Gods Revelation Beyond Scripture

God reveals himself to everyone through story.
Through his image
Through the conviction of the Conscience

The power of Story: The stories we like to tell are the ones where we came out on top. We love the stories that show us in a good light, or build us up, so that the listener admires us when we are done. Although we like to tell the stories of how we overcame, and of our success, it is the stories of our failures, and struggles that have the most power. It is in our moment of weakness that God's power and grace shine in our lives. It is in these stories that the veil of flesh becomes thinnest, revealing in us the grace of the creator whose image we bear. It is then that our stories have the power to give true hope to others. Rather than the false hope that my success can be replicated, we point to the hope that God can redeem even the most messed up circumstance, for God shows his hand at work in our stories.
“We are wounded healers and impoverished philanthropists, giving of what we ourselves do not posses, in order to help others.”[1] I have struggled to remember and live these words, since my mentor spoke them to me many years ago. Henri Nouwen said it like this in the title of his book Wounded Healers: In our own woundedness we can become a source of life for others.[2] This I believe is the intended message of a passage like 1 Timothy 3. Overseers are to be “above reproach” so that they do not become conceited, or fall into disgrace.[3] While all the things listed are excellent goals, the meaning of “above reproach” is not that the overseer must be “perfect” (for then we are requiring something of the overseer that we know to be impossible) but rather that the overseer must be one of sufficient humility to admit his woundedness and poverty so that no-one can stand in accusation and “reproach” him.
In propriety, this does not mean that the overseer need confess to the entire body, that which may have offended one, but that all matters be dealt with in the fashion we are all expected to deal with them. Go be reconciled to your brother, then come offer your gifts.[4] We are called to be wounded healers, not the perfect ones - but in our woundedness, we point to the perfect One.[5] This is the kind of story I believe in.
I have a suspicion that Truth is inexpressible, it is indescribable. This is another place for story, the expression of the inexpressible. Often, when we can't find words ourselves, we use analogies, metaphor, and simile in order to convey meaning deeper than our understanding allows.  Consider that Jesus told parables. “The Kingdom of heaven is like...” and the leaders of his day would expect some theological polemic, but rather Jesus would say “The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed,” “like yeast,” “like treasure,” “like a merchant looking for fine pearls,” “like a net that is let down and catches all kinds of fish,” “like the owner of a house,” “like a king,” “like a landowner.” Jesus used stories to convey the truth of the kingdom. Likewise, the narrative of the Bible tells a story, a history, a saga. It illustrates the brokenness of people. It gives us hope that despite their brokenness, there was redemption.

The Image of God: I also believe in pictures. “A picture says a thousand words.” Jesus was a picture, the image of the invisible God. We also are pictures, made in the image of God. For too long, the Church has taught that the image is destroyed, has focused on the nature of sin and the fall. But the image remains, at least partially intact. This image if we can see through the brokenness is the same image of invisible God that Jesus came to be.
“The erroneous impression is given that the imago Dei itself has been lost through sin so that the very substance of man is nothing but sin.... The Imago Dei has been darkened but not destroyed. It is marred by sin, but still exists. Man continues to reflect the glory of his Creator, even in his sin and defiance.” [6]

I believe that real theology is that which we live out every day. In that sense, I also believe that most of our theology is not intentional, but in fact accidental. No more evident is this than in the doctrine of the Image of God. If we are indeed made in His image then what we see in ourselves and in others informs a lot of how we see God. How we view people is how we see God.
I’ve personally confronted my own accidental theology about the nature of God as I have undergone various stresses in life. My experiences have taught me that people will only help when it is convenient and everyone can be bought for the right price. The problem is this is part of what makes up my view of God. Whenever things get tight, a gnawing doubt strikes my mind, sure God promises to provide for even the lilies of the field, but maybe, just maybe, He’d sell me out. So I have made myself self-sufficient in order to compensate. My salvation is from the notion that I am the supplier and sustainer of my own life. If this is our understanding of the “Image of God” we need to acknowledge that we see that image through the dim glass of human frailty: For it is us who are made in His image, and not He in ours.[7]
Saint Irenaeus summarized what probably should be the core tenet of any faith when he said “The Glory of God IS man fully alive.”[8] In other words, the genius of the inventor is displayed when the invention actually works. Incidentally it is also our glory to be fully alive, that is, living in accord with our intended purpose - I think this is the “Imago Dei.” Ideally we can see that image of the One above all others, imprinted on the lives of those around us. Ideally they see that image in our lives; but it requires the grace to see with eyes that are opened.
The doctrine of the Image of God is all too often ignored, and yet it is central to a living faith. It is all well and good to acknowledge our place in relation to a sovereign God, but to deny any firsthand knowledge of his character behooves us to treat him as Baal or any other capricious idol.

