Revisiting the Knothole

The basic concept of this blog, and my personal theology, is that our Creator, the One having inspired Scripture, doesn’t limit His work to one person nor one perspective. I know that in my personal growth, others have played a major part because my Master has used them to reveal Himself in Scripture in some new, meaningful way. So, it’s a personal theology where I recognize that I am dependent upon others for a more complete view of what our Creator and Savior reveals of Himself through Scripture.

I have to also recognize that this may not be important for everyone. And that’s not easy for me to accept. I confess a tendency, sometimes a tenacity, to be independent. And my Master, recognizing that weakness in me, designed me with a requirement for others in order to know Him better. That means I learn in the context of others better than I learn by myself. Whatever I can come up with on my own is paltry compared to what comes out of a group of which I am a part.

This has affected my views of “church” (ecclesiology), “person-hood” (anthropology), and salvation (soteriology). And in these views, I probably differ from a lot of people because of my personal experience, mostly my failures. I am an introvert dependent upon others for my life with my Creator. It’s a paradox where I discover the best and worst of myself and others, and the absolute deepest, most vibrant beauty of our Savior.

Consider this, though: The writer of Hebrews wrote in a context of other disciples, and presented shockingly unique perspectives tailored to his audience. If it truly was a “letter”, then one congregation writes to another these shocking perspectives. If it’s a single sermon (very likely, considering the structure), then it was first spoken in the context of a collection of disciples. Either way, these bright, vibrant views of Jesus came out of the context of a group of disciples.

One of these truths, founded upon the previous precedents of the writer’s argument, has to do with a new covenant:

For finding fault with them, He says,


Hebrews 8:8-12 NASB

Jeremiah, over 400 years before Jesus’ birth, spoke of a new covenant. Within the context of a “covenant people”, Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant. It had to be shocking for his audience then, contrary to their assumptions (as so many of his prophecies). But think through the elements of this new covenant:

  1. “The days are coming…” It happens in the future. The consequences of the current covenant will still come upon the people.
  2. It will be with Israel and Judah. The two nations will be reunified under one covenant, like they had been under the first.
  3. It will be different, not like the one before, with Moses.
  4. Under the new covenant:
    1. The law of God will be written in their minds and on their hearts
    2. He will be their God, they will be His people
    3. No teaching, they will all know Yahweh (spoiler alert! I’m returning to this)
    4. The knowledge of Yahweh will be based on His forgiveness and mercy

Now, for Christians (disciples of Jesus), we know this to be fulfilled in Jesus. But for Jeremiah, and for those who followed him, they could not imagine a covenant that did not include the Temple, sacrifices, and so on. They only saw that teachers would lose their jobs, not that the law itself would change, or go away. Yet, our writer of Hebrews has already pointed that out as he raised Jesus as our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Yet, notice the other element of this new covenant: We will all know Yahweh. The Spirit of God within us reveals to us the truths of God through Scripture. And we, in a sense, no longer need teachers. Not to say that the Spirit doesn’t gift some as teachers, He clearly does. But, the Spirit Himself is our teacher.

Here’s the thing though: That means we are to be students! The reality of our situation is that we (including me) too often want to be teachers, and spout our points of view as the point of view. But how can it be possible to have differing views if our Teacher is the same God? I believe the answer to that can be found in this question: How many times did Jesus use the exact same method to heal anyone? Every recorded healing is different from every other healing. In fact, where the same event is described in different Gospels, there are often slight differences even there.

If our Savior used different methods to do essentially the same thing, why would we expect that he would suddenly stop, and now use the same method with everyone? The same reason He used different methods to heal is the same reason He teaches people different things about Himself. We don’t all have the same needs, the same experiences, the same problems, or the same level of understanding.

If we were to learn the same things, why doesn’t He reverse Babel once we’re saved so we all understand the same language? That way there won’t be any differences in linguistic nuances. Let’s be honest, our Creator has never worked the same way with anyone. He worked with Moses different than Noah. He worked with Abraham different than David. Why? Because He created them different, and worked with them as He created them.

Therefore, how can we assume that what our Savior reveals to us must be the same as what He reveals to those around us? The main points are the same. In each instance Jesus healed. The end result was the same. It was the method that was different. So, too, with understanding Scripture, the end result is the same: our relationship with our Creator through our Savior. But the nuance in what He reveals about Himself through Scripture to each of us is nuanced to who He created us to be. And what you share with me reveals more to me about Him. THAT deepens my relationship with my Creator. And I believe THAT is His goal.

