Words I never heard in the Bible…(4)

The insufficiency of revelation

The Bible is pretty frank about human need for God, although mainly this is a need of which many human beings are unaware: namely, their need for God’s law and love to guide their lives. Religion, as a human construct generally states the human need for God’s favour and protection, which can be gained by using certain rituals, prayers or pilgrimages. The Bible is somewhat sceptical about this sort of religion, and Jesus’ teaching is focused on God’s desire to rule the world by love, rather than on any assumption about human need.

The letters of St Paul may be seen as the classic texts on human need for God, because he sets aside the Jewish Torah as being an instrument of condemnation rather than of guidance, while promoting trust in God’s love through Jesus, as the entry into God’s rescue plan for humanity. Outside this rescue, human beings are depicted as slaves of sin. None of the trappings of religion are needed however, just a joyful trust in God and a readiness to receive God’s Spirit and to live by his ways. This leads to eternal life, which mortals cannot have without a relationship to the eternal God.

Do human beings need God? Yes, they need to set aside their arrogance along with all attempts to manipulate God by religion; and trust in the freely -given love of God through Jesus, which allows them to accept the holy spirit, and to live just lives in this world, and to share eternal life in the next.

The Bible is a good deal less open when it comes to God’s need of human beings. In fact there is no direct acknowledgment of it at all, in spite of the overarching biblical narrative making God’s need of humanity quite clear.

As far as the Bible is concerned, the Creator God has a problem, because he/she has made a creature who can disobey him. No other creature can do so, but human beings find it easy, and by their disobedience spread evil throughout the world. God is caught on the hop and tries intervene, but is ignored. Eventually he almost decides to uncreate the whole thing, but substitutes a mighty flood which kills everything except faithful Noah, his family and representative animals, instituting a new start. Does any human reader of this story think that God’s strategy will work? No, and God doesn’t either, repenting his rage and readying himself for the long haul. If he cannot frighten humanity into obedience and he doesn’t want to destroy them, what can he do to save his good creation? He has to work by persuading them to co-.operate in perfecting creation. He has to stop throwing his weight around, and get down to building trust with humanity starting with Abraham and Israel. God needs human beings to save his reputation as creator. This implication is absolutely clear in the book of Genesis. And is confirmed in the Gospel of John, where the author states that “God loved the cosmos so much that he sent his only son……not to condemn the cosmos but that through him it might be rescued.” But that rescue can only happen through “those who have faith in him.”

God needs the human trust without which his divine love for creation cannot succeed.God needs human beings to cooperate with his rule, so that the seventh day of creation may come, and he can take his rest, knowing that all is good. That perfection is pictured in the Bible’s eschatological passages, which are recognitions that what we know in faith is insufficient: God needs our full commitment, and when he gets what he needs, there will be, as Paul says, a new creation. Revelation is insufficient because God is insufficient in himself.

4 Comments

  1. Another excellent instalment in this series. Paul of course was right in setting aside the Torah. But the prophets had already done that within the Hebrew Scriptures. They narrowed down the directives of Torah to the basic issues of social justice that John the Baptist and Jesus then took up as the core of their preaching. I like your take on the eschatological passages of Scripture. Excellent insights here as always. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Kostas, yes, these blogs are not saying anything new, but exploring old thoughts under the new perspective of the insufficiency of God, which amongst other things helps to rid us of a totalitarian deity and church.

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  2. And that is exactly what I look for in many of your posts – guidance to defeating the totalitarian deity and church! Believe me, that should be our first and primary goal these days. Thank you for being on the frontlines!

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