of Genesis 1-11? I want to help you in your ability to trust the Theological roots of the Genesis 1-11 account. There are far smarter people than I who can debate the scientific stuff, but what I want you to know is that you do not have to check your theological brain at the door either if you hold to a historically accurate Genesis 1-11.

What I will aim to do in this post is give you plenty of good theological foundations in which we can beleive the historical authenticity of Genesis 1-11 because of their linkage to almost every theological and biblical theme that I can think of, and of course many of those that I cannot think of. First I would like to point out one of those maybe more obvious ones. Marriage is a Biblical theme that is established in Genesis 1-11. Jesus also reiterates that theme, "Have you not heard, He made them male and female." Sabbath is another theme that is established in the Creation account and repeated by Jesus. Jesus is also called our sabbath rest. Other themes that are established are, Original sin, Christ's sustaining creative power (Repeated in Colossians 3 and Hebrews 1), Coming redemption (as seen in the curse after Adam's sin). Also seen in the curse with pain through childbirth, Family order (paternal spiritual leadership), and that the woman sinned first, Which is repeated in Timothy. Jesus in Hebrews is established as our sabbath rest, and if Gen 1-11 is poetic, and not with a literal seventh day of rest from Creation, then there is no O.T. or N.T. basis for a literal sabbath either. However there must be a literal sabbath in which we were meant to rest, so that Jesus could fulfill that rest in which we need not work anymore to please a Holy God.

There is a new and rising field of study called Theology of Work. This Theology of Work is also established when Adam is given the task pre-fall of naming animals, and post-fall we will work "by the sweat of our brow." On a sadder note, sin digs its roots deep into the heart of the first brothers as seen in Cain and Abel directly followed by the first murder. Other more scientific things are established in which God establishes seasons as first seen in the aftermath of the Noahic flood. on those same lines The Noahic Covenant is established in which God promises to never again send another worldwide flood. Right after the flood we have the Noahic genealogies, which are the basis of all other genealogies. If we don't have those genealogies as authentic living people, then we do not have a flesh and blood Messiah in Jesus either.
In other areas of Genesis 1-11 we have languages and cultures emerging (Anthropology). We see clearly the establishing of language and culture at the Tower of Babel and the confusion and origin of languages. These things cannot be just overlooked as unimportant insignificant "fables". They are the establishing of Anthropological grounds and why we have confused languages to this day. Either they happened or we cannot trust the historical accuracy of the whole of Scripture. I chose to trust the Authenticity of these "fables" or "Mythologies" as some have labeled them.

Here is a short list of some of the many theologies that are established in Genesis 1-11...

  • The Trinity: ("let us make man in our own image")
  • Theology (proper): in the character of God (as creative, loving, and just God)
  • Christology: Pre-existent Christ creator of all things (Colossians 3, Hebrews 1) as seen in the prophecy concerning the serpent and how Christ would die
  • Pneumatology: (study of the Holy Spirit) as seen in the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, and his part within the Godhead. 
  • Soteriology: (study of salvation) as seen in God enacting and beginning the salvific history in which the serpent would "strike his heel and he will crush your head", or more easily put, Why did Jesus need to die on a cross?
  • Harmartiology: (study of sin) as seen in what is called "original sin". If there is no Adam or original sin there is no Harmartiology. Why is there sin in the world?
  • Prolegomena: has God revealed himself in creation and the signs in the universe or not? If he did not create, then how does he have the power to reveal himself in nature?
  • Anthropology: does man have a fallen sinful nature as described in Gen 1-11 or not? And was man created in the image of a holy eternal perfect uncreated God?
  • Missiology: let us make man in our own image, this is God's way of making himself known and it is the beginnings of the Misseo Dei!
  • Ecclesiology: *
  • Eschatology: *
  • Angelology: *

*except for these three fields of theology, every other systematic is either established, began or addressed in a foundational way in Gen 1-11. I am not aware of if these other three might be hinted at in places, established, or otherwise in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. All these areas of theology are addressed, or at least begin to be addressed through foreshadowing. So be confident you stand on steady, unshakable, and historical Theological ground. You also stand on practical ground in believing in the historical accuracy of the beginning of Genesis.

Here are a few practical questions that can be answered from the first 11 chapters of Genesis too...
  • Why do we have a seven day week?
  • Why is there death?
  • Why do we need a new heaven and a new earth if this old earth is not fallen?
  • Why do we wear clothes?
  • What is the foundational history of the whole rest of the Bible and theology?
Here is a good way to look at the historicity of the whole bible in seven different movements.

