“It is a healthy thing, now and then, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted”
~ Bertrand Russell
There’s such a collision going on in the world today… a polarization like we’ve never seen before. Everywhere you look there’s division… religious, political, social.
Wherever it’s possible to draw a line of separation, they are being drawn. It’s the opposite of reconciliation which is the core message of the Gospel as well as the focus of our ministry..
What do you suppose has provoked this unprecedented division, vitriol and hatred?
There are definitely some very agitated beings in the spiritual realm. Could the current spike in hostility be a response to the beauty of the pure, undiluted Gospel of Grace that is being rediscovered by people all over the world?
When it comes to God and man, most of the people reading this blog probably grew with the same starting point as me; that we were all born separated from God. But how can that be true if we live and move and have our beings in Him and our very existence is personally held together by him?
Of course we all have our biases with our own set of assumptions and lenses that we look at life through. I’ve found that questioning things you’ve always believed in is, at a minimum, a good exercise. Admittedly, though, it’s difficult especially if you derive your sense of well-being or identity from the categories or tidy boxes that contain your beliefs and I think we all do that to some degree.
Hanging question marks on stuff helped me see where the narrative that I grew up with in my family was wrong on some things. Viet Nam for example; we were conservative Nixon-Reagan Republicans. My step dad called the hippie anti-war protestors of the time “commies” and “pinkos”.
We believed Viet Nam was about stopping communism except, as it turns out, it wasn’t. And if we were wrong on that one, what else did I believe that wasn’t true?
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
As I’ve gotten older and had the courage to hang question marks on stuff, the world-view I started out with has changed in some surprising ways. And, sadly, what “living and learning” has taught me is this: The truth is usually not welcome and history tends to be falsified.
As soon as you start questioning the “official narrative” whether of the government or the Church, you have to answer two questions: Is it worth it? And how far are you willing to go?
My faith began to be de-coupled from my “patriotism” about 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve travelled around the world and I love my country and, as unpopular as it is with some people, I don’t believe nationalism is all bad. Acts 17 points out that God established nations and set their borders. Nations appear for the first time in Genesis 10 and remain through the last chapter of Revelation.
Having said that, I’ve also discovered the disturbing reality that lies and deception have formed and continue to form a significant part of our national consciousness. That might not come as a surprise but I’ve also discovered that lies and deception have played a significant role in the development of Western Theology.
If the truth sets people free what do lies do but hold people in captivity.
Alvin Toffler was an American Jew and a prolific futurist writer with a distinct prophetic edge. He predicted:
In the twenty-first century the illiterate people among us won’t be those who can’t read and write, it will be people who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
The great American philosopher Eric Hoffer observed:
“In times of rapid change it’s the learners who inherit the earth; the learned find themselves prepared for a world that no longer exists.”
~ Eric Hoffer
So, when it comes to ways of thinking and seeing, how can you learn, unlearn and re-learn if you’re not hanging question marks on stuff?
My son Conor works for Apple and deals with people every day who are stuck in old paradigms and out dated technology. Men and women of all ages trapped within structures and ways of living that have left them feeling like civilization has left them behind. I get it, with so much of the technology we use today already in its 10th generation or older, and with each version building upon the other, it’s easy to feel that way.
I ran into this when I launched my internet based business in 1996. It turns out that I was early… the business world was entrenched in old technology and many industries, like construction, resisted the internet. I was patient and, thankfully, other forces came to bear that sort of compelled people to adopt the technology.
All warfare is based on deception
~ Sun Zsu
Since we’re talking about truth and lies I should say something about the nature of spiritual warfare. St. Paul tells us that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
When God raised Yeshua from the dead, “He seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”. (Ephesians 1:20–21)
And it was only after Yeshua had risen from the dead that it became apparent to the powers that they’d been duped. God’s plan was “made known … to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
Those same cosmic forces… “the rulers and the authorities”… were disarmed and put to shame by the cross (Colossians 2:15). Read Michael Heiser’s “The Unseen Realm” for more on this subject.
