Awhile back, I posted some thoughts of mine related to God’s empathy. In case you missed it, or don’t want to scroll down now and retrieve it, I simply tried therein to make the case for God’s empathy being the fullest expression of God’s love. I expressed my own faith that God in Jesus Christ gets who I am and what it’s like for me to live inside this human body from cradle to grave. God feels my feelings. God understands, and forgives, my misunderstandings and sins. That basically informs my statement of faith.
What then goes unanswered is whether or not I have any faith in God’s grace. And then raises the question: what is God’s grace? What is God’s unmerited favor?
Happened to read through Romans 4 this morning during my private meditation time. This is a piece from the Bible’s New Testament where many Christians today still base their own statement of faith. Romans 4 and the chapters that surround it inform Paul’s statement of faith, from which we have largely borrowed throughout the centuries of Christian religion. In summary, it goes like this: God’s grace is what is given us in exchange for our faith that God is now over His otherwise justified and endless wrath thanks to Jesus’s blood and tortured death on the cross. And, if you don’t believe Paul, just ask Abraham.
Paul uses Abraham, in Romans 4, as Exhibit A in arguing his case for God’s grace. Abraham is the foundational base for understanding God’s forgiveness of sinners, Jews and Gentiles alike. So let’s consider Abraham for a bit. In fact, a bit more than what Paul himself is apparently willing or even able to do.
First, though, Paul himself was born Saul to a rather prominent Jewish Pharisee living in the Grecian town of Tarsus, making him a Roman citizen. By all appearance, Saul was sent away to Jerusalem for his formal education under the tutelage of Gamaliel. Not bad. Compare this today to Harvard Law School here in the States. However, what was lacking in the curriculum was any course in what today we might call Cultural Anthropology, or Ancient History, or Biblical Archeology. Therefore, here’s something Saul did not learn from Gamaliel, so Paul could not know.
Abraham was born Abram in the land of Ur, located in ancient Mesopotamia. The word “Chaldeans” was a neo-Babylonian term used to describe and situate Ur, but the basic culture of Ur was Mesopotamian. There, a religion was practiced that used animal blood sacrifice and death as the means of appeasing the angry gods. Want salvation from the wrath of the gods? Kill a treasured child or make other animal sacrifice as an offering to the gods. This we now can understand from Archeologists who have unearthed from that region several ancient altars used, per Anthropologists, for rituals aimed at satisfying the wrath of the angry gods.
Per Paul’s own understanding at the feet of Professor Gamaliel in Jerusalem, Abram came to have faith in a single God in the heavens who was maker of all the earth. He came by faith to follow what he understood to be God’s inner compass in his own mind, directing him to leave Ur and settle in the land of Canaan to the south. There, Abram trusted in God’s grace to mean that God’s wrath would be appeased so long as somebody’s blood was poured out at the altar of sacrifice. That’s the grace Abraham trusted in. That’s the grace Paul also trusts in as he writes his epistle to the Romans. Paul’s Abraham-inspired (Romans 4) statement of faith is that we are saved from God’s endless wrath by trusting that Christ’s blood poured out upon the cross of sacrifice was finally appeased. God no longer hates us enough to want to punish us with torture we all deserve for our human error. What we must all now do is have faith in that same God’s grace since Jesus was slain for our iniquity.
Are you following me here? Grace, as defined by Paul (since Jesus himself never spoke of it even once), was what God gives us in way of love and forgiveness in exchange for some scapegoat’s bloody torture and death upon an altar (cross of crucifixion). Such grace is what we must have faith in if we are to appease God’s justified wrath and punishment. It follows from Abram who became Abraham upon his penile blood-letting in the act of circumcision, but who was then by faith willing to kill his own son as a blood offering to this angry God. Centuries later, it follows from Moses who required the animal blood smeared upon the door way as sufficient payment for God’s Passover grace in Egypt. Kill some animate object and offer up its blood on the appropriate makeshift altar, and God will only then provide grace. The purpose of this grace is then to save us from God’s wrathful punishment. Thanks to the blood of Christ while tortured to death on the cross, we are saved by our faith in God’s grace!
Time out! Have to go and puke now!
Do you get why I’m questioning the actual meaning of grace? Can you fathom why I’m re-thinking this whole “saved by grace” doctrine in Christian religion? If so, I’ll have made myself clear that I have no faith at all in ancient Mesopotamian religion handed down through Abraham to Moses to Paul (skipped by Jesus himself who never mentioned a word about this form of faith) to the church fathers and on down through the generations.
Hopefully, you now can understand my question about God’s grace. Stay tuned tomorrow for what my faith supplies as an answer to that question.