Conflicting Paradigm Shifts

I’m going to ask you to cut me a little slack on this particular post. Sometimes I “see” something in Scripture and by writing out what it is that I “see”, it helps me understand it a little clearer, So, in essence, I’m writing this for myself, but perhaps it might be of interest to some of you.

A biblical paradigm could loosely be defined as a distinct set of concepts, thought patterns or standards for what constitutes legitimate parameters or guidelines on a particular subject. A good example of a paradigm shift would be in the Old Testament where God’s people are exclusive identified as those who are associated with the tribes of Israel and in the New Testament, God’s people now includes people from all of the various nations of the world (Jews and Gentiles). Understanding the applicability of each particular paradigm obviously becomes critical, when the Church, the body of Christ, is taken into account.

I don’t know about you but when I am reading through the Bible I often see a paradigm (a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns) in play that conflicts with or is separate from another Biblical paradigm. I can give you all kinds of examples. For instance, we are told to separate ourselves from the worldly but at the same time we see Jesus joining Himself with the disliked tax collectors and prostitutes. We are told that peacemakers are blessed while at the same time Jesus tells us that He did not come to bring peace but rather division. And another is where we are told to bless those who curse us, while at the same time we see Jesus callout the Pharisees as hypocrites. And, as I am sure you are aware, these three examples are just scratching the surface.

Each paradigm can have it’s own distinct set of parameters and guidelines that are particular to a given situation or circumstance. The difficult part, for me, is determining when one paradigm overlaps another or when and if one paradigm takes precedence over another. And the consequences of following a conflicting paradigm, to it’s conclusion, such as walking in the Spirit versus walking after the flesh, can obviously be and is unquestionably critical.

Jesus was acutely aware of when He was introducing a paradigm into another paradigm. The interjection of what I call the Samaritan “inferences” was a deliberate choice on His part to highlight the difference between error in judgement based on mis-applied understanding and spiritual acceptance of underlying Godly principles, by God, in spite of that error based misunderstanding. And considering that Jesus said that the words that He spoke came from the Father, the introduction of these conflicting paradigm shifts really needs to be understood or we stand the chance of applying a paradigm when it is not applicable or possibly overridden by another.

I don’t think that anyone who is a student of the Bible can realistically infer that the consequences of sin isn’t deadly serious. The difference between God, who is holy, and God’s fallen creation, including those who have chosen not to follow Him and are unsaved and for lack of better words, are basically winging it on their own, and those who where chosen and atoned for, is highlighted over and over again throughout the Old Testament. Holiness requires separation from sin, separation from that which is defiled, and this is repeatedly reinforced, along with the need for atonement, or covering over, through the shedding of blood, symbolizing the temporary giving of animal life, to cover over, that which is defiled or sinful. This is painstakingly emphasized in the Law, the Sacrifices, the Priesthood, the Tabernacle and the Temple(s). All of which, consistently points to the need for the coming Redeemer, the Messiah, that is God’s provision for restoring us to Himself.

Sometimes, within the Old Testament, it is difficult to comprehend the actions that God determined as necessary, to keep His chosen people separate from that which would detract them from coming to knowing and appreciating Him. But, in spite of how difficult it may be to comprehend that necessity, the reality of our walk with God does necessitate that separation and the end result of this endeavour on our part is that, we cannot, in and of ourselves, achieve the standard that is required. Which should again, in and of itself, bring us to the realization that our only hope is in God’s provision for us, His Redeemer, His Messiah, who would do for us what we cannot do.

These are two of the biggest conflicting paradigms you will find in the Bible. What is required by the Law and how we cannot achieve it, in and of ourselves, plus God’s provision to fulfill this realization, Himself, through His perfect sinless Son. The fact that when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the Temple, that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place, ripped in two, from the top to the bottom, is of earthy shattering significance. Christ’s atonement for us, (from God our Father – heavenly top down origin, to us, earthly – bottom – sinful) opened to us, that which had been closed before, by our own inability to be holy like God is holy.

And yet, even within the Old Testament, we see God’s clear declaration that His objective could never be realized through offering sacrifices but only by us showing mercy and having knowledge of who He truly is. So God, our Father, sent us His Son, as promised, to show us of Himself and by Himself, open the way for us to return to Him.

