The Truth Shall Set You Free
- Introduction -
"The chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever."
The apostle Paul said: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Rom.1:18
If Paul could say that by inspiration and with his first century knowledge of creation, appreciate and apply judgement, how much better should we in this age, understand the nature of God without aid of fable, mysticism and myth that surrounds much of what we say we believe.
The serious reading of the Scriptures, without the aid of "interpretative help" will frequently suggest theological possibilities that differ considerably from what is generally taught and believed as "orthodox". Do we dare pursue these or do we settle back comfortably and without question, accept the accustomed dogmas? A reading of Church History will give good reason to ask questions. I have chosen to prayerfully question and seek Biblical answers to some of these issues.
I early came to realise that as God is just and "judge of all the earth", as His Word declares - then He will be obliged speak to us in terms we can understand. We were created a race of beings in God's "likeness and image" to "take dominion", under the Creator's authority, of this planet. It follows therefore, that the "brief" must be clear and understandable.
Initially, God did entrust his Law to a priesthood - but this was because few people could read the Torah for themselves. And, the priesthood were commanded to "teach" the Law, not interpret it. The whole system of "Jewish" law that Jesus spoke against was the result of human interpretation which, instead of bringing freedom, brought the people into bondage. Jesus said, of the priesthood of His day that they "bound burdens on the people's backs and did not lift a finger to ease it".
This same tendency to acquire a proprietorship of faith has entangled the Church and is well illustrated by the established denominations which have accumulated wealth and power through the private interpretation of God's Word.
The only "establishment" God ordained was given the trust of preserving the truth for - and sharing the good news with - the rest of mankind. They were not given editorial rights.
You may ask, "who am I to question history and the vast accumulation of scholarship?"
In almost half a century, as a reasonably successful Inventor, one learns to examine the whys and wherefores of things. The search for the "better mouse trap" necessitates first, a working understanding of existing mouse traps. It is, a distinct disadvantage to hold the designers of existing models in too great a reverence for if one does, false humility inhibits one from daring to think that there might be a better way.
All too often, students of theology are "awed into submission" by "great teachers" and dismiss what seems obvious answers to the questions that the established "teachings" raise.
As a young person, I learned of and had great respect for the famous inventor, Thomas Edison. And, there is no doubt much of his work that earned it. But only when I understood more of Edison and his frailties and failures could I dare to make invention a work or profession. Then Edison's greatness became an inspiration rather than an inhibition.
To an ordinary follower of Jesus, the more rarefied sphere of theology is the established domain of the "scholar" or the "ordained" and the subject matter "sacred". One treads carefully and to question is definitely not the way of acceptance into happy fellowship. Yet, what is it that makes the doctrines of our faith above re-examination? Is it possibly that there has grown up an "establishment" whose well being and indeed very credibility depends on popular acceptance of their products.
Of course there are different "models" (denominational doctrines) of our theological "mouse trap" but they mostly depend on somebody's "revelation" or "interpretation" usually supported by a traditional scholarship or an entrenched hierarchy that strives to protect their particular "patch".
If we are to dare to do as did the ancient Bereans* and "examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so", where do we start? Well, with the Bible of course - not the traditions of men. So let us begin.
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11.
Are we to be Thessalonians or Bereans?
God saw fit to reveal His purposes to mankind in piecemeal form over a long period of time and through a largish number of spokespersons. Most of us agree that the writings that they left comprise the sum total of that divine revelation. We call it The Holy Bible or "God's Word". It would seem reasonable to assume that this "Revelation" would either be self-explanatory or contain instructions to aid it's understanding. Both are true. To facilitate our search, God has provided an on-line, interactive "assistant", the Holy Spirit, to "lead us into all truth" - "for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God".
Before the age of printing and literacy, people where called to "teach" the Word of God. That did not mean interpret, but to convey the very writings and sayings of the Prophets and Apostles.
"And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people . . . all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them". Ezra 7:25
The mix of ignorance, learning, zeal, human vanity and pride soon produced the seeds of what is today a vast industry of "interpretative", teaching and writing "about" the Bible.
For the present there is less physical danger but if we go armed with the firm desire to know the "truth", there is still a "price" for sticking to one's convictions. We must desperately desire to know the One of whom we are told - will be found by those who "diligently" seek Him. The One who reveals Himself to us in His Word and "through that which He has created". If our "chief end" is to delight in knowing and enjoying Him - forever, is it not then infinitely worthwhile?
