The Slaughter of Isaac’ s (holy?) laughter

Much exegesis is nothing more than “axegesis,” a slaughter of the text. As an example, I shall examine  laughter in Genesis. Although Abraham didn’t ultimately slaughter Isaac (Hebrew for “he laughed”), “axegetes” go all the way: laughter lies slaughtered on the slab. (This post is a follow-on from “Digging below the surface of Torah, Midrash and Vulgate: When very good is evil”).

In the rabbinic oral law we find the analysis of texts at multiple levels of which the surface level is the first and shallow level. Rabbi Barry Freundel explains:The revelatory character of the material in the Bible serves as a rationale and multiple-level analysis of these texts that one finds in the rabbinic literature called the oral law. The Bible represents miraculous information. As such, while it can and should be read on its most idiomatically understandable level (what we call peshat) other levels of interpretation are also available because of the very nature of the origin of the text. These other levels are called derash, or deeper analysis, remez, or hints, which includes such things as gematria (numerological parallels and notarikon (words whose deeper meaning is revealed by the abbreviations hidden behind the letters); and sod, or secret analysis, meaning esoteric or mystical interpretation.” When it comes to the written biblical text, it “should be read on its most idiomatically understandable level (what we call peshat) other levels of interpretation are also available because of the very nature of the origin of the text” (Rabbi Freundel above). The question is: how many different meanings does God intend to reveal to us through the words he “speaks”? There may indeed be several levels of meanings; from a Christian point of view, the whole notion of New Testament typology depends on the existence of at least two meanings. A typology (a type) is “the preordained representative relation which certain persons, events, and institutions of the Old Testament bear to corresponding persons, events, and institutions in the New” (Terry 1890, 246. Christian Courier). For example, Succoth (feast of Tabernacles) commemorates Israel’s sojourn in the midbar wilderness (Leviticus 23:43). Succoth is the type that reminds us that we are merely sojourners on this earth (1 Peter 2:11): “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

While we’re on our sojourn through the midbar of words, here is an interesting connection” “wilderness” midbar” could also be understood as midaber “wording, speaking,” or as m’devar/m’dibbur, “away from words, without a word, beyond words.” But, interesting as this excursion is, if we sojourn here, our discourse will certainly run off into the wilderness , which we must not do here. In “Letters of Hebrew fire – the depth and death of meaning and Digging below the surface of Torah, Midrash and Vulgate: When very good is evil, I touched on Rabbi Glazerson’s book “Philistine and Palestinian” (1995). Most of Glazerson’s book deals with the connection between the “deeper significance of the letters,” (the Gematria) and the surface text. What I’d like to discuss here is a rare chapter in his book – rare because it excludes the use of Gematria, and deals instead with the surface text. The way he deals with the surface text is what my subject is about. When we think of laughter in the Bible, Sarah, Isaac’s mother, often comes to mind: “Let’s examine, says a commentator, the bible record, and see how and when God’s people laughed. We immediately think of Sarah, who laughed when God told her she would have a Son in her old age. I admire Sarah for laughing. I wouldn’t find the news too amusing!” The above commentator is, in my view, on the right track; he understands the text. The next commentator, in contrast, has gone off the rails. The Bible commentator Kley Yakor/Keli Yakar/Kli Yakar (Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz ) discusses this miracle as follows:

 ”Sarah saw that a miracle happened to her against nature. She went back to her youth, when she was a girl. She felt that not for nothing did a miracle happen to her…She said, I who received back my time and period, it is because of my worthiness. Perhaps I will live much longer. But my husband’s youth did not return to him and he will not live much longer. Why then does he need a son in his old age? That is the reason that she laughed [Genesis 18:13].”

(Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz (1550 –March 3rd 1619) was a rabbi, poet and Torah commentator, best known for his Torah commentary Keli Yakar  (“precious vessel” – an allusion to Proverbs 20:15) on the Torah which first appeared in Lublin in 1602. It still appears in many editions of the Torah).

Many have forgotten or are unaware that Abraham laughed as well, and first, that is, before Sarah. It could very well be that Sarah took her lead from Abraham. Laughter in the Bible appears for the first time in Genesis 17, and it was Abraham who had that first laugh:15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 Abraham fell face down and laughed …” Why was Abraham’s son, his “only son”יְחִידְךָ yechidkha, called Isaac Yitzchak “he laughed.”

What does “only son” mean in verse 17: 2 Genesis 22:1 And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’ Ishmael was also a son, the elder son. “Only son” means that it was through Isaac that the nation of “Israel” (also called an “only son”), the son of the promise, was to be born. In Genesis 17:19, we read “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him.”

Let’s read Glazerson’s explanation of (what he calls) the “real” meaning of Isaac’s name (laughter) and see what he does with this laughter. We read in Genesis 17:17:Abraham fell face down and laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” In his chapter, “Isaac and the Philistines” (pp. 99-100), Glazerson contrasts what he calls Isaac’s pure holy Torah laughter with the Philistines’ mocking laughter at Torah:We can, says Glazerson, see some of his titanic strength in his name יִצְחָק “Isaac.” Coming from the root צחק “to laugh,” this name signals his lofty perception of the physical world: a passing shadow only worth laughing at. Someone whose world-view was so very much the opposite of the Philistines’ had nothing to fear from them. This is why Isaac acquiesced so easily in the test of the Akeidah [binding of Isaac], his Binding as a sacrifice. For Abraham it was a severe trial to slay his son, but for Isaac it was not at all hard to give up a world that was worth nothing in his eyes.”

Here is the relevant verse: Genesis 22:10 -Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter לִשְׁחֹט lishkhot his son – my square brackets]. Where did the laughter on Abraham’s and Sarah’s face go? According to Glazerson, it went no place; it’s still where it always was: deep in the heart of Isaac. But wasn’t it Abraham and Sarah who laughed? Doesn’t the surface text (which is not the same as “superficial” text) say so very clearly? Isaac’s name was a typical biblical example of naming a child after what the parent/s experienced at the time of the child’s birth. Here are some other examples: Gen 35:17-18 “And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her [Jacob’s wife’s Rachel], Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni (son of my sorrow): but his father called him Benjamin (son of my right hand).” Another example: In Gershom, the sojourner: the sound of one monkey chewing I wrote about my brother Gerald (Gershom). Gershom was one of Moses’ sons. How did Gershom get his name? “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land’ ” (Exodus, 2:16-22).] To return to Glazerson: when Abraham was about to slaughter his son on the altar, Isaac burst forth into holy laughter, for his life (on earth), says Glazerson, was worth nothing in his eyes. For Isaac, was there no terror of death? How terribly unlike King David, and the typical Israelite. (Abraham’s attitude in the “sacrifice” of Isaac was an exception). If Hebrew (in translation) has any meaning, there is one thing we can be absolutely certain about in the texts we are discussing; “laughter” and “slaughter” have only five things in common: l-a-u-g-h. When you’re on a journey and take what you think is the right turn on yourmap, but which, in fact, is the wrong turn on themap, you’re quite happy until you discover you’ve made a faux pas. Sometimes you never discover the mistake. The confusion may – indeed often does – lead to all kinds of interesting discoveries.

For example, Jacques Derrida, the “rebbe” of deconstruction, in his “The Tower of Babel,” mistakes the etymology of “Babel” as “Father God,” when in fact Babel means “Gate of God.” That confusion took him and the reader of his text on a very interesting detour (of Babel). (See my Babel: Can Derrida’s Tour (Surprisingly) Translate Us Anywhere?). Derrida was not into mythologising history. When Derrida dug deep into the sedimentations of a text, what interested him were not the mythological, but the historical sedimentations. The surface text had more than an imaginative relationship to the layers underneath. In many rabbinical commentaries on the Tanakh, I see more imaginative excursions than fidelity to the surface text. Without a solid surface, both the archaeologist and the biblical exegete are in danger of falling down holes and getting hurt. In the exegete’s case, not even a holy hole will stop the fall. Where does Glazerson take Isaac’s “holy laughter to?” To Purim, out of which he concocts an antidote to the Philistine’s unholy laughter:This kind of holy laughter is revealed on the supremely holy day of Purim. By dressing up in costume, we are saying that as Jews, we know that all externals, everything material, is only a disguise, and that the truth is hidden underneath, in the spiritual realm.”Isaac’s laughter is the antidote to the Philistines’ unclean, mocking laughter at out values and the the truths of Torah. Only by strengthening our understanding of those values will we rise above our enemies scorn.” There’s nothing wrong with the English translation of Glazerson’s Hebrew text, nor with the organisation of ideas. The question is, though, what has all this got to do with Isaac. Once when I was lecturing in English at the University of Fort Hare (South Africa), the Head of English came storming into my office with a student exam essay that I had marked – and failed. “What’s wrong with this paper. It’s perfectly good English!” “Yes, I replied, the English is good, but the essay is off topic.” And that’s what’s wrong with Glazerson, and with many rabbinical interpretations of scripture. So, far I’ve been pulling and tearing at Glazerson’s “syntactic joints and semantic flesh,” which only deconstructionists should have the right to do. What I would like to do now is present my interpretation – which I would think is the normal and correct way – of the “laughter” passages under discussion. Here are the relevant Torah sections in Genesis of the Isaac story (Genesis 17-18). I italicize sections related to laughter.

[“syntactic joints and semantic flesh” – Johnson, Barbara. 1985. Taking Fidelity Philosophically. In: Difference in Translation In: Graham, J.F. (ed.). Ithaca: Cornell University Press].

Genesis 17

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 Abraham fell face down and laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” Here is the Hebrew of verse 17 “Abraham fell face down and laughed…” וַיִּפֹּל אַבְרָהָם עַל־פָּנָיו וַיִּצְחָק vayipol (and fell) avraham (Abraham) al-panav (on his face) vayitzkhak (and he laughed). “Isaac” is the English for yitzkhak (he laughed). One can laugh for umpteen reasons: amusement, happiness, poke fun, embarrassment the unexpected (for example, the many sudden reversals found in the Tanakh such as the Purim story, where Haman is hanged on the gallows that he prepared for Mordecai), the absurd, friendliness, mischief, compassion, rejoicing; or one can just laugh as a pick-me-up. Why was Abraham laughing? There can’t be that many one-hundred-year-old men and ninety-year-old women still able to have children; well, Abraham, at least, seems to think so. And that’s why he’s cracking up under his own rhetorical question: “Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?’ And Sarah?Incredulity, there certainly was, but also – from what we learn from the Apostle Paul (and Rashi) – joy. Here are two good commentaries on Abraham’s laughter:

Matthew Henry

Abraham’s joyful, thankful, entertainment of this gracious promise, Genesis 17:17. Upon this occasion he expressed, 1. Great humility: He fell on his face. Note, The more honours and favours God confers upon us the lower we should be in our own eyes, and the more reverent and submissive before God. 2. Great joy: He laughed. It was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Note, Even the promises of a holy God, as well as his performances, are the joys of holy souls there is the joy of faith as well as the joy of fruition. Now it was that Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day. Now he saw it and was glad (John 8:56) for, as he saw heaven in the promise of Canaan, so he saw Christ in the promise of Isaac. 3. Great admiration: Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? He does not here speak of it as at all doubtful (for we are sure that he staggered not at the promise, Romans 4:20), but as very wonderful and that which could not be effected but by the almighty power of God, and as very kind, and a favour which was the more affecting and obliging for this, that it was extremely surprising, Psalm 126:1,2.

Lewis Johnson

Now Abraham’s response is incredulous reaction and I can certainly understand. Abraham fell on his face. That was what he did more than once you know. That’s not bad. Perhaps he had some marks on his face from sudden falls, but we read in verse 3 “and Abram fell on his face” and here again in verse 17. That’s not a bad place for the godly to be; on their face before the Lord. So he fell on his face before the Lord and as he did, he said within his heart, well he laughed first. He laughed. Now there are some kinds of laughter that are the laughter of joy. That is the laughter of joy. For example, when an extra point is kicked, that means the game, or when a field goal is missed by the opponent, that means the game. Lot of good laughter takes place then, hearty laughter. This was laughter and I think in this case, it was the laugher of faith. Now later in the next chapter, Sarah will laugh too, but her laughter happens to be the laughter of unbelief. But his I believe is probably the laughter of belief although there are some things that could be said otherwise, but since God does not reprove Abraham, I am rather inclined to think that it was incredulous reaction, but believing in its essence.

And Sarah:

Genesis 18- 1 And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground… 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh צָחֲקָה and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?

[צָחֲקָה tzokh’kah from the same verb root as yitzkhak he laughed”, namely, צחק tsakhaq.Yitzkhakis the masculine verb form of “Abraham laughed”].

14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Let’s jump to the next relevant passage: 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac “he laughed.” The literal meaning of “Isaac” is not “she (Sarah) laughed,” but “he (Abraham laughed). But this has no interest for Glazerson at all, because it’s not Abraham’s laughter or Sarah’s laughter that he sees; it’s Isaac’s laughter – laughing his way into this life and into the next. But, for Glazerson, Isaac’s laughter is not the unholy befuddled laughter of Abraham and Sarah; it’s a holy pure laughter. Is there any record that Isaac laughed at all? Yes there is. “Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing/sporting [מְצַחֵקm’tzakheik] with Rebekah his wife. So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?”” (Genesis 26:8-9). But Isaac’s laughter was certainly not Glazerson’s “holy” laughter or Isaac laughing at the the vanity of the things of this world such as conjugal bliss.


The Incarnation or Substitutionary Atonement, which is the grand miracle? CS Lewis and John MacArthur say the former; George MacDonald, definitely not the latter


Which is the greater miracle? I was reading Martyn Lloyd Jones and thought I’d reblog a piece I wrote on the topic in 2012.

Here is Jones:
This eternal Son of God, who was still the eternal Son of
God, having taken unto Himself this human nature; this
one indivisible person, who had two natures instead of
one, chose to, and actually did live as a man, taking the
form of a servant and humbling Himself, becoming
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross

Ah, we have been looking at a great and wonderful and
glorious mystery. I know of nothing, as I have emphasised
repeatedly, more wonderful for us to contemplate and
consider. Do you not feel your minds being expanded and
stretched? Do you not feel that it is a great privilege to be
allowed to look into such wondrous mysteries and glorious
truths? God has given us His word that we might do so,
not that we might skip over it lightly, but that we might
delve into it and try to grasp what has happened. For the
message is that God so loved you and so loved me that He
called upon His Son to do all this. The Son did it, though
He is eternal God. He went into the womb of Mary and
was born as a babe and was put into the manger, still God
eternal, the Son by whom all things were made. Yes, and
He even endured ‘such contradiction of sinners’ (Heb.
12:3) and was spat upon and crucified, and died and was
buried. And He did it all because it was the only way
whereby you and I could be saved. The only way whereby
our sins could be forgiven was that He should bear their
punishment. The only way whereby you and I could
become partakers of the divine nature was that He should
have taken human nature. And having done so, He is able
to give us this new nature and prepare us for heaven and for glory.

(Martyn Lloyd Jones: “Great Doctrines of the Bible (Three Volumes in One): God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; The Church and the Last Things.” Kindle edition, Location 4350.)

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

Hugh Binning says of the Trinity, “All mysteries have their rise here, and all of them return hither. This is furthest removed from the understandings of men,—what God himself is, for himself is infinitely above any manifestation of himself. God is greater than God manifested in the flesh, though in that respect he be too great for us to conceive.” (Lecture X11 “Of The Unity Of The Godhead And The Trinity Of Persons“).

Which of the following do you consider the grand Christian miracle, the Incarnation or the Passion? I explain “Passion.” In normal English usage, “passion” means “strong emotion” of short duration. The heart of the “Passion” lies in its historical (etymological) meaning. “Passion” comes from the Latin root passio “to render.” So when we suffer, we have to submit to causes that deprive us of our freedom or well-being. We remain passive (passion). (See

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Love and Wrath of the Lamb: A God who would rather die than kill his enemies?

Revelation 6:15-17
The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

In James White’s Dividing line. 18 November, 2014, 64th minute, he discusses the debate “Old debate new day’ (The video of the debate can be found here).

(I have added words in square brackets to link selected chunks of discourse together. My comments appear in italics)

White – Zahnd doesn’t believe in the plain reading of Paul.

Zahnd – If we are going to understand Jesus, scripture plays a secondary role. Jesus plays the primary role.

White – This is epistemologically schizophrenic. You cannot know Jesus apart from what has been revealed by him… the idea that you can know Jesus and ignore everything the Lord says about Jesus [himself]. [If this is true] You got to credit your own personal Jesus. like designer jeans for religion.

Zahnd – Scripture has a high and authoritative role, but it is to bear witness to Christ who is the true word of God… Let’s be honest: pervasive interpretative pluralism is a reality, and it’s a reality not only because we are limited in our capacity to interpret scripture [but also] because the argument is internal to the text.”

Not sure what Zahnd means by “the argument is internal to the text.” Does he mean that there is no way of penetrating the text to get at the meaning? If so, that would be a bizarre comment. Indeed, if there is no univocal (single) meaning of any text, there would be no justification in calling anything bizarre or bazaar or basar (Hebrew “meat’).

White – Why are there so many interpretations in the Bible? Because [Zahnd says] the Bible is unclear; it’s a bunch of babble.

Zahnd – If I bring Moses and Aaron and Hosea and the writer of psalm 40 to the room and ask does God want sacrifice, they’re going to have a big hairy debate.

[One topic I’m sure, being given such a great opportunity, they would debate is whether Moses’ toeses are roses].

