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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Experimental Theology

Yes, I'm stealing the title from Jason, but I can't think of a better title to describe it. I've had this concept bouncing around in my brain for a couple of weeks and would like to see the response. This is not intended to be a dogmatic statment, but rather a concept that I would love to hear your feedback about. As the Body of Christ, we should sharpen one another, not just in practice, but in the reason's below the practice as well.

Here's how it will work. I'll make the statement, give you some background, provide possible application, and present any hangups I see. Tell me what you think.

God loves His righteousness more than me.

BACKGROUND: There are a number of factors that play into this view:

1. I heard a preacher (through radio) make a comment about how God couldn't tolerate sin, but He couldn't tolerate living with out us even more. Huh? While that view creates a highly romantic view of our relationship with God, it seems to make it sound like God would be lonely without me. I just can't justify that view with Scripture.
2. Man-centered evangelism. Very closely related to the first point, I think the modern Christian movement has created a gospel presentation that places man at the center of the universe. I do not exist because God needs me. As the "I am" He is totally self-sustaining. Too often the message seems to be presented in a way that makes it sound like God was in big trouble if He didn't create a way to redeem us. We were in big trouble. We're very fortunate to have a kind God Who acted on our behalf, even though He had no obligation to do so.
3. Righteousness highlighted. It seems that many misunderstand what had to take place on the cross. It isn't that God can be nicer regarding sin because Jesus was selfless. It is that God maintains His righteous standards because my sin has been paid for and I have received the rightesousness of a Perfect, Holy God.


1. Maybe you don't use this statement in evangelism, but does it encourage us to do more God-centered evangelism?
2. Similarly, does it remind us of our place before God (Ecclesiastes 5)?
3. Does this perspective help prevent treating God like a puppet? It reminds me that I am here to glorify Him, He is not here to glorify me.


1. While it is obvious that God loves Himself more than me (Maybe that's not obvious in today's teaching. I think I smell another post.), can He love an attribute of His character? Then again, is God God if you take away His righteousness? Can the two be separated?

What do you think? Clear as mud?


  • At 7:30 AM, Blogger David said…

    Must be weird having something like that bouncing around in your "brian" for a week.

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    thanks david.

    correction made.

  • At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your observation about evangelism leads back to an even deeper question. Why did God create? Most theological answers to this question are similarly anthropocentric (man-centered) variations of the "God was lonely" ideas. My response is this.
    1) The essence of the relationship within the Trinity is love.
    2) Love desires expression.
    3) Love expresses itself through giving.
    4) The value of the gift is related to the cost.
    5) The ultimate gift of love would be purchased at the ultimate cost (sacrifice)
    6) The ultimate expression of love within the Trinity would be the giving of the ultimate gift purchased at the cost of the ultimate sacrifice.
    7) The ultimate gift would be a "a redeemed people capable of , who bear the image of the loved One who purchased them at the cost of His own life.
    8) A redeemed people requires the presence of Satan and evil for them to be redeemed from.

    Therefore, Jesus created so that He could give the gift of redeemed worshippers to the Father, by the Holy Spirit as the ultimate expression of love.

    Evangelism then is the invitation to others to embrace their "purpose" and become part of the redeemed people and give God love to His glory.

    What do you think?

  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    That wasn't meant to be anonymous

  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger jason said…

    Wow, this one's thick...or, as Michael J. Fox would say in Back To The Future, "heavy".

    As an extension of Piper's understanding of God's ultimate purpose being to glorify himself, I would say that, as an extension of His glory, God is more in love with His righteousness than He is with me. It is, after all, glorifying to God to accentuate His righteousness.

    However, I have to say that I often struggle with the whole "man-centered" thing. We walk a fine line between calling something man-centered and calling people to respond to a gospel that benefits them.

    This is what makes Piper's books so good. God is glorified when we are satisfied in Him. Therefore, we can't write off anything that smacks of being beneficial to mankind.

    Though, I do have to say that I will stay away from words such as "purpose" and "meaning" or even the more philosophical "metanarrative". It seems like all of these things have escaped their original purpose of finding removal of sin in the person of Jesus Christ.

    I don't think I've done anything to help this conversation so I'm going to stop writing now.

  • At 3:30 PM, Anonymous Tom Burns said…

    Does God "love" an attribute about Himself, or is it rather an extension of His identity and character. I guess the question that I wold ask would be, isn't love relational, thus requiring another person to love?

    I also find it fascinating to hypothesize as to why God would have created, and I've enjoyed the likes of Gene Edwards, Piper, Tozer and others as they have grapled with the question, but... (warning, warning, this a postmodern epistemolgy alert) what do we really know about why God created? Hints and clues abound, but in His infinite nature (which I can only begin to grasp) I wonder if all our theorizing is about 1% of the total picture.