As we dare to ask questions we soon discover that the assumptions and ideas behind some of our "firmly held" doctrines are often of doubtful virtue. Political motives, such as the Christianising of pagan festivals and beliefs so as to pacify "political converts", also the un-Christian hatred of Jesus' own people, the Jews, gave birth to some of our doctrinal traditions. Pride in our own "knowing", or sheer mental inertia are some of the stumbling blocks to us finding a "better way".
In the commercial world, our "better mouse trap" does not always see the light of day because of "commercial considerations", which being interpreted means that someone more powerful, with something to loose, ensures that the new idea is stillborn or dies in infancy. Theological pride can act in precisely the same way. Beware of this "stumbling block", in your search to know God.
The continued existence of the theological establishments that enshrine these traditions is dependent on the continued acceptance of their dogmas by a sufficiently large and faithful following. The very nature of this "need" ensures that new light seldom shines. Certainly not light that might exist without the help of those already a part of that establishment.
As already explained, traditions that started "in the flesh" have been clothed with holy garb. Aided by the passage of time and the frailty of human memory, the "origins" have been forgotten and the "traditions" are now revered truth. In many instances, troubled but honest souls have "searched the Scriptures" for the justification of these dubious teachings and with aid of a little sincere, interpretative imagination, a few verses, usually out of context, they have contrived teachings like band-aids, covering the wounded truth.
In Jerusalem on the "traditional" site of Mt Zion is a "traditional" tomb of King David. Today, we know that David was buried elsewhere, but centuries of devotion have hallowed the traditional site, so this is the site you'll see if you take a conventional tour of Jerusalem. The same principle exists with some of our historic teachings. The time has come to examine the roots of our faith so that we can find the real substance by which we may stand in these last days.
I confess to an orthodox, conservative theological upbringing. I have not been associated with sects and cults. I am just an ordinary "sinner saved by grace", dependent on God for His salvation in His "only begotten Son" Yeshua (Jesus). I live in the joyous expectation of the return of Messiah Yeshua to rule on the throne of David until "He has brought all things in subjection" and ultimately in the restoration of "all things" to the absolute dominion of the Eternal One, "the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ", King of the Universe". (1 Cor.15:25-28.) This is to me, a real and vital expectation, eminently believable and consistent with the Written Revelation.
We are taught that the Inspired Record is an "unfolding revelation" of God and His dealings with man, and this may well be so, however, even the earliest revelations must have been adequate for those to whom they were given. The first "revelation of God" we have record of was to Adam, the original perfect, unfallen, untainted human mind capable of perfect fellowship with his Creator.
Without at this time, debating the meaning of "likeness and image", the record clearly says that God and Adam "walked and talked in the garden". Even after Adam fell, he could hear the leaves rustle, the twigs crack, as God walked in the Garden. (Gen.3:8,10.)
I have suggested that a whole establishment exists by "interpreting" Scripture according to "tradition" or "scholarship"? By this, I do not mean, that all that is taught is wrong, God forbid! Martin Luther, who broke with the establishment of his day over a fundamental necessity of faith and has attained "blessed memory" for his courage, also held, especially latterly, some pretty unsound ideas. I think it was Corrie Ten Boom who counselled a friend concerned about this sort of theological offering, to "spit out the bones but eat the meat". One purpose of this writing is to help identify some of those "bones". How many times, by how many apostles, were we instructed to "prove all things"? To judge the prophesyings.
Was it traditional scholarship that was to lead us into all truth? Or was it the Holy Spirit? Some would say, "both", the Spirit directing the scholars and I have little argument with that, except that we must find what was "directed" by the Spirit and what grew out of the "flesh". Our means to judge must be independent of that being judged.
Paul allowed that there are always those who can only take spiritual food that has been pre-digested. There are also some who earnestly desire to learn more from the Scripture and not "about the Scripture". The writer to the Hebrews, was not addressing theological college graduates when he said "For by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For every one who partakes only milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe". To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly". Does not that teach us something even today?
"Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about the Messiah, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God...".
