Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Towards a New Theology Conclusion

Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar
Towards a New Theology   Part SIX

In the next part of the narrative, we find Magi from the east visiting.  It is likely that they arrived when Jesus was about 2 years old, as Herod, upon seeing the Magi, and learning what they had come for, ordered that all infants under the age of 2 were to be slaughtered.  They would have found him in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.  From the time I was old enough to understand who the Magi were, it puzzled me as to why they were there.  

This is possibly the most controversial part of the narrative.  You see, the Magi were what we would today refer to as Muslims.  Not just any Muslims, but Muslim religious leaders and mystics.  Why were Muslims celebrating the birth of Christ?  

Well, a Muslim would say it’s because they recognise him as one of their greatest prophets.  But the Christian in me would say it’s because it shows the complete Lordship of God over all religions.  He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  He is the embodiment of all Gods.  The ultimate truth of all religions.  All religions point to God, and come under God’s Lordship.  At the birth of Christ, all faiths and religions are reconciled together as one.  At the birth of Christ, we have representatives of three of the largest religions in the world today – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  

The Apostles, in spreading the Good News around the known world, had no problem in likening this Good News to the existing religions at the time.  Paul in Athens is only one example of this.  Others used the legend of Beowulf to spread the message, and others used the religions and gods of the cultures they were in to spread the Good News.  Many of our traditions in Christianity are directly related to Pagan rituals, and steeped in Paganism.

For me, by reading the scripture as an ancient document, putting it in the context of other documents at the time, drawing upon archaeological evidence etc, brings the Bible out of the realm of fiction, and into the world of reality.  It forms the foundation for a faith that speaks directly to the reality of human life.  It becomes a faith that I can relate to.  The exercise we have just engaged in is a fairly ‘safe’ exercise.  It doesn’t alter the existing Theology too radically.  When we apply this same method to other passages in the Bible, then we begin to see radical changes to our Theology.  But this needs to happen if we want to present a gospel that is founded in truth and reality.  That speaks to the reality of human life.  Anything else is just a made up, fantasy religion that has little to no truth, based on a made up document, written in a made up language that never existed.  Taking the step towards a new, perhaps more liberal, Theology, is a step towards a faith based in truth and reality.  A faith that speaks to people of all ages, in all times, in all cultures.  

At the start of this new year, when we consider things anew, and reflect on our past, why don’t we also reflect on our faith anew, and read the Bible as though we have

never read it before, reading it as though it was only just discovered, and apply modern understandings of ancient language and culture to what we read?  It will be earth shattering to say the least.  Do you dare?

Graeme Randall
Former SA officer
Australia East

Residing in London, UK


Deborah said...

Thank you Graeme for such a wonderful and thought provoking series. I am always questioning the
'myths' of the Bible. In doing so I am oft patted on the head and given the rote answers of years past. It is refreshing to hear from someone able to think outside the box. And back it up. I am looking forward to more from you in the future.

Former USA South

Anonymous said...

Graeme, you have not revealed anything new, that is not part of present day New Testament scholarship.

The trouble is that seminary graduates leave their educational institutions, but never share what they know with their congregations.

As some correspondents have even confessed they are concerned about losing their jobs. Where does integrity come in, let alone sanctification?

It is sad that the people sitting before them on a Sunday morning like the old "Hornblower" are seeking answers to their questions
and the pulpiteer seems totally unaware.

One can speak the truth in love.

Canada and Bermuda

Mark Ferreira said...

Just a little confused on one point: why would they be Muslims if Islam wasn't founded for another 600 years?

Bernard Martin said...

Hi Graeme,

Thanks for clarifying your use of, 'seed of man' and 'removed' in Part 5. Having reconsidered John 1v12,13, I am not convinced that the idea of the seed of man being removed when the Spirit of God is received, is present there. It may be assumed that John wants us to think this happens as a consequence of us becoming God's children, but it seems to me that the idea has to be imported, and, as far as I can see, without sufficient cause.

I agree that in becoming God's children, something positive happens to us, but I'm not convinced that we can express this as, the seed of man being removed.

Also, I do not see what John says in these verses is applicable to the conception of Jesus, as John is talking about what happens to those who believe in Jesus. Again, I would suggest any connection would have to be imported without sufficient cause.

So I have to say, I still see the Scriptures teaching that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, without the seed of a man.

Thanks again, and regards.


Sven Ljungholm said...

Graeme, wouldn't it be a very different world if Former C&B were speaking for the 99% of blog visitors instead of the 1% when he/she states; "Graeme, you have not revealed anything new, that is not part of present day New Testament scholarship."

During the past week we've had a new peak in the number of blog visitors thanks largely due to your research and sharing the results with us.

Thank you and I look forward to future contributions.

Blessings, Sven

Anonymous said...

From C & B again, if I read you correctly Graeme, you didn't actually say that the Magi were Muslims, but they came from that part of the world that we now know to be Islamic? But the point you made is valid.

They were more likely to have been Zorastrians, but putting that aside, most mainline seminaries teach that the Birth stories are metaphorical narratives, rather than historical, and need to be interpreted in the same manner as the two different versions of Creation in Genesis.

Taking that into account all of the birth stories are testifying to the uniqueness of Christ. From the virginal conception to the recognition of the humble shepherds and as you say the intellectual mystics, to the heavenly bodies, the star, and the angelic messengers, all are affirming that Jesus is Lord of the universe.

Canada and Bermuda

Graeme Randall said...

Again, thanks all for your comments.

To answer the posts that point out my use of the word 'Muslim', see the comment I posted on part 4 - it explains my choice.

It would be great if we could be more daring, and preach deep theology from the pulpit. I think that's what a lot of people want, and I think not doing it is keeping a lot of people away from church, and causing them to shrink. I don't think it has anything to do with worship style, songs etc., it has to do with how we present the gospel - is it a nice fairy tale myth, or is there something that we can really sink our teeth into - especially in today's world where people question everything, and expect to be treated as someone who has a brain.

Again, Thanks.


Sven Ljungholm said...

Just translating a Swedish theologians paper in the very same subject... A good article to support/supplement yours.

Thanks again Graeme; nice response in both the number of visitors and comments.

Mark Ferreira said...

Thanks for pointing out the earlier comment on the choices you made for this piece. I appreciate your perspective on this and I think that the conversation generated is valuable. I still disagree with labeling the magi as Muslim. But I think this helps to highlight a larger problem with the way we handle scripture. When we are entrusted to present the Word, it is so easy to allow our own bias to affect the interpretation (and I think you have touched on this well). As you say, it is so important to present a "gospel that is founded in truth and reality." Thank you for a thought-provoking article.