Cosmic warfare is real and it usually plays out through human events and it is based on strategies and tactics that employ deception, trickery & misdirection. And when it comes to warfare, as the old saying goes, to the victors belong the spoils and that has included control over oral and written human history.
I believe the institutions that control the public narrative have given us false explanations about the activities of our government. I also believe that the men and women who have translated our bibles, who preach in our pulpits, and teach in our Bible Colleges and Seminaries have also given us false explanations about who the God of the Bible is and what that God is like.
I like to ask people what has changed the most over the course of their lives about how they understand God. Surprisingly, some people have told me nothing has changed, they see and understand God the same way today as when they first believed.
That has not been my experience.
The truth has repeatedly disrupted my life .
I’m one of those people who like tidy categories with a neat bow on top of my boxes of truth. I was a champion debater in High School and learned to argue both sides of a question. The reason you think all the way through an issue is to arrive at the truth… so you can be right, right?
My “unraveling” began to take shape after 9/11 when two things became clear. First, it was apparent to me that the “official narrative” of those events wasn’t true. I don’t claim to know what actually happened but I don’t believe the official story and that led me to question other things.
Second, I had a concurrent crisis of faith. I didn’t stop believing in God or Jesus or the Bible, I just started questioning the “official narrative” I received in Church, Sunday School and Bible College about who God was and what God was like.
I think the primary catalyst was the reality that although I was raised in Church and had been a “believer” since grammar school, my life was unchanged by the Gospel that was taught to me. Like many people who encounter a crisis of faith, my questions ran deeper than my theology.
I didn’t have an adequate theological explanation for what I was experiencing and NOT experiencing in my life. I didn’t have a good answer for all the pain and evil in the world (Theodicy), not to mention a cogent explanation for the bloodthirsty God in the pages of the Old Testament versus the Prince of Peace in the New Testament.
My theology was similar to a fishing tackle box that got tipped over and left in a tangled mess or like box of loose coat hangars.
I was tired of the platitudes and the trite way people used the word “mystery” like the “get out of jail free” card in the board game “Monopoly”. If you couldn’t explain something just call it a mystery. That didn’t work for me anymore. Neither did the whole “God is love but He’s also Just” explanation for harmonizing the violent pictures of God with the enemy loving Prince of Peace. I realized most people just walk around repeating what they’ve been told rather than studying the matter out themselves.
The truth can be difficult to swallow. It has disrupted my life repeatedly. Sadly, some people are too entrenched in their categories and formulaic answers to consider they’ve believed lies.
And then there are those who prefer ignorance. Believe me, I get it. I’ve wished many times that I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.
For me, things got darker before for they got better. I eventually found myself in a mens group for “broken” men where the leader passed out copies of a book called “Grace Walk” which was the story of a Southern Baptist Preacher who was going through his own unravelling.
I could relate to his “hamster wheel Christianity” which consisted of performance which inevitably led to burnout and eventually to rededication and then the cycle would repeat.
I started reading McVey’s blog and one day I followed an obscure footnote and discovered Thomas Forsyth Torrance, one of the greatest theologians since the Reformation. As I began to study The Torrance brothers and their students, they introduced me to their mentors in the early days of what would later become Christianity.
I basically read my way from Karl Barth to the Cappadocian and Patristic Fathers.
It felt like I hit the Motherlode.
I read sections of Torrance’s books on the Incarnation and the Atonement aloud to my wife Becky. We would just look at each other, often with tears in our eyes, and say, “Can this be true? How was it that we had grown up in Church, gone to Bible College and had never heard any of this?”.
I was undone in the best possible way. I felt like I understood what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel was the power of God to save.
I was so excited about what I was reading and looked for every opportunity to talk to people about it.
That’s when I learned this.
