Why I, a Christian, Am in Favor of the OK Capitol Satanic Monument

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Recently, new attention has been brought to the separation-of-church-and-state debate when, in response to a Ten Commandments monument placed at the Capitol Building in Oklahoma City in 2012, the Satanic Temple in NYC began an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to put up their own monument.  Then, a few weeks ago, they garnered more attention when they released the design for their Satanic monument: Baphomet, a goat-headed creature with wings, sitting in front of a pentagram with two children at its sides — an album cover-worthy image of any one of my favorite metal bands from the 1980’s.

Basically, the Satanic Temple’s argument goes like this: Either take down the Ten Commandments or we have the right to put up the Satanic monument.

The organization American Atheists had a similar strategy when a group of private citizens raised money and placed a Ten Commandments monument outside a courthouse in Florida.  When the Ten Commandments monument wasn’t removed, American Atheists raised money and placed their own monument at the courthouse in the summer of 2013.

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Granted, maintaining a separation of church and state in a country that guarantees freedom of speech and religion, a democratic country (therefore, ruled by the people – people primarily with religious convictions), is tricky business – actually, I would say impossible – but I humbly forgo the bulk of the debate about the correct implications and interpretations of those crucial characteristics of our country here.  I’m not the right guy for that debate.

(Though I would like to throw out one question before moving on: Why do people in NYC have any say about public land in OK?)

Yet concerning the case of the proposed (threatened–?) Satanic monument at the OK Capitol Building, I would like to weigh in.  So, I say thus:

Put it up.

Here are my reasons why I think a Satanic monument in OK is… well, OK:

(1) It’s only fair.

If we live in a democratic country with freedom of religion and speech and if a group of private citizens decide to put up a monument to honor Satan, then they have the right.  To quote someone much more famous than me: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  If they want to erect said monument on public, instead of private, land and other faiths have been allowed to erect monuments to their faith on this public land, again, it’s only fair.  So, let them put it up.

(2) Religious monuments – especially Satanic ones – will promote discussions about religion, faith, and God.

Where I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that any publicity is good publicity, any controversy gives Christians an opportunity to speak about their faith.  I doubt the Ten Commandments monument in OK would’ve made national news or caught the interest of social media, yet the Satanic Temple in NYC has given Christians a platform to discuss their faith.  Thanks.  Put it up.

(3) If Satan exists, so does God.

By erecting a monument to Satan, the Satanic Temple of NYC is affirming God, the Bible, and a realm of our existence that transcends the physical world.  And what better reminder of the presence of a holy, good, and just God than a symbolic idol of evil set up for all to see?  Put it up.

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(4) Satanist should be allowed to have monuments on public land, but atheists should not.

Now, this isn’t because I have anything personal against atheists, but I say this according to their own logic.  Many atheists have made it perfectly clear that atheism is not a religion.  I agree.  Furthermore, outspoken atheists have made it very clear that those of us who believe in God are the ones with beliefs, not them, and the burden of proving the existence of God is on us.  If fact, many atheists even resent being labeled “atheists” because it implies there is a God to disbelieve.  A quote in Psychology Today sums up their argument nicely: “I refuse to identify according to what I reject.  I don’t believe in astrology or unicorns, but I don’t label myself according to that – so why should I identify according to my rejection of god-belief?”  Fair enough.  Thus, atheists don’t exist.

So, please immediately remove the American Atheists monument at the courthouse in Florida.

One may argue that groups without religious affiliations also have the right to put up monuments, but that doesn’t concern us here since the belief-formally-known-as-atheism doesn’t exist.  How can we have a monument to something that doesn’t exist or to something that’s not a belief?  A monument to nothing?  Absurdity.  So, take it down.

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(5) Their true goal is more about stifling faith than promoting freedom of speech.

The true goal of many of these aggressive secular groups is to banish all things of faith from sight, as seen in the case of the 13-foot cross set up by a group of marines (not some government institution) at Camp Pendleton in California to commemorate their fellow soldiers who had been killed or injured in combat.  The atheist group MAAF demanded the cross be taken down even though I know of no reports that other faiths had been forbidden from erecting similar monuments.

