Christianity 201

May 26, 2019

The Earth Tells of His Name

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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Psalm 8 is a beautiful reminder of the general revelation of God in nature, often used by Christian apologists in association with the argument from intelligent design. It also relates to the many scriptures that speak to the honor of God’s name. By contrast it also speaks to the finiteness of man. It is also prophetic where it points to the coming Christ.

Some verses of Psalm 8 are referenced in the New Testament:

  • Verse 2 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:16 in reference to children praising him in the temple.
    “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,“‘From the lips of children and infants
    you, Lord, have called forth your praise’ ?”
  • Verses 4-6 are quoted in Hebrews 2:6-8 in reference to Jesus’ incarnation.
    But there is a place where someone has testified:“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?
    You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor
    and put everything under their feet.”
    In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.
  • Verse 6 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:27;
     For he “has put everything under his feet.”  Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.
    and Ephesians 6:22
    And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church

Matthew Henry notes that Psalm 8 “begins and ends with the same acknowledgment of the transcendent excellency of God’s name.”


Worship slides and paraphrase of Psalm 8 by Ruth Wilkinson.

March 5, 2014

Transcendence

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  (NIV)

I Cor 2:9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”[Is. 64:4] (NLT)

Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.  (NASB)

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen. (NRSV)

Today’s reading delves into concepts considered part of the philosophy of religion. Inclusion of website links in this discussion does not imply endorsement of the sources or websites as a whole.

holy_spirit_-_pentacost_jwis

A long time ago in an environment far away from where I am today, I was a philosophy major at a secular university required to read The Idea of the Holy by Rudoph Otto. The subtitle of the book is An Inquiry into the Non Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational. (Today, the book’s marketing department would be looking for something more catchy.)

In the book, Otto introduced the idea of “numinous.” Sometimes when writers introduce terminology that is outside our normal frame of reference, we tend to be dismissive of its application to our particular brand of theology. But read this definition carefully and slowly:

Otto was one of the most influential thinkers about religion in the first half of the twentieth century. He is best known for his analysis of the experience that, in his view, underlies all religion. He calls this experience “numinous,” and says it has three components. These are often designated with a Latin phrase: mysterium tremendum et fascinans. As mysterium, the numinous is “wholly other”– entirely different from anything we experience in ordinary life. It evokes a reaction of silence. But the numinous is also a mysterium tremendum. It provokes terror because it presents itself as overwhelming power. Finally, the numinous presents itself as fascinans, as merciful and gracious.

Outline of Otto’s concept of the numinous (based on The Idea of the Holy. Trans. John W. Harvey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923; 2nd ed., 1950 [Das Heilige, 1917]):

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (fearful and fascinating mystery):

  • Mysterium“: Wholly Other, experienced with blank wonder, stupor
  • tremendum“:
    • awefulness, terror, demonic dread, awe, absolute unapproachability, “wrath” of God
    • overpoweringness, majesty, might, sense of one’s own nothingness in contrast to its power
    • creature-feeling, sense of objective presence, dependence
    • energy, urgency, will, vitality
  • fascinans“: potent charm, attractiveness in spite of fear, terror, etc.

~online notes by Joseph A. Adler, Professor of Religion at Ohio’s Kenyon College.

You’ll also see (above) that Otto used the term “wholly other.”  I’ve often thought the book could also have been titled, The Idea of the WhollyChristian Apologetics and Research Ministry explains this:

The term “wholly other” is used in Christian theology to describe the difference between God and everything else.  God, the Christian God, is completely different than all other things that exist.  God can be described by essential properties such as holiness, immutability, etc.  But we have to ask how we, as finite creatures, can relate to the infinite God.  It is difficult when he is “wholly other” than we are.  It means that we must relate to him by his self-revelation in the person of Christ Jesus, and through the Bible.

But the holy/wholly pun I suggest above is one you should not forget, especially if you’re more accustomed to using words like ‘holiness’ in terms of personal purity. The website, TheNewCreation.com explains:

The word holy is commonly understood to mean moral perfection. And when it is applied to God’s relationship to “sinners” it suggests that God has such a high standard of holiness (moral perfection) that he will not tolerate or forgive sinners until they are sanctified and made holy (morally clean).

But this is not what the Hebrew prophets had in mind when they cried, “Holy! holy! holy is YHWH Sabaoth.” The Hebrew kaddosh, has nothing to do with morality but means “otherness,”– Wholly Other. “YHWH is other! other! other!”

YHWH does not conform to, or fit into our concepts of deity. He can not be defined by our abstract theistic characterizations (omnipotent, omniscient, impassible…). YHWH is radically, transcendentally different (other) then the gods made in our own image: the autocratic and domineering gods that are the projections of our primate animal nature.

