Frank Viola

3 Blind Men, An Elephant and “Big Theology”

ElephantPerhaps one of the biggest reoccurring blind spots we Christians deal with is the certainty we have about the part of God that we do understand. We sometimes insist on forcing the Scriptures to fit the worldview given to us by our “first” teachers. We end up reading what we believe instead of believing what we read in the Bible.

In my book “Roadkill Seminary” I state that we ironically have to be delivered from our commitment to our brand of the Christian religion in order to more fully discover the person of Jesus Christ. This realization often only comes through prolonged and difficult trials of the soul.

In my book “Working Together For Jesus” I have a chapter called “Anointed Self-Deception” where I detail this blindness to see things as they really are. Several biblical characters were infected with this short-sightedness. They were so sure the part they had from God was “THE” part that they ended up in “anointed self-deception”. The obvious ones were Elijah in 1 Kings 19:18; Peter in Matthew 17:4; and John in the book of Revelation 19:10 and 22:9. These all made incorrect statements and assumptions in the midst of awesome anointed events as they were serving the Lord.

Let’s look at some of the common areas where we get hung up.

Eschatology – Preterists, Amillennialists, Futurists and Dispensationalists work very hard to fit their view of the End-times into a systematic grid, but fair-minded observers note they can’t fit everything they believe into an error free narrative. I’m sorry if I am popping your theological bubble here but each point of view has to fill in certain passages of scripture with speculation, conjecture and hypothesis. Of course they are fine with doing that but they often won’t allow the other guys the same latitude with their narrative. See “Who’s Right About The End Times”.

Freewill – Calvinism and Arminianism represent the age-old Church debate about whether man truly has freewill or does God’s providence override it. Both points of view can be found in Scripture so what is a person to do? Well some people choose a camp and will mercilessly squash anybody who tries to tell them differently. Frank Viola brings some clarity to the debate with his article “Why Calvinists Live Like Arminians & Arminians Pray Like Calvinists” http://frankviola.org/2012/05/24/calvinismarminianism/

Law and Grace – Perhaps nothing has Christians arguing more today than how we should decide the correct application of God’s Law -judgment and His Grace-mercy. In my book “The Inner Journey” I attempt to remind us all of the Biblical illustration the Lord gives us in His Tabernacle. His Law is written in stone so no theologian can erase His holy standard; yet He keeps the stone tablets in a box covered with His own blood so no theologian can suggest any of us are unredeemable. I still see both Law and Grace alive and active in our day. Its in these in-between places where God speaks with us about everything. Sadly the old adage; “the devil is in the details” may never be more true than here. My article “In the Year 2023” may help the discussion between those who emphasize Law and those who emphasize Grace.

Politics – Conservatives and Liberals approach to the Scriptures from the opposite emphasis of righteousness and justice, see Psalm 89:14. One focuses on our vertical relationship with God and His righteousness, the other focuses on our horizontal relationship within society and His justice. In my book “A Better Way To Govern” I discuss how seeing the bigger picture here gives us the grace to overcome the caustic rhetoric that eats away at the solutions we all so desperately need. This doesn’t help television or talk radio ratings but it will change our world for the better.

The News – The George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin story that we here in Sanford were so involved with presents another illustration. Some of my liberal friends post only the articles that make George Zimmerman look like an untrustworthy racist and some of my conservative friends will only post articles that make Trayvon Martin look like a no good thug. They each seem incapable or unwilling to acknowledge the other point of view. Are we capable of a better way? My article on “Choosing Between Jesus or Barabbas” helps us recognize what spirit we are operating in when trying to address entrenched problems in our communities.

I’m not faulting anybody with a belief system they support. They are doing the best they know how from their point of view. However we forget that a point of view is just that, a view from a point. I do think we need to aware that when we are hell-bent on making things fit our point of view we can contort the heart of the Scriptures to make them fit our presuppositions. Some of us do so much Scripture twisting we make an Olympic Gymnast look arthritic.

In the end I keep noticing that each point of view falls short if left in isolation to the others. I like Psalm 119:160 where it says; the sum or the entirety of Your Word is truth. It’s when all the pieces are considered together, do we begin to see the big picture more accurately. Its not your way or my way, its Yahweh Who needs to be our focus.

Three Blind Men and An Elephant

I think many of us have heard some version of the story of the blind men and the elephant. One was holding his tail and described it as a rope. The other held its trunk and described it as a tree. The other held its ear said it was like a leaf. They were all partly right but totally wrong. Sometimes we do the same describing God. Our initial observations are correct but our conclusions often misrepresent the bigness of God and His purposes.

When people ask me what theological camp I embrace, I tell them I embrace a belief system that I call “Big Theology”.

What is Big Theology?

Big GodB – God is Big – This should go without saying but as we try to define God or a particular aspect of God we may inadvertently make God small. In an effort to be exact, we can become myopic. We exchange the micro for the macro. We miss the forest because of the trees. We end up making God smaller and easier to handle for our convenience. We forget He exists and works from several extra-dimensions and to make Him fit into our worldview is like explaining the internet to the ants in your back yard. A little perspective here may be just the dose of humility we all need.

