Friday, August 8, 2008

Sacred Space-Introductory Comments (again and expanded)

When I last left off my Sacred Space series (a whopping single post in), I said that I planned on tracking the Biblical concept Sacred Space as it develops through redemptive history, finally finding its fulfillment in the Shalomic state of the New Creation in Christ. I will follow the Biblical storyline from Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation with the recovery of Sacred Space as the over-arching theme of the Scripture. We will see that the “Kingdom of God (or Heaven)” and the “summing up of all things in Christ” are phrases or ideas that convey the same principle—the restoration of all things in perfect and intimate communion with or relation to God—and so they both speak to the issue of Sacred Space and its recovery in Christ.

The basic idea of Sacred Space is that of God’s “dwelling place”. This is most acutely evident in the physical Temple, the “house of the Lord”. The testimony of the Scripture is that God had placed His name in the Temple (as with the Tabernacle that foreshadowed it) and it is here, above the mercy seat between the wings of the cherubim that God met with His image-bearers, albeit through a “mediator” (which we’ll get to in due time). As the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Temple, the Shekinah glory of the presence of God filled the Temple to signify that God is dwelling with His people.

Of course, God is never confined to a single, particular location; the heavens themselves can’t contain Him. The earth is the Lord’s, and all that it contains; Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool. We can’t even conceive of a “house” big enough for God to dwell in, to rest in; so we know that the Temple idea is prophetic—it speaks of a greater reality to come. Through the Temple idea, God is telling us something about His purpose, about what He is going to accomplish. Sacred Space was only typologically fulfilled in the Temple—the Temple speaks of a greater reality to come so that when the physical Temple has served its purpose, it will not need to be rebuilt in the future.

But the Tabernacle/Temple itself was not only prophetic and typological, it spoke of and was to be fulfilled in Christ, but it also testified of a greater reality that was behind it. In other words, because the Temple was based on and proceeded forth from the mind of God, the Temple “idea” as the “dwelling place of God” where God and His people commune together, is the product of a reality that preceded its earthly expression. This reality is understood as the Cosmic manifestation of Sacred Space as seen in and typified by the Creation Account. It is this Cosmic reality of Sacred Space that has been recovered (or better, fulfilled) in Jesus Christ. The Temple, as God’s dwelling place (or “house”), speaks retroactively of the universal Sacred Space that was typified in the beginning, in the Garden, but it also speaks prophetically of a final consummation of Sacred Space in the person of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Sacred Space, as mentioned before, is not speaking of any particular geographical location; though in the course of redemptive history, particular typological manifestations of Sacred Space prophesied of its consummate fulfillment to come. Sacred Space, as God’s “dwelling place”, is sometimes referred to as Heaven. But “Heaven” is not a geographical location; and besides, as we already know, God is omnipresent—He’s everywhere all the time. Sacred Space is the realm in which God is present in relation to His creation. It’s not where God is, but it’s how God is with respect to His creation. It’s really the “place” of relationship, of intimacy between God and His creation, focused primarily in Man as “image-bearer”, but then flowing out from Man to the entire created order, which we see clearly in the creation account.

I’ve spent a little bit of time introducing the Temple motif because it will be a key element in our travel from Sacred Space lost to Sacred Space recovered in Christ. For what I consider to be the best exposition of the Temple and its meaning, I recommend G.K. Beale’s book, “The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God.” This is another quality addition to the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series edited by D.A Carson. Another great book, and my favorite in the series (so far, with Beale’s a close second) is, “Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible” by Stephen G. Dempster. Anyway, I highly recommend Beale’s book; it’s a fascinating read. Also, I found this blog post that does a fine job summarizing the idea of Sacred Space and “temple” as it pertains to the Ancient Near East as well as Israel using Beale’s book as a reference http://stephensreflection.blogspot.com/2007/12/sacred-space-in-bible-and-ancient-near.html. I recommend reading this post for some background on the Temple motif. The author of this post, following Beale and others, shows us that the concept of Sacred Space is not only Biblical, but that it is universally “human”. We all have an idea of “communion” with God, however we may define Him, and we understand that to know and to interact with “God” at some level, deity must dwell with us (or us with it). Humanity perceives its need: this is where I will begin next time.

9 comments:

jeleasure said...

Hey Jason,
I really like this idea of Sacred Space. I see what it refers to, now. At first, I thought you were referencing your blog as "Sacred Space". Kind of like a sacred place you go to to think and process.
But, yes, where God dwells is 'sacred'. So, I guess we are.

