“Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.”
This is a goal to be striven for, of course, but how to attain it? Open consideration of the Bible with no attempt to make it fit our doctrinal beliefs is like the quest for elusive "objectivity." Has anyone ever gotten there yet? How to reconcile portions of scripture that seem to conflict? It seems inevitably we resort to explaining some of them away, proposing a deeper meaning than that which is apparent.
Sometimes we deem the study of theology of less value than supposed study of the Bible. The Bible alone can be a stream of seeming contradictions until fit into the unified doctrines of systematic theology.This is not twisting the understanding of difficult scriptures, but rather seeing that a right understanding fits the system of theology.In keeping with what Amity said, we sometime delve so "deep" we find ourselves in the "mud" rather than the clear waters streaming along the brook filtered upon the sand and stones of the Word.I suggest a balance is in order.Cheers,Jim
Amity and Jim, I think you both make some valid points and state things with which I agree. But on the other hand, I think perhaps you all are thinking too "deeply". I'm only making an observation, not proposing a goal to strive for. I'm not thinking so much of Scriptures that seem to conflict (though that must be addressed), but more of Scriptural statements that don't seem to work within our theology (whether mine or yours). Many times we may do exactly what you say Amity, seeking the hard deep meaning while possibly overlooking the simple explanation.One Scripture I discussed recently was the fact that God hardened Pharoah's heart. The Scriptures also say that Pharoah hardened his own heart. Oftimes when I've heard this "resolved" it comes out that God did not harden Pharaoh's heart. Now I may be too simple-minded, but that seems like preferring our theology over what God said. Concerning the study of theology, I agree that it is important, and we do need to see portions of Scripture within the totality of Scripture. On the other hand, it should at least give us pause to realize that men write systematic theologies while God chose to write the Bible, a book very unlike systematic theologies. Perhaps on occasion we should be content to not resolve what we think appears to be a contradiction, rather counting it up to our thoughts being far beneath God's thoughts.
One Scripture I discussed recently was the fact that God hardened Pharoah's heart. The Scriptures also say that Pharoah hardened his own heart.--------------------------I consider this event as covered under the providential dealings of God with the universe. God permits the evil acts of men, but directs those actions so that it least affects the chosen. This satisfies both sides of the question: God hardens and Pharoah hardens his own heart....under God's directive providence. A case where theology resolves the question in my mind. At the same time, God was in control, but did not interfere with Pharoah's own heart, which was already predisposed to evil, so that he made the actual decision to harden his own heart.Cheers,Jim
Or Romans 4:4-5 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. versusJames 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? It seems clear these two men had a disagreement. But both statements are the word of God. For the heart-hardening issue, see Rom. 9:18
Jim, though I see some things in your reply with which I agree, I must respectfully say that to me this is a case when theology muddies the question rather than resolving it, to my way of thinking. Though it recognizes God is in control, it does not agree with what the Bible actually says, that God hardened Pharoah's heart. It also seems to fail to harmonize with Paul's explanation and use of the incident in Romans, where He contrasts it with God's active work of shewing mercy, finishing with the question, "For who hath resisted his will?" Some people seem to think we mean that God made Pharaoh do something he was kicking and screaming and begging not to do. In fact, as you say, his heart was ready and willing to resist God's people. Amity, on Rom. 4 and James 2, I understand what you mean when you say it seems clear these two men had a disagreement. "Seems" is the operative word here, because it seems that way to the natural man. But if we start with the presupposition that the Bible is God's Word -- both Paul and James -- then by faith we can understand there is no disagreement, though it seems so (and whether or not we are ever able to explain it). In this case we can fairly satisfactorily find an answer that is complimentary without saying that faith without works is not dead.
I like to draw two circles, one within the other. The outer circle represents the sovereignty of God, whilst the inner circle represents the permissive will of God.The out circle (sovereignty)always dominates. Man, however, has been given permission by God to behave accordingly in that realm, which includes doing evil.In the outer circle, God retains the absolute right to overrule man when it comes to his dealings with the saints of God.Theology is biblical, or it ought to be. Theology is the orderly garden of God's word, whilst simple Bible study is like reading a garden sown at random; it may be the same seed, but scattered in various locations.God does not "harden" the heart, so to speak, but leaves man to his own evil determinations. Hence we can have the pharoah "hardening" his heart, and God "hardening" his heart at the same time. One explains the other, give the outer and inner circle of understanding God's sovereignty.Cheers,Jim
Jim, you said:"Man...has been given permission by God to behave accordingly in that realm, which includes doing evil."I do not see that God has ever given man permission to do evil, and just the contrary. The Bible tells us explicitly what are ARE NOT to do, and what the consequences will be if we do so. The fact that we are ABLE to do evil should not be construed as God's perimission. Our ability to do evil or good only arises from our separation from God. In heaven only God's will is done, but not so on earth. "God does not "harden" the heart, so to speak, but leaves man to his own evil determinations."Here again, God has said any number of times, reiterated in the New Testament, that DOES harden hearts as he pleases. To me this is an example of the need Robert is speaking of to throw out our own ideologies when contrary to the Bible. Man often teaches that the choice is ours. God's teaching is different.
Amity,Kindly read what I wrote, carefully again. I did not say anything you suggest I said.I can easily see why some are so confused by theology and even the very Word itself.Cheers,JimCome to think of it. Just forget it.
Sorry, Jim, if I misunderstand you. I don't pretend to be a theologian. I did re-read.
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