WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

WHEREWEGO

For the last three years or so I have been posting on Facebook and on this website, progressing through the bible, drawing out those passages which pertain directly or indirectly to the subject matter under consideration being divine providence. I have been careful not only to focus on passages that support my thesis (that God’s benign providence is vastly broader than has traditionally been understood) but also narratives that might appear to support the much narrower Augustinian derived Western theological perspective. That is that humanity is a massa damnata (condemned crowd), the bulk of whom are destined for eternal torment. In Augustine’s words “many more are to be left under punishment than delivered from it so that it might thus be shown what had been due to all” (City of God book XXI chap. 12). In the case of the New Testament I have had something to comment on the subject in virtually every chapter so far (having reached Ephesians 3).

Time to take stock

And it so happens that that chapter, reviewed in my most recent biblical narrative post “God’s Secret Plan” was the catalyst for all my published deliberations starting with the book “Fellowship of the Secret”. In 2020 I shortened, depersonalized and systematized it to create “The Little Book of Providence” that this website is promoting. Given also that I recently turned the age of 70 (so in biblical terms am living on borrowed time), I have concluded that now is an appropriate time to review the project’s main findings to date. Actually, “findings” is not quite the word, for as my recent testimonial post affirmed, the understanding I have come to is not primarily the result of study or research but of revelation, which in view of what I experienced at the time I have no doubt was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. It was “revelation” in the sense of being given new insights as to how the bible should rightly be interpreted, more especially the epistles of Paul. Augustine and Martin Luther will have claimed to have had such divinely provided insights on the same matter in their day. But whereas both were already established scholars and leaders within their Church, I am a relative dullard; a Johnny Nobody. Or as the English version of my “new name” indicates, a retired busman [the recent post on “acoustical mysteries” refers].

But in the sphere of Spirit and Kingdom, worldly or ecclesiological status are not determining factors. God’s criteria concerning to whom He chooses to provide insights or equip for nobler service are decidedly counter-intuitive (Mt11:25). As for verification, I do not rely on a particular spiritual encounter to support my Pauline interpretations (which could hardly be further removed from the aforementioned gentlemen’s, especially that of Luther – see related posts starting HERE). Rather, it is the fact that my interpretations result in a providence that reflects God’s biblically testified benevolent disposition. It also make sense of the world and the church as each has panned out to date. Above all, the interpretations result in an unprecedented degree of biblical coherence: Paul agrees with Jesus and James regarding faith, works and the like, whilst Old Testament prophesy can be reconciled or at least explained by what Paul discloses in the New (Eph3 again – God’s secret plan).

The internet – vital for this process

So I am no scholar and those who wish to evaluate my findings need not be either – thanks to the internet.  But it has been necessary to research some matters that transcend biblical interpretation, for they impact upon it. That includes early Church history, especially that of the second century; in particular, how aspects of its theology (but not its sacerdotal praxis) were transformed by the fifth century, especially as a result of Augustine’s extraordinary influence. More recently I have also been examining the insights gleaned from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the late 1940s, especially the Book of Enoch and the related “Book of Giants”. Those who take the view “I’d sooner stick with canonical scripture, thank you very much” might do well to think again. For the Old Testament cannot be rightly understood without reference to those narratives. For example with regard to God’s rationale for the universal flood and the divinely ordered ethnic cleansing of the Canaanite territories acquired for the promised land. Both might appear cruel and harsh on God’s part, but once Enoch’s vastly more detailed narrative has been accommodated, they are shown to be essential for the wellbeing and ultimate restoration of humanity.

Likewise, in terms of specific OT narratives such as Gen6:1-5 (regarding angelic union with women) and several references to gigantic inhabitants within the Canaanite territories faced by the Israelite invaders (e.g. Num13:33; Deut3:11). Both are perplexing apart from reference to Enoch. Yet again, Augustine was the most influential 4th/5th century voice ensuring that Enoch’s historical accounts and a key prophecy for the last days [note 1] were rejected by the Church; hidden from the faithful for centuries – until discovered at Qumran.  

The mystery of Augustine

Regarding Aurelius Augustinus (354-430AD), I have concluded that virtually every distinctive input that colossus made to the future direction and doctrine of the Catholic Church is likely to have thrilled Satan’s heart. It had the effect of barbarizing God’s character, maligning the underlying goodness of human nature, diminishing the efficacy and scope of Christ’s saving work and undermining God’s benevolent providential oversight of His creation. Ironically, the Bishop of Hippo was canonized in recognition of his strenuous endeavours to protect the Church from error and apostacy. Yet his doctrines were arguably a catalyst for the growing tensions between the Eastern and Western Church culminating in the Great Schism (1054). A further 500 years later Augustinian monk Martin Luther and his supporters, whilst asserting that their monastic patriarch had been St Paul’s most faithful interpreter, determined to break-away from the polluted, doctrinally flawed monolith that they and many of their contemporaries (understandably) perceived the Roman Church to have become. She nevertheless remains a part of the true Apostolic Church, equipped with every necessary sacrament of grace (and arguably some more besides), whereas those who broke away fragmented into numerous denominations. That was largely because the bible they had come to depend upon proved to be anything but “perspicuous”, even regarding matters pertaining to salvation itself such as the Lord’s Supper and baptism.