By the way, I believe I fixed the link problem. In my settings tab, there was an extra character in my address. I am perplexed as to why it did not affect anyone else, thogh.

Good talking with you. I'm going to add some more Maggie "B" to my music player.
Jim

thekingpin68 said...

The Temple, as God’s dwelling place (or “house”), speaks retroactively of the universal Sacred Space that was typified in the beginning, in the Garden, but it also speaks prophetically of a final consummation of Sacred Space in the person of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

God is sacred. Christ's work applied to believers allows persons to know God as a Father and friend.

I am still tired after 17 hours or so of computer work with three computers, including this new one.

Russ:)

Great Googly Moogly! said...

So far so good...the link is working!

Eventually this Sacred Space series will end up with God dwelling with His people by the Spirit through Christ, who is our "Immanuel" (God with us!). We are the temple of God by the presence of the Spirit given to us by Christ, and when Christ returns this "spiritual" Kingdom will be the consummated Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth--Sacred Space recovered (consummated)!

Bummer...now I guess I don't have to continue with the series :-)

Actually, I think the church at large doesn't understand...or at least "appreciate" the fulness of who Christ is and what He accomplished in His person and His work. This series, I hope, will shed some light on this.

I found a couple Margaret Becker CD's that I've forgotten about--they're still good after all these years!

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Yes...we now know God as Friend as well!

Thanks Russ, this is a relationship that we easily forget, or don't think about very often. As God the Father called Abraham "friend", so God the Son calls us who believe in Him, friends. As Sacred Space (God's dwelling place) speaks to "relationship" (God dwelling with His people), Friend is an aspect of this relationship that we would do well to remember and meditate on.

I'm tired after just a few hours of work on one computer! Right now I'm using a PC, but hopefully the boss (you know...Mrs. Moogly!) will let me have my MAC by years end. I'm no computer expert by any means, but I'm so looking forward to replacing this thing with something that I can actually enjoy working with :-)

jeleasure said...

Sorry Jason.
I didn't mean to skip to the end of the book.
I was just seeking confirmation that I knew what the project was about.
You are correct in your understanding of what the church can comprehend. I published my manuscript here at Love One Another on Blog Spot because I heard of a statistic that says, "Only six percent of all people who call themselves Christians truly understand the core message of the Bible" - American Family Association.

I too am concerned that the church does not have a healthy understanding on important, basic, foundational theology. I'd like to work together on promoting these two works. It is difficult enough to promote my project. If the subject arises, I will know where to send them to read about "Sacred Space".

Norgermish said...

Hello,
I am just wondering where you get your concepts from. It is quite interesting, this Sacred Space. Do you use anyone's teachings or just your own ideas in this blog?

Norgermish said...

Hey there,
Well I've been doing a search on the words Sacred Space and came across this blog. My church here in Monterey Ca., just had a visit from Pastor Culver. We are doing the Sacred Space study. Do you attend SGCC? To teach this study on a blog is quite a challenge. Hope it goes well. So many of us in the church really don't "get it!!!" It's rather scary if you really think about it. I am so glad that our Pastor has hooked up with Pastor Culver.
Take care,
Paul

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Norgermish,

Thanks for stopping by.

To answer your second comment first:

Yes, I attend SGCC. Actually, I’m one of the “worship leaders” (In fact, I’m on this Sunday and I’m still figuring out which hymns to sing!). My wife and I just returned from vacation and haven’t yet talked to Kit or Patty Cornish to see how their visit with you all went. We we’re excited to have them go and minister to you all.

Yes...the concept of “Sacred Space” can be a tough idea to get your arms around. We've been fortunate to have had a solid foundation laid (4 years of ministry) from which we embarked on this series. But I encourage you to faithfully stick with it. Once you begin to see how the Scripture speaks of God's ultimate purpose to "sum up all things in Christ" and how that the Scripture is the record of God working out this purpose, you'll notice more and more how unified the Scripture is around the Person and Work of Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Scripture and His coming to “Recover Sacred Space” is the ultimate purpose of God as the Scripture (properly understood) testifies. Once you all “get this”, the rest of the Scripture will seem to just “open up” with meaning as it testifies to Christ and the work that He came to do! Trust me on this! I also encourage you all to read Pastor Culver’s book. It’s a fairly easy read and is a great help to understanding how the Scripture speaks.