First we need to understand what may seem a contradiction or even stumbling block for some. God said "You have no need that anyone should teach you", but He also appointed "teachers". This is no more inconsistent than when Paul, after admonishing and instructing the church in order, in 1 Corinthians 12, declares in the next chapter "the more excellent way" of ordering our lives and worship together and then in chapter 14, goes right back to laying down the rules. God recognises that we will more often choose the "second best" and, so, His grace meets us there. God also has harsh words for those "teachers" and "shepherds" who prostitute their high calling and who, like the Pharisees in Jesus' day, "bind heavy burdens on people's backs, yet lift not a finger to lighten them".
My sincere prayer is, for those who read these writings, that they may be challenged to turn again "to the Word and the Testimony" that God will broaden your minds and strengthen your faith, giving you new substance and comprehension. That each one personally, may sense the thrill and elation of finding, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, something of God's wonderful revelation to His people.
The purpose of this and accompanying writings is to share some of what I have learned, which is surely only a tiny glimmer of what is yet to be understood. As John Robinson, a pastor of the early Pilgrims to the New World said, "The Lord has yet be fresh light and truth to break forth from His word". I am open to that. My hope is that others will be stimulated to, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures "to find if these things are so". (Acts 17:11)
In your search, dare to question God about anything you have trouble with. Most of God's Word is straight forward although understanding is facilitated by an appreciation of the Hebraic culture and the people to which it was written. Some parts are "veiled", being written in the eastern form, or deliberately obscure until the "fullness of time", the age for which those particular words were given.
Remember, the word was not given to us as a puzzle to solve. It was given to many earlier generations to live by and be judged by. A just God will not play with semantics or lay traps for the simple or disguise His loving advice making it hard to understand. Avoid "fantasy", "imaginings", "spiritualisation" and "interpretations. Take the Record at face value unless it is obviously "veiled" or "hidden" for another time and other people. And remember, the words were written long ago. We, in our time, may, indeed, be some of those "other people".
An example of what I mean is illustrated by the popular treatment of Jesus' parables. If read in their context it is easily seen that the parable is used to underline the truth to those to whom Jesus is speaking. Some schools of Bible teachers delight in finding "interpretations" and attaching "meanings" to each feature of the parable ending with a complex "revelation" to prove some pet doctrine or other. Parables do this, but without our help, they are, rather, to help us, grasp the simplicity of Jesus' teaching. Some parables are pretty unlikely stories and don't always demonstrate Godly attitudes, like the one of the unjust judge, this parable uses a wrong attitude to teach a "right" truth - a good example for the "interpretative" school to cogitate on.
We need not fear, in our search, we will confirm the "Root" of our salvation, find the "Good News" of the gospel with a new clarity, unobscured by the accumulation of theological "baggage". We will find a new, exciting vision of God's ultimate intention that may lift us beyond the need of constant "bottle-feeding" and "counselling sessions". Knowing the "truth" will set us free. We will be able to include "meat" in our menu and discern the "bones". The gospel writers record that, Jesus, facing His passion, didn't call councillors but prayed to His Father and "for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame..." Today, as never before, we need less experts and a larger vision to carry us through the difficulties of life.
Some may react strongly against some of the propositions in these writings, for they touch on much we have been taught as "basic" and "essential" to our faith. Pray, be patient. Search the scriptures yourself to see if these things are so. Not many years ago God brought a "new truth" (in fact an old one) to light among His people. It started among despised, small independent groups and was "damned" and declared "of the devil" by "main line" orthodoxy. Later, the Charismatic renewal, once the despised "Tongues Movement", breathed new life into Christendom and became respectable in the bastions of orthodoxy. "Despise not the day of small things." Regrettably, much of the freshness of the Spirit soon became bound up in denominational dogma.
Established orthodoxy, has often raised heretical "men of straw" and made stern "pronouncements" against them as a means to prevent the inquisitive from allowing certain unorthodox ideas to occupy their attention. Only the Holy Spirit can give the necessary discernment but we must also be aware of our natural "conditioning" and prejudice as a result of these orthodox "scarecrows".
It is not my desire to produce another "jumbo edition" and weary you with many words, therefore I have adopted an essay format, each chapter can be complete, although this will result in some repetition of background and illustration. Each essay is intended to "provoke...to good works" and what better work than coming to grips with divine truth by which means we might better know and enjoy the Author.
Over many years the Lord has been opening my eyes to more of His precious truth and for most of the time, I kept my "understanding" to myself, not esteeming it too highly, as I had grown up to respect a "trained ministry" and the superior opinions of "the experts".
