April 30, 2012

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Learning to Be the People of God What is the mission of God, or in theological terms, the missio dei? Is it to save a collection of individuals? Or is to have a community for himself, to make for Himself a people? When we think of the mission of the church, the temptation is to see the church as a sort of "sales and marketing team" for the Gospel, to think that our sole purpose is to "win more souls." But imagine for a moment if a young single man took a young single lady out on a date and said to her: "Look, let's cut to the chase. I'm not really interested in who you are or what movies you like or what you hobbies are. I really just want to have lots and lots of kids. I mean, I've got this big house with lots of rooms and I just want to fill it." Now, on the one hand, the young lady might find this refreshing: a man who wants to have kids right away! But on the other hand, there is something quite disturbing about the whole thing. He almost makes it sound like any girl will do; having kids is the real goal. As bizarre as this sounds, I wonder if this is a little bit like a pastor or church-planter saying, "I want to plant a church to reach more people." No doubt: we need to keep announcing Christ to those who have not heard. And we start new churches and campuses to enable us to announce Christ to more people. But I suspect that something can easily get out of order here. The Church is not a means to an end, a vehicle to "reach more people"; the community of the people of God is the end goal. In Acts, churches...
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Is Dawkins Right About the "God of the Old Testament"? (Pt. 2 of 5) [EDITOR'S NOTE: The following six-part series of blogs are adapted from a paper I wrote this year in my Pentateuch class with Dr. John Goldingay at Fuller Theological Seminary. These thoughts are not meant to be the final word on the matter, nor to form a sort of apologetic against atheists. This is not material for an argument. It is simply a response based on a closer reading of the Torah-- the first five books of the Bible. My hope is that it will help Christians avoid simplistic views about the "God of the Old Testament. Read Part 1 HERE.] Claim #2: "The God of the Old Testament is...a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak."-- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion Is God a Petty, Unjust Control-Freak? The second claim is that God is “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak.” We will deal with the “unforgiving” claim as a subset of the next claim that the Old Testament God is vindictive. The rest of these claims could be further separated and dealt with, but they are interconnected. Let us assume for the moment that Dawkins knows that they are. It would seem, however, that he does not know how these things are connected. For example, one could make the case that to have any rules at all is to be “petty” and “controlling.” But to have no rules would be unjust. Genesis 4 shows us what happens without clear instructions from YHWH. Two brothers, left to sort out how to “love God and love each other” end up in relational tension. YHWH warns Cain to do what it is right, but he disregards it and kills Abel (as pictured above in the Il Tintorreto painting). YHWH then banishes Cain. The story serves as instruction—the word “Torah” means instruction not laws—for future generations about God’s...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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