The true strategy of some of these groups is not to put up a monument to counter every religious monument in the country (because, let’s be honest, they would fail miserably), but to encourage other groups to erect monuments and so clutter up public land that local governments will ban all such monuments.  In an article on the American Atheists monument in Florida, the New York Times reports, “But building monuments to atheism from sea to shining sea is not really their goal. They figure that once atheists join the fray, every other group under the sun will demand the same privilege — including some that Christians might find objectionable, like pagans and Satanists.  In the end, the atheists hope, local governments and school boards will decide that it is simpler to say no to everyone.”  Furthermore, many of these “Satanist” groups are not Satan-worshippers; they’re simply angry atheists.  Go to their websites and read their beliefs to see.

So, put it up.  Let the great monument contest begin!  Let’s make America so cluttered with monuments that it’ll rival ancient Rome.  Heck, once we banish monuments to the belief-formerly-known-as-atheism, militant unbelievers will react by pretending they worship spaghetti monsters and such to mock those with faith in God, but let them put their idols up anyway.  Their monuments won’t serve as a mockery of belief in God, but a mockery of our Constitution and the freedom of faith and speech it protects.

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(6) There’s no neutral stance.

Whether you like it or not, or you think you care about it or not, there is no neutral stance when it comes to the God debate.  Militant atheists and so-called Satanists want the world to believe that Christians and others who believe in God are the ones forcing their beliefs on others.  But no culture in the entire history of the world has ever been atheistic.  Interestingly, all these diverse faiths have a belief in a creator, an afterlife, a sense of their own sins being offensive to their creator, and a need for reconciliation.  That means if the naturalistic atheist is right, and humans evolved solely by a long series of random, happy accidents and spread throughout the world into thousands of diverse cultures, we’re to believe they all developed some sort of understanding of God by sheer coincidence.  It seems to me if the militant atheists were right, belief in God would be the exception, not the norm, yet atheism is the exception — vastly.

If outspoken atheists want to convince us that unbelief in God is the true state of humans, then they’re going to have to explain away the search to understand God by every culture since the dawn of man.  No matter what the situation, humans always return to pursuing God.  Even in Communist countries where religion was outlawed, people have continued to search for God despite the high risk of harsh persecution.  Ironically, even ardent atheists can’t help but return to the patterns of religion as seen by the movements to start atheist churches, by the presence of atheist chaplains at colleges and in the military, and, yes, even the making of symbols of their beliefs in the form of monuments.

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The greatest irony is certain atheists want us to believe we’re all the product of random, mindless chance — we’re stardust that became creatures; we’re an advanced accident of cells — but they want us to believe life still has meaning.  Meaning can’t come from random, mindless forces.  If the atheistic materialist is right, freewill, love, and even your mind don’t exist; they’re just illusions; they’re all just chemicals firing off in your brain.  You’re not thinking; you’re just responding to stimuli.  So, if this upsets you, don’t be mad at me because I can’t help writing this.  I’m just a flesh computer and this is how I’m programmed.

Militant Atheists desperately want their rights, but why does a cosmic accident deserve any rights?  If I shove a person into traffic instead of listening to him, it’s just one accident running into another.  The chemicals in my brain made me do it; it’s nothing personal.  And can you prove your rights please? — Because I have never seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or felt a right before and if I can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or see it, I don’t believe in it — because no strictly material process can birth immaterial things – like rights.

There’s no neutral stance.  So, put up the Satanic monument.  Let’s remind everyone that there’s a spiritual war going on.  Let the Satanists slap nominal, cultural Christianity in the face and say, “Decide what you believe and pick a side, but you can’t be lukewarm anymore.”  Let’s throw a bucket of cold water on those Christians who stay safe in their Christian bubbles and remind them of the adversity that’s out there – yes, there’s opposition; yes, there’s hostility; and yes, there’s even evil.  Put it up.

I want to be perfectly clear that I am NOT labeling atheists as evil.

Many of my friends don’t follow God but are fantastic, beautiful, loving, thoughtful people.  But I have this to say: Just like the nominal, cultural Christians, you have to make a choice.  And I want you to see that the way you live right now in your unbelief is in a way that shows there’s a God.  You live as people who believe there’s meaning to life, that people have rights and value, that there’s beauty in the world, and that friends are worth dying for.  Your thoughts aren’t the thoughts of something that somehow became living from lifeless, mindless matter and developed by chance into an advanced accident that ponders its own existence.  You are more than flesh machines.

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There is no neutral stance in scripture.  Jesus clearly stated whoever is not with him is against him (Matt 12:30; Luke 9:50, 11:23).  He wasn’t the all-affirming hippy modern Americans try to make him out to be.  Jesus speaks of hell more than any other person in the Bible; he understood the cost of sin so much that he was tortured and died because of it.