Then, the Lord showed me in my business life as an inventor that "the experts" and "specialists" are not always right. In fact they are often defending a position or following a tradition that they had been well indoctrinated with by able teachers. I lacked much of the "specialist" education of business management and product design so I was not restricted by the limitations imposed by the learned knowledge of what could not be done.
In time I came to learn that without these restrictions I was able to produce some useful new ideas and successful products that in later years have received the compliment of being copied, some on a world wide scale. There is little material reward in this but perhaps some satisfaction or vindication.
I also learned in the business world, a well established principle, and a fact that allows a few "opinion formers" to mould what others believe. All the modern business success philosophies rest on these.
1. Man becomes what he thinks about. "What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve". Oft quoted in "success seminars". Jesus said "as a man thinks, so is he" So we are taught to think success and we will be successful.
2. Ninety-five percent of people don't think. This is a tremendous source of power for the "Top Five Percent". They are the really successful ones. Most people who preface their remarks with "I think..." are simply repeating the most convincing argument they have heard to date, others get "programmed" early in life and won't even entertain the possibility of an alternative proposition. It is small wonder in the Christian world that we see so many groups and denominations, one "thinker" and a host of "repeaters". It's more polite to refer to them as "shepherds and sheep". But are they "true shepherds".
Shepherds are a divinely appointed necessity, due to the above mentioned circumstances, but we must not push the parable too far and suggest that human beings, made in the likeness of the living God should be as mindless as sheep. Better to hear the words of "The Preacher" in Ec.12:13 as he sums up his wisdom, "after all this there is only one thing to say: fear God and obey His commands, because this is all that man was created for..."
The Turning Point
This experience was to come back to me years later. There was a time in my life when I was desperately in need of something more than the routine religion I had learned in church. Yes, I knew Jesus was my Saviour, mainly on the good authority of my pastor and teachers who often over the years had reinforced my faith by declaring faithfully what the Bible said and that as the Bible was the word of God, it had to be true. Learning selected verses and reading selected passages with "explanatory notes" built a firm conditioning (foundation) for the most important, often unexplained, (or unexplainable) "tenets of my faith".
I never dared to ask my honoured teachers how they knew that the Bible was the word of God or inquire why I had difficulty with some of their teachings. If the Scriptures seemed to be saying something different to what was "interpreted", that was because it was "above my understanding" or a "divine mystery".
At this particular time of need, through the faithful invitation of a friend I came to hear a preacher who seemed to have something "extra" to his college training. Oddly, as some may think, this person was of high office in the Anglican communion, not in some sect or cult. His words came to me "as one who spoke with authority". It wasn't long before I no longer needed the repeated assurances concerning my salvation or the authority of the Bible. Through the exhortations of this brother, I met the Author. Such experiences are "life changing" and mine was for me.
Amongst the several, sudden changes were two most important. I no longer cared about denomination (I had been a good proud Baptist for many years) I found love and fellowship right across the body of true believers. My denominational inhibitions where dead. The man made barriers were down, Hallelujah!
The second change was a deep and persisting love for the Bible, the Word of God. A desire to know it better for myself. As mentioned earlier, I had been brought up on "Bible Reading Programmes" that encourage one to read a few verses every day and then a few paragraphs by someone else saying what they mean. (Often this is by inference in the devotional type Bible reading notes). All this had changed.
About this time I was reminded of that visit to the Louvre and the huge canvas that had so intrigued me. I felt God saying; "As you backed away to see the "overview" of that painting, so you should see my Book." The message was clear. Instead of standing up close to the Scriptures and listening to the various arguments about where and how each small scene fitted into the whole, I should "back off" and get an "overview" for myself. Simply, read the Bible cover to cover without some other opinions (explanations) being superimposed on what the Word was actually saying. It has been an exciting experience to learn to trust the Holy Spirit to "lead us into ... truth". I'd better leave the "all" out for the moment as I don't think the statement necessarily applies to any single individual, but broadly to the whole "body" of believers. Too many new "churches" have been set up by "prophets" feeling they have "cornered" the revelation. People claiming for themselves "the whole truth".
