Bible Background

"The Really Good News About God" is a popular edition paperback that presents a lay-person's introduction to Christian Universalism, rather than a theological or philosophical argument for that position.

This page discusses some of the thinking behind the views presented in the Introduction and Appendix and also addresses several genuine questions that are often raised when topics such as these are debated.

Hopefully, this will put some meat on the bones in those sections of the book and stimulate healthy, respectful discussion by those who choose to dig a bit deeper.
For those who wish to dig a lot deeper, other books and websites are listed in the Recommended References link towards the bottom of the Topic Menu on the left.

Introduction

The Bible is an incredible book.
Indeed it is a collection of many books which include historical records of events, stories, poems, conversations and correspondence between prominent people of God over hundreds of years.

Some people call the Bible the Word of God, others maintain that it contains the Word of God, and many claim to experience Jesus Christ, the Word of God, speaks to them as they read it and meditate upon it.
Whichever of these you lean to, the bottom line is ... the Bible is a God-inspired Book through which God speaks to its readers of all generations.

The Bible is the most extensive source of information about God, his character, his plans and the ways he uses to achieve them.
In particular, it tells us who we are, why we are here, what our future will be and reveals God's plan for saving mankind and our planet.

Regardless of any of the challenges I might mention in the sections below, the Bible contains the greatest story ever told and is a "must read" for anyone searching for meaning and purpose in their life.
It is the foundational book for the Christian faith.

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Origins

How Thick Is Your Bible ?

Over the years, I've spent many hours trying to build a belief system and a worldview that is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
The Bible is the standard, so whenever I discover a conflict between my thinking and the Bible, I question my thinking.
For me, the Bible teaches truth, so any discrepancy is on my side and needs to be remedied.

I am currently worshipping in a church where most people don't seem to hold the Scriptures in as high a regard as I am used to.
Even though readings from all parts of the Bible are listed in our lectionary for each week of the year, the Gospels are the books given the most attention.
And recently I attended a small home group that even pruned the Gospel of John from this list as well, leaving them with a very thin volume comprising just the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

These lovely people, whose fellowship, hearts and Christ-like ministry I am enjoying and applauding, have their reasons for relegating the other books of the Bible to "our ancient sacred texts".
I won't go into those reasons here, but I will mention the reason for the home group eliminating the Gospel of John.

This Gospel quotes Jesus saying that He is the way, the truth and the life, and that no-one can come to the Father except through Him.
Considering that many in this group believe that all will get to God no matter what route they take or what religion they belong to, John's Gospel is considered to be restrictive, exclusive, and in conflict with their universal belief.
So, the offending Gospel has to go.

Being a Christian Universalist and having a high regard for Scripture, I don't see the conflict.
Jesus IS the way. Absolutely true, as John proclaims.
God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ and is no longer counting anyone's sins against them. [ 2 Cor 5 : 19 ]
So no-one could possibly come to the Father without Jesus having done that.
Jesus is the only way we get to the Father.
And absolutely everyone will get there because Jesus has dealt with the sins of the whole world [ 1 John 2 : 2 ] and will eventually draw everyone to himself [ John 12 : 32 ].

So no matter who you are, where you live, or what religion or political party or football team you follow, Jesus has determined your eternal future.
No need to throw out John - or Paul, or anyone else for that matter.
We can keep the whole Bible and still guarantee everyone will get to God eventually.

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Translations

Nouns and their Adjectives.

Some nouns have an adjectival form that is used as a descriptor or expresses a quality of another noun.
For example, the noun 'day' has an adjectival form 'daily'.
It may be used like this: "The takings of a business during the day (noun) are described as the daily (adjective) takings."

In English, many time-related nouns have their single-word adjectival forms, although some do not and we must resort to using an adjectival phrase to express such an idea.
Let's consider a few.

minute ??? heart beats during the minute or per minute
hour hourly hourly weather report
day daily daily takings
week weekly weekly wage
month monthly monthly rainfall
year yearly yearly average
decade ??? earthquakes during the decade or per decade
century ??? event of the century
age ??? life of the age, life during the age
eon eonian eonian life

The Bible talks frequently about 'ages' or 'eons', in both noun and adjectival forms, but we would hardly think so because of poor translations of the underlying Greek works into English in most of our Bibles.

Because 'age' and 'eon' are very similar translations of 'aion', and because 'eon' has a simpler English adjectival form than 'age', I will use the term 'eon' to describe the long, undefined segments of time mentioned in the New Testament.
This choice is also useful because the adjectival form of 'aion' in the Greek is 'aionion' which looks very similar to 'eonian' and will be easier to remember.

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Audience Relevance

The Called and The Chosen

Two interesting verses demonstrate how important it is to consider audience relevance when reading our Bibles and drawing conclusions and making applications from it.

Consider these ...

Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen."
[ Matthew 22 : 14 NKJV ]
Paul said, " ... those he predestined (chose), he also called; ...
[ Romans 8 : 30 NIV ]

Notice the reverse order: "called then chosen" in the first .. versus .. "predestined (chosen) then called" in the second.
Why the difference, and is the difference important?

Jesus was addressing Israel's leaders and forecasting that from all those who belonged to this specially called-out nation only a few would be chosen.
Chosen for what?
Israel had been called to live under God's provision and direction, demonstrate that life and its value to the rest of the world, and was destined to reign with God in the future kingdom.

However, only a few of them were chosen by God to receive the faith necessary to believe in Jesus, their Messiah, and the message of forgiveness and reconciliation that he brought.
Sadly, only a relatively few of Israel will live during the coming age, and reign with Christ in his kingdom.
"Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it," Jesus told them.
[ Matthew 7 : 14 NIV ]

Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles.
His message was to an audience that had not been seriously considered to have any part in God's reign.
However, God's plan right from the start was to choose others, from the Gentile nations, to add to the faithful few from Israel to create the Body of Christ that would reign with Christ during that coming age.

The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
[ Ephesians 3 : 6 NIV ]

As a result, those who would rule with Christ in the kingdom age had already been chosen by God before they were even born, and will be called during their lifetime on this planet.
These are the early believers, which we mention from time to time.
These previously chosen (predestined) will be called, and will be trained by the indwelling Holy Spirit for their co-ruler role in the future age.

But Paul's message of "chosen then called" has an even wider, more general application.
From before the foundation of the world, we were all chosen to live in fellowship with God eventually.

Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children—this was his pleasure and purpose.
[ Ephesians 1 : 4, 5 GNB ]

In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.
[ Ephesians 1 : 9, 10 GNB ]

The whole creation has been chosen for eternity, so we will all be called eventually - some as early believers by faith and some as later believers by sight.

God's amazing plan, decided at the beginning, hinted at by the prophets, mentioned by Jesus, and fully described by Paul, should be celebrated from the rooftops by churches across the world.
What a different view and appreciation of God that would produce !

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Other Reading Tips (still to come)

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Frequently Asked Questions (still to come)

This section contains the questions I have most frequently been asked on the broad topic of Bible Background, and my usual answers to these.

As you read, please remember that some questions may not have precise answers. There are so many things we creatures do not know about our Creator and how he operates, even though we often have many clues in the Scriptures.

However, if you have some better answers than I have presented here, please offer them through the last item, Ask Your Question, on the Topics menu on the left. I will really appreciate being able to add to my understanding through your input.

You can also ask a question of your own by selecting the same item, Ask Your Question, on the left. If your question gets asked frequently enough, your question and my answer will be added to this page.

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