Sharing the Truth

(The photo is from a bridge gospel illustration via Life Bible-Presbyterian Church)

I am interested in furthering this discussion, not necessarily persuading to a conclusion. The dialogue about this is good for us, and the comments from every angle in the previous post are brilliant. Hopefully you will free to continue to explore this train of thought with me.

Do you believe that this picture accurately presents the reality of an unbeliever (or a believer)?

If not, what kind of illustration would you envision.

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48 thoughts on “Sharing the Truth

  1. Maybe I’ve bought into the curative approach to the cross too much…

    I believe this may explain one aspect of “The Gospel”. I don’t, however, fully buy into it anymore.

    The last time I worked through much of the Bible (I am not done yet), I am not seeing that “sin” separates us from God. I see God reaching out to us in spite of our sin.

    If you do go down the road of the curative (healing) atonement, you are left with the left side of the picture being a quarantine & death (I don’t know that I buy into the traditional view of hell anymore either) and the right side being God, healing and life. If we accept God’s vaccine for sin, we are healed, even if we are left with some residual effects. If not, however, we are left with death.

    I’m just rambling… Hopefully with a point.

  2. Hmmm. I would draw the picture with God (our only source of life) all around Man, embracing him.I would show Man with hands and arms trying to push God away while reaching for Death/Non-existence just out of reach.

    But I’m not really a visual artist, so that’s probably not a good representation of what I’m really trying to describe. Still, I’m not sure how anyone can read the narratives of scripture and think that sin somehow keeps God away from us. If you push that thought far enough, it seems to end up a denial of the Incarnation itself.

    1. Gee, that’s a tough one. I kinda agree with Scott about God trying to embrace us and us either trying to push him away or be receptive to him. I prefer the idea that sin keeps us from God, like Scott says, rather than keeping God from us.

      As a Catholic, I didn’t grow up around the classic ‘canyon’ illustration, so it was always a little odd and simplistic to me. Salvation seems more like a rescue operation than a series of discrete steps that can be drawn out in a handy diagram. But I’m gonna try to distill my picture of salvation into three things anyway:

      * We run away from God and we’re too daft to know we’re heading for ruin, so God chases after us.

      * Our sin is our statement of allegiance; we choose to act against our better judgment (with varying levels of free will). For those things, God offers forgiveness to anyone who accepts it.

      * We can make a choice to stick with God, but we somehow end up doing dumb things. For this, God offers to heal us.

      So I guess that, as I understand it, salvation boils down to rescue, forgiveness, and restoration. And it’s always a matter of God chasing after us, rather than treating us as untouchables or legally separated from him.

      A better image might be that of the ‘hound of heaven’ http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Hound_of_Heaven — a much less static picture than the one above, I’m sure you’ll agree!

  3. ” The one believing into Him is not judged; but the one not believing is judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But the one doing the truth comes to the Light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been worked in God. ”
    -Jesus (John 3:18-21)

    “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” -Jesus (John 8:24)

    I think Jesus draws a pretty good picture here.

  4. Don’t know about you guys but if Jesus had to pay a ransom was it not paid before the foundation of the world – lamb slain before ………etc.If time is irrelevant was there ever a time when the gulf existed as far as God is concerned?See where I’m going?

    1. From my studies in the Word, I do not believe we are able to fully see things from God’s perspective because His perspective transcends our ability to comprehend it. Our imperative is to walk in the truth He has revealed, not try to figure out the mystries of the unknowable. God created a perfect world, sin messed it up, and now God has to work in a messy world. Jesus entered into the mess and bore the consequences of sin, but He is not forcing people to accept it. The greatest enemy of a relationship is control. Love gives up control. How can a sovereign God who rules from His eternal throne give up control and allow man to choose light (life) or darkness (death)? I don’t know – it’s a mystery to me. But if He didn’t, He could not truly first love me, and I could not truly love Him because of it.

      I have seen (and used) a similar illustration – it goes along with Romans 6:23 – “The gospel in a nutshell”.

      “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life IN Jesus Christ our Lord.”

      Through Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s epistles, I believe that if we are not IN Christ (the work of the Holy Spirit), we will still have to receive the wages we earned in darkness by refusing to come to the Light.

  5. Ken – are the wages now or in the next life? – that is the question!!!

    Where does the ability to come to the light come from – us or God? If us then we have earned our salvation whatever that may be.If the ability comes from God then its all predestined and Paul’s belief that the whole of creation – sinners and saints will be finally be summed up in Christ.