There is no “grey-area” in scripture.  We all fall short of godliness.  We are all sinners, and sin separates us from a perfectly good, just God.  But God became man, lived the perfect life we never could, and took the punishment when he didn’t need to — for us — so we could be united with him.  This is a free gift, but all gifts must be accepted.  That’s all you need to do; you don’t have to earn it and you don’t have to be “good” in order to accept it because none of us, Christians included, are wholly good.

There is no neutral stance.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).  We are either slaves to sin or we are set free through Christ.

Some people who are opposed to God have honest intellectual questions that need answering.  I understand that.  I was an atheist longer than I have been a Christian.  Christians need to be ready to gently and humbly answer them, and if they can’t, they should be honest about it and find someone who can.

Some people are opposed to belief in God because of emotional reasons.  The church has hurt many.  Christians need to humbly acknowledge this and give apologies.  But those hurt must also realize that Christians are imperfect sinners too.  Just as we find the sick in hospitals, we find sinners in churches.  Christians need to do a better job of representing God, but also remember they aren’t God.  Don’t reject God because of Christians.

Finally, some reject God for reasons of their will — because admitting there is a God is admitting that there is more to life than what they want to believe.  Admitting there is a God brings with it a certain responsibility, a certain way of understanding the world, and a humbling and admitting you’re not the center of the universe.

A person may reject God for any of these reasons or for all of them.  When I was an atheist, my rejection of God was a combination of all three.

So, put up the Satanist monument.  Let’s start the discussion.  Let the “Satanists” shove Satan in our collective faces because, to quote something said in a movie by someone a lot more famous than me: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

RNS-SATAN-STATUE

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Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 2 of 2) Why do Christians follow some OT laws & not others?

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Where the information in Part 1 about biblical theology and progressive revelation, as well as the general guidelines for understanding Old Testament (OT) laws, helps us to understand OT law in its proper context, this still doesn’t completely answer the big question:

 Why do Christians follow some of the OT laws and not others?

(Read PART 1 here.)

3 Categories of Laws 

I find it helpful to divide OT laws into 3 general categories:

(1)  Civil

(2)  Moral

(3)  Religious

First, I must point out that Moses does not separate the laws in this way.  Furthermore, any disobedience to a law given from God would be considered immoral, so they’re all moral laws in the sense that they come from God.  (But I would also argue that God’s laws aren’t arbitrary, so there’s a moral reason behind all of them).  Therefore, each law should be considered individually in light of all that I’m writing here.

(1) Civil laws – Christians don’t follow these laws today because they were clearly unique to Israel during the time period they were given.  We even see changes in the laws as Israel goes from living as nomads in the desert to living in settled communities/cities/towns in the Promise Land.

For example, there’s a law about going outside the camp to go to the bathroom and burying your waste.  Though this could also fall under cleanliness laws (religious law), it also has to do with living in community.  In modern times with flush toilets to continue to go outside the city you live in to use the bathroom and bury your feces would be considered religious legalism gone wild.  There’s also an OT law about putting a fence around the perimeter of a house’s roof.  Back then, people often slept on their flat roofs (due to heat) and did other household activities up there, so they were expected to put a fence up to protect people from falling off.  Obviously, this was not a law while the Israelites were living in the desert as nomads in tents and it doesn’t apply to us today since we don’t use our slanted, shingled roofs for everyday activities.

Though Christians don’t follow OT civil laws word-for-word, it should be noted that we should meditate on the overall principles behind these God-given OT laws and how to apply them to our lives today.  Likewise, we should do the same with the OT religious laws (See below).

(2) Moral laws – Christians do continue to follow the moral laws today.  Moral laws don’t change with time since God is a personal, moral being and he doesn’t change with time.  Furthermore, if there’s any question about which moral laws still apply today, many of them are re-confirmed in the teachings of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament authors.  In fact, Jesus Christ “raised the bar” on moral expectations, as clearly seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapters 5-7).

(3) Religious Laws – Christians don’t follow the religious laws today.  Christians believe the OT religious laws point towards (symbolize) the coming of the Christ, Jesus, and his work of salvation.  (Read my 2-minute lesson on biblical theology if you need an overview of the story of the Bible here.)

