Is it Time to Revisit Our Assumptions About Revelation?

When humans think about the existence of G-d, we each inevitably include our assumptions about who we think G-d is and how we think G-d might communicate with us. Even with the aid of Biblical perspectives, our basic assumptions about G-d strongly influence our reading of Scripture. Interestingly, over the last century our knowledge of the age of the universe, our understanding of the methods G-d used in creation, and our knowledge of human history have changed significantly, but have we seriously revisited our assumptions about how G-d speaks to us? By now, it should be clear that science is a voice of G-d. It’s not that science speaks with 100% clarity and truth, but it speaks with authority and credibility, and over time it works to correct its own errors.

Science is telling us that creation took place using as yet obscure biological processes over billions of years to progressively populate the earth and set the stage for the advent of humans. There may have been extraterrestrial intervention along the way, but there is no definitive or credible proof of that in existence. Further, the historical record seems to indicate that humans have developed socially, intellectually, and technologically in a similar way through progressive step by step changes over time (socio-cultural evolution). This all leaves us with a clear indication that our G-d planned, designed, and built a universe where it’s Creator chose to be scientifically invisible. That was no accident.

In the realm of Christendom, this new information should be leading to changes in our world view. Our Lord and Creator did not simply wake up one Monday morning and blast out an entire universe in just six 24-hour days as if it were trivial. Instead, our Creator formulated an infinitely complex plan emanating from a collasal explosion which initiated a continuous chain of events spanning ~18 billion years, just to build the incubator and backstory for our arrival. Our Lord devised a completely novel alternate reality, set apart from the kingdom of heaven. The point is that G-d’s love and provision for us began ~18 billion years before humans existed. As it has now been made evident before us, can we question the depth and resolve of G-d’s eternal love for us?

The size of the universe and a project of this epic magnitude demonstrate that G-d has invested everything into this quest for holy love and we should be profoundly shaken and awed by this new knowledge.

As is evident, imperfect science is a spokesperson for G-d which communicates important new revelation about G-d and G-d’s methods in creation, but are there other sources of natural revelation we should be observing as well? Check out Romans 13…

In light of G-d’s adherence to socio-cultural evolution, one perspective worth revisiting is the role of civil law in our understanding of Scripture. Romans 13:1-7 is a well-known passage which describes G-d’s perspectives on governmental authority. The passage never suggests that governments are perfect or above reproach, but it does indicate that their authority is established and accepted by G-d as binding upon its citizens. Further, it enjoins us individually to do what is right stating that we will be commended for doing so. The source of our commendation may not be clear, but governments normally don’t commend citizens for following the law; however, we know from other sources that G-d will reward believers for the good we do. Verses 8-10 are linked by context indicating our responsibility to abide by both civil and moral law as both come from G-d.

One perspective for consideration which can be derived from the Romans 13 passage, is its transcultural enjoiner to comply with contemporary civil law. Somewhat by definition, civil law transitions over time usually keeping pace with the best in prevailing public opinion about what is right behavior. Though never flawless, civil law like science, improves over time through a process of self-correction. I believe it is part of G-d’s design to use civil law to guide and document the maturing process of humankind. We should recognize that Paul and the other Apostles as they chose rules for church conduct were enjoined to obey and support the laws and traditions of their time (keeping “ the traditions” was promoted by law), and by extension we today are enjoined to comply with our own law.

This raises the question of why we in today’s church would rather establish our internal practices in deference to Roman law when we are enjoined to comply with contemporary US law? For example, many churches hold that women must not teach or exercise authority over men which was the law and tradition of the land in first century Rome. Yet, today our law specifies that women are to be treated with full equality across the board and our culture generally endorses the confident assertion that a woman can hold the highest office in our land. Paul was right in developing the rules they followed, and we can be right in changing those rules to match our laws today; yet we both are following G-d’s provisions for us.

Biblical interpretation over the millennia has largely ignored the implications of this passage and has instead interpreted all of Paul’s writings to his churches and pastors as if every verse could include transcultural truth which therefore must not change over time. In my opinion, the idea that Paul was enjoined by G-d to Roman culture and law (which is temporal) has not been given full consideration. From the light of today, we see that G-d indeed uses civil law in the shaping of humanity’s sense of rightness. If you are not convinced, just consider the differences between our law and first century Roman law. Though flawed and imperfect, contemporary civil law is something G-d ordained for our good and we are expected to embrace its authority just as Paul was then.

