What If There is a Universal Formulated Christian Theology?

If this is true, it would be very helpful if we could find it. It would do away with the confusion we see in our churches. It would be a clear message to unbelievers that the church is the body of Christ Jesus. It would be easier to accept the Christian’s united message without the denominational factions. This would be a great blessing to the world. Because of this, it is very important that we find the Universal Christian Theology the whole Church would endorse.

Denomination factions are a curse on the church. Churches are split along denominational lines. Our beliefs are in limbo. Our actions and attitudes toward one another are a disgrace to God and His glorious plans for us. We need to forget about our denominational differences and organize against the common enemy. We cannot do this if we place our theology above the plain teachings in the Bible. This should never be. Jesus is the Head of the Church, and all true followers of Him are the body of the Church.

The true church is a united Church. In the true Church each member finds his/her place in the body of Christ. We cannot be a Christian without being part of the Church that Jesus built. We can have more than one denomination, but we cannot have more than one Gospel of Jesus Christ. Much needless confusion has resulted from people who have advanced their theology forward as God’s theology. God is “not the author of confusion.” The divisions come from carnally-minded people, not from the God of truth.

It really does not matter what you or I believe. The Universal Christian Theology we need is Christ-centered and Bible-based. It accepts the Bible as the Word of God, not just containing God’s words. As God’s Word, the Bible gives us the Universal Christian Theology we need to establish in our churches. There are not many Christs. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only one the true Church accepts. We have only one Head. The Jesus of the Bible is that Head. We have only one gospel, one faith, one God, one body of Jesus, one Holy Spirit, one great commission. If we have not started our theology here, we have a false gospel. We are false witnesses of God and His plans for us.

True Christian theology covers every area of our life in thought, word and deed. Nothing is excluded. It covers what we believe about special creation, the literal interpretation of the Bible, the things we oppose as well as the things we accept; the nature of God, of special creation, of angels, of anthropology, of sin, of the Jewish nation, of salvation, of the Christian ministry, of the Christian church, of the civil government, and of the world. Christianity is a relational experience with God and others. It relates to our love for God and others. It gives instructions that will help us develop this relationship to its fullest extent.

What the Bible Says About Truth and Reconciliation and its Application in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

In the Daily Telegraph Atlas of the World Today, a section captioned: “Nations in Turmoil”, indicates that we live in a turbulent world. Africa figures prominently in this section as usual in terms of internal disturbances, border disputes and casualties from wars.1 In that same Atlas, under foreign aid, Africa is represented as a key recipient of foreign aid among countries of the so-called Third World.2 But regardless of the plight of our people, a good sum of the aid received goes into military expenditure.

In addressing the topic at hand, I will take into account the following:

The Biblical definition of Truth and Reconciliation

The Biblical expression of Truth

The Non-negotiable pre-requisites of Reconciliation

God’s initiative in Reconciliation.

THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION:

What is Biblical Truth? The Bible is full of definitions, descriptions and examples in regard to truth.

In its various uses the word occurs 113 times in the O.T. (Gen. 4 times; Ex. 2.)

The number of occurrences of the word in the N.T. is 108

Hence, the word Truth is no mean word in the entire Bible.

Etymologically, the Old Testament word for truth is EMETH, translated in the Septuagnt as aletheia with double meanings: (a) Objectively, it means the reality of an appearance or a clearly demonstrated importance of a matter, such as religious truth (Rom. 1:25), and particularly, Christian doctrine (Gal. 2:5). (b) Subjectively, it means truthfulness, sincerity and integrity of character (Jn. 8:44: 3 Jn. 3) as may be seen in the following phrases – to speak the truth (Rom. 9; ii Cor, 12:6; Eph. 4:25); and to do the truth (Jn. 1:6).3

In keeping with the foregoing definition, “God’s truth and faithfulness are to be reflected in his people’s lives. So the King, who represented God as His ruler, must show faithfulness, be a Champion of Truth and be ready to expose whatever is unfair or false (Ps. 45:4; Zech. 7:9). He must carefully adhere to God’s law (Prov.29:14)”. According to Christianity, Jesus who is the embodiment of Truth announces to the Praises, Sadducees and Scribes – “You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:32).