White = No they’re not [going to have a debate] if you’re going to read them in any meaningful fashion.

For Zahn, “meaning” is a fashion parade, catwalk semantics.

Zahnd – Calvin wrote that the reprobate, that is, damned from before birth, are raised up [to be cast into hell]…that through them God’s glory may be revealed.

White – In Exodus [there are] key historical events where God glorifies himself. His glory is demonstrated in the despoiling of the Egyptian gods…Don’t you think the description of the Egyptian army in the Red sea.. the world’s power versus God’s power, you don’t see God glorified in that?

Zahn – God’s beauty, according to Calvin, is displayed in that before birth..I’ll say something that will get me in…you will see that I’m quite bold…[See the rest of Zahn’s statement after White’s interruption below]

White [interrupts] No, we will see that you’re quite twisted in your detestation of Reformed theology.

Zahnd [continues] – God said, I’m going to create one being and I’m going to damn this being to conscious eternal torment before their birth; they’re not going to have any choice but to be damned.

White – Remember they don’t have any choice – [I’m] speaking from the perspective of eternity – ignoring the daily, hourly, momentary, wilful choices of the individuals to love self and not love God…the synergist flattens it all out…there’s not enough in it [the Bible] according to the synergist] to reveal a three dimensional reality of this matter.

Synergism (Arminianism) – Grace and salvation are God’s gift to man; faith is man’s gift to God. This is how many synergists – for example, William Lane Craig – parse Ephesians 2:8 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this [grace and salvation; monergists (Calvinists) say faith as well)] is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (See The Calvinist robot and the Arminian zombie: grammars of coming to faith).

Zahn – I will create them with the capacity to experience and live eternally under my wrath, I would say to that God, you’re wrong, you’re immoral. You say, “how can you talk back to God like that, he will throw you in his hell.” And I will comfort myself in the ceaseless ages of torment with this one solace that I told the truth.”

Judaism speaks of the good inclination and the evil inclination (yetser “inclination” hara “the evil”). God created both. God created the inclination/capacity to evil. Satan was created with this capacity, Adam was created with this capacity, and so were all mankind. Yet God does not have any evil in himself. Zahnd rejects this. And must, if consistent reject Isaiah 45:7: “Forming light, and preparing darkness, Making peace, and preparing evil [Hebrew ra, I am Jehovah, doing all these things” (Young’s literal translation). Zahnd maintains, elsewhere, that the Old Testament is not what is saying, but what the Hebrews thought he was saying. In contrast, the New Testament, for Zahnd, is what Jesus is saying – because, according to Zahnd, Jesus is all about love, not wrath. (See Can a perfect God create the potential for imperfection?).

White – You just think you’re so hot with that one don’t you? You’ve decided that you’re going to put yourself in the position of the objector in Romans 9 and say you’re really cool in your leather jacket and your emergent shoes because “I told the truth’” that you now think you can know separately from God….We realize the picture you painted of this point was not exactly accurate.

Who is the objector in Romans 9? The one who says it is not fair that God has mercy on some, and unleashes his wrath on others, and, worse, simply because he wills it so. I underline the parts in Romans 9 that Zahnd, and all Arminians/synergists hate:

Romans 9

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire [will] or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? [It’s not fair]. For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Verses 22-23 contradicts what Zahnd says next.

Zahnd – He’s (God is) not all glorious under Calvin’s system, he’s terrifying. but if he is to be all glorious he must save all if it’s completely under his control.

White – Why? We’re not told. What if his glory is revealed in the manifestation of all of his attributes? A lot of non-clean thinking on Brian Zahnd’s part.

Like all Arminians, Zahnd believes that God tries to save all but fails miserably, because relatively few from each generation are saved. He fails, according to Arminians, because in salvation he has sovereignly handed over his sovereignty to man by giving him the free will to choose him. White points out that God does not have sovereignty, he is sovereignty; it is, like all of his attributes, part of his nature. I am reminded of Isaiah 46:9 Remember former things of old, For I [am] Mighty, and there is none else, God — and there is none like Me.

10 Declaring from the beginning the latter end, And from of old that which hath not been done, Saying, `My counsel doth stand, And all My delight I do.’ 11 Calling from the east a ravenous bird, From a far land the man of My counsel, Yea, I have spoken, yea, I bring it in, I have formed [it], yea, I do it.” (Young’s literal translation).

a ravenous bird” – destruction; by Nebuchadnezzar who is called “an eagle,” both by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:22) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:3).

For the Arminian/synergist. God’s counsel does indeed stand, and he delights in all he does. One of his delights is to sacrifice his sovereignty, to be terribly disappointed – heaven is flooded with his frantic tears – not to save all, but that is the price he has to pay for limiting his freedom so that he can grant man the greatest gift of all time and eternity – freedom to decide his eternal destiny. This view is, of course,contrary, as discussed above, to Romans 9.

Zahnd – So instead of saying the reprobate are raised up… [for eternal damnation] that God’s glory may be revealed, I’d rather say being “under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the greatest revelation of who God is, because when we look at what God revealed in Christ we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies.

Rather die than kill his enemies! No, no, no; not on your nelly.

Isaiah 6

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
 without inhabitant,
and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it,
 it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

Jeremiah 44:26-30

Therefore hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: Behold, I have sworn by my great name, says the Lord, that my name shall no more be invoked by the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, ‘As the Lord God lives.’

Behold, I am watching over them for disaster and not for good. All the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end of them.

And those who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who came to the land of Egypt to live, shall know whose word will stand, mine or theirs.

This shall be the sign to you, declares the Lord, that I will punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for harm:

Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who was his enemy and sought his life.”

White – Fundamental problem with Zahnd’s presentation. Biblical downgrade.

With regard to Zahnd’s “biblical downgrade” (White above), I now turn to Chris Rosebrough’s Lutheran teaching on Law and Gospel. Towards the end of the interview:

Interviewer – There is obviously no doubt that people will continue to object [to the Lutheran view of Law and Gospel]. They will say there are other ways to read the bible…What’s your response?

The Lutheran view of Law and Gospel, in a nutshell, is that it is grace that saves, not works, but works is the natural fruit of faith, and only in that sense, can we speak of works being “necessary” – like breathing is to life. This is the Calvinist view as well.

Rosebrough – My question would immediately be, “Why are you trying somehow to make space for a way of reading scripture that scripture does not give us to read it? The idea here is that if I am reading scripture the way scripture tells me to read scripture…yeah there are tons of different interpretations, and that’s the postmodernism we live in. There’s a Marxist way, a feminist way, etc. of reading scripture. We are approaching scripture with our own lenses, yet scripture is itself giving us the interpretive keys and lens to rightly understand God’s word. Why are you trying to add to this…[by saying] we’ve got these other interpretive lenses as well. No, no, no, no. Be satisfied with what we have received. And that’s the wonderful thing about this; the law-gospel distinctive is something we actually received from God in his word. All these other interpretative schemes, many of them are mixed with philosophy and man-mixed opinions…Why would I want to change or add to it? I’m just a creature…Why should I have so much hubris to think that I have a better way of understanding God’s word than God’s word tells me to understand it?

Interviewer – If someone says “Look, I’m going to study and preach holy scripture, but I’m going to try and find a different way to law and gospel, or maybe invent a new one, or I’m going to try and come out completely with a tabula rasa [clean slate, open mind]. I’m not going to allow any of the preconceptions influence how I read the bible. What are they going to find? What will the Bible be to them?

Rosebrough – At that point you are going to start erroring in wrongly understanding how to use the law, and at that point the Bible will turn into Aesop’s fables, stories with moral imperatives… Like David, you slay your own Goliaths… The Bible becomes a handbook for right living. At that point you end up losing the Gospel….When you make that switch, think of the railroads… down the line there are tracks that have been switched, the destination changes. And so you might be travelling along a particular stretch of track and not notice anything significantly different, but keep travelling down that track, you’re going to find yourself on a different set of tracks altogether, at end up at a completely different destination.

And that’s exactly what Zahn, and his ilk, I suggest, are doing.

Shabir Ally versus James White: God is not a man

A year ago, Shabir Ally and James White debated the topic Did the original Disciples of Jesus consider him God?

One of Ally’s arguments was that Numbers 23:19 says that “God is not a man.” He repeated this snippet on several occasions. White rebutted that when God took on a human nature in the person of the Son, He did not cease to be God and so even though he took on human nature, he remains God. Ally, like all Muslims, regards the divine nature of God in three divine persons like something being both a square and a circle.

White also said, in passing, that Numbers 23:19 says “God is not a man that he should lie.” He could have spent a little more time on the connection between “God is not a man” and the bit Ally omitted – “that he should lie.”

The complete verse runs:

God is not a man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Jews argue like Ally. On several occasions, I’ve responded to my Jewish kith that the conjunction “that,” which connects 1. “God is not man,” to 2. “he should lie” means that whereas man is (by nature) a liar, God is not. Numbers 23;19 has nothing to do with the nature of God’s being, namely, whether he has a divine or a human nature, or both. Therefore, it’s illegitimate to chop the verse into two chunks and present them as two separate arguments. It’s a bit like slicing up Raphael – the Ninja turtle – and ending up with Picasso.

“[God’s] mind and counsel is one; one and the same, ‘yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’ Therefore the apostle speaks of God, that there is no shadow of change or turning in him, James i. 17. He is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it?’ Numb. xxiii. 19. And shall he decree, and not execute it? Shall he purpose, and not perform it? ‘I am the Lord, I change not;’ that is his name, Mal. iii. 6. ‘The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations,’ Psal. xxxiii. 1]. Men change their mind oftener than their garments. Poor vain man, even in his best estate, is changeableness, and vicissitude itself, altogether vanity! And this ariseth, partly from the imperfection of his understanding, and his ignorance, because he does not understand what may fall out. There are many things secret and hidden, which if he discovered, he would not be of that judgment; and many things may fall out which may give ground of another resolution: and partly from the weakness and perverseness of his will, that cannot be constant in any good thing, and is not so closely united to it, as that no fear or terror can separate from it. But there is no such imperfection in him, neither ignorance nor weakness. ‘All things are naked’ before him; all their natures, their circumstances, all events, all emergencies, known to him are they, and ‘all his works from the beginning,’ as perfectly as in the end. And therefore he may come to a fixed resolution from all eternity; and being resolved, he can see no reason of change, because there can nothing appear after, which he did not perfectly discover from the beginning. Therefore, whenever ye read in the Scripture of the Lord’s repenting – as Gen. vi. 7. Jer. xviii. 8. – ye should remember that the Lord speaks in our terms, and, like nurses with their children, uses our own dialect, to point out to us our great ignorance of his majesty, that cannot conceive more honourably of him, nor more distinctly of ourselves. When he changeth all things about him, he is not changed, for all these changes were at once in his mind; but when he changeth his outward dispensations, he is said to repent of what he is doing, because we use not to change our manner of dealing, without some conceived grief, or repentance and change of mind.”

(Hugh Binning – The Common Principles of the Christian Religion – Lecture 14).




How do you say that in Hebrew like a Hebrew?


Chave a chappy Hanuka

One of things I like about Chris Rosebrough, besides his hilarious biting critiques of “Believe in your vision” preachers is that he pronounces Hebrew like a Hebrew. For example, English mother-tongue speakers, including rabbis, pronounce the Hebrew “ch/kh” consonant (Scottish “ch” as in Loch) as an “h”. So “Chanukah” is wrongly pronounced Hanuka and “Chesed” ( lovingkindness) is wrongly pronounced as “hesed.” How charming it is to hear Rosebrough say “chesed.” Chave a chappy Hanuka.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

When I was a French teacher in the 1970s at the Catholic St George’s College in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), my pupils were very bad at French pronunciation. For example, Bonjour Monsieur became either “Bonjews MooseEar,” or “Bonjewer Monsewer.” No surprises there; most English-speaking learners of foreign languages are linguistic klutzes. When, though, I find pronunciation on a par with my French pupils on the BlueletterBible site – this time, Hebrew – I get a little more critical. I often consult the BlueletterBible site for the Hebrew and Greek of the biblical text. I was reading Ex. 31:15a about the sabbath rest, the shabbat shabbaton.Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest (Hebrew – shabbat shabbaton), holy to the LORD” (Exodus 31:15a).שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים יֵעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיֹּום הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתֹון קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה שבת shabbath שבתון shabbaton –…

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Should Christians dance wherever they may be? In church? At all?

The song “Lord of the dance” Is very popular in many modern churches. Here are the first three verses – the second verse is the chorus.

I danced in the morning when the world was young

I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun

I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth

At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance, dance, wherever you may be

I am the lord of the dance, said he

And I lead you all, wherever you may be

And I lead you all in the dance, said he

I danced for the scribes and the Pharisees

They wouldn’t dance, they wouldn’t follow me

I danced for the fishermen James and John

They came with me so the dance went on

Here is the verse on the crucifixion:

I danced on a Friday when the world turned black

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back

They buried my body, they thought I was gone

But I am the dance, and the dance goes on

The question I look at here is: Does dancing bring a Christian closer to God? I present several views on the dance from different movements – Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek antiquity, Hindu and Atheist.

One Arminian (anti-Calvinist) view (See here for the definition of an “Arminian)

In “Old debate, New day” Austin Fischer and Brian Zahnd, two anti-Calvinists opposed two “New Calvinists.” In Fischer and Zahnd’s opening statement, Fischer said that Christianity is like a beautiful dance.

In his “Dancing, Arson, and a Plain Reading of Scripture: Brian Zahnd and Austin Fischer Debate Two New Calvinists in Chicago,” the writer praises Zahnd’s “killer metaphor” of the dance:

The second killer metaphor in this debate was utilized by Brian Zahnd. Zahnd is no novice at debate and as a veteran preacher his rhetorical skills are masterful. With one metaphor he shifted the imaginations of listeners and buried the New Calvinists beneath a conceptual mountain they could not uphold. In reference to the redemptive work of God, Zahnd compared God’s electing call to a dance. “Anything but dancing!!” cried the Baptists. But Zahnd wouldn’t let up. He compared the New Calvinists’ monergistic view to a sad image of God dancing “forlornly” with a mannequin. It will be difficult for anyone who watches this debate to remove that image from their imaginations. Here, Zahnd borrows from some excellent and ancient theology. The image of God dancing harkens to mind the doctrine of perichoresis: the inter-penetration of the Persons of the Godhead. This is pictured as a dance into which humanity is invited to join. But if the New Calvinists’ monergism is correct, then God has elected to dance with a mannequin: the inanimate figures who only resemble responsible persons. What a devastating picture! The New Calvinists never recovered.”

(Perichoresis – From Latin chorus “a dance in a circle, the persons singing and dancing, the chorus of a tragedy,” from Greek khoros “band of dancers or singers, dance, dancing ground,” perhaps from PIE *gher- “to grasp, enclose,” if the original sense of the Greek word is “enclosed dancing floor.” Extension from dance to voice is because Attic drama arose from tales inserted in the intervals of the dance. In Attic tragedy, the khoros (of 12 or 15 (tragic) or 24 (comedic) persons) gave expression, between the acts, to the moral and religious sentiments evoked by the actions of the play. When a Poet wished to bring out a piece, he asked a Chorus from the Archon, and the expenses, being great, were defrayed by some rich citizen (the khoregos): it was furnished by the Tribe and trained originally by the Poet himself” [Liddell & Scott]. Originally in English used in theatrical sense; meaning of “a choir” first attested 1650s. Meaning “the refrain of a song” (which the audience joins in singing). (Online etymological dictionary).

For Fischer and Zahnd, these New Calvinists were found not only out of touch and superceded but naked. The Newd Calvinists.

A second Arminian view

In his “Shall we dance,” Bruce Roffrey writes:

Abram and Sarai, later to be called Abraham and Sarah, had that happen. One day God said, Shall we dance? And they said, “Yes”, and their lives were never the same. Their family was never the same because a new beginning happened, a new family was founded. And the world was never the same for through this family came blessing. It was a new creation for humanity. Shall we dance? … At creation the Spirit danced over the waters and brought forth life, and God invites us to become part of that cosmic dance. The dance is our journey, a journey of uncertain destination with incomplete directions, no map, only melody and movement, no marching bands, only the music of two lovers, you in God’s arms, heart to heart as God leads you in that dynamic, ever-changing movement of the dance of life.

But why would God want to dance with me?” you might ask. What would lead God to that invitation? Hasn’t God got bigger and better things to do? Why would God want such an intimate, close relationship?… “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what are we that you are mindful of us and that you care for us?” (Psalm 8:3-4). Who am I that God is not just mindful of me, but approaches me and asks, “Shall we dance?” The scriptural story moving from the grand, large, all-encompassing primeval myths of creation to the smaller, individual, focused story of Abram and Sarai tells us that this is the way life is and the way God is. God has bigger things to do, but nothing better. There is nothing better that overrides God’s focus on you, nothing that overrides God’s desire to dance with you.”

Why God chose Abram and Sarai to begin with we don’t know. Why did, why does God choose you? We celebrate. It’s awesome. Perhaps it is as God told Moses, I chose Israel because you were the least. There is a soft spot in God’s heart for the wallflower. It keeps us aware of who asks and who responds, who leads and who follows. God sings, Dance with me, I want to be your partner Can’t you see the music is just starting, Night is falling, and I am calling Dance with me. Shall we dance?”

Roffrey is quoting “Dance With Me,” the title of a 1975 hit single by American soft rock band Orleans. Written by group member John Hall and lyricist Johanna Hall (then a married couple), The single was introduced on the album Let There Be Music from which it was issued as the second single on July 19, 1975. “Dance With Me” became the first single by Orleans to reach the Top 40 rising as high as #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100. (Wikipedia).