The letter to the Hebrews emphasizes this.  In 10:1-4, the author writes,

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.  For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.  Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered?  For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.  But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.  It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says he has come not to do away with the Law but to fulfill it:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

By living the perfect life and taking the punishment for the sins of the world on himself when he didn’t deserve the punishment, Jesus fulfilled the religious laws.  Thus, Christians no longer have to follow these laws.  The sacrifices the Israelites gave didn’t atone for their sins but symbolized the future sacrifice and atonement of Jesus on the cross.  Since Jesus has fulfilled these laws and we are cleansed of our sins through faith in him, we no longer make sacrifices nor do we abide by the cleanliness laws or the other religious laws, but we abide in him and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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Helpful Reading…

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 1 of 2) Are OT laws arbitrary, offensive & silly?

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Many of the Old Testament laws found in Leviticus, Deuteronomy and other Old Testament (OT) books are strange, confusing, and even downright disturbing to us today.  These laws were given from God through Moses about 3,000 years ago to the Israelites (the Jewish people).

Some Christians tend to simply ignore them, preferring to stay where they’re comfortable in the New Testament, close to the teachings of Jesus.  Most Christians have probably struggled with understanding how these seemingly archaic laws fit into our faith in Jesus Christ or addressing nonbelievers who find these laws just as confusing as believers do.  Further, many hostile skeptics have even used these OT laws to attack Christianity, portraying these laws as arbitrary, offensive, and downright silly or using them to portray Christianity as inconsistent and even immoral.

Moreover, another important question arises concerning these laws:

Why do Christians follow some of the laws of the OT and not others?

Admittedly, these are legitimate concerns and questions Christians need to address.  I believe with a general understanding of biblical theology and some other general guidelines for understanding the OT laws in the context of the redemptive history of the Bible these challenges can be answered.

Biblical Theology

First, we must start with a general understanding of Biblical theology, the study of the story of the Bible as a whole.

(*If you read my earlier post about biblical theology, you can skip down to “The Law”*)

The Bible is not a collection of random, disconnected episodes; it tells the story of God’s progressive revelation throughout history.

Christians believe the Bible (and history) moves through 4 major events/eras:

Creation— Fall—Redemption—Restoration.

At The Creation, God made the world good, but mankind (because he was given freewill) sinned and rebelled against God (The Fall).  All creation was affected, and humankind was forever separated from an eternally good, holy God by their sin.  God chose Israel as his special people and prepared them for the coming of Christ (the Messiah).  Christians believe the whole OT is preparing the world for the coming of Christ.  (Many Jewish theologians would agree with this but disagree that Jesus is the Christ.)  Then, Jesus the Christ came, lived the sinless life that none of us could, and died for the sins of the world in our place (The Redemption).  This puts into action The Restoration; people will be redeemed through Jesus Christ.  This is where we are now in history, but the Restoration won’t reach fulfillment until Jesus’ Second Coming, at which time creation will be made right again.  The phrase already/not yet is often used to speak of the time period we now live in within biblical history; Jesus Christ has already started the Restoration, but the completion of the Restoration has not yet arrived.

What About Between the Fall and the Redemption?

Since the Creation and the Fall happened all within only the first 3 chapters of Genesis, and the Redemption doesn’t happen until Jesus’ life, the majority of the OT tells of the period between the Fall and Redemption, covering about 2,000 years once God appears to Abraham.  (It’s unclear how much time passes during the earlier events recorded in Genesis to Abraham.)  During these 2,000 years, God prepared the world for the Redemption, the coming of the Christ.  As I said above, Christians understand the OT to be all about the coming of Jesus.

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The Law

So, first, God revealed himself to Abraham (Genesis 12) and told him that his descendants (the Israelites/Jews) would be God’s special people and through Abraham’s descendant God will bless the whole world.  Then jump to Exodus: The Israelites’ number has grown greatly, but they’re enslaved in Egypt.  God appears to Moses and sets the Israelites free.  While nomads in the desert, and before establishing their nation in the Promise Land (modern Palestine), God (through Moses) gives the Israelites laws that are recorded in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and other OT books.

6 Helpful Guidelines

Here are 6 things to keep in mind when reading through these laws:

(1) Modern Standards – Yes, some of these laws seem harsh by today’s standards, but we’re looking at them through our modern American values that have been shaped by 2,000 years of Christianity.

