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Archive for December, 2013

Is God A One-Sided Or Mutual Submission Kind of God?

Beliefs thus theologies have consequences. To believe the Bible teaches wives are in subjection to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives can foster dependency and lead to more abuse than already present. Interpretations are fallible. If we are not positive the Bible teaches one-sided submission, we must error on the side less prone to abuse. Mutual submission is impossible for men to twist to justify their subtle or blatant mistreatment of women. Husband and wives submitting to one another is the environment less conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men in our society.

Ephesians 5:22 is the main biblical passage used to suggest wives are to submit to their husbands in a way husbands are not to reciprocate:  “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Keep in mind God doesn’t even force belief. Coerced obedience is an oxymoron. If wives are subject to their husbands and not husbands to their wives, this command is written to women. The Bible does not every say husbands are to make their wives subject to themselves.

  • Ephesians 5 is Paul’s ongoing discourse how Christ followers are to live out their faith. Paul says: “Follow God’s example, therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (vs. 1-2). Mutual submission is a way of life for all followers to imitate Jesus: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). In verse 22 in the original manuscripts, Paul literally says: “wives to your husbands as to the Lord.” The verb missing is supplied from verse 21 so the TNIV translates verse 22 “wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” If we defend wives are subordinate or under the leadership of their husbands, then we must also say church members are in subordination or under the leadership of one another (v. 21).
  • Wives may have been using their new freedom, implicit in their new Christian faith, to boss and perhaps their husbands did not love their wives in return. Paul specifies submission more explicitly for the wives (v.22) but love is more specified for husbands (v.25). Wives should not interpret this to mean they are not to love their husbands. Husband should not interpret this passage to mean they should not submit to their wives. Furthermore, submission in verse 22 is defined in terms of respect (verse 33), not obedience. A Christian wife has exactly the same authority rights over her husband as a husband has over his wife (Cor. 7:4). Submission and love are responsibilities of husbands and wives.
  • Also, the translation of the word “head” (kephale) in verse 23 to mean source than leader better fits the context. Kephale never meant leader or authority over in New Testament times. Paul frequently used the head-body metaphor to emphasize that all parts of the body relate to one another, not to emphasize the authority of the head over other parts of the body. Head is a source for the whole body as eyes alert to danger and the mouth provides nourishment.
  • Many men assume an impasse in a marriage cannot be solved through normal conflict resolutions means, especially when they think they are to provide leadership through decision-making just because they are male. One may argue that relationships must have a final decision maker. A President of a country has to govern through laws and make decisions such as whether to go to war against other countries.  There are more checks and balances when under authority of one’s government or church leadership. Christians, men and women, are ultimately under the authority of Jesus the Christ and not their government or church. There are many creative alternatives in marriage such as the partner who has the most expertise with the matter at hand making the final decision. Personally, in thirty-one years of marriage all decision have been solvable without insisting one be the final decision-maker. Women do not need male leadership in marriage; women need unselfish men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).
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Isn’t Inherited Sin And Calvinism Utter Depravity?

Certain theologies or beliefs have consequences. To believe the Bible teaches wives are in subjection to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives opens the door to more abuse than already may arise. The belief in inherited depravity suggests God views people as guilty before they have committed any crimes. Aren’t babies baptized because they are considered guilty in God’s eyes because of Adam’s sin and need to be washed of their sins? Certain beliefs about God can drive a wedge in one’s relationship with their Creator and lead to strange characterizations about God.

God does not hold people responsible for others’ sin? The Old Testament clearly explains that a parent is not guilty of their child’s sin and a child is not guilty of their parent’s sin (Ex 18:5-20).  Secondly, Jesus obviously didn’t believe in inherited depravity. In Mt. 18:3 Jesus said: “…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Finally, belief in inherited depravity can lead to thinking only followers of God can be of any good to others. We all are made in God’s image and whether you trust God or not, you are still capable of doing much good in the world.

A belief in individual depravity can lead to other unbelievable theology. Since humans are not capable of choosing God, God must choose them. This leads to implausible interpretations such as in Eph. 1:4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” It has been suggested God chooses some for salvation while forsaking others. Clearly, this cannot be the case for a God of love. God choose Christ to save any who believed (v. 13). Interpretations are fallible. It is not sin to use human reasoning in determining plausible beliefs of who God really is.

