"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Transparent Car | Main | Images of the Savior (2 – The Salvation of Rahab) »

    Human Dignity

    03zondervanencyclopedia.jpgThe following is an excerpt from The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (5-Volume Set) Merrill C. Tenney & Moisés Silva (Editors), Volume 2, pg 422.

    The Sinaitic Covenant, with the Decalogue as its focal point, represents one body of literature in the OT where the dignity of the human being is a major concern. The Decalogue itself can be seen as a document which addresses the more fundamental relationships of human life. It deals with the sanctity of God as well as with the sanctity of life, matrimony, family, property, and truth. In this regard, Hebrew Bible scholarship has recognized for some time that in order to adequately understand the demands of the Decalogue it is necessary to do so in the context of creational theology (Gen 1-2). The God who expresses his will through these ethical demands is the same God who created the human beings of whom he expects said ethical conduct…As such, these ethical demands, though expressed in another place and at another time, transcend time and place and are applicable to all human beings on planet earth.

    As one considers these ethical demands one must not fail to recognize the background that is present in the Hebrew Bible. When Yahweh establishes his covenant with the people of Israel he is being faithful to the promises made to Abraham in the past (Gen. 12:1-3). These promises were about creating a people that would possess a land. Therefore the background to the establishing of the ethical code is the action of Yahweh on behalf of this nation. The action was one of liberating the people from slavery in Egypt, of making it possible for the slaves to become a people with rights to a land, and by extension to live in freedom. The God of the ethical demands is the God of freedom from oppression. He is also the God who frees as people from the land of oppression, accompanies the people on the road, and leads them to a better land. As mentioned above, this is the context that cannot be ignored when considering the ethical demands of the God revealed in the OT.

    Once the people are liberated, they need norms and regulations in order to learn to live in harmony with each other in accordance with the COVENANT established by God with them. Therefore this historical reference to the liberation from oppression in Egypt is critical. The God who liberates, who redeems his people, now gives them ethical guidance so that they may continue to live as a free people. In other words, the underlying motive is to restore their human dignity, their freedom, and to help them avoid falling into slavery again. In this sense, one can suggest that ethics in Israel originates in the gift of liberation. Israel must learn to obey the law (law understood in a wider holistic sense) not in order to be saved, but precisely because it has been saved. If you will, obedience to the commandments in the Deuteronomic sense is the only adequate response befitting the liberated people. That is why it is so important to remember the introduction to the Decalogue. If one decontextualizes the Decalogue from its context of liberation, one violates the very essence of the ethical demands made by a liberating God who affirms human dignity. At the same time, the people who are liberated from oppressive slavery in Egypt are invited by way of the covenant to a new and freeing bondage [as willing bondservants] characterized by a relationship with God and with each other.

    The Decalogue, as the source for understanding the ethical demands in the Hebrew Bible, points toward the way of freedom and redemption. Its purpose is firmly rooted in God’s desire to preserve a redeemed community. The commandments are given after the liberation from Egypt and they point the way toward a life of freedom within the context of a covenant relationship with God. That relationship with God and with each other is possible when human dignity is restored to its creational intent, and OT ethics has everything to do with this restoration.

    - E. Voth

    The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (5-Volume Set) Merrill C. Tenney & Moisés Silva (Editors), Volume 2, pg 422.

    Posted by John on April 27, 2010 01:47 PM

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