  6. Without getting too theologically deep (smarter and far more educated men than I have been arguing this for centuries), If I receive a GIFT, I did nothing to earn it. It’s a gift. Howvever, I have the free will to either receive it or reject it. The unearned gift is offered, but either way, the choice to receive it in my own.

    If you read my comment in the last post where I simply quoted Jesus from the book of John, it seems quite apparent that those He is speaking to have a choice to make. The choice has nothing to do with earning what He has to offer.

    1. @ Charlie,
      In John, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life, so let me use that analogy:

      At a dinner party, Eli, the host, stands up to make a grand offer!
      “I know that all the bread you make and eat goes bad,” he says. “Yet you work hard to make it and eat it and hope that you can live on it.”
      “My bread isn’t so bad!” some say.
      “Mine is better than yours, Mertle!” says Maude.
      “I only eat Rye, myself” says another.

      Eli continues,
      “This evening, just for you, my invited guests, I have placed on the Table here, barley loaves that I made myself. It doesn’t spoil and if you eat it, it grants eternal life!”

      “Preposterous!”
      “Outrageous!”

      “You don’t believe me?! Try the bread, here it is!” cries Eli.

      “I’d rather eat my shoe than take party to a farce of this magnitude,” shouts one of the elderly men, a baker.

      Undaunted, Eli shouts, “If you, my invited guests, won’t eat, I open my doors and send my servants to bring in the beggars off the streets below!”

      The beggars, the street people, neighbors, even the baker from down the street, and a few from the party, all eat the bread Eli made. Though they feel different themselves, the others do not care to mingle and never see, as their own vision fades, that the beggars and such are now asked to move in with Eli and need not go back to the streets.
      (From my children’s book)

  7. Grace, the picture you’ve got has the man condemned because of sin that stands between him and God. Rom 8 says that God condemned the sin. What if you placed the man between the two cliffs and swapped the sin and man labels to show that it was sin that was condemned?

    1. Rebellion against God.

      Self centered.

      Missing the mark.

      Willful disobedience toward God.

      Moral obliquity.

      Sin is extremely deceptive. The greatest sin of the religious folks of Jesus’ day seemed to be the fact that they felt they were not guilty of it. I think the term is ‘self-righteousness’. There are still quite a few of those around today.

    2. At it’s root – the condition of being blind and deceived about the truth of God’s love.

      There are a myriad of destructive beliefs and behaviors resulting from this condition ranging the spectrum from religious to rebellious.

      I would love to hear your definition traveller.

    3. A definition I’ve heard that I like is:

      Sin: Taking for ourselves that which we were not given.

      Not mine… Thanks to Wayne Jacobsen. I can’t, however, think of a “sin” that this definition doesn’t cover.

  8. all righty then, hows this?
    Have you ever told your child, don’t go jump in the mud puddle? They do and then you don’t let them in the house until they clean themselves off, right? Problem is, children cannot clean themselves off while standing in the middle of the mud puddle, and since they cannot to get out of the puddle, and in fact sink deeper with each step (water just makes it messier) You have to go in to get them out, getting dirty yourself. You, being bigger, wiser, can come and go and clean yourself off and clean them too. Of course, in this analogy, you give them a choice whether they want to come out of the puddle or not. Not a choice I would give my daughter, personally, but God is wiser than I.

  9. Maybe God isn’t everywhere, is He only on the one side? … you got to jump first … “a leap of faith” … one side is sacred the other profane … if God is on the otherside side, who is it then, that nudges us? This is a very Greek way at looking at things.

    Bring back the “ROMAN ROAD”!!! I say, take a look around the Kingdom of God is here and you don’t need to jump no chasm to enter in.

  10. Sin is being unaware of the higher reality of the Divine’s unconditional love.It is primarily a dysfunction rather than a moral question.

    On the free will issue – if no-one ‘chose’ Christ out of their ‘free will’ would he still be the Saviour of the World?? Not potentially but prtactically??

    If my free will is required to receive the free gift what percentage of my ‘salvation’ is up to me???? Is it Jesus 99.9999999% and me 0.0000001 %.If I don’t chip in my micro percentage then I’m not saved!!!! Therfore Jesus can’t be the Saviour of the World but only of those who have contributed their little percentage.I believe He is the Saviour of the World – therefore all are saved without pitching in their little bit of God’s little helper!! All you Orthadox Evangelicals don’t jump down my throat but trry and follow my logic – intelligent response only please – not the unconvincing dogma that is the usual response.Thanks!!