The Roman Catholic view

I describe two views. I say The Roman Catholic view because I believe that the descriptions of the following two Roman Catholics are not only very similar to each other, but also represent the general Roman Catholic “mystical” view.

Roman Catholic view 1 – Louis-Albert Lassus (Order of Preachers – Dominican priest)

In “In search of French past (7): the hermit, the poet and the clown,” I wrote about my travels with my Dominican priest friend, Louis-Albert Lassus, who wrote about a dozen books, most of them on the hermitic life. The frontispiece of Louis-Albert’s “La prière est une fête “Prayer is a celebration” contains these words: “I only believe in a God who knows how to dance.” The author of these words is Friedrich Nietzsche; from his “Thus spake Zarathustra.” Here is Zarathustra in his Second Dance with Life. Both Life and Zarathustra were free of the prison of good and evil; they had risen above good and evil.”Oh, see me lying, thou arrogant one, and imploring grace; Gladly would I walk with thee-in some lovelier place! -In the paths O love, through bushes variegated, quiet, trim! Or there along the lake, where gold-fishes dance and swim! … Then did Life answer me thus, and kept thereby her fine ears closed: “O Zarathustra! Crack not so terribly with thy whip! Thou knowest surely that noise killeth thought, and just now there came to me such delicate thoughts. We are both of us genuine ne’er-do-wells and ne’er-do-ills. Beyond good and evil found we our island and our green meadow-we two alone! Therefore must we be friendly to each other!”

(Zarathustra “The second dance song”).

Nietzsche dances to the glory of the Beyond – beyond good and evil. Nietzsche’s dance is not the all good “God-Dance” of Louis-Albert, who is (as Plato said) the Good itself.

In the introduction to his “Prayer is a celebration,” Louis-Albert takes King David’s wife to task for mocking David for dancing half naked in the street: “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16).

Michal ticked David off for his lack of decorum. She was acting like Protestant prude; a party-pooper. Here is Alexander Balmain Bruce, in “The Training of the Twelve,” (1877).

“He (David) had loved God in a manner which exposed him to the charge of extravagance. He had danced before the Lord, for example, when the ark was brought up from the house of Obededom to Jerusalem, forgetful of his dignity, exceeding the bounds of decorum, and, as it might seem, without excuse, as a much less hearty demonstration would have served the purpose of a religious solemnity.”

Louis-Albert writes that after the Fall (of Adam), blindness descended on humanity. When Christ came (I quote Louis-Albert), “the God-man (Dieu-homme), the God-Dance (Dieu-Dance) invited men and women to recover their sight, to tear off their ridiculous loincloths to tear off those opaque veils, which since Eden has hidden the light of things.” Tear off their loincloths? Like a biblical Zorba ripping off his frontispiece (ephod), letting it all hang – spiritly – out?

I initially found it odd that Louis-Albert chose Nietzsche, the most virulent Christ-hater of them all, to grace the frontispiece of his La prière est une fête “Prayer is a celebration. I thought that Louis-Albert, like all educated Frenchmen, was aware of Nietzsche’s hatred of Christianity. So, why does Louis-Albert give Nietzsche the limelight, never mind the light of day, in the frontispiece of his book about the celebration of prayer. Because he does believe in God, but only if he dances.

Here is more of Nietzsche’s passionate genius (in his “Birth of Tragedy”).

Lift up your hearts, my brothers, high, higher! And for my sake don’t forget your legs as well! Raise up your legs, you fine dancers, and better yet, stand on your heads!”… “This crown of the man who laughs, this crown wreathed with roses — I have placed this crown upon myself. I myself declare my laughter holy. Today I found no one else strong enough for that”… “Zarathustra the dancer, Zarathustra the light hearted, who beckons with his wings, a man ready to fly, hailing all birds, prepared and ready, a careless and blessed man.”… If someone were to transform Beethoven’s Ode to Joy into a painting and not restrain his imagination when millions of people sink dramatically into the dust, then we could come close to the Dionysian. Now the slave a free man; now all the stiff, hostile barriers break apart, those things which necessity and arbitrary power or “saucy fashion” have established between men. Now, with the gospel of world harmony, every man feels himself not only united with his neighbour, reconciled and fused together, but also as one with him, as if the veil of Maja had been ripped apart, with only scraps fluttering around in the face of the mysterious primordial unity. Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher community: he has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances. The enchantment speaks out in his gestures. Just as the animals now speak and the earth gives milk and honey, so something supernatural also echoes out of him: he feels himself a god; he himself now moves in as lofty and ecstatic a way as he saw the gods move in his dream. The man is no longer an artist; he has become a work of art: the artistic power of all of nature, to the highest rhapsodic satisfaction of the primordial unity, reveals itself here in the transports of intoxication. The finest clay, the most expensive marble — man — is here worked and chiseled, and the cry of the Eleusinian mysteries rings out to the chisel blows of the Dionysian world artist: “Do you fall down, you millions? World, do you have a sense of your creator?”

In the Dionysian dithyramb man is aroused to the highest intensity of all his symbolic capabilities; something never felt forces itself into expression, the destruction of the veil of Maja, the sense of oneness as the presiding genius of form, in fact, of nature itself. Now the essence of nature is to express itself symbolically; a new world of symbols is necessary, the entire symbolism of the body, not just the symbolism of the mouth, of the face, and of the words, but the full gestures of the dance, all the limbs moving to the rhythm. And then the other symbolic powers grow, those of the music, in rhythm, dynamics, and harmony — with sudden violence… We must always remind ourselves that the public for Attic tragedy rediscovered itself in the chorus of the orchestra, that basically there was no opposition between the public and the chorus: for everything is only a huge sublime chorus of dancing and singing satyrs or of those people who permit themselves to be represented by these satyrs.”

Nietzsche said above, “I only believe in a God who knows how to dance.” Recall Louis-Albert’s “When Christ came, “the God-man (Dieu-homme), the God-Dance (Dieu-Dance) invited men and women to recover their sight. Louis-Albert believes in the God-Dance and Nietzsche believes in a god who can dance. The theological problem is that Louis-Albert’s God-Dance is Christ whereas Nietzsche’s God-Dance transcends Christ, abhors Christ; transcends good and evil – a very gnostic/buddhist notion. It seems that for Louis-Albert the unifying principle of humanity is a belief in the God of the Dance. Actually what unifies man is sin; the only thing that can save him is not the God of the dance, but the Man of sorrows. But who will believe this message?

Isaiah 53 – 1. Who has believed our message? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Roman Catholic view 2 – “The Trinity, communion and dance” (Keith A. Fournier).

[My comments in square brackets].

Coming to understand the Trinity is an eternal invitation, but beginning to comprehend the implications of this truth of revelation leads us on the road to coming to understand another vital theological truth, the meaning of the word communion. This deep theological concept called Communion also lies at the heart of coming to grasp the mystery of the Church. In fact, it is the path to understanding the very meaning of human existence itself. We are invited, through Jesus Christ, to live in the Trinity and the Trinity in us this is the theology of communion. It begins with the profound insight that within God there is a community, a family of Divine Persons whose perfect love is perfect unity! Understandably, such a concept is not easily expressed with the limitations of our language. In reflecting on this intra-Trinitarian (within the Trinity) relationship of perfect love and perfect unity between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the great writers of Eastern Christianity referred to the dynamic nature of this relationship with a Greek word perichoresis. This word has no literal English translation. Perhaps the best colloquial or popular rendering would be dance. (Peri around; Chorea dance; Perichorea – To dance around….) Perichoresis is the Divine Dance of perfect love occurring eternally between the Persons of the Trinity!”

This concept is also hard for many Westerners to grasp. This is particularly true or those who have been influenced by what I call disincarnated views of the human person that all too often present living a life of faith as though it means having no fun, celebration or enjoyment in life. In this kind of narrow understanding of Christianity, dance or many other human joys that are experienced bodily, are considered carnal and therefore evil. How sad. In fact, it is worse than sad. It misses another profound claim of Christian faith that the body is more than a carrying case. We are our bodies. The Christian faith proclaims boldly that we who believe in Jesus Christ and are baptized into new life in Him will be resurrected, bodily! Nothing could be further from the revelation of relationship found in the great spiritual writers and mystics of the Christian tradition than a kind of disincarnated bodiless Christianity. Dance is a dynamic way of expressing a relationship between persons. The spiritual life is like a dance! In fact, this dance of self giving love is already underway within the inner life of God. This is the Trinity. We are invited to the celebration!”

To follow Fournier’s thread: communion – the Trinity – dynamic relationship – Greek idea of perichoresis (divine dance of perfect love) – antithesis of Western idea [Western Christian, I assume], which is disincarnated, body is evil, no fun, no celebration, no enjoyment, narrow. The body is key [as Mr Bean said: “My bodeee is my tooooool].

By “Western (Christian) idea,” Fournier can’t mean the Roman Catholic church, which is heavily into the heavenly blessings of sensual enjoyment. Raise our glasses:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,

there’s dancing, laughter & good red wine;

at least I have always found it so,

Benedicamus Domino!

(Hilaire Belloc).

Fournier is probably alluding to the Church’s “separated brethren” (Rome’s moniker for Protestants).

Most Roman Catholics would not go so far as to say – as does the Jesuit evolutionist, Teilhard de Chardin – that matter, the clay of creation, is divine, is spirit in progress:

“Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God… I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay molded and infused with life by the incarnate Word.”

(Teilhard de Chardin, “Hymn of the Universe,” Chapter 3 ”The spiritual power of matter.”)

Although the following quotation on “the dance” between matter and spirit is not from Chardin, it sings from the same hymnal, indeed, it reminds me of Fournier and the mystical view in general, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Church or Eastern religions (Buddhism and Hinduism):

[M]athematical functions model the way energy flows between two dimensions, how energy is transformed between the timeless frequency domain of psyche and the material universe of space-time. The classical school of Indian philosophy, Samkhya, is founded upon the same hypothesis, that all reality consists of the dance and relationship between the two domains of prakrtti and purusha, Sanskrit for what have been translated as “matter” and “spirit”, but could likely be more accurately translated to correspond with the time domain (td) and the frequency domain (fd).

(Psychophysics of the Noosphere: Teilhard de Chardin and the EMF Field Theory of Consciousness).

Many attribute the line “Learn to dance, so when you get to heaven the angels know what to do with you.” (Type the line into a search engine). The beastly thing; I can’t find the source anywhere. Such words seem highly inappropriate for Augustine. Surely it is at best trivial, at worst, drivel.

The following is what one writer says Augustine said about dance. The writer’s topic is “Eternal punishment in the City of God.”

“Not having grasped his understanding of “Incarnation”, but based on the reasoning exhibited in this book, I do not see how he can do justice to the idea that God became Flesh and dwelt amongst us. Such deficiencies are all the more incredible in the light of other of his insights. In his beautiful “In praise of the Dance” he states: ‘I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community. I praise the dance, which demands everything: health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul. Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people, who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.’ Even in this beauty, we see a deep suspicion of the material realm. But we would hope that he takes his own words to heart, about the dangers of being all brain and will.”

The first line of Augustine’s (?) poem: “I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter…” So many cares and worries would vanish; if only I could shuck off this mortal coil. Best of all, there would be no more death – and no more dying, which is worse. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Paul in Romans 7:24). Best of all, that is, if you don’t end up in hell.

The purported extract of a poem of Augustine is definitely not in the City of God, or anywhere else in Augustine that I can find. What is more, how can I believe anything this person says about Augustine when he describes Augustine’s view of Grace – coupling him, unwittingly, with Pelagius, Augustine’s bugbear. To wit: “The key question that hangs over Augustine’s view of salvation is that of Grace. When it is mentioned, it is usually seen as a reward for those who believe correctly. Grace is for the regenerate, effective at some future date, and punishment for all others.” No, no. Here is Augustine on grace that Pelagius despised: “Grant what you command and command what you desire.”

(See “Grant what you command, and command what you desire: Pelagius, the Jew and Augustine.”)

Here is more on “Augustine’s” poem above. An enquirer on “Yahoo Answers” asks: “Help please with a poem/quote – Augustine or Goetsch? I found the following poem on-line and unattributed, which I found matched my own sentiment and the last line made me smile:

‘I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community. I praise the dance, which demands everything: health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul. Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people, who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling. Dancing demands a whole person, one who is firmly anchored in the centre of his life, who is not obsessed by lust for people and things and the demon of isolation in his own ego. Dancing demands a freed person, one who vibrates with the equipoise of all his powers. I praise the dance. O man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.’

Presumably, continues the enquirer, written by a spiritual new-age type, I did a google search and kept getting the answer – St. Augustine of Hippo (d.430 AD). Now this surprised me, as the words and sentiments hardly sound contemporary to 5th Century Christianity. I also found it suspicious that despite the constant attribution to St. Augustine, nobody ever referenced which piece of his works the poem appeared in. also found out that St. Augustine, in a known work of his, wrote that dance was a waste of time, and good Christians were better employed in using their energy to work – a sentiment that later church officials often repeated. In addition, the whole known works of St. Augustine’s have been placed on computer, and neither the poem, nor any separate sentence from it, has been found within them. Eventually I found variants of the lines, written in German, attributed to George Goetsch, apparently appearing in a book “Alte Kontra-tanze” (Old Contra-dances) which he co-authored with Rolf Gardiner in 1928. I have been unable to source the original book, so I do not know if the words are the author’s own creation, or whether they are quotes from someone else.”

Does anyone know this poem, and whether Goetsch wrote it? Goetsch and Gardiner were both into spirituality, but were also early supporters of social nationalism. If written by Goetsch I can imagine someone liking the poem but not the politics of the writer, and so detached the author from it, and either then falsely attributed it to a Christian Saint, or someone did so later. Any information on Goetsch and Gardiner would also be appreciated, but I’m really after tracking down the original poem.”

Greek antiquity

In Greek religion, the three graces (Greek charites) were three beautiful goddesses of Joy, Charm and Beauty, daughters of Zeus, the King of the gods, and the Oceanid Eurynome.

Pindar, the Greek poet, wrote that these goddesses were created to fill the world with pleasantness and goodwill. The Graces attended Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Beauty, and her lover Eros. The Graces, together with the Nymphs and the Muses, danced in a circle to Apollo’s divine music.

Boticelli - The three graces

Boticelli – The three graces


The Nataraja sculpture is a mystical portrayal of the Hindu god of the dance – Shiva.

The significance of the Nataraja (Nataraj) sculpture is said to be that Shiva is shown as the source of all movement with the Lord of the cosmos, represented by the arch of flames. The purpose of the dance is to release men from illusion of the idea of the “self” and of the physical world. The cosmic dance was performed in Chidambaram in South India, called the center of the universe by some Hindus. The gestures of the dance represent Shiva’s five activities, creation (symbolized by the

lord of the dancedrum), protection (by the “fear not” hand gesture), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the foot held aloft). As Nataraja (Sanskrit: Lord of Dance) Shiva represents apocalypse and creation as he dances away the illusory world of Maya transforming it into power and enlightenment. The symbolism of Siva Nataraja is religion, art and science merged as one. In God’s endless dance of creation, preservation, destruction, and paired graces is hidden a deep understanding of our universe.”

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, said “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” Buddhism is a Hindu heresy. Not, however, when it comes to the dance, for there seems to be much in the above description that sits well with Buddhism.

James White (Dividing line, October 23, 2014) in his critique of the “God of the dance” idea among some Calvinists is that they bought into this “God invites us to the dance” garbage. I call it garbage, I know what it’s meant to say, but the only way this topic is ever going to be meaningfully addressed is when we stay within the realm of sola scriptura. Once we start dancing around outside painting pretty sunsets, the chances of it actually answering these questions pretty much disappears.” I am reminded of someone telling me of a sermon she heard at her church where the preacher said that every word in the Bible is from God – tota scriptura. That’s nice. And sola scriptura – scripture alone? I know the preacher very well, and he does not believe in sola scriptura; he is a “Word of Faith” person (Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland), who believes in extra-biblical revelation.

Sola scriptura, yes, that’s good.. But what would James White make of Psalm 150:4 “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” John Pulsford writes about this verse:”Man, the last in creation, but the first in song, knows not how to contain himself. He dances, he sings, he commands all the heavens, with all their angels, to help him, “beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl” must do likewise, even “dragons” must not be silent, and “all deeps” must yield contributions. He presses even dead things into his service, timbrels, trumpets, harps, organs, cymbals, high sounding cymbals, if by any means, and by all means, he may give utterance to his love and joy” (Charles’ Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David”).

Then, alas, this damp squib – from a Protestant, naturally:

“The dance was in early times one of the modes of expressing religious joy (Ex 15:20 6:16). When from any cause men’s ideas shall undergo such a revolution as to lead them to do the same thing for the same purpose, it will be time enough to discuss that matter. In our time, dancing has no such use, and cannot, therefore, in any wise be justified by pleading the practice of pious Jews of old.” (William Swan Plumer on Psalm 150 in Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David.”

So then, to answer my question: Does dancing bring a Christian closer to God? Dance with your body, if you want, but most of all, if you want to dance – do so in your soul. What should matter more to the believer in Christ is: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and “somebody who worships in the Spirit of God, rejoices in Christ Jesus and puts no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3)” (John MacArthur).