So, after all that, what’s your view through the knothole this morning?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


The God I Worship

I probably shouldn’t write angry, and so, this post may never see the light of day. I am angry. I have stumbled upon a practice that smacks of idolatry, and does so from Scripture. We sometimes forget that Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus as he tempted our Savior in the wilderness. Just because a believer quotes Scripture and relies on an interpretation of Scripture does not guarantee a valid view of our Creator and King.

The scary corollary to this is that, to follow a path along a wrong interpretation leads to idolatry. Was that saying too much? When I think about it, it angers me. When I assert my Master to be a certain way, and He has revealed Himself through Scripture in a way contrary to my assertion, I have a choice. I can either recant my assertion, or worship my god, the one of my own making, and not my Creator. Perhaps that is to state it too strongly, but I feel very strongly about this. I’m angry, as I have bleated repeatedly.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered as I’ve studied Scripture for the last 30+ years:

  1. God appears contradictory. He does, it’s inescapable, and we may not like it, but it remains true. We don’t have to fix it, it’s not something to be “figured out”, and it wasn’t a “mistake”. He reveals Himself that way on purpose.
  2. God defines “good” and “evil”, “life” and “death”, and is the Creator of all four of them. And, because we don’t understand these terms very well, we often miss that He causes all four. It doesn’t bother Him, that’s how He reveals Himself, wrestling with that is part of our walk with Him.
  3. God saves. He rescues people from the problem of death by providing life. He doesn’t have to, He chooses to. To do so, He chooses to suffer on our behalf. If a Creator capable of suffering is antithetical to your philosophical categories, then you have crucial a choice. And it is a choice between life and death.
  4. God loves and God hates. As with “life”, “death”, “good”, and “evil”, He defines “love” and “hate”. We either love and hate according to His definitions, or we choose our own definitions of those terms. Our terms will be wrong.
  5. The four preceding views are subject to change as my Master reveals more of Himself to me through Scripture.

A pause to calm down occurred between point 4 and 5. It’s been over a week now since I wrote the preceding paragraphs in anger. I feel much better, and clearer now…I think.

Here’s an example of what I mean. One of the characteristics of claimed of our Creator by many theologians, especially from the Renaissance, is that He is immutable: He cannot change, He never changes. The reasoning is that if He did, either He wasn’t perfect enough before the change, and improved; or He was more perfect before the change, and degraded. The basis for this are verses where God claims not to change:

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Numbers 23:19 ESV

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Malachi 3:6 ESV

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17 ESV

So, with such an array of Scripture behind such a view, how can we think otherwise of our Creator and Savior? Unless, of course, we have other Scripture where our Savior did change. One of my favorites is below:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:5-7 ESV (Emphasis mine)

How does an “unchangeable” God empty Himself? And if He didn’t actually empty Himself, how then was Jesus fully man? If He was fully man as Jesus, was He fully man before? I don’t think Scripture teaches that. In fact, what seems to be taught here in Philippians is that this humanity of Jesus was a change.

In other words, while clearly there things about God that He refuses to change, His purpose for instance, there are things that, to achieve His purpose, He changes about Himself. He was of a mind to destroy Israel in the wilderness, but changed His mind. God “repents” of a decision. He even was sorry that He made man, then sorry that He wiped out humanity in a flood.

So, what’s the point? It isn’t about the “mutability” of my Savior. That’s a minor issue in the face of the real one. The point is the danger of idolatry when we persist in our belief that our Creator and Savior is somehow other than how He reveals Himself in Scripture. That’s a serious problem, one where we prioritize ourselves and our culture above our Creator and Savior. Yet, even for this sin, our Savior has patience, and calls for repentance.

Shift Your Paradigm For the Kingdom Is Near!

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB)

I’m ecstatic that I recently purchased a set of books, a 10 volume theological dictionary just of the New Testament.  And of course I want to pursue a current study trend of mine, repentance.  The dictionary begins with the difference between repentance and remorse.  But then spends page after page on repentance, both in the Old Testament and in the New.  I’m loving this.  But I’m also challenged by what I find.

Back in school I began the pursuit of a theory that all of Scripture was God helping His human creatures understand the definition of death.  I believed that He was doing this so we could choose between life and death.  Therefore, all of the Hebrew Scriptures would have this theme, and all of the Christian Scriptures would have this theme.  See, we do dumb stuff when we’re young, we all do.

My attempt at simplification of Scripture has fallen on deaf ears and hard times.  Much of Scripture simply refuses to conform to this theory.  Undeterred, I press on in my study of Scripture with this theory in the back of my mind.  I have found that life and death mean something different for God than they do for His human creatures.  We think of it in biological terms (brain activity, respiration, growth, etc.).  I believe God thinks of life and death in purely relational terms.  So for us it’s only accidentally biological.  The cessation of those biological functions signals the end of a set of relationships.