    1. Faith is not based on logic. It is founded in God’s Word. You haven’t made a case from God’s Word; Jesus’ teachings or Paul’s epistles.

      Give me something Biblically objective to deal with.

  11. Has God placed all truth in the Scriptures Ken?

    If so what about the Book of Enoch that was accepted in Jesus day and probably read by Him.Some believe He even based his ministry on it!The whole fundamentalist view of Scripture is historicaly dishonest! Yes it is a source of revelation but its interpretation is key.Who has the correct interpretation – The Catholics,The Protestant Evangelicals,The Orthodox or some whacky sect.

    Experience is also importnat as is an openeness to truth no matter what the source – Satanists excepted!!!

    The faith is not based on logic angle is a cop out – evangelicals use logic when it suits them and ditch it when it contradicts their hermeneutics.

    Read Jamres Barr’s Escape from Fundamentalism.

    Lets not fall out though.Whatever works for you

    1. In answer to your original questtion – I think not. But I believe all scripture is truth. There is a difference. I think that the pholosophy of “progresive revelation” is a very dangerous proposition. You might be right in adopting ideas from other ‘experiences’, but I believe choosing experience OVER scripture leads to heresy and ultimately a different gospel.

      I revert to my original query, do you have scriptural basis for your positions? Do you believe the two quotes of Jesus from the book of John (chapters 3 & 8) that I posted further up the string? Or is that open to intepretation? If so, what would be your interpretation?

      The Jews regarded many uncanonized writings as important to their studies – including 1 Enoch. But it was never cannonized in the OT, and it certainly isn’t a NT writing. Although “some believe Jesus based His ministry on it”, the vast majority of post-reseurrection biblical scholars disagree.

      I would not be considered by any means a fundamentalist, but I am certainly not a new-ager.

      1. On the scripture front Ken – do you believe that Balaam’s ass spoke to him??
        Do you believe that God sanctioned indeed ordered the slaughter of Canaanite women and children?Scripture tells us so.

        There is a mystical stream throughout the Old and New Testament canon – but evangelical conservatism doesn’t like to think about in case they end up like Shirley McClean!!!!

        In my opinion Evangelical Scholarship for the most has chucked out this mystical element from their paradigm and left a law based religion with grace chucked in as desert!!!

        Just some thoughts.

        Charlie

      2. I think that there are two different ways to literally view the scriptures. One view says that every time someone in scripture says “God says” that He really said it. Another form of literalism says that the person literally believed that God spoke to him but God in fact may not have spoken to him.

        In the case of God ordering the slaughter of Canaanite women and children we must filter that passage through the life, ministry and words of Jesus and make a determination of whether God actually spoke or the person just thought He spoke.

  12. I think if the guy would jump – his big head would get wedged in the divide and we could all walk across – proving that knowledge is our saviour

  13. Charlie,
    Yes, and yes.

    Indeed there is a mystical aspect to God. How could there not be?

    Here is a good idea of my stance on law and grace – taken from today’s meditation in my Proverb of the Day writings. See what you think:

    Today from Proverbs 27 we look at verse 15

    “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.”

    Believe it or not, we are going to draw a doctrinal position from this proverb. It relates to one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite subjects – law verses grace. The law takes on the role of the quarrelsome, or more properly, contentious (KJV) wife. The root of the Hebrew word for contentious in this verse actually means to rule by judgement. In the analogy presented, the wife is unceasingly contesting the statements and decisions of the husband. He is never good enough to ultimately satisfy her. After a sustained amount of time, it becomes maddening. Like the constant dripping of water on a rainy day, it soon becomes the overwhelming focus of the senses and emotions. The more one tries to shut it out, the more pronounced it becomes. So it is with the law. By seeking to use the law as a means to save ourselves, it becomes a contentious wife. Every decision, every action is scrutinized under her ever watchful eye. No matter how hard we try, it seems we are never good enough to satisfy her. Soon the law becomes our taskmaster, the overwhelming focus of our senses and emotions. We seem to no longer be able to sense the other things all around us that God made for our enjoyment – just the constant contending of the law. Drip – drip – drip. Our strength is no match for her. We cannot divorce the law, because divorce itself is breaking the law. How then can we be freed from her?