For fear of the Jews: Closet Jews for Jesus


In Spain, many Jews “converted” under pressure to Roman Catholicism but retained their faith and practice in secret. Similarly, when the Muslims conquered Christian countries, many Christians who had “converted” to Islam continued to practice in secret. In modern times, there are Muslims in Muslim-controlled areas, Hindus in India, and Jews in Israel who continue this multiple loyalties tradition. These Insider movements have received much criticism lately. See

Here is an excerpt from Philip Jenkins’ excellent “The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died.”

“Often, such multiple loyalty made
good practical sense for communities that remembered just
how often borders changed and territories changed hands. In
the case of the Balkans, these hopes would be justified in the
long term, although the time span would be several
centuries. Cyprus’s Linovamvakoi had to maintain their
disguise from the 1570’s to the 1870’s.”

“The churches responded ambiguously to such clandestine
practice, and some authorities pointed to the stern New
Testament passages demanding the open proclamation of
faith, at whatever cost. As Jesus warned, anyone who failed
to acknowledge him in this world could expect no
recognition on the Day of Judgment. Yet as ever more
Christians fell under Muslim authority, the desperate
situation demanded accommodation. As early as the 13305,
the patriarch of Constantinople unofficially sanctioned
“double faith,” promising that the church would work for the
salvation of Anatolian believers who dared not assert their
faith openly for fear of punishment, provided that they tried
to observe Christian laws. After the fall of Crete in the
seventeenth century, the patriarch of Jerusalem similarly
permitted surface conversion to Islam on grounds of
“inescapable need.”5 Generally, Catholic authorities adopted
a much harder line than the Orthodox, presumably because
their hierarchy did not live under Muslim rule, while most of
their Orthodox counterparts did. Nevertheless, throughout
Ottoman times, Catholic clergy ministered to secret
Christian communities in the Balkans.”

With the above in mind, I reblog this post.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

There is a discussion at the RoshPinaProject on rabbis who followed Jesus/Yeshua. I paraphrase the conversation:

Matt asked why there wasn’t a single modern-day orthodox rabbi (or as far as he know even liberal rabbi) who has accepted Jesus as the messiah. He also mentioned many modern-day evangelical Christians (including Christian pastors) who have converted to Judaism. Gev replied that the reason was probably because if they came out of the closet, they would get serious grief and probably lose their job. Matt thought that it was absurd that rabbis are not converting today to Jesus because they might lose their “high paying pulpit jobs.” This, Matt, retorted, was a pretty lame reason, because most orthodox rabbis and scholars are not well funded by their congregations or donors, whereas an orthodox rabbi who accepted Jesus as his messiah would soon have access to a nice share of the millions of…

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ISIS, Politics and Islam

In  his “Is ISIS a faith-based terrorist group?” (Colombia Journalism Review), Christopher Massie argues:

The real problem [of ISIS] is that nobody can precisely calculate the aggregation of factors that have produced the modern phenomenon of Islamic extremism. And so the claims of people who cite religious causes cannot be dismissed any more than the claims of people who cite political ones. Hussain is right to caution that “Western society doesn’t have a great familiarity with Muslim culture,” and Nomani is also right to say that “we should cover Islam like we cover a city council meeting,” bearing in mind “political interests” and “ideological interests.”

David Wood, in contrast, argues that the main inspiration behind ISIS is Islam in the Qu’ran and the Hadiths.


“Jihadists fighting for ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claim that they are following the commands of Allah and Muhammad. Yet Westernized Muslims, politicians, and the media claim that ISIS is violating the principles of Islam. Who’s right? In the following video, David Wood presents the top ten Quran verses for understanding the beliefs and actions of ISIS.”


Brave new wave: the Bible is about MOI

Much preaching today is “narcigesis” – narcissistic reading into the text. Here is my sermon based on Steven Furtick’s “Brave the waves,” which appeared in Chris Rosebrough’s podcast “Fighting for the faith.”

I’m reading to the audience: Mark 4: Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

Moi – Say “other side.”
Audience – (incoherent buzz ghfb&£;:-, which one would assume is “other side”).

36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

Moi: All of us have storms in our lives, squalls on the sea. Say “sea.”

Audience: See.

Moi: No, that’s the story of the blind man. “See.”

Audience to a man: I see: “see.”

38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Moi: Say “be still.”

Audience: “Cork up.”

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Moi: Who do you think this story is about?

Audience: Moi.

Moi: Let’s pray: Lord, increase my faith. And understanding – of who I AM.

Christ’s Passion: Sufferings of every kind

The heart of the “Passion” lies in its historical (etymological) meaning. “Passion” comes from the Latin root passio “to render.” So when we suffer, we have to submit to causes that deprive us of our freedom or well-being.

When I was at the 1993 Congress of Philosophy in Moscow, I attended a session where the French philosopher,Paul Ricoeur, “one of the most distinguished philosophers of the twentieth century,” (Stanford Encyclopedia) spoke on “suffering.” He spoke in English. After he had used the word “suffering” several times, I noticed that his context nothing to to do with the English meaning of “suffering,” namely, extreme distress or pain. I studied the mesmerised faces of the audience. It seemed to me that even if he had talked backwards, they would’ve accepted it as Gospel. Hopefully the backward flip that I have done with my prospective sermon has faired a little better.

As I had some familiarity with Ricoeur’s philosophy, I was pretty sure that his “suffering” had nothing to do with extreme mental or physical pain but rather with one of his important philosophical themes, namely “passivity in action” (See ENDNOTE). At question time, I asked him what he meant by “suffering.” The problem was, I said, that in French there exists the two words “subir” and “souffrir,” which originate from the same etymological root. “Souffrir” means “suffering”(extreme pain), while “subir” has the meaning, as in the King James Bible Version, of “suffer little children to come unto me,” (Mark 10:13), that is, let, or allow, them to come to me, or don’t take in action that will prevent them coming to me. So, when Ricoeur used the word “suffering,” he was thinking of “subir” (passivity). And what was Ricoeur’s response? He meant “subir” (passivity) not “suffering.” He had committed a common error in French-English, English-French translation called “faux amis”(false friends). (See Passivity and suffering in the passion of the Christ”).

Here is W.J.T. Shedd on Christ’s Passive Obedience (See Shedd’s “Vicarious Atonement“).

“[Passive obedience] denotes Christ’s sufferings of every kind—the sum total of the sorrow and pain which he endured in his estate of humiliation. The term passive is used etymologically. His suffering is denominated “obedience” because it came by reason of his submission to the conditions under which he voluntarily placed himself when he consented to be the sinner’s substitute. He vicariously submitted to the sentence “the soul that sins, it shall die” and was “obedient unto death” (Phil. 2:8). Christ’s passive or suffering obedience is not to be confined to what he experienced in the garden and on the cross. This suffering was the culmination of his piacular [expiatory] sorrow, but not the whole of it. Everything in his human and earthly career that was distressing belongs to his passive obedience. It is a true remark of [Jonathan] Edwards that the blood of Christ’s circumcision was as really a part of his vicarious atonement as the blood that flowed from his pierced side. And not only his suffering proper, but his humiliation, also, was expiatory, because this was a kind of suffering.”

“The satisfaction or propitiation of Christ consists either in his suffering evil or his being subject to abasement. Thus Christ made satisfaction for sin by continuing under the power of death while he lay buried in the grave, though neither his body nor soul properly endured any suffering after he was dead. Whatever Christ was subject to that was the judicial fruit of sin had the nature of satisfaction for sin. But not only proper suffering, but all abasement and depression of the state and circumstances of mankind [human nature] below its primitive honor and dignity, such as his body remaining under death, and body and soul remaining separate, and other things that might be mentioned, are the judicial fruits of sin.”


1“Ricoeur’s account of the way in which narrative represents the human world of acting (and, in its passive mode, suffering).”
Kluge Prize Winner 2004 – Paul Ricoeur Acceptance speech of Paul Ricoeur – December 2004

“I identify myself by my capacities, by what I can do. The individual designates himself as a capable human being—and, we must add, as a suffering human being, to underscore the vulnerability of the human condition.”

What would you say to someone who was adamant that Allah was the only true God? Narrow is the gate

An atheist friend challenged me with this question: “What would you say to someone who was adamant that Allah was the one and only god?” (His small “g”). As far as I  am aware, my friend knows very little about Islam. Here was my answer, which did not try and prove why Allah (described in the Qu’ran, I assume) was, at best, an inadequate portrayal of God, but focused on why only the Bible provides the correct revelation of God.

Every Christian, when asked, is admonished to give an answer to those who ask for the hope that is within him: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John. 5:24).

The Apostle John writes: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). John had seen the crucified Christ, but a thing most wonderful, also the risen Christ.

Why is it very possible you will reject the Jesus of the Bible? In Matthew 7:13-14 we read of Jesus saying, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Roman 3 says “11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God (of the Bible) 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, Not even one; 13 Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. 14  Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

Unless Jesus has mercy on you and grants you repentance and faith in him, and by so doing bring you back from the spiritual death you deserve, you will remain in your sins. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:44). The consequence of your rejection: “He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18-19).” “… in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, ….” (2Th 1:8-9).

Old Testament Saints and the Holy Spirit


The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the OT and the NT.

Originally posted on Scripture Thoughts:

From basic dispensational teaching I heard that — per John 7:39 and later references to Christ sending the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) – Old Testament saints were regenerated but did not have the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit only came upon them from time to time, for special empowerment, whereas we now have the permanent indwelling.  Yet I wondered about it, as something that didn’t make sense: how could people be regenerated and yet NOT have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? In daily Bible reading of the Old  Testament, we come across so many descriptions of believers who have “a different spirit” and a relationship to God in so many ways like ours.  John 3 tells us that OT believers were regenerated, as this was something that Nicodemus was expected to already know as a present reality, and Luke 1 and 2 (the birth narrative) include many references…

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Suppository preaching: The modern “evangelical” church and getting nailed

Much preaching today does not attempt to relate the Old Testament to Jesus but to their narcissistic audience: Get rid of the frogs in your life, purge yourself of poverty, find your purpose, live your  dream, reach your po-tential. What they don’t do is expository preaching, that is, preach the Bible, verse by verse and connect it to Jesus. We should, writes Sinclair Ferguson, “develop an instinctive mindset and, corresponding to that, such a passion for Jesus Christ himself, that we will find our way to him in a natural and realistic way rather than a merely formulaic way. This is a much bigger issue than how we preach Christ from the Old Testament, for at least two reasons. First, because (if my own assessment is correct) many sermons from the Gospels – where the focus is explicitly on the person of Jesus – never mind from the Old Testament are far from Christ-centred. How is this possible? The preacher has looked into the text principally to find himself and his congregation, not to find Christ.The sermon is consequently about ‘people in the Gospels’ rather than about Jesus Christ who is the gospel.The real question the preacher has been interested in asking and answering, is not ‘How do we find Christ in this Gospel?’ but “Where am I in this story?” (PREACHING CHRIST FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT Sinclair B Ferguson).

A Christian is called. To do what? “Follow me.” And the crucial part of this calling by Jesus is getting nailed – as Paris Reidhead once said – to the back of the cross; the “purpose-driven” crowd’s worst nightmare.

See  The Gospel is about you

Theology, rationalism and ritualism in making man just (justification)

Here is an excerpt from “The doctrine of justification; an outline of its history in the church and of its exposition from Scripture” by James Buchanan.

It may be thought by some, writes James Buchanan that the subject of Justification is trite and exhausted; that, as one of the ‘commonplaces’ of Theology, it was conclusively determined and settled at the era of the Reformation; and that nothing new or interesting can now be introduced into the discussion of it. It is not necessary to say in reply to this, as some might be disposed to say, that what is new in Theology is not true, and what is true is not new;’ for we believe, and are warranted by the whole history of the Church in believing, that Theology, like every other science, is progressive,—progressive, not in the sense of adding anything to the truth once for all revealed in the inspired Word, but in the way of eliciting and unfolding what has always been contained in it,—of bringing out one lesson after another, and placing each of them in a clearer and stronger light,—and discovering the connection, interdependency, and harmony, of all the constituent parts of the marvellous scheme of Revelation. In this sense, Science and Theology are both progressive, the one in study of God’s works, the other in the study of God’s Word; and as human Science has not yet exhausted the volume of Nature, or reached the limit of possible discovery in regard to it, much less has human theology fathomed the depths of Scripture, or left nothing to reward further inquiry into the manifold wisdom of God.’ There may be room, therefore, for something new, if not in the substance, yet in the treatment, even of the great doctrine of Justification,—in the exposition of its scriptural meaning, and in the method of adducing, arranging, and applying the array of its scriptural proofs. But apart from this, and looking to the character of our current literature, may it not be said that, to a large class of minds in the present age, nothing could well be more new than the old Theology of the Reformation ? The Gospel is older than Luther; but, to every succeeding generation, it is still new,—good news from God,—as fresh now as when it first sprung from the fountain of Inspiration. It was new to ourselves,— surprising, startling, and affecting us strangely, as if it were almost too good to,—when it first shone, like a beam of heaven’s own light, into our dark and troubled spirits, and shed abroad ‘ a peace which passeth all understanding.’ It will be equally new to our children, and our children’s children, when they come to know that they have sins to be forgiven, and souls to be saved; and to the last sinner who is convinced and converted on the earth, it will still be as * good tidings from a far country,’ —as ‘cold water to a thirsty soul.’ It can never become old or obsolete, for this obvious reason, that while it is  ‘the everlasting Gospel,’ and, as such, like its Author, unchangeable,—’the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,’—yet it comes into contact, in every succeeding age, with new minds, who are ignorant of it, but need it, and can find no peace without it; and when they receive it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners,’ they will learn from their own experience that the old truth is still the germ of * a new creation’—the spring of a new life, a new peace, a new hope, a new spiritual existence, to which they were utter strangers before. The free pardon of all sin, and a sure title to eternal life, conferred by the mere grace of God, and resting solely on the redemption and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ,—this, as the actual and immediate privilege of every sinner, on the instant when he begins to rely on Christ alone for salvation, as He is offered to him individually in the Gospel,—may come home, with all the freshness of new truth, even to many who bear the Christian name; and a realizing sense of them, in the conscious experience of their own souls, will be the best safeguard against the prevailing errors of the times, and the danger to which so many are at this moment exposed, of being tossed about two apparently opposite tendencies, which have been so strikingly developed in the present age as to constitute its most marked and characteristic features;—the one is the tendency towards Rationalism, whose final goal is a cheerless and dreary Scepticism; the other, the tendency towards Ritualism, which can only find its complete realization in the Church of Rome. The false security of the Rationalist arises, not from the knowledge and belief of Christ’s Gospel, but from ignorance or disbelief in regard to the demands and sanctions of God’s Law; and the doctrine of Justification, as it is taught in Scripture, is fitted to break up that false security, and to awaken every thoughtful man to a sense of his real condition in the sight of God. For, in its negative aspect, it teaches us, first of all, how we cannot be justified,—it excludes the possibility of pardon and acceptance, in the case of man fallen, on the ground of his own obedience, and insists on the necessity of a satisfaction to divine justice, such as shall be at once an adequate expression of God’s infinite abhorrence of sin, and an effectual means of securing all the ends of punishment under His moral government.

Panis Angelicus “Bread of heaven” and those platinum poltergeists

The popular Christmas song “What child is this” uses the music of “Greensleaves.” Here is an excerpt:

1. What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Another popular “evangelical” song is “Panis Angelicus.” Many modem non-Catholics are unaware that their version of “Panis Anglicus” consists of only the music – composed by Cesar Franck. Someone took the lovely tune and set his own lyrics to it. When you see the original words, you will see that it is inspired by the Roman Catholic doctrine of “transubstantiation” where the substance of bread and wine literally change into the physical body and blood of Christ. Yet it still tastes, looks, feels, smells (its “accidents”) like wafers (“bread”) and wine.

Here is wikipedia
Panis angelicus (Latin for “Bread of Angels” or “Angelic Bread”) is the penultimate strophe of the hymn “Sacris solemniis” written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi as part of a complete liturgy of the feast, including prayers for the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

The strophe of “Sacris solemniis” that begins with the words “Panis angelicus” (bread of angels) has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn. Most famously, in 1872 César Franck set this strophe for tenor voice, harp, cello, and organ, and incorporated it into his Messe à trois voix, Op. 12.

Other hymns for Corpus Christi by Saint Thomas where sections have been separately set to music are “Verbum supernum prodiens” (the last two strophes begin with “O salutaris Hostia”) and “Pange lingua gloriosi” (the last two strophes begin with “Tantum ergo”).

Here is the original Latin of Aquinas:

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus, et humilis.

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.

Literal English translation:

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The poor, servant, and humble person eats (gnaws, chews) the Lord.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest.

Most “evangelicals” would eschew the first verse. The second verse is accepted by all Trinitarians.

Contrast the new “evangelical” version, which is a radically different cup of tea.

O Lord most holy, O Lord most mighty,
O loving Father, Thee would we be praising alway.
Help us to know Thee,
Know Thee and love Thee;
Father, Father, grant us Thy truth and grace;

Father, Father, guide and defend us.
Rule Thou our wilful hearts,
Keep Thine our wand’ring thoughts;
In all our sorrows, let us find our rest in Thee;

And in temptation’s hour,
Save through Thy mighty power,
Thine aid, O send us;
Hear us in mercy.
Show us Thy favour,
So Shall we live and sing praise to Thee.