If you peruse my blog for any length of time at all, you’ll realize that I quit posting on this series almost as soon as I began. You are correct: “To teach this study on a blog is quite a challenge”. And I wasn’t up to it! :-) I really wanted to write about this because it is so important and really helps us to understand the fullness of what was accomplished with Christ's coming. My goal was to kind of track along with the material that we had just finished in our church services but to try to make it more "understandable" to those who didn't go to SGCC. However, as I continued to put my posts together I found myself sounding a lot like Pastor Culver anyway. So, I decided to not and try to re-invent the wheel, so-to-speak, and let people hear it and read it for themselves through the link to SGCC at SermonAudio. Besides, I really didn't want to spend the next year or more writing this series when all the notes and audio are already available straight from the horse's mouth! :-)

To answer your first comment: The idea of "Sacred Space" (as the concept of "The Dwelling Place of God") is not original with me (of course) or Pastor Culver; but the idea is not very common or well-published in “mainstream” Christianity. The idea of Sacred Space is not unique to the Bible or "biblical times" and it simply speaks to the issue of God’s purpose for Creation—to dwell intimately with His “image-bearers”. Documents from the ANE also speak of this idea as the "realms of the gods" and such.

G.K. Beale is my biggest influence (except for Pastor Culver, of course) in my understanding of Sacred Space. His book, "The Temple and Church's Mission" is foundational for an understanding of this concept. He shows us how the "Temple" reality (as well as the “Edenic” reality) typifies the consummate reality of Sacred Space as the Dwelling Place of God in the New Creation. The reality of Sacred Space as the Dwelling Place of God is fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ as the Immanuel who “crushes the serpents head”. God now (and once again) dwells with His people through the indwelling Spirit; He will ( and once again) dwell with His people “face to face”, so-to-speak, when Christ returns and the fullness of the New Creation is present in all its Shalomic glory in the everlasting Shabbat of God’s rest! Amen! (Sorry, the preacher in me seems to always rear its head)

Also, if you noticed, I linked somewhere in this post or the maybe the first one with a "blog" that goes into more detail with ANE and Beale's interaction. Here it is again: http://stephensreflection.blogspot.com/2007/12/sacred-space-in-bible-and-ancient-near.html. I didn't want spend a great deal of time "introducing" the idea and I thought Stephen did a nice job with it.

My "ideas" aren't necessarily original with me (as I said, Beale and Culver, as far as "Sacred Space" are very influential), but I tried to bring my own understanding to it and in more "accessible" language to us "laypeople". :-)

The Gospel is more than simply that Jesus died for our sins; the Gospel is the Good News that in Christ God has reconciled His creation (all of it) back to Himself. Estrangement is gone and God once again dwells with His people through the Recovery of Sacred Space in the Person and Work of Christ.

Thanks again for your interest. I hope you come back and read some more of my material. If you have any questions about anything you see on shalomistheword.blogspot.com, please feel free to “comment” and I’ll try to explain myself further. I enjoy the interaction and mutual blessing of “blogging” either here or on other people’s sites. Don’t be a stranger! :-)

In Christ,

Jason

Norgermish said...

Hi Jason,
Thanks for the reply. You must be the Jason I that Pastor Culver mentions on the mp3 files. Nice to meet you.:)

I understand the desire to get a message as full as this is out to people. I also understand that it just seems to land on deaf ears all too often. I have been attentively seeking the word, searching for something that seemed to be missing in the churches I have attended. When Becky, Patty's daughter, began talking about Kit a few months back at the bible study we have at our church office, I began searching and found his teaching on the Sermon On The Mount. Sometimes all too quickly, but not reluctantly, my eyes and ears started opening to the bible, the words of Christ, the Scripture. I can, understand the foundations that Pastor Culver is building on. I have heard nothing that sends up red flags, and really appreciate his willingness to teach the things he teaches. I know that it is not without some difficulty/adversity from the church. As I told my Pastor a while back, when the true gospel is taught at churches today in America, it seems the congregations get smaller. What were the words of our Lord?..."He who has ears to hear let him hear."
Our church is small, around 30-40 people. My thought is, I would rather attend a congregation of believers that are small in number but seeking truth, than a church of 10,000 that have no real understanding or for that matter direction. If the sign of a strong congregat ion is in it's numbers then I would have to assume that Jesus' ministry was a complete failure by todays standards. I praise God for the family that we are apart of Jason, I hope to someday meet you as well. One of my daughters wants to go to the Co. Springs and attend a prayer intensive at New Life Church soon. My oldest daughter did it a year and a half ago. Maybe if it works out, and I drive her there I can swing up by way of SGCC and say HI!! :))
By the way, I also am apart of the worship team here in Monterey.
In His Embrace,
Paul Lehman