Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We are all imperfect

Ellen has an interesting post about Samson which she uses as an example of how God uses imperfect people deliberately to bring glory to Himself. In the comments section there was a comment about how it was surprising that the Protestants view the people of the Old Testament as flawed. I find it surprising that the it's not univerally accepted that they are flawed since the entire Old Testament demonstrates the truth of the following verse:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
I believe that when we look at the Old Testament we see God and His people interacting with each other in a real and personal way. The authors of the books of the Old Testament didn't hide the imperfections of their patriarchs and their kings. Abraham lied, Jacob was a liar, Joseph's brothers tried to kill him and they lied to their father, Moses killed a man and was disobedient to God, and in the book of Judges we see that judge after judge was flawed and that the people of Israel sinned against God. David and his descendants are written as real people with real character flaws.

Should we be surprised by this? Not if we believe our Bible:
Romans 3:9-12 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
God uses imperfect people because that's all that's available :-) and when we view someone as righteous and the OT states that someone is righteous (Abraham, Job, Noah), it's with the understanding that they are righteous through the imputed righteousness of Christ. The OT saints, in and of themselves have no righteousness apart from Christ.

The Old Testament saints were flawed but they were God's people and over and over again when they sinned, He still remained their God and He still used them to bring forth their Messiah. He didn't abandon them for a more righteous people, He kept His promise to Abraham, that He would be their God and they would be His people.

And God continues to use His people today, to share the good news of His salvation with others. He doesn't have to but He does. Praise be to God that He has given us a part in His wonderful plan of salvation even though we do so in an imperfect way.

19 Comments:

  1. Moonshadow said...
    Our inability to show deference to biblical personages is among our flaws.

    Culturally, we shun heroes, the legacy of 9/11 notwithstanding.

    Whatever happened to the great heroes of the Bible that we heard about as children?

    They are still there, same as they have always been. We are the one who have changed.

    We grew up, we got smart, we got cynical.

    Now we see like everyone else, like grown-ups, but we ought really to see differently, like children, with eyes of faith.
    Mike Y said...
    Michele,

    Once again, I'm totally with you. More to the point, God walked with them, led them by fire at night, by cloud during day, gave manna from heaven, brought water from a rock, parted the red sea, destroyed their enemies and through it all, the "chosen people" of God turned to pagan idolotry and forsook God.

    All of the OT stands to show that God's chosen people or race is a spiritual one and that without his direct intervening, we are completely hopeless.
    Carrie said...
    Whatever happened to the great heroes of the Bible that we heard about as children?

    There is only one and that is Jesus!

    The Bible is not a novel, Moonshadow, it is all about God's salvation plan through Jesus. You seem hung up on the mystery and the likeability of the characters and miss the true theme.

    Why are Catholics so focused on men and their value?
    Moonshadow said...
    As I read the opening chapters of Romans, Paul's conclusion in 3:23 is that "all have sinned" and he means "both" groups, Jews and Gentiles. What a Reformed believer might term "some of all types" -- see Spurgeon's quotation below.

    Paul's conclusion, when taken out of context as is often done in proof-texting, is too easily understood in absolute terms -- as a proposition in and of itself -- rather than as the summation of an (excellent!) argument.

    C.H. Spurgeon from a sermon on Particular Redemption (the blue letter bible)

    "the whole world has gone after him" Did all the world go after Christ? "then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in the Jordan." Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in the Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children" and the whole world lieth in the wicked one". Does the whole world there mean everybody? The words "world" and "all" are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely that "all" means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts -- some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile ..."

    The truth of universal sinfulness is clear in the Bible apart from Romans 3:23 but this particular verse is pressed into service it was never intended to perform, as I'll show.

    Obviously, we can think of exceptions to Paul's blanket statement: Jesus Himself, young children yet to attain the age of moral culpability, persons with severe developmental or emotional disorders, and, I daresay, seniors suffering from degenerative diseases.

    I certainly subscribe to the doctrine of Original Sin, the result of Adam's disobedience meted out upon us all from birth (or conception). And, to mitigate against what Augustine termed "concupiscence", I have scrupulously (or superstitiously, depending on your viewpoint) had my children baptized in water and the Holy Spirit for the washing away of sin.

    In Romans 3:24, who is the subject of the phrase?

    and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

    As I read it in English, it seems as if the “all” from verse 23 carries through, with the qualification in verse 25 ”to be received by faith”.

    Cranfield agreed that it’s “all” but he had some rationalizing explanation for how the two “alls” were intrinsically different: the “all” in verse 23 really meaning “all” and the implied “all” in verse 24 NOT really meaning “all”. I could not grasp his argument. Fr. Fitzmyer’s comment emphasized the significance of the gift of grace being received by faith but did not shy away from “all” meaning “all” in both verses.

