Wednesday 2 January 2008

Cindi has begun a series of posts on God as Father, something I've been pondering in depth the last week or so. She goes to the crux of one of the things which has always bothered me, the concept of adoption. She quotes John Gavozanni, who I reprint here because I think it's so important:

'There seems to be more confusion than I realized as to what the New Testament is referring to by the word, "adoption." A clear explanation is available in the notes of many good study bibles. The New Testament does NOT use the term in the sense that it is used in our culture today, that is, referring to making someone---usually a child, but it can be an adult---your child, a member of your family, LEGALLY.

'Rather, it refers to the public presentation of a natural-born son---or for that matter, a legalized son---as acknowledged to be a mature, responsible son who has come of age and from that time on can conduct business in his father's name and in some measure speak and act with his father's authority.

'In the teaching of the New Testament, becoming a child of God, is not presented as a legal matter, but, well, duhh, as a paternal matter, that is, one who is a child of God, is so by being born of God, born of the Spirit, generated by God from eternity and, upon this basis, in the aeon, "born from above," or regenerated in the aeon in accordance with our eternal identity in Christ. Apparently, much to my surprise, some teachers who are quite comparatively biblically literate, are confused about this very fundamental issue.

'Also, mainstream evangelicalism is to be faulted in its capricious text-selectiveness concerning the paternity of mankind. I, too, years ago, as a young evangelist, had assumed something that a careful reading of scripture does not support. I was taught, and thus assumed it to be true, that all men were children of the devil until they received Christ as their Savior.'

This is a fundamental issue. It cuts to the core of who God is. As a kid who grew up with an unloving father, the hurdles involved in learning to trust God are very plain to me. What sort of a god was he? (And at that stage, also, there didn't seem to be any room for any "she" in God, but I digress).

I needed him to be the God I thirsted in my marrow to know, to be able to trust, to fling myself into him and receive the love I was desperate for, so that I could stop hanging on by my own steam and just be able to rest and grow.

And so once I got God's character settled, through much fear and trembling (the God of the Old Testament seemed so much more bloodthirsty and hostile than the Jesus of the New) then I came across another hurdle. All this talk about adoption made me feel kind of uneasy. Adoption? You mean, we needed to be adopted? I could understand the concept of being born again - that related to us more than it did to God. But adoption - that cut down to the bone. If we needed to be adopted, then did it mean that we weren't God's children to begin with? And if we weren't his children to begin with, even in our waywardness and dustiness, then what kind of a pissy God was this anyway? What kind of a pathetic God could create something and yet not have fatherhood over it? Sounded just like the piles of absent fathers I saw around me every day.

So thanks, Cindi. This is a really timely reminder for me and really important for the Body.

Gavozanni notes the irony that the people who use Jesus' "You are of your father the devil" statements to proof-text the "we are all children of the devil until we receive salvation" idea forget that Jesus was talking to Pharisees at the time - Pharisees who were rebuking him for granting forgiveness to that silly old slut down by the well. Hmm. We humans are much less inclined than we think to fling around forgiveness and restoration and redemption willy nilly, the way God seems to want to do it. Because, like Julia Cameron mentioned yesterday in the book I'm reading, it is not God who is the cheapskate; it is us. Turning the mirror round to reflect his image onto our thirsty selves is a much more attractive and necessary prospect than the dry distance of the god of our own projections.

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