What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation and Truth are two bed-fellows. Reconciliation is forever absent wherever truth is lacking or neglected. This word is also a key word within the vocabulary of the entire Bible. Though its use is not as extensive as the word “Truth”, yet it demonstrated by the use of four verbs and one noun: (a) Kaphar – to cover, make atonement (Lev. 6:30, 16:20; Ezek. 45:20); (b) Ratsah – to make self pleasing (1 Sam. 29:4); (c) Apokatallato – to change thoroughly from (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 21); (d) Katallasso – to change thoroughly (2 Cor. 5:18, 19); (e) Kattalage – a thorough change (n) (Rom. 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19).4

Therefore, looking at the foregoing analysis of the word, one should then conclude that in or order to mediate reconciliation a great deal of covering of wrong and thorough change has to take place in both the offender and the offended. Much is involved in order to overcome enmity or take away the cause of a quarrel. “We may apologize for the hasty word, we may pay the money due, we may make what reparation or restitution is appropriate. But in every case the way to reconciliation lies through the effective grappling with the rot cause of the enmity.”5 That is a summary of the biblical definition of the words – Truth and Reconciliation. Without truth, reconciliation is impossible.

THE BIBLICAL EXPRESSION OF THE TRUTH

This section should preferably be called the practical biblical expression of the Truth. God’s truth is not to be construed always as philosophical or ideological. It is practical in many aspects:

In regard to God’s creation in Gen. 1 and 2: these two chapters narrate the truth of the creation drama in two strands – (a) The Cosmological strand gives a detailed picture of creation: Creation of earth, light and probably angles; separation of the upper and lower waters by space; creation of plant life; creation of the sun, moon and stars; creation of fish and fowl; creation of land animals and man; creation was completed and man rests. In the second strand of Creation – the anthropological strand (in Genesis Chapter two), we see a summary of God’s creative act. It centers around man (Adam and Eve) and is complementary, not contradictory to the first.

One could learn four truths from this two-fold creation story: Creation confirms the truth about Divine ownership (“In the begging God create the Heavens and the Earth” – Gen. 1:1). This fact refutes six philosophies – Atheism, Polytheism, Evolution, Pantheism, Materialism and Fatalism. 2 – Creation is declared good by the Creator six times (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). 3 – Creation is to be taken care of by man (Gen. 1:27 – 29; 2:15). 4 – Man violates the truth about divine ownership and human responsibility (Gen. 3).

In regard to reciprocal relationship (Exo. 20:1 – 10). Biblical truth is also expressed in regards to reciprocal relationships – as it relates to divine right: “Thou shall have no other gods before me; Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image; Thou shall not take the name of The Lord Thy God in Vain; remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The truth of the matter is, God requires no rivals and demands absolute worship.

As it relates to human right: Honour thy father and mother; Thou shall not kill; Thou shall not commit adultery; Thou shall not steal; Thou shall not bear false witness; Thou shall not covet.

The Biblical expression of Truth in regard to God’s creation in Gen. 1 and 2, and in regard to reciprocal relationships having to do with divine and human right must never be disregarded or violated. The world, Africa and Sierra Leone in particular will never be in peace until we face up squarely to the Truth about God’s divine right, human right and responsibility.

THE NON-NEGOTIABLE PRE-REQUISITES OF RECONCILIATION

Where the truth about divine right, human right and responsibility has been violated time without number, the offender and the offended cannot come to the round table of reconciliation unless the right conditions or pre-requisites are put in place. Otherwise what we get is a parody of reconciliation. Therefore, between Truth and Reconciliation, what should fill that gap are Justice, Repentance, and Forgiveness:

Justice – This word comes from two Hebrew words: (a) Tsedeq or Tsedeqah, meaning rightness or righteousness. It further connotes “that which ought to be so, that which matches up to a sandard”.6 The second word is mishpat. “The noun mishpat can describe the whole process of litigation or its end, usually case law, based on past precedents (Ex. 21-23). Mishpat is what needs to be done in a given situation if people and circumstances are to be restored in conformity with tsedeq or tsedeqah (i.e. rightness or righteousness).7 As a lecturer, students sometimes tempt me to confuse my understanding of justice. They would ask me to excuse them from attending a particular class due to circumstances beyond their control. But in granting them permission, they sometimes expect me to mark them present. Justice requires one to make right judgment in relation to the standard that has been set.

Repentance – this is the requirement of Justice. In both the Old and New Testaments, the verbs nacham and metanoew mean to change one’s mind or purpose, hence, to repent (Jer. 4:28; 1 Kgs 15:29; Lk. 17:3, 4). The noun, metanoia means, an after-though, change of mind, repentance from sin (see 1 Jn. 1:8-10). The offender who humbly submits to the verdict of justice will repent in tears and be a good citizen in God’s Kingdom whether on Earth or in Heaven.