God is radical, uncompromising, unconditional, self-emptying love for the other–us and all of creation. It is this love that defines His holiness. A love so completely open to the pain and need of the other; so inexhaustible in its selflessness; so broad and deep in its scope; that is could never be defined by any abstract philosophical/theological propositions. It could only be expressed and made real in a living person. Only in one who is the fulness of the humane and compassionate Abba. Only in the Crucified One: Jesus Christ.

The other term we often use in this case is transcendence, the idea that God transcends anything we can fathom, as stated in the scripture examples at the outset of today’s reading.  The Religion Library at Patheos.com has a reference to Martin Luther that is appropriate to consider:

…Luther’s God is an all-powerful God.He stressed this idea in ways that may surprise people today.For Luther, God is wholly other than we are, and so we cannot rely on analogies from our own experience to understand God.We know about God only what God chooses to reveal to us.The picture of God in scripture is not uniformly comforting.God’s power and goodness are not constrained by human conceptions of power and goodness…

I want to leave you with another set of homonyms to sum up today’s thoughts. We talked about holy and wholly. Our reaction to all this should be aah and aweAah because it takes our breath away. Awe because we realize how great God is…and yet He loves us!

May 3, 2013

The Power of Creation

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:44 pm
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Solar Flares - Power of Creation

Today we feature a new blog at Faithful Bloggers, Shereen Lashua’s blog Glorify and Enjoy.  Shareen is an author and has been leading women’s Bible studies for 25 years. This appeared a few days ago  under the title The Sun’s Power. Click the link to view other articles.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (Psalm 119:1-3).

CLICK HERE to view the NASA sun flare video

I was reminded of this Psalm yesterday when I saw the weather report. A NASA video of the sun was a featured story. The video showed the cycle of the sun flares over a three year period. It was amazing. I Googled it and found it on YouTube and watched it again.

I was mesmerized. That ball of gold spoke to me of the glory and greatness of God. Verse 1 of Psalm 19 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God” and verse 2 says, “Day to day pours forth speech”. The sun was speaking to me of the greatness and power of our Creator. I had to learn more.

According to NASA, a single solar flare explodes with as much explosive power as billions of hydrogen bombs all exploding at once. They can be as hot as 100 million degrees Celsius. This information made that video incomprehensible to my simple mind. How many solar flares were on that video? The flares are only a very small portion of the suns overall power. My mind is just too small to comprehend this.

If my mind cannot comprehend the sun and its power, how amazing and powerful is the sun’s Creator? God is the Maker of this amazing explosive power that we depend on for life. I cannot, in my finite mind, begin to understand this much greatness.

But I can depend on it! I can put my trust in someone so great and powerful. He put the sun in the sky. He put it at exactly the right spot to give life to the earth. He put it at exactly the right spot to keep us from burning up from these solar flares. He keeps it burning brightly day after day, year after year. If He can control the sun and its power, can He control my life? Absolutely!

Today I will reverently and worshipfully say with the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer”.

Thank you, Lord, for being so faithful, dependable, and powerful. You keep the sun in check and control its power. You do this for the sake of mankind. Out of your loving kindness and mercy you give us life and warmth every day. You are dependable. You are our rock and redeemer. Your power will sustain me.

 I thank you and praise you. You have declared your glory and I need to worship you. I need to fix my thoughts on you so that what pours forth from my heart and life are pleasing to you. My meditation and my speech need to declare your glory because you alone are worthy.

August 18, 2011

Indescribable King

This is post number 500 here at Christianity 201, and it seems fitting that it includes a video clip which is so familiar to so many people through its widespread use as a church video a few years ago, but may be new to many others as well.  It’s S. M. Lockridge’s sermon excerpt, That’s My King.  (If you’ve seen it before, maybe it’s time to view it again!)

Usually, if there’s a video clip here, it’s a worship song.  I am convinced that if you are involved in worship planning, there are three worship themes with which you can’t ever go wrong:

  • communion, Lord’s supper, Christ’s death, Christ’s sacrifice, atonement
  • personal surrender to God
  • God’s attributes, particularly his greatness and majesty

The last category is where we land today.  All the most popular worship songs in the last decade — Majesty, Shout to the Lord, How Great is our God — are songs which speak to the indescribable greatness of God.

S. M. Lockridge (born Shadrach Meshach Lockridge!) pastored in Texas and California and was active in the civil rights movement.   You can read more about him at Wikipedia.

His words are most fitting for a blog which has as its aim being Christ-centered, and so well-suit being the 500th post here.

Here is the full text (click the ‘more’ button if it’s all not visible):

My King was born King.
The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King.
He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King.
He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King.
He’s the King of righteousness.
He’s the King of the ages.
He’s the King of Heaven.
He’s the King of glory.
He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords.
Now that’s my King. (more…)