Tag Archives: Scripture

Conceptual Realities: Giving Thanks to God

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name (Psalm 100:4)”.

As we look to all that God has provided for those who love Him, namely all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and prayerfully are continuing to relish the time we spent with family and the great food we ate yesterday, it is customary to offer up a “thanksgiving offering”. I spent some of my day yesterday not only digesting Thanksgiving food and enjoying fellowship with those I love, but also digesting some study about how the Bible speaks of thanksgiving.
Surely there are plenty of Bible verses that speak of giving thanks, expressing thankfulness, and thanksgiving is mentioned specifically in 28 verses of the King James Version. However, in my searching out some God-breathed words from God, I desired to go a bit deeper into understanding my thankfulness to God and the grace we have through Jesus Christ, just looking up the words and verses would not suffice.
Believe it or not the American tradition of “Thanksgiving” is not too far from the Old Testament tradition of a “thanksgiving offering”. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is todah, which is derived from the Hebrew word yadah meaning “praise”. To be a bit more specific, the praise this speaks of is the type of awe that leads one to fall on the floor and lay prostrate. In Leviticus 7:11-21, we read about the offering that is given with an “expression of thankfulness”, which is an “aroma pleasing to God”, and is commenced with a sharing of the meat from the sacrifice in a communal manner (something that makes it different than the other offerings which were not to be eaten by the offerer or others). This is seen as a sort of divine meal.
Many feel that talking through and understanding the sacrifices of the Old Testament are irrelevant to us today. I will readily admit we are well past the culture and demand for such sacrifices, however the shadows of such sacrifices are cast into the realities we know in and through Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, a Jewish midrash (rabbinic teaching) that comes from the 9th century AD notes “In the coming Messianic age, all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice (thanksgiving). This will never cease in all eternity” (Peshiqta part 1). When we cross-reference this thought with the God-inspired truth of Hebrews 13:15-16, we gain an amazing understanding of how this applies to a life in Jesus Christ. The passage reads:

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

As one of my favorite Bible teachers Dr. Don K. Preston would note, “Catch the power of that!”.
What we learn from this is that the fulfillment of the thanksgiving offering that was required of God’s people under the Old Covenant has been and is accomplished through thankfulness toward all that Jesus Christ has offered. The response to this is to do good and share with others. As simple as that may seem the implications have potential to change the world. This is what the prophets continually told Israel of, namely their role in the world to serve God by serving others (cf. Psalm 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 1:11-17).
Let us say, thank God in and through the mighty name of Jesus Christ.
That brings me to the focal point of my giving thanks and what I want to share with you today.
What are you thanking God for giving? Thanks-For-Giving. Praise Him for it right now!

 

In my desire to carry this thankfulness for what I have in and through Jesus Christ forward, I want to highlight the blessing of serving and fellowshipping with The Blue Point Bible Church. Our motto is #AThinkingFaith. The hashtag at the beginning represents our desire to share and make known the truth regarding the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, which is exemplified through a searched out, well studied, discussed, and proven faith (in short – A Thinking Faith). This is vital because ultimately this is what God was developing in and through His people from the very beginning (The Genesis).
The Biblical understanding of God’s solution to the world’s ills, is that instead of causing us to obsess about life elsewhere or causing us to fantasize about life outside of the existence we already know (being human), the One True God breathes life into His creation by “renewing their minds” according to His truth and standard (i.e., conceptual realities). This stands in contrast to “otherworld spirituality” which obsesses about things of an otherworld, something it would seem a proper reading and understanding of Scripture stands against. An otherworld mighty very well exist, as I often say that “Heaven is a dimension incompatible with this very natural, present realm”, yet the whole of Scripture does not point to understanding of these things, nor a focus on these things as the source of healing. Rather, what the Scriptures reveal is that the Hebrew people were called to have a Spirituality marked by mental/conceptual realities that defined reality based on faith in the will of God, rather than trusting in and defining the world by their own wicked understandings, or the idolatrous thoughts of the otherworld. I explain much of this in chapters 4-5 of my recently published book Wicked.

“God gave the Hebrew people (later to be called Israel), the oracles of God/ mental concepts to provide them with a God-led worldview/narrative in contrast to the narrative that they would make up or come to be led captive to due to surrounding cultures/ idol worshippers”.