The Conviction of the Conscience: What is faith? I've come to the conclusion, looking at the stories of the disciples, of Jesus interaction with people, that faith is a type of belief that necessitates action. The woman who is healed when she touches the hem of Jesus robe has faith because she not only has the belief that touching Jesus can heal her, but she acts upon that belief.[9] The blind beggar in Luke 18 believes Jesus has the power to heal him, but he acts upon that belief by disobeying those who tell him to be quiet.[10] The prostitute who anoints Jesus acts on her belief that he can forgive sins, and pours out costly perfume, kissing Jesus feet.[11]
Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith, but by lack of faith it seems to indicate that they doubt, and so do not act. Peter walks on the water, acting on the belief that he could go wherever Jesus called him. When Peter thinks it over and reconsiders the rationality of his actions, suddenly he begins to sink.[12] Jesus rebukes the disciples in Matthew 8 because they alter their actions when they consider the strength of the winds and height of the waves.[13] Jesus points to the actionable nature of faith when He says in John 14 “He who has faith will DO what I have been DOING.”[14]
Faith is the justification for what often seem like reckless and irrational actions. It is only when the disciples consider the recklessness and irrationality that they become unable, and Jesus accuses them of having “little faith.” Faith I suspect is binary; it either is or it isn't. Jesus accusation that they are of little faith is a lot like saying that their faith is turned off, it isn't “on” right now. When Jesus tells the disciples that if they have faith like a mustard seed they could throw a mountain into the sea, He's telling them that if they just act on their faith, nothing will be impossible for them.[15] We don't have to know how it will all work out we just have to act on it; that's the promise.[16] James says it this way:

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”[17]

Faith often costs something, but we must act, because faith without action isn't faith. Peter could have drowned, the prostitute dumped about a years wages worth of perfume, even the blind man had to shout above those telling him to be quiet. Jesus tells the rich young man to “go, sell all your possessions, give to the poor, and come follow me.”[18] He says that those who find the kingdom of God will be like a merchant who sells all he has to purchase a fine pearl. Sooo... What does your faith look like, what does mine?

“When [The Comforter] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”[19]

Christians love the idea of conviction for sin and judgment, because they feel it doesn’t refer to them, but they’re a little sketchy when it comes to conviction in regard to Righteousness. Homer Surbeck wrote that one of the key principles for success was the “cultivation of a sense of intuitive guidance,”[20] by which he meant sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's conviction upon one's conscience.[21] This is precisely what Jesus is referring to. The Comforter convicts our hearts as to what we should do, because Jesus is not physically here with us.
Natural disasters and wars in third world countries highlight for us the disparity of wealth because we see difficult images flashing across our screens. Many people in the world don't have anything to give, and yet they give of what they have freely. But how many of us would withdraw our retirement funds, our savings, our investments and give them away. Faith requires action; the Church has failed to teach this lesson. 

“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”[22]

“But it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.”[23]
God’s voice speaks to our heart, or conscience, and as we learn to silence those things that would drown Him out, we learn to recognize the voice of the Shepherd.

