Showing items filed under “November 2016”

How Did God First Help Us?

  1. How did God first help us?

  2. God first helped us by revealing himself and his will, through nature and history, through many seers and saints, and especially the prophets of Israel.

            (BCP 845)

God first helped us by revealing himself and his will

"The Christian Faith is a revealed religion. Its original sources are prophecy, not philosophy."[1] A primary foundation of our faith, and the Christian worldview, is that God acts first and did so in what we call revelation. When we consider God and who God is there are often two opposite errors: either that God is forever unknowable or that he is knowable by our own efforts without divine action. To the first, they are partially right, God is unknowable. However the second are also only partially right, for though God is knowable, he only is so insofar as he reveals himself to us and not by our efforts. The foundation for a doctrine of revelation derives from the idea that God is a personal and relational being. Unlike Deism, Christianity teaches that God interacts in his world. God loves his creation, and this love drives God to enter into a relationship with his creatures, a relationship which requires interaction and communication. 

God may have a desire, but do we really need it? Isn’t humanity capable of discovering God for ourselves? No. The first problem we face is the “distance” in our nature and God’s. God is infinite and the Creator, while we are limited and a creation. We are no more able to comprehend God by our own ability than a pet-animal could comprehend human philosophy. Second, even what comprehension we would be able to attain is hindered by sin. Sin has separated us from God beyond what was originally intended. Our tools for understanding God and God's will are both inadequate and broken! 

We need revelation, for without it we’d have a disjointed assortment of human opinions about God. This is, in fact, what we find to be the human religious experience: a plethora of various religions each when taken seriously presents competing claims about the nature of God(s), reality, human nature, and our purpose. Is God one or many? Does sin really exist or is it a state of mind? If there is “evil” what’s the solution? Do we need an outside salvation or can we attain it ourselves? Either one religious tradition must be right or all must be wrong in enough core ways as to be impossible to parse the true nature of reality without oversimplifying them all. If one is right, it can only be right by virtue of special revelation. That is the only claim that ultimately matters and the claim we make as Christians. 

Christians believe God has chosen to reveal himself and that revelation is in the Holy Scriptures and in a fuller sense in God made flesh Jesus Christ. This is also why natural revelation is deficient even though helpful. It relies on our inadequate abilities and doesn't take the hindrance of sin into account. God must act first to bridge the gap, and only once he does can we respond to God with our understanding and in proper worship.

Some argue that though we may need God to reveal himself in theory, in practice God is just as incapable as bridging the gap as we are, and thus we are left with nothing better than our disparate human attempts.

Though we may be unable to comprehend God, God is not limited in that way. He is able to communicate with us by using our language and through those he inspires to be revealers such as the Prophets. In the same way a child may not be able to fully understand everything about physics, a good teacher can communicate the basics to the child in a way they can understand. As the child understands more they will build on what they learned, but the original foundation would remain true. In terms of our connection with God we are perpetually in a childlike state of knowledge. Though it’s true there is much that is beyond our ability even with God’s help, that doesn't mean we’re unable to understand anything or to say nothing with certainty. 

Through nature and history

Some specific aspects about God can be discerned from creation and human reason, and this was call natural revelation. (Rom 1:18-21) This is the most uncertain version as it relies on human interpretation of a fallen world and may often run afoul of equating "is" with "ought", an idea that because something "is" a certain way then it morally "ought" to be good. We must also be careful at drawing complex conclusions from a few natural observations which is why natural revelation doesn't have the authority to override special revelation in the Scriptures.

What use is it then? It’s helpful in bolstering our understanding of special revelation when that revelation needs clarification. Theologians often debate the proper role and scope of this revelation. In general over-reliance on this type begins to call into question the need for revelation in the sense of believing human beings can attain to knowledge of God on our own power.

Through many seers and saints, and especially the prophets of Israel.