That is one of the reasons every Christian should take time to examine the teaching and praxis of the very early Church (thanks again, internet). That is not because the ability of the earliest Christians to interpret Scripture would have been any better than ours (the canon had yet to be finalized) but because they believed and practiced what they did having received the ways of salvation either from the Apostles themselves, their biblical protégées such as Timothy and Titus or their immediate appointees (which takes us into the early second century). And as both Irenaeus and historian Eusebius testify, the churches of the second century were remarkably united in terms of essential doctrine. Moreover,  if what I have been shown has validity, even in those areas where the separated churches developed broad agreement, it was because they were united in error interpreting some key aspects of Paul’s teaching.

Verifying the messenger

So, does what I claim to have been shown by the Spirit have validity? Despite the munificent providence I have been outlining, many within the churches will hope and trust the answer is a resounding “No way”. For as just indicated, it implies that many sincere Christians are not a part of the true Church, and more often than not are devoid of that sacrament of grace which sustains spiritual life in the present and affords a prospect of resurrection in the age to come (Jn6:53,54) – unless, that is, we believe Jesus to have deceived His listeners and that the early Church was almost uniformly in error. However, in accordance with a central tenet of my thesis, this is not to be equated with whether the soul goes to heaven when one dies. Such is not dependant on religious faith, still less denominational allegiance, but personal “ἀγάπη” (Mt25:40) and the benefits of Christ’s Passion towards those who show themselves to be “of God” (1Jn4:7).  Nevertheless, religious faith and access to the means of grace do impact upon one’s future destiny – whether one is the elect of God, soon to be raptured and delivered from the climax of tribulation, ultimately to be corporately espoused to the Lord of Glory and reign with Him through eternity.

Regarding such a premillennial perspective, again that had been the consensus of the pre-Nicaean Church. But as 2nd century Irenaeus rightly observed, it is not a prerequisite for salvation – else we would all be in trouble given that the Apostolic Church in East and West has long rejected the doctrine, once again largely thanks to you know who, as Wikipedia’s helpful historical review of the doctrine affirms. My long-held pre-millennialist conviction was further reinforced when I came to understand the dispensational implications of what Paul has written in Eph3:9-12. And there is surely a more explicit indication in what Jesus had said about those who would be raptured as well as whom He would be raising “on the last day” (Jn6:54). Similarly, Paul in 1Thes4:16-18, and regarding the earth as a whole in Rom8:18-23, at least once it is rightly translated. Regrettably, that is not usually the case in bible versions utilized within the Catholic Church: κτίσις clearly refers to the created earth, not individual creatures within it “going to heaven when they die”.  

We are where we are

So where DO we go from here? I intend to construct or republish posts relating to the above themes, some of which will have been posted 2-3 years ago. For some biblical misconceptions are foundational – they go right back to Genesis. Two quick examples: who was the first man to be cursed by God? – it wasn’t Adam, our federal head. And to whom in Gen3:15 does Satan’s offspring refer? Then there is the Book of Enoch, seemingly not intended for the Church through her history or the Holy Spirit would have ensured its inclusion in the canon. Rather, it was to be a blessing “to the elect and the righteous who would be living at the time of tribulations when the wicked and godless are to be removed” (opening verse). With that in mind, the next post is likely to concern Enoch’s “Apocalypse of Weeks”, which many interpret in terms of the temple whereas the 5th, 6th and 7th weeks can more readily be associated with the Church, especially as I have portrayed it above.

Re-establishing church unity

Had I ruled the world or overseen the Church this is not the way I would have handled it. But as Paul observed, God’s apparent foolishness surpasses human wisdom. Accordingly, He has decreed that ecclesiological unity be re-established from division and plurality rather than a historically maintained integrity. The only way such unity could be achieved from where the churches are right now is if ALL are shown to have fallen into substantial error – and at least those that are to continue are willing to acknowledge the fact. That is why an apologist with the support of a particular church could never be utilized to prepare the Church and the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Once again, it must be (or start with) the voice of one crying in the spiritual wilderness.

Christ has never left His Church in darkness

The errors being exposed do not pertain to the means of salvation itself. The idea that God would withhold the knowledge and means of Christian salvation from the world for centuries on end is absurd, yet it is the implication of what I once believed as an Evangelical Christian. No, the way and means of salvation has always been adequately set out and provided for within the apostolic churches. In accordance with God’s intentions (Rev10), what has been veiled until these last days is the context of the Church and the gospel within His broader restorative plans for the whole earthly creation. Many of the Christian faithful have already come to sense such broader benign providence. Such was evident in Vatican2’s allusions to “people of good will” outside the Church. But certainly from an Evangelical (or this former-Evangelical)’s perspective, it has never been adequately underpinned from Scripture. Nor could it be without substantial deconstruction of established Western theology, hence this process.

Note 1 : Enoch’s prophecy: When they write down truthfully all my words in their languages, and do not change or diminish anything from my words but write them all down truthfully – all that I first testified concerning them; then I know ANOTHER MYSTERY, that BOOKS WILL BE GIVEN to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom. and to them shall the BOOKS BE GIVEN, and they shall believe in them and rejoice over them, and then shall all the righteous who have learnt therefrom all the paths of uprightness be recompensed” (Enoch104:11-13).

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