Again, as in my business career, I lacked that "specialist training" so I set about, joyfully reading the Bible right through in every English translation I could find. Lacking the scholarship to study in original languages I have in this, had to trust others, however, English is a language greatly blessed with many translations, giving a very broad base of appreciation to the reader who is prepared to give up, for a time, his "favourite" version.
Then later, I obtained a computer programme. It was the whole Bible on a database, an electronic concordance, but better, making it possible to access any verse or passage, to find and sort words or themes and to print out whole passages. It can search the Hebrew and Greek and report on the consistency of the translators. Nevertheless, without a computer, you can cover the same ground, with a little more time and a good analytical concordance and interlinear Bible. Above all, a real desire to prayerfully "know the truth" will allow the Holy Spirit to lead the earnest seeker to a place where "the truth shall set you free".
The Third Wave!!!
A little later I felt the Lord prompting me again to learn from this experience, that much of our traditional understanding of Bible "truth" or "doctrine" relied on certain basic "assumptions" with which we where usually "programmed" early in our Christian life. Now assumptions, at least in my computer programme where useful, because they followed the exact laws of mathematics. But how useful are "assumptions" in the "experiential" realm of faith?
Just as scientific research often starts with a hypothesis, we need something to get started with, but the forthcoming "facts" soon prove or disprove the worth of the assumption. With my "spreadsheet" the result was clear and could be checked, so it should be with our faith. I had to ask, "where do our spiritual assumptions come from?" Well, this will make a small story on its own, if you still want to read on I shall try and share some of what I have learned. For many, what follows may not be new as God is today "preparing a people for Himself" and I keep meeting others daring to walk the same path, also from my recent travels abroad, I know these thoughts are not mine alone.
Unfortunately, the "body of doctrine" to which, it is inferred, we all must believe, is rather like a jellyfish and changes shape according to particular pressure (read emphasis). For so long we have searched the Scriptures to find support for our ideas that we have lost sight of the original "shape" of the body of truth. What we need is a "skeleton" to give the body that "shape" then some of the difficulties could be resolved.
Let us look at the idea of a "Faith Skeleton". It may need some adjustments and I pray that the Holy Spirit will not cease from "prompting" us to examine, listen and compare what He has said and is saying to us and others, down through history and today.
The Psalmist said "The heavens declare God's glory..." in a general sense, but he got closer to the point when he wrote "What is man that thou art mindful of him...", a verse often misquoted by Calvinists to denigrate mankind. Contextually, both in the original and as quoted by the writer to the Hebrews, it is a statement of awe and wonder. A realisation of the majesty of that "pinnacle" of God's handiwork. Seeing past the fall and the failure to that glorious being made "In the likeness and image of God" (Gen.1:26,27) and before you "interpret" that "likeness and image" phrase, take a look at Genesis 5:3.
Consistency at least will suggest that Creator and Creature may be a little more alike than we have been allowed to believe. We understand that God walked and talked with Adam and that after he had sinned Adam hid when he heard God walking in the garden. Maybe, in some respects, God is more like a perfect human being than we have ever dared to believe.
So here's an "outline of a skeleton". We will have a long way to go but it's a start. Some of these "bones" are delt with in greater detail in other separate studies or essays.
"In the Beginning God."
Many levels of creatures inhabited the worlds. Some confined by gravity others free in the heavens and beyond. Some who dwelt in the very presence of the Living God.
A "mystery" we will speak of later on is discovered, the inevitable necessary risk of absolute freedom of sentient beings able to exercise free will and thereby to love. It would seem from the Hebrew record that this earth was not created "without form and void", but that it "became without form and void" and Genesis 1:2 commences the account of the "refitting" and (re?) populating of the planet. Elsewhere we shall examine the Scriptural warrant for this proposition.
Finally, "man" a recognised descriptor is to be created (again?) but this time "in the likeness and image of God" - an aditional specification. Adamic man is unlike humanoids of the earlier colonies, that were possibly beings of animal type behaviour with "programmed" responses (instinct) who have left their remains for our "doubters" to theorise over. Adamic man was given imagination, creativity, dominion, a being "in the likeness and image" of its Creator. A being with whom its Creator could enjoy "fellowship". Indeed, we may go further and suggest God had an even greater intention (logos) and purpose in creating Adamic man. [See "The Ultimate Intention"]
Remember Paul, "...God may be understood in that which He has created".
Adam chose to ignor God's command and as a result became a creature with knowledge he was not yet equipped to handle.