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-11)
  2. Corruption (Genesis 1-11)
  3. Catastrophe (Genesis 1-11)
  4. Confusion (Genesis 1-11)
  5. Christ (N.T.)
  6. Cross (N.T.)
  7. Consumption (N.T.)
Can the gospel be true if the historical foundations of it in Genesis are not or cannot be trusted as historically accurate? Or for that matter, can we trust any other miraculous thing in the entire Bible also as historically accurate? If we cannot trust the miraculous, then we cannot and don't believe the core elements of the gospel (i.e. The resurrection of Christ from the dead, and our resurrection from the dead). My question is why do we want to explain away Genesis as not authentic, but not the rest of the supernatural elements of the Bible? Because we cannot explain the "cataclysmic supernatural" events in their pages? It is true that you do have to believe in the miraculous to believe that the Bible is accurate? There are supernatural events in almost every chapter of the Bible. Most are smaller than the "cataclysmic supernatural" events in Genesis, But supernatural nonetheless. We can and must trust them, because the gospel, and everything Jesus taught is in their pages. With these few thoughts I hope and pray you can trust at least in the theological and historical authenticity of Genesis 1-11. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Is Pastoral Restoration Biblical? The Ashley Madison Controversy Exposes Deeper Issues

Pastoral restoration? 
With all the moral failures in ministry lately what's a path to restoration? To my knowledge, The Bible doesn't lay out a path for "pastoral restoration" per se. I could be corrected, but all the things I have read on pastoral restoration use biblical passages on general Christian restoration. Let me propose that is because we have made the pastoral ministry something it was not meant to be. Have you ever heard the phrase "called to the pastoral ministry". That is kind of a misnomer because the role of pastor/overseer/elder are filled by particular spiritual gifts, not this huge hierarchical position that we have turned it into. That is why the the scripture only lays out qualifications for those who practice their pastoral gifts. If a man falls into a "sexual sin" he is just no longer qualified because he is not "above reproach" anymore. 

Let me ask you a question to clarify. If a person with the gift of evangelism is caught in an adulterous relationship, does that disqualify them from the spiritual gift of evangelism? No, of course not they have just fallen into sin and need to be restored, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

Or put another way. What if another with the spiritual gift of helps and hospitality has been found to have abused their hospitality, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a guest? Are they disqualified from the spiritual gift of hospitality? No they still have the spiritual gift they just need to be restored in a "spirit of gentleness."
I believe that the problem is that we have elevated the "ministry" to a place where I believe the New Testament did not mean it to be elevated to. The New Testament writers talk about the pastoral giftings as "one among many" gifts that are equal to any other gift in the body. So, in our current structure, when a pastor falls into sin it is more egregious than a when a person with the gift of hospitality falls into an inappropriate sexual relationship. 

Also the modern pastor has more visibility than in the past. With the rise of the of the Internet with sermons online, and other organizations like the Gospel Coalition, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Acts 29, and pastoral conferences with thousands in attendance, and other such church planting and ministry training organizations, there has been this unbiblical and unhealthy move toward superstar attractional ministry leaders. You can probably name your favorite pastor. Where do you know them from? Probably online. I am as guilty in supporting this as any other. How often have I watched a sermon from a talking head superstar pastor? How often have I read their books? How often have I visited their church or personal websites? This feeds the system. However, the New Testament had a completely different style of pastoral leadership. It was a bottom up, one of many, servant leadership type of shepherding ministry that was happy to be unknown outside of the congregation of which they were shepherds. 

They (i.e. The Apostles) didn't train for years and years in seminaries separated from the local body they had come from. Only to return later to another Church that they had no previous contact to. Being devoid of any real practical experience besides a one year practicum/internship, in which they got to preach one time on a Sunday where almost the whole church was away on vacation. See my point? We have to radically rethink the pastoral ministry. 

Besides all this. If the spiritual gifts are spread out in the congregation relatively equally, how many with the pastoral gifting would there be in a typical church. Probably in a church of 200 there might be up to 10% that's about 20 or so. What are those men doing with their pastoral gifting? Probably sitting on their hands because the lead pastor has his "Kung-Fu grip" on the reigns of leadership. They probably aren't even aware they have a pastoral gifting. I bring this up because if there were 20 pastors of a church it would protect the church when one of the pastors fell. The church could carry on and the church would be able to "restore such a one with gentleness" without everything collapsing. But as is the current leadership structure, there is one pastor who has full and final authority. Elder and Deacon boards do nothing in practicality. Actually they do something, everything the pastor tells them to do. This must change!

Let me be clear, I do not believe that a pastor caught in a extra-marital affair should just be kept in ministry after forgiving him. Or worse yet, one week later hired somewhere else. What I am saying is that the whole system is unbalanced, and lends to a unbalanced pastoral ministry. We need a practical pastoral reformation, kind of like the great theologies that were was won for us in the first reformation (i.e. "the priesthood of all believers."). That Priesthood of all believers needs not just to be believed, but practiced in our current congregations. In other words "every member a minister." 

The current Ashley Madison controversy exposes many problems and we are all going to talk about the sexual aspects and what is wrong with pastors. We definitely need to bring those secrets out so that the Church can deal with it, and seek to be a righteous and pure bride once again. But I want to challenge us to think in Biblical paradigms, and not to leave the current hierarchical pastoral position untouched. 

Pastor, please do not continue to usurp authority, but rather give it away. What I mean is in areas that the Bible does not prescribe for you to have authority over, please give your authority to other gifted men who are there already in your congregations. Train others to take your job and take your place. Its kind of like working yourself out of a job. In the end you and your church will be stronger and more protected as a result. Ultimately God is in control of His Church, and He will see that it is transformed from the top to bottom. Let us with renewed vigour make Jesus Lord, and ask our congregations to practice the priesthood of all believers along with us who are spiritually gifted as pastors, so that the body can be whole from the bottom on up.