Tag Archives: covenant

77: Was That Experience Really God?

John begins by presenting the new, “Untangling Christianity” private Facebook group. John explains that the goal of this group is to be a place for deeper conversation about subjects raised on or related to the podcasts, and that the group can be accessed by sending us an email request.

In this episode John and Gregg discuss a comment made on the Untangling Christianity Facebook group by listener Anna, referring to Episode #71: Does God Act Individually or Personally?.

Anna disagrees with Gregg’s skepticism about certain claims to experience God, such as when seeing an eagle on a hike one might believe: “God put that eagle in the sky for me.” Anna agrees that we can’t be certain if God put the eagle there ‘for’ the hiker, but if the hiker interprets the eagle as “a demonstration of [God’s] love and attention” then, in her view, we should not question the hiker’s belief about this. To do so would essentially be claiming that “there is no way that God would go out of his way to do that for you: you really aren’t that important.”

Gregg appreciates Anna’s response and notes that we need to be careful in several regards. First, not every action or expression that God may make toward an individual should be seen as aimed at expressing love and attention. In other words, communication can be oriented toward informing, assuaging, correcting, promising, guiding, etc. This is clear in human interaction, and so too with God: we see numerous examples in the Bible of God interacting with human beings according to these various orientations.

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76: Plug Me Into the Bible Matrix

In this episode John begins by voicing concern that his current “infatuation” with N. T. Wright may be misplaced: is Wright as good as he sounds (and as right as Gregg seems to think he is)? John explains that he went looking for criticisms of N. T. Wright and found several such podcasts, and so wonders whether he is being persuaded more by Wright’s convincing speech or by his standing in the Christian community?

Gregg responds by highlighting how, relative to the prominent theologians of the past that Wright’s perspective contradicts (Augustine, Luther, and Calvin) Wright is seen by many who champion the views of these historical thinkers as second-tier scholar or even an upstart. So on the question of eminence persons versus evidence of facts, Wright, as an exegete, offers a densely argued factual presentation of his conclusions that other can—and have—engaged with. Yet among scholars Wright’s views have stood the test of counterargument.

In Gregg’s mind, then, the issue here is essentially how rightly to view / understand God, humanity, and the relationship between the two. Yet Gregg argues that this three-part issue cannot be resolved by deciding between Wright’s view and, for instance, a reformed or Calvinist view. Rather, N. T. Wright’s work represents the essential groundwork to address the issue but remains insufficient because it too remains tied to the very terms of engagement according to which the discussion, to this point, has taken place. And these terms are insufficient.

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75: Covenant, Promise and Mystery

In this episode John and Gregg continue their discussion about the relationship between the covenant with Moses and the promise made to Abram (Abraham) in Gen 12:1-3, to bless all the nations through Abraham and his offspring.

John wonders how Gregg would present the gospel, and this past week Gregg spent a number of hours compiling a variety of Accordance search on the subjects of the promise and the blessings (or benefits) promised to the Israelites at the covenant at Mt. Sinai, through Moses as an intermediary). Gregg’s question: how much of the promise to Abraham is included in the (eventual) covenant blessings?

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74: The Gospel Doesn’t Start at Christmas

In this episode John and Gregg return to their discussion of the Christmas story (from Episode #73) and the notion that “the gospel” does not begin with Christmas or Jesus’ birth but, essentially, with a promise that God made to Abraham and the reality that the gospel is also the culmination of God’s interaction with Israel, through the covenant.

John wonders both about where the gospel story begins and what Gregg’s summary of the gospel would be.  Gregg notes his excitement while preparing last week’s notes and how both last week’s and the current discussion draw so much from N. T. Wright’s perspective, a perspective which both makes sense of the Bible (though excellent exegesis) and makes sense as a story, by encompassing the whole narrative of the biblical text and the whole story of what God has been doing with and through Israel.  As such Gregg argues that Wright’s perspective is clear and credible, and so is effective in creating the right orientation between listeners and the gospel.

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73: The Wrong Kind of Mystery

In this episode John and Gregg discuss several Christmas events that John attended over the holidays. John reads sections from the printed material from these events and then John and Gregg discuss this content.

The first piece is a concert program with a welcome message. John is struck by the end of this message which reflected on “the distance that the Creator was willing to go to redeem his creation” by sending Jesus, and how by taking such steps, this represents “His [God’s] greatest mystery.” Gregg replies that if a given subject or element is both mysterious (i.e., unclear and unfathomable) and plays a key role in in either forming or developing a belief set, then clearly we have a big problem. For example, if a particular element is crucial to maintaining belief in God but is unclear or incomprehensible then how can one reasonably (or perhaps even safely) maintain such a belief?

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