Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Expanded Perichoresis

Editor's note: I'm not sure whether I agree with every single statement in this posting, but that's not of first importance. Bob has done a Biblically literate job of examining some aspects of the nature of God that have cried for attention. If you find something you don't like or don't understand (imagine that!), then skip on past it, and eat the meat between whatever bones you have found.

Expanded Perichoresis (Understanding the cognitive dissonance of the God of the Old Testament)

Sorry for launching my first blog ever with five dollar words. The two concepts are needed in order to lay a foundation supporting this trip into ancient mysteries.

Let’s start with Perichoresis: This is a theological term from way back. It was coined by early church writers and is now in play in the works of folks such as Jurgen Moltmann and C. Baxter Kruger. It is also called “Circuminsession” if that helps clear it up. Basically, it is the term used to describe the separation of the persons of the Trinity. God, as one, divides himself into three. It tries to describe the action of the three persons of the Godhead moving independently but together, working in concert, without ever being at odds or disagreeing with each other. The term was one of the first developed to explain the mystery of the Godhead.

On to “Cognitive Dissonance”: This is a term used in phsycology and sociology. It describes what Steven Covey would call a “lack of integrity” and what it means to a persons phsyche or mental state. We become cognitively dissonant when one aspect of our person disagrees with another. Hiding an alternate agenda is one aspect of the term. Let’s say 4 couples are at a cocktail party and out of the eight people, there are two who are having an affiar without the knowledge of the other people in the group. The innocent six are having a great time but the adulterous pair are having to watch their every action and word. Every time the husband of the cheating wife touches her, the secret boyfriend feels a rush of jealousy and does his best to not show it. He is enjoying the downside of cognitive dissonance. If we say one thing and do another thing which doesn’t agree with our hoped for character, we become double minded and are taken by cognitive dissonance.

Now that we have the underlying concepts defined, let’s move ahead. I have titled this article “Expanded Perichiresis”. You can probably guess I am about to expand upn the term. Now is a good time to turn to scripture:

Proverbs 8:22- 26, (ESV, (with LORD removed and our Father’s name replacing it.):

"Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.”

I wish to make one other correction to the text, drawn from the footnotes of my ESV bible: The term “possessed” is actually “fathered”. Yes, before Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, Wisdom seems to have been fathered by Yahweh. Proverbs 7:4-5 “Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.”

If, after finishing this article, you think it has brought you insight and been written with wisdom, you have your sister Wisdom to thank.

I have set in my mind that I will stay away from speaking of most of my personal experiences with the other realms and keep these blogs focused on our common experience. I will make an exception here. I have read that scripture in Proverbs seven many times and a few of those times I have obeyed the request to “say to Wisdom, you are my sister”. The first few times, it seemed an exercise. One day last year, it became a two-way conversation. I read the admonition, told Wisdom she was my Sister, and back came the reply, in a sweet female voice, “thank you for pursuing and finding me”. What?!! That short conversation with one of the attributes of God was a game changer for me.

I have told my friends many strange things but the prospect of telling them I was in touch with a female attribute, or facet, of Yahweh was going to take things too far for sure. I decided to bring it up slowly. I wrote to my most enlightened friends with a statement, “ I just met an entity, I didn’t think was a person. If you can tell me what it was, I will give you the rest of the story”. It took a seer friend two tries to nail it. His first guess was wrong. His next email said, “Well, if it wasn’t that one, you probably met your Sister Wisdom”. Dude! Tell me more! Back came his stories of seeing her graceful form and being amazed at her beauty and the sweetness of her voice. Soon another email came with a list of the attributes of Yahweh my friend had met and hung out with on his trips through the veil. It was obvious I had some learning to do.

(If you are reading this and writing the corrective email in your mind, don’t waste your time. I have had enough of blind leaders trying to lead me back into darkness. If this is madness, leave me to it. Deep called unto deep and I dove in without a life jacket. That is the way dead men sometimes act. Besides, you haven’t heard me out yet and I have given clear scripture references for my experiences, having confirmed them with one of the most accurate prophetic voices I know.)

Here I was, fresh from having my mind blown by God’s first created spiritual being who seemed to be an addition to the Godhead. I was beginning to warm up to some of Moltmann’s thoughts on Perichoresis and Wisdom herself was expanding my view much further than Jurgen had mentioned. My views of the attributes of Yahweh had just expanded, considerably. There were hours and hours of quiet time ahead and many wondrous depths to plumb. This article is the fruit of the contemplation, which followed my experience.

Let’s take a look at Wisdom’s job description, drawn once more from Proverbs. I will take up where we left off:

Pro 8:27-31 “ When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

Anyone who is well read on the apostolic reformation well likely notice how the job description Wisdom gives for herself reflects New Testament insights into apostles as “Master Builders”. Let’s listen to the Apostle Paul:

1Co 3:6-11 (ESV, emphasis added) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's “fellow workers”. You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now let’s look to Moses. Moses had his hands full responding to Israel’s reaction to the report of the spies sent to scope the Promised Land:

Num 14:11-19: “And Yahweh said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they." But Moses said to Yahweh, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Yahweh, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Yahweh, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 'It is because Yahweh was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.' And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 'Yahweh is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.' Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now."

