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Leading Question: How can “redemption” appeal to a secular age?

Key issues/puzzles:

For Believers:

    1. Does God make our decisions for us? – predestinarian Calvinists
    2. Do we make decisions for God? – free-will Wesleyans and Arminians

For Secularists: No sense of need, no sense of the presence of God. Since secularists see little value and no authority in the text of Scripture, we will touch on this question at the end of our discussion.

Key biblical passages:

Isaiah 11:1-9
1 Corinthians 2
2 Tim. 3:14-17

Of the various titles/tasks for Jesus, the official study guide has focused on the idea of “Redemption.” That is one of the ideas with strong Old Testament roots. In the OT, KJV has chosen to translate the term Goel as Redeemer. A more functional title would be “the near kinsman who comes to the rescue of the family name, honor and property.” The biblical book of Ruth illustrates two of these functions for us: restoring the family name and property. The “honor” aspect comes much more clearly to mind in the cities of refuge scheme where it fell on the Goel to avenge the death of a family member. Numbers 35:16-28 gives a vivid narrative describing how that custom worked in ancient Israel.

In both testaments, a host of different words conveys the same idea behind redemption: a rescuing, a deliverance, often with a price paid (substitution). Exodus 13:11-16 tells about the redemption of the first born: Every male had to be “redeemed” by a substitute.

Question: Is the idea of redemption significant for both believers and non-believers?

Comment: Deeply-religious people are more likely to be drawn by the idea of redemption, a rescue that costs dearly. The New Testament is saturated with the idea of redemption through the blood of Christ. You are “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20); “we have redemption through his blood” (Eph. 1:7)

Question: Is the idea of redemption likely to speak more directly to predestinarian Calvinists or to free-will believers? Is the issue of whether God makes our decisions for us or whether we make our decisions for God – is that something that is caught or taught? Is it natural or cultivated?

Comment: The idea of “grace” is more strongly liked with Calvinistic thinking, though one can still have grace without the explicit “price paid.” In the parable of the prodigal son, grace is represented by the father’s robe – but no price was demanded.

Jesus as Teacher or Rabbi

A number of key passages in the official study guide focus on wisdom, learning, teaching. This effectively shifts the focus from redemption to learning/wisdom. Isaiah 11 is a key passage:

Isa 11:1-9, NRSV:

1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

Question: How does the emphasis on wisdom and knowledge relate to God as the source of all wisdom?

Comment: Can we not revel in the wisdom that comes from God? In other words, worship wholeheartedly and explore/think wholeheartedly?

Wisdom of This World: 1 Corinthians 2

1 Cor. 2:1-16 (NRSV): When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Question: How does the wisdom of Solomon relate to critique of some kinds of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2? Here is the biblical perspective on the wisest man that ever lived:

Solomon’s Wisdom: 1 Kings 4:29-34

1 Kings 4:29-30 (NRSV): 29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, children of Mahol; his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 32 He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. 34 People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

Question: Why do some devout believers use 1 Corinthians 2 as a weapon in an attempt to establish an anti-intellectual agenda?

All Scripture Is Inspired: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NRSV): 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Question: If all scripture is “inspired,” does that also mean it is always factually accurate and always applicable?

Comment: Under the heading of this text, the official study guide includes a remarkable statement: “Some may say that not all the teaching material in the books of Moses applies in our time, and that is correct.” The example cited involves the counsel given in connection with Israel’s kings in Deut. 14:14-20. Could one go further and say that almost never do the passages in Scripture “apply” themselves?

Question: Where is a good place to start when dealing with a secularist who feels no need of “redemption?

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