Thursday, April 9, 2009

Six spiritual laws

Many people have heard of the four spiritual laws. The first one begins, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Unfortunately many Americans have seriously misunderstood this "spiritual law," coming to believe in a warm, fuzzy, loving God who is infinitely patient, compassionate and understanding--a God who accepts everyone just as they are without expecting repentance or change.

In America, of course, we have a constitutional right to believe in any kind of God we want. We can even make one up after our own desires if we choose. One problem with the above view of God, however, is that many people think it is a Christian view of God. A Christian view of God, however, almost by definition, must be based on the Bible and I would suggest that the picture of God presented above is so distorted and ripped out of context as to be misleading at best and damning at worst.

Rather than the view of God presented in the popular “four spiritual laws” used in popular evangelism, I would propose another view of God presented in six spiritual laws:

1. The universe came into existence by a creator who owns everything and everyone.

This is foundational in both ancient Christian and Jewish thinking. It is explicitly taught in Genesis and re-affirmed throughout the entire Bible. Whether creation was accomplished in six literal days or through millions of years of guided evolution is entirely beside the point here. Regardless of how creation actually happened, the point of the stories is that the universe is the result of a Creator. Even liberal “Christians” who think the Bible should be interpreted metaphorically must concede this point. In other words, even if the Genesis story is not literal, but a metaphor, it is still a metaphor about a Creator who created the universe. Even if stories like Adam and Even are only metaphors, they still teach that this Creator claims ownership over the creation and everything in it.

2. Everyone rebelled against the creator

Once again, whether the story of Adam and Eve is interpreted literally or metaphorically is beside the point right now. Even those who interpret the story metaphorically must concede, if they are intellectually honest, that the story is about how people rebelled against their creator. This essential point is repeated over and over throughout the entire Bible. It is as if all of humanity corporately extended their middle fingers to the creator and said, “We reject your rules; we will do it our way.”

3. As a result of this rebellion, people became enemies of the Creator and subject to the Creator’s terrible judgment.

This is the part of the story that people want to ignore. They want a kinder, gentler God who will not judge us, but the God presented in both the Jewish and Christian Bibles is a God of wrath and judgment. Even those who want to interpret the Bible metaphorically must realize that so many of the stories in the Bible are stories of judgment. The stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, the Tower of Babel, Noah’s flood, the Exodus from Egypt, the Conquest of Canaan, the Judges of Israel, the kings Israel and Judah, the exile of the northern and southern kingdoms, the books of the prophets, the Gospels’ stories of the fire of Gehenna that never dies, Paul’s letters about everlasting destruction, as well as the warnings in the books of Hebrews, Second Peter, Jude and Revelation--all of these stories are stories of human rebellion and God’s terrible judgments. Even if the stories were not literally true, they would still be metaphorical expressions of what the earliest Christians and Jews believed about the terrible wrath and judgment of God.

4. Out of love, the Creator became human.

Up until now, the story comes from both the Jewish and Christian Bibles. On this point the message becomes uniquely Christian. According to the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth is the “word who was with God and was God”. When Thomas exclaims to Jesus, “My Lord and My God”, it is clear that this is what the author of the Gospel of John also teaching about Jesus. Similarly the writes of Colossians, Philippians and Hebrews all make statements that

5. Jesus died as a ransom or sacrifice for human rebellion.

According to the Gospels, Jesus had taught that he would one day give his life as a “ransom” for many.

6. As a result of this “ransom”, the Creator exempts from final and eternal judgment all who humbly repent of their rebellion and turn their hearts in loving devotion (faith) toward Jesus.

Repentance and faith are a core part of the Gospel message. They are not two conditions of being saved from God’s wrath, they are two sides of the same coin. Repentance, literally, a change of mind, or as we might say, a change of heart, is the turning of ones heart from rebellion against God to a heart of loving devotion toward God. Faith is the word used to describe that heart of loving devotion. Note that in true Christianity no works are required. The essence of the Gospel message is that all of us have all rebelled against our creator and there is no amount of good deeds we can do to make up for this heinous rebellion.

7. The Creator promises a future kingdom of peace and righteousness in which every tear will be wiped away and the horrors of life on this rebellious planet will no longer even be remembered.

Contrary to many modern preachers, God does not promise a life of health, wealth and prosperity to those who follow Jesus. In fact, for many, following Jesus is when “all hell breaks loose.” Virtually every horrible atrocity you can possibly imagine doing to another human being has been done to Christians at one time or another. According to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, we have all rebelled against God and in response, God did one of the most horrible things he could have done to us--he “gave us up” to have our own way and to suffer the consequences. He even took his hands off creation itself to some degree by allowing hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, volcanoes, etc. to run their course. But some day, the Creator promises that he will bring his people into a kingdom of peace and righteous in which he will wipe away every tear and the horrors of this rebellious planet will no longer even be remembered. And St. Paul assures us that the sufferings of this life are not even worthy to be compared with the glories God has in store for those he has ransomed.


Sound like mythology? Too hard to believe? No less hard to believe than the mythology that says matter either always existed (if it is a myth to think God always existed, it is equally mythical to think matter always existed), or suddenly exploded into existence all by itself out of absolutely nothing (Big Bang) and then gradually developed, all by I itself, from something not living to something that was living and then slowly developed, entirely by chance, into something increasingly more and more complex. The more scientists know about the complexity of even the simplest forms of life the more difficult this scenario becomes--we just believe it because it is the conventional wisdom--that’s what we were taught and everyone believes it, just like “everyone” once thought the world was flat or that the sun revolved around the earth.