    Paul uses this very analogy in Romans chapter seven to answer this question. The solution; one of the two in the marriage must die. The law cannot die, for it is righteous and eternal. The only other alternative is you (and I). Paul gives the illustration that by law, a married woman is bound to her husband for life. Only through the death of her husband is she free to marry another. Then he reveals the wonderful spiritual truth of the analogy, “You also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” (Romans 7:4&5) Paul is saying that the fault was never in the law, it was in our sinful nature. We remained in bondage to the law because we could never satisfy the law (drip – drip – drip). Only by putting the old nature to death could we be freed from bondage to the law. Paul goes on to say, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit (grace), and not in the old way of the written code (law).” (verse 6, parenthesis mine). In Christ we died to the law – having no way to satisfy its demands. He satisfied them for us. Now, instead of being bound by law, we are free in His grace. The fruit of the Spirit is not a set of new laws to be kept, it is the result of an abiding relationship with Christ. The deathly fruit of the law is the result of the weakness of our flesh (old nature). The ability to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives is the result of dying to self and appropriating His power at work in us through Jesus Christ our Lord. By His grace, we are freed from the ‘constant dripping’, and free to enjoy Him forever. The law is satisfied.

  14. Ken I used to say the same things that you have stated but God pulled the plug on it all and rebuilt me from the ground up.Truth as theology doesn’t do it for me any more – the whole thing gives me a headache and screws me up – makes me not a nice person to be around.The study of God seems a bit rich for One who started a universe likes ours.I don’t believe He can be captured in the scriptures of any religion.

  15. How about this:

    Sin defined as that which we seek to find our identity in or through, that cannot lead us to God, the only true source of life and being. Attempts to define ourselves apart from God, leads inherently to death.

    1. Patrick,
      I wish I had your photoshop skills. I’ve been thinking about this, and here is what my picture would look like.

      The side with sin and death would have a cross planted in it. Man would be on the side with God and life wearing blinders, but Jesus would be beside him with a pair of clear glasses.

      What do you think?

  16. wow,
    Lots of great thoughts here.. I think I would use the illustration of Sin being more like a hood that blinds us or some sort of helmet that dulls all of our senses. God is Omnipresent , that is pretty clear I think from scripture; so I think the separation is all self inflicted our choice if you will.
    When we are choosing sin we are blinded, deafened and cut off because of the garment we choose..
    Does that make any sense?
    That is my two cents,
    Peace

  17. I don’t think you can read the gospels and find anywhere where Jesus confronted the disciples with sin. There was an invitation on follow and belong…even before belief. I’ll agree that sin is a barrier. But, it is not something that excludes us from the love us Jesus. In his invitation to follow, and belong we confront our own sinfulness…and are changed. His love conquers all…even our sinfulness. Does repentance precede forgiveness? Acceptance, inclusion precedes all…radical scandalous love makes us confront sin.

    1. “Get thee behind me, satan” ?
      “One of you will betray me.”
      “I tell you the truth, before the cock crows you will deny me thrice”
      First, were Jesus ONLY followers His disciples? Did He only speak to the 12? Obviously not. So, just because you cannot find Jesus rebuking them (which leads me say you should read deeper) doesn’t mean He didn’t rebuke sin (because you REALLY need to read deeper. I think you gloss over, friend.)
      Second, loving grace does not separate from fearful justice. He took the justice upon Himself, but He clearly demands the highest purity from His followers – not for the law, but for the Love of the King.
      The sheep and the goats were not separated for sins they committed, but the good they OMITTED (which is sin).
      “You are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
      “Those who do the will of my Father in Heaven are my real disciples.”

  18. There are so, so many stories to reflect on in the gospels but the one that has always captured my imagination. Is the criminal that is crucified with Jesus who says nothing more than, ” Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
    To which Jesus replies, ” I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise?”

    Are we missing something, or in our theological biases…do we read something in between the lines that isn’t there? I leave it, for us all to wrestle with.

  19. I agree Ron – Jesus didn’t seem to use the Evangelical Spiritual Laws that are a highly interpretative mix of Paul’s teaching on what happens when a person comes to a Divine encounter associated with Yeshua.I like Yeshua’s humour,honesty and integrity in welcoming the poor into the Kingdom experience.

  20. Wow, lots of good thoughts here. I agree with what many have said about the very image of the chasm being incongruent with the gospel, and dualistic.

    I wanted to say that I would replace the word “sin” with the word “shame” as I think “sin” (at least as behaviors, selfish attitudes, rebellion etc) is just symptomatic of a deeper problem – the shame that arises from the fallen, carnal nature and causes us to *feel* separated and alienated from God (even though He is not separated from us – as is clear from the incarnation).

