Sunday, June 3, 2012


At church this morning, the pastor read to us from Eugene Petersen's rendition of Romans 8 in The Message.  You can read it here.  The following passage especially stood out to me:

"The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us."

I appreciated the statement that the law was a Band-Aid on sin rather than a healing of it.  I realize that I'm looking at the Torah here from a Christian perspective, but the law does appear to me to be a way to help the Israelites to adapt to the reality of sin: to offer certain sacrifices on account of sin, to establish penalties that punish sins, etc.  But does that cure sin?  Not really.  It seeks to atone for sins temporarily or to restrain them, but that's not a deep cure.

I guess where I struggle is that I'm doubtful that Christianity is much better.  The way New Covenant advocates talk, we don't have to redouble our efforts, for the Holy Spirit within Christians makes obedience to God a whole lot easier, or more natural to them.  Maybe that's true for a lot of Christians, but it's far from true for all of them.  Why else do Christians blab on about how they're not perfect, but forgiven? 

Moreover, I can ask God for help on a daily basis to, say, help me to keep my resentment in check, or my shortness of temper in check, and God seems to do so (according to my experience and my interpretation of it, for what that's worth).  But I hardly feel "cured".  "But that's because you don't believe, James", one can say.  Well, even in times when I did believe, I didn't feel "cured".


  1. Well, in a word, one might pursue what the Psalmist calls completeness (e.g. Ps 26 recollecting Ps 1. Also it is God who forgives (Ps 103) - but what is that faith that 'makes you whole'? I think it has to do with this walk - a very Torah thing, halakah. Law is a horrible translation.

  2. One more thing - Psalm 6 was the psalm that has the longest staying power for me. It is admittedly penitential. We are reminded of it in Psalm 38. I had been really in a stupid space - it can happen anytime - and this psalm let me know how I felt. I could say I have deserved to be abandoned but even in this self-understood exile, I was not. That is healing Psalm 6:3
    חָנֵּנִי יְהוָה
    כִּי אֻמְלַל אָנִי
    רְפָאֵנִי יְהוָה
    כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ עֲצָמָי
    I am sure you can figure this out.

  3. Actually, I'll have to look some of the words up!

  4. There is the clause in Eugene Petersen's stuff "even though you still experience all the limitations of sin". So, this is not stuff by someone who goes for the idea of total victory, or total cure in ordinary life. Nevertheless, the stuff is rather boring common preacherly stuff that actually doesn't tell anyone anything useful about living the Christian life.

    Bob MacDonald's stuff is too brief for me to pick up what he's saying.

  5. Bob has a few blogs you can read if you're interested in more context! :D

    I think he and I had a similar discussion a while back here on the role of the Torah (teaching) in Christian growth, but I don't recall under what post that was. I can probably find out, though, since I think it was a post on nomos and Torah.

  6. Hi Davey - sorry for being so terse. Healing, in my opinion, comes through the glory of Torah just as it comes through the Gospel, by us each 'walking' with God. But though in some ways everything is different, also in some ways everything is the same.

    I will give you a brief story. I have three sons, three races, two with severe brain damage, one of these Islamic background, one First Nations, the third a musician but not a religious person. This third gave me two words from God over the past month and another that I am still thinking about.
    1. he taught the First Nations boy a music lesson (we were at a psychiatric institute where he is confined.) The boy was moved by the music and technique he was taught. My son the teacher showed the blessing of Psalm 41:1 without knowing it at all. Happy the one who gives insight to the weak.
    2. A few days ago, this same teacher was speaking out loud sounding angry but in reality mocking my anger. I had been spitting nails at some programmers while operating a phone with clumsy fingers. (The programmers were of course not present in the room. They were those imaginary programmers that created the software I was using. My tongue was angry at the phone!) This son of mine corrected his father and showed him what he sounded like when he was angry. He knew the same anger. And I knew that I was not walking in completeness as Psalm 26 commands but rather my tongue was getting the better of me.

    I am the so-called believer and my son was the word of God for me twice.

    The third area is unity within the family. It goes much deeper that the superficial statement of who is in some belief system or not. I have always known this because as Torah tells us (and Paul too, Romans 3:29), God is one. But I don't always think that way on the surface.

    You may notice that I have made no appeal to Jesus yet I have come to God through Jesus by his death. But this same God instructed me to read the psalms and this after 60 years I have done.

    Re healing - I think, in faith, that what we must do is be present to each other in each moment as we are called, whatever health situation we think we are in and whoever is in the room. This unity goes a long way into the rage that is in us (read Jonah for rage!).

    I hope this helps.

  7. I read last week your translation of Psalm 41:1. I liked the translation about giving insight to the weak.

  8. Thanks, Bob, I appreciate the care you've shown in your reply. However, I think the Torah is not in itself a good guide to conduct, there is a lot in there displaying strange notions of things. Over the centuries mankind has come up with more refined notions of conduct (of course, mankind doesn't for all that behave very well!).

  9. Davey - I have just arrived at a holiday location in Uclulet BC - so briefly. Yes 'the Torah' is one thing - but 'Torah', the teaching of God the Spirit through the Anointed and the Anointing that is through our Lord Jesus is another. I am not into slavish interpretation of a written code. Equally, I cannot discount the role of the history of Israel and the poetry of Israel for our teaching - but never without the Teacher, who is One, and who is Spirit, and who is light, etc


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