God immediately moved to "plan 2" and declared the current situation for Man and a promise of redemption. He had a divine "contingency plan" that would ultimately redeem His creation and demonstrate His grace. He made a promise to that "snake", the deceiver, that "the seed of the woman would crush the serpent's head".
Meanwhile, God said that Adam (Man) must now be kept away from the tree of life, so that he would not become a sinner living forever. Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, as a surgical measure, to prevent the immortalising, of the "infection".
The rest of Scripture relates the methods God used in the outworking of His plan of redemption, and the opposition by Satan, the ancient deciever. How He would "bring us back to Himself" and set us free from the bondage of sin. The word points us forward to the time when all creation will live again in absolute freedom, this time with a first hand knowledge of what freedom, love and grace really are. The holy prophets, peering through time, assure us that, this time, the lesson sticks and sin is known no more forever in all creation. Oh! glorious redemption!
The Plan of Redemption
To encourage your continued company in this search I must assure you that this is a simple pilgrimage of faith. It is not intended to question the great foundational truths of the Gospel, but to go were few have admitted to have gone before and examine the "baggage", much of which may be weighing us down and hindering our walk and fellowship with our Saviour.
In the plan of Salvation, God, was not only reconciling his fallen creation to himself, but also reconciling the divine love and justice at conflict within His own nature. Unwavering Divine Justice and the Everlasting Love of Divine Grace could not both be satisfied. In astronomy, a "black hole", seems a contradiction of the observed laws and harmony of the universe. It is an "abnormality" beyond our present understanding. In like manner, the Creator God caused a "wonder" of nature to counter evil and reconciles the conflict and abnormality produced by human disobedience. Unlike the black hole, God has explained what He has done, "that we be not ignorant". Let us review.
In the Beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He said, "It is good!". From what we can learn from our own scientific observation, many different life-forms have inhabited our planet over a vast time-span and surprisingly among them are very old humanoid forms with many structural similarities to present day man. Doubters use these discoveries to cast doubt the Genesis records of creation.
Perhaps Christian scholarship, egotism and traditional myth, have "interpretated" too much into the very brief "survey" we have in the Genesis account. The result has been conflicts of belief that make the facts, as taught, questionable. Doubt and unbelief soon follow.
For example, God says "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness", the words "us", "our image" and "likeness" do not fit our standard theology, as we already have been taught what God is like and we know all about "man". Therefore, orthodoxy sets about "interpreting" the statement to fit the current belief. The floor layout of a building is more clearly portrayed on the architect's plan view of the foundations, than an artist's impression of the perspective of the finished building. So it is with theology.
For the moment we will omit comment, on the words "us" and "our" as they are not directly relevant to our subject, but let us look at the words "image" and "likeness".
As we look at this foundational revelation of God and if we have no preconceived ideas about Him, the thought is strongly suggested that if God has a physical manifestation, it will be human in form, (Image). Several "revelations" in Scripture tend to confirm this.
If we read on into the second more detailed account of the establishment of the "Adamic" race on earth, we find that the Creator and the Creature communicated, had fellowship, something not possible for beings without significant common attributes. God even made a noise as He was "walking in the garden in the cool of the day". Gen.3:8.
We do learn later that above all else, God desired mankind to be creatures He might love and who, in turn, could, of their own free will, respond with love. As awesome as it may sound, a creature so endowed with "God-like" "likeness" that they could also even deny or disobey it's Creator, as indeed they did.
Which was the starting point and reason for this discussion in the first place. So to continue our search, let us look a little more closely at those words that have been so often "interpreted" by generations of "teachers". As if God had kept secret what He wanted us to understand, or perhaps, spoke in riddles and then visited judgement on those who misunderstood, - all rather foreign to our idea of a just and loving God.
As we proceed to look to the "beginnings" of our race, a little later in the 5th chapter of Genesis, we have a summary of the "generations of Adam" and we are told in the first verse "...In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God." then in verse 3 we find ". . . Adam . . . became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image . . ." Now if we are to accept the common "interpretation" of "likeness" and "image" in verse 1, how do we understand these words in verse 3? Are we to assume that Seth was a creature with some remote semblance of his parent, a being with some small point of affinity to the stock from which he had sprung? Or was he indeed a son of his father in likeness and image according to the divine command, "each after his own kind"?
