More Mythologies to Save the Bible From

My last post on this topic was fun, so I want to play some more in that sandbox today.  Here are some more Bible words to which I have historically attributed mythical definitions:

1.    Kingdom.  As Brother Boyd commented on this blog last week, the kingdom is very much a PRESENT reality (albeit one with an important future component).  Dallas Willard defines a kingdom as “the range of a king’s effective will.”  When Papa’s will is done on earth as in heaven, his kingdom is functioning there.  And speaking of heaven…

2.    Heaven.  Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright have taught me the biblical concept of heaven as the earth’s control room, the driver’s seat of the cosmos, the space-time of humanity’s interaction with the Triune God.  My science-fiction-soaked brain tends to envision heaven as a kind of parallel dimension, infinitely close to every place of earthly space-time, but invisible because we are slightly out-of-phase with it. A careful theological imagination like this can help us think outside old wineskins.

3.    Judgment.  At its most basic level, to judge is simply to discern good from bad.  As a child of God who now lives under the constant harassment of my own badness, I rejoice in being judged.  It is a good thing for Jesus to name, condemn, and destroy the darkness that lives in me.  It is painful, to be sure, to separate good from bad, true from false.  Anyone who’s ever said “I’m an alcoholic” knows the terror of being discerned/judged truthfully.  But the truth sets us free.  Jesus saves us by judging us.  An interesting Bible study: Look at all the NT references to ‘judgment’ and see if we are judged by grace or by works.

4.    Eternal Punishment.  During exile, some Jews adopted pieces of Zoroastrian philosophy (The Babylonians were called Farsi’s, and these Jews who copied them came to be called Pharisees).  This philosophy placed strong emphasis on “endless torture” (aidios timoria) of the wicked.  Over and against this view, Jesus spoke often of aionian kolasin, an “eon of discipline” (Notice the word “eon” in the Greek aionian), though it is usually translated “eternal punishment.”  This eon will last as long as I refuse the discipline, forever if I choose, but my Papa will never give up on me.  “Eternal punishment” is good news, not bad.

5.    Hell/Gnashing-of-Teeth.  N.T. Wright has convinced me that much of Jesus’ teaching is preoccupied with the imminent (“in this generation”) destruction of Jerusalem, as a consequence of its rejection of the Messiah.  The city would become an extension of its own flaming garbage dump, Gehenna.  And it really happened within a generation, in 70AD.  Read the judgment parables in this light, and they make a LOT more sense.

6.    Coming.  Jesus spoke constantly about “the coming of the Son of Man,” a reference to the prophecy in Daniel about a human being ‘coming on the clouds’ to sit at the right hand of the Ancient of Days.  Notice that this is a movement from earth to heaven, rather than the other way around as we usually think about Christ’s “Coming.”  Jesus’ coming/ascension to the throne means the destruction of his enemies, including the corrupt Temple system and every other power in history that has ever set itself against Him.  The New Testament does clearly teach about a future Glorious Appearing of earth’s King and everything that happens as a result, but Jesus’ own teachings were focused primarily on a different topic.  For more on this, I recommend N.T. Wright’s SURPRISED BY HOPE or Hank Hanegraaff’s APOCALYPSE CODE.

~ John Stonecypher

3 comments so far

  1. Craig Kuhlman on

    Wow,

    That was excellent. I’d coin a new phrase here, “nutshell” theology. You managed, for me, to sum up in a nutshell what so many seem to be struggling with (myself most included 2 summers ago) when they first are struck with Trinitarian theology.

    Instead, I had to take the much longer road…if we were playing Trinitarian Monopoly right now, that would be the equivalent, of both a get out of jail free card, AND a DO pass go, and collect your $200.

    John, your name has come up quite often in our household over the past couple weeks. In fact, your wife, preached her “first sermon” in our Trinitarian house church, first service two sunday’s ago. I bet you both didn’t know that :).

    We spent an hour and 1/2 with our three children, and our three dogs around our kitchen table with Martin Davis first blog (as our Sunday School time), Vanessa’s CD for worship, a discussion of “what’s wrong with that”…a critique of our daughter’s AWANA program, in light of Trinitarian theology, then Karen’s message on heart of our Father.

    When finished we asked each of our kids what they learned/ found different with the service. Our youngest boy said, “we found out that God is way cooler than He’s made out to be.” A fitting testimony from a 16 year old.

    I love what you’re doing with the paraphrase. You’re giving The Message a “run” for its money 🙂

    Please keep at it my friend,
    Craig

  2. Boyd Merriman on

    Gnashing of teeth.

    I got a story called “The Kingdom of God is Like a Bear In A Zoo” where I talk about gnashing of teeth.

    The poor animals in the zoo are living miserable lives until The Zoo Keeper comes along to change things, create a new Kingdom for them. Those that refuses to come out of their previous existence will continue to live in darkness and gnashing of teeth until the day they die (those who live by the law will die by the law). But The Zoo Keeper will not let that happen.
    Bear In Zoo

    Boyd

  3. John Geerlings on

    Thanks John
    Very positive and freeing! Press on!


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