I primarily thank God, of course, for being able to discern these things in accordance with diligent study and His Spirit. However, I believe it to be imperative to offer this “thanksgiving praise” for The Blue Point Bible Church. The grace and open, honest Bible discussions that have been happening there since the early 90’s demonstrates the church’s being on the brink of a reformation which has been and is happening within the entire Christian church worldwide. As I have said many times before, local churches stand as outposts of the Kingdom, collectively we represent Him!
Unfortunately, a large majority of the Christian Church, which has been called and equipped to make known the truth of God, has more often than not allowed man’s wisdom based upon personal interpretation or traditions to lead the way, thus confusion continues to run rampant. The common arguments/debates that take place within Christian circles displays our ignorance in understanding these things. Not only that, but, the world watches and thus develops attitudes that reflect a distaste for the Truth by regarding it as irrelevant or noting the variety of confused applications. Thanks be to God that He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness which I believe is summed up in understanding the “conceptual realities” understood through “rightly dividing the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15-16).
I will close with providing an example of a “conceptual reality” that is often misunderstood. However, I also encourage you to get a copy of Wicked (www.wickedthingsexplained.wordpress.com) , as well as continue to pay attention to resources from The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) as we seek to gain a clear understanding of “Thinking Through Scripture” in 2018.
Famed “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, once noted, “I may know all the doctrines of the Bible, but unless I know Christ, not one of them can save me”. This is a statement all Christians should be able to stand upon and advocate for, especially since knowing Christ is essentially, eternal life (cf. John 17:3).

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

Knowing Jesus Christ and possessing eternal life has little to nothing to do with where we will go when we biologically die, nor obsession with or influence over the “supernatural realm” (unfortunately many Christians misunderstand it in this manner). Rather, “knowing Christ” and eternal life has everything to do with how we mentally acknowledge and thus act out our understanding of God and His will for the world (i.e., conceptual realities), which leads us to be a blessed people indeed!

As we come to study these details further and demonstrate #AThinkingFaith, I pray you will experience all that the Apostle Paul prayed for the church as Ephesus:

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God”

Thank God for Eternal Life!

Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano

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A Simple List of Bible Verses Mentioning “Satan”

This past Sunday I began preaching through the various mentions of Satan in Scripture. I didn’t make it through every mention therefore we will continue with a Part 2 next week. You can listen to the podcasted sermon here,

https://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/555126-outlining-wickedness-identifying-defeating-the-satan-part-1

Here is a copy of the list of verses I will be going through that help identify Satan. I will do well to remind you though, “Satan” is an ancient word, and we must study the context and audience relevance of ancient words in order for them to truly impart the truth of God to us.

Genesis 3 cf. Genesis 49:17; 2 Kings 18:4; Job 1613; Isaiah 27:1; Ezekiel 29:3

Numbers 22:22, 32

Job 1:6-12, Job 2:1-7 cf. Deuteronomy 19:15-20

Psalm 109:4-8 cf. Acts 1:20

1 Chronicles 21:1 cf. 2 Samuel 24:1

Zechariah 3:2 –  cf. Amos 4:11; Jude 1:23

Matthew 4/ Mark 1/ Luke 4 –  cf. James 1:14; Hebrews 4:15

Matthew 12/ Mark 3/ Luke 11

Matthew 13/ Mark 4/ Luke 8

Matthew 16:21-23/ Mark 8:31-33

Luke 10:18 – cf. Isaiah 14:12; 2 Cor 11:12-14

Luke 22:3-4

Luke 22:24-34

Acts 5:3

Acts 26:16-18 – cf. Matthew 15:6-9; Ephesians 2:12 cf. “schemes of Satan” cf 2 Cor 2:11; Ephesians 6:10-20

Romans 16:20

1 Corinthians 5:5 – cf. 1 Timothy 1:20; Luke 15:14-32

1 Corinthians 7:5

2 Corinthians 4:4

2 Corinthians 12:7

1 Thessalonians 2:18

Revelation 2:9; 3:9

Revelation 12:7-17

Revelation 20

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Spiritual Stuff: Disagreeing with Dr. Michael Heiser

“The path has not been easy. It came with risk and discomfort. Friends, pastors, and colleagues at times misunderstood my questions and rebuttals of their proposed answered. Conversations didn’t always end well. That sort of things happens when you demand that creeds and traditions get in line with the Biblical text”.

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to brother Travis Finley’s podcast, Rethinking Revelation, with a guest appearance by Dr. Michael Heiser, a well known Old Testament/ Ancient Near East scholar.

You can listen to that podcast at the following link,

https://www.spreaker.com/user/rtb4tftx/episode-17-interview-w-mike-heiser

While highly esteeming his credentials, and in many regards would seemingly be a “grasshopper in his sight”, I have come to be in sharp disagreement with him. Namely, his understanding of the “Divine Heavenly Council”, also however his perspective on the “spirit realm”.

I finished reading Dr. Heiser’s book, The Unseen Realm, a couple of months ago and have been planning to write a short review. Plainly, this is a classic example of someone saying so much I find myself in agreement with, yet finding myself completely disagreeing with them in many other regards. How does that happen!?!?

In the opening introduction, Dr. Heiser explains his coming to understand his view of the “heavenly council” in such a manner:

“There it was, plain as day: The God of the Old Testament was part of an assembly – a pantheon – of other gods”.