Here are two performances, the first the “evangelical” version, the second the Roman Catholic version:

Music by Cesar Franck

Jerome Hines: O Lord, most holy

Andrea Bocelli: Panis Angelicus

With regard to Aquinas’ last line of the first verse “The poor, servant, and humble person eats the Lord,” there is a sense in which this is biblical, which all the reformers  – Luther, Calvin and many others – except Zwingli believed and taught.
Here is the Apostle Paul rebuking the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11:22-29
What! Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show the Lord’s death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Roman Catholics and Protestants differ in the meaning of the “Lord’s body.”

I must say I hate the description “elements.” Makes me think of platinum poltergeists.

The two most important methods of studying theology

In the preface to this work on Justification, we read:

“There are various
methods of teaching Theology, but the most important
are the Historical and the Logical. They are both syste-
matic, but they are founded on two different relations
subsisting between the truths of Scripture; the first,-on
the relation of prior and posterior in respect to their
chronological development,-the second, on the internal
relation between them in respect to their doctrinal mean-
ing, which arises from the fact that some truths necessarily
presuppose certain other truths, and can neither be stated
nor proved without reference to them. Each of these
methods has some advantages which are peculiar to itself,
and the combination of the two is necessary to any com-
plete course of Theology. The one marks the successive
unfoldings of divine truth, and the various controversies
which have arisen in regard to it; the other, keeping in
view the doctrinal results of that history, expounds the
lessons of Scripture, in the light which has thus been
shed upon them. Every great doctrine of Scripture
might be treated in this way…”

From the classic work, The Doctrine of Justification, Free ebook by James Buchanan (1804 -1870).

Of funerals, homilies and having no train to catch

Yesterday, I said to my wife, Cathy, “When I die, I want 1 Corinthians 15 read at my funeral. The whole chapter might be a bit too long.” Cathy said, “They don’t have a train to catch.”

Do you?

1 Corinthians 15

1  Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.”

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

What religions are inherently evil? Those that reject substitutionary atonement

The following is an excerpt of a review by Kendal B. Hunter from Ravi Zacharias’ Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth.

“In Chapter Three, Dr. Zacharias discusses the essential nature of Islam, whether it is good or bad. … I think that we make sweeping generalizations against Islam, since the key to understanding the two Islams is how one translated “jihad.” Dr. Zacharias makes the case that Islam is not inherently evil, but that the fundamentalists have hijacked it. He spends some time discussing the blasting cap book of radical Islam, “The Missing Religious Precept,” which focused on the negative, violent definition of “jihad.”

I haven’t read Zacharias’ book, but if he did indeed say that Islam is not inherently evil, here is the reason why the New Testament maintains that all non-Christian religions are inherently evil: they all fall down at religion’s highest point – the cross. I quote from Steve Lawson’s lecture The kind of preaching God blesses. at the Knox 500 Conference, Perth, Scotland, 11 August, 2014.

“Paul, “I’m determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ crucified.” The highest apex, the pinnacle the summit of Paul’s preaching was again and again to scale the heights of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul preached the full council of God, did he not? Paul preached the truth,the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He preached all the areas of systematic theology, … Christology, pneumatology (Holy Spirit), eschatology, anthropology, harmatology (Si), soteriology (salvation), ecclesiology. Paul preached it all, yet here he says, ‘I am determined to nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’ What do you say if every area of systematic theology is rooted and grounded in one way or another in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that all of the lines of his theology intersect at that highest point that sets forth the glory of Jesus Christ who has come into this world to lay down his life as a ransom for many. He preached Christ but not just Christ,the teacher, not just christ the example, and not just Christ the wise instructor.”

“But Christ the sin-bearing substitutionary saviour of sinners by whose death propitiated the righteous anger of God for sinners so that therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For Christ up on the cross reconciled holy God and sinful man by bringing them together through the blood of his cross.”

Judaism rejects the idea of Jesus’ substitutionary/vicarious penal sacrifice. Islam bolts out of history and says that Jesus wasn’t even crucified.

During the last few decades, many Christians are abandoning this crucial doctrine of substitutionary sacrifice, so vivid in Isaiah 53: “He was crushed for our iniquities.” A pox on their houses.

Entertainment: Exercise in futility


Late 15c., “to keep up, maintain, to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind,” from Middle French entretenir, from Old French entretenir “hold together, stick together, support” (12c.), from entre- “among” (from Latin inter; see inter-) + tenir “to hold.”

Most entertainment is a futile attempt to hold life together between interminable bouts of misery.

Psalm 84

1  How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! 2  My soul yearns, even faints,for the courts of the Lord;my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.3  Even the sparrow has found a home,and the swallow a nest for herself,where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.4  Blessed are those who dwell in your house;they are ever praising you.

5  Blessed are those whose strength is in you,whose hearts are set on pilgrimage…
8  Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;listen to me, God of Jacob.9  Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. 10  Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.11  For the Lord God is a sun and shield;the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he with hold from those whose walk is blameless. 12  Lord Almighty,blessed is the one who trusts in you.

How do we go about determining truth and knowledge? Classical problems with no earthly answers.


How rationalism hijacked philosophy.

Originally posted on Rebuild Your Biblical Worldview:


Historically, there have been three areas of philosophy that philosophers have debated over, and these areas can be illustrated with three questions: what is the nature of reality (metaphysics); how do we know what we know (epistemology); and what is the proper way to live (ethics).

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Does this world seek Jesus because of your loving yet uncompromising testimony? Perhaps.

Here is typical question in a sermon: “Does this world want Jesus because of your loving yet uncompromising testimony?”

Sometimes. But this loving and uncompromising testimony is only a means, one among many possible means God uses to save his elect, that is, those upon whom he had decreed to show mercy; for example, the death of a loved one, surviving an accident, philosophical proofs for the existence of God, hearing a Bible verse.  These means are the visible “secondary causes” while God’s decree is the primary one. the real cause, which is both efficient and sufficient to save.

John 6:37
that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out…. John 6:44…
man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day… John 6:65
said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Related: Does God plan the end – and the means?

The Baptist ‘Covenant of Grace’: The New Covenant


The Westminister definition of “Covent of grace,” which the infant-baptism types espouse always bothered me. Spurgeon’s view makes more sense.

Originally posted on Scripture Thoughts:

Something that was previously unclear to me, that I had wondered about especially in reference to my Spurgeon sermon reading: what is meant by the term ‘covenant of grace’? The common idea, in reference to Presbyterian-type infant baptism, is of one continuous covenant throughout the Old and New Testament, “under two administrations” such that the Old (Mosaic) covenant was also part of the “covenant of grace.”  This idea blends and confuses Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, to come up with a “new testament” equivalent of circumcision, namely, infant baptism.  Yet this Westminster-style Covenant Theology is better known, and commonly presented as the only type of CT — such as at the local church several years ago, which briefly presented this form, followed by the (only other choice) favorable presentation of “New Covenant Theology” such that NCT “must” be the correct choice.

Yet whenever Spurgeon mentioned…

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The belief of God’s power is one of the first steps to all religion

“The belief of God’s power is one of the first steps to all religion; without settled thoughts of it, we cannot pray lively and believingly for the obtaining the mercies we want, or the averting the evils we fear; we should not love him, unless we are persuaded he hath a power to bless us; nor fear him, unless we were persuaded of his power to punish us. The frequent thoughts of this would render our faith more stable, and our hopes more stedfast; it would make us more feeble to sin, and more careful to obey. When the virgin staggered at the message of the angel, that she should “bear a Son,” he, in his answer, turns her to the creative power of God (Luke i. 35), “The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee ;” which seems to be in allusion to the Spirit’s moving upon the face of the deep, and bringing a comely world out of a confused mass. Is it harder for God to make a virgin conceive a Son by the power of his Spirit, than to make a world? Why doth he reveal himself so often under the title of Almighty, and press it upon us, but that we should press it upon ourselves? Ana shall we be forgetful of that which every thing about us, everything within us, is a mark of? How come we by a power of seeing and hearing, a faculty, and act of understanding and will, but by this power framing us, this power assisting us? What though the thunder of his power cannot be understood, no more can any other perfection of his nature; shall we, therefore, seldom think of it?

(“The Character and the Attributes of God” by Stephen Charnock; the best book on the attributes of God).

Pustules of prosperity and the life and death of David Brainerd

In many “evangelical” movements today, the Bible is not considered to be mainly about Jesus but about yours sincerely: moi. “How I can slay the Goliaths in my life, be more successful, healthier, live live to the full.” Read your Bible silly and find out. I call this self-adulation the “pustules of prosperity.” Contrast this narcissistic lust for life with the life and death of the American missionary, David Brainerd (April 20, 1718–October 9, 1747), whose short life of dedication and suffering among the Native Americans of Delaware inspired many other misionaries and continues to inspire many Christians from all walks of life. Here is an except from a short biography of Brainerd:

In November 1746, he became too ill to continue ministering, and so moved to Jonathan Dickinson’s house in Elizabethtown. After a few months of rest, he travelled to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he stayed at the house of Jonathan Edwards. Apart from a trip to Boston in the summer of that year, he remained at Edwards’s house until his death the following year. In May 1747, he was diagnosed with incurable consumption; in these final months, he suffered greatly. In his diary entry for 24 September, Brainerd wrote:

‘In the greatest distress that ever I endured having an uncommon kind of hiccough; which either strangled me or threw me into a straining to vomit.’

During this time, he was nursed by Jerusha Edwards, Jonathan’s seventeen-year-old daughter. The friendship that grew between them was of a kind that has led some to suggest they were romantically attached. He died from tuberculosis on 9 October 1747, at the age of 29. He is buried at Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton, next to Jerusha, who died in February 1748 as a result of contracting tuberculosis from nursing Brainerd. His gravestone reads:

Sacred to the memory of the Rev. David Brainerd. A faithful and laborious missionary to the Stockbridge, Delaware and Sasquehanna TRIBES OF INDIANS WHO died in this town. October 10, 1747.”

David Brainerd (Words speak louder than pictures)
David Brainerd (Words speak louder than pictures)

The following excerpt is from Jonathan Edwards’ biography of Brainerd, which includes excerpts from Brainerd’s diary. My title will become clear in the text.

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd” by Jonathan Edwards (free ebook pdf here).

Pp. 296-7

(Excerpts from Brainerd’s diary appear in italics)

“Friday, Oct. 2. My soul was this day, at turns, sweetly set on God: I longed to be with him, that I might behold his glory. I felt sweetly disposed to commit all to him, even my dearest friends, my dearest flock, my absent brother, and all my concerns for time and eternity. Oh that his kingdom might come in the world; that they might all love and glorify him, for what he is in himself; and that the blessed Redeemer might `see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied!’ `Oh come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! Amen.'”

The next evening we very much expected his brother John from New Jersey; it being about a week after the time that he proposed for his return, when he went away. And though our expectations were still disappointed; yet Mr. Brainerd seemed to continue unmoved, in the same calm and peaceful frame that he had before manifested; as having resigned all to God, and having done with his friends, and with all things here below. On the morning of the next day, being Lord’s day, Oct. 4, as my daughter Jerusha (who chiefly attended him) came into the room, he looked on her very pleasantly, and said,

“Dear Jerusha, are you willing to part with me? — I am quite willing to part with you: I am willing to part with all my friends: I am willing to part with my dear brother John, although I love him the best of any creature living: I have committed him and all my friends to God, and can leave them with God. Though, if I thought I should not see you and be happy with you in another world, I could not bear to part with you. But we shall spend a happy eternity together!” [67] In the evening, as one came into the room with a Bible in her hand, he expressed himself thus; “Oh that dear book! that lovely book! I shall soon see it opened! the mysteries that are in it, and the mysteries of God’s providence, will be all unfolded!”

His distemper now very apparently preyed on his vitals in an extraordinary manner: not by a sudden breaking of ulcers in his lungs, as at Boston, but by a constant discharge of purulent matter, in great quantities: so that what he brought up by expectoration, seemed to be as it were mouthfuls of almost clear pus; which was attended with very inward pain and distress. On Thursday, Oct. 6, he lay for a considerable time as if he were dying. At which time he was heard to utter, in broken whispers, such expressions as these; “He will come, he will not tarry. — I shall soon be in glory. — I shall soon glorify God with the angels.”

But after some time he revived. The next day, Wednesday, Oct. 7, his brother John arrived from New Jersey; where he had been detained much longer than he intended, by a mortal sickness prevailing among the Christian Indians, and by some other circumstances that made his stay with them necessary. Mr. Brainerd was affected and refreshed with seeing him, and appeared fully satisfied with the reasons of his delay; seeing the interest of religion and of the souls of his people required it. 

The next day, Thursday, Oct. 8, he was in great distress and agonies of body; and for the greater part of the day, was much disordered as to the exercise of his reason. In the evening he was more composed, and had the use of his reason well; but the pain of his body continued and increased. He told me, it was impossible for any to conceive of the distress he felt in his breast. He manifested much concern lest he should dishonour God by impatience, under his extreme agony; which was such, that he said, the thought of enduring it one minute longer was almost insupportable. He desired that others would be much in lifting up their hearts continually to God for him, that God would support him, and give him patience.

He signified, that he expected to die that night; but seemed to fear a longer delay: and the disposition of his mind with regard to death appeared still the same that it had been all along. And notwithstanding his bodily agonies, yet the interest of Zion lay still with great weight on his mind; as appeared by some considerable discourse he had that evening with the Reverend Mr. Billing, one of the neighboring ministers, (who was then present,) concerning the great importance of the work of the ministry, &c. And afterwards, when it was very late in the night, he had much very proper and profitable discourse with his brother John, concerning his congregation in New Jersey, and the interest of religion among the Indians. In the latter part of the night, his bodily distress seemed to rise to a greater height than ever; and he said to those then about him, that “it was another thing to die than people imagined;” explaining himself to mean that they were not aware what bodily pain and anguish is undergone before death. Towards day, his eyes fixed; and he continued lying immovable, till about six o’clock in the morning, and then expired, on Friday, Oct. 9, 1747; when his soul, as we may well conclude, was received by his dear Lord and Master, as an eminently faithful servant, into that state of perfection of holiness, and fuition of God, which he had so often and so ardently longed for; and was welcomed by the glorious assembly in the upper world, as one peculiarly fitted to join them in their blessed employ and enjoyment.

End of Jonathan Edwards

Here is a fitting passage from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3:

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Straining Toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

C.S. Lewis and Hell: Self-chosen because free

I explain the title: Norman Geisler wrote a book called “Chosen but free,” in which he tries to show that the reason why God chooses to save a person is because he sees down the corridors of time that the person first chooses Him. This. Of course, is the Arminian view of salvation. In this article, I examine another popular (Arminian) notion, namely, that God does not send a person to hell; it is up to you where you choose to go because, says the Arminian, God will not interfere with the most precious thing you have – your freedom.

In the 16th century, Roman Catholics and Protestants (to simplify: Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists) believed in core doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, Original Sin, Hell. Nowadays, these denominational “covers” tell you very little about the “book” (doctrines) inside. I was speaking to an Anglican priest who said he did not believe in the Virgin birth or Original sin. He did however believe in Hell. With regard to Hell, he said that God sends no one to hell – or heaven; they decide where they want to go. I asked this priest, who ran a large parish, how he could, in good conscience, draw a salary every month. Let me just say we didn’t bond.

The idea of going to hell on your own bat – or to put it less sportingly, “Does Anyone Standing by the Lake of Fire Jump In?” (John Piper) – was popularised by C.S. Lewis. I have yet to meet a (literate) Christian, who has not read some Lewis. Lewis has played a major role in many conversions to Christianity (a good number to Roman Catholicism). Here are a number of “Hell: Self-Chosen” quotations from Lewis. (The Quotable Lewis, W. Martindale and J. Root, 1990). The quotations are in italics.


Clive Staples Lewis

Hell: Self-Chosen

1. A man can’t be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you

can only get there on your own steam.

(The Dark Tower & Other Stories. (1938, first pub.

1977), chap. 3, p. 49).

I assume that Lewis wants to remain faithful to scripture. Does the Bible teach that God stands back and lets people choose what they want? It depends on the issue. God does indeed sometimes give people what they want. For example:

Romans 1

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

2. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one

sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors

of hell are locked on the inside.

(The Problem of Pain, chap. 8, para. 11, p. l27)

Locked on the inside. Yeah, no one’s gonna come in here – not even you, God – and deprive me of my utter darkness, my unquenchable weeping and my gnashing teeth.

Matthew 10

11 And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: 12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

3. [On the unrepentant devils] That door out of

Hell is firmly locked, by the devils themselves, on

the inside; whether it is also locked on the outside

need not, therefore, be considered.

(Preface to “Paradise Lost,” chap. 14, para. 2, p. 105)

What do I like more than anything? Being tormented forever and ever. Not to forget an added bonus: no rest day or night.

Revelation 14:11

And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

4. “How can they choose it [hell]?”

Milton was right,” said my Teacher. “The

choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the

words ‘Better to reign in Hell than serve in

Heaven.’ There is always something they insist on

keeping, even at the price of misery. There is

always something they prefer to joy – that is, to

reality. We see it easily enough in a spoiled child

that would sooner miss its play and its supper 

than say it was sorry and be friends.”

(The Great Divorce, chap. 9, pp. 69-70)

“Absolutely right; I’d rather die in hell than obey God.” The speaker dies happily and in a wink finds himself in hell. A demon unlocks the door from the inside. There’s no doorknob on the outside. The deceased crosses the threshold. “Praise Satan; am I glad my name was not written in the book of life! and sacrificed my play and supper time in exchange for this yummy never-ending swim in the lake of fire: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

John Piper writes:

When he dies, he will be shocked beyond words. The miseries are so great he would do anything in his power to escape. That it is not in his power to repent does not mean he wants to be there. Esau wept bitterly that he could not repent (Hebrew 12:17). The hell he was entering into he found to be totally miserable, and he wanted out. The meaning of hell is the scream: “I hate this, and I want out.” What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable. It is not what people want—certainly not what they “most want.” Wanting sin is no more equal to wanting hell than wanting chocolate is equal to wanting obesity. Or wanting cigarettes is equal to wanting cancer” (J. Piper. “How willingly do people go to hell?).