Anyway, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, I find that this theory encroaches on my other studies, like repentance.  In a sense, I’m beginning to see repentance as that process in our lives that reverses the decisions and repercussions made in the Garden of Eden.  Repentance is becoming for me the choosing of the other tree.

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is setting before the people a ceremony they are to conduct once they enter the land.  The people are to stand on two mountains, write the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy on stones, and shout across the valley to each other reciting them.  As Moses wraps up his instructions, he finishes with the words, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and the curse.”

In the typical Hebrew “parallel” literary construction, blessing = life and curse = death.  Not hard to understand at all.  But then we read further.  Life is further defined as 1) loving God, 2) obeying God, and 3) holding fast to God.  In other words, life is relational.  And specifically, life is relationship with God.  To be in relationship with God is being alive, and not being in relationship with God is being dead.  Which means many people are biologically alive, but actually dead.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds vaguely Christian to me (Ephesians 2:1-10).

So, the idea of repentance, this change of mind to agree with God, now becomes a reversal of that condition lost in the Garden.  In the process of “being transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2), we live.  The process is the choice of life, to love God, to obey Him, to holding fast to Him (faithfulness).  How do we choose?  In the choice of relationships, we choose our Master over everyone else.  In the choice of time we choose to spend it with Him.  In the choice of words, we choose to speak His words.

Our world view will become the world view of its Creator.  Our “paradigm” will shift to align with His “paradigm”.  It’s not adaptation, it’s realignment.  It’s a return to the directions and definitions of where we started.  Repentance is a return, but not a 180 turn in behavior.  Repentance is a return to the life we were intended to live, and that results in a change in behavior.  But it begins in the processes of the mind and the intent of the heart.  As Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, and therefore the cross, we are to set our faces toward His throne, and therefore His face.

That was a meandering romp through theological thought.  What’s your view through your knothole?  Life and death, your thoughts?

Revealing and Knowing, As Infants

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Luke 10:21-22 NASB)

As my wife can attest, I have long struggled with pride.  In general, I love what I think, and hold it in high esteem.  I know I’m not alone in this, but I also know my Master has worked long and hard to lift me out of this visionless attitude.  Over that last 20 years, I have learned so much from others, that the realization has dawned on me that my ideas are never entirely my own, and rarely complete.  It’s true, I synthesize the ideas of others, and the new thesis I end up with requires the theses of others to morph into yet another, better idea.

I’m learning that I’m dependent.  That’s very different from learning to become dependent.  I’m learning that this isn’t a choice where my Master is concerned.  I am dependent upon the insight and wisdom of others to learn about my Master.  Any time I try to avoid dependence, I succeed in failing to learn about my Master.  So, this blog is somewhat of a learning vehicle for me.  It succeeds to the extent others contribute.  So, the invitation is always open.

Fortunately for all involved, my Master sees fit to hide Himself to a degree from the “wise and intelligent” and reveals Himself to the infants.  I think the more complex, the further afield from the truth we get.  On the other hand, sometimes the complexities of the Creator of the universe are revealed, but again, often to “simple-folk”.

So in this passage, Jesus is overcome with joy in the Spirit to see the Father’s reversal.  He sees these simple men, devoted to Him without really “getting it”, misunderstanding who He is, and ignorant of what they are all walking into in Jerusalem.  He sees them rejoicing that they have experienced such power of God to do the miraculous.  They rejoiced to see the Kingdom of God coming through them.  And yet not one understood it.  In a sense Jesus is saying, “Oh, if you only knew.”

And then Jesus declares something we expect to read (and do read) after the resurrection, at His ascension.  Jesus declares His authority from the Father.  He declares this authority to be complete, but specifically in knowledge of the relationship between the Father and the Son.  I can’t help but trip up as I read.  I run through this and have to go back and read again.  Only the Father knows the Son.  Only the Father knows the Son.  And only the Son knows the Father, and those who whom the Son reveals Him.  In other words, the knowledge of the Son isn’t shared like the knowledge of the Father.

Immediately, someone will probably think that this is completely off because the Son is right there, so of course they know the Son.  But remember, they’re infants.  Jesus’ point is that they don’t get it.  We see that they really don’t understand who Jesus is, so no, they don’t know the Son.  Only the Father really knows the Son.  Jesus walks with these men in the knowledge that they do not know Him, even as He reveals the Father to them, they still don’t know the One revealing the Father.  It’s lonely in a sense.  It’s frustrating in another sense, yet here we see Jesus’ joy in it.  He doesn’t have the expectation that they know Him.  He holds no illusions about His followers, and isn’t disappointed with them.