    I know how important Romans 3:23 is in Michele's personal theology so I’m curious for comments on 3:24 – is the subject “all” and, if so, meaning who-all? And when Luke calls Simeon “righteous” or “just” (Lk 2:25 - dikaios) and Matthew calls Joseph “righteous” or “just” (Matt. 1:19 - dikaios), how does that designation square with the universal applicability of Romans 3:23 (or better, 3:10 – dikaios) ?
    Carrie said...
    Are you going to go universalist now, Moonshadow?
    Carrie said...
    Of course, Michele can answer better than I, but without seminary training it still seems obvious to me:

    In Romans 3:24, who is the subject of the phrase?

    "for all who believe" v. 22
    Moonshadow said...
    Are you going to go universalist now, Moonshadow?

    Not me.

    But funny you mention universalism because the error plagues apostate Calvinists, as soon as they realize that God is love.

    The danger of universalism is one ... of many ... reasons that I am not a Calvinist.
    Ellen said...
    The danger of universalism is one ... of many ... reasons that I am not a Calvinist.

    That's a new one. We take Romans 9 pretty seriously and it talks about some "vessels" prepared for destruction. It's pretty difficult for me to wrench universalism out of that.

    Also, the "L" part that says atonement is limited...
    ;-)
    michele said...
    Ellen, as shocking as it may seem, Moonshadow does have a point and we've talked about this before in my comments section. The problem is not with universalism but the infallible nature of the Scriptures. Those Calvinists who fell into universalism did so because they no longer viewed the Scriptures as the word of God.

    Princeton Theological Seminary, Harvard and Yale are all examples of institutions that fell from Calvinism to universalism but did so when because of the Enlightenment, not Calvinism itself. And it wasn't because they discovered that God was a God of love, those of us who are not hyper Calvinists know that, it's that they realized that he couldn't be imperically verified and he became the God of love only. The Bible became just a book of stories that we tell our kids to explain our existance, not the word of God.
    michele said...
    And regarding your first comment, Moonshadow, it's not cynicism; it's just a clear reading of Scripture. I think that we do a disservice to our kids by not stressing the fallen nature of our heroes, all of them. It demonstrates that they are human, not superhuman. They are fallen, just like we are. That's how God wanted to present them, I think that we should respect that.
    Moonshadow said...
    Those Calvinists who fell into universalism did so because they no longer viewed the Scriptures as the word of God.

    That's the case for the authors I referenced, Messrs. Gulley and Mulholland. They could have been classified as hyper-Calvinists.

    C. S. Lewis's fall from Calvinism took another common direction, into atheism.

    Princeton Theological Seminary, Harvard and Yale ...

    We'll cut Ellen some slack. She's half a country away from these East Coast schools.

    I think that we do a disservice to our kids by not stressing the fallen nature of our heroes,

    Yes, I think so, otherwise they experience disillusionment.

    Judges is made up of cycles of judges that progressively get worse and finally find their nadir in Samson (that is why he is the last judge).

    So, how would the understanding that Samuel, not Samson, is the final judge just before the institution of the monarchy, affect your downward spiral thesis?

    I mean, you allow your exegesis to be bounded by the canon, the book divisions. You don't look ahead, even though the story of Israel continues. But Christians always look ahead. Sin and death are not the last word, but you end with them. And I skip right over them. See how we need each other?
    Carrie said...
    as shocking as it may seem, Moonshadow does have a point

    Yes, that is shocking.

    (Just kidding!)
    Moonshadow said...
    Yes, that is shocking.

    I couldn't help but laugh at that too.

    Especially when I think of all the points I have made on this blog ... :-)

    Oh well, I'll take what I can get because "the sun don't shine on the same dog's a** all the time."
    michele said...
    Now ladies, give me some credit here! I meant that it is shocking that a Calvinist could be a universalist because they should be mutually exclusive.
    Moonshadow said...
    om goodness, the misunderstanding is even funnier!

    I was gonna let it all be 'til Carrie picked it up and I thought, better not let 'em think I'm offended.

    Yeah, well, universalism is mutually exclusive with Christianity as a whole.

    Carrie's got a new post on it. I think she makes her own beer because she says "home-brew" alot.
    Moonshadow said...
    You still on Mountain Time, michele?
    michele said...
    Yeah, I slept till 10:30 today, so I might be up until after 3:00 :-)
    Carrie said...
    I knew what you meant Michele but I still thought it was funny. Especially since I disagree with Moonshadow on almost everything.

    Yes, I seem to have attracted a universalist to my site so I made a quick post about it. I seem to have no trouble finding people who like to disagree with me :)
    michele said...
    I think that there are people out there who go looking for a fight and will find you (I know that's true for Reformed Chicks).

    And I'm sure that Moonshadow knows that I don't mean her :-)

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