    And I believe that shame causes the ‘sin’ that Patrick O. defined so well. We compensate for the shame by trying to be somebody – trying to prove our identity and worth… outside of Him.

    What is really sad is that the alienation and shame itself is just a lie. The truth is that we already belong. We already have identity and worth, and have no need to try to create one.

  21. so weird, I was thinking about another a different conversation about this very thing on another blog (concerning the whole two-cliffs illustration) when I came across this scripture this morning:

    …They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10

    What strikes me in all the conversations I’ve seen about this, is that among those who reject this two-cliff illustration, the common thread seems to be a rejection of the whole idea of punishment, or wrath, or hell. If God is love, then how could there be such things?

    But what I don’t hear is anyone explaining why, if there is no real consequence to sin, to real punishment, no real seperation, did Jesus die on that cross? If “sin” is just a faulty mindset, or a feeling of shame, or whatever else, then why did Christ have to die a real death? Why did Jesus experience real seperation from the Father (as the big chasm in the illustration depicts) when all our sin was put upon Him?

    God’s love, and gift of grace, may be free to us, but it cost God a great deal. It was purchased with real blood, and judgement and pain. If all those understandably uncomfortable things really have nothing to do with the gospel, then maybe Jesus Himself didn’t get it. Maybe He went through all that (something He was so afraid of doing He sweated blood the night before) without any real reason. Maybe the disciples should have ran up to Him, as He hung on that cross and said, “Whoa, Jesus, what are you thinking!? Don’t you know God loves us? Come down from there and stop this nonsense!”

    So if the belief in judgement and a penalty for sin is nothing more than a delusion, then wouldn’t that make Jesus was the most deluded one of all…?

    1. Daniel

      There are other models of Atonement.One of the most satisfying to me is based on the thoughts of Rene Girard the French Catholic thinker.He gives a real reason why Jesus had to die a real death following the rejection of His Kingdom message.I Saw Satan Fall like lightning is his most ‘Christian’ book.Worth a read.In more detail try ‘Saved From Sacrifice’ by ???It is based on Girard’s thoughts and is more for the theologically inclined.The conservative evangelical theory is just that a theory – like evoloution?????

  22. Daniel, just a question, maybe you can help me out. I don’t see in the gospels where Jesus confronted the disciples with sin before they were invited, and belonged. I totally agree with you that sin is a factor. My concern is in ” our ” theology we misplace it, sort of putting the cart before the horse analogy. And again, even the thief on the cross who asks nothing more than, ” Jesus remember me in your Kingdom”. And Jesus tells him, ” today I tell you, you will be with me in paradise.” It is obvious there is something happening which we don’t see, maybe in what the Psalmist would say, ” where deep calls to deep.” This isn’t pointed at you, but, I think too many Christians through a modernity style of evangelism want it scripted as in the image. The non-believer ( A ) confesses his sin to me believer ( B ) and the He gets God ( C ). Really the whole process doesn’t involve me at all, it’s only the Holy Spirit that convicts anyone of sin. On a far deeper level we could talk about what sin is…I think if we go back to the opening of Genesis we discover it far more than a personal thing…it is profoundly relational, with God, with all humanity, and with all creation. When there is wholeness in all those relationships I’ll be free from sin. I am constantly a sinner, but a good sinner and that is only because of Jesus.

  23. I really appreciate Daniel’s honest questions here. A very valuable addition to the discussion!

    Yes, there are different understandings/interpretations of the atonement. And in my comment, I didn’t mean to communicate that sin isn’t a problem. Sin is a problem – and it has real consequences here and now. Sin is death and creates death. I just think that sin is a symptom of broken relationship: alienation. And alienation is our condition because of the fall. We hide from God in fear, just as Adam and Eve. Because the fall creates in us a distorted image of Him. The cross is absolutely necessary and central to resolve this broken relationship, bringing us back into the life of the Father, Son and Spirit. As the second Adam, Jesus has crucified the flesh, put it in the grave, and resurrected us as new creatures – brought fully into the relationship that He enjoys with His Father without the distortion of our falleness and shame. Good news! :D

    The other issue that comes up is culture. Our western culture has a punitive justice system, not a reconciliatory justice system (which I believe the gospel describes). I think we interpret scripture through our cultural grid, rather than the basis of God’s revealed nature in Christ.

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