God, Time and paradoxes

Question 170, from Paul F

What does the Bible tell us about God’s relationship to time? I often hear people say that God is outside of time but am unsure of the grounding for such a claim.

One of the problems with Biblical translators using the word ‘eternal’ is that it implies a sense of timelessness. However, a better translation would be ‘endless duration’. The Biblical depiction of God is of a being who is not temporary, but in a sense is temporal, in that God acts within time and those actions and plans are time-bound.

Within the realms of religious philosophy there have been numerous attempts to resolve the paradox of a being that is unaffected by time, and yet interacts with a creation that is governed by time.

Some of the attempts to resolve the paradox can be summed up as: (more…)

Israel & Judah – comparing the nations

Question 169, from Geraint T

What is the difference between Israel and Judah, not just in a historical sense, but in the way they are referred to and referenced in the Bible?

The terms ‘Israel’ and ‘Judah’ refer to several different things in the Old Testament. ‘Israel’ is the new name given to the Hebrew patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham, after his night spent wrestling with God (the story is in Genesis chapter 32). As the ‘children of Jacob/Israel’, the Hebrews were eventually referred to corporately as ‘Israel’.

Judah is one of Jacob’s sons, and a brother to Joseph and thus becomes a founding father of one of the Hebrew tribes. Initially an unimportant people group within Southern Israel, Judah rose in importance when (more…)

1 John Chapter 2 – If you know God then you’ll love each other

This is based on a Sunday talk given by Jon the freelance theologian at Glenwood Church, Cardiff, on 14 August 2011

The talk began by reading out 1 John chpater 2 in the New International Version of the Bible.

There’s always a danger when we read Scripture that we only see the bits that we want to see. I’m sure like me you’ve heard plenty of sermons when it seems the point the preacher is making bears little relation to the text.

So, what is John trying to tell us in the second chapter of this letter to his friends? It’s not always clear to see, so out of a sense of curiosity I ran the text through a website called Wordle to see what the key themes were – creating this image.

Wordle fo 1 John 2

Divine healing

Question 168, from Allan

What is your perspective about the Holy Spirit and Divine healing?

There are several perspectives on healing in contemporary Christian thought. A stereotypical protestant liberal view would be that healing, like any miracle, will have a scientific explanation behind it (or be a ‘myth’ with a secondary meaning to reveal a theological truth). In more conservative traditions, such as Roman Catholicism and many Protestant churches, the possibility of Divine healing is held, although such events are regarded as rare.

Evangelicals in a ‘dispensationalist’ tradition would hold a view that healings and other supernatural signs and wonders belong to a previous ‘dispensation’ (period of time / revelation), and would be sceptical of any contemporary accounts of Divine healing. Pentecostal Christians and those in the charismatic traditions that arose in the late 20th century (such as the Vineyard movement) would hold a view that expects miracles to occur as proof of their beliefs.

The identity of the ‘beloved disciple’ in John’s gospel

The previous post on freelance theology caused a response in the comments about the identity of the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’, a cryptic reference that appears fairly regularly in the Gospel of John.

There have been many attempts to identify this ‘beloved disciple’ over the years, although their true identity will probably never be known. Here, though, is a short run-down of the main possible contenders for the title that have been suggested. (more…)

The call of the first disciples

Question 167, from Debbie, United Kingdom
I would like to know the viewpoint of the 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) when we talk about the “call of the first disciples”. What are the likenesses and differences between the 4 readings and who’s the audience?

Although there is general agreement between the Gospels that Jesus began his ministry by selecting people to become ‘disciples’, there are differences between the accounts. The version of events usually thought of as the call of the first disciples is found in Mark chapter 1 and Matthew chapter 4, where Jesus tells fishermen on the shores of Lake Galilee to leave their nets and follow him.

In John’s gospel, however, one of those fishermen, Andrew, is already John the Baptist’s disciple, and is one of (more…)