Points of discussion:

How do you see it?

Today we live under Royal Law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does this mean our practical definition of love changes over time as humanity does? Why or why not?

Because G-d uses the process of socio-cultural evolution to mentor humanity, how might that impact our understanding of the way G-d chose to communicate with humans through the Bible and through natural revelation as we mature culturally and technologically over time?

Why has G-d chosen to be scientifically invisible?

What is the end game of Creation?

With heaven made in perfection, why was earth built in sin?

Please chime in…

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First of all I applaud your use of G-d in open acceptance of our seemingly inescapable ignorance of what it is which gives rise to belief in God and sustains it still. However, I think these questions still assume an awful lot.

There is an explicit assumption that God thinks and operates much as we do, in terms of ends and means. Otherwise why ask for His motivation in choosing to remain scientifically invisible? Why assume there is an end game or end point of creation?

Right now I’m thinking that G-d is best understood as the movement toward greater freedom and complexity, from chaos to cosmos to life to consciousness - seemingly in defiance of entropy, death and dissolution. I just don’t see any reason to personify this life giving movement as a kind of divine watch maker. That would seem to cast G-d’s nature in our own image, leastwise it surely reflects the only lens available to us more than it does the mystery that is actually at work.

I wonder if it is possible to derive a Christian approach which strives harder for epistemic humility, or would that undermine its authority and ability to serve as cultural glue?

I have a Jewish friend who introduced me to that way of referring to G-d. It has deep roots in respect and reverance, and I really like it.

You are right that I am assuming a lot. I’m a retired electrical engineer who spent a career as a systems engineer overseeing the holistic aspects of design.

When I approach creation, I see the mechanisms and systems at work, each of which requiring careful planning and design. In my mind, things are designed for a purpose, and as I read/study the Bible I see purpose and agenda everywhere. I like to think about G-d as a person who is actively doing things based on volition. I like to think about His agendas and think about the technical and human problems G-d needs to address and why. Its a bit like reverse engineering the universe, but with a focus on theological takeaways.

But, that is my eye piece on the world, and certainly each person has their own.

By the way, this is my first discussion post.

Thanks for breaking the ice.!! :wink:

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Happy to do it. I found it interesting. In general i think you’ll find you get more interaction if you post less at a time. Rather than essay length, you might think in terms of posting the extract and letting the rest come out in interaction.

Just so you know, I’m not a Christian but I do hold what gives rise to God belief in high regard. I just don’t personify it. Hope you’ll chime in again.

When talking with Jewish people I use G-d to refer to god but I don’t really see the point behind it. God, the word Elohim, is used to refer to a type of being that includes angels, humans, and our creator. It’s not a title.

But I need to read the link to understand what it’s about lol. Just saw that and read the comments first to know what to pay attention to in the article.

When studying the word there are some things I feel dont match up to your thoughts. For the most part I agree. But most discussion seems to be born out of teasing out the differences.

I don’t see any reason personally to believe that Roman Law is what set them standards for elders.

The word says that even singing holy songs can be a way of teaching, yet we never see women being told to not sing and several prominent women are mentioned without any cultural baggage.

Yet Paul still says that a elder ( which is a pastor who leads the church and is accountable before God for his congregation ) must be a man but not just a man but a man who meets many requirements including having just one wife and 2+ kids. It ties in a very hebrew notion that a man is a man with a respected family. It brings up that part of that is because of the choices Eve made.

Is it sexist? Sure. I mean it definitely seems sexist. But it also seems like that’s exactly what it says. By sexist, I mean it seems like all are created equal, but not all are given the same work. Just like some are meant to be teachers but not all, some are also qualified to be elders but not all.

It’s all tied into the assembling of the saints and. It about outside of that. It’s not against women teaching or being in authority, but that God set apart the office of eldership and deaconship for specific types of men.

I’ve been divorced for example so I’ll never be qualified to be a elder and Shepard a flock as their pastor.

I’m still learning the ropes, and I guess as others do, I have been thinking about many aspects of change in Christianity, and I want to vet these ideas from a holistic hearing. I did already pare it back substantially. :wink:

I’m still warming up to that frame of mind. Hopefully I can learn to find the right balance.

