Is it possible to understand things differently?
A teacher said to Johnny when he returned to school the next day: “You missed school yesterday, didn’t you?’ to which Johnny replied, “Not very much!”
Position 1 is seeing things from our own perspective; position 2 is looking at the situation from another person’s perspective.
In practice, people do see things differently, don’t they? How has this come about for Christians? Newbigin has pointed out that for centuries, Europeans would not have considered removing the idea of God from the affairs of life. Then came the Enlightenment. A period stretching from 1685 to 1815. It was a sprawling intellectual, philosophical, cultural, and social movement that spread through England, France, Germany, and other parts of Europe during the 1700s. Its main influence lay in the claim that humanity could be changed through science and reason. The authority of monarchy or the church was no longer necessary. Everything was to be questioned, and the tools for that questioning were provided by a specific approach to science.
Then came Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859). His general theory presumes the development of life from non-life and stresses a purely naturalistic, undirected, gradual and progressive modification of life. In this theory there is no God at the beginning, nor is there one in the progression of life. The theory has received wide acceptance, although a succession of scientists have pointed out that the theory is not based on fact. Despite the questionable nature of this theory, it is officially regarded as fact and can therefore be taught in our educational institutions. But, Creation, can’t.
If we adopt the contemporary outlook of society around us, then life doesn’t have a real purpose. It is a never-ending progression of cause-and-effect. We need to live one day at a time and make the most of it for ourselves; enjoy it as much as we can, because what we have now is all that we have. We tend to absorb this approach to life naturally and often unconsciously through the glasses we have grown up with.
Why has this perspective become so popular? For a society that prides itself on ‘facts’ it is a strange choice to embrace. Is it because it removes God from all considerations? After all, if there is no personal God involved in life, then life can be what we make of it. In this kind of world there is no ultimate purpose. We are free to shape it in any way we want. And, if there is no ultimate purpose, who is to tell us that something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Don’t most people believe that?
This is a way of looking at life when we fail to take off the glasses we have inherited unquestioningly.
For Christians, life as a never-ending progression of cause-and-effect without God and without purpose is anathema. It’s a refusal to accept that we human beings are no more than some kind of impersonal matter. It’s a refusal to shut God out of our lives. If we are to accept God as the Creator and Sustainer of life as we know it, there must be meaning to our existence. What is that purpose, and how can we discover it, and, not just continue to live like everyone else with a new label attached to us?
Why was the Bible given to us in the first place? Is it merely for us to familiarise ourselves with the information it provides for us? Am I a better Christian if I can learn passages off by heart, and recite them? Obviously, many believers have ceased to handle the Bible even in that sense. It is widely recognised that church-going Christians are becoming less and less familiar with the biblical message. Have some Christians become disillusioned with the Bible and what it is meant to bring about in their lives? Then we need to rethink why the Bible was given to us in the first place.
Visualise the following scenario. A person whose sight has been failing had her eyes tested, and then came the day when she received a new pair of glasses, an expensive pair bought for her by one of her generous family members. After unpacking the parcel and opening the case, the lady looks at the glasses and admires them. The beautiful frame, the clear lenses, the ease with which they fit her. Then, continues to admire them.
What are the glasses for? Not to be admired, but through which to see things more clearly. I remember visiting a church in Ukraine with some friends. I wanted to put my Bible down on the brick fence while I took some photos. “Oh, you mustn’t do that!” I was told. Evidently the Bible ― the book ― was holy and shouldn’t be handled in such a careless way! Is that one way in which the ‘glasses’ have become an end in themselves?
The glasses of the biblical message have been given us so that we can look at the world around us in a different way to the way we have inherited, or subconsciously absorbed. It gives us God’s perspective on the world he has created, and his purpose for human beings. Inanimate objects don’t have a purpose, but, contrary to the evolutionary theory, we are not inanimate objects that are the product of chance, or cause-and-effect. We are here for a divine purpose and we need to strive to discover what that purpose is. Our Creator hasn’t left us blind, or even short-sighted.
Relying on some kind of ‘salvation’ experience in the past, or on a false understanding of having been ‘elected’, will never help us discover God’s purpose for humanity, or for us personally. I was struck deeply in my recent re-reading of Psalm 23, where it tells us that God leads us “in the paths of righteousness for HIS name’s sake.” To discover that path on a day-to-day basis involves making the effort to see things from God’s point-of-view. That’s what the Bible is for. To walk along the way that is ‘right’, involves a willingness to be led.
To neglect the Bible on the one hand, or to focus on it as an end in itself, will never help us to develop a distinctly biblical worldview. God’s perspective on what is truly good or bad, true or false, right or wrong, only comes to us through a correct understanding of the biblical message. The world tells us that there is no ultimate right or wrong. God says, there is.
Chinese translation of God’s Covenant with Humanity
Phoebe Yuhong Zhou
Phoebe completed her obligations at the Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary at the end of September 2019 and returned to her family in China. She was married early in 2020, and has since been working on the translation of Ewald’s book, God’s Covenant with Humanity, translating it into Mandarin.
By June 2020, she had translated 13 of the 17 chapters. From all reports from people who know the language, it has been an excellent translation.
Even for the increasing number of Chinese citizens in Australia who may already be fairly fluent in the English language, there is no substitute for discovering the Christian message more clearly through their own language.
God’s Covenant, Russian.
Late 2019 we had 100 copies of this book printed in Moscow for a number of Churches in Moscow and in the Russian Federation. In one of the Moscow Churches, thirty (30) small group study leaders began to meet to study the material so that they can then conduct these courses with their groups.
The Covid-19 problem has slowed this process down, but the group leaders continue to meet via Zoom.
God’s Covenant, RV
Please pray for Natasha Bak, Bishop Pavel Bak’s daughter. She has volunteered to handle this book with a Russian publisher, but so far, it has been a frustrating experience.
The first quote for the printing of 50 copies was $368.48 AUD which was very reasonable. Then it became $569.53. We need to find a cost that is reasonable for Russian readers.
If Natasha can’t kind find better arrangements, she will need to go back to the one who gave the last quote.
We recognise that she has other responsibilities she needs to take care of, as well.