So, I don’t have to know it all.  I must be faithful to seek my Master all my time here He gives me on this plane of existence.  But I will not truly know Him until I finally see Him face to face.  It’s okay, that’s not a failure on my part, it’s how He designed it to work.  It’s not a test, it’s how my Master creates community.  And I am learning that I must have community.  Only within community can I begin to explore the deep things of my Master.  For I am simple folk, and I cannot understand on my own what my Master has to teach.

So basically, when you read but don’t comment, you wound me!  Not really.  This isn’t the only avenue I have to explore my Master within community.  But to the degree that there is participation here, I grow and learn so much more than whatever drivel I pour into these entries.

Okay, rant over.  What’s your view through the knothole?

What Is Knothole Theology?

Imagine a bunch of kids watching a baseball game through the curved back fence.  Each one along the length of the fence looking through a knothole at the baseball action.  One can see a portion of the outfield, another two infielders, and the third can actually see home plate and the batter.  The batter hits a huge line drive deep into the outfield, and runs.  The third kid yells out, “It was a hard line drive!”  They hear the crowd on the other side of the fence go wild.  The middle one can see the two infielders anxiously looking back toward the outfield.  The runner passes through his view quickly.  He yells, “He rounded second!” And the first kid sees his outfielder grab the ball after a bounce and hurl it toward the infield.  The middle kid quickly shouts, “The second basemen got it, and threw it to home!”  And the third kid, yells out, “He’s safe! We win!”  They hear the crowd erupt on the other side of the fence and indistinct yelling.

How much could any one of the kids have really understood about what was going on without the other?  That’s the basis of Knothole Theology.  Without their view, the sound of the crowd would have told them something exciting was happening, but not what.  And their view may have shown them part of the action, but not enough to get a good sense of what was happening.  It isn’t without the view of all three that what was happening was understood.  And even three views from knotholes isn’t as good as being in the stadium.  There were a lot of details even they couldn’t see through the fence.

But what is Knothole Theology? Essentially it is a view of God through our ‘knotholes’ that gets better as everyone shares their view.  It is based on the conviction that God has not revealed Himself to any one person, but rather created a view of Himself that creates dependency on each other for clarity.

In more technical terms, it is a biblical ‘word about God’ dependent upon many perspectives. We all view God with the limited perspective as through a knothole in a fence. The view of God through the knothole is never complete, so we need the perspectives of others for a more complete understanding. Having said that, though, it is based on a few assumptions:

  1. The Bible is inspired by God
  2. The sixty-six books are the complete infallible inspired record
  3. God revealed what we need to know about Him through Scripture
  4. The purpose of God is to draw His human creatures into a relationship with Him
  5. The end result of this relationship is eternity in heaven worshiping Him

The purpose of Knothole Theology is really to gain a better understanding of what God reveals through Scripture.  In that sense it’s a biblical theology.  But in another sense it’s a theory of biblical interpretation, in that understanding is best with additional views.  It’s not an oversimplification to say that no one knows it all, but some views are better than others.  But this causes some problems; typically relational ones.

The purpose, with a focus on God, is easily lost when the participant are really more interested in the value of their view over everyone else’s view.  People can get offended that everyone didn’t consider them as important at they saw themselves, and so on.

Another problem with losing focus on God is when people desperately want a grand view, and they only have a knothole.  If their solution is make up what is lacking in their view with imagination, intuition, and deduction, they put themselves on dangerous ground.  There is some value in trying to see beyond the view this way, as long as what is seen is able to be clearly differentiated from what is surmised or imagined.  Sometimes being able to consider the views together, appreciate their gaps, and try to get a sense of what’s happening in the gaps is helpful.  But it must also be seen that way, not as a true view.  The reason for this is that the ‘views’ are, in a very real sense, given to us by God through His Spirit.

When Knothole Theology is practiced in small group Bible study, what is discovered is a much richer view of God, His character, His activity, and our relationship with Him.  This vivid view is capable of deepening our worship, our prayer life, and our daily activities.  It can be transformational.

So, this blog will be a beginning, limited view of a passage of Scripture.  What will make it great are the comments supplying missing views of the action of God.  The only ground rules really need to be that what we all be ‘at the same game’ (passage, or at least Scripture), and that we don’t lose focus on God.

Play Ball!