I’ve been resisting my inspiration to teach the book of Hebrews. My hesitation has nothing to do with the content, but more about the effect such content has on my audience. I love more than anything to teach the scripture and it’s an area of passion which I do not have to cajole, manipulate, or artificially stimulate. It’s always been there since I was child. Even today, I wake early in the morning and cannot wait to open the sacred text. I’m a weirdo in today’s world. My reluctance to do this is that I know most readers and listeners have little appetite for depth and as this study goes on, most will unplug and miss this amazing book.
So this study is for you…those who have already given the forty seconds to read this introduction. If you will walk with me, I will reflect the light (as much as I humanly can) which comes from this book. If you hear the word or message within it, your religion will be examined and shown to be deficient. Your belief, if it is misplaced, will be exposed and worthless. In the place of religion and belief, the anonymous author gives us something which is so relevant to the people of today. He points us to a FAITH which has been shared by people of all timeframes, religions, and those without religions.
The book of Hebrews was written to the dominant religion of the time in an effort to deconstruct it and ultimately subvert its powerful grip on life and culture. If it were written to the US in modern times, it would be called “A Letter to Christianity.” If it were written in the middle East it would be called “A Letter to Islam.” If it were written to the East it would be: “A letter to Hinduism or Buddhism.” Our world needs this message now more than ever. The message or “Rema” within this letter is the original “SPIRITUAL but NOT RELIGIOUS” trajectory and hope for the world. As you read through this, please don’t confuse the teachings about Christ Jesus to be synonymous with the promulgation of the Christian religion. These are not equivocal and one does not necessarily lead to another. This book is not an invitation to convert to Christianity, it is the story of how the cosmic work of the Christ has been working through all people of all times through a common faith apart from and through all religions.
If you are a person who doesn’t have much appetite for religious stuff, or if you are a religious person who is tribally certain that your religion is the only valid one, then you will likely be the first to drop off in this study. As you’ll see in the opening paragraph, the writer of Hebrews (some scholars think it to be Paul) establishes what is a necessary presupposition for this work. In a child’s mind, the world is confusing because he or she thinks in concrete frames and thus he or she misses the nuance of how one thing can represent another thing. This book functions like that, and religious people tend to think in concrete terms, so be prepared.
I will ask you to avoid such concrete formulations which are common in many theologies. The author is pointing us to something beyond everything. He is using a framework which makes it possible for all comers to apprehend this, to see this, and to begin liberating our lives from all that is not this. If you are a Christian, try not to import any evangelical theology into this. Such belief did not exist when this was written and is not the point of this work. All such tribal belief will tear our hands if we cling too tightly too it when it is pulled from our grasp.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” (1:1-4)
Reading through this, where does your mind get snagged? For the Atheist it may be at the assumption of God. For the Jew or Muslim, it may be at the assumption of Son. To the Christian or the Greek mythologist both could be received in turn. In order for me to midwife this message, you need not believe this presupposition yet, but you will need to be willing to work within the framework in which it is written.
The author is saying there is a creator of all things. We are not afforded the intellectual laziness of deferring all the world’s biodiversity and complexity and integration of everything to mere time and chance. What was obvious to our forefathers and even our children today, is that there is more to our world than it’s physical properties. Such is the a-priori of this book. The denial of that which is beyond everything, is a denial of or intrinsic human passion for discovery. Thus even thousands of years ago, people saw the denial of God as completely illogical, which is the opposite of today. Yet when asked about the physical properties of logic, the Atheistic empiricist cannot justify any claim that logic exists and thus must borrow from a non-empirically based worldview in order make sense of their own claim of logic. That is the very definition of arbitrary or illogical. Thus, as the late Greg Bahnsen would say, the presupposition for the existence of God is the logical precondition of all intelligibility.
Seen another way, C.S. Lewis poses the question about how Macbeth could come to know Shakespeare. The answer is only possible if Shakespeare writes himself into the story. This portal allows us to see the gist of the author’s message, namely that God is writing himself into the human story. The long drama has been unfolding and there have always been people who were able to perceive that “something more” is going on. This is still true today, and it has always been true since the birth of consciousness.
Just like a cell phone can only work with the infrastructure of endless integrations of orbiting satellites, software, hardware, and light energy, so the Maker of all things has employed an infrastructure to communication with us. This infrastructure is called the “Son of God.” This son is the “hapaugasma” which means radiance (active) or reflection (passive) of that which makes and sustains all things. Energy or light is creating and sustaining all things. Beyond everything is power, energy, or light which never ceases and is pressing through to our conscious awareness in either an active or passive way and it reveals that our Maker or God is power, energy or light itself. The transmission of this energy, light and power is called “rema” or a word, statement or event. Thus God is not just an energy source like a distant star, but a personal energy force with something to say. What’s more, all people of all times in all religions, in all geographies, and strata of society have intuited this.
The last nugget in todays introduction is that this eternal, personal power, which has been sending out rema or words forever also put an end to anything that could block this signal connecting man and Maker. Sin is not the bad thing we do, but the framework of unbelief or “non-faith” which refuses to believe there is anything beyond our cell phone. Try and prove that sound waves are transduced into digital light which are connected to an orbiting structure going thousands of miles an hour. If I cant see all that happening, then it must not be happening, right? That’s called unbelief or lack of faith.
The greatest rema or word of this book is (whether we believe it is beyond everything or not) it still works, it (he, she, they) is/are still there. This power has returned to where it came, the signal has closed the loop, and even our unbelief or non-faith cannot stand in the way. Our badness is covered. Our doubt is understood. Our rebellion is forgiven. Our sin has been purified, our stains are wiped away and none of us asked for it, but we all nonetheless benefit. If you are loyal to your religion or you lack of religion, or have a particular way of resolving the problem of evil, then just know that the only way for such religious belief to remain in tact is to reject the rema or message of this book. I hope you don’t. I hope you’ll at least consider it, ponder it, think it over and lay next to all your questions.
If the author of Hebrews is revealing the truth, the a world free from religion and irreligion is dawning, and the trajectory of peace is unfolding despite what appears to be happening. If this is true, we are being invited to go back to the original message, which will seem like another message, another word, and another hope for the world.
May we all have the courage to listen and follow after it.