People may willingly go to hell. They say, “No sweat.” The question is once there, do they want to stay there. Lewis says yes. What did the rich man say to Lazarus?

Luke 16

19 Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: 20 and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yea, even the dogs come and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. 23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted and thou art in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us.

27 And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; 28 for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead.

5. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and

those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that

self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss

it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

(The Great Divorce, chap. 9, pp. 72-73).

Dan Philips writes:

Well, I think we like it [the above quotation] because it’s binary, and many of us like binary. In fact, I suppose I could say there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who like binary, and those who don’t.

Sorry. Anyway.

The Bible is certainly binary on most things that matter: two wisdoms, two ways, two ends. This Lewis quotation is like that: “only two kinds of people.” We like that. And we like that Lewis exalts the Lordship of God, makes clear that knowing God, belonging to God, necessarily involves an embrace of His will.

I daresay many people really, really like this snippet because it makes Hell seem less objectionable. It takes the heat (no pun intended) off us — and off God — and puts it all on the lost. “They’re in Hell because they want to be,” we say, echoing Lewis. Oh. Well then, that’s not so bad, is it? We thought of Hell as a place God threw people, screaming and wailing and miserable. Terrified, not wanting to be there. But heck (again, no pun), if they want to be there anyway…

Yes, well, except that’s just the thing. They don’t want to be there. There is no evidence whatever that they want to be in Hell. This quotation, at least as commonly used, is mostly fudging, and mostly balderdash. (Dan Philips “C. S. Lewis on hell: Really deep, oft-quoted, really wrong).

Scripture warns:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?”

With regard to C.S. Lewis or any one else we read or listen to, examine to see whether they are in the faith – no matter how much you admire or have learnt from them.

A Jew does not have to believe in Jesus; love for the God of Israel is enough: one “Messianic Jewish” view


I add a relevant section to the post I previously published below. The comments are of particular interest. Before I proceed, I believe that Israel has not been replaced by the Church.

How good has the Holy one of Israel been to the Jews?

Here is an excerpt from Messianic Rabbi Schiffman’s “Messianic Judaism and Christianity: two religions with the same Messiah.”

“For Yeshua to be the Messiah of Israel, he would have to be good for the Jews.  If his coming resulted in twenty centuries of Jewish people going to hell, the bottom line is, he wasn’t very good for the Jews.”

For now, let’s leave hell out of the equation and focus on whether God/Messiah was ever very good for the Jews, for example, before Yeshua.

There are many occasions in Israelite history where God destroys by means of the Assyrians and Babylonians, for examples, vast swathes of his chosen people where only a tenth of a tenth remain.

Isaiah 6:8-13
I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they sea with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed. 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste, 12 and Jehovah have removed men far away, and the forsaken places be many in the midst of the land.
13 And if there be yet a tenth in it, it also shall in turn be eaten up: as a terebinth, and as an oak, whose stock remaineth, when they are felled; so the holy seed is the stock thereof.

With regard to the last 2000 years, the Jewish people have got off relatively lightly. The bottom line for disbelief in Yeshua as the Messiah is, as Yeshua says, being cast into the outer darkness. The New Testament is clear, everyone, without exception, who does not believe that “I am He” will be rejected by His Father. In this regard, John 8 is a very important chapter where we see that all who reject Yeshua/Jesus as the eternal Son of God that has come into the world, will die in their sins. In John 8, Jesus is talking to Jews, those Jews who “believed” in him. As we read we see that these are false believers, which Jesus calls sons of the devil:

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

The Truth Will Set You Free
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

You Are of Your Father the Devil
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Before Abraham Was, I Am
48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’[c] 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[d] 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

Michael Schiffman a prominent Messianic Jewish leader, says that he knows “plenty of people who believe Yeshua is Lord, savior, etc, etc, who treat people badly and exhibit none of the marks of a true Yeshua follower. All they have is a verbal confession. I don’t necessarily think they will receive salvation. It is not a verbal confession that brings salvation, but a life lived in faith and the love of God. I do believe that people who genuinely love God (the God of Israel), pray to Him and trust him don’t go to hell because God doesn’t send people to hell who genuinely love Him … in short, I think questions of who “receives salvation,” are best left to God, who is the one true judge.”

Before I get to my main point, let me just say – trite but very true – faith without works is dead.


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The resurrection in Scripture: If no historical bones then no spiritual muscles

“The historical matters of Scripture, both narrative and prophecy, constitute as it were the bones of its system, whereas the spiritual matters are as its muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. As the bones are necessary to the human system, so Scripture must have its historical matters. The expositor who nullifies the historical ground work of Scripture for the sake of finding only spiritual truths everywhere, brings death on all correct interpretations. Those expositions are the safest which keep closest to the text.”

The “Gnomon” of John Alfred (1742).

C. H. Dodd wonders about the bare bones of the resurrection:

“Clearly something had changed these men. They said it was a meeting with Jesus. We have no evidence with which to check their claim. To propose an alternative explanation, based on some preconceived theory, is of dubious profit. What was the nature of this meeting we cannot pretend to know. What actually happened, if by that we mean what any casual observer might have witnessed, is a question that does not admit of an answer. But the events that make history do not consist of such “bare facts.” They include the meaning the facts held for those who encountered them; and their reality is known through the observable consequences. In this instance we may be clearer about the meaning and the consequences than about the “facts” in themselves, but this would be true of other momentous events in history.”

(C.H. Dodd. 1974 (first published in 1971). The founder of Christianity, Fontana books. Foreword by J.A.T Robinson. You can also find Dodd’s book online).

As Dodd says, clearly something had changed these men’s lives, even if it wasn’t something concrete or clear or factually factual (in contradistinction to Dodd’s “historically factual”). Who cares; as long as Jesus rose in our hearts? Sweet. And how do we know this. Who will save me from this body of theological and historical death? (See my The dead sure facts of history: C.h. Dodd’s slant on the resurrection.

The unbelieving spouse and the arbitrary god

Scripturethoughts published the following except from Charles Spurgeon on the Unbelieving spouse”:

We have heard of a wife, a godly woman, who for 20 years had been persecuted by a brutal husband—a husband so excessively bad that her faith at last failed her, and she ceased to be able to believe that he would ever be converted. But all this while she was more kind to him than ever. One night, at midnight, in a drunken state, he told his friends he had such a wife as no other man had; and if they would go home with him, he would get her up, to try her temper, and she would get a supper for them all! They came and the supper was very soon ready, consisting of such things as she had prepared as well and as rapidly as the occasion would allow; and she waited at the table with as much cheerfulness as if the feast had been held at the proper time! She did not utter a word of complaint. At last, one of the company, more sober than the rest, asked how it was she could always be so kind to such a husband. Seeing that her conduct had made some little impression, she ventured to say to him, “I have done all I can to bring my husband to God, and I fear he will never be saved. Since, therefore, his portion must be in Hell forever, I will make him as happy as I can while he is here, for he has nothing to expect hereafter.”

I read the above to an Arminian. Here is a definition of an Arminian: When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it. An Arminian believes that faith is a person’s gift to God, not God’s gift to man.

Here is a record of my dialogue with the Arminian. I add my comments in italics:

Arminian – That’s ironic.

Me – What do you mean?

Arminian – Your god (“your” here indicates, of course, “god”not “God”) only allows for two ways for a person to be saved: a believer’s merit or God’s arbitrary choice.

Me- Why is that?

Arminian – Because you say that God just chooses someone to be saved without giving any reason for doing so.

Me- If God does not give a reason to you or me, or anyone, why should this mean that God’s choice is arbitrary? God has a reason for all he does, but we only can know the reasons he wants to reveal to us. It says in the Bible, “the secret….” (Arminian interrupts: Here is the verse I wanted to quote: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Arminian (interrupts) – Your God only allows for two choices: an arbitrary God or the merit of the believer. (In salvation, the Arminian rejects both arbitrariness in God and the merit of the believer. But so does the Calvinist reject both. My Arminian is trying to show that the Calvinist only rejects the merit of the believer in salvation.

Me – Why did God choose Israel? (The Bible says that God singled out Israel out for his peculiar – no not “weird” but “particular” – love not because of any merit in them but because he wanted to do so. More we do not know, and don’t need to know, if we bow to his glory. The same with any choices God makes or actions he does).

Arminian – I’m not talking about that?

Me – How does God choose anything?

Arminian – I’m not talking about anything else but salvation. All you have to do is say yes or no to God’s invitation to save you.

Me – Is there any merit in someone who says yes.

Arminian – No, he just says yes.

Me – Is there any demerit in the person who says no, and consequently is sent to hell?

Arminian – None.

As the conversation was generating more heat than light, I pulled the switch, suppressing the sinful desire to pull out the swish. I don’t see why this Arminian used Spurgeon’s “Unbelieving wife” to rip into the “arbitrariness” of Calvinism. The Calvinist god says “I’m a fisher of men. Eeny-meeny-miny-mo, catch a fishy by the toe.”

Here is the biblical view of God:

Al Martin (in his “What is Calvinism) says: “the question is not the sincerity of my resolve, not what I have done but “has God done something in me? Not have I accepted Christ but has Christ accepted me; not “have I found the lord?” but has he found me?

Free-will brings with it so many absurdities that it cannot be received.
First, It makes man the cause of his own salvation.
Second, It puts grace into man’s power, not man’s will under the power of grace.
Third, It robs God of the honour of making one to differ from another, and ascribes it to man” (Christopher Ness).

With regard to the third, to those who believe their wills are neutral and therefore can, if they so desire, choose God or reject God (that is what is meant here by “free will”), they must logically admit that what ultimately saved them was not something in God but something in them, and thus they deserved to be saved. I’ve only met one “free-willer” (free-wheeler?) who conceded that he deserved to be saved.

So can Christ bring sinners to himself against their will? Man, in the natural, does what he wants, which is to reject Christ, so unless Christ breaks the chains of his self-will he will not and cannot accept Christ and will therefore remain fiddling – his naturals. (See If you improve your naturals, is God bound to give spirituals: Fiddling with free will).

The traditional term is “limited” atonement, that is, atonement/salvation/redemption/justification is limited to those on whom God exercises his mercy. In Calvinist understanding, everybody is under condemnation and deserves damnation. God’s mercy is dependent on nothing but God’s freedom to save some sinners and pass others by. It is true Arminianism generally also believes in a particular sort of redemption but only in the sense that not everybody is saved for the reason that they – being deadish, not really dead, in sin – did not exercise their free wills to give God the gift of faith in exchange for His gift of grace. The freedom to choose Christ before he has brought you to life (before you were born again) contradicts the following scriptures:

John 1

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Romans 9

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”

There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.”

Now, no Arminian believes that it is good to boast of being better than the person who rejects Christ, and so would not really pray in this fashion. In fact he’ll protest that all is grace, that they are no better than anyone else; which, of course, is true.

I heard this prayer recently: “We pray that you will remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. We pray that he will surrender his life to you.” So, if you surrender your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender, that is, to come to Christ (to believe, have faith, trust). Which is it then; does God first have to regenerate you to enable you to surrender (have faith), or do you first surrender then get regenerated (born again)? The difficulty with the latter is, if you surrender your life to Christ, this can only be done if you’ve already been regenerated (enabled to do so by God’s grace), which renders regeneration obsolete. “Regenerate” means “quicken” means raised from the dead. Imagine in wartime asking your dead enemy to surrender.

A few days ago I was discussing this issue with an Anglican priest friend in my home over tea. He remarked: “Chicken and egg.” In other words, who knows what came first, regeneration or faith, and does it really matter?  Of course it does. (See Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith.

Salvation – your faith, the Holy Spirit living in you, eternal life didn’t come from you, from any part of you, but from heaven, all from heaven. He came for sinners. Not for anything good he (fore)saw in them. Certainly not because of their good will. Before God saved a person, however, that will follow every corrupt bidding. If you are a Christian, you once were a slave to sin, to your heart, to your will, to your self-esteem, and all the time you thought your will was truly free. Free to do what? To follow your heart? Of course you were free to do that. God doesn’t make robots. You were determined to follow your heart. Determined by God? Of course not. By yourself. If a person is determined, that is, determines himself, to be stubborn, to reject Christ, either of two things will happen: God will leave you in the cesspool of spiritual death – his judgement, or raise you to eternal life – his mercy. His mercy is free; that’s why it’s called grace – saving grace. Not possible saving grace (“prevenient” grace) but certain, efficient, sufficient grace, which is the only kind of grace there is. (See The miserable Christian).

Spurgeon described above the “Unbelieving spouse.” What if a Calvinist is yoked – which can only be, unequally – to an Armininian. Owing the the fact that they differ so radically on the sovereignty of God, which impacts greatly not only on the world to come but on this world as well, their relationship must suffer greatly as a result.

Comforting the bereaved Christian: No Bible texts


In his latest podcast, Pastor Steve Abentrop talks about the recent death of Robin Williams. Some Christians think that when someone they consider an unbeliever dies, especially prematurely, it is their duty to pull out the damnation card. Abentrop reminds us that no matter what the clear or unclear belief of Robin Williams, one should show compassion by giving those close to him time to grieve. With these thoughts in mind, I reblog this piece.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

The word of God cuts deep but also comforts (Martin Luther)

For many professors of Christianity, God may get a bit of attention for an hour or two on Sundays. The rest of the week, God vaporises like the morning dew: “Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4). Many who hear the word and receive it with joy, have a show of piety, but it’s grounded on a superficial faith. They respond to God for a time, but after a while fall away (Greek apostasy), while still attending church on Sundays. They might even confess Jesus publicly, but when this confession leads to persecution or death – as many Christians have met with in the past and are experiencing at present as in…

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The miserable Christian

If you say you’re a Christian, but are continually feeling miserable about your sins, stop it. Why in heaven – that’s where it was decreed; before time – do you think God saved you? Salvation – your faith, the Holy Spirit living in you, eternal life – had nothing to do with you; it didn’t come from you, from any part of you, but from heaven, all from heaven. He came for sinners, for you. Not for anything good he (fore)saw in you. Certainly not because of your good will. You do indeed have a will, naturally. Before God saved you, however, that will wallowed in the swill of your heart, following its every corrupt bidding.

You were a slave to sin, to your heart, to your will, to your self-esteem, and all the time thinking that you were truly free. Free to do what? To follow your heart? Of course you were. God doesn’t make robots. You were determined to follow your heart. Determined by God? Of course not. By yourself. If a person is determined, that is, determines himself, to be stubborn, to reject Christ, either of two things will happen: God will leave you in the cesspool of spiritual death – his judgment, or raise you to eternal life – his mercy. His mercy is free; that’s why it’s called grace – saving grace. Not possible saving grace (“prevenient” grace) but certain, efficient, sufficient grace, which is the only kind of grace there is,

When you’re feeling down, look up – actually, in – for it is Christ who lives in you, through the Spirit. You know that song “Forget about yourself, and concentrate on him.” Well, do it, for he is the author, the sustainer and the finisher of your faith. If you’re looking forward to being WITH – you’re already in – Christ, you’ll have to first leave your body – die. Would I be wrong to think that you’re not exactly champing at the bit on that score. Reminds me of another church song. “I wanna be with you.”

Agnus Dei, miserere nobis “Lamb of God have mercy on us.”

Related: I wanna be with you. But, erm, not yet.

Where Arminians and Arminius are at odds – Calvin

I found this quotation from Arminius in Spurgeon’s lectures on “Commenting and commentatories.”

“Prophecy” in Arminius means “inspired expounding of the word of God.”

Spurgeon writes:

“If you needed any confirmatory evidence as to the value of his writings, I might summon a cloud of witnesses, but it will suffice to quote one or two. Here is the opinion of one who is looked upon as his great enemy, namely, Arminius: “Next to the perusal of the Scriptures, which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [“Werner Helmich, a Dutch Protestant divine, A.D. 1551-1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the Library of the Fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most other or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy.”

I have not read any Arminian, for example, Dave Hunt or Roger Olson, who does not abhor Calvin.

Comforting the bereaved Christian: No Bible texts

The word of God cuts deep but also comforts (Martin Luther)

For many professors of Christianity, God may get a bit of attention for an hour or two on Sundays. The rest of the week, God vaporises like the morning dew: “Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4). Many who hear the word and receive it with joy, have a show of piety, but it’s grounded on a superficial faith. They respond to God for a time, but after a while fall away (Greek apostasy), while still attending church on Sundays. They might even confess Jesus publicly, but when this confession leads to persecution or death – as many Christians have met with in the past and are experiencing at present as in the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria – they will deny Christ:

Matthew 10:32-33

He who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

In this article, my focus is not on what the Christian’s response should be to persecution and the threat of death for being a Christian but what the Christian response should be to the premature death of a loved one; for example, the death of a young mother from cancer, of a parent in an accident, of a suicide, of the murder of a spouse or or one’s child.

I was speaking to a friend whose close relatives were gunned down, and who now counsels Christians who have lost loved ones “prematurely.” I asked him how he counselled these people. “No Bible texts,” he said. I tried to hide my surprise; firstly, my friend is not only a Christian but has been a pastor for several decades, and secondly, the people he counsels consider themselves to be Christians.