“Through the Holy Spirit every Christian can be provided with individual authoritative instruction. … The Spirit’s chief mission is to make men conscious of Christ rather than himself.”[24]

If Jesus is with us, some of us believe Him to be passive aggressive; He’s not talking that’s why we don’t hear His voice. Many of us believe that we have blown it one to many times, and that Jesus has just stopped trying to get through to us, we have our salvation and promise of heaven, and that’s got to be good enough. Maybe He isn’t even really with us. Others criticize this point “how can you know they are hearing God's voice” and “this just increases the problem of individualism and subjectivism that has crept in to modern Christian thinking.” “They forget that the Spirit is called a pledge and a seal to confirm the faith of the godly because until he enlightens their minds, they are tossed about on a sea of doubts.”[25]
God speaks to our hearts. Why else does Proverbs say “above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life?”[26] Why else does John say “My sheep know my voice”[27] and “He is the light of men”[28] Why else does the author of Hebrews say “Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts”.[29] Romans 2 says that even the gentiles in their unbelief hear in their conscience and thus are a “law unto themselves.”[30] God speaks to everyone because he is the “word” it is in our gut, or our heart, our instinct, or our conscience. Everyone can hear it, if they have ears to hear. This is not just the provance of the “born again” or those “baptized by the spirit” as some contend - how else are we all “without excuse.”
Jesus has a clear answer for the skeptics in John 10 “My sheep know my voice.”[31] I think there are some of us who climbed over the wall into the sheep pen that have realize we didn't get led in by the shepherd, in fact we never met the shepherd. It is a narrow path that leads to the gate, and few there are that find it. We have to start over and learn the voice of the shepherd.
I believe that many people in the church would rather not hear God's voice; it is too scary and unpredictable. They would rather be like the Israelites who sent Moses instead and then begged him to veil his face so they wouldn't have to behold the residual glory manifest on his face.[32] “They do not want to lose all contact with God, but they prefer that their relations with Him be handled by a professional.”[33] And there are many on the outside, which rightly see this as hypocrisy, they simply don't want to be like that – they’ll take their chances on their own.
I've never understood why people “pray” for revival. This statement connotes that revival is something external that happens to you, which you have no control over. In all its popular forms through recent history revival has been recognized by an increase in the numbers enrolled in programmatic religion, and has not necessarily been emblematic of real spiritual growth.
A better historian than I could draw the connections between the three major “awakenings” and a sense of corporate catharsis that accompanied very tumultuous times in the early days of this nation. Each of these awakenings gave birth to the new school of thought that became the contemporary zeitgeist in turn producing the next tumult.
The word revival means to come alive again; it indicates a return to a previous state of life. It means to be “fully alive” once again. We go through life “mostly dead” we hedge our bets, we never take chances, and we give up on the things that give us joy because we think that more serious or pious pursuits are more responsible. We no longer listen to that little voice that whispers in our conscience, because our great intellect tells us not to. We talk about and theorize, but don't put our preaching into practice.

 “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” [34]

Being alive may mean having those deep questions and not necessarily getting answers, but it certainly is an attitude and a choice that we have. “Praying” for revival and not making the choice to be fully alive, is spiritual bankruptcy. Charismatic leaders have used the idea of revival to build their empires, and their egos. Sure, we need to be alive, but we need changed individuals, one at a time.

Sin: There are a lot of things I am not allowed to do, laundry is one of them. “Not allowed” seems like a strong phrase reminiscent of our childhood when mom or dad “invented” punishments to keep us in line. Now that I'm an adult, there is nobody standing ready with a wooden spoon, or to ground me for breaking the rules, heck I get to make my own rules sometimes. Just like back then, there is a reason for the laundry rule. Unlike then, I don't get punished but I do have to deal with the temporal consequences of my actions such as pink T-shirts, bleach spots and my wife's favorite - the cashmere sweater I resized for her niece.
I can't help but wonder if this adult version of rules is a closer approximation to the definition of morality. We can do anything we want, but sometimes having rules is important for keeping us from having to deal with negative temporal consequences. Sometimes I can even get away with doing the laundry, but sooner or later I ruin some item of clothing. It usually isn't even my clothes that get damaged, leaving someone else to suffer a loss.
We as human beings however are prone to seeing sin as an issue of transgressing moral rules. Kant in his formula for autonomy attempts to find a source for morality apart from God; C.S. Lewis tries to prove God’s existence by using Kant’s own Categorical Imperative. It is Nietzsche however that most likely comes closest in declaring that morality is a societal creation used to impose control upon the masses.
In the beginning God said: “You can eat from any tree in the garden, but from the tree in the center of the garden you shall not eat, for in the day you eat, you shall surely die.”[35] The tree in the center of the garden has been referred to as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because when the serpent attempts to beguile Eve, he tells her “Surely you will not die, but you will become like GOD, knowing GOOD and EVIL.”[36]
Now up to this point Adam and Eve had no prohibitions that we know about, they were free to do anything at all. The first “sin” was to reach for the ability to make moral judgments between good and evil - in order to be “like God.”  The fall is about rebellion, it is insurrection. The serpent enlists man on his side of the epic battle, and strikes a blow at God by turning his creation against him.
“Sin is an aversion from and an unfaithfulness to [YHWH] himself; hence it is placed in the heart rather in the wrong deed.”[37] Sin is setting ourselves in any position relative to God that is higher than the position we truly occupy. For St. Anselm sin was “not rendering to God what is his due.”[38] Sin is denying our state. Sin is wanting to be our own little gods. Sin is insurrection, it is rebellion.
Sartre verifies this when he applies revolutionary though to the divine. This is the very lie of the serpent. Sin is embracing any identity other than that for which we were created.