Forgiveness – “In the scripture, forgiveness occurs whenever humans who have violated God’s will cry out for and receive His mercy. It is different from mercy itself, which is God’s staying His hand of deserved judgment. Forgiveness begins with the acknowledge of one’s guilt (1 Jn. 1:9) in God’s eyes.”8 This is the stage where the offender and the offended begin to feel comfortable with each other because the barrier that existed prior to this time has been covered (Kaphan), lifted up (nasa), sent away (salach), loosed away (apoluo, sent or let off (aphiemi).9

Without justice, repentance and forgiveness reconciliation is impossible and those who anticipate it may be working in vain.

RECONCILIATION IS GOD’S INITIATIVE

By initiative, I mean God takes the lead or first step because it is His desire and purpose. Two passages in both the Old and New Testaments set forth the idea of God’s initiative in reconciliation. To begin with, we note that “Yahweh said to Abram, leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless you, and whoever courses you, I will curse, and in you all people of the Earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3). The New Testament counterpart is a fulfillment of the Old Testament passage. It reads: “Because in Christ, God reconciled the world with Himself, no longer taking into account their trespasses and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we present ourselves as ambassadors in the name of Christ, as if God Himself makes an appeal to you through us. Let God reconcile you; this we ask in the name of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20). In both Old Testament and New Testament passages we observe the following:

(1) God takes the initiative to reconcile. (2) Man’s sin does not determine God from reconciling man to Himself. (3) The beneficiaries of reconciliation have themselves been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. This message of reconciliation is given from generation to generation beginning with the book of Genesis in many different ways:

Reconciliation is Typologised – the dictionary definition of a type is that it is a class of thing having common characteristics; person or thing or event serving as illustration or symbol or characteristics specimen of a class”.10 Two types readily come to mind:

(a) coats of skin made for Adam and Eve before they were sent out of the Garden (Gen. 3:21). “The coats of skin were God’s provision for restoring Adam and Eve’s fellowship with Himself and imply slaying of an animal in order to provide them.11

(b) the other type I would like to mention is the brass serpent in Numbers 21:4-9. The story is that in their journey in the wilderness they, as usual murmured against God and Moses saying, “wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and our soul loathes and they killed many. The people repented and asked Moses to plead to God on their behalf. The Lord command Moses to make a serpent of brass and set it upon a pole so that whoever looked upon it might be healed. Moses did as requested and the people were healed. The brass serpent is a type of Christ’s death on the cross.

Reconciliation is Dramatized – Apart from other events; one notable incident where reconciliation is dramatized is in the Lord’s Supper. All three Gospels record the incident of the Lord’s Supper albeit with slight variations. But the main elements and purpose which is the remission of sins leading to reconciliation are preserved in each Gospel. This drama of salvation history is again revealed to the Corinthians by Paul who additionally emphasized among other things, the responsibility of the participant which is – to remember Christ, examine oneself and proclaim the death of Christ till He comes (1 Cor. 11:23-34).

Reconciliation is Actualized – Theologically speaking, in my opinion; there is a sense in which the typological and dramatic aspects of reconciliation are prophetic whereas this third aspect is reconciliation’s fulfillment. This is the actual crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ recorded by a all four Gospels (Mt. 27:27-66; Mr. 15:21-47; Lk. 23:26-55; Jn. 19:17-42).12

As far as reconciliation is concerned, God uses types, drama and Christ’s act on the cross apart from the written word. Reconciliation is God’s initiative.

The remedying of our present predicament should be the responsibility of all Sierra Leoneans but the present democratic government should lead us all in this matter. It would be nonsensical to have a people who are willing to work for the development of the country when the government they have chosen is as it were the champion and architect of all forms of corruption. The remedy the government is to give should be three-fold:

(a) make its organizational structure a type or model of reconciliation

(b) make the day to day running of government ministries a drama of reconciliation

(c) make the improved way of life of the people the actualization of reconciliation.

CONCLUSION

In addressing the topic: “What the Bible says about Truth and Reconciliation. And its application in Sierra Leone.” I have taken into account the following:

The Biblical definition of Truth and Reconciliation

The Biblical expression of Truth

The Non-negotiable pre-requisites of Reconciliation and God’s initiative in Reconciliation.

God wrote the Scriptures and spoke reconciliation but above all He made the people see it through types, drama and acts. It is, therefore, the responsibility of this government, the church and every citizen not only to writ and talk reconciliation, but to typologize, dramatize and actualize it in daily deeds so that the offender and the offended can live harmoniously again and make this country a heaven of rest for all. Another classical passage that epitomizes reconciliation is the story of the prodigal son in Luke Chapter 15. The Father initiates reconciliation through love; the Prodigal Son concepts reconciliation through repentance; the servants worked for reconciliation through duty. But the elder brother tried to hamper reconciliation through pessimism and hate.

