Wednesday, January 04, 2006

He's not a tame know

Problem Stated
Let me see. Today I have a problem. I want to construct a box for God to fit in. “What a ridiculous notion,” you say. “God cannot fit into a box of your creation.”

If I understand the meaning of hermeneutics it is the Biblicist’s job to try to trace outlines of the box that God has made for himself. It is a high calling and many do a wonderful job, yet sometimes the box can be drawn too narrowly. I remember many years ago arguing with my Bible college peers about something called “dual fulfillment”. I think it is a classic illustration of what I wish to discuss in this paper. I have named it the box problem.

Dual fulfillment, as I understand the term, is the belief that God can indeed make a single prophecy that has one fulfillment, often in the time of the prophet, and a second fulfillment, often a messianic one. The prime example of dual fulfillment is Isaiah 7:14 where the prophet says: The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. This was fulfilled in Isaiah 8:3, where it says: Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. It is fulfilled in a more wonderful and far more established way as is made plain by Matthew 1:23, where it says: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.

Some professors at Biola taught dual fulfillment; others vehemently disagreed. We students were also divided; some of my good friends did not see dual fulfillment at all. I perceived that they had a box problem. In other words, they were so busy building a box for God, folding and tucking him into each corner very neatly, and then very tidily sealing the box that they forgot that God makes his own boxes. I am reminded of Aslan, of whom Lewis tells us again and again, is not a tame lion. Not wanting to establish or disestablish dual fulfillment here, I instead would like to point to the box my good friends had inadvertently built when denying dual fulfillment. I think it is easily seen when I pose the question, Can God be big enough and wise enough to say one thing that will have different meanings at different times?

If you say no, God is not that big then you have a box problem. You have just built a box for God that he himself did not build. No where in scripture is dual fulfillment denied, and if you insist on moving forward with this negative answer, then it seems to me that you will have to establish why God would restrict himself to this box.

God does restrict himself to some outlines of a box. He tells us often what he is like. For instance, scripture tells us that he cannot deny himself, he cannot lie, and he is both truth and light. But, as far as I know, nowhere does he say prophecies cannot have two meanings. And that, in a nutshell, is the box problem. If God has not stated a limit of himself, who are we to restrict him?

I am often guilty of the box problem analogy in my own life. I see something evil happening to someone, and instantly I feel that to be so wrong, and sometimes I take the next step of questioning God. Whenever that happens I am constructing a box, however large, in which I wish to fit God.

What a wonder we are that we can question our Creator! What a folly we commit we do so! He came as the Lamb of God the first time, and we in the world rejected him. He is coming as a Lion of God the second time, and he is rejecting the world. In all probability most of us living today will see his coming. It will probably be more bloody and messy than anything we wish to dwell on, but we should remember that he is not a tame lion. We are not telling him what he ought to be; he is telling us what we ought to be.


arrow's gma said...

The hardest thing in life is letting God be God. When we worship Him we want to worship our image of Him. It's hard to accept him as he is.

Aslan is NOT a tame lion!

Deborah said...

"What a wonder we are that we can question our Creator! What a folly we commit we do so!"

I really like this! I LOVE how I have the freedom to tell God what I think, even when I am telling Him I can think of better ways to do things than what He's come up with so far.
I LOVE it even better when that not-tame-but-very-good Lion ROARS back at me that He knows what He's doing and He loves me!! And even when he doesn't roar, it is good to remember how silly I am for trying to be god when Someone's already filled that role :)
If I'm rambling, it's because I am very, very, very, very tired!
Night-Night, Dad.
P.S. Oh, and I thought "everyone" believed in the dual fulfillment of prophecies. That surprises me that there are scholars that don't. How do they explain away the fact that Isaiah 7:14 is referenced in different ways in Isaiah 8:3 and Matthew 1:23?
I have been wondering lately about the end times, and if they'll look NOTHING like the ways modern Christianity has devised. Hindsight is 20/20 with prophetic stuff, eh?

Mr. D said...

(Why does it feel so wrong for me to call you that?)If I remember correctly students who argued dual fulfillment with me did not see Isaiah 8:3 as a fulfillment. It obviously is, though one might make the argument that God intended this verse to be taken out of context of the rest of the passage.
When the simple sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense. The first rule of hermaneutics.

Danielle said...

As I told Dad yesterday, I likewise thought *everyone* believed in dual fulfillment. Not once did I hear anyone at Biola even suggest something to the contrary. It shocks me that people would--it seems so self-evidently true to me!

Fides quarens intellectum. I'm not a Latin expert, but I think that's the right spelling. It means "Faith Seeking Understanding." Augustine said "I believe that I may understand." I think that this is the position we need to work from; we first believe and then we work to understand. That leads to the freedom and even right-ness of asking a certain kind of question. It allows us to understand our God, to make sense of the world around, to be always prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have. It's not just a matter of saying "God's too big. I give up," but saying "Thank goodness God is so big and beyond my understanding! Now I'm going to work as hard as I can to work my understanding toward God."

Does this make sense? I think I'm agreeing with you, just adding a bit. I'm not sure how thoughtful my comments are when I write then during my lunch break!

Mr. D said...

I like your Latin. I need to take a course in that. All of my Greek, a smattering of Hebrew, and add some Latin. Would make the perfect concoction, no?
I am interested in your saying no one you knew did not believe in dual fulfillment at Biola. I was trying to remember (it is nearly 30 years ago), but I seem to remember many of my professors not believing in it, with the exception of my two favorites. It was not exactly a defining doctrine; that is only by sitting through classes could you pick up on the beliefs.
I also remember several of my friends not accepting it as truth. I wonder if things have changed, or if it is just 30 years and different majors?

Danielle said...

I noticed a spelling error in my Latin... :) Fides quaerens intellectum. I guess if I'm gonna speak in another language, I should double check spelling first!

It is possible that we had different experiences because of our different majors/years there, but I did in some way or other hear many of the Bible profs speak. Two of the Bible profs were pastors at my church, and in Torrey I had about 8 different profs, most of whom I studied the Bible with at some time. And I never once heard a suggestion that it was not true...Of course, based only on anecdotal evidence, who knows if things have really changed or if it's all experiential.