People in general, no matter what their beliefs in the afterlife, hate death more than anything. My pastor friend says that much of his counselling consists of being a good listener. It seemed to me that he doesn’t touch ‘Bible texts” at all in his counselling. I never asked him the reason for the exclusion. Did he think the Bible was unuseful? Did those he was counselling not want the Bible? I wonder how many of those whom my friend counsels ever read what Jesus said about death. If they had, it meant little to them.

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Note that in verse 31 those whom Jesus was addressing “had believed him.” I move on to verse 51:

51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”

Why did they want to stone Jesus? Because he said (verse 58) “before Abraham I am,” that is, not only was he claiming to have existed before Abraham – in which case Jesus could have said, “Before Abraham I was – but existed eternally as Jahweh (I AM).

The Jews whom Jesus was addressing were called believers but it is clear that they were not true believers, which means they never were true believers. The parable of the soils that I shall quote shortly is about “believers” who fall away (apostates). They fall away because they have never been born again.

In his “Death is not the end of life,” John Piper says:

Any effort to read any part of the Gospel [all four gospels] without knowing the importance of the end, I think would go against the author’s intentions. So when he (Jesus) says, “You keep my word, you live forever, you never die,” he’s not saying you don’t have to know anything about the cross. The Gospel is not going to end there…and he has already said. “the good shepherd has lain down his life for his sheep… I’m going to destroy death for you, I’m going to rise from the grave for you… [true believers) keep his word, love the revelation in its totality… if you embrace what Jesus said, you will live forever…never see death…Daily Gaza deaths, daily Ukraine deaths, daily Christian deaths persecuted all over the place. What do you mean “you won’t see death?” I see it. And you will be it. Fifty thousand people die every day in this world. Death is no surprise. What does Jesus mean when he says you will “truly, truly,” never taste death.”

Jesus says to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). “Belief” here is that of the true believer. Jesus says in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

It is understandable that the bereaved feel anger and depression. How should a Christian (a true believer) respond. Surely not by “No Bible texts please. Why did God allow this to happen? My heart is broken.” This attitude to death is depthless, often due to a crossless, hence, a Christless Christianity. The true believer overcomes anger and depression, and should not end up with a broken heart. The worries of this world – where the greatest of these is surely death, in our context the premature and often violent death of a loved one – have defeated them. The seed never takes root:

A parable told by Jesus Mark 4:3-9:

3 Behold, the sower went forth to sow: 4 and it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 And other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth: 6 and when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And other fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. 9 And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear .”

The disciples of Jesus have no idea what the parable means. Jesus explains:

Mark 4:14-21

The sower sows the word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; and when they have heard, straightway cometh Satan, and taketh away the word which hath been sown in them. 16 And these in like manner are they that are sown upon the rocky places, who, when they have heard the word, straightway receive it with joy; 17 and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, straightway they stumble. 18 And others are they that are sown among the thorns; these are they that have heard the word, 19 and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 And those are they that were sown upon the good ground; such as hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.”

I return to Hosea 6:

“Unless your faith is grounded in the sovereign work of Jesus Christ, and there has never come a time in your life when in gratitude you have acknowledged your lost condition, and by God’s grace entrusted yourself to him, and having realised that your eternal salvation is dependent upon what he has accomplished and you’re grateful for what he has done, your faith will be like the morning cloud too. It’ll be like the dew” (S. Lewis Johnson, Hosea 6, “God dismayed).

Everything that comes to pass – both good and evil – is in accordance with the will of God. Surely not evil as well!

We often don’t like to realize that everything comes to pass in accordance with the will of God. He works all things in accordance with the counsel of his own will, Paul says, and if Paul was standing in this pulpit, that’s exactly what he would say. All things come to pass according to the counsel of his eternal will. But there are times, you see, when God for other reasons – greater good, perhaps – determines that certain things are to come to pass which don’t please him. That puzzles people who are not responsive to the word of God, but if you just think for a moment about the cross of Jesus Christ, and if you think the cross of Jesus Christ was something that was determined in ages past, then you see that it was something that was determined of God. He does determine things that come to pass, even things that may not please him, may not be according to his word. Or, as the Scriptures put it, Peter, speaking on the Day of Pentecost says, “Him, Christ being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” – that’s God’s determination – “you have with wicked hands taken him up and nailed him to the tree.” And they did not have the excuse of, “Well, we were just doing what God determined to come to pass.” God called them wicked even when they were carrying out things that he had determined were going to come to pass” (S. Lewis Johnson, Hosea 8, “The tragedy of a forgotten God”).

To reject the biblical fact that God controls all things, even evil, is not the tragedy of a forgotten God, but the tragedy – your tragedy – of a God you have never known.

He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life shall lose it; and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

For God, no one’s death is premature.

“Test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

There is no male nor female: So why should “Replacement” theologians be against same-sex marriage?

By “replacement theology” I mean the view that the Church has replaced Israel.

I shall now prove using the powerful tools of biblical exegesis and syllogistic reasoning that the replacement camp should not be opposed to same-sex marriage.. An offshoot of this clincher is that it’s ok for replacement theologians/pastors/preachers to be camp.

The “Replacement” people use the following verse as one of their proofs that the Church has replaced Israel:

Galatians 3:28-29
28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

Major premise

Both the Gentile Christian (say, Bob) and the Jewish Christian (say, Shneier) are in Christ Jesus.

Minor premise

Those in Christ Jesus – besides being neither Jew nor Greek – are, indeed are compelled to be, neither male nor female.


Bob can marry Shneier.

“Replacement” pastor presiding over a marriage ceremony.

I now pronounce you man and husband..

The “Replacement” theologian will hopefully say that the Galatians verse above is not literal: unity between Jews and Greeks, males and females does not mean that literal Jews and literal Greeks morph into a figurative morass, or that all Christians become unisex. And they would be right, but neither does the Bible say that literal Israel gets swallowed up by the literal Church. The unity of the Body of Christ does not mean uniformity.

The Apostle Paul/Shaul says to Bob and Schneier (Cutter):

Neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them [that is, Gentile Christians like you, Bob, which generally includes replacementists], and mercy, and upon the Israel of God [Jewish Christians like you, Scneier]. (Galatians 6:15-16).

What does “man is the image of God” mean?


Become imitators of God as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). There are ways that we can be like God, and other ways that we can’t.

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

In Genesis 1:26, “God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Hebrew root dama, from which we get ADAM).

What does the Bible mean by man being created in the image, in the likeness of God? What is certain – if we accept that God is Spirit (of course, when the Word was made flesh,the picture changes) –  is that man is composite of spirit and flesh, while God is pure Spirit. What is important is that Genesis 1:26 does not specify what it means by man as the “image of God.” If, however, we examine the rest of scripture, the following human attributes emerge, which man shares with God: creativity, power to reason, power to make decisions, moral conscience and personal relationships. These are called the communicable attributes of God. The attributes that God does not share with man are God’s incommunicable attributes, for…

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The successful Jew remains an orphan

The successful Jew remains an orphan – obsessed and abscessed in soul. The Jew not only longs for success, he lunges for it. Theodor Herzl is a prehensile example. Desmond Stewart has a chapter “Lunging for success” in his book “Theodor Herzl, artist and politician.” There is no one more pathetic than a failed artist who turns to politics in desperation. Who knows how different the world would have been if Herzl – and Hitler – had succeeded in their art?

Amazing grace that helped me help God save me: Appealing to the Arminian’s noggin

No matter how good one’s theological reasoning, without the sovereign unilateral intervention of the Holy Spirit, rationality is useless.

God, in his Sovereign decrees, predetermines not only the end but the means. The end I am talking about here is, of course, salvation. God uses an embarrassment of means, all of which must involve your noggin – facts, information, which the reformers (16th century) callled notitia. Some need oodles of noggin before they believe; for example, CS Lewis, while others like Augustine of Hippo believe in order to understand. God accommodates.

Allow me to appeal to a bit of the Arminians’  noggin to try to persuade  them (they choose salvation) rather than God chooses to save them). If you insist that God only helps you to believe through “prevenient” grace, which is granted to all without exception, why then do you sing, often in full throat, “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me?” Shouldn’t you rather be  singing – there’s no way to avoid many more words:

Amazing (“prevenient”) grace that helped me help you save me?

The beatitudes: Hell is other people

Christ addressed the beatitudes specifically to those who had faith in him. One of the beatitudes is “Blessed is the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Martin Luther, in his “Commentary on the Beatitudes” gives an example of this beatitude, which reminds me of the last words of Jean Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” (Huit Clos): “Hell is other people.”


When I was young, they (the hermits) gloried in this proverb: Love to be alone and your heart will stay pure; and they quoted in proof a saying of St. Bernard, who said whenever he was among the people he befouled himself. [It’s unlikely that Bernard of Clairvaux would have said such a thing].

As we read in the lives of the fathers of a hermit, who would not have any one come near him or talk with anybody, and said: “The angels cannot come *to him who moves among men.” We read also of two others who would not let their mother see them; and as she often watched her opportunity and once took them by surprise, they presently closed the door and left her standing without a long while weeping, until they finally persuaded her to go away and wait until they would see each other in a future life.

Behold, that was called a noble deed, and the height of sanctity and most perfect purity. But what was it? There is the word of God: “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.” Had they regarded that as holy and pure, they would have shown their mother and their neighbor all honor, love and friendship: on the contrary, following their own notions and self-chosen holiness, they cut themselves off from them, and by their very attempt to be the purest they most shamefully defiled themselves before God ; just as though the most desperate scoundrels could not have such thoughts and put on such an appearance that one would have to say: “These are living saints, they can despise the world and hold intercourse only with spirits;”—yes, with spirits from the bottom of hell. The angels like nothing better, than when we familiarly handle the word of God; with such they love to dwell. Therefore let the angels be undisturbed up there in heaven, and look for them here below, upon earth, in your neighbor, father and mother, child and others, that you may do to them what God has commanded, and the angels will not be far away from you.

I speak thus, that one may learn in this matter of purity to order himself aright, and not go so far to hunt for it as the monks do, who have thrown it quite out of the world and stuck it in a corner or into a hood; all of which is stench and filth, and the true harboring-place of the devil; but let it be where God has placed it, namely in the heart that clings to God’s word, and uses its calling and all creatures in accordance therewith, in such a way that both the entire purity of faith toward God is embraced therein, also outwardly shown in this life, and everything is done in obedience to the word and command of God, whether it be bodily clean or unclean

Joel Osteen: I like to start with something funny

Joel Osteen  starts each of his presentations with “I always like to start with something funny,” and after the funny bit and while the audience laughter is still in full throat, he holds up his Bible and says: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do. Today I’ll be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I’ll never be the same, in Jesus name.”

Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian radio) often airs snippets of Osteen’s “sermons,” which begin with his standard intro. Then iImmediately after Osteen’s “Today I’ll be taught the word of God,” Rosebrough interrupts: “No we won’t.” Osteen’s antics are surely among the most flagrant abuses of the Bible he holds up, which, if we are go to go by his sermons, he obviously does not hold dear. (See Twisting God’s word: Joel Osteen et al).

Envision – cherish your vision – Osteen starting off with this:

Labor to get your hearts mortified, that is, dead to the world. We must not content ourselves that we have gotten some reasoning about the vanity of the creature, and such things as these; but we must exercise mortification (Rom 8:13) and be crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). We should “die daily” to the world (1Co 15:31). We are baptized into the death of Christ (Rom 6:3) to signify that we profess to be even as dead men to the world. Now, no crosses that fall out in the world trouble those who are dead! If our hearts were dead to the world we should not be much troubled with the changes of the world or the tossings about of worldly things. It is very noteworthy in those soldiers who came to break the bones of Christ that they found He was dead, so they did not break His legs. Let afflictions and troubles find you with a mortified heart to the world, and they will not break your bones. Those whose bones are broken by crosses and afflictions are those who are alive to the world. But no afflictions or troubles will break the bones of one who has a mortified heart and is dead to the world. The things in which our happiness consists are of a different kind, and we may be happy without these. This is a kind of deadness to the world.

(Jeremiah Burroughs, “The rare jewel of Christian contentment.” Part Three: Applications and Conclusion).

Spurgeon’s treasures: Please keep it short and tweet

Charles Spurgeon’s exposition of the psalms, “The treasury of David,” is his best work. Indeed, a wonder. It’s very long consisting of thousands of pages containing not only Spurgeon’s thoughts but those of hundreds of other good writers. In his introduction to Volume 5, he writes:

“In the production of this exposition I had far rather be long than lax ; for I know by experience the disappointment which comes to readers when, after a promising beginning, they see a serious declension [decline] towards the end.

The inclination of modern Christian readers is: “Keep it short and tweet. As long as it helps me live better, live longer, and get me – later than sooner – into heaven.

Youtube: The Battle For Iraq Dispatches


ISIS/ISIL and the battle for Iraq.

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:


It seems suddenly the world’s attention has shifted since last week to notice the horrific development in Iraq with ISIS.  Things has deteriorated for the worst the last four months and especially with this last week.

I think its important to see the bigger picture:  Its not just a bunch of terrorists guys running around as the “Junior Varsity” members of Al Qaeda as Obama called it in January 2014.  ISIS has begun making their Caliphate Islamic State.  They have taken over major cities, control oil centers and funding their state by selling them in the black market.  They have picked up the weapons left over from the fleeing Iraqi Government, picked up other weapons from other fighting groups in Syria and even controling a strategic dam.  Their Islamic Theocracy has begun with the violent cleansing of different Muslims, Christians and other minorities.

The following videos that are dispatches by Vice News…

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You are a unique Gospel that God wants to write: Life or lie message?

You are a unique Gospel that God wants to write: Life or lie message?

In “You’re not the message,” Chris Rosebrough’s podcast episode of “Fighting for the faith,

he takes Ken Shook to task for saying that the Gospel is all about Jesus but then spends the rest of his sermon showing his listeners how the Gospel is all about them.

Before we look at Shook, what is the Gospel. It’s what Jesus did.

1 Corinthians 15: 1-4

1. Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For lI delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day pin accordance with the Scriptures…”

The Gospel is about the Atonement, of which the personal relationship of “at-one-ment” with God is the result. “The atonement through Christ, says R. C. Sproul, is the core of the Gospel. What happens is, the Gospel becomes a personal relationship within Jesus. The devil has a personal relationship with Jesus. What kind of personal relationship, what is the ground of that personal relationship. Obviously, being a Christian involves having a personal relationship with Jesus but there is content to that relationship. When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.” (The White Horse Inn podcast, “Interview with R. C. Sproul)

Here is Ken Shook’s sermon, punctured en route by Rosebrough’s poignard. My comments are in italics.


It seems we’re always trying to turn Christianity into some religious words or sermons or slogans. But Christianity is not a sermon or a slogan, it’s the savior. Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with Christ.”

The devil has a relationship with Jesus; not a very good one. In the review of “For the World: Essays in Honor of Richard L. Pratt Jr; Edited by Justin S. Holcomb and Glenn Lucke,” the reviewer writes:

The chapter on “Redeeming the ‘R-Word:’ Paul against and for Religion” was intriguing and relevant since it addressed the contemporary Christian cliché that “Christianity is not a religion.”  Reggie Kid, the author of this essay, noted how Paul was against bad religion (what in the Greek is called asebeia) but this in no way implies that Paul or the Bible ever pit Christianity against religion per se.  There is, biblically speaking, room for good “religion,” and good religion is one which adheres to right doctrines and also right practices.  The author made a good point that whatever value and advantages gained in using the mantra that “Christianity isn’t a religion,” it can in the long run be counter-productive against the church’s effort in evangelism and discipleship.  Hipster Christians need to read this chapter!

Shook – It (the Gospel) is not a bunch of words; it’s the Word, Jesus Christ.

Rosebrough – So, it’s all about Jesus. But watch what he does here. Misdirection. Magic trick, illusions. Magician – artist of misdirection. Rick Warren begins his “Purpose-driven life” with it’s not about you, but the rest of the over 300 pages IS about you.

S – The Gospel is not about we say but all about what we do and how we are Jesus to the world around us.

R – Did you catch that. What we do, we are Jesus. No, Christ died for our sins he rose on the third day. Anything about what you did, no.

S – St Francis said preach the Gospel a all times and when necessary use words.

R – Francis never said that. False. Debunked. The only way to preach the Gospel IS through words.

At a church cell group I attended, we were talking about “love one another.” One of the group told us she helped an elderly woman at the Supermarket. I asked her, “Did you talk about Jesus.” The group seemed taken aback as if to say “Why talk Jesus when you can do Jesus?” Simple: Muslims, Jews, atheists often “do Jesus” far better than many Christians. More importantly, faith comes by hearing not by doing. The Gospel (good news) consists of words not deeds. And, of course, faith (in the Gospel) without deeds is dead.

Romans 10

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[f]

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

S – I want you to look out for a unique story that God wants to write. Open your Bibles to John’s Gospel 1.

R – Who is that about? Jesus. John 20:30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 1 is not about you getting yourself in alignment with some story for your life and your purpose. It’s about Jesus and what he has done. Very God of very God who came into the world. He (Shook) starts off with he wants to start a church that’s all about Jesus. He’s preaching you.

S – (Shook quotes John 1:1-14) – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Shook then prays:

Oh God I thank you that within each of us, you placed a life message and you want us to discover it with your life message because you created us and you know how we work best so we can find fulfilment in true meaning….it’s all about you…this church is not about the past but stepping out in faith…”

R – John 1 – Yes, all about Jesus.