While a kind of perverse evidence, the "compatibility" of the divine and the human is further illustrated in the 6th chapter of Genesis, (Gen.6:4), were we find "intermarriage" of the "sons of God" and the daughters of "the Adams". I am aware that these beings called "sons of God" are "fallen" and their act was in disobedience, possibly referred to by Jude, (Jude 1:6) but too much evidence exists that does not permit us to just pass them off as figures of speech, or descendants of Seth, which is a common orthodox explanation. Let us look at the record for a moment.
They where called the "Nephilim", (the fallen ones,- fallen, came down, from above). We could suggest they came from the sky as the record reports and that they where "on the earth in those days (before the flood) and also afterwards" and that their offspring where exceptional beings, "mighty men who where of old, men of renown."
That may not be sufficient on its own but in Numbers 13:33 we read that the Nephilim were in the Promised Land, when Caleb and the spies visited. They are here too described as exceptional beings, "giants" - "we were like grasshoppers".
If we remember that the flood of Noah destroyed "all flesh from the face of the earth", from were did the Nephilim come? Note "also afterward". They appear both sides of the flood, which destroyed all flesh, save Noah and family. So what do I want to prove? Simply, that we confuse the facts by inserting ideas of our own interpretation when the facts are uncomfortable or contrary to "accepted" teaching.
Further, that the "natural" and the "spiritual" universe are not separate and opposed but a "unified" whole as is the electromagnetic spectrum of, which we can see and sense only a small part without aid.
If as some say, the Inspired Record is an "unfolding revelation" of God and His dealings with man, and this I believe to be so, however, even the earliest revelations must have been adequate for those to whom they where given. The first "revelation of God" we have record of was His relationship with Adam, the first and still perfect, unfallen, untainted mind capable of perfect fellowship with his Creator.
Without further discussing the meaning of "likeness and image", the record clearly says that God and Adam "walked and talked in the garden". Gen.3:8,10. Unless "sound" and "walking" are just euphemisms for some obscure, holy happening that announced God's presence. I think not.
In the world of computer skulduggery, it is possible to place an apparently benign proposition (called a Trojan Horse) in a programme that will have no effect on the working of the programme, until some key command "triggers" it, then it destroys the whole programme. This too, can be true of our most sacred faith.
Accumulated traditions, born of medieval ignorance have become hallowed by honoured bearers to the point of becoming holy truth that we dare not question. Perhaps, some dare, as David did, when he took the shewbread for his warriors, to risk offending the religious establishment.
"The chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever."
A great deal of discussion on doctrine is always based on some vague assumptions concerning the nature of God. Generally, we say God is revealed in Jesus but at the same time we hold some ideas that God is unknowable and unfathomable. I feel there are some contradictions here. Maybe the pressures of "political correctness", almost 2000 years ago, enforced an idea of Monotheism that inevitably led to the "unknowable mystery" of Trinitarianism.
Judaism had become the first monotheistic faith as expressed in the "Shmea". (Deu. 6:4) which declares the unity of God which may be translated variously. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one"; or "The LORD our God is one LORD"; or "The LORD is our God, the LORD is one"; or "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone ".
Firstly, what are the sources we have by which we may learn of the nature of God. (1). We have the Scriptures. (2). The Scriptures tell us that God may be known from that which he has created. (3). We have the opportunity to apply the instructions contained in the Scriptures by which it is said we may know God personally and experientially.
When we consider source (1) It is common to shroud much of the revelation in mystery - in fact, hiding the revelation by declaring it subject to "interpretation" and then certain persons, by various means of accreditation are entrusted with "interpreting" to the "unlearned" the meaning of what has been revealed. This has produced results as varied as human imagination. While it appears unnoticed to many that the existence of this very establishment suggests that God would conceal in mystery the essential Guide Book for humanity and then judge us according to our obedience. Not a nice concept.
When we have set about considering source (2) we find that the idea that God is almost unknowable has persisted. Christians generally have contented themselves with "God revealed in Jesus" and then explained any pre-advent vision of a divinity in human form as a theophany, or Jesus, before His birth. God-seekers of other cultures have sought to project a dim likeness of God from the dark and mysterious or powerful images of the physical creation. Doing so, they have ended up worshiping the creation rather than the creator - idolatry. Would not the best place to search be to look at that special creation which God declared to be in His own "likeness and image"?