What Moses was up against were two, or more, conflicting attributes of God. This was God in the throes of “Cognitive Dissonance”. Moses rehearses what he knows about God’s being and intercedes for the people, playing on God’s better attributes to save them. Moses tells God it was his “Might” that brought the people out of bondage and asks God’s “Power” to be as great as he had promised in support of the people. Then he calls upon the abounding “Love” and “Forgiveness” of God because if God doesn’t relent, his “Name” will be diminished among the nations. Moses was caught between the many opinions of the people and the many facets of God. Moses was learning first hand of the expanded perichoresis, which followed creation. I figure Moses had some help from our Sister “Wisdom” in his plight.

If we, like Moses, want to be a “friend of God”, it behooves us to look at his pain and seek an answer to help him through it. You can skip ahead in the book to see the end of the thing. For that, we will need to see what Zechariah had to say:

Zechariah 14:7-11 (ESV, Emphasis added) “And there shall be a unique day, which is known to Yahweh, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Yahweh will be king over all the earth. On that day Yahweh will be one and his name one.… ….And it (Jerusalem) shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.”

We just walked the idea of expanded perichoresis through scripture from before time to after it. We have seen the God who is and was one; become many separate attributes, in order to redeem his creation. We heard Zechariah explain how he is reunited in the end.

Yahweh set his Wisdom outside of himself and charged her with watching over the affairs of men. Luke 11:46-52 states clearly it was the “Wisdom of God” who shepherded the innocent blood from Abel to Zechariah, leading Jesus to the steps of the Temple, and through them to death on the cross in order to rend the veil separating men from their Father. Wisdom holds the secret to the Old Testament bloodshed we are slow to wrap our heads around. Wisdom is given charge over God’s Children and creation. Why? Glad you asked.

Imagine if God’s “Grace” had been given the position of referee or watchman over men. Would there ever come any balance? Would there be any correction if God’s “Grace” were the defining attribute that was concerned with Man and creation? How about the thought of being overseen by God’s “Wrath”? That is not a pretty picture. Were his “Longsuffering” to be the referee over mankind, surely the end of death and suffering would be delayed indefinitely. Wisdom seemed the perfect one for the job. How wise, don’t you think?

I said earlier that I would help to explain the “Cognitive Dissonance” of the God of the Old Testament. That could not be done without an understanding of how a righteous God falls into inner conflict. Moses had his hands full with the problem and we have made little progress on it for millennia. Like I said, our atheist friends have a good point about our seemingly double-minded, loving and vengeful God.

If you found this introduction to the thoughts, which swirl through my head interesting, just wait until you see where it will lead. Our next stops are going to unleash the wisdom I believe we have never found, or have lost along the way, in the sufferings of Job, and explain the events which happen on the Divine Council, or Assembly of the god’s, from Psalms 82. We are going to involve mankind in the clash of the Titans and in the process, gain valuable insights into how to wield the keys of death and hell.

One last thought. Remember Jesus words before taking the “Fullness of the Godhead”, which dwelt in his person, through the cross.

John 17:10-13: “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your “Name”, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Jesus left two of the many aspects of God behind when he went to the cross. The “Word”, which Jesus personified, and would not return to Yahweh until it had completed it’s task and God’s “Name”. The reconstitution of the Name of God is prophesied in Zechariah. Jesus took every aspect or facet of the Godhead with him through his death on a cross. As a reward he was given a “Name above every other Name”.

Here is John the Revelator’s view of the events Zechariah prophesied. Notice where the “Name” Jesus left with the apostles is at the end of the game. Also notice how we are to see God’s face, or all of the facets of God together in one:

“Revelation 23-25: No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

Can you see why I think the expansion of the Godhead, into separate attributes, right before the creation story was written, sets Yahweh against himself, reflecting a lack of integrity (or oneness of mind), leading to “Cognitive Dissonance”? Once again, before tearing my head off in a frenzy of correction for implying God lacks integrity, consider this fact. The harshest criticism we face as the children of God is the FACT that the loving God we serve was bloodthirsty and vengeful all the way through the Old Testament. Our atheist friends are right. If we love them, they deserve for us to train our focus, at least for a little while, on the main issue separating them from the God we know and love.

The question is still on the table for us all to answer, if we want to walk out of the Cognitive Dissonance we suffer in not being able to rectify this problem for ourselves, and others. Yes, we took on the dissonance suffered by God. For my entire walk with God; I have been able to answer most every question when asked. There are a couple of very hard questions remaining for me, for us. Have you had any luck with the question “How does a loving God allow my child to die of cancer?” I will give you a hint of what lies ahead; it is not due to his sovereignty as we have been told. It is due to man’s lack of sovereignty and our seeming refusal to grow up.

We are going to need some wisdom to move ahead. Better get your Sister on the phone. It’s a family thing.

World without end, amen.

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