S – We read the Bible not to get to know the Bible better but to get to know Jesus better.

I once wanted to find a “house church.” I met the leader at a restaurant in our city and told him that what I would love to do is for members to dig deep into the scriptures. He said his group is not into “bibliolatry.” What counts, he said, was caring for one another. And that is how we come to know Jesus. How in heaven are we to know Jesus (that is, personally) unless we have knowledge of Jesus, facts about Jesus, and facts are always conveyed by words. Content knowledge (facts) cannot be separated from words. If you kill the words, you kill the facts. That’s how language works.

During a debate between Sye Ten Bruggencate and Matt Dillahunty, Turrentinfan reports the following audience question:

One gentleman asked why everyone isn’t saved, if every one knows/believes that God exists. As Sye explained, the problem with the question was that it presumed that it is enough for salvation for people to know the truth of the gospel (i.e. understand the content), or enough for salvation for people to assent to the truth of gospel (i.e. acknowledge that it is true). Instead, salvation is about trusting in and relying Jesus Christ alone for salvation, which we could describe as viewing the truth as good and desiring it for oneself.”

The Reformers of the 16th Century divided true saving faith into three parts: notitia, assensus and fiducia.

Notitia comprises knowledge, such as belief in one God, in the humanity (1 John 4:3) and deity of Christ (John 8:24), His crucifixion for sinners (1 Cor. 15:3), His bodily resurrection from the dead, and some understanding of God’s grace in salvation.

Assensus is belief. This belief hasn’t yet penetrated the heart; it is still on the mental level – a mental assent. “I believe it, that settles it.” Of course, when you say that your mental assent is more of a mental descent. To understand why it is a mental descent, you need to ascend to the the third level of faith: fiducia.

Fiducia is full trust and commitment, it’s the heart knowledge of Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17. (See Two conversions: The mind (notitia) and the heart (fiducia) of faith in Blaise Pascal).

Bible doctrine, says Stanford Murrell, is essential to proper spiritual maturity (Proverbs 4:2; 1Titus 4:13). Sound doctrine is the foundation of faith (Titus1:9). What people believe about sin, salvation, the Scriptures, and the Savior will determine their eternal destiny, as well as their relationship with us God the Father (John 7:17). Doctrine does not divide the Church as much as it unites the saints around the truth that has been entrusted for preservation and proclamation (Jude 1:3). Any attempt to minimize the importance of doctrine should be challenged (2 John 1:9-10). The Church of Jesus Christ would not be the powerful force it is in the world today apart from the faithful defence of basic Bible doctrine. While it is unfortunate that controversies about doctrine occur, such discussions are necessary (1Co 11:18-19) as they form an essential part of the history of the Church.

(Stanford E. Murrell, 2014. “A glorious institution/The church in history, Parts 1 and 2. Free ebook.

S – We read God’s word and we study the bible not to fill our heads with Bible knowledge but to get closer to Christ because Christ is the Word. The really good news is that the word became flesh and dwelt among us…God became one of us so that we could understand his life message he was communicating to us, which was the Gospel, the good news.

R – Good news that Christ died for our sins.

S – And then he experienced all the things we go through so that we could relate to him. Pain, rejection and temptation. Never once did he sin. And he went to a cross and shed his perfect blood so that we could receive forgiveness. Then he rose again. And he ascended to heaven and he said “I’m going to leave my spirit with you.

R – Elements of the Gospel there. He’s going to pull the switcharoo here on us in a second.

S – Receive me and you become a child of mine and I will put my spirit in your life literally so that you will be my body and I can live through you. And so Jesus in you is the Gospel.

R – No. The Gospel is Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and rose again on the third day. Not Christ in me.

S – … So therefore you are the Gospel.

R – No, I am not, What Jesus did is the Gospel. Galatians 1: “[6] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” If you believe you are the gospel, you are damned eternally.

S – You are the good news. This is what this series is about. You are the good news. Your life message is the Gospel….Every one of us has a unique life message, a unique expression of the Gospel as God uses us and works through our personality and gifts…So my life message is this: my unique expression of Christ to the world. And until you discover your unique life message then you’re just existing instead of really living. You will always be in a fog of confusion in life not really having clarity of why you are on this earth.

Shook is laying on his hearers the burden of a works salvation. An impossible cross to carry. It’s not what you do what saves you but what Jesus did – for you. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you do in life, this temporal state; it’s about trust, which saves to eternal life. From this trust flows obedience, which is evidence of your trust.

R – Talk about fog of confusion. That is what he is spewing right now out of his mouth.

S – Until you discover your life message, you’ll never discover your voice. You’ll never have clarity on why you are here. You’ll always have a dissatisfaction, a disequilibrium of the soul. Something will always be missing. ..If you can find your voice and come alive …you are the message. So how do I discover my life message… listen for the divine whisper.

Shook has perverted “And you hath he quickened (raised to life), who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) into quicksand, into which his narcissistic followers plunge.

R – Discover your unique Gospel? You are the Gospel? Divine whisper? Where are you getting this!

KS – It’s ironic, when you stop talking you find your voice. Practice the ancient discipline of solitude in silence.

R – Where in the bible does it say all this? Must first practice divine solitude? God will whisper to you your divine purpose which becomes our gospel?

S – The problem is we can’t hear his whisper. We always have the noise going…

Rosebrough asks “Where is he getting this?” I suggest not the marquis de Sade but indirectly from the Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre Caussade via a Karl Keating or a Richard Foster.

Here is the French Jesuit,
Jean-Pierre Causssade, famous among Roman Catholic contemplatives for his 
handbook “Abandonment to divine providence,” Here is an excerpt from Caussade for whom the Gospel is merely “a tiny stream” in comparison to the river that God 
is dying  to pour into you.

The Holy Spirit continues to
carry on the work of our Saviour. While helping the Church to preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, He writes His own Gospel in the hearts of the just. All
their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.
The souls of the saints are the paper, the sufferings and actions the ink. The 
Holy Spirit with the pen of His power writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that
 cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on 
the day of eternity….Teach me, divine Spirit, to read in this book of life. I desire to become Your 
disciple and, like a little child, to believe what I cannot understand, and cannot
see. Sufficient for me that it is my Master who speaks. He says that! He
 pronounces this! He arranges the letters in such a fashion! He makes Himself 
heard in such a manner! That is enough. I decide that all is exactly as He says.
I do not see the reason, but He is the infallible truth, therefore all that He
 says, all that He does is true. He groups His letters to form a word, and 
different letters again to form another word. There may be three only, or six;
 then no more are necessary, and fewer would destroy the sense. He who reads
 the thoughts of men is the only one who can bring these letters together, and
 write the words. All has meaning, all has perfect sense. This line ends here 
because He makes it do so. Not a comma is missing, and there is no
 unnecessary full-stop. At present I believe, but in the glory to come when so
 many mysteries will be revealed, I shall see plainly what now I so little 
understand. Then what appears to me at present so intricate, so perplexing, so
foolish, so inconsistent, so imaginary, will all be entrancing and will delight me
 eternally by the beauty, order, knowledge, wisdom, and the incomprehensible
 wonders it will all display.” (Mystical YOUnion: Do you want God to write a Gospel about you or are you aching to write it yourself?). 

Something is amiss in this mystical effusion, namely, the belief that besides the “Gospel” proper, which for Caussade means the scriptures, there is another Gospel, a Gospel for you and for me. It seems quite possible that God takes copious notes on each individual’s story, but should we call that individual story another Gospel, even if we mean it metaphorically? The word of God in the scriptures “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16). The focus of Christians should not be on the memorable, momentous “Gospel” God is writing about their lives, but on the historic remarkable life of Jesus Christ. 

(See My gospel: much about noting).

The mystical kind of spirituality is very popular today among all kinds of religions and non-religions. Those who get tired of the world yearn for an experiential connection to God. But, this yearning downplays the place of faith and Scripture. It exalts “transcendental” experiences that propel the person out of the mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. But this talking with God is not Biblical prayer. If any practice – be it prayer, or some other contemplative practice – does not square with the Bible, it is not of God. For this reason, mystical meditation and “centering” (Richard Foster, Abbot Thomas Keating) is more a flight of fancy than Biblical Christianity. Biblical spirituality involves the study and meditation upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality, in contrast, looks for a “deeper meaning”, where scripture is regarded as allegorical rather than literal (the normal meaning of grammar, meaning and context, where history does not become allegory).

(See In search of French past (7): The hermit, the poet and the clown).

Finally, the Gospel does not, can never, should never, become “my Gospel” – not allegorically and – God forbid – literally, as in Shook. The only one who has the right to talk of “my Gospel” is the apostle Paul, because it is God-breathed, that is, Christ’s Gospel:

Romans 16

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from[f] faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

J.C. Sproul said above: “When you lose the Gospel you lose Christ.” When you find the Gospel you find Christ. When you find your Gospel you lose Christ.

Surprised by Suffering — Free eBook during August 2014


A very good – and free – ebook by RC Sproul on suffering.

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

free-ebook_620_08Aug2014-SurprisedBySufferingLigoner Ministry has made available for free R. C. Sproul’s book on Suffering for the month of August!  Here is the book’s description from their website:

In Surprised by Suffering, R.C. Sproul argues that we should expect pain and sorrow in this life. Some are actually called to a “vocation” of suffering, and all of us are called to undergo the ultimate suffering of death. God promises in His Word that difficult times will come upon us, but He also promises that He allows suffering for our good and His glory, and He will never give us more than we can bear with His help.

Surprised by Suffering offers biblical counsel and comfort for those undergoing suffering and for those who minister to the suffering, counsel that can help believers stand in times of trial with faith in a God who is both loving and good.

You can get…

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The nature of regeneration: Does Nicodemus allow God to regenerate him?

Begin with self; end with self

Peter S. Williams is an apologist and philosopher, and, therefore should be a stickler for grammar. Here, alas, is a part of one of his (short) sermons where he disallows the text to say what it says. He inserts the word “allow” into the text of his sermon on “John 3:1-17” (Jesus with Nicodemus). Here is an excerpt, John 3:3-9, from his text.

(My italics verse 8)

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. 8 The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

Williams – “So you see what happened. Jesus was saying that in order to see the kingdom of God, Nicodemus had to be born anew or from above by allowing God’s grace to forgive him, to raise his human nature, his flesh up into the spiritual life of God in a transformative relationship. Williams inserts into the text “by allowing God grace.”

Those who allow God to regenerate them (born from above) are called Arminians, after Jacob Arminius. They believe that God requires their permission to save them. According to Arminians, the fact that no one born of the Spirit has the foggiest idea where the Spirit comes from has no bearing on the “fact” that the the Holy Spirit is impotent to save without permission from the one He wants to save. Towards the end of the sermon, Williams quotes John 1:12-13: “12 But to many as did receive (received) him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Consider the underlined did receive (received) him in verse 12:

In English “did + receive” can be used either as an alternate form of “received” or to emphasise “receive.” In his sermon, Williams stresses “those who DID receive him.” To a Calvinist “did receive” in this passage simply means “received.” To an Arminian, it means those who “DID decide/decided” to receive him.


“Holy Spirit, I know nothing about where you come from; all that matters is that you came, and I know you will act like a gentleman and first knock with your prevenient grace on the lid of my coffin and ask my permission to raise me from the dead.”

When one comes to verse 13,, it’s hard to see how the Arminian can avoid tying his will in a knot: Verse 13 – “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” But avoid he certainly does. Here is my conversation with an Arminian pastor.

Me – What does “not of blood” mean?

Pastor – It means not of human descent.

Me – What does “not of the will of the flesh” mean?

Pastor – It means “not of a man’s decision.”

Me – What does “not of the will of man” mean?

Pastor – Not of a husband’s decision; the same as the previous “not of the will of a man’s decision.”

In sum, for this pastor, “human decision” and the “will of man” cannot refer to the will of the seeker but to the sexual desire – to the willy – of the seeker’s Poppa. This leaves the precious will of the seeker intact and free to choose to be born again. If this is true, then when we read the last part of the verse “but born of God,” what this must mean for the Arminian is “but born of God and of the believer. The Arminian will say, “No, only God is involved because it clearly says “born from above,” not born from above and below. What I do believe, he could very well think, is that although I don’t know where the Spirit comes from, I do know when it arrives at my door. He knocks, I open my door and invite him to do waht he is longing to do – pull me out of my coffin.” That is what the Arminian understands by:

Ephesians Chapter 2

1 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Even if an Arminian says, “I only did .000000000000000000001% and God did 99.000000000000000000099%, the fact of that matter is that it is that teeny flick of a solitary eyelash that redeems you from the pit and makes you a child of God. It would have to be the same teensy eyelash response that sends you to damnation. Such eternal consequences determined by a human, a human eyelash!

I end with an excerpt from Stephen Charnock’s (1628 – 1680) “A discourse of the nature of regeneration”?(The best books were written 200 or more years ago):

“It is difficult to describe exactly the nature of regeneration.
1. Because of the disputes about the nature of it; whether it be quality, or a spiritual substance;
whether, if a quality, it be a habit or a power, or whether it be the Holy Ghost personally. Many
controversies the wits of men have obscured it with. The Scripture discovers it to us under the terms of the new creature, a new heart, a law put into us, the image of God, a divine nature; these, though Scripture terms, are difficult to explain.
2. It is difficult, because it is visible, not in itself, but in its edicts. We know seed does propagate itself, and produce its like, but the generative part in the seed lies covered with husks and skin, so that it is hard to tell in what atom or point the generative particle does lie. We know we have a soul, yet it is hard to tell what the soul is, and in what part it does principally reside. We know there are angels, yet what mortal can give a description of that glorious nature? It is much like the wind, as our Saviour describes it: John iii. 8, ‘The wind blows where it lists, and thou hears the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, nor whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.’ The wind, we feel it, we see the effects of it, yet cannot tell how it arises, where it does repose itself, and how it is allayed; and all the notions of philosophy about it will not satisfy a curious inquirer. So likewise it is in this business of regeneration; the effects of it are known, there are certain characters whereby to discern it; but to give a description of the nature of it is not so easy.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new. 18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. 21 Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

The question is: Is God really knocking at whosoever’s heart, begging to come in, but failing – sovereignly so – most of the time?

One thing is certain: if regeneration begins with self, it will end with self.

Related posts: Being born again and a husband’s one-track mind)
God’s will and God’s swill in salvation: Thoughts on the Arminian-Calvinist controversy

Vengeance and the cartoons about Mohammed: None can change the words of Allah, except Allah, which he does

Originally posted on OneDaring Jew:

In Islam and the Book: The heart of the matter, I presented a discussion with a Muslim on the inspiration of the Quran and the Bible. The Quran states that the Hebrew and Christians scriptures (the “Book”) are divine revelation but they have both been corrupted from time immemorial and thus in Mohammed’s time no Jew or Christian – no matter how faithful to the original scriptures – had a copy of the original scriptures. The closest any Jew or Christian came to the “Book” sent down by God was, argued the Muslim, the few snippets they carried in their hearts.

I present here a specific example we discussed of the clash between the two religions on this matter: the Islamic violence unleashed on the world occasioned by the Danish cartoon of Mohammed.

(My part is in normal characters; his in italics).

– Do you agree with the violence that…

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What’s it all for? The circle of time and making an impact in the world

When a fellow Christian is depressed, what do you say? Most of us don’t have the foggiest. This cluelessness reveals we only have a nodding acquaintance with the Word of God. Alarming. Here is an mp3 sermon from Joseph LoSardo.

Overview: It is clear that the theme of this passage is indeed “time” – the word is repeated 28 times over the 14 stanzas of the poem. But while man is the grammatical subject of the poem e the human subject plays no role in determining the time of his actions. As much as man would like to be involved in planning out his days, he finds himself a victim, in a sense, of time and the cycle of life. That which occurs in time is ultimately cancelled by what inevitably occurs at a later time. So, all who are born eventually die- all that is planted is eventually plucked up- silence is cancelled by speech, love by hatred, and war by peace- and in the end there is no net gain to anything under the sun. What is there to celebrate in this consequence—Qoheleth teaches that there is really not that much to celebrate in the circle of life. Instead, this popular poem is a lamentation over the fact humanity has no control over the outcome that time brings to pass. Qoheleth’s hope is not found in gaining anything under the sun, but rather in enjoying the beautiful moments that God makes in His time, and looking to that which God places in the hearts of men concerning eternity. God has set the times and seasons of the cycles of life ultimately for us to bow before Him as the Almighty Sovereign King who rules over time and the cycles of life.

Here is a transcript of a segment:

I want to make an impact, I want to make a difference in this world. Few people will say, I want to grow old, develop a series of ailments and eventually go into the grave. But that is what will happen to every single individual. That’s the reality. Really no one makes a significant impact on the world because everything is going to be reversed any way. That is what the Ecclesiastes teaches us. While everyone without exception gets older every year, typically gets some form of illness and eventually dies. We all live in the circle of life. It begins with birth and it ends with death, and in the middle a series of repetitive seasons that cancel each other out. This is reality, this is the reality our text brings out. I’m not saying that this should cause resignation. There are causes in this life we need to stand up for – the oppressed the unborn, the widow. But we should not get discouraged when we hit thirty or forty or fifty and you haven’t discovered the cure for cancer, the core issue is not whether you made it in life but whether God’s seasons in life have brought you to a place of helplessness and a recognition of your dependence on God. That is why God ordained the circle of life. So that we realise he is God.