The main source of revelation from God and about God is the Scriptures starting with the Old Testament written under God's inspiration during ancient Israel. These are the Scriptures Jesus quoted, and the God reveled in it is the one Jesus called his Father. It was in these that God first communicated both who he is and what his will for humanity and creation is. It was through the Old Testament that Jesus the Messiah was promised to us to fix the sin, evil, and death in God's creation.




[1] Rev. C.B. Moss The Christian Faith 35.1

Posted by The Rev. J. Wesley Evans with

What is the Old Covenant?

In today’s society, the word “old” can often imply something out of date or no longer valid. We (Americans especially) tend to want to discard things that are old in favor of the newest and shiniest things. To answer the question about the Old Covenant, we first need to do some word study, starting with the word covenant. The Hebrew word for covenant is berit (בְּרִית), and it describes a “contract or agreement between two parties” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary). When there is a contract or agreement between two parties, the implication is that each party contributes something to the agreement. For our purposes, the covenant referred to as the Old Covenant is an agreement between God and Israel. This covenant started as a promise from God to God’s chosen people. The people were to follow God and keep God’s law, and God promised to be with them, identifying them as God’s chosen people.

There are several instances of covenants in the Hebrew Bible. It starts with Noah after the story of the flood in Genesis 7-9. This was a promise to never destroy the earth again. But this is just the beginning, and a foretaste of God’s covenant with Israel. Abraham is the next partner with God in covenantal relationship, with God promising Abraham many ancestors and protected land. For his end of the agreement, Abraham promised the obey God’s laws. God specifically refers to this covenant when dealing with the Egyptian enslavement of God’s people before leading them to freedom. It was during this time that the Law of the Covenant was established with God and through Moses in Exodus. In this text, and then again in Deuteronomy, the laws or commandments are stated, and following these commandments was to be the sign of being marked as God’s people. This is most often what is considered as the Old Covenant.

Without giving too much away, there can’t really be anything called an Old Covenant unless there is also a now a New Covenant, a topic to be discussed in a later post (spoiler alert: Jesus!!!). We can think about these covenants as a series of ways that God has entered into perfect relationship with followers, only to have the followers falter in upholding our end of the agreement. You can think back to the story of Noah and the flood, one of the most famous stories from the Hebrew Bible. We often focus on the cartoonish two-by-two animal parade loading onto the ark, rather than focusing on God who seemingly wipes out all of humanity in response to our generations of sins and failures. The iconic symbol of the rainbow is a promise that God would not ever do that again, with God arguably holding up his end of the bargain. Meanwhile, there can be a pretty compelling case made that humanity has continued to find other idols to worship besides God, separating ourselves from God in a multitude of ways. Along comes the Old Covenant. The Ten Commandments were given to God’s people through Moses, detailing what following God should and should NOT look like. Ten rules about living in community with God and one another were provided, given to a people after they have been rescued from a life of slavery and persecution. This is followed by God giving these chosen people their own land. And everyone lives happily ever after, right? Well, not exactly….

Let’s be clear about one thing – God holds up God’s part of each covenant. Any failure is directly attributable to our own desires. It is fairly safe to say that in any contractual agreement between two people, one person who continually fails to uphold their end of the bargain effectively negates the contract entirely. The non-offending party doesn’t continue providing the services or promises from the agreement. That just wouldn’t make much sense from our human perspective. And that is what sets God and the covenants made between God and God’s people apart. God never leaves. God never gives up. God continues to pour out grace and mercy where absolutely none is deserved. God continues to try to reach us, making more and more promises and giving us new revelations of who God is. In fact, God even comes to live among us, driving home the ultimate commitment that God is willing to make. Each covenant builds on the one before, further revealing God’s unending love for us.

The Old Covenant was a revelation of God for the people of God when they needed it the most. It is our heritage within the great cloud of witnesses, our inheritance as Christians. And God never fails to love and be with us. Understanding this is critical to our transformation as Christians who work to continually love and follow God. It’s when we lose sight of God’s commitment to us through our own distractions that we falter and stray from our baptismal covenant to “promise and obey” God.

Posted by Paige Hanks with


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