(2) Harsher Times – Life was much harsher back then.  Compared to the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians and other cultures around Israel in the Near East, the laws in the OT were considerably more humane and even groundbreaking.  Sometimes people point out how these laws seem unfair to women and slaves or don’t outright condemn slavery.  Understandably, this is troubling to those familiar with the Bible because elsewhere the writers of the Bible clearly speak of all people being made in God’s image.  Yet, when we look at these laws in the OT, we see they actually protect women and slaves by giving them legal rights, something unheard of in the ancient Near East.

(See Deuteronomy 22:13–21 as an example of an OT law that’s shocking to us today, but actually protects women from being unjustly accused or divorced by their husbands.)

Even the law of “an eye for an eye” (later “updated” by Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48) prevented violence by limiting the severity of retribution.  Likewise, setting up cities of refuge, where people could find sanctuary, prevented blood feuds and instead promoted law and order.

(I don’t have space to address it here, but slavery back then for the most part wasn’t how modern Americans think of slavery either.  Much of the “slavery” written about is the equivalent of indentured servitude, though slavery – such as with captured prisoners of war – did exist.)

**The Importance of Matthew 19:1-8**

Jesus says something very interesting in Matthew 19:1-8.  He says Moses permitted divorce in the OT law because Israel’s heart was hard though this is not how God intended marriage to be.  Jesus gives much stricter rules on divorce than Moses (only allowing it in the case of adultery) both in Matthew 19 and in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:31-32) and the Bible also records plainly elsewhere that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

So, then why was divorce allowed in Moses’ day?  This shows that during the time of God’s unique interaction with Israel, God allowed certain things that were not in his ideal vision of his creation because of the sad state of the world.

New Testament scholar R.T. France in his commentary on Matthew writes, “The Deuteronomic legislation [the OT law] is a response to human failure, an attempt to bring order to an already unideal situation caused by human ‘hardness of heart’… God gave them laws to enable them to make the best of a bad job.  But the Mosaic ‘permission’ was not a statement of the way God intended things to be.”

Yet, when Jesus Christ came, he raised the bar and made clear that those times have passed.  (Read the amazing Sermon on the Mount to see this clearly – Matthew, Chapters 5-7)

Helpful Reading...

Helpful Reading…

(3) Drastic Measures – Evil times call for drastic measures.   I’ve come to relate much better to God’s seemingly harsher actions in the OT over my 13 years of teaching; when there is a classroom completely out of control, there’s no Mr. Nice Guy.  I have to go in there and wreck house.

God was staking a claim in hostile territory, a place he already decided to destroy once with a flood due of the evil prevalent everywhere.  There’s a reason why the OT law forbids certain things we find unthinkable today, such as bestiality and child sacrifice: because people were doing them – and doing them regularly enough that Moses had to pass laws about them!  God had some harsh punishments for committing these crimes because the Israelites had to know sin was horrible and destructive, and the holy God was quite serious about the Israelites stopping their sinful practices.

(4) Due Process – Take note, there are legal processes that must be followed before carrying out punishments, including such harsh punishments like public stoning.  Again, this would’ve been groundbreaking in this ancient culture.  People, even women and slaves, had a right to due process.  God was creating order out of anarchy; he was taking a chaotic situation and giving it guidelines in the right direction.

(Again, see Deuteronomy 22:13–21 for an example of due process.  Not only did it prevent husbands from divorcing their wives on a whim, but it set up guidelines for a trial concerning accusations of sexual immorality.)

(5) Set Apart – Something else to keep in mind: Israel was chosen as God’s special people within a pagan and hostile world to represent him and prepare the world for the coming of its savior.  Israel, as God’s people, was to be clearly different, so some of these laws were to separate Israel from the pagan nations surrounding them.  So, a law like no tattoos (Lev. 19:28) seems arbitrary to us today, but back then it would’ve marked Israel as separate and distinct from the pagans, just as the practice of circumcision made them unique.

(6) Symbolic – Finally, we must understand that in their religious rituals and laws the outer (physical) symbolizes the inner (spiritual).  

(A) No Mixing

The invisible, self-existent God of Israel is unique from all the gods the pagans worshipped.  As the people of the one true God, the Israelites where to be separate and distinct from those around them as a witness.  They weren’t to mix their faith with pagan beliefs and idolatry, so many of the laws about not mixing certain things were symbolic reminders to them of their set-apartness.  This would include the laws about mixing certain kinds of foods, crops, and fabrics that seem so random and goofy to us today.

