When I was in high school, I worked as a stage hand one semester. I was in the background, helping to move stage elements. We changed backdrops, moved furniture, and moved props.
We got to see everything back there. The audience, though, was unaware of anything but what they saw in front of them.
This is true for our view of the world, too. Most people are largely unaware of what “backdrops” are behind their thinking. It’s too much work to figure it out. It’s more fun just to watch the play.
Our view of the purpose of the Bible is also influenced by our background beliefs. Everyone comes to it with beliefs/perspectives of what it’s about. And, if they don’t have any prior experience with it, they soon become aware that it talks a lot about commands, God, promises, war, sex, death, resurrection, angels and other “religious stuff”.
This helps to explain the differences in denominations. If you go to a church, you probably accept their “backdrop” explanation of the purpose of the Bible.
But, is it correct? Have you ever considered that conservative Christians (not talking politically here) have legitimate and valid differences concerning the purpose of the Bible?
One of the current “backdrops” is called “Lordship Salvation”. It assumes that the Bible is a book of rules that we must follow perfectly otherwise we are not true disciples. Christians in these churches assume that their church is “Biblical”. They assume that Christians in other churches are weak or disobedient. They assume this because this is the result of what they believe about the Bible and the Christian life.
Where does this belief come from? Why do people believe that once they “receive Jesus” or “repent and believe” (as the Lordship Salvation camp would say), they must “get to work”, “live obediently” and “put your nose to the grindstone”? Why does the Christian life return to me and my works?
Simple. This is the theology of the Old Adam. It is a theology that denies the Lordship of Christ. The Old Man denies that Christ is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He denies John 6:28-29 which the disciples ask, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” The Old Adam denies Hebrews 10:10 which states, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
And in so denying that these verses are for Christians, the Old Adam denies Christ, Himself. The Old Adam replaces Jesus with his own works, effort and obedience. The Old Adam works to keep himself alive rather than submit to the crucifixion of Jesus as both the one who births faith in us and feeds faith through the means of grace.
The Old Adam is busy keeping himself as god. He is his own lord. He lives a blasphemous life.
And because of the extreme moral demands of Lordship Salvation, Christians under this theology can go only three directions:
In the first option, they can become self-righteous, arrogant about their relationship with God, and in denial about the depth of God’s demands on their lives. This person is willing to judge others harshly and never examine his/her own life in light of the “full thundering” of the Law. They become deeply judgmental, lacking any love.
In the second option, the Christian of sensitive conscience is thrown into despair about their salvation. Martin Luther, the great reformer, fell into this camp when the terrors of Roman Catholic theology scared him into a monastery to find peace. Eventually, these Christians will either leave the church, or have their faith shipwrecked. Some of these people become hopeless and becomes agnostics/atheists because of the lack of mercy in these church bodies.
In the third option, they can remain superficial, never taking any of it seriously, and covering up with a false edifice.
There is a fourth option, however. Along with many other who have escaped the clutches of Lordship Salvation, I encountered a completely different backdrop when I read Martin Luther. Because I had lived in both the first and second options, Luther’s Bondage of the Will was like a key to open the prison door I lived in.
His view was that we begin and end with Christ when it comes to the Christian life. In Biblical terms, that means that Jesus retains His lordship as the Alpha and the Omega. We are to come to church to hear “Christ crucified” rather than the “ten steps to overcoming sin”.
This is a theology of reception. It is a theology that believes that God is at work on and in us, and that it is His pleasure to do so.
It is a theology that views the Scripture as the manger in which we find the Christ-child. He is the heart of its meaning, purpose and proclamation. Read Hebrews. Is it about you or about Jesus? Read the Gospel from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Is it about you or Jesus?
And, having this “cross theology” also means that we interpret the Bible as being Law or Gospel. This means that God’s demands reveal our inherent sinfulness, but God has provided His own Son to fulfill ALL of these demands and cleanse us from ALL sin. Even the sin of trying to be your/my own God.
Why does He do this? Look at Romans 3:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Acts 4:12 states; “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” No other name, not even your own.
To the Glory of His Holy Lordship, Amen.