Righteousness: The media does an excellent job of obscuring the issues of wealth and poverty. The guy who drove Lehman Brothers (Lehman who?) into the ground made a staggering $13,000 an hour, while there are plenty who are stuck in minimum wage jobs in order to eat; then there are the unemployed. The politicians talk capitalism and democracy vs. socialism and communism as if they are polar opposites. Many people find themselves enslaved to a system that they hate. When every waking moment is consumed by worrying about where the next car payment, or insurance, or rent is going to come from, we feel forced to occupy our minds with the things of money. Bills put us in a position where we work daily to serve the system. Every decision we make is weighed by the question of money. The “credit” system holds us in check so that we don't do anything wild.
Why focus on money? Tell me, what evil is not a kind of evil? “For the desire for money is the root of all kinds of evil.”[39] Money itself is not intrinsically evil, for Jesus commanded that we “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's,” but beyond that, he makes no reference that we should need money; the opposite is true:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field… Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”[40]

Money is a tool, tools have specific purposes.
If I'm a plumber and I need pipe wrenches, but I only need so many. I need other things like pipe cutters and threaders and soldering torches. If I desire wrenches more than all these other things, I am no longer a plumber, but a collector of wrenches. If I claim to be a plumber I am a liar, because plumbers have and use these other tools as well.
Psalm 1 does not say: “Blessed is the man who does not associate with the wicked, nor stand near sinners, or sit down with mockers…” But rather:

Blessed is the man who does not take
the counsel of wicked men
Nor stand up for the things that sinners do
Or sit in judgment as those who mock God
For his delight is in the law that God
has written in his heart
He searches his heart day and night, testing himself
He is like a tree, because his roots go down to the source so that he will not dry up or wither,
But he will produce fruit when it is his time
Every one of his righteous deeds results in providence
Not so the wicked, they will dry up eventually,
They have no root, but rather chase the wind
They will be unable to stand trial like the righteous
God protects the road of the righteous man
But the road of the wicked is beset.

“Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life”[41] - too many people live as though they are guarding against something falling into their well - when a wellspring is something that water flows out of... guard that which flows out of your heart, treasure it, because that is the source of Life for you.

“When [Elijah] came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’ she replied, ‘I don't have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’ Elijah said to her, ‘Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’’ She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.”[42]

We in our society believe that we are each responsible for being the sustainers of our own lives. Like the woman, many of us are days, weeks, paychecks away from financial ruin, and yet we still worry as though we were capable of avoiding that next catastrophe. Some acknowledge that they are days from ruin, and resign themselves to “laying down to die.” But how many of us acknowledge God not just as the author of life, but also the sustainer.
Why are we willingly serving money? “You cannot serve two masters, either you will love the one and despise the other, or you will despise the one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”[43] “Go sell all your possessions give to the poor and come follow me.”[44] “Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink, or what you will wear, for the pagans run after these things, and your father knows that you need them, but rather seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you as well.”[45]