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G-d
The technical correctness in spelling G-d in this way is not intended since the real Jewish tradition as I understand it is that the name Yahweh is considered so sacred that to use it is somewhat too familiar, since G-d is so transcendent and unknowable perhaps. I really just latch onto the reverence for G-d and how spelling it this way reminds me of that.

Paul and Authority
One of the things I have spent a bit of time considering is the difference between what Paul wrote and his own assumptions about it compared to the theologians who followed who decided things based on their own assumptions.

Paul and the other Apostles began with little in the way of New Covenant Scripture. They were led by the Spirit and they had much from the OT which Christ had explained to them. Over time, they began writing the New Testament progressively. Much of what Paul taught was not taught by Jesus, because Paul was managing the development of churches. He was writing a mixture of information, some of which was doctrine, and some was rules or practices which were developed over time to deal with the situations as they arose.

One example of an issue to consider is that Paul expected Christ to return before certain people died. He suggested that people not marry for example, because it might not make sense in light of the time line he was assuming. This raises questions. If he thought we would still be here 2000 years later, wouldn’t he dedicate some words to us in the distance future? But there doesn’t seem to be any distinction like that in his writing.

Paul was synthesizing what he was taught by Jesus directly, what he knew about the old testament, his own ideas for how to manage churches and people, and also keeping Christianity on the right side of the law whenever and wherever possible. As much as anyone, he was one for the first shepherds of Christianity, the religion.

The trouble we have is being able to differentiate between what teachings came from where. Because of his assumptions about timing, he had no reason to explain himself. This is a difficult subject by definition for many reasons. However, when we see what Paul himself wrote about Roman law, this provides insight. Women being silent and not exercising authority over men, was not a provision of the Mosaic Law. There are significant examples of women in power. It was not taught by Jesus. Where did it come from?

I truly believe, civil law is a mouth piece from G-d. I’m not at all saying that we toss out what Paul said. I’m saying “we” (real theologians, not me) need to go back and reinterpret the New Testament based on a new set of assumptions derived from old earth thinking.

It is my opinion that the issue of freedom for women will never be reversed in western culture on into the future. For Christianity to stand forever on what may remain as the unlovely side of that issue offends my sensibilities about the design of G-d. Why would G-d wish to offend women in that way in perpetuity. I currently cannot accept that idea, and in looking for our error in theology, this is what I believe I have found.

It will take me some time to fully respond because I’m barely awake. So I’ll do part now and try to get to the rest on Sunday hopefully at the latest.

The reason why Paul brought up not to marry was because of the current distress. Jesus himself mentioned some will not taste death before they see me coming, and that those there who saw the temple being destroyed ( because it was still there) should flee to the mountains.

Mathew 24 is not about the end of the world. Matthew 24 is about the destruction that was coming as the previous covenants were fulfilled. Those events took place in the first century. Much of revelations has already occurred, if not all of it with the exception of individual experiences. We should be careful using revelation as a main source for literal events since it’s very poetic and full of rich imagery.

But there is not talk of the second temple being destroyed, rebuilt as a third temple, and destroyed again.

The kingdom of God is the body of believers and is here now. Christ has conquered his enemies. Isaiah 65 brings up some contentious issues with the new world as described in revelation if both accounts are meant to be taken as literal.

It seems that I combined two passages there. So sorry about that.

However, there are quite a number of folks who seem to think that the Apostles were not thinking 2000 years or more. I will do more looking into that one to get better grounded there. I think the intention of “Christ’s imminent return” as a messaging strategy is to keep everyone vigilant on into the future. It has been working, since every generation seems convinced that now is the time. :wink:

My point is that the imminent return mindset worked on the Apostles as well to the point that neither Paul nor the others spoke to the future generations independently in a direct enough way for us to recognize it.

This leaves us with many legitimate questions, which have been asked and answered by previous generations of theologians to the point that they are so well hammered into the ground beneath our feet that we may not even recognize them as questions. Once a systematic theology has been cast, this somewhat predicts how questionable subjects will be addressed. It’s a bit like hammer down the nail heads that poke up out of the planking. At some point, if the base assumptions have been sufficiently undermined, it’s time to reevaluate the nail heads. Maybe some need to be removed or relocated.

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