1. Grant, Neil and Al., The Daily Telegraphy Atlas of the World Today (London: The Daily Telegraph, 1978), pp.142/3.

2. Grant, Neil and Al., The Daily Atlas of the World, pp. 78/9.

3. Abbott-Smith, G., A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T and T. Clark Ltd., 1986), p. 20.

4. Young, Robert., Analytical Concordance to the Bible (London: Lutterwork Press, 1970, pp.
798.

5. Marshall, I. H. (Ed.), New Bible Dictionary (3rd Ed) Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1999), p.
1002.

6. Willmington, H. L., Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, 1984, pp. 1, 4.

7. Wright, Christiper J. H., An Eye for An Eye (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983). p.
134.

8. Wright, Christiper J. H., An Eye for An Eye (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983). p.
134.

9. Yarbrough, R. W., “Forgiveness and Reconciliation” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
(Leicester: : Inter-Varsity Press, 2000). p. 498.

10. Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, p. 367.

11. Allen, R. E. (Ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Current English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 816.

12. Rytrrie, C.C., The Rytrie Study Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), p. 12.

Where Is God: Are the Gaps Shrinking?

For the faithful, without doubt, the Christian God has operated in the earthly realm. God generated the famous burning bush of Moses, parted the Red Sea, created the virgin birth of Christ, turned water into wine, converted fishes and loaves to feed thousands, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

That presence continues today. Today, for the faithful, God touches our earthly realm as his listens to our prayers, sends his Spirit to guide and purify us, inspires the bishops at ecumenical councils, and enables modern day saints to perform miracles.

But where is this God?

Before the ascendancy of modern science, the Christian God could be present “out there” in nature. Humanity’s understanding of science was sufficiently limited that we could picture our God as residing in the skies above, wielding the forces of nature for his purposes. Ample gaps existed in our science to allow the earthly attributes of God, and his presence in our earthly realm, to slip in without contradiction of science.

But the God of earthly prowess is running out of room to hide. Physics over the last century has drilled down to the infinitesimally small, and the sister science of astronomy has peered out to the extraordinary distant. The “out there” is shrinking.

So where is God? One might have thought we would run into him, if he was “out there” in the physical realm.

One Approach, Denial of God – This contradiction, this incongruity, between the professed earthly presence and intervention of God, and the increasing scope and reach of science, leads many to a denial of God. If one takes our hard sciences, and adds in sociology, psychology and anthropology, one can readily create a convincing logic that God isn’t a reality but rather a figment of collective human need and imagination.

Many prominent authors have written books to that effect.

Believers, the faithful, would reject that rejection, and despite any contradictions maintain a conviction in God. I accept that as reasonable, that at the person-on-the-street level, faith can operate as such. In the myriad of inconsistencies in life, we cannot expect everyone to resolve them all with absolute philosophical and theological rigor. It is permissible to just believe.

But for truth, for that which would supersede all else, we cannot overlook such contradictions. If God is to remain a possibility within truth we must resolve the increasing tension between our personified and intervening God, and the lack of any physical indication of his presence or the mechanism of his intervention.

Why work so conscientiously to maintain what some would consider a mirage. Very simply, within our history, within our culture, and within our conceptual realm, God stands as too central of an idea to simply abandon it without due diligence.

Of God and Concepts – The origins of most religions occurred before the scientific age. That timing stands as a key insight into our dilemma. God could reveal himself only within the conceptual framework of pre-scientific mankind. This limitation extended to other spiritual concepts. Souls, heavens, salvation, grace, all became cast within the terminology and idioms of the times.

Our quandary of the shrinking gaps for God may rest not so much in the essence of God, but in our images of that essence. God is ineffable (let us assume he exists, and if he exists most theology posits God as ineffable, at least within current human intellectual capabilities). As such, we can grasp God only by images and analogies, and difficulties with God could readily be in those images and analogies, not in the nature of God himself.

To explore that hypothesis, let’s think about how God would design the method and content of revelation to match what mankind could most readily understand. How would he market himself, in a good sense, i.e. without attempting to deceive while maximizing his message?

Now without being presumptuous, I would posit God would want to achieve the following in a revelation:

– Show knowledge or abilities beyond mankind’s
– Maintain credibility
– Demonstrate his munificence, divinity and perfection
– Fit within the culture of the time
– Impart new understandings

In prior times, converting water-to-wine (or just a story of converting water to wine) worked within those parameters. Nature in those times contained numerous mysteries; the forces of nature brought both good fortune and calamity with a certain degree of arbitrariness. Water-to-wine fit into the general unexplainable phenomena encompassing life in general.