I heard about this “heavenly council” view from Pastor David Curtis of Berean Bible Church, and then of BBC’s elders, Jeff McCormack wrote an article for FULFILLED! Magazine on the same topic. Simply put, I have found no substance for this view and see it to disturb the way the ancients would have understood things, as well as the narrative of the Bible.

Oddly enough, Dr. Heiser make the following points in his book;

He speaks about his seeking to understand the “heavenly council”, as a “…a place evangelicals fear to tread”, something I experienced by and large as I studied eschatology and came to understand Full Preterism.

“The explanations I found from evangelical scholars were disturbingly weak….”, which again would be true of my journey. Actually, some of this was shown by Dr. Heiser’s explanations of Revelation (as detailed in the above podcast I shared).

“When I looked beyond the world of evangelical scholarship, I discovered that other scholars had churned out dozens of articles and books…”, again I think of men like Dr. Don K. Preston, Dr. Ed Stevens, among many other scholarly men who influenced me as I navigated toward the truth of Full Preterism, in opposition to what other “evangelical scholars” had to say about eschatology.

“My conscience wouldn’t let me ignore my own Bible in order to retain the theology with which I was comfortable. Was my loyalty to the text or to the Christian tradition? Did I really have to choose between the two? – And there we have the ongoing reformation mindset. Glory to God!

I have to say upfront that I appreciate Dr. Michael Heiser and the mind that God has given him. He clearly has a desire to know, understand, and teach the truth. He mentioned the amount of time it took him to finally write a book on these views, 15 years. At that I feel I must be humbled and tread lightly in my critique. I’m not a know-it-all, so as I study, I’ll either have better responses or be proven wrong – so be it. In the meantime, I am disturbed that a man can have so much right, yet miss so much on the other end.

Also, I totally agree with Dr. Michael Heiser’s approach in understanding the Bible. He clearly recommends a healthy understanding of “audience relevance” as well as the points he made in the following quotes:

“Our traditions, however honorable, are not intrinsic to the Bible. They are systems we invent to organize the Bible. They are artificial. They are filters”.

“The facts of the Bible are just pieces – bits of scattered data. Our tendency is to impose order, and to do that we apply a filter. But we gain a perspective that is both broader and deeper if we allow ourselves to see the pieces in their own wider context. We need to see the mosaic created by the pieces”.

I am a big advocate of what it referred to as “Narrative Theology”. Not the quote unquote liberal theory of Narrative Theology, but rather a big “picture theology” that is shaped by an understanding of the whole story that graces the page of Scripture. However, it would seem my and Dr. Heiser’s understanding of that narrative differs.

Dr. Heiser says, “The story of the Bible is about God’s will for, and rule of, the realms He has created, visible and invisible, through the images He created, human and nonhuman. This divine agenda is played out in both realms, in deliberate tandem”.

I would summarize the Biblical narrative to be a big picture reality on how man has come to and can come to know the truth of God. If man coming to know God is redemption, then what we read through the pages of Scripture is the historical detailing of that redemption. God used Old Covenant Israel as His historical people and example through which man’s sin is highlighted and offered the gift of grace through the Messiah. God wants man to rule, reign, and rest with Him and for Him and that is found “in the Spirit”, however man naturally leans upon his own misunderstands (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). Man leaning upon his own misunderstanding, in contrast to heeding the truth of God (Spirit) is the conceptual reality that is highlighted in the Genesis account, and than man being saved from that through the Messiah is highlighted in the last 2 chapters of the Book of Revelation.

Where I have come to sharply disagree is how Dr. Heiser is his understanding of “the intersection of our domain and the unseen world”. I remember reading through various books and articles on Hebrew mythology and the Ancient Near East and wondering how did all of this reflect upon the details I find in Scripture. How does the truth of Scripture contrast the understanding of the ancient near eastern myths and cults? It would seem that Dr. Heiser has allowed these “Hebrew myths” to develop his understanding of the “heavenly council”, which in some respects has become his “filter” (talked about above).

Honestly, I couldn’t fully read through the book. He used a host of texts (some you will find in a picture below), and used them in a very erroneous matter. I couldn’t stomach the disagreement any more, so I jumped to some chapters, and then finally just reading the last 2 chapters to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Dr. Heiser uses Psalm chapter 82, of which he says, “has at its core the unseen realm and its interaction with the human world”.

Let’s take a look at Psalm 82:

“God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and the fatherless do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods”, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes”. Arise I God, judge the earth! For it is Thou who dost possess all the nations”.

I am baffled that this text could cause so much disruption in Dr. Heiser’s view. The is surely a Messianic picture. God taking His stand is God coming in judgment, and that judgement would be in the midst of His people. Thus is why Jesus Christ quotes this passage in John 10:34-37. Jesus is explaining to the Jews (who are the rulers who judged unjustly and showed partiality to the wicked), namely they did not follow the command of Deuteronomy 4:6-9. Not to see this is to miss the entire point of the Old Testament and the purpose of the Messiah coming to His own. I have no idea how this verse disturbed Dr. Heiser.