I – God is Inviting – The apparent Biblical contradictions (called the principle of antinomy) between doctrines and groups within the Body of Christ are put there by divine providence. Dr Stephen Crosby points out in “Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement” that it is the very polar opposite positions we spoke of earlier that creates a magnetic field that draws objects into its space. They make us look into the mystery. Neither the Scriptural contradictions nor the skeptics should discourage us from pressing in. The dichotomies and contradictions in Scripture and in our society should draw us in to find where God is in the mix. There should be a magnetic attraction moving our hearts to look deeper into the mystery before us. Jesus didn’t speak parables and mysteries to keep truth “from” us but to keep truth “for” us. It is only those who have a royal seekers heart that are deemed worthy of receiving these precious kingdom truths in the first place.

G – God is Glorious – If we study the Scriptures with an open and humble heart the fruit will be wonderment and amazement. God is like the ocean; you can play in the water ankle-deep but if you are willing to relinquish control you can go deep! When we see Emmanuel in the manual we are swept away in awe and beauty. The glorious revelation of Him causes us to worship. That is why Jesus said we worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Theology is the child of worship. Revelation of Him should transform us into His image, not into the image of our particular denomination outlet or network. God is dynamic. He never changes but He is always moving. Beware of religious rigor mortis. That which is static is often dead. He is not the scaffolding used to build the building. He is more than our doctrines and opinions. He is not the wrapping paper or the box the gift comes in. He is so much more than that. He is “BIG”.

12 Reasons Why I Am a Christian: by Frank Viola

Pic 3I found Frank Viola’s reasons for following Jesus Christ to be ones that resonate with me. Consider his remarks below.

In 1927, the famed British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled, “Why I Am Not a Christian.”

Russell’s essay inspired the title of this post.

By “Christian,” I mean someone who has trusted their life to Jesus Christ as Crucified Savior and Resurrected Lord and seeks to follow Him each day. (I’m keenly aware that the term “Christian” has been hijacked to mean different things, hence the need to define.)

Three things to keep in mind about this list:

1) This isn’t a list of theological reasons (e.g., God chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world and the Holy Spirit revealed Christ to my heart).

2) This isn’t a list of why I am indebted to Jesus (He owns me; He bought me with His blood; He died for my sins, etc.) Instead, they are intellectual/emotional/experiential reasons why I trust in and follow Jesus.

3) This isn’t an exhaustive list (I can certainly list more reasons), and it doesn’t reflect any particular order or priority.

At the end of the list, I have a question for readers who aren’t following Jesus at the present time. And I’m really looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

So share this post via Facebook and Twitter using the links/buttons below.

Why I’m a Christian . . .

1. Because life makes no sense to me apart from Christ. Nor does it have any purpose.

2. Because I’ve tried to not believe in Jesus, and I find that I cannot. (Perhaps this is why the early Christians were called “believers.” We believe for reasons that we cannot naturally explain. We believe because we believe. I have certainly struggled with various doubts along the way and questioned why God does and doesn’t do certain things, but that’s a different issue.)

3. Because I’ve never seen the Gospel narratives refuted successfully. Every critique that’s sought to debunk them throughout the years has been discounted under careful scrutiny and scholarship. The Gospels have stood the test of time.

4. Because I’ve never seen the resurrection of Jesus refuted successfully. Upon careful study of all the historical data, it actually takes more faith to deny His resurrection than to believe it occurred.

5. Because it makes no sense to me that Jesus of Nazareth isn’t who He said He was – the Messiah, the Son of the living God. No human being has had nearly the kind of effect on world history as Jesus has (e.g., I’m writing this post in 2012 – what does “2012” mean?). No serious historian denies that Jesus of Nazareth existed (there is more historical attestation for His existence than there is to Julius Caesar and many other ancient figures). And C.S. Lewis’ trilemma – Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or lord – rings true for me.

6. Because I can’t help but see the biblical narrative of Creation, Fall, and Redemption echoed in every play, every work of art, every human story, every drama, every movie, and the news I read each day. The Christian story is deeply embedded in the soundtrack of human history and art.

7. Because every time I meet a true follower of Jesus for the first time, I feel like I’ve known him or her all my life.

8. Because Jesus is the most compelling, intriguing, awe-inspiring, and amazing person I know of who is worthy of the greatest admiration, obedience, love, and (uniquely) worship. To my mind, truth, justice, and beauty are all grounded in Him, and His story (as told in the Gospels) trumps every other story known to humanity.

9. Because I’ve never seen any religion or philosophy deliver people from a life of carnality and bondage to addictions. In my experience and observation at least, Jesus transforms people’s lives greater than anything else on the face of the earth.

10. Because I have a deep and unshakeable belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is with me and taking care of me . . . and has all of my life. I cannot imagine life without Christ.

11. Because there is no rational explanation for some of the prayers that I (and others I know) have seen answered “in Jesus’ name.”

12. Because I don’t weep easily, but I readily cry whenever I detect the fingerprints of my Lord or behold His handiwork.

http://frankviola.org/2012/07/30/whyimachristian/