“It’s difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary (or identity or sense of well being) depends upon their NOT understanding it”
~ Upton Sinclair
The Gospel is disruptive technology
A disruptive technology or ideology is one that displaces an established technology or ideology. It will shake up and eliminate existing industries, structures and institutions.
That is precisely what happened to me.
People get entrenched in things and then they feel threatened by opposing or new ideas. Personal and societal change only happens when the pain of refusing to change exceeds the fear of change.
Did you know there are over 40,000 Protestant denominations? All of them differ on some point of theology or practice.
My father-in-law used to say everyone was right, just ask them.
In the construction world there are 2 ways to demolish a structure; a controlled demolition and a “soft” demolition. A soft demolition involves taking a structure apart piece by piece. It’s more intricate and time consuming than a standard controlled demolition where you basically just blow up the building and clear away the ruble.
This process has been going on now for almost 20 years and after hundreds of books, videos, classes and lectures, I am just now finding my own language for what I’ve come to see.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” John 17:3.
When our kids were growing up we’d hide Easter eggs in the yard after Church on Easter Sunday. When they were really young, we’d hide the eggs out in the open so they’d be easy to find. As they got older, we hid them more carefully and made them difficult to find.
We enjoyed hiding them because we knew the kids would enjoy hunting for them.
God is like that.
It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2
The Bible translator, JB Phillips, was an Anglican pastor in England during WW2. The young people in his congregation struggled to understand the King James Version of the Bible. It was during the German bombings in London and Phillips was forced into bomb shelters that he began writing his own contemporary translation, “The New Testament In Modern English”.
Here are the opening verses to his translation of the book of Hebrews.
“God, who gave our forefathers many different glimpses of the truth in the words of the prophets, has now, at the end of the present age, given us the truth in the Son. Through the Son, God made the whole universe, and to the Son, he has ordained that all creation shall ultimately belong. This Son, the radiance of the glory of God, the flawless expression of the nature of God, himself the upholding principle of all that is, effected in person the reconciliation between God and man and then took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high” Hebrews 1:1-3 JB Phillips Translation
Theologically speaking, the book of Hebrews is in the deep end of the pool in New Testament literature. In this passage we find the musings of a first century orthodox Jew who had come to know Yeshua as Messiah. He’s looking back on his heritage and scriptures trying to help his readers grasp who Yeshua is.
The New Testament didn’t exist then and his Jewish audience was like him, devoted to their scriptures and traditions. They loved and relished the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings collectively known as the Tanakh.
It’s no small thing when he writes that God had only given their forefathers “glimpses” of the truth… but that Yeshua is the “flawless” expression of the nature of God.
Yeshua is the exact, precise expression of God.
In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look no further than Yeshua.
The Hebrew Scriptures did not form the final definitive picture of who God is. In the pages of those scriptures we discover “glimpses”. They formed a gradual revelation of who God is and what God was like. They are filled with types and shadows alluding to the one who would come one day disguised as one of them.
The word of God made flesh.
Like those Easter eggs we hid for the enjoyment of our kids, God hid a wealth of revelation in the pages of the Hebrew scriptures. Some of the treasures are right there on the surface others require more effort, and we get to experience the pleasure of searching them out.
Clearly, throughout the entire epic romance that unfolds within the pages of the scriptures, God has obscured himself and has always been willing to be misunderstood. As a parent, I know that many times over the years raising my own kids that they often misunderstood me, and it was only later on, in retrospect, that they could see more clearly what had gone on.
We live in an unprecedented time in human history. It used to take years, even decades for advances in technology or knowledge to find their way into the conversations and lives of average people.
Today it takes minutes but you have to put in more effort.
What comes into your mind when you think about who God is is the most important thing about you.
Have you thought very much about the difference between the glimpses of who God is in the Old Testament versus the flawless expression in Yeshua?
It turns out that God is exactly like Yeshua.
God has always been exactly like Yeshua.
There has never been a time when God was not exactly like Yeshua.
We haven’t always known this…
But now we do.