Calvinistic beliefs in inherited depravity can lead to a belief that God’s grace is not universal. Who wants to follow a God who is so utterly arbitrary?  People are capable of making decisions themselves whether Jesus is who He claims to be and He didn’t save Himself so we might be saved. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Rm. 2:11). Do we really think God tells us to not show favoritism (James 2:1) but that He is above that? God is not a hypocrite.

The truth is that God’s love is not conditional. The truth is that there is not a quota on God’s grace. Who would want to worship such a God otherwise?  Don’t get me wrong. I believe in depravity. We all are batting a thousand. We all have chosen to sin at one time or another. I only know of one person who has lived a completely selfish life. God does not arbitrarily choose some to love and not others. God’s love is unconditional and universal. God is no different than any other loving parent. God hopes we will turn to Him for wisdom and guidance because He has our best interest in mind.

A Brief Explanation To God, Evil, and Suffering – Does God Really Care?

Suffering, either as a result of personal or physical evil, only came into existence when we chose to rebel against God’s protection (Gen 3). Suffering is either deserved or undeserved, thus obviously not always retribution or correction by God according to one’s sins. Let’s not be like Job’s friends and offer unsolicited or erroneous advice to those in the midst of suffering. I have long suspected the best way to prepare for suffering, which is inevitable in the world we live in, is to understand God’s role in it so as to not feel abandoned.

The existence of evil does not prove there is no Deity, since we cannot prove there are no good, moral reasons for allowing evil. Doctors inflict pain for better health in the long-run. Once we accept that there is a Creator, we then must answer if God really cares and is unjust for allowing suffering. Job questioned God as to why He did not intervene sooner in in his undeserved suffering. God’s ways aren’t necessarily mysterious, or God would not have bothered to come in the flesh and communicated with words through Scriptures. To answer this question we need to consider where evil comes from that results in so much suffering, why God doesn’t intervene more in suffering, and what is God’s response to suffering.

Is God the Creator or Cause of Evil?

Evil is not something created but originates from the human heart. We have murderous thoughts but God doesn’t create or cause such desires. A Creator is not responsible for unintended choices of their Design. Many argue that God cannot be sovereign if anything happen outside His will. To suggest God foreordained evil ahead of time to accomplish His good purposes and declare His glory is morally indefensible. It suggests God grieves over His actions (Gen 6:6). It is nonsensical to suggest God hates evil but wills evil.

God knew the risks of freedom for the possibility of intimacy as do human parents.  The majority of suffering happens because of freedom. God did once destroy the world and start over but evil grew back. Parents still bring children into a world knowing they might not reciprocate their love and knowing their children could cause suffering or suffer at the hands of others. God hates that rebellion has brought senseless suffering but apparently there is no other path to true intimacy, as not even God can force genuine love, or God would have chosen it. God’s alternative was to not create or override freedom. To destroy freedom is to destroy the higher good that results from free, moral decisions.

If God Doesn’t Cause Suffering, Why Doesn’t God At Least Intervene More?

We understand deserved suffering. Provoke your children unnecessarily and don’t expect them to visit when older. What about undeserved or senseless suffering? God would still be questioned unless God stopped all abuse not some abuse, all natural disasters not some natural disasters. God chose to be vulnerable and uncontrolling than invulnerable and controlling. Human parents nor God are sadistic just because they don’t squash freedom to avoid suffering. I, unlike God, may try to spare my children of any suffering though their pain may evolve into help for them and others. At least God walks the walk as He did not interfere in his Son’s suffering.

We must consider the big picture. God allowing suffering, inevitable in a free world, can enable us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. I benefit much more from my prayers not being answered than being answered. Suffering brings to light our defects so to examine and overcome our weaknesses. No pain no gain is true both physically and emotionally. Is it possible our joy will be greater in the long-run with suffering than without suffering? Profound trust in God during pain and suffering can lead to wisdom about life in general. Also, suffering enables us to be more sensitive and serve others in similar situations. Miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. Martin Luther King suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. Suffering, inevitable in a free world, is necessary if you are going to be of much use to others.