That word mercy, coupled with forgiveness, is central throughout the OT and the NT. Jesus identified the need to be mindful of our own shortcomings before identifying the shortcomings that others have. Removing the log from our own eyes before endeavouring to remove the twig from the eyes of others. I call that the “perspective” paradigm. It is a central paradigm. It is a paradigm from which some other paradigms fall under. When we say to others “you must” we first have to say to ourselves “I must”. If we focused more on the “I must” on ourselves, there would be a lot less “you must” towards others.

I have a confession to make. I have not mastered the different paradigms that I do see. Not only that, I haven’t even figured all of them out yet. But I do know that I sometimes get self righteous and voice the “you must” to others before I have truly achieved the “I must” in me. When one is critically aware of the shortfalls with self, it changes the tone of the “you must” dialogue. That change in “tone” is critical. We too often use drill down logic on others that we fail to drill down apply to ourselves, or at least I do. And the more that I become aware of my own deficiencies, the more I come to realize that as Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” It seems to me and this is just conjecture, that there is a bigger picture that I often fail to see. And it also seems to me, that just about everything that Jesus told us, points to a bigger picture.

The part of the bigger picture that I do see, calls for a need for balance, because God’s mercy and justice is indeed balanced. He is not a respecter of persons and that specifically includes me. I also see a need and desire to feed on His Word and draw my guidance and direction from Him, through the renewing of my mind and the softening of my heart via the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Just like the Old Testament sacrifices, the Law and the Prophets, were all designed to bring us to the awareness of our need for communion and guidance from God, as He truly is and now, in the Good News of the Gospel, through our faith and trust in Jesus. That’s the bigger picture that God’s Holy Spirit tells me to look for and everything that I read in God’s Word tells me that the “big picture” is indeed Jesus. I know the “do not’s” are important but equally important are the “do’s”. And all of the “do’s” are accomplished in Christ.

Here endeth the lesson.

Thank you for hearing me out, always open to your thoughts and comments!

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!


  1. Hey Bruce,
    Whew! Heady stuff! Thank you for your erudite thoughts and the ultimate conclusion, We are to relying on the Holy Spirit to clarify, that it is all about Jesus, and that He does it for us. May our Lord and Savior bless you with an even more intimate journey than you thought possible.
    Merry Christmas from California, Dee


    1. Thank you Dee for your comments, sincerely appreciated. If you need some snow let me know because we have all kinds up here in Nova Scotia, Canada. (Actually it rained here today!) Merry Christmas to you and yours also!


  2. “…we, God’s creation, who are basically winging it on our own…” Really? No. No. No. Please keep thinking about this, Bruce. Study John chapter 14ff about the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. The greatest paradigm shift of all was this: He had been WITH people before; now he would be IN them. Don’t trade one set of rules for just another set of rules: listen to His voice and do what he says. I’ll be praying for you (and all of us, really) to have and grow in revelation knowledge about this, with God’s insight, understanding, and wisdom, which he surely wants you / us to have. Blessings, Bette


    1. Hi Bette, I thought I should have elaborated on that particular statement. I was talking about those in the OT who did not follow the Lord and also the unsaved in the NT who think that they may be pleasing to God by the “good” things that they do. I am aware of the paradigm of “with” and “in” regarding the Holy Spirit between the OT and the NT. My mistake for not making that clearer. Thank you for taking the time to bring that to my attention though, sincerely appreciated. Blessings!


  3. The knowledge in the Bible is so vast, the only one who has the True Paradigm on what it all means is the Lord. We truly only “know in part” even as we seek to understand more. We truly do see prophetically “through a glass darkly.”


  4. After I left a particular body of believers because of the emphasis on “prosperity teaching” and other teaching I considered error, I was left confused and shaken. In response to this, I asked God to show me the main idea of the New Testament, in other words “the big picture”. I read the N.T. through 3 times in a row, keeping a tally of the different subjects addressed. It became abundantly clear that “loving your neighbor and loving God” was the big idea! Love is addressed more than any other topic! At least that was the message I received at that time. I feel to this day, that walking in love is an integral part of obedience for the believer and that God was showing me where to put my attention. It has been over 20 years and God is still teaching me to love. Perhaps we should see everything through the “love paradigm”. Blessings, Bruce!


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