Old Covenant Israel was those who walked in darkness and did not know nor understand. Israel was suppose to have the presence of God, however due to sin, which was highlighted by the picture in the garden (which would have been a covenant story for Israel throughout all their generations) they were separated – thus “dying like men, and falling like the princes”.

Dr. Heiser’s confusion is compounded because he has said, “At no point in the Old Testament does the Scripture teach that Jews or Jewish leaders were put in authority over the other nations”. I put a big frown in the book next to this statement. How could Dr. Heiser miss this?

Israel was given the oracles of God (cf. Romans 3:2), they were to rule and reign over the nations as they lived the example of the Law (cf. Deuteronomy 4:6-9), and they came under judgment again and again for failing to live up to this, ultimately culminating in the AD 70 “coming of the Lord”.

After hearing Dr. Heiser on the Rethinking Revelation podcast and really paying attention to his thoughts on eschatology, I realized maybe he needs to return to study of the Biblical narrative past the ancient near east. The “spiritual realm” which is being conveyed through the whole of Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) is a conceptual reality (an actual reality being made known through a picture), not a dualistic other-world.

Through covenant God chooses those who dwell in His presence, His people had been removed from His presence only to gain access through Jesus Christ at the end of the age (cf. 1 Corinthians chapter 10; Hebrews 9:26). No other gods dwell there.

I urge a study on all the verses that will be in the picture below – of course after a healthy understanding of the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. Keep an eye out for my book, Wicked, due to be published in March 2017 which will deal with some of these details as well as an examination of all things wicked – Satan, demons, hell,etc…

In Service to Him,

Pastor Michael Miano

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Who is That?!? Yahweh’s Divine Council (Part 2)

For the past month of so, I have continually obsessed and examined the “Divine Heavenly Council” teachings that are coming into the Church, especially pertaining to those in the Preterist view.

In part 1, we examined the phrase “ben elohim” which can mean either “sons of God” or “sons of the gods” depending on the context in which we find it being used. Neither time does the phrase speak of “otherworld being” or what we often erroneously refer to as “spirit beings”, instead some times the “sons of God” is a reference to Israel, and other times it is a reference to pagan believers (“sons of the gods”).

Let me be clear. I do believe in a “Spiritual Realm” (while I will readily admit this is an area I am willing to learn and do some study). I do believe in “spirit beings” – however I am cautious not to allow my mind to create figments of my imagination and then impose them on Scripture. As I put the Scriptural Narrative at the forefront and examine ANE literature, what I like to call taking a Biblical look at the ANE, I find the story of a God who is Spirit who is inviting His people to become like Him. The whole narrative of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is painting this picture. Our understanding of the “Spiritual realm” must start there.

With that said, I wanted to take you through some of points in the “Divine Heavenly Council” that seem to be out of sync with the rest of the Biblical narrative. In this examination I will focus on passages provided in the article by Jeffrey McCormack in Fulfilled! Magazine called “Yahweh’s Divine Council” .

Again let me reiterate the focus of this part 2, namely to show that the Scriptures and phrases used to support this teaching of “Yahweh’s Divine Council” are not being demonstrated in line with the context of the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation.

Below we will look at some of the verses Mr. McCormack uses to propagate his view of the “watchers” being an assembling hierarchy of “little g” gods. A view in which he further states “Thus, when we read of gods such as Baal and Molech, we are reading of these angelic leaders.”

The book of Psalms is a noted as a poetic book, one of the “books of wisdom” in Scripture, which use highlight poetic/allegoric details to bring us into the Wisdom of the Father. It is important to consider what style of literature you are reading when seeking to use verses to make a point. I would hardly use the poetic language in Psalms to prove doctrinal points. In reading through the Psalms, I have found I tend to agree with the simple readings offered by translations such as NIV and NLT rather than the more dogmatic KJV or NASB. Read through the Psalms in different translations and see for yourself.

OK so, Psalm chapter 82 it seems to be a rant against the rampant idolatry in Israel. If you study through the historic context in the days of King David you will find how this fits. Israel was continually judged for their failure to heed the Wisdom of the Father by their being enticed to wickedness and idolatry. This Psalm speaks against that. The one true God, when put in a courtroom setting with the other so-called “gods” he is the true Judge, the one who lasts forever, and in due time He will bring forth judgment. Pretty much the continual cry of the righteous in Israel against the rampant idolatry.

In Psalm chapter 89, we are reading a praise of God’s sovereignty. In this praise we are reading a polemic against the other false narratives of the gods. The mention of the chaos and the serpent-creature Rahab alludes to the myths and lies of the pagan beliefs. Again, this is all done in poetic prose not to assert the validity of the pagan “gods”, simply to exclaim praise for the One True God.

