Clothes make the man?

2 Comments

Barbie

1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.

rather….1 Peter 3:4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

Our granddaughters visited this past week, eager to open the toy/book closet and bring out our one and only Barbie.  Thinking about her and the many outfits Mattel has launched over the years caused me to reflect about inherent versus infused versus imputed righteousness.

Since the Fall our essence is no longer inherently righteous;in other words, righteousness is not part of our nature. But some people try to dress themselves, like Barbie, in good works, thereby APPEARING righteous.  Then there are those who believe that the righteousness obtained by Christ’s death on the cross and His perfect obedience can be infused in us, thereby altering our nature. But that is not what the Bible teaches. In fact the 16th century reformers emphasized the historic, original biblical teaching that our righteousness  is by faith alone, through grace alone because of Christ’s work alone.

Since this reckoning or crediting of justification comes from Christ, it is an ‘alien’ righteousness, from outside of us. It’s more akin to an outfit that Barbie’s owner dresses her in.  Just as the doll’s garments cover her, so too Christ’s works cover us. It’s a false conclusion to think then, that ‘as are the clothes, then so too are we‘.  The clothes don’t make the man or woman, they COVER us.  Similarly, Christ’s righteousness cancels our sin in God’s books.

Even with the Barbie example in our minds, we can still be self-righteous and be unaware. Pleasure in any of ‘my’ obedience or good works weakens me so I succumb to pride and all of Satan’s other ploys.

As protection, I try to remember to ask the Holy Spirit to remind me of ‘the truth’.  Daily I mentally don the kind of apparel that my heavenly Father prefers, what Peter teaches:

  • a quiet and complete trust in God that eliminates all fear despite desperate circumstances.
  • spiritual armor that both protects and strengthens my faith, my most valuable God-given gift
  • my attitude towards us, specifically dressing myself as per Paul’s instructions: Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Col 3:12

The question that puts me in my place, as a dependent creature is this:

Maria, what are you trusting in this day to guarantee your salvation and eternal life with the happy, holy Triune God ?

What about Adam?

5 Comments

The June 2011 issue of “Christianity Today” features a provocative report about the churn among Christians over whether Adam & Eve were historical individuals as portrayed in the Bible.  Francis Collins who currently is director of a Senate-approved agency (National Institutes of Health) considers himself Christian and favors theistic evolution.  As director of the Human Genome Project (completed in 2003) Collins and colleagues mapped out gene sequencing in humans.  Collins has concluded from this study, as reported in a book he recently co-authored (The Language of Science and Faith), that “Adam & Eve as the literal first couple and ancestors of all humans do not fit the evidence”.

This assumption is disturbing on two accounts: First of all, those who support the findings and support theistic evolution minimize the impact of their assertions.  Second and more fraught with potential harm, is the implication for much of Biblical Theology and directly the trustworthiness of the Bible.  I will address the second of these issues.

The author of the “Christianity Today” article, Richard Ostling, correctly articulates what is at stake:

–      Humans’ unique status as image bearers of God

–      The doctrine of original sin and the fall

–      The genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3

–      Jesus’ teaching that all of the Old Testament points to Him (Luke 24)

–      Paul’s teaching that links the historical Adam with redemption through Christ

This issue is different from the debate among evangelical Christians who argue Old Earth vs. Young Earth.  In that arena, it is clearer that there are at least two possible interpretations.  The Bible refers to days (yowm) spent in creating the world.  In Hebrew ‘yowm/Strongs H3117’ can mean 24 hours, a year or a long period of time.  So the creation account is open to discussion without raising the trustworthiness of the Bible as an issue.

But if there is not a literal and historical Adam, then here are the implications:

-God did NOT decide as a Trinitarian unit to make man in His image, male and female (Gen 1:27)

-God did NOT have a conversation with Adam in Gen 2:16-17

-Eve did NOT talk with Satan as serpent in Gen 3:1-5

-Eve did NOT sin in Gen 3:6

-No sudden guilt, shame and cover-up happened in Gen 3:7

-No face-to-face encounter between God and the first couple took place in Gen 3:8-9

-Adam & Eve did not try to pass the buck, playing the blame game in Gen 3:11-13

-Gospel Hope was not first preached in Gen 3:15

-No penalty for sin was announced in Gen 3:16-19, thereby explaining what is wrong with our world

Given the above, I spent a sleepless night this past weekend.  I had to contemplate what it would mean NOT to trust that every word of the Bible is sovereignly breathed out by God. For 12-15 hours, I floated in a nightmarish free-for-all.  In that land, Jesus is no longer my living Rock (Psalm 18:46), no longer my reliable/faithful/true shield and bulwark/defending fortress that protects me (Psalm 91:4)   If I can’t count on God’s word as true, there is no truth.

But wishing doesn’t make it so.

How do we determine that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy as it is written?  What about scientific discoveries that seem to point to other conclusions?  I have no scientific background, but I am a bit more equipped to reason philosophically.  And that is the approach I want briefly to try out.  It is not enough to just say, “The Bible claims to be the true word of God, so it must be so.” That is circular reasoning.  We are trying to prove why the Bible is trustworthy.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am starting with the pre-supposition that God exists. Here is how it goes from there:

For God to be God, He has to be supernatural.  He has to be all-powerful and all-knowing.  And from everything I have witnessed in life, He is also all-good. What is my evidence? : my life, the lives of Christian friends, the accounts of dead ‘saints’ and the historical events of Biblical characters.  In all of these, there is evidence of God working through ‘bad’ circumstances in lives to bring about amazing results.  Having established that He is supernaturally all-good, He also has to be completely truthful and dependable. For someone who is good cannot lie or be wishy-washy.

So, if a transcendent god with these qualities were to ordain that a document be written for the benefit of his creation, would it not follow that this document would be a reflection of his character?   In our everyday life, what we say and do springs from who we are. It is only logical that the same would pertain to this god.   It is therefore ‘reasonable’ ( in the true sense of the word, i.e. logical) to assume that the Bible reflects the character of God.  If God is trustworthy and faithful and true, then so is His Word.  At this point, we can then add what the Bible says about itself.  There are many verses, but here are two that come to mind:

–      Psalm 19: 7-9 gives many adjectives about God’s written word.  It is PERFECT, SURE, RIGHT, PURE, ENDURING, TRUE and RIGHTEOUS

–      Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s word is ALIVE, ACTIVE, EFFECTUAL and FULL OF POWER.

Finally, Jesus who is God, Himself validated the entire Old Testament when He explicitly taught some of the disciples who had been walking to Emmaus.  Over a meal, He showed them how the Pentateuch (includes Genesis) and the Prophets all pointed to Him. (Luke 24:27)

Thinking this through settles the issue for me.  God’s Word IS true and reliable and worth centering my life on.  What about the Human Genome Project?  I don’t know.  I will trust God to sort that out.  I don’t dismiss scientific inquiry. Neither do I default to submitting to science.  I don’t have to have all the answers to trust God, to rely on the Bible completely. I can take my concerns to God and lay them at His feet and trust that He will instruct me.  God is my lodestar.  That is the decision I have to make daily, hourly.

PS:   bereft of my bedrock for those few hours has had the sweet benefit of making me love the Bible all the more.  How precious are its words!  May we taste and see that He who is the Word is good.

%d bloggers like this: