Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"WORLD" iN JOHN [seeking a robust johannine biblical cosmology]

What in the heck does the Apostle John mean when he uses the word "world"? Obviously, we can't pour our understanding of that word into his. Here's the classic example.
This is the way God loved the world - He gave His only unique Son that whoever is believing in Him will not perish, but have life unto the ages. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him [3.16-17].
Now, all the Arminians and Calvinists can be up in arms about their abiblical categories that they bring to the text. Did Jesu
s die for everybody or just the elect? Please fight about that on your own time and terms. The question here is not immediately doctrinal. The question is a question of intentionality. What does John mean by "world"? Here's another good one:
My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil [7.6-7].
This seems like a different "world" than 3.16-17. Other good examples of this apparent contradiction include 4.42, 8.12, 9.39, 16.33, and 17.9-11. Is Jesus just inconsistent in how He talks? Is John inconsistent in how
he writes? What's the deal Johnny?

The deal is that this is one of John's favorite words. He uses it 78x in his gospel account. The first 4 uses come in John 1.9-10. Here, there are at least 2, probably 3 or 4, definitions of world within one breath:
There was the true Light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
With this verse, John implies that there is one world that corresponds with being enlightened; one that is social and inhabited; one that is created; and one that does not know the true Light. So, where does the saved and believing "world" of 3.16-17 fit? Where does the "world" that Jesus doesn't pray for in 17.9 fit in this?

What I want to suggest by not giving precise answers is that when we do read the Bible [which is shocking enough in itself], we read with millions of presuppositions flogging the back of the text. Because we are derived and sinful beings, they aren't going to all go away. But we must, at a bare minimum, acknowledge our presuppositions and come to the word of God on its terms and not ours.
He has stooped to reveal Himself in time, so we must humble ourselves as we seek to grasp what He has revealed. It is not an academic exercise and it is not spiritually effortless, but it is a rewarding pursuit.

Please help us, Holy Spirit.


Bible Ninja said...

"...we read with millions of presuppositions flogging the back of the text."

Awesome word picture.

However I'm pissed I read the whole thing w/out getting an answer ;)

jim thompson said...