    Forgive me for my leftward leaning.

  • At 3:38 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    do things like colossians 1 give us an indication why He created us?

  • At 4:12 PM, Anonymous tom burns said…

    Sure, an indication. My angst usually arises though when we speak and create full and detailed explanations of why God does the things that he has done as if we have 120% of the information needed to make such claims. When in actuality, the fact that we can never completely connect with the "whys" of God is celebrated in Scripture (Romans 11) to the point that Paul seems to allude to the fact that even the Gospel of Christ is beyond man's full comprehension (Ephesians 3:8).

  • At 4:37 PM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    Our theorizing is most certainly less than 1% of the total picture, but I believe God is honored by our feeble attempts to understand Him and His ways. I'm wired to have a great interest in the "why" of things and very little interest in the "how."

    In the life of my infant granddaughter, she has less than 1% of the total picture, but she smiles when she hears my voice, and that makes me happy.

  • At 8:54 AM, Anonymous tom burns said…

    I agree with the analogy RevP - but to take it a step further, I often feel that we become dogmatic about our understanding without acknowledging the wonderful and mysterious. I certainly do not advocate giving up on the pursuit of God, I'd just like to dump the certainty that we tote around. I would liken it to my three year old son's explanation of how the DVD player works. "When you push the button the man comes in our TV and sings with the microphone and glasses on." My feeble attempts to correct his thinking at this point are futile. He tells me that I'm crazy, holds the marker up to his mouth as if it were a microphone, sings along and dances to the music. I love it. It's enough to make me smile days after it happens, but is nowhere close to explaining the actual mechanics of optical imaging and electronic transmission no matter how dogmatic he is in his understanding.

    I know that my son will grow and learn and alter his perceptions, which is what I pray that we do with our conceptions of God. Allow them to grow and change and be molded to a different understanding than what we currently hold, all with the humility that my concepts are simply that, my concepts. They will never, no matter how convinced I am of their validity, allow me to fully understand why God does the what he does.

  • At 9:21 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    great points, and i understand what both parties are saying...

    how bout some practicals though:

    how do we pursue God and teach what can be known about God, but not have an arrogance that makes people think we know everything.

    certainly all things are condescended to us, but that doesn't mean we can't grasp it.

    "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law"--Deuteronomy 29:29

    there is that which is mysterious and i need people to rebuke me when i handle it like i totally understand it.

    but God has revealed definite things to us as well. and i should be rebuked when i make mysterious that which God has made known.

    my concern with over emphasizing the mysterious is that i wonder where application lies. if i lose confidence to say that i was created for God's glory, i struggle then to offer encouragement, application, discipleship to someone when i abandon that.

    make sense?

  • At 2:01 PM, Anonymous tom burns said…

    Why is a sense of wonder not practical?

    How is it not applicable to fall facedown and tell God that I trust Him though I don't fully understand Him?

  • At 3:16 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    sure that's applicable honus. we should totally delight in the mysterious and praise God that He is God and we aren't...and can't fully even understand what that means.

    however, to just embrace the mysterious, and also not celebrate and be confident about that which is known is thoroughly impractical.

    how do i evangelize if i only embrace the mystery of the gospel and not that which is none?

    how do i disciple a student who struggles with eternal security if i don't believe we can KNOW that we are saved?

    or like mcclaren recently, how do i help a person work through the issues of homosexuality, if as a pastor i lack the confidence to teach the things Scripture says, but rather cling to the understanding that we can't know?

    i agree their is mystery. i agree that i don't have all the answers. i agree that i'm wrong about things (though, if i knew what they were, i pray that God would change my heart to conform to His). however, i just find ministry pointless if i can't have confidence in anything.

  • At 3:24 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    I think the wonder can inspire confidence.

    I also think that the experience of wonder is part of the evidence of truth.

    I also think Elton Brand deserves MVP. While I "wonder" how a guy built like that can get such great numbers, I do have numbers to back up his greatness.

    God is the same. I "wonder" how or why He does it... but I can also point to proof of what He does! Which, in turn, should lead to more "wonder"!

  • At 9:24 AM, Anonymous tom burns said…

    I guess I would "wonder" when I ever said that I can't know anything for sure?

    I can know lots of things for sure, including the fact that there are a great number of things that are mysterious and beyond my capacity to understand.

    We must be willing to stand for what Scripture does say, and one of those things is that God's ways are beyond our understanding. This is the biblical position, and best I can tell it is one of the first things that God communicated to man. (see Job)


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