Failure to understand the poetic style of these statements seems to be the issue with McCormack’s using these verses to try to validate his “Heavenly Council” stuff. Simply put, when we understand and pay attention to the genre of the Psalms, and the historical context of what was happening during the time of King David and the writing of the Psalms, the “poems” seem rather clear in depicting the sovereignty of God. Bringing strange teachings about otherworldly beings does not fit within the historic narrative and audience relevance.

In his article, Mr. McCormack writes, “Space does not permit discussing it here, but read 1 Kings 22:19-22 to see this divine council at work”. In that passage we read the prophetic words of Micaiah against King Ahab. He speaks prophetically about the sovereignty of God and how a false spirit was within the king’s prophets who told him to go to war against Ramoth-Gilead.

Mr. McCormack would have us to believe that this prophetic picture is a real event happening in the heavens, wherein a one of the “divine council” have decided to falsely lead King Ahab’s prophets. His perspective seems to illustrate confusion in reading through the prophetic versus what actually happened. Consider how prophets talked about wars and calamities that occurred.

He further details that within the historic narrative of people becoming disobedient to Yawweh, He finally gave them over to the leadership of lesser gods. Not only does that sound ludicrous, Mr. McCormack even tries to utilize Scripture in the midst of his confusion. Consider his citation of Dueteronomy 4:19; 29:26; and 32:8-9.

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)”

If you do an honest reading through the Law of Moses, and ultimately understand the reason for it (to set His people, Israel, apart from the nations and the rampant idolatry), you will see clearly what this verse is saying. Whereas all the pagans looked into the sky and made “gods” of all that they saw, Moses herein is instructing God’s people not to look into the sky (shamayim in the Hebrew) and worship anything – not the sun, not the moon, not the stars, nothing of the group of things they see in the sky.

For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them..(Dueteronomy 29:26)”.

I can see how a cursory reading of this verse can lend us to the idea that God gave Israel over to false gods, a reading very similar to what we read by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1. However, I believe God gave His truth to His people and they forsook it, and God is speaking in contrast to that. His people began to worship gods who they made up, as the Prophets say again and again, whom He had not given them – in contrast to His giving of Himself and His truth. There is no need to go on and read strange details our reading.

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.“For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:8-9)”.

I have read through Deuteronomy chapter 32 again and again, even using the text in my own apologetics regarding Preterism, and I have never read this in the text. As I looked into commentaries on the text I realized most commentators are in line with the natural understanding I would have gathered from the text. You can see for yourself by visiting this link which provides various commentaries, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/deuteronomy/32-8.htm

All in all, as I explained this morning in Bible study, we must develop an understanding of Spirituality that is in line with the narrative and details we find in Scripture. The Prophets spoke to give ‘spiritual clarity’ in regards to historic events that were happening. Hebraic Spirituality in contrast to pagan or later developed Hellenistic Spirituality was abstract and not necessarily “otherworldly”. That offers a shameless plug to my upcoming book release, Wicked: The Search for Spirituality and Life, wherein I will further explain the distinction of Hebraic spirituality and it’s God-ordained inspiration from other versions of “spirituality” which sum up to be the wild thoughts of man’s imagination.

I pray I have offer clarity in these regards.

Blessings in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Michael Miano

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Man of Dust – Genesis & Ancient Near Eastern Origins

Recently, I have been in discussion with someone regarding the “dust” and “death” found in the beginning of Genesis, specifically Adam (man) being made of the “dust” of the ground and thus returning to it. What is this saying?

Before I start, please allow me to assert that I believe in a honest handling of God’s Word, and the need to “study to show ourselves approved RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORLD OF TRUTH” (2 Timothy 2:15). That being noted, I do not want to impose an understanding that is not there, and I want to find the most “literal” understanding of the text possible, what is known as ‘sensus literalis’.

The words of Mr. R.C. Sproul, a well known Bible teacher, fit rightly here:

There is much confusion regarding the “literal” sense of Scripture…To interpret the Bible “literally” in the classic sense requires that we learn to recognize in Scripture different genres of literature. Poetry is to be interpreted as poetry, and didactic passages are to be interpreted according to the grammar of the didactic. Historical narrative must not be treated as parable, nor parable as strict historical narrative. Much of Bible prophecy is cast in an apocalyptic genre that employs graphic imaginative language and often mixes elements of common historical narrative with the figurative language.” (1)

This is where we must do the proper legwork. Sure, we can just pick up Genesis as 21st century Westerners and demand that the Scriptures make the points we want them to make about the things we want them to detail, as many do. Or….we can be honest and humble in our reading and studying and realize the ancient world is vastly different than ours. The concerns of those times are different than ours, and therefore the details of writing are as well.

