You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Omega and the Alpha

The final day of the year usually comes with reflections on the past and hope for the future. The ending of one event and the beginning of another. With Christmas having just finished, I have been thinking through the impact of the incarnation of God taking place in a humble manger. But the incarnation is not just about the Alpha and Omega becoming a human being and bringing salvation to us. The incarnation also effects God's future as well. Not only did the 2nd person of the Trinity feel the wrath of the 1st person of the Trinity (consider propitiation), but also the 2nd person of the Trinity is forever a human being - Jesus. It does not appear from Scripture that the God/Man reverted back to what He was prior to the incarnation. In fact the appearances of Jesus Christ point to the fact that He is forever Jesus. Just consider Stephen's sighting of Jesus in Acts 7 and John's vision of Jesus in Rev. 1. In both instances Jesus is a recognizable human. Now some may argue that God can assume human form, and that is certainly true. But a straightforward reading of the NT post-resurrection accounts of Jesus Christ indicate that He is forever the God/Man.

Honestly, I can't explain this. I don't think we know enough about God to be able to navigate intra-Trinitarian metaphysics. But I think there is still a good lesson we can draw from this: the permanent incarnation of God clearly shows the extent of the love, mercy and grace of God in the fulfillment of His plan of salvation.

My musings on the incarnation started with the manger but ended in Rev. 21 as the King of Kings is ruling the New Heavens and New Earth in righteousness. So even our futures are going to be affected by the incarnation, because Jesus is/will be our King.

I hope everyone has a great New Year! Thanks for being a part of this blog which started only 6 months ago!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Did God Learn Something?

Troubling verses are the biblical scholar's bread and butter. And it is amazing to me how a single verse or even a single word in the verse can be used (or maybe exploited) in opening up whole new vistas in thinking.

Here is one that I have been chewing on for the last few years: Genesis 22:12. Here is the scene: Abraham is obeying God on Mt. Moriah and offering up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. God tells Abraham to stop and provides a substitute ram. God comments on Abraham's obedience by saying, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God..." What?!? Now God knows that Abraham fears? This little, normal, common, everyday word, "now", causes the reader to pause and ask a question: did God learn something that day?

So how should we understand this verse? If God learned something that day, then we need to factor that into our traditional theologies which state that God is omniscient. This also impacts our views on whether God is "in" time or "outside" of time. It also impacts our views on whether God has direct, causal control over every detail in the universe. Here are three options for understanding this verse that I have considered.
1) One Option - Perhaps God did learn something that day and we should reevaluate our theologies on God's foreknowledge (as Open Theists do), God's sovereignty versus human free will, and also God's relationship with time. This has enormous ramifications.
2) Another Option - Perhaps God is using anthropomorphic language. In other words, God is communicating using human colloquialisms, and we should not read more into the word "now" then is needed. This opinion glosses over the word "now" and basically begs the reader to ignore it.
3) Another Option - Perhaps there is some literary purpose behind God/Moses inserting the word "now" in this place. Maybe if we were to read the preceding Abrahamic narratives and the remaining Abrahamic narratives, we would see that this word "now" functions to link segments together or to provide some rhetorical element. Perhaps someone who has spent some time in Hebrew narrative could shed some light on this (Coney, this is your open door :) )

I am a firm believer in hearing the voice(s) of the community of believers in regards to understanding a verse. So here is the question for readers of this blog: In what ways can this verse be legitimately understood? You are welcome to give your view and defend it, but I am also looking for legitimate options to understanding this verse. I have listed three ways to understand this verse above. Feel free to beat up on them or tweak them. I should also point out that in the Hebrew there is nothing fishy going on here. The word for "know" and "now" are common words that any first year Hebrew student would "know" "now" (sorry for the terrible word play).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Inigo Montoya needs a miracle. His hopes of avenging his father’s death ride on the resurrection of Wesley, also known as the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts.’ He takes the body to Miracle Max (of course) who needs a reason to perform the miracle. Inflating the dead man’s lungs he produces the reply: ‘true… love…’ After sufficient comedic hijinks, Max produces the miracle pill which begins the slow process of reviving Wesley and the story moves on, revenge is had and true love wins the day.

Many films capitalize on the idea of true love, and Hollywood understands the powerful human need for satisfying intimate relationships, which they present as some mysterious combination of chemistry and good luck. Stable marriages require more than warm fuzzies and good fortune. They need a love borne of commitment and sacrifice. It seems that everyone wants a lasting love, but no one wants to do the hard work of loving another lastingly. This problem is not new, as John Calvin notes in his polemical treatise, ‘Against the Libertines.’

Calvin’s scathing (and hilarious) evaluation of this situation goes like this:
"We have already seen how these wretches profane marriage, mingling men and women like dumb animals according to the lusts that drive them. And how, under the name of ‘spiritual marriage,’ they disguise this churlish corruption, labeling as a ‘spiritual movement’ that wild impetuosity that goads and inflames a man like a bull and a woman like a dog in heat."

We tend to idealize the past and see our current time as one of increasing corruption, but the reality is that the past is every bit as corrupt as the present. In the realm of marriage, Calvin points to people who excuse bad behavior by shifting the basis of behavior from objective standards to internal desires. These people then act according to whim, which applied to the realm of intimate relationships means that they pretty much had sex apart from a lasting marriage commitment. As we compare that situation to our contemporary culture, we have a lot in common and we need a miracle to fix it.

The miraculous fix for marital problems doesn’t come through a miracle pill from Miracle Max. Fixing our marriages relies on a restored relationship to God, through Christ and then taking the hard pill of personal responsibility. We first must think correctly about marriage and then act correctly with our partner. When we compare reality to the Biblical conception of marriage, we have a right foundation for the hard work of restoring our marriages according to the correct image, which Hollywood correctly presents, but incorrectly attributes to good vibes and good fortune.