There is no greater mystery than God. And perhaps there is no greater quest than to answer the question who is God? as truthfully as possible. When the identity of God is discussed there are a wide range of ideas put forward. Some have gained acceptance and formed the basis for the world’s religions. For those who have realised that God must have an identity they conclude that He must be a person. This is called theism- or more precisely, monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions of the world. But Christianity is further distinguished from these other monotheistic religions by identifying God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
How would you define “perfect”? l’m not sure that too many people have pondered how many things in life are perfect. Perhaps most Christians would regard only two things as ‘perfect’: (i) God, and (ii) The original Creation.
I try to teach my church that Biblical literacy involves being able to discern what is indeed a Biblical statement, and what is meant by a Biblical statement. When it comes to pondering what “perfect” means, we may have a problem if we look to support our two examples with Scripture. Firstly, Matthew 5:48 asserts that God is perfect. Not only is God essentially perfect, but so are His ways (Deut. 32:4), and His will (Rom. 12:2).
But the second assertion is a little more difficult to demonstrate from Scripture. In fact, it’s so difficult we may have to concede that it’s impossible. Yet, despite this obvious difficulty the idea that God’s original creation was “perfect” is so widely assumed that to suggest otherwise meets with astonished bewilderment. Yet it is this unquestioned assumption that forms the foundation for several seriously important teachings. I want to suggest that what we regard today as being “flawed” with our world (earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, storms) were probably a part of God’s original design. Therefore the “perfection” of the original creation which is described as being “good” and “very good” may not have been the kind of perfection that might have romantic notions of.
The Bible is emphatic that God is the Creator. It’s entire message of redemption is founded upon this truth. If God is not Creator then the Scriptures have no authority at all – let alone credibility. Similarly, if the entire human race is not descended from one man: Adam, then its revelation about man’s fallenness is without basis.
This opening account in the Bible of the Creation Story must be factual for Scripture, or Christianity for that matter, to have any credence. In the USA in the early part of the 20th century this issue became the basis for a court case where a High School Science teacher was charged with teaching something other than this (evolution) in what famously became known as the Scopes’ Monkey Trial. Curiously, Christians were called to defend their position rather than Mr Scopes his, and only one school of thought was presented during that trial – Dispensational Fundamentalism, which claims that the six creation days were consecutive 24 hour periods, and that all of this took place just 6,000 years ago. This court case was made into a Hollywood movie (Inherit The Wind) and presented Christians as bumbling, ignorant, bigotted, empty-heads. Although the movie was riddled with historical inaccuracies, the thrust of the actual ‘Christian’ presentation was not.
Even after a hundred years of modern Pentecostalism there are a growing number of people who are sympathetic to the modern availability of the gifts of the Spirit butreject the idea of them being only available to those who have had an experience ‘subsequent’ to their salvation generally referred to as the baptism in the Spirit.
What are the bare essential beliefs of Christianity? What are the other beliefs that are important but not essential for salvation? Some people are very passionate about their particular view of End Times (“Eschatology”) while on the other hand, some people are very indifferent about it. Some Evangelical Denominations have very narrow views about what constitutes acceptable views about Eschatology. In some of these denominations they actually make agreement with their End Times position an essential requirement for ordination. Many people find the topic so difficult that they’s rather not even attempt it. One prominent Seattle preacher recently said that discussing aspects of Eschatology was as important as discussing “wookies” (from the Star Wars movie series)! In one respect he is right, in that, there are several Biblical doctrines which are far more important than Eschatology. But…