Definition, Theorem, Proof
by Paul Hazelden


Introduction

We know that God is a Mathematician. But I suspect that we don't always appreciate, as fully as we might, just what this means.

In the days when I studied mathematics - pure mathematics, of course! - lesson after lesson consisted of a very simple format: definition, theorem, proof. Firstly, a term would be defined. Secondly, the defined term would be used to state a theorem. And thirdly, the theorem would be proved. In applied mathematics, I assume the proved theorem would then be used in some practical way.

It recently occurred to me that this is essentially what God has provided us with in the Bible

  Definition

If God wants to communicate with us, He needs a language. If we are to understand His actions, He must speak to us in a language we understand - a human language. But all languages have their strengths and weaknesses, and we cannot assume that everything He needs to say will be clearly expressable in any given language.

A language requires a community, and a language that can be shaped over the centuries requires community with boundaries: a nation. We may not understand why He chose the Jews, but it makes sense that He chose a nation like them - large enough to have a degree of stability and national continuity, but small enough to have a large measure of cultural uniformity.

In the history of the Jewish people, we learn about God's love and about God's holiness. In simple terms, His love is seen in His saving acts, and His holiness is seen in the law - but if you look carefully, it is easy to see His holiness shining through His saving acts, and His love shining through the law.

In the Old Testament, we understand God's love and holiness in limited ways, through spedcific people and situations. We understand His love because He showed it to this person in this way - over and over again, to many different people, inmany different ways. We understand His holiness through His reaction to sin, and through rituals and customs that separated holy objects, people, places and times from common objects, people, places and times.

  Theorem

We can express the theorem in many ways. It is expressed in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and demonstrated by His life, as recorded in the four Gospels.

We can put it this way: God is good. Really good. He is good to us in the way he relates to us: He loves us, and wants us to be His family. Also, He is good in a moral sense: holy and righteous, hating everything that harms the people He loves, and mars the beauty He created.

This is essentially what Jesus is talking about when He says that the best way to understand God is as our Divine Father.

It is what John is talking about when he describes Jesus as being 'full of grace and truth' - grace means He wants the best for us; truth means He wants what is right. Jesus reveals the Father, shows us what the Father is like.

The holiness and love we met in the Old Testament is now revealed in its fulness: now we understand the language, He can speak to us clearly. Yes, God loves, but He loves not some people, but everyone. Yes, God wants holiness, but this holiness can extend to all people, in all places at all times.

  Proof

The proof, of course, is the resurrection.

We know that God was with Jesus because of the things He said and did. But we also know that God has been with and answered the prayers of some very dubious characters over the years.

Jesus claimed a unique relationship with God, and a unique status concerning our salvation. These unique claims had to be confirmed by God in a unique way. The cross was a public and absolutely certain death, which led to a unique seal of approval on Jesus' life and ministry when He was raised from the dead.

The cross and resurrection say many things, but at the very least, they say that God has confirmed in the most public way possible that He was behind every aspect of Jesus' ministry and teaching.

  Application

We see the application being worked out in the lives of the early Christians: in the Acts of the Apostles, in the letters of Paul and other leaders in the early Church, and in the Revelation of Saint John.

In the Old Testament, only a few people were special, chosen to be used by God; now, all God's people are Priests and Saints, all God's people are set apart for His use, and equipped for His Divine purpose.

In the Old Testament, only a few places were holy: you had to go to the Temple or some other special place in order to do business with God; now, He is present in His people, wherever they meet. In the Old Testament, some days were holy; now, every day is special, and His people meet daily, experiencing His presence in the ordinary things of life, not just in the special, set-aside things.

The whole of the New Testament, following Pentecost, is about God's new people discovering the amazing truth of God's love and holiness being offered to all, and being lived out in a way that transforms ordinary life, and makes the most ordinary of events, such as a simple meal of bread and wine, an opportunity to encounter again this God of love and holiness.

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Copyright © 2007 Paul Hazelden
 
http://hazelden.org.uk/pt05/art_pt204_definition.htm was last updated 26 January 2007
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