Much is written about broader providence and Israel’s role as a light to the Gentile nations within the Psalms and Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible. However at this point I should acknowledge the limitations, indeed the positive dangers of “proof-texting” to highlight particular passages that appear to support a particular emphasis or personal standpoint.
The background to this series of posts is that I have come to a quite new understanding of certain scriptural passages (especially within the writings of St Paul) following an extraordinary ten-day encounter with the Holy Spirit a few summers ago, the results of which I have set out in my book. These posts are intended to supplement that work by drawing out sequentially from Scripture the passages to which my attention was directed within that process. That is a form of a “proof-texting” nevertheless but the text pertaining to the subject of each post is I trust considered within the context of each particular narrative. The reason I am confident in my assertions (apart from the nature of the experience itself) is that the new interpretations resolve all the key scriptural “tensions”, at least to my own satisfaction; and that is in spite of my adopting a quite literal approach to the Hebrew/Greek text throughout.
Such a strategy is in marked contrast to the hyper-allegorical approach especially to the Old Testament practiced by the supremely influential Augustine (Hippo), whose particular understanding of Paul acted as the prism through which he believed the remainder of Scripture must be wrested. That might not be so much of a problem if he had understood the great apostle aright in the first place, which as a result of what I have been shown by the Spirit I am convinced with all my mind, heart and soul that the Roman-African bishop was in error in his interpretation of Paul’s teaching on Israel’s relationship to the Law, the economy of grace, anthropology and effectual free will.
So who is one to believe – the most influential Christian thinker of the first millennium or this retired London bus-driver? I suggest neither in and of themselves whatever either may claim for himself or is contended on their behalf within the churches. What I shall say is this: we will know we have arrived at the fullness of truth when its final arbiter, Holy Scripture is seen to cohere at last; i.e. a reading is provided in which Paul no longer appears to contradict himself (e.g. Romans 2:6-11 and 7:14-25 versus the rest of Romans and Galatians); each apostle is demonstrated to agree with each other and their Master before them, especially regarding the individual’s role in his salvation and the criteria to be applied at final judgement; the seeming disparity between OT prophecy and the outworking of the gospel/church age can be explained from within Scripture itself; and last but not least, God‘s compassion, the equitable nature of His justice and His depiction as “Love personified” is seen to be consistent with the perceived cosmic outcomes. I believe this has now been achieved and that such is itself a fulfilment of prophecy.
Insights from the Wisdom literature
These matters are re-affirmed in my own mind the more I read through Scripture, not least the genre we have reached in these posts being the so-called Wisdom literature. Solomon for example, assumed to be the author, wrote of those who effectively go in the way of Cain by “leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the way of darkness (Prov2:13 Masoretic) as opposed to those who continue to “walk in the way of good men and who keep the paths of the righteous” (v20). Also that the day shall come when “ the upright shall dwell on the earth and those who are perfected will remain (or have pre-eminence) in it whereas the wicked shall be cut off from the earth and the treacherous ones rooted out of it” (vv21,22). Of course if the physical and spiritual aspects of the human person were an inseparable union and rotten to the core none would be in a position to “leave the paths of righteousness” for they could never have been on them in the first place.
The reason that a certain category (the seed of Satan Mt13:38-39) do leave is because they are no longer directed by what God provides to those who are made in His own image. In a sense these people cease to be fully human, reflecting instead the nature of their adopted father (Jn8:44); yet they have a role within God’s purposes for the current age (cf. Jn6:70; Rom9:22b; 1Jn3:12). Such people reject or become oblivious to the light of reason a.k.a. Logos, the Word, the seed (1Jn3:9), the light of Christ in the conscience (my preference) or simply “Christ” (e.g. Origen and Justin Martyr).
So those who are heading for perdition are not those who have failed to apprehend the grace and healing of Christ as it is offered through the gospel (i.e. historically the vast majority of humanity), for contrary to the teaching of Arminius, man has no innate ability to respond to the grace of Christ (Jn6:44). The “damned” are rather those who irrevocably reject the Word’s interior witness. In other words not those who have “failed to come” but those who have departed (a la Wisdom literature). Unlike agnostics and those of other faiths rejecting the gospel, they are without excuse for all have such an enlightening deposit in their nature (at least to start with) so those who turn their back on it, evidenced by the misery, despair and often destruction such people cause to their fellows, will be afflicted with appropriately severe punishment after their death. [They may in due course be restored and purified after a prolonged period of punishment a la Origen and other Universalists – I simply do not know, it is beyond current revelation, as are many other details pertaining to future ages]. Regardless, their judgement will be seen to be right and just to those who do possess sound reason, as it was to many of the other pre-Augustinian Fathers who commented on these matters.
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