Cropping the Gospel
We humans have the handicap of being finite. There is zero possibility that we will ever be able to fathom the vastness of God. We have clues to his character and we have an indwelling of his Spirit, but we can never know in full, only in part. We can never see the full picture and thus we rely on the Bible, our faith and the Holy Spirit to help us along and serve as placeholders until that day when we will understand. Until then all we have is a cropped photograph.
The Cropped Photograph
The idea of cropping a photograph should come as boring monotony to most of you, especially those who dwell in Instaland. Cropping a photo is meant to accentuate the best parts, draw the eye to the inherent beauty with in. The documentarian Ken Burns has made a living by using an animated cropping style to make pictures come alive. The technique is built into the most basic of photo editors. We all have the ability to make people look at what we deem as worthy to see.
The issue with the cropped photograph is the details that are lost in the deleted context. Recently ESPN has been publishing a "Things you missed" series of videos that point to the details that our eyes don't see because we are focused on the pertinent action of the sporting event. Why are these videos so fascinating. Aren't we all mainly interested in the main thing? The context provides a depth of meaning to the main thing. Most of the time we simply crop it out.
Cropping the Gospel
In a very generic way, theological systems are simply ways of cropping the gospel to make it easier to absorb and understand. Systematic theology, reformed theology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, and the others are ways of cropping the gospel to help us finite humans grasp as much as we can of the fullness of God's revealed knowledge. Indeed, these croppings are good. Without them our studies become undisciplined and we can fall into the trap of making the Bible say whatever we prefer it to say in the way that we prefer to receive it. But sometimes cropping the gospel makes us miss the big picture.
The "difference" between the God of the Old and New Testaments are, in my opinion, a result of our deft ability at cropping the Gospel. When you read of the loving Father that Jesus talks about in the New Testament it is hard to understand that he is talking about the same Father who destroys the populous with a flood. That does not seem loving. But when we take those two points and crop out the rest of the Scripture we have done ourselves a disservice. Our conclusions are wrong because our gospel is too narrowly cropped. Our wrong conclusions dramatically reduce the glorious wonder of the Scripture.
I know I'm using an archaic photography term, because we rarely "develop" film anymore, but the old motif should bring us to remember that our Christian journey is one that Jesus fully develops. One of the tools that we have in our development is the Word of God - the Bible. Sadly, we treat our faith like we treat old rolls of film. We drop it off at Church, let the Pastor due the processing and we pick it up one hour later. How incredibly sad and lazy! Convenience in photo processing is great but how horrible it is when it comes to our faith - that we claim to live our entire lives by! We do no work, no study, and expect God himself to stoop over and bend to our thoughts and feelings. No good. No good. You study for your career, but you neglect your eternity!
Don't settle for a cropped gospel. Jesus died to fulfill the law - not crop it until it was useless. Read the Bible and seek the whole counsel of God. Doing so is to the fulfillment of your most precious faith.