(B) Symbolic Purity & Impurity

What are often called “the cleanliness laws” taught the Israelites about spiritual impurity and the unworthiness of anyone to approach God because of sin.  Despite these practices, sacrifices and cleanliness couldn’t atone for their sins; they were still separated from a perfectly good, just, and holy God by their sins.  These laws point forward to the Christ, a perfect savior who would wash his people clean from sin and serve as the final, perfect sacrifice.

Some of these cleanliness laws appear discriminatory towards those (including animals for sacrifice and people) with disabilities (like blindness) or abnormalities (like birthmarks).  Again, this illustrates the physical symbolizing the spiritual.  Due to sin, all of creation is cursed and not what God envisioned, which would include something like blindness.  Abnormal birthmarks on the skin would be a symbolic reminder of the imperfectness of us all due to sin – the stain of sin on all of us, if you will.  Only through the coming salvation of Jesus Christ are these things made right.

NEXT: PART 2:   Why do Christians follow some of the laws of the OT and not others?

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2-Minute Lesson on Biblical Theology — the Progressive Revelation of God in Human History

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Biblical theology is the study of the story of the Bible as a whole.  The Bible is not a collection of random, disconnected episodes; it tells the story of God’s progressive revelation throughout history.  I find few people (including myself until relatively recently) have an understanding of this, and I believe understanding it will help a lot of believers and nonbelievers better understand the Christian faith.

Christians believe the Bible (and history) moves through 4 major events/eras:

Creation— Fall—Redemption—Restoration.

At The Creation, God made the world good, but mankind (because he was given freewill) sinned and rebelled against God (The Fall).  All creation was affected, and humankind was forever separated from an eternally good, holy God by their sin.  God chose Israel as his special people and prepared them for the coming of Christ (the Messiah).  Christians believe the whole Old Testament (OT) is preparing the world for the coming of Christ.  (Many Jewish theologians would agree with this but disagree that Jesus is the Christ.)

Then, Jesus the Christ came, lived the sinless life that none of us could, and died for the sins of the world in our place (The Redemption).  This puts into action The Restoration; people will be redeemed through Jesus Christ.  This is where we are now in history, but the Restoration won’t reach fulfillment until Jesus’ Second Coming, at which time creation will be made right again.  The phrase already/not yet is often used to speak of the time period we now live in within history; Jesus Christ has already started the Restoration, but the completion of the Restoration has not yet arrived.

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What About Between the Fall and the Redemption?

Since the Creation and the Fall happened all within only the first 3 chapters of Genesis, and the Redemption doesn’t happen until Jesus’ life, the majority of the OT tells of the period between the Fall and Redemption, covering about 2,000 years once God appears to Abraham.  (It’s unclear how much time passes during the earlier events recorded in Genesis to Abraham.)  During these 2,000 years, God prepared Israel (and the world) for the Redemption, the coming of the Christ.  As I said above, Christians understand all of the OT to point towards Jesus.

So, we’re in the Restoration.  Now what?

Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ to spread the good news of his sacrificial love through words and actions so all can be redeemed from sin, to stay strong in their faith and be led by the Holy Spirit, and to wait.  Wait for what?  Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, when he will complete the Restoration with the final judgment and usher in the new heavens and new earth.  The final destination of people who aren’t separated from God by sin will not be heaven, but the restored earth.  Moreover, no new revelations from God, including new scriptures, are coming or are needed.

AccordingtoPlan

Recommended Reading

Who Jesus Ain’t: Jesus Ain’t a Man Without a Childhood

**Was Jesus a good kid?  Did he mature & learn?  Are these the 2 most unpopular episodes from Jesus’ life?**

Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon.

Cover

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Let’s look at the 2 least popular events of Jesus’ life recorded in the Gospels.

Okay, I’ll admit, saying these are the two most unpopular events of Jesus’ life is an inflated claim and a claim I can’t back up.  But bare with me: I only claim this because they fall outside the umbrella of the Christmas story (which is famous not just with Christians but all western society) and they fall outside the umbrella of Jesus’ ministry (which is the primary focus of all four Gospels).

The two episodes I’m talking about are…

(1) Jesus being presented in the Temple as a child

and

(2) Jesus in the Temple at 12-years-old.

Since neither of these events are essential to the Christmas story nor Jesus’ ministry, it’s no surprise Luke is the only Gospel writer to record them.  Regardless, both events are fascinating and give us another glimpse into Jesus’ family and his “humanness.”