What Is God’s Response To Suffering?

God doesn’t impose His will on us. God values freedom. God doesn’t annihilate people at the first sign of opposition. God values forgiveness. God’s ultimate response to evil and resulting suffering is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. The Cross was to change our attitude about God, not God’s attitude toward us. When rebellion against God lead to suffering, deserved or undeserved, God chose to lead as many people as possible of their own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. Perhaps the only way to defeat evil in us, other than destruction, is for us to persevere and overcome evil. Jesus saved others by not saving Himself.

Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God knows best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition. If God did stop all suffering, a free world wouldn’t necessarily be better off. It would prevent moral choices that lead to a greater good. Being rich leads to wanting to be richer, often at the expense of others. God tolerates evil that God could stop in hopes many will come back to God before self-destructing. God is no stranger to undeserved suffering. God’s Son was killed for claiming to be Deity, but the tomb was empty! Ultimately, we may not know all the reasons for why God allows evil to continue or be so random, but we know one reason is not because God doesn’t love us as evidenced by sending Jesus.

Questions

One may ask why God didn’t create a heaven-like state in the first place when creating Adam and Eve. Apparently, not even God can force people to freely choose what is best for them. Ridding of evil may be an individual process. What I cannot explain is if freedom is the highest good, how will there not be pain in Heaven. Where there is a will, won’t there always be pain even in Heaven?  I cannot explain why God chooses to intervene miraculously sometimes. I do know to intervene all the time is to make a mockery of freedom. Argue with God! Question God! He will never abandon you when you seek to understand and depend on Him. God promises good can come from our suffering and we have the hope of one day there not being suffering.

 

Isn’t The Bible And Human Reasoning Important In Understanding God?

It is important to read our Bibles if we are fortunate to have a copy. The Apostle Paul says that Scriptures are the inspired words of God (2 Tim 3:16-17). Some of Scriptures are God’s actual words (i.e. Ten Commandments). The challenge though is that interpretations are fallible. The Bible is not a single text with a single author. The Bible was written in foreign languages thousands of years ago. We must listen to our hearts as well to understand God, as we are made in God’s image. Even human parents understand they cannot ask children in their image to believe in anything that violates their own sense of justice

Human reasoning is critical in understanding God. The first chapter of Romans says we all sense that a Being greater than ourselves exist, and we have an internal moral compass that allows most to agree on right from wrong. We must consider if a biblical teaching seems plausible based on what a loving God would be like. For example we must reject traditional explanations of Hell if there is a defensible exegetical alternative. Such sadistic punishment serves no purpose and humans don’t even keep their enemies alive so we can keep torturing them. We must listen to our hearts!

God cannot ask us to believe in anything unworthy of human, rational belief as it would go against His nature. God and human morality are one in the same. Humans have a concept of perfect love because we are made in our Creator’s image. God’s love and perfect human love are one in the same. God’s desire for us and what we desire deep down for ourselves are inseparable. We can already know the truth about the Heart of God before reading Scriptures. God surely is not a reflection of our parents but the perfection of parents we always desired or wanted to be.

Selective Election where God elected certain individuals for eternal life, thus foreordaining millions of humans to eternal damnation without any choice, can’t be biblical. God’s love cannot be contrary to human understandings of rational love. Earthly parents would be accused of immorality if they showed similar favoritism toward their children. There is not a quota on God’s grace. Selective election by God is indefensible exegetically and according to human reasoning. God cannot ask His children to be impartial (James 2:1) and yet God show favoritism.

Human reasoning is not the enemy! God created such reasoning. Questions about God are solved on biblical and rational grounds as interpretations are imperfect. When our interpretations give reasons for pause, we must reconsider. Bad theology has consequences. St. Augustine and Calvin with their beliefs about Election implied God’s grace has a quota and His love is conditional. Our theology must not make it difficult for people to turn to God by misrepresenting God’s character. Let each person come to their understanding of God if they are seeking. What good is Christian love if we can’t consider one another’s opinion gracefully, so to work out our own convictions with as much consistency as possible. Imagine if our discussions about God were civil and lead to agreeing to disagree. Trust God to work in the heart of His individual children.

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