Today, water-to-wine might work, but I could readily conceive this event becoming swallowed within modern culture. The miracle could be demoted to just another Wikipedia article, with categories of description, scientific explanations, historic context, socio-political impacts, press coverage and book deals, all highly referenced. Our modern culture tends to chew up such physically bounded “miraculous” events.

Current prophet – If a revelation were to occur in current times, God would likely not use images, messages and approaches relevant for a prior time. The criteria for his revelation, as listed in the bullets above, would remain the same, but that criteria would dictate different approaches.

So how would a current prophet implement the criteria above with a current approach? Let me lay out how such a prophet might operate.

The prophet would appear first in a deep African village, to a small group of people, but including one person who posts a video on the internet. The prophet would proclaim “all gods are in God.” He would show a tattoo and a talisman, and provide a dental impression, suitably encased for sanitary and preservation purposes, then disappear.

Few would notice. The prophet the next day would appear at a vastly different location, at a great telescope in South America, to another small group of people, again including one who posts a video on the internet. The prophet would write down detailed co-ordinates for locating a planet, and proclaim “you will find life.” He would show his tattoo, his talisman, and leave a dental impression.

The prophet on the third day would again appear at a new and different location, at CERN, in a room with no other occupants at the time. He would gain access to the computer systems, enter an algorithm and write “with this you find an essence for time.” He would leave a dental impression.

The next day, the scientists of CERN discover the entered algorithm, and trigger a local press story. No one, however, can find a trace of how this person arrived or left the building or location.

The prophet on the fourth day arrives in a Southeast Asian village. He asks the local doctor to take a sample of blood, shows his tattoo and talisman, and leaves the now familiar dental sample. The doctor records a short video, and posts it. The prophet proclaims that the blood contains “a cure and revelations.” The prophet’s story begins to break across the news media in sporadic reports. His dental impressions begin to be collected.

On the fifth day, the prophet appears at the Antarctic South Pole station. A video is taken, with shots of the tattoo and talisman, and the dental impression provided. He proclaims, “maintain diligence, as five years will be required.” The prophet takes a small container of radioactive material used for experiments, steps outside into the cold, breaks open the radioactive container and douses himself. He then walks off.

The prophet is never seen again. No evidence of his means of transportation is ever found. No evidence of his body or the radioactivity is found in the Antarctic snow. The dental impressions all match, and the DNA on the impressions is found to be human.

Five year later, the planet at the telescope coordinates is found to contain plant-like life, the algorithm at CERN uncovers tachyon-like particles that revolutionize the concepts of time, and the blood sample contains cures to diseases, and proteins that when decoded provide divine sayings.

Discussion – What is this story? It is not an attempt to supplant God. Rather, the story indicates that the apparent closing of the gaps where God can exist is a closing of the God of the concepts available in the historic time of that revelation. The story points to possibilities for divine presence and revelation tuned to present culture.

We think science has closed the gaps. But the story shows many gaps exist. Mankind does not know if or where other life exists, physics has incomplete understanding of time, and medical science can not address major illness.

Some are skeptical of the resurrection of Christ. That skepticism could be considered culturally supported since the movie Sherlock Holmes showed how a mere human villain pulled off his own apparent resurrection. But in this story, teleportation replaces resurrection, with dental records as authentication, and though not iron clad we would not readily dismiss the power and reality of a prophet employing such a means of travel.

Teleportation vs. miracles shows how cultural appropriateness enables the credibility of revelation. Two millennium ago, communication and travel occurred so slow that the teleportation of the story here would hardly have been noticed. Today, that is of course much changed. The teleportation here is documented through internet technology and authenticated by scientific means not available in prior times. It receives credibility since science itself is exploring teleportation. Finally, the teleportation is sufficiently astounding to make explanation of it as a trick, or within know physics, difficult.

In today’s media-hyped environment, a prophet with a long duration could get exposed, destroyed, disputed, elevated, exploited, politicized or otherwise unable to stay on point. This story has a prophet of five days, with the revelation, not the prophet, extending over time.

And miracles are replaced by information. Our scientific age is skeptical of physically bounded miracles. Our belief in science is so strong that many would pick the now constancy of science over an isolated localized miracle of a prophet, if the two conflicted. Thus, while a physical miracle creates a contradiction with science, a prophet offering information does not. Information and science are conciliatory, and the information revealed here extends science.

Is the teleportation a similar physical miracle that would be discounted? Possibly, but I would argue it is sufficiently broad, and sufficiently beyond standard magician material, to set itself apart.

Where is God? – If he exists he is somewhere, I know not where. So I have asked a question which I can not answer. But I have offered that the continuing advances of science, and the expanding reach of modern culture, do not of necessity squeeze the “where” of God into a smaller and smaller gap.