Coming to an agreement concerning what type of genre the book of Genesis comes to us as is an rather intriguing study. The book ‘Beyond Creation Science’ by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn, first opened my eyes to taking a step back and really looking at the culture from which Genesis comes and the details it notes- finding Genesis to be more prophetic and apocalyptic than I had initially thought. Then reading through Dr. John Walton’s lectures on Youtube surely opened my eyes to understanding the concept of Genesis as a ‘temple text’ and it’s details in that environment rather than what I initially thought they meant.

Again….we must decide…do we really want the truth out of the text, essentially what it “literally” says, or are we content with just making things up and keeping our own view? That is exactly what has spurned by studies, and led me to the views I hold today.

Author Robert Gundry exhorts us in this regard:

…we must presume that the text as it stands had a meaning for the author and his first readers. We want to discover that meaning. The path to discovery lies along the line of historical- grammatical interpretation, which assumes that the language of the Biblical text, including its symbolic language, grows out of and speaks to the historical situation of the writer and his readers. To take a non-referential view of language, may open up possibilities of contemporary interest and deconstruction play, but it blocks the path of historical understanding.”

So…in my honest study, I have begun to look at the world of the Ancient Near East. Most within ‘critical scholarship’ have now begun to point those who want to understand the Book of Genesis in this direction. Granted I have made these remarks before, have written about understanding the Bible “literally”, (2) and defended these positions in debates- yet herein I want to show the proper understanding of the creation of man and the story that tells- from the Ancient Near East to the overly Hellenistic Western world.

The ANE audience hardly was concerned nor would have attempted to explain in graphic detail how God had made man, save for understanding the function of man in the world. Genesis serves as a ‘polemic’, or argument against the cultures of the Ancient Near East, as blog writer T.E. Hanna notes,

Rather than adopting the mythologies of the surrounding Ancient Near East, the Hebrew cosmologies were written as a criticism of them. As theological education for an emerging Israelite nation, the purpose of these narratives was to emphasize the nature of the God of Israel in contrast to the surrounding polytheism, while also conveying His superiority over competing religions.”

Now that we have made ourselves somewhat aware of the context of the Book of Genesis, let’s begin to take a look.

Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 1:24-31.

Here we read that God made all the animals and then goes about to create man – In His Image, and to have dominion over all of that which God created.

As one becomes familiar with the Ancient Near East, we would see that this Genesis story runs contrary to the contemporary understanding of that culture. As Wheaton proffessor, Dr. John Walton has noted, “In Mesopotamia the cosmos functions for the gods and in relation to them. People are an afterthought, seen as just another part of the cosmos that helps the gods to function. In Israel the cosmos functions for people and in relation to them. God does not need the cosmos, but it is his temple. It functions for people.” (3)

I have a writing on this called ‘The Ancestral Story of the ‘Image of God'(4) which can be found on the internet, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the work of Mrs. Rebekkah Devine (or Giffone as I note in my article). When I came to understand how in Genesis man was set up as the ‘image of God’ in contrast to the way the ANE viewed man, I was amazed. Man is created to display the glory of God, not the idols, nor the “created things” that man turns into idols.

Now let’s take a look at Genesis 2:4-9.

Studying out the details of “heaven and earth” in Scripture is a praiseworthy study. Verse 4 here gives us a beginning of understanding the way this phraseology was used by the ancient Hebrews, and essentially was was being ‘made’ by God in this account. Surely you don’t believe that what God is saying here is that the ‘heaven and earth’ has a genealogy, do you? Oddly some have made some strange interpretations, yet if you study out the term in its context and usage- you find this term simply applies to God’s people.

What we are reading in Genesis chapters 1-3 is the “creation story” of the one True God and how He formed His “heaven and earth”.

In Genesis 2:7 we have, God ‘forming’ man (adam) out of the ground. The text reads: ‘v’yyitzer YHWH ‘Elohim ‘et ha’adam ‘aphar min ha’adamah’ – or in the English – “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”

There are some who simply would rather avoid dealing with the historicity of the writing and would assert that this is talking about God materialistically forming man out of ‘dust’, just as they would say that this text is talking about the material creation of Heaven and Earth. If you are ok with imposing a foreign interpretation on the text, that would have hardly been understood by the ancients, then there is nothing I can show you. However, after searching for the definition of the term ‘dust’ (which in Hebrew is ‘aphar’ meaning ground, earth, ashes, or powder), then reading all the passages in Scripture that apply that term, I did not find much clarity as to what is saying. Therefore I turned to historical context for clarity.

It is interesting to further note that in Ancient Near Eastern literature not only is man debased, but the creation of man is usually of the clay of the ground and the blood or spit of the gods- both good and evil. In the Biblical text, man is created of the earth and then God breath’s life into him- giving man a dignity above all other created things. Surely a radical thought in the Ancient Near East that most modern people miss the point of.