Judgment: Judgment is reserved for those who have set themselves up in opposition to God. The images of fire and brimstone painted for us in John’s Apocalypse may not be so helpful. Perhaps Hell is getting exactly what we want despite our best interest. Often I have heard of Hell as eternal separation from God. Regardless of the image, avoidance of punishment isn’t the inspiration of true faith. God doesn’t bargain with us for our souls like a merchant. Faith is actionable belief based on the conviction of the conscience, coming from source within our hearts that is a wellspring of true life, that which we were created for. True faith is always motivated by love, not fear.
It is indeed only Scripture that holds the account of a Creator who loves and pursues his rebelling creation. It is Christ alone who affects the expiation for our sinful act of rebellion by sacrificially offering himself. It is by God's grace alone that we find this salvation from certain doom, for we were yet willing participants in the rebellion against God. It is through Faith alone, that we are brought out of rebellion, for we ourselves would not and could not do it. It is God the creator alone who both deserves and who receives glory both absolutely and for the restoration of his creation.
Without faith, we have no access to the grace. Without grace, we are doomed. Without Christ, the grace has no affect. Without scripture we do not know of Christ, or the grace, in which we might have faith. If we glorify another, then we exist in rebellion against God, and have not had faith, nor partaken in the grace which Christ affected to us.
            None of the disciples knew who Jesus was when they began to follow him. Were they saved? When did they become “born again?”[46] Did they really care about our whole soteriology, or was Jesus an awesome guy they wanted to follow and maybe be like. It was only on this road that some came to realize who Jesus was, note not all of the disciples make a confession of faith in Jesus - only Peter. So then isn't doubt as to who Jesus is, and following him anyway the beginning of Faith?

[1] Rev. Philip K. Wyman, The Gathering at Salem; this phrase, “To give from our poverty” has become the motto of the Department of Missions of the Bishops Conference (DEMIS-CELAM) and appears in the “Puebla document” (Phillips 132 (Samuel Escobar))
[2] Henri Nouwen,  Wounded Healers: In our own woundedness we can become a source of life for others, (New York: Doubleday, 1979)
[3] 1 Timothy 3:1-7
[4] Matthew 5:23-25
[5] 2 Corinthians 3:18
[6] Donald G Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology: God, Authority, & Salvation, (Peabody, Ma.: Prince Press, 1998) pp.90-91
[7] Psalm 100
[8] The New Catholic Catechism article 294 http://www.tulsacursillo.org/sp101/spirituality101_11_20.htm
[9] Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:40-48
[10] Luke 18:35-43
[11] Luke 7:36-50
[12] Matthew 14:22-36
[13] Matthew 8:23-27
[14] John 14:12 emphasis added
[15] Matthew 17:20
[16] Matthew 6:33
[17] James 2:17-19
[18] Luke 12:33, Matthew 19:21
[19] John 16:8-11
[20] Homer Surbeck, The Success Formula that really works, (Foundation for Christian Living, 1986)
[21] Romans 2:15
[22] Matthew 24:10-12
[23] Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25
[24] Merril C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief; An Analytical Study of the Text, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1997) p.238-239
[25] John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Tony Lane and Hillary Osborne (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Book House, 1987) p.43)
[26] Proverbs 4:23
[27] John 10:4,27
[28] John 1:4
[29] Hebrews 3:7, 15, and 4:7
[30] Romans 2:
[31] John 10: 4
[32] Exodus 34:29-35
[33] Edmund P. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, (Phillipsburg, Nj.: P&R, 1988) p.112
[34] Matthew 18:3
[35] Genesis 2:16-17
[36] Genesis 3:1-5
[37] Piet Schoonenberg, Man and Sin, (trans. Joseph Donceel. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1965), p.8)
[38] Anselm, Cur Deus Homo,(John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1986) p.118)
[39] 1 Timothy 6:10
[40] Matthew 13:44-46
[41] Proverbs 4:23
[42] 1 Kings 17:10-16
[43] Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13
[44] Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22
[45] Matthew 6:25-33, Luke 12:22-31
[46] John 3:7 – the Churches position on being “born again” is a hermeneutical hypocrisy. Not only that, but Jesus reference here talking to a Pharisee in the context of his belief in the resurrection is certainly a pointed analogy.

AnteChurch: confession of a young theologian, Copyright © 2010 by J.D.M. Jinno. All rights reserved. The Author grants the right for an individual to print one complete copy of this work for personal use only. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever (including but not limited to appearance on websites other than http://www.antechurch.com) without written permission except in the case of brief quotations. You may link to http://www.antechurch.com. For more information contact the author at antechurch @ gmail.com


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