The first episode takes place when Mary and Joseph present Jesus, since he’s their first born, at the Temple and offer a sacrifice according to the Law of Moses in Exodus 13:2.  (Read about what Mary and Joseph’s sacrifice tells us about their economic status in my earlier article here.)  The Holy Spirit had revealed to a devout, righteous man named Simeon that he wouldn’t die before seeing the Messiah.  Led by the Holy Spirit, Simeon immediately recognizes the child Jesus as God’s “salvation” and “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to [God’s] people of Israel.”  He praises God and blesses Joseph and Mary.  Similarly, a widowed prophetess named Anna in the Temple “at that very moment” began thanking God and telling all who were waiting for the Messiah about Jesus.

The second episode is recorded in Luke immediately after the first, but first we’re told, “And the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.”

In the second episode, Jesus is twelve-years-old.  This is the only story we have from Jesus’ youth, when he’s neither an infant nor a grown man.  This is also the last time we find any mention of Joseph in the Gospels, which leads most to assume he had passed away before the start of Jesus’ ministry.  (Read more about this in my earlier article here.)

Jesus’ family had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover.  This would’ve been done in a large caravan with others, most likely with their extended family.  (There’s no mention of Jesus’ siblings here, but it could be because they weren’t important to the story.)

When returning home to Galilee, it takes a day’s journey before Mary and Joseph realize Jesus is not with the caravan.  This may give us a good idea about the size of the caravan.  Perhaps Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus’ was safe with relatives.  I’ve always visualized them assuming he was off playing with his cousins, probably because I was close to my own cousins growing up and always looked forward to our families getting together.  Or maybe they assumed Jesus was off playing with some of his brothers and sisters, and when they located his siblings, we can imagine the conversation:

“James, Jude — where’s Jesus?”

“We thought he was with you!”

However it happened, Luke tells us Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem and looked for Jesus for 3 days.  3 days!  Can you imagine how worried they were?  But, finally, they find Jesus in the Temple “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.”

Luke ends this episode similarly to how he ended the other: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

About 700 years earlier, in a prophecy of the future Messiah, Isaiah 11:2 tells us:

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and might,

    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear [awe, respect] of the Lord.

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These episodes are beautiful because, like the other aspects of Jesus’ family and early life we looked at in this series, it shows the humanness of Jesus Christ.  Later, we will look at Jesus’ godliness, but Jesus was human also.  Christians believe Jesus is 100% man and 100% God – two natures in one person.  How these two natures commingle in one person is hard to wrap our heads around (and beyond the scope of this article), but these two episodes show us that Jesus, though also God, grew not just physically but mentally.

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Great, quick read on understanding Jesus’ “humanness” as the God-man. Recommended!

We also see self-awareness of his unique identity when Mary and Joseph find him in the Temple after 3 days.  Mary scolds him, and Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  By referring to the Temple as “my Father’s house,” Jesus is showing an understanding of his one-of-a-kind relationship to God.

Though “Our Father” is a common way Christians refer to God, this was not the case for Jews in Jesus’ time.  The Old Testament does refer to God as the Father of Israel, and the father metaphor for God is used at times elsewhere in the Old Testament, but it is irregular.

“Father” is the primary way Jesus refers to God; his frequency (and the intimacy) of referring to God in such a way would surely have caught the attention of his 1st Century audience.  If fact, the Jews of Jesus’ time understood correctly that by doing so he was making himself equal with God, an understanding lost on many of us today and those not from the Jewish faith.

This is clearly seen in John 5, where Jesus calls himself the Son of God many times.  John 5:18 tells us, “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”  For instance, Jesus says, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  Proclaiming oneself to be equal with God was a blasphemy worthy of public stoning and death to the 1st Century Jews.

Jesus is the unique Son of God, and only through our relationship with him do we get adopted into the family and are given the privilege of calling God our heavenly Father.

Finally, through these episodes, we see that Jesus was no ordinary boy.  Yes, he is a boy that grows in stature and wisdom, like all boys; he is even a boy who gets into trouble with his parents.  (Since Jesus is without sin, we can infer this wasn’t an intentional disobedience of his parents.  Immediately afterwards, Luke — very intentionally, I believe — is sure to tell us Jesus returned to Nazareth and was “obedient” to them.)  But he is also the God-man.  And only someone 100% human could represent us and die for our sins, and someone 100% God could take the punishment of the sins of the world on himself and defeat sin, evil, and death.

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Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon.

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