A writing that further helped provide clarity pertaining to Genesis :4-7 was an internet writing by Don Stoner. You can access that writing by visiting this link: http://www.dstoner.net/Genesis_Context/Context.html

So in Genesis chapter 2, man is created by God forming him of the dust of the ground, earthy, and is animated as a ‘living soul’ once God breathes into him.

In Genesis 3:14 as well as 3:19, we read that the serpent will go on his belly and eat “dust’ all the days of his life, and Adam after the fall is told he shall return to the dust.

First of all this is where you should begin to notice that this book is a foreign text and not intended to be taken literal. If you hold to a literal walking/ talking serpent that is cursed by God to travel on the ground, then you need to consult the local psychologist.

After noting that simply point, we can begin to search out what the text means in its proper context.

‘Dust’ as used through Scripture and historical context also carries the thought of humility and desperation. When Adam and Eve sin and suffer “the death” due to sin, they are ashamed and hide themselves from God- no longer freely roaming in the blessedness of God’s garden as He provided to them. This will later be the story of fleshly Israel as well- they violate the command God gives them and thus suffer shame.

Adam and Eve are now “dead”, as God told them the day they eat of the tree they shall surely die. God provides them with a covering and removes them from the Garden where they enjoyed God’s presence and possible “immortality” through the Tree of Life. From dust they were created, to dust they shall return.

It is when we study out the “resurrection of the dead” that these things get hopeful. The “resurrection of the dead” will undue the damage of the garden.

Adam and Eve had a beautiful & free relationship with God- based on the “covenant” of one law- don’t eat of that tree- be His image- they failed and died in that covenant relationship- thus returning to dust.

Israel inherited that story, and was provided a covering. They do the same as Adam (Hosea 6:7) and get worse and worse- suffering the fate of returning to the dust and face future judgment (Daniel chapter 12). One writer noted that the “futility” spoken about in Romans 8 is detailing the same “futility” to which creation was subjected in Genesis 3 – it has to do with the idea that it would not do that for which it was designed or intended.

All of this is to note that Genesis chapters 1-3 are not talking about the material creation of the cosmos nor of man, but rather are covenant claims. Genesis is the creation of God’s people- heaven and earth- and how that Old Covenant people were subjected to futility- being of the dust and earthy.

One poet noted, “The sons of Adam are formed from dust; if not humble as the dust, they fall short of being men.

In conclusion, let us praise God for the ‘Second Adam’ as revealed through the New Testament. We, in Christ, do not bear that “dusty” semblance and “death is defeated”! After all as 2nd century Church Father Irenaeus noted, ““The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

This is the goal of our faith- to note that which happened “in the beginning”, the death that comes because of sin, and then rest and proclaim praise in regards Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness. To provide to who would attest to the power of this as the “Christian faith” I will use quotes from 7th century Church bishop Maximus who said, “Christianity is an entirely new way of being human”, and 20th century century German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who remarked, “Christianity is not about religion- it’s about humanity, and making it as God intended it to be.”

Below I will provide a short list of Works Cited. As well as a list of Scriptures that mention “dust” for further study, and of course a host of links that further inform on the context of the Ancient Near East.

Works Cited

  1. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus
  2. https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/how-do-we-literally-understand-the-scriptures/
  3. Dr. John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve
  4. http://www.academia.edu/9695120/A_Must_Read-_The_Ancestral_Story_of_the_Image_of_God_

Scriptures Pertaining to Dust:

Genesis 2:7; 3:19 – dust; Genesis 3:14; Genesis 13:16; 28:13; 1 Chron 1:9; Genesis 18:27; Genesis 26:15 – translated as earth; 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 13:7 ; Num 19:17; 2 Kings 23:4 – ashes ; Job 4:19; Job 7:21; Job 10:9; Job 14:8 – ground; Job 17:16; Job 21:26; Job 30:19; Psalm 22:15, 29; Psalm 44:25; Psalm 113:17; Lev 14:42, 45 – mortar;2 kings 23:6, 15- powder; Job 42:6; Ecc 3:20; 12:7; psalm 103:14; Neh 4:2, 10 – rubbish; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 47:1; Lamentation 2:10; Nahum 3:18

Websites about the Ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis:

http://www.theologymatters.com/Novdec97.PDF

http://www.newfoundationspubl.org/dust.htm

http://questions.veritas.org/science-faith/origins/what-genre-is-genesis-1-2/

http://tehanna.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/OfDustAndKings_HebrewCosmology.pdf

http://www.indiana.edu/~jsp/docs/2013_14/Bern_Essay_winner_Bloom,%20D.pdf

https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/interpreting-adam-an-interview-with-john-walton

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825439272/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0825439272&linkCode=as2&tag=michsheiscom-20&linkId=LVYPNGNYCGRJSJSD

http://davidjohnstone.net/blog/2009/12/notes-lost-world-genesis-one-john-walton

http://oyc.yale.edu/transcript/945/rlst-145

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Let the Church be the Church, and America- Be America!

Here we find ourselves in the 21st century, where for many the lines have been dulled between “Church” and “State”. If you take the time to peruse through Church History, this surely isn’t new for the church. However the striving to bring Christianity into America, to dominate America, has proven to be a daunting task since the time of the Puritans in the 17th century.

Is America a “Christian nation”? Should this be the goal of the Church? For example, when we read 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“…And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.

Why do we constantly seem to put America in place of “His people” instead of the Body of Believers called the Church? This is the nagging question I have and want to keep before you as I continue making some points through this article.

For the past couple months we have been going through ‘The Truth Project’ at The Blue Point Bible Church. Professor Del Tackett has challenged us in regards to the battle involving “What is Truth”, what is the anthropology of man, what is a Biblical social environment, what is the role of government, and finally this week we discussed “The American Experiment”.

The whole gist of ‘The Truth Project’ is to combat the ‘Post-modernism’ that has seemingly pervaded American culture. Simply put, Postmodernism is the rejection of absolute truth, holding all truth as relevant, or more likely, you have your reality and I have mine. This “question everything” mentality surely has a lot of good quality in it (in line with 1 Thessalonians 5:21), however with lack of education, hypotheticals, and subjective reasoning, this can be more harmful than edifying.

In Lesson 10, “The American Experment”, Professor Tacket places the beginning of the rise of ‘secular humanism’ with Darwin’s, Origin of the Species in 1859. The rise of men like John Dewey, Charles Eliot, and Christopher Columbus Landell brought challenge to the way education was done, and surely brought challenge to the arena of “scientific education”.

As a Bible believing Christian who has seen the church gone awry clinging to false doctrines, putting a ‘misplaced hope’ in the councils, creeds, and confessions instead of “search the Scriptures”, I see nothing wrong with challenging the traditional teachings, and surely do not see this as a bad thing. Yet this is exactly what many intend to demonize when they speak about the shift in ‘public education’, teaching of ‘evolution’ in school, etc…

Let me be abundantly clear here. As a Christian who has an unyielding faith in the truth of Scripture, I am not afraid of the ‘critical thinking’ this postmodern world has to offer. I don’t believe it is society’s job to “make known the manifold wisdom of God”, but rather the Church. It is the Church’s job to “demolish every argument and stronghold set up against the ‘knowledge of God’ (2 Corinthians chapter 10). The Christians, the Church, should be affecting the nation they live in, yet our country is the “heavenly country” (Hebrews 11:16; i.e., the New Jerusalem) which knows no earthly borders. I flee from the “Christianizing” of any nation which then confuses itself with being “the city on the hill” of Matthew 5:14.

Yes, George Washington indeed did say, “If one claims to be a patriot, yet denies Christ Jesus, this man is worse than an infidel” and yes, Princeton’s founding statement was “Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.” and it has been since changed.

Why has this happened? Is it as horrible as many think it is? Is it the ‘end of the world’?

Historical study of the founding documents of this nation, think of the Mayflower Compact, Constitution of the New England Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance, and the Aricles of Confederation of 1643- clearly show the Christian foundations of America. There is no doubt there.

Yet just as Galileo Galilee looked into his microscope and saw something that seemingly contradicted what the ‘Christian tradition’ had to say, so we see the same today. I say let’s enjoy the freedom which comes with a responsibility to be the ‘light of the world’.

I believe the “lazy Christian” not only wants to settle for “Church doctrine” that contradicts Scripture, but also wants to make being an “American” synonymous with being a “Christian”. The less of a distiction between the two, the less fruit one must produce to be found a Christian.

Ultimately, it is time for the Church to be the Church. The blurring of the lines between the Church and America has created confusion and hostility. The Church should reserve the right to make decisions and live in light of Scripture and we should encourage others, however the Church sitting at the sidelines yelling at the “State” to follow Christian standards really needs to stop.

The fact is, Obama is not the president of the Nation I am apart of. As Shane Claiborne so eloquently and simplistically puts it, “Jesus for President”. I believe there is much strength to be sought in allowing America to follow the “postmodernism” that leads it, therefore offering the Church a moment of clarity on their role and position in this world.

I know America had Christian foundations, to argue against this is to be historically ignorant. However, I see the good news in the “end of Christian America” as Gabe Lyons put it in his book, The Next Christians.

Let the distinctions be clear- the Church is to be the Church, set apart by the truth of Jesus Christ, and America is to be America- the land of the free.

DON’T YOU DARE REFER TO AMERICA AS THE “CITY ON A HILL”!

Revelation 2:5 reads, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place- unless you repent”. I’ll say it like this: It is nothing short of blasphemous to equate this verse with a nation with borders, this was primary applied to the Church at Ephesus, and could only be applied to the Church.

Walk worthy saints.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Michael Miano

“One thing that’s clear in the Scriptures is that the nations